With the explosion of “big data” and the associated need to manage and analyze this burgeoning torrent of information comes the emergence of a new job in corporate America: the Chief Data Officer (CDO). But while this title seems to allude to a faceless executive located in the corner office of an ivory tower at corporate headquarters, this role might be closer than you think.
In fact, if you’re a marketer at a small or mid-sized company charged with analyzing customer information and acquiring prospect data to help your company grow, then it might just be YOU who is your company’s CDO. At the very least, you may be one of a number of individuals tasked with storing, managing and making data available across your organization.
It may not be surprising that marketers are taking a larger role in managing their company’s growing data repositories. One reason is that customers are starting to buy into the idea of sharing their data. By making the companies they do business with aware of their interests, preferences, wish lists and more, their expectation is an improved brand experience and the ability to earn special offers or rewards.
Bain reports that companies that pay attention to customer data are more likely to earn brand loyalty and trust, which leads to stronger customer retention. Its research shows that companies actively making use of big data are twice as likely to be in the top quartile of financial performance within their industries.
But this blog post isn’t about the benefits of data, it’s about what marketers can do to optimize and ensure its value. Consider these tips if you’re the “default CDO” in your organization, or at least talked with some aspect of data gathering and analysis:
- Define a data use charter: Be clear about how you acquired or where you purchased your data, and the expectations or outright ground rules (contractual or otherwise) around its use. For example, if you gathered customer preference information with a written promise of what you’ll do with it, you don’t want another department within your company to exploit or abuse this data. They need to be aware of your agreement, so make sure it’s shared organization-wide. Also, be specific on formatting so that others don’t introduce bad naming syntax that will make the data a mess for you and others to use going forward.
- Keep it simple to start: Data officers or teams can get bogged down in trying to “boil the ocean” and attempting to track and measure too much. Start small by defining and limiting the number of metrics you want to track, and add more as your data team’s successes and capabilities grow. For example, you might start by simply tracking customer acquisition costs, which is the total cost of sales and marketing over a given period divided by the number of new customers gained within that period. Other potential metrics to track in the future include profitability of each customer and lifetime value of each customer.
- Protect and serve: Making your customer data available and visible to internal stakeholders will enable others to benefit from it, and prove its value. Through the use of easy-to-access data dashboards and data reporting, data officers can be confident and transparent in telling the business story the data supports. Once successful initially, CDOs can expand their data programs to serve other business department stakeholders to understand their needs, deliver more results and create more data champions.
- Establish processes and prove ROI: Without clear authority and processes, data can become unwieldy and untrustworthy, as different teams may look at their respective data, methodology and measurements, and draw different, potentially conflicting conclusions. To address these challenges, assign a single CDO or data team to take the lead for defining an information management program, and select a tool to manage it. Also, empower your data team to prove their ROI -- this is an essential step in deriving the most value from data.
With the valuable data they collect, purchase and oversee, it’s clear that the time is now for marketers to take a key seat at the data management table. How do you address customer data in your organization?
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