Beyond Key Performance Indicators: Communicating With Analytics

It’s ironic, really, that as communicators we too can be guilty of poor communication. It’s easy to expect that those who help create and deliver a brand’s message would in kind be the most effective at organizational and interpersonal communication. Alas, that’s not always the case.

I was reminded of this recently while considering, yet again, the role that analytics plays in digital marketing. Specifically, I was thinking about stakeholder communication through analytics data and reports. There’s an art and science to delivering insight via data. Selecting appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) is a hugely important first step, and one that I’ve grown accustomed to discussing in my columns. Determining how to best visualize data is arguably the next most important task.

There’s more required of us if we’re to succeed as data-driven communicators, though. I’ve frequently been guilty of overlooking these requirements myself, but have come to understand that communicating effectively with analytics involves three key considerations beyond KPIs and data visuals.

1) Know your audience. Analytics data is important to different audiences for different reasons. Perhaps the boss is interested in seeing how well the big campaign performed last month. Maybe a client wants to understand the specific types of content that capture the most visitor attention. There may also be interest in examining some leaks in the conversion/checkout process.

Additionally, it’s important to recognize that in many instances this data will be socialized. It’s also smart to consider others who may be a degree or two removed from the primary recipient’s role.

2) Know the use case. How will the data be used? What actions will be taken (or avoided) as a result of the data being shared? These are key questions to answer. The reason so much time up front is dedicated to determining KPIs is because there’s a story to be told. The data can be made to sing to us, if we’re precise with those prerequisites.

Once you’ve determined KPIs and data visuals, it’s essential to ensure that any report or performance communication focus on clear insights rather than raw data. Data by itself can have many interpretations; insight supported by analysis can lead to effective business optimization decisions.

3) Share the win.I made the mistake once of telling a new client, in the presence of my boss, that part of our firm’s remit was to “fail fast” on their behalf.  At that time, that expression wasn’t well known and I got an earful after the meeting. Essentially, what I was attempting to tell my client was that we would learn from our mistakes, and that not everything was going to be successful (but that was OK).

Effectively communicating with all available analytics data means sharing those moments of failure too, but in a way that emphasizes the “win.” We may not have hit our target conversion rate, but that’s OK because we know what not to do from here on out. There’s a silver lining to every analytics report, because even in failure we’ve learned incrementally more about our intended audiences.

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