The Devil is in The Data

Lies, damn lies and statistics”, a phrase mis-attributed to Mark Twain is a familiar quote today. Nobody is sure of its real origins. Twain himself, among others, attributed it erroneously to Benjamin Disraeli. According to Wikipedia it is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. It is also sometimes colloquially used to doubt statistics used to prove an opponent’s point.

We should all be aware of the numbers in our business. From the money in and out of our bank account through to the number of people who engage without marketing efforts. Sadly I come across many business owners who don’t understand the importance of their numbers.

Most small business owners will know how much is left in their bank account this week but how many know what is due in next week? How many will track where that is coming from?

You not only need to have a view of all the numbers in your business, a totally holistic view, but you need to know how those numbers interact with each other. What effect is your Social Media Marketing having on your bank balance? How much is your website costing you to own? What income does it generate?

You should never take any of your numbers in isolation. What you do today for your business will impact tomorrow’s numbers. Regardless of whether you are making a financial investment or a time investment you need to see a return on that investment. You need to see the holistic view of your numbers.

Beware of taking just one set of numbers to see how you are doing. Those numbers can be misleading. Data, taken out of context, can give you a false picture of things. For example, if you were to compare your website visitors this month with those last December you may well see a huge drop or a huge rise. That number alone won’t give you a clear picture of your website’s success. There are many other factors that affect that figure, including but not limited to, how much marketing you did, whether your business has seasonal peaks and troughs, how much your overall strategy has changed and to be honest a myriad of other minor things.

My message to you is to make sure you look at the whole picture. The numbers in your business can mislead you. If you employ an Analyst then they should have access to all the numbers you can supply them with in order to give you as accurate a picture of reality as possible. It should be an unbiased view too.