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Is Your Data Plan On Target?

We're halfway through 2013. Are you on target with your data plan? Do you have a plan?

Big Data, data-driven marketing, analytics and a host of other goals centered around using data to make smart business decisions were major drivers in the C-suite for 2013 planning.

Yet in reality, many marketers are still wandering around the starting line rather than finding their pace well into the first leg of this marathon. There’s no question that getting started is the hardest part, so how do you begin to define and act on your data objectives? Here are some questions that will help you put your plan in place.

1. Who are your stakeholders?

Marketing may be driving, but you will need many others to hop on this bus.

The IT team will be integral in implementing the right technology stack (customer data/analytics, clickstream analytics, business/sales data, media data/analytics, and other performance indicators), but where lots of people fall down is in joining together all these sources, enabling a holistic and integrated view of all this data.

Too often the data gets siloed -- CRM data to the "customer people," Web data to the "Web people", etc. It is surmounting the technical and political challenges involved in bringing all this together that will reap the biggest rewards.

For the CMO, all this data will drive marketing initiatives, so be sure to involve those who manage the media spend. Identify how they currently use data, the gaps in where they could be using data (or figuring out how to learn what those gaps are -- there's a "don't know what you don't know" element here in a rapidly moving environment), and the plan to close those gaps. This process takes time, so get off the starting blocks and start running -- even if you have to walk at first.

You will also need the budgeting and planning folks, sales teams, product teams and many others on board, depending on your organization and its overarching business goals.  

2. When does what data need to be surfaced, and to who?

The first step is to answer the question: Who is responsible for which decisions, and what data do they need to help make those decisions? Bring the leaders into the discussions that will drive the business cases that define how you will understand behavior across your entire digital footprint.

For instance, what team is in charge of media mix? They will need to understand how past campaigns have performed across channels, how the current mix is deployed and performing, and as more sophistication comes along, you will be able to leverage advanced attribution and predictive modeling to continually define more effective future spends.

On the customer side, acquisition and retention program managers will need access to segmentation and value tier data as well as lifetime value and behavioral attributes.  This helps define which customers and segments to focus on with what kind of value propositions and messaging to most efficiently accomplish objectives.

Sales teams will want access to geographic segments, new sales and repeat sale segments, and other custom prospecting reports. 

The next step is to define when this data will be used. Do stakeholders need this monthly? Quarterly? How do decision cycles work within the organization? When does the data become stale?

Simply documenting these key planning steps will get your team out of the starting blocks.

3. How should the data be presented?

Proper visualizations can make the difference between action and inaction. Should dashboards be used to surface the highest levels of data with drill-downs for those who need to dig further? Should heat maps be used rather than tables of numbers?  Comparison views versus raw data?  

It's also important to define when just the data is needed versus an interim stage of analysis that surfaces recommendations with supporting data accessible to those who need/want it.

4. Where to go from here?

Get some dates on the calendar. When will you identify the stakeholders and get them in a room to document what systems and tools are currently in place? When will you have defined the report formats for the sales team?

Getting started doesn't have to be overwhelming. If you pick even just one aspect to focus on from each of these four fundamental questions, you'll be well on your way to creating a plan to get you through the end of 2013 and beyond.   

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