best practices

11月 102020

The code and data that drive analytics projects are important assets to the organizations that sponsor them. As such, there is a growing trend to manage these items in the source management systems of record. For most companies these days, that means Git. The specific system might be GitHub Enterprise, GitLab, or Bitbucket -- all platforms that are based on Git.

Many SAS products support direct integration with Git. This includes SAS Studio, SAS Enterprise Guide, and the SAS programming language. (That last one checks a lot of boxes for ways to use Git and SAS together.) While we have good documentation and videos to help you learn about Git and SAS, we often get questions around "best practices" -- what is the best/correct way to organize your SAS projects in Git?

In this article I'll dodge that question, but I'll still try to provide some helpful advice in the process.

Ask the Expert resource: Using SAS® With Git: Bring a DevOps Mindset to Your SAS® Code

Guidelines for managing SAS projects in Git

It’s difficult for us to prescribe exactly how to organize project repositories in source control. Your best approach will depend so much on the type of work, the company organization, and the culture of collaboration. But I can provide some guidance -- mainly things to do and things to avoid -- based on experience.

Do not create one huge repository

DO NOT build one huge repository that contains everything you currently maintain. Your work only grows over time and you'll come to regret/revisit the internal organization of a huge project. Once established, it can be tricky to change the folder structure and organization. If you later try to break a large project into smaller pieces, it can be difficult or impossible to maintain the integrity of source management benefits like file histories and differences.

Design with collaboration in mind

DO NOT organize projects based only on the teams that maintain them. And of course, don't organize projects based on individual team members.

  • Good repo names: risk-adjustment-model, engagement-campaigns
  • Bad repo names: joes-code, claims-dept

All teams reorganize over time, and you don't want to have to reorganize all of your code each time that happens. And code projects change hands, so keep the structure personnel-agnostic if you can. Major refactoring of code can introduce errors, and you don't want to risk that just because you got a new VP or someone changed departments.

Instead, DO organize projects based on function/work that the code accomplishes. Think modular...but don't make projects too granular (or you'll have a million projects). I personally maintain several SAS code projects. The one thing they have in common is that I'm the main contributor -- but I organize them into functional repos that theoretically (oh please oh please) someone else could step in to take over.

The Git view of my YouTube API project in SAS Enterprise Guide

Up with reuse, down with ownership

This might seem a bit communist, but collaboration works best when we don't regard code that we write as "our turf." DO NOT cling to notions of code "ownership." It makes sense for teams/subject-matter experts to have primary responsibility for a project, but systems like Git are designed to help with transparency and collaboration. Be open to another team member suggesting and merging (with review and approval) a change that improves things. GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket all support mechanisms for issue tracking and merge requests. These allow changes to be suggested, submitted, revised, and approved in an efficient, transparent way.

DO use source control to enable code reuse. Many teams have foundational "shared code" for standard operations, coded in SAS macros or shared statements. Consider placing these into their own project that other projects and teams can import. You can even use Git functions within SAS to fetch and include this code directly from your Git repository:

/* create a temp folder to hold the shared code */
options dlcreatedir;
%let repoPath = %sysfunc(getoption(WORK))/shared-code;
libname repo "&repoPath.";
libname repo clear;
/* Fetch latest code from Git */
data _null_;
 rc = git_clone( 
options source2;
/* run the code in this session */
%include "&repoPath./";

If you rely on a repository for shared code and components, make sure that tests are in place so changes can be validated and will not break downstream systems. You can even automate tests with continuous integration tools like Jenkins.

DO document how projects relate to each other, dependencies, and prepare guidance for new team members to get started quickly. For most of us, we feel more accountable when we know that our code will be placed in central repositories visible to our peers. It may inspire cleaner code, more complete documentation, and a robust on-boarding process for new team members. Use the Markdown files ( and others) in a repository to keep your documentation close to the code.

My SAS code to check Pagespeed Insights, with documentation

Work with Git features (and not against them)

Once your project files are in a Git repository, you might need to change your way of working so that you aren't going against the grain of Git benefits.

DO NOT work on code changes in a shared directory with multiple team members –- you'll step on each other. The advantage of Git is that it's a distributed workflow and each developer can work with their own copy of the repository, and merge/accept changes from others at their own pace.

DO use Git branching to organize and isolate changes until you are ready to merge them with the main branch. It takes a little bit of learning and practice, but when you adopt a branching approach you'll find it much easier to manage -- it beats keeping multiple copies of your code with slightly different file and folder names to mark "works in progress."

DO consider learning and using Git tools such as Git Bash (command line), Git GUI, and a code IDE like VS Code. These don't replace the SAS-provided coding tools with their Git integration, but they can supplement your workflow and make it easier to manage content among several projects.

Learning more

When you're ready to learn more about working with Git and SAS, we have many webinars, videos, and documentation resources:

The post How to organize your SAS projects in Git appeared first on The SAS Dummy.

4月 112017

Family-owned and operated for more than 35 years, Twiddy & Company prides itself on exceptional real estate services to homeowners and vacationers in northeast North Carolina and the Outer Banks. Whether a customer is thinking of putting their house up for rent or planning their next vacation, Twiddy makes the [...]

How to be a data-driven SMB: Part one of Twiddy’s tale was published on SAS Voices by Analise Polsky

6月 222015
I celebrated my first Father's Day 17 years ago.

I celebrated my first Father's Day as a father 17 years ago.

It’s Father’s Day and once again I am crowd-sourcing some fatherly advice to provide guidance to marketers. While marketing and the world we live in have changed dramatically, the essence of fatherhood has remained fairly constant. Part hands-on and part supportive of their children’s mother, dads are often thought of in their role as the house’s fixer-in-chief. If the toilet overflows, if the bike chain goes off track, or if the family car gets another unexplained spontaneous dent, it’s often dad who gets called in to take care of it.

So as marketers deal with the increasingly complex mandates we fulfill in the enterprise, here are some pearls of wisdom from my colleagues that may come in handy when we need a fixer-in-chief:

If you lost an engine, look out the window at the wing and use the horizon.

Karen Morse’s dad, the Rev. Ralph Jackson, is a retired minister, pilot and FAA private pilot instructor who would tell that to Karen as she learned to fly their Piper Cherokee. That could also apply if the pilot uses their navigation system.

The lesson for marketers is that more than one reference point is helpful to gauge progress toward the goal, so if something goes awry not all is lost mid-stream. It’s also a call to think of broader business goals to understand marketing’s impact as the pace of technological change accelerates – the horizon and its relationship to the destination are two constants in any flight that can be relied upon. That relationship is analogous to marketing in the grand scheme of your business.

When you use something, always put it back where you found it.
Always remember what happened and keep the history alive.

These two are from Michelle Pujol, Director at Univision Direct, and Godmother to my children. The first advice is from her father, Joaquín Pujol, who explained that if you don’t put things back then you’ll have a heck of a time trying to find it the next time you need it. The second advice is from her Opa, an Austrian Holocaust survivor that explained to his grandchildren that if those that come before us don’t know what happened, history can easily repeat itself.

These both speak to the need for marketers to keep and analyze data so the drivers of success and the causes of failure can be identified and harnessed to constantly improve, and to benefit newcomers to the organization.

Find a stream and fish.

Beth Bullard’s dad has a passion for fly fishing. In fact, he has earned the name ‘trout whisperer’ from his buddies for his uncanny ability to attract fish in very unlikely fishing spots. Now fully immersed into retirement life, my dad is known to travel around with his rod just on the off chance that the perfect opportunity presents itself. Through his passion, the translation of the lesson from my dad is really simple – find what you love and make time to do what you love as often as you can.

Beth has a few takes on marketing parallels from this advice:

1.  Set yourself up for success; always be at the ready to seize an opportunity.
2. Streams are not always in plain sight - sometimes you have to get to know the territory and get off the beaten path to uncover the best opportunities.
3. Conditions may not always be optimal, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. The best outcomes can often be those that surprise us, and if we aren't willing to try we'll never know.
4. Throw them back and keep fishing, so celebrate success but try to do better each time and you'll constantly improve!

Honesty is the best policy.

Mibbie Majors shared that her dad always taught her and her sisters to be honest, no matter what. Sometimes it may have seemed extreme, such as going back to a store to return a penny (yes, just a penny) because they gave my Dad too much change. But it was a great life lesson to learn from him. Now my sisters and I sometimes call him ‘Honest John’ because he is!

The lesson for marketers here is particularly important in our era of sharing experiences – social media has a way of quickly exposing (and amplifying) inauthenticity. Integrity, having the best intentions and full disclosure matter like never before!

Never back your opponent into a corner

Colonel Luther Rice Edwards, my wife’s grandfather, shared this maxim with all his children and grandchildren in the face of schoolyard skirmishes or more mature situations. Col. Edwards was an attorney that served in the U.S. Army as a Judge Advocate over several decades, giving him the chance to preside over many cases. The positive shadow he cast was long and wide and stories about him abound that point to his belief in human dignity and the need to conduct yourself accordingly. Even when you’ve clearly won your case, you should always afford your opponent a face-saving way out, or other way to retain their dignity – taking that approach will never fail you.

For marketers, this concept is similar to the one from Mibbie in relation to honesty – if we engage with our customers and all other stakeholders with integrity and respect, that will form our reputation and we’ll likely be treated in kind. Even our competitors have worthy offerings and positions, and there will be times they make more sense for some segments of our target markets. We should always respect that and learn from it.

Where you’re heading is more important than how fast you’re going

This nugget comes from Barb Anthony from her dad, Bill Ludwig. Her interpretation is that marketers may often feel like they’re doing the job of 2-3 people, making it seem like it’s hard to keep up.  Being organized and managing your time will allow you to create efficient workflow processes and still leave time for “idea generation.” Some of the biggest mistakes in marketing occur because we run out of time or miss a key component that may cause a campaign to fail. Organization and time management skills give a marketer the ability to effectively map out a course of action to achieve a desired result within a given deadline.

Ever since I became a father 17 years ago, I’ve learned almost as much as the “fixer-in-chief” at home as I have in my evolving role as a marketer. And with marketing having changed more in the last 5 years than in the 20 years before that, we can gain inspiration and answers from our fathers’ advice. This is the second time I’ve celebrated Father’s Day with a blog post, before posting Fatherly advice for marketers on Father’s Day.

My father always told me that I had to believe in myself before I could convince anyone else, so I’ll send you off with that finishing thought. You’re very good – believe it.  And happy Father’s Day!

tags: best practices, Father's Day

Why marketers should listen to their fathers was published on Customer Analytics.

6月 092015

A great marketing strategy should always include research and reporting components to help sales find “gold” in potential and existing customer data to gain new revenue.

Successful marketing strategies drive revenue growth.

Successful marketing strategies drive revenue growth.

Sales teams are always looking to their marketing counterparts to help get new leads to turn them into successful opportunities. It's simply not enough to just provide names and contact information of someone who dropped their business card into a bowl at an exhibit booth. They need much more.

In order to drive revenue growth, successful marketing strategies must also focus on providing contacts at viable prospect companies with key details, such as: identified industry, location, company size/revenue, department, title, job, current technology utilized for the business need (if available), and specific future growth plans (if available). Those data points are essential prior to formulating your plan.

The best results happen when everyone remembers that marketing and sales are a team with both functions supporting the other. For instance, marketing can fuel revenue growth by providing sales with research data about the prospects at the heart of specific interactions, which can include behavioral data, such as response rates, which can confirm business needs and the relative interest level in a given topic. Both teams will flourish if marketing strives to assist and encourage sales to uncover more knowledge of their prospects and customers through social selling resources and channels and by collaborating throughout the process.

Not only do you want to reach your target audience and provide a solution to assist them with their business needs, but you also have to provide them with a positive customer experience and make their journey to a purchase decision seamless and satisfying.

In addition to working to solve their business issues, remember that each executive is also concerned with their personal challenges within their company. Therefore, if you can help them solve the business need at hand and show increased ROI, that in turn will help solidify their value in their existing role and aid them in reaching their personal goals. Both the marketing strategy and sales strategy should go hand in hand to deliver results that ensure the customer journey is a beneficial one.

Many years ago, when I was wearing two hats - both sales and marketing - I was having a difficult time securing a meeting with a top executive at an automotive company I was trying to work with. I found out that he was going to be at an industry conference that I was also planning on attending. A few weeks before the conference, I decided to put my marketing strategy, as well as my sales strategy, to work for me, and I read as much as I could find on his company, department, and background. Because he was a high-level executive, I was able to find a press release that announced his appointment to his then-current position and learn more about him via LinkedIn. That led to a detailed summary of his background and information on his current role and the work he had done prior to his current position.

With that information in hand, I researched his previous company in order to learn more about his focus as well as the challenges and successes he experienced. Luckily he had written several articles and had done many interviews. After finding out as much about this executive and his organization as I could, I felt confident that my company could help him achieve his departmental goals. So I set out to introduce myself to him at the conference. Prior to the event, I put together an information packet on his focus areas, and then I included a list of customer references, along with a hand written note on company stationary along with my business card.

As it turned out, the first night of the conference was a networking cocktail party. Even though we had never met or spoken, I knew what the executive looked like from his photo online and felt like I had a good handle on his interests. I was able to spot him in the crowded room, approached him and introduced myself. We spoke about the company he was at previously, his new role and responsibilities, and how partnering with my company could help him meet his goals and address some of the data challenges he was trying to streamline. He was surprised and pleased that I knew so much about what he had been dealing with in the past, the challenges he was currently facing and that he could actually talk with someone that had an idea of what his department was going through. I handed him the packet of information which I had assembled and he promised to get back to me. My sales and marketing strategy had worked!

That initial conversation kicked off a series of meetings that led to a strategic value assessment, and ultimately to a closed deal that provided tremendous value to the customer. And what may have been seen simply as a successful sale, was really an effective pairing of marketing strategy with sales skill.

I offer that example to underscore how a customer can benefit from an orchestrated process that's firmly grounded in marketing strategy. The primary benefit is for sales to gain critical insights in order to engage the customer on the basis of their business needs, and not being so focused on having a product to sell.

Scale that example up to a large sales force with an addressable market of millions, and it quickly becomes clear how an analytically-driven marketing solution, such as SAS Customer Intelligence,  can help drive revenue growth for all sizes of businesses.

Although my example incorporates both sales and marketing strategies, both are equally important to an organization's success. I have been fortunate enough to manage multiple, industry-wide marketing programs, and I've found the following combination of factors in a marketing strategy can have the biggest impact on sales:

  • Do the research needed up front,
  • Know and target the right audience,
  • Create the right messaging,
  • Develop relevant assets and content,
  • Utilize the best available channels, and
  • Share your marketing metrics and results.

A well-thought out, all-inclusive marketing strategy, implemented properly, will give sales the advantage they need to help secure a conversation with a prospect or current customer and can be the catalyst to a successful engagement and with it, increased revenue. In the end, everyone wins!

tags: best practices, marketing strategy, sales, strategy, target marketing

The post How a successful marketing strategy drives revenue growth appeared first on Customer Analytics.

5月 112015
Mom and her 2 children in a Scottish phone booth.

Mom always makes room for the kids.

Once again Mother’s Day has arrived and we all should take a moment to honor our moms.

In honor of our mothers, I’d like to reprise a post from two years ago, Happy Mother’s Day: advice for marketers from moms, and add some more motherly advice to guide us in marketing. Many thanks to my colleagues who contributed their pearls of wisdom for this post!

Play well with others and share your stuff
My colleague Joanne Butzier submitted this advice from her mother, which she thinks is particularly applicable to social media marketing. Being a team player is key and the more we work together and share content, the more our message gets out to our prospects and customers. I believe sharing “our stuff” is a critical component of marketing and should be incorporated into our overall marketing strategy.

Don't get married before you are 25 years old, have traveled to Europe with your girlfriends and have lived on your own.
This one is from my team-mate Beth Kasson, who added that her mom Elaine Haubold would explain that you have the rest of your life to be married, but you need to learn to pay your own bills and take care of yourself. As for Europe, she said " traveling after you are married and have kids is never the same as traveling with your girlfriends."

I think the value of this one in terms of our data-driven world is to know the value of perspective and experience for valuable context when your data is incomplete or shows conflicting conclusions. This is particularly useful with big data when using visual analytics for early conclusions and setting direction that informs deeper analysis.

Trust your instincts
Similar to the advice from Mrs. Haubold above, advice given to Lisa Chappell (my good friend at Capitol Broadcasting Corp), is good for guidance when you don’t have all the data or when it’s conflicting. She added that the instincts you're given with each child often trump all of the well-meaning advice you might get from other people - even with doctors and teachers Be comfortable giving as much weight to your instincts as you do their advice.

Keep two dimes in your pocket in case you need to call home
This advice (from the days of coin-operated pay phones) clearly emphasizes the need to think ahead and use your resources wisely. This sage advice is from Karen Morse’s mom, Ada Jackson, and relates to the reality of all marketers today: we all have to do more with less.

So, plan a “rainy day fund” into your budget with the idea that you’ll need to act quickly at some point and then plan to use your spare dimes well. With the exception of mom-and-pop operations with a small list of products, all marketers today have countless customers, many product lines and an exploding number of channels. Nothing beats marketing optimization (MO) for knowing which messages work best for which customers on which channels. Using MO, you can confidently know how to use your rainy day fund for the biggest impact.

You not only have to do what's right, you have to appear to do what's right.
My cousin-in-law Anne Lunsford shared this advice from her grandmother, referring to the age-old saying “perception is reality.” In marketing, this shows up in the increasing recognition of customer-centered content-driven marketing as the most effective way to engage with customers. Since they engage with our brands online through search engines and via social media, marketers need to enable a purchase decision, as well as a string of experiences that give the customer confidence that a purchase decision is the best move for them. The bottom line is that what other people say about your brand is as important as what you say to your customers in your marketing messages. Go to marketing with content that’s valuable and consistent to enable that outcome.

Start as you mean to continue
This advice from Marnie Davey, my colleague in SAS Australia, relates to that advice above from Anne Lunsford – consistency is key. And in this case, the idea is to be consistent from the very beginning, even as you plan your initiative. Just like in construction projects, changes made along the way usually come at a cost. Considering tighter budgets, hungrier competitors and socially-savvy “empowered customers,” consistency is never more important.

You can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar
Setting aside the general perception of flies as pests, my dear friend Pat Zug, shared this classic advice from her mom that certainly applies to marketing. In fact, many of these pearls of wisdom relate to one another in that knowing your customer and providing then with what they like or need is the best way to get the outcome you want. And do it consistently. You don’t want to become known as the provider that produces great honey but the occasional batch of vinegar, especially if it’s delivered as a surprise to your customers. In today’s digital world, it’s never been more true that news travels fast and bad news travels faster!

For extra helpings of advice for marketers from moms, take a look at the previous post about marketing advice from moms. And remember to sit up straight and use your manners – good behavior will never lead you in the wrong direction. Happy mother’s day to all the mothers out there!

tags: best practices, big data, marketing optimization, Mother's Day, visual analytics

The post More advice for marketers from moms appeared first on Customer Analytics.

3月 112015

In today’s world, leading your organization to faster, better decisions calls for skill, agility and resourcefulness. Increasingly, it also requires the use of analytics to meet changes in customer expectations brought about with social, mobile and the digitization of life.

The keynote panel at the Marketing Analytics Conference.The lunch keynote at the DMA's Marketing Analytics Conference featured insights and practices from executives that have led their respective organizations to embrace analytics. Adele Sweetwood, VP of Marketing at SAS Institute, moderated this panel that included:

  • Michael Parkerson, Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina
  • Emmett Cox, SVP of Customer and Business Intelligence at BBVA Compass Bank
  • Jeremy TerBush, VP of CRM and Customer Analytics at RCI/Wyndham Exchange

The Customer Journey

Adele kicked off the discussion with a short video about the customer journey and how it is increasingly influenced by new digital channels and technology. And that journey generates a wealth of information that helps marketers better understand and deliver excellence along that journey through the use of analytics.

And the customer journey begins long before we previously thought – we now know from research that our prospects and customers are 60% through their decision journey BEFORE they ever contact a vendor. Customers and prospects are downloading content, watching videos, and joining communities - truly across industries. And all those digital footsteps leave trails of data behind that marketers can use for insights.

Along that vein, one of Adele’s favorite quotes is, “whoever uses data better – wins.” To be sure, the availability of data has changed the dynamics in the enterprise. For Emmett, the biggest change has been blurred lines between analytics and marketing, which has helped marketing evolve the quality of its engagement.

Marketing analytics and the Customer Experience

When asked about the link between using marketing analytics and the customer experience, one consensus from the panel was that getting actionable insights and a single view of the customer can be the hardest part of making data matter. Emmett believes that it’s not the data per se, but what you do with the data that makes you stand out. For BCBSNC, Michael shared how the upheaval that came with the Affordable Care Act meant that they needed to use the data to ensure consumers were both competent in making health insurance choices and confident in their own ability to do it – a very customer centric approach to engaging health insurance customers that might surprise some.

And as an indicator of just how strategically important analytics are at BCBSNC, Michael added that, “We want to write history and not read about it, to shape the market and not just talk about it.

Fostering an Analytical Culture in Marketing

The panel explored the elements that drive the adoption of analytics, and in some ways catalyze that adoption, and how they relate to the culture of the organization. One of the most impactful lessons learned in building out an analytical culture is to reward constant testing and measuring—encouraging people to use the data and analytics to fail fast and innovate in their approaches.

Leadership plays a pivotal role in fostering an analytical culture in marketing. BCBSNC has merged analytics and strategy and the idea is that the insights derived from analytics are what drive (and should drive) strategy. In addition, BCBSNC encourages the development of customer-centric thinking by having the marketing team take on the personas identified in segmenting, which helps them enrich their planning discussions. At BBVA Compass, it begins with the hiring process, where they are looking for people that are curious and can blend both scientific objectivity and broad, creative thinking more closely linked with artists. And Adele shared how job postings at SAS are getting more descriptive in terms of addressing likes/dislikes and attributes of candidates as opposed to a simple listing of skills requirements.

Internal alignment around an analytically-driven culture also impacts the ability to become customer-centered. For Jeremy at Wyndham, driving progress and process can come down to the team you tap to help you move data and take the action to move forward. He further added that you’ve got to make friends with your IT counterpart to make your analytics work – and to further the necessary internal alignment so that people can speak both data and business.

Closing Thoughts:

Adele closed the discussion by asking for either a lesson learned or what’s next for their respective organizations.Adele Panel Headshots

  • Michael suggested – don’t focus on regretting an action, nor should you look back and wish you’d done something. If you think something is going to help your customer or move your organization forward, then do it. You have the insights and perspectives that can help your company, so make sure you leverage them.
  • For Emmett, it’s about collecting data and not taking action on it. Don’t wait around wondering what the next shiny object in big data will be. There’s a tremendous amount of value with what you currently have, so don’t regret later that you didn’t use it.
  • From Jeremy’s perspective, it’s a matter of educating your peers on the value of analytics and how it will positively impact the organization. He suggests that you focus on getting everyone on board with what analytics will deliver and providing progress reports along the way.
  • And Adele concurred with all of the panelists final thoughts and added that you should take steps to have fun along the way – otherwise it’s not worth doing it.


This post originally appeared on the Advance, the official blog of the Direct Marketing Association.

tags: best practices, customer experience, leadership, marketing analytics, the DMA
11月 192014

The higher the revenue potential, the more interesting the idea.Back in 2007, the NY Times published an article about “The Google Way.” The premise behind the Google Way is to give engineers 20% of their time to spend on new company related ideas and projects that interest them. For a while this became the management strategy du jour as every large company attempted to inject a culture of spirit and creativity into their businesses (with very mixed results).

Even Google recognized that the strategy was flawed. Large initiatives generated from The Google Way projects begin to distract them from their core business.

Taking the reins as CEO in 2011, Larry Page announced a new focus with “more wood behind fewer arrows.” Google put guardrails on how innovation time is spent: “Urgency without alignment is wasted energy.

Marketing organizations have taken a page from the Google playbook. In my previous post, I noted the disparity in organizations with marketing innovation budgets (who has them, who doesn’t), and highlighted some examples of organizations putting their innovation dollars to good use. But how do we validate and prioritize those innovation ideas, align them to our marketing goals, and execute?

Lowe’s home improvement stores is getting ready to release a sales-robot to help their customers navigate their stores more easily. The robot is a brainchild of the company’s Innovation Lab, a technology company-within-a-company. The Innovation Lab uses a technique they call “science-fiction prototyping.” Team members include profession science fiction writers! Next item in their innovation funnel is a “holoroom” that will allow customers to simulate renovation projects. Lowe’s is betting on a future where people interact with in-store and virtual technology in new ways.

This summer, Mondelez International, the maker of Oreo cookies, created a promotional campaign for their new mini-Oreo by sending one tiny cookie per household to people living in small US cities. The campaign backfired. As one newspaper columnist in Great Falls, Montana noted: It’s like [Oreo] said, “We’re sorry you have to live in the middle of nowhere – here, have a cookie.”

While this campaign caused a PR headache, it’s obviously not a catastrophic fail for the company. I’m sure people in small towns will continue to eat Oreos. Mondelez missed the mark on understanding their target audience. Innovation must be aligned with customer insight: The data has to support to the customer, not the organization. Kraft’s social learning lab – called The Looking Glass - helps the company understand “consumers at the speed of culture.” A team of people analyze digital consumer behavior (both internal and external) and use that information to inform product and marketing decisions.

As you’re starting or expanding your marketing innovation capabilities, data-driven decisioning will shape your innovation pipeline. By analyzing customer information, you can start to weed out the good ideas from the bad. After all, who just wants one cookie??

And as customer expectations for real-time interactions increase, your need for real-time decisioning will increase. Take a closer look at how well real-time decisioning can integrate into your overall marketing scheme. You'll know every time how many cookies are expected, and also which flavor and whether they want milk with it. Let me know what you think.

tags: best practices, innovation, real-time decisioning
11月 182014

Marketing attribution has been a hot topic for marketers as long as we’ve had marketing. Everybody talks about it, few really know how to do it, and everyone thinks everyone else is doing it - so everyone claims they’re doing it.

This may be different where you are, but what I've seen here in Europe is that many folks are not aware of the full potential of marketing attribution modeling. They don't know which types there are, if it's only online or offline data, and all the other permutations and nuances. So let me see if I can sort it out for you.

What is marketing attribution?
Marketing attribution is all about understanding how marketing channels impact the customer experience and drive revenue for the company. In other words, it answers the perennial question - which lever works best (or not at all)? Christopher Ratcliff from @econsultancy gives a good definition for attribution modeling:

"Marketing attribution is the practice of
determining the role that any given channel plays
in informing and influencing the customer journey"

Why is marketing attribution important?
During any given purchase journey, a customer engages with different marketing channels, such as catalog, email, website, contact center and so on. When he finally is comfortable to place an order and the sale is made, all the marketers that touched that sale wants to claim responsibility. The customer journey has multiple steps that are relevant.And why not? The web team will cite the great web design, the direct marketing team will trumpet the beautifully crafted email, the contact center has their transcripts to document the interactions, and so on. And the truth is that they probably all had an impact. But in order to make fact-based informed decisions for future strategy, knowing the value of all the marketing efforts is key.

How do you value your marketing efforts?
I'd like to highlight two well-known approaches to value your marketing efforts: the bottom up approach and top down approach. Bottom up is mainly behavior driven, The top-down and bottom-up approaches have different strengths, making them will attribute the sales based on the marketing touch points that were used during the customer journey.

While the top down approach is based on Sales/ROI lift analysis, it will show you what the uplift in sales is when you invest more in a specific channel for next month. I lined up 3 key differentiators in the table on the right.

Bottom up attribution:
The bottom up approach comes from the digital marketing world. It will look at each customer journey individually and award each marketing touch point with a percentage of the sales generated by that customer journey. There are two main ways to do the attribution for each marketing channel.

  1. Heuristic models:
    These are rule-based models, and are a very good first step towards understanding the value of your marketing efforts. One place to get a description of different rule-based models and how they work is this blog post by Avinash Kaushik, "Multi-Channel Attribution Modeling: The Good, Bad and Ugly Models."
  2. Algorithmic models:
    Using rules for attribution is not always effective. Why? Very simply, the rules aren't data-driven, so mathematically they are all equally right or wrong and you can manipulate the results in a way that makes most sense for you. That's why the algorithmic approach got introduced - it's based on the chance to convert or buy. Consider this scenario:Picture showing an algorithm to calculate attribution.

Let's assume that the chance to convert after seeing only a banner is  25% and for seeing both a banner and blogpost it's 45 %. This means that:

  • The contribution of the blog post after seeing the banner is  45% - 25 % = 20%.
  • Given that, we can say the blog post gets 44% of the sales awarded, which was arrived at by:
    20% ÷ 45% = 44%

Using the algorithmic approach you will gain more insights into key drivers of the customer journey, such as how it is different for each of the relevant segments, what drives conversion for new customers and existing customers, which banners are often used, and how you can reduce time to conversion.

The bottom up approach has a few drawbacks because it doesn't take into account any carry-over effects of previous marketing spend, or broader environmental factors (i.e. weather or GDP). It also doesn't tell you how you need to allocate your marketing budget for next month, or show the immediate relationship between marketing spend and sales. Also, you still need to track your customer through all applicable marketing touch points, such as customer web stream data.

For those reasons, the bottom up approach is often used in combination with a top down approach.

Top down attribution
The top down approach is used to analyze the return on investment of your marketing spend in relation to your sales. This is accomplished by using an econometric or time-series model that includes marketing spend, economic factors and competitive factors. When done right you will gain many insights into which marketing channels are working and how you should further allocate your marketing budgets.

On the surface, econometric modeling may seem difficult to grasp, so simplifying the problem may make it more accessible. Let's give it a try.


To be able to calculate the uplift in sales we need to calculate the impact of each channel here described by beta. Rather than a typical multichannel scenario as depicted above, let's assume that we only have one marketing channel (catalog), and that currently we aren't investing any marketing budget, so then sales equals zero (big surprise). The next month, I'll invest 1000 € in the catalog channels, and the sales result ends up at 10,000 €. This is a simple equation which results in a weight factor of 10. So for every Euro invested in catalogs I will get 10 Euros in return. Not bad, eh?

Well, the real world is unfortunately not that simple, and it's usually not even as simple as that five-channel scenario in the figure above. It's by having a different set of marketing investments  each month that you will be able to calculate the ROI of each marketing channel in combination with good predictors that describe the economic impact on sales and competitive spend. The top down approach also takes into account previous marketing spend, which is good because usually previous marketing spend also has an effect on future marketing spend.

The top down approach has a lot of benefits:

  • It allows you to create different scenarios for your marketing spend.
  • It will reveal aspects of the relationship between sales and marketing spend.
  • It will give insights concerning cannibalization and halo effects across different brands, themes or products.
  • You can see the influence of competitor spend on your sales. Marketing mix modeling is often referred to as a top-down approach for it’s a more broad-level view of channel influences and interactions.
  • You don't need granular customer level data, marketing spend and sales are often available within organizations.

The top down approach has also a disadvantage. It remains a high level overview. You don't know which banners are performing well, what exactly drives conversions, etc. That's why often the best of both worlds are used, meaning top down is used to set the budget for each marketing channel and bottom up is used afterwards to see which content, key words etc. drive sales.

That combined approach is good for tacking most marketing attribution problems today. How do you get there? Well, one place start looking is SAS solutions, such as SAS® Forecast Server and SAS® Enterprise Miner. Let me close with a couple of questions:

“How are you currently tackling your attribution problems?”
“What works best for you?”

I'd love to know.


tags: attribution, best practices, marketing analytics, ROI
10月 282014
Magic Johnson at DMA 2014

Magic Johnson working the crowd.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson  is very large in stature and even larger in personality. He is often remembered as a professional basketball star and is now making his mark in the business world in a characteristically large-sized way.  And Magic just loves to prove people wrong – especially if they tell him he can’t do something.

At many stages throughout his career, he has been underestimated by people who did not think he “had what it took” to meet the challenge at hand. And apparently hearing that doubt in his abilities is all it takes to steel his determination. To that highly personal motivator, he offers a few other key factors for marketers to embrace for success.

Magic Johnson's outsized personal charisma really shines.

Magic Johnson's outsized personal charisma really shines.

Get out of your comfort zone

He credits obstacles and circumstances from his early years with teaching him how to understand and deal with people and situations way outside his comfort zone – key talents he attributes to success in business. One way he’s been effective in business is by focusing on urban communities – and more specifically in getting companies investing in ethnically diverse urban communities that would normally overlook them. Taking this approach, Magic got Starbucks to grant him a franchise for urban locations and then was able to report better metrics than the corporate-owned stores.

Know your customer

This is so important that it’s not simply a concern of marketing – it’s business strategy. And this is how Magic believes he was able to make inner-city Starbucks locations a success. In his words, out went the scones and in came the sweet potato pies. Out went the music tracks heard in traditional Starbucks locations and in came the Earth Wind & Fire and other bands more familiar to the inner city resident.

For B2B, it’s a matter of knowing the core values of the organization, and of the CEO. Research the company mission statement and convey your value proposition in terms of how you can help the company fulfill its mission. For very large organizations with complex business models, nothing beats analytics for getting insights to inform an accurate customer view.

Over-deliver consistently

Everybody has expectations – sometimes it’s driven by contractual obligations and at other times it’s driven by general business norms. No matter what’s driving them, Magic Johnson believes in over-delivering. Some of this comes from his personal drive to prove his detractors wrong, but he translates this to a core value that’s organization-wide that has translated into the investment funds he leads which have grown progressively larger from $300 million to over $1 billion. On a day-to-day basis, Magic is quick to point out the fundamental importance of your front-line workers in impacting the customer experience. It’s important to equip them and empower them to over-deliver. His viewpoint validates the need for cross-organizational alignment around the same customer vision.

Be prepared and focused

Magic Johnson does his homework – every time, and he wants to know as much about the audience he’s speaking to as possible. Doing that enables him to understand how to focus – to prepare his message, the delivery and any potential extenuating circumstances that would impact the outcome of what he has in mind. In the last couple of years, his biggest concern was the economy. So in his stake in the inner-city Starbucks, he knew that in a normal economy, people might visit a Starbucks 3-4 times a week. He also new that people would be likely to cut back when times were lean, so he redirected the focus to customer retention and trying to make sure people felt special when they came in so they would keep coming back.

Do a regular self-assessment to improve

Play to your strengths and shore up where you’re weak. Magic advocates doing a SWOT analysis of your business twice a year and to be very honest about what your weaknesses are. And try to do it on a forward-looking basis, particularly if you think you want a growth strategy and make sure you can manage the growth. It’s more important to keep your customers happy, even if that means operating at a smaller margin because satisfying your customers is how you build a business-sustaining reputation. This self-awareness approach of his goes hand-in-hand with always being open to learning and improving. He is a self-described sponge that keeps reinventing himself – he never stops improving and s never satisfied.

Magic Johnson was the opening keynote speaker at the DMA Annual Conference. He charmed the audience by working the crowd with a highly personal touch. As it happens with other successful public figures, his charisma made it seem like every single person in the audience was the most important person in the world.

I must say – it was indeed magic.

tags: analytics, best practices, DMA, leadership, Magic Johnson
10月 242014

Word-of-mouth references and first-person accounts are usually the best way to get the “real deal” on something. It’s how you can get unfiltered information that’s almost as good as having the experience first hand. George Blankenship at the Premier Business Leadership Series.

With that idea in mind, I was more than pleased to hear George Blankenship share his unique perspective from a long career of creative breakthroughs at game-changing companies like Tesla Motors, Apple and The Gap.

George speaks with authority about doing the impossible.

The common thread at all three companies is that they’ve managed to pull off the impossible. So how and why did it happen at each of those companies? George attributes it to the ability to step back and see what’s happening more clearly than whoever happens to be the dominant player in the market at the time.

In the case of The Gap their new approach was to make quality, value and style accessible for customers. And they did it simply and in a way that they become a trusted editor (of style) for their customers. Their approach was to create 4 great sweaters and make them accessible, and not 40. And then repeat it across multiple channels to serve different markets – The Gap now operates successfully as Banana Republic, Old Navy and The Gap.

What’s interesting is that Steve Jobs wanted to sell technology at Apple like a fashion item – like Banana Republic. So Steve sought out George and asked him to spearhead Apple’s improbable move into opening retail stores in shopping malls. History has shown that move to be wildly successful and disruptive as a result. And then Tesla Motors – what approach did they want to take? They want to sell cars like Apple sells computers - big surprise!

But in those approaches is it really selling? Looking more closely, customers are not simply buying – they are having an experience. That’s part of the appeal and part of the differentiation of these companies. And tellingly they focus on making the customers satisfied and have been rewarded handsomely as a result.

Apple went from being a company whose products nobody wanted to own to the most valuable company on the planet. Part of their approach was to ambush customers – engage them with something nicely different at a moment when they’re not buying, or more importantly to get them when they don’t expect to be sold a product. That was the thinking behind the first two Apple stores – in Tysons Corner, VA and in Glendale, CA – that had opening-day lines to get in the store that were hundreds of people deep.

The other common thread among those companies is that Steve Jobs’ and Elon Musk’s laser focus on a concept is legendary and so was The Gap’s Mickey Drexler.

So what’s the big appeal of owning Apple products now?  It’s a combination of innovation, simplicity, design and an unparalleled ownership experience. The innovative part was that their products are user-centered and make it very easy to do what they need to do. Their design is both fun beautiful in their simplicity – both ergonomic and visually pleasing.

And the kicker is the ownership experience. It begins with people – their Geniuses are great people-oriented people. And they turn them loose to make their customers feel important, respected and taken care of. At the Apple store, no matter where or when you bought your Apple product you’ll be taken care of at the Genius Bar. And then there are the applications – remember “there’s an app for that?” To me it seems like Apple products are as much about the apps as they are about the devices themselves.

What has Apple revolutionized with their approach? Well for starters – the retail experience, music, mobile phones, mobile computing, and even babysitting. George points out how easy it is to let kids get wrapped up in games or videos on an iPad as his example of revolutionized babysitting – and he has a point!

So how can these approaches be replicated? It’s a matter of stepping back and seeing the synergies happening all around us, such as drones, streaming videos, personal activity monitors.

How can analytics help in doing the impossible? George sees the opportunity in data as telling you what everyone else is going to do, and by extension it also shows you what they’re not going to do. And to change the world, sometimes you need to do the impossible.

The Postal Service was founded in 1775, and UPS was founded in 1907, but it wasn’t until 1971 that Fred Smith decided to try offering an overnight package delivery service and founded Federal Express. Apple wasn’t even in the phone business before 2007, and Tesla was founded in 2003. George believes somebody is going to attempt the impossible and revolutionize many industries in the next 10 years. The question he leaves us with is – will that be you?

George Blankenship was a keynote speaker at the Premier Business Leadership Series conference.

tags: analytics, best practices, leadership, premier business leadership series