Honest analytics take trust and commitment

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Steve Khederian
Steve Khederian
According to the old saw, the great thing about direct marketing is it's measurable — and the bad thing about direct marketing is it's measurable. While true, and always worth a knowing chuckle to those of us in the business, it is small solace for practitioners of data-driven analytics.

In the face of ever-increasing expectations for better intelligence, effective targeting and improved ROI, it's disappointing when your marketing programs don't yield the results you expect right out of the chute. Nor is it ever easy to deliver bad news or even results that are uncertain. Here's the key: if you aren't failing a good part of the time, you're not trying hard enough to find better ways to do things. So it's OK as long as you treat that failure as a cobblestone on the often bumpy road to success.

Optimal results are there to be had, but there are no shortcuts. The most forward-thinking organizations rely on their analytics resources to keep them on the right path. It is often said that numbers don't lie (yup, another cliché). But interpreting and communicating those numbers effectively can frequently be a gray area. It is all too tempting to massage results to demonstrate a desired outcome – at the expense of real knowledge and understanding. Sugar-coated results are not helpful to anyone, regardless of whether it's something you, or your clients, may not want to hear. Whether it's you or your agency doing the measurement and sharing findings, intellectual honesty is vital.

You should absolutely expect this level of honesty from your analytics partner. Getting there requires a commitment by everyone involved to eschew tempting shortcuts and trust on both sides of the relationship. As with any relationship, that trust has to be earned. A good analytics partner will set expectations up front about what can be learned, validate outcomes and minimize ambiguous interpretations. A good client will allow the necessary runway for analytics to be effective and will remain open to the notion that whether results are positive or disappointing there is always much to be learned. Together, both parties will encourage questions about what's working, what's not and why. It's this collaboration born of intellectual curiosity and trust that produces the best insights — and results.

Steve Khederian is director of analysts at Catalyst, a Rochester, NY-based direct and digital marketing agency, where he specializes in applying data to develop and implement  integrated, multichannel sales and marketing programs.              

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