“😱 I’m flooded with data! How do I know what to report on?”

Dearest Marketing Guru,

My agency is flooding me with a weekly deluge of KPI data that I’m struggling to understand. It’s hard to beam a signal through the noise and convey our success to my manager who doesn’t have the time to sift through the spreadsheets. Every week feels like an uphill battle!

Is there a way to make sense of it all and prove our campaigns are achieving their goals? 


Drowning in Data

A marketer in need of the Guru’s help

Dear DrowningInData,

You wouldn’t BELIEVE the spreadsheets my agency used to create. Once, I got one framed and hung it up big-as-life. It was a sight to see! Took up most of the wall. When the agency visited, I felt like I made a point there.

Well, here’s the bottom line: you need to go on a metrics diet. Pronto. Like any diet, you’ll need your environment’s help to stay on track. That means your agency must join you on this terrifying journey.

How to get started? It’s sensible to periodically remind yourself as well as those you work with about the meaning of acronyms. KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator. Let’s use a highlighter and make “key” stand out by coloring it in yellow, okay?

A metric is something you can keep track of: a data point. Digital marketing can have an infinite amount of data which makes us feel like we know what we’re doing. Your agency is sending you all the information they can find in their campaign backend in attempt to prove that they understand everything.

A KPI is not just any ol’ metric, but a VIP: Very Important Parameter! Choosing a KPI means you say, ‘This particular stat is the most important indicator of my success!’ That’s why they call it a KEY Performance Indicator.

You and your agency are not focusing on what is key, what is essential. If you were, you wouldn’t be receiving these spreadsheets. Instead, you would be receiving a beautiful presentation with mainly learnings, not data.

I ran into this problem when we bought a small media-buying agency and started onboarding the team. I asked a thirty-something media buyer to show me one of her best reports for a client.

“I know exactly what to send you,” she said confidently.

I can recall her face so vividly because she was always peering at everyone, as if she needed new glasses. I think she had spent too much time in front of a screen, to be honest.

“Oh, you’re not going to send it to me,” I told her. “I want you to present it to me.”

Her gaze moved rapidly as she considered her question. “You mean, like a presentation?”

I shrugged with a jangling of my golden earrings. “No presentation necessary. But typically it’s what you do, right? To send your presentation and then follow up with a call?”

At this moment, the young marketer’s cheeks began to flush pink. “Yes, I will use a presentation. Should I just schedule an appointment with your assistant? Perhaps next week?”

“I have time later today,” I replied. “Just use a report you had created recently. It shouldn’t take too much time.”

The woman now looked like she was going to become ill. In the end, I met with her again a few hours later and, as I had expected, she had put all of her metrics onto a great deal of slides that told me nothing at all.

Ah yes, I may have been a bit harsh putting her in the hot seat like that. But what can I say? I was merely fostering learning opportunities! And I didn’t yell at her or anything! I just told her what I am sharing with you today: Reports should communicate learnings, not metrics!

What can you do to stop this metric diarrhea? (I apologize for my crudeness today.) Firstly, you should practice mindfulness in your marketing life. Take a step back: You don’t have to engage with these metrics just because they exist.

Secondly, you need to decide what is truly important. Choose one, or at most two, metrics per phase of your campaign. These will be your KPIs, and they will be your guides in determining if things are going well.

Next, ask your agency to report on these KPIs in a slide rather than a spreadsheet. You want insights, not numbers. Ask them to formulate conclusions and learnings; these should not simply describe metrics.

An example of describing a metric: “Viewability has increased by 20% in the last week.”

An example of a learning: “Despite the increase in viewability over the last week, we don’t see an accompanying increase in clicks. This means we may need to reevaluate our audience and ads.”

Check out the first sentence, it’s as useful as a chocolate teapot when chatting with your boss. The second sentence is like a lightbulb in your brain, illuminating the clear way forward. The key to nailing those reports is discipline and focus.

Right, I think that’s more than enough to get you started, DrowningInData! I’d recommend you give this a good read-through a couple of times and then take the rest of the day off. When you strut in there tomorrow, make sure to let everyone know that it’s time to narrow their sights on what really matters!

When it comes to what is essential, I have a novel on my plate. To be honest, it’s not going very well today. I’m stuck on describing what my protagonists are wearing. Maybe I need a break too?



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Hi, I’m Angie. I was a brilliant marketing director before cashing out my stocks and retiring (very) early. Now, I answer your questions about marketing so I can feel better about myself while I relax on my yacht and pretend to write my first novel. Hey, at least I’m honest about it! Want to know more about me?

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