If you think marketing to your customers these days is beyond difficult, it might be comforting to know that the chief marketers at giant-companies feel your pain.

At a recent CMO/CIO Summit hosted by Dell, moderators David Kirkpatrick (Editor, Techonomy) and Karen Quintos (CMO, Dell) chatted with marketing honchos from companies including Exxon, Forrester and Altimeter Group. The discussion was mainly interesting for its focus on data-driven marketing--or better yet, the collision of marketing and technology.

Those in the marketing world will tell you that data has long played a role in driving customer attention to a company. But these days, there's just so much data that the challenge is less about having the data and more about figuring out what the heck to do with it all. Also, understanding how to drum up business in the "Age of the Customer" necessarily requires fluid communication between marketing and tech departments.

In this vein, here are six tips I pulled from the forum:

1. Get social.
"I can't tell you that [Twitter] absolutely leads to revenue, but look at the velocity [of deals]. If the buying cycles are shorter, it's working," said Sheryl Pattek, an analyst at Forrester Research. She noted the struggle marketers have with social media in the business to business (B2B) world. "Eighty percent of leads now start with a referral. Those referrals often start on Twitter," she added.

2. Set an example.
Charlene Li, the founder of Altimeter Group, added: To truly be successful with social a company's leadership needs to buy in. "Ultimately the CEO has to embrace social, not just wave the red flag. They have to live it," she said.

3. Be collaborative.
To create a connected marketing campaign, IT needs to participate, said Mike Ludwig, WESCO's vice president of global marketing and sustainability. "Integrated marketing 100 percent depends on IT to implement their programs, so they have to communicate," he said.

Indeed, added Li: "IT has to be at that table."

4. Emphasize balance.
As data becomes ever more prominent for marketers and business owners, companies will shift more (not less) money and resources into these departments. "Right now, the spend is $1 for marketing and $4 for selling," said Rich Vancil, head of IDC's research and global outreach. "In the future it will be $2.50 for marketing and $2.50 for selling."

5. Prioritize speed.
Further, the pace of decision-making will pick up, which means budgets will need near-constant evaluations, noted Cory Treffiletti, senior vice president of marketing for BlueKai. "In the future, marketing budgets won't be set annually. [Data allows for] much more frequent analysis of what is and isn't working."

6. Keep customer centered.
Customers have always been central to business, but these days with social media at customers' fingertips, they're even more elemental. So, naturally, understanding them and where they come from in this "Age of the Customer" is key. Take the time to communicate and learn from customers. Then, make sure the entire organization is on the same page.

"The profile of the successful marketer going forward is someone who understands the data and also knows how to communicate with the customer. It has to be both," said Mona Charif, Dell's VP of marketing.

In the end, data means nothing without a human analysis and the insights strategic marketing brings. Yet capturing and securing the data in the most efficient way possible requires the expertise of a technically-driven mind.

The future isn't an "either-or," but "both-and."