Miscommunication between analysts and marketing teams
Vlada Malysheva, Creative Writer @ OWOX
Two households, both alike in dignity, in digital marketing do their strife. Analysts and marketers as the infamous Capulet and Montague houses have an ancient grudge going on. Marketers want to make data-based decisions, but for doing this, they need reports to be prepared as quickly as possible, better even yesterday. In contrast, analysts want to be completely confident in the data and hate the rush.
However, as we all know, clear communication and timely collaboration between the company’s departments are crucial to the continued success of your brand. The cost of poor communication can run into millions of dollars of loss. Moreover, don’t forget that due to the pandemic, the usual problems of joint work of colleagues from different departments were also superimposed by widespread remote work.
Let’s try to discover what are the common problems in communication between analysts and marketing teams, and what is the expert’s opinion about these struggles.
How analytics can help marketing specialists get their heads out of the routine and gain complete control over their marketing.
Misunderstanding can arise in any team, but in the case of analysts and marketers, this is almost inevitable. These specialists speak different languages. Thus, to understand each other, for starters, you need to pump soft skills and learn a short talkie. Moreover, everyone needs to take a step forward and dive deeper into the peculiarities of other’s work. People are not mean for no reason; accordingly, the more of these reasons you are aware of, the easier it will be to build productive work conditions.
If you’re interested in more information about establishing communication norms for remote teams, we recommend reading how to collaborate effectively if your team is remote by Harvard Business Review.
Analyst's side of the Force
So let’s flip the script and look at the ins and outs of the digital analysts. They work with data, but what exactly do they do?
Note! Depending on the company's needs, the requirements for analysts can also change. However, usually, the main tasks of analysts include:
- Analysis of business requirements and setting up web analytics for business tasks.
- Analysis of the website's structure and the platforms implemented.
- Design and development of metrics systems for collecting user behavior data on the website and in mobile applications.
- Build and maintain daily/weekly/monthly reporting and perform baseline analysis for supported areas.
- Synthesize data/research from multiple sources to find the right answers.
- Creating and improving data reporting, data visualization.
- Setting up services to send, receive, and analyze data and checking the quality of data collected.
- Exploring new web analytics tools.
You can continue to list the technical requirements for any specialist in this job profile, but the main thing remains unchanged. Any good analyst’s essential qualities include a mathematical mindset, calmness, attention to detail, and pumped analytical skills. These people talk numbers, columns of numbers from data tables, and a little more SQL queries. Most often, they think about the data structure, object properties, metrics, and parameters. Analysts usually don’t think of business questions and hypotheses.
Marketer’s side of the Force
On the other hand, marketers operate on the concepts of a business result, sales, and speak the business language, not the data structure one. Also, we can say that marketers act as such a god Shiva, performing both creation and destruction. Picture this, to promote the product with an advertising campaign, you need:
- Develop marketing strategies, be responsible for their implementation.
- Provide analysis of the brand’s competitors in the market.
- Create marketing campaigns (make creatives, write promoting and selling texts so that it doesn’t look like spam).
- Create landing pages, think through promotional activities.
- Email marketing.
- Find the growth zones and the risk zones.
- Hypothesis generation and testing.
Start over. And again. Not to mention all this happens in one calendar month. We won’t stop in detail on such moments as targeted advertising, maintaining profiles of the company in social networks, developing landing pages, tracking marketing trends, and others.
Miscommunication between analysts and marketing teams
As you see, misunderstandings between such different professionals are inevitable. Limitations in understanding each other begin at the level of understanding the task. The higher the level of understanding of the task, the more likely it will be completed quickly and correctly.
Let’s look at some examples of how the two teams interact and what steps can be taken to save the day:
- The marketer doesn’t understand the structure of the data and the parameters’ properties, and its relationship. It will help if the analyst will share this knowledge with the marketer.
- Analyst counts the numbers, makes reports. He doesn’t think about the decisions, the reasons why the marketer wants the report. And if the analyst develops his business thinking and dives more into the peculiarities of marketing, he will be much more effective.
- It’s important to bear in mind that the marketer isn’t uncooperative, and the analyst doesn’t scoff. It’s just that these people are engaged in different activities and look at the reporting differently.
- Very often, the problems are that analysts consider themselves smarter than marketers, and even, anticipating the problem, they silence it. The task performer must ask questions, clarify and try to avoid bottlenecks and conflicts. He should help the customer get what he wants.
- The marketer, for his part, must deepen knowledge in the data structure so that it’s easier to communicate with the analyst and set tasks for him.
- Usually, the marketer is tied to KPIs, and the analyst is most often not. Therefore marketers need everything to be ready for yesterday when there is no rush for analysts.
- A marketer cannot set a straightforward technical task once and for all, because when you have a question, you need a report to answer it. But when you get the answer, new questions arise. And it’s almost impossible to foresee it unless you try to create a wild, terrible alien monstrous report.
- If you don’t work with data and don’t combine it, it’s difficult to predict and generally imagine that you can combine data in different ways to answer the same question. For example, you need a report with a view by the marketing channel for new applications. And what channel should be assigned? The first user visit? The one from which the application was left? Do you need to look at how users who came from PPC in December converted to sales in March? What is the basis for combining this data?
- You need to talk more with your colleagues, clarify, study more about each other’s work and establish simple human connections. After all, we are all people who work in the same company for the common good.
Let’s see what well-known experts think about the problem of misunderstanding between teams.
Communication problems create rusty pipelines and rot the data flow within an organization. It’s absolutely imperative to fix those.
Absolutely! Analysts and marketers speak different languages. In my experience, it really needs to fall to the analyst to “speak marketing." That comes down to doing a few things:
- Listening. It can be tempting to start problem-solving (What data can I pull to answer this question?) prematurely and not actually probe for the underlying business problem the marketer is looking to address.
- Not speaking analyst. Some education of the marketer is fine — what a metric means, what the limitations are in the data — but I’ve seen analysts slip into deep analytics terminology wayyyyy too quickly when it’s not necessary. That can leave the marketer confused or, worse, feeling uncomfortable or put down (I don’t know what the analyst is talking about. Am I supposed to? He/she seems to think I should!).
- Never, never, NEVER telling yourself that stakeholders are stupid. That’s a fatal mistake — deciding that a relationship challenge is a matter of intelligence rather than an issue of communication.
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I think it’s common for any team. I don’t think it’s necessary to mention it as an issue because miscommunication can appear in any kind of organization. We all need to work hard to make sure that we are listening and clarifying. Analysts need to be good at listening and asking questions. If analysts talk to someone in marketing, they need to remember that the majority of marketers aren’t as experienced with data or analytics or models as they are.
- What kinds of decisions do you want to be able to make?
- Who do you want to share this information with?
- What do you use today? How well does it work or not?
- Why do you think you need a dashboard?
Questions like these help to reduce miscommunication and make sure everyone is aligned. A good analyst has to be able to ask those questions to ensure that what his team brings back is a working product.
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Expert recommendations on how to overcome it
If your colleagues speak different languages, it’s logical that they need a translator. Unfortunately, Google Translate is not a help in this case. You’ll have to do it on your own. We think there are two key points here:
- Respect each other.
- Communicate with each other.
You cannot learn to understand colleagues from another team if all your communication is reduced to correspondence in Slack, etc. And 90% of messages are “it’s urgent, I need it yesterday, how much longer I need to wait, what else do you need!”
Of course, in pre-COVID times, it was possible to organize gatherings on Friday evening to discuss the work, and the project, and the last series from Netflix over a beer or two. But in entirely online conditions, not everything is lost. Arrange a master class, webinar, joint presentation, or cross-training. Of course, you won’t solve the problem at one time, but at least you’ll begin to move (lie down, sit, hug your pet) in the right direction. The idea is pretty simple — make people talk to each other.
Want to learn more about miscommunication in a digital world? Try listening to the HBR IdeaCast with Nick Morgan, a communications expert.
Let’s find out what are the experts’ recommendations on how to win over the miscommunication between your teams.
Analysts don’t have a good marketing vocabulary, and marketers don’t have a good vocabulary in data science and data analytics. So probably the most important and easy thing to do is to get people together on Friday afternoons with the beverage of your choice and get them talking to each other. Because you can become familiar enough with a discipline just by hearing people talk about it.
Also, people have commutes in a lot of places. And it’s not a bad thing for your data scientists to be listening to marketing podcasts or for your marketers to be listening to data science podcasts to really start to hear the vocabulary, hear things like regression and logistic regression and random forest. And people might say, Oh, I should ask my team what this means or There’s different data types in each of these, how do we address them?
It’s really getting everybody hearing the vocabulary of other disciplines as a way to start having those meaningful interactions.
I think to overcome miscommunication issues, you should firstly make everyone around you understand marketing BI, explain the meaning of your metrics, and show how they can help. IT analytics is pretty new, and not many people understand how it helps them. That’s the main reason for miscommunication. And you should remove this block. You should talk to marketers around you to make them understand how they can use your data in business. In my job, I always face this challenge. I just step up and talk to them.
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Analysts should try their best to:
- Communicate what they know in understandable terms.
- Develop empathy for the people who will work with their numbers.
- Never fall into the data abyss without a hypothesis with which to pull themselves back out. Always remember why you perform your analyses.
- Translate the results of analysis into solutions for people. Make people understand how far data can take them. Educate your coworkers on how to apply data analysis in their work.
- Cultivate healthy self-criticism. Get your ideas to the desk and don’t be afraid to fail.
Misunderstanding among colleagues is quite common, but it has become even more significant due to the pandemic and many businesses’ transition to virtual workplaces. The lack of context and people’s visual reaction don’t help either. Miscommunication between teams, in turn, leads to both disruption of the day-to-day workflow and can affect large projects of the company.
Of course, it isn’t easy to always be calm, patient, and understanding with colleagues. We are all people, and everyone has hard, stressful days. However, you can avoid misunderstanding and resentment simply by clearly explaining what exactly you wanted to know for the task or KPIs or, for example, how exactly you are going to use the data obtained.
Avoid guesswork both in marketing analytics and workplace relationships — pay special attention both to unprofitable marketing campaigns and your colleagues, uncover patterns and valuable insights in your marketing performance and in collaboration between teams.