Set goals, come up with a plan, execute and review. The supposed secret to success is pretty straight forward. Without goals and a plan, actions tend to be sporadic and unfocused. Without execution of the plan, progress isn’t made towards the goal (at least not efficiently). Without reviewing progress, it’s difficult to understand where you are in your progression and what, if any, adjustments to the plan need to be made. But what if you’re measuring the wrong thing?
Goals and the Analytics Delusion
In my previous role, I worked as a digital strategist for a local marketing agency. The main function of my role was to analyze the digital campaigns of our clients and identify areas of improvement. It was during this time that I began to stumble onto what I referred to as the “analytics delusion”.
Our clients, mainly in the automotive industry, had been conditioned through years of sales pitches to believe that the only thing that mattered was the number of conversions (form fills and tracked phone calls) achieved in a given month. They had a set goal that they believed was the sole indicator of success. Because of this, the information in between the journey from awareness to conversion mattered very little. That is, until the form fills started slowing down.
The problem? A goal was set, but none of the contributing factors were considered. This was particularly interesting to me, especially considering that we had robust reports that covered everything from reach, to traffic, website interaction and beyond. These metrics, pieced together, told a pretty compelling story.
The contributor? We only did a good, not great, job of explaining the journey and why all of the contributing metrics mattered.
The solution? We began having deeper conversations with our clients on calls. We started teaching them about smart analysis to help them understand why the details mattered.
Learning to Ask “Why”: Smarter Analysis for Smarter Goals
Smart analysis occurs when an overall goal is set and variables are identified and measured. If you’re wondering, how do I identify the variables, start by asking why. In the case of our clients, I started from the beginning.
I knew that in order for conversions to be possible, we must first have traffic. In order for us to get traffic, we must first have reach. Therefore I must first analyze the mediums that we are working with (depending on the services our clients are utilizing through us) to determine if we’re getting traffic and how that compares to other time frames.
- If we’re getting traffic from paid search, where is it coming from and are there any timeline trends I can identify? Why?
- Are there any ads that are performing better than others? Why?
- Are people getting to the valuable areas of our site (vehicle pages)? Why or why not?
- Are people spending more than a few minutes on our site? Why?
- Are we getting conversions? Why or why not?
- Are the conversions valuable or for purposes other than selling vehicles? Why?
After performing years of this type of analysis, I came to some conclusons:
- Conversions are merely another number. We may get phone calls but it’s more likely going to be for service or parts. This makes sense as we’re talking about the difference between a $50 part and a $50,000 vehicle purchase.
- Vehicle page views (or VDPs for the auto marketers out there) are a bigger indicator of interest than traffic, time on site, number of page views, etc.
- All reach isn’t created equal. There are large differences between awareness (display, social media, and even some search (both paid and organic)) and intentional search. But both are important.
- Seasonality and purchase stages are both very real factors. Summer months generally perform better than winter. Oh and it’s pretty hard to get someone to buy something if they don’t want it. It is rather easy to turn them off though.
So What’s the Point?
Though I used a digital marketing reference, the same is true about all analytics. Whether you’re measuring your sales figures or production output, you may have a goal to measure, but you need to identify the other contributing factors. Keep in mind that there will be both internal and external instances. Some of these you have no control over, some you do…focus on the latter.
Start with your goal. Whether you’re hitting it or not, you can always ask “why”. That’s a good starting point. As you continue to expand upon your findings, be sure to document the metrics along the way that you can measure (and note those that you can’t) so that you can get a better pulse on the day to day operations. And of course, optimize.