In each of these situations, precise data was critical . The third number to the right of the decimal point mattered.

For awhile, I specialized working with vertical spindle grininding machines with 400HP motors . These machines spin a grinding wheel head that pushed down 227" diameter grinding wheels on pieces of metal larger than the base of your SUV. You don't want to dial in the wrong settings on this machine before you turn it on to do its work. It would send pieces of hot metal and chunks of ceramic grinding wheels faster than Nolan Ryan's 1974 fastballs.

Accurate data is also important in internet marketing -- but unlike in engineering, it doesn't make sense to stay up nights making sure the third number to the right of the decimal place is correct . It's far more important to spend your time running experiments, and collecting new data.  

Use Data, Even With Imperfections

As HubSpot's resident technical sales guy, I get pulled into a lot of phone calls with marketers and small business owners who like to analyze the data in our software.

Often, they're looking at this data for the first time and they don't know what's an important number and what's not. To compound the confusion the data is sometimes not what they expect.

For different purposes, we collect data in different ways. Some data is gathered from crawling a website or other websites, some extracted using an API and some comes from direct measurement through analytics software .

If numbers are slightly different or numbers don't align with what's expected, many people jump to the conclusion that the numbers can't be trusted.

But, in engineering school, one critical lesson that is taught is how to approach a problem with the numbers that you have. Here's the process that scientifc and business minds have been using for hundreds of years.

I recommend internet marketers adopt this process, too: 

  1. Gather the data that you can about the situation, problem or opportunity. Understand the source of the data and any biases it may have. 
  2. Use the data to make a hypothesis.
  3. Formulate some experiments that will test the hypothesis. 
  4. Conduct the experiments.
  5. Measure the results.
  6. Start the experimentation process over again now that you have more and better data.
  7. Iterate until you've solved the problem and achieved your goals.

Running Better & Smarter Experiments for Improved Internet Marketing ROI

HubSpot's software is designed to enable this sort of constant improvement by leveraging this scientific process: Data, Experimentation, Measurement. 

Many internet marketing data providers focus on just gathering the data and presenting it. The experimentation and measurement occurs somewhere else. The beauty of HubSpot's software is that all three of those things occur in the software. So, the data improves over time, as customer's use our software more often and over a longer period of time.

As you can see from these inbound marketing ROI reports , we analyze this marketing data very scientifically in order to extract best practices.  

Although even we continue to experiment, there's one thing that we do know for absolute certain, based on our data. We know that it is better to start doing your internet marketing today than staring at data.

Taking action, experimenting with different traffic acquisition and lead generation approaches, and measurement of marketing ROI is far more important than worrying about whether one number is more accurate than another one.

In our customer internet marketing training program , we've laid out exactly how to implement these processes for all the important steps involved in a successful  online lead generation strategy.

On our blog, we've written lots of posts that lay out this "engineering" approach for different internet marketing tactics:

  1. Iterative Data Driven Approach to SEO
  2. Scientific Approach to Improving PPC ROI
  3. Measuring Social Media Marketing
  4. Closed Loop Marketing: Connecting Web Analytics to CRM  

Once a business begins seeing success from these activities, they know exactly how to tweak their activities based on the data they're collecting from their experiments.

That data combined with the data culled from the web, search engines, social media and competitor's sites helps them make important decisions on how to continuously improve their internet marketing ROI .

What experiments are you doing? Are you constantly improving? Do you have systems in place to make decisions based on gathered data AND measured data? Do you know people with internet marketing analysis paralysis?

(Photo by Ben+Sam )

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Originally published Mar 16, 2009 8:10:00 AM, updated October 20 2016


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