Ansel Adams. Credit: Flickr, Colin Harris  ADE

Meet The Landscape Photographer Who Will Fix Your Marketing KPI’s

Niky Patyn, Performance Marketer (and Photographer) at These Days Y&R

Three out of every four marketers choose faulty Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to measure their efforts. They mistake engagement for conversion or fail to measure return on business objectives altogether. How do you make sure you’re looking at the right numbers, in the right way, at strategically appropriate times? Two words — stretch that curiosity gap: Ansel Adams.

Ansel Adams was a landscape photographer who produced quite a few remarkable photographs during his lifetime. His wise words of advice for fellow photographers have such an uncanny resonance when it comes to performance marketing, one cannot but naturally imagine him fixing performance indicators. What is a KPI dashboard, after all, other than a view on the surrounding business landscape?

Ansel Adams (Courtesy Cedric Wright Family)

That’s why these five clever Adams quotes will undoubtedly help you to measure how well you are delivering on your key goals and strategic priorities.

1. “The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster”

You know the standard KPI’s; you’ve encountered them too many times in too many shallow dashboards: pageviews, bounce rate, most popular pages, traffic sources etc. They are easy to create (often available as a standard) and they seem to give some insights in how your website is doing. What most people tend to forget, is that such a report has absolutely no relation to their business objectives. What do these figures tell you about how many products you’ve sold, about how your newsletter is doing in terms of engagement or about the extent to which people appreciate your articles?

2. “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept”

If you are going to make a dashboard, make sure KPI’s are linked to your business objectives. How else can you see if your website is helping you to achieve those essential goals? Take the time to think things through as for how to tie measurable on-site behavior to your business targets.

3. “A good photograph is knowing where to stand”

Once you have defined which metrics to include, your next challenge is to know how to look at them. This may seem obvious, but unfortunately sometimes a dashboard is simply comparing this month’s figures with the previous period — even when there is a big seasonality effect at play and it would thus make much more sense to look at last year. Other perspectives you could consider: weekly vs monthly, desktop vs mobile, organic vs other traffic sources, new vs recurring visitors, …

4. “A photograph is usually looked at — seldom looked into”

Now put that dashboard to work. Use it to spot irregularities, opportunities and even errors. Is there something that catches your eye? Why does this happen? What might be the cause of the anomaly? This is where you should stop looking at the dashboard, and look into the data.

Looking across lake toward mountains, “Evening, McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park,” Montana., 1933–1942
5. “The single most important component of a camera is twelve inches behind it”

Once you start looking into the data, please use both parts of your brain. You know your website and your customers better than anyone else. Try to look at the data from their point of view: why are they doing the things you detected in your KPI dashboard? What are they looking for? What do they want to accomplish? And more importantly: how can you help them?

Ansel Adams The Tetons and the Snake River (1942) Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the National Park Service.

Conclusion? Stop staring at your KPI dashboards and start looking into the data, like a great landscape photographer would. Question your analytics team, talk to the sales team, gather insights from in-store staff, review your dashboards, and make sure you’re getting the data you need. Look at your KPI’s like Ansel and a wonderful picture will develop that tells you exactly where you stand — and where to go next — in your landscape.

Questions? Doubts? Comments? Desires? welcome@thesedays.com

This article will be cross-posted soon on thesedays.com/thoughts