[00:00:00] Matt Bailey: I literally see people cringe when I mention analytics. Over the past two years, I’ve trained dozens of brands and thousands of marketers on analytics. My analytics courses are the most in demand content I offer, and companies can’t get enough. So, what is it that makes analytics one of the most feared, yet one of the most in demand skills? Stay tuned and find out.
[00:00:36] Bumper Intro-Outro: Welcome to Endless Coffee Cup, a regular discussion of marketing news, culture, and media for our complex digital lifestyle. Join Matt Bailey as he engages in conversation to find insights beyond the latest headlines and deeper understanding for those involved in marketing. Grab a cup of coffee, have a seat, and thanks for joining.
[00:01:04] Matt Bailey: I’ve lost count of the number of social media managers who have asked me how to justify their work, or maybe more personally, their jobs. At the beginning of each analytics training, and I’ve done a few hundred virtual training sessions just over the past few years with big and small brands, but the questions about analytics are all the same and surprisingly basic, such as, “What data is important? Can I trust the data? How do I turn data into actions or insights? How can we get past basic reports and find something meaningful?”
There are three areas of analytics that are lacking. The first is organizational strategy and outcomes. Too much of a marketer’s efforts revolve around activity and not outcomes. Maybe it’s because management wants to know the immediate outcome of a campaign. Maybe because the ability to gain additional data or even long-term data is limited. Either way, the focus on outcome-based measurements and clear KPIs that provide meaningful feedback are absent.
An example of this was a recent study by the ANA on measurements that matter. Return on investment, ROI was listed as the most important KPI, which yes, I thoroughly agree with that. I was so happy to see that. However, when asked what was the most used KPI, CPM was listed as the first and most used KPI. Now, interestingly CPM was listed as the 22nd most important KPI.
Now, those were a lot of acronyms, alright? The ANA is the Association for National Advertisers. ROI, return on investment. KPI is a key performance indicator. Alright? And I’m going to nerd out here, but only to make a specific point. KPI is key performance indicator. Key, meaning it is a primary metric. Performance, this means that there is a direct correlation to outcomes. Indicator, meaning that there is something you need to see or act on based on the number. It’s the dashboard warning light on your car. It means action needs to be taken, action that could potentially save thousands of dollars, so don’t ignore it.
Now, a KPI is surrounded by context. It measures the width of the funnel. It shows where the weak spot or the strengths are that will help you maximize a campaign. It doesn’t always have a direct influence on key objectives or goals, but it measures the progress towards those goals. Now, CPM, cost per mille. And when CPM is listed as the most used KPI, that’s a big problem. It’s a big problem in marketing, and it’s a big problem that exposes an understanding or a lack of understanding of marketers about analytics.
Cost per mille is not a key performance indicator. Cost per mille is the rate of buying impressions or views. It’s a media buy. And a media buy is not a KPI. It, it’s a metric. A metric is a standalone measurement. It, it doesn’t have context. There’s no relatable measurements alongside of it. So, this is a purchasing metric. It’s how much I paid to get a certain number of views. That is not a key performance indicator.
So, yes. Thanks for bearing with me as I nerded out on that. But you see, these are so important for marketers to know. For starters, it, there’s a clear lack of understanding about terminology. Just start by asking your team about the definition of an impression or a view. Ask management their definition of impressions or views. If you’re working with an agency, ask what their official definition is. Then check to see what Facebook’s definition is.
I’m sure that you’ll find that there is no consensus of a definition, which is dangerous. It means that your organization is paying for something where there is no agreed upon definition or understanding. You see, management, when they think of an impression or view, they’re thinking of eyeballs on the page. However, Facebook, the media company that is selling views defines a view as anything that has more than zero pixels viewed for more than zero seconds. Is that the same definition you are using in your media plan if you’re buying on Facebook? It should be. That way we all have an agreed upon terminology.
The main issue is the ability to create clear performance measurements based on organizational strategy. Solid key performance indicators, targeted goals, clear measurements, both for the short-term campaigns and for long-term brand building. These activities must be defined by established measurements with the team understanding of how those measurements will be defined. They must be based on an outcome that fits the organizational strategy, otherwise you’re back to measuring marketing activity and not results.
I like to give the metaphor of walking into a library. If you don’t have a specific book in mind, all you’re doing is appreciating the architecture of the library and maybe also appreciating the amount of books before you. You’re happy to have all of that data surrounding you. Sound familiar? Or if you know what book or what information you need, use the directory, the resources to find the author or the book, where it’s located, you read it and you gain the information that you need. So, the picture is, are you using analytics to find the information you need or are you simply appreciating the amount of data and the architecture and everything around that the analytics program shows you?
This gets to the second problem of analytics and marketing, and that’s the actual analysis itself. Gaining insights from the data. I’ve been amazed at how many times a number pulled from a report is called an insight. No, the number of people who did something is not an insight. The insight is answering why. Why did those people do something? What influenced the action and is it something that you can prove? Even further, do you know how to turn that, “Why?” into, “Here’s what we should do.”
It’s not surprising, though. I mean, marketers are not taught how to analyze data tables. In my training sessions when I ask how many marketers have had formal analytics or data training, only a few raise their hands and they’re most likely not marketing majors. They’re probably imports from other departments. Marketers in the recent past and present are simply not taught how to read and evaluate data.
Now I add to this the typical corporate hamster wheel where a new hire replaces someone and they do the same things, run the same reports, they just follow in the footsteps. They open up a report, copy the data, paste it into another report and send it along. And then the next month open the same report, copy the same data, paste it into the same report and send it along. And then the next month it happens again. Unfortunately, this describes the “analytics reporting” of many companies, but that’s not analytic skill. That’s, that’s copy and paste skill.
[00:10:00] It comes down to having the skills to read and understand a data table, but also realizing that the data you need to gain an insight is not usually contained in a single table. It’s contained in multiple data tables, and you have to know which tables you need, where the data is, and how to bring that together. Using data analysis and comparative frameworks can help you isolate and identify specific activities worth investigating. But of course, you have to have a question to gain an answer. That question will guide the data you need and how you break it apart to learn the answer. This is the skill of deriving insights, the why.
And then there’s the what to do, the recommendation. And this is what senior management and stakeholders want from marketers when they give data. They want to know. “Tell me what happened, why it happened, and what we can do, what action can we take?” Unfortunately, too many marketers seem to play it safe.
Well, they either don’t know how to derive an insight or when they do get an insight, they play it safe and report the what, maybe the why, but maybe fear or the inability to articulate prevents them from actually making a recommendation because it’s dangerous. It, it puts you out there to make a solid recommendation, an opinion, based on the data you have. What’s scary is you may not have all of the data. You may not even be able to get all of the data, but you are expected to make a recommendation.
Which brings us to the third skill and that’s presenting the data. And I don’t mean the regurgitation of data tables on slides. I am absolutely amazed at how many agencies, marketers, when asked to report on a campaign simply create a 50 or 60 slide deck with data tables, charts, graphs, and data, but then offer no explanation. Again, this is attempting to show activity, being busy, and the audience of this data dump is supposed to see and understand the results?
Making a report should be a one-pager. What’s the question? What’s the answer? That’s it. If the question is, “How is the campaign doing?” then give an answer based on the campaign goals. If there are no campaign goals, well, then refer back to the first problem I talked about in this monologue.
In this area I am fascinated that marketers who live in the creative, who persuade audiences to take actions, they research, strategize, create, they design messages to appeal to audiences and call them to action. As marketers, we live in the right brain most of the time. And yet, when it comes to presenting data in the boardroom, marketers seem to go full on left brain mode and just show charts, graphs, and numbers, and expect there to be a reaction. You see, we don’t persuade our target audiences with a hundred percent logic and numbers and data. So, why do we expect this left brain data and numbers to persuade decision makers to go along with our proposals?
Presenting data has five critical areas. The first is your insight and recommendation. The second is developing a storytelling narrative for your presentation. A third is translating your recommendation into a clear financial impact. Fourth is a concise presentation and clear design principles. And the fifth, knowing your audience.
Let’s go into detail on this. First, your insight and recommendation. You have a message to bring. It’s your insight, your recommendation. What will make an impact? What have you learned and how can you better meet the objectives of the campaign and the company?
The second, storytelling. How do you develop a clear narrative of a segment, a problem, a process? What exactly is it that you’re recommending and how do you frame it into a storytelling process that engages both the right and left side of the brain and will produce empathy and action? The better your story is the more you will move the conversation into the recommendation and the less people will challenge your data.
You see, when you make the data the center of the data presentation, the only tool that people have to object to your presentation is the data itself. And so, they’ll question the validity of the data, the validity of your assumptions. When you move from the data and into a storytelling narrative, you move the focus of your recommendations and the objections.
A third is translating into a financial impact. You see, it isn’t enough to make a recommendation. And this is the issue that marketers have, especially when compared to other departments of a company. To build the reputation of marketing within a company, you have to frame what you want to do like everyone else does, financially. What is the financial impact of making a change or focusing on an audience or shifting budget or whatever? Translate your action items into financial impact statements. And in doing so, you will be presenting in the language of the decision makers.
Fourth, design. Utilize basic and simple design techniques. Strip away anything that doesn’t need to be there or that doesn’t further your narrative. Find methods to display the data in simple, understandable methods while also providing a clear comparison. Eliminate the data tables. Create new graphics that clearly communicate your point and your objective.
And finally, know your audience. You wouldn’t present to sea level the same way you would present to department managers, product managers, or others that have access to the same data. Just as you would in marketing to an audience, you market to your stakeholders, you market to the sea level. Build personas of your decision making audience. Who are they and what affects their decisions? Know how their performance is measured, because that will affect how they view your recommendations.
Build personas of your decision makers just as you would an audience and apply the presentation message to them. Eliminate acronyms, do the math for them, define concepts and explain processes and provide, finally, the economic impact and watch their faces change as you speak their language quickly, concisely.
Well, that’s number three of my seven skills that will never go out of style. I hope that you’ve been enjoying this series. If so, please let me know. Drop me a line at email@example.com or join me on the open Slack channel for the podcast Endless Coffee Cup. I look forward to our next cup of coffee together.