I hate data. And I love data. Safe to say, my relationship with data is somewhat complex. I love statistical analysis; I love getting new insights out of data. But I hate it when the data is incomplete, doesn’t answer my questions, or – the worst – is misleading. Above that, I think that people – especially marketers – rely too heavily on data. Recently, I spoke at WordCamp NL 2023 about my complicated relationship with data.
The gist of my talk: marketers want to measure everything. And you can’t measure everything. We’ve known since about 1940 that media do not have direct effects and that people need (on average) 6 to 7 encounters with a brand before purchasing something. You can’t measure most of these encounters (but they do exist). As the data we rely on as internet marketers become more and more limited (because of cookie laws and privacy regulations like the GDPR), marketers tend to focus more and more on ‘last clicks’. That will lead to a focus on advertising and affiliate marketing. Not because those marketing tactics are the most effective (on the contrary) but because they can be measured the best.
One of the reasons why I am worried about the obsession with measuring everything is because it could be bad for our WordPress community. From a measurable ROI point of view, it will never be wise to invest in a WordCamp as a sponsor. People generally will not instantly buy your plugin if you sponsor a WordCamp. They will not become a new customer of your hosting product just because they see your stand. And they will not immediately purchase an online course because they like your swag. It does not work that way.
However, I firmly believe that being present at WordCamps, volunteering, speaking at events, and sponsoring will have a positive long-term impact on a brand. I firmly believe that the presence of Yoast at WordCams and in the community contributed massively to the growth of Yoast. It’s just very complicated to measure and crunch those exact numbers. I fear that because it is hard to measure the positive effects of investing in the WordPress community, companies will be more and more reluctant to do so. Especially in a challenging economic environment.
It is not possible to directly measure the influence of your marketing efforts. It is impossible to measure the exact effects of investments in the WordPress community. However, just because something is not measurable does not mean it is not important.