There’s obvious professional benefit to mastering your marketing analytics tools, from data visualization to complex statistics. You can improve your marketing programs, grow your business, and make more money. However, often we just do the same rote things in our marketing analytics. What can we do to improve our skills? How can we get better at making our analytics tools work for us?

What if we measured something else?

One of the most powerful trends right now in data collection is around the quantified self movement. This is where you track lots of different data points. I own, for example, a Basis wristwatch that tracks things like steps, heart rate, calories, etc. The watch itself comes with a halfway decent web reporting system that gives you broad information about how you’re doing. This is akin to many marketing analytics packages giving you pre-defined reports and visualizations. It’s a good place to start, but like most marketing, what if you want to dig in?

Fortunately, as with any good marketing analytics software, fitness tracking software can let you export your data. Using a free, open-source package from GitHub written by Bob Troia (aka Quantified Bob), you can export minute-by-minute information about your life from your device. Certainly, you can’t process that amount of information as a normal human and glean any insight. What you can do, however, is feed it all into your marketing analytics tools, from simple Excel spreadsheets to Big Data tools like Hadoop, MapReduce, and Watson.

For example, here’s a simple visualization of calories burned versus heart rate (top chart), steps taken (middle chart), and air temperature (bottom chart):

Tableau_-_Book2

You don’t have to be a data scientist to figure out what you’re looking at. There’s an almost perfect correlation between steps taken and calories burned, which makes base logical sense. The more you move, the more energy you use, the more calories you burn.

Here’s a more complex example, asking IBM’s Watson what influences calories burned.

Watson_Analytics

Watson obviously picked out that steps matter most, the first part of the decision tree. It then picks out heart rate as the second factor that influences calories burned. What’s interesting is how the tree splits off there. For standard “office life”, where my heart rate is between 73 and 81, skin temperature matters. Being warmer is slightly better. For exercise periods, air temperature matters, and there, colder seems to be slightly better.

Are these causal? As with all correlations, the answer is not necessarily. Causality and correlation dine at separate tables, but now we have enough data to begin experimentation. Maybe the next time I work out, I drop the air temperature even lower than it normally is.

We can do other kinds of experiments as well. If I visualize steps to heart rate as a moving average, then look at a typical day, I can see that just getting up and walking around more brings up the calories burned. Even relatively few steps keeps the engine running, so an experiment would be to try to walk around much more frequently. Instead of once or twice an hour, get up and walk around every 10-15 minutes.

What’s wonderful about using marketing analytics tools for non-marketing uses is that it gives you the freedom to explore and learn your tools in a different context. You have much more control over your fitness and activity than you do the open rate of an email campaign. You can choose to get up from your desk much more easily than you can choose to create content to be retweeted. Thus, for learning how to spot potential causality and designing experiments to establish or disprove causality, fitness is one of the many areas you can practice with your marketing tools. Then, when you go back to marketing, you’ll have an entirely new perspective and lots more experience with your tools.

Give this a try – and remember, it doesn’t have to be fitness related. You can use any data set that’s in good condition, and chances are you or your employer have all the tools you need. You could put in your income and expenses, then use your marketing analytics tools to spot patterns in order to save money. You could put in sleep tracking and see what impact a good night’s sleep has. You could track growing conditions in your garden to see if you can manipulate environmental variables like soil pH and water to get a better garden. The only limitation is your imagination.


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