Editor’s Note: Kent Lewis is the president of digital marketing agency Anvil Media Inc. Today he joins us to continue a series of measurement related insights he has learned over a long career in marketing, to help those who are on a journey in analytics/data related fields.
I never was much for math in school, so it’s ironic that numbers are central to my career. In the past few weeks, I’ve posted the first two parts of a four-part series:
In the first two installments, I shared 10 lessons in measurement from a career in marketing and analytics. This is the next installment of the series. Please enjoy.
Further Insights From a Career in Marketing
Relational data creates context
Dealing with data all day makes Johnny a Dull Boy. Even today, I struggle to gain insights from spreadsheets. To me, they look like the cascading numbers in The Matrix. Thus, I learned two tricks early in my career:
- Visualize the data and
- Create context via relationships
While I covered data visualization in part 1, I want to touch on relational data. In the world of marketing, improvements are everything. Optimizing traffic volume, conversion rates or qualified lead value is essential. I’ve found that ratios provide more meaning over time than other KPIs, especially for trending purposes. As seen in the above image, social media link growth increased 100 percent. At the same time, comments-per-like decreased 25 percent, as it doesn’t maintain a similar growth trajectory. Make sure your metrics have some sort of anchor: ratios do this exceedingly well.
Competitive data provides motivation
While sales has been a key responsibility for most of my career, I’ve discovered three ways to get things done, especially deals. One strategy is to use secondary research and social proof as appeals to logic and safety. Another strategy is to use primary research and customer insights for a personalized and often more compelling approach. The most effective technique I’ve used - particularly with senior management - is an appeal to the ego by means of competitive benchmarking.
Everyone wants to be a winner. And when your company or clients are in second place, there is motivation to invest in marketing to gain leadership. Three free tools you can use to benchmark competitors online (at least with relative data vs. absolute) include Alexa Internet, MOZ Open Site Explorer and Google Site Speed tools.
As you can see above, Alexa provides bounce rates, daily pageviews and time-on-site metrics across most websites.
The Google site speed tool above outlines responsive design and mobile/desktop speeds, which all correlate to conversion rates, user experience and thus rankings in search results.
The image above is of the MOZ Open Explorer, which includes data on domain authority. A site is more likely to rank for desirable terms in search engines when they have a higher domain authority, as it correlates with trust. No boss wants to lose the online marketing battle, so tell them how they stack up, then give them a roadmap to reach first place.
Facts tell, stories sell
As a huge fan of Mad Men, I get the tingles every time I watch Don Draper's Kodak Carousel ad pitch. The power of the 3-minute pitch is the reality that it’s light on facts, and heavy on storyline. The Kodak Cassette is a time machine or a carousel, which has nothing to do with resolution or technology, but everything to do with family memories. I learned this the hard way working with technology companies that sold chips, printers and software: messaging was always around humdrum tech specs rather than benefits.
Data should create actionable insights
For over twenty years my team and I have put together monthly activity reports for clients. I’ve also had the opportunity to see many reports from internal corporate teams and competitors over that same period. One of the most common shortcomings I see with analytics reports is a lack of value (insights and actions).
Too many reports are demonstrations of copy-paste efficiency, indiscriminately pulling charts from Google Analytics, AdWords and social media platforms. Even third party dashboards that streamline the process create bad habits for marketers, as they make report generation too easy. Value lies in analyzing the data, identifying issues and opportunities and developing specific, actionable recommendations. At Anvil, we’ve streamlined our reports, focusing on visualization of the data, a high-level summary of activities and performance,specific actions, owners and timelines. If your reports are falling short, it’s time to revisit.
Inspect, do not expect
Although I’ve been a member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization for a decade, I’m sometimes slow to learn lessons in business. One business measurement lesson I learned the hard way was how to effectively measure my team’s performance. Early in my career as a manager, conventional wisdom (that many still swear by today) was to hire smart people and get out of the way. I got the first part right (hiring smart people), but I did not follow through to ensure they knew how to do their job and had the support they needed to be successful. Most importantly, I managed by instinct and perception, which became deadly.
Years later, my EO mentor advised me: “Inspect, do not Expect.” I immediately instituted a weekly status update, including goals for the coming week and an update on goals from the previous week. It has helped me to appreciate what my executive team can accomplish, where they need support and how often they get side-tracked by unanticipated emergencies. My only expectation nowadays is that my team will update me on a weekly basis. Inspect the rest. Related article: 3 Game-Changing Leadership Lessons.
Don't let good numbers create complacency
One of the surprising measurement lessons I’ve learned is this: success can breed complacency, and complacency creates major problems. We’ve all heard the old sayings about success going to your head. But I’m talking about a slightly different danger: if your car gets you to work reliably every day, it’s difficult to see why you’d open the hood to look for any issues, especially when you don’t see, hear or feel anything wrong. That was the challenge I faced at Anvil. We experienced five consecutive years of rapid growth. Essentially, the car we’d built kept going faster and it sounded great (at least to me). The problem was that under the hood, there was a good deal of duct tape and a few stray hamsters. By the time I figured it out, it was too late and had to completely rebuild the car while we were still on the road. I believe Johnny Cash wrote a song about this problem. Related article: 20 Lessons in 20 Years as a Marketer & Entrepreneur.
There is always a role for humans in analytics
I was interviewed by DMN about the role of humans in the world of analytics. I prepared for the interview by reading a few articles on the subject. That preparation turned into the following article: Underestimating The Human Element of Big Data Analytics. In brief, artificial intelligence combined with big data provides amazing new opportunities for all types of disciplines, including marketing. The good news is that humans still play an essential role in the machine-driven process, including knowing what questions to ask, how to structure the analysis, interpret and act on insights.
Map data analytics to your dream job
When I graduated college in the 90s, my uncle told me to stay close to the money (more on that in part 1). It took me a few years to realize that my role in measuring buying activity through analytics put me on top of the money. That insight has led others to join a booming industry which includes newer disciplines like sales and marketing automation. It also includes maturing roles like data scientist and data analyst. I recently penned an article on the roadmap to building a dream job in the field of analytics: Six steps to a fulfilling and financially-rewarding career. This article will help you understand if your unique abilities and talents are in the ballpark of analytics, and from there, you can network and identify job opportunities.
Build your own career plan dashboard
For those of you that already have a job or a general direction for your career, it may help to validate your level of happiness. I have an article for that: Take this quiz to find out if you have your Dream Job. This article provides evaluation criteria for what a great job looks and feels like, and it can help to objectively assess your situation. If you score well, congratulations! If you score lower, it’s time to rethink your job or career. Start by painting a picture of your ideal job: how it looks, how it sounds and even smells. Then map that ideal to potential employers, and network your way into that company or start your own. Reverse-engineer your career end-point back to the present by setting goals, associated timelines, actions, and execute them.
Start your journey today
The most difficult step in making a career move - especially when it comes to data measurement - is the first step. I’ve written another article that provides specifics steps for building a career in any field, but especially digital marketing.
It all starts by networking, researching, studying, applying and improving. The first step may seem like the most difficult, but it doesn’t have to be: I hope you find these twenty lessons in measurement and analytics helpful to your journey.
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