Data Is Growing Up, Are You?

As marketers progress rapidly toward the analytics 2.0 horizon brought on by the ability to collect and store more data, one phrase has echoed through my mind: “It’s time to get mature about data.”

The opportunities and problems brought on by “big data” are nothing new for marketers. We’ve always had to deal with information on who our customers are and what they do. Ever since we’ve realized that “half our advertising dollars are wasted,” we’ve been driven to better understand how exactly our marketing spend influences behavior.

And for the past 20 years or so, we’ve done alright. We’ve built systems that track bounces, opens, clicks, unsubscribes, and complaints. We’ve connected that with on-site behavior to understand conversions. We’ve linked customer data back to the email to drive dynamic personalization. Well done.

But have we begun to understand statistically how our campaigns that don’t drive conversions influence behavior? Do we know which factors out of that set of customer data are better to target when personalizing? And, for these two questions and hundreds more, can we justify our answers using data and analysis?

I’m guessing that for many of us, the answer is no.

Time to grow up.

As the realm of measurement moves out of the purely technical and shares importance with the marketing side of the house, are we in marketing prepared to use this awesome capability that we’re about to gain?

Here are five things you can do to create a data maturity growth spurt:

1. Ditch the single channel mentality. Email affects behavior, but so do other channels. Recently, a major company’s marketing department presented the revenue generated by each digital channel to their financial leaders. When they summed all the channels, they showed $200 million generated, which made the CFO laugh, since the company had only generated $120 million.

Research the methods and new tools available that make it possible to more accurately attribute revenue and understand better how channels influence behavior.

2. Get better metrics. The fundamentals remain important, but other methods of analysis will provide deeper insights into your performance.

For example, consider building cohort analysis into your reporting practice. You’ll get a better idea of how customers gained through different marketing mixes perform over a certain period of time, possibly identifying key insights in lifetime value that could not be had attributing value from the most recent purchase only.

3. Understand the stats. Statistical analysis that used to be seen only in the world of insurance and finance are now being leveraged by marketing departments to better understand big data.

It’s unrealistic for most marketers to reach the same level of proficiency that these Masters and Ph.D-level quants have. But that doesn’t mean a marketer can’t learn enough to understand what methods are being used and how to interpret the results. Learn to speak the language of the quants; be able to ask intelligent questions that a quant can work with; and be able to understand the relevance and limitations of the results she presents.

4. Look outside to find success. Research other companies that are using data and new analytical approaches to understand their successes and failures. Attend conferences, ask colleagues, and read plenty. Identify key takeaways for your business, tools you should consider, pitfalls to avoid, and results to expect.

5. Use it. This principle is as true as it ever was: all of this maturity is worth nothing if you don’t use it to test new things and improve.

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” – Mark Twain

Grow up, and join the marketers who are always striving for the next level of data maturity.

Data image on home page via Shutterstock.

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