Managing the Marketing/Analytical Partnership

Apr 01, 1999 10:30 PM  By

All too often, the relationship between analytical people and marketing people is a difficult one. For one, marketers rarely speak the same language as database analysts; they also don’t understand what is possible through the use of analytical techniques; and they don’t know how to ask for explanations.

On the other hand, the analysts don’t always comprehend a project’s desired objectives or the relevance to the catalog’s bottom line; they also believe that most marketers fail to understand the power of what they offer.

But the truth is that marketing and systems/ analytical people need each other, and if they don’t spend enough time communicating with one other, your business could suffer.

One of the strengths of database marketing is that the numbers can talk to you about your business-provided you know how to massage them. Data analysis is a building process. The data point to opportunities, such as changing positioning or generating a spin-off catalog. Once the results are analyzed, further study of the data will help refine the next steps.

Most marketing people in the catalog business are somewhat adept at evaluating standard data, but many important processes require more sophisticated technical training from specialists. In today’s world of evolving technology, the role of analytical specialists will continue to grow, and more often than not they will mean the difference between failure and success.

Maximize the relationship The most important aspect of a productive and profitable relationship between marketing and analytical personnel is communication. You should hold regular meetings between the two departments to review marketing results and analytical findings. Time spent reviewing past and future promotions is critical to understanding as both the marketers and analysts dig through the data. Without this open communication, the most important questions about the data may never be asked.

Each side needs to develop a mutual understanding and respect for the processes that the other side uses. The marketing and analytical camps should acknowledge each other’s experience and expertise, and realize that both sides need each other and can benefit from a partnership.

To communicate effectively, however, both groups should make every effort to speak the same language. Highly trained analytical personnel can be intimidating to marketing and management if they speak in technical terms. You should have at least one person who has some knowledge of both “languages” and who is willing to be a translator to bridge the gap. Still, the marketers should do their part by brushing up on technical terms. (See “Basic terminology,” page 66.)

The perfect analytical person would be:

v knowledgeable of processes and techniques, as well as the data, from both internal and external sources.

v able to focus on a project and complete it on time without going off on a tangent. Certain individuals are brilliant analysts, but they become distracted by low-priority patterns within the data and can’t set them aside to concentrate on the data that translate to the bottom line.

v interested in digging into the data to understand why things happen. This quality adds richness to the marketing process and ensures that the analysts will recognize meaningful patterns within the data and know how to address them.

v respectful of the other people involved and their contributions.

v experienced in different analytical processes and able to communicate the strengths and weaknesses of each, offering recommendations as to the best methodology for a given situation.

The perfect marketing person would:

v respect other people and their contributions, promote teamwork, and be able to clearly communicate objectives and needs.

v not be intimidated by technospeak and be willing to learn analytical terminology.

v understand the customer, based on past behavior and research, and be able to place your business in the context of its market to develop a strategic plan.

v be available to answer questions, review progress as appropriate, and brainstorm scenarios.

v keep everyone focused on the desired end; set deadlines with input from analytical personnel.

Making it work It’s important to remember that there’s no one formula for assembling an analytical team and getting them to work with marketers. Business issues do not always have statistical solutions, just as statistical techniques do not always result in good business decisions. Also, internal political issues may require slow, evolutionary procedures as credibility is built.

For instance, solid analytical investment requires management commitment and a belief in the quality and usefulness of the work, but management’s prior experience with modeling may be limited or even negative. It’s important to establish credibility with analyses that build on each other, show a clear understanding of the business, and the immediate benefit to the bottom line.

You might have your analytical personnel hold a clinic to explain basic techniques, along with their strengths, weaknesses and past use in the company. It also helps to include analysts in strategic planning meetings, as well as creative, fulfillment, and customer service personnel.

Finally, your marketers and analysts might get to know each other better and learn more about their respective functions if you physically locate these two groups near each other. You might be surprised to find how much is learned through casual conversation.

Teamwork with analysts is critical to the creation of a well-constructed test-minimizing test time, maximizing test effectiveness, and successfully evaluating test results. A solid partnership between marketing and analytical groups will provide the give and take necessary to guide a strong catalog operation.