Secondary data that drives actionability

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More than 2 years have passed since the last post here. A lot of ideas, opportunities and insights came along on the journey. Now it feels like the right time to make some step back and reflect on the past 31 months, and share with you the key learnings and take-ways.

Today I would like to come back to the book I was referencing in the last blog post 2 years ago, Market- Driven Management. Strategic & Operational Marketing written by Jean-Jacques Lambin. In the book the author highlights the important role that secondary data plays in marketing decision-making and shares key watch-outs in working with secondary data.

From a positive side, secondary data allows marketers to find quick answers to their business questions, especially when it provides information you can’t get in any other way (e.g. due to data restrictions, lack of budget, absence of suitable methodologies) (Lambin, 2007). Some examples of this kind of cases can be sales or household panel data and government statistics.

As we all know, this basic reasons make secondary data very popular. Hence, there are a lots of data subscriptions and data sources available on the market that makes it sometimes really difficult to evaluate real quality of the secondary data.

In his book Lambin shares the main challenges which marketers face while dealing with secondary data:

Adapted from Lambin, 2007

It’s also important to highlight that sometimes definitions of secondary data and the way it’s been calculated doesn’t lie on the surface and you really need to deep dive into data. For this, Lambin (2007) proposes to follow four basic principles of dealing with secondary data.

  • Always use initial source of the secondary data. Academic researchers know this principle very well as they prefer to the original paper to check citations or models because in the following papers data may be misinterpreted or underrepresented.
  • Always evaluate data quality and critically evaluate why the data was collected and published in the first place.
  • Always evaluate ways the data was collected. Review methodology, initial protocols or question-naires and the kind of specific measured which were in place to ensure quality of the collected data.
  • Always review how the data was analysed. The main focus here should go to definitions and ways of how metrics were calculated.

From my experience, the most holistic and actionable way to review secondary data is to conduct a peer review analysis. Ideally, two team members work independently on the in-depth analysis of data quality and then collective produce a single document to present to senior leadership team. Below is a picture which outlines key building blocks of a successful secondary data peer-review.

Sources: Lambin, J.-J. (2007). Market-Driven Management. Strategic & Operational Marketing (in Russian). Moscow: Piter, pp. 174-175

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