Strategic planning 101: Data is the rocket fuel for the choice engine

Consumer behaviour is constantly evolving post-pandemic and, currently, marketers just do not know what is going to stick. The only way to figure it out is to plan strategically, leveraging consumer and market intelligence to make smart, informed choices that will help propel your business. Yet often for marketers, the biggest challenge is just that - making a choice. For any human, making a choice, particularly when there is money involved, can be daunting.

“By making a choice, often we feel like we’re leaving opportunities on the table. We can’t do everything, so in making a choice we’re leaving something behind, leaving potential advantages for our competition,” said Chris Paxton, chief strategy officer, Hotwire Global.

But with access to a treasure trove of rich data that can be utilised for strategic planning, being in the strongest position to make the smart choice requires a single-minded definition of your problem, organisation of data into purposeful and logical buckets, and a willingness to compare and contrast over time, based on market trends.

These were among the key insights from ‘The perfect ammunition for planning: How to harness consumer and market insights for 2021’ webinar, with Marianne Taudiere, VP account management, NetBase Quid in conversation with Hotwire Global’s Paxton.

“Data becomes the intelligence that allows us to make choices because, ultimately, choices unlock growth, they do not inhibit it. Without having choice and making a choice, it makes everything impossible,” continued Paxton. “Choice gives us clarity; it allows us to be really clear about what we’re solving for and gives us focus and the ability to differentiate in more meaningful ways. When you’re solving multiple problems or a vague problem, it’s very difficult to find the information to help you solve it. Whereas, if your problem is tight, you can go much deeper and then data becomes a much more valuable source of competitive advantage.”

But even if you already have very good intelligence and data, choice is hard - so it’s about using intelligence to help make those difficult choices. “Ultimately, data can only take us so far; we have to make a leap of faith,” he said. “That competitive advantage doesn’t come from having data - everybody has data - but it comes from being able to use it intelligently; using that data to help make better choices and form the strongest strategy.”

In gaining that competitive advantage, contextualising that data can give you a headstart on deriving the insights needed to make the data actionable. Taudiere further spoke to the benefits of competitive intelligence, through techniques like social listening to get a steer on the market.

“Competitive intelligence is a great use case for consumer market data. You can compare and contrast what consumers are spontaneously sharing and then look at what the businesses are pushing from a corporate perspective to see where the gap is and how to bridge that gap,” she said. “It’s so important to have representative sets of consumer and market data, so that you understand what you’re looking at. When you’re comparing a competitive set, then it starts giving you insights as to what you should be doing and where you’re positioning yourself.”

The building blocks to making better, smarter choices

It is easy to try and jump straight from data to intelligence, but only when you can organize your data into purposeful and logical buckets does it become information that can inform strategies in the most effective way and help make better choices to unlock future growth - and that’s not a linear process, it’s an ever rotating wheel. Once the data is structured in this way, that’s what starts to fuel those new opportunities.

To help marketers turn their data into information into actionable insight, Paxton outlined six key building blocks: building a comprehensive and diverse data pool; organising it from macro to micro information; interrogating that information intelligently to find that problem that will drive (or is inhibiting) growth; mining the information to find the audience insight you have the credibility and capability to solve; then making a choice; and finally, making sure the work reflects - and is coherent and consistent with - the choice you’ve made.

By collecting data across numerous data points, aggregating and applying advanced AI and natural language processing technologies, marketers can achieve meaning and sentiment analysis to feed any type of decision making across an organisation; from tactical campaign successes and campaign strategy to brand health and brand overview competitive intelligence to even more strategic product innovation, trend analytics and customer-first approaches.

“You’ve got the technology and you’ve got the human beings; the technology should be able to help you accelerate your human decision making to really create a difference,” said Taudiere. “Let the data tell you what consumers think, try to come into your analysis with as little bias as possible, and make sure you’re open for the data to tell you what’s going on.”

Watch the full webinar - The perfect ammunition for planning: How to harness consumer and market insights for 2021 - on demand here