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"In a nutshell, Jason created our marketing analytics capability. He was able to figure out what data we collect, where it is, what was missing, and hook it all up so we canget meaningful, actionable data. Our marketing efforts have improved leads and conversions in some cases by an order of magnitude. He knows his stuff."
Chris Foleen, Marketing Project Coordinator, TransCore, Inc.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Web Metrics Are Not Right for Everyone

In reporting, there is a constant tension between giving too much data and not giving enough.  To tell the story, we pull numbers from all over the place.  Because, as analytists, we need to know all of it, sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that everyone else needs to know all of it too.  This is simply not the case.

One of the most important functions of an analyst is to be a filter.  Knowing who needs to know what is very important.  Not everything is salient to every person.  In Stephen Few's book, he identifies this distinction by identifying different types of dashboards--executive, analyst, and operational.  Even if you are not building dashboards, it is critical to know which peices of the data puzzle to show to whom.  To this end, the most important distinction to recognize is that there is tactical information and there is strategic information.

Strategic information is what you show at a business review.  Strategic information is what you show to the VP.  Strategic information is the support for the direction you want to take.  Strategic information answers the question "I gave you $100, why did you spend it that way?"

Strategic information helps you answer the question "If I gave you another $100, where would you spend it?" 

Tactical information is how to get the most out of your $100.  

Tactical information is useful for optimizing a campaign, not the justification for creating a campaign.  Weekly performance reviews are full of tactical information.  This is where web metrics is strongest.

Web metrics are almost always tactical metrics.  

Click through rate has no strategic value, but it is tremendously useful for optimizing a campaign.

Time on site is only a means to an end.

Ranking #1 in Google may drive traffic, but won't guarantee sales.

These are the metrics that often get confused for strategic information.  Then they get reported up the food chain.  Next thing you know, the VP is editing ad text and dictating landing page design.  This is not a good situation!  These situations can be helped by realizing who needs to know what.  Let's admit it--senior managers can get a bit control-freaky.  There is nothing most MBAs like better than to sink their teeth into a big bite of data and figure it out.  Because of the amount and complexity of tactical data, this stuff is like a big juicy peach to them.  If you show it, they will grab on with both hands.

Analysts must have a backbone
This brings me to my last critical function for an analyst.  Analysts must have a backbone.  I have sat through too many meetings (and have occasionally been guilty of this myself) where someone is called on to present some findings and they show a whole stack of charts and tables, disescting the information from all sorts of views.  It is all very confusing, so a senior person makes some requests of what to see next time.  This sends the analyst off to do more research and at the next meeting they are back with a whole stack of different slides that are all very confusing.  So a senior person makes more requests, and it goes around and around.  This kind of tail chasing can be stopped by the analyst, if they only had some backbone.

Here is what backbone gets you:
  • A concise story to tell that is not full of tangental information--decide what is important and leave the rest out.
  • Meetings that are on time and fulfilling--cut down on confusion and cut down on questions and cut down on time.
  • More room to do your work--if you present with confidence and knowledge, you gain respect and people don't muddle around in your stuff as much.

If you have backbone and you understand the difference between tactical and strategic information, your job as an analyst will get a lot easier.