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Paralysis by data analysis, and how to avoid it

Data is playing an increasingly important role, to the point where it’s unimaginable to think of a marketing effort that was conceived without data. However, while the availability of data is one of the best things to happen in marketing, it does present some challenges – paralysis by data analysis being one of them. Here are some reasons why paralysis occurs and what can be done to avoid it.

Marketers are not data experts

The sheer amount of data that is available to marketers is overwhelming. Not only is it overwhelming, but often difficult to interpret as well. Sure, if you are a data scientist, you might be able to connect all the dots, but marketers are not data experts.

Not every piece of customer data is useful

Marketing teams are under a lot of pressure to collect and use every bit of customer data, but not all data is useful, so they spend a lot of time sorting and cleaning it.  

Everyone caught the ‘data bug’

No one wants to be left behind, so even business leaders with limited data knowledge and resources are pushing for data-driven decisions. For example, asking your marketing team to go through years of poorly managed google analytics data will create paralysis. 

Data visualization takes time and expertise

Having data is great, but taking data and visualizing it for decision makers is when it becomes more useful. There are college degrees dedicated to Data Visualization, so expecting your marketing team to quickly learn how to generate statistical graphics, plots and information graphics is unrealistic. 

What can you do to avoid paralysis by data analysis?

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help when dealing with complex and disjointed data
  • Separating truly useful data from all the other data is extremely time-consuming. Be realistic with what you can and cannot do. If you’re a small business with a marketing team of one, you should probably not spend all your time analyzing data
  • Hiring experts can save you time and money. Most experts are very good at what they do, so while their salary or hourly rate is high, they can analyze and interoperate poorly structured data a lot quicker than you can


Marketers will continue to be under pressure to use all customer data – which is growing exponentially with more and more devices tracking data. Over time artificial intelligence will make interpreting data easier, but in the meantime, focus on data you can interpret. Finally, know when to stop analyzing data. There is always a point where benefits gained is less than the amount of money/energy invested.

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