Monday, March 9, 2009

The ever increasing importance and availability of Marketing Analytics

Something that has long plagued the realm of marketing can now be strength. For the longest time marketing activities created results that were vague and difficult to measure. For example, how does one effectively measure the impact of a $500k commercial? As a result no hard fast ROI or impact could be measured by the folks in finance and the feel good activities, such as brand building, become the first things to get axed during difficult times like the ones we are currently facing.

Until now….

Our ability to obtain, analyze, and exploit data has improved drastically over the last few years. While it doesn’t quite have the buzz as something like “Social Media” or “Marketing Automation”, marketing analytics is just as if not more important. A successful marketing analyst can have a positive impact on every aspect of marketing- from market research all the way to revising a merchandising strategy. Here are few steps that will allow you to get back in the good graces of the guys in finance.

Data Accessibility

The marketing department has historically been dependent on a team of data analysts who were well versed in SQL and database management in order to get data. A disconnect usually resulted as analysts, failing to understand the business needs behind the request, would supply incomplete or rigid data to a marketing team, that wasn’t doing a great job of communicating their needs.

Don’t despair. There are several programs out there, such as U/SQL, which will allow marketing analysts to pull data from the warehouse. And the great thing about these programs is that you don’t need to be well versed in SQL programming. If this still appears too difficult or if your marketing team is constrained by an old legacy we recommend that you contract with a third party that can build an effective bridge. The bottom line is that you need to be able to get to all of your data.

Data Manageability

Now more marketing analysts are learning enough about databases to become dangerous. Simple bridges can be established to connect directly to the data source. And now that Excel 2007 can allow for over a million rows of data just about anyone can now effectively pivot data to pull out meaningful insights. Complicated procedures associated with setting up OLAP cubes are no longer as necessary. There are also plenty of products, such as Tableau Software, that do an excellent job of making the data visually come to life.

Once this is established the team can then focus on weightier matters…namely analyzing and coming up with effective measures that impact their unit’s bottom line. A competent analyst or third party will be able to create an automated dashboard or worksheet that will efficiently bring in data and allow it to be measured according to specified KPI’s and measures. This streamlined process will then free up the team to focus on ad-hoc or other projects that are deemed important.

Data Exploitation

If you’ve followed the above two recommendations than you are on the cusp of justifying your existence to the guys in finance. Why? Because you’ve minimized the amount of time needed to obtain and analyze data. You have reduced the need for an additional layer of IT support. And you’ve set the ground work for the types of measurable analysis that they demand in order to green light future marketing expenditures and justify current projects. The numbers don’t lie and now you’ve got them on your side.

With the data close at hand you can easily perform the types of analysis needed by finance to gauge viability. You perform statistical analysis to look for significant trends and insights in sales data. You can visually show the impact that a certain promotion had over a certain region in order to better understand its impact. The bottom line is that you can now look so much cooler and do so much more then you could just a few years ago when these kinds of dreams would have only been fulfilled by a costly Business Intelligence software implementation.

Happy mining! It’s a brave new world. But the sooner you can figure out how to get direct access to your data the better you are. And the more time you can spend analyzing the data instead of getting it the better you are for your company. During lean times like these this is prescription that will carry some serious benefit.