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Marketers are buried in data. Here’s how to climb out.

At the most recent Adobe Summit, I heard a speaker describe the path to maturity in a data analytics practice as trying to walk up an escalator that’s going down. As technology continues to evolve, gaining maturity isn’t like climbing a static staircase. Instead, it requires constant work to just hold steady—and really upping your game if you want to get to the top.

Collecting Your Data

The first and most critical thing to understand when building out your data analytics practice is that you need a solid data practice as its foundation. Insightful, actionable analytics are only possible when you successfully collect the right data in the right form.

However, many marketers get ahead of themselves, becoming overwhelmed by a sea of data before they can even start the work of analysis. The issue is that each system used to track website behavior, blast emails, serve ads, post to social networks, or play videos creates a separate set of user data. This data is in silos, and alone, it only tells a portion of the marketing performance story, so it needs to be integrated. But efforts to tell a holistic story can easily turn into a knock-down, drag-out cage match with Excel just to get data sets to align. (Our friends at Alight Analytics refer to this as the Data Death March™!)

If your team is spending a ton of time downloading and manually manipulating data into a coherent format, it’s a sign that (1) data and analytics are important to your organization (which is great!), but (2) you are near the bottom of the data analytics practice maturity escalator because your foundational data practice is underdeveloped (which is not so good).

Uniting Your Data Sources

While it’s possible to explore and visualize data that has been collected and stitched together manually, it’s not efficient. You want your analysts spending their time generating actionable insights from the data, not just gathering and collating it. That’s why it’s better to have your data automatically collected, extracted, and transformed into a useful state. If you’re not there yet, automating data collection and data warehouse storage should be the first step for your organization.

Furthermore, bringing together your data sources under one roof through automation not only makes your analysts more productive, but also enables other interested stakeholders to act on their data curiosity. For instance, marketing managers can explore performance across multiple channels, or user experience architects can see whether their designs are working as hoped and identify areas for improvement.

Once you get everyone exploring and gaining insights, then you’re starting to move up that escalator.

Predicting the Future

Finally, the work put in to harness your data allows you to do more than just analyze what’s happened in the past. Building a data warehouse provides the raw materials to give your data a critical role in driving future performance.

For example, by tying a user’s site usage behavior from your web analytics together with that same user’s past interactions with your email marketing, you can identify areas of interest that will allow you to tailor that user’s future experiences with your brand. Combine that with machine learning techniques, and you can distill patterns across users to create meaningful behavioral segmentation for future campaigns. Over time, you can use your data to predict the individualized adjustments that will lead to the most successful user experiences.

To make data integrated, accessible, and useful, we at The Garrigan Lyman Group offer a managed data service that brings all of your data into a single source. From there, your data can be leveraged for holistic, multi-source analysis and insights, advanced market segmentation, and personalized experiences on your digital properties.

Once you’ve reached a spot on the escalator where your analytics have good predictive capabilities, you’re nearing the top.

Achieving Data Analytics Maturity

If you can say that all of your digital properties are a finely tuned, fully integrated, always optimized sales-generating machine, then congratulations! You’ve reached the top of the escalator. If not, keep moving!