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Data-driven intuition: How to use numbers to make better marketing decisions

Everyday questions are easy to answer:

  • “Will I like those shoes?”
  • “Will that be a good dinner?”
  • “When should I start getting ready to go out?”

We have tons of experience that has informed our answers to questions like these. We get a feeling one way or another, immediately. Yes, I will like those new Nike basketball shoes, no I will not like liver and onions, and I should start getting ready about 20 minutes before we leave.

We rely so much on this feeling-intuition that we use it in business decisions.

What should the new website look like? How many people can I hire this year? Should we have a face on our billboard?

Easy questions to answer quickly, right? You probably have a feeling on which way you’d lean on each one.

In complex decisions, though, our handy human intuition breaks down. The Harvard Business Review published a blog post two years ago that has been getting some traction again recently titled, “The Future of Decision Making: Less Intuition, More Evidence.”

The thesis of the article is that human intuition is only useful in situations with obvious cues and a feedback loop.

Like choosing a shirt – you can approximate what the shirt will look and feel like, remember similar shirts, then assess your presumptions when you wear it. Another example the article uses is firefighters predicting how flames will spread – they have seen similar flames before, have internalized how the flames move, and can predict what will happen next.

But making intuitive decisions in today’s complex, fast-moving, data-driven society isn’t always smart. Just because Apple’s stock is plummeting and you’ve seen it plummet before, doesn’t mean you’re qualified to say what happens next.

There are plenty of great examples of this in the Internet marketing world.

Your gut won’t tell you that an ad crafted in MS paint may have the highest click through rate or that changing your signup button from green to red can increase conversions by 21%. Your Internet marketing strategy needs to rely on data over intuition to constantly improve your campaigns.

One area of your business where numbers are ripe for the picking is Google Analytics. You have free access to a wealth of data analytics tools so that you don’t have to rely on your gut.

Here are three easy, numbers-based changes you can start optimizing today:

1) Optimize your Contact form/checkout page completion rate

You can make a huge impact on your leads/sales by tweaking the last page before conversion. For ecommerce sites, this is the checkout process. For lead gen, it’s the contact page.

Look at the content report in Google Analytics and find your relevant pages. Then click the navigation summary report to see the percentage of visitors that viewed the form and converted. Do A/B tests with Google Content Experiments to test different versions of the page, in order to improve the completion rate.

2) Fix homepage bounce rate

Your homepage has one goal – get a click to another page on the website.

Your homepage bounce rate tells you how effective your homepage is. Anything over 35% can be tested and improved.

Do you have one service that makes up a ton of your revenue? One hot, bestselling product?

Feature it on the homepage. Or make the homepage a roadmap for the rest of the site: add in a three-column graphic that points to three popular areas of the site. The point is to get people off of the homepage and into the sales funnel of your website.

You can debate about how the homepage should look forever, but the true test of effectiveness can be found in the numbers.

3) Do usability testing with 5 people

Usability guru Jakob Nielsen found that testing with more than 5 users is a waste of time, and your efforts are used to find the same types of problems over and over again. So if you can recruit 5 people to complete a usability test on your website, you’ll find nearly all of the errors hampering your conversion. Here are some tips on conducting a usability test.

Remember: business decisions are not place for your gut feelings!

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Hopefully these feel-good photos gave you a good gut feeling, and you like this post now!

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