Digital Marketing Bias: “My gut feel is the same as metrics.” or “Don’t make judgment calls, just follow the metrics.”

pexels-photoThe use of data in digital marketing can be a divisive one because the two biases are more common than a balanced view. This is a problem because a skewed perspective on how to use metrics can steer a digital marketing campaign toward trouble or miss opportunities. Effective use of metrics is a careful balance of gathering key data and making shrewd analysis on what those numbers mean.

My gut feel is the same as metrics.

Marketing data is really a required step in the digital marketing cycle and it’s rare to come across someone that simply doesn’t have metrics. What is much more common is a trainer, consultant, or professional coach that has the data but only uses it in a superficial level. This can happen in 3 ways:

  • Not available – This is uncommon but once in a while a small business will not have any metrics available and are winging their digital marketing decisions. Typically it’s not an intentional decision but a lack of time, knowledge, or budget to get marketing metrics established. Reviewing and analyzing data is really the only consistent way to improve and is worth the effort.
  • Not really used – This is often illustrated by a general grasp of high level numbers. An example would be a simple count of hits on the website. The simple tally really provides no insight into who the hits are, where they came from, or what channels are improving or deteriorating. So the “metrics” to justify decisions are really just twisted to fit the marketer’s preferences.
  • Opinion Justification – The old adage that stats can prove anything has an element of truth. Often times, data will be plucked selectively to provide evidence for a gut feel rather than reviewed to see what is really working.

Don’t make judgment calls, just follow the metrics.

The opposite view is that the data holds the secrets for every judgment call. The truth is that the data can provide clues and a basis for theories but it will never map out specifically what and how you should market to your target audience. There is always a judgment call in how to best use the insights that the data provides. This can manifest in a few ways:

  • Data over analysis – As a general rule you should not review your digital marketing data more than once a month. Those that are over-reliant on the data tend to scour it daily looking for signs on what should change. Give metrics time to compile a useful amount of actionable data rather than trying to jump ahead on a limited subset of immediate information.
  • Devotion to particular data sets – Too much reliance on data often results in “rules” that prove a particular action is necessary. This is a survival mechanism to ensure that the marketer doesn’t have to scour every piece of data to have their finger on the pulse. However, it leads to false assumptions and over-reactions to their self-defined rules. For instance, if a landing page falls below a certain visit to conversion ratio then a marketer who is over-relying on data might state that the page needs to be redesigned. The truth could be that the offer was not compelling, that a small on-page element is causing conversion friction, or one of the channels promoting the offer went to the wrong audience.

Digital marketing data is critical but won’t make an effective marketing campaign for you. Review your metrics regularly for insights and make a point to disprove some of your theories to ensure you aren’t using the data in a skewed way to justify your gut feel. Once you’ve completed your analysis step away and take action on your conclusions rather than continuing to comb the data as if you’re reading tea leaves on what will make the campaign better.

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