Data Visualization for Nonquantitative Marketers
You have lots of questions and lots of data, and you want to know how to get answers to those questions. What do you do next? Consider this step-by-step process to help a nonquantitative marketer visualize data to reach conclusions without complicated statistical techniques.
Before you start getting all the figures you can find on your company’s systems, understand that there are several steps to take that can make your task easier. If you follow them in order, you might find you can relieve a lot of your anxiety about diving into tables of units, dollars and dates.
1. Define your question: what, when, how, where and by what time?
Good analysis starts with visualization in your mind, beginning with the problem or question you have to address. Whether you or someone else comes up with the question, you need to reduce it to a set of component issues that will be answerable with a reasonable amount of information in a small amount of time. For example, don’t immediately start looking for numbers if you are asked to find out whether the cotton canvas pants sold better than the cotton sateen pants in your March catalog. Make sure the question is defined in five ways that will guide the process of getting the answer:
• What items: the cotton canvas pants and the cotton sateen pants
• When: during the sales period of the company’s March catalog
• In what area: the United States
• In what units of measurement: in terms of units shipped
• When is the answer due: by Friday at noon
2. Plan your process.
Once you have your questions, you still need to plan your process. Taking time to outline your search and reviewing your plan with staffers who know your company’s systems can help you find the right sources quickly. If you find that you can ask your question of someone in the operations, finance or inventory control departments, that person may be able to pull out an automatically generated report that gives you exactly what you need to know. If there is no readily available report, then you will need to search for the right data. Asking for help as soon as possible will get you the sales in terms of units for a specific time period. Getting the right data to analyze can be more important than the tools you use, because a fancy statistical program cannot turn bad data into precise scientific or objective facts.