How to Read Your Data to Avoid Skewed Results

Mar 09 2015

From marketing to manufacturing, being “data-driven” is one of today’s hottest buzzwords. However, many businesses do not understand the full definition of what it means to truly have their business be driven by data. In an effort to make sense of complex information, businesses will dilute data results into one simple and easy to comprehend number. This simplistic approach of looking at these metrics from just one lens can cost businesses valuable insights—or worse, misinform their business strategy.

Too Much of a Good Thing Can Hurt You

There is an abundance of data available that can help businesses achieve their goals and objectives. However, businesses often focus on one metric to summarize the success of an entire campaign. This may be because executives want a snapshot of the information that quickly tells them if they are doing well or poorly. But this common misuse of data and reporting can skew results and lead to false interpretations of success.

For example, a single number can show you that your ROI for a particular campaign was less than desirable. Your reaction may be “Oh no! What a waste of time and money”. But first, take into consideration all of the variables that you did not measure:

• Did you decrease campaign spending?
• How many leads or future opportunities did the campaign generate?
• One number won’t show you your past: are we better off than yesterday? Did we make improvements over last month?

Analyzing the full picture of data is imperative to determine future project performance and revenue opportunities. Let’s take a look at misused data by a few common marketing channels:

Misused Data by Channel:

Social Media: In social media, the success of a campaign is often based on how many followers you gained during a certain time period. While followers gained may be an important metric to expand brand awareness, many businesses overlook the importance of measuring social engagement. How engaged are people with your posts? Are they clicking on your articles? Are they sharing your content? Are they commenting and letting you know you are important to them?

Website: Businesses often only measure website visits: more visits is equated to greater success, right? Wrong! More visits just means… more visits. How long are people looking at your content? Are they converting to a sale? Are they submitting their contact information? Remember, a visit with no action or a high bounce rate is almost worse than no visits.

Email: Many businesses prioritize measuring email open rates. A high open rate always means the email campaign was a success, right? Not always! Open rates may mean you have a catchy subject line that people find funny, or that a word was misspelled and people want to share your email as an example of bad email practices (embarrassing!). We need to assess whether people were interested in the offer within that email: Are they clicking on your links? Are they doing what you told them to?

With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility

In omnichannel marketing and integrated campaigns, it is important to look at all the data at the same time, to analyze how each channel, each campaign and each effort impacts other channels. Sometimes the indirect effect of a campaign would be far more potent than the direct ROI.

Data analysis is even more difficult than it seems because with great power comes great responsibility. Careless handling of data is often the cause for many failures.

Spend the time looking at the big picture. Take care of your data and how it is gathered, processed and analyzed. In the end, your data will take care of you.

Read More on How to Read Your Data to Uncover Key Insights 

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