The 3 Types of Metrics You Meet in Analytics

Debra Ellis President, Wilson & Ellis Consulting

Posted on August 25th 2013

The 3 Types of Metrics You Meet in Analytics

Digging through bits and bytes to find information that can be used to grow your business, improve service, or reduce costs is not for the weak of heart. Contradictory opinions about the importance and how to use data are everywhere. Navigating from raw data to useable information is a minefield that can derail the best laid plans.

I’ve been playing with numbers all of my adult life. It is one of those things that engineers do for fun. Numbers can be manipulated to explain anything. They can also be used to confuse and mislead. Data manipulation used to be an internal company issue. Presenting departmental information in best possible light is not unusual. It is almost expected.

Things have changed. Data manipulation is a global issue today. Companies are dependent on third party sources for information that will be used to identify problems and opportunities. Access to raw data to double check the conclusions is limited. The inability to confirm accuracy forces management to navigate a highly competitive marketplace on wings and a prayer.

There are only three types of metrics to be found in analytics. Identifying them improves the odds of making the right management decisions. They are:

  1. Actionable:Information that has been proven to increase sales, improve satisfaction, or reduce costs is actionable. This includes customer behavior, service levels, fulfillment costs, and anything else that can be tied to cause and effect. Response rates, average order, lifetime value, and other marketing metrics that can be validated are actionable too.

    As a rule of thumb, actionable metrics are results oriented. They measure the data that directly affects the bottom line. If in doubt about the validity of the effect, start with profitability and work backwards to verify that the selected metrics influenced the results. If verification is not possible, move the metrics from actionable to interesting until the numbers can be tested. After all, do you really want to make management decisions using unverified data?

  2. Interesting:Before information becomes actionable, it is interesting. Trends may be spotted in the data but the meaning and application isn’t clear. Or, it could be a number that indicates action on the part of customers and prospects. Technically, likes and follows could be placed here, but let’s not go there right now, okay? People liking and following are hard to qualify as prospects or customers. The platforms work hard to prevent those qualifications from happening by limiting access to information that allows companies to identify customers and prospects individually.

    Statistics are also interesting. People have discovered that they can ask a few questions, manipulate the answers into some form of statistics, and “Voila!” they have a press release that presents them as an expert. The data isn’t empirically sound and the conclusions serve the creator instead of the recipient. Statistics are only useful if they apply to your business and can be used to make it better.

  3. NSFW (Not suitable for work):Some information simply isn’t suitable for work. It may be interesting in a “Can you believe what I just saw?” way but it does nothing to move your business forward. Every social influence ranking service falls into this category. The metrics they share do nothing to help you grow your business. Likes and follows usually fall in this category too because the entry threshold is too low to adequately qualify people as prospects.

    NSFW metrics may make good cocktail conversation if you are in the company of people easily influenced by appearances. The rest of the world will find the references laughable. Ideally, no one in your organization will invest resources in information that doesn’t improve the business.

While some information has to be exact, there are metrics where close enough provides benefits. They can be monitored for trends to identify problems and opportunities. In a world where access to raw data is routinely denied, managers have to find ways to work around the challenge. Monitoring trends is one way. Using social media to acquire contact information is another because it provides actionable information. To insure your analytics investment isn’t wasted, identify the type and what you are going to do with it before spending the money. 


Debra Ellis

President, Wilson & Ellis Consulting

Debra Ellis is a business consultant, author, and speaker. She specializes in showing companies how to improve customer acquisition and retention using integrated marketing and service strategies. Her latest marketing guide, 31 Ways to Supercharge Your Email Marketing, is a practical resource for marketers seeking better results with minimal investment. Her engineering background provides statistical insight to finding actionable data that can be used to grow companies and reduce costs.

She is recognized as an expert in marketing from direct mail to social media, customer behavior, and strategic planning. Her expertise is often tapped by media sources including: The New York Times, CNN/’s Small Business Makeovers, Target Marketing, Multichannel Merchant, and MarketingProfs.

Her marketing guides include 31 Ways to Supercharge Your Email Marketing, Social Media 4 Direct Marketers, and Marketing to the Customer Lifecycle.

Debra loves the art and science of multichannel marketing. She is a student and teacher of the methods that transform shoppers into buyers and buyers into lifelong customers. In 1995, she founded Wilson & Ellis Consulting, a boutique firm specializing in creating strategies that make channels and departments work together to optimize the customer experience. Since then, she has worked with over a hundred distinguished clients such as Costco, Edmund Scientifics, Jacuzzi, Ross-Simons Jewelry, and The Body Shop.

Prior to founding her firm, Debra was instrumental in the record growth of Ballard Designs, Inc. while serving as Chief Operating Officer. Today, she uses her experience and expertise to show executives how to successfully navigate marketing channels and integrate activities to profitably grow their business. Her practical approach maximizes the return on investment.

She can be reached via email at [email protected]. She blogs at

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