Web Metrics | Search Marketing
Site Strategy

"In a nutshell, Jason created our marketing analytics capability. He was able to figure out what data we collect, where it is, what was missing, and hook it all up so we canget meaningful, actionable data. Our marketing efforts have improved leads and conversions in some cases by an order of magnitude. He knows his stuff."
Chris Foleen, Marketing Project Coordinator, TransCore, Inc.


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Boating and The Value of Web Analytics

There is a fundamental value system inherent in the basic concept of even having analytics at all.  At the very bottom of it all is the idea that knowing what your marketing and website are doing--how they are being recieved and utilized--is important to know because it can help you make better decisions.  This is many times called "data driven decision making".  It is also called "informed decision making".  It is the idea that doing, then learning, then adjusting course is good.  I have not met a single decision maker who would ever admit to not wanting to make data driven decisions.  Everyone says information is important.  Absolutely everyone.

But not everyone really lives that out in their actual process.  I veiw this as one of the biggest tasks of the analytics consultant.  Perhaps you have been faced with this situation also. You present a report.  You have solid findings.  You start talking about it in a group.  The conversation goes seveal directions.  The action items at the end are a little data driven, but mostly whatever seemed like the most attention getting.

Many marketing organizations operate like they are playing boats.  Imagine you are sitting on the shore of a small pond.  On the other side of the pond are little boat slips.  The game is to get as many boats into the slips as possible.  There are two ways you can do this.  The first way is to push as many boats out there as you can and hope for the best.  Just keep launching; something's gotta hit.  The second way is to launch fewer boats and take the time to guide them into the slip--adjust course along the way.

The basic principle of any analytics implimentation is that it is better to take the time to guide the boats home.

Many organizations operate by pushing as many little boats out there as they can and hope for the best.

In order to be successful in analytics, it is the highest priority of the analytics worker to change the culture of the organization to a "fewer and better" one.  Show that better results are gained from taking the time to drive that little boat, steer it, give it a motor and keep it going, make a longer term plan for it than just the launch.  This is especially important for SEO and social, but all marketing campaigns need this kind of attention.

This shift of culture can be the hardest part of the work, because it can involve retraining the thinking of the people you work with/for in a way that does not make it seem like you are trying to be a "know-it-all" pain in the ass.  Many of these people are good at what they do, have been doing what they are doing for years, and have a lot of confidence in their judgement and their abilities.  It may be impossible to shift their thinking and planning processes completely.  But with enough patience and time and honest intentions, you can make a difference.

What are some ways to get this shift happening?  Here are some ideas:

1.  Always push for analytics whenever you can.  Get a data driven foot in the door as much as possible.

2.  Present the results in as user-friendly and understandable way as possible, even if you have to sacrifice "best practices" at first.

3.  Think through what needs to be done, summarize it, write it down, and reference it as much as needed.

4.  Be as helpful as possible. Make new ways of doing things painless.

5.  Have a lot of patience.  It will take a long time for people to actually start changing behavior.  It is much easier to say you want to be data driven than it is to actaully be data driven.

6.  Remember the end goal.  It is about bottom line performance and even the best analytics cannot always predict that.

Those little boats need to get home.  We can help them.