The New CMO Data Mandate

By Matt Collins | 3.13.18

The most exciting change to happen in marketing over the past 20 years is the rise of “Mathmen.” Look no further than two of the profession’s most influential voices today: Marc Pritchard and Andrew Chen.


Pritchard, the chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble, has become known for relentlessly rooting out waste in the digital marketing supply chain and demanding better results. His public pronouncements have grabbed headlines and influenced other marketing leaders to revisit how they’re spending their budgets and what they’re getting in return. If that sounds as much like the work of a CFO as it does a CMO, perhaps it’s because Pritchard has a degree in finance.


Chen is a general partner for Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm. Prior to that he was head of growth for Uber, responsible for recruiting drivers and riders. Growth marketing requires building complex models that compare customer acquisition costs to predicted lifetime value, and knowing how those variables differ by channel, date and time, geography, and more. It may not surprise you, then, to learn that Chen graduated with a degree in applied mathematics.


Pritchard and Chen arguably share the same superpower: Unlike the “Madmen” who led with creative daring, these two confidently lead with data.


Their ascension is indicative of a larger and unstoppable trend. Acquiring, synthesizing, deploying, protecting, and monetizing customer data lies at the core of today’s marketing function. This requires that every company have a data strategy.


There are no exceptions to this requirement. Even early stage startups need a plan, as their VCs increasingly demand. Companies needn’t wait to secure a minimum threshold of customer data, either; if a company has just one customer, that's enough to build a profile that will help the company find more customers that look like their first.


Data is so important because it fuels the three levers a company can pull to affect growth: price, customer acquisition, and customer churn. For example, if a business is losing more customers than it's attracting, this may be an indication that it's targeting the wrong customers in the first place. Or, it could mean that the product or service is too difficult or time consuming to use, or that it’s too expensive. Fixing any of these problems requires customer data and the ability to use it effectively.


If your company does not have a data strategy yet, get started by hiring a chief data officer working with your chief operating officer. Give her the mandate to build a team and decide how best to capture customer data, including which software to use. She'll also determine if the business can survive on its own customer data alone or if it will need to license third-party data.


It’s not uncommon for a company that’s recruiting for a function to hire consultants or agencies to fill the talent gap. That makes perfect sense if you need an accountant or a designer. When it comes to your data strategy, though, keep it strictly in-house.


That’s because your customer data, over time, will become one of your company’s core assets. While companies augment their talent with external expertise on occasion, strategies involving how to deploy core assets almost always remains an internal exercise. It’s why McDonald’s will never outsource menu innovation and why Google won’t delegate the evolution of its search algorithms to an agency.


Data isn’t just an asset; it also can become a massive liability if it isn’t properly secured. Recent hacks at Equifax and Yahoo aren’t just personal nuisances (or worse). They are sobering reminders of the bad things that can happen when companies fail to recognize that their data is as important and valuable as their brands or patents.


When it comes to developing or evolving your data strategy, build from within and don’t wait. Just as the future of marketing depends on data, so, too, does your company’s success.

About the Author

Matt Collins is SVP, Marketing at Simulmedia. He previously worked at Ampush, a Facebook Marketing Partner, where he was VP of Marketing & Communications.


Prior to that, Matt held various marketing roles in partner and developer marketing at Nokia and then Microsoft, where he was Global Director of Applications & Partner Marketing in the company’s mobile app business.


Earlier in his career he worked in brand marketing for Atari and Hasbro Interactive.

Find Matt on LinkedIn and at   @amherstmatt.