We, as marketers, make daily decisions that move virtually any and every organizational needle. From website design and development to promotional extensions, media placements, targeting specifications, and testing protocol, it’s the digital marketers’ hypotheses, insights, tacit knowledge, and data-driven decisioning that set the proverbial wheels in motion.

But with the proliferation of multichannel, multidimensional Web, social, mobile, tablet, and “traditional” marketing programs, the levels of digital distress are seemingly higher than ever. Although being inundated with a variety of powerful platforms and opportunities may seem like the marketers’ jackpot, this period of unparalleled digital renaissance has stirred up an all-too-real, all-too-challenging roadblock: Today’s marketers, very simply, have trust issues. And why shouldn’t they? They’re constantly confronted with conflicting numbers and, sometimes, even wholly opposing, irrelevant, or meaningless data points emerging from tests and active campaigns. How can brands make effective, efficient, conversion-centric decisions when the numbers don’t add up, or don’t provide the kind of clear-cut direction they need to be a data-driven organization? More than three in four marketers agree they have to be more data-focused to succeed—but only a fraction are truly “there,” and I’d argue it’s due to these trust issues rearing their ugly heads.

The reality in the current environment is that, thanks to inconsistent and unaligned reporting systems, third-party publishers, and unique sources, data can’t—and won’t—always tell the same tale. But don’t let this lead to paralyzing data distress or distrust. Keep your data clean and clear, find—or at least declare—a single source, and stay committed to metrics-backed marketing practices. Then take a deep breath. Trusting in the numbers is critical, but trusting in yourself, your organizational resources, and your own knowledge base is just as important when it comes to quashing these deep-seated issues.

Start Here: What You Can Do Now

Starting from a solid foundation is critical to overcoming unnecessary channel confusion and general “static” that can lead to conflicting data. Be sure you’re analyzing your data—all of it—across internal channels, and match proprietary source data with incoming metrics. Brands should focus firmly on individual customers and their data points from platform to platform, source to source—think critical behavioral data no matter where they go or when they go there. With that information culled, organizations can identify key performance indicators (KPIs) and utilize existing engagement-based metrics to fill in any holes between points, target, and optimize against core audience segments. And, because of this reliance on real-time and existing consumer data stores, brands must be mindful of keeping information as clean as possible, from both internal and external tracking assessments. Incongruent, old, or poorly managed numbers fuel the trust issues even further and in many cases can be entirely avoided by maintaining collection and analytics best practices.

Integrating a Consistent Marketing Solution System

Broad-reaching, multiplatform marketing solutions like the Adobe Marketing Cloud provide comprehensive data collection and analytics tools that, together, provide well-aligned insights that can help organizations tap into that essential “single source of truth.” The Adobe Marketing Cloud, for example, unifies email, point-of-sale, customer relationship management (CRM), and third-party data spanning social, mobile, targeting, Web experience, and much more. By leveraging this single source, marketers can alleviate some of these trust issues for good, monitoring and adapting campaigns and assigning appropriate conversion attributions, thanks to the “powerful, predictive logic” that informs every data-driven design that emerges.

Say It’s So: Dictating a Single Source

When all else fails—or when competing metrics, sources, and platforms are simply too much to overcome—keep it simple: Determine what your single source will be, and stick to it. InformationWeek sites MIT’s Jeanne Ross as lauding this simple solution, explaining that marketers should, “Pick the source, and declare that this is now the one version executives and employees will use to make decisions.” But what about the competing chatter? For Ross it’s not about guaranteeing complete accuracy but, instead, “it has everything to do with declaring it. . . . Once you tell everyone, ‘This is our single source,’ they work pretty hard to make it more accurate.” By dictating the source, teams will spend less time culling through conflicting data searching for “the truth” and more time leveraging the meaningful metrics that exist and, ultimately, addressing real business concerns versus debating the merits of the “fuzzy” sources.

No one’s arguing the value of data-driven decision making. According to Adobe’s Digital Roadblock study, nearly two in five marketers are integrating consumer data and behaviors into their marketing strategies more in the last 12 months than ever before—and 45 percent hope to do more in the coming year. Likewise, they’ll experiment more, take more risks, and test and evolve their strategies—provided those pesky trust issues don’t get in the way. Keep your data clean and well-aligned, integrate an omnichannel solution like Adobe Marketing Cloud, and, when in doubt, declare a single source of the truth and get the organization to jump on board. Trust issues are the foundation of significant distress within the digital marketing landscape, but, for now, are the unfortunate side effects of the positive momentum and movement in the industry. Without the plethora of opportunities, options, channels, and reporting sources, marketers wouldn’t have these trust issues—but they also wouldn’t have the ground-breaking consumer outreach platforms and meaningful, personalized in-roads with the users who drive ongoing brand success.

I’m going to dive into this over the next few weeks, wrapping up with a paper on the topic of marketers and these inherent trust issues. There’s a lot that organizations and individual marketers can do, but there’s also plenty that’s, essentially, being done to them—but with a little preparation, a well-rounded approach, some deeper digging, and a desire to take risks, they’re far from insurmountable.

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