Why digital marketers must own marketing data


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B2B Marketing recently reported that only 30 percent of marketers are responsible for handling company data. In some cases Marketing (and other departmental) data is controlled by internal IT or Sales departments, or generally by Managers or Data Scientists. It’s also not uncommon to see a fair portion of it owned by external agencies or consultancies within some organizations.

In our experience, when digital marketers gain ownership of their data, they improve availability and usability:

  • they gain access to the most important information in the context of their specific, and often evolving, objectives
  • they ensure that they are receiving data within timeframes suitable for effectual decision-making
  • they are able to quickly respond to the rapid and ever-changing marketing landscape by exploring new channels
  • they are able to collect and begin reporting on new digital assets with great speed
  • they are able to effectively employ their expertise to create the most reflective multi-source indicators

The problem with external ownership

While marketers could indeed work closely with these external data owners to outline strategies to best deliver them the exact data they need to make decisions in a timely manner, in an industry that’s changing as rapidly as marketing, this may result in great inefficiencies.

Marketing teams often need to readjust the structure or format of the information they consult. Running campaigns on new channels, the implementation of new measurement solutions, changes in objectives, or the redefinition of computed metrics are just some examples of situations in which they would need to make adjustments. In the case that an external group owns this data, many factors can slow down the rate of change implementation. From bureaucratic obstacles to scheduling issues, working with external parties will slow down progress.

Let’s not forget, that this back and forth is extremely costly, in terms of fees when external agencies are involved, but more importantly; in time.

Furthermore, as these external owners may not have the same expertise as marketers, they may not be as well placed to construct information delivery systems. Marketers understand the specific challenges associated with collecting, analyzing and acting on their own data in a manner that no external group could. They have the expertise necessary to create frameworks, understand the intricacies of the solutions they use, and take impactful actions based on the insights they receive.

In addition, where marketers are required to collaborate with other groups to access their data, further complications can arise in terms of communication. The differing manners in which departments or functions operate, and the specific language they use, can have the adverse effect of complicating and/or slowing down the process.

Data Integrity & Security

In addition to previously mentioned data availability and usability, data security and integrity are paramount when dealing with data. Internal ownership of data would allow marketing departments to implement Data Governance policies to help them improve both of these aspects of data collection that remain beyond their control when external parties manage their information.

External groups can, of course, implement these policies and provide evidence of their compliance with integrity and security guidelines. Marketing departments, however, may not gain the full assurance that they would be able to achieve on these aspects if they had control over the data.

There’s no doubt that moving the responsibility of data ownership may be a challenging, long and costly process in the short run. In the long run, however, the benefits of improved data availability, usability, integrity and security to marketers will be enormous. They will be able to act on their data with incredible speed to make changes that impact their performance and help them demonstrate the value of their work to stakeholders.

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Megan Wilcock

VP of Business Development for Sweetspot. Responsible for strategic brand development, marketing and business development. BA/BComm graduate from the University of Melbourne. My passion lies in finding creative solutions and encouraging collaboration.

Add a comment

Meg Wilcock

Hi Stephane,
Thank you for your comment. You make some fantastic points!
Firstly, I couldn’t agree with you more that Marketing shouldn’t handle all company data. Each department should be responsible for their own data – Sales needs control over Sales data and Finance over Financial data.
In terms of data integrity and security, your argument that IT may have a much better understanding of security imperatives has great merit. I do, however, believe that each department should gain greater responsibility for assuring the quality of their data. IT and Data Scientists are functions that contribute incredible value to organizations, and their expertise is neither easily gained nor transferred. Collaboration between these, or similar, groups and every other part of the organization is essential. Primarily, I believe that it is the job of marketers, and indeed all roles, to educate themselves and work to assure data quality.
I look forward to hearing more.

Published on , 1:47 am   

Stephane Hamel

*Warning: controversy ahead!*

Hmm… I’m sorry Megan, but I have to disagree with some points in this article of yours.

– the fact “only 30% of marketers are responsible for handling company data” isn’t a bad thing. When you suffer from funnel vision, everything in an organization appears through the lenses of marketing. There are very good reasons why marketers don’t handle all of company data like sales and customers!
– but, I agree with you “external ownership” – such as when external agencies lock-down access to the data they collect – is a malpractice. But if by “external” you imply “external to marketing”, then I totally disagree;
– data integrity & security: seriously? don’t pretend marketers have a better understanding of security imperatives than, say, IT people have, that would be totally wrong;
– “Marketing departments, however, may not gain the full assurance” – right, just as IT departments certainly won’t trust marketers can implement security best practices.

I think generally speaking, this article confuses ownership and proper roles & responsibilities. All of the “benefits” outlined in this article could be accomplished through proper governance by empowering marketers to have access to the right data, at the right time, in the right format, with proper security controls in place. The part where I agree the most is the conclusion: “In the long run, however, the benefits of improved data availability, usability, integrity and security to marketers will be enormous.”. Don’t think merely moving ownership will solve anything.

I wonder what others think.

Published on , 3:05 pm   

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