Avoiding Analysis Paralysis: Are Most Marketers Ready for Therapy?

At parties, people sometimes start to tell me their personal problems when I say I’m an analyst. No, I’m not that kind of analyst, I explain. My “patients” are businesses with critical questions regarding their loyalty strategy and performance.

Still, the laments I regularly hear from marketing professionals often carry the same tone as those therapy-seeking party guests. As I’ve traversed industries ranging from cable television to financial services to luxury hospitality, I’ve developed a set of almost universally applicable diagnoses and treatments for traumatized marketers. Here are two of the most common laments. Have you experienced these symptoms? If so, you’re not alone.

Symptom: We can’t access our data.
Frustrated marketers in companies of every size and sophistication know that they’re sitting on a mountain of potentially useful customer data, but technological and organizational roadblocks prevent them from accessing it. This lack of access results in limited visibility into the results of their customer loyalty efforts. What do we recommend?

  • Treatment #1: Create a central data repository. Yes, it’s true. Even in 2008, many big companies still lack a data warehouse. If your only source of customer data is the proverbial extract from the POS system, then you’ll be fortunate to get a quarterly crosstab report—and even more fortunate if it contains actionable data. Kiss up to the CEO, hold a bake sale, or do whatever it takes get a warehouse.
  • Treatment #2: Own the reporting function. In many companies, IT is responsible for data reporting and analysis. One client told me she was waiting for campaign results from her holiday loyalty campaign and was escalating her bribes to the IT department from donuts to cash in hopes of a spring report. With great respect to my friends in IT, it doesn’t take an advanced knowledge of technology to build a report. If IT is unavailable because they’re focusing on projects more mission-critical to the organization, take ownership of the process yourself. Take an OLAP class and empower yourself to build your own reports. You’re never too old to learn.

Symptom: Our metrics are a moving target.
The most common cause of loyalty inertia is the inability of management and marketing to agree on what metrics will define success. You can’t win the game if you don’t know the rules. Your options:

  • Treatment #1: Create a loyalty dashboard. While certain metrics are unique to each business, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when proven loyalty metrics are readily available. Acquisition, engagement, retention, reactivation and behavior shift are all noble and worthy goals. Schedule a final meeting on metrics, sell the executive team on the agreed-upon set of metrics, and then, focus relentlessly on marketing activities that help you meet those targets.
  • Treatment #2: Look only at relevant data. Now that your dashboard is in place, you must avoid the dreaded analysis paralysis. During my days in the analytical trenches, I often encountered marketers afflicted with this condition. Data analysis and reporting is a means to an end, not the end itself. If you find yourself mired in 300 pages of monthly reports, then you’ve lost sight of your goal. Use the Force, trust your instincts and focus on the data that helps you move the needles on that dashboard.

By concentrating on these courses of treatment, you’ll put your analysts in position to do what they do best: find and exploit those data insights that can most directly impact the organization’s bottom line. Leave the troubled past behind and become an analytically empowered marketer.

Allison Cripps is a COLLOQUY loyalty marketing consultant and can be reached at Allison.cripps@colloquy.com.