Most companies understand the value of data in driving their marketing campaigns. The problem is, most marketers don’t understand or trust the data they have. In fact, when data contradicts preconceived beliefs—the very time data is most important—companies often dismiss the data and go with their guts instead. So what good is it?

These are the findings of Experian’s Global Data Management Benchmark Survey, which looks at how data practitioners and data-driven business leaders are using (or not using) their data and how data management practices are changing over time:

There is a large degree of distrust in information. The average professional looking at data does not understand how that data got there, when it is useful, and what state it is in. This comes into play especially when data insight contradicts a long-standing norm. While the business wants to be agile and informed by data, this level of distrusted data often leads leaders to fall back on making decisions by gut instinct rather than by informed data insight.

Further, Experian finds that in addition to data mistrust, companies suffer from “data debt,” or the accumulated cost of “suboptimal governance of data assets,” and a data skills shortage.

Indeed, only 51% of respondents consider their current state of their CRM/ERP data to be clean and fully able to be leveraged, 28% see their customer/prospect data as inaccurate, and 40% don’t trust the insights they get from it. This is quite a contrast to other findings from the study, including the fact that 85% of those surveyed see data is one of their most valuable assets and 98% see having high-quality data as either “extremely important” or “important” in achieving their business objectives.

The challenges to addressing these issues are significant. It is costly to upgrade systems, maintain data accuracy, and hire the right people to understand what the data is telling you and how to use it. Then there is the issue of ROI. When people don’t trust their data and aren’t fully utilizing it, it’s hard to get their investments in people, software, and systems back out.

How do you get started rectifying the problem? Experian offered three quick starters for companies looking to pull themselves out of the mud.

  1. Tie data projects to tangible results. Pick areas where the impact of data can be clearly tied back to savings or revenues. If you can show at least some tangible results, it becomes easier to keep going.
  2. Determine a few quick wins. Pick the low-hanging fruit. Get some positive results under your belt will give others within your organization confidence that investment in data is worth it.
  3. Develop a data culture and data literacy within your organization. Yes, those involved at the top must value the world of data, but Experian notes that it must be a company culture, as well.

[Data debt] is the result of human error, a lack of checks and data monitoring, and a culture that typically thinks that data is another department’s problem. For organizations to address the challenge of data debt, everyone has to start to take ownership of data. That means that organizations not only need to invest in technology but also people and cultural changes.

Indeed, 84% of respondents say that data literacy is a core competency that all employees should have in the next five years.

When discussing with your clients about the need to invest in data, remember that it’s more than gathering the data that matters. It’s knowing what to do with it and keeping it accurate once you have it. Any data strategy has to include more than just step one. It has to include steps two, three, four, and five, as well.

Experian’s Global Data Management Benchmark Survey was produced by Insight Avenue and surveyed more than 1,100 people across six countries around the globe: the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Brazil, and Australia. Respondents came from a variety of industries and a variety of roles from all areas of the organization.