Seeking the right analytical help

Most companies could stand to improve or at least expand their analytical capabilities. Although many consultants work in the database analysis field, the talent pool shrinks if you want someone with catalog industry experience. The relatively low availability of catalog database personnel reinforces the need for each organization to have someone on staff who understands both marketing and analytical issues, and who can translate for everyone else.

If you are in the market to hire analytical expertise, how do you decide between hiring full-time employees and using external consulting resources? The important thing is to honestly look at your organization-its strengths, its weaknesses, and its resources, as well as its personality.

If you opt for internal analytical resources, a full-time hire can be cost-effective if you use the person steadily. It can also be a tremendous asset to have someone with a true data orientation concentrating on your business all of the time.

For example, one clever catalog analyst was intrigued by an unusually high number of back-orders. He uncovered a programming glitch that, under certain circumstances, identified back-order situations when the merchandise was actually in stock. This had cost his company a significant amount of money in canceled orders from customers unwilling to wait for the goods. Fortunately, there was an inexpensive fulfillment system fix for this false back-order problem, and the number of canceled orders fell immediately.

An inhouse analyst will also have day-to-day opportunities to fully integrate with the catalog marketing staff, not only in scheduled meetings, but also at the water cooler, during impromptu lunches or office drop-in conversations.

The downside to hiring an inhouse analyst is that you may have no one available on staff to train, develop, or evaluate that analytical person effectively-particularly if you have a small organization. There’s also a small pool of experienced talent from which to recruit.

If you decide to use outside analytical resources, you’ll find a fairly wide availability of talented/experienced personnel. Outside consultants often bring a broader perspective gained from working with multiple clients and are typically further along the learning curve of various techniques.

A long-term relationship with a consulting firm or individual can supersede personnel turnover inhouse, plus you have expertise available for occasional projects without having to hire full-time. An outside firm can also maintain the analytical and marketing history of your organization in an ongoing relationship.

Of course, independent consultants are not as accessible as someone in the same building, though some large clients pay consultants to work full-time on site. And outside analytical help typically comes with a high price tag. But with retainer relationships, the real cost can be similar to that of inhouse employees. For instance, one largefinancial institution estimates that it costs ñ250,000 a year in a major metropolitan area to pay salary, benefits, training, recruitment, data processing support, licensing fees, overhead, and equipment for experienced inhouse analytical talent.–CBW

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