This is the fifth and final installment of my blog series on the 5 hard truths. I’ll examine why customer data is your kryptonite — if you don’t have the trust of your customers — and how you can turn data into your greatest strength. If you haven’t already read the previous four installments, you can do it here: Truth #1Truth #2, and Truth #3 and Truth #4.

Hard Truth #5: Customer data is your kryptonite

Data is the centerpiece of any properly executed digital strategy. It’s the key to understanding your customers, what content needs to be created, how content is performing, and more. It’s what makes adopting AI possible. But data is also the driving force behind the new era of trust. In an age of rapidly evolving privacy regulations, it’s your opportunity to deliver value, differentiate, and gain competitive advantage.

Data is not a marketing problem. It's not a sales problem. It's not a customer success problem. It's a company problem.

Establishing a relationship of trust with your customers ensures that with their consent, you can use their data to increase the value you provide. One challenge, however, is that 50% of marketers say data gaps, data fragmentation, or getting access to data is a significant problem in their respective companies. In the wake of well-publicized data breaches, customers are more concerned about data privacy and security and are demanding increased governance. This means you need to be investing in data hygiene best practices and responsible use to ensure you comply with relevant regulations.    

There is some good news, though. Sitecore research indicates that marketing departments are planning to spend more on data than anything else in the next three years.

So, how can you turn data from your marketing department’s kryptonite into your greatest strength? Once again, here’s a three-step plan of action:

  1. Eliminate dirty data: In the quest for clean, compliant data, marketers must get to the point where they've eradicated data garbage. This includes ensuring the right processes and holding those who don’t follow them accountable. But building trust with your customers goes beyond eliminating dirty data. It’s about investing in excellent care of customer data and compliance with privacy and security regulations. Marketers must trust their datasets and, in turn, customers need to trust marketers with the responsible use of their data. To leverage customer data in a trustworthy way, you need to find a way to track and store it securely with the individual's privacy front of mind.
  2. Target strategic datasets: Pick a customer segment or persona that's a critical priority for your organization and examine the data around them. Carry out tests to see what data actually matters and offers the highest value to your business use cases. Learn what personal data is necessary vs. extraneous to fulfil those use cases, and scale what you learn to other segments.
  3. Make data a team sport: Data is not a marketing problem. It's not a sales problem. It's not a customer success problem. It's a company problem. So, to fix it, you must make data a team sport. Start by getting the right collaboration going across all divisions of the company – including those who have a stake in the data as well as those who know what to do with it. Ensure that all of your data is consistently governed and secure to meet regulatory compliance. And set an example of how important data governance is to your company and customers.

At Sitecore, we’re committed to a security and privacy-first philosophy. Having effective data governance, with privacy and security controls that our customers trust, is not a one-time effort. To that end, we’ve established an internal Data Governance Team – led by a Data Governance Committee – to ensure top-down advisory and management oversight, policy approval and appropriate awareness of privacy and security across all sectors of our organization. 

As CMO, and a serving member of the Committee, this helps me to ensure my marketing team is kept up-to-date on our company’s data privacy and security initiatives. It’s a team sport.

The British Red Cross: Data trust and privacy by design

When it comes to sensitive data and information management, Rosie Slater-Carr, CIO of British Red Cross, offers an example that we can all learn from.

“We take data very seriously,” Slater-Carr said, “and our data strategy is very important to us. Data is a powerful way for us to understand what it is that our supporters expect from us, and what motivates our supporters.”

“We hold very personal — sometimes medical — data,” she continued. “People are trusting us. We have information about them that could be very powerful in the wrong hands.”

Which is why British Red Cross puts “data privacy and privacy by design at the heart [of our digital strategy]. It always has to be the first thing we think about.”

You’ve got this

With the right technology platform, you can take control and gather, manage, secure, and act on customer data you can trust — making valuable insights your competitive advantage.

As we reach the end of my blog series, here are the five hard truths that marketers need to recognize and act upon to drive powerful digital experiences:

  1. The C-suite is just not that into you: CMOs and digital marketers must drive C-suite alignment, unify the overall business strategy, and ensure their budget.
  2. Personalization is not one-size-fits-all: Marketers must move beyond the first level of personalization to deliver exciting customer experiences.
  3. Your content crisis won't solve itself: Marketing departments must figure out how to create less content, that's more effective.
  4. AI alone won’t save you: As excited as we are about AI, we need a sturdy data foundation to capitalize on the current technology.
  5. Customer data is your kryptonite: Data is the common thread running through all of these five hard truths. Marketers must be able to trust and care for their data, and this must become a corporate-wide strategic priority.

As marketers, we have a tough but manageable road ahead. I know from experience that these five hard truths are easier to recognize than they are to act on. But the delta between the brands that thrive versus those that struggle to survive is action ― in 2019 and beyond. 

To help you build better customer experiences, we’ve created an eBook that contains all the practical advice you need. Read it now to build trust for deeper customer relationships — and make data your competitive advantage, with Sitecore.  

Download the CMO Truth #5 ebook: “Customer data is your kryptonite”

Paige O’Neill is the Chief Marketing Officer at Sitecore. Find her on LinkedIn.