You Don't Need More Data

...you need better data.

We get caught up in data-driven marketing, so much that we're constantly seeking new sources of data. "Well, if I could just show them more numbers, then they'll know I'm doing a good job!" We use metrics—as long as they're going up and to the right—to convince ourselves that we're relevant members of our organizations.

This is not to say that you're not doing a good job (you're probably doing a great job!) but that it's time to reconsider metrics for metrics' sake. Numbers by themselves don't tell you what's really happening. It's too easy to slice and dice them to tell "a good story" rather than understand your challenges, pain points, and your customer.

A Case Study In Less Is More

I ran into this syndrome while digging into some social media reporting. I could easily see impressions, engagements, and demographic data, which told me a lot about our audience and whether or not they cared about what we were saying on social. I could also see if any of my social activity had turned into real product activity—coming to our site and signing up.

But I fretted because I couldn't get data on our trending hashtags. How could my team know how awesome we were if I didn't know if we were trending?

I put together a full proposal to upgrade our plan for this data (there were other cool features too, but it was mostly for this.) I would need to more than double my annual budget to get this piece of data.

Hashtag data is not worth it.

It doesn't tell us if we've met our goals. It doesn't tell us whether or not our customers bought our product, or why they care, or if it makes them happy. It's a vanity metric. It doesn't get to impact. This quote from #LitmusLive San Francisco says it all:

Success is measured down the funnel; don’t get caught up in baseline metrics.
— Megan Merrifield and Kate Montgomery

When I brought this to my team, they encouraged me to think about the budget in a broader context, not from a use-it-or-lose-it perspective. Imagine that $7K spent anywhere in the company: is this really the best place? Will the return on investment balance out in terms of signups or activations? The answer is most definitively no. I didn't need more data.

I needed to know what mattered.

Know What Matters

When it comes to data, you don't need more of it. You need better data that can orient your activities. Cathy Chang talked about this a lot at #LitmusLive San Francisco. Find that one north star metric and turn that metric into a goal. Just one. (And no, views is not a north star metric.)

If you don't have a goal, then more data won't help you.

Related: Set Goals So You'll Shine In 2016

Ask the tough questions first, and then figure out what data can answer those questions. Are your customers happy? Do they get value from your content/product/support team? Do they care about what you have to say?

Sometimes you need more data. But often, you have enough already—instead, you have to figure out what matters. That's the hard part.