3 things you need to turn data into a powerful decision-making engine

Late Night with Larry: Volume 2


I’ve always been drawn to data.

Growing up, my friends and I played sports video games. At the time, game systems weren’t collecting player stats -- like the yardage of our running backs -- so we’d eagerly track this information on a piece of paper and compete with each other. It was a similar story with the stock market simulation computer game Millionaire. We obsessed over it.

This competitive spirit and drive for success has followed me throughout life. And I’ve found that having data at my fingertips to inform decisions has proven to be a huge advantage in both personal and professional settings.

But data on its own can only do so much. To turn data into a powerful decision-making engine in the workplace, you need to bring together three critical pieces: smart, analytical people + the right data + a proven framework.

And when you pair smart talent with extraordinary data and systems that others don’t have, and empower your team to be creative, they will do things that blow your mind. And your business will evolve with the market. Let’s take a look at how we bring this together at Rise.

1. Smart, analytical people. At Rise, our business runs on the ability to make smart, data-driven marketing decisions that produce results for our clients -- it’s a fundamental piece of the service we provide. So it should come as no surprise that analytical skills and enthusiasm for data are a major part of Rise’s culture. Even our snack assortment is determined by how quickly our inventory of different items gets depleted.

That said, the role of data varies by organization, and not all companies require the Rise level of data obsession to succeed. It’s important to understand the specific applications that will provide the greatest value for your particular company, client or brand. One truth remains constant: You cannot unlock the power of your data unless you have the right analytical people to make sense of it.

You also need an effective way to assess if a candidate possesses these skills. We learned early on that simply asking candidates to describe their analytical experience was not a strong indicator of how well they performed in roles built around data. So we created our math test, a 30-question, timed exercise that simulates real-life client campaigns with questions that our team asks, evaluates and answers everyday. All Risers who work on our client delivery teams must meet our challenging pass rate criteria to get a job at Rise. This is one of the tools we use to find the best talent for our clients, and it has had a substantial impact on creating and maintaining a data-driven culture.

2. The right data. There’s no shortage of data available today. (In fact, 90 percent of the world’s data was created in the last two years alone.) The key is knowing what data matters to your business and how to gather and analyze it. Which leads me to the next part of the equation: Getting your hands on the right data.

In digital marketing, the “right” data north star is an understanding of how every ad dollar is performing across all channels so we can make better decisions about where to invest next. Harnessing this kind of meaningful data is virtually impossible without the help of technology. At Rise, this tech takes the form of Connex, our media optimization platform that brings the right data together across all digital marketing channels so that our analytical marketers can spend our clients’ budgets in smarter ways.

This is what works for us, but the takeaway for any organization is this: Figure out how to use data in a new way that creates a competitive advantage. Rise is breaking down the walled gardens of Facebook, Google and others to bring data together in a way no one else can right now. How many brands have all of their digital media data at their fingertips in real time, with the ability to make decisions at a meaningful level of granularity? What does this look like for your business?

3. A proven framework. The people and the data are critical. But just as important is having a framework that teaches people how to think about the data. At Rise, this is known as the Rise Five. Five questions that Risers must be able to answer about a client account. They include:

  • What are the client’s goals?
  • What is the client’s budget?
  • How are we tracking against these goals and budget?
  • Why?
  • What are we going to do about it?


These may seem like simple questions, but all too often in marketing the “why” and “what’s next” aren’t answered. Knowing this, the first step in building Connex was to organize data in a format that allows us to quickly answer the first three questions, freeing up our time to focus on the “why” and “what’s next.”

Keep in mind a framework on its own won’t get the job done. It needs the right culture to be successful. A workplace that nurtures creativity and rewards challenging the status quo will naturally empower people to really test and explore these big questions.

Every business will find its own equation for harnessing the power of data and human capital. But in my experience, the inputs will be similar, which makes sense. Because like I said earlier, when you pair really smart, data-driven people who want to work hard with extraordinary data and systems that others don’t have, and empower them to be creative, they will do things that blow your mind.

Is your organization pairing talent and tech in a unique way? I’d like to hear about it. Feel free to connect or message me.

10/22/2020 at 08:00