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Channel Your Inner Magellan: Sail the Seven Seas of Data Analysis

Your association generates thousands of data points daily, from member transactions to social media metrics to website traffic records.  These inflows of data can be overwhelming.

Sailing Ship
La Boudeuse“. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

If you have ever tried to orientate yourself inside a labyrinthine spreadsheet or attempted to decipher a system-generated transaction report that may as well have been written in hieroglyphics, you know what it feels like to get lost in data.

Before you resign yourself to being forever marooned in the sea of your association’s data, step back and channel your inner Magellan by following these steps.  With these tips, you can gain your bearings and successfully navigate your association’s data landscape.

  1. Map Your Data:  Many associations do not realize the wealth of historical information they currently collect.  Talk with colleagues across departments to get a grasp on all the different types of data your association has at its disposal.  Survey the sign-up and registration pages on your website and make note of the demographic fields and information being collected.  Social media stats, membership records, event registration transactions, publication subscriptions—data on all these areas probably exists somewhere inside your organization or your network of vendors.
  2. Start With a Short Voyage:  While it may be tempting to circumnavigate the globe and analyze all of these newfound data sets at once, an unfocused analysis is easily blown off course or capsized.  Instead, focus on a few impactful questions you’d like to answer.  For example, you could examine your membership’s historical add/drop rates to get a handle on loyalty and turnover.  By reviewing members across demographic factors, you’ll take the first step toward identifying segments or “personas”.  Once you have mastered that level of analysis, you can combine two different data sets to understand customer behavior patterns across your organization, for example, by examining the relation between the number of newsletters or publications a member receives, and their likelihood of attending your annual conference.
  3. Captain a Fleet:  History books remember big names like Columbus, Magellan, and da Gama, but all of these explorers sailed with fleets of ships full of skilled crew members.  Data analysis is not easy, and you may need assistance and buy-in from coworkers with different strengths and areas of technical expertise.  Depending on your data’s fidelity, you may also need to bring in outside experts to help you navigate data that seems too disorganized, dirty, or dense to be useful.

Following these tips can lead you to smooth sailing on the data seas.  By carefully charting your course, you can captain your way to discoveries and data-driven insights into your members and customers.  Those insights can also foster more compelling, targeted marketing messages and more sophisticated organizational decision-making.  What are you waiting for? Hit the high seas of data exploration today.

Channel Your Inner Magellan: Sail the Seven Seas of Data Analysis

Your association generates thousands of data points daily, from member transactions to social media metrics to website traffic records.  These inflows of data can be overwhelming.

Sailing Ship
La Boudeuse“. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

If you have ever tried to orientate yourself inside a labyrinthine spreadsheet or attempted to decipher a system-generated transaction report that may as well have been written in hieroglyphics, you know what it feels like to get lost in data.

Before you resign yourself to being forever marooned in the sea of your association’s data, step back and channel your inner Magellan by following these steps.  With these tips, you can gain your bearings and successfully navigate your association’s data landscape.

  1. Map Your Data:  Many associations do not realize the wealth of historical information they currently collect.  Talk with colleagues across departments to get a grasp on all the different types of data your association has at its disposal.  Survey the sign-up and registration pages on your website and make note of the demographic fields and information being collected.  Social media stats, membership records, event registration transactions, publication subscriptions—data on all these areas probably exists somewhere inside your organization or your network of vendors.
  2. Start With a Short Voyage:  While it may be tempting to circumnavigate the globe and analyze all of these newfound data sets at once, an unfocused analysis is easily blown off course or capsized.  Instead, focus on a few impactful questions you’d like to answer.  For example, you could examine your membership’s historical add/drop rates to get a handle on loyalty and turnover.  By reviewing members across demographic factors, you’ll take the first step toward identifying segments or “personas”.  Once you have mastered that level of analysis, you can combine two different data sets to understand customer behavior patterns across your organization, for example, by examining the relation between the number of newsletters or publications a member receives, and their likelihood of attending your annual conference.
  3. Captain a Fleet:  History books remember big names like Columbus, Magellan, and da Gama, but all of these explorers sailed with fleets of ships full of skilled crew members.  Data analysis is not easy, and you may need assistance and buy-in from coworkers with different strengths and areas of technical expertise.  Depending on your data’s fidelity, you may also need to bring in outside experts to help you navigate data that seems too disorganized, dirty, or dense to be useful.

Following these tips can lead you to smooth sailing on the data seas.  By carefully charting your course, you can captain your way to discoveries and data-driven insights into your members and customers.  Those insights can also foster more compelling, targeted marketing messages and more sophisticated organizational decision-making.  What are you waiting for? Hit the high seas of data exploration today.

Marissa Maybee

Marissa Maybee is the Director of Insights and Analytics at Bear Analytics, a boutique agency focused on bringing the promise of data analytics to event producers, associations, professional societies, nonprofits and media agencies. Marissa is a consummate storyteller and is driven by the belief that data can tell a story—and it’s her job to make the story as insightful and engaging as possible. Before joining Bear, Marissa led the communications and outreach strategy at the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA), the largest private funder of melanoma research. Previously, she worked in industry intelligence, content marketing, and events at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). Marissa recently earned her MBA from Georgetown University. You can find her on twitter at @maybs321 and connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pub/marissa-maybee/a/a49/266.