Cinderella Analysts really can go to the “C-suite”
I believe there is a reason why analysts rarely get invited to sit with the “Chiefs” in what is often referred to as the “C suite” – and that reason is a lack of relevance.
I’m sure that the boardroom executives of all the companies that I have ever worked with would say that they are constantly seeking high quality information – so why is there so often a disconnect between the mountains of data produced and its perceived value?
To all you Cinderella analysts out there, I say that you will be invited into the “C Suite” if you just listen to your Fairy Godmother for a moment.
Five Career Rewarding Steps
(1) Don’t produce any reports – unless you really believe in their value
It’s time to be brave. Everyone knows that measuring the “important things” is what matters but who decides what the “important things” are?
Every organization will arrive at these decisions from a different angle and it is often the case that, over time, nobody knows who originally asked for a report or indeed if the reports produced are actually used by anybody for anything! So if relevance is important I suggest that you focus on three things which may have been overlooked:
- The external market
- “The story”
I am suggesting an approach that might take some of you outside of your personal comfort zone. You will be laying the foundations of future reports that might even question the true market value of your organization’s core products and services. That’s the kind of reporting which adds real value!
- Only measure and report on important things
- Try to identify areas of both weakness and strength
- Back up your opinions with research
- Be prepared to cross “boundaries” between analytics and areas which you might not normally consider to be within your responsibility (such as usability, use of social media, site structure ,competitors….) You don’t need to be expert in all these areas however someone needs to start the conversations and ask the questions – why not you?
(2) Focus on profit margin – unless your organization is happy to spend other people’s money
Every Chief Executive (should!) know that, ultimately, “sales are vanity”, “profit is sanity” and “cash is reality”. As an analyst, you can play an important role here. Every time you produce reports on sources of traffic, conversion paths, most popular landing pages and so on remember that achievement of commercial goals are in almost all situations the ultimate aim.
Don’t confine this approach to e-commerce shopping cart websites e.g. challenging the wider organization to consider notional monetary values on enquiries etc. can help focus everyone on the true value of website and social traffic …and ultimately on the reports that you provide.
(3) Check your rear view mirror
It’s dangerous to drive without constantly checking what is around you. Why then do so many organisations fixate on their own performance and ignore the online competition that is growing around them and adapting every day?
Most successful business Chiefs understand their markets and competition. However this understanding is often grounded in the “physical world” or indeed in the past…. Why not present them with reports that benchmark competitor performance on factors such as website authority, backlink strength, keyword performance, PPC activity and so on? And don’t forget the markets research power of tools such as Google trends
In one fell swoop you will capture the heartfelt praise of your superiors. Or perhaps the opposite?
What if your analysis uncovers your organizations weakness? What if prices appear uncompetitive? What if your site is ranking for less than a third of the valuable keywords that your arch rivals are ranking for?
Time again to be brave. Present your findings. Put in place the ongoing monitors that will track improvement. Take one more step towards that coveted boardroom position……
(4) Use pictures and tell stories
Don’t shout this too loudly but many of the Chiefs in boardrooms are not actually very bright when it comes to numbers.
I find it helpful to remember the difference between “information” and “data” – information informs … data is just a pile of numbers. Nicely presented graphics can be very helpful however you also need to tell the story.
Ideally you should never present numbers and pictures without interpretation. More than this, your interpretation should have continuity with previous events and your previous reports. That’s what a story does – it helps the reader interpret the “journey”. That said, I appreciate that a full interpretation of reports, the reasons for variations and trends etc. is usually very difficult, if not impossible. You can however start that process of interpretation by clearly explaining what you do know; the reliability of data; your data sources; reasons for variations that are apparent to you but might not be to the casual reader…. and so on.
Avoid pictures that don’t accurately capture the underlying numbers and trends e.g. some infographics look visually attractive but the images in terms of relative size do not accurately reflect the numbers they represent. Get this wrong and you might receive some embarrassing feedback.
Don’t assume that those you prepare information for actually understand what you are giving them! The digital world can be a daunting place for many of our Chiefs who may have started their careers long before the internet was as developed as it is today. Some sensitivity might be required here … after all, it might cause some embarrassment if it were disclosed that the collective digital marketing knowledge of the board could be written down on the back of the Chairman’s Amex card?
Why not present your next reports with the addition of some insightful competitor analysis (even if it wasn’t asked for) or some explanation as to why certain of your webpages convert visitor traffic better than others?
There is a growing desire for this type of knowledge at the very highest level of organizations – but often a reluctance to ask.
So that’s it. Five easy steps to the C-Suite … and when you get there … just say that your fairy godmother sent you.