Marketing Challenge: Data Doesn’t Lie, So Listen to It


Why have me in this role to tell you what the data reveals if you’re not going to act on it?” Logan Christensen asked Loretta Drago. His frustration had reached its limit.

Christensen, the VP of marketing analytics for home goods e-tailer Mercer County Mercantile, had spent the past six months watching his data-driven advice go unheeded as conversion rates dropped precipitously. The issue: the new CMO Drago.

Drago has only been with Mercer for those same six months, and she’s spent that time shifting budget and resources to social promotions that were driving plenty of traffic—but nothing else. Her attempts at winning attention from prospective customers drew eyeballs from the wrong target audience. As a result, these visitors weren’t converting. And the few who did buy once never returned.

Christensen advised Drago, on numerous occasions, that she should follow the data and stay true to the brand. For example, years-worth of data showed that direct mail not only drives 60% of Mercer’s customer acquisition, but those customers are also the most loyal and the biggest spenders. Still, Drago ignored his admonitions. Instead, she shifted money from direct mail to social promotions featuring YouTube celebrities. These promotions brought visitors to the site’s blog or YouTube channel, but not to the actual Mercer website. Of those few who did click through to the site to read additional content related to the promotions—about 3% of visitors to the social sites—only about half of 1% purchased, once.

As Christensen watched the business unravel, he couldn’t help but wonder what the CEO, Taylor Summerman, thought of the situation. Christensen didn’t want to overstep his bounds or put his job at risk, but he also didn’t want to watch Mercer’s marketing performance continue to deteriorate or stay in an environment where the data-driven insight he and his team provided wasn’t having the impact that it could. As he stood waiting for Drago to answer his question—wondering if her response would be to fire him—he debated his next best course of action.

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