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Data Rich, Insight Poor

Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful

Most companies would say they are data-driven. Do you agree? You gather as much data as possible in order to make strategically based decisions regarding marketing, branding, budget, and new product ideas. Because more data equals more insights, right? Not necessarily. Don’t waste time on the wrong numbers. To prevent a data overload, you’ll have to hone in on the 1% of data that actually matters.


Remove the Noise

Your first instinct may be to take every data point you can find and cram it into one page. Have you ever googled sales metrics finding articles like “100 sales metrics everyone should track.” How can you focus on what’s important with all of the unnecessary information? Keep it simple! To quote the designer John Maeda, “simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.”  Including data just because it exists will cause you to place emphasis on what may not benefit you.


How to Pick the Metrics that Matter

Look for the vital signs…just as in health care there are vitals that indicate the health of critical functions in the human body. One of your “vitals” might be monthly revenue. You should always track the pulse of your vitals in case they dip, but don’t expect them to give you actionable insights. Vitals alone will not give you a correct diagnosis.

Spend most of your time on the metrics that answer a business question, or are going to invoke a change in behavior (e.g. what types of deals should we focus on?). Reflect on which metrics drove productive conversations and which ones resulted in awkward silences, those can be scrapped.

Metrics come in Pairs.

It’s all about balance. You can measure the performance of a team with just two complementary metrics. For example, you could have one for quantity and one for quality. For a sales agent, it may be agent productivity versus customer satisfaction rating. To encourage the right behavior, pair the leads created number with win rate.


Get to Know your Clients Really Well

Jonah Disend is CEO and founder of Redscout, a branding and product development company with clients like Gatorade and Domino’s that he founded in his New York apartment in 2000. He describes traditional advertising as “yell about what we’re doing and hope someone is interested.”

His approach to brands—which he applied to Domino’s core product, its pizza, and to Gatorade when he helped launch the G series—is to ask “How do you behave differently, do different things, make different products or services?” “Then use marketing to amplify. Instead of trying to convince the consumers you’re different, actually be different. The marketing goes so much further.”


Insight is what really matters. And what is that exactly? Disend says, “If I tell you an insight you will feel it. Physiologically you will feel it. If it’s not an insight you won’t feel it.”