More often, the answer is just one – because that is all the analytical resource the company can afford, especially if it is a marketing services providers. Among agencies especially, the data or planning department is frequently staffed by a sole individual. Despite the high profile of insight and analytics and recent acquisitions and (soon to be announced) deals in this space, the depth of investment by most MSPs has been thin.
That explains why insight is more often an enabler of marketing strategy rather than a driver of it. For a department of one to get to the top of the foodchain is rare, even if many of these lonely practitioners are highly skilled and experienced.
They are also frequently long-term data industry figures who have collected the set of experience – client-side, data owner or bureau, agency. As a track record, this makes them attractive to agencies because they have range, but also realism. A one-person analytics department allows the agency to tick the box on a client’s brief without running the risk of that brief being seriously challenged.
For the fact is that, working on your own with data comes with risks and limitations. The first is of falling into the trap of only using approaches and techniques that are tried and tested and avoiding those that “didn’t work here”. The second is of only seeing things one way.
Data is more often than not capable of multiple interpretations and the best insights emerge from some level of discussion. A binary variable that splits 49/51 may not indicate very much. If you know it is how the population divides between men and women, you are getting somewhere. Deciding to look into what that means in cash terms for a product that only appeals to males starts you down a path that may lead to a successful line extension into female variants.
Analytics is only done to support that kind of business development, rather than as an academic exercise. There are always multiple options on the table and talking them through with a colleague can produce a better understanding than running an interior monologue.
So if you are working with an agency that says it has an analytics team, it is worth asking what the headcount is.