As we head into the brave new world that is 2021, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about fundamentals.

Every year around January, I make it a habit to do a few things.

1) Review The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White to remind myself of the fundamentals of "good writing" as they were drilled into my head from High School through to College.

2) Take stock of the previous year's changes to the Ad Management platforms I use most - Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, AdWords.

3) Start watching West Wing from the beginning again.

4) Review the fundamentals of marketing analytics and clean data structures.

I don't do these things because I expect to find something completely new coming at me differently. I do them because it's important to remember the things I forget over the course of a year. 

Today's article is a look at #4, and the three simple tricks I find keep me organized when working with multiple data sets.

  1. 1
    Evaluate KPIs: With each campaign, different KPIs or "Key Performance Indicators" are tracked. When a new year rolls around, it's a good time to evaluate the KPIs you've been tracking and see where you find gaps in your data or data points you aren't using.
  2. 2
    Facebook  Reporting Views:  Most of my work happens inside of Facebook Ads Manager, but many reporting and advertising platforms allow for multiple reporting views. At the start of the new year, I go through each ad account I manage and clear out any defunct reporting views, either from old campaigns I've run or from campaigns run by agencies no longer engaged with the account.
  3. 3
    Clean Spreadsheets: When I work with multiple clients at a time, keeping track of their KPIs  becomes a challenge, so I work with unique spreadsheets, tracking spend, clicks, leads, purchases, etc. each day and using a new sheet for each month to track weekly and monthly totals and averages. The new year makes a perfect time to do preventative maintenance on the spreadsheets. Set up new sheets for each month of the year, major projects, campaigns, or launches happening within those months, and set up a broader analytics dashboard to track the KPIs that matter.

So why do these things? 

When you work inside of a system every day for hours on end, you become comfortable with that system. Comfort breeds complacency, and complacency breeds mistakes.

Having a set time in the year to step back and re-evaluate your systems and processes helps you avoid those mistakes.

In 2009, Atul Gawande published a book called the Checklist Manifesto. It quickly became one of my go-to resources for working with clients and developing my Standard Operating Procedures.

The three steps I listed above each have their own checklists - ranging from five to nine steps, which bound the limits of working memory.  

I use those checklists from memory most of the time, and my memory is not infallible, so I rely on revisiting those checklists regularly to avoid compounding errors. 

Those checklists are my go-to debugging tool for when I track an error in reporting or setup... but systems change over time, and if my checklists don't evolve to suit the changing systems, they serve no purpose at all, and don't help me remember what I've forgotten.