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How Roy Wollen Uses Data Analytics to Solve Customers' Problems

Dec 15, 2022
Faculty Spotlight featuring a Headshot of Roy Wollen

Roy Wollen, lecturer in Northwestern University Medill School’s IMC Professional Program is a marketing expert with more than 25 years of experience. He has been an in-house brand manager and worked in advertising and consumer research agencies.

His work has taught him that successful marketing begins with using data to understand the client’s needs and uses data-derived insights to drive action. Learn more here about the thoughts he shared in a workshop for the Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA).

Wollen has been president of Hansa Marketing Services since 2010. Under his leadership, Hansa serves U.S. clients, including Keurig, Wyndham, Estee Lauder and Coca-Cola with research-driven marketing activations.

He started his marketing career as a media planner at the global advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather, before moving to the brand side to work with Bloomingdale’s and Hewlett-Packard. He deepened his expertise in data-driven marketing with a 13-year stint at Experian, a multi-national leader in data analytics and consumer reporting. From there, Wollen launched his own consulting company, which was later acquired by Hansa.

To Be a Marketing Leader, First Become a Trusted Business Advisor

Roy Wollen considers himself a consultant at heart, who focuses on solving client problems using marketing technology and analytics. In a recent interview, he said “A consultant is a trusted advisor, not a pontificator. Good consultants look at data and do the research before they offer their opinions on what to do next.” Many of Wollen’s clients show appreciation for his approach by becoming guest speakers in his classes.

Guest speakers and assignments in the Marketing Metrics course he teaches at Medill emphasize the practical applications of digital analytics concepts. “My trick is to give students real datasets to study,” Wollen said. “They pretend they have to do an analysis for the CMO, so the pressure’s on. The hard part is not the analysis, the hard part is building a recommendation.”

Figuring out what questions to answer with the data–what problems your client is trying to solve–is an important first step and was a theme of the workshop Wollen gave to the Chicago AMA chapter in September 2022.

How to Make Dashboards Actionable

Every marketer has probably seen a colorful, dynamic data visualization that is beautiful…and confusing. One of the first things Wollen said in the workshop that he co-presented with Hansa’s director of business intelligence, Steve Gessling, was “Dashboards aren’t really made to be pretty.”

“Analytics is not artwork,” he continued, “Analytics is there to solve business problems.” And in the next minute, he offered three focusing questions to ask before you ever start to design a data dashboard.

  1. Who is your dashboard user?
  2. What outcomes are you trying to measure?
  3. What decisions or actions will the information in the dashboard drive?

Wollen and Gessling provided immediately useful, real-world advice on how to use analytics to drive marketing success. See their presentation in this recording of the workshop.

10 Ways to Make Dashboards Actionable

Wollen has stressed that marketers must always focus on the bottom line value of the information communicated to customers, including “internal customers” like C-suite leaders. He urges marketers to look deeper than media optimization when evaluating marketing initiatives.

“MarTech and Analytics always evolve and tempt us with pretty interfaces,” he said. “Ask yourself – ‘what problem are we solving?’ before you see the tool demo. That will provide the skepticism you need to prove that a marketing investment worked.

“With all the innovation, the change I want to see is about proving marketing effectiveness – using data, using personalization, using messaging – all boiling down to – did marketing make a difference? Do that and you’ll be a success.”

Analytics Is More Storytelling Than Math

It’s not enough to just put your data in a spreadsheet or a PowerPoint presentation. Wollen’s LinkedIn profile says, “Analytics is more storytelling than math,” and he devotes a lot of time in his Marketing Metrics course to teaching students how to effectively communicate their data-driven insights.

In the AMA workshop, Wollen and Gessling shared simple tips to help you tell your data story including chart titles, captions and annotations. For example, they showed a bar chart with the title, “What is the best timing of our emails?”

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Answer Viewers’ Questions With Your Chart

A more profound insight is to realize that you’re always looking at data in a specific context. The dashboard should answer questions about marketing outcomes without the viewer having to think about it. So, answer questions like these when you’re designing your visualization:

  • How does the information compare to the project’s goal or what was expected?
  • What’s the relevant time frame?
  • What are the units of measurement?
  • What action should the viewer take next?

Taking a Customer-Centric Approach Changed Roy Wollen’s Life

Wollen launched his accomplished marketing career with an MS in Integrated Marketing Communications from Medill. “Getting my master’s degree from Medill changed my life,” he said. “I consider myself lucky to have worked with Don Schultz who inspired me to take a scientific approach to advertising. The experiences at Medill were profound and joining the faculty years after graduation seemed like a natural fit. I believe in the IMC concept and am delighted to be a part of its future.”

Chart Your Marketing Success with Medill’s IMC Professional Program

Wollen is one of the Medill marketing experts, both practitioners and researchers, who are training tomorrow’s marketing leaders. Request a brochure or talk with an admissions advisor today to learn more about how the Medill IMC Professional Program can change your future too.