Real-life superpowers amaze me.
One in particular that fascinates me are the tracking skills of traditional aboriginal hunters.
They might not see the animal, but they can tell a lot about it by the clues it leaves behind – such as the animal’s direction and speed of travel, whether it was travelling alone or with others or potentially even being chased, its size, its weight, its mood and intent, what sounds it may have listened to, whether it stopped for food along the way, and how long ago it passed through an area.
In fact, aboriginal trackers have often been recruited by police to aid in law enforcement – to track down people or stolen goods.
A 1952 article published in The West Australian told a particularly interesting tracking story:
“Some years ago a quantity of metal was stolen on the goldfields. Days went by until a tracker on a road near Coolgardie suddenly veered at a right-angle through scrub country to a flat rock. After looking at the rock for some time, he led the police to the hidden hoard some miles away. He said that he had followed tracks to the rock and from then on could see where a heavy bag had been placed on the ground frequently because of its weight. Not a mark was visible to anyone else.”
The article went on to describe how a tracker looks for clues such as slight indentations filled by softer sand, disruptions in the soft ground around rocks, hard stones that may have been scraped by nails or tufts of hair, or an out-of-place leaf or twig.
Bruising on a trodden leaf or blade of grass, the moisture in a broken twig or piece of bark, or the effect of wind and weather can suggest the age of tracks.
Even the most innocuous activity leaves tracks behind – and if you know how to identify and follow the tracks, they start to tell you a story.
The numbers in your marketing tell a story too.
Falling email marketing response rates might indicate a “tired” audience. (Leads are getting old; it’s time to refresh your offer; etc)
A sudden increase or decrease in response rates to a normally effective offer might indicate a change in market sentiment or market conditions. (The economy has shifted; an advertising platform has changed their ad distribution methods; email service providers are changing the way they filter spam emails; etc)
And declining performance in your ads might suggest something is going wrong – but it might take some digging to work out specifically what is going wrong. (For example, if your Facebook ad performance is declining, and “Frequency” is increasing, the data is telling you that the problem is that everyone has seen your ads already.)
How do you start reading the stories in your marketing data?
Start by looking for performance that is out-of-place: higher, or lower, than normal. Outliers and anomalies. Things that work unexpectedly well, work unprecedentedly poorly, are rising, or are falling.
Then, start joining the dots.
When one thing rises, what else rises or falls alongside it? Does something increasing lead to a decrease elsewhere?
The more of these footprints you can find, the clearer the picture becomes.
The more practice you get, the easier it becomes.
If you’re having trouble getting started – or are confused about what the numbers are telling you – it’s helpful to have an experienced guide to work alongside while you are developing this skill.
The better you get at reading the stories in your marketing footprints, the better you’ll perform in your hunt for growth and sales.