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How to Overcome the Great Analytics Gap

How to Overcome the Great Analytics Gap
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Analytics. It’s at the heart of every conversion optimization strategy and online business decision we make. But some studies are showing an ever-increasing gap between the information key-decision makers want, and the actionable insights needed to drive business forward. The question then becomes, where are we now, and what can be done about this “great divide”? Let’s take a closer look:

The Beginning of the Gap

According to a survey done by The CMO Survey and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, even at this time last year, spending on marketing analytics was down – even failing to meet the CMO’s own predictions. Although their share of spending on marketing analytics was forecast to increase over the next three years, the trend was still lower than anticipated:

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Analytics chart

Marketing budgets spent on analytics fell from its projected amount year after year.

In fact, looking deeper into the survey, it’s easy to see how CMOs could come to a decision like this. The percentage of projects using marketing analytics has gone down since 2012. Year after year, progress has shown to be rather tepid, which begs the question: are CMOs just not understanding the value of the information being provided? Or are analytics really not worth spending on?

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Analytics chart
The percentage of projects using marketing analytics has remained fairly consistent since 2012.

Insightful Answers Lead to More Questions

The answer is – neither. A study done by the MIT Sloan Management Review in collaboration with the SAS Institute showed that CMOs, global executives and senior management clearly want more use of analytics:

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Analytics chart
Management clearly sees the need for better, more actionable analytics data.

Two-thirds of executives reporting in the survey admitted to relying more on management experience than what the data showed, and a slim minority reported frequently having all the data they needed to make insightful business decisions. Is it a knee-jerk reaction to rely on one’s experience even if it flies directly in the face of what the data shows?

The study showed some interesting points that may have contributed to this feeling of lukewarm analytics reception:

It’s Not The Data – it’s What You Do With It Than Counts

As many as 75% of respondents acknowledged that their access to useful, actionable data had increased, and their ability to capture and leverage that data is improving – although slowly.

What’s more telling, is that only one in eight of the respondents were deemed to be “analytical innovators” – a term, according to the report, that was given to those employees who were part of an analytical culture fostered by their senior management. This culture highly prized data and insights derived from it, and were more strategic about their use of the intelligence they gathered.

One in eight. Let that sink in for a minute.

Only one in eight people have enough confidence to say that their company thrives on a culture where making strategic, data-driven choices is encouraged. Where gleaning insights from that data is a top priority.

And it’s not a case of analytics data not being worthwhile, either. A Marketo sponsored report on the future of online marketing showed that investment in actionable data is a smart decision that will power successful businesses well into the next five years and beyond.

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Analytics chart
Forecast investments in marketing technology include social media, mobile marketing and analytics.

As you can see, marketing analytics found itself squarely in third place, only behind social media and mobile marketing respectively. CMOs and other key decision makers know that marketing analytics are valuable. So it’s not a lack of investment because they can’t see the relevance.

Building a Bridge – Making Sense of Analytical Data

So we’ve narrowed down that the cause of the gap isn’t a lack of CMO knowledge or understanding, and despite prior questionable performance, spending still remains at an even level despite wanting more investment.

The cause of the gap is a lack of relevant, actionable, easily obtainable data – data that can be leveraged across all major channels to provide the kind of insights the CMOs and their analytics team need to bolster sales, build customer relationships and increase customer acquisition. There’s no shortage of information. All of this big data is being collected, compiled and dropped into the laps of key decision makers to try and make sense of it.

Analytical orientation is even being noted as one of the key skills for today’s CMOs to possess – with creativity taking a backseat:

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Analytics chart

Strategic mindset, customer insight and analytical orientation round out the top skills expected of CMOs.

So how do we build a bridge between the numbers and information we’re collecting, and the business-propelling strategies that stem from it?

When Experience Matters Most

This is where management experience – that aforementioned knee jerk reaction to data, comes into play. Try as we might to wring measurable, impactful details on our customers from the information we collect, there’s just too much interference and noise clogging up the connection. A lot of useless chatter clouding our vision and hindering our ability to move forward.

The bridge that crosses the analytics gap isn’t going to be built by digging our heels into the digital mud and going deeper into the numbers. It’s going to be built on the value of the customer experience.

The perception of marketing is going to shift. While analytics are still going to be useful, crunching numbers will only get us so far. Key drivers are going to be more experience-based rather than data-based. Things like:

  • Managing customer expectations over their entire lifecycle and not just the acquisition process
  • Measuring customer engagement, not just counting how many customers you’ve gotten
  • Cultivating and nurturing customer relationships rather than passing them off to sales and hoping for the best
  • Quickly and fully resolving customer issues before they grow and fester on social media

As you can see, these are intangible things that analytics simply cannot measure. But analytics can tell us which channels open the door to drive these types of experiences. So it’s not about choosing sides – analytics or customer experience – but leveraging both in such a way that they form a continuous cycle of clear insights that forge a path for the next sales cycle and beyond.