Analytics – What vs Why

Written by Charles Nelson - December 11, 2019

Analytics only tell us what people did, not why they did it. I found that small but perfect gem in the rich ore of Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes. Most of our research is about what decisions people make, not why they made them.

Then we start making assumptions about the whys – and start crafting promotional messages based on those assumptions. Simon Sinek argues there is no emotion in the What, only in the Why. I agree.

If we base marketing actions on observed behaviour, without understanding the emotions that governed that behaviour, we are in danger of sending the wrong message. That means we wasted our time, wasted our clients’ time, and lost an opportunity. It means we heard, without listening, and assumed we understood.

In today’s high “noise to signal” world, it’s hard enough to cut through when we are absolutely “on message”. If we’re not, we’re only part of the noise.

Example: At PSMJ Resources Asia Pacific, we track the reasons people give for what they want out of our programs they attend. We know that “leadership” and “team management” are at the top of the list. So, we can increase the amount of focus we give to these topics. Does that answer the need?

There are many possible reasons why attendees could see these two focus areas as important. But unless we dig deeper, we won’t know WHY they list these objectives, and we risk adding material that still leaves them unsatisfied. We miss their targets.

Seen through the lens of Handley’s little gem, we need to focus more on the WHY of participants’ perceived needs. We need to rethink the way we ask the research questions.

Charles Nelson AIA, LFRAIA, AECPM

23 October 2018