I’ve never been one to pick a fight. In truth – I consider myself a pacifist. That’s why it’s so odd that I feel compelled to intentionally rile some of you up with this article. I hope it will accelerate the conversation around this important topic and help more people to take the right corrective action in our industry of home building and development.

Ready… Fight! 🥊

For many of you reading this, it’s time to change your job title. I would suggest something like Head of Feelings and Intuition, Chief Guessing Officer, or Trend Chaser Extraordinaire. If, at minimum, you don’t have direct access to your company’s sales and marketing data ( via Google Analytics, Google Search Console, your CRM, etc.) – then those job titles more accurately describe what you do than Marketing Manager or VP of Sales & Marketing.

New Home Marketers Need Direct Access To Data

The conversation that you and I are about to have is similar to the one that adult children have when they take the keys to the car away from their aged (and now incapable) parents. That one goes like this… “Mom and Dad – we love you, and that’s why we think you shouldn’t be driving yourself anymore. You would never mean to, but the risk of you hurting yourself or others is just too high…” Go ahead and re-read that again and think about how the conversation would look if someone was leading marketing efforts and allocating budgets without having direct access to analyze the data needed to determine the best path forward. It’s eerily similar.

I’m not saying that you can’t be a creative genius, develop amazing internal talent, or brainstorm campaigns that drive amazing sales results, but I am saying that your ability to lead or manage marketing with a consistently winning formula is in serious jeopardy in today’s world. In short – you are way more likely to unintentionally hurt yourself, your company, or others without direct access to the data.

Getting Specific

I want to add a little more clarity to my supposition, and also give some of you a chance to cool off before continuing. What exactly do I mean by direct access to the data? I mean that you can access the core dataset at any place, at any time, and on nearly any device of your choosing without an intermediary person, department, or company being involved. I am not saying that you need to have full admin control over other users, how data is backed up or exported, or even selecting which system is being used to collect the data. Those are all things that can be worked around, but being able to get your fingertips dirty with “analysis dust” is not.

To be clear though – I do believe it is best to have two (or more) individuals from your own company with user admin control as well. I’ve seen too many companies have to start their data collection efforts over from scratch because another organization wouldn’t let them keep it… for lots of different reasons. If you are paying for advertising, strategy, or anything else that influences the data being collected – I believe your company should own that data. This is right in line with the fact that prospects, leads, and sales are property of the company – not the sales person.

For further clarity – this is exactly how we partner with home builders and developers at Do You Convert. All accounts are the property of our partners first, and then they elect to give us direct access to help them grow and succeed. We don’t view account ownership blackmail as a successful business strategy, but don’t be surprised if you come across an organization that does.

I Don’t Care About Your Excuses

I’m going to cover a few common excuses that I imagine people will give me for not having direct access, but I also want to be very clear that just because I don’t cover yours doesn’t mean it’s valid. There are no excuses in today’s world. Remember, we’re having this tough conversation because I love you.

No Excuses - Get Direct Access To Your Data

#1: Dashboards & Reports Are All I Need

Dashboards serve a fantastic function – and the clue to it is right in their name. Like your car’s dashboard they can give you a quick overview of many different parts of your marketing system. You’ll likely spot trends or variances much faster on a dashboard due to the visual layout of them, and they simply make large amounts of data easier to absorb.
HOWEVER – back to your car’s dashboard. When an indicator light goes on – that’s not the end of the problem, but the identification of one. That’s a big difference. No dashboard can be flexible enough to foresee all the different ways that your data will need to be analyzed and inspected. Once an indicator light goes off than it is in your best interest to dig deeper into the right data source for further investigation.

That’s only ONE of the problem with dashboards. Another is that they can brake, or need updated, or be manipulated in the code to hide items from being closely scrutinized. Whoever designs the dashboard determines, in advance, what success looks like and guides organization focus on what they choose. I recently saw a dashboard report that included how many people liked the builder Facebook page, but cost per sale was nowhere to be found.

I do LOVE dashboards and reports. We’ve given them to our builder partners since the beginning, and have encouraged the use of Google Data Studio as a fantastic free dashboard tool since early 2017. [click here to get a quick overview of how it works and a free sample template] They do serve a great purpose, but they are not where the data / problem / opportunity exploration journey ends – they are often where it begins for marketing leaders today. What about Excel or PDF reports? Again, they have a purpose – but in these kinds of reports in particular you have to be more aware of possible manipulation by the party sending it to you since you often can’t view the underlying data at all to confirm its validity.

#2: I’m Overwhelmed By The Amount Of Data

This objection makes the most sense to me – for a period of time. Once you decide to get serious about using and analyzing the data available to you then it can take a lot of hard work to get things organized and headed in the right direction. You may not have the technical know-how, or you may not be able to determine which parts of the incoming data are more important to review than others for different kinds of questions you or others may have.

This is completely normal, but not an excuse. It’s time to start training your flailing analytic muscles. Push yourself to feel uncomfortable, but not terrified. Watch videos from trainers you trust, read articles like this one, and get serious about getting serious. Put in the work, and I promise – it gets easier.

#3: I’m Too Busy / I Pay Others To Do It

I have ADD. No, really – I’m medicated for it. My brain doesn’t naturally love numbers either – I have to use a calculator to figure out that 94 +37 = 131 (and I just double-checked it with a calculator too). I don’t love data or numbers, but I LOVE solving problems. I love solving provlems so much, that I taught myself how to use data to solve problems faster and more accurately. Just like learning a foreign language, early progress was slow – but now I’m unconsciously more competent at it than almost anything else I do. I guess in some ways it has become my superpower. I’m taking you back through my own struggle through this to show how tempting it was to me to outsource all this to someone else as well. In fact – I tried to at first!

The problem with giving it to someone else, was that I knew more about my company, and my customers, than any outside partner. I would bring that knowledge TO the data and uncover items that it was unrealistic for someone else to find. Unfortunately – that was the least of my concerns. I’d often find that errors were made in compilation, initial analysis, or both. Even today, if I ask for a data point from a builder I’m working with and then view their own internal dataset to confirm it – more than 80% of the time what I have been given is incorrect, and I don’t think it’s because they were intentionally trying to be deceptive at all.

If you are too busy to fact-check the data being given to you from time to time – to inspect what you expect – eventually you will be caught off guard. Sometimes WAY off guard. I know more than a few careers that never recovered from it. If you’re leading a department (even a department of one) you need to be crosschecking and verifying underlying data on a regular basis. That means you need direct access to it in order to do so. So by all means have others help you in data collection, preparation, and analysis – but never relinquish direct access.

Stop Ignoring The Problem

Whatever your excuses or challenges to getting direct access to your data, I hope this internal dialogue that you and I just had is enough to push you into action. I apologize in advance if it stung a bit at times, but in this instance if it drives the desired outcome – of builders and developers owning, inspecting, and analyzing their own data and analytics directly – than I’m ok with it. I know it may mean a potentially awkward conversation with your marketing partners, or maybe even your boss. I’d forward them this article with the subject line of “What’s Your Take On This?” as a start.

See you all at IBS 2019 in a few short days! If you want to chat more about this topic or others, don’t hesitate to say hello 👋🏻

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