The Four Characteristics Of Data-Driven Marketers

In theory, marketers should depend on data. But the reality is that, for many, the challenges of the last year have thrown a wrench into their ability to pursue success as a data-driven function.

So, as we head into 2022, it’s time for a pulse-check:  just how ‘data driven’ are marketers today? And what practices and habits separate the strongest of the pack from the weakest?

That’s what our latest industry research sought to find out: read on to discover the four characteristics of data-driven marketers, based on our findings.

The state of play: challenges in data discipline.

The excitement of a few years ago around the ‘big data’ opportunity in marketing has largely faded away, and it’s left a suspicion that marketing is far short of being the data-driven discipline that it could be.  In fact, Capgemini’s recent CMO report indicated that only 11% of marketers could call themselves ‘data-driven’; so if this is true, what’s been stopping us?

Part of the explanation sits with COVID-19. While it impacted marketing efforts across the board, advances in data discipline were among the hardest hit: from budget cuts, a shift from data-driven strategies to mass-marketing tactics, and disruption to working patterns and team culture.

On top of that, regulations such as GDPR, ePrivacy and CCPA are being introduced almost daily, and marketers around the world are feeling the pressure and oftentimes slowing their progress towards becoming a data-driven function.

Amid all of this, some marketers have held their nerve and continued to pursue data-driven practices: confident that, despite the changes around them, that strategies grounded in data would see them through.

And the funny thing is, they were right – and these practices are what ultimately separate  the top 1% of performers from the rest of the crowd.

Zeotap’s recent industry research report, The Data Secrets of Successful Marketers, aims to show how different data practices correlate with overall marketing success –  based on a survey of 500 senior marketers in the UK. Respondents were initially asked how far above (or below) they achieved on their 2021 targets as a measure of their success. According to their attainment, they were then sorted into five distinct success archetypes:

  • The Top 1%, who achieved between 70-100% above target
  • The Overachievers, who achieved between 30-60% above target
  • The Moderate Marketers, who achieved target or exceeded it by 20%
  • The Struggling Marketers, who achieved between 10-50% below their target
  • The Bottom Tier Marketers, who achieved between 60-100% below their target or lower.

The respondents were then asked questions designed to analyse the degrees in which they leverage customer data, and these responses were indexed against their success.

As for the top 1% of marketers, here are the four data-driven characteristics we uncovered:

One: The top marketers already have a single view of the customer.

Data-driven marketing is only possible when the data itself is under control and can be used to create  models and activate campaigns. The most common way of achieving this is to create a ‘single customer view’ – unifying data into a single, consistently updated asset that serves as the ‘golden record’.

But achieving this golden record requires painstaking unification of dozens (perhaps hundreds) of data sources in order to achieve it, which is an organisation-wide challenge.

For the top 1% of marketers, research showed that this challenge is already behind them. And overall, the more successful the marketer, the more likely they are to have a single view of the customer.

But while the  top 1% marketers are ahead of the pack for now, others are rapidly closing the gap: of those marketers who’ve yet to achieve a single customer view, 99% of them reported that they plan to achieve it by the end of 2022: 

Two: The top marketers lean on CDPs for data collection and  management:When it comes to finding the right stack to leverage data, marketers have complex hurdles to jump –  from legacy tools often held in different teams  to lengthy integration processes.

When we look at how the top 1% of marketers manage their data, Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) take centre stage, and it’s with good reason: in 2021 alone, the CDP industry reached an estimated $1.6 billion in revenue.

In fact, CDPs are particularly popular amongst the more successful marketers in general; research showed a 39% percentage point increase in CDP adoption from the least to most successful marketers.

One detail to note: while the most successful marketers transition to CDPs, the less successful marketers continue to cling to platforms like DMPs.

When comparing a CDP vs a DMP, the latter primarily falls short as it relies on third-party data, retains data for shorter periods of time, and is unable to identify users to create the most accurate audiences possible the way a CDP can.

Three: The top marketers have comprehensive data privacy compliance practices in place:Every marketer wants more customer data – but ever since the introduction of new data privacy and security regulations like GDPR and CCPA, marketers have faced a huge challenge in how to capture, store and use customer data in a way that doesn’t fall foul of the law.

The good news is that nearly 100% of the top 1% of marketers feel highly confident about their data privacy practices:

Meanwhile, their less successful counterparts also remain highly confident, but still lack the practices that ensure complete compliance, such as a single customer view.

The issue behind this misplaced confidence goes back to the challenge of capturing user consent in today’s multi-touch, multi-channel journeys.It’s highly likely that consent is captured across multiple tools (for example a consent management platform, a loyalty programme and email marketing), which means an individual can express (and withdraw) consent in many different places. Unless those choices are resolved, it’s likely that activating that data can fall foul of regulations.

This is what makes a single customer view a necessity for marketers – it’s not just about prioritising the customer journey, but the consent journey as well. Marketers need a comprehensive view of a customer’s consent preferences across those multiple touch-points and channels. Without a ‘golden record’, compliance isn’t completely ensured.

Four: The top marketers turn raw data into actionable insights:

Marketers might have the largest, cleanest, most compliant data set possible – but it won’t help them unless they have a way of transforming that mass of information into insights they can use. This is what enables organisations to be truly data-driven.

One way that the top 1% marketers are able to fully leverage their data is by using machine learning. Similar to the correlation between successful marketers and achieving a single customer view,  machine learning adoption correlates strongly with success.

Unlock more data-driven marketing secrets.

All in all, the marketers who’ve continued to pursue data-driven practices despite the many twists and turns of the last year are now better equipped to face (and overcome) the marketing challenges of tomorrow.

In the meantime, other marketers are in the starting phase of creating the usable dataset—the proverbial ‘golden record’ of a single customer view—but this is simply the beginning of being a truly data-driven function.

Want to unlock more trends adopted by today’s top 1% marketers? Download The Data Secrets of Successful Marketers for a comprehensive analysis of this year’s top marketing performers – and what less successful marketers need to do in the next year to catch up.

About Zeotap

Zeotap is the next-generation Customer Data Platform. It empowers brands to unify, enhance and activate customer data in a cookieless future, all while putting consumer privacy and compliance front-and-centre. Recognized by Gartner as a “Cool Vendor”, Zeotap works with over 80 of the world’s top 100 brands, including P&G, Nestlé and Virgin Media. It is also the founding member of ID+, a universal marketing ID initiative. For more information visit