Big data is a big deal in marketing. But it remains underused in many companies. Too often, marketing data is only used to help the marketing department even if it could have a profound impact on the broader company.
That's why having a business analyst in your marketing department is essential. Rather than focusing on improving conversion rates or boosting site traffic, BAs can take a big-picture view of the data generated by the department and use it to improve both the marketing team's efforts and the business as a whole.
If you want to get the most out of your marketing department, here's what you need to know.
Marketing Analysis Is Not the Same As Business Analysis
Almost all marketing departments will already use some form of analytics in their work. Typically, however, this analysis is siloed from the rest of the business and only focuses on improving marketing metrics.
Even if you have a marketing analyst, adding a business analyst to your team can still be extremely beneficial.
That's because they aren't the same thing, writes digital analytics specialist Krista Seiden. While a marketing analyst will track campaigns and use that data to tell a story, business analysts will take data from multiple sources and use it to make forecasts and predictions about marketing, finance, or any other part of a business.
Measuring data is only one side of the coin, writes marketer Jesse Mawhinney. You also need to understand "how to allocate credit to your various marketing activities and appropriately recognize their impact on the customer journey."
"Business Analytics can measure anything and everything from warehouse efficiency and manufacturing information to sales pipeline and marketing's revenue contribution. What you choose to measure and how you collect data is really a case-by-case decision but the goals of business analytics always remain the same – understand patterns of what happened in the past to make more accurate, data-driven decisions in the future," explains Mawhinney.
Improve the Collection and Analyzing of Data
Business analysis is essential if marketing teams want to understand the data that they have in their hands and on their servers.
We have more data at our disposal than at any other point in human history, writes marketing analyst Storie Ledger. Accumulating that data is important. But there is much more value in extracting meaning from this data.
It's important that marketers acquire the capabilities to make sense of all the data that they can now acquire, agree McKinsey partners Raphael Buck and Björn Timelin. Whether it's with the help of a BA or by marketing teams learning business analysis skills, advanced analytics systems can be created to manage this. Doing so makes personalized marketing efforts easier, which in turn can reduce acquisition costs and increase the efficiency of marketing spend.
Analyzing this kind of data isn't easy, though, writes Clodagh O'Brien at the Digital Marketing Institute. It takes a certain level of expertise to trawl through all of the available data and use the necessary software. But that doesn’t mean organizations shouldn’t try and recruit experienced BAs. Those businesses that fail to add analysts to marketing departments often end up lagging behind their competitors, she explains.
In particular, it is important that marketing departments get out of data silos, adds marketing strategist Karen Budell. A big-picture view is essential if marketing data is to be used effectively. Analysts can create a strategy that organizes and implements disparate data sources so that every department across the company has access to the same data as well as a complete picture of the customer journey.
A business analyst who is used to working across different departments is the perfect person to develop this strategy.
Transform Department Strategy with Data Insight
Insights gleaned from big data can be used to improve every aspect of marketing, says marketing and product management professional Louis Columbus. This includes:
The most effective type of content.
Enhanced CRM investments.
Improved conversion rates.
Increased customer lifetime value.
McKinsey's Marc Singer notes that data can also be used to improve marketing spend. For example, a home-appliance company that spent a significant amount on traditional print and television ads analyzed consumer journey data and realized that digital content was a more effective strategy. After switching from offline advertising to web content, online sales increased by 21 percent.
For marketing executive Adele Sweetwood, transitioning to an analytical focus had a major impact on her marketing team. Not only were they able to better measure the impact of their efforts, but they were also able to identify new methods and predict their effectiveness.
"Using analytics for predicting what could work and using the insights to improve the customer experience were even more powerful motivators. Despite marketing for an analytics software company, we had to be pulled out of our spreadsheet-lined comfort zone," she writes.
Working with marketing data is one thing, but BAs can also help introduce insights from other company data into the marketing strategy, says analytics specialist Justin Butlion. "These ideas may result in very profitable channels for growth, which will in turn improve the ROI of the marketing department."
Use Marketing Data Across the Organization
Marketing insights should help business leaders make decisions, writes Edwin Plotts at marketing agency Ladder.
"For example, by constructing and acquiring answers to key research questions, an Analyst can help your marketing, sales, and customer experience teams understand which strategies are worth investing in further and which are not working. Ultimately, the Analyst's research will determine not just how the next strategy will take form, but also where resources, including funding, will be allocated."
Big data analytics can also be used to remove the guesswork involved in developing customer personas used by all areas of the business, says Dianna Labrien at IBM. Analysts will be able to see similar products customers are buying, which social media and messaging platforms they use, the websites they visit and they way they prefer to be contacted.
Starbucks is an excellent example of this, notes strategic business advisor Bernard Marr. It uses marketing insights among other data to make a range of business decisions. For example, marketing and sales data is used to deliver personalized ads and offers, determine new store locations, and to decide which products to offer in grocery stores and which limited-time offers to run in stores.
Marketing departments generate more insightful data than almost any other area of business. But most marketing teams don't have the time or the skills to turn that data into actionable insights and then implement them. As data becomes more abundant and more important, having a BA in your marketing department becomes essential.