The Lost Art of Web Analytics: Breaking Bad News Gently to Win Support

Most web analysts and online marketers are familiar with Stephane Hamel’s web analytics maturity model, but few recognize the signs of WAMM’s evil doppelganger: the web analytics immaturity model.

Let me explain: web analysts are — by their proximity to data and trending — usually the only people within an organization with an end-to-end view of an organization’s online success and failure. A swelling head and lack of audience can be a big problem for job security, so keep the following approaches in mind when breaking bad news.

We Have ‘Challenges,’ Not ‘Failures’

No matter what you think, no one is going to die as a result of web analytics reports. Not even if it’s the same bad news, repeated over and over again for several months.

Waiting on fixes for major problems are inherent in anything remotely related to technology, so get used to it! Painting others in a negative light won’t help matters, so start thinking about challenges that contribute to failure, rather than the failure itself.

Opportunities and Risk

Business acumen has a huge impact on your quality of insights, but it also puts you in a great position to seize opportunities for improvement, and mitigate potential risk.

If all your insights arise from business problems right from the start, you’re likely to jump at opportunities such as related projects, shifts in the marketplace, product developments, or other factors that may help solve those problems.

Risk aversion will also come more naturally if you keep business objectives in mind. Insights and meaningful analysis trains stakeholders in an organization to rely on data to make decisions, rather than gut feelings or knee jerk reactions.

Pointing out trends that identify potential risk is never a bad thing, but be careful how you phrase it.

Premeditated Brainstorming

The devil’s greatest trick was convincing the world he didn’t exist. Go into a meeting as the devil in disguise, a wolf in lamb’s clothing, a Trojan horse.

Proposing a brainstorming session is an excellent starting point, because it can seem as though everyone’s on a level playing field.

Great web analysts will know the pain points and know them well, and usually have a good idea of solutions that will work.

Sometimes the best way to get ahead is to bend the rules a little bit: just because it’s a brainstorming session doesn’t mean you can’t come prepared with facts, supporting documentation and premeditated arguments.

We’ve all been there, but how have you broken bad news using data without burning bridges?

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