With record expenditures in the area of Analytics occurring, and a steep rise predicted over the coming years, “Analytics” has been officially indoctrinated into the “Hall of C-Level Buzzwords.” Like most buzzwords, there is always some confusion over the actual meaning and its proper place in business.
My career in Information Technology started, in earnest, working as a Systems Integrator for MRP/ERP systems at (mostly) small businesses. At the time, “ERP” was the latest buzzword and I worked with many clients whose implementations were doomed from the start, simply because their purpose, scope, and capabilities were just not understood by the executives who were dictating their implementation. Small businesses often lack the resources to withstand failures and delays in such large-scale projects, so it was painful to watch (and more so, to participate in ) some of them.
At the time, IT was still very attached to Finance and was starting to gain a foothold as its own independent group within organizations. The CFO always seemed to be the most interested in technology and typically drove the projects, which, at least in my experience, primarily benefitted Finance. Today, we’re seeing IT crossing more into the areas of Marketing, which is exactly where the heart of analytics beats. The history of IT within organizations and the tendency of some C-Level executives to misuse buzzwords and get caught up in sales hyperbole make it important for small businesses to understand what Analytics actually is and can do for them.
Data Analytics isn’t something you can buy and plug into your business and watch run. It’s neither a marketing program, nor a panacea for an ailing marketing plan. It’s a way to connect the dots of information gathered about your customers and prospects to produce a predefined set of information for use by marketers.
The results of an analytics program should be driven by Marketing and there needs to be some predefined goals in order to produce the best results. Simply handing off volumes of data to analysts to look for trends can be like asking them to stare at the clouds and tell you what animals they see. There should be a concrete plan for what information is expected and how it will be used. That plan should be clearly communicated to everyone who touches the data.
Data Analytics is not the end of the Marketing Funnel and it’s not the start of the Marketing Plan. It’s best used to help reshape and guide marketing activities. It is, in effect, a tactical tool employed by smart marketers. Small businesses need to empower their Marketing Team with these tools, but require them to first define the use cases in order to ensure success and elicit the best ROI.