Maybe I didn’t major in math, and maybe I scored higher in writing and critical reading than on the math portion of the SAT. But I did earn an A- in introductory stats, and I like to think I’m half-decent at the analytics side of my job.

Somehow, though, I spent an entire morning staring at row after row, column after column of data cells.  After a few hours, the numbers started to blur, and instead of Big Data giving me the Big Answers and Big Insights I needed, all I got was a Big Headache.

So I paused and went out for a walk and fresh air, at which point I realized: I’m looking for answers without even knowing the questions. I need to back up and start over. The task at hand, you see, was to deliver a presentation to my team about the pluses and minuses of our last three campaigns. What worked, what didn’t? What elements of one campaign trumped those of another? How do the open and click-through rates compare to sales conversions? Most importantly, what lessons and insights can we learn from and take with us as we create future campaigns?

With my head clearer and my post-lunch coffee by my side, I jotted down a list of campaign metrics to measure the success (or lack thereof) of each campaign:

  • Email open and click-through rates
  • Landing page traffic and clicks
  • Content downloads on landing page
  • Newsletter signs-ups
  • Conversions

Then I remembered a feature of our marketing automation platform: I could compile all of the data and create graphs in a few simple clicks, instead of importing the data to Excel and relying on my sub-par Excel skills to do the analysis. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?

With the most tedious part of the job over, I moved on to the more interesting part of data analysis: what I call “filling in the gaps,” or reading between the numbers for the real insights. Here, I don my imaginary data detective hat, and set out in search of relevant answers and a good story. I will spare you the details of what I uncovered but leave you with this:

Big data can be a major headache and challenge the most mathematically-inclined marketers, but you don’t have to be C-3PO to wrap your head around and get good at this stuff. Mostly, you need a clear mind, curiosity, and the right technology to guide you and speed up the process. A strong cup of coffee never hurts, either.

What is this?

REAL MARKETING STORIES is a series of anecdotes inspired by real-life experiences from the marketing automation world. Our stories capture what it feels like to work in the marketing trenches, from the triumphs (I just launched an awesome campaign!) and tribulations (What’s up with that high bounce rate?) to the outright bizarre (My boss wants a report of what, exactly?!)

Do we use a little creative license when writing these posts? Absolutely. Our goal is to “edu-tain” you with stories based on our more than 20 years of marketing experience. Here, we synthesize what we’ve learned and share the day in and out of marketing — all in an authentic, hip voice of a modern marketer.

Who did it?

Who is behind the Real Marketing Stories blog?

It’s the creative folks at

Real Magnet Marketing Automation