Marketing can seem confusing. There are lots of numbers and nobody understands them all. Usually, the people who are most confused about relevance are those who bring those numbers to you. Not because they’re incompetent. But because their heads are in the numbers. It’s your job to keep things simple and know what to focus on. Let’s talk about how not to get ahead of yourself, keep everything in front of you and deal with things one at a time.
Make them Explain It
Like most things, we get confused when we don’t understand first principles.
- Add 1+1 before learning to add 11+11.
- Learning assumptions before moving on to the argument.
- Learning the simplest business analytic — income — before delving into all the variables.
Just like anything in business, web/marketing analytics can be powerful, but only if you keep it simple and tied to your business goals.
Note: I’m not telling you to be mean about it. Analytics is a lot of work. It’s easy to get caught up in the details. You’ll often hear analysts obsessing over a number, and when you ask why it matters, they suddenly realize that it doesn’t. That’s okay. It’s why you need each other. They won’t always be focused on the big picture because they’re obsessing over the small picture. And you should want that. So as important as it is to ask good questions, have a little patience. Because their job description is to literally be “in the weeds.”
Here’s how to work with analytics. If, at any point, you can’t answer these questions, stop and go back to the last thing you understood and begin from there.
1) Why do we want this number to change?
So an analyst comes to you telling you “bounce rate has increased 5% since last month.” Your question should be…
- Is that significant? At what point should we do something about it?
- How is it measured?
- What will happen if we improve this number?
2) What do we think the cause is?
Once you understand why you care about the number, ask them…
- On our website, what could be causing this?
- What makes us think that’s the cause?
3) What do we do about it?
The final question — the moment of truth — is when you ask them what you should do about it, and what the cost would be. At this point, something that seemed important doesn’t seem all that crucial when you find out you have to stop doing other things (opportunity cost) and spend more money to get it fixed.
“Explain it to me like I’m a 6th grader.”
If you’re not sure you understand what they’re telling you, don’t follow them to the next step of their argument. You’re the one who’s keeping the whole team tethered to the big picture — the “bottom line” or whatever you consider your main goal. If you lose — even for a second, your grasp on clear truth, the whole team can be diverted from the path to success.
Confession: I’ve failed in this before. I wanted to seem sophisticated like I understood all the things they’re talking about (even though none of us understood that nonsense). So I allowed them to build a case on a factually/logically weak foundation, but that evoked emotion. Why did it work for a while? Because I followed them down a path without questioning the next step.
Never follow someone down a path unless you have a firm grasp of the part of the path you’re currently standing on.
Put another way, if someone makes an argument, make sure you understand the assumptions they’re making so you can question them.
Don’t Apologize for Making Analytics Work
Analytics is the truth behind the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Analytics ties activities to income. It helps you draw a line between your strategy and your results.
For it to work best, you need a team. You need smart people who understand analytics, and you need an analytics novice to keep things as simple as possible. If you can start simply and make analytics answer your business questions, you will be able to understand how much money it takes to generate a lead.
And it starts by asking simple, direct questions.