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Narrating Stories with Data

Adele Sweetwood's The Analytical Marketer provides critical insight into the changing marketing organization.

As director of analytics and A/B testing at Visa, Ravichandran supports executives, leaders, and decision makers in product, marketing, sales, and relationships. He explained to me that “we are the custodians of the data, so our responsibility is to enable our users to have confidence in the decisions they make using that data.”
One of the biggest changes the analytical era of marketing has brought about is that things need to happen much faster than before. “We used to have a very linear approach,” Ravichandran told me. “Now when something is going live, there’s already an immediate need to respond. We need to be able to take action on the fly.” Because of those changes, marketers can no longer think about analytics as something that supports them or a function that just one person, like a chief digital officer, would perform. Rather, analytics is now an integral part of marketing’s value chain.
Ravichandran said that numbers by themselves are historical. That’s why, while data is needed to inform campaigns, at the end of the day, it still comes down to marketers using their gut feelings to make the best decision possible. “And we can use data and analysis to inform and guide us in the right direction,” he added.
Because data and analytics are now so intertwined with marketing strategy, expectations for leadership on the marketing side have changed. “It’s no longer acceptable to say you’re a marketer, but you’re not a numbers person,” Ravichandran said. “Executives are demanding more data literacy as a precursor for being a good marketer.” And it’s not just in the marketing space. He added, “All of our chief executives are comfortable with numbers and data-driven approaches.”
Ravichandran was quick to clarify, however, that a focus on data, numbers, and quantified measures should not replace the value of vision: “I have an enormous respect for data, but I also believe all of it has to be driven by strategy, the business case, benchmarking against the industry, all those things that provide a broader perspective. You have to understand what specific metrics you’re trying to impact with your actions.” He advocates the importance of understanding your company’s business model, applying and measuring the right metrics, and truly understanding your competitive position and your customers’ needs.
The big mind-set shift we need to make, therefore, is recognizing how our intuition is now informed by data and analytics. When someone comes to a marketing manager or leader with a proposal to spend, say, $250,000 on a campaign, she had better come armed with data, analysis, testing plans, and expected outcomes, as well as what her gut is telling her.
This is an excerpt from Adele Sweetwood’s The Analytical Marketer. Get your copy here.
Credit: Abhishek Singh

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