The Strategic Absence of Why

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The Strategic Absence of Why

I had a chat recently with a conference organizer about an upcoming talk I’ll be doing on the basics of measurement, and in this conversation, I came to the realization about what many of us – myself included – have been doing wrong when it comes to measurement.

Measurement, in this context, is how we understand our marketing and what’s working. From website visitors to lead generation to customer retention, we report on buckets and buckets of measurements.

Here’s the problem. We focus so much on the measurements themselves, we spend almost no time on what to do with them, what they mean, or why we should care. Take a look at the many, many tutorials and guides out there for your favorite pieces of marketing analytics software. Here are some of the most popular video titles on YouTube:

  • Google Analytics Ultimate Beginners Guide
  • How to Set Up Google Analytics
  • Hubsopt Tutorial for Beginners
  • Getting Started With the Hubspot Sales Hub Free

When we dig into these videos and extract the automatic closed captions, then extract the parts of speech that are adverbs and clean them up, we end up with this nice summary:

What why and how

In these guides, the most common of the 6 Ws is what, said 379 times in the span of 4 hours of video, followed by how (210), when (169), where (99), who (60), and finally why (44).

What does this tell us? It’s a superficial analysis, nothing more than word counts, but it tells us that some of the most viewed guides about these common marketing software packages focus heavily on the what and how. That makes sense; it’s important to know how to operate them. But it speaks volumes about how much of the focus is on the tactical, the execution, with substantially less screen time given to the strategic.

Why would you use a certain feature?

Why would you pick one software package over another?

Why would a tool or tactic be the right or wrong choice in an environment?

This mirrors so much of the content in our lives. How much of the average cookbook is dedicated to assembling a coherent menu? Very, very little – if at all. Most cookbooks are simply collections of recipes and discussions about ingredients. There’s an implicit assumption that you’re reading the book because you already know why you want to prepare, for example, Vietnamese cuisine and you want to know the what and how.

But is that truly the case? Or would you also benefit from knowing why some dishes go together, and why some don’t? Anyone who’s ever been to a lackluster “fusion” cuisine restaurant knows this pain intimately – dishes paired together that have no logical connection, no sensible reason.

The absence of why.

And the absence of why is the absence of strategy.

This isn’t just limited to marketing videos. I took a look at some of the top videos about investing in real estate, long-form videos about real estate investing. What did I find there?

Real estate investing

What leads the pack with 208 occurrences, followed by when and how (80), where (60), why (32), and who (28). What, when, and how – but not why. And this is even more surprising to me because let’s face it, getting started with Google Analytics isn’t exactly a high-risk proposition, but buying real estate puts an awful lot on the line. I would have expected a lot more conversation about why you would make certain decisions.

Takeaways of Why

Two key takeaways from this analysis. First, if you’re producing content, there’s probably a content gap about why someone would make certain choices in your industry or profession. There’s a glut of what to do and how to do content, but sparse focus on why, so as a marketer creating content, there’s an opportunity for you.

Second, why is all about strategy, about the choices we make and the reasons behind those choices. People don’t think about why, and as such don’t see the benefits of strategy. In all that you do, add more why into your work, and you’ll set yourself apart from the legions of people who can tell you how to do something, but offer no value about why you should or shouldn’t do it.

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