Blog post

Four Truths and One Lie About Marketing Analytics

By Christi Eubanks | July 17, 2015 | 1 Comment


Gartner’s 2015 Data-Driven Marketing Survey, shows significant growth for the marketing analytics discipline in terms of spend, team size, and sophistication. More than 250 marketing professionals told us about the role of analytics and data,  in their marketing organizations. Don’t worry. The lie is not in the survey.

In the spirit of getting to know each other, I thought it only fair to share a little about my client-side experience as a marketing analytics leader. To make it interesting, we’ll riff off the format of the ice breaker game 3 Truths and a Lie. (I threw an extra in for good measure.) But first, a little background:

My former employer is a Fortune 500 consumer products manufacturer. When I joined the company in 2012, analytics meant measuring website traffic. By the time I left, we’d built a marketing analytics (not just web) Center of Excellence serving six global brands and a dozen international markets. [Shameless plug for the survey: it has some insights about CoEs if you are thinking about one (Subscription required).]

Were we exemplars? In some ways yes and others no. We were forward thinking, but our data and our budget didn’t always match our ambition.

Here are some truths (and one lie that all analytics leaders need to stop telling ourselves) that shaped our vision, strategy, and interactions with the rest of the organization. If you work in analytics  at a large company, you might relate to some of these.

Agility is more important than size.  Fewer than 10 analysts reported to me. That’s smaller than average given the size of our business. A small centralized team can effectively serve a large organization by prioritizing knowledge centers and training, democratizing access to data (within guardrails), and leveraging automation.

Cultural change is like yogurt. Get it? Culture? Our CoE had a charismatic executive sponsor whose mantra was “be yogurt,” which meant: be the good culture that infects the organization and changes its state of matter, rather than the bad bacteria everyone wants to fight off.* Arming people with the training and tools to be data-driven marketers is the easy part (OK. It’s not easy, but it’s manageable). Convincing them use those tools or change the way they plan campaigns, make investments, and evaluate results is a battle in many cultures. Your best weapon is influence.

*In case you’re still mystified by the yogurt reference.

Objectivity is the best policy. Like a good doctor, or a best friend, the analyst’s job is not to tell people what they want to hear. A friend who leads analytics in the finance sector once joked that before every campaign launches, he already knows it will be a resounding success. Why? Sadly, not because of his predictive models. Because of organizational politics and pandering. Vanity reporting is the enemy of data-driven marketing. Fixing this goes hand-in-hand with cultural change.

Analytics is about storytelling, not math. Obviously math and statistics are fundamental to our work as analysts. But the story is the bridge from information to action. Though the packaging of the insight is just as important as the numbers behind it, it is an often overlooked skill when hiring and training analysts. Emphasize storytelling and see how much more influential your analytics team becomes. Trust a former PR person on this one.

Good tools and models can fix bad data. That’s a lie. I should’ve given you a harder one. While technology solutions for managing data have come a long way in 2015 (smart ETL is so hot right now), data management is a full-time dirty job and somebody still has to do it.

The survey and the rest of the week’s content have some great nuggets for those thinking about growing their teams, planning their roadmap, or even just ramping up like I was in 2012 (yes, you’re late to the game, but we’ll help you catch up!).

Want to talk more about CoEs, team building, the truth about marketing analytics? That’s what I’m here for. And as you can see in truth #3, I don’t sugarcoat things, so bring the hard questions.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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1 Comment

  • Jake Ruttenberg says:

    Loved this post. Couldn’t agree more.