Almost Timely News, 3 April 2022: The Purpose of Analytics, Newsletters on LinkedIn (4/3) :: View in Browser

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What’s On My Mind: What’s the Purpose of Analytics?

What’s the purpose of analytics?

I’ll wait.

Got an answer? Here are a few from Twitter:

  • “The purpose of analytics is to unlock something useful from data.”
  • “The purpose of analytics is to turn data into information and information into insight.”
  • “The purpose of analytics is to find your way to the right product and market before the money runs out.”
  • “The purpose of analytics is to get something out of it in order to make useful.”
  • “The purpose of analytics is to catch something not intuitive.”

Here’s my room-temperature take, because it’s not a hot take at all: the purpose of analytics is to help you make better decisions. That’s it. Analytics tells us what happened; insights tells us why, and then it’s on us to use that information to make better decisions going forward.

So why is the answer to this question often so convoluted and complicated? I suppose you could argue that some of it is consultants needing to sound expensive, but it’s really because people don’t know what to do with data.

Let’s take Google Analytics, for example – especially the new Google Analytics 4. What is its purpose? To provide you with data as a raw ingredient to make better digital marketing decisions. Now, we can debate how well it does that, but that’s its functional purpose.

Which means that Google Analytics purpose isn’t to make decisions for you. It isn’t even to tell you why customers did what they did. As an analytics tool, its purpose is to tell you what happened. When you look at the interface, at all the buttons and widgets and everything, that’s what it’s designed to do.

You, as the user, are expected to take that data and do something with it to improve your decision-making. It’s like a kitchen pantry. Google Analytics provides the ingredients. It’s now up to you, the chef, to turn those ingredients into a final dish that’s edible, because no one wants a plate of uncooked wheat flour for dinner.

Where we run into trouble as marketers, decision-makers, and stakeholders is when we expect tools to do more than they’re designed to do. Google Analytics – and EVERY true analytics tool on the market – will not make decisions for you, any more than the bag of flour in your kitchen is going to do the cooking for you. Every analytics vendor in the world tells you that their tools will help you make better decisions, and they’re all lying.

Well, they’re all lying in the same way that every kitchen appliance vendor tells you their appliance will make you a better chef. They may do some things better or make some tasks easier, but if you’re an idiot in the kitchen, there’s no difference between a 50 dollar blender and a 500 dollar blender. You’re still going to make inedible garbage.

When it comes to choosing an analytics strategy (and subsequently analytics vendors), the question isn’t what tool to use. The question is, what decisions are you trying to improve or inform? And if your decision-making process is immune to improvement – like when you have an executive who simply wings it – then it doesn’t matter what tool you use at all.

Why bother learning analytics tools or becoming skilled in analytics, then? Because if you’re lucky enough to work for an organization that understands how to use them properly, you will make a lot of impact – and that usually translates into personal as well as organizational success. When you become really skilled at analytics, you understand the limitations of what tools can and can’t do. You learn what’s present and what’s missing in data. You learn where the blind spots are in every decision and you mitigate those as much as possible.

And most of all, you learn to tell the difference about which decisions do need analytics support and which don’t. Values and moral decisions rarely need analytics support, for example. “Should we make a product that’s intentionally harmful to our customers?” or “Should we make a product that is incredibly destructive to the environment for nominal benefit to our customers?” don’t need a ton of data or analysis, just a functional sense of empathy and compassion.

When you’re making decisions about your analytics strategy, tactics, and tools, think first about how you use data and analytics now, what decisions need improving, and only then make choices like vendors and data sources. Decide on your menu and recipes before you go appliance and ingredient shopping, rather than buy a bunch of stuff and have no idea what to cook.

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ICYMI: In Case You Missed it

So last week I TOTALLY hosed the ICYMI section. I said, take a look at the Google Analytics 4 livestream walkthrough… and then I forgot to link to it. So this is it from last week.

Now, for this week? Besides the new Search Console course I’m relentlessly promoting (sorry not sorry), I would recommend reading the piece on why this newsletter is on LinkedIn, and what analytics I used to make that decision.

Skill Up With Classes

These are just a few of the classes I have available over at the Trust Insights website that you can take.

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Folks who post jobs in the free Analytics for Marketers Slack community may have those jobs shared here, too. If you’re looking for work, check out these five most recent open positions, and check out the Slack group for the comprehensive list.

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When you’re done, you’ll have working knowledge of the entire platform and what it can do – and you’ll be ready to start making the most of this valuable marketing tool.

Click/tap here to register – and use discount code ALMOSTTIMELY for $50 off the registration »

What I’m Reading: Your Stuff

Let’s look at the most interesting content from around the web on topics you care about, some of which you might have even written.

Social Media Marketing

Media and Content

SEO, Google, and Paid Media

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Tools, Machine Learning, and AI

Analytics, Stats, and Data Science

All Things IBM

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Events I’ll Be At

Here’s where I’m speaking and attending. Say hi if you’re at an event also:

  • MarketingProfs B2B Forum, April 2022, virtual – use code SP22CHRIS for $100 off your conference ticket
  • MarTech Conference, June 2022, virtual
  • MAICON, August 2022, Cleveland, OH – use code PENN150 for $150 off any conference ticket
  • MarketingProfs B2B Forum, October 2022, Boston

Events marked with a physical location may become virtual if conditions and safety warrant it.

If you’re an event organizer, let me help your event shine. Visit my speaking page for more details.

Can’t be at an event? Stop by my private Slack group instead, Analytics for Marketers.

How to Stay in Touch

Let’s make sure we’re connected in the places it suits you best. Here’s where you can find different content:

Required Disclosures

Events with links have purchased sponsorships in this newsletter and as a result, I receive direct financial compensation for promoting them.

Advertisements in this newsletter have paid to be promoted, and as a result, I receive direct financial compensation for promoting them.

My company, Trust Insights, maintains business partnerships with companies including, but not limited to, IBM, Cisco Systems, Amazon, Talkwalker, MarketingProfs, MarketMuse, Agorapulse, Hubspot, Informa, Demandbase, The Marketing AI Institute, and others. While links shared from partners are not explicit endorsements, nor do they directly financially benefit Trust Insights, a commercial relationship exists for which Trust Insights may receive indirect financial benefit, and thus I may receive indirect financial benefit from them as well.

Thank You!

Thanks for subscribing and reading this far. I appreciate it. As always, thank you for your support, your attention, and your kindness.

See you next week,

Christopher S. Penn


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