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Be Billy Beane: Why the Moneyball Story Should Inspire Marketers

September 23, 2011 Digital Media Solutions

BaseballSeptember is a great time to be a stats nerd. No sport more than baseball and no book (or movie) more than Moneyball highlights the value and, yes, thrill, behind data-driven decisions. Did I mention I was a stats nerd?

But here’s the thing. As business schools and executive trainers will attest, the object lesson that was the Oakland Athletics rise from perennial basement dwellers to a string of division champions is applicable beyond the sphere of…well…baseball.

Using expansive data, creative thinking and a willingness to question the very questions being asked, any organization can see major improvements, even if they are underdogs in a field of behemoths.

In the same way Billy Beane and his team of stats jockeys built a unique scorecard from the litany of obscure statistics attached to a player (batting average, on base percentage, walks hits per inning pitched, 40 yard sprint times), marketing has its own litany (think contact rate, pacing, scalability, cost per conversion, quality score) to draw from.

If you don’t have your own scorecard in this market, you’re a high school team stuck on the pro ball circuit.

Simply summing up the metrics to get to one score per player wasn’t enough to turn the Athletics around. And here’s where you have to take the leap yourself. Billy Beane questioned the fundamentals of his game; not in the sense of throw the ball-hit the ball-catch the ball, but by playing with his stats weighting to value different qualities of a player.

Beane concluded that on base percentage was a much better indicator of a player’s value than the tried and true batting average. He did this by repeatedly attacking the wealth of data at his fingers. Slicing, resorting, hitting dead ends, and starting again were all part of the process to come to the conclusion. He had a hunch, he checked it against the data, and then he executed.

And that may be the final piece of the puzzle. In a professional, competitive landscape there’s little room for delay. You have to choose the pinch hitter for that last ditch attempt at a comeback win for your 20th straight of the season in seconds, not hours. You need a system that can respond to your decisions as fast as you want to make them. And you have to have a methodology to help you make your decision as accurate as you can.

Data + Scorecard + System + Methodology = Competitive Advantage

So what does all this really mean to a marketer? With the right tools in place, and an openness to test assumptions based on data, you can see dramatic results.

It means that when you’re having trouble, you don’t need to be afraid to shuffle your lineup with actionable analytics that not only tell you what decision you should make but make it easy to execute it. And this extends beyond proactively tuning buying strategies. If you’re a scout out in the field recruiting prospects to pass on to the big clubs, nothing’s better than knowing exactly which team is on the lookout for a left-handed shortstop that seems to live on the bases; nothing’s better than knowing where a nerdy baseball fan who loves long analogies and is looking for his MBA would fit in.

Turns out stats, just like sports, are 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. It also leads to truly win-win situations. In fact, Beane himself refers to the revolution he inspired in baseball, as a quest for “inefficiencies in the game”.

And here’s a twist. In the online marketing space, there are actually a lot more opportunities for win-win than in baseball. This is because each brand and each inquiry generator is different; what’s a perfect match for each combination is different. You don’t have to have the budget of the Boston Red Sox to compete successfully because you don't have to hunt for the same things the other guys are!

And the best part? Giving you the tools to make these kinds of game-changing calls is exactly the reason Sparkroom technology was invented.

Now we just have to figure out how to get the A’s back into the playoffs…

About the Author

Digital Media Solutions

Founded by a team of lifelong athletes, Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. The company’s set of proprietary assets and capabilities in the world of performance marketing and marketing technology allow clients to meticulously target and acquire the right customers. DMS relentlessly pursues flawless execution for top brands within highly complex and competitive industries including mortgage, education, insurance, consumer brands, careers and automotive.

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