July 25-27, 2018 / Vancouver, BC

Your Funnel isn't a Journey: Data vs Insights - Jon Crowley

August 10, 2016

Speaker - Jon Crowley

We're obsessed with data and analytics for good reason. Data helps us understand our audiences. It tells us what people do, what works, what doesn't work, and what really doesn't work. The thing data doesn’t do well is tell us the why.

In the world of content, “data-driven” has been the buzzword. Site analytics, media metrics, surveys, device behaviours, video views, social sharing, clicks. These are all used as proof in our industry. Not long ago, we started calling these data points “insights.”

We gather data and glean insights like:

  • X% increase in visitors who buy, if they saw X piece of content.
  • People in X age group are more likely to read reviews before deciding to purchase.
  • The chances of subscription skyrocket after reading X articles.

But these aren't insights—they're data points. And content created against data points is missing an essential piece of the puzzle: an understanding of why people do what they do. The human truth behind a metric.

Data is about facts, which are usually about the business. But insights are about interpretation. Insights are about the audience. We have more data than ever, more decisions to make, and more opportunities to use data as a foundation to create. Interpretation is more valuable than it’s ever been.

Letting data override insights can confused the journey we want to take people on (the sales funnel) for the journey people actually take (the customer journey).

When we mistake data as insight, we optimize against what instead of why. When we think data informs insight, we create experiences that have meaning and make people feel appreciated.

Transcription coming soon

So I’m Jon, as Steve just told you, I’m here to give a talk called Your Funnel Isn’t a Journey and what I’m essentially doing is channeling about a year’s worth of deep frustration of conversations with clients, developers, creative teams at actually looking at what we know about our customers and using it to create better content experiences for them.

Really what I’m talking about today is even there’s going to be a lot of strategic plannery rambling is making more meaningful content and that’s going to come across in three main topics. The first one is funnels and journeys, the role they can both play in terms of marketing, planning and creation. The second one is data and insights. These are two separate things that people keep pretending are the same thing. I could have talked about this for 45 minutes, but you would have heard me sputtering with rage the whole time. It’s better that I keep it to a singular section. And the last thing we’re going to talk about is from a strategic standpoint really get from what to why. Being able to say here’s what we know but here’s what we can do to create something meaningful out of it.

You’re going to hear the highlights of the last two years of back and forth of a team I was working with. Before we dive into it in severe depth I should probably introduce myself a little further.

So I’m Jon Crowley. I’m a strategic planner at Publicis North America in the Toronto office. Right now I’m focused on getting a good understanding of the customer, the journey they’re taking, but in the past I’ve done everything from building and managing social media and content teams to building frameworks for education materials for pharmaceutical companies, training their sales reps, so a lot of this is kind of tested on a broad range of different areas and a broad range of content types to ensure that this kind of approach helps feed thinking from from tweets to TV commercials in terms of what your output is going to be from a content perspective.

So without further background or ado, I’ll talk about funnels and journeys. So this is a funnel. I really enjoyed putting that image in the back, so the four people of you who chuckled, thank you, that meant a lot to me.

Really what we’re talking about is sales funnels. A sales funnels is one of the Jurassic era concepts in marketing. It’s the idea that you track the journeys that people take. This is a very classical sales funnel. If you’ve ever seen Glengarry Glen Ross, you’ve heard Alec Baldwin yelling these words at you. But this has been running sales for as long as people can remember. But it all comes down to ensuring people are aware of your product, ensuring they have some real interest they think it applies to them. Getting them to make a decision about the product and then the final action of actually buying the damn thing. This is incredibly useful. But it’s also inherently limited and the problems with sales funnel thinking is that it’s infectious.

Once you start seeing things as a sales funnels, you start seeing everything as a sales funnel. As an example of that, this is Google’s customer journey to online purchase tool. I don’t know if any of are you familiar with it, but it’s a handy little website that they’ve made where you can pick the size of the organization the industry, it works in and the location it works in. What’s interesting is this isn’t actually a customer journey at all, because it doesn’t tell you anything about a customer.

This is essentially a sales funnel with some media lead on top. You’ve got some awareness interactions in social media, people displaying interest either through clicking on a display ad or doing some online search-related behaviors. You’ve got things trying to push the decision, like email marketing and then you’ve got stuff that’s really about that final action. You’ve got direct marketing, e-commerce, stuff about moving that singular needle.

What worries me is that this is becoming the universal definition of a customer journey. You take a sales funnel, you glue some media touch points to it and then you congratulate yourselves because you really understand your customers, you’ve invested in who they are as people and how you’re going to get the most out of them but at the end of a day a funnel fundamentally is not a journey and this is something that I’m consistently fighting clients and fighting coworkers about.


That as much as it would be great that we think our customers exist in the worlds with nothing but media touchpoints and marketing experiences, they’re people with lives. You can’t attach your sales funnel to your website and tell me that now you have a real understanding of what people are looking for. Not really. You have pathing on your site or you have a path to purchase. If you apply your sales funnel in store, that might be a great understanding how to sell more crap. That doesn’t actually indicate that you’ve learned anything about in our customer and who they are and what they’re talking about. When everything comes back to the funnel, everything is fundamentally about you as a business, which is terrible from for your consumers and terrible from a content creation perspective. Essentially what you’re doing is creating the stuff you want them to want rather than the stuff they might actually want.

It’s a picture of a customer’s universe that is composed entirely of media touch points. Imagine if you ask someone how their day was, and their entire story was, well I woke up and I checked Facebook while I was still in bed on my phone, then I listend to two songs on spotify, read the newspaper, then I watched TV for twenty minutes, saw some display ads, read two blog posts, searched something on Google, checked Facebook again, watched a magazine and went to sleep.

That would be a really depressing life for someone to life. So one of the things I want to get across is that funnels are fundamentally business-driven and while that’s really useful from a business planning perspective, from a content planning perspective and a customer-understanding perspective, it’s essentially meaningless. It’s great to say here’s how we accomplished these business goals but if you want to understand people and great things that matter to people, the sales funnel is the complete incorrect tool to use.

This is a family circus cartoon. I actually have been layering this family circus cartoon for the last year, because I think it’s the best depiction of an actual customer journey that I’ve ever seen. You’ve got Billy waking up, doing a whole bunch of stuff and complaining there’s nothing to do. To me this is identical to someone doing some deep customer research and then pulling up Google analytics and showing me which things on their site they’re clicking on.

There’s an entire world of behaviors that your customer has taken, they’re running in circles, wrestling a dog and/or helping to fix a car if we’re taking this as a literal example, but you’re not seeing any of that. You’re not building that into your thinking or your approach. So a journey should be inherently customer driven and this is something that speaking with a roomful of people who create things, I know most of you are probably on the same page with me here. That a lot of it is understanding specific people’s needs, understanding how you can create something that’s legitimately meaningful.

This is an example I really like referencing, it’s about 6 years old. It was made by a company called Effective UI. This is a journey of someone attempting to select a broadband provider. Part of the reason I really enjoy this is it’s so focused on thoughts, feelings, both in general and related to the vendor they’re speaking to of the customer, and then using that to feed into a delineation of phases the person is taking, describing the different tasks they’re going through and then finally making recommendations, not just based on here’s the stages a person takes, but here are their thoughts, here are their feelings, here are the actions they take.

Here are two other journeys. The first one is very CRM and framework focused. The second one is a home improvement focused piece that looks at what people are feeling and thinking and doing. I’m sharing they to essentially drive home the point there’s a million different ways to do a customer journey that’s relevant and valid but all of it needs to be focused on the needs of your consumers first and foremost.

Before I jump onto the media stuff I’m going to do a quick recap about what’s important about the argument.

One, it’s it needs a broader context. Two, it’s really about their actions outside of your brand. It’s about understandings people in the world beyond your specific walled garden where you might want them to play.

And then finally it’s inherently consumer focused, it’s not about you which is the hardest thing as a business and the hardest thing as someone who works in strategy all day to remember, that functionally we’re irrelevant to our consumers 95% of the time. It’s about building toward that 5% of relevance rather than deluding ourselves that we’re important them every minute of every day.


So now I’m going to rant about the difference between data and insights. I need to drive home the value of insight and why it’s important. So this is probably the most obvious slide that you will be presented at this entire conference, so take a moment, let it wash in. Data is everywhere and part of every conversation. Everyone knows that right now people are creating more data than they have at any point in the past, that there’s more access to information than ever before and you can actually track things. As a result, you’ve got people obsessed with things like big data. This is the Google trends search spike over time from 2010 to 2016 of people discussing big data. No one’s actually thought about what it means. And when I saw no one, I mean no one who brings it up at a meeting and says we need to consider this as an approach, how are we going to solve this problem.

Now, this is a list of partners that a Canadian firm has from a data sources perspective. I share this because it’s minorly terrifying to me the depth and amount of data that’s available about people and their behaviors. So just on this slide you’ve got people’s individual credit ratings, their debts, what they might be doing. Even if it’s anonymized and shared. Tracking that data back to people is not that complicated. You’ve got GPS coordinates in terms of where people are driving and what patterns are being supplied, you’ve got stats ca in addition to that you have a whole bunch of different media layers. This is an incredibly rich dataset and what’s fascinating is how that translates or doesn’t, to how data is being used by businesses.

So in 2016, a marketer put together a survey of the whole bunch of senior marketers, which is one of those vaguely threatening designations that has very little clarity but when they asked what they were really looking for worldwide, the stuff they were looking for was the ability to make more accurate decisions with data, more cost-effective decisions, more competitive decision, more rapid decisions. People bought into the idea of data superpowers. However, when you look at what people are actually doing with marketing data and what they consider effective, the top two things are campaign targeting and content personalization. As people working in the universe of marketing communications I think we all kind of know that campaign targeting is generally fairly straightforward information segmenting people into four or five groups and content personalization is the same thing. It’s not necessarily digging deep into I understand these. Very often it’s just the surface level of this guy bought shoes I’m going to send him the shoe thing.

The other two pieces that I find deeply fascinating that were numbers 3 and 4 in the use of most effective uses of data were customer journey analysis. I’m firm in my belief that this is just looking at people’s past purchases rather than understanding your customer journey and sales attributed to marketing so literally the top two uses of data is proving that it was worthwhile to spend money on the data and marketing.

Clearly we have a bit of a problem when it comes to taking data and making it something a little bit more concrete and actionable. So data is what and what is incredibly valuable but it’s the answer to the question what. Data’s actions that people are taking, you can specifically point and say what is happening at this time? Data is a source of individual facts and while data can’t be argued the interpretation of data can and it’s kind of paramount that we do. So I’m going to run through a bit of an example about how data is be really misleading and this is something I run into more or less a day-to-day basis from a strategic planning perspective. Someone finds a statistic either a statistic about their own customers, it’s a statistic that they read somewhere. so to walk through an example of this I’m actually going to share some data that was taken from OkCupid, because if you want to talk about human behavior, nothing is funnier than talking about online dating. These data were taken from Dataclysm.


What we’re going to be looking at is attractiveness, so I’m keeping this very businesslike and topical right now. The graph that we’re going to show is women’s response post to date to the relative attractiveness of the men they go on dates with. So to simplify a bunch of women went on a bunch of blind dates with men that had been rated by the OkCupid community and then afterwards they were asked how much did you enjoy your date. Now, the thing that’s fascinating if you look at that red line across, average level of date enjoyment apparently doesn’t shift much depending on how much more or how much less attractive the person you’re on date with is. This is really fascinating and it leads you to a specific interpretation. That attractiveness isn’t actually that important to dating.

Now, I can hear everyone going, eh, and I agree. Because when you take it a step further and look at the general response behaviors of this same group of women on the OkCupid site, it turns out that they’re way way way more likely to respond to a message from someone who is judged by the broader community is generally attractive than they are to someone who isn’t, so when you look at that dataset, people immediately start thinking, well, attractiveness is important, but only at first, because once you’re on a date does it matter? It doesn’t seem to, you’re just as happy if someone is a 2 or a 10 when you go on a date with them.

What’s dangerous about this, though, is we actually have the why this is true. We just see that the stats are saying this. And the important thing to remember is what and why are two fundamentally different concepts.

The other thing I want to call out is most people try to solve this probably saying so what? You present them with a piece of information, you’ll present them with a best practice and you’ll say so what? People like that because it takes them a step closer to execution, but you haven’t actually solved the problem of why you’re seeing what you’re seeing. As an example, if you look at these two graphs, the so what statement for the first one would be that people should ignore attractiveness because it’s irrelevant. real. Similarly, if you look at the second chart, your interpretation could be that what we need to do is manage that initial bias towards attractiveness, that people are making decisions based on attractiveness, but that doesn’t necessarily map to their happiness. People could be missing out on soulmates left, right, and center because they’re trying to find someone they think is attractive.

But the thing you need to do is create a greater insight. So I’m going to run you through a really simplified version of the model I use to land on consumer insights and this is something that informs the vast majority of work I do.

So when it comes to determining an insight for a specific category, a specific consumer set or a specific brand I tend to look at two things. There’s the idea of human truth. There’s a fundamentally stunning amount of information about the way that people behave in the world. Second I look for tensions. I look for any point where you see two things that don’t make sense together and you try to pick those apart. The last thing is either brand or category relevance. One of the biggest problems with data points is lots of them can be really interesting and then you go back to them 6 weeks later and realize they’re completely relevant to a conversation they’re having. So you establish a set of filters for is this useful for understanding this challenge or this customer or am I essentially wasting my and everyone else’s time?

So the human truth would be that people respond to beauty norms on an instinctual level so if you’re ever going to talk about attractiveness in dating you can’t really ignore this fact and there’s been decades of psychological research backing it up, because humans are fundamentally not as rational as we’d like to be, we do things like assume someone who’s more attractive is smarter, assume they’re a better person, assume they’re good. I’m not saying this is right, I’m saying this is demonstrable human behavior that we need to consider when we’re interpreting data.


The big tension was highlighted by the previous graphs is we think we want looks, but they don’t actually impact the time you spend with the person and really the relevance of the brand here, I can see why this is appearing, because seeing someone’s intangibles is difficult to do in online dating. Therefore it makes you start thinking a little bit more about how could we approach this. What can you do to make it different? So yes, I love my keynote animations. When you put these three pieces together, you land on a broader understanding of what you’re really looking at and how you should be interpreting the datasets that you’re seeing. So digging into this, and arguing at length with both my girlfriend and several of my coworkers about what this data means, I landed on what I think is a relevant insight to determine the online dating space.

So first off, the purpose of a date isn’t actually to enjoy the date. Everything we saw, from a charts and data perspective previously was functioning on this implicit assumption that the point of dating was to have a good time on a date. I’d argue that the point of dating is to find a partner that you can see yourself with. Quite literally to be able to envision spending an evening or a lifetime with them, depending on what you’re really looking for and so attractiveness does play a role because having a good time with someone once has no direct impact on whether or not you’d want to spend a considerable amount of time with them in the future. The reason I’m calling this out is because very often what I see happen, especially in content interpretation is they find a couple of data points and they run with it. We’re seeing a lot of people visiting our site searching for these specific five words, we’re going to rebuild the site to make sure these five words are the most prominent thing there. until you get to the context of that either makes this meaningful or not meaningful you’re essentially chasing your tail. Unless you look at the broader story that all the data points are telling, you’re not necessarily going to understand what you’re look at.

So all of that to say, the data can be really misleading, and it’s problematic that data can be misleading because we all deeply want to believe that there’s some pure unvarnished truth in the world. If you give a human a data point there’s 50% chance they’re going to mess it up at first chance.

Insight is really about understanding the why behind the data you’re seeing and the activities you’re seeing. It’s about being able to get that deeper understanding of what it means when you see the things you’re seeing.

And really the important thing is insight doesn’t actually solve a specific problem. It’s just a lens to guide thinking. I mean the — the dating-related insight that I came up doesn’t actually solve anyone’s problem. When you’re thinking about what kind of content to create, recognizing that people are looking for someone they can see themselves with, recognizing that building deeper content around understanding someone and envisioning a future might pay off with them than trying to tell people that they should date as many people as they can, because they’re going to have the same amount of fun no matter what they’re like.

The last thing is getting from what to why. This is really details on how I approach customer journey mapping as a process and how you can actually use that to lead to some meaningful content outputs.

We talked about journeys being customer driven. I showed you the example because I think it’s pretty, but the key things I want to touch on is that journeys are about the motivations of the consumer, they’re about the emotions that the consumer is sharing or feeling or displaying and they’re also about the influences that exist on those consumers, whether it be personal life, financial situation, whether it be the fact that they had to wait on hold for 20 minutes before they could talk to someone, these are all little factors that may not necessarily be tracked but determine how people think about the things they’re engaging with.

We did an analysis of multiple industries, we looked at a whole bunch of existing clients, former clients, companies we think are interesting, we looked at a whole bunch of major consumer category segments and we realized everything was falls down more often than not into these six major sections, awareness, which, yeah, right from the sales funnel kind of perspective, but people need and understanding of what’s actually going on. Comprehension is important. Stuff is complicated. People need to figure it out before it means anything to them. The direction stage. Acquisition, buying the thing. The experience of using it and then the end result. So the actual outcome. Any time I approach customer journey exercise I kind of start here and adapt and shift and cut and change based on A, the specific category, the specific product, the specific consumer, this gives you a starting point to start categorizing the different areas of consumer behavior and how they might play out from there.


One of the things I might point out is there’s a tendency to insist customer journeys are linear. Humans aren’t that rational. If someone is shopping for a car, for example, they might spend 8 months in direct consideration of one car and then buy another one two days before because it was on sale and it was silver and it was on the lot and they wanted it tomorrow. Very often people from stage to stage indirectly. They’ll spend a ton of time in one place or they’ll jump from one to the other. But I want to talk about what happens at every individual stage and how you can use that to build a solid understanding of what kind of experiences you should be building. So at every stage the things I looked at are the triggers, the mindset of the consumer, the behavior they’re displaying, the needs, the channels, the brand role, etc.

If there is’ anything I’ve learned if you have enough whats, why starts to become visible. If you build a broad enough and deep enough map of things people are doing, of behaviors you know they’re exhibiting, of actions you know they’re taking, you can start to develop a bit of a theory of mind for the people you’re attempting to model and attempting to create for. So at each of these stages, the things I dive into are how do people get from the stage from a trigger standpoint. How do people think of this situation? What do they do in the situation, what behaviors are they displaying? What do they want and need, what touch points are important to them? This is where media kind of comes into play. You actually need to look at what people do and what matters and then what is the brand role? So the question when you’re creating A, customer journey and B content, is why should people care about us.

The reason people should care if you’re doing it right is that you developed a really meaningful brand role and there’s something you’re providing that adds real value. There’s a story that makes sense for your brain to tell about what it’s creating at this point in the customer journey that solves a specific problem or a specific need or a specific desire that your customer has. This is a really tough thing to get brands to do and understand. Because they’re really consistently trapped in a funnel-thinking mind set.

Getting a large brand, getting a company to stop and say, it doesn’t matter what we want, it matters what we can do to be relevant to the consumer in this exact moment, is actually a difficult conversation, but really the question isn’t why should they care about us, it’s what do they care about right now, it’s what’s motivating our consumer in this moment, what are they thinking, what are they doing? How are they feeling? How is this informed by the insights we have about their behavior, the insights we have about their activity. So as an example I’m going to run through how I had built out one of these stages in the past with home improvement as a category. So we’re looking at the consideration stage in home improvement. One of my clients spends a lot of time in the home improvement so I it’s relatively straightforward for me.

The biggest trigger for home improvement more than else is actually timing. A huge number of projects can only happen in certain seasons so you start doing them or they’re insanely expensive so you can’t put them off until you can’t put them off anymore. This was a huge thing to drive home to people who were working in the home improvement category from marketing perspective. Because they might want to sell you a table at a random time, but it doesn’t really matter unless the timing is right from a broader external perspective. The mind set is all about making it happen. Behavior is really research driven in this category. So what people are doing is trying to understand what their options are and unlike a lot of things where research is a series of Googles, I think that’s actually the dictionary definition of research in 2016, a series of Googles the but there’s a will the of consulting with experts and consulting with stakeholders, if you’re doing something in your home, you need to make sure your spouse or your children or your roommates are OK with it. You need to make sure you’re talking with someone who’s built a foundation before so it doesn’t sink, etc.

The answer here is detailed information. The channels important are digital content and in-store experiences. And that leads us to a really clear brand role, which is connecting the customer to expertise that makes planning simple. In order to get there we had to understand that almost everything else that our consumer was doing was about understanding a complex space that they don’t have expertise in.


So this need for expertise and planning a actually hugely valuable and this is a meaningful role a brand can play in this space. It’s a thing that a brand can do that makes sense for them to do. It’s relevant, it’s no the weird that they’re deciding to play this role, but it also provides specific value to people. So that’s the kind of thinking that leads to better content experiences and it leads to more meaningful content from a consumer perspective.

One of the things I want to call out is we were looking at the consideration stage of the journey. Consideration is one of the stages that gets people their most funnel focused and their most salesy. Right after that, people go to PR, so there’s a tendency to really hammer home at this point, sale, sale, sale, discount, discount, discount, what can we do to motivate this specific activity? There’s always two ways to approach this stage. I’m going to run through two examples in a category that I find interesting, because I love shoes.

The first one is from Adidas. This is the most direct consideration focused marketing I’ve seen in a very long time, as is most email marketing. It’s a huge sale, dead simple image. It’s kind of pretty, it’s well put together, but the focus here is that it’s really 40% off. This is funnel focused thinking to the core. It’s an intent to get you to buy a thing immediately. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just never going to be the thinking that creates meaningful content or creates a meaningful experience for a customer. Anyone who reacts positively to this is reacting positively to the fact that they’re saving money, and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s a completely reasonable thing to do as a marketing approach, but no one is going to have an emotional reaction to Adidas the brand because they have a 40% off sale. That’s not the way it works. So I’ve paid made it so far without referencing Nike, the Obama campaign or — we’re going to run through a very, very simple Nike example. This is again an email that I received in my inbox and this is what it looks like when you use the consideration stage, the salesiest of stages as motivation for creating content. Now we’re going to ignore the fact that Nike has the biggest budget of anyone.

And so what Nike has done to get into your consideration set and to push you to consider them, they’ve looked at the broader customer journey for fitness and the broader customer journey for fitness involves lots of trying to figure out how to be a fitter person because they don’t really teach you anything useful in high school gym class. People sign up for personal trainers, people join gyms, they join run clubs because they want that structure. Nike sees and opportunity there and decides we’re going to create a giant app that is filled with personal trainers telling you how to work out. And then we’re going to tell people about it.

The thing that I find deeply fascinating about this is this is email marketing for a free thing that costs a ton of money to make, that doesn’t push you to spend money in any way, shape, or form attached to any of it. This is strictly a brand-building content exercise that exists because Nike exercises that get into your head at the consideration point of your fitness journey, becoming part of your fitness routine means that when you want to buy new shoes or you want to buy something suited for weight-lifting they’re going to be top of mind. So when you wonder what you get here, they talk about workouts, they talk about smart plans that adapt to you. They don’t talk to you about 40% off or selling shoes and those are both examples aimed at pushing you towards that acquisition point. This is just someone playing the long game and taking everything they’ve learned about their customers and the behavior set they have to ensure they’ve created a relevant role for themselves.

So really the two things we’re talking about here are conversion and meaning. I hesitated putting meaning in this presentation because it seemed incredibly touchy-feely to me, but that’s actually what we’re talking about. We’re talking about increasing numbers, making the actual sales go up in a very direct, traceable manner. And then we’re talking about creating meaning, we talking about developing a deep enough understanding about what matters to people and why, you can actually an experience that will resonate with them, and that will build a little love if not for you, then the moment that they’ve had the thing that they’ve considered.


So the two things that I want to get across is that funnels and journeys are both valid and important things, they’re just two really different jobs. If you want to figure out how to get people through the e-commerce system on a site faster, that’s a sales problem. But if you want people to think about your brand as a thought leader on a specific subject, that’s much more about understanding the specific journey that customer set is taking, understanding the specific journeys that exist in your category and being able to build something that answers the needs and the questions there.

And the second thing is really finding a role for the brand. There’s a really disturbing tendency, especially in any form of marketing or advertising these days, to pick the right words and think that equates to fitting in. It’s every time you see a brand say that they’re on fleek and you have a moment of deep visceral discomfort, that’s someone not acknowledging that there is an objective that they want to achieve.

Most marketing is trying really hard to be human and you can see the effort, but it’s just uncomfortable. So being able to find a meaningful role that leads to your brand is allows you to do something genuine. If Nike wants to make me 400 personal trainer videos, I’ll believe that that’s something they should be doing. That kind of makes sense to me. However, if Nike wanted to tell me how to dress for prom, I would be a little uncomfortable and think that was not a good fit. So as a bit of a recap, because I know I’ve been rambling for a long time at this point, if we’re looking at making more meaningful content from a strategic planning perspective, that’s really about understanding people. Getting a good enough sense about who people are and — so a funnel is fundamentally about your objectives, it’s here’s what we want to get done, here’s the percentages we’d like it to increase, here’s the numbers we can track that show us we’re doing a great job, but the journey is really about the customer. Understanding everything that they’re going through in a much broader context. Even a step or two or ten away from your specific product experience.

Data is fantastic at telling you what, data never tells you why, and this is something that will if you remember anything I’ve said, and I know the chances aren’t fantastic, I really hope you remember this specifically: Data is great at what, what isn’t why and when you have good consumer insights you’ve found a bit of a why that connects your what. This allows you to actually use data to do something meaningful, rather than using data to optimize.

Is and the last thing I really want to land on is that you really optimize with what. You take individual pieces of data and you use them to sharpen the edges on your approach. You can figure out which button color works better, you can figure out which specific language accomplishes more. That doesn’t necessarily get you to the root point of meaning and understanding why people are going to engage. I mean I realize we live in a culture where multi-variant testing has become some standard that it’s assumed to be absolutely part of every project. The problem is you can multi-variant test your way to success, but you can’t multi-variant test your way to understanding. You find a thing that works. Explains why it works is a completely different process that needs to be considered. So that is me. I hope this was at least vaguely illuminating and if you’d like to argue with me about it, I’m @joncrowley on pretty much everything, except on Snapchat. Somebody beat me to that, and I’m deeply offended.