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Following on from our previous discussion on how to build an insights-driven culture, our expert panel discusses what are the biggest barriers to becoming an insights-driven business.

While the benefits for businesses being more data and insights-driven are fast quickly becoming more obvious, there are still many barriers to doing so.

As part of our roundtable series on becoming insights-driven, we have covered what being insights-driven means, why it is crucial for business success, and how to build an insights-driven culture.

In this final installment, we hear from our expert panel on what the biggest barriers to becoming an insights-driven business are and how best to overcome them.

Having the wrong mindset

According to John Veichmanis, COO at Carwow, “the type of people we've hired and are continuing to hire have that hunger for building businesses on strength of insights and that's where you see tremendous value.” Quite simply, one of the biggest barriers to becoming data and insights-driven is not working with people who are data-driven to begin with or open to becoming so. Thus, the first step in any company’s journey to becoming insights-driven is having the right people who embody that ultimate goal. Without them, you are going to struggle.

This is especially the case for leaders. It isn’t enough to simply hire data-driven individuals, you need to foster a culture where they can thrive, and that comes from the top. As a leader, you want somebody to be able to stand up in a meeting and say, ‘I found this, and I made a wrong turn’ and we're open about that,” says John Veichmanis, “As long as we learn from it and we optimize and build on that learning, it's totally fine. As a leader that humility is important.”

Not having a clear philosophy

According to Andy Lark, Senior Marketer at Dubber, one of the biggest barriers is a strategic one. “You need to adopt some kind of philosophical standpoint on where data fits into your strategy, decision-making process, or business model,” he says, “Without that, you’re all over the map. One day the data says it's going to be sunny, the next day the data says expect earthquakes, the next day it’s a tsunami. Every day it's something new.”

To utilize data effectively and act upon the insights, it’s important to adopt an overarching hypothesis that defines what you are looking for, what you are trying to test, and how that is related to the overall objectives of the company. Otherwise trying to assemble relevant data will become an enormous challenge.

And, according to Lark, the philosophy behind your data should be centered on moments; “You need to be mining for moments, moments that then trigger downstream decisions. And if we can identify moments, we can then architect to meet the customer in the moment before they quite realize they need us, but we can see they're going to need us.”

By identifying key moments in the customer journey you can then build a much clearer picture of how data fits in with what you are doing and where and what you need to test. And this in turn will help guide what data needs to be collected. “You've got to be able to assemble mountains of data and mine it against the philosophy for what you believe informs those downstream decisions,” says Lark, “Otherwise, you just end up with this cacophony of decisions trying to be made all day long. And it's like oh, a polar bear! Oh, a tsunami! Oh, umbrellas, we need umbrellas! And, you can’t run a business this way.”

Reducing marketing to just ROI

A third key challenge, says Andy Lark, is a tendency among business owners to reduce marketing to just ROI. “Marketing is not about ROI,” he says, “Tactics within marketing need to demonstrate ROI. Did that campaign work? What was the return on it? Within campaigns or certain media spend, you might go looking for ROI. But marketing is an operating expense.”

Businesses, and especially CEOs and CMOs, need to stop seeing ROI as the only way to measure marketing performance as this is an enormous barrier to fully utilizing the data and insights available to them. According to Andy Lark, many successful companies are happily spending 100% or more of their revenue on sales and marketing expenses. “These are companies that are delivering the most value back to shareholders,” he says, “How does that work when most people sitting in marketing are running at 3% of revenue? How are you going to compete with someone if they're spending 150,000 times more than you?”

Advice and recommendations

Do any of these barriers sound familiar? Here are the panels top tips for overcoming them:

1. Go and learn about data

Data and analytics is a rapidly evolving technology so to keep up with how it is changing and how to best implement it, you need to keep learning. From online courses to MIT, there are hundreds of resources to help you do this. If you are struggling to develop an insights-driven approach in your business, this is often the best place to start.

2. Reach out

Reach out to other marketers. Reach out to data analysts outside of marketing. Reach out to industries or companies you think are doing it well. See how others are doing it, adopt their methods, and learn like crazy.

3. It starts with you

Don’t put it off. Schedule regular weekly meetings to discuss your data and the insights you are getting. Set aside time to go look at your data and develop new hypotheses. And then go test them. If you do not reserve the time to becoming data-driven, you never will.

4. Invest

Invest in people. Invest in technologies. Invest in solutions. “Go take a chunk of your budget and invest in people around you who are really smart at this,” says Andy Lark, “if nothing else, the learning you will get is more valuable than the outcome they deliver.”

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Written by Adverity

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