Marketing executives are solidifying their spot in the C-Suite. After many years of being relegated to the sidelines, the role of CMOs and department executives is being elevated with more of them being asked to contribute to the highest-level business discussions. By demonstrating the ROI of their activities and proving the revenue contribution made by marketing to those who matter most, marketers are gaining the influence they have long hoped for in business.

But to keep that seat at the table, CMOs need to be able to use data not just to measure existing performance, but also to drive future sales. According to a CMO Council study, ”marketers have notable deficiencies when it comes to obtaining valuable customer data and providing actionable intelligence to sales.” New advances in technology are happening faster than businesses can keep up with, and many are unwilling to deviate from their standard practices, even if doing so would improve their chances of success. As a result, opportunities are being lost and growth is stagnating.

But marketers have the power to change that. Through the use of data-based strategies that truly close the loop between marketing and sales, marketers can deliver meaningful growth and change. Are you ready to refocus your approach to data and lock in your seat at the C-Suite table? Here’s how.

1. Automation

Today, marketing automation is a marketer’s primary tool for tracking online customer and prospect behaviors and then using that data to run campaigns and nurture leads. With an automated strategy in place, marketers have the freedom to interact in a targeted fashion with customers and prospects over various channels including — but not limited to — email and social media. With automation, the worlds of mobile push, ad retargeting, personalized websites and custom social audiences are opened up. With a more targeted, sustained effort, automation turns MQLs to SQLs and eventually to a closed sale.

2. Sales and marketing alignment

In order to maximize the impact of marketing on lead generation and revenue growth, it is essential to coordinate operations, facilitate communication, and align goals with the sales department.

As Amanda Maskymiw, the Content Marketing Manager at Lattice Engines, points out, “marketers are already able to use sophisticated machine learning and data science techniques to identify which customers are most likely to churn, which prospects are most likely to buy and which products to pitch to existing customers.” Marketers need to share this data with the sales team in real-time and ensure that their efforts are propelling high-potential leads through the sales funnel. Marketers should have the ability to track which campaigns and activities are generating quality leads for sales, how many those leads are being nurtured through to conversion, and how much revenue they’re bringing into the pipeline. Only then can marketing investment and impact be optimized.

3. Customer focus

Nearly one in three B2B marketers say that their content is company-focused, not customer-centric. There is no excuse for this in today’s data-driven world. We can find out so much about our customers through digital data and analytics — why not tailor our content to their specific needs? It’s critical to build a content strategy that is focused on the needs of the prospects based on where they may be in the sales cycle. Far to many marketers develop content solely focused on features/benefits, speeds & feeds, etc.

4. Timeliness

In their study “Applying Timely, Targeted and Tailored Insight to Improve the Pipeline” the CMO Council found that only 9 percent of marketing executives interviewed felt that their company had a competency in real-time delivery of sales intelligence and breaking news. In other words, more than 9 in 10 marketing executives felt unprepared to respond to customer intelligence in real time. Today’s consumers expect real-time engagement from the companies with which they do business, and marketing executives need to get up to speed.

The relationship between sales and marketing relies on the timely delivery of data from one team to the other. B2B marketers need to provide their sales people with the real-time information that allows them to have high-value conversations with prospects when they’re in the best position to buy. Without this data delivered in a timely fashion, close rates drop off or grow stagnant.

Now is the time for marketing executives to elevate their position in the C-Suite and focus on the activities that will impact company growth most. Today, data and insights-based action is essential to the health of every business, and marketers are in a unique position to provide those insights. Are you up to the challenge?