Are you sitting in the same weekly metrics meeting staring at your data, or are you using it?
The real point of collecting data is, obviously, applying it. But this often does not happen, with marketing data in particular. The people who are leading the way making data-driven marketing decisions are either in large organizations who have invested in methodologies and toolsets, or are ‘growth hackers’ who have no choice.
This is because the tools available to the average multidisciplinary marketer are difficult to make sense of. Tools dashboards and platforms are data-fragmented and immature. By trying to be comprehensive, analytics vendors have made applying the data they generate difficult. Dashboards are too complex or ‘ignorant’: they don’t prioritize or connect data points so that action *can* be taken.
And complexity is the enemy of action; in environments where multiple platforms generate different data sets that essentially compete for attention, data can’t just support decisions, it must also *identify* decisions that need to be made. This inhibits and slows action. Without a specific outcome focus it is almost impossible to act. Outcome focus means getting rid of data distractions and getting tunnel vision. Data is highly distracting and can lull us into dashboard hypnosis or analysis paralysis; the most useless data can be mesmerizing and so interesting you can almost be convinced there’s a way to apply it. There isn’t. Like any strategy, marketing data strategy is about what NOT to do.
And there is much measured today that does not need to be. I love Twitter, but does anyone need a Twitter impressions metric? What action can you take once you know it? What affects it going up or down? If you can’t influence an outcome or take action from data, then it’s just data masturbation. (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it won’t help you improve your programs.) Always ask yourself: why am I looking at this number? What am I going to do with it? And if there is no good answer, stop collecting it. Tunnel vision when it comes to managing marketing programs is not a bad thing, and there’s a reason why racehorses wear blinders.
These 5 steps are goal-oriented but tactical and can get any program past the initial hurdles of going from observation to action underway. They can also roll up into an overall benchmark and performance dashboard, but don’t need to start that way. Also, this is an approach that doesn’t require an actuarial degree; the stats are subject to the goals and not the other way around. The focus makes the variables and outcomes clear, especially since you’ve set up the subsequent actions up front.
1. Set 3 goals you want to achieve, why they matter, and define the time period you want to achieve them in. (“more leads from Twitter” “10% more email addresses in three months” or “know what 5 categories of our content get the shares leading to visits”) – it will work best if these are testable in a short time frame and without a lot of complexity to start.
2. Establish the metrics that you’ll need to understand to see if you’re meeting your goals. (This should be relatively simple to do; if it’s not, you may need to look at your goals again)
3. Define the data you need to capture to get the metrics. Do you have all the tools in place to gather this now? If not are there manual workarounds you can use until your requirements are defined?)
4. Establish the action(s) you will take and when (if scenario a happens we will b. If scenario d happens, we will c).
5. Run your tests, and presto, you have actionable data- and actions to take!
Then try a new set of goals. Avoid data scope creep and get you and your organization hooked on the metrics that will help you get better. Seeing actionable data can be addictive. A healthy addiction – one that might even make you a better marketer.
Photo via Flickr, Creative Commons