Marketing has changed. And companies that don’t realise it may find themselves behind in the race to reach and retain valuable customers. The days of marketing as a mystical art, with undefined results, churning out PowerPoint presentations, are long gone thanks to one thing. Data.

Thanks to ever more sophisticated ways of capturing and analysing data, the right marketing team can achieve pinpoint customer targeting and segmentation providing a better experience for the customer, from acquisition to retention. And that success can be measured, ensuring a clear relationship between spend and results.

But perhaps even more notable is the fact that data also helps marketeers understand the changing market and customer trends and behaviours that will influence an organisation at all levels. Which means a truly plugged-in strategic marketing team can be one of the most valuable drivers of a business’s direction.

The key word there, though, is ‘strategic’. Marketing teams can no longer afford to be purely tactical: they must combine a deep alignment to the organisation’s goals with a thorough understanding of their customers, allowing them to create a strategy based on customer-first thinking.

Why customer-first? Because if your marketing team can access and interpret customer insights, they can help the whole organisation stay ahead of changes in the needs and behaviours in the market. According to research by Deloitte & Touche, companies that are customer-centric are 60% more profitable than those that aren’t. Even more startling, 65% of B2B buyers are willing to switch brands if their communications are not personalised to them.

With those data-driven insights, marketing teams can set more relevant KPIs, objectives, audience targets and so on, enabling them to define the most effective tactics to differentiate an organisation from competitors.

So why aren’t all marketing teams doing this? Well for one thing, it takes a certain skillset to be able to interpret the data effectively. In addition, many companies aren’t set up to provide the quantity or type of data needed to build insight-led strategies. In fact, a massive 87% of marketers believe data is their organisation’s most under-used asset. That could be because of technology deficits, poor data sharing protocols or poor quality and incomplete data.

Which means that marketing teams are not only tasked with creating strong strategies, but should also take the opportunity to drive a data focus within their organisation. Seeking out the right tools and protocols, representing data’s value to decision makers, and communicating a data-led approach right across an organisation can embed a culture of data gathering.

And that will reap rewards for the long term.