Chances are, your grade school teacher once said, “You must learn the rules before you break them.” Apparently, learning that maxim is part of the curriculum when majoring in education.

During the last two decades of the commercial web, those of us who use the internet as a marketing platform have experienced wave after wave of new rules that, within a few months of their creation, are treated like commandments handed down on chiseled stone tablets.

While we’re often tempted to dismiss the latest metric of the month, it’s important to pause and remember the voice of that grade school teacher echoing through the years: “You must learn this metric’s meaning before dismissing it.”

Here are some commandments about new metrics handed down on an iPad tablet.

  1. Understand the direct connection between the data and your company’s business operation.
  2. Understand how the data reveals the needs and preferences of customers.
  3. Understand how the data supports a customer’s decision process.
  4. If you are a business-to-business marketer, don’t obsess over consumer marketing metrics (and vice versa).
  5. Find data that reveals how you can help customers move toward a purchasing decision.
  6. Find data that reveals how you can create a deeper, longer relationship with the owners and users of your product or service.
  7. Never forget that metrics aren’t numbers on a screen; metrics are people interacting with you and your brand or company.
  8. Don’t trust data until you know the reason behind the metric. (Read the book Freakonomics.)

After you learn those eight rules, feel free to ignore them. Your company or industry has unique needs or processes that require you to think differently about the metrics that are worshipped in other organizations.

When you grow up, you can appreciate what your teacher taught you: You really must know the rules first. However, by that time, you’ve learned another maxim: “Rules are made to be broken.”

(Photo: Thinkstock)