Talina Titizian is a Marketing Insights Analyst at Microsoft. She has worked with major brands in tech, consumer products and education in Canada and the UK. She’s an advocate for women in STEM and passionate about improving customer experiences through data, insight and innovation.
“Are you a creative person, or a numbers person?”
I’ve always struggled to answer this question. Stereotypically, these are distinct groups of individuals and you fit yourself into one bucket or another.
As a marketing manager turned-analyst, my career originally brought me down a very ‘creative’ marketing path. As such, I’ve worked with many individuals both client and agency-side who would put themselves in the creative bucket and have noticed that a common resistance for left-brain thinking typically exists.
The reality is, both analytical and creative individuals are the same at their core. We are both storytellers. Visionaries. We experiment and take risks. We question everything. And most importantly, we connect ideas to solutions.
Whether you classify as a numbers person or not, it doesn’t really matter; understanding data is all about your attitude and drive for curiosity. As Paul Davies, Consumer Marketing Director at Microsoft says, “the magic happens when left-brain logic meets right-brain ideas – that’s when sparks can truly fly.”
In the fourth industrial revolution, tackling a fear of left-brain thinking is more critical than ever. Today’s very best creatives use technology to mine through big data, fuelling their ideas and differentiating designs with their target audiences. Likewise, the very best analysts use creativity to create stunning data visualisations and smarter marketing optimisations.
So, whether it’s a fear of digging in to your campaign results, or a general resistance to left-brain activities, overcome your fears with these five ways to bring your data to life.
1. Start with a business question
Looking at large datasets can be overwhelming. Start with the intention of solving a question, like “how engaging is my marketing content?” This lets you mine through the data quicker and focus in on the problem at hand. For example, you might focus on engagement and click-through rates of your content across channels and see how they rank against each other or an industry benchmark. If you can’t find your answer quickly, ask yourself why–maybe you need more data, or a different data set.
2. Don’t stop with your first question
It’s crucial to keep an open mind and see what other questions arise when looking at data. For instance, if you’re looking at engagement of your content, you might also ask “When is my audience engaging, and where? How could I modify my marketing investment to maximise audience engagement?” You don’t have to isolate your left and right sides of the brain; use both at the same time. Think outside the box. Question everything you see and keep discovering.
3. Make your data visual and bring it to life for your audience
Don’t get stuck in the numbers; bring your data into a business intelligence tool like Microsoft Power BI to manipulate and visualise it. You can connect an Excel spreadsheet directly or pull in many other sources of data. Then you can easily clean it up and start creating data visualisations on your canvas – just like an artist.
Cater to your creative side and choose a colour theme from the Power BI Themes Gallery – always thinking about your audience. For example, you might want to use high contrast or the colour blind friendly theme for those who are visually impaired.
4. Experiment with visualisations
Get creative! Making a data visualisation doesn’t have to be boring. Think about the story you want to tell, your audience, and choose a visualisation that will best tell your story.
For example, our team uses a mix of chart types to show how a customer group is engaging with our marketing content over time. This enables account managers to quickly see who is engaging, with what, and when.
Some of the most powerful visualisations use a lot of creativity to tell a story through data. On your next report, try using one of Power BI’s custom visuals, or take a look at how these organisations use data visualisations to tell their story.
5. Collaborate with others
It’s a good practice to discuss what you find in your data with others. What do your teammates think of your report? Does it make sense? Will the business unit understand your story? Test the water with your coworkers before sharing the report with your stakeholders.
Most importantly, if you need help–ask! Always remember there are an abundance of data resources online, like guided learning, documentation and community forums. You can also start with free templates by industry or business unit.
This blog is from the CMO Insights & Analytics Team, as part of the Microsoft Blogger Series.