One of the best ways to determine if a marketing plan is working is with real data.

Did people buy the product? Did people visit the event? Did folks show up with a promotion code? Did a user take the action you wanted them to take on a website? If they visited a targeted landing page, what actions did they take? Did they buy, look at other pages or just leave?

I’m going to date myself here, but I’m going to tell you a short story from a few years back. Back when I worked at Crystal Decisions, we ran a series of usability studies at a usability test lab in Chicago. We were testing folks using a new design for a web shopping cart. The design was rather novel at the time with a growing top cart box that kept users in the shopping experience. The design concept is not that big a deal today, but it sure was in 2002/2003 and boy did we hear it. It was fun and agonizing to sit behind the glass and listen to people’s reactions and we learned a lot about our design. I noticed though that what people said they would do wasn’t often what they actually did. This specific testing experience changed my point of view when it came to understanding users. What came next though was even more specific.

In the neighbouring room was a focus group about a new health/beauty product about to launch. The focus group was giving feedback on their likes and dislikes across the products offered. At the exit of the focus group was a table and the participants were invited to take a product home as a thank you. Pretty common.

The most important results of the focus group was which products the folks took home and which they left on the table.

Let me say that again. They listened to feedback of course, but the most important feedback of the day was the product sample the folks took home.

Yes we do testing differently now. We test online more. We A/B test. We do all sorts of things, but the only thing that matters at the end of the day is: What action did the user take?

How do you know what action the user takes if you are not measuring, reporting and reviewing the data?

The most important question: What action did the user take?

I’ll give you an example. We have two similar pages. Each is a landing page on the same client website. It is an attractive page with a specific call to action to make a selection of sub-categories and to take the next step on the decision flow on this website.

This is the data from Live Page A. The bounce rate for this page is only 14%. This means that 86% of users found something of interest and moved on to a secondary page on this website. I would call this a successful path.

This is the data from Live Page B. The bounce rate for this page is 92%. This means only 8% of users found something of interest and moved on to a secondary page on this website. I would call this an unsuccessful path.

How would you ever uncover such an opportunity for change and improvement if you didn’t have this data. Live Page B requires an audit to determine why the page is failing.

What is on the page that is causing users to leave as soon as they arrive? Is it the copy, images, source, context? Price?

What are users expecting on this page and what is it delivering? What is the source? Is it an ad that is promising something the page isn’t offering?

See, analytics can be fun. Really. Or if it’s not fun for you, then hire someone like me. I can delve into the data, provide some context and you can make the best decisions for your business.

And remember, the most important question is ‘What action did the user take?’

Using real data and analytics is also the difference between making choices like between these doors. You can guess or you can know.

Does your business need a website?

When potential clients are looking for you online, or talking about you on social media, are you there to greet them?

Are you optimizing your online presence and maximizing your ROI?

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