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Start laying the groundwork to build a culture of data within your organization by following these four tips.

Article originally published on Search Engine Land.

As we ring in a new year, among your 2023 goals as an agency may be to level up your data game, deliver excellence to your current clients and stand out to prospects. 

Using the following tips will help you start laying the groundwork to build a culture of data within your organization.

1. Hire expert personnel to guide your strategy

Developing a solid data foundation requires experienced leadership to steer the ship. This person should be responsible for:

  • Defining high-level agency data goals.
  • Laying out a detailed roadmap to accomplish them. 

Many companies are working off piecemeal data pipelines, siloed data and out-of-date infrastructure with no real central ownership. 

A seasoned data pro can come in and wrangle everything into a cohesive data blueprint and determine whether to keep or scrap existing infrastructure and processes moving forward.

Avoid putting these responsibilities on the plate of your ad managers and client service leaders as an afterthought.

When you have experts in the right roles and hand them the key, your agency and clients will see that you are prioritizing your data strategy. 

No matter the size of your company, having dedicated data personnel will result in more efficient processes.

This ultimately supports the work of your marketers, which brings us to the next point.

2. Bridge the gap between the data team and the client services team

While it’s important to have a designated data team, you should consider them as an extension of the client services team rather than a separate department.

The data team’s work should support the client service team’s goals. 

Developing synchronicity between these teams is the key to maximizing the potential of data and demystifying data processes for your whole agency. 

Data education should be an agency-wide initiative. The data team should:

  • Communicate to the client service team what is available and possible from a data standpoint.
  • Offer ongoing cross-training and education to the rest of the team. 

In turn, client services can think creatively about new ways to analyze and present findings to clients to unlock results. 

While ad managers aren’t also expected to be data engineers, understanding data flow and processes will help them think more creatively about how data optimize and deliver deeper insights to clients. 

On the other side, ensuring that your data team has proper marketing education enables them to think about solutions in the correct context.

This keeps them from churning out data pipelines and reports that don’t necessarily support the client or service team’s goals. 

In the same way, your client services team should be provided with ongoing data education, your data team should be proficient in marketing principles and platforms.

3. Invest in the right technology and tools

Data leadership should stay on top of the latest technology and constantly evaluate the best tools for your agency’s scope at least annually. 

Here are some questions that should be addressed:

  • Are your current tools scalable for projected growth? 
  • Do you have personnel spending extensive time on data-oriented tasks that can be automated with technology solutions? 
  • Do you have multiple tools or processes that could be replaced with one better, multifunctional solution? 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to data practices or technology. What worked for you last year may not be compatible with your goals for the future. 

Avoid the sunk-cost fallacy if you are currently using solutions that don’t support the data culture you’re trying to build. Don’t be afraid to try new approaches! 

If you decide to integrate new tools and technologies, ensure you have the proper resources and personnel to become experts in:

  • Managing the tools.
  • Creating new processes.
  • Developing documentation.
  • Educating the entire team on the improvements. 

These resources will also still need the bandwidth to support day-to-day activities. 

Good data culture means not burning your team out or rushing through process creation for the sake of saving a few dollars. 

While it is not a directly billable part of your business, your data strategy is a long-term investment that will return to you tenfold when implemented properly. 

4. Get your clients on board

While we can’t force our clients to adopt a data-centric culture of their own, we must lead by example and present ourselves as marketing analytics experts. 

Positive client relationships will look to agencies for guidance and innovation. 

By having an established data culture within your agency, you can set the tone with your clients and impress the importance of data governance on them to optimize for exceptional results.  

Empower your team to push clients for feedback and help guide them in areas where they may have data-related shortcomings. 

Some ways we can support our clients’ data-related projects might include:

  • Helping to clean up tracking.
  • Providing insightful and efficient performance reporting.
  • Integrating down-funnel metrics into your reporting and strategies. 

If we become the de facto experts in these areas, it will make our jobs as marketers much easier and enable us to focus more time and energy on marketing activities. 


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