Why Companies Desperately Need Marketing Pros Who Can Analyze Big Data
Using tools and skills in data analytics, online MBA students in Baylor’s Marketing Analysis course simulate real-world strategies to make smart, customer-focused decisions that deliver high ROI.
Until very recently, the impact a marketing campaign had on customer behavior was largely a guessing game. Determining the ROI was an even deeper mystery.
But that has changed with the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) software. These tools enable marketers to analyze web data and granular information on customer transactions. As a growing number of companies tap into this data, they gain a clearer picture of the buying habits and preferences of past, current and potential customers—along with a better understanding of the return on their marketing investment.
Big Opportunities in Marketing AnalyticsAnn Mirabito
The need for professionals who can analyze this data has never been greater. In Baylor’s online MBA program, students in the Marketing Analysis course simulate real-world scenarios to assess the effectiveness of a marketing program. The class is taught by long-time marketing executive Ann Mirabito, who has held management roles at Frito-Lay, Time-Life Books and the Federal Reserve Board.
“Many companies are only now developing the infrastructure to have access to customer data, so it’s a growing field,” she said. “They need people who can analyze the data but who also understand consumer behavior and marketing strategy, so that they can interpret the findings and make smart decisions. Now that we have this data, it’s feasible to calculate ROI in a way that was very difficult before.”
A Data Analysis Deep Dive
The class is one of three in the online MBA marketing concentration and satisfies the general marketing requirement. Through lectures, tutorials, simulations and real-world cases, students learn how to craft a strong go-to-market strategy. They use analytics tools to create and carry out that strategy and evaluate its effectiveness.
Students also practice a segmentation analysis, studying customers and dividing them into smaller groups based on characteristics that big data can now provide, such as behaviors, age, income, even personality. They learn how to use market research findings to make go/no-go product launch decisions. And through data, they evaluate the effectiveness of promotions—a display ad or Google search campaign, for example.
Another focus of the course is conducting a customer lifetime value analysis. The technique establishes the financial value of a customer over the length of time they purchase a company’s products or services. Far from the “gut instinct” model of old, this type of analysis provides valuable data about customer activity that tells the marketer what it can afford to spend to acquire customers and it helps guide decisions about investments in customer service and other areas.
While using data analysis to assess marketing effectiveness is at the heart of the course, most of Mirabito’s students are studying finance or operations. Becoming comfortable analyzing and interpreting data—and making decisions with an eye for the business as a whole—prepares all students to lead, she said. It breaks down department silos by, for example, enabling finance experts to understand marketing and vice versa.
“Students who’ve built their careers in finance or operations love the class because they suddenly understand what their marketing colleagues are doing,” she said. “We expect that our graduate students are going to go on to lead organizations, to help shape them. If you’re going to lead the organization, you have to be knowledgeable about all of the disciplines. This course gives non-marketers powerful insights.”
For their part, most marketing students come to her class with a tactical mindset. The course pulls them up a level to think more strategically about how to use the data to make sharp decisions.
Simulating Strategies That Work
The course wraps up with a marketing simulation. Students choose a market segment to target and then make decisions around product design, investment, sales and advertising. They run the multi-year simulation first independently and then collaborate in a small group.
“A big surprise for students is that there are multiple paths to simulation success. That’s true in the real world, too; there are multiple ways to be successful in business. Students use research and data analysis t to tweak decisions as the sim unfolds,” Mirabito said.
Students throw all their effort into the simulation exercise—a good example of how fully engaged Baylor’s online MBA students are. “They take the program seriously. They are not checking the boxes and moving on,” she said. “They are immersed in the course content and they’re very serious about learning. That philosophy sets them up for career success.”
A Network of Colleagues for Life
The online MBA format—from the curriculum to the faculty— provides a supportive atmosphere where such immersion is possible, Mirabito added.
“We are mindful of creating opportunities for students to get to know each other and their professors. An MBA is an opportunity to build a network of colleagues who will stay with you for your whole life,” she said. “My office hours feel like a house party: You can stop in, stay as long as you want, and when your questions are answered you can wave goodbye. Like a good party, the office hours always run over time because students want to stay and talk about how to apply what they’re learning to business challenges at work.”
Last summer, Mirabito invited students to meet at a Fort Worth restaurant known for its spacious patio and fantastic fajitas. It was a chance to meet in person —and further strengthen their network, she said.
“A fun, relaxed vibe—that’s what I strongly aim for, especially in office hours. Learning should be challenging and fun; otherwise, why are we doing it?”
One facet of her executive career that Mirabito enjoyed was helping her team members manage their careers. When she switched to teaching, that instinct found a natural home in her interactions with students. She and her colleagues are passionate about what they do.
“I love helping students shape their careers. I love helping them learn how to make decisions and develop frameworks that will guide them in being as effective as they can be,” she said.
Interested in finding out more about marketing analytics at Baylor University or the Online MBA program? Explore our marketing concentration and online MBA pages. Or complete the form below and one of our admissions advisers will contact you directly to help you determine the best path forward.