Understanding data can be difficult—just ask expert Erica Huerta, who analyzes it daily for a living.
Huerta is the Competitive Intelligence manager at Whole Foods, where it is her job to look at the industry landscape, identify competitors and form strategies from her findings.
“Data is huge,” says Huerta, who is confident that’s not going to change anytime soon. “It will be a big trend in the coming years.”
This is especially true in marketing.
Companies can now use data to deeply analyze customers’ interactions and engagements, and then take that information to predict future behavior. As a result, businesses can understand the success or failure of different products and ad campaigns, as well as discover which audiences to target.
“In marketing, it is much more prevalent to work with data than not,” says Huerta, who has more than eight years of experience in analytics while working in the private sector with companies such as Expedia and Home Depot. “You can understand your customer base and see where to invest.”
Though highly successful for marketing, obtaining and deriving data can be expensive, especially for smaller businesses.
It “is great if you can invest in it…but it’s not a cheap buy, so do what you can,” Huerta suggests.
For those new to data, Huerta offers three important tips:
Data “can be as simple or as complex as you allow it to be,” Huerta says. “In whatever ways you can learn to navigate around it, whether its programming or just being more proficient in Excel, take advantage of it.”
As a way to start, Huerta suggests looking at Google analytics to understand basics like click-thru rates, a ratio showing how often a person who saw an ad clicked on it.
“For advertisements, you can see if your click-thru rate is high or low, and decide whether the message should be changed or not,” Huerta says.
Know your business.
“Know how you operate,” she says. “Know what it means to make a sale… Be the person that can answer all of the questions without having to turn to someone else to figure out the answer.”
Additionally, she suggests learning how to speak the “technical talk” that lets you communicate with people in other divisions of your business, thereby avoiding disconnect.
This trait, Huerta says, is the most important element of all.
“Innately, to be successful with data, you have to be curious. A lot of people tend to pull data and not question it. Always question the data,” Huerta says.
“Do not be fearful to doubt that something may be wrong. Very often it is, actually. Don’t be afraid to check something. Don’t be afraid to ask those questions.”
Huerta spoke recently at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media on the University of Mississippi campus. Here is her speech to students.
Georgia Clarke is a journalism graduate student at the University of Mississippi. She graduated from Mississippi State University in 2016 with a degree in journalism and public relations. She has held jobs and internships with the United States Senate, Mississippi State University’s Office of Public Affairs, the Starkville Daily News, Charleston Magazine, the Local Palate, and Pinnacle Medical Solutions, a diabetic supply company. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.