How to avoid analysis paralysis: smarter data can drive field marketing decision-making

Field marketing of the past was a boots-on-the-ground activity, period. But today, there are various tools out there to get you the data you need to provide a much more complete picture of what’s going on at a granular level in your stores. In real time, field marketers can do “what if scenarios” with multiple data overlays with comparisons and trends by market, by store, even by product. Then add the subjective findings to the analytics.

Here’s a given: Every multi-unit, multi-market retail brand-based on a key performance indicator-has about 10% of its stores that are “underperforming” today.

Decisions at the market and store level usually fall under the responsibility of field marketing. As a field marketer by trade, my initial response would have been to start driving or hop on a plane to see what’s up. Let’s get boots on the ground. Visually assess the trade area. Observe operational integrity of the store. Talk to people.

Ask the questions, “How is this store or this market different from the rest of the system?”, “What’s actionable?”, “Which levers do I pull to truly move the business?”  Field marketing folks are pragmatic. With the right tool, field marketing managers can sit down with operators and guide them through where their business is leaking revenue.

Armed with Callahan’s Intelligence Platform, you can start discussions with your operators or your superiors with quantitative observations.

Numbers are always the great equalizer. Segment the market into buckets of performance. Each bucket is probably worthy of its own set of tactics. Find common denominators of success and failure. Use comparable year-over-year data. Look for trends. Downward trends need to be fixed. Positive trends need to be amplified. Then step and repeat to scale. That’s the power of a chain, of a brand.

Step-by-step guide to getting started with your data

1) Start broad and evaluate external variables first:

  • The economy
  • The weather
  • The consumer
  • Competitive presence and activity

2) Drill down. Here’s where analytics meet field marketing. When driving up with the right dashboard, you already have a good start. Your job is to add the qualitative: Look and feel, trade-area personality, operational efficiency, etc.

  • The location – metro vs. suburban vs. rural, ingress vs. egress
  • The facilities – brand standards for current updates, signage, seating capacity
  • The operations – how closely are the employees sticking to the ops manual and procedures?

Of course, some things you can’t impact:

  • Overall brand issues – bad leadership
  • A weak, uninspired or overly cautious plan
  • Last minute changes in the plan that aren’t communicated properly to the field
  • Significant external short-term factors like weather or politics

How analytics improve decision making

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “paralysis by analysis.” To me, that’s a cop-out for lazy marketers. Data comes fast and in huge quantities. It can be overwhelming. Regardless, we still need to be informed and nimble. Whatever research or analytics process you use, watch out for allowing your analytics to drift off strategy. Be careful that you don’t linger on decisions. If the process takes too much time, depending on the business vertical you’re dealing with, the landscape may change.

Real-time data + field insights = data-savvy strategic marketing leadership.

Back in the day, if I had more than 50% confidence based on the data, I’d default to my team and my gut and pull a trigger. Today, given the technology provided by Callahan’s Intelligence platform and access to real-time data, I think we can push that confidence factor to 90%.

So, GO.