Turning Data Into Insight Into Action

Martin Oxley

I recently moderated three one hour sessions with marketing professionals at the Richmond Events Marketing forum exploring the ‘thorny issue’ of Turning Data Into Insight Into Action. Over the duration of the discussions it became apparent that it would have been better to describe the subject as From ‘learning to kick’ to ‘Golden Balls’* since this described the diversity of experience levels of those in attendance.

Although the footballing metaphor may seem a little far-fetched, the expression ‘learning to kick’ and ‘golden balls’ were actually used by participants – and no it wasn’t an all-male audience. I think that the footballing expressions were useful because they reflect a sense that you have to practice to achieve excellence. Further, to achieve success you have to experiment and try new things. This spirit of testing, learning and applying was a key discussion point and the learning from our shared collective experiences proved the most useful outcome.

The learning can be summarised using Lamoureux’s Experiential Learning cycle reproduced below.

The participants segmented the subject Turning Data Into Insight Into Action into three broad themes: collection, analysis and action. We discussed examples in each area where the participants had seen success and also (from those brave enough to share) failure. None of us were surprised that we don’t typically hear many (any?) failures. The perfectly manicured PowerPoint slides about marketing success at conferences are the equivalent of airbrushed models in Vogue magazine. Funny that!

We mapped out some key thoughts:

Collection: how to incentivise stakeholders who have little motivation to collect data that will be of use to marketing further down the line (not seen as their job). How to provide a case to senior management for funding for market research and/ or data capture.

Analysis: from the advanced (latent class analysis was mentioned – click here to learn more!) to the simple tracking of responses to direct emailing campaigns were covered. What provided most interest was individual case studies of successful analysis and action. One campaign (has to remain nameless I am afraid) had led to significant success and a ROI of 30 plus. Jealous?

Action: we didn’t always get time to get to this point in the discussion (let’s face it covering the first two topics in the hour was already a Herculean task). However, one key insight was that the results of any analysis needed to be presented ‘carefully’ to senior management. It was felt that if the analysis was consistent with management’s view of the world it was more likely to be embraced yet ran the risk that it was perceived as waste of time since ‘I already know that’. If, on the other hand, it challenged senior managements view of the world it could well be ignored.

Overall, and it may seem obvious, we concluded that action based on recommendations with evidence from case studies is the most impactful in improving decision making. Easy isn’t it?


*For those of you who are not familiar this was one of the nicknames attributed to David Beckham by the UK tabloid press. Yes, it does have a double meaning!


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