6 Tips for Fostering a Data-Driven Culture

By Kat Liendgens — Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 at 10:30am
6 Tips for Fostering a Data-Driven Culture

As a web manager, you’re used to monitoring your analytics data closely. You look at a ton of information and do your best to segment your data in order to gain actionable insights. Most likely, you report on web statistics to the higher ups in your organization, maybe because they require it, or maybe because you want to show them why certain marketing investments and projects are worthwhile. Alas, you’re encountering a challenge. Not everybody in your organization embraces the idea of data driving your decision-making process and web strategy. Some individuals are reluctant to relinquish power, some may simply not trust the data, others may be afraid of change. However, as a results-driven individual with limited resources, you understand that data is your best friend. It empowers you to make better decisions and make them faster. So, what can you do in order to win over the skeptics and foster a data-driven culture? Avinash Kaushik included an excellent chapter on the subject in his book Web Analytics 2.0. Let’s examine some of them and add a few tips of our own.

Find an Ally

It’s not easy to get things done without someone in your corner. Is there someone in your organization that can be your ally? Perhaps someone who will let you prove a hypothesis using analytics data? Make sure you explain exactly what you’re trying to accomplish and how you will demonstrate success.

Develop a Pilot

The next step is to develop a small pilot project. Don’t attempt a massive overhaul. If your ally is responsible for a website or a segment of a website, and is willing to make some changes, perfect! Collaborate with them and help them understand their current analytics data.  Which data points are most pertinent? Next, determine the desired results. Perhaps you want to increase the number of sessions with more than five pageviews, reduce the bounce rate of the five pages with the lowest bounce rates, or increase conversion rates for your calls to action by a certain percentage. Once you’ve captured your ideal outcomes, decide which changes you’re going to make in order to accomplish them. Frequently review the agreed-upon analytics data points, and discuss your observations. Once the pilot has been completed, leverage it as a case study in order to get other individuals and departments on board with your approach.

Demonstrate the Power of A/B Testing

You won’t always make the right decisions in your marketing strategy or for your website. Instead of chasing down a rabbit hole, you want to make sure that you are able to correct your course as soon as possible. Demonstrate how you can test different versions of your content, or certain design components, or calls to action, and quickly determine what works and what doesn’t. You don’t have to use the term “agile marketing”, as it might scare people off at first. Explain how to test an idea or hypothesis, analyze the results, and then use those insights for the next iteration of your strategy, all of which will make you more effective in your marketing strategy and execution.

Talk About Accountability

Your goal is to use analytics data to make the right decisions and to create action items, not just for you, but for everyone involved in your organization’s web presence. You want to make sure that everybody is doing their part in order to ensure that your goals will be achieved. When you start making your case, point out how you want to be held accountable, and that data is the way to do it. As a manager, director, or VP, there are few things more refreshing and encouraging than hearing an individual say that they want to be held accountable. It’s a powerful argument - if you’re prepared to hold up your end of the bargain and drive the desired results.

Be Selective in Your Reporting

Google Analytics as well as other analytics tools provide more data than you’ll ever be able to (or would want to) report on. But even more importantly, think about the people in your organization that you want to win over with your data-driven approach. If you bombard them with data such as pageviews and bounce rates,  it won’t mean anything to them and it won’t provide meaningful data. Instead, they’ll feel overwhelmed and yearn for the days in which decisions could be made by committee or by pecking order. When reporting to your stakeholders, focus on the actual outcomes and how they affect your ROI.

Finally, Don’t Forget This Important Fact About Data

Data is considered evidence that something is working or not working. It’s used to make unbiased decisions and to invest your resources more effectively. But make no mistake about it: data can be emotional. Some of your stakeholders might be really proud of their writing style or their design. They may be really attached to particular pieces of content, even though the data shows that it’s not yielding the desired outcomes. Be sensitive about this and communicate your findings with empathy. Ask questions, (“Can you think of another way…”, “What would be an alternative to…”, “What could be the reason why....”) instead of just pointing out that something isn’t working.

What about you? Have you encountered challenges to getting buy-in for a data-driven approach to your web marketing efforts? Please use the comments below to share your experiences and thoughts.

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