Dear Tig,

I recently had a conversation with our CIO and Internet Technology Leader regarding the importance of web stats. They both believe that user research is the only way to measure a site's value and have stressed on several occasions that no weight be given to the stats other than to analyze trends in visitor traffic. I believe that user research is important but is only one piece of the overall pie. Please help me understand how to balance this equation.


Statistically Impaired

Dear Impaired,

While web logs do provide useful information, the data has limited usefulness if it is divorced from other forms of marketing data.

Of course, the logs will be able to show which site areas prove most popular. Perhaps they can even show what type of messaging can succeed in getting users to consider additional purchases or categories of exploration.

But if the data set isn't deliberately linked to your marketing efforts, then it will be quite difficult to tease out specific marketing insights.

Some sites use “origin URLs”--URLs appended with a unique identification number--to figure out the origin of particular visitors. When the site is “instrumented” with this system, the logs become quite useful in determining useful and actionable learnings.

Companies with these systems often find that different people from different places act quite, well, differently. There are several other similar technical ways to get that sort of linkage.

In general, my experience shows that logs divorced from other marketing data provide some value, user studies provide some additional value, and logs that are successfully linked to the communication efforts at the individual visitor level provide the most information. With some further exploration, you may find that your company could easily get this higher level of insight.


Dear Tig,

For independent consultants, what are the pros and cons of making your personal name (i.e., Tom Peters) your brand name versus building a brand around a name that describes your services?

Need an outside opinion,

An Independent Consultant

Dear Independent,

On the plus side, having an eponymously-named firm can instill in a company the values of its founder. Leo Burnett comes to mind as a firm that--even decades after the death of Leo--continues to draw inspiration from the personality and values of its creator.

In fact, they can be a little, well, creepy about it sometimes, reeling off Jack Handey-like quotations attributed to the deceased founder. A firm with a real name tends to give the impression of an old-school sort of organization. If I were to present you with two made-up names, say “Harvey & Harvey” and “Noviticus,” it's a good bet you would assume that the first predates the latter.

The impressiveness of showing up in a meeting bearing the name of the firm is a double-edged sword. For a firm that appears to be a small group of people or an individual, some clients will see the name as an indication of small stature.

For a company that has at least tens of employees, a meeting with the named founder can prove impressive, indicating that an important person put a high priority on the meeting.

Finally, it may prove harder to sell a firm that has your name on it. If you intend on building it up and then taking your profits to other endeavors, you might consider something more market-focused.


Dear Tig,

I hear all the time about “verticals,” and while I think I have a general idea of what they are, would you define it for me?

Thanks so much,


Dear Cynthia,

Verticals most often refer to specific industries. A company that sells accounting software only to the steel industry, for instance, would be considered a vertical player. A software company selling similar wares to all comers would not.

Each industry in turn is both blessed and cursed with a trade press, this publication among them. These publications are often called “verticals,” reflecting their industry focus.

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Tig Tillinghast writes from the banks of the Elk River near Chesapeake City, Maryland. He consults with major brands and ad agency holding companies, helping marketing groups find the right resources for their needs. He is the author of The Tactical Guide to Online Marketing as well as several terrible fiction manuscripts.