Usually, when people hear the word homework they start twitching, especially if spreadsheets and calculators are anywhere in the vicinity. But homework can actually be a good thing when it comes to your data. Periodic reviews of your data gives you a chance to step back and survey the big picture that often gets muddled in the day-to-day frenzy of doing business. Studying your data can also provide insight into trends, areas of strength, and areas that may need more attention.
When I say periodic, I’m thinking quarterly. Think of a data homework session as a road map that gives you a sense of whether the direction in which you are headed is the direction in which you thought you were headed. If not, regular analysis throughout the year allow you to revise and reevaluate your practices sooner, putting you back on the right track. Waiting too long to find out things aren’t going well can be costly in so many ways. Because you can make changes and adjustments sooner, you actually grow your accounts versus just maintaining them.
Another benefit of a quarterly analysis is that it can help strengthen your relationship with your accounts, affiliate network, affiliate managers and/or agency, whatever your case may be. It gives you the opportunity to ask questions, clarify goals and clear up confusion sooner rather than later. An in depth study of your data can also put a lens on high performers and stragglers.
Here at AdStation, we highly encourage our publishers to maintain an open channel of communication with their account managers to fully understand all of the data that is available to them to help drive their mailing decisions. We want our publishers to be armed with all the information they can be. Are they seeing the long trends? What is your ROI by domain? What’s working with Yahoo? What’s working with AOL? Who is making you the most money? And, most importantly, who actually pays you on time each month? (Shameless AdStation plug!)
Reviews can provide insightful information as long as you keep the end goal in mind: To better your business. The purpose of these appraisals is to examine your data and practices and then come up with recommendations for improvement. The challenge is being open to what the analysis reveals. If you’re not, you’ve wasted time (and potentially money). If you have no intention of changing your practices for the better, then it’s best to keep plugging along in ignorant bliss and dread the year-end audit that comes like clockwork.
One last piece of advice, if you choose to conduct quarterly appraisals using in-house staff, be transparent and smart about it. At times, your data should be examined by someone who is intimately familiar with it. While other times, hiring an outside expert ensures that your data will be reviewed with a fresh site of eyes and by someone who has no knowledge of your practices and politics. And occasionally, that could be a good thing.
I’d love to hear from you on this topic? How often do you do your data homework?
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