At the time of this writing, the world is in a pretty unpredictable place. In the midst of a global pandemic. Compounded by lockdowns and social unrest, it feels tricky as a business leader to know how to plan our marketing efforts when there are so many unknowns on the table. Luckily, we got a chance to sit down with our friend, Katie Robbert, CEO of Trust Insights, a leading data analytics firm that helps companies unlock and transform their data into useful analysis, valuable insights, and actionable strategies. And even luckier, Katie’s got a solution for all this unpredictability – Predictive Analytics.
Forbes defines ‘Predictive Analytics’ as, “the use of data, statistical algorithms and AI techniques to identify possible future outcomes.” Katie tends to agree. At its simplest, she defines predictive analytics as analyzing the past and the present to predict the future so companies can make more informed business decisions that ultimately yield better results.
According to Katie, predictive analytics is about using numbers and trends to project forward into the future so you can be more discerning with your marketing investments. Tired of spending gazillions of hours and dollars creating content no one’s engaging with? Predictive can help you target your content so it’s more relevant and effective. Wish you knew with a little more certainty when the right timing was going to be for that giant product launch campaign you’re going to run so you’d get the best results out of it? Predictive can help with that too.
So just how powerful is predictive analytics, really?
As you probably already know, reviewing analytics as a historical measure of performance is critical to knowing if your past campaigns and activities are working. But when you combine that review with the power of predictive analytics, that’s where the future starts to get really fun. Business decisions can be made with more intentionality when you can predict what lies ahead. Campaigns can be timed more thoughtfully. Marketing dollars can be spent more effectively. And the results from those efforts can be staggering. In fact, according to OWOX.com, Amazon attributes 30% of their sales to recommendations that were offered to customers based on predictive analytics.
You’re probably wondering how your company can use it to get a leg up, and how much historical data is required in order to make predictive analytics work. Katie shared a tip. She says, the shorter the timeframe you’re looking to predict forward, the less history you will likely need to rely on. But the good news is, Katie also says there’s a workaround. And it’s free. If you don’t yet have enough historical data to inform a predictive forecast, Katie recommends using third party data like Google Trends, or other more industry-specific clearinghouses for free data, to fill in those historical blanks.
Be aware – the impacts of COVID will likely mix up your data
Katie was sure to remind us that in the post-COVID world, we have to look carefully at the timing of the data we’re using for historical purposes now. Anything going forward from about March 1st, 2020 is likely to be quite skewed by the global pandemic we’ve been facing, which means it won’t necessarily be indicative of a true trend. She recommends taking the history from the 12 months of 2019 as a better potential indicator of what may be to come.
If you’re concerned about what the unpredictability of this time may continue to bring to your planning, and the usability of 2019 data as a source for the post-COVID world, Katie’s got a suggestion for that too: Be nimble. In execution, she recommends the following: “Use a full year 52-week projection to inform your initial planning. But in the practicality of the actual forecast and execution strategy, create plans in either 30, 60 or 90-day increments, and then rerun it depending on what kind of resources you have to actually execute some of these plans.“
How to use predictive analytics to improve your marketing right now
Clearly there are dozens of ways to leverage predictive analytics to improve the results of your marketing efforts, from customer journey design, to thwarting churn. But Katie’s favorite is how it lets you get more strategic with your content planning. Katie suggests using the previously-mentioned Google Trends data to project when people will be searching for your company’s keyword terms. Then plan your content calendar according to the forecast, and boom! Now you’re timing your content so it’s most relevant to the most potential customers.
Now it’s your turn – what’s got you most excited about predictive analytics? And how are you using it, or thinking about using it, within your company? Leave us a comment and let us know. We can’t wait to hear your creative ideas.