Various ideas got thrown around during the weekly team meeting and Emily, the VP of Marketing, suggested doing some historical analysis to determine which option is likely to work best. Lucky for her, there’s a person in the analytics team (let’s call him Eric) who is actually happy to run the desired analysis. No prob. It’ll take just a couple of days.

So Eric goes off and fashions a few SQL queries, gets a bunch of numbers, throws them into Excel, creates a pivot table and a few charts, copies them over to a few ppt slides, and is now meeting with Emily to discuss the results. At this point, two things can conceivably happen, but only one of those things actually ever takes place.

Option A (hint: this is the one that never happens)

Emily studies the charts in the presentation, digests them, and says, “Great. I’ve no further questions”.

Option B

Emily studies the charts in the presentation and says:

– “Hmmm. But wait… Has this always been like that? Is it changing over time? Which way does it go?”

– “Hang on – how come this looks like that? Is it because we’ve included A? What if we exclude it?”

– “Oh, that’s interesting – but you know, now that I think about it, we should really compare that against this other thing, and break it down by country, and then break it further down by product line but only in the US…”

This is a natural consequence of the way we think: We first have an idea how to figure something out, but when we see the first approximation of an answer it immediately spawns six follow-up questions. And when those questions get answered, we suddenly have some additional ones… This is inevitable, and indeed fruitful, and isn’t particularly true of marketing analytics – it’s quite universal. Great ideas come from digging deep, not from a single cycle and a cursory glance.