I had the opportunity to co-chair a Power Hour this month on Success Planning and some topics emerged that I think are worth repeating.  First of all, very special thanks to erin.cox  from Deloitte and Patrice Greene of DemandGen for joining and discussing this topic with gregory_huckabee1 and me!

We talk a lot about “success, crawl-walk-run, it’s a marathon and not a sprint” and all of this sounds great, but how do those epithets actually break down into tangible snippets of what to do next?  Well Patrice gave us the answer: whiteboard it out.  Yes, that’s right.  Physically draw or map out what dashboards and metrics you feel are important.  Why is this the right approach, you ask? Because you need to tell a story and the data are the building blocks you need to tell that story.  It will also help you uncover the data you need that may be missing.

If you missed the Power Hour, it’s worth a replay to hear how Erin Cox, Digital Marketer at Deloitte, helped to transition her marketing team’s metrics measurement from batch and blast to engagements and conversions.  She reminds us that we need to think of creative ways to tell the data story so management understands the themes you are trying to get across.  Erin cites the example of a management member not understanding that the conversion rate of MQLs was more important than the number of MQLs created. 

Her comment reminded me about my time running Marketing Automation and building dashboards for my boss, the VP of Marketing.  We were good at it. Damn good at it and went overboard.  We measured everything in every possible manner:  bar graph, pie chart, plot graph and any other you could think of.  We continually patted ourselves on the back for the amazing and awesome job we were doing.  High five! Unfortunately, Sales and the rest of the company didn’t agree with us.  They were totally confused by all the charts we were showing, they constantly told us that they didn’t “get” what we were trying to prove.  Did we have an MQL problem? What should our conversion rate be? Where will we be in 5 months if we continue with this trend? We were focusing so much on the raw data and the metrics that we lost the value and the “story” we were trying to bring to the business.  We had gone off the deep end with data overload and needed to re-assess.

From my experience it turns out that we are not alone as it’s a problem I’ve witnessed with many other marketers.  Avanish Kaushik explains why on his blog Occam’s Razor:

“there is one crucial part we often don't invest in sufficiently. The last mile. Data presentation! The actual output that is almost singularly responsible for driving the change we want in our organizations. The thing that is the difference between an organization that data pukes and the one that influences actions based on understandable insights.”

This is hard for us to do because we are in the weeds with our campaigns and we think EVERYTHING is important.  As marketers the metrics and data we produce can sometimes be our proudest moment and we want to shout it from the rooftops!  Alas, Avanish gives examples as to why this isn’t the best approach.  Take a look at the before and after examples he provides, the differences are pointed not only in aesthetic quality but also the intended action he wants the viewer to take.   

Perhaps then we can argue, as a marketer, you’re only as good as the story you can tell with your data. Happy Whiteboarding