We’re taught to look at analytics wrong. We think we need to be able to drink from a firehose and still make confident decisions about what to do with the analytics we’re shown. So how do you use your team to tame analytics and actually move the marketing needle?
Know what I appreciate most about our analytics guy? He’s always asking what the goals are of the site. He wants to know what we’re trying to do so he can measure against that. And here at Resound, we have a philosophy that strategy and analytics are bookends. You start with strategy and determine how you’ll measure. If the measurement proves the strategy, great. If it doesn’t, what do we need to adjust?
Why Your Team is Missing the Mark
But too often, the smart, capable specialists you’re trusting don’t quite understand what you need to accomplish. They might understand it in a general sense, but you need to help them fine tune it. And it’s a process that spans many conversations.
On the other hand, you might have a less-ingenuous specialist who doesn’t have your interests in mind. Ever have a car salesman try to talk to you about payments and try to get you to ignore the price of the car or the length of the loan? How much is the car? What’s my interest rate? That’s because they know they can make money if they get you focused on loving the car and how much you can afford per month.
It’s the same in marketing. That’s why metrics matter. If you know your metric — what you should focus on — you can know where all questions should lead. You aren’t left wondering what you’re talking about. Instead, you’re keeping everyone on track by asking one question: how does what you’re talking about lead us to this one number?
Define and Hit the Mark
No matter which contractor/specialist you’re talking to, there’s still one test. And that’s “how will this metric matter?” Keep in mind that you’ll need to work to bridge the gap between them and you. But here’s a process that will both help you sniff out people who aren’t helping you make money and help the good ones to share your common goal with you.
At Resound, we’re an agency that specializes in aligning everyone around a brand, so let’s use an agency as an example.
1: Verbalize Your Goals
Tell them your goals. But don’t be satisfied with head nods. Make sure they understand them. Make sure they’re asking questions about them. how knows, they may notice a lack of alignment between your goals and your budget or timeline. Or even your stated mission or values. If that’s the case, they’re helping you to think things through.
Note: if you fill a strategic role in your company, and you hire smart people, they very often have nuggets of strategic insight you can use. That is, if you’re willing to share your goals and why they’re important. To fail to take advantage of smart people because they don’t carry the title of “director” is wasteful and maybe arrogant.
So tell your agency what you want them to help you do and how it connects with the larger goals of the brand. If you want sales, then talk about the thing that marketing can do to tie into sales and lead to sales. That could be people filling out a “contact us” form.
In any case, make sure your goals are clear to the team and that the plan is vetted and well-understood by your team.
2: View Results Regularly
It’s said that, if it’s not measured, it can’t be managed. I would add that, if measurement isn’t plugged into the culture of your team, then you’re not effectively measuring.
But if you can keep focused on a few important numbers, the team will start to understand those numbers. They’ll start getting comfortable with those numbers and understanding what contributes and moves them. And that’s what you want.
Go for depth in the important numbers rather than breadth of many different numbers.
And the meetings must be regular and focused. And don’t be afraid to ask them to change the report’s structure if you think it might bring more focus to the numbers you’re really interested in. And if they don’t do custom reports, you may have outgrown your team in this area.
3: Get Their Advice
Remember, these people are specialists. If they don’t know more than you in this area, you need to find someone who does. And if they do know more than you, put them to work.
Failing to fully use the advice given to you by experts and specialists that you pay to run and understand analytics is wasteful. Better to stop paying for it than to pay for it and let it become white noise. Everyone can use that meeting time for something else.
And consider this: if it has to be your idea, you have to carry all of the weight. But if it’s their idea, and you’re the first follower, not only are you building way more momentum behind an improvement, but you have someone else who understands how to implement it (read: you’re not giving yourself more work).
Ask them for advice on how to move your number. They should be able to tell you what to try next. Remember, it’s usually medium or message: medium is how you’re trying to reach them. The message is what you’re telling them that should make them want to buy. More on that later.
4: Understand the Effect of Taking Their Advice
Now we just need to find out how to take their advice.
Reports that lead to speculation without action is like paying a plumber to come out and reassess the same problem every month and never actually digging in to fix the problem.
- How much to execute? We need to know how much we’re on the hook for to implement this new feature or function.
- What effect should we see? We need to know what numbers should change, by about how much, and when we should expect it.
- Is it worth it? Once we have those numbers, we should be able to determine if it’s worth the change.
For instance, if they want to create a new landing page that they expect to improve leads by 10/mo., you should be plugging that into a financial model. Something as simple as a break-even analysis:
- Break even point = cost to implement / value of a lead * number of leads
- = $2,500 (to build and implement the lander) / $1,000 * 10
- = $2,500 / $100 * 10.
- = $2,500 / $1000 = 2.5 months
So make sure they explain how their advice is going to work. Especially if it costs you money. Ask them how they’ll measure that exact thing they’re suggesting.
Alignment Takes Time
My department chair at the University of Oregon used to say “If it were easy, anyone could do it.” It’s the same with building your team. It’s not possible for them to give you results overnight. Often, it takes months to be able to move the needle on something like SEO…even longer for branding. But every conversation you have with them should feel like you’re making new mistakes — not the same old ones — and that you’re making forward progress.
Trustworthy specialists are hard to find. But the biggest help you can give them is by being clear and communicative in the process, making them intimately aware of your goal and how they can help you achieve it.