Pretty Graphs – Is that all Marketers Really want from Data?

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.



First off, if you are in the UK and reading this get over the spelling of visualize in the title (it’s gonna keep happening) and that I just quoted Sir Churchill.

So, I just came across a nice visualization tool called Whatagraph that instantly creates a lovely infographic based off of your Google Analytics data. It worked really well, in the sense that it does what it says on the tin.

This post isn’t about Whatagraph however, but rather what-it-represents (well, to me at least). To put things into context, I work as a digital measurement consultant. Day in day out I bang on about creating measurement plans, and having a measurement strategy to go along with your marketing, communications and content plans. I’m not alone in this field (surprised? my 16 year old self is surprised too), in fact there are many other experts that try to help others actually use data from marketing and communications channels to make expensive decisions.

So naturally my first instinct was a bit of “great… all this hard work and effort in understanding what a business is trying to do and using data to prove if they are doing it right, and all marketers really want is a pretty infographic”.

Is this the case? Are all the RFPs for enterprise analytics vendors just for show? Are all the attendances at conferences with topics like “Contextual Personalization is key to your Marketing Success!” and “Big Data is the Holy Grail for the Modern Marketer” really just an excuse to not be at your desk for a day?

According to a survey by Econsultancy, data-driven marketing that focuses on the individual is one of the top most exciting opportunities for companies right now and in the next 5 years.

Graph showing most exciting opportunities for marketers in the next 5 years
Econsultancy QDIB 2016 Digital Trends – p9


But still, just because about a fifth of respondents to this survey say it’s exciting, do they really mean it or is it just one of those expected knee-jerk reactions like when someone asks you “how are you doing” and you say fine even though you’re having a crap day.

Of course it’s easy to say it’s an exciting opportunity, because that’s what all the experts are telling you that you should be saying. Also, all your competitors are doing it… right?

I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of digital marketers that do in fact make use of data in their decision making process. I have however, over the past 5 years as a consultant to companies from under 100 employees to global behemoths with over 100,000 employees, seen that there is a lot more lip service paid to analytics than actual boots on the ground.


No one cares meme

Nobody Cares because there is No Urgency to Care

Another nice little morsel of data from the Econsultancy survey was the priority that companies say they are giving to data-driven marketing. In the graph below you can see that a whopping 90% of companies listed it as one of the top 3 priorities!

Figure 8: Please rank these five areas in order of priority for your organisation in 2016.
Econsultancy QDIB 2016 Digital Trends – p9


Maybe I’m just unlucky and have only had the chance to work with all the companies and the divisions within them that just haven’t truly jumped on the bandwagon. If it were anecdotal and I’d only spoken to a handful of clients, I might believe that. But after literally 100s of customer engagements over the past 4 years and my own experience as a marketer before that, I think there is a much bigger systemic issue at play here.

For enterprise level companies, paying lip service is enough. Why? Well because for decades they’ve been doing business as usual in the marketing and communications departments and the company seems to be doing fine. They’re currently profitable, or amongst the market leaders. There’s enough growth to keep people coming to work and just relying on good old common sense and instinct driven from years of experience. So why on earth would they waste resources on digging through numbers when what they are doing is already working?

Well, I don’t have a really good answer for that. Sure there’s plenty of blog posts on the benefits you can receive from data. The responses to the survey above are evidence that companies are in fact aware of these benefits. It simply comes down to the fact that if you aren’t interested in spending time to gain a competitive advantage through data analysis, then you just aren’t going to do it. If you are too busy with you “day-to-day” in order to learn how to segment your visitors in Google or Webtrends or Omniture, you aren’t going to do it.

Maybe it’s best to just pay someone else to do it for you. Of course, that would mean not only shelling out some funds, but actually acting on any recommendations that come back.




Visualize This…

So coming full circle, maybe apps like Whatagraph or Tableau or Klipfolio or PowerBi are all the catalyst that will get organizations from just saying they want to prioritize data driven marketing to actually incorporating it into their process.


By having a simple infographic that displays top level vanity metrics it might just become part of the discussion that leads to more questions. Questions around how do we increase those vanity metrics or what other metrics are available to this.

Maybe it’s worth it enough just to keep the people who aren’t that interested in data off your back, so you can spend more time actually digging in the data for insights.

True adoption might only come for enterprises when urgency in the form of a disruptive startup in the industry arrives. Or maybe it will take someone who wants to make a difference inside the organization to step up and be a champion for the cause of making decisions based on evidence rather than faith (ooh careful there Mike… let’s not poke that bear).

Whatever the true catalyst will be, I’m happy to hear people’s thoughts on what has worked for them to go from just pretty graphics to game changing measurement plans.


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