Read on to learn how to organize your marketing analytics, how to communicate what matters, and using data to grow your business.
To say we are drowning in data would be an understatement. It’s not just at work either; we now track our sleep, how much we walk, even what we eat. Data on its own isn’t harmful, but too much of anything isn’t good for us. This post will help you sort through all the noise and do something useful with your data.
Keep Your Eye on Marketing Analytics Insights
The world of marketing analytics can seem complicated, but there is a lighthouse to pierce through the data fog. Your guiding principle should be actionable insights. Your data should teach you new things and change how your team behaves. Don’t get bogged down in vanity metrics, which are interesting, but irrelevant data points.
In other words, anything that gets in the way of actionable insights is counterproductive. Having too much data, the wrong software, or incomplete reports can limit your ability to find insights.
Collecting data is easy; copy and paste a few lines of code onto your website, and you’ll be swimming in metrics. Software tools like your email provider, CRM, and social media manager will give you even more information.
The challenge isn’t a lack of data, but knowing how to make it easily digestible. Dealing with large volumes of data isn’t rocket science, though. For instance, I had a client whose executives didn’t know where to find the latest numbers from their 5-10 existing reports. Instead of building another dashboard, we created an email digest of the most critical metrics and delivered that every Monday. The CEO said this was the “best email he received all week.” These are the kinds of strategies you need to implement for your teams.
Strategy #1: Track Fewer KPIs
Let me start with a controversial statement: You’re tracking too many KPIs. Imagine your car gave you an update on every system and part while you drove. It would drive you nuts, and would be harder to know when something was critically wrong, like running low on fuel.
If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.
You have three options to reduce the number of KPIs your team interacts with regularly:
- Organize your KPIs into two categories: team-wide and campaign-specific. The team-wide KPIs may include, for example, quarterly targets, overall CAC, and new sign-ups. You need to follow these KPIs, but probably not every day.
You then have campaign-specific KPIs, which track the performance of active campaigns. This could include the latest Facebook Ads campaign, your weekly newsletter, and active SEO efforts. These are initiatives happening now, so you need to stay on top of them.
Your team can then establish how frequently they check these numbers based on their priority level. The team-wide KPIs could have a weekly frequency while the campaign-specific KPIs have a daily one. The goal is to lessen the mental burden of tracking too many KPIs.
- Analyze each KPI to ensure it’s useful for your team. The litmus test for any KPI: If a KPI goes down or up, how would it change your behavior? If the behavior change isn’t apparent, then you likely can skip it altogether.
- Start small and add complexity later. Experiment with measuring only a handful of elements for each campaign. A mentor always told me it’s better to move three things a mile than to move ten things an inch. Look for those 2–3 KPIs (team-wide or campaign-specific) where moving them a mile would produce a significant outcome.
Strategy #2: Establish a Data Meeting
Don’t assume everyone will decipher data on their own. Most people are busy and don’t want to spend hours digging through numbers hoping to find gold. Instead, you can establish a “Data Meeting” to discuss the latest insights from your data.
In this meeting, you want to discuss three things:
- Latest insights
- What they mean for your team
- Who should be responsible for them
Avoid getting into the weeds here. Start with an insight like discovering your most loyal customers all come from Wisconsin. Discuss what this means for your team and your efforts. Then, assign accountability for someone to work on this idea.
These kinds of meetings are beneficial for executives and directors. Instead of wasting time sifting through data, you can focus on converting insights into a tangible outcome.
Someone will still need to dig through the data to find relevant insights, though. This is where a data analyst comes in handy. A great data analyst isn’t just technically good; they also understand the business impact of the data trends.
Strategy #3: Provide Coaching on How To Use Numbers in Marketing Analytics
One of the most popular things I do for companies is coach how to work with numbers. It may sound like I’m teaching people basic math, but that’s not the case. There’s a great need to learn how to work with statistics and how to extract insights from reports, which could influence your decisions.
You should also provide this type of coaching to your team. You can help your team avoid making the wrong assumptions, deal with biases, and make rapid decisions. Some ideas to focus on include:
- How statistics can lie
- Sample sizes, especially around A/B testing
- Averages vs. segments
- Comparing data across multiple periods
- WDIM (What Does It Mean?)
Coaching can occur in four formats: group, individual, ad-hoc, and documentation. Group coaching is great for the basics and overviews; individual coaching is highly targeted to a person’s specific concerns; ad-hoc provides day-to-day support in real time; and documentation summarizes best practices and critical information.
Explore all four coaching modalities with your team.
Strategy #4: What Is Success?
Establish what success looks like within your team. Although most ideas won’t be home runs, small wins can add up. For example, not every A/B test will be a winner, but one out of every ten might be. These expectations make it easier for people to try new ideas without fear of failure.
If you look at other fields, you’ll realize a 10% success rate is pretty good. Take a look at these averages:
- 50% or higher is considered excellent shooting in the NBA.
- 30% (or 0.300) battering average is elite in the MLB.
- Lions are successful 25% of the time when they hunt, while polar bears are 10% and tigers 5%.
Speed is important here. It’s better to build momentum and know-how, then adjust course rather than trying to design the perfect plan. I had a client who was stuck trying to create the perfect dashboard for marketing analytics. They kept finding bugs, and so avoided a public launch. This project did not do well because they weren’t willing to accept something that was good enough, and that’s a killer.
Ensure your team has the right expectations when launching new campaigns or trying new ideas. If you’re thinking of starting an A/B testing strategy, this is the best time to reset expectations for how long it will take to see results.
Strategy #5: Get Marketing Analytics Everywhere
Let me provide a technical recommendation: Don’t think of your marketing analytics as just dashboards. Instead, aim to have your data everywhere. It should be in email digests, Slack messages, raw formats like CSV, mobile-friendly dashboards, and more.
Dashboards aren’t enough; data should come in multiple formats.
You want as many formats as possible. Reduce the effort it takes for people to look at the latest numbers, and you’ll increase the frequency in which data is utilized to make decisions.
Remember that everyone has different preferences for how to work with data. I have met executives who love running their own SQL queries, but I also know some who prefer summaries of the most relevant information. Neither approach is superior, but you do need to support both.
In a rising trend, companies now expect everyone to create their own reports or run their own SQL queries. This is not beneficial, as it fails to take into account different skill sets.
Strategy #6: WDIM
Become an expert on one of the most important questions you should ask your data: WDIM?
“WDIM” stands for “What Does It Mean?” While it’s interesting to know that most of your traffic comes from mobile devices, what exactly does this mean for your business? Should you redesign your website? Do you need to launch mobile-only campaigns? Are actual customers coming from mobile devices?
If you don’t have a clear answer to WDIM, you likely don’t have a relevant insight. Maybe it will become useful in the future, but you can table it for the moment. Use meetings and conversations to debate WDIM. Spend the bulk of your energy on this question.
Strategy #7: Change the Role of Data
I recently did a presentation titled “Why You Shouldn’t Build a Data-Driven Culture.” The topic ended up being more controversial than I thought. “Data-driven” has been the persistent theme of most conversations about data, but I believe this puts data into the wrong role.
Companies and individuals should use data to support decisions, but you should also take action without it. Everyone has faced situations where they didn’t have all the data, but still needed to make a decision. Did you wait to act until all the data arrived?
In your team, you have to balance the need to track everything with your ability to make decisions. Some people call this intuition or a gut feeling. Whatever you call it, the balance between hard facts and your experience should be cultivated and honed.
It’s not enough simply to collect data; you need to proactively think about using it to impact your campaigns and work effectively. Use any of the strategies listed above to get more value from your data.
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