This post contains affiliate links for Fathom Analytics.
Analytics is a tricky thing. “Being data driven” has become an accepted axiom in product development, marketing, and beyond. Apply the scientific method, read the data, and get results with this formula rather than relying on judgement.
It’s easy to see why this is such a seductive strategy. Dollars up, human errors down. Hell, in a previous life I was the software engineer tasked with running A/B and multivariate tests to lift free trial conversions for a major website builder. We did get single digit percentage growth, but we never got big wins (due to the nature of local maximums) and I left that experience with a flawed understanding of what it means to rely on data.
The dirty secret to being data driven is to realize that analytics data is only useful as a way to prove or disprove a hypothesis.
It does not gift you with the ability to empathize with your customers.
It does not give you with the power to be a good product manager, small business owner, startup founder, or software engineer.
Too often we introverts lean on our analytics data as a way to stay in our comfort zone. We sift through the data, hoping to find some insight in our funnel or a golden nugget that will reveal that our best customers use iOS 13 on iPad Minis from their tethered phone connection while waiting for the commuter rail in the morning and if only we could serve them a little better we will finally be swimming in that warm cuddly dollar.
My experience has shown me that picking up the phone or sitting down with real people, who really use my software, provide me with 10x the insight compared to being ‘data driven’ by looking at my funnel every week.
Take for example a question I was wondering last year about content marketing in the context of my own software product, WrestlingIQ. I know that coaches who have been around the community for a while hang out a lot in old school forums, but where do new wrestling coaches hang out?
From chatting and interviewing coaches I know that there are a lot of things that keep them up at night. Team finances and scheduling are a big one for all coaches, and imposter syndrome is a big one for new coaches. This is especially acute if the coach hasn’t wrestled in a while or feels shaky about their own technique. Couple that with the fact that I’d just finished up a practice plan builder and I decided to build a long form article.
And now we get to the good stuff…. here is the Fathom Analytics dashboard for this blog:
The blog is not highly trafficked, but you can see pretty clearly that this long form article has done better than any other article I’ve put out there, with the majority of the visits coming from Google. In my mind, this is probably an indication that I can continue doing that, if I believe that those visitors turn into paying customers at a good rate (a topic for another time).
With Google analytics you need to wade through a bunch of screens and are presented with data that is mostly useless. It’s hard for our brains to apply rigor around why the data that is being shown is important. We simply think “oh, the computer is telling me this number, surely it must be important”. Most analytics products sell you the kitchen sink, telling you that it’s all valuable.
On the other hand, Fathom Analytics has done a great job collecting and displaying the right level of data so that I’m left with room to think for myself.
I care a lot about their stance on privacy and ethical tracking too, but it’s not the main reason I love Fathom. This is a small, sharp tool that you can wield effectively without getting bogged down.
To me, that’s worth paying for.