I’ve been catching up on some marketing industry news since returning from holiday travels, and I’m finding a common theme: An emphasis on data analysis and subsequent informed insights everywhere I look. Not that this is necessarily new; I wrote a LinkedIn post last year expounding on a Marketing News article on the need for marketers to move from “mad men to math men”. As we enter 2015, the reality of this need is starker than ever.
Consider, for example, some of the findings of the recent American Marketing Association survey of marketers on the topic of business analytics:
- Only 30.96% of marketers state that “Marketing analytics are well-integrated into our organization’s day-to-day operations.”
- Nearly half of marketers (48.78%) have from 0–5% of their budget allocated to marketing analytics, though only 12.99% of marketers felt that this little budget allocation was appropriate
- More than half of marketers felt challenged by the fact that they had too little human resources (61.41%), too little budget (56.65%) or too little analytical knowledge (51.14%) when it comes to marketing analytics.
- Despite the challenges and lack of investment in marketing analytics, 95.36% of marketers saw at least some benefit to the company’s performance from marketing analytics.
You can view more in-depth analysis of the research here, but the bottom line is this: Marketers, by and large, get that marketing analytics and data-driven insights create real benefits and should be employed. As an industry, we’re not doing a great job of making it happen.
There are a handful of exceptions, of course—another recent AMA article on the need to understand advanced analytics cites a $453 million sales lift realized by Prudential when they used data to better understand customer needs, and an ROI boost to 160% when IBM used customer data to better align marketing and sales, for example. In general, however, marketers are struggling with analytics for a variety of reasons, and a lot of it can be traced back to a simple lack of investment in learning to do it right.
Whether we like numbers or not, we are at the point where they are unavoidably linked to the success of marketing initiatives. It’s time that we step up and accept that fact, and make the right moves to stay at the forefront of our trade. In analyzing the recent AMA analytics survey, marketer Caitlin Zwick summarized the opportunity well, stating: “There is an opportunity to bring hard skills to the table. If you are hungry, willing to roll up your sleeves, and learn with passion and curiosity, you can make a huge impact in marketing analytics. It’s an area of white space that most people know exists, but do not have the expertise to fill.” And we can’t keep lacking that expertise. In the wise words of marketer Courtney Moore, “Expectations need to shift and everyone needs a baseline understanding of marketing analytics to be well-rounded marketers.”
Yes, math is scary sometimes. And no, statistics won’t suddenly become fun for many of us who more naturally gravitate toward wordplay and creative thinking. But the reality in the industry is what it is, and an opportunity to transform the way we operate for the better is undeniably upon us. It may be a little late to make 2015 resolutions, but what the heck: Let’s seize the chance to understand our audiences better, make smarter decisions, and celebrate our well-quantified successes as we move forward this year.
Lukas Treu is Content Architect at AKHIA.