Using an analyst for fun and profit: vendor/campaign auditing

by Jim Cain

Many times when I talk to an organization that has dedicated analysis, I am blown away by how underutilized they are.

Business analysts, especially ones who specialize in digital, are a rare breed. They have a strong understanding of technology and data, but also have the ability to see the big picture of an organization–so that they can focus on telling relevant stories around signal data. This is why good analysts are so hard to find, and so expensive to acquire.

When you talk to a firm that already has analysts in place however, you find out what they are tasked to do tends to be the following:

  • Tag management for existing web technologies
  • Basic ad hoc reporting management for business staff (e.g., “How many people came from email last week?”)

No wonder analysts never stick around longer than a year at one job; by the time the recruiters start calling with more money the analyst is so bored they would work for less.

Here’s a tactic that you can use to start to get some real business impact from your analysts: give them interesting challenges that they will enjoy, and start to get your business moving from intuition to insight-driven.Now, there are good reasons for why analysts aren’t normally used very effectively, and I have spoken about some of them in past blogs (too much separation from business users, newness of the discipline, etc.).  Moreover, getting to a place where you are effectively using your analyst can be very rocky, it’s not an overnight decision and it will require cultural change in your business.

The next time you are considering a new vendor (“Our mobile email retargeting system creates 5x ROI!”) or a major new digital initiative (“Let’s move a bunch of our ad budget to LinkedIn”), bring your analyst in and ask them to build a model for you that answers the following:

  • What are the specific numbers in our business that this vendor/initiative should affect?
  • How are these specific numbers connected to our primary KPIs?
  • Given historical data for these numbers, what is the opportunity for us if the vendor/initiative increases performance by 1%?  What does this do to the primary KPI?
  • Given the numbers we know already (average sale, margin, cost of sale, etc.) coupled with the cost of the vendor/initiative, what is the bare minimum impact needed for it to pay for itself?

Trust me, an analyst who hasn’t gotten a meaty question in a while is going to love this.

If you have a capable person, you are going to get some real insight and really start down the road of tying analysis into decision-making. Just be prepared to see a lot of ideas get shot down by the data. That idea someone had to dedicate three full-time people to Twitter and Facebook to grow sales might get shot down.

It’s up to you to let the information support your decision (and maybe trump your intuition).

Cheers,
Jim

Jim Cain

Founder and CEO, Napkyn Analytics

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