Analytic Partners' President, Nancy Smith, explains that adopting analytics can be a shock to the system; but shock, if managed correctly, can be an opportunity
There’s a tale of culture shock and resultant inspiration that I find strangely analogous to the shock and inspiration that organizations can experience when they take the leap to adopting analytics and data-driven marketing. Let me start with the tale:
It was the early 80’s, and two 18 year-old boys left their small-town in Indiana on a hitchhiking adventure to The Big Apple, New York City. Like every other human being on the planet, they had heard that New York was the happening place. These boys were on the threshold of becoming full-grown men, yet they knew they had to experience more to truly grow up.
The boys successfully hitched their way from Indiana to the outskirts of New York. With Manhattan’s towers in sight, they were excited to have their goal within reach. If the chaotic highways running around and through Manhattan are difficult to navigate for experienced drivers, you can imagine how confusing they must have been to young hitchhiking passengers desperately trying to get a grip on their location. The boys panicked when they saw a road sign indicating that they were leaving Manhattan, and they pleaded with their host to stop the van and let them out. The driver resisted as they were on a busy highway with no safe place to stop, but the boys, with only a few dollars between them, insisted. So, the driver reluctantly stopped and let them off on the side of a busy highway skirted by high walls.
Stuck on the dangerous edge of the Cross Bronx Expressway, the boys managed to climb out and find themselves at the upper fringe of Manhattan, in Washington Heights. At the time, Washington Heights was the high crime, crack cocaine capital of New York City.
A wiry, little homeless man approached the overwhelmed boys, and asked in a high-pitched shout: “Do you know where you are?”
The boys obviously did not know where they had landed.
When the menacing little man didn’t get a response, he shouted: “You’re in the jungle, baby! You’re gonna die!!!”
And, that’s how Axl Rose, one of the Indiana boys, got the inspiration for some of the most memorable rock lyrics of the last century: Welcome to Jungle by Guns N’ Roses.
Much like a young Axl looking to expand his horizons, many executives have heard that big data analytics, data driven marketing, marketing mix modelling, and attribution are places they must go to graduate to the next level with their enterprise. And, much like a young Axl, many executives emerge on to a scene that they didn’t envision, and they don’t know how to answer the question: “Do you know where you are?”
The good news is that even if you find yourself in the jungle, like Axl, you can use the experience as inspiration to create something memorable (and highly lucrative). When you find yourself in a proverbial Washington Heights during the 80s crack epidemic, you can quietly slink back to a small town life of anonymity, or you can use the experience to create value beyond your singular experience.
The adoption of analytics has become a major area of focus for many industries, but many enterprises making the investment have experienced slow or disappointing results. As a Forrester analyst recently observed: "We found that while 74% of firms say they want to be “data-driven,” only 29% say they are good at connecting analytics to action. That is the problem."
Adding to the sense of pressure to kick-start and grow an analytics program, a jungle of vendors and intermediaries has sprouted up, seemingly overnight, to support the increasingly complex digital ecosystem. In order to confront these challenges, forward-looking organizations have developed org structures and roles (e.g. Chief Data Officer) to assist with these changes. Likewise, research organizations like Forrester and Gartner have launched or refocused practice areas. All these changes are a signal that the industry is investing to support new capabilities.
In our experience at Analytic Partners, we have found some key opportunities and watch-outs that you should keep in mind to support a more successful adoption of marketing analytics:
- Secure executive sponsorship
- Ensure you have a champion in senior management. Highly visible support and sponsorship for analytic adoption is critical. The best examples of this reside with both the CMO and CFO whose partnership are a great enabler for driving change across the organization.
- Start with the question
- Don’t pick the solution – focus on the question. Solutions should be selected to best address the questions. You may think you want a marketing mix model, media mix optimization, cross-media attribution, an A/B test or some combination of the above. An incredible amount of time and energy can been wasted on RFPs and vendor evaluations for solutions that are not aligned with core business needs.
- Focus on the need-to-know questions, not the nice-to-know questions. What questions, when answered, will lead to actionable intelligence? What are the marketing levers in your organization that can be pushed or pulled? Your solution should be geared to produce answers you can act on.
- Pilot first, scope later
- Pilot first, scope later to develop momentum quickly; focusing on quick and strong engagement to get to action and demonstrate quick wins
- For first time adopters – find a small business, brand, or product line to demonstrate success
- Ensure the business team is analytically savvy and/or willing to learn
- Pick a business you can learn from and reapply to other business lines
- Drive buy in through education and transparency
- One of the biggest barriers to adoption is buy-in. Ensure your teams are educated and there is a high level of transparency in your approach.
Even if you execute the above steps, you may run into obstacles. My best advice is to address the skeptics directly. Often, skepticism is borne from ignorance as opposed to being agenda-driven. You may need to build a bridge from misconceptions to reality. Sometimes previous false starts or sub-optimal experiences fuel skepticism. You will need to ensure your team members do not confuse an ad-hoc, add-on service from your existing data or media partner as the equivalent of a holistic and comprehensive analytics program.
Depending on where your organization is on the analytics adoption curve, you may need to step back and communicate the organizational commitment and change necessary to truly reap the benefits of marketing analytics. Adopting systematic data-driven intelligence gathering and decision-making can be a big leap, but in order to see what the world has to offer, sometimes you have to leave small town Indiana, and dive deliberately into the data jungle. Welcome to the jungle, you’re not gonna die, you’re gonna be king.