Asha Sharma shares how “democratizing” Porch’s data enables all team members to make better and faster data-driven decisions.
Last July, we had the opportunity to get to know Porch’s CMO Asha Sharma.
Now, before we close out the year, Sharma is sharing why analytics are crucial to the home improvement network’s success, and how the brand uses the “Democratization of Data” to ensure all marketing team members have access to key analytics.
Sharma says analytics and data are at the core of everything they do at Porch.
This year, the network created specifically for homeowners and home improvement professionals recently launched its very first iOS app with “Concierge,” “Pro Dial” and “Pro Search” features for homeowners. The Porch app also includes a “Booking” beta for Seattle residents, allowing homeowners to book, schedule and pay for projects.
“The new offerings open up a whole new realm for us,” said Sharma, “As we will be meticulously tracking mobile data to improve both the product and how we effectively market it to users.”
Today, Sharma tells us more about the “Democratization of Data” principle, her favorite third-party analytics tools, and predicts how future marketing teams will avoid “bottleneck” when it comes to funneling the right data to the right people.
Porch CMO Asha Sharma Shares Why Analytics Are Crucial to Driving Her Brand’s Success
- Data drives prioritization, and prioritizing the right things often manifests into success.
- Data drives operational excellence, making sure your efforts are efficient and measured.
- Data drives growth, ensuring all your investments in product and marketing are actually solving your core problems better than any other opportunities.
Amy Gesenhues: How is your marketing team structured and how do analytics fit into your department’s overall responsibilities?
Asha Sharma: Our marketing department is structured around priorities and key parts of the funnel. We want expertise, rigor, and obsession over every part of the user journey. Analytics is a core part of this and is centralized.
We strongly believe in harvesting and owning our own data in order to understand key drivers and valuable outputs to every decision we make.
Our head of analytics often talks about the “Democratization of Data,” whereby every owner should have the access and capability to intimately understand their business in order to determine the keys to accomplishing their goals.
Amy Gesenhues: Tell me more about how you “democratize” data.
Asha Sharma: For many companies, business analytics can be a bottleneck for companies, where individuals must submit request queries to get access to data to make decisions.
Much of the business teams are trained in SQL to be able to run queries and touch the data to understand the key drivers of their own efforts.
Democratizing this data – giving all areas of the business the ability to answer at least some of their own queries – frees business owners to make better, faster data-driven decisions, and keeps the analytics team focused on solving the hard problems.
Amy Gesenhues: What are the primary types of data Porch uses to determine marketing strategy?
Asha Sharma: There are many levels of data that we use throughout the business, including:
- User Experience Data. Why ask customers a question when you can see what they actually do. UX data is how customers on both the professional and homeowner side of the marketplace behave on the site and how that actually turns into something valuable.
- Home Graph Data. This is a core differentiation to Porch’s business as we are organizing all the data in and around the home. This data comes from a number of sources, private and public as well as user generated. This includes 2.8 million professionals and 121 million home projects across the U.S. We know which project happened at what home at what cost and often what it looked like.
- Derivative Data. Taking our existing user and graph data and building models on top to provide additional insights for personalization or data attributes.
- Performance Data. How are our marketing campaigns and efforts performing? Every dollar on a failed marketing test is for not if you don’t mine this data and deploy it across your knowledge base. Beyond this, we have a massive number of people who are on the phones across all of our customer facing efforts, and every interaction is an opportunity to collect more data on a person, problem or opportunity.
- Qualitative. Home improvement is still a very personal and human world. While online data is useful, it’s hard to replace just talking to people (customers and non-customers). Porch does ongoing focus groups with super users as well as aspirational customers and recently started sentiment collection across all customer interactions with customer facing teams.
Data can often be a never ending pit of information that delays action. At Porch, it serves as a judicial body that helps us make decisions and move really fast.
Amy Gesenhues: Can you give me a specific example where data has changed the way Porch markets its products or altered company messaging?
Asha Sharma: For a company like Porch, it’s crucial to get the flywheel turning on both the supply and demand side of the marketplace. You need homeowners to attract professionals and vice-versa.
In the beginning, we were very demand driven for what markets we picked to go after. Now, we let analytics and marketplace dynamics determine where we spend our efforts and how we continue to iterate.
One example is we wanted to understand how our users valued photos of home projects on our site. We wanted to understand how the quality of the photos of a project were in comparison to the relevance of the project, as in it’s location relevant to the user.
Based on the data, we found that our users preferred relevance over quality and those findings have informed many decisions on both the product and marketing sides of the business.
Amy Gesenhues: As CMO, what are your favorite analytics reports and tools?
Asha Sharma: If you have great volume, third-party testing tools like Optimzely are super light-weight and great for radically improving your business quickly without distracting your product team.
For analytics, a large majority of the team is trained on SQL so they can query their own data and move quickly.
Amy Gesenhues: What are your biggest data challenges?
Asha Sharma: We are the first in the world to organize data around the home. While data is great, understanding the true pain in a very vertically driven industry is hard.
We have 125 different categories of service professionals as well as homeowner data for the entire lifecycle of their home. It takes time to get that data together and organized in a way that’s truly valuable for users.
Amy Gesenhues: What are your predictions when it comes to analytics and what businesses will be (or should be) focusing on in 2015?
Asha Sharma: This goes back to the principle of the “Democratization of Data” from our Head of Analytics, Kiran Akkineni.
Many companies with good data-driven intentions run into trouble when funneling all data requests through small, highly leveraged, analytics teams. The teams typically become bottlenecked, and the business users can’t move as fast as they need, resulting in a lose-lose situation.
In the years ahead, Kiran believes that companies will better use technology that empowers business users to interact with data and make business decisions without relying on an analytics queue. In turn, analytics teams will be able to forge ahead and tackle truly challenging problems.
It’s taking a big step past the tools like Google Analytics, allowing people to more easily answer their own hard questions without needing extensive technical skills.
Amy Gesenhues: And what about Porch, what are you looking forward to for your brand in the coming year?
Asha Sharma: For 2015, I’m looking forward to continuing the development and fulfillment of making Porch the one true Home Network, making home maintenance as painless as possible.
We have a great opportunity in front of us and lots of big news coming for 2015 – stay tuned!