As marketers, we are often tasked with putting together reports and analyses of every conceivable business metric, especially if our domain includes other disciplines such as advertising, PR, and even customer service (usually via social media). One of the toughest questions you’ll have posed to you is around what metrics are worth paying attention to.

The answer to this question has lots of nuance, but there’s one fundamental rule I’d urge you to consider as you embark on measurement, metrics, dashboards, reports, and other analytics fun:

Pay attention to the metrics that you have control over.

That seems shortsighted, doesn’t it? That seems territorial, perhaps even petty. However, it’s the absolute truth, because of what I call the DAIS framework, which stands for data, analysis, insight, and strategy.

DAIS.001

The moment you collect data on any metric, on anything, the next logical question is, okay, what happened? If you’re reporting on a metric that you don’t control, you may or may not know what happened. You won’t necessarily be able to analyze it.

After that, the next question you’ll face is, why did it happen? Here, for a metric that you don’t control, you’ll probably have very little insight as to why the number isn’t what the questioner expected it to be.

Finally, assuming your questioner hasn’t given up by this point, you will be asked the strategic question, what should we do next? If you’re talking about a metric that you have no control over, this is a recipe for disaster. You’d be giving strategy without insight as to why the data looks the way it does. You’re effectively flying blind, and if the questioner is someone in authority who can make decisions, chances are you just gave them bad guidance, guidance about things you can’t control and don’t have visibility into the logic of decisions that were made.

The way to avoid digging this hole for yourself is to only focus on and pay attention to metrics that you can change, metrics that you have control over, so that you can do the analysis, find the insights based on the decisions you made (and why), and make course corrections appropriately. If something is out of your control, spending energy and time on it is only wasting an opportunity to make a real change somewhere else, somewhere you have the authority to make change.

Understand that this is not a call to be uncooperative, to not be a team player. That’s not what I’m advocating. What I am advocating is where you choose to focus, and my best recommendation for any metrics strategy is to focus on what you can affect.


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