Your Metrics Obsession Is Killing Your Marketing.

I’ve always been a stickler about metrics. I’m actually known for a phrase that has led some people to dub me as “inflammatory” or an “asshole” that has to do with my love of marketing metrics.

“Your opinion on marketing doesn’t matter.”

Now of course that’s nothing but a truism designed to shock people into changing their mindset about how marketing works. For the vast majority of people data driven marketing is a new thing. For even more people interpreting the results correctly is even more difficult. Let me explain.

You’re reading this on Medium. Likely you came here either from one of our social properties, reddit, Hacker News, or some other similar technologically savvy community. You likely have made the jump from 0 to 1 when it comes to thinking about marketing and data. That is, you understand that modern marketing can be measured for it’s effectiveness, it can be tested and iterated on, and marketing can be tied to revenue.

You are probably just dangerous enough to kill your own marketing program.

Now this isn’t intended for me to be a jerk, although as I re-read this I’m starting to see why I have that reputation. Rather it’s to point out that knowing enough to be dangerous isn’t the same as truly knowing. When you know the lingo and jargon but don’t truly understand what it means, you can often do more harm than good.

A great example. I hear people, especially in the tech community, running around saying things like “value” and “conversions” as goals of their marketing programs all the time. Yet very few people understand what either of those things mean, nor how they’re defining it.

I hear a word like value, and that doesn’t mean anything particular to me. It’s so vague that, to me, it could mean any of the following:

  • Return on ad spend
  • Return on investment
  • Shiny things people like
  • Things your nephew who is good with computers likes
  • Awareness
  • Brand Recall
  • Market Penetration
  • Authority
  • etc. etc.

The truth is value is defined by each individual largely as what’s important to them. They substitute their own biases for objective reality and expect, either maliciously or in a more benign sense, for everyone to perceive and anticipate what they want. What’s dangerous about this is that data driven marketing is not a personal experience of marketing, it’s a thing. More so it’s a thing that you don’t get to decide, your customers do.

Conversions is another one of these. People shout from the rooftops they need conversions, but conversions to what? Conversion to get an email to a newsletter? To a customer? To visit a specific page or perform a specific action? This is a term that has great value (ha!) that has been stomped into the ground by people posturing and trying to say the right things. When you think about conversion as literally just x to y in a granular sense, you can work on your funnel piece by piece rather than running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

This also manifests in other ways like optimizing for a specific metric like click through rate, or cost per click etc. People start focusing down on these things like they’re a silver bullet that will fix everything. Nah.

Metrics are only valuable in the context of other metrics. Having a dirt cheap cpc isn’t worth anything to me if it’s an irrelevant and un-engaged audience. A great ctr is meaningless if the people clicking through aren’t my audience. A form completion conversion is wasted if the potential customer isn’t qualified. In fact I can envision many scenarios where these metrics could be in the metaphorical toilet where I would be happy. It’s all about how they work together, not alone.

I’ve seen it before, and I’ll see it again, otherwise smart people getting stuck on specific points for seemingly random or emotions based reasons. I say all of this not to be a jerk, but to help you. Too many companies and teams that I see have brilliant insights in front of them that could make them successful but they’re too blind or self interested to seize very real opportunities. Don’t be the team that focuses down on specific things you feel are important. Be the team that looks at all the data and knows what the market is saying to them.

The point of this long winded rant is basically this. It’s awesome there’s a lot more people thinking about data than there were even 6 months ago. If you’re thinking about data that’s great. Learn more. Try stuff. Ask lots of questions. Don’t get tunnel vision, and understand that you know enough to know there’s a lot that you don’t understand. That’s okay. I wake up every day learning about things I’ve never heard of as a marketer. If you don’t you’re stagnating, and in this industry stagnation is akin to death. So be confident and bold, and always keep learning and testing. Just don’t become arrogant and reliant on your incomplete knowledge set.

Your Obsession With Metrics Is Killing Your Marketing. was originally published in Observed Reflections.

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