Deeds Not Words

On from Analytics Culture

(First published in the WAO/FACTOR Newsletter in August 2012)

It is now a truism that action constitutes the ultimate justification of measurement. Well, is it really? It seems to me that people doing marketing measurement often lose sight of that fact. First, the vast majority of discussions deal in technology. Yes, tools are important, even very much so, but they can’t be the end goal. The reader will say “We know that!”, but still, tools seem to occupy an awful lot of mental energy.

Second, data visualization takes up a lot of what’s left of the conversation. Again, a very important topic, and I myself am constantly trying to improve that part of my work (the reader will remember that we had the pleasure of having Stephen Few in June). Knowing how to use visualization in one’s analyses, and in efficiently communicating their results, certainly constitutes a sign of valuable sophistication.

However, at the end of the day, why measure at all if not for actually doing something? I discussed in February in What Are Actionable Insights? and in June in Metrics Are Politics, the strong influence of organizational environment on how well measurement can flourish. Here, I would like to understand better how well we are able to drive action.

First, it is my strong belief that, in order to influence decision making, analytics must be able to show value. By that, I mean actual value. When was the last time you discovered $500,000, or even $50,000, thanks to your analytical work? By that, I mean concrete gains (optimizing sales, repeat business, cost savings, etc.) you were directly able to link to measurement? It all starts from there; since most executives have financial metrics in their performance evaluation, connecting one’s work to that dimension gets tons of attention.

Nothing will get something done as powerfully as profitability. There are very few reasons why people would be encouraged to destroy profits, and keep doing it for any length of time, except when investing, and supporting those investments with as much clarity about the expected results, and risks, as possible.

This is exactly why Marketing measurement plays such an important role now. It is my understanding that in still many businesses, Marketing is viewed as an expense, and that CMOs would love to change that perception. It is analytics fundamental mission to support that endeavour, and I don’t think it will be accomplished by spending most resources on brand equity calculations.

If Marketing is to be viewed as the value-creation powerhouse it is (or at least should be), analytics must chase every value nuggets it can dig out. This means that analysts should be some kind of guardians of discipline, of accountability towards that value creation/exposition goal. I recently saw a campaign specification document in which 5 strategic objectives were announced with great earnestness. None of them were measurable, at least in any readily fashion.

Analysts should certainly help frame the analytics purpose by daring question once in while project goals, and remind everyone (including themselves) that clearly demonstrating value should be the measure of success most of the time.

If they don’t, who will?

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