Tag Archives: analytics

The Only Startup Metrics that Matter

Data AnalysisI like this a lot. In The only startup metrics that matter — Medium, Josh Elman, who has had upper echelon stints with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, writes:

“One of the things that I felt working on each of these is that we never looked at numbers or metrics in the abstract — total page views, logged in accounts, etc, but we always talked about users. More specifically, what they were doing and why they were doing it.”

That strikes me as very good advice. Get past the startup metrics for their own sake, and back into why. He continues:

How many people are really using your product? You need a metric that specifically answers this. It can be “x people did 3 searches in the past week”. Or “y people visited my site 9 times in the past month”. Or “z people made at least one purchase in the last 90 days.” But whatever it is, it should be a signal that they are using their product in the way you expected and that they use it enough so that you believe they will come back to use it more and more.

I confess that as I was growing Palo Alto Software I would occasionally, for some presentation or other, browse through available metrics as if reading a menu, and choose the one that made us look best. I liked steep curves in line charts, and inflection charts. And if page views didn’t show it, I’d look at users, or downloads, or conversions, or hits … until I found one that showed a curve I wanted to show.

I bet I’m not the only one. Josh’s suggestion makes a lot more sense.

Do You Believe Your Analytics?

What I hate about analytics ia that sometimes numbers are wrong or misleading, but when they are numbers, we’re not supposed to argue. questions

I like analysis when it adds information and context to human decisions. What we have now as analytics available for marketing and web development is amazing, especially compared to the “olden days” in the 1980s and early 1990s when we used to just spend the money and guess. It’s a great luxury.

But not when it substitutes for human decisions. When we do A-B testing, or surveys, it’s too easy to get the research wrong because questions are posed wrong or because of other technical reasons. But so often the analytics are like gospel, not to be questioned.

Do it right. Use the analytics to help guide you. Don’t let them stifle your own creativity.

(image: shutterstock photo)

Planning Fundamentals 4: Its About Accountability

(This is the fourth in a series of posts reviewing the fundamentals of planning, with an eye for how they’re changing over time. Part one was Form Follows Function. Part 2 was All Business Plans are Wrong. Part 3 was Cash Not Profits.)

I predict accountability is going to be an increasingly important issue as we head into this new decade. The old-fashioned tools of accountability, mainly physical presence, as in hours in the office, or days on the road, are fading. If for no other reasons, it’s because the world can’t continue to support needless commuting, an average of 51 minutes per day in the United States, and way worse in some of the larger cities in the developing world.

So what’s going to happen? We’re going to look increasingly for accountability as part of our real-world business planning process. The plan establishes the metric, and the regular plan review and tracking establish progress towards the metric.

It’s not just sales, costs, and expenses. It’s more metrics for more people, including lines of code, calls, blog posts, tweets, unique visitors, page views, minutes per call, presentations, proposals, emails processed, and so on.

Our tools will give us ever increasing metrics to use. I’m very biased about Email Center Pro, I admit, but if you’re curious you should look into the wealth of metrics it provides on team-managed emails and email addresses, like the [email protected] or [email protected]. And everybody knows about Google and Web analytics, paid search, etc. And telephones and miles are completely trackable.

All of this becomes the concrete specific portion of the business plan, and it is then managed as part of the business planning process. That means that the plan lasts barely a month before results are reviewed. Managing the metrics is a multiple win when there’s regular review, because all the members of the team can easily look on together and see where things have to change. And why.

And that’s the future of planning: management.

Do You Undervalue Marketing You Can’t Measure?

Measurability and accountability in marketing is a luxury we pretty much have now but we didn’t always have. Before the Web, we often guessed what would work, then spent the money to place the advertising or do the event or distribute the collateral. Then we waited, and hoped it was working. Then we’d guess again afterwards about whether it had worked or not.

Sure, we’d ask customers where or how they’d heard of us, but most of them didn’t know. Less than a third would even be able to answer that question. Of those, half would answer wrong (like mentioning a publication that we’d never advertised in).

That was pretty much it in the 1980s and early 1990s. We didn’t have clicks, click-through, search terms, conversion rates, and all that. Metrics. Direct mail, which is used so much less these days, was the best for measurability and accountability; some companies used it more than other marketing tools because of that advantage.

But nowadays, here’s the rub: do we now devalue marketing efforts we can’t measure?

For example, getting mentioned in a major publication. Or being included in somebody’s book. What if those marketing wins produce a value we can’t measure? We don’t know how many people have purchased because of them. We’ll never be able to tell how many people saw the mention and then visited the website, or, better yet, bought the product. Does that make those marketing efforts less valuable? Do we start underestimating and under-using these parts of the marketing mix because we can’t produce the metrics?