Data Analysts are a Marketer’s Best Friend

Marketers today need to be comfortable with data. They need to be able to understand what the data is telling them and how to make decisions based on that. The best hunches or instincts in the world cannot compete with data-driven strategies. Not in 2019.

But you and I are not the experts. We didn’t go to school to learn how to work with data (though perhaps more marketing coursework in the future will involve data analytics and statistics).

That’s why we need to befriend the people who are experts.

Data analysts and data scientists are the folks who know how to make sure your company is collecting the right data, how to review and sort through that data to get answers to critical business questions, and how to present their findings in a way that makes it easy to make business decisions.

For marketers, this skill set is a godsend. Here are just a few of the key ways marketers can work with data analysts to achieve better business results:

  1. Build real-time reporting by advertising channel that lets you view return on investment at the high level across channels and dive deeper within each channel to improve optimization decisions

  2. Gain a deeper understanding of how customers are progressing through the buyer journey and identify opportunities within the sales funnel to improve the likelihood of conversion

  3. Build more robust buyer personas with first-party data collected by your company that will help your sales team prospect more effectively and influence future branding and messaging decisions

  4. Isolate the impact of key pricing and promotional campaigns in order to determine the ideal pricing strategy that drives maximum profitability and sales

  5. Connect your data with key advertising platforms to derive greater value from AI and machine learning going forward, letting algorithms take the lead of spending decisions in order to maximize efficiency

Every marketing organization today needs people who are fully engaged with the data their company and their customers are generating. This data is a treasure trove of information that can be used to guide decisions at every level of the company.

As a marketer, you would be smart to spend more time with your company’s data analysts and data scientists, leveraging their incredible skill set to help you do more.

Who is Responsible for the Performance of Your Website?

On Monday, we tried to answer the question, “what is your website for?” Today, we want to take on the natural follow up to that question.

Who is responsible for the website performance?

Again, this is a tricky question in many organizations. If I ask it, a number of hands might shoot up. The head of marketing says it’s her, or someone on her team. Is it the SEO? The designer? The person in charge of conversion rate optimization?

There are a lot of people in any company who have a stake in the performance of the website. The problem is, there is no one person in charge of strategy and decision making. And without that person to lead, what happens is websites are managed by committee. And that’s where things go wrong.

So let us map out an example of what a website team might look like. This can be used as a guide at your company, or modified to fit your needs.

At the top is the singular person who is responsible for the performance of the website. It doesn’t matter what this person’s title is. His or her role is to set strategy and make the final decisions as they relate to the company’s website.

Which includes:

  • Landing pages

  • Homepage

  • Technology

  • Design

  • Functionality

  • Checkout

  • and more….

At the end of the day, this person will be judged based on the overall performance of the website, as measured by the key metrics agreed upon at the top of an organization.

He or she is supported then by teams responsible for SEO, conversion rate optimization, UX and creative, data and analytics, development, and advertising. Each of these people or teams share some overlap with the person in charge of web performance.

The data and analytics teams are measuring that performance and looking for ways to improve. The SEO aims to make changes on the site intended to earn higher rankings. The advertising team wants to improve landing pages and the overall conversion funnel.

And all of these teams converge on the person in charge. He or she is taking all of the ideas and prioritizing them based on need and value added. They are making the final decisions on what to test, what to change, and what to keep as it is.

A structure such as this leads to maximum accountability, because the individual success metrics for each team that touches the website roll up to those key performance indicators that matter at the highest levels. Strategy supersedes lower level tactics, and decisions can be made across teams in a way that makes clear the priorities of the company as a whole.

What is a Website For?

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It may seem like a ridiculous question, to ask what a website is for. Websites can serve many different purposes – from attracting readers to news articles, to selling products, to fundraising, and more.

But if I were to ask you, “what is your company’s website for”, could you answer? How much hedging would you have to do?

The problem with websites is that they often serve many masters. Marketing wants to streamline and optimize for sales. Creative wants control over the look and feel. Compliance teams want to fill it with legal disclaimers. And the CEO wants his face on the homepage.

What is your website for? The question should have an easy answer. But depending on who I ask, I might get a different answer.

If you are in marketing, you might give me a different answer than your customer service team, or your IT team. And that’s the problem.

To maximize the performance of any website, you need to know what you are maximizing for. Is it sales? Revenue? Donations? Visits? Page depth? Clicks? Calls?

When I ask, what is your website for, the answer should roll off the tongue. It should be quick and easy.

“Our website is for people to purchase books online.”

Okay, great. Now I know what we are solving for. And now I can suggest changes and run tests aimed at selling more books. Because I know that at the end of the day, success is measured by book sales.

It is sound advice for any company to agree first on what your website is for, then work to try to improve performance. Because if you are trying to improve performance before you all agree on what the goal is, you will end up in a lot of uncomfortable conversations.

Who is Your Data Expert?

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Every marketing team in 2018 needs a data expert. Who’s yours?

Your data expert is the go-to person for questions that require data. And that’s most questions.

One of the greatest things about being a marketer in today’s world is the amount of raw data available. Companies can truly be data-driven, meaning that we no longer make guesses or use instincts to make some of the most important decisions in our organizations.

If we want to know whether customers who find us on Google are more valuable than customers who find us on Facebook, we can look it up. If we want to know whether a 20% off coupon increases revenue over the long term, we can look it up. If we want to know if changing the shopping cart pages on our website increase conversion rate, we can look it up.

The answers are out there. Your data expert is the person who is going to get them for you.

Data Expert Skills

Your data expert comes with a set of skills required to do the job. Ideally, these are skills that he or she has fine-tuned over many years in the field. But not always.

First and foremost, your data expert has a strong attention to detail. They are well-organized, and will take the time to fully understand the definition of every metric and piece of data. It is easy when looking at a large data set to miss errors and misclassify items. Your data expert will know how to avoid these types of mistakes that might lead you down the wrong path.

Your data expert will know what data to look for to answer your questions. They will be able to simplify the answer to your question by only showing you the analysis that matters and leaving out all of the data that has no bearing on the specific conversation.

In addition to mastery of statistics and statistical methods, your data expert will know how to tell a story with numbers. They will know how to present the analysis in such a way that you, and all other non-data experts, will be able to see and understand the conclusions clearly.

Lastly, your data expert will be able to identify and signal where the holes are in your data. They will be honest about the answers they are not able to get and why. And they should be able to recommend changes in business practices to fill those holes to make future analysis achievable.

Where to Find a Data Expert

These are roles that exist, and more and more people are learning the skills to fill them. You will find your data expert the same way you find the rest of your team.

  • Job boards – you are looking for data analysts, data scientists, statisticians, business analysts, or the like. Each of these titles carries different skills and levels of experience, so do some research on what separates them and understand who you are looking for.

  • Existing employees – perhaps you have someone on staff who is a data expert and you never even knew. Ask around and let people know you are looking to fill this type of role. You might be surprised at who raises their hand.

  • Consultants and outside groups – there are many companies who you can tap to supply data expertise on a part time or project by project basis. Find out who has experience in your industry and reach out to ask about rates and processes.

How to Get the Most from Your Data

Many companies today claim to be data-driven. But few of them actually are.

What most companies mean when they say that they are data-driven is…

  • We know we should be data-driven, and

  • We look at some data on a regular basis, but

  • We still make decisions based on anecdotes and gut instinct.

In order to become a data-driven company, in the truest sense of the description, you must do three things well:

  1. You must work toward a clean and complete data set. This requires a clearly articulated strategy around data collection and reporting.

  2. You must understand exactly what the data is telling you. Implied in this is the fact that data can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

  3. You must trust that relying on your data in all decision making processes will lead to better outcomes.

Your data expert will help you achieve each of these, if you find the right person.

Is AI Coming for Your Job?

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When you read anything about artificial intelligence or machine learning these days, you can sort it into one of two buckets: either it’s the greatest innovation ever and will make all of your dreams come true, or it’s the end of work as we know it.

The truth is, it’s probably a little bit of both, and a little bit of neither.

We already wrote a few months back about how machine learning will impact marketers from a process and performance standpoint. But what about jobs? Everyone wants to know – is AI going to make me obsolete?

Like so many other things, the answer is that it depends.

It depends on what role(s) you are playing in your company today. It depends what systems or processes you use. It depends how willing you are to learn and to grow your skillset. And it depends how willing your company will be to invest in both the technology and your career.

Let’s break those each down a bit further.

Your Role(s)

AI and machine learning have the potential to do many of the tasks that human beings do today. And depending on who you ask, that potential is either right around the corner or a decade or two away. Both scenarios are scary, because it means that the tasks we train for today might not exist in ten years’ time.

So the key to understanding how to proceed is to learn as much as you can about what role AI will play. We already know that computers can do simple tasks better than we can, whether it be straightforward data entry, normal mathematical calculations, etc. AI and machine learning will quickly become good at more complex processes, like statistical analysis and prediction.

In the marketing world, roles like media planning and buying, campaign management, pricing, promotions, content, and more will be threatened. If nothing else, the nature of those roles will change.

Human beings will still be necessary, at least in the near term, for strategic planning, as well as the development, installation, and maintenance of those systems that will be set up to improve marketing processes.

Systems and Processes

The roles that are most likely to be eliminated in your organization depend a lot on the types of systems that get developed. Until marketing programs are designed and trained on how to take over your role, your role is safe. And unless you work at a large organization with a huge R&D budget, odds are you are going to have to wait for another company to create the systems that your company will end up adopting.

So the reality is, the smaller your company, the less likely it is that AI is coming for your job anytime soon. Because the systems that get created in these early days of AI adoption are likely to be more expensive, and more complex than what will come later.

Learn and Grow

Either way, the time to adapt is now. Stop thinking about your job, and start thinking about your role. Each of our jobs is made up of a number of different tasks. AI will eliminate certain tasks, but it will also create new ones.

Start training now for the new tasks that your company is going to need you to work on. You can make yourself indispensable by learning the skills that no one else in your company is capable of.

Learn how to work with and manage data. Learn how to design the formulas and train the programs that are going to be used to implement these new technologies. And learn soft skills like people management, strategy, and communication that will always be in demand.

Your Company

Much of what comes next will rely as much on your company as it will on you. Some companies will invest in new technology early because they feel that it will give them a competitive advantage. Others will wait for the technology to prove its effects before they take the time to deploy it themselves.

Similarly, some companies will invest in retraining and preparing their workforce for the coming change. Others will be eager to downsize their teams and take advantage of the promised savings and efficiency that the next technology revolution will bring.

You can get a head start on that future reality by talking to your manager today about what it will mean for your organization. And the choice will be yours to either take the necessary steps to solidify your role in your current organization or prepare for a new role at the next organization.