As a fan and user of Apple products, I closely followed the introduction and launch of the iPhone 4 as well as all the problems that ensued. These problems, which I'll get to in a second, became a PR mess for Apple. When Apple came around to respond, they made an argument based almost exclusively on data. Their approach to responding fit well into our philosophy of a company about being data-driven in as many decisions as possible. Likewise, the opposing argument made against Apple was representative of a much different approach. One based more on emotion and sensationalism than actual fact.
[Let me clarify that there are technical issues that do exist in some iPhone 4 models. This has been proven as fact. What I'm more interested in is how the product has performed in terms of overall sales and customer satisfaction]
In case you missed everything that transpired regarding the launch of the iPhone 4, here's a very quick breakdown...
- Apple releases iPhone 4. Everyone happy and excited.
- Within 24 hours, people report that touching a specific part of the phone causes bars to drop. Blogs post videos, but reports still limited.
- Within a few days, more and more people report the same issue. Frustration beginning to mount among customers.
- Apple announces software update to fix number of bars reported on phone. Not meant to be fix for "dead spot" on phone.
- Consumer reports performs its own tests and says it can no longer recommend iPhone 4 until a free fix is in place. Mainstream news now picking up story.
- Apple holds press conference 23 days after initial launch. Presents data suggesting problems and dis-satisfaction among customers isn't nearly as widespread as is being reported online.
Apple wasn't denying that certain problem existed. Instead, they were trying to paint a bigger picture. Something the individual reviews and blogs had failed to do. Here are some key data points Apple presented in their press conference.
- For every 100 calls made, the iPhone 4 drops less than 1 more call than its predecessor, the iPhone 3GS
- Only 1.7% of iPhone 4 users have returned their phone as opposed to the 6% return rate of the 3GS
- Percentage of users who have called Apple Care regarding their iPhone reception: .55%
The internet did a great job of sensationalizing this story and blowing reality out of proportion. As it turns out, the iPhone 4 launch was more successful than the iPhone 3GS in most respects when it comes to customer satisfaction. And in case you hadn't been following last year, the 3GS launch was thought to be smooth and without incident.
Prior to Apple's response, everyone was relying on the emotion and limited personal tests to draw conclusions about the phone. Beyond reporting the "dead spot" on the phone, people began to conclude that 1) everyone was having this problem, and 2) everyone wanted a replacement. The data simply says otherwise. Is it possible we fall into similar traps when it comes to our internet marketing decisions? Do you ever find yourself drawing conclusions based on emotion without having data to back up your claim? Have you ever found yourself saying:
"Our website is terrible. I doubt it generates a single lead."
"We're paying for all this traffic but I don't think it's getting us a single call."
"I have this feeling our marketing dollars could be better spent somewhere else."
If you've ever thought any of the above, or worse, acted on it, you may have done yourself a disservice. You may have redesigned a site that didn't need to be fixed or cancelled the most profitable marketing campaign in your company's history. On the flip-side, you may have actually been right all along. The real shame is that we don't know for sure. We only relied on our emotion and hunches instead of logic and data. Our website and company may be worse off for it.
Let's say Scott is responsible for all leads that come into your business. When meeting with Scott to evaluate the productivity of your internet marketing campaigns, what would you like to hear and see in his presentation?
A) "The phone does seem to ring more since we started the campaign. We still have web forms coming in regularly. I can't tell you how many more calls we're getting each month but it does feel like a boost compared to before. When I ask, people will tell me if they used a search engine to find us, but they can't be specific if they originated from SEO or PPC.
or would you rather have Scott present this:
B) The following is a breakdown of the number of leads generated and whether they originated from PPC or SEO traffic. I've used our monthly investment to calculate the cost per individual lead so we can determine which campaign is more profitable.
The first scenario was subject to being biased by Scott's emotions. Initial skepticism or optimism would have a significant impact on how Scott reported the change in leads coming in since they launched their SEO and PPC campaign. Had he wanted the campaigns to work, he would be more likely to say he felt a significant boost in the leads coming in. Had he been skeptical and advised against the initial investment, he would have been more inclined to say it wasn't working. In this case, he reports a "boost," but we have little else to go on. Biases aside we didn't have a single numerical figure to go off of.
In the second scenario, we let the data tell the story. We've removed the human element and instead let the numbers dictate the result of the internet marketing campaign. SEO works, PPC works better, but both are contributing favorably. This is the same approach Steve Jobs presented in his press conference. By doing so he was able to paint a clearer picture and restore faith in the iPhone 4's brand and future.
Using data isn't just another way to make an argument. It's a way to remove biases and extraneous variables and put a clear, numerical and economical value on a result. In the case of the iPhone 4, everyone jumped to conclude that it was a complete and utter failure. In reality, we were only listening to those that reported problems. We tuned out the thousands of people who reported having zero issues with their new phone. Relatively speaking, making the same mistakes with our marketing dollars can be just as costly - if not more. As we work to refine, optimize and reallocate our marketing dollars, we need to ask "why" and make sure we have the appropriate data to back up our decisions.