The rise of analytics is affecting every industry. The marketing field is ahead of the curve, having been a metrics-driven industry for decades, but which metrics a company decides to focus on, how they track and report (and analyze) those metrics, and what they do with that analysis makes all the difference. In a chat with CEO Garrett Mehrguth from Directive Consulting, we discussed the impact that analytics (overall and customer-facing), have had on the marketing world and where this trend is going.
Beware Analysis Paralysis
If you’re in a data-driven industry, then there’s no downside to tracking and analyzing your performance data. However, this cuts both ways: the idea of “if it’s not measurable, it’s not valuable” has taken hold in a lot of marketing organizations. Relatedly, sometimes organizations will latch onto a metric just because they can measure it, regardless of whether it is truly tied to results. Further complicating matters, having too much data can cause organizations to become so fixated on tracking every metric that they spend less time actually doing their jobs/core competencies. People get lost in dashboards, substituting fiddling with numbers for actually making progress. These companies become mired in a morass of data points, charts, and dashboards that look and feel important, but might not help improve the bottom line. This dashboard fetishism that stymies action is an example of analysis paralysis.
“I see this constantly happening to in-house marketers and others,” Garrett reported. “You get so much data you’re inundated with and you want to track everything, and then you forget that keeping track of everything, even when it’s automated, becomes such a component of your time that you actually no longer have time to move the needle. You’re spending all this time in this analysis paralysis…”
Focusing on What Matters
In a world of distractions, both companies and individuals are constantly exhorted to “focus on what matters” (see a slew of inspirational posts, posters, Instagram accounts, etc). What this means for marketing companies (or any company with an analytics offering), is that they should move away from vanity metrics and focus on the KPIs that make a difference in their business or their clients’ businesses.
Embedded analytics solutions give end-users easier insights into their own metrics by combining complex data from multiple sources, easily. Buying that solution instead of building it in-house allows companies to build and ship robust analytics to their customers without investing a ton of developer resources in something that’s not their core competency. However, where marketing companies can truly add value to their clients’ lives is with expertise: understanding which metrics matter to their bottom line and what those numbers and trends mean is an important cornerstone for the kinds of relationships that marketing companies should be trying to build with their clients.
“We don’t work with any organizations that don’t have access to their own analytics and have a pretty good idea of what’s going on.” says Garrett. He also says that knowing which metrics matter most and having analytics that let them see and act on those numbers, unsurprisingly, leads to better outcomes for marketers especially: “Knee-jerk marketing is the worst marketing in the world, and a lot of that reactivity comes from what [marketers] think they’re marketing should be accomplishing, not what reality says that their marketing can accomplish.”
The right analytics solution gives clients a detailed look at how their companies are performing on their own terms and compared to their market peers. If a company is down year-over-year and their entire segment is down, then this level of transparency helps them see that and adjust expectations accordingly. Meanwhile, if their growth has been sluggish, but they’re still beating competitors, then they can see that as well. It’s all about helping users understand their world better and keep their mindset focused on the possible and the achievable, instead of torturing themselves with unattainable goals. This kind of transparency also helps client relationships:
“The reason I love being transparent and being held accountable to the quality of our efforts and our recommendations is, if you make an account more than they’re paying you, it’s pretty hard to get fired.”
The Holistic Approach
So often, when working with a consulting firm, the client is focused on end results, but doesn’t have any insight into whether or not the relationship is working well until it’s too late or the contract is over, at which point they may or may not have gotten what they wanted out of it. In-depth analytics allow service-providers to prove efficacy and value quickly, easily, and on an ongoing basis. One interesting thing that Directive does with their in-house analytics takes their relationship-building to the next level. Their account managers use in-house metrics to take a holistic approach to customer service:
“We’re using our analytics for quality control based on qualitative data, all based on client feedback: ‘hey, this client’s a little uneasy,’ ‘hey, this client’s really happy,’ ‘this client needs some more attention.’ And now what we’re doing is using that data across the entire portfolio to get what we’d call leading indicators.”
These leading indicators, created using a mix of the complex data at Directive’s disposal for in-house purposes (not client-facing), help them tie the actions the team is taking with clients to the results those clients are experiencing. In some cases, this means adjusting expectations or allocating additional resources to correct a situation. What it helps prevent, Garrett reports, is unhappy customers complaining late in the game:
“Sometimes it takes a little while to right the ship of a struggling client, but if you don’t know about that and you’re just waiting until they complain—which they have every right to do, because you haven’t been doing your job—then you’re behind the eight-ball.”
So when it comes to marketing, in-depth analytics are good for marketers, marketing clients, and marketing service companies and consultants. They’re so important that Garrett sees major hurdles in the future for any marketing company that doesn’t offer detailed reporting and the support to help their clients get the most out of it:
“If you’re in marketing and you’re not correlating your efforts back to actual revenue with analytics, you’re going to struggle to close clients.”
Analytics are everywhere. From a start as spreadsheets and CSV files to the era of self-service and the looming AI revolution all around us, no industry can afford to stand still when it comes to its analytics. Marketing, steeped as it is in a history of metrics and data, is a leading-edge case. Marketers (and all users) have more data than ever and are struggling to avoid analysis paralysis and focus on what matters. Service providers have to do more than just deliver amazing analytics and insights: they also need to be supportive partners, helping guide their clients to make the smartest moves and understand their markets. Do this, and you’ll be able to prove value, delight your customers, and build the future you want to be a part of.