Why Data Matters and Tips on How to Use it to Your Advantage
Where there is one ant, there are thousands. Follow them and they’ll lead you to their colony, the hub of all their activity. Tracking marketing data is similar. You begin by following one number, and then you discover there’s so much out there. The sheer volume may seem overwhelming. But put in a little effort, and all that data can lead you to a very busy place, full of exciting information – and better chance for success. Here are some tips for putting your marketing numbers in perspective.
Data – in this case, marketing data, analytics, and information – is everywhere. Consider these examples: 1,149 page views; a 37-percent increase in ”Likes”; a 23 percent open rate; 480 followers. The list goes on and on. You can measure so much information, and so many aspects of endless tactics, yet you may find you’re no closer to taking any action based on the numbers you’ve studied because, in reality, they tell you very little. With so much marketing data to sift through, you may end up asking yourself questions like: ”Why bother?” ”What does it all mean, anyway?” ”Are we establishing our own bar?” ”Are there standards?” ”Who really cares?”
Clients have asked me all of these questions, usually when I bring to their attention the detailed metrics of their marketing program or tactics. Many clients analyze data and information on other areas of their business to the point of exhaustion, but with marketing, it all seems to be different. Many would never take the time to ask me about marketing analytics, or the numbers behind what we are doing, if I didn’t bring the detail to them. The thousands of other to-dos and urgent items on their desks already take up most of their time, and the endless marketing data is another language that only seems to drag them down. One individual questioning its value wondered, ”Isn’t it like telling a child the number of miles to the moon, stars, and planets? It just ends up meaning ‘far away’ to them.”
In truth, it is what you do with the data that counts – and I encourage you to take a moment and see what the numbers are telling you. As a starting point, focus on the metrics that are most valuable to your marketing plan, its budget, and effort. Measuring has a lot of meaning. Initially, when you’re starting from nothing, it sets the bar. Before you looked at any numbers, you didn’t know where you were; with the first bits of data, though, you’ve got a better idea of your position on the field. Over time, the data may demonstrate a pattern that you can glean more information from – meaningful information. You can track how you’ve done and determine where you want to go. With better information, you can appropriate funds accordingly. Your spending gets smarter. You can decide to direct more resources (time and energy, as well as actually dollars) to one tactic and less to another. Why? Because the data, once interpreted, points you in a more definitive direction. That is a much better reason for taking a particular action than simply saying, ”It feels right.” Go deeper. For instance, with your website, where are viewers concentrating their attention when they visit your website? How many visitors were there? How long are they there? What does your audience react to most? On what pages do they focus their attention? Do you have any idea why this might be? Analyze the details, and you will have helpful information.
Be specific. What information are you looking for in the data? Chances are you will be able to gather precise details over time, enabling you to make strategic marketing decisions versus fingertip-to-the-wind decisions. Smarter decisions lead to better success and can lead to spending money, using resources, and utilizing staff more efficiently. Obviously, not everything can be measured. But with those things that can, use the detail to your advantage. Where there is one ant, there is a colony – a highly sophisticated, interconnected sub terrain. The same is true with marketing data. You just have to locate the colony. Need help? Your service providers should provide you with reports and summaries as part of their service delivery program. Ask them to help you interpret the data. Remember to assess the tactics collectively across your plan, too, because they should integrate with and build on one another. Marketing research firms can provide further detailed analysis depending on the campaign, tactic, or need – there are many firms for every aspect of the marketing and sales funnel with extremely sophisticated research behind their products and deliverables. In most instances, the layers of data can be as granular as you need them to be. Strategic perspective is always important. Your executive viewpoint is vital to the process. So, where are the ants leading you?