Analytics: The New Normal

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Recently, I had a conversation with a client about adopting the habit of regularly tracking their analytics, to see what level of traction their messages have. They’ve begun to do so regularly, but they’ve arrived at a concern about a drop-off in audience engagement from one week to the next. I told them not to be:

Them: “Soooooo are you saying don’t worry about (analytics) and wait until the end of the year when we can see the impact over a period of time?”
Me: “Is there ever a simple answer? … Yes.”

The long answer …

Performance analysis has to have perspective:

Translation: Don’t work out in the mirror!

“(Analysis) is the new normal—everything can be tracked. In the process, though, we can’t ask (ourselves) “Am I improving?” every ten minutes because we’re not giving enough time to let an individual strategy become a part of a strategic process. But after giving something a certain amount of time, we can begin to know the ROI on effort or at least feel comfortable we’re not just shooting in the dark.

I’ve become a bit of a Strava hound: I use a GPS-tracker to track my (cycling) and over the course of about two years, now, I can see the long-term trend of improved cycling. On a week-to-week basis, it’s difficult to see–much less know–when to rest, lose some weight or something or compare historical data of how often I rode this time last year, etc. To bore you enough with all that, it’s intriguing how data can help us, as a society, understand trends in performance and how that can lead to better performance over time by reducing waste and improving outcomes.”

If one is focused on continuously improving methods and messages, the blips on the radar, that need improving become challenges that can be met and trained to overcome, not feared. I just read an article in the New Yorker that discussed the issue of continuous improvement by focusing on relating to one’s data. In it, James Surowiecki mentions the Japanese term, “kaizen” The article continues: “In a kaizen world, skill is not a static, fixed quality but the subject of ceaseless labor.”

While analysis may be the new normal, unprocessed data isn’t very good at helping in the short term. If one works out for ten minutes and then wonder “Am I better than I was twenty minutes ago?” he or she runs the risk of driving him or herself crazy, throwing the prospects of a solid feedback loop into a frenzy of checking your form in the proverbial mirror after each push-up.

In the short term, yes, put out the fire do what needs to get done to get through. But long term: focus on honing and perfecting that message, using data to understand your audience and connect with them.


Reaction To “Technology Wars” Article

In April, I wrote an article inspired by my frustration that my Apple iOS calendar and my Google Calendar don’t work together. These are two mainstream technologies which, to a large extent, try to pretend the other doesn’t exist. Case in point: Apple’s attempt to build its own map, which has been reported has not been working out swimmingly.

The NYT has published an article which lays bare the patent minefield, in-fighting, lawsuits and the total warfare going on between may of the top technology companies and the shockwaves it creates throughout the industry. The articles balance, defending patent-holders, while acknowledging the frustration of others seeking a foothold in the patent landscape should be noted.

While there’s no one that can/should be blamed, does such a landscape cast a pall over the ability for competing technologies to just “get along”?

Banning of Robocalls a good move to permission marketing.

August 28, 2009 – NPR’s Morning Edition reported that the FTC has recently banned most automated telephone calls today in a story listed on the NPR website. This is good news whose time has been coming for a while.

From the NPR website: “Government regulators issued a new rules Thursday banning telemarketers from sending out prerecorded phone marketing pitches. As of next Tuesday, robocallers face up to $16,000 in fines, unless they have your written permission do so. There are several exceptions including calls that prorvide airline flight information.” (More online)

It’s time that marketers of all stripes realize that they should put some thought and strategy behind marketing messages to people. Whether it’s the duplicate catalogs or unwanted email, the technology is in place to tailor our messages to inform, remind and not anger folks when we need to communicate a product or service. But the “robo-call” people have sent it over the edge leading to a contraction of the service. And good thing.

These messages are sometimes misleading and take advantage of people’s time and patience by plying messages when one might otherwise be relaxing. One thing marketers should know is that people aren’t sitting around wondering about health care options when they’re interrupted at the dinner table. That’s why a real person asking permission for your time is the time-honored and effective way to communicate with a person. We live in an on-demand world, where marketers are best served by making their message available in an “on-demand” format.

The same message vilified by many, may be welcome to others if the prospect can get it when they want. That’s why building rapport with clients (whether you speak to them face-to-face or not) is so vital today as it ever was. We can create and promote systems that allow “easy-in, easy-out” systems, that allows folks to get the information they need, when they need it. And let this be a lesson to the increasingly out-of-work robo-call marketer.

Question on LinkedIn: Are Brochures Still Worth Spending Time and Money On?

Brochures definitely have use, but that use has changed and understanding the change is key to properly using your budget. Once a client asked me this and I told them to “analyze their budget”. 10 years ago, a client would produce an annual report, overprint it like crazy, send it to a bloated mailing list that consisted of anybody who played any role whatsoever in their company. The waste was costly and not really sustainable. I mean, only analysts read the entire annual report. Take the part for us humans (summary, what we’ve been doing, etc.) and turn it into a brochure of half the length and a quarter the costs or put the reportage online. The best web strategy often has a confluence of the web and print. When the television reached critical mass, it didn’t eliminate, it changed the way radio was utilized in the household. Radio at the time was used for all types of programming but the advent of television made certain types of radio more useful than television by comparison. Similar with brochures. Brochures are useful but in particular in ways that the web or tv aren’t. For instance, running fine print on the web or tv makes the advertiser look like a scammer because the type is so small or on tv for so little time the inference is that it’s not there to read. We can’t curl up with the internet the same way. Brochures are of course still very portable and when done well can appeal to have a keepsake quality to its audience (like House Industries or VEER direct mail). Bottom line is each tool is the delivery of a message, not a strategy by itself. And it takes using them sometimes together to answer your individual needs.