The Why and The How
I'm constantly telling my account managers to look beyond the numbers and answer the why and the how for our clients. As marketers, that's our number 1 job to our client. Looking beyond the numbers to answer why and how. Clients can look at the numbers. This is a very simple task, which is why numbers in analytics are there. No one hires someone to recount the numbers. They hire people to make the numbers tell a story.
Being a storyteller is what is going to set you apart from the competition.
The competition of another agency, the competition of your coworkers or the competition of impressing your boss. You absolutely must look beyond the numbers to tell the story.
Let's start with the most basic and work from there. In order to tell a story, you must first know the history. Every good story begins with a "Once upon a time..." Your performance story does the same thing. Once upon a time your visits, your conversions, your metrics were this. Without knowing the history, it makes it difficult to tell a compelling story. What is your starting point? How much of the story do you have and are you missing, and can you go to a person that can teach you the history.
(To go on a side tangent, when I've seen accounts transferred from one person to the next, one of the most difficult hurdles to leap is knowing what happened in the past. Annotate everything in Analytics. After every client call you should make a contact report, send this out to the client and save it in a folder that is accessible by everyone. Make sure your reporting notes are thorough and accurate. If there were discrepancies, then go back and annotate them.)
Now it's time for the plot. The meat of your story lies in the bridge between the opening and the closing. What discoveries have you made? Climb down the rabbit hole and keep unraveling. Discover the why and the how. You must constantly be asking yourself questions as your build your story. Often we get bogged down in the numbers and don't take a second to pull back to discover if there were real world events that affected the numbers. Natural disasters, tourist attractions, airlines now flying direct, PR, competitor going out of business, the list goes on. Was there a website change, code broken, website down time or a social media push? Keep digging to find out what the plot of your story is.
Why is this happening? How is this possible?
Finally, the conclusion. Voldemort has the elder wand, so what are you going to do about it, Potter? Now that you know the history, and you've drawn the line between then and now, what measures are you going to take to fix it? Granted, if your story is positive, then we'll live happily ever after, increasing performance as we feast in the castle. But, if your story is dramatic, it's up to you to provide the happy ending. What did you learn during your story that will help you save the day? Use the story to craft your strategy. Are you heading in the wrong direction? Is there something new you need to try? Do you need to make tweaks? Your conclusion is an action that will lead you to your next story. You'll always have a to be continued, that's the beauty of internet marketing. You can easily create sequels, spinoffs, trilogies, volumes, it's never ending.
If you can become a great data storyteller, well, you'll live like you've created and hidden horcruxes all around.
(For non-Potter fans, all 3 of you, that means forever)