Earlier this year, we announced our partnership with the Atlanta chapter of the American Marketing Association, as the sponsor of the Innovation Marketing SIG. On Tuesday night, we hosted our first event, bringing together Atlanta-based marketing professionals who are pushing the limits and driving their teams to think beyond the daily to-do lists.

The topic of the night was Content & Connections—how can we, as innovative marketers, use data to influence the content that we’re putting in front of our audiences? We took notes and here’s what stood out:

Moderator, Peter Scott, Vice President of Emerging Media & Innovation at Turner Studios:

Peter kicked off the night by setting up his key take on how you can push your organization to develop a data-first mindset. He reminded us that data is both a science and an art. Both right-brained and left-brained people must come together in order to develop effective solutions that set the stage for how the data can be consumed and ultimately implemented. Through a few examples, one of which was a video on how Facebook gathers and uses data, he challenged us to think of data as a point-of-entry, rather than a roadblock.

Peter led the panel by asking questions that related to how the panel members are using data in their own organizations, how they lead their teams to become smarter about implementing data-driven strategies, how their roles have shifted as our workplace has become digital-first and finally, how their companies are adjusting to the ever-changing marketing trends, laws and customer needs.

Panelist, Akhil Anumolu, Digital Optimization, Personalization, Special Projects & Marketing Technology at Delta Air Lines:

As a self-proclaimed #AvGeek, Akhil spoke to both the creatives in the room and spreadsheet lovers. He shared insights into how Delta has transitioned its entire business to become one of the top players in today’s digital environment. Akhil touched on the different data points that Delta tracks, saying that Delta is passionate about providing its customers with the best experience as possible. Tracking data such as how many times a passenger uses the restroom during a flight, or what the top watched movie is during a flight (spoiler: it’s Frozen), allows Delta to ensure that they’re giving their customers what they need.

Akhil also shared that teams don’t have to be forty people deep in order to create effective marketing solutions that utilize data. With a team of only seven, Akhil utilizes other areas of the business and educates them on how data science, technology and marketing can work together towards the common goal of making customers happy so that they continue to use Delta’s services. He also stressed the importance of building teams that consists of passionate people who are eager to learn and push the envelope. In other words, Akhil looks for hires who have an innovative mindset, because those are the people who will strive to turn data into useful information.

Panelist, Zoe Glade, Vice President, Digital Marketing, American Cancer Society:

Zoe quickly set the stage by sharing that in her work with both Coca-Cola and the American Cancer Society (ACS), the process of transitioning the organizations toward a digital mindset was a similar experience. She noted that most companies, regardless of the size and industries, strugge to develop the proper processes that are required to shift from the traditional way of business to today’s digital-first ecosystem. Zoe’s main piece of advice to marketers who are in the throes of such a transformation was to develop a stewardship document that clearly defines the goal that the organization is trying to reach, and the steps required to reach those goals.

Zoe also highlighted specific examples of how ACS is utilizing data features within platforms such as Facebook. By attaching ACS to Facebook’s non-profit birthday donation feature, ACS was able to reach its target audience of millennials. It also enabled ACS to compile multiple data points about current and potential donors.

In short, Zoe approaches data and content as one. Without good, clean data—a reference to the newly implemented General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) restrictions—marketers will not be able to develop effective content that connects with their audiences.

Panelist, Chris Moloney, Chief Marketing Officer, TaxSlayer:

As someone who uses data to influence both B2B and B2C audiences, Chris provided a unique insight to the night’s conversation. By knowing your audience and what resonates with them, your ability to provide accurate content increases immensely. Chris realized early on in his career that the world was shifting towards a digital-first landscape. He provided examples of how he approached multiple CEOs and managers with recommendations on shifting strategies to be inclusive of digital needs. How did he convince the higher ups, who did not develop their career under the umbrella of technology, that the shift was necessary? He used data.

Chris went on to share his thoughts around why gathering data is only the first step towards creating an actual case for the changes you’re trying to implement. Pulling the data and regurgitating the data is easy. Presenting the data in a way that is digestible is a learned skill. In today’s workplace, it’s no surprise to see the marketing and tech teams working in tandem. While it’s the tech team’s responsibility to set up the systems to accurately gather the data, it’s the marketer’s responsibility to present that data back in a way that proves your case—that’s the final step towards using data to influence your content.