Summit Insider: Michele Kiss on Career Changes in Marketing and Innovation in Analytics

Earlier this week, we introduced this year’s Summit Insiders. Summit Insiders is a collection of marketing experts whom we’ve invited to join us on the ground at Summit to share their insights, observations and experience via social media, blogging and other digital outlets. We sat down with Michele Kiss, who is returning for the third year as one of our Insiders. We talked about marketing, reinvention (the theme of this year’s Summit) and more. Here’s what Michele had to say:

Michele_InsiderThroughout your career you’ve had a chance to work client-side, but also on the agency side as a consultant. For people looking to reinvent themselves and make a change to their career, what are the pros and cons to each?
In the end I think most people find that one is the right “home” for them, but I definitely encourage analytics professionals to explore a wide range of roles in different types of businesses. You might think something won’t suit you and be pleasantly surprised!

On the client side, you tend to go very deep in one organisation. That gives you a chance to really understand what drives the business, work on projects that you know will have impact, and build great working relationships. However, it also means you have a narrower view, since you are confined to one business model, and less varied experience with different solutions, since you just use what your company does.

On the agency side, you get exposure to a wide range of business models and tools, but there can be pressure to always report “positive results”, especially if the project is one your agency both ran and reported on – sort of like being both the prosecutor and the judge. Though most agency analysts I have worked with do work hard at putting their “analyst hat” first, to be impartial as their role requires.

Consulting falls somewhere in the middle. Some consultants have very long-term relationships with a small number of clients, and their work is therefore closer to client-side – very involved. Other consultants have a large number of short-term projects, where they may have tremendous breadth but not depth in to any one business, so it resembles the agency perspective more. However, in contrast to agency work, consulting typically provides the opportunity to be a more independent arbitrator than agency analysts, since you are normally removed from the work being judged.

In deciding what path to pursue though, you should also think of your goals outside of just client-focused work. If you enjoy writing or speaking, agency or consulting tends to be more receptive to supporting that type of work (since there is a promotion value for them) – though some client-side companies are supportive of those activities also.

Analytics has dramatically shifted in the past five years due to digital innovations. How have you adapted and reinvented your skills to fit the demand in the market?
I find the analysts who stay most on top of innovation are those with a continued desire to learn. If you really truly love the work you do, you’re always exploring new tools or social channels or methodologies, outside of your day job, because it truly interests you. It’s not uncommon for me to try new things on a personal account or data, just to “figure it out.”

I also keep updated via social networks, read and write articles and blogs and attend webinars and industry events. There’s no shortage of material out there for those who want to learn.

You’ve done a lot of research into analytics career paths. What is the best way to set yourself apart in the analytics industry?
Within your organisation, I find it comes down to curiosity, and doing what was not even asked of you. Intrinsic motivation is critical. The analyst who looks at something and thinks, “Hmmm, I wonder why that’s happening” or “I have an idea” and runs with it tends to produce something no one even knew to ask for. I have seen these ideas lead to changes and products that have had significant impact on businesses.

In a broader industry sense, I think it’s important to engage with people and build relationships. That doesn’t mean you have to be the life of the party, if you are naturally more reserved. There are lots of ways to engage, from one-on-one in-person discussions at an event or debates via social media, all the way to co-presenting sessions at a conference or presenting a webinar with someone. Don’t be afraid to share your perspective and to ask questions, to ask for help and to offer yours to others. You will build relationships that benefit you both greatly.

What about digital analytics makes you want to come to work each day?
I fell in love with analytics because I liked figuring out what made things (and people!) tick. It felt like my job was to solve puzzles, and that is really enjoyable for me.

I am also lucky enough that I love the subject matter! I love digital and technology, exploring new channels, or getting massively nerdy with my own data. (And come on, any career where you actually have a conference call about “How we are going to measure the business impact of Grumpy Cat” is pretty cool. Though, maybe that’s just me…)

How do you think companies can better prove the value of their digital marketing through analytics? 
The biggest gaps I see over and over again have nothing to do with shiny tools. Companies are so quick to spend money on technology, but struggle to justify budget for the right people to leverage them, or to resolve fundamental communication and organizational issues. You can have the best toolbox on earth, but if you hire me instead of an experienced contractor to build your house, you’re going to have a dreadful house! It’s not an either/or – technology is definitely important, it just needs the appropriate investment in people and process to drive real results.

More about Michele Kiss
Michele Kiss is a recognized digital analytics leader, with expertise ranging across web, mobile, marketing and social analytics. She is currently a Partner at Web Analytics Demystified, the leading global digital analytics consulting firm, responsible for their analysis and analyst mentoring practice. Michele is the winner of the Digital Analytics Association “Rising Star” award (2011) and “Practitioner of the Year” award (2013.) She is a frequent blogger, writer, podcast contributor and speaker.

You can read her thoughts at shared here, or on Twitter as @michelejkiss.