Historically, marketing has been considered more of an art than a science. But as marketing technology has gotten more sophisticated, it’s become possible for marketing to become more data-driven—and accountable—than ever before. That means no more guessing which marketing activities are or are not working, the ROI on campaigns, or which resources are being used most by sales

At a recent meetup, we asked a panel of data-driven marketing leaders to share how their use of data has evolved over the course of their marketing careers. Here’s what they shared.

Marketers Live and Die By The (Right) Numbers

Marketers are universally tracking their lead generation activities, and have an understanding of how much pipeline they need to generate for sales to hit their numbers. But from there, things can get a little fuzzy, with various teams across sales and marketing using different formulas and tools to try to create the ideal formula to get to the ideal number.

“It became this math and numbers game,” said Emma Dunstone, Vice President, Marketing at Mixpanel. “You kept just throwing horrible leads at the top because otherwise you’re aren’t hitting a leading indicator, which meant you weren’t gonna hit your number, and that didn’t make sense.”

Instead, Dunstone urges marketers to focus on the quality of the leads, not hitting a magic quantity of leads.

“When you’re actually much more thoughtful about ‘what are those leads that I do want to put in the top of the funnel?’ and ‘why should that go through?’” she said, you’ll make better business decisions, rather than blindly driving towards a goal. “I think that’s the piece. We’re told just to live and die by those numbers, that these are the ones that count,” but that’s not always the case.

Marketers Expect a Consolidated View of Their Data

When marketing technologies were first introduced, many tools focused narrowly on a single marketing activity—such as individual social media channels or on-page website analytics—and produced data in numerous standalone dashboards. But today’s data-driven marketer is more likely to choose technologies that integrate with other platforms to make it seamless to obtain a consolidated view of the customer journey and how it connects with the rest of the marketing picture.

“What has changed—and certainly changed in my practice—is making sure that I only use tools that are sensible and that integrate,” said Claire Hunsaker, Senior Director of Demand Generation at Okta. “I prefer marketing tools that will talk to Salesforce or talk to Marketo. If it doesn’t help me create a single view of our data, for me, it’s not as useful.”

No Two Customer Journeys Are Alike—But Marketing Technology Needs to Connect the Dots

The concept of the sales funnel implies that each customer goes through the same linear buying process. But today’s marketer knows that in an age of an omnichannel marketing experience, the only thing that stays the same is the customer’s expectation of consistency across all your channels. This sets the stage for marketing technology platforms needing to bridge the various marketing channels to provide a picture of what the individual buying cycles look like.

“I have to be extremely customer-centric because I live at the top of the funnel,” said Mimi Rosenheim, Director of Web Marketing, Demandbase. Rosenheim knows potential customers will also come into contact with field marketing emails or event content that isn’t managed by her team—and those elements also affect their customer journey. That’s why connecting the dots throughout the buyer’s journey is where she focuses.

“For me, being data-driven means being able to tease out that information so I can get to the right level,” she said. “I can either get to an individual path or I can start to get to smaller groups or even broader groups. But I get to choose what lens I want to see it through in order to get me to the right answer, and be able to take actions that will drive my business through whatever the ideal funnel ends up being.”

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