Today's CMO wears more hats than ever before, often having to play the role of technologist, data analyst, culture advocate, strategist, and the list goes on. They're on the hook for not only elevating the customer experience, supporting the build of an infrastructure that attracts, retains and activates customers, but also demonstrating a tangible return on investment to the leadership team.

Despite their growing list of priorities and demands being placed upon them, most CMOs are simultaneously running up against a growing list of challenges that often block success. Most of these, however, can be overcome with the right data.

A lack of quality data

Though CMOs are responsible for sifting through mountains of data to inform marketing decisions, many feel they're not working with the most accurate or current insights to make effective decisions.

In fact, according to a recent DemandGen report, 83 percent of organizations said their biggest challenge is their data is old or outdated. And, in its "State of Marketing" Report, Salesforce.com found only 23 percent of organizations are satisfied with their ability to leverage customer data to create more relevant experiences. This, despite the fact that 67 percent said creating a customer journey across all touchpoints and channels is mission critical to their success.

But it may not be that the data is lacking. In fact, in many cases, it's a lack of visibility and accessibility into the data that is causing the breakdown.

Managing multi-system chaos

Part of the rub here is most organizations are operating within a "spaghetti bowl" of disparate systems that don't communicate with one another. In fact, 36 percent of respondents from the aforementioned DemandGen report said siloed data continues to plague their best efforts.

Only 13 percent of marketers agreed they had a solid data acquisition strategy in place that they regularly maintain and fine tune. Implementing data governance across an organization is easier said than done though.

Often you're up against legacy systems the team has grown accustomed to using and/or various departments have implemented their own set of systems and are reluctant to give them up. Over time, this creates a cobweb effect that clouds the visibility of data, prohibits sharing of it, and often results in redundant or inaccurate data on any given client.

Managing customer and prospect data across systems must become a priority for organizations if they are to effectively leverage data to shape the customer experience and inform business decisions. Of course, a major component of integrating systems and getting everyone operating from one centralized source of truth requires gaining buy-in from all stakeholders --from upper management to those on the front lines.

Working through legacy technologies and mindsets

Successful marketers know the customer experience doesn't just fall on the marketing department --it's also the job of sales, customer success, product development, and the list goes on. In fact, 64 percent of marketing leaders believe an organizational shift is in order if they are to execute on customer journey strategies effectively. This means driving alignment across sales, service, marketing, and even the executive team.

But for many marketers, their best efforts to create alignment is being hindered by limitations within legacy technologies, as well as shifting old mindsets and habits. To evoke change, they often have to be able to demonstrate the financial return on customer experience strategies to the C-suite, sell the CTO on a new piece of technology, and encourage various departments to start working together.

Shifting legacy brands to adopt a new way of thinking -- a customer-driven way of thinking --isn't easy. Focusing on the benefits --increased retention, company alignment, improved marketing and product decisions -- will be essential to gaining buy-in.

Maintaining a consistent customer experience

Particularly if your organization that works through reseller channels or with partners, it can be a challenge to maintain the customer experience when it falls outside of your four walls. And when something goes wrong with a partner or reseller, it's often the brand that takes the hit.

This is not a new challenge for marketers, but it's one that has grown in urgency as more brands begin to unpack the customer experience they deliver. Again, this is where operating from one central source of truth, or one shared system that's responsible for maintaining all customer data will be key.

Finding balance amidst the rush to innovate

Today, innovation feels a lot like the Space Race of the 20th century, with brands competing for dominance in their respective fields. And with many brands feeling the crunch to rapidly innovate to stay ahead, it has put a lot of organizations in more of a reactionary mode.

This has forced CMOs to navigate between meeting the customer's needs and desires, and kowtowing to the demands of rapid growth and innovation. Particularly when valuation tends to drive innovation rather than customer experience, how do you strike balance between the two?

Marketers have to advocate for clean, accurate and current data. It will be the only way to tie customer experience to innovation, drive the alignment you need to execute on your goals, and demonstrate the return on your efforts.

Published on: Mar 30, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.