Coming from an ecommerce background, it's easy for me to see both the value in decent analytics data, and the importance of data about value. Most ecommerce platforms are built around the idea of maximising value from visitors, but the same approach can be useful for other business models too.

A common tactic in the web analytics world is to work to figure out the approximate value to your business of a given action that a potential customer/client can take, and improving your site or your processes to maximise that value.

For example, an average lead might be worth £1000 to you in future business. It makes sense that the actions that lead takes on the way to becoming a lead can be framed in terms of their contribution to this value. Perhaps a white paper published on a particular topic converts well to future business (let's say 50% for the purposes of our example) - we might say that the act of downloading a white paper has a £500 value.

Suddenly, with a concrete value assigned to that outcome, you can easily judge whether it's a good idea to advertise your white paper on other websites, or how much time you're willing to invest writing future white papers, or whether keeping it on the site is a waste of time compared to improving or focusing on other parts that might have a better return.

This is the beauty of assigning value to actions, but also one of the biggest ongoing challenges in analytics - how to assign that value in the first place. In an ideal world you're monitoring a user's flow through your sales process, and you have a framework for attributing conversions (whether that be to different parts of the website. But attribution is not always as simple as it seems, particularly when the sales process is increasingly multi-channel, and not all data is easily tracked (how do you go about assigning a value to word-of-mouth interactions, for example?).

Assigning values to interactions rather than final outcomes can seem tricky and unintuitive at first, but really it's just like any other metric - a way of using data to establish just how well a given strategy works rather than relying on guesswork. It also has the advantage of framing the situation directly in terms of business outcomes which can make decisions much simpler and easier to justify.