Lance's Quotes (2 of 10): “Information is only as useful as the actions that result from it”

By Lance Neuhauser, Executive Vice-President, Strategy

The IPCC estimates that 150 million environmental refugees could exist by the year 2050, due mainly to the effects of coastal flooding, shoreline erosion and agricultural disruption. (The Washington Post)

Nearly one in five children born in the US are born into poverty (U.S. Census Bureau), and on a global scale that number jumps to nearly 40%. (Global Issues Organization)

Water-related diseases kill a child every eight seconds and are responsible for 80 percent of all easily preventable illnesses and deaths in the developing world. (United Nations)

The above statistics are powerful. They conjure images. They evoke emotion. They stir the soul. They motivate people to act…or do they???

Ask yourself; now that I know these statistics what actions will I take to change the results? If the answer is ultimately nothing due to lack of sustained action, then the world may suffer dire environmental consequences, poverty will continue, and/or disease will reach a tipping point of epic proportions.

This exercise is not meant to be a scare tactic. It is meant to demonstrate that information is only as useful as the actions that result from it.

A few weeks back I set out to divulge Lance’s Ten ‘Original’ Business Phrases to Live By, and I vowed that when properly used the phrases will “change mental constructs, raise levels of business and social consciousness, and ultimately save you time, money and sanity.”

Quote 1 of 10 (“As long as I have logic and rationale I may not always be right, but I am never wrong.”) spoke to having a method in determining action prior to taking an action. Today’s quote speaks to the importance of actually taking that action.

Most of the people reading this post work in the digital space and even more specifically, digital marketing. The character and beauty of digital marketing is in its undeniable addressability, its constant discharge of data, and its ability to provide opportunities for fluid and timely responsive actions.

Most of us digital marketers have been singing this song of praise and preaching a data revolution to just about anyone who will listen. However, I ask you do you merely horde data and regurgitate information, or do you prepare those around you for action and hold them accountable?

Let’s do a quick experiment...

All of us have asked for access to web analytics data at some point or another. Some of us have even been successful enough to convince those we’re asking how critical that information is to future success. But did you:

  • Layout the possible courses of action that may occur as a result of the data analysis (example: landing page modifications)?
  • Alert the other teams in the organization of the data analysis being done, and did you also make those teams aware of the possible actions and timeframes that may be required of them (examples: IT and Finance, needed for website modifications and/or financial investments, and to be effective must act within the next 10 business days)?
  • Receive sign off from any and all related groups on the possible actions ahead of time in order to leverage the timeliness of the information and put the insights into play?

If the answer is no to any or all of these questions then our experiment was revealing.

First, it reveals that you have probably set yourself up for failure. The person that granted you permission will look back after six months of you accessing their data only to find out YOU took no action. YOU made them jump through hoops, and YOU have not improved their results. Remember the words of Sir Harold Nicolson,”We are all inclined to judge ourselves by our ideals; others, by their acts.” Your actions are being judged.

Second, it reveals that you have not truly committed to making information actionable. I recognize that trying to predict the unpredictable may be counterintuitive to the very nature of testing and analysis. I also realize that fighting to receive signoff ahead of time may turn out to be an exercise in futility once the results actually come back. However, nothing replaces proper planning. Eisenhower put it best, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Recognize this was one line of questioning about one set of information. The Holy Grail in digital marketing is data convergence; pre-click, onsite action and consumer acquisition/lifetime value. We will continue to push for access, to map databases, and to develop new technologies. On the one hand we have solid logic and rationale that drives us to seek out more information. On the other hand resources are limited and a constant starting and stopping of action can be more detrimental than no action at all.

However, think back to the statistics at the beginning of this post. Is it alright to do nothing because you figure you’re going to end up stopping anyway? Is it okay to forfeit new ideas for fear of failure?

That’s like saying you shouldn’t clean yourself, your house or your clothes because they will just end up dirty again. When we become conscious of problems or information has revealed ways to improve a situation, we as a people become only as good as the actions we take as a result of our knowledge.

We are now 2 quotes into the 10.

We have covered reasoning before action and have emphasized the importance of actually taking that action. And at this point you may ask yourself…that’s great, but what action should I take?

To me, the answer always remains the same...

“We are limited only by our own creativity.”


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