By Jim Alcott 

This blog entry is intended to be brief and serve as the start of an ongoing theme or discussion on this important topic. We invite input from you, and we will return to this topic periodically adding new ways to determine if your agency is really data-driven. 

 A brief set-up: we as marketers know we must be data-driven.  Our organizations demand accountability for our spend and our results.  Agencies know this too—most have incorporated “insight,” “data,” “analytics,” “modeling,” and other terms in to their last website overhaul.  It’s now “fundamental” to their process.  The question is, how real is it?  Are they simply telling us what they know we want to hear?  Have they really mastered it?  

 I happen to know that many agencies have not.  And here is the beginning of a list you can use to determine if your agency is really data-driven: 

The Analytics or Insight discipline exists only within Digital. 

Digital obviously produces and uses data, and analytics has always been an important part of it.  But online behavior is only part of the bigger picture.  

The Analytics or Insight discipline is just the new name for an old function, Research.

Research is both important and helpful, and I admire agencies who take the time to staff for it.  But qualitative and quantitative research is just a part of the whole as well.  And in many ways it is less reliable and actionable than mining your own customers’ or patients’ behaviors. 

You can’t share customer data with your agency, because they can’t meet your data security requirements.

This should really be a dead give-away.  It means they won’t be producing data-derived insight—they’ll be consuming any insights you can provide them.  I know they’ll provide skilled expertise in creative messaging and media strategy around the insight, but it’ll only be as effective as the insight you provided.  Maybe you’re comfortable that your agency can’t provide you with data-derived insight based on your customers, but they should likewise be comfortable not implying its core to their process. 

You’ve never met or spoken with the data scientists or analysts that the agency employs (again, outside of Digital). 

It’s okay if your agency outsources these functions.  (There are agencies that outsource data and analytics to Altair.)  The important thing is the demonstration that your agency can walk-the-walk and not just talk.  

Maybe you have some additional items to add to our list.  Send them on, and we’ll periodically return to this subject.  And if your agency is not data-driven, suggest they talk to us. Call us today to speak to a specialist: 615-468-6800.