It Takes a Village

  |  January 21, 2010   |  Comments

What talents are needed to get a company to shift from gut driven to data driven in digital marketing?

Digital marketing metrics. It's just a matter of slapping on some Google Analytics tags, waiting for some data to get collected, and then starting to pump out reports, right?

If your goal is to check the box that says "online marketing analytics" and move on without a backward glance, then you're all set. But if you want to actually optimize your marketing and take the lead in your industry, you'll need the help of several talented people.

This is where it gets tricky and where the total cost of ownership goes up. It's also the only place you'll find real value in measuring your marketing.

A roomful of talented people is expensive and the occupants are demanding, high maintenance, and contentious. They are as diverse in talent as they are in temperament. Just keeping track of which one wants which kind of coffee, latte, tea, and protein drink will keep the aspirin companies in business.

What sorts of talents are needed? Let's start with business acumen.

Hiring a whiz kid who can program rings around his elders is cool, but hiring somebody with half the tech talent and years of business know-how is far better. Everybody in the room needs serious business value more than technical chops. That said, you're going to need some good tech assistance to get started.

Pages need to be tagged. IPhone apps need to be instrumented. Call center stats need to be integrated. All the customer touch points you can think of must have some sort of information flowing to whatever shows up on the eventual dashboard.

That dashboard will be read by senior executives who must truly understand the importance of a crashing conversion rate. If they storm the analysis bullpen, fuming at the down arrow and haven't seen that Web site traffic has quintupled in the same time period, and you have to explain that the new traffic is good even if it brings conversion rates down, then it's time for a series of lunchtime seminars.

None of this will happen without some sort of senior sponsorship. No, not just budgetary sponsorship, but visionary sponsorship. It takes real vision to get a company to shift from gut driven to data driven.

What looks like "data driven" from the outside looks like marketing accountability on the inside. Projects are approved based on expected results with those results reviewed before, during, and after the fact. That means the room has to include people who are ready, willing, and able to take marketing metrics and act on them.

These would-be business people are on the hook for business outcomes. They will review the numbers, eyeball the pie charts, assess customer satisfaction scores, ponder the latest usability studies, tabulate the awareness survey results, and monitor the social media chatter to change a product spec, alter a campaign promise, highlight a feature, and/or create a brand extension.

Between the technical expert and the business managers are a new breed: the analysts. An analyst must have technical skills and knowledge as well as management skills and knowledge. They are a mixture of statistical mathematician, technical tactician, business physician, insight generation magician, and master of communication.

Clearly, they must know the math. They need to tell at a glance what is statistically significant, what is anomalous, and what should be discounted as mathematical noise.

They have to know the technical side well enough to understand where the data comes from and how they relate.

They must have that all important business acumen to sort the merely interesting from the useful.

They have to have the ability to solve puzzles and deliver to the business managers not just data, not just information or knowledge, but actual wisdom.

Finally, for that wisdom to be not just delivered but received, they need to be able to speak fluent corporate speak. Otherwise, their message will fall on deaf ears.

If any one of these people aren't in the room and fully operational, your marketing metrics will only satisfy a functional audit and not the competition. This isn't checkbox territory; it's competitive advantage territory.

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Jim Sterne

Jim Sterne is an international consultant focused on measuring the value of the online marketing for creating and strengthening customer relationships. Sterne has written eight books on using the Internet for marketing, produces the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit and is co-founder and current chairman of the Digital Analytics Association.

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