A great analyst once told me, ‘analytics for analytics sake doesn’t solve anything.’ And at first, I didn’t completely grasp what he was telling me until I presented my first report to a room full of stakeholders at Amazon. My 50-page report with stunning data visualizations and eye-popping trend charts only left them confused and asking more questions than I was prepared to answer. And then it all made sense to me; numbers are just numbers without actionable interpretation and context. So what if their website visits dropped over last month, no one cared that traffic from organic search was increasing and they especially did not seem fazed by the fact that their Facebook likes remained flat. I was left showing them data that didn’t directly impact their business, and the report was just a report.
The first rule in marketing/digital analytics is to think about what you want the data to tell you about your business. If you think Facebook likes translate into sales, then by all means, report on it. However, most people fall into the same trap that I did and report on everything they see in their Google Analytics or social media reporting dashboards without understanding what the data is saying and how to act on it.
Here are a few ways to avoid the trap (and not embarrass yourself in front of Amazon executives).
May seem simple, but first, ask yourself and key stakeholders in your organization a few questions: what do we want to accomplish as a business (ultimately it is to drive profit/revenue) but, dig a little deeper and consider what drives sales. Are you interested in being a thought-leader in your industry, what perception of your brand do you want your customers to have (or not have) are you interested in retaining customers, etc.
Create a Measurement Plan
Once the strategy is in place, and the tactics are defined, it’s time to think about what metrics will help you to answer the question of whether or not your efforts are helping you to reach your goals. For example, consider your website. Why does it exist? It may be to capture leads and help potential customers learn more about your brand, products, and services. These leads will turn into customers and customers turn into revenue. Thus, lead form completions and calls from your website are all metrics that you need to include in your report. We have all heard the term KPI being tossed around; it stands for key performance indicator. KPIs are simply metrics that immediately answer the question of whether or not you are hitting your goals. In the case of our example, lead form completions and calls from the website are both KPIs. The measurement plan simply aligns KPIs to tactics.
Develop a Report Outline
After you align the tactics to your goals and then determine the KPIs, it’s time to decide what your report will contain and what the data sources are for each metric. Developing an outline ensures that you are only reporting on the metrics that matter and that these metrics are meaningful to your business. The report then becomes your optimization action plan and is meant to guide you in making strategic changes to your communications plan.