CMOs: 3 Keys to Extracting Value From “Big Data”

If you’ve got analytics, you have insights waiting to be discovered. Are you finding them and using them to drive value for your business?

There are few things as full of hype, promise and sexiness as “big data” and we have more data than ever before, yet marketers are challenged to parse terabytes of noise to get a megabyte of signal.  Too many practitioners are focusing on reports and dashboards instead of analysis, and not reaping the promised benefits.

I am a student of the art and science of digital marketing, which is increasingly driven by the principles of decision science and continuous improvement that have informed my career in large-scale content production management. I am currently studying Social Media Marketing through Northwestern University. The purpose of this blog is to both practice the craft and share the best bits of what I’m learning along the way. Today’s catch includes 3 tips from two of the industry’s top minds on how to get the biggest bang for you big-data buck.

#1) Use the Scientific Method

Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media Studios challenges would-be big data mavens to do more than monitor reports and truly embrace the analytical process by doing the following:

  • Get a marketing idea
  • Ask a question that supports the idea
  • Find the report that provides the answer
  • Proceed with the idea (or reject it) based on the answer
  • Measure the impact

In short, Andy suggests following the scientific method which includes forming a hypothesis, challenging it with data, and using the resulting insights to make better decisions and do better marketing.

Andy Crestodina

“There is an ocean of data in your Analytics. And it’s fun to swim in the ocean. But it doesn’t really get you anywhere. If you’re just looking at reports, without answering questions, testing hypotheses or drawing conclusions, you’re not doing Analysis.”

– Andy Crestodina


He then goes on to give an easy to follow example of this process for each of the four reporting categories found within Google Analytics; Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, Conversions.

For example, do you think increasing social media activity might generate leads? Ask the question, “Which social network refers the most engaged visitors to our site?” A Google Analytics Acquisition report can tell you where referrals are coming from, what pages they are visiting, and how long they stay, and whether conversion rates vary meaningfully from other sources. The answers can determine whether it makes sense to test the idea. If so, measure the impact and see if the original hypothesis is proven correct. Either way, you can repeat the process to further refine the strategy’s performance or explore other options, compiling valuable insights on what does and doesn’t work along the way.

Read the full article “Google Analytics Reporting vs. Analysis: Insights From 4 Reports

Big Data Mountain

Anyone entering the realm of digital marketing and analytics will soon recognize Avinash Kaushik as a key thought leader in the industry. On his blog, Occam’s Razor, Kaushik has written extensively on how to use big data to find insights that drive action with timely value.

In his blog post, “A Big Data Imperative: Driving Big Action“, Kaushik acknowledges the potential and the challenges posed by big data.

Avanish Kaushik

“It is great that we have big data. It is greater that we have such amazing promise in that big data. It is sucky that almost no one knows what to do with it in the context of driving actual business value.”

– Avanish Kaushik



#2) Invest in people, not tools (the 90/10 rule)

Kaushik is adamant that for every $100 budgeted to invest in making smart decisions, invest $10 in tools, and invest $90 in big brains (aka people).

Don’t build the biggest, baddest big data environment over 32 months, only to realize it was your biggest, baddest mistake.”

Computers and artificial intelligence are simply not there yet. Hence your BFF is natural intelligence.

Let the 10/90 rule be an inspiration to simply over-invest (way over-invest) in people, because without that investment big data will absolutely, positively, be a big disappointment for your company.

While systems and tools can provide access to massive quantities of data, with ranks of impressive reports and dashboards, actionable insights that drive value remain the province of the analyst. Be sure to invest your budget accordingly.

#3) The Digital Marketing and Measurement Model

To aid “big data revolutionaries” in their quest, Kaushik has published a five-step framework called “The Digital Marketing and Measurement Model”, which contributes to structured thinking about what the real purpose of a campaign is, and the determination of an objective set of measures with which to identify success.

  1. Identify the business objectives upfront and set the broadest parameters for the work we are doing. Sr. Executives play a key role in this step.
  2. Identify crisp goals for each business objective. Executives lead the discussion, you’ll play a contributing role.
  3. Write down the key performance indicators. You’ll lead the work in this step, in partnership with a “data person” if you have one.
  4. Set the parameters for success upfront by identifying targets for each KPI. Organization leaders play a key role here, with input from Marketing and Finance.
  5. Identify the segments of people / behavior / outcomes that we’ll analyze to understand why we succeed or failed.

Follow this link to read the full text of Avanish Kaushik’s post on “The Digital Marketing and Measurement Model

Remember these 3 keys to driving value from big data

  • Be Scientific: Start with an idea, convert it into a question, find a report that answers it, reject or proceed with the idea, and measure the impact.
  • Invest in People: Direct 90% of your analytics investment in people, who are your source for actionable insights.
  • Follow the Model: Define the objective, set goals, document KPIs, determine success parameters, identify causes for success or failure.

Follow these three principles and make the difference between good and great marketing.


Nick Krueger is a 17-Nick Kruegeryear veteran of the analog magazine publishing and retail marketing communications business, with the last 9 years managing the execution of print marketing programs at RadioShack. 

Nick has a B.S. in Operations Management from the University of Memphis, an M.B.A. from the University of North Texas, and is currently enrolled in Social Media Marketing with Northwestern University via Coursera

You can find Nick at LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.


Taking a Mid-Career Plunge Into Digital Marketing and Analytics

I am presently in a “career-transition adventure”, making friends, learning about companies, and making decisions that may determine my trajectory for the rest of my life. I’m in good company, as about eight-million fellow Americans are presently doing the same thing. (Hey guys!)

A bit about me …

I’m a husband, father of four, manager, and all-around fixer.

I’m creative, curious, and future-focused with a bias for action. My passion for making things is manifest through many hobbies including gardening, cooking, maintaining a small fleet of aging Toyotas, and conducting small to massive DIY projects around the house.

Professionally, I love pioneering new arenas, building new operations, and developing talents in the people who run them. I believe in doing a good job, having fun while working hard, and that all business is personal.

I’ve worked 25 years in graphic communications, design, and digital production. I have a B.S. in Operations Management from the University of Memphis, an M.B.A. in Finance from the University of North Texas, and have recently concluded a 17-year career with the world’s largest integrated communications company, RR Donnelley.

Time for a change

For the past 9 years I led a large team on-site at RadioShack’s headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. My group produced nearly all print-marketing communications programs including circular, in-store POP, direct mail and packaging, with services including creative development, copywriting, photography, photo-illustration and retouch, desktop production, digital asset management, technology-based services and business process consulting. RadioShack’s bankruptcy resulted in the discharge of all vendor contracts, and I was obliged to dissolve the business.

I am now in transition, and taking the opportunity to upgrade my skills. However, it’s been challenging to decide where to invest my time. This is a chance to re-tool and choose a trajectory for (potentially) the rest of my working life, and I want to make sure it is in a field that is growing, stimulating, and populated with smart, creative people.

Discovering digital marketing and analytics

Over the last couple of months I’ve parsed hundreds of job postings, and have seen substantial demand for Digital Marketing and Analytics.  Nine years in traditional marketing has provided some peripheral exposure to the field, which has grown and evolved during that time, and recent study on the subject has been a real eye-opener. I’ve decided to dive in and add digital marketing to my portfolio of skills and experience.

Why digital marketing and analytics?

This article indicates that 71% of companies have gaps in their digital marketing teams, with the biggest gap being in analytics.


All indicators are that digital marketing will continue to displace traditional marketing, especially as digitally-integrated millennials enter the workforce and wield their effect as a consumer powerhouse. This will continue to increase the pressure on companies that are already struggling to find capable staff. Unlike petrochemical engineering, which was recently touted as one of the hottest career tracks in the country (and later tanked as oil prices dropped), digital marketing and analytics isn’t closely tied to the fate of any specific commodity. With all indicators pointed toward growth in demand and a shortage of talent, it looks like a great bet for people with a bent toward marketing, technology, and data.

My education in operations management and finance was heavy in decision science, information systems and statistical analysis. Additionally, my work in premedia has been highly focused on information technology and the development of expert systems used to manage marcom information flows. Digital marketing and analytics is a natural extension of my education and experience, and I intend to immerse myself in the subject over the next several weeks.

Fortunately the internet is awash with free and inexpensive resources to acquire proficiency in the craft. Google doing their part to fill the gap by hosting free training programs through their Analytics Academy, and I have already begun work toward a certificate in Digital Marketing and Analytics through the University of Illinois Urbana-Campaign and Coursera.

Why the blog?

I’ve set up this site to share thoughts on the overlapping roles of art, science and craft in the business of communications and marketing, to share discoveries (as well as the odd side-interest), and connect with others doing the same thing.

Please feel free to comment below with your perspective, advice, and questions.

In the mean time, best wishes and have a great Labor Day weekend!