We live in an age where almost limitless data is available at our fingertips. But is all that data helping us? I was working through my Google Analytics certification program awhile back and something that really stuck with me was Google’s repeated exhortation that the only data that is important to you is the data that helps you measure what you need to measure.
A Measurement Plan
Whether it is sales data, donor data, social data, marketing data, or web data, what makes it important is how it helps you measure. A measurement plan is supposed to begin with your goals, strategies, and tactics for execution. Then you examine what benchmarks will tell you if your goals are being met. After that you determine how you can configure your analytics systems to best measure those benchmarks. And only after all that is done do you begin to collect and review data.
And what data is collected and reviewed? Only what you have decided and planned to review in order to measure your success. If you work in this order then analytics can become a focused and useful tool, not just something that makes your tool box heavier and wearies you as you carry it around.
The “Deep Dive”
Investing time into analytics is not always a good sign. Occasionally I hear about people taking deep dives into “the data” looking for nuggets of insight. That is sometimes fruitful, but it may speak to the fact that a measurement plan was not properly created from the beginning.
If the right front end work was done then the data you need has already been identified and an easy way to access it has been created. Gathering and reviewing all of the data you need should be relatively quick and easy.
Find Your KPIs First
Some campaigns should have never made it out of the planning stage because no reliable way to identify or measure key performance indicators was ever identified. If you don’t know what success looks like and you don’t know how to measure it, then stop the train, backup, and get that figured out!
I have never seen a campaign succeed that employed a “we will just know if it works” measurement strategy. But I have seen people sink countless hours into trying to find a way to measure success after the train has left the station.
“Just Because” Analytics
Another pitfall is trying to measure everything. Just because analytics are available does not make them helpful. Often extraneous data distracts from what is important.
The two steps you need to take to get the analytics you need and to use them effectively are:
1) Decide what is important for you to measure before you start
2) Focus on measuring what is important after you start
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