#1 Obstacle Preventing Marketers from Becoming Analytics Minded

The one thing stopping marketers from being more analytics minded, and some inspiration for over-coming it.

No matter what you call them – Quants, UnicornsAgents of ROI, or Modern Marketers – there is very little doubt that the successful marketers of our age embrace data, technology, and creative skills in equal measure. As the saying goes, Marketer + Engineer = Growth Hacker. And it seems that many marketers want to become modern; according to a Teradata study, 78% of marketers feel pressure to become more data-driven and my own words, “growth minded”.

Years ago, while I was working on Google’s SMB marketing team, I decided to study for a Masters in Predictive Analytics. When I started I was unsure of where it would take me, and whether, like so many others with post-secondary degrees, I’ll ever get a return on my investment. It turned out to be one of the best investments I’ve ever made.

Now, one of the most common questions I get is how to become more data fluent without an advanced degree. I certainly don’t believe you need a degree to leverage marketing analytics. But I’ve found that there’s always something standing in the way, and I felt compelled to call it out in its own blog post: FEAR.

It’s not just one type of fear, but three rolled together.

1. Fear of Failure.

Deeply measuring your programs is like taking an honest look in the mirror. It can be seriously hard to face. Analysis can reveal a lot of surprises, showing that rock star campaigns didn’t really work they way you thought they did, or vice versa. While having a regular report card can be scary (especially when your grade is lower than you’d like), having an in-depth report card is the only way to improve results by focusing on problem areas.

So take a deep breath and get used to facing the mirror. We all fail, especially when starting something new like creating a data-driven culture. The difference between truly exceptional growth marketing and mediocrity is all about the rate of failure. Exceptional marketers FAIL FAST. Whether you call it iterative, agile, “wash rinse and repeat”, or test & learn, it’s all about the fact that there is no shame in falling, only in moving so slowly that you never fall.

2. Fear of losing creativity.

Backing a data-driven culture may seem like a slippery slope. You might feel like you’re giving the decision making power over to analysts who want everything measured and quantified.  Arguments and power struggles then ensue. But not to worry, I can assure you that as you invest more and more into analytics, eventually the PhD data scientists won’t even call the shots – their brainchild machines will tell your team what to do next.

If marketing is about creating a magical user experiences, then relying on data for every decision can be debilitating. Where is there room for ad-hoc brainstorms, risky creative big bets, and brand innovation if everything needs to be boxed into well designed experiments? The fear of being trapped is very real, and good analysts will always tell you there’s a line to draw because data has its place. I’m not going to pretend that I have the ultimate answer for balancing how often and how much data is used, but here is one tip: set aside a portion (25% is usual) of your budget for innovation. Try the new bold ideas without compromising the tried and true programs that are being tightly optimized by your team using data. If the quants don’t get it, the analogy to give is that you’re trapped in a local instead of global optimum and need to find a way out.

3. Fear of math and calculations.

It’s probably been a long time since you’ve done math in school. That doesn’t stop the quants are throwing terms at you like p-value, standard deviation, or R-squared. And the tools are just as headache inducing – how do you de-duplicate records or match email addresses or make that pivot-thingy work!?

According to eConsultancy, the biggest challenge that digital marketers are currently facing is change. And data savviness is just one of those changes. So if you can keep up with the latest in ad tech, social tactics, content planning, etc, why be scared of analytics? My advice is to resist the urge to simply throw your tasks over to your analytics resource, but use them as a coach instead. Get them to show you what they’d do, in bite sized chunks. Chances are, nobody formally taught you how to make a media plan, use Facebook targeting, or brainstorm new product taglines. You learned by jumping in. So do the same with data and JUMP IN!

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