In Search of the Unicorn: The Marketing Data Analyst

Last fall, The Wall Street Journal gave marketers who possessed one unique skill set a special moniker — that of “unicorn.”

Unicorn? Yes. This rarely seen mythical creature may indeed have much in common with the new species of marketing expert: The Data Analyst.

According to IBM, 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years. And the mountain of data available is growing each year. Your financial institution has access to an enormous amount of data about each of your client relationships. The preponderance of this client data — and the need to access it, leverage it, and act on it — begs marketers to become the data analysts that many have no desire to be.

Given the need to leverage this information, the question is: Can marketers find a way look at data and see the opportunities and/or risks that lurk therein? Will they? Some will. Some won’t. And others will channel their inner ostrich. Still others will hire an outside firm to collect and analyze the volumes of client data available.

What type of client data are we talking about? And how much is “enough?” In the hands of a true data analyst, it’s less than you might think. Yet there always seems to be an insatiable appetite for more; many institutions are afraid to start evaluating and analyzing their data until they feel they have every possible nugget of data accounted for. These folks will never get past square one — they will drown simply trying to organize the sea of intel and information washing over them.

But once you do begin, what can you (or this mysterious unicorn) make of the data? How does revenue and profit growth sound? Marketing that delivers provable ROI.

It’s not the amount of data that matters, it’s knowing what to do with the data you have. As an analogy, consider that any TV chef on the Food Network could pull together an amazing feast with a half dozen ingredients and a few spices. Yet someone without the necessary culinary skills could have an infinite array of ingredients and the best cooking technologies available today, and they might not be able to make a single edible dish. The key is knowing what to do with what you have. Certainly, the quality of the food — like the quality of data — matters. But you also need a unicorn who knows how to cook (to mix our metaphors).

You need an expert on staff who is able to turn the data you do have into actionable intelligence. If you don’t have one of these “unicorns” on staff, then all the sexy data in the world is of nominal use. Even if you are a novice, newer analytics software makes this type of analysis significantly easier and more accessible.

Still, doing the analytics may not be for you. You can simply hire someone to do the data collection and analysis for you, and this is the dominate trend right now. Financial marketers are partnering with outside firms who specialize in data analytics and direct marketing. Some are seeing a return of 2-3 times their investment. That kind of ROI can be huge, particularly when many banks and credit unions are finding additional dollars in their marketing budgets hard to come. If you can deliver concrete, provable ROI that exceeds your total budget, then you will likely be granted more to spend, not less. Imagine that! That’s the power of data and analytics; it takes the guesswork out of marketing — from targeting to ROI — turning it from something akin to alchemy into something that more closely mirrors actual science.

Some of you may have heard of the firm Glass Door. Recently, Glass Door determined that the hottest new job (and highest paying, to boot) is that of a Data Scientist. Go figure. This is like when the internet came around in the 90s; the growth in data and data analysis will not go away — it’s here to stay.

In a slightly altered version of Malcom Forbes oft quoted phrase from the pages of Forbes Magazine, “with all thy getting, get thee a unicorn.”

Jay Kassing is the CEO of MARQUIS, a company specializing in data analytics software and outsourced marketing analytics for financial institutions. You can reach Jay by sending him an email.
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