So let’s set the stage, you’ve created a complex and sophisticated set of connections in a data visualizer like Tableau, and you’re struggling to see past the couple reports you’ve generated. What do you do next? This is where you have to break away from the data for a minute and think big picture. What is the ultimate goal you are trying to achieve? How does this data insight support or disprove the messaging you want to use in your campaign. This is where the statement that analytics is an art and science comes in to play. You must be able to weave the data insights and present the data points in a manner that supports the overarching message while remaining truthful and ethical in the process.

In the age of data-driven decisions, marketers are continually looking to quantify and qualify their findings. One easy way to achieve this is through data visualization software. One such software is Tableau, which on the surface may seem very simplistic and flashy. It has a low skill entry point with drag and drop features, detailed labeling, and almost every creative way to display data you can think of. What isn’t apparent at first is the immense skill ceiling and the depth at which someone better versed in Tableau can truly create stories out of data. Tableau allows you to create custom dimensions, hierarchies, and connections between multiple files of data. These features act like different brushes and data sources like different types/colors of paint, all at the disposal of the user to craft their data masterpiece.

In the digital world we live in, online social status is often times tied to the amount of followers you have or the views on your videos. It is human nature to see someone who “has everything” and wish you were on their same level. Now, for the most part those in the positions of influence have dedicated untold amounts of time to their craft. They have honed their brand down to a well calculated science, however, to the average person they only see the success. This has led to viral video craze, the old school “15 minutes of fame.” Coutnless people have used a viral video to launch their careers, with varying levels of success. One example that comes to mind is the “catch me outside girl” who became infamous for being blatanly disrespectful to her mom on the Dr. Phil show. She is now an established rapper, with over 17 million followers on instagram, and she’s not even 17 yet. I think that videos become viral for a few reasons. They tend to be aw inspiring videos that one wishes they could have seen, or done, themselves; they also have to have some type of shock value. That shock can come in a controversial, scary, or comedic way but a viral video must have at least one of those to make it. The last piece of the puzzle is how the video is distributed. If you are someone with a low reach it may not even matter how awesome your video is; that being said it only takes one share from the “gateway” person/account and in a matter of hours one could become a viral sensation. Even if it is only short lived at best.

In a video for PBS, John Smith stated that “Data is just a clue to the end truth.” While I agree with the overarching message of his statement I would argue that this statement could be expanded upon. I would change “end truth” with “endless truthes.” I recommend this change in one’s approach to data visualization as it relates to marketing. Data in its raw form can be equated to music notes waiting to be arranged into a piece of music. There are unlimited ways to measure data but data by itself does little to tell a story. What is lacking is the contextualization to present the data in a deliberate manner to guide the viewer towards the desired interpretation. In this manner the marketer is akin to the conductor of an orchestra, coordinating and directing raw data into a unified symphony of prepared products designed to lead the consumer to the desired outcome. 

As a marketer it is common that those above you don’t and won’t understand the work you do. It is at times a thankless job and one that can be taken for granted by those who have antiquated points of view. That is why it is imperative to study, observe, and learn your audience. No, not only the audience you are trying to market to but the audience you must win over within your organization. You must be proactive and learn to speak their language while simultaneously advocating for your craft. You must strategize and position your needs and goals in a manner that also speaks to their needs and goals. Bottom line is that they likely will not care to know the intricacy of your analysis of the latest campaign but only the results and how it effects their bottom line. That’s where the phrase “ready and relevant” comes to mind. You must own your craft and have your part ready and then translate the relevant points in a manner that will be received by your superiors.

Simply put we live in a content saturated world. Everywhere you turn there is some form of media waiting to try to steal your attention. There are near infinite different categories of content that all exist in the same digital ecosystem. You aren’t just fighting competitors in your market, you’re fighting against memes and videos of cute animals doing things, etc ad nauseam. With that in mind content creators have given into using clickbait titles or thumbnails to coax people into view their content. While their intent is questionable there method can be adapted to serve your marketing purpose. There is however one major caveat, you must be providing quality content that justifies the users click or else you’ll fall victim of being considered clickbait and that can severely harm your brand. 

Regardless of what type of market your business operates in, or what level you work at in your field, there will always be a need for leaders. Specifically, dynamic leaders capable of tackling the ever changing environment of the modern world. Let me be the first to tell you, this is no easy task. Leadership is akin to sacrifice, not just any sacrifice, but strategic and deliberate decisions for the betterment of your organization. People will look to you in dire situations with the expectation that you’ll be calm, collected, and have the best course of action.  You will be their “go-to” person.  It is important assess all information presented, then factor in both previous and future objectives, and determine the best decision to make. This process shouldn’t happen in a vacuum, lean on those more experienced who share the same vision. To be an effective real time leader ultimately you have to get out and practice it. Seek opportunities to utilize your skills, and lead from the front!

In the vast consumer ocean, brands will do everything in their power to stay afloat. Massive corporations that are more akin to well oiled machines, try to personify their public face to become more relatable to the average consumer. But what about in a more niche market? One more so related to the “small town” adage of everyone knows each other. In this business environment, who’s running the company is equivalent or in some cases more important than the company itself. In my field of work, clients regularly pay a premium to do business with my company. They know, by our reputation, that they are in good hands and there are few, if any, other competitors that can operate as we can. This is coming from over three decades of my boss establishing his name as an industry leader. It is to the point that his personal brand is synonymous as our company brand, and when clients call into the office the first words out of their mouth is almost always “may I speak to the big man?”

If you are considering beginning your journey as a business owner it is imperative to conduct extensive amounts of research of your industry.There is merit to obtaining the skill set to manually analyze the data you find but as humans we are inherently fallible and we make more mistakes than we realize. The phrase, you don’t know what you don’t know comes to mind. With that being said, it would be a wise investment to look into data collection tools to assist your research. Tools like CRM systems and data visualization tools like Tableau will help you see your data in different ways. The application of this would to then use the findings of your research to align your long term strategic goals.

There is a saying in the military that “no plan survives first contact.” Contact in this case a be loosely defined as anything you encounter after the official start of your execution phase. As a leader it falls on you to be able to assess the situation and command your troops in real time effectively to achieve the mission. There are numerous parallels that can be drawn from the operations process and troop leading procedures to the developing a marketing plan. When deeply involved in the intricacies of designing the plan it is easy to become emotionally invested in that specific plan, but to be an effective leader you must identify that in yourself or in your team and create alternate courses of action to maintain flexible. The last thing you want to be is married to a plan that fails and have no fall back option. 

They say there is a million ways to skin a cat, well there are a million ways to measure KPI too. But it is important to not take numbers at face value and do your due diligence to verify that the story that the numbers portray match reality. In a recent example, I was measuring total sessions of users to my website. I was excited to see an almost 20% increase year to date comparatively to the last calendar year. That was until I noticed an disproportionate change to my overall bounce rate. Sound the alarms! Time to play detective. Come to find that my largest segment of traffic is also approx 67% of my bounced sessions. Why is that? There could be millions of factors at play but one of my KPIs for my site is the average site load time. With improvements to the overall site experience it seems it may be overloading the site to where the majority of the bounced sessions may not have even had the page load before they left. If taken at face value, I would have reported great news to my boss. Instead, now I have data to take back to my team with more insight to how we can improve our customer experience and work to reach the people that would have bounced.

In the military, there is a great deal of planning that takes place prior to any level of operation. There are deliberate planning processes that take place to iron out the complex nature of large scale combat operations.  Although the processes differ across echelons there are a few key points that transcend all levels that can be used as a framework for marketers. Understanding the situation is imperative for any plan, as a marketer you must define what your operational environment looks like. Assess the factors that drive your market, your competitors, even yourself. Paint the a picture through the information that can help set parameters within in your plan. State your mission. Clear, concise, obtainable. Then layout your plan of execution in great detail. Identify what events define transition points in the plan, focus more so on event-based criteria as opposed to time-based. I have stated before, no plan survives first contact and as a marketer you must be flexible and remain resilient! Ensure that you have a sustainment plan that is designed to support your plan through its entirety. Forecast your logistical requirements and then forecast 5-10% extra to account for “Murphy.” Finally, establish a clear communication path to which all levels know how and who to communicate with in need of support or an emergency.

Having access to large data sets and being responsible for reporting the findings is no small task. You will be presented with more insights than a lot of other people and you must do your due diligence to make certain that the insights you gleam are relevant and will drive positive results. A recommendation would be to avoid thinking about the numbers necessarily at the top of the funnel. You should analyze your funnel to determine how and where your money is made and then branch decision making off of that point. Your data will be you use to determine the critical areas. In this process dawn the mantra of quality over quantity but aim for optimizing both to best suit your organizations and not overload any one function within the process.

As marketers, we are skillful, creative, and resourceful. Our message is often times presented through mediums like info-graphics and produced digital content but, to the dismay of those of us that are introverts, there will come a time that you will have to communicate an idea to someone. As you grow in your craft, the natural progression of any field is to ascend to leadership roles. As a leader, a vital skill to have is how to speak in a manner than conveys your message concisely, and ( I cannot stress this enough) confidently. That applies both to when speaking to superiors and especially your subordinates. By all means, you still need to be a subject matter expert in the technical aspects of your job but you must be a good communicator if you truly desire to grow into more senior positions.