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Building a Data Driven Marketing Function

We like to showcase incredible achievements of those around us and we provide a platform for those with experience to share their expertise and wisdom with their peers as well as the future generation. That’s what we are always about.

To do all of the above, we caught up with James Brake, Head of Client Insight at Hargreaves Lansdown. James grew a Data Science Team from scratch to introduce a Data Driven approach to Marketing, looking to roll this out across the entire business. hargreaves lansdown james brake

Now, James, in an attempt to capture some of the wisdom you’ve gained as a professional so far, what are “5 stand-out things” you’ve learned within the past 11 years, while working within Data and Analytics, growing your Data Science Team from scratch and on your journey to introduce a Data Driven Marketing approach.

Over to you James…

1) Beware the hype of technology

Give a master carpenter a set of basic hand tools and they will create a masterpiece. Give a novice all the power tools in the world and they’ll likely lose a finger. (Keen novice woodworker here with way too many power tools!)

Back to the day job, technology alone is rarely the panacea and the people element is often overlooked. Finding the right mix of people with diversity of thought and skills is the most important element of any successful team.

Beware of bias in the way in which we think and approach problems and actively seek out people who see the world differently to you.

(Don’t get me wrong, the tech does make our lives a heck of a lot easier mind!).

2) Learn to spin a good yarn. (Know your audience and know what they can do for you.)

People don’t remember facts, they remember stories, and great analytics is all about the art of storytelling.

Always aim for a good narrative which will resonate with people, stick in their minds and hopefully help them to make better, informed decisions in the future.

Storytelling requires you to know your audience. No two people are identical, we all think, react and consume information in different ways and importantly we all have different knowledge and skills.

The best analysts/data scientists will go out and meet their audiences and start projects with them in mind. Think about how you can make the life of your audience better and how you can draw them into your story.

Language is so important but often overlooked. Something as simple as using the same language as your audience will have measurable impact. One of my pet hates is something we named “datasplaining” in the office. Avoid using data jargon or explaining complicated processes to your audience as it can alienate them and become a barrier to adoption or even sensible and vital challenge.

Instead use language that everyone can understand and focus on explaining outcomes rather than labouring the complicated statistical processes you used. But most importantly, make sure your output focuses on the benefits for your audience and how it will make their lives better.

Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of your audience’s’ knowledge of the business and how they can help with understanding the context of the data you’re analysing.

3) Focus on the use case

If there’s one thing you can almost guarantee, things won’t go to plan. It’s the way in which you deal with those challenges which ultimately determine success.

Being clear on what you’re trying to achieve will help you navigate problems. Focus on delivering value and have a clear idea about how you will measure that value.

At the end of the day, analytics is all about improving decision making or improving an outcome. If what you’re doing doesn’t achieve one of those aims then it’s probably time to re-evaluate.

4) Don’t ignore that little voice of caution in the back of your mind

Have you ever had one of those moments when something doesn’t quite feel right with a project but you choose to ignore it because you like the story it’s telling or you don’t feel you’ve time to investigate…?

That’s your future, more experienced self, warning you of an impending disaster. Don’t ignore that voice, it’s usually always offering good advice.

5) Think around the problem

We’re all hard wired to take shortcuts and ignore information in order to function. At the most basic level we’re constantly bombarded with information from our various senses which we actively try and block out. (Anyone else feel lost without earphones in the office?)

Another human trait is to try and find the familiar in all things, if it’s a bit like something you’ve done before, then you’ve an idea about how to approach it.

Both of these traits lend themselves to problem solving tunnel vision.. We jump to the tools and techniques that we’re most comfortable with and start seeing every problem as the same. Whilst not always a bad thing, you can end up trying to crack a walnut with a sledgehammer if you don’t think before getting stuck in.

If you take a step back and try and think around the problem, there’s a good chance it will go away.

Thanks James for sharing your wisdom!