Seasoned Marketer: Marketers as Data Analysts? Maybe – But There’s So Much More to It!
We keep hearing about data analytics, and how it’s a big trend in our marketing industry…
But first, let’s talk a little bit about what we mean by “data analytics.” It’s much more than having clean data. I really liked Emily Steven’s definition in her November 30, 2022, article What is Data Analytics? A Complete Guide for Beginners. She says, “Most companies are collecting loads of data all the time—but, in its raw form, this data doesn’t really mean anything. This is where data analytics comes in. Data analytics is the process of analyzing raw data in order to draw out meaningful, actionable insights, which are then used to inform and drive smart business decisions.”
But what does all of that actually mean? Moreover, what does it mean for marketing professional services? Here are some thoughts for your consideration.
- Data analytics skills building is for everyone – including experienced marketers.
I will venture a guess that not all of us have time to go out and pursue Data Science certificates, but there are still things we can do to advance in this area. I recently attended a Chief Data Officer Summit, and while I didn’t understand everything, one really big theme spoke to me loud and clear: data analytics is for everyone. Meaning it’s not hard to conceive of the reality that data strategy, management, and analytical skills will be a regular part of nearly every business person’s job in the next few years. As seasoned marketers, we can start broadening our professional development to include data science content of any kind. We can start by discovering what structured vs. unstructured data is; the difference between descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive analytical modalities; and the pros and cons of offensive strategy vs. defensive strategy.
- Because data is for everyone, we need to hire with that in mind.
Review your job descriptions, professional development plans and team growth strategies. Are data analytics and related skills mentioned? Is this on the learning plan for your staff? Is this a new role or partial role that should be created over the next couple of years for your team? I simply posit that having some in-house capability is important, whether you want to make sure some work is done quickly and easily by your own team or if you’re overseeing consultants to whom you’ve outsourced data work.
- Data is everywhere and key to the future – so we need to get curious.
The most natural point of connection between marketing and sales data is likely with time and billing information, and thereafter scheduling and resource management, maybe even recruiting projections and so on. Surely this makes intuitive sense to you, but let’s hold on for a second. The list in the previous sentence actually covers a ton of territory! In fact, it touches on so many core functions of the business, the question is what dataset doesn’t somehow connect with others across the organization? So the next question is if you not only understand how your own data works – but do you know the basics of how other departments think about data? What is their most cherished KPI? What are the platforms they use, the consultants they hire, the top projects for the year, etc.? This seems like a lot of extra work, but there is something that I’m pointing to, because…
- Marketing data becomes exponentially more significant when it is integrated with other data sets.
Once your information around marketing and sales is integrated with other systems, everything instantly takes on more meaning. If your organization still has data silos, the value of this amplified effect may yet not be clear, but for those teams who have undergone major data integration projects, a vast new world of potential insights (and delightful new reporting requirements) opens up. How will you prepare your yourself, your team, your partners and your firm for this new strategic perspective? Because…
- Data is everywhere, but integration is really where it’s at.
In a February 2022 study sponsored by FinancialForce on the operational trends within professional services, the authors of the report state, “Integration provides visibility to all parts of the organization and helps break down organizational silos. Achieving client delight and profit in professional services requires tight coordination between demand and supply which can only be achieved through integrated business applications.” Period.
- We can be instrumental to building data-oriented cultures in our organizations.
In the equation that is “people + process + data,” the devil isn’t in the details – it’s with the people part of the equation. This was another refrain during that CDO Summit I mentioned earlier. While there may be real operational challenges around the opposing views of how data should be shared (or not), there is still a strong argument to be made that we need to help facilitate data awareness and respect at every level in our organizations, foster a sense of universal value for data, and invest in creating firm-wide data literacy.
“Data analytics” is so much more than learning how to do pivot tables and dashboards and Power BI and CRM stuff; it’s about the core of an organization. The data analyst hat being added to a marketer’s role could sound intimidating and maybe tiresome, but what if we were to reframe this completely? Instead of thinking of it as yet another thing to do among all the other tasks you have, you have an opportunity to play a critical leadership role in shaping data strategy and management for your firm. Consider this statement from a Harvard Business Review article, What’s Your Data Strategy? The key is to balance offense and defense by Leandro DalleMule and Thomas H. Davenport (Summer 2017):
“A company’s data architecture describes how data is collected, stored, transformed, distributed, and consumed. It includes the rules governing structured formats, such as databases and file systems, and the systems for connecting data with the business processes that consume it. Information architecture governs the processes and rules that convert data into useful information.”
Doesn’t that sound a lot like what we already do? So maybe the learning gap isn’t so wide. Maybe marketers are actually perfect co-leaders with other business disciplines to help our firms find their path from where we are now to a thriving, successful future state because we already understand data, analytics and related areas. We simply need to expand our own awareness of what else is happening in the organization and how our data matters more as time goes on.
(Go, Team Marketing!)