Like nearly everyone, I was told by grade school teachers along the way that, “You must learn the rules before you break them.” Likewise, during the first two decades of the commercial web, those of us who use the internet as a marketing platform have experienced wave-after-wave of new rules that, within a few weeks of being created, are treated like commandments handed down on chiseled stone tablets. While we are often tempted to dismiss the latest metric of the month, it’s important to pause and remember the voice of that elementary school teacher echoing through the years: “You must learn this metric’s meaning before ignoring it.”

Here are some commandments about new metrics handed down on an iPad tablet.

1 | Understand the direct connection between data and your company’s business model. There are many consumer-marketing social media metrics that don’t apply to business-to-business settings, for example.

2 | Understand how and what the data is supposed to reveal.

3 | Understand how the data supports a customer’s decision process.

4 | If you are a business to business marketer, don’t obsess over consumer marketing metrics (and vice versa).

“Metrics are not numbers on a screen, metrics are people interacting with you and your brand or company.”

5 | Find data that reveals how you can help customers move toward a purchasing decision

6 | Once they become an owner or user of your product or service, find data that reveal how you can create a deeper, longer relationship with them.

7 | Never forget that metrics are not numbers on a screen; metrics are people interacting with you and your brand or company.

8 | Don’t trust data until you know the reason behind the metric. (Read the book Freakonomics.)

After you learn all the rules above, feel free to ignore them. Your company or industry has unique needs or processes that require you to think differently about metrics that are worshipped in other organizations.

When you grow up, you appreciate what your teacher taught you: You really must know the rules first. However, by that time, you’ve learned another maxim:, “Rules are made to be broken.”


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