USAA shares five keys to marketing analytics excellence

Doug Mowen, Executive Director, Chief Data and Analytics Officer at USAA, knows how important it is to play smart at marketing. Since he joined USAA’s management team in 2002, Mowen has continually focused on the best way to use analytics and insights to drive value for both the USAA membership and the enterprise. Under Mowen’s leadership, USAA has established a brand identity that revolves around superb customer service. It’s a directive that ensures customer satisfaction and generates positive returns on marketing investments.

Mowen had a chance to put his marketing prowess to good use in 2009. That was the year USAA expanded its eligibility requirements to include anyone who had honorably served in the armed forces along with their eligible family members. It was a whole different approach for USAA, which was founded in 1922 by a small group of Army officers who decided to self-insure each other when outside insurers felt they were too risky.

The 2009 eligibility expansion meant that USAA had to figure out how to quickly raise awareness with a large, new group of prospects. Based on his experiences, Mowen shares five tips that can help any marketing organization achieve excellence.

If you can clearly support and share your analytic results, you will be much more successful at building a business culture that relies on facts to make decisions.

Doug Mowen
Executive Director, Chief Data and Analytics Officer
USAA

Key Insight 1: Define Success.
Which Insights Would Promote Data-Driven Decision Making?

As you design your measurement plan with stakeholders, the first things to ask are, “What are you trying to accomplish? What is success?” It’s crucial to get your stakeholders to clearly define this. Some stakeholders may say they want to generate responses or sell more products. These types of general answers should stimulate additional questions that can provide better answers about what insights are needed. So, for example, you could ask what types of responses they’re looking for – such as phone calls, website visits or other responses. And you should ask the stakeholders to clarify what counts as a response.

Key Insight 2: Target Carefully.
Understand Your Customers and What Drives Their Behaviors.

When you’re targeting your audiences, you should incorporate as much as possible from the wealth of data that’s available today. Demographic variables give you a good idea of what the customer looks like, and they’re generally good predictor variables. But USAA has found that behavioral data is a much better predictor. To find it, be sure to pull data from your website and call centers along with transactional and event-type data, such as marriage, moving to a new home or having a baby. All of this information can help you more fully understand your customers’ behaviors.

Key Insight 3: Align Resources.
Understand Who and What Is Available, and Know the Limitations.

After identifying who you should or should not target in marketing, you should decide how you will communicate with customers and how they will communicate with you. Do you want to create a full surround-sound campaign using all available marketing channels? Or do you have a limited budget and only want to focus on a few? In that case, which ones should you use? These are all important questions to help narrow your approach.

Key Insight 4: Measure Carefully.
Determine the Incremental Benefits of Your Initiatives.

The importance of good measurement is hard to underestimate. To do it, USAA uses scientific methodology to examine the available models that it can use for targeting and vehicle assignment. Once it understands budget and success metrics, USAA uses a marketing mix optimization model to determine which channels to use for campaigns. Then it uses a vast suite of prediction models to further refine its target audiences – creating the best chance for success. Finally, it focuses on building the measurement (or test) plan. Where possible, USAA prefers to use a control versus exposed approach to measure the incremental value of individual tactics. And when it can’t use a control group, it turns to special types of A/B testing or time series modeling.

Key Insight 5: Build Credibility.
Certify and Clearly Communicate Your Results.

If you can clearly support and share your analytic results, you will be much more successful at building a business culture that relies on facts to make decisions. But keep in mind that if results are not favorable, people may question the data, the measurement techniques or the analysis itself. Sometimes these discussions can lead to additional knowledge or insights. But if your data and measurement techniques are solid, this unnecessary debate can strain your analytical resources or lead to spin across the organization.

To combat these attitudes, partner with your chief financial officer to certify your results. A partner outside of your organization can help develop, support and back your measurement techniques and certify the benefits, leaving little room for interpretation. You can also gain ground by over-communicating your results. For example, if IT helped you create a data store or gather additional data elements, share the results with them. Let them know how their work directly contributed to your findings. The more people who can directly speak to your results and the insights generated from them, the more likely that everyone will rely on the results of analytics to guide their decisions.

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