How to Stop Middle Metrics From Killing You and Win Today
Account for Risk in What the Numbers Say
The value of data is limited by how many context details are known. This applies to all aspects of business, including both internal and external market conditions. A dip in leads visiting a Web page generally jolts marketing departments into action. They may try to make better lists, change the call to action or offer incentives. Obviously, the problem is somewhere in the marketing process — or is it?
If there was recently a high-profile data breach, consumers may not want to visit your site because it is not secure. Perhaps your site is not mobile friendly, or fewer people visit during the summer while they are traveling. It could be almost any factor, but the data only indicates that there is a gap. It’s up to the savvy of marketers to determine precisely what the root cause is.
Crossing the Silo Barrier Increases Data Validity
In most organizations, there are many hands performing several tasks at the same time. Remember that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, and that pulling one lever affects many others. The best balance is achieved through understanding the dynamic nature of the customer journey and setting every dial at the optimized level — not just for that dial itself, but for how it impacts the entire system.
This is where communicating across silos is key. If marketing makes a change that does not achieve the desired result, it might be due to a change that sales, finance or even human resources made simultaneously. Maybe marketing produced spectacular leads, but HR hired new sales people that were ineffective at converting them. Maybe sales commissions were changed, motivating them to close multiple low-value leads, or just a few high-value leads. Either way, marketing can’t know if the actions it took were effective without knowing what other groups are doing, and vice versa.
Don’t Let Science Overshadow Art
Data and metrics are fantastic at identifying what happened. But, ultimately they are tools that can’t effectively guide a business on their own. If they could, companies would replace their entire marketing teams with algorithms. Human beings are emotional creatures and make decisions as such. That is the reason why the best marketers are creative problem solvers with a knack for understanding what appeals to target markets. A/B testing will tell you if a red button converts at a higher rate than a green one, but only a person can try to understand why.
Henry Ford was famous for saying, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” That principle holds true today. No amount of metrics or data would have told Steve Jobs that people wanted iPhones, or Walt Disney that people wanted a sprawling amusement park in central Florida. Marketing moves so fast that often by the time you get around to fixing a problem, the game has changed so much that you have to really understand the market to know where the biggest opportunities lie. Don’t let the science of data stymie the marketing that can yield the best returns.
Middle metrics hold phenomenal potential when viewed through the correct lens and applied properly. However, they simply cannot fix problems unless they are put into the proper context. Measure everything and let data guide your course diligently, but keep perspective on the story unfolding. After all, marketing is ultimately about people. Quantify what you can while letting the big picture guide your actions.
Steve Bonnell is the Director of Digital Analytics at unified.agency. He leads web analytics and campaign optimization strategy for unified.agency clients. In addition, Steve guides digital testing programs that deliver improved performance and insights that can be applied across channels. When he isn't helping clients uncover customer insights, Steve is reviewing the latest advanced stats for his beloved Chicago White Sox and Bears.