For analytics to be useful, they have to give you actionable insights. Here's how to get them.
Analytical tools are great, but totally useless if the end goal is to merely collect data.
In order for these tools to be valuable, you have to actually leverage the data you’re gathering and take action.
Unfortunately, many in the marketing industry find it challenging to move from insight to action.
The Growth of Actionable Analytics
Since big data and analytics are relatively new to the average business owner, there are a number of misconceptions about how data is best used.
According to data scientist, Michael Wu, there are three classes of analytics:
- Descriptive: Statistics that summarizes the existing data.
- Predictive: Statistics and information that forecast data that doesn’t yet exist.
- Prescriptive: Actionable models that guide future decision making.
There is a time and place for descriptive analytics and predictive analytics, but if you’re looking to take action, prescriptive analytics should be your focus.
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“An actionable prediction is one that gives you enough time to take action against it,” Wu explains. “It is a prediction whose predictive window is longer than the reaction time. This is the most important and the minimum criterion for actionability, and it is characterized by a simple inequality: predictive window > reaction time.”
Five Tips for Using Your Data
Actionability is a critically important component of modern marketing. If your current approach consists of collecting data and reviewing it without action, then you’re merely investing in descriptive and predictive analytics. There’s nothing wrong with these two classes, but they aren’t allowing you to take action and guide strategic decision making.
In order to get you pointed in the right direction, here are some helpful tips and techniques for moving from insight to action:
1. Leverage Actionable Analytics Tools
As businesses become more aware of the importance of prescriptive analytics, the software industry has moved in the appropriate direction. In 2016, marketers now have access to actionable analytics tools that help them move beyond descriptive and predictive and towards prescriptive analytics.
“As opposed to older systems that primarily aggregated and computed structured data, actionable analytics tools will be able to reason, learn and deliver prescriptive advice,” explains Agata Kwapien of datapine, a leading provider of business intelligence tools.
“New self-service business intelligence tools will provide users with more transparent embedded analytics solutions and friendly user interfaces that would enable autonomous and informed decision-making.”
As a marketer, you need to ensure your business understands the importance of actionable analytics and adopts modern technology that supplies you with the features necessary to maximize the data you’re collecting.
2. Ensure Support from the Top
If you want actionable data to be taken seriously in your organization, there needs to be support from the top. Sure, it’s nice to have support within the marketing department, but the only way to truly invest in actionable analytics is by getting everyone on board.
Everyone from the CEO down needs to understand the importance of not only collecting data, but also using that data to make educated and strategic decisions that better the company.
If you want to take a firm stance on the importance of actionable data, then establish a policy that says every single element of any marketing plan must be based on insight you gather from customers. This will totally transform the way your organization thinks about marketing.
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3. Create Cross-Functional Teams
The issue in many organizations is that the folks gathering the data aren’t always the same individuals who using data. This disconnect may seem like an innocent little thing, but it has a major impact on the actionability of the data.
The best solution to this problem is to create cross-functional teams that consist of individuals at every stage of the funnel. You want people who collect the data, people who develop plans for how the data is used, and people who actually carry out the action.
The benefit here is that the individuals collecting and interpreting now have answers to the questions like: “What are we doing with the information we’re collecting?” Furthermore, the people developing the marketing plans have answers to questions like: “How are we collecting this data and are we gathering the right information?”
Cross-functional teams are a smart idea in any aspect of business, but especially when it comes to something as complicated and fragmented as collecting and using analytics. Assuming you have total support from the top, there should be no trouble establishing and using these teams.
4. Give Everyone Access to Insights
You should never restrict access to data within the organization. While the goal of data collection may be to empower marketing strategies, everyone within the organization should be able to reference the takeaways and trends.
Think about it. With an enhanced understanding of what’s really happening when your brand engages customers, everyone from sales and customer service to finance and accounting can benefit. Where there’s comprehensive understanding of the overall process, there’s better internal decision making each step of the way.
5. Understand the Potential of Actionable Analytics
Sometimes the issue is that marketers don’t understand the full potential of actionable analytics. In other words, they know they have the ability to collect lots of information and decipher trends from the data, but they aren’t totally clear on how to use this information for tangible results.
Well, here are a few basic suggestions:
- Storytelling. One of the best ways to use the data you’re collecting is letting it shape your content marketing. Based on the information you uncover, find ways to tweak your storytelling so that the content you produce and share better resonates with your target audience. Don’t be alarmed if the content you’ve been producing has totally missed the mark. A willingness to move in the right direction will produce noticeable results.
- SEO. Analytics will always be tied to SEO. Based on the information you gather, you can tweak your approach to SEO and focus on what’s really important to your audience. And this doesn’t just mean focusing on keywords. Things like site speed and UX also matter. Look beyond basic keyword research and attempt to understand how users are interacting with different marketing materials (and whether they’re satisfied with what you’re giving them).
- Social strategies. The data you collect will let you know where your target audience is and how they spend their time online. For example, you may find that your best users aren’t spending time on Facebook anymore, but are actually gravitating towards Snapchat and Periscope. As a result, you should shift how you approach social media. Changes like these can have a quantifiable impact on your ability to engage users.
- CTAs. Once you understand what your target audience desires, you’ll be able to optimize your CTAs on product pages, landing pages, blog posts, PPC advertisements, etc. This can save you a lot of time and money.
If there’s an aspect of your marketing strategy that can be tweaked, there’s a good chance that the data you’re collecting can give you actionable insights into what needs to be optimized.
Start Taking Action
Collecting data is great, but you have to act upon it for it to be worth your time. Thankfully, the big data and analytics industry has grown tremendously over the past couple of years and there’s now ample opportunity for marketers to find and use actionable tools. Keep these tips in mind as you move from insight to action.