The renowned business author Peter Drucker has been attributed with the familiar quote, “what gets measured, gets managed.” This statement highlights why most companies invest in analytics. But the critical question remains, why do companies invest in data but fail to act on this valuable resource?

After working in digital analytics for more than eight years with multiple large corporations, I’ve discovered that the belief that captured data will be subsequently optimized or improved doesn’t always hold true. In fact, data frequently doesn’t translate into actions. 

Part of the problem lies in the fast-paced, data-intensive nature of digital marketing. Companies are collecting all kinds of data on their websites and online campaigns; however, that data is often not actively used in business decision-making and in driving marketing actions.

Marketers struggle to keep pace with the day-to-day responsibilities of updating website content, launching new campaigns, developing new mobile apps and interacting with customers across multiple social media channels. They have a lot of demands placed on their time, and not surprisingly they’re frequently unable to scratch even the surface of their digital data. All too often the end result is no insights are taken from the data, and no optimization occurs.

When a company’s digital analytics efforts are actionless, it’s another word for useless. Data that generates no action creates no business value.

In order to make sure your digital analytics is action-packed, it’s helpful to understand the key steps that connect data to value. If we can follow those steps, we can discover where the problems lie and where potential breakdowns are occurring.

The Two Lands of Analytics

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If you look at the entire digital analytics process from data to value, you’re going to pass through two “lands,” which I like to call Setupland and Actionland. The latter is the magical place that has all of the allure of a theme park if you’re a data-driven marketer or digital analyst.

Every company wants to be in Actionland because that’s where you’re actually acting on the data and optimizing your business. It’s the promised land of analytics, and it has all the coolest rides. However, just like preparing for a family trip to an amusement park, most of us know that it takes planning and hard work to get to Actionland’s attractions -- you have to pass through Setupland first.

In Setupland, there are three main stages in the digital analytics deployment process: Align, Measure and Report. The Align stage is where you gather, define and confirm the business objectives and requirements of your key stakeholders. You want to make sure that your tagging approach is closely aligned with the needs of your business. Any misalignment can lead to data that won’t answer key business questions.

The Measure stage is where the technical heavy lifting occurs, which includes tagging, data validation and data collection. A fair amount of time in Setupland can be spent on technical implementation, especially for large companies with multiple web domains, online marketing initiatives, mobile and social apps, etc. Rushed implementations and inadequate quality assurance can undermine your data’s integrity.

The last stage is the Report stage where the collected data is packaged up in meaningful ways for business users to consume the data in the form of custom reports, dashboards and scorecards.

Getting Stuck in Setupland

The key to getting value from your web analytics investment is to enter Actionland. However, many organizations spend too much time in Setupland and some never experience Actionland. The goal should be to move quickly and efficiently through Setupland to Actionland. You want to spend more time focused on optimization rather than implementation and reporting.

Unfortunately, analysts are often caught in a vicious cycle of endless reporting -- maintaining current reports and building new reports. Too many organizations misinterpret reporting as the main destination of implementing an analytics solution and mistakenly view reporting as though it were a part of Actionland.

Reports display information -- not insights. Information is useful, but meaningful insights are invaluable because they can actually drive action and value.

Just like you need a pass to enter a theme park, and you need one to enter Actionland too. Analysis is your ticket to Actionland.

The insights from analysis set the stage for all optimization efforts by enriching the business understanding of your customers and market, pinpointing potential enhancements to digital marketing efforts, and helping to prioritize which opportunities to pursue. Analysis becomes the genesis for how your company can generate more sales, reduce marketing costs, enhance campaign performance, provide a better user experience, reach specific target segments, etc. To increase marketing actions from your data, your organization needs to shift its heavy emphasis on reporting to performing more ad-hoc, deep-dive analysis.

Returning to the original quote by Drucker (“What gets measured, gets managed”), your time in Setupland defines what gets measured. The critical steps in Setupland ensure you measure what’s important to the business, capture the data accurately, and disseminate relevant information to those who need it. All of your hard work in Setupland will position you for success in Actionland. However, you can’t stop there because you’re only in the parking lot of digital marketing optimization.

In order to influence what gets managed in Actionland, you’re going to need more than just information. You'll need compelling, useful insights from your digital analytics to drive change. Whether it means more training, more analyst resources or shifts in current reporting priorities, your digital analytics will never swing from being actionless to action-packed unless analysis becomes a top priority at your organization.

Image courtesy of Dmitro2009 (Shutterstock)

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