September 22, 2009
How To

Collaborate with Data Analysts: 4 Strategies to Improve Relationships with IT

SUMMARY: Marketers often have too much of a good thing when it comes to data. Between web analytics, marketing automation software, email metrics and CRM systems, the sheer volume of data is daunting -- unless you have someone to help you analyze it.

Learn how to build a closer relationship with your company’s in-house statistical analysts to lift your results and better focus your efforts. Includes four strategies for connecting with these vital coworkers, and two common misconceptions.
We’ve all experienced data overload: Many marketers regularly use a few reports and let the thousands of other metrics fall by the wayside. There just is not enough time to consider every data point.

That’s why many companies hire statistical analysts. Analysts are tasked with generating reports and taking a deep look at a wide range of metrics to gain insight into customer behavior.

However, not enough companies are making the most of their statistical analysts, and by default, their customer data, says Andrew Janis, Senior Marketing Consultant, Evantage Consulting. Janis’ team surveyed several thousand Minneapolis marketers, analysts and executives last year about their marketing analytics (summary report linked below).

"A lot of companies have started putting time and money into analytics, but they haven’t translated that investment into using that data to better inform what’s going on," Janis says.

Janis’ team interviewed some of the survey’s respondents to learn why they haven’t effectively incorporated data into their planning and marketing. Below, we outline common problems Janis sees, why they matter, and how to start using more data to make better decisions.

-> Two Misconceptions about Data Usage

Misconception #1. Analysts are report machines

A common cause of underused data, Janis says, is a weak relationship between a company’s marketers and its analysts.

Marketers can often see analysts as order takers who can only generate specific reports the marketing team has developed. Analysts are much more valuable when given the chance to learn more about marketing strategy and goals, and collaborate on report ideas that will deliver big insights.

"With Web data specifically, there can be 15 different ways to address a question or an issue," Janis says. "The analyst has all this information about these little pieces of data and things they’re seeing on the website. But if they have no insight into the strategic marketing objectives, they can’t pull that data together to tell a cohesive story."

Misconception #2. Marketers need to learn more

Janis also notes that many analysts feel that marketers could make better use of their companies’ data if they knew more about metrics and the types of reports that are available. Marketers, however, have other priorities.

"It’s really too down in the weeds for most marketers, who really don’t care about most of that stuff. They want to know if a strategy is working or not, and potentially how to improve it."

Analysts should be the experts on data sets, reports, and effective tests. The key is to include them in the strategic planning process so that their insight and expertise can be used most effectively.

-> Forging a Better Relationship: 4 Strategies

The best solution for getting more insights from your team’s underused data is to build a better relationship with your company’s analysts, and to bring them into the planning room.

Here are four ways to better connect with them:

Strategy #1. Include analysts in planning meetings

Your company’s analyst, or the head of your team of analysts, should be at your marketing planning meetings. He or she should understand your team’s larger and smaller goals. This will get them thinking about the tests and reports to run to best measure what you’re trying to accomplish.

At these meetings, experienced analysts should be able to add a data-driven, unique perspective on:
o Marketing and sales opportunities
o Historic insight into which types of efforts were successful or unsuccessful
o How to set up tracking
o Reports that can best monitor performance
o How to tweak and optimize campaign
o How much of an improvement to expect

Most companies bring analysts in after planning and at the tactical level, which is “way too late in the game,” Janis says.

Strategy #2. Give the analysts latitude

Once the analysts understand your big-picture marketing goals, give them the freedom to dig into the data and present you with insights. Of course, you can still request specific reports, but also be open minded to other data.

You might find that analysts will suggest additional reports that complement data you’ve requested, or suggest testing different elements that are likely to have a greater impact.

Strategy #3. Get to know your analysts

Far too often, analysts work in the IT department, which might be in a different part of your building, or even in a different city. If this is the case, do what you can to bridge the gap and build a relationship.

Even something as simple a lunch with key analysts can lead to better collaboration. "It sounds basic, but in these struggling organizations, it’s a fundamental thing that is not happening," Janis says.

Janis interviewed one Minneapolis marketer who needed a specific piece of customer data and could not figure out how to capture it. At a business meeting in Texas, she ran into one of her company’s analysts by chance and discovered that this person was exactly who she needed to work with.

"The ironic thing is that this woman works about 100 yards from her in Minneapolis, but they had to go all the way to Texas to meet each other and figure this out."

Strategy #4. Get your analysts excited

If you tell analysts that you’d like to get beyond just requesting reports -- that you’d like them to dig into the data and find insights on your customers -- they should be excited.

Ask them to use the data to tell a story about what customers are doing on your website. Suggest that they look for low hanging fruit -- quick easy ways to save money or to capture revenue.

"As an analyst, personally, I would love that," Janis says. If this doesn’t entice the analysts at your company, you may want to consider working with someone else.

"Some people are called analysts and all they really want to do is take orders and generate reports. But the real analysts want to be brought into that planning process and understand the objectives and help bring data to bear on marketers’ key problems," Janis says.

Useful links related to this article:

Five Most Neglected Metrics

Measure the Impact of Blogger Outreach: 9 Key Metrics

Evantage Metrics Report Summary

Evantage Consulting

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