Ever feel like you're flying blind when it comes to your investment in new design, content creation and tech development initiatives?

You are not alone.

I have met many business leaders that continually feel like they don't know what's working or not when it comes to anything digital, meaning that they didn't have any GPS when it came the planning and investment decision-making phases.

This is where analytics should step-in to save the day.

But it usually doesn't.
That is because most analytics setups lack something key:
Analysis
Most businesses that think they have some kind of analysis happening, because they have 'analytics' in place. Actually what these businesses have is data collection and reporting, not analysis.
Yes I am talking to Google Analytics die-hards, and here is what I'm saying: The average Google Analytics setup does not equal analysis.

The origin of the word 'analysis'

Late 16th century: via medieval Latin from Greek analusis, from analuein 'unloose', from ana- 'up' + luein 'loosen'.
-- [Oxford Dictionaries]
Do you feel loosened?
It turns out that the root of our word 'analysis' comes from analuein, (for our word 'unloose'). So in the context of this stuff, where should this loosening come into your leadership?

  • It comes by you knowing exactly what is working for you and what is working against you.
  • It comes by you feeling confident to hold onto things that work and let go of things that don't.
  • It comes by you feeling empowered to make decisions without being tied to complicated datasets that aren't serving you, but imprisoning you.
  • It comes by you feeling peaceful about your decisions, because you know they are made based on trustworthy insights.
    But what if we dig into some more contemporary interpretations of the word 'analysis'.

And 'business analysis'?

Here's a common definition of business analysis from Wikiepedia:

"Business Analysis involves identifying the needs and determining the solutions to business problems"
So analysis in a business context is about identifying problems, underlying needs and required solutions.
Think about the most recent monthly digital performance report you received under the guise of 'performance analysis'. What decisions did it help you to make that you wouldn't have made before seeing that report?

So, what's missing from most analytics setups?

I said earlier that most analytics setup miss a key component: Analysis.
So where has analysis gone?
Most people in your service business are able to analyse a dataset. So it's not that we don't have the raw skill. I think there at least three causes for missing analysis, here they are in order of increasing importance:

1. Too much data

Our datasets are becoming bigger, more indepth and fragmented. It can be difficult to get everything into a single place in the right format to begin to apply analytical tools and methods.
More and more of our client consultancy is invested in setting up data automation and data management tools and processes to get the right data from where it is generated (usually some SAAS tool/plugin) to where it is stored (usually SQL or spreadsheet) to where it is analysed (always a good old spreadsheet) or paper (excellent for qualitative analyses in my opinion).
There is no hard and fast rule as to what exact data to capture, but as long as you capture the fundamental elements, you're good to go:
1.1. Online enquiry / lead conversion rates (from web analytics tools)
1.2. Lead to account conversion rates (from CRM tools)
1.3. Tracked phone call data (from phone tracking system)
1.4. Top 20% AdGroups, Ads and Keywords from AdWords and any other PPC tools you're running (from AdWords et al)
1.5. Email marketing performance metrics (from your email tools, both marketing like Mailchimp, and automation like Drip.
1.6. Landing page performance metrics (we use and recommend Instapage)
1.7. Customer service performance metrics (from your ERP and and transactional tracking tools such as: Email, Ticketing, Phone Support, Live Chat, KB, On-site support)
1.8. Financial performance metrics - how else can you calculate ROI (from your accounts package)
All of the above should enable to you 'close the loop' (which is my term for linking inputs (things you can control) to outcomes (consequences of those things, which either benefit or harm you). That means spanning a total stranger's first touch through to their latest account invoice.
If you're not sure these eight elements are being captured properly in your business, get in touch for some pointers.

2. Not enough time

It's commonly documented that business leaders do not make enough time to think strategically. Analysis is a strategic process - since strategy is simply the development of a plan to get from where you are (requires analysis) to where you want to be and how you're doing on the way (which also both require analysis).
(Good) Analysis takes time to conduct. You need space, peace and quiet and a good dollop of time to get your mind into proper analysis. This allows you to let your curiosity emerge without being distracted by the latest marketing red-herring.
So, whomever it is that's responsible for analysing this data, I encourage you to:
2.1 Create extensive and regular protected time slots for the task, and protect them from time raiders!
2.2 Enforce data standards on whomever is supplying them with the data for analysis, so their time is spent doing analysis, not formatting spreadsheets.
2.3 Invest in tools to leverage their effort. Be honest are your tools up to the job of collecting and collating the required data? Invest in good tools and they will pay for themselves hundreds of times over. I am due to write a piece on budgeting for analytics.
2.4 Granting them authority to search out more information, from whomever has it in your business. This analysis is facilitating your growth investment decisions, so give this person authority to go searching for more information when required. I often find that some of the most fascinating insights come from spending time with people all around the business asking them all about what it is they do for customers and how. The qualitative insights that arise can feed into asking much better questions of the data.
Here's my nice segue into the final cause of missing analysis!

3. Asking bad questions

Typical 'analysis' type question:
"how much has our website traffic increased since last month?"
(An often an arbitary but commonly 'important' metric demanded by business leaders). What is a business leader supposed to do with this? You can go on fiverr and buy 10,000 unique visitors for $5. What's the value of website traffic?! Do you feel empowered to make better decisions or fix problems if you find out you had 11,000 visitors instead of 9,800 last month?
Instead, try asking:
"what online referral sources generated our converting traffic this month?"
What does the latter achieve? It helps you link what happened to a business objective and helps you identify how to repeat and increase that which was successful. That's empowerment.
Stay focussed on the things you can influence, otherwise you'll tire yourself out on vanity projects such as increasing web traffic. Who wants more visitors anyway, I want you to have leads and customers flowing into your CRM, not random clickers on your website!

Allow awkward questions

Kill all sacred cows in your business if you want to be a learning (and thus growing and transforming) organisation. Allow the analytical process to raise interesting and potentially politically-charged questions, and insist those questions receive an adequate response.
I cannot state this enough: Allow any question to arise, and get it answered.

Allow 'cross functional' exploration

Sometimes the key to your conversion rate breakthrough is not going to come from your marketing or web team, it will come from a customer service representative that said "people are always asking me if we can X this and when I say yes, they say "why didn't you tell me that a year ago"
Allow your analysts to review the customer service calls and emails.
Let them lift the lid on the sales process. Let them see the quotes and sales interaction email-threads that your sales team is maintaining.
Let them ask those hard questions, just as if they were a three year old child that wanted to get to the core of "why"

Don't shun qualitative data collection

If your business is being reviewed on TrustPilot or some other influential site, take note of the praise and the complaints. Copy and paste all of those comments and do some sentiment analysis.
Allow your analysts to review the customer testimonial collection process. Record interviews with your best and worst customers.
Allow phraseology that your prospective, current and past customers to float to the surface. Allow your analyst to train your designers and copywriters to impart the newfound insights into all communications going out the door.

Then ask more questions

Allow these observations to give rise to questions which can be asked of the quantitative data you possess. Are there new keyword filters you can run to dig out more gold from your swelling data sets.
Ask questions of your question asking, and you'll go a long way.

Go forth and analyse

Analytics is the forerunner to successful growth and transformation initiatives. If you come away with nothing else from this article, please take away the three reasons analysis is missing: Too much data, not enough time and asking bad questions. If you can fix those three things, your analysis (and thus analytics) will naturally develop which will lead to ROI in the thousands and hundreds of thousands of percent.
If you need help with your analytics and analysis and any of the above, I'm here for you.