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Metrics On a ‘Need to Know’ Basis

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"We have too much technology."

That statement, proclaimed at the Emetrics Summit 2003, in Santa Barbara, was in direct response to the ubiquitous, "We have too much data."

We now know more than we can understand. We know more than we can assimilate. It seems that the more facts we amass, the less meaning we can derive, and the less actionable decisions we can make. It seems to merely mimic the human condition that we know what is, but we know not why.

This was struck home at the Emetrics Summit when Gary Beberman, director of technical research at macys.com, spoke to the Web analytics-savvy audience about business-oriented cohorts back at the office, "Sometimes you have to simply tell them what they need to know and tell them what to think about it."

It's 1994 all over again.


Way back then, upper management really needed to understand what the Internet was all about before they could determine what it meant for business. So many people were shouting about how the Web would change everything. It was tough for business managers to sufficiently understand the fundamentals of bits and packets to make up their own minds.

Today, Web analytics looks pretty much the same. Lots of heat, little light. Lots of noise, little signal.

If only the technical folks babbling about marketing and the marketing folks blathering about technology would speak in short and simple sentences, all would become clear.

If you want to get across just how important emetrics can be, here's what you need to explain to your boss, depending on what type of boss you have.

Type A: The Corporate Upper Class, and Those Who Prefer Strategy to Tactics

What to tell them: Why, not how.

If you try to differentiate URL tags from page tags, their eyes will glaze over and they'll reach for their Blackberries. Better to talk about how the resulting reports can be used instead of how they are created.

No, do not explain how raising the relative value of click paths will improve overall conversion ratios. Talk about how improved understanding will raise revenues and lower costs.

Type B: Division Managers in Control of Your Project Budget

What to tell them: The process, not the products.

Making funding decisions require thorough knowledge about what's going to be done, who's going to do it, how long it'll take, what it's likely to cost and how much it's likely to save/earn.

These folks are also not interested in the difference between client-side Javascript tracking and third-party web-beacon serving. They want to know what the end result is going to be, when it's going to happen, and how you're going to ensure that result.

Type C: Business-Oriented Department Managers Trying to Use the Resulting Reports

What to tell them: What it means and what to think about it.

Talented leaders blessed with talented staff can take input from that staff at face value. They can trust their people to understand the analyzed data and make well-considered recommendations.

They want your honest opinion based on your best efforts. They're desperate to know what changes to make to their portion of the Web site to reach their current goals, and they want you to save them from reading the graphs and charts your Web analytics spits out. Tell them what it means and what to think about it and they'll thank you.

Type D: Technically-Oriented Department Managers Trying to Use the Resulting Reports

What to tell them: How it works, in gruesome detail, so they can make up their own minds.

The department manager who is more technically astute and less comfortable with how you came to your conclusions is a high-maintenance misfortune. They need the white paper, the book, the PowerPoint slides and the workshop to firmly grasp the intricacies of Web analytics so they can understand exactly how the reports were created and, therefore, what the data might mean.

Let your vendors have some face time with your boss and then crank out the desired reports. Do not hesitate to offer up insights, but be sure to show exactly which bits you relied on for your opinion.

Type E: Technical Managers

What to tell them: How it works, so they can determine the best technical solution.

Now it gets really sticky. You'll need to get your type C's (Business-Oriented Department Managers) to clearly identify their goals so you can help your type E's (Technical Managers) figure out the best technical solution to capturing, analyzing and reporting Web site data.

If you have some type D's (Technically-Oriented Department Managers) who are willing to work hand in hand with your type E's, there's a decent chance you'll be able to find a Web analytics tool/process that meets your needs, instead of waiting until after implementation to find out it doesn't.

So create your multi-layered PowerPoint stack that will tell the whole story. But then figure out who you're pitching to so you'll know which part of the story they need.

Yes, this does assume you know all about all of the above already.

What? You thought this was going to be easy?


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Jim Sterne (jsterne@targeting.com) is the founder and director of Target Marketing (www.targeting.com), founder of the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and the founding president and current chairman of the Web Analytics Association.

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