Putting a Face to the Numbers Is the Next Step in Analytics
Any person that knows me or works with me knows one thing: I love analytics. In fact, I think analytics are critical to driving modern editorial and digital teams. Just read my last blog, 4 Keys to Building an Analytics-Driven Editorial Team, to see how analytics can improve an editorial operation.
But, I also think we need to be careful when looking at analytics because we can’t forget that people lie behind these numbers. If we simply look at driving more pageviews or adding more unique sessions to our sites, we’re missing the point of what analytics really mean.
Think of it this way: In my prior job, I worked on a retail publication and we always talked about the concept of customer-centric retailing. The idea was simple. Retailers were using numbers so they could better address the customer’s needs. While the numbers were important, the retailers never lost sight of the fact that the customer was who really mattered.
For B2B publishers, the goal must be the same. We live in a business where we don’t have to engage with the most people. We’re in a business of engaging with the right people. And, in our quest to be a more analytics-driven organizations, we need to find ways to put faces (names, titles, and companies) to our analytics efforts.
A Scary Discussion
OK, so now you’re probably thinking, “I’ve got enough trouble getting our editors to use analytics. Now, we tell them the numbers aren’t enough.”
I understand the concern. While we’ve talked about creating data-driven editorial teams for years, executives are still struggling to get their editorial teams to wrap their heads around numbers.
But, as they make this transition, a scary conversation often comes up. Often, as your editorial team makes the leap to being more data-centric, they’ll begin saying: “I drove this many more pageviews this month,” or “Look at my growth in visitors.” To me, these are scary discussions because it leaves off the most important point – the audience. In fact, my response to an editor or business manager that makes a comment like this is: “That’s great progress, but were they the right people?”
Let’s say that I’m running an engineering web community, and my goal is to get more engineers to the site. Now, let’s say I have a great story that drives thousands of views and tons of Google referrals. But, when I look at my lead data, I notice that 70% of the audience came from non-engineering titles. On the contrary, I ran a second story that drove less views, but 80% of the traffic came from engineering titles.
So, which was the better story? If we looked solely at traffic, we’d probably all say that the first story was the best. But, after looking at the actual readers, we’d probably have a different perspective. That’s why numbers can’t be the only part of your analysis.
How to Put a Face to a Number
The logical question for any executive is: How do we actually put a face to our numbers? Fortunately, there are a number of ways to achieve that goal. Here are some that I recommend:
- Tap Your Own Lead-Gen Technology – This is maybe one of the biggest missed opportunities for today’s B2B publishers. Most B2B players have detailed lead-gen systems. But they only leverage these systems to deliver leads on sales campaigns. If set up right, these systems can be a great way to see who actually is reading content on a site. Use your lead-gen technology to check your editorial teams and see if what they are writing actually delivers the audience you want for your business.
- Leverage Your Newsletter/Email Tools – Email tools do more than simply deliver a message and report on clicks. These tools can easily reveal who is clicking. So use that data to see if the right people are engaging with your newsletter or email marketing content.
- Run Domain Reports – While not always the most accurate measure of audience, some analytic tools do let you run domain reports. This typically comes in the form of a URL and requires you to make inferences about who that person is.
- Marketing Automation – Marketing automation tools can play a big role in better qualifying an audience. Using these tools, you can create workflows that help drive conversions on popular content. Then, using the conversion data, you can understand who actually is reading your content.
It Won’t Happen Overnight
I wish I could say that putting a face to numbers will happen overnight. The reality is it won’t. It will happen for different organizations at different times depending on where they are on the analytics spectrum.
If you have a more advanced analytics team, then you should be putting a face to the numbers now. Use the strategies I described above to ensure that your content is reaching the right people.
If you’re struggling to be more analytics-driven, then metrics like pageviews and visitors is where you need to be. Look for growth in these areas and help your team understand why growing these numbers matters. Refer to my previous blog for tips on building a data-driven team.
If you’re in between, I wouldn’t lose focus on growing overall engagement numbers. But, I’d also take steps to better understand who that content is resonating with.
Rob Keenan is the President of Keenan Media, LLC, a consultancy firm providing digital, content, marketing, and audience support to the media sector. Rob has worked in the BtoB media sector for 20 years, most recently at the VP of Online Media for Edgell Communications. You can contact Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org.You can also follow him on twitter @robkeenan11 or connect with him on LinkedIn.