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It’s all about the strategy

Thought Leadership on Data Analytics presented by IQ Strategic Communications.

I’ve seen it hundreds of times at meetings. In the office lives a bookshelf of binders and presentations collecting dust from that past two decades.

Surveys, focus groups, SWOT analyses, board facilitations, data profiles, and everything else that sounds “data smart” sleep on the shelves, waiting for their prince to awaken them from a deep slumber.

For some organizations, tens of thousands of dollars are spent collecting information on customers that results in nothing more than advanced and expensive hoarding.

What happens with these projects? Where does the process break down?

It’s actually quite simple, and equally frustrating. Most information-collection projects fail because one fundamental question isn’t answered.

How will we strategically execute initiatives to leverage what we have learned?

I recently saw this image of an extremely robust marketing process chart, and found it fascinating. Marketing buzzwords like social ops, web ops, data ops, mobility, ad ops, and design are highlighted in dizzying depth.

Only at the bottom, practically hidden to the naked eye, is “strategy.” Based on the graphic, it’s of no greater relevance than terms like “search” or “ad tech” or “social.”

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It got me thinking. Why do we build sophisticated and expensive processes like this for marketing, without grasping the importance of the strategic vision that provides the direction and focus necessary for success?

Simply put, without an integrated strategy built on information, analysis, and an evaluation of opportunities and resources — and don’t confuse that with tactics and operations — even the best marketing mousetrap will fail.

Part of the problem is that many businesses seek information and consider the initiative complete as soon as they receive their data. But, that should just be the start.

The real question is how will the information that was collected help us?

Any information collection project that ends without executable recommendations to use what you learned is unfinished. While we believe those recommendations should be a combined effort between you and your information collection partner (we don’t complete any data project without this step), sometimes it’s necessary to tackle the construction of recommendations on your own.

Here are three ideas to make sure your information collection becomes more than just a paperweight:

1. Use impactful data callouts to convince decision makers of the need for a new strategy.

One of my first major data-analytic projects was while working at The Retired Officers Association, a highly successful association of 400,000 military officers. An initial look under the hood led to a simple conclusion — the organization was at risk of losing its effectiveness as World War II veterans died.

While it would have been easy to look at the data and accept the fate of an organization in decline, it presented a strategic opportunity that could stabilize the association’s future and position it to work on issues outside of its historic sweet spot.

Synthesizing the data into a few jaw-dropping charts eliminated most of the initial reluctance. Seeing all of the data collected would only confuse the board and take focus away from the primary objective of developing a strategy to keep the association relevant.

Convincing 36 retired generals and admirals that the only way to stem the bleeding was to remove the word “retired,” and broaden the organization’s mission to include all military officers, wasn’t easy. However, their ability to reason based on simple, undeniable data made the strategic decision to change the association’s name an easy one.

Now, the Military Officers Association of America continues its leadership role representing the interest of military officers and their families at every stage of their career.

2. Build ROI projections that “sell” your strategy.

 Results talk.

The only way to get the attention of some decision makers is to show them the financial impact of your new data-driven strategy.

CashCall Mortgage sought to understand why results were declining in their direct response campaigns. While the impetus for the decline was valuable, building a strategic path forward to improve return on their marketing investments was paramount.

But like many C-level leaders, the first response to our findings was “I just don’t believe it.”

To convince CashCall to adopt a new strategy to target a different audience, they needed more than just an opinion. They needed to specifically understand how these changes were going to impact the bottom line.

When our initial tests doubled response rates and tripled conversion rates — even outperforming our projections based on our model development — the new strategy was approved and fully adopted.

3. Paint a portrait from your data collection.

 Just like in the classroom, decision makers often learn in different ways. One way to overcome those who don’t process data easily — and therefore have a difficult time converting that to strategy — is to paint a picture that turns information into a visual depiction of that data.

Depiction 1 of Data – Decision Tree



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Depiction 2 of Data – Personality Profile

Rather than present Ohio Farm Bureau with a series of data elements demonstrated in the above decision tree to highlight a strategic new opportunity, we chose to build a profile to accurately describe the audience.

Nicknamed “Jim & Marthas,” you probably already have a picture in your mind — a slightly older couple living in the country who enjoy the simpler things in life.




With a real-world view of the audience in a way that data alone couldn’t provide, the strategy to engage Jim & Martha became much easier for Ohio Farm Bureau to digest and adopt.

Now, engaging Jim & Marthas is a staple of Ohio Farm Bureau’s growth efforts. It’s even fun to go to a Farm Bureau event where the staff says, “There goes a Jim and Martha!”

Information collection and data analysis are as critical as ever to the success of your business. Don’t miss the opportunity to advance because it’s not converted to executable strategy.

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