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.