How to Build a Robust Data Strategy

By Meg Goodman

Data is more accessible than ever before. And, with ever-growing amounts of it available, knowing how to use data—and actually using it in meaningful ways—is a powerful advantage.

A recent study from Forbes Insights and Turn found that data-driven marketing leaders report far higher levels of customer engagement and market growth than organizations that don’t regularly use data insights. We’re talking three times more likely to achieve competitive advantage in customer engagement or loyalty and almost three times more likely to increase revenues.

As a marketer, you are likely already using data insights to direct or adjust strategy to meet consumers’ needs and wants.

To make data work most effectively, though, you need a well-defined data and analytics strategy. When built correctly and embraced by all levels of the organization, a data strategy captures a holistic view of your customers and allows the business to leverage the data to its fullest potential. It ensures your business has the right tools, technologies and partners to effectively gather, analyze and interpret data into actionable insights. It drives decision-making, guides daily operations, and increases collaboration across the company.

If you don’t already have a data strategy in place, consider taking the lead and working with other senior leaders who share a vested interest in improving the quality of the company’s data and analytics.

A data and analytics strategy should:

  • Clearly define the common vision for analytics throughout the organization.
  • Align everyone’s interests in data.
  • Include a structured path of processes to ensure data is consistently being used properly.

The following steps will help your team develop a well thought out plan to become a data-centric company.

Step One: Get buy-in to put together a team to drive the plan.

Initially, you need to show the amount of time the company can save by changing methods, and point out specific areas where this can make a difference. The easiest way to pique an executive team’s interest is to show how competitors are using data to gain market share. Provide clear examples, showing how the data was used to drive a new strategy or marketing campaign—as well as the results.

Once you are given the green light, create a cross-functional team of members that oversee a department or are senior-level managers that rely heavily on data and understand both the opportunities and challenges at hand. Together, the team should have a thorough understanding of the business’s technological and organizational capabilities, limitations, and opportunities. This team will also help create the data strategy and lead execution within their departments.

Step Two: Develop goals and set the vision.

As a team, determine the overall goals, and how data can help the organization achieve them. Then, describe how the daily functions of each team member’s role and their department would be different once the data strategy is executed. Pretend there are absolutely no obstacles ahead.

How would each role benefit from data? This activity will help develop the overarching vision statement that will guide the strategy.

The vision statement should be a high-level, inspirational description of how data will transform the company in the next five years. It should be two to four sentences in length and align with the corporate strategy.

Step Three: Create a data strategy roadmap.

Once the vision is set, define three to five action-oriented objectives to achieve the vision. Then, break down each objective into three to five recommendations of how it can be accomplished. The recommendations should be practical and detail the owner, process, cost, timeline and planned outcome or mission.

This will help establish a roadmap for the data strategy, which should be broken down by actions related to planning, executing, and optimizing over the course of the project.

Step Four: Create a structured plan to attain approval.

With the roadmap laid out, build out the strategy into a business plan that can be presented to the leadership team for approval. This should include the plans and resources required to implement the strategy, such as capital investments, new processes, new hires, and new organizational structures.

A strong data strategy is a collective effort across different teams within a company. But as a marketer, you are in the best position to be the catalyst for change.

In an upcoming article, we’ll delve into specific tactics that leading data-driven companies include in their data and analytics strategy.

Meg Goodman is the managing director of relationship marketing agency Jacobs & Clevenger. She has brought measurable, data-driven results to a variety of major financial institutions. When she’s not riding her motorcycle, you can connect with Meg on LinkedIn or Email: mgoodman@jacobsclevenger.com.

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