Data and Storytelling with Cassidy Shield

Episode 77 of Yes, and Marketing

What does it really mean to be data-driven?

Cassidy Shield has applied his training as an engineer, a general manager, and an operator to the world of marketing and sales, transforming a revenue team into a truly data-driven machine. As SVP of Sales and Marketing at Narrative Science, Cassidy knows better than anyone how marketers can best work with data.

In this interview, he shares how marketers can get the most out of their data as well as:

  • What not to measure
  • What marketing’s North Star metric should be
  • How you know if your organization is really data-driven
  • How to understand the story the data is telling you
  • When goals are more important than data


???? Name: Cassidy Shield

???? What he does: SVP of Sales and Marketing at Narrative Science.

????️ Find Cassidy on the web: Narrative Science | LinkedIn

???? Get smart: “If your boss asks you a question, what are you most scared that you don’t know the answer to? Those are the most important metrics.”

Top Takeaway

Start with a goal and use data to help you get there. ????

“You start with the end in mind and work backwards. Then what you want to do, from a classic operational perspective, is speed up that cycle time. Not just for big strategic decisions, but day in and day out. Build the muscle so that you’re always thinking about the end in mind and working back to the tactical things you need to get there.”

Episode Highlights

We all think about data in terms of stories.

“The story can be inaccurate, but we’re all thinking in terms of stories. That’s how we learn and understand the world.” 

How do we know when companies are data-driven?

“From a company perspective, I think it’s when you’re making decisions day in and day out, are you using data to help make those decisions or are you not?

It could be in a weekly executive leadership meeting that could be in your marketing team meeting. It could be you individually thinking about your priorities for the function that you run. Are you using data to inform those decisions or are you not? And I think unfortunately in many companies, they aren’t.”

Good marketers know more about their company’s pipeline data than anyone else.

“Now, historically, every marketer can say that they drive revenue, but no marketer is going into your CRM to prove that. They may not even have a license to Salesforce or HubSpot.

Even if they did, the reporting and capabilities and these tools are horrendous. And so what happens is you get marketers saying like I’m accountable for revenue, I’m driving revenue. They get a report once a month telling them how they’re doing, and that’s kind of just complete bullshit. In order to be effective you need to know more about how your company makes money – how your company builds pipeline – than arguably anybody else in the business.”

Don’t start with “What am I going to do about it?”

“When we look at data first we ask “What am I looking at?” Once I understand that, it’s “Why is it happening?” Then, “What’s going to happen in the future?” And finally, “What am I going to do about it?” 

A lot of tools try to start with “Here’s what you should do about it,” but they haven’t explained all the other stuff that the human mind goes through.”

Pipeline should be marketing’s North Star metric.

“I told the marketing team, I told the company at an all-hands, we’re going to measure marketing on their ability to grow the pipeline.

And obviously there’s a lot of caveats in there. Pipeline is delivering at a certain level of sales velocity, meaning you can’t just create shitty pipeline. It needs to convert, etc. But that’s been the North Star and we’ve gotten more sophisticated in our measurement of it over time.”

And that means you don’t need to measure attribution.

“We don’t do attribution and I’ll give a very simple reason why: the marketing team’s North Star is pipeline.

So we don’t need attribution to understand if marketing is doing well or not. We just look at pipeline. Is it going up? Is it going down? Is it converting to revenue? That’s what the marketing team is measured on. It’s the marketing team’s job to manage their mix in order to maximize the pipeline that they create.”

Top Quotes


“I’m a big believer in marketing driving revenue.”

“Marketing is quite possibly the single biggest lever to driving growth if done correctly.”

“This is what most organizations do: they say I’ve got a lot of data. I’m now going to look at the data and it’s going to tell me something insightful. It’s going to tell me what to do. And you know, it doesn’t.”

“One of the things that marketers have a hard time doing is breaking down how the business runs and figuring out all the things they’re doing to drive the business.”

“I’m not the greatest marketer in terms of tactics. I use data to help my team understand what they should be working on.”

Learn More

Cassidy’s best pandemic read: The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz.

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