Data! Data! Data!.. I can’t make bricks without clay

Data! Data! Data!.. I can't make bricks without clay.

This famous line from Sherlock Holmes is a favorite here at SparkInfluence.

We live in a world awash in data. Between tracked clicks, Amazon purchases, refrigerators telling you that you need to order more milk, technology has brought so much to us so close to home. At the same time, there’s an overwhelming amount of data now available to us – how do we best use the right data points to come to the right conclusions and achieve our goals?

Like Sherlock, adding the right data points, understanding their correlation, and then testing hypotheses will more than likely lead to success.

So, let’s start at the top:

Step 1. Understanding the Data

Who would Sherlock Holmes be if not for the eagle-eyed sleuth that pinpointed some off piece of “data” that no one else was able to see. Mud on a pair of shoes, a family resemblance gone unmentioned – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle loved to drop in this minutia in everything from A Study in Scarlet to The Sign of Four and dozens of stories that followed.

Like Sherlock, organizations need to recognize that their effort produces an abundance of data that they may not yet be tracking. Specifically, crucial data points on how to better organize or message stakeholders are typically hiding in plain sight.

More to the point, every action, inaction and interaction is a data point that can be used to strengthen your campaign. That means not only taking a look at the obvious metrics – how many activities a call-to-action generated or number of clicks from a specific advertisement – but also those items that may take a little more digging, e.g. success rate of email subject lines, issue descriptions, segmentation strategies, call-to-action titles, page layouts, social media post lengths and more.

Takeaway: Take a 50-thousand foot approach to your effort. Look closely not only at the obvious data, but details that you may not have even thought about. Each new data point has the potential to improve your organization as a whole.

Step 2: The Analysis

“I can’t make bricks without clay.” In other words, you can’t build without the right materials and know-how – a certain craftsmanship / analysis is needed. Data can be powerful, but not on its own. Only with the right analysis can we forge the raw numbers into something more.

For advocacy and PAC efforts, this means understanding the information that could be staring right back at you.

For example, don’t stop with just a list of names and emails for your audience. By appending social media handles and number of followers you can quickly start to identify potential influencers. These “super users” can be ambassadors to your effort, spreading your message far and wide.

Takeaway: Data isn’t enough, and too much data can be crippling. Start with what’s nearest to you – your stakeholder list and their actions taken – and, with your goal in mind, analyze the information available to make the decisions that will drive your effort forward.

Of course, you need to have the right tools that will help you visualize that data and any gaps that may still exist. A platform like, say, SparkInfluence would do the trick.

Step 3: Test, Test, and Test Again

One of Sherlock’s great talents was presenting the solution to a crime in one fell-swoop. Of course, what some of us missed were the various tests Sherlock would do on his hypotheses throughout each story, only arriving at the solution once all the details fell into place.

There’s a lot to be learned here with advocacy efforts. To be effective, don’t be afraid to test, test and test again. This could mean varied social media messaging, advertising targeting or even email messaging. Even more important to keep in mind, what works today may not work next month, or even next week.

The key is this: don’t take options off the table until you realize that even the slightest variation isn’t going to affect the outcome.

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to adjust the message to your stakeholders and segment groups on what seems like disparate data points. The Obama campaign famously went through thousands of different subject lines to their supporters before finding that a simple “Hey” resulted in the most opens, responses and donations.


Simply enough, be more like Sherlock Holmes. Crave data and look for it with all of your interactions, but appreciate the analysis aspect even more. More data doesn’t equal success, nor does analyzing but not acting on the data points you already have. Test, collect, analyze and test again. It’s elementary.
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