Why digital marketing agencies need to become the Indiana Jones of data

By Michael FerreeFebruary 28, 2015

A lot of companies claim to be data-driven. They produce and promote elaborate reporting mechanisms and first look to their data whenever decision time rolls around. They believe in the power of numbers above all else and use them as an explorer uses a compass. Data is a tool – and only one tool among many options. It’s not the end goal, and many companies have lost sight of that.

The trouble with being a data-driven company is that it’s the wrong message. In an effort to be scientific and precise, they’ve put on their blinders to what’s not in the black and white numbers. Data will tell you anything you want it to tell you based on the parameters and assumptions you put around it. Your conclusions also depend upon what data is deemed valuable and what data is discarded. Companies and their clients would be much better served to invest in their ability to be information-driven and insight-driven.

Don’t tell me the numbers; instead, tell me about the numbers. What could they mean? What true north might they reveal? What are my options? How do I put them into action to benefit my customers, my employees and my business? And what does my data mean in relation to other data sets that are out there, emerging trends and the actions of my competitors and partners past, present and future?

Like talk, data is cheap. We’ve got more data in the world now than we will ever be able to process and use. The data explosion and the ease of shuttling it around online have created a lot of noise. It’s distracted us from the real work at hand for all marketers – action. The amount of data and the number of ways to interpret it have paralyzed many teams in many companies. And for good reason – it’s hard to see the data forest for the data trees. It’s as transparent as a blob, and we need to break it down.

Data is only as good as the motivation behind collecting and analyzing it. It means nothing until it’s acted upon by someone who can take the data one step further than numbers on a page. This is about narrative. What story is the data telling us? In true choose-your-own-adventure style, what are you going to do now? What can you do now, and what are the potential consequences of your actions?

These are the questions and solutions that a digital marketing agency needs to provide. The mountain of data is growing at a rapid clip, and it will only grow faster with each passing day. Companies and consumers need a sage, a guide, to show them the possibilities and probabilities at-hand now, in the near future, and further down the road. Those possibilities and probabilities are hidden deep within the data, and it’s up to digital agencies to excavate the landscape and show us what they find. It’s a tall order for these agencies to move into the realm of wise professor, to take on the role of Indiana Jones as they dig, sift and analyze the numbers, but that’s what’s sorely needed.

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