If you’re at all involved with managing a website, my guess is that you’re swimming in data.
With one code snippet, Google Analytics generates oodles of data from your website, all for free.
Other free services can start collecting heat maps, user surveys, and mouse tracking videos with minimal setup.
Even for the smallest businesses, the data fire-hose is on.
Let’s remember why you bother to collect this data at all. It’s because data permits you to listen to your users at scale. For marketers this user behavior data is invaluable information; you’re flying blind without it.
But listening doesn’t mean you’re paying attention.
Being data-driven doesn’t mean glancing at a few statistics and graphs that are sent to you in automated monthly reports.
You need to ask appropriate questions of your data, interrogate it, understand the context, and be conscious of its limitations. You need to be data driven not just collecting data.
What is data driven marketing?
It’s the Question that Drives Us
Staring at all your marketing data can give false comfort: “Look at all those numbers. I know everything about my website. I’m safe. I’m happy. I’m invincible.”
But simply having access to your business data won’t improve your business. You must ask the right questions to get meaningful and actionable answers.
Rather than drink from the fire-hose, pay close attention only to the metrics that actually have an impact on your business. As a rule of thumb, no more than 5. Then regularly analyse them to spot trends, and ask yourself what’s driving them.
It’s far better to closely track the metrics that matter to your business rather than gain false comfort in your all-seeing-eye. So, select the best metrics for your specific business and seek insights that will actually result in real-world impact.
Prepare to be Wrong
Sorry pal, but however good you think that you are, your opinion is just a hypothesis.
Test your hypothesis and be ready – and glad – to be proven wrong.
Don’t ossify your opinion then look for confirmation in the data. Instead, think of how your idea would show up in the data, track it, and either prove or disprove your theory.
It’s a sign of your strength, not weakness, to get things wrong and then update your opinion. Your business will improve because, as you well know, it’s only through innovation that you will grow.
Data is a tool that helps you make better business decisions. The practice of running experiments and observing the results is the path to improvement and growth, whether or not you’re right or wrong each time.
A data-driven business is one that encourages constant experimentation and bases their decisions on results not best-guesses.
Understand What Data is Telling You – And What it’s Not
Actually, data doesn’t tell you anything. It’s data. It can’t speak – you have to interpret it.
To draw valid conclusions, you must understand what’s being measured and not be seduced by the attractive graph on display. It’s very easy to become data rich but insight poor.
You need to do more than collect data and process metrics.
- Are you measuring the correct metric to validate your opinion?
- Is the data accurate?
- Is the result statistically significant?
The point to emphasise here is not to expect any single analysis to give you magic-bullet answers. You must know the context of the data and you must guard against false confidence.
We’re human, so numbers appear concrete and verifiable – even when they’re not – and numbers, therefore, seem able to simplify complex issues. This isn’t always the case.
A messy business problem is a messy business problem. Just because you’ve convinced yourself that you’ve created a valid metric or two doesn’t mean you’ve added clarity.
You might just have been overly reductive and distorted the issue.
So, what is data driven marketing?
Data driven marketing isn’t about collecting data and being satisfied that you’re tracking all the information your business could possibly need.
Data should be filtered and interpreted in order to become meaningful and actionable.
Ask questions, run experiments, and be ready to be wrong.
Your data is neutral. Just because it’s a number doesn’t make it infallible. Understand exactly what your metrics indicate, and don’t take false comfort in making decisions just because a contrived stat tells you to.
Web data is so easy to collect there’s no reason to not to. But just because you have so many data-points doesn’t mean that you’re data-driven.
Don’t be data rich and insight poor. Businesses don’t grow that way :-(