As a marketing person, one can’t escape the reality that the reason we study the details is so that our products and services reach their full potential.

This is essentially the answer to our question of “Why?”

If, in all our analytical glory, we miss the fact that our numbers mean nothing and they haven’t been used to improve the bottom line – then we’ve failed.

What’s the use of collecting all the data if we forget why we do it? Just to be showy? Prove how talented we are at gathering figures and information?

I recently read an interesting article about FBI Director Bob Mueller in TIME Magazine. He has made over an agency that’d gotten sloppy and lazy in how it was thinking and acting – “Mueller remade the bureau in his image, pushed out the old guard and hired more than half its present cohort. Mueller inherited 56 field offices, each a distant fiefdom run by a special agent in charge. Old-school Special Agents measured progress by arrests.”

So what does this have to do with marketing?

The FBI used to measure success by how many arrests it had made. To a non-law enforcement expert, such as me, this seems logical. But Director Mueller didn’t read the numbers the same way, he dug deeper challenging those agents who were arresting petty thief’s to stop padding their numbers and to do work that made a real difference to the community as a whole. Arresting car-jackers wasn’t nearly as important as thwarting terrorist attacks for instance.

“How are you measuring positive community impact?” Mueller would ask.

What a great question. Getting bad guys off the streets is good, but for the amount of time and resources it was taking to fight crime and then to see little return on this investment frustrated Mueller. He was basically asking what was the ROI on those arrests for the community? That’s what mattered most.

If you forget why you are collecting the data, I encourage you to get back to asking the question – “Why?” and figure out what matters most. In the long run this will help you and your company succeed.

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