I’ve attended several CMO events over the past few months. Invariably, with CMOs, the conversation eventually turns to the need to be data driven versus driving creativity and storytelling. Many tenured CMOs worked their way through the creative ranks and feel that the pressure to be data driven minimizes the value of their creative and storytelling skillsets. The bad news is that these CMOs do not have a choice. In today’s digital economy everything can, and should, be measured. CMOs must be data driven and deliver real, quantitative results or they are writing an early retirement plan.

The good news is that this discussion does not come down to being “data driven” OR “creative.” It is an “AND” conversation, because data enables creative freedom and enhances storytelling – the two are neither separate nor opposing entities. Let me give a few examples:

Data enables creative success. Data takes the subjectivity out of creative disagreements. For example, when I struggle with my creative director on which hero banners are best for our website’s homepage, we let data decide.  We test the creative under discussion with a small audience and see which banner performs better.

Data provides creative freedom. Contrary to what many CMOs believe, because I measure everything, I am more likely to take risks. Several years ago, one of the most junior members of my team came to me with the out-of-the-box idea to give away free drinks at a giant tradeshow in return for a “scan.” I debated. Were these scans going to produce quality leads? At the time, no one was actually having conversations about our product; they just wanted a free drink. But knowing I could measure the results with data enabled me to take the risk. And, in fact, the leads performed well and ended up generating several hundred thousand dollars in new business.

Data helps tell the right story. 67 percent of the buying journey happens before a customer engages with a sales rep. This means that a majority of the customer’s experience is happening digitally. By measuring the content and conversation your brand is having with customers, you can ensure you are putting the right content in the right place to tell the right story for your brand.

Data ensures your story is heard. We measure everything in our marketing organization — even down to which press outlets deliver the most visitors to our website. By measuring the success of the channels your content is delivered on, you can ensure your story is heard and maximize audience outreach.

Data delivers results. If you are not measuring your performance, how do you know if you are succeeding? I use data on a daily basis to shift marketing spend and ensure I am delivering results. As a result, I have seen the revenue from marketing leads consistently increase.

Data equals bragging rights. One of my favorite stories is from a Domo customer and fellow CMO. She walked into a board meeting and presented strong data to illustrate the results her team was delivering. By the end of the meeting, all of the board members were looking to her for insights on tough decisions that were outside of her own department. She subsequently got a promotion. It pays to be data driven — literally.

The demands of today’s CMO are only increasing, and in this data and digital world CMOs have to use data to deliver results and prove the worth of themselves and their department. The good news is, being data driven not only enhances creativity and storytelling abilities, but now allows you to prove that, too.

Heather Zynczak is CMO of Domo.


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