Originally published on LinkedIn
With my team, I like to say ‘data is a weapon.’
Data empowers marketers and gives us power during pointy business discussions. And in my view, the most successful marketers are those who know the value of analytics.
This goes far beyond measuring return on investment, share of voice, reach, engagement, market share or market growth – although all of these remain important.
In a 2012 study of 330 companies, MIT Sloan School of Management and McKinsey found that companies in the top-third of their industries using data-driven decision making were, on average, 5% more productive and 6% more profitable than their competitors.
Analytics, in fact, touches every aspect of an organisation’s operations. Analytical insights provide marketers leverage in business, and an informed marketing approach is a foundation for creating a competitive advantage. When projecting a new company or product to market and aiming to achieve a multitude of objectives, you have to know who has real power over purchasing decisions, and who is really in the market. Only then does it make sense to set goals for brand awareness, revenue, market share and P&L.
First movers have an advantage when they occupy the high ground
Analytics let CMOs consider great ideas from their teams, and these can be evaluated with information that, by definition, supports a hypothesis that hasn’t been tested in the market. Being able to run new ideas or concepts in-market with real-time measurement can result in early leadership positions, potential breakthrough opportunities, and innovation positions. As every marketer knows, it’s easier to defend your territory from the high ground, and it’s simpler to do that if you get there first.
As the saying goes ‘the truth is in the data’, which keeps opinions and risk in check. Insights will always beat assumptions. Knowing that your great idea might be approved to run in-market serves to filter out weaker or marginal initiatives. The results come in stages. First, plans are sharper and thinking becomes breakthrough. Next come first-to-market leadership, early revenue, and in-market testing and feedback. Early word-of-mouth engagement and referrals, in person, with partners, with customers and even mainstream media, follow. The risks are calculated and minimised because analytics drove the original decisions, provide continuous measurement, and allow you to refine your decisions along the way.
The end result is happy customers and growth in revenue and profit.
Asia-Pacific leads the world in ‘mobile first’ data-led decision-making
With a higher proportion of people in Asia-Pacific accessing content via their smartphones than any other region of the world, the ‘mobile first’ economy presents rich insights that can be found in analysing the digital footprint of consumers. This helps connect, correlate or discover causation around sentiment, engagement and behaviour that all link to sales. You can connect market insights, pricing and competitors’ activity with your own, to create the picture you need to make the best decisions. If those decisions involve investment in product development and IT infrastructure, analytics will ensure you are making an informed one.
An example is the launch of our Commercial X1 range of devices in Asia-Pacific. We used big data analytics with existing customers to identify the different decision makers in large IT purchases and segmented them by demographics, IT use, IT attitude, and psychographics. This let us identify a large, younger, IT-savvy, socially connected group of influencers within large companies. We called them ‘IT Progressives’. We analysed this group to discover common passion points, how they consumed content, and how they behaved.
We discovered where we needed to play to win, and where we should target our marketing efforts, with the insights needed to develop a data-driven approach to delivering value, entertainment, information and offers. The results delivered our goals for share of market and brand awareness within the first six months. Analytics gave us an advantage. We achieved more per marketing dollar spent than our competitors.
Analytics let businesses move quickly from business concerns to care and community
Many organisations pursue greater customer-centricity. Certainly, at Lenovo we see this as a high priority. But what does that mean?
It means active listening to customers, and only then designing engagement, products and support around what they want, and what they need. These are different: in the B2B space, customers look for solutions to problems or solutions to opportunities, yet everyone is looking for a great customer experience.
An example is our own voice of the customer (VOC) project in India and Japan, in which we analyse customer comments in social media channels and forums, and share the insights with our customer engagement and product development teams. Every month this means we have around 700,000 customers giving insight on how to make our products and services better.
Yet many organisations are not yet using all their data, creating new opportunities to gain leverage ahead of competitors. In a Forrester paper commissioned by Lenovo and SAP in January 2016, on average 70% of data within companies goes unused.
Organisations must continuously watch and listen to their customers and prospects. That means data and analysis, both of which drive the definition of the customer engagement experience. It applies to your products and services, the way you engage with your customers, and in the way those who talk to customers interact with them (from the CEO through to the customer care technician). Listening for opportunities to discover how customers experience the same from your competitors, or new entrants coming to market, are valuable in reviewing your own approach.
This detailed analysis on how your organisation performs can then feed into the decisions you need to make about how you engage with your customers – from the infrastructures you build to the performance measurements you make. As investment in designing infrastructure and process around customers is expensive, analysis of this sort ensures you are on track. Receiving continuous feedback beats expensive market research projects or financial ROIs generated in silos disconnected from your customers.
Analytics give you the edge and drives growth
The role of marketing is to inform and direct businesses. Analytics should inform every aspect of marketing, from customer care to product development, market management, and to nurture strategic planning.
Once you set up your analytics frameworks you will be able to abandon the perceived safety of instinct. You will gain greater confidence when you can see where to win and what awaits you. It is also a decision that is easier to pitch to gain internal approvals from managers and budget controllers.
The data-led approach is one I have now taken across the entire APAC region, with new ideas that range from multi-touch customer acquisition to redirecting budget to new marketing pillars. I’m always prepared to back my team if they can argue a well-supported case for a new concept, backed with analysis. I will support them when they present new opportunities identified by learning and optimising as programmes unfold. By examining the results, we have a better understanding of what works, in each region, and what looks to be riskier.
So, do I think analytics give you a marketing edge?
I can say that because analytics prove the marketing investments we have made have worked, and I can directly attribute the increases in revenues and profitability that these have influenced.
Where are you on your analytics and data-driven marketing journey?
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