Tag Archives: business analytics

Reading The Words, Missing The Meaning

Let’s start today thinking about a language you don’t speak. It’s very possible, assuming that it’s written using the Latin alphabet, that you could pick up a book and begin to read out loud in that strange tongue. Of course, you’d have absolutely no idea what you’re reading. You can say the words on the page but you can’t explain what they mean.

Keep that image in mind as we change the topic to data. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat with clients and gone through their analytics reports with them and the aforementioned image has popped into my head. I don’t mean that to be derogatory to the people who pay me, nor does it mean that I’m fluent in analytics and they’re not. It raises a business point that is something we all need to keep in the back of our minds as data becomes more integral with everything we do.

Here is a small example. Most of us see “direct” traffic in our analytics reports. In theory, those visitors typed in the site URL or clicked on a bookmark they set on a previous visit. That’s a partial truth. The reality is whenever a referrer is not passed, the traffic is treated as direct traffic by Google. Think that’s an unimportant bit of information? How about in the context of mobile traffic not passing referrers at all (and I bet mobile is a big and growing part of your site traffic)? The point is that it requires both the knowledge that the “direct” bucket isn’t an absolute as well as some further analysis to figure out the truth.

I’ve seen the same sort of issues crop up in attribution modeling (what source was responsible for the sale).  The groundwork for proper attribution hasn’t been laid and so the reports aren’t accurate.  Sure, any analyst can puke out the data in front of them but the good ones – the ones who can interpret the words and not just say them – will tell you why there is a problem and fix all the links you’re putting out there to accurately reflect what’s going on.

“Keith,” you say, “I’m not a data scientist.”  Neither am I.  What I can do – and you probably can too – is to ask questions, especially when someone tells you they are dead certain about what the data is saying.  Be sure they’re not just reading aloud in a language they don’t understand.  Get beyond reporting and into meaning.  It changes everything.  Agreed?

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Hitting The Bullseye

I spend a lot of my day working with clients on tech.  If it isn’t about how to implement the latest and greatest platform in other marketing efforts, it is about using the data we’ve gathered via web, social, and other business analytics to improve tactics and guide strategies.  We look at a lot of numbers and at a lot of methods with which to gather more.

One of the things I feel it’s critical for me to do is to play the role of a Cassandra of sorts – to see the future but to hope I’m believed a lot more than was the figure from mythology.  The one thing I keep “prophesying” to them is that we can stay on course and out of trouble if we keep our eyes focused on the customer.  They can’t become just aggregations of data.  They’re not just numbers.  They are the reasons why we’re in business.  They have names, faces, significant others and maybe even children.  They’re us!

Much of the ad and marketing technology today has little to do with the customer.  You might think that odd since much of it is based on getting to know the customer on a very granular level.  That’s true, except the focus is on the technology and data, not on the customer.  Thinking about social media is important but only after we’ve spent time thinking about the customer.  Are they on social platforms?  Why?  What are their expectations when they use them?  How do they want to interact with brands in that space, if at all?  Sure mobile is important but a discussion of mobile apps needs to begin with an investigation of how your consumer base behaves on that platform.  “Build it and they will come” is tech centric, not human centric.

Start with your business objectives and your consumer needs.  Move to technology and data after that.  The consumer is the bullseye, not the platform.  Thoughts?

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