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Marketing Lessons from the Appalachian Trail

by Peter Kimpton

Don’t Leap to Conclusions from Your Data

When I hike alone, I carry a satellite beacon as well as my cell phone in case of emergency. It also lets friends and family follow my progress via social media. The image below is part of a tracking report from my hike on the Appalachian Trail—and it is a great analogy about marketing campaign data:

Kimpton_app_trail_map

As you can clearly see, the data shows that in August 2015 I walked across water. Here's a ground-level view of the scene where it happened:

Kimpton_app_trail_photo

You see there's no bridge there. Perhaps I swam? Maybe I took a boat? There are many potential explanations besides what really happened: I walked around the pond but the tree canopy blurred the signal from my satellite beacon. So the tracking system estimated my position, and that's why there's a location "blip" in the center of the pond; an assumption based on limited data. The same way I appeared to walk on water, false assumptions and misinterpreting campaign data can lead to the wrong conclusions.

A Case Study in Bad Data Conclusions

The “walking on water” story also reminds me of one of my professional experiences in marketing several years ago at a different company. My colleagues and I began a campaign to break into a new market segment but the conversion rates were really disappointing. Things looked even worse when the CRM revealed the few leads that did turn into opportunities were lost due to price. The campaign was looking like a disaster and our sales group started making the case for a drastic price cut. But when we began talking with prospects and partners in the field to test that conclusion, and we got some MUCH different opinions:

  • We learned our messaging about product performance didn’t follow the industry standards of measure in this new target market. We were speaking to our audience in gibberish. The conversion rate was low because customers couldn’t understand our value proposition.

  • We discovered we did have a financial barrier to the market but it was a financing issue (not price). Our competition offered more favorable terms and financial options—the price of our solution wasn’t why we were losing deals, it was the payment process.

So while the data was suggesting one thing, a skeptical eye (and some experienced second opinions) were much more revealing. In both hiking and marketing we know that metrics are important but context is what makes them truly valuable.

Get the Right Data

Whether we're navigating a jungle of campaign data or hiking through the Glastonberry Wilderness, it's useful to remember that accurately determining your true location on a journey relies on multiple data points. Simple website analytics aren’t enough.

A comprehensive data-gathering solution like Progress Sitefinity Digital Experience Cloud can give you the context you need to make smarter marketing decisions. Going one step further, the customer’s (or hiker’s) point-of-view reveals more about the terrain than a map or graph—so any good conclusions from your marketing KPIs should always be tested with a field survey. Lastly, hikers know that irregularity (not linearity) tends to be the natural order of things. Savvy marketers will learn more about customer behavior by reviewing their data in both totality and by segments (or personas), rather than assume all customer journeys are identical.

Making business-critical decisions based on the wrong data can lead to disastrous conclusions—just ask my old sales group. Gathering the right data becomes easier with the right CMS backing you up, and will help make sure you base your strategic plans on firm ground.

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