Analytics. To many it’s critical to business, measuring how successfully a product is selling, a message is making an impact, or how customers engage with your brand on digital platforms.
Despite further investment in analytics capabilities (that being personnel equipped to sift, analyze, and gain insights from big data, or the perfect combination of a data scientist and a communications specialist), only 30% of CMOs report actually using them.
This begs the question: why is this utilization gap so apparent and why isn’t more being done to close it?
Before we attempt to answer that question, let’s dive into the analytics process to show just why using – and not just having – analytics is critical.
The Analysis Process
Analytics is defined as the collection, measurement, analysis, visualization, and interpretation of data to understand and validate business objectives. Put plainly, it’s about finding patterns in a sea of numbers that reveals something about your audience. The analyst must understand a business need, design a clear path to meeting that need, and provide recommendations for action.
Analysts and Strategists must be methodical in identifying a goal and clear steps to achieving that goal based on data. This analytics process is typically a six-step process that leads to an undeniable pathway to success. Let’s dive in.
The analyst starts by asking questions such as: “How many people are completing your customer journey?” and “where are you losing or retaining customers in that journey?” and then proposing answers to those questions, priming for deliberate testing.
Testing different solutions to the questions while hypothesizing is the next step. This step also includes assigning and tracking variables, ensuring all aspects of the test are included, documented, and measurable. For example, one sponsored Facebook ad can target two types of audiences to understand which user profiles favor one creative over another. Similarly, website structure and imagery can be tested over a period of time to see which visuals and user experience drives more traffic. The Obama campaign did this in 2008 and results were clear, cut, and surprising.
Next, the analyst assigns key performance indicators (e.g. link clicks, website traffic, time spent on page, bounce rate, engagement rate, etc.) of variable success and measures accompanying metrics over time, comparing them to past performance, benchmark values, or other standards of comparison.
The analyst displays the data in a clear and digestible way for anyone to read and comprehend major patterns and insights. You know, charts, graphs, plots, and tables that abstract data into patterns.
The next step is uncovering trends in data that map back to the key performance indicators set in the testing period. Insights will prove why the data aligns (or doesn’t align) with expectations. So when looking at a heat map of your website, for example, you may find that the CTA to “add to cart” is not being noticed in its current placement. Or when running a campaign on Facebook, an audience you previously hadn’t considered is interested in your product.
Finally, the analyst interprets insights into clear and actionable steps for changing, optimizing, and executing the testing or campaign differently – target this audience, use this message, try this chanel, you get the idea.
The analyst repeats this process using learnings to optimize the next round of marketing.
The Role of Analytics In Strategic Communication
Strategic communicators are tasked with the challenge of paving a pathway for decisions. When establishing these decision plans, there is no disputing clear, insightful data.
The process described above can be applied to almost any business, in any industry, attempting to solve any challenge. That means sales forecasting, optimizing market strategies, maximizing a return on assets, identifying growth opportunities, targeting consumers, building brand awareness, establishing communications plans, optimizing budgets – the list goes on.
Providing the ‘Why’
53% of all companies now make use of analytics, proving that data-driven decisions are important to business leaders looking to protect their bottom line. CMOs will devote 6-10% of their marketing budgets to data and analysis over the next three years, and these projections are expected to grow. Business leaders are relying on analysts to provide the reasoning behind decisions, to steer them in the right direction, and to provide the “why.” The why shouldn’t come from gut, intuition, or experience. It should come from data. Cold, beautiful, indisputable data.
The Utilization Gap
There is a gap, however, between the data scientist and the communicator/marketer. There is a need for professionals who can bridge the two practice areas, understanding how to use and interpret data into actionable decisions for business leaders.
This ‘trilingual’ person must be well versed in the languages of analytic modeling, technology, and business.
As analytics capabilities grow at rates faster than ever, entry-level employees need to be armed with a basic ability to apply analytical thinking and practices to their work. It is up to teachers, mentors, professors, and managers to identify when a current or potential employee has this particular set of skills, and let them learn, grow, and flourish.
Preparing for An Analytical Future
At the beginning of the year I predicted that a major marketing trend in 2019 would be an increased reliance on data for decision making. I predicted that businesses would be changing their hiring models. “Rather than hiring one data scientist to do all the ‘math,’ the entire marketing department, project team, or agency needs to have an underlying understanding for making decisions.’
I stand by this prediction, and believe that employees at all levels must have a basic understanding of data collection programs, research methodologies in digital technology, and analyzing numbers for decision optimization. Companies and college programs alike will be changing their standards to mold their organizations into analytical thinkers.
Business executives know the value of analytics. They look for data in decision making. Yet they don’t utilize the full potential of talent, resources, and power of data-driven thinking. At a time when more companies are pledging to grow this workforce, organizations at all levels must be primed for thinking analytically, and preparing a future workforce to use analytics to drive strategy.
If you’re a CMO, start utilizing your potential. If you’re an analyst, start marketing your skills. If you’re a student, start broadening your understandings. The future is right around the corner.
Want to learn more about how analytics uncovers behavioral and psychological trends? Read Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What The Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are.