Be Good and Get Better

Web analytics, or digital intelligence as the cool kids say, is a means to an end. Much is written and discussed about the various bits and stuff-we-deal-with as digital data analysts:

  • Technical systems and tool implementations
  • Reports, charts, graphs, dashboards, data visualizations
  • KPIs, metrics, predictive indicators, statistical significance, and more

None of these is really the point though, right? The point is to help our businesses achieve their goals, and most businesses only have three kinds of goals:

  1. Increase sales
  2. Decrease costs
  3. Turn customers into raving fans

If our ditigal intelligence objectives and tactics don’t boil down to supporting one of these three goals, then we need to review and refocus. And we need to stop shaving yaks.

Marketers and Analysts, Venus and Mars

Most salespeople, marketers, merchandisers, copywriters, content owners, managers, and executives have goals that are different than ours. Shocker, right? Our customers have a different focus than we do. Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, in her book Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals says, “Psychologists who study achievement have been particularly interested in the differences that arise when people focus on performing well to demonstrate ability (being good) versus focusing on progress, growth, and gaining mastery (getting better).”

“Psychologists refer to the desire to be good—to show that you are smart or talented or capable, or to outperform other people—as having a performance goal. When you pursue performance goals, your energy is directed at achieving a particular outcome…” Most of our customers - the people who need our reports, analysis, insights, and recommendations - have goals that are different than ours because they are focused on being good, on their performance goals.

Web analytics / digital intelligence practitioners are generally focused on getting better - on mastery goals. “Psychologists refer to the desire to get better—to develop or enhance your skills and abilities—as a mastery goal. When people pursue mastery goals, they don’t judge themselves as much by whether they achieve a particular outcome—like getting an A or surpassing a sales goal. Instead, they judge themselves in terms of the progress they are making. Am I improving? Am I learning? Am I moving forward at a good pace? It’s less about any one performance and more about performance over time.”

When a marketer spends six figures in three weeks on paid search campaigns, if you’re the person spending the money, you’re not focused on getting better, you’re focused on being good—you want to make a profit from your investment in paid search—now, not later. You are generally not thinking about the longer-term picture because your job depends on executing effective campaigns now, and not so much on learning how to make your campaigns better over time. Yes, continuous improvement is part of everything on the Web, but the main concern is performing well when they get up to the plate and start swinging.

When we analyze the data from those same campaigns, report on their effectiveness, and provide insights and recommendations to the paid search team, if we remember this difference it can help us tailor our work to our audience, and make it more relevant and specific to their immediate goals. And that makes us more valuable to them - our customers and hopefully, our fans.