Why More Data Isn't Always a Good Thing

Marketing

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As marketers, we're constantly drowning in data meant to deepen our understanding of customers' behaviors and needs, which, let's be honest, many marketers have a tendency to inflate. Don't get me wrong; metrics can be very useful, but that's because they play into a feedback loop, not because they're a "smoking gun." No metric on its own can explain correlations between marketing tactics and customer behaviors.

In addition, metrics can't tell you all of the dimensions you need to be paying attention to; for example, whether your engagement messaging is actually hitting the right target.

It all comes down to the difference between just seeing data and understanding what that data means in a larger business-impact context.

Good data and bad marketing

Consider this example from a previous company I worked at that placed a lot of emphasis on metrics. The email marketing team was very proud to have achieved a 15 percent lift in conversions in their latest campaign. Upon closer examination, we found the actual benefit to the business went down. Not only were opt-outs increasing – shrinking our marketable universe – but revenue per user was down compared to the previous campaign. The marketer in charge of the campaign meant well but was too focused on the tactical data and KPIs set for the email program. Along the way, he'd completely lost sight of the context within which these KPIs lived.

What's more, many marketers tend to let their objectives get blurry. For instance, the distinction between awareness and demand generation can often shift, depending on which tactics you're using. For example, I once worked on an online advertising campaign that was designed to create awareness of the company's new version of a core product. After three months of execution, the program was deemed a success, since the view-through and click-through data showed that it was influencing our target audience. Yet, when we dug deeper, we realized that the actual execution of the ad didn't even mention the new product – and only people clicking through would see the brand name at all. Logically, there is no way that ad execution would work, yet all the metrics said it did. Why?

The meanings of metrics

Executives are always asking for the ability to fit all the data together; to see it all in one place. What they want, in other words, is a centralized dashboard that provides insight into how and why certain marketing

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