Recently, we at Knight Eady took a deeper look into our fundamentals and the specific processes that drive our business. We discovered that over the years we’ve seen a significant evolution in our service offerings due to growth in our capabilities and team members. From that self-reflection, we chose to embrace our findings and use them to better define who we are. Part of our discovery was a surprising love and appreciation for insights and analytics.
The Power of Data
Looking at the macro trends of technological advancements in our society, not just in the sports world or even the U.S., it’s extremely clear there is an exhaustive effort to collect, mine, and incorporate data in everything we do. The days of “well, that’s not really in our wheelhouse” or “our business model is more experiential, not necessarily analytical” fell away with Blockbuster and flip phones. While leaving the number crunching to the engineering firms and tech giants used to suffice, the modern age of organizational effectiveness requires a diligent commitment to analytics across the board, including (especially for folks like us) the areas of marketing strategy and event operations.
While yes, we employ some of those data nerds, who really do enjoy data just for data’s sake, the majority of us love data because it provides the means to create value for the clients, campaigns and projects that inspire us. Fortunately, for those of us who don’t boil over with inspiration at the sound of “macro trends,” “analytics” or “predictive modeling,” this new era of business intelligence doesn’t mean we all need to cancel our Adobe accounts, grab a copy of Müller and Guido’s Introduction to Machine Learning with Python and start coding. A tremendous need still exists, and will always exist, for those who can dream up the creative designs and carefully craft the symmetrical phrases capable of piercing our souls. We don’t all need to be data nerds, but none of us can afford to ignore the power of data. In order to stay on par, we must all become data believers.
Incorporating Analytics with Objective-Driven Strategy
From the strategy and creative work we provide for our clients to time spent creating and executing events, we’ve learned any task worth accomplishing is done so effectively by setting specific and measurable goals based on defined objectives. This objective-driven strategy becomes the foundation for everything we do. The process starts with the age-old question — Why? Why should we do this? Why is it important for this business? The answer to this question fuels everything. Once we articulate the ultimate purpose, the high-level, actionable items in building a campaign start to form. Specific details about the what and how of executing the strategy become incredibly clear, and it’s here where an appropriate integration of analytics really kicks things up a notch. We can then take this strategy and allow it to inform our reporting to take a jumbled mess of numbers and metrics and build a cohesive narrative accurately depicting the return on our efforts.
Data is a means to an end. For our Knight Eady team, it’s easy to answer the why when it comes to putting an emphasis on analytics. We want to drive strategy, support decision-making, ensure profitability, understand the industry, develop a competitive advantage — and that’s just off the top of our head. We use data because it gives us the insights we need to succeed and ensure our clients succeed. That is our objective.
However, this process doesn’t always come so easily. Defining specific objectives for our projects and clients is an intricate process and often one in which our clients lean on us. We use our experience to ask questions, but more importantly, to apply some comprehensive and evaluative listening to understand their brand and help identify measurable KPIs to effectively drive results. Setting these metrics lays the foundation for a valuable strategy.
The What and How:
Data should drive our efforts. With objectives identified and data calling the shots, the what and how of selecting campaign channels and building creative directions that best resonate with our target market start to fall into place.
The process of incorporating data begins with identifying the type of analytics needed. Generally all uses of data fall into three categories: descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive.
- Descriptive analytics tend to come most naturally because they’re retrospective and the simplest to conduct. We want to know what happened and how we got there. In our world, these typically manifest as campaign recap decks and social media reports. Descriptive analytics are rarely forgotten or avoided.
- The next level, predictive analytics, doesn’t receive as much immediate attention at most organizations because it requires more sophisticated and trained skill sets than the average person possesses, but it continues to become a more commonly utilized tool. These analytics help us start to build forecasting models that can provide a little more insight into what could happen in the future. For example, predictive analytics help us market a basketball game by taking information about the individuals in that community to identify variable correlations. Those correlations then inform the channels and language we will use to share our message.
- Finally, prescriptive analytics provide the most advanced insights about potential circumstances, why things happen the way they do, and what we can do to capitalize on them. This area is currently the wild west where new evolutions in machine learning and artificial neural networks happen every other day. You don’t have to be the most adept statistician or programmer to dabble in these models, but it does require some level of training in those fields. We can use prescriptive models to identify congruent sponsors for that same basketball game that will fit authentically with the event and generate positive sentiment from the attendees.
These analytical resources reveal how a group of assets once perceived as unrelated or disparate can show a specific and obvious correlation, and together build a balanced portfolio. When we incorporate data into the decision-making process, we can trim out the guesswork and feel confident in our choices, and more importantly, confident in spending money on those choices. Once we clearly define our objectives, we can identify the insights we need to pull to determine the best course of action.
Data tells a great story… when done correctly. It also takes intentional effort. When people think about data, they often visualize an endless spreadsheet of arbitrarily listed, binary numbers. Like a numeric word search only capable of decoding by one vitamin D deprived programming genius, basement-trained by years of isolation and computer games. But this doesn’t have to be the case. We like the word “visualization” because that’s what data can become. When executed appropriately, data can form an impactful narrative that tells us everything we need to know. The trick is simple. Keep the conversation concise, focus on the status to the target and solely consider the metrics attributing to the KPIs and defined business goals.
Effective reporting is critical because it becomes the framework for how to approach the process the next time. As mentioned, predictive and prescriptive models only become possible with the insights drawn from the basic process of descriptive analytics. Our industry forces us to continually improve our efforts in reporting because it provides the only true proof of value.
Somewhere along the way, a strange connotation formed that pitted athletes and intellectuals against one another, as if contradictory. Well, we really squashed that concept when all of a sudden us jocks got educated and, instead of hanging up the cleats, we just started innovating more effective ways to dignify our sports.
We recognize the beauty in this ever-changing space and look forward to continuing to learn and grow in the intricacies of insights and analytics. At Knight Eady we can’t say we’ve perfected it, but we can say we believe in data.