This is a transcript of episode 85 of the Let’s Get Data-Driven Podcast

I’m Lanie Lamarre and this week’s episode is an Office Hours question from the Membership To Get Data-Driven because my members ask the best questions and this one was too good not to share so here we are.

The question I’m sharing in today’s episode goes like this: “Lanie, you talk a lot about identifying trends and patterns but how exactly do I actually go about doing that?”

This is a great question because when it comes to taking data-driven action, the trends and patterns will tell you a whole lot more about what to do or lean into next than trying to focus on exact numbers typically will. Being able to hone in on those trends and patterns is one of the most valuable skills you can appropriate.

Now, the first barrier to seeing trends and patterns in your reports is cleaning up your data so that your results show up in a way that you can make sense of. Yes, the platforms you’re publishing on will show up in your reports but the naming convention they use in their default tracking won’t be as clear and consistent as it is when you’re wearing the bossy pants and you’re making the decision about how you want your reports and results to look. That’s why when you join the Membership To Get Data-Driven, one of the first things covered in the Roadmap To Optimization is about getting intentional with identifying and tracking your marketing efforts so that you have clean and clear reports that make trends and patterns in your performance easy to identify.

Letting other platforms dictate your naming conventions and reporting is kind of the equivalent of trying to find your favorite black tank top in the pile of black laundry versus when everything is hanging neatly in your closet; yeah, you end up with the tank top either way but one way made it infinitely easier to find than the other.

Ask any data analyst what they spend most of their time doing, and they will tell you it’s not spent on analysis but rather, 70%+ of their work is about cleaning up data sources. If you tag and track your traffic intentionally, it’s like having a live-in house cleaner for your data where you may have to put your plate in the dishwasher to maintain things but you’re never having to unload the whole dang thing.

So let’s say you have your data in check and it reflects how and what you’re promoting. The next step to identifying patterns in your performance results isn’t to look at your data but rather, start by looking within yourself to ask “what were my expectations for this campaign?”

Let’s use examples because you know I love them: let’s say you want to start conducting quarterly reviews and one of the key campaigns that you want to see, understand and improve the trends and patterns around is your evergreen email sequence. This is your series of automated emails – let’s say you have 6 of them in this series – that gets triggered to release when someone signs up to your email list and it promotes your signature offer.

Each of these emails will perform differently in different ways, and you’ll want to clock in on what is happening at each step of your client journey for each one of those emails. In this case, your client journey is to 1) open the email; 2) click-through from the email to your sales page; and 3) click the BUY NOW button to make a purchase.

Since the beginning is always a great place to start, let’s start by looking at that first step where we want people to open our email. Now, there are a lot of reasons why “open rates” are not the reliable metric they once were and you will never be making any business decisions solely based on open rates anymore (and if you want to learn more about why that is, give episode 61 on Email Marketing Metrics a listen); but in this instance, we’re not making decisions, we’re trying to identify your patterns, and in this instance, your open rates are useful because you’re looking at this performance in a kind of silo. We don’t care about the exact numbers here, we care about the trends so this works.

So as we look at the trends of your evergreen email performance as a whole from email #1 to email #6, which email is showing up with the highest opens? Which one is getting the least? By what margin? What is the trend you’re seeing here: for instance, do your open rates drop consistently by 2-5% between each email? How does this compare to what you thought would happen or what your expectations were? Are there any exceptions to the consistency you’re seeing: for instance, are there any weird or obvious spikes or dips that break the otherwise consistent trend you see carried through your open rates? Always take note of those spikes and dips that defy your patterns as an alarm bell telling you, “oh, this defies my usual trend and I want to look into why that is.” After all, there could be something about that email that you could then apply to your other emails that would be the rising tide that lifts all your other open rates, which could then have the waterfall impact on your click-through and purchase rates.

If the first step of this client journey is for your reader to open the email, the next one is that they click-through to your site from the contents of that email. Again, you’ll want to establish what the click-through pattern is between each of the emails. Which one gets the most click-throughs? Which gets the least? What are the numbers telling you about the consistent expectations you can have for these emails? How does this compare with what your actual expectations were? Are there any spikes or dips in engagement to account for?

And hey! maybe spikes and dips ARE the trend and pattern you’re seeing. Maybe your click-throughs look like a big ole “W” where email #1, #4 and #6 get significantly higher clicks, and emails #2, #3 and #5 are opened at an opposing, lower rate. That’s a trend. “Consistent” doesn’t necessarily mean a linear trajectory but rather, in this sense, we’re talking about what keeps showing up, because once we know what’s happening, we’re going to want to look at why that is and if there’s any way we can apply what we see is working well into other areas and maybe ditch what isn’t going so well.

Identifying trends and patterns in your results and performance is a lot like lying on the grass and looking up at the clouds; you’re not concerned with the details or even reality so much as you’re looking for outlines and shapes that symbolize what your performance looks like as a whole. Maybe you look at your purchasing trends and see that when you isolate the spikes in your “W” pattern for the click-throughs, emails #1, #4 and #6 had about the same sales come through for each of them so that your trend for those emails with the high click-through rates actually have a linear trend in sales patterns. You can find trends within trends, you can identify patterns within patterns, and this is why I say creative bosses are THE BEST analysts because it isn’t so much about the actual numbers; you want to get a feel for what is happening with your performance as a whole canvas and then to play with the elements that will build it into the full painting you want to see.

To start painting with data, it’s simply a matter of:

  • Mapping out what you’re doing – so what are the various promotional pieces you’re working with to market your offer;
  • Setting your expectations for what you intend to see happen;
  • Looking at what actually happened to establish future expectations as to what trends you see and where any outlying spikes or dips can be identified that break up those patterns;
  • Comparing this to what your expectations were; and
  • Assessing why you think certain trends and outliers are what are they are, and finding ways to use that knowledge to your advantage.

Looking for ways you can use your trends and patterns to your advantage? I have an entire module dedicated to Optimizing Your Results in the Membership To Get Data-Driven that is designed so that you can show up with your problem – something like “hey! people aren’t opening my email!” and you click on that problem to see what potential solutions you can implement to improve your results. If that sounds like something you or your team can use, I’d love for you to join and hear your brilliant questions at our Office Hours, too.

Talk soon – baiiieee!