If you have been read­ing my blogs, then you know that I have come to love math. It wasn’t easy, but I learned how to embrace the num­bers and use them to eval­u­ate the per­for­mance of mar­ket­ing campaigns.

Data has been digital’s gift to mar­keters. It allows us to know how our mar­ket­ing pro­grams are per­form­ing and deter­mine what is work­ing or not. It also lets us make adjust­ments along the way.  We no longer have to fol­low the HiPPo (high­est paid per­son in the room) prin­ci­ple to make deci­sions. In a way, dig­i­tal has democ­ra­tized the access to data and data rules.

How­ever, this democ­ra­tiz­ing has also made us more sus­cep­ti­ble to that tor­ren­tial flood­wa­ter of Big Data. That’s because it is lit­er­ally BIG. Actu­ally, it is HUGE and it is com­ing to us faster than ever in enor­mous quan­ti­ties. There is so much of it, it is easy to be over­whelmed and drowned in the vir­tual sea of data.

Over the past cou­ple years, we have devel­oped a few “cop­ing mech­a­nisms” so that we man­age the data instead of let­ting the data man­age us. The result is that we have true insights, which allows us to take proper action. Let me share our secret sauce.

Step 1: Set Your KPIs Carefully

Start the process with a def­i­n­i­tion of key per­for­mance indi­ca­tors (KPIs)—quantifiable mea­sures that are used to mon­i­tor per­for­mance to ensure the achieve­ment of strate­gic and oper­a­tional goals. Adobe’s mar­ket­ing strat­egy is based on the fun­nel: acqui­si­tion, con­ver­sion, and reten­tion. We break out each phase of the fun­nel to dis­cover the key dri­vers of each part. For exam­ple, the num­ber of app launches dri­ves con­ver­sion and active use dri­ves reten­tion. We mea­sure and set our KPIs based on dri­ving these key actions.

Step 2: Have a Sin­gle Source of Truth

While it is good to democ­ra­tize access to data, you also need to be cer­tain that every­one is pulling from the same source. I have learned through painful expe­ri­ence that you want to avoid duel­ing data sets at all costs or you will find your­self wast­ing hours and hours argu­ing about which set of data is right. At Adobe we have one team that is respon­si­ble for get­ting and ana­lyz­ing the data: the Mar­ket­ing Insights and Oper­a­tion group (MIO). This assures that the data you use is the right one. They are our sin­gle source of truth; the one stop shop to define, pull, and ana­lyze the data that we will use.

Step 3: Have a Process that Takes You from Insight to Action

Once you get the right data, you need to have a pre­cise process for ana­lyz­ing and report­ing it. We have exper­i­mented with this a lot and found that a weekly two-hour meet­ing that includes all the rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers from the core mar­ket­ing groups (such as Cam­paign, Media, Web­site, PR, Social, etc.) works best. The meet­ing is led by the cam­paign effec­tive­ness man­ager from the MIO team. Every­one looks at the data together to draw insights and agree to the action that each team needs to take to ensure that we hit our KPIs. The MIO leader then pub­lishes a dash­board that includes the data, insights, and action plan that is dis­trib­uted widely through­out the com­pany. This not only pro­motes col­lab­o­ra­tion, but it ensures that the team can quickly get on the same page and move forward.

Care­fully set­ting KPIs and hav­ing a sin­gle source of truth and an effi­cient process of get­ting from data to action has made us much more effec­tive and nim­ble. Most impor­tantly, it allows us to turn that avalanche of data into action­able and use­ful insight.

You see, it is not as com­pli­cated as you thought.