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Getting a competitive advantage through superior marketing data

Rachel Wheeler

March 26, 2014

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At its core, marketing data represents an area of great potential for all businesses. The better they understand their customers, the more they can do to improve their practices in a variety of areas. They can improve their sales practices to deliver more individualized pitches. They can use the right technologies to meet people where they "live." They can deliver better customer service with a personal touch.

All of the above, collectively, translate to a clear competitive advantage in business. If you can leverage marketing data for success better than rival companies, you stand a very good chance of getting ahead. In 2014 and beyond, it's looking more and more clear that a better understanding of data is the key to success.

Sometimes, though, there are bumps in the road. And one common obstacle is this: It's difficult to make the most of data because doing so requires a great deal of complex skills in information technology. The world of analytics is rapidly expanding, and the American talent pool might not be adapting quickly enough to keep up. Companies might not have the IT firepower required to gain the competitive head start they're looking for, and something has to give.

Investing in data scientists
For companies looking to get more out of data, the objective is clear - take more tangible action. If you want to understand your data better, hire people who have the talent to gather information, ensure data quality and interpret the results. Jonathan Martin, senior vice president of corporate marketing at EMC Corporation, is one example of a business leader who did just that.

"We went and hired data scientists," Martin said, according to TechTarget. "We hired two types of people - statisticians and programmer modelers. We paired those together, and that became a data scientist. We started to aggregate more and more data, and then we realized that the sales team was doing the exact same thing. The services team, they had data scientists, and the business units, they had some."

"Data scientist" is the new buzzword in information technology. Everyone's looking for people with the skills to gather and interpret clusters of data. This topic might be talked about to death - but Greg Pfluger, vice president of information systems at American Family Insurance, says that's because it's important.

"The term 'data scientist' is overused, but it's the best terminology we have," Pfluger told the news source. "In IT, we need more people who can help business users understand how you build systems to support [analytics] and how you make systems that aren't one-size-fits-all but are probabilistic in nature."

Establishing data ownership
The key for any IT office is to grab the reins and seize control of marketing data. With strong leadership of data-driven processes coming from the CIO and other key tech personnel, any company can put itself in prime position to succeed.

Perhaps most notably, this is a matter of integrating all data. Companies are going to gather information from a variety of sources, including in-person interactions, mobile communications, phone calls, social media chats and more. It's difficult to bring all of that knowledge together and examine it in one unified way, but that's exactly what's necessary.

This begins with having good data scientists, but it's also beneficial to have roles defined more specifically than that. For example, companies need people who know where to find data and integrate it quickly. They need workers who can focus on data quality, patching up any human errors or tech malfunctions that might arise. And finally, they need critical thinkers with the ability to interpret all the information they're looking at. Data is the key to getting a competitive advantage in business, but that doesn't mean it will be easy.

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