Secrets of Building a Data-Driven Marketing Organization

December 15, 2015
Contributor: Chris Pemberton

Christi Eubanks on data diplomacy, hiring storytellers, and how marketing leaders can build data-driven cultures.

It was the real-time executive dashboard that clinched it.  When Christi Eubanks, research director, led the digital analytics practice at Mattel, the dashboard was a constant physical reminder to make data central to every decision. It was also a key part of getting senior support and building an analytics center of excellence.

We recently asked Christi to share her views on the state of data-driven marketing today and what it takes to craft the marketing organization of tomorrow. Here are some highlights:

Hire great storytellers

After building a lean five person team that covered six global brands, Christi shared her firsthand experience of what to seek in analytics teams.

“Hire analysts who solve problems like an engineer and tell great stories like an investigative journalist.”

Someone who sounds like a data diplomat.“You want different skills at different levels. The analytics leader should be someone who can build,” she said.  However, “The most important quality to seek in an analytics leader is integrity. You want somebody who can remain objective and communicate results delicately.”

As for hiring data analysts, Christi advised, “Don’t look for the technical unicorn; different tools and analytics techniques can be taught. Hire analysts who solve problems like an engineer and tell great stories like an investigative journalist. Insatiable curiosity is probably the characteristic I look for most.” she said.

On setting up analytics infrastructure, Christi noted, “Spend time building the right data foundation. It’s really all about inputs. Fundamentals like tagging may not be sexy, but they should be a priority.” She noted that analytics really pays off when it is spread throughout the organization.

Democratize data analysis

Christi’s general analytics approach could be summarized as “a collective consciousness through data.” Many organizations have to battle a culture of complacency as they adopt data-driven marketing. There is this thought that “it’s not my job to do analytics” or that the only function of analytics is to do post-mortem analysis to determine success or failure of a marketing initiative or to drum up stats to support a decision that has already been made. She outlined how important it is to “democratize access to data and analysis across the organization.”

It’s easier to wrangle data than people.

“I made it my mission to recognize early adopters – give praise and recognize every time I saw a stat used correctly in a presentation or someone logging into their dashboard regularly.” After all, “the goal is to sell more products – not to produce vanity metrics that further one person’s agenda.” And as it turns out, it’s easier to wrangle data than people.Sure there will be special projects that require technical analytical expertise, but data should be the foundation of every marketing decision, and understanding data should be every marketer’s responsibility. Analytics leaders need to evangelize a data-driven approach by educating their internal stakeholders on how to use data in the planning, activation and optimization phases of a campaign, not just for after-the-fact measurement.

Math is easy, culture is hard

Moving organizations toward a data-driven approach takes executive support and requires change on the front lines. When seeking executive support, Christi took the approach of many small one-on-one engagements rather than big presentations.

“I didn’t want to have a PowerPoint roadshow with big promises that never materialized,” she said. “So, I rolled out an exec level dashboard that let them see and drill into all this data we were championing.”

“Fundamentals like tagging may not be sexy, but they should be a priority.”

Her key message to organizations ramping up analytics capabilities but afraid they’ll never catch up? “You’re not as far behind as you think. You couldn’t possibly be that far behind – this is a whole new field. In most organizations marketing analytics is only around five years old!”Christi developed a real-time reporting engine that showed executives and line managers the power of data-driven decision making and transparency. For line managers there was apprehension at the new level of visibility (and potential scrutiny) but it raised everybody’s game and helped crystallize the approach for executives.

She noted that it’s all new territory for everyone and “every day you have to learn new skills to keep up; that’s what makes it fun.”

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