A mid-sized store chain mined its transactional data to better empower and engage its sales associates with its best and most frequent customers. The company achieved this in 90 days from start to market. A major hardware chain built out marketing around next product modeling with criteria including most-likely-to-purchase, up-spend model propensity, customer value measurement. And a leading apparel manufacturer mapped out a three-year marketing plan, from campaign  optimization to predictive modeling, including software, analytics, reporting and new program deployments options. 

What's the connection? None of them had the analytics horsepower they needed to produce these advanced solutions for superior results. And that lack is only going to become more pronounced over the next few years as an unanswered demand for 180,000 analytics jobs will severely restrict companies trying to build analytics capabilities in-house. Moreover, businesses of all sizes don't have the capability or the time to create this resource, and often, those researching that investment change their minds after learning of the serious impact this will have on their budgets and speed to market.

There's a perception among many marketers in mid-size companies today that powerful analytic tools are out of reach and more suited to larger organizations, based on the belief that there is too much expense, training , and talent hiring to scale this capability. Not anymore.

Businesses are overcoming these barriers by accessing analytics resources with intelligent outsourcing through on-demand service providers of software tools. These service providers can bridge the gap of tech tools and analytics know-how, letting a small to mid-sized business start with basics and grow them into advanced solutions. It's faster and more effective than doing it themselves, and lot less hassle then dealing with their own limited IT staff and structure.

But businesses still need a plan to make it work. Here's how to get started:

1. First, map out a journey. Create a road-map of what you plan to accomplish over the next six to eighteen months, with milestones, check points, measurements.

2. Don't get caught up in a channel and process rabbit holes. Think bigger.

3. Cultivate a test and learn culture. This is one of the most consistent shortcomings.

4. Leverage the roadmap internally to manage expectations.

5. Test on low-value customers; it's a lower risk if it doesn't work.

6. Look for quick wins, for example, new email triggers based on lifecycle, behavioral, transaction information. Or create two to three customer segments for marketing campaigns.

7. Changing management perception is the big barrier, so plan and resource for it. Know what you are getting into, find champions. For example, address security concerns upfront and get IT support early on whether you choose to host or agree it's better to outsource. One good starting point is to create a Universal Customer ID that links to all touchpoints: loyalty, transaction, web, email, social, and mobile

Is analytics outsourcing worth it? Absolutely. There are plenty of situations where it is the most profitable decision across industries. Like when a software company moves from one-time package sales to a subscription model. Or an insurance company looking to sell complicated solutions by leveraging third-party data. Or in hospitality when the goal is to tie personalized information to every touchpoint of guests' stay at a hotel. The list is endless.

Sorting through the ever-growing streams of data flowing in from across channels is a challenge for every business looking to make intelligent, data-driven decisions.  With high-powered analytics capabilities at their fingertips, marketers can turn that intelligence into profit.