I suck at math. I took algebra twice in college because I failed the first time. I have always battled numbers. I just don’t like them and never thought I needed to learn even the basics. And even today, I still find myself trying to avoid “that” conversation with clients. Thankfully I work for a firm that has one of the strongest, most talented analytics teams known to mankind. A day or two doesn’t go by where I don’t text, tweet or call one my colleagues (usually Seth or Chuck) when I need some analytics help.

And at home I have the teacher’s edition textbook, which is a lifesaver when I correct my daughter’s 8th grade math homework. It still takes me about an hour though.

That said, one thing I do know is that as we move into 2014, analytics will (and should) take the lead when planning for marketing and content programs. Brand marketers today want validation before making any significant investments since senior management is scrutinizing budgets and cutting the waste.

What used to be the “galvanizing idea” that was the anchor in creative marketing programs has now been replaced with “what does the data say?” This is a good thing. Analytics must be the foundation on which you build all of your marketing and content programming.

There are a lot of things that analytics can improve. Here are few to think about:

  • Analytics leads to smarter media relations – I am no PR guy and have never written a press release or even read one for that matter. But analytics and research can help craft a media relations strategy that’ll cause your competitors to lose sleep at night.
  • Analytics drives effective storytelling – Good storytelling can cause behavior change with your customers/prospects.  Hopefully you want them to buy your products, talk favorably about you and tell others how much they love you. This requires a solid understanding of their complete profile so you can build a storyline that resonates with them and what they care about. Only analytics and research can get you this information.
  • Analytics helps find your real influencers – You may already have a top 10 list of media that you reach out to for every press release or announcement. But do you know who the top 50 people are that are driving the conversation about a specific topic or industry? What about the folks that are sharing and curating that information? There is a way grasshopper – analytics and research (and not just a Google search coupled with a Klout score either.)
  • Analytics can mobilize a groundswell – People trust other people. It’s in our human nature to do so. When you can mobilize a group of customers to tell your brand story through their lens, you will create a groundswell of conversation that influences others down the purchase funnel. Analytics and research will not only help you find these customers but also help you craft a story that incites sharing and create real brand advocacy.
  • Analytics can deliver real-time marketing – I say this with caution since many brands have jumped on the oreo-real-time-marketing craze almost a year ago and failing at it. Rather than forcing your brand into a trending conversation, why not research what’s trending between groups of people that you actually care about and want to reach (millennials, ITDMs, CIOs, etc.) and build real-time content programs around those topics?  It’s far more impactful. Again, you need data to do this right; not just a glance at “what’s trending on Twitter” or what’s being reported in the news.

Marketers today need to make smarter decisions moving into 2014; and they can only do so by looking at data.

Don’t believe me? Ask Seth or Chuck.