Jigsaw puzzles and marketing metrics

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Scattered puzzle pieces next to solved fragment

Does this sound familiar? In your quest for marketing goals, marketing ROI, or marketing measurement, you find yourself with hundreds of different data points and no clear sense of what any of them mean. You have a bucket of web analytics, from conversions to unique visitors to bounce rates. You have your marketing automation metrics, like MQL, SQL, and ratios. You have your sales metrics like deal size and time, or ownership lifecycle. Yet despite having more data than ever, you feel lost.

I have the same feeling around the holidays when I visit my folks and the jigsaw puzzle of the week is pulled out from storage. All of the pieces are poured out on the table, turned face up, and we see a montage of chaos. So many pieces. So many colors. So many options. It feels initially overwhelming, dizzying in its complexity.

Yet solving it starts almost immediately with a piece of simple wisdom: find all the edge pieces so that we can establish the outside frame. Frame up the puzzle, and that begins to transform chaos into order. The frame comes together and we start to see the patterns of colors and shapes hinted at from the outside edges. Colors begin to blend together. Edges begin to fit together. Patches of related pieces form up into blocks, and those blocks link up. Before the holiday is over, the puzzle comes together, and we see the big picture.

This could be your marketing, too. Figure out the edges, the boundaries, the outside borders that will define what you’re trying to measure. Understand the goals at the very bottom of the process, the things that keep the lights on. Understand the inputs at the very top of the process, the raw fuel that powers the entire thing. Once you know where the boundaries are, work your way inwards, and you’ll start to see the pieces come together. Your web analytics, instead of being a thousand disparate pieces, will begin to paint a small picture of their own. Absolute unique visitors come to your site, some bounce off, some stick. You begin to see a pattern – those that bounce are overwhelmingly using mobile devices, and that part of the puzzle becomes clear. Or you see conversions begin to march through the funnel and stop, and you know that a piece of the puzzle is missing there. Your sales metrics begin to make sense as you see changes from stage to stage, and you know exactly where your sales team is dropping the ball.

The mistake lies in believing that you can just start randomly anywhere, or that you’re powerful enough to assemble the puzzle all at once. Neither is true. Starting anywhere makes for a very long, very frustrating puzzle process and for a very long, very frustrating marketing metrics system. Believing that you can snap together the entire puzzle at once is hubris. Believing you can solve all business and marketing problems at once borders on delusional. Even the smallest online business still has more metrics than ever because of the nature of digital marketing.

The marketing metrics you’re trying to make sense of can be solved. There is a solution in reach, and it’s not unlike the jigsaw puzzle on the kitchen table at the holidays. Find your boundaries, start looking for patterns, and eventually you’ll have a completed puzzle, whether it’s a jigsaw puzzle or your business.

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