Podcast

How to maximize the productivity of your marketing analytics team

Nearly 80% of a marketing analytics team’s time is spent cleaning and organizing the data, leaving 20% left to analyze, glean insights and make strategic recommendations. Maximizing the productivity of your marketing analytics team is always about the data, and the time it takes to analyze large sets to uncover key insights. In this episode, Callahan’s president, Jan-Eric Anderson, and head of data, Zack Pike, talk about the technology they use, how to staff an analytics team with the right roles, and why utilizing front-end data is beneficial.

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Welcome to Callahan’s Uncovering Aha! podcast. We talk about a range of topics for marketing decision-makers, with a special focus on how to uncover insights in data to drive brand strategy and inspire creativity. Featuring Zack Pike and Jan-Eric Anderson.

Jan-Eric:
Hi, I’m Jan-Eric Anderson, president at Callahan

Zack:
And I’m Zack Pike, head of data at Callahan.

Jan-Eric:
Hey Zack, good to see you. So we’ve got a good topic we’re going to talk about today. And it’s a topic around how to maximize productivity of a marketing analytics team or department, whether you’re a CMO and this is in an internal group that you have within your organization, or it’s a resource or a team you’re getting from your agency. But this topic is around how to get the most out of them and how to make them the most productive. And you and I have been having some conversations around this and a lot of it stems from your own experience leading a marketing analytics department, but that one of the biggest issues to productivity and efficiency of that team is actually attacks against the valuable resource and the finite resource, and that is time.

Zack:
Yeah.

Jan-Eric:
And we’ve spent a lot of time talking about time efficiency or lack thereof of operations within marketing analytics. And so today, what I’d love to pick your brain on is where do we see some of the biggest issues around time and efficiency? What are the time sucks on marketing analytics teams and then get your perspective on what could be done about it. So walk me through your thinking on this. What’s one of the biggest detractors of, of time or creating time and efficiency on marketing analytics teams.

Zack:
S,o the biggest detractor is the data itself, the technical side of the data. So we hire marketing analysts thinking that they’re going to be analyzing data.

Jan-Eric:
Makes sense.

Zack:
So marketing analysts, it seems like makes sense that they’ll be analyzing stuff. But before you can ever analyze data, actually try and generate insights from it, figure out what it’s telling you, it has to be structured, cleaned, organized, and nine times out of 10, the data doesn’t start that way. It’s in all these different formats and different dimensions, mean different things and calculations are run differently and there’s all kinds of weird stuff that happens. So what actually happens today, and you’ll see this if you start reading on this topic, it’s generally accepted that any analyst is going to spend 80% of their time fixing data. And what I mean by fixing is cleaning it up, getting it organized, getting it into a technical environment where they can actually use it.

Zack:
There’s lots of things that happen. So if I have a day, if I have eight hours to do an analysis, I’m going to spend 80% of that day just getting my data organized. And then if I get time, I got 20% left over to actually figure out what it’s telling me or build a report on top of it or whatever. And so, I think… And you’ll see articles on this. There’s oftentimes where people who hire analysts are not satisfied with what that analyst is producing. And I think our analyst community has a hard time voicing the fact that I’m not actually analyzing data. I’m a database administrator. I’m cleaning this stuff up and getting an organized.

Jan-Eric:
So what’s the issue? Is the issue that CMOs just… Let’s pick on CMOs for a second. Just don’t get it, don’t understand what the workload is? Or are we tasking analysts with the wrong thing? Is this work that doesn’t need to be done? I don’t know a ton about this, but it seems from what I know, structuring the data and cleaning up data and collecting the right data and getting it ready to be analyzed is a pretty important step.

Zack:
Yeah. At least in my experience, it’s a lack of knowledge around what it actually takes. So a CMO really shouldn’t be a technical data expert. And you’re reading all kinds of different stuff on the internet, seeing all these great things the data can produce for a marketing side. So my inclination would be okay, I need to hire an analyst, because that analyst is going to be able to do this stuff for me. But yeah, I think it’s just a lack of understanding around what it actually takes. And then it’s up to the analyst as well to be honest with their stakeholders in what it takes. And to be vocal about how much time they’re spending doing certain things, the types of tools that would make that more efficient.

Zack:
This is one of the reasons that we have the intelligence platform at Callahan, because it helps bring efficiency to that whole side of the equation. And there’s a big business in marketing around that side of the equation right now from a technology standpoint that people can leverage and are leveraging all over the place.

Jan-Eric:
Is it a different job function than a marketing analyst that’s better equipped to do this, whether you’re leveraging technology or not?

Zack:
Could be. Yeah. Depending on the analyst and depending on the size of the team. So a good example, in a prior life, I worked for a company called freightquote.com and we had a group of analysts and I was on that group who were responsible for finding insights in data, and then implementing strategies in the business out of that, those insights. But our role stopped and started there. We had a whole nother team at that company who were the data cleaners, organizers, structure people, that if I had questions… If I had an analysis I was getting ready to go down, I would define out the data that I wanted. I would go sit down with one of those… We call them business intelligence analysts, oddly enough.

Zack:
But I would sit down with one of those BI developers, tell them what I was trying to do, the data I thought I needed. And then they would go off in the database and go acquire and cleanse that data. They would send it over to me in a nice clean, structured format. So that in that scenario, all I had to do was the analysis side and the strategic thinking around it. That is the perfect setup, but that’s expensive, because now you’re adding people that’s typically a more technically focused, well-paid individual who is doing that type of work. And there’s not a lot of them around. It’s hard to hire that person as well because people like to… The people who know that you need this resource are snatching them up.

Jan-Eric:
So depending on the scale of an enterprise or an organization and what their needs are within this area, it may make sense to staff that, otherwise you might make more sense to have your analysts doing it. There’s technology and approaches that can help them do a much more time efficiently. But the key thing is to recognize that this is a really important step. I guess the analogy I’m thinking of might be a bad one, but is that of a chef. And so I think about a chef, I think about a chef standing in the kitchen and making amazing food that then is brought to my table and I eat and I appreciate the craft of the chef to make the meal.

Jan-Eric:
What I don’t think about is the role that the chef needs to play in identifying which ingredients are right, where to buy those ingredients, and then prepping those ingredients for the meal. And I guess in the chef world, in the culinary world, that’s the sous chef-

Zack:
That’s a perfect example.

Jan-Eric:
-the assistant, the understudy who understands the best way to prep the ingredients so that the meal can be made the best possible way. There’s a special way to cut this onion… I’ll stop there, because I don’t really know what I’m talking about, but I think that’s probably a good parallel analogy, right?

Zack:
It is. Yeah. It’s a perfect analogy. And I should also say that technology can afford us a lot of benefits. So depending on what that analyst needs to do, there are technology solutions you can go out and buy for less than a full-time equivalent employee to help with that cleaning stuff, to automate the flows of data to… Lots of times they have prebuilt structures around data that are designed for a marketing analyst as an example. So like I said, it is actually a big business on this. There are a lot of people out there trying to solve this 80%, even at the top levels of the marketing world, Google, Amazon, there’s big companies who are trying to solve this problem.

Zack:
So far, no one has an all inclusive one time, one hit solution that does everything automatically and it costs $10,000. But, there are varying levels of it all over the place.

Jan-Eric:
So let’s keep an eye on that and development. So the second thing I want to transition into, the second bucket, this second area you’ve identified as a big time suck. So the first one, if the first one was all about analysts being required to collect and cleanse and structure data to get it ready to be analyzed. The second one is in a completely different world and it’s one that hits close to home for me. So the second one is really not an area where there’s any shortage of available data that’s available to be analyzed. It’s quite the opposite, where there’s so much available to be analyzed, and this is where we get into media reporting. So talk a little bit about the inefficiency and the drag on time that happens around media reporting.

Zack:
Yeah. So, everybody has seen all types of different media reports. An agency or a marketing organization can create reports and Excel and all the way up to these really fancy, expensive tools that will give you access to the most minute detail in the media. How many impressions were served in Houston, Texas, to pizza eaters who drive Ford F-150 pickups. That level of detail can be available, and that creates the problem, because in my experience what I’ve seen is analysts, media planners and buyers get into this mode of feeling like they always have to generate an insight. Because there’s so much data, I’ve got a biweekly or a weekly status meeting with my stakeholder who I’m executing the media for. I always have to be bringing insights. I always have to be changing something. I always have to be optimizing.

Zack:
And so I think that creates this cycle that these people get into of, I got a one hour or 30 minute status meeting coming up. I need to spend a day or two days worth of time digging through all my reporting and analytics on media to prepare for this meeting. And I think what’s lost a lot of times in that is, is the campaign producing what I thought it would produce, which requires me to think on the front end of the campaign, what does this campaign need to produce? And I think that’s what’s often lost is I’m setting up a campaign. I know I need a certain CPM or I need a certain click through rate or something, or I’m taking an industry benchmark because that’s what the client asks for and I’m optimizing towards that, without ever saying this campaign needs to produce X number of leads and how am I going to get there?

Jan-Eric:
So a driver, if I’m hearing you right, a driver for efficiency on a use of time and getting focused in on media reporting is actually well before you ever get into media reporting and that’s establishing what this campaign needs to deliver. What are the requirements of this campaign in order to deliver a business result?

Zack:
Right.

Jan-Eric:
Fair?

Zack:
Yep.

Jan-Eric:
So even to get there, that pre-work that needs to be done is linkage between media and sales to understand how much media is required to create the business effect that allows us to meet the business goals, the business objectives that have been that have been established. Because without that, what we’re doing is we’re fishing for something that tells us that we’re better than we were the last time we looked at this.

Jan-Eric:
And I can speak from firsthand experience. It’s not a good spot to be in when you’re trying to justify the work that you’re doing. And it’s very, very easy to get into a cover your ass mode from a reporting standpoint, to try to tell a story of we’re always getting better. We’re always getting better. We’re always getting better. Maybe actually what we’re doing is enough. Maybe what we’re doing is exactly on target. And what ends up happening in that world is you end up spending a day prepping your story for a 30 minute meeting. Even worse. You spend a day and a half trying to get ready for a 30 minute meeting that’s really just justifying what you’re doing. Right?

Zack:
Yep.

Jan-Eric:
Now, what exasperates that problem is when that 30 minute meeting is recurring weekly meeting. So now what I’m doing is we’re spending 20% of our week, every week, preparing for a 30 minute meeting. There is no efficiency on time use that way.

Zack:
Right. Right. And I think to your point, we’re in this cycle of always needing to do better than we did last time. Not without… And again, in my eyes, it’s a lack of context of what it needs to produce. And if we would think critically about the campaign on the front end. So let’s take an example. I’m getting ready to run a campaign. We need to drive leads to go to the sales team. That’s my goal. I’ve got a B2B business or a B2C business. I’ve got salespeople calling customers or potential customers. I need to feed leads to those customers.

Zack:
So I’m going to spend money in a media campaign to generate leads. Okay. How many leads do we need to generate? That is the key to the campaign. I need to generate 1000 leads because my sales team needs and close 100 of those. And they’re going to close 10% of the leads that I give them. Okay. So I know my 1000 leads. How many visits to the website where the leads get captured, a form fill or something, do I need to generate to get that 1000 form fills? Okay. I need 10,000 visits to that page to get my form fills. Okay. Now how many clicks to my digital campaign do I need to get 10,000 visits, and how many impressions do I need to get my number of clicks to get my 10,000 visits, to get my 1000 leads?

Zack:
Now I’ve just strung together that little funnel to be able to measure myself against, and it’s based on my objectives. It’s no longer based on an industry benchmark of what my click through rate should be, which really has no bearing on my business and my personal situation. I’m actually setting these objectives around what I need to produce. And now if we are preparing for that 30 minute status meeting and everything is on track and we’re pacing to our targets and all those points in the funnel are hitting where they need to hit to meet the ultimate number, the meeting may not need to happen. It may be, “Hey guys, the campaign is looking great. It’s doing what we expected it to, adjustments are always being made to optimize, but we’re on track. So let’s keep rolling with what we’ve got.”

Jan-Eric:
Right. As opposed to try to invent a problem or identify a problem that maybe doesn’t exist because we’re under the pressure and that’s the mindset that we need to have is always finding these insights.

Zack:
Right.

Jan-Eric:
Yeah. It can be a huge second time. Well, this is great. I think that nothing else to take from this conversation. It’s just recognizing that a finite human resource is time. And we need to be aware of the biggest sucks on time and the biggest drain of our time that we have available to us in the week to make sure that we’re spending as much time as we can on the things that are most important. In some cases, there’s definitely an importance for having… in the first example we talked about, it’s obviously very important to have data structured in the right way that allows us to do effective analysis.

Jan-Eric:
But it’s respecting the fact that that takes that amount of time. It needs to be done, but what are the ways that we can get it done quicker? Whether that’s different types of staff that’s dedicated to that, the sous chef example, or is it leveraging technology that allows that to happen a little bit quicker? And then the second piece… And then the second example we talked about was in the media reporting, and just recognizing that we may be our biggest enemy of the mindset and expectation that we have to come to… Every week we’ve got to walk in with these big a-has and big, huge insights, when reality is, there may not be some monumental, big shift that needed to happen and that really what this check-in needs to be is less about reporting on the inside and more about identifying whether or not we’re tracking on what’s required to create the business outcome.

Jan-Eric:
And that can be a straightforward conversation. And again, probably more focused on what makes most sense. Is there anything you’d want to add before we wrap up?

Zack:
The only thing I would add is to get to… So the second thing you talked about in the media reporting side, to get there requires a lot more thought on the front end, which that’s obviously Callahan’s approach with our front end data analysis approach. But, I think we both agree that doesn’t happen a lot. It’s pretty unique for someone to go through that process every time, because it’s hard and it takes time and usually you’re wanting to get a campaign spun up as quickly as possible. So that often gets skipped, but it’s, in my opinion-

Jan-Eric:
Critically important.

Zack:
-the way to go to one, be able to maximize your human time resources and produce a better campaign on the back end.

Jan-Eric:
So invest a little time up front to get ahead of it, to get you more… Make you more efficient on the backend. So now you can just let the thing happen.

Zack:
Yep. Yep.

Jan-Eric:
Yep. That’s a good step. Hey, thanks for joining me. It’s a good conversation.

Zack:
Yep.

You’ve been listening to the Uncovering Aha! podcast. Callahan provides data savvy strategy and inspired creativity for national consumer brands. Visit us at callahan.agency to learn more.