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The chief marketing officer in most companies is turning into a data scientist, but the actual results of data-driven marketing remain mixed. Still, the trend toward data is likely to continue as most companies believe that, used correctly, data could have lasting positive effects on sales.

That’s the gist of a new study that appeared today from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Winterberry Group.

“Though large numbers of marketers and publishers continue to see basic enterprise needs— such as ‘growing revenue” and “improving profitability’—as the fundamental (and expected) outcomes of their data-related investments, relatively few have succeeded in meeting their expectations with respect to audience data and its contribution to those baseline performance goals,” writes Winterberry Group managing director Jonathan Margulies in the survey report.

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Today, the survey says, marketers are having the best luck influencing customer behavior by the “collection and segmentation of first-party data.” In other words, by using their own data, such as CRM data.

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The survey results suggest that the main reason data isn’t consistently moving the dial on overall company objectives is because marketers are still figuring out how to use data effectively. Many marketers, the IAB and Winterberry suggest, are trying to use data in generic use cases seen in other organizations, and often struggle to leverage data in ways that are unique to their own company goals.

Once companies begin to tailor-fit their data usage to their own needs, a whole new set of questions might pop up: “What kind of datasets do we seek to collect? How is that information managed? What’s the approach through which our audience data infrastructure is assembled from custom and/or third-party technologies? How are those “in-house” stacks connected to external solutions and data feeds?” the report states.

But everybody’s doing it. Data has become the norm for marketers. ” . . . data seems to have breezed past a tipping point in its general embrace within the marketing organization,” Margulies writes. ” . . . 89.7 percent of panelists said that key stakeholders in their organization understand the role and potential contributions of data to at least ‘some extent’.”

Now that most companies are leveraging data in some way, the report suggests, the only way for marketers to gain a competitive advantage is by learning how to gather the right data and use it most effectively.

“For sophisticated users, audience data represents a definitive source of competitive advantage, particularly as it powers deeper and more actionable insights into consumers and the ideal segmentation of those audiences,” the Margulies says.

The survey results are based on phone, online and in-person surveys of “more than 100 advertisers, marketers, publishers, technology developers and marketing service providers.” Most of the respondents work for North American companies. The research took place in August and September 2015.

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