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"No Data Torturing Allowed" - Jim Novo on Marketing Productivity, Centers of Excellence, and Getting the Data You Need

Jim Novo is the author of Drilling Down: Turning Customer Data into Profits with a Spreadsheet. Given our webcast on multichannel marketing, featuring Unica’s Akin Arikan, not to mention the emphasis I’ve placed on navigating the data-rich environment of marketing today as the key to marketing careers of the future, I thought I would pose Mr. Novo some pertinent questions, and that’s just what I did!

1. The marketing environment today is exceedingly data-rich. It has grown increasingly difficult for marketers to keep up with the data already available to them, let alone all the tools that allow them to capture and manipulate even more of it. What established or emerging tools do you view as essential to the success of marketers today?

I don’t have a general opinion on tools, there are too many scenarios. Clearly, at minimum you need a web analytics app if you are talking about the web, etc. But, frankly, getting to the right data is more of a challenge than “tools,” IMHO.
I generally find people don’t know what data they need, so they ask for “all of it.” This is counterproductive and is a real time-waster on both the marketing and tech sides. Know what data is going to be important and ask for it. This requires having a plan of some kind: What is it you will *do* with the data if you get it? What is the hypothesis? What do you expect to discover with the data?

2. Do you think that organizations are better served by hiring specialists dedicated to analyzing the data on which their business depends, or by ensuring that this sort of expertise is spread throughout the organization and embedded in the responsibilities of individual marketers?

I believe in a “Center of Excellence” (COE) approach, where all the top analysts work in the “Research and Analysis” department reporting to the CFO or CEO. That way you have standardized definitions and best practices that are used throughout the company, and, for example, there is ONLY ONE answer when somebody asks, “How many customers do we have?” You would be surprised at how many different answers you can get to that question.

Another reason for the COE approach is that these analysts learn amazing things about other areas of the company from each other. That’s where a lot of breakthroughs can take place. Within the COE, you will have a “lead” analyst for each functional area that specializes and knows everything about that area. It’s amazing what happens when you force all the specialists to go to lunch together and they start asking each other questions. Amazing discoveries get made when they start linking their knowledge.

You can have spreadsheet jockeys at the department level, but that work is non-critical and is never used for “big decisions.” Any analysis that makes it to the C-Level either is originated by the COE analysts or checked by them. No data torturing allowed!

3. How would you advise marketers to think about the ROI of design both online (in terms of website design) and off-line (in terms of direct mail, promotions, and advertising)?

Everything operational can be optimized in the same way web sites are optimized. Call center scripts, VRU’s (Voice Response Units), product packaging, instruction manuals, check-out lines, all of it.

The problem is that marketing people don’t think their jobs include operations. But here’s the thing, if something operational is a touch-point, an interface to the customer, it really is THE MARKETER’S JOB to optimize it for the customer. That’s how you drive better customer experiences.

To allow some IT person to come up with the copy for packing slips or VRU’s or whatever the interface is borders on the insane – look at the job they did with web sites!


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