Strategic Planning

Show Me the Data

Different organizations choose to transform their marketing processes for different reasons. Some do it to keep up with competitors, a desire to be seen as an industry leader, or even in response to criticism. However, most organizations are motivated by a desire to improve revenue.

Similarly, most organizations know based on circumstantial evidence that they have a problem in one of more key areas that lead to revenue. Sometimes Sales says they have too few leads from Marketing, or the it is nearly impossible to track what worked, or the total company revenue is simply not at the desired level. However, they too often think they fully comprehend the nature of their problem.

data marketing plannigAnecdotal information is, by its very nature, slanted. It’s one slice of reality while the world is a multi-faceted Rashomon-like film complete with unreliable narrators and conflicting points of view. You don’t need that. You need more – and more comprehensive, more systematically analyzed – information. This is the Data Discovery phase of the project.

Getting data before you make any large-scale changes is critical or you will actually make things worse. It’s not fast or simple, though, so a lot of people hesitate or, worse, skimp on this step. You know what I’m going to say. Let’s say it together. This is a mistake.

A team I recently ran a workshop for told me about a customer that was trying to understand an unexpected spike in sales. Geography, level of seniority of seller, type of account, none of it could account for the discrepancy between why some sellers were closing more sales than others – until they looked at the training the sellers received from the human resources (HR) department when they first joined the company. They would never had known that – and never been able to replicate the success of those special sellers – had they not been thorough in their Data Discovery.

You hear people talk about how we’re in the era of Big Data. Before you plan what part of your marketing to transform, you need to look at all the elements of your online and offline marketing – and a few more from other parts of the organization. Don’t think that’s really necessary? Remember when I said skimping was a mistake? That customer I talked about earlier investigated the sales spike and traced it back to the seller training data found in HR. If they’d only looked at data within Sales…Well, I suppose there are some companies that can stay in business making random decisions. They just don’t exist in this version of the universe.

Once you’ve collected data from across the company, cross-reference your data sets against each other like a kid playing connect the dots. Try to find patterns. Try to look at combinations of data across time periods to see if more patterns emerge. Try have people from other disciplines look at the data to see if they see connections to their own areas. Often finding links like HR training and sales spikes is just the natural result of persistent.

Some of these measurements will be of greater importance than others. These are key performance indicators (KPIs). Determine which KPIs are associated with which goal you are trying to achieve. Your data on these KPIs will give you a baseline of ‘where are we now?’ that you can use to as a baseline to measure progress over time.

In some ways, your data will almost tell you what areas of your business you need to focus on. Even in the circumstances where that doesn’t happen, though, you will be in a much better place to create and test out hypotheses when you do so based on empirical evidence rather than someone’s gut. When you hit that point, the Data Discovery will look like the best thing since sliced bread.

Comments welcome, especially if you have any tips about finding hidden gems among the data.

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