Required Reading: Becoming The Analytical Marketer

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Gone are the days where marketers scribble a clever campaign slogan, launch it, and sit back and rest on their laurels. Expectations are constantly evolving, and increasingly, that means more interaction with data and analytics. In her new book, The Analytical Marketer, author Adele Sweetwood shares her experience developing an analytical approach at SAS Institute, where she is the senior vice president of global marketing. Associate Editor Oren Smilansky spoke to Sweetwood to learn more about the difference a data-centered mind-set can make at a company.

CRM: Why did you decide to write about your journey toward becoming a more analytical marketing organization?

Adele Sweetwood: Two reasons. One was [the desire] to really create something from a practitioner’s perspective that shared a lot of information that I would have liked to have had as the practitioner during the process. It doesn’t cover every topic, but hits a lot of the major topic and struggles [SAS] went through, the changes we made, and the results that we got, so that we could share and [others could] learn from that. The other primary reason was I thought we had a really good story to tell. We were a marketing organization going through significant change during a time when the field of marketing was going through a significant change.

SAS has deep roots in data and analytics. Do you find this gave your marketing organization an advantage in becoming more analytical?

Certainly you can say we had an advantage, but the whole field of marketing was, and is, changing constantly, and that was going to be new to SAS in general, just like it was new to everybody else. The amount of data, the complexity of that data, the number of channels that we have to manage, and all of the opportunities that we have as marketers—they’re very different than they were five, six, ten years ago. So those challenges are the same regardless of the tools that you have at your disposal. Absolutely, it makes a difference if you have a data and analytics perspective, and tools that are available to you to use, but you still have to have the talent and the mind-set, and that has to be built.

In what ways can shifting that mind-set influence the existing workforce, as well as hiring?

If you have the ability to hire new talent, you might be looking for different types of skills, but also what we’ve found is a lot of people that were in marketing roles wanted to expand their skill set. Some of them already had it, and were built and wired that way, and had some training and learning and experiences. Others wanted to gain it, and building the culture that helps people learn and become analytical marketers was absolutely critical in terms of the first steps. Then you can change the talent, hire the talent, change the way they work and can give them the tools.

What are some common problems with the way marketing organizations approach data and analytics?

A lot of it [has to do with] ownership of and accountability to data. Marketers especially will tend to say that data is somebody else’s problem. And anytime something doesn’t go right, it’s a problem with the data, and IT needs to fix it. The reality is, data is everyone’s accountability and everybody has a level of ownership in keeping data in a certain form, to being responsible for that data, and understanding how important it is as part of this picture.

A lot marketing organizations assume that they’re being analytical, but all they’re doing is reporting on last month’s results, and not necessarily empowering marketers to use data and analytics on a regular basis. In fact, they’re saying, ‘There’s a department in marketing that’s going to give you a report on a campaign, or the results and information.’ And the marketers aren’t the ones looking at that information, except when somebody sends them a report or they ask for a report.

How should these problems be fixed?

The shift there needs to be that all marketers need to be able to understand, appreciate, and incorporate data and analysis on a regular basis. That information should be on their desktop. The tools should be on their desktops. They should be able to run queries, to run reports, on their own all the time, and in fact they should be doing it all the time, so they can constantly make adjustments to their campaigns.

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