The world of marketing is fast paced. And as big data gets bigger with no end in sight--and has an increasing influence on marketing strategies--the marketing world will only move faster. In 2013, just 36% of marketers were systematically using data in their business operations. Now, in 2015, that number is up to 78%. In 2013, only 46% of marketers felt that data was their most underutilized asset. In 2015, that number is up to 87%.

What does the growing importance of data mean for marketers? It means that that data needs to be put to work. Put to work how? By creating highly targeted, highly personalized marketing messages for customers. An astounding 90% of marketers now view individualized marketing as a priority--but only 50% are regularly using their data to customize marketing messages and offers to cater to their customers.

Customer-centric marketing can't be ignored anymore, according to 1,500 global marketers that weighed in a Data-Driven Marketing Survey. Here are four key trends from the survey that will help you knock down roadblocks and make customer-centric marketing a priority.

Step 1: Stop working in silos and start working together.

It comes as no surprise that nothing really gets done when everyone in your organization is working in separate departmental silos. Wires get crossed, words are misunderstood, meetings are fruitless--and as a result, your customers receive inconsistent and fragmented marketing messages. Your messaging needs to not only be personalized, but consistent. And you can't do this if you're in silos. More than 80% of marketers find that silos are preventing them from having an unobstructed view of customers and campaigns across channels.

How can you eliminate silos?

  • Start to encourage communication and cooperation across departments, instead of encouraging competition and rivalry.
  • Be willing to consolidate redundant functions or processes when necessary.
  • Establish a common framework or shared knowledge hub for everyone to pull from.
  • Make sure the C-suite understands how detrimental silos are and is willing to help eradicate them.
  • Set up integrated processes that will require teams to work together.

Step 2: Strengthen your relationship with the IT department.

Data is the key to obtaining that full and robust view of customers--but to access and analyze that data, you will need help from your IT department. And, if you're part of the 80% of marketers who find that silos are hurting their view of marketing and campaigns, it's high time that you get out of your silo and talk to IT.

Without silos, every member of your organization, no matter the department affiliation, should be able to openly and effectively communicate with other members. When it comes to collaborating with IT and marketing for sharing customer data, only 49% of day-to-day team members and 56% of senior executives say they do so extremely well. The IT department is a high-functioning and highly strategic asset to your organization--and they have access to the data you need--and the tools or processes in place to analyze it.

Step 3: Own, understand, analyze and use customer data.

Marketers now control more data than ever, but the numbers still show a lot of room for improvement. In 2014, 43% of marketers owned and controlled most of the customer data available within the organization--and that's an increase from 32% in 2013.

Owning data is the first step to understanding, analyzing and using that data to create customer-centric messages. How can you own data? The IT department is your answer. As you eliminate silos and strengthen relationships with IT, you can have direct access to crucial customer data, instead of waiting to have it filtered down through IT. You can also become more tech savvy and keep a better--and more up-to-date--pulse on customer behavior and trends.

Step 4: Take the omni-channel approach to marketing.

One channel won't cut it anymore--those days are long gone, especially for certain target audiences. You need to approach customers through multiple channels--and even more importantly, your messages need to be clear and consistent across all channels. To do this, you need one streamlined and continuous view of your customer.

If you struggle in this aspect, you're not alone. Consistent, omni-channel marketing is a problem area for nearly half of marketers and executives. How can you fix it? Find out where your customers are spending time online and which social channels each of your target audiences prefer. Using your data and IT leverage, create a plan that spans multiple channels and delivers consistent, personalized messaging. Millennials are a big target for omni-channel marketing--connecting with them can be essential for your company and brand.

The time to get started is now. And these four steps can help you make customer-centric marketing the focus and priority of your entire organization--but each step hinges upon the other. All four are essential to creating personalized messaging that truly resonates with your target audiences.

Want to learn more? Download the full report to get additional information about the facts and figures cited throughout this article or check out this infographic for a quick look at the progression toward true customer individualization.

Published on: Mar 10, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.