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Marketing analytics and the data-driven evolution of marketing

Six key components of marketing analytics

Adele Sweetwood, VP of SAS Americas Marketing

Marketing, big data, information technology, and analytics together demand the attention of the C-suite more than ever before. And they all share one common denominator: the customer. Whether a client, patient, guest, patron, or constituent, the individual is more informed, more sophisticated, more mobile, and more demanding than ever. And this customer shift is causing a data-driven evolution in which marketing analytics has emerged as a key enabler of success.

This data-driven evolution is also technology driven, and it comes with the need to change how we define, describe, and interpret its impact on doing business. The simplest way to define marketing analytics is as an enabler of fact-based decision making for marketers, delivering measurable business value and positively impacting the customer experience. The best description of marketing analytics is in terms of six key components.

The first three components are foundational elements: namely, data, technology, and advanced analytics capabilities. As foundational elements, they need constant care and feeding. They prove their highest value when paired with the other three components — methodology, culture, and innovation. The goal is to have a methodology in place, supported by an analytical culture that drives innovation in marketing.


Data is the holy grail of marketing analytics — whether it is big, little, complex, simple, structured, or unstructured. And the most valuable data is customer data. In most organizations, marketing is where the customer data resides, and that reality puts marketing at center stage, with a key function being that of the data scientist.


The technology needed to handle that data presents a challenge for marketing because it depends on 24/7/365 support from IT to maintain access. Today that technology means intelligent applications and automation for marketers, empowering them to react quickly, test constantly, and deliver measurable value through desired results and the ability to be agile.

Advanced Analytics

Advanced analytics capabilities enable marketers to make fact-based decisions about design, segmentation, channel optimization, inbound marketing, and nurturing efforts. In addition, marketers are able to deliver valuable information about trends and the digital dialogue of customers and prospects. Advanced analytics are much more than simple metrics or reporting tools. Metrics tell us where we’ve been, where we are now, and how we performed against a previous year. By contrast, a sustainable marketing analytics strategy needs to be equipped with advanced analytics. Here are two examples of how marketing analytics are working for SAS.


Since we began applying marketing optimization techniques at SAS, our conversion rates have tripled on outbound marketing campaigns, while associated communication costs are dropping. There has been a reduction in list size by 14 percent, a reduction in email opt-outs of 20 percent, and an increase in clickthrough rates of 25 percent — all of which translates into higher-quality leads, reduced costs, and an improved customer/prospect experience. Optimization has a direct impact on results, and it will indirectly increase the confidence level of your marketers. That means less guesswork and more strategy.


With millions of visitors on our website, analytics is critical in determining how we at SAS leverage a person’s time on-site. With scoring and nurturing efforts, we have experienced conversion rates of 20 to 30 percent with the content we offer. Add the ability to integrate online chat capabilities, and we’ve seen even higher conversions; but more importantly, we have enhanced the overall experience for our website visitors in real time. None of this would happen if our marketers weren’t comfortable testing, measuring, changing, and justifying marketing activities. We let analytics decide the best approach.


Methodology includes a set of processes that encourage consistent interpretation of results, as well as a consistent execution of campaigns and deliverables. In an environment of constant change, the methodology helps align the interdependencies of various functions. It also allows for a level of transparency that will increase marketing’s credibility within the organization. The methodology becomes the guide that helps you to truly build an analytical culture.

Analytical Culture

Building an analytical culture requires leadership that asks the right questions, encourages evidence-based risk taking, and makes a commitment to educating, informing, and collaborating within and across organizational lines. There are six tips to get you started, and the goal is to strike a productive balance between the science of analytics with the creativity that naturally thrives in marketing, which leads to innovation.


Data, technology, advanced analytics, methodology and a strong analytical culture will drive innovation. As a marketing organization, you will be able to innovate more effectively if you:

  •  Protect and care for your data.
  • Leverage the diversity of advanced analytics.
  • Hire and/or train marketers to be analytical.
  • Establish a disciplined approach.
  • Embrace constant change
  • Sustain credibility with your constituents.

Innovation is about problem solving, testing, and adjusting efforts. Innovation resonates for marketers in the approach to new channels and communication methods. Innovative marketers will leverage analytics to take more calculated risks, and have the confidence to be agile in responding to the market. Being able to encourage innovation supported by an analytical culture makes for an incredibly powerful leadership position.

That leadership position can be achieved in the context of 10 dimensions that show the progression of marketing analytics:

  1. Reactive to proactive
  2. Outbound to inbound
  3. Metrics to advanced analytics
  4. Reporting to analyzing
  5. Segmenting to optimizing
  6. Gut instinct to fact-based decision making
  7. Insight to prediction
  8. Just measurement to measurable value
  9. Tracking to targets
  10. Cost center to revenue impact center

Some of these examples are indicative of how marketing has changed. Becoming more proactive, shifting investments toward inbound strategies, and managing the increased amount of channels, data, and technology available for marketing. The interesting part about this progression is that there are no right or wrong directions. Marketing will need to span the continuum. For example, the best marketers combine data and analytics about their marketing efforts with the experiences they’ve gained as instinctual. And methods of segmentation will remain, but they will be enhanced by optimization techniques and behavioral analysis or scoring methods. One very relevant progression point for marketing will be the transition from pure cost center to being viewed as having a direct impact on revenue. The capabilities are available now, and the evolution is in progress. It is worth taking the time to assess your organization’s status along this continuum. That assessment will prove to be a useful gap analysis and guide toward a solid marketing analytics structure.

There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a data-driven evolution in marketing that is both customer focused and channel driven. In this environment, marketing analytics is the way forward. Data (big or little) is a motivator, and fact-based decision making powered by advanced analytics is the differentiator. Establishing a marketing analytics strategy and culture is the enabler, and maintaining highly collaborative, trusted relationships is an advantage. Delivering measurable value through revenue impact and the optimum customer experience is the aim. It’s time to hit the target.

This article originally appeared in ANA Magazine.

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