How To Ask Good Simple Questions About Your Marketing Analytics
Asking open-ended questions will reveal the right details you need to move your business forward.
Asking a question about analytics can be daunting. After all, as a manager, you are interested in data, and know that your competition is likely positioning themselves to be data-driven as well.
But how do you ask the right questions that keep your team moving?
To ask great simple questions, you have to understand two dynamics that occur with answers related to analytics.
How The Question Should Be Framed
First asking a simplistic close-ended question may bring a concise answer — close-ended questions trigger a yes or no answer. That answer may be fine if you are pressed for time.
But in the context of digital marketing analytics, an answer to a close-ended question grossly overlooks necessary details that support that answer. Those details can influence your budget considerations and what next steps to take.
For example, let’s say you run an e-commerce business and want to know more about your traffic. If you ask “does my site bring customers?”, you will get a yes or no answer. Yet you will need to know what traffic sources are involved. Further, you would have to consider do they match up to where your campaign was intended to be. Now, realistically many managers will ask about these details, but there are still some managers who will not follow through at all.
Instead of just asking a question that elicits a yes or no answer, find the time to ask a specific open-ended question that relates to the outcome you are seeking. You may ask something related to a marketing campaign. “Did you discover any opportunities to connect with customers online during our fall sale?” This kind of question triggers the analyst into two segments for the answer.
- identify immediate tasks — stop an ad campaign, make more ads for a particular social media traffic source
- identify ongoing tasks that need refinement or research to develop an action
How these tasks are organized depends on the dimensions and metrics you are seeking to follow. Thus the next response that should immediately follow your question (or be included in your question) should include the dimensions and metrics of interest. To understand this better, let’s look at how dimensions and metrics are typically defined and applied in an analytics report.
How Dimensions and Metrics Give You The Answers You Expect
Every analysis seeks to explain a dimension — an aspect or feature of a given interest — and one or more metrics — a numeric score associated with the aforementioned aspect or feature. A simpler explanation is to imagine a sports scoreboard — the dimensions are the team you like, while metrics are the score for your team. So to keep the analogy, your discussion will be about what is happening in the game.
So with the analyst as your announcer, you have someone who can give you how the dimensions and metrics are playing out. But to get a good answer, you need to frame your open-ended questions with some details — namely a dimension and metric — to get a meaningful answer. Many times the analyst is relying on a table of dimensions and metrics. The columns would represent metrics as a ratio or numeric value. The rows contain the dimensions.
Most tables are arranged for comparison. But other visualization can be helpful. When there is more than one dimension or metric — the existence of which determines the kind of visualization needed. One kind of chart in analytics solutions, visual flow chart, permits a dimension selection to help how people are navigating a large site. That arrangement can help reveal the magnitude of a metric change, and even reveal where that change is happening.
These details imply that a discussion on what dimensions and metrics that are needed should be implemented before having ongoing reporting. It is especially important when adding data from other sources. Allowing analysis of non-standard data sources like CRM requires some modification of the typical analytics solution. For example, Google Analytics can add Custom Dimensions and Custom Metrics by setting up the analytics script for the other sources providing the data.
At the end of the day, your open-ended questions should connect to the dimensions and metrics being reported. They should ask in some format what dimensions have metrics that are trending and which have a major deviation. A trend will likely involve a long term strategy or tasks, while a deviation will trigger immediate need. All of this depends on which metrics and dimensions you have set up and what you want to monitor.
Bring Everything Together To Keep The Discussion Moving Forward
You can then begin to pay better attention to what questions come up regularly when analytics reports are prepared. Is the activity from the dimension and metrics a way to support research, like developing a customer cohort for a new product or monitoring an emerging market? Is the activity for an immediate marketing purpose like a digital ad campaign? The answers can spotlight the resources and tasks to be organized for the next time the team meets. Refining metrics and reports will be worked out as you move forward.
The overall point of asking simple open-ended questions with dimensions and metrics in mind is that you will receive good feedback that can help you decide what you can do and what could be developed further. Everyone involved will then make choices that maximize the marketing budget while organizing everyone’s time. Overall you want to ask a few questions that set the pace for good reporting.
There is no way to guarantee that every question you ask will be perfect. But asking a reasonable open-ended question can generate the right details that will move your digital marketing….and business….ahead.