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The Definitive Guide to Effective Marketing Cohort Analysis

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

The struggle with Analytics knows no boundaries. It traverses industries, verticals and continents. It is a global issue and a global concern, for everyone from CEOs to CMO’s, from startup founders to digital agency heads.

As the former CEO of a SaaS collaboration company, I’ve met and spoken with a great number of entrepreneurs who are struggling with analytics. Buried by reports, they had a hard time making sense of metrics such as page views, visits, bounce rates, time spent on pages, the content they read, month to month growth and so on.

Is this how you feel when you look at your analytics? Most marketing and product managers do, this is not a look or a feeling that inspires confidence.

In these conversations, I found that most don’t really know which metrics best reflected the health of their business and were super-focused on “awareness metrics”, numbers that made them feel good when they were up, but in my opinion, for the most part are meaningless.

In my experience, I can honestly say that this approach is entirely ineffective. As CEO, I spent hours each week poring over Google Analytics reports to try and get a sense of our website’s traffic and overall health. To visualize data, I used to gain an understanding of which product features were being used and by whom. To gain a deeper analysis and understanding of our website’s performance, I began learning SQL. All of these products were valuable. Don’t get me wrong. However, with all the data coming from so many different sources, the findings presented felt entirely disconnected and it was extremely difficult to gain a real time, unified and holistic view of our business’s digital health; quite frustrating being that we are in 2017!

My suggestion to this dilemma, is you need to take a step back and focus on a much broader analysis. This is the first step to understanding the true digital health of your SaaS business. You need to be looking at your cohorts, funnel conversions, what drives users to convert, and what I feel is the biggest struggle, what is causing users to churn. In my conversations, I learned that only a few entrepreneurs had a handle on churn, where and when it occurs and what are the red flags that appear early on that would allow them to handily reverse the trend.

To truly understand retention, again, you need to take a step back and look at your users and their behavior. You need to let go of those “Awareness metrics” that only give you instant gratification when the numbers are up, but not much else. Seeing your bounce rate drop to 20% from 50% won’t give you the answers you are seeking. You have so many sources, and it can be quite daunting in connecting the dots. The key to gaining the insights you need from all this data, is by unifying it all in one place, so that you can analyze it on the spot and get that holistic view. There are products that can help you do this. Two that come to mind are from Cooladata and IBM.

Both these products allow you to stream and unify all the data from disparate sources into a single place. It doesn’t matter if that data is product or marketing related. The data, no matter where it is emanating from will empower you with critical customer and journey insights to help you see the complete picture. This complete picture will only become more vivid as you begin including data from Facebook ad and email campaigns, and Google AdWords to see how customers are finding you. You’ll be able to gauge your marketing ROI by seeing which campaigns are effectively generating revenue and which ones aren’t, optimizing those campaigns and saving time and money in the process. You’ll be able to see which users are being retained the most and which offer the highest Lifetime Value (LTV). Sure. This means you’ll have a lot more data. However, since you’re getting this data into one solitary place, by using analysis, querying and powerful visualizations you’ll gain an even more accurate picture of the customer journey.

Team celebration when the Mars rover deployed. Very similar to how our team felt — and looked — when we finally had a view into customer behavior and were able to understand the effectiveness of our marketing spend and overall user behavior and how it impacted our business.

You need to resist the urge of looking at this awareness data and focus on two or three meaningful metrics. I feel that monitoring conversion data is paramount, and it needs to be constant. You need to understand end-to-end how users are converting, optimize the flow, monitor again and repeat. Stay focused! All those numbers can be a distraction, so it’s important to keep your eyes on the prize. Conversion.

The second area of concentration I feel is super important is what I call multi-channel cohort analysis. As important as this type of analysis is, it is underutilized and I feel it’s critical to utilize this highly effective way of analyzing user behavior.

How valuable would it be to have a view of all of your customers, which marketing campaign they joined from, their activation, activity and retention? An incredibly effective input for your marketing budget.

While there has been lots of content out there on the area of conversions, I haven’t seen too many in-depth guides on Cohort Analysis. Cooladata has just put out this definitive guide to effective cohort analysis. Its an in-depth view on the value of cohorts and how they can help you better understand the health and overall direction of your business. I suggest you check it out and harness the power that this type of analysis can bring to your business. Drop me a line anytime and let me know your thoughts.

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