This article is Part One in a five-part series where I discuss the Five Steps to Data-Driven Marketing.

“How should we get started?” I’m asked that question all the time. It’s clear that by now, most marketers recognize the link between data-driven marketing and business value. But many remain stumped about how to actually begin putting data-driven marketing to work. “What should we do first?” “Is there a right way? A wrong way? A best way?” Over the next few weeks, I’ll walk you through my five-step plan around big data marketing. I’ll break it down and show you how your company can really dig into the issue, confirm decisions and make data-driven marketing a reality. For today, let’s explore Step One: Get Smart, Get Strategic.

Like so many journeys, this one begins with having a clear vision.

Come on, don’t roll your eyes. That’s not a cliché. When companies skip over “the vision thing,” guess what happens? Technology—not strategy—becomes the driver, and as I’ve seen far too often, that’s a recipe for disaster. Technology is never the panacea. It’s the enabler. The system is not the solution, but your ideas are. That’s why aligning behind a shared vision is critical—and not only among the marketing department, but across the entire C-suite, as well.

A shared vision paints the picture that the broader organization needs to support. It helps:

  • connect the dots between projects
  • illustrate how these projects drive value
  • achieve alignment when change sparks turf wars.

Once you have the vision, other pieces will begin to fall into place. Once you have the vision, it’s time to Get Smart and Get Strategic.

Granted, every business is different, and that means the starting points, the visions and the final plans will vary from marketing team to marketing team. However, when you’re ready to get serious about implementing data-driven marketing, you must think strategically –and you have to break down your strategy into its fundamental components. Why? So you can give each one the attention it deserves, while staying true to your core vision.

Let me outline a few of the basics. When I say, “It’s time to get strategic,” I mean you need to develop each one of these five:

1. Customer interaction strategy. Map and understand the buyer journey, from first contact all the way through purchase and aftermarket relationships. Then, identify the changes that need to occur in your company across organizations, systems and data to transform and deliver on your customer engagement plan. Remember: Your goal is to create a consistent, omnichannel customer-centric journey.

2. Analytics strategy. As Tom Davenport explains in my upcoming book, there are three main categories of analytics: business analytics, predictive analytics and prescriptive analytics. Because data and technology will fuel analytics, you need to determine where you are currently and what type of analytics you need to compete and better position your organization in this age of digital disruption.

3. Data strategy. Given the traditional silos of information across the enterprise and the fact that data-driven marketing requires credible data, the development of an enterprise-wide data strategy is absolutely critical. In order for your data strategy to be actionable, it needs to permeate the enterprise, and it needs to be driven as a partnership between IT, marketing and other key business functions. In addition, you’ll need to link the data strategy to overall business objectives, garner senior level sponsorship, stay mindful of data management issues such as data hygiene and compliance considerations and be certain you have the organizational talent to execute. (Don’t worry; I’ll discuss this in more detail over the next few weeks.)

4. Organizational strategy. Since big data transcends departmental walls and challenges conventional approaches, it is disrupting traditional organizational structures and silos. As a result, the C-suite needs to work together to revisit organizational models, evaluate current structures and design new approaches to maximize revenue growth in this new world.

5. Technology strategy. Successful organizations not only nurture strategic partnerships between the CMO and CIO, but also marry business and technology strategy. Then, when debates or roadblocks emerge in these companies, the CIO and CMO can use the broader vision to continue to drive change.

Are you ready to get started with data-driven marketing? Let me be clear: There’s no need for panic over this. But there’s no reason to delay, either. Take the next few days to get working on your vision and strategy. Next, I’ll explain Step Two: Tear Down the Silos.

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