How do you know when you’re overanalyzing marketing data?

Tableau_-_Bollinger_Bands_example

During last week’s MarketingProfs B2B Forum, Tim Washer asked forgiveness on stage from me and other analysts in the crowd for lambasting over-analysis of data as one of the top obstacles to creativity in business. The thing is, he didn’t have to apologize: he’s totally right.

The logical followup question then is, how do you know when you’re overanalyzing marketing data?

The answer to this comes from what I call the Marketing DAIS.

Data is the stuff.

Analysis tells you what happened.

Insights tell you why.

Strategy tells you what to do next.

You are overanalyzing when you keep going back for more data, and more data does not change the analysis substantially.

You are overanalyzing when you know what happened and you haven’t made progress on knowing why.

You are overanalyzing when you haven’t made the transition to what to do next.

That’s it in a nutshell. You are overanalyzing when you keep treading water, when you fail to move forward beyond the data and the story it tells you. We all love a good story, but if that’s all you ever do, then you’re overanalyzing.


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I’d buy that for a dollar!

Anyone remember the Bixby Snyder character from the original Paul Verhoeven Robocop movie?

buy that for a dollar

He’s the subject of an inane TV show set in the Detroit Robocop dystopia whose punchline is, “I’d buy that for a dollar!”

As silly as the character was, it raises a fair point when it comes to your media, your content.

Would any of your corporate marketing content sell for a dollar?

Think about that question carefully. Would anyone pay money, even a dollar, for the content you’ve published today, this week, this month? Could you convince any of your customers to buy that press release you just sent out? Would they buy this week’s email newsletter? If you were to put your eBook up on Amazon or your webinar up on Gumroad, would anyone purchase it?

Here would be the challenge to you. Catalog all of the marketing content you’re producing, then put it up for sale right now, for the next 30 days.

  • Publish your email newsletter to Amazon’s Kindle Singles program for 99 cents.
  • Publish your corporate white paper or eBook to Amazon’s KDP program for 99 cents.
  • Publish your next webinar to Gumroad for a dollar.
  • Publish the press release you’re going to send out to Scribd’s store for a buck.
  • Publish your next product announcement to iTunes as an MP3.

Wait 30 days. If you can sell one of any of the types of content, then you know you’ve got something worthwhile. Jay Baer often says in his book Youtility that your content should be good enough that people would want to buy it. Take the next step and actually put your content up for sale to see if anyone WILL buy it.

If it doesn’t sell? You need to take a long, hard look at whether it’s any good.


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Economic outlook for marketers, 4Q 2014

One of the things I like to do from time to time is check in on a variety of different leading economic indicators to get a sense of how the overall economy is doing. That knowledge lets me know – within a certain amount of error – what marketers can expect their quarter to look like. How much should we push our customers? How much should we challenge pricing?

B2C

The consumer is the heart and soul of B2C. If the consumer doesn’t shop, the B2C company doesn’t sell – and the B2C marketer has to work doubly hard just to tread water.

So how is the consumer looking?

Employment:

All_Employees__Total_nonfarm_-_FRED_-_St__Louis_Fed

Nonfarm payrolls are expanding, and fairly significantly. We’ve technically got more people employed now than ever. Of course, some portion of that is natural because as a nation, we have more people than ever.

Unemployment:

Civilian_Unemployment_Rate_-_FRED_-_St__Louis_Fed

U-3, the general measure of unemployment, is below 6%, a place it hasn’t gone since before the Great Recession. If you look in the data, even U-6, the total labor pool across the board, is down to 11.8% underemployment. That’s a far cry from the peak of the Great Recession, when we were pushing 20% underutilization of labor.

Initial Claims of Unemployment:

4-Week_Moving_Average_of_Initial_Claims_-_FRED_-_St__Louis_Fed

We’re back to almost the first dot com bubble, and the height of the boom times before the Great Recession, in terms of the number of people who are filing for job losses. While there are still a whole bunch of people without work, it could be much, much worse.

Real Disposable Income:

Real_Disposable_Personal_Income_-_FRED_-_St__Louis_Fed

2012 was a much better year for income, but we’re approaching it in a much more sustainable way as we head into Q4 of 2014.

Overall, there are a lot of macroeconomic potential shocks out there waiting in the wings. Instability in the Middle East. The Russian-Ukrainian war. Ebola. But the bigger picture, at least for the general US consumer, is that 2014 is ending on fairly solid footing. What does that mean for you as a marketer, if you’re a B2C marketer? You probably don’t have to overhype the low cost message quite as much as you did last year – the consumer overall probably feels a little bit better than 2013, which means slightly looser purse strings for the holiday season.

B2B

For the world of B2B, we look to things that are going to impact companies’ ability to buy from other companies. This means looking at leading indicators from shipping to what it costs to run a business.

PPI:

Producer_Price_Index__All_Commodities_-_FRED_-_St__Louis_Fed

PPI, the Producer Price Index, is the general cost of doing business. What’s unusual here is that business got really expensive during the Great Recession, then prices dropped as the economic shocks rippled up the supply chain, and then for a while things got back on track. But in 2011, PPI plateaued, and it’s been holding there ever since. While you might think it’s a good thing that production costs have leveled off, the reality is that level pricing means that companies of all sizes aren’t making more money on average.

BDI:

BALDRY__1041_00_UNCH__0_

The Baltic Dry Index, BDI, is an index of what it costs to put a bunch of things on a container ship and ship it overseas. This is a great B2B leading indicator because companies don’t buy shipping containers unless they have product to sell. It’s not something you buy just for the heck of it. Again, we see that things went crazy int he run up to the Great Recession, BDI crashed hard at the beginning of 2009, and it really hasn’t made a huge lift since then. We also see the softness in 2011 extending out to today.

VIX:

VIX_Index_Charts_-_CBOE_Volatility_Index_Interactive_Index_Charts_-_MarketWatch

The CBOX VIX, or volatility index, looks at how volatile the markets are. It’s an indicator of how safe or risky investors feel. The VIX hit the roof during the Great Recession and had a few aftershocks in 2011 and 2012, but has calmed down considerably since then. A major portion of that has been the Federal Reserve Bank effectively handing out free money for years to investors via TARP and the Quantitative Easing programs, as well as holding interbank interest rates near 0%.

Do you see the pattern here? In each of the three charts, B2B leading economic indicators show that the B2B economy is in a holding pattern. The sky isn’t falling by any means, but the pie isn’t getting any bigger, either. If you’re in B2B, maybe you’ve noticed this already. Leads are probably becoming sales opportunities at a slower pace. Sales opportunities are probably taking longer and longer to close. If that’s the case, then there’s a good chance you’re caught in this economic plateau as well.

The good news is that a strengthened consumer will eventually ripple upstream to B2B, in general. As you can see from the charts above, the consumer face-planted in 2008, while B2B took as long as two years to fully feel the impact. Thus, as the consumer gets back on their feet, we should expect B2B to do the same. When will that be? Assuming the consumer continues to heal up and get back in the game, probably B2B will feel it in late 2015 or early 2016.

So overall, a merry holiday season for the consumer B2C marketer; B2B won’t get any coal in the stocking, but Scrooge’s ledgers will still be a bit thin.


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