Research + Strategy Creative + Design

How Marketers Drive Growth: Customer Data + Creativity

By Kari Hernandez

Drive new growth for the company, beat out the competition, and explain why you need budget to do this. Does this sound familiar?

The CMO Survey from February reported that driving growth is the top challenge marketers face today. Delivering a powerful brand that breaks through the clutter and securing marketing budget rounded out the top three obstacles facing marketers.

Deloitte’s recent article “Redefining the CMO” digs in deeper on the increased responsibility of marketing leaders, reporting that they have become primarily responsible for driving growth in their organizations. This belief is reflected by CEOs and other C-suite executives as well.

When did marketers begin to shoulder all of this growth responsibility? Why us and why now?

Well, if you believe that the best ideas and biggest opportunities originate when listening to the customer, then you have your answer: the marketing team knows its customer better than most and can use this information to drive sales, strategy, and impactful business opportunities.

Growth Marketing: Where Data Meets Creativity

Your marketing and communications teams are collecting tons of customer data. They are developing personas and customer journey maps to enhance their strategy and decisions. They’re also looking at marketing analytics, campaign testing, and social media metrics daily. All of this data has the potential to uncover opportunities beyond better performing campaigns. It can signal new problems to solve, questions to answer, audiences to consider, behaviors that increase or decrease the likelihood of a sale.

On top of that, your marketing team has a superpower: creativity.

By marrying customer and market data with a curious, empathetic, collaborative mindset, marketers extract real insights. These insights can lead to campaigns that raise brand awareness among new and existing target audiences. These campaigns not only have the potential to drive sales but also to identify new market segments and value propositions.

Marketers can connect the dots, read between the lines, find the white space, read the tea leaves, or whatever your preferred idiom. They have the ability to dive into a sea of contradiction and come out the other side with something that makes sense and might make a difference to the larger organization.

Powering Creative Intuition: Create Balanced Teams

Creativity has long existed within the territory of marketing but it’s never been more important than today in the midst of so much information and noise. This balancing act of data and intuition is crucial to driving strategic business growth.

“The challenge and opportunity for CMOs is to cultivate a data-driven mindset, both personally and within their team, without losing that creative spark,” said one CMO interviewed by Deloitte for their article.

Deloitte calls it “establishing a center-brained mentality.”

Balancing your analytical and creative mindset is a great skill to have as a leader, but a hard one to teach. Repeatable success lies in creating teams and agency relationships that strike this balance of right- and left-brain thinkers. For example, even if we’re just talking about data, it takes different talents – and likely different individuals – to gather and analyze sales and marketing data vs. to synthesize and uncover trends and insights in the data. Combine both of those skillsets with design, content, and communications experts and now you’re really getting somewhere.

This balanced team structure polices itself. It maintains equal weight for data and creative and leads to unexpected ideas that move your business on a bolder path to growth and impact.

Three Ways to Enable Your Marketing Team to Drive Growth

1. Put a priority on customer and market intelligence but also push your team to really understand your customers as people. Personas are more useful if they round out demographics and business challenges with an exploration of emotional and rational needs. More than just knowing them, challenge your team to see like your customer and create all content and campaigns while wearing “customer goggles.”

2. Build a team that will leverage creative intuition alongside strong data analysis. You can do this by making sure your team includes some right- and left-brain thinkers from different disciplines who bring unique perspectives and ways to solve your challenges. Breaking down silos in your organization and truly integrating ideas and disciplines is where the magic lives.

3. Don’t discount your gut when making strategic decisions. Test your assumptions, certainly, but don’t ignore them. All the data in the world can’t replace your experience and understanding of what really matters and will resonate with your target audience, and what won’t.

Ultimately, this challenge and responsibility to drive growth could be the best thing that ever happened to marketing. Let’s embrace marketing as the center of customer expertise, because it already is. In doing so, not only will your programs become more successful, but your marketing department will own its role as the center of growth and innovation in your organization – and an invaluable resource across departments. And all of it will be grounded in the truth and understanding of the customer, which to my gut seems just right.