I have just been reading Jason Carmel’s post on Optimization and Analytics, which quite rightly argues that performance marketing may be a better and less ambiguous term to describe what we web analysts actually do on a day-to-day basis. I couldn’t agree more, but the issue obviously goes way beyond terminology; and the post actually reminded me of a recent discussion with a client on exactly the same topic, which might be worth sharing.
What is web analytics anyway though?
The real root of this issue is the fact that many companies fail to see what the real goal of web analytics is. They see it as something extra that might be useful, but only when they get around to it and when they don’t have anything more important to do. In the mean-time they carry on as normal; churning out emails, scheduling site updates, adding and removing things to the home page – all based on gut feel or, as Avinash Kaushik likes to put it, the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion). What they don’t understand is that all this stuff they do and web analytics are actually one and the same! Talking about performance marketing not only makes web analytics seem less geeky, it brings to light the fact that our ultimate output IS marketing.
Performance Marketing is a much better clarion call
The specific client I was talking to had exactly this problem; because they didn’t understand web analytics they just couldn’t connect it mentally to their own jobs. In this situation it’s no good talking to people about maturity models or measurement frameworks, or trying to train them on tools, because they still won’t get it. You need to educate them about why they should even listen to you and, more importantly, you need get them excited about why they need to be involved. This is how I went about it on this occasion:
Step 1 – Show them why they need it
The client was under immense pressure to deliver results with a reduced budget, and couldn’t see any way of doing it. They dismissed all notion of ‘web analytics’ because it sounded expensive, time-consuming and like something that wouldn’t deliver immediate results – i.e. they didn’t get it. The first step was to try and show them (without talking about analytics) that they needed to be cleverer about their marketing:
This chart is specific to this client’s market and situation, but what it actually says isn’t so relevant. The key point is that mass marketing is no longer effective, even if you have got the cash for it. Customers are more individual than they use to be, and so you need to get closer to them and have more genuine conversations with them.
Step 2 – Make the connection
Nobody can really argue with what you’ve just said, and then the line of argument progresses in this fashion:
- The ability to be pro-active and to successfully affect consumer decisions is reliant on the ability to listen, learn and to communicate genuine value through intelligent dialogue.
- In an online environment listening and learning is achieved through web analysis, measurement and research; understanding how customers currently interact with us and how they want to interact with us.
- Intelligent dialogue is achieved by optimising the customer experience in order to communicate our message in the most appropriate way, based on what we have learned by listening and understanding.
- The process is only possible if the data, tools, capabilities and the methods for using them are available and tuned in to what we want to know, and so careful planning is required in order to ensure that insight can become actionable.
This describes holistically the whole process of marketing based on listening, which can also be called performance marketing. Then you can start talking about how to enable them with the ability to actually do it. At the heart of this is the ability to streamline and simplify the flow of data so that decisions can be made:
If data and tools are faster, easier, better and generally more efficient at providing meaningful insight, then your staff are able to spend more time generating action based on that insight and less time trying to work out what it means. This, in turn, means that more attention can be focused on optimisation and improvement initiatives that drive increased performance; and the final result of this is that dialogue and relationship with the customer becomes more tailored, more meaningful and more effective.
Now you can talk about analytics!
Only then can you start to have discussions about maturity models, vendors, internal or external consultants etc etc. It might still be a very long slog, but at least your client (or boss or whoever) can understand what the end game really is.