I was asked advice by someone a lot younger than me, something, that is by the way, becoming more and more common as I get older… I think there may be some kind of correlation. But I digress :). Yes, I was asked about how to learn to do analytics.
My reply was just do it.
Of course it didn’t end there.
The next question was “but where do you start?”
The answer… “Google Analytics and your own website.”
The next question, “yes but how do you know what to look for?” to which I replied “why do you want to learn about analytics before knowing why you need to understand it?”
That’s a question people don’t ask themselves but they should.
A lot of students have read my book and I get asked questions about various things in it from time to time. That’s cool by the way. I like helping people in my own small way.
But you won’t learn analytics by reading a book, it’s by doing what you need to learn for a reason. Don’t get me wrong the books are treasure troves of information, there are dozens of things you can use in Eric’s books, Avinash’s books, my book (shameless self promotion.. I know!), or many of the others on the market. My point is that you really should apply what you’re learning in those books to your own specific situations or you’ll forget most of what’s in them.
Learning by doing
When you actually do analytics in order to optimize your business somehow then you’re learning, whether you succeed or fail, you’re learning. Your business could be to save money, to earn more money, to get leads, to support your customers better, to understand your market better or simply find out where you stand in comparison to your competition. It doesn’t really matter.
In the early days of my career in this industry I didn’t have a clue what I was doing with the tools or what they could show me but I knew what I wanted to find out. In most cases I only got part of the answer but it led me onto different questions which in turn taught me things like how to use benchmarking, segmentation and KPIs to test out theories and ideas. Then I realized I could apply something else I’d learned earlier, direct marketing and statistical thinking to what I was doing. In the end analytics became a good tool for me to apply to a number of different business questions.
So the discussion ended with “take the business problem and start from there. Then ask why.”
Not enough sales? Why not? Not enough leads? why not? Not, how do I do analytics?
So as they say at Nike. Just do it.