I’m a massive fan of the TV documentary show ‘Air Crash Investigations’ (also known as Mayday depending on where it’s screened).
I could watch it all day - it’s informative, interesting, and well-produced.
One of the most interesting (and tragic) episodes in my opinion is “Fatal Distraction”:
On December 29, 1972, Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 crashed into the Florida Everglades, with 101 fatalities (75 people survived).
What was the cause of the crash?
The flight crew (pilots and engineer) were preoccupied with a minor failure in a landing gear indicator light.
The final NTSB report cited the cause of the crash as "the failure of the flight crew to monitor the flight instruments during the final four minutes of flight, and to detect an unexpected descent soon enough to prevent impact with the ground. Preoccupation with a malfunction of the nose landing gear position indicating system distracted the crew's attention from the instruments and allowed the descent to go unnoticed."[
Fundamentally, the crew were so preoccupied with what turned out to be a minor issue that they missed the much bigger picture, with disastrous consequences.
So what on earth has this got to do with digital marketing?
Much like the switches, dials and gauges in a plane cockpit, there is a massive array of data available when assessing the performance of your website and digital marketing campaigns.
There are more metrics than you can shake a stick at. Bounce rate, time on site, scroll depth, pages per session, click through rate, CPC, unsubscribe rate. You name it, there’s a measurement for it. Just like in a plane cockpit there’s a dial or gauge for everything you could ever want to know.
And the truth is that all these metrics do have a role to play. They can be useful in diagnosing an issue, or identifying an opportunity.
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But focusing too intently on them can cause you to lose sight of the bigger picture - is your digital marketing generating more leads and sales? And if you’re not getting the results you want, what can you do to fix the problem?
I’ve worked with a number of businesses where the owners/management have built out incredibly complex reporting systems, agonizing over a 1% month-on-month increase in bounce rate, or a gradual increase in Adwords CPC.
In doing so, they often lose sight of the bigger picture - the number of leads generated and the sales driven by those leads is “lose in the mix”.
Just like the Eastern Airlines pilots, they are so focused on a relatively minute detail that they fail to see their leads and sales aren’t improving (or actively falling). They think that fixing the bounce rate issues on their site will solve their problem, where in fact the issue is that they aren’t even actively trying to generate business online any more!
My belief is that metrics should be used to reinforce the bigger picture - is your business growing? And is your digital marketing effort pulling its weight?
If something is going wrong (or really well) then you can dive into the metrics and try to identify what is causing the problem.
Ultimately, the purpose of digital marketing is to get you more brand awareness, leads and sales. A low bounce rate doesn’t pay the bills. An inbox full of fresh leads, or a phone that rings off the hook does.
Focus first on flying the plane. Use the information on those dials and gauges to help you understand why something is going wrong, or what you need to do. But don’t fixate so much that you lose sight of the horizon.
Let me also say that making a mistake in digital marketing is nowhere near as big of a deal as making a mistake in aviation - I’m just using the story of Flight 401 as a useful analogy. Fixating on the wrong things can have big consequences.