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Aussie golfer March Leishman was famously asked if he 'knew what he didn't know.'

You don’t know what you don’t know…but what if you did?

In one of the most wonderful and bizarre sporting moments of 2018, Australian golfer Marc Leishman was asked by an intrepid reporter: “Do you know what you don’t know?”

Leishman, widely regarded as one of the more genial figures in his sport and in action at The Masters this weekend, looked perplexed but politely did his best to understand the question and then answer it, before finally deciding on a response of “no”. Seven months on and the clip remains a cracker.

The question seemed out of place in a golf press conference but a variation of it is heard regularly in boardrooms around the country: “You don’t know what you don’t know, eh?”

In attempting to understand how our marketing – especially of the digital variety – is performing, many of us are left in the dark and conjure up the old “we don’t know what we don’t know” line as a trigger to try to extract whatever magic numbers we can from the tools at our disposal.

It’s a topic that’s well worth exploring further.

Embrace the counter factual:

In today’s world, just about everything is tracked and the associated data is easily accessible. But the temptation is also there for organisations to get stuck on surface level insights offered up by that data.

As an example, deciding how to change your website homepage to encourage more clicks to certain types of content shouldn’t solely be based on what your data is telling you. Instead you need to also consider what the data isn’t showing – and that’s where the counter factual comes into play.

Website traffic analytics are a gold mine for this kind of stuff. Recently, while reviewing the analytics of a highly visited website it was immediately apparent that very few users clicked from the home page to the news section of the website.

One natural conclusion might be to say that users aren’t interested in the news from this company and instead more drawn to the service pages.

But that would also be a good example of a surface level insight that doesn’t take into account the counter factual. A reasonable (and less obvious) line of thought to follow, would be whether users weren’t clicking through to news by choice or if it was simply because they were unable to.

Behavioural data

Once you commit to getting away from the numbers alone, you can then start looking at how people are behaving. Humans are irrational but also predictably irrational – and identifying these trends can be incredibly valuable.

For websites, the best way to track behavioural data is heat map and click tracking, which shows how users scroll through your site, where they click and what they click on.

Going back to our previous example, we had no clicks from a home page to a news silo – the raw numbers told as much. What we didn’t know, until the behavioural data came in, was that users actually WERE CLICKING on a ticker feed with the intention of entering the site’s news section…but the feed wasn’t linked at all and so these users were instead clicking and going nowhere.

The surface level insights told us nobody was interested in news; the counter factual behavioural data gave us a far more complete picture of what was really happening.

So, do you know?

Having data is one thing. Having the right data is another thing. And knowing how to use the data is a different game all together.

Having transparency and visibility of your top line data is critical to overcoming what you don’t know. It provides a snapshot that sets the scene for further analysis.

Deeper insight comes from expertise and a strong understanding of the platforms and tools in play. Google Analytics is the premier provider of rich data but with thousands of data points and endless filtering and segmentation it’s only as good as you make it – and how curious you are to dig further into the data.

Don’t shy away from what you don’t know. Instead, embrace it, seek it out and use it to enhance everything you’re doing, from website analytics analysis to service design.

The question might not have worked for Marc Leishman but it can most certainly work for you.

Glenn Langridge is an expert in digital campaigning and marketing across multiple platforms, including social media. Contact Glenn.

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