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Confession: as a practitioner, I routinely undersold marketing analytics to people.
I operated under the assumption that my job was to review data, analyze it, make sense of it, and present the story to decision-makers. From there, they’d be equipped to go off and make decisions. What I failed to realize, at the time, was that I was presenting ambiguity. As one account executive told me during my agency days, “You need to show clients the analysis and tell them what to do about it.”
According to our 2020 Marketing Data & Analytics Survey, the top reason for why analytics wasn’t used in decision-making is that the analysis does not present a clear recommendation.
I should’ve been presenting the recommendation first, connecting it to the action the stakeholder needed to take. They didn’t need to understand all of the data, the reasoning that got me there, or the caveats to the conclusion. I was reminded of this when reading the New York Times not too long ago, in an article criticizing public health for underselling the COVID vaccine:
…Public discussion of the vaccines is full of warnings about their limitations: They’re not 100 percent effective. Even vaccinated people may be able to spread the virus. And people shouldn’t change their behavior once they get their shots.
These warnings have a basis in truth, just as it’s true that masks are imperfect. But the sum total of the warnings is misleading, as I heard from multiple doctors and epidemiologists last week.
“We’re underselling the vaccine,” Dr. Aaron Richterman, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, said.
Instead of having a clear message, the initial rollout of the vaccine seemed something like this: the vaccine is around 95% effective, no one knows if you could still transmit the virus after vaccination, you should wear a mask even if vaccinated, it’s possible to experience side effects or allergic reactions… but you should still go get a vaccine!
What’s wrong with that? The recommendation (“get a vaccine!”) is buried in negativity. If we communicate about marketing analysis in a similar way, stakeholders miss the point or worse, refuse (or fail) to take action.
Instead of burying your conclusions, begin with your recommendation. State the action that should be taken. From there, describe the data that helped you arrive at your conclusion. For guidance on how to identify the right information for the right stakeholder in your organization, see “How to Select the Right Metrics for Your Marketing Dashboards” (Gartner subscription required).
For more information about the Coronavirus vaccine, check out this guidance from the Mayo Clinic.