When colonial separatists needed a logo and a slogan to state their case, the angry snake with the words “Don't Tread on Me” seemed to express their feelings to a T.

That independent spirit lives on today in corporations across America, and as a result it's harder than we expected to make the most of Web analytics.

Web analytics can reveal an as-yet-untapped wealth of information about site value, the marketplace in general, and your customers in particular. Although Web tracking and reporting systems are not simple to implement, many companies are making real progress in cranking out interesting reports. Sadly, there is an angry snake keeping those reports from being useful.

It's interesting that 30% of Macintosh users are buyers compared with 3% of Windows users. It's interesting that 23% of visitors to a home page click on support while 19% click on products.

Those numbers are only useful when they become part of a process of continuous improvement. Improved lead generation. Improved revenues. Improved cost control. Improved customer satisfaction.

So where's the snake?

The CXO-level people in your organization understand the power of measurement. They know they cannot manage what they do not measure. The people on the front line understand the value of good gauges. They know instant feedback is their friend in the battle to stretch their advertising dollar, streamline processes and improve the customer experience.

The snake slithers right between the chiefs and the Indians.

“I like being compensated for results,” says the department executive. “I enjoy reigning over my empire, imposing my will and wielding my power to raise the P and lower the L I'm responsible for. I am one smart cookie and I work in mysterious ways. Measure me on my results, but don't dare to presume you can understand the brilliance of my day-to-day decisions. The choices I make are based on reams of reports, years of experience and the fact that I am one seriously savvy supervisor.”

Granted, nobody likes to be micromanaged. Being told to wash your face and brush your teeth gets pretty old pretty fast. Having your face washings and tooth brushings charted, graphed and posted on the bathroom wall is insufferable.

Bluntly put, Web analytics offer unique insight at the cost of wiggle room. That tends to confine and anger the snake. But this isn't a question of taxation without representation. This is a matter of the common good versus the need to Live Free or Die.

Web analytics can help every manager reach their goals by acting as a lens through which they can more clearly see how well their area of the Web site is working. Unfortunately, it also lets everybody else in the organization clearly see how well his or her area of the Web site is working.

In a happy-clappy, Teletubbie environment, that's just fine.

We all want to improve. We all want to succeed. We all want to help each other reach our goals. We all just want to get along.

In the real world, we all have individual goals and desires. In the real world, we all want to do better than the other guy. In the real world, we don't want anybody looking over our shoulder, ratting us out to Mom and Dad that our toothbrush is dry tonight. As a result, Web analytics are seen as a threat rather than a gift.

So how do we break this impasse? How do we convince the kings and queens of denial that we're only here to help? How do we get them to do something that will help them meet their quotas, cut their expenses and make their customers happier?

Step One: Tell Them Stories

Start by giving them the facts. Show them where others have made great strides using Web analytics.

Don't have any case studies of your own? Wander over to any Web analytics vendor Web site and click on the Case Studies button. Once one or two organizations in your company start using Web analytics, you can start writing your own success stories.

Step Two: Tell Them How

The worst part about change is that it involves the unknown. Outline the process and don't sugarcoat it. Clearly delineate what they can expect in time and resources, and they can prepare themselves and their people for what's to come.

Step Three: Tell Them You're on Their Side

Explain that you are not there to compare, contrast or conclude. You are there to steady the lens so they can see better. You are not there to tread on them, you are there to help.

Step Four: Tell on Them

If all else fails—if they can't see the value, if they won't recognize the sweet, fresh, baby carrot you're holding out to them—it's time to go for the stick.

Present your case to senior management and watch how quickly they start asking those snakes for more specific Web results. It's not the best way to make friends, and it makes for more troublesome implementations.

But sometimes you just have to get Mom to come in and get them to brush their teeth.

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image of Jim Sterne

Jim Sterne founded the Marketing Analytics Summit in 2002 and co-founded the Digital Analytics Association in 2004. He now advises companies on analytics strategy planning at Data Driven Leaders Studio and teaches AI and machine-learning to marketers.