One of the greatest (and sometimes frustrating) things about the marketing profession is that it is constantly changing. Consequently, marketers are constantly evolving and absorbing new information from market research, webinars, books, industry news, and more. With the advent of data-driven marketing, marketers have had to learn an entirely new skillset.
However, some conventional wisdom remains applicable and doesn’t take a lot of words to convey. Here are 10 popular quotes on data by nine brilliant scientists, programmers, and thinkers that offer valuable advice that any data-driven marketer can use.
1. “Data that is loved tends to survive.” — Kurt Bollacker, computer scientist, open-source advocate
To put it another way, data that is kept organized according to the metrics and KPIs that matter most tends to remain relevant and usable. If your data is well maintained — that is, regularly cleansed, organized across taxonomies, etc. — it can be a valuable source for insights and best practices that inform your business decisions.
2. “Data matures like wine; applications like fish.” — James Governor, industry analyst and co-founder of RedMonk
Provided it is well organized and maintained, historical data can be a boon to brand growth. However, the way we harness that marketing data has changed over time. Outdated tools and applications can slow you down a lot. Today, many marketers spend up to 80% of their time preparing data for analysis, leaving little room for insight generation. If the methods you are using to gain insight from your data don’t help you answer the right questions at the right time, your data is effectively dead on arrival.
3. “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.” — Ronald Coase, economist, author, Nobel Prize winner
Oh hello, confirmation bias. Don’t waste time and energy forcing your data to validate your opinions. While asking questions of your data and testing hypotheses (learn more about that here) are crucial steps in predicting future marketing campaign success, marketers must be able to step away from their biases and recognize anomalies within data that hint to something greater. Outliers are often very telling — of something gone wrong or right within a marketing campaign. Question every outlier thoroughly to find out why it occurred and under what conditions it can be duplicated or avoided. Listen to the data, and it will reveal all of its possibilities.
4. “If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.” — William Edward Deming, engineer, statistician, professor, author, management consultant
This is an area where creativity will always be relevant to data analysis. Of course there should be standard questions you always ask of your data, but new discoveries come from a consistent practice of questioning, forming hypotheses, and running tests. Learn more about applying the scientific process to analysing marketing data here.
5. “A person who is gifted sees the essential point and leaves the rest as surplus.” — Thomas Carlyle, philosopher, writer, historian
Marketing data comes in overwhelming volume and is measured by a hundred different metrics. Report the metrics that matter most and leave the rest.
6. “Numbers have an important story to tell. They rely on you to give them a clear and convincing voice.” — Stephen Few, founder and principal of data visualization firm, Perceptual Edge
Data storytelling is important because numbers generally do not, in fact, speak for themselves. Sometimes numbers alone are impressive, but a good data storyteller also conveys why the numbers are important, and how they impact the business. Using contextual elements like video, images, and text will better communicate the story of your brand growth.7. “If the statistics are boring, then you've got the wrong numbers.” — Edward R. Tufte, statistician and pioneer of data visualization
Marketing data reports are opportunities to present learnings, victories, and plans for new experiments. Everything you choose to include in a report should show your company leadership the value of your work, and inspire confidence in your continued efforts.
8. “In God we trust; all others must bring data.” — William Edwards Deming, engineer, statistician, professor, author, management consultant
Unless you are an omniscient and eternal being, responsible business decisions require thoughtful consideration of all the information available to you. Reliable and timely insights from data have the potential to grant their own kind of power—an increased ROI.
9. “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, physician, author best known for Sherlock Holmes novels
Hello again, confirmation bias. The challenge here is that one’s ability to make decisions based on data sometimes depends on how fast they can generate actionable insights. This is why it’s important to retire outdated tools in favor of those that enable timely, relevant insights. With technology and resources invested in generating faster, smarter insights from data, your team can rely more confidently on data to inform strategic decisions, instead relying solely on gut feelings.
10. “You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.” — Daniel Keys Moran, computer programmer and science-fiction writer
Due to the explosion of digital, marketers have tons of data without information, and it’s easy to get frustrated and wish for the old days before marketing involved so many Excel spreadsheets. But without data there is only guesswork and opinion to inform strategy. Invest in tools that turn your data into an easily accessible repository of institutional knowledge. If you can minimize the work it takes to turn data into information, you’ll never rely on guesswork again.
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(Featured image by Frank McKenna.)