As I’ve been writing about tools and tactics quite a bit lately, I thought for this month’s column I’d take a step back and share some ideas on how you can become a better analyst.
And improving our analysis skills as marketers goes beyond broadening our career options and helping us be better at our craft.
It should actually improve all areas of your life as a byproduct of nurturing our critical thinking skills. Some ideas follow that I apply in my own life and hope you’ll consider too.
Find a passion outside work which involves developing hypotheses
The scientific method, as you know, is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.
You’re already applying this to your marketing and analytics practice by putting it to work for testing and optimization efforts (for example, having a hypothesis that a new landing page with less clutter will convert better, which you then test).
But beyond work, you should also, in free time, be involved in something which flexes your prediction muscle.
Whether this manifests as fantasy sports, investing in startups or some other activity which involves future predictions (and cool datasets!), this can be a fun and rewarding way to sharpen your mind and will help you see analysis problems in a new light.
Learn to fill in the missing pieces, be comfortable working with imperfect data/information
100% perfect data is really only possible in a controlled lab setting with expensive and fine-tuned equipment. While, of course, we should ensure our analytics implementation is setup correctly to keep our own data as clean as possible, we must also get comfortable working with a “good enough” information.
This is necessary in order to be agile in how we work and keep projects moving forward. A great analyst will work out the way to fill in the missing pieces and make effective projections (while of course providing a rationale/caveats where needed).
You want to get confident enough to make recommendations and create analysis’ based off “minimum viable data.”
Have a sandbox project to test new tools
If you are truly serious about improving your skills, doing analyst work in your live business environment isn’t enough.
The reason being you can’t test and tinker with any new tool without permission or change settings at whim, you likely have compliance and managers to work through.
But a sandbox project such as your own site, app or side business provides a place you can test, tinker and experiment in a no-stress setting.
Bonus: our team at Google recently launched an Analytics Demo Account for this very purpose.
Live and breathe your company and sector metrics (beyond what you’re accountable for)
Being a great analyst isn’t about just running reports and delivering insights that are your remit.
Rather, the best analysts have their finger on the pulse of the bigger pictures and are deftly able to put their own work into context with the larger organization and sector as a whole.
The analysts I talk to that leave a lasting impression are the ones who can speak articulately about various areas of the business and how they make impact across teams and functions.
Be a part of the industry, network and collaborate with peers
I’m personally a big believer in educating others about digital marketing and since starting my career well over a decade ago I’ve spent time both at and outside of work helping others learn our craft.
Our industry is tight knit and so being an active participant who helps others is of great benefit (not to mention fulfilling).
For you, whether this takes the form of speaking/attending events (such as ClickZ Live), starting your own local analytics meetup, or even making friends with other analysts near you to talk shop this is a valuable use of time.
Adam Singer will be speaking at ClickZ Live San Francisco in August.