Most enterprise businesses have no single source of truth for marketing. Executives rely on a different set of reports than their teams (BI, DataMart, financial reporting). For every great business intelligence system, there’s an executive team that doesn’t use it because that system isn’t accurate, aligned, and/or readily available.
Blake Harrison is Senior Director, Digital Marketing at Nutrisystem, a billion-dollar meal delivery company helping millions of people lose millions of pounds. As a company, they have an obsessive focus on analytics and data, and his team leads the charge on acquisition marketing and data science.
People from throughout the organization, from top to bottom, come to them looking for customer insight. As a direct marketer, Nutrisystem has a 45-year history of robust business intelligence systems, so it was no minor challenge to get all of the data to be accurate, aligned and readily available. Luckily they found a great partner in Jim Cain, CEO of Napkyn, Nutrisystem’s digital analytics partner, who joined the session and helped explain larger trends and best practices for improving c-suit level analytics.
A classic problem: an executive hears that digital is really measurable, but when he brings a digital report to the financial team, they say, “This doesn’t reflect what we’re seeing at all.” The digital data says things are going great and the finance team is saying, “Then, where’s the cash?” The work of financial officers is often (and not always appropriately) seen as the objective, scientific truth, so misalignment wrecks the credibility of the digital team.
Nutrisystem sells a subscription model that requires a lot of custom coding. Think meals for sixty days, picking 28 meal occasions, and customer preferences. Harrison wanted to find what was driving performance, increase business value, diagnose issues, datafy wins (not just things that go wrong), and get everyone on the same page.
Agency and retailer worked together to re-architect their framework for how data is generated and consumed. To start, Cain and Harrison watched who executives looked at most during digital report meetings. The CFO won hands down. Knowing that things will never match perfectly, they sat down with the finance team and figured out the variances between Google Analytics and the financial reporting system. Today, they check on those areas regularly and reconcile differences to leadership.
In some organizations, marketing and IT hate each other, and the extent to which CEO, CMO, CFO agree on reporting techniques is limited. At Nutrisystem, the C-suite quickly agreed on a definition of success and that Google Analytics would be the best system. Previously, it took several analysts to cobble together a report. With Google Analytics, they showed executives how to use the tool and what’s important for their side of the business (KPIs), which generated interest and led to more engagement. Instead of griping about learning a new system, they were asking, “Can I see this report by hour?”
Cain adamantly gave some advice: “Pick a lane.” You’re making your job a whole lot harder by not centralizing around a single tool. If you acquired another brand, bringing it into your suite ought to be a major priority. You’ll have less fights in the boardroom about whose report is the truth.
To recap, here are some best practices.
Have a key executive stakeholder who is invested in success. In examining unsuccessful attempts, there was a discrepancy between Cain’s level of access and the retailer’s level of excitement. You have to get buy-in.
- Understand business and tech requirements from the top down.
- Align requirements across both marketing and IT
- QA + QA + QA + QA + QA! Credibility is a fragile thing. Don’t lose trust because of mistakes that could’ve been prevented by a second set of eyes.
- Plan for governance and scale. If you deploy a tag management system with a robustly implemented tag manager, don’t underestimate the importance of ongoing data management and governance.
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