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What do analytics and agility have in common?

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When I joined IBM as an editor, we measured our social effectiveness in terms of inches in print each month. Today that has shifted to monitoring online conversations by the hour. The volume and velocity at which we need analytics continues to accelerate. Being agile enough to adjust quickly to events and trends has become a necessity for success.

As Terry Jones, founder of Travelocity and Kayak, said at the DMA2013 Conference, "Data is wisdom." We must test and study trends and analyze why things happen versus just looking at what happened. We need to understand what our customers think, do and buy on a daily basis. Dashboards consolidate multiple sources of data. Marketing automation facilitates the execution of campaigns. However, data analysis drives the decisions needed to fuel growth.

Being agile enough to react quickly to negative comments from a customer builds trust and loyalty to your brand. So what can you do as a marketer to harness the power of data? I recommend three simple steps.

  1. Set measurable goals. Ensure that goals are agreed upon by sales, marketing and all key organizations across your company. Common, shared goals enable teaming across functions.
  2. Determine the Key Performance Metrics (KPIs) in support. Look at the metrics that will indicate if results have improved—for example, conversions of responses into leads and sales yields.
  3. Understand the results in terms of actions. Determine why one campaign may have worked well and another did not. Talk with sales and local teams when needed to dig underneath the data, remove outliers and look at trends over time. Next, benchmark competitors to compare how you rank against the best in class.
Customers expect us to be agile enough to communicate with them on their terms and on whatever device they happen to be using at the time. Today predictive analytics are being applied to all types of businesses. For example, a bakery can plan its daily menus based on customer preferences tied to the weather forecast to reduce waste, and retailers can predict what's selling to stock their shelves.

If you work in marketing you work in analytics. Analytics has become a key tool in the marketer's survival kit. Use data to empower your decision making. Avoid the traps of just reporting the results. Think about what the data shows you. Be agile enough to make decisions and test new approaches.

Pam A. Evans is a global marketing practitioner and former IBM executive who advises clients on how to leverage websites, content, tools and resources to positively impact the bottom line. She may be reached at pam@pamevans.net.

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