Thursday, November 12, 2009

On Leaving Forrester and Becoming A Change Agent

My decision to leave Forrester Research didn’t come easy. It was actually quite excruciating because I really love my job. There are few careers where one has an opportunity to gain an insiders view on the operations, strategies, and future plans of both vendors and clients alike. Yet, having played the role of analyst for nearly a decade, I decided that it’s time to take a risk and embark on a new and exciting professional endeavor. While I cannot reveal where I’m going just yet, I’ve committed to transitioning my responsibilities and completing writing and client work at Forrester over the next two weeks.

In the meantime, I’d like to reflect back on a few of my experiences at Forrester. Working at Forrester has been one of the most rewarding and intellectually stimulating challenges in my career. I feel fortunate to have been a part of helping to build out the Customer Intelligence team and have confidence that my former teammates: Suresh Vittal, Dave Frankland and Julie Katz will continue to provide invaluable insight for Forrester clients and the market at large. The progress this team has accomplished in raising awareness for Customer Intelligence is invaluable. From Dave’s research that predicts the next CMO will come from Customer Intelligence to Suresh’s mission critical analysis of understanding the confluence of business intelligence, predictive analytics, online analytics and marketing analytics. This is groundbreaking research that is shaping the marketing and strategy of enterprises across the globe.

Yet, more importantly working at Forrester was a genuine privilege. I’ve not been a part of another organization where creative, bright and extremely motivated people collaborate and share ideas in such a productive way. The caliber of employees at Forrester is top notch and I’m glad that I was able to contribute to the collective mindshare. The good news is that Forrester is looking to fill my position with one talented analyst who shares my passion for all things analytics and optimization. Here’s a link to the job requisition and let me know if I can put in a good word for you.

For me, it's off to new challenges in the awesome field of Analytics and Optimization. My goal is to become a change agent for Web analytics and I plan to take an even more active role in Web analytics thought leadership, advocacy and evangelism. Jim Sterne said to me recently that becoming a change agent requires risk. Risks so big that you’re willing to lose your job over. I took his sage wisdom to heart and decided to break out and try my hand at truly creating change within the Web analytics and optimization industry. So stay tuned for how I plan to execute on that front and check back on this blog for BIG news to follow....

For now and while I finish out my time here at Forrester, I will carry with me valuable experiences that only a world class research organization like Forrester could provide. Thanks to Forrester all my talented colleagues for a truly remarkable experience.


John Lovett

Monday, November 2, 2009

eMetrics Fall Wrap-Up

Summarizing the Fall eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit in DC last week is actually quite easy. Check the stream of Twitter traffic at #emetrics to see what attendees thought in real time. Kudos go out to industry insiders like @June_Li and @ed_wu for keeping up with their views of eMetrics as it happened. I certainly appreciated their shared view presentations supplemented with valuable insights and commentary. But in addition to our dedicated industry insiders, a significant media presence emerged at eMetrics, made felt by Jessica Tsai tweeting under the @DestinationCRM handle. Jessica’s coverage subsumed the tweet stream with journalistic style reporting of every notable quote and entertaining quip offered by on-stage presenters. So with the live reporting and play-by-play offered by social media devices – I’ll offer my alternative take on last week’s summit.

For me the week started off on a high note, arriving just in time to attend the Web Analytics Association member meeting. The highlight of this meeting was board of directors’ panel consisting of Alex Yoder (Webtrends), Matt Langie (Omniture), Pete Olsen (Microsoft), and Dennis Mortensen (Yahoo! Web Analytics). Jim Sterne facilitated a lively discussion that required the board members to contemplate where we’ve been as an industry, what our challenges are and where we need to go to ensure our survival. Tweetworthy quotes were abundant during the discussion, but I’d say that Matt Langie put it best when he stated that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. And that is precisely what the WAA is working towards.

The official eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit opened the following day with anticipation for Google’s big announcement. While the morning keynotes were valuable, I’ll admit that they were a blur of information – some old – some new – yet a bit of preaching to the choir. The buzz of Google’s announcement was exacerbated by the Twitter stream which continued to get louder as Avinash prepared for the stage in a social media crescendo. Addressing the audience with his arm in a sling and surgery pending the following morning, he debuted the newly minted Google Analytics features with charisma and style. The enhancements included: additional engagement goals (expanding from 4 to 20), advanced table filtering, a true unique visitor metric, custom variables, segment sharing and alerting functionality. I hail the most exciting feature as the introduction of “Intelligent Analytics”, a solution that applies an algorithm to data sets with the goal of identifying anomalies. When such aberrations are discovered, alerts are delivered to Google Analytics users. While still nascent, this function presents incredible opportunity for shifting Web analytics to a proactive activity.

The second half of the day offered a plethora of valuable sessions and ultimately led to some lively discussions in the lobby bar that evening. Day two of the conference opened briskly at 8 am with an interesting session by Tim Ash of SiteTuners. He was followed by NBC Universal and then Omniture, who announced their enhanced social media measurement capabilities. I spent the majority of the morning preparing for my keynote panel on “Marketing Metrics Maturity”, where I would debate with Gartner’s Bill Gassman, maturity model thesis author Stephane Hamel, and CEO Laura Patterson. As the only panel member without a published model or company of my own, I held my ground by taking a contrarian view towards maturity models. I believe that marketing maturity models are like religion. For those that need it, they are great. Many have thorough documentation and worthy systems which organizations can follow. I however, have no use for them. In fact, I declared myself a Web analytics maturity model atheist. I’m of the belief that all organizations are inherently different and applying a generic model for purposes of evaluation is not a worthwhile endeavor. While I cannot say that my fellow panel members agreed with me, we did come to terms on the larger issues of managing people, culture and technology.

Later that evening, Web Analytics Wednesday brought eMetrics attendees together for libations and learning. Eric Peterson led a discussion of leading Web analytics practitioners that was both entertaining and informative. Day three of eMetrics delivered more insightful information and left most attendees feeling energized to hit the streets and create change within their organizations.

As I mentioned earlier, the details of the presentations and buzz at the event were all captured tremendously through the help of social media. Yet, the one thing that couldn’t be bottled up or summarized in 140 characters was the hallway conversations, post-session chats and late night debauchery. These off-the-record activities deliver the real value of eMetrics and similar conferences. So, while you may be able to get the play-by-play sitting by your laptop and chasing hashtags - the real deal is live and in person. I’m thankful to Jim Sterne and his team for delivering yet another successful eMetrics.

I’ll close by quoting a tweet of my own... “Hey #emetrics DC was a blast. Walking away with new ideas, new friends and new lobby bar stories.”

Monday, October 19, 2009

Truth, Lies and Delusion in Web Analytics

Matt Cutler said it best recently at the Web Analytics X Change conference; “We are on a noble quest for truth”. He was referring to the fact that Web analytics - an industry that Matt helped to create - is about understanding. Yet, as with any epic story our protagonist (the industry), is challenged to find the way to the mysterious and intangible place that is Web analytics enlightenment. Matt went on to say; “Truth doesn’t happen easy…Truth doesn’t come for free.” And he was right on all accounts. These truths we seek in Web analytics are elusive because of innumerable factors such as lack of support, a dearth of qualified practitioners, low data confidence, and failure to derive actionable insights. This brewing storm of impediments has stymied the Web analytics industry since its inception. However, collectively we are determined to find the truth - a workaround – a reinvention – an evolution - or perhaps a wholesale revolution is afoot.

The lies we tell in Web analytics are white ones. Our numbers, metrics and KPIs are communicated with the best intentions, yet our data oscillates within a range of deviation. Most practitioners have forsaken precision for accuracy and resigned to the fact that our measures provide directional guidance – not empirical facts. Our current measurement practices dance around the issues of accuracy by offering insights at a generalized level, offering shards of intelligence, which undoubtedly are better than none. However, communication tactics require silver tongued practitioners to educate with accuracy while avoiding the details of precision. Educated marketing guesswork has devolved from the visions of an infinitely measureable Web. Still we persevere because our noble quest nags our collective conscience in knowing that we can deliver more.

Delusion is the shroud practitioners use to keep themselves on the path towards truth. Despite that the majority of Web analytics practitioners claim well-defined strategies, most offer fledgling plans that lack truly progressive vision. Further, despite the perception of unequivocal support, most practitioners tirelessly combat widespread internal cynicism. Yet, those dedicated to the cause endure by squinting to see the positives. I too am one of these eternal optimists that choose to push on. Yet, I forecast change for Web analytics. Our industry is undergoing metamorphosis and those that resist change will be left behind. I choose to act as an agent for change and to expose new initiatives with merit; to question the statements of the collective whole; and to insist that the status quo is not capable of delivering us to analytical excellence.

This rant comes as I sit in wait to arrive at eMetrics in DC where, Web analytics practitioners, vendors and optimists like myself will gather to ruminate on our future. While I envision miles to go before we sleep, I’m confident that change will lead to better optimization overall. What do you see?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

eMetrics Goes Social

If you haven’t heard of the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit by now, you’re missing out. Founded by Jim Sterne, Web Analytics guru and widely recognized Godfather of Web analytics. This is the original #measure conference. With topics that delve into the real issues of Marketing in today’s world, eMetrics places its finger squarely on the pulse of digital marketing endeavors across the globe.

Most recently, the eMetrics establishment launched a user group on LinkedIn to keep the conversation flowing in the months when there’s not a Summit event near you. Additionally, they introduced a Blog Partners program to further spread the good word about eMetrics. I’ve been a regular blogger about my experiences at eMetrics for years, but now have the opportunity to synthesize my ramblings with other like-minded bloggers. And of course, eMetrics has its own hashtag to follow the buzz on Twitter whether you’re attending or sitting at your desk wishing you were there. Follow #eMetrics.

I’m proud to say that I’ll be participating in the upcoming Summit in Washington D.C. on October 20-23. Jim Sterne informed me and my fellow keynote panelists that he was breaking his own protocol by inviting analysts (myself and Bill Gassman of Gartner) and consultants (Stephane Hamel and Laura Patterson) to speak this year. The majority of the D.C. sessions will feature marketing practitioners who will share their stories of success and recount the ways in which marketing optimization has benefited their organizations.

If you’re planning to attend; please seek me out to say hello. If you’re on the fence; here’s a discount code for 15% off a 3-day pass to eMetrics D.C. [JOHNLOVETT09]. Or if you just want one analyst's insight on this event; feel free to drop me a line.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Webtrends Acquires Widemile

Things are happening up in the Northwest these days as Portland, OR based Webtrends (recognized as a leader in the recent Forrester Wave: Wave Analytics, Q3 09) announced today its acquisition of Seattle based testing firm Widemile. Financial terms of the deal were undisclosed, but the technologies are a perfect match.

Widemile began its operations as a multivariate testing company in November 2005 and has been expanding on its capabilities; it’s proprietary Design of Experiments (DoE) algorithm; and client base ever since. The company delivers both self-service and managed service offerings that leverage its on demand testing and targeting platform. Widemile also maintains close ties with digital agencies that leverage the testing and targeting services on behalf of their clients. Primary competitors to Widemile include Omniture’s Test & Target (formerly Offermatica), Intervoven Optimost, SiteSpect and Google Website Optimizer among others. Watch for Forrester’s upcoming vendor landscape on testing companies for a complete list.

This acquisition adds momentum to the trend that Web analytics firms are augmenting their offerings by adding adjacent and complementary services. Testing is a logical progression for company’s that are maximizing their online opportunities with Web analytics data. Widemile’s technology falls under the realm of site optimization, which offers companies inherent benefits when delivered through a Web analytics platform. I see this as a very strong move for Webtrends who is steadily emerging from a position of transition to one of strength. Webtrends currently maintains a substantial client base that is ripe for testing and site optimization services.

Webtrends has had a busy summer thus far with a divisive social media campaign that sparked local outcry; a new product release due out next week; and now an acquisition. Congratulations to Alex, Jascha, Casey and the team at Webtrends for executing on their vision for strategic growth. And big congrats go out to Bob Bergquist, Bob Garcia and Dean Kimball of Widemile for growing a compelling offering worthy of integration into a Web analytics platform.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What Makes A Standard?

Something rather amazing happened yesterday in the Web Analytics realm that was enabled by social media. A longstanding conversation regarding all things Web analytics has been playing out in Twitter under the hashtag #wa. [If confused by this already, you may want to drop off here.]

Recently, Washington state has jumped on the Twitter bandwagon and was creating "noise" on #wa. Thus, a number of Tweets ensued to shift the conversation from #wa to something we Web Analytics wonks could call our own.

While @dustinwallace claims credit for conceiving the idea, the market was effectively moved by @ericpeterson. At the speed of a few Tweets, I watched this saga unfold via Tweetdeck yesterday. It went something like this:

    1) The idea for change was seeded

    2) @ericpeterson proposed new terminology (#measure)

    3) A few Tweets volleyed with alternative suggestions (including my own)

    4) @ericpeterson responded, acknowledged the resistance and declared his intentions

    5) A new standard was born (#measure is the new #wa)

    6) The results are flying around in Tweets all day today

Let’s put aside the fact that reading this preamble only a year ago would have sounded utterly ridiculous…and it still may read like jibberish to many…but this change and the speed with which it occurred is remarkable.

Thus, it got me thinking about standards, which is a topic I visit often. A standard on Twitter is something that a group can agree on collectively. In Web analytics, we’ll now use the hashtag #measure to discuss Web analytics. Similarly, #MVT is used when discussing multivariable testing, #waa is used for reference to the Web Analytics Association and #analytics is commonly associated with Google Analytics.

But how do standards evolve for more consequential matters? The WAA has been rallying for standards for years. They’ve gone to great lengths to establish standard definitions for Web Analytics and open their thoughts and process to public scrutiny for the greater good. The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) also works towards developing standards for measuring Web site traffic to guide advertisers in their financial planning. There are numerous other examples of standards which exist. In fact, there’s so many to choose from that they lack effectiveness. Further, given that new standards can emerge in the flurry of a few tweets, what really constitutes a standard?

I have my ideas, and welcome your input. This topic is one that I’ve invested time and thought into. At the upcoming X Change conference in San Francisco on September 10th, I’ll be leading a discussion on Standards and welcome all interested parties to attend.

When moving at the speed of tweets, standards will become increasingly important. Don’t you want to be a part of the conversation?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Forrester Wave: Just the Facts Please

In my line of work, sometimes you strive for shock and awe, while other times, you just write the facts. In the case of the Forrester Wave™: Web Analytics that published today, I did the latter. While it felt somewhat anticlimactic because there was no sizzling scandal and no juicy uproar (at least not yet), I’m confident that the report is an accurate reflection of the state of the Web analytics market today. Somewhat ironically, Web analytics practitioners told us throughout this study that accuracy of information was atop the list of most important vendor selection criteria. As such, data accuracy is critical in all things analytics and I too aim to please in this regard.

This research was six months in the making and was an arduous (yet rewarding) process for me and hopefully for the vendors that participated as well. With excruciating detail I assessed eight vendors at the top of this field. I held strategy discussions with their executives; interviewed their clients by phone and via online survey; and validated their capabilities in exploratory demos. The end result revealed an extremely tight field of highly capable solutions. As much as I tried to push the evaluation criteria to the limits of analysis, vendors met the challenge with their standard offerings and ability to customize their tools to perform seemingly endless tasks. The result produced 5 leaders amid a field of 8 with nary a laggard in the bunch.

This research will help Customer Intelligence professionals understand the complex Web analytics landscape and determine which vendor is best suited to meet their needs. Key findings revealed:

    Web analytics is the decisive tool for measuring online customer intelligence. Our past research illustrates that 73% of organizations surveyed already have Web analytics tools in place. Readers here are probably on this train already – if not, it’s time to start worrying about the commitment to your online channel. I suggest bootstrapping some tags onto your site today using one of the highly capable free tools as a start.

    A highly competitive vendor race ends in a photo finish. I used this analogy because a photo finish requires that one look closely at the field of competitors to determine which one wins. While there is no single winner identified in any Forrester Wave, each vendor evaluated has capabilities that differentiate it from its peers.

Discerning the details of who provides the strongest social media measurement or which vendor excels at attribution measurement is critical. But these considerations also need to account for which vendor provides the best overall package for any organization. My evaluation of these vendors is meant to serve as a guide for Web analytics users. A little known fact about the Forrester Wave is that the weightings of categories, subcategories and criteria can be modified to suit individual business needs. While the scores remain constant, Forrester clients can adjust the weights applied to each area, which changes the placement of vendors on the graphic.

Thus, while I feel this reflects the state of the market, it’s presented in a way that applies to enterprise organizations on the whole and should be tweaked for individual use as a decisioning tool. Please feel free to reach out to me with comments or if you’d like a better understanding of how the competitive field stacks up. I’m happy to help.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Forecasting Change for Web Analytics

This week my forecast for Web analytics will publish on and I’m calling for a change in the climate. We expect dollars spent on fee-based Web analytics software will grow at a compound annual rate of 17% over the next five years. That will bring us to just under $1 billion dollars by the year 2014. A respectable growth rate and not too shabby for a market size, but those in the know will ask why we haven’t hit the $1B mark by this time already? In fact, the 2009 to 2014 forecast isn’t all that dissimilar (in numbers only) from the one we published at JupiterResearch about 5 years ago. So what happened? Did the Web analytics industry stall? Did we collectively take our eye off the ball? The answer to these questions is a definitive no – but significant market conditions over the past 4 years altered the course of Web analytics indefinitely. Here’s what happened:

Promises unfulfilled. At its inception Web analytics came out of the gate on the wings of a lofty promise that reeked of amazing insights and countless online riches. Inflate this promise with some dotcom exuberance and an injection of post bubble Internet veterans. The result was a technology ahead of its time, whereby consumers weren’t ready for it and most marketers couldn’t handle it. Yet, this modern day snake-oil wasn’t a sham – it really worked. The problem was that the complexity and inability to take action on the data largely inhibited success.

Expertise sequestered. It’s been widely documented that Web analytics talent is tough to come by. These days not a week goes by that a client doesn’t pass a job requisition across my desk seeking a talented analytics staffer. But rewind four years and many of the best in Web analytics were working relentlessly to demonstrate the value of Web analytics within their organizations (many still are). Some persevered and perhaps were rewarded for their efforts, but many abandoned client-side frustrations and embarked on journeys as consultants and hired guns. This resulted in a thriving secondary market of highly qualified Web analysts (our last count revealed 91 independent firms providing Web analytics services with an average experience of 4 years per employee). Yet, many corporations were still unconvinced and left without talented in-house analytics staff to dazzle them with metrics.

Incoming tide. It’s said that a high tide raises all boats, but when a technology company wields the power to disrupt a chunk of the entire Internet, expect some lunar-level movement. Yes, I’m speaking of the introduction of Google Analytics to the marketplace. While the initial entry may be have been scoffed at by some, there is no denying the market prowess of GA today. According to numbers kindly shared by WASP for February of this year, Google Analytics holds 70% of the market for all installations of Web analytics. Free tools overall maintain 78% and while there is notable duplicity (sites installed with more than one solution, which Stephane’s data has pinned at 37%) that is a massive portion of the market capitalizing on free software. While it's great that users are adopting Web analytics in this manner, they're not contributing dollars to increase our Forecast.

So where does that leave us? Luckily, the Web analytics industry is brimming with visionaries, advocates and enthusiasts who aren’t giving up easily. Thus, change is imminent:

  • The promise and delivery of Web analytics is adjusting to meet expectations.
  • Expertise is increasingly rewarded and new talent is cultivating.
  • The rising tide is forcing vendors to improve their offerings and broaden their services.

Whether you like it or not – Web analytics is destined to become an integrated marketing service. If you’re unconvinced, simply take a look at your vendor… Either they’re supporting a marketing optimization suite, opening access to their data to other applications or giving away the Web analytics for free.

Web analytics is no longer a point solution – its part of something bigger. For vendors, this means that you should plan on diversifying or instilling your data collection solutions into as many marketing applications as possible. Agencies and consultants should maintain an agnostic approach to Web analytics tools and focus less on which solution and more on applying the right metrics, reporting quality (actionable) information and uniting data from disparate marketing functions (like advertising and site-side information). Organizations should be asking themselves how their Web analytics solution is supporting their entire marketing efforts. Not just in the data that the tools are producing, but in their ability to generate insight and automate marketing processes. Practitioners, it’s your time to shine. As I mentioned, the job market is ripe and your skills and talents are more in need now than ever.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Engaging With WebTrends

Here at the webtrends Engage 2009 conference there’s energy in the air. And not because we’re in Vegas and they’re pumping in the oxygen, it’s that the message is clear and the future appears bright. For CEO Alex Yoder and his newly minted management team, it’s all about finding meaning within the numbers. They’ve taken this message to heart with a newly vamped Website, a renewed focus on Web analytics and a personal call to action for each employee.

The Scene: Well, we are in Vegas, so that tells you something. But webtrends Engage was a small gathering of about 250 customers and like-minded peers who are serious about Web analytics. The sessions and hallway conversations were stimulating, the management was accessible and the overall vibe was optimistic. Let’s face it, webtrends has been off the map for a while and this was their new coming out party.

The Message: Alex Yoder kicked off the events by introducing their quest for finding meaning within the numbers. He talked about his commitment to webtrends’ customers and the four tenets of customer engagement: acquire, grow, recover and keep them. He went on to describe the three pillars that they believe will fundamentally change webtrends and analytics as we know it: Power, Elegance and Open. Within these pillars, webtrends plans to demonstrate Power through investments in scalability and flexibility in data. The flexibility in data will be exemplified through free APIs and new methods for portability. Elegance will manifest in their pending interface redesign that improves the user experience beyond the existing platform. And Open extends through their data, their people and their culture. This promise of Openness is the core message of the “new” webtrends and was delivered with genuine sentiment.

I can attest that openness resonated throughout the conference and all the new directions that webtrends revealed. Alex’s message and that delivered by everyone at webtrends was honest to the point of self deprecation, but truly genuine. They admitted outright that they’ve had their problems with management changes, product focus and communication. But they’re committed to admitting their shortfalls and working to earn their customers and focus on their core competency of Web analytics. If you’re wondering why I continue to write webtrends in lowercase, it’s because that’s their new logo. Lowercase letters reflect that they dismissed any pretension they previously held and now they’re focused on business.

The Announcements: The most notable announcement underscores their commitment to Open with the release of their free APIs that allow new methods of access to data. They built a Web Services interface (leveraging REST) that allows users to pull XML by accessing a URL. Data can be exported from webtrends to Excel or integrated directly into applications (check it out here).

Webtrends Open Exchange is their partnership program that makes the APIs even more meaningful. The concept is to leverage webtrends data within other marketing applications like content management, CRM, email, campaign management, search…and the list goes on. By making the data accessible and allowing it to flow into other applications, the potential for data-driven marketing becomes profound. While smaller in its number of partners than Omniture’s Genesis program, the concept is inherently the same, yet with a dramatically different architecture. Webtrends also announced a new developer network to support Open Exchange and provide a forum for developers and apps gurus to learn, share, rant and network.

On the social media front, webtrends announced their partnership with Radian6 which allows uses to listen, measure and engage on social media fronts across the Web. The Radian6 interface is slick and provides real-time access to social media, from wherever the buzz may flow. It provides the ability to compare buzz to that of competitors or monitor activity by channel. It also has workflow processes for users to allocate response duties to employees for a managed and unified corporate response.

The final announcement was the release of 8 industry solutions aimed at serving vertical markets. The design is to eliminate data silos and make data more powerful by catering to specific industries. According to customers, some hope these vertical solutions will provide a welcomed launching point for deeper analysis into their unique issues and challenges.

The Numbers: So I started with the numbers and finding meaning within them…each webtrends employee has a unique number on the back of his/her business card which serves as a call to action. The numbers at first glance are, well…just numbers, but each has a significant meaning to webtrends’ employees. Some represent children’s birthdays, wedding dates, lofty aspirations…and my favorite so far…the atomic weight of titanium. That’s the number that Barry Parshall has on his card. He informed me that titanium is a metal similar in composition to webtrends - it is incredibly strong, yet flexible - and you can beat the crap out of it, but it takes a beating and keeps on going - an analogy he warmly extends to webtrends from experience. These numbers on their cards may be innocuous, but they serve as a call to action by showcasing the openness of employees. By design they are meant as a method for employees to share personal stories and for customers to ask about them. These numbers subtly signify that any combination of numbers can have deep meaning. Webtrends even has a new manifesto that's all about the numbers.

The Key Takeaway: So my takeaway from all this is that webtrends has made some very positive changes to its management team and developed a renewed focus aimed directly at their customers. Alex Yoder has revived the fire within his team and brought on bright talent like Jascha Kaykas-Wolff and Casey Carey to tell the story. They all assured me - and more importantly, their clients - that they are serious about Web analytics. They plan to demonstrate this by continued investments in product and innovation as well as a quest for deriving understanding from the numbers.

From the peek at the new interface wherein “the data itself becomes the interface” – to their commitment to Open – all signs point to go.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Social Media Blunders

By now, you’ve probably heard of the agency VP who was traveling to visit his client FedEx in Memphis who Tweeted an unsavory note from the airport. His thoughtlessness was unappreciated by FedEx employees and did not go unnoticed.

Or what about the prospective employee at Cisco who pondered aloud via Twitter whether or not to accept the job offer? She wrote; “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.” A channel partner at Cisco responded “Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the Web.

Perhaps Michael Phelps crushing the dreams of admirers around the globe with one careless slurp grabbed your attention?

Here’s an email sent from a youth soccer coach to the parents of his new players. Certainly this is a frightening introduction to a man who will be mentoring children.

Each of these lapses in judgment resulted in bad circumstances. Lost business, wasted opportunities, revoked endorsements, and resignations… Perhaps well deserved, but nonetheless a reflection of the new age we live in. Is this a case of digital Darwinism, weeding out the utterly techno unsavvy? Carelessness taken to new heights? Sheer stupidity?

Whichever you believe, the key takeaway here is: Don’t be an idiot.

Do you have a social media blunder to share?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Defining Optimization

Optimization by itself is an immensely ambiguous term, yet it has reached a buzz-worthy crescendo among marketers and IT professionals alike. By the simplest definition, optimization is the process of making something better. To optimize a process is to improve upon it. Thus if something is optimized, then presumably it’s as good as it gets. However, as the term optimization flutters around business applications, the meaning becomes diluted and often times abstract. So much so, that someone recently described a conversation to me regarding optimizing where both parties were in vehement agreement with dramatic headshaking and belabored guffaws…But the dialogue abruptly ceased when they discovered that they were each conceptualizing an entirely different manifestation of optimization. So how could this happen?

Consider that optimization has been around for quite some time and despite the common misconception of late that optimization is a technology – rather, it is a process that is aided by technology. Further, the process of optimization can be applied in myriad forms. Take for example, revenue optimization, fulfillment optimization, call center optimization, pricing optimization, search engine optimization, channel optimization, marketing mix optimization…and the list goes on. Pretty much any noun (or combination thereof) imaginable can precede the term optimization and presto, you’ve got a something new to optimize.

Yet, the circles I run in, and most likely yours too (since you’re reading this blog) are most often referring to marketing optimization. Some may call it online optimization – or perhaps, business optimization, but these descriptors really don’t help us to narrow the field of optimization possibilities. So I propose more descriptive language to identify the optimization process which a marketer is attempting to improve.

Let’s break down the category of Marketing Optimization into components that are easily understood and clearly defined such that individuals can take responsibility for each piece. I’ll offer a few examples of online marketing that I believe can benefit from optimization:

  • Interaction Optimization – the real-time dialogue between a visitor and an online channel (Web, email, chat)
  • Search Engine Optimization – the process of associating keywords to content
  • Site Optimization – improving the navigation, flow or design of a Web site
  • Ad optimization – targeting or tailoring advertising (placement and message) to attract a specific audience
  • Contact optimization – identifying the appropriate frequency and timing of a customer contact strategy
  • Channel Optimization – determining the most appropriate channel to deliver a message, product or service
  • Marketing Mix Optimization – which combination of marketing programs lead to the most profitable outcomes

While these distinctions still barely scratch the surface of defining the entire gamut of marketing optimization possibilities, the next time someone throws out the term optimization looking to cash in on the buzz, ask them to describe precisely what they’re talking about optimizing.

On the second thought, a buzzword or topic often gets even more hyped when there’s some mystique or uncertainty involved. Just look at how well Web 2.0 did in that regard. So, if you’re betting on optimization as your meal ticket…maybe ambiguity is your plan?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Unraveling Marketing Attribution

Marketing Attribution is one of those very tough marketing problems that’s been around for a long time, yet few have truly figured it out. In more traditional marketing speak it’s known as Marketing Mix modeling, but it really comes down to understanding which marketing efforts have an impact on your customers and your bottom line. At Forrester, I defined Multi-Campaign Attribution in the digital world as: The practice of attributing credit to all marketing exposures that led to a Web site and subsequently resulted in a conversion event, rather than attributing all credit to the exposure immediately preceding the conversion.

But the big secret behind Marketing Attribution is that there is no tool that will get you all the way there. No switch can be flipped where Attribution appears from the vapor. There simply is no panacea for Attribution that will resolve all your troubles. Instead Attribution requires a great deal of work. It’s a method for analyzing data in not just one way but in three ways. It also requires expertise that consists of complex analysis and a relentless drive to continually explain an unconscionable process to non-marketers. Moreover, the outcome of Attribution generally creates animosity within organizations because it can rob credit from seemingly heroic efforts and deliver it to unsung heroes.

Yuk! Sounds like something you want to skip and leave for somebody else right? The problem is that Marketing Attribution is critically important. Right now accountability is at an all time high. Organizations are looking for budget areas to trim and programs to drop. Attribution can illuminate what’s working and oust the sleeping dogs among your marketing efforts. It can save programs that don’t appear to contribute but really lead profitable customers to your site. It can also identify where the greatest ROI comes from and which programs need to be accelerated for accomplishing your objectives. Attribution can propel you to superstar status within your company.

So how do you get started? There are a ton of great resources out there including a Forrester report that will soon publish on Marketing Attribution. John Marshall and his crew at Market Motive published a great video series on Attribution. Microsoft’s Young-Bean Song at the Atlas Institute is tackling the problem from an ad serving perspective with their “Engagement Mapping” solution. And ClearSaleing’s Attribution guru, Adam Goldberg, has been hosting forums to educate and reach consensus on quantifying attribution.

But if you want the final word on Attribution, tune into the Webinar sponsored by Coremetrics that will feature me and Eric Peterson called “Effectively Managing Your Online Marketing Mix with Advanced Attribution”. Tomorrow at 1:00 ET we, along with John Squire of Coremetrics, will paint the landscape for Attribution. We will identify the issues and set the standard for comprehending Attribution. Best of all, we’ll both offer tactical advice for getting started. While we may not fully agree on our methods, we do concur that Attribution is a necessary process.

So, if you are charged with unraveling the riddle of attribution, start with any of these resources, sign up for the Webinar, or drop me a line to find out more.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Omniture Gets Cozy with WPP

Omniture dropped news today of its newly minted partnership with the WPP Group. WPP is the second largest media conglomerate on the planet and not a bad dance partner for OMTR.

The partnership involves three key facets:

    1) An investment by WPP into Omniture to the tune of $25M. This gives WPP a 3.5% stake in Omniture.

    2) A commitment to joint development of new technologies and integration of existing solutions. This will include integration of some WPP assets into the Genesis platform and potentially new offerings.

    3) An educational component that includes training 500 WPP consultants on OMTR products.

Here are a few thoughts on why this is a strong play:

It’s good for Omniture because:
  • WPP brings marquee advertising brands like Gray, Ogilvy, Y&R Advertising and Wunderman which will all have exposure to Omniture’s suite of optimization products.

  • They have the opportunity to train 500 new consultants on their products; thereby elevating the accessibility of OMTR trained experts.

  • Omniture just gained 130 new resellers.

  • Their visibility into advertising analytics just increased exponentially with a slew of new integrations to the Genesis platform.

  • WPP derived $4 billion worth of revenue from consumer insights. If OMTR gets even a sliver of this business, expect their market cap to rise.

  • It reaffirms their solid placement as a leading vendor in the optimization space, despite their recent hiccups and bad press.

    It’s good for WPP Group because:
  • They can benefit from the increased knowledge of customer insights that OMTR provides.

  • It expands their research capabilities by incorporating the business optimization intelligence that OMTR delivers.

  • It brings a foundation for measurement and accountability to marketing activities conducted by agencies. Clients can monitor success through a hosted 3rd party tool that is configured to demonstrate results.

  • It provides a foray into new business opportunities for WPP companies.

    It’s potentially good for the Marketing industry because:
  • We may start to see some common analytics definitions and standards that both advertisers and site operators can agree on.

  • It elevates the practical use and understanding of optimization technologies to a wider audience. This offers the potential for more companies to reach out to their agencies for help performing analysis and making the jump from data to action.

    Okay, so when you tally it all up, it appears that Omniture should be all smiles about this deal. And they are…

    I had the chance to speak with Aseem Chandra today (Omniture’s SVP of Product Marketing). When I asked…”Why the $25 mil? From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like you could have established this partnership without any financial terms.” He responded that the investment was proof of commitment to ensure that WPP had some skin in the game. Aseem went on to say that the investment also ensured that both parties would advance the partnership and develop mutually profitable solutions that would in turn aid their clients in achieving success. He was clear that the partnership does not preclude Omniture from forming relationships with other agencies, so the door is still open for more expansive agency relationships. That said, WPP retains the option to purchase more shares if undisclosed performance goals are achieved.

    So, congrats to Omniture and let’s hope this new partnership bears innovation that benefits the entire analytics industry and moves us forward.

  • Friday, January 23, 2009

    Red Hot Social Media Measurement

    Social media measurement is sizzling. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Twitter, the Blogosphere, Facebook, YouTube and other burgeoning forms of social media are exploding. While 2008 may have been the year for “experimentation” with social media, 2009 will be the year of “measurement”. Whether you deem social media as fun & frivolous or ripe with opportunity…I’m here to tell you that it’s real marketing…so capitalize on it.

    Here are a few thoughts on how:

    Get specific. As with most endeavors, trying to measure everything without calibrating your focus can prove unprofitable. Think about social media measurement in terms of three distinct categories: 1) Individuals, 2) Content, and 3) Exposure. Once you establish these independent lenses for measurement, you can get fancy with your analysis. There’s a great tool for measuring Twitter influence of individuals that can shed light on social media impact and opportunity for exposure. Content is the lifeblood of your marketing and something you do have control over, so understanding which social tools are referring traffic to content and what types of content resonate (or go ChaChing!) with different audiences is extremely valuable. Finally, Exposure incorporates all that branding and PR that you work so hard to get out there as well as the buzz generated from it. Understanding your reach, the conversation, overall pick-up and redistribution will help you get more tactical about reaching your target audiences via social channels.

    Don’t reinvent. By this I mean - as much as possible – use established reporting methods and familiar tools for communicating metrics. This will help you to ingrain social metrics within standardized reporting without requiring your old dog colleagues to access new interfaces and learn new tricks. Just this month Tealium announced its new measurement service for tracking social media. These former Visual Sciences entrepreneurs have tapped into the ROI of social media by enabling measurement through popular Web analytics tools. Their solution can report metrics about YouTube referrals, blog mentions and even PR exposure. They make this insight available through plug-ins to popular analytics tools like Google Analytics, Omniture Site Catalyst, Unica NetInsight, WebTrends and Coremetrics so your Web analysts get more information in their existing tools. I’m eagerly looking forward to my demo next week…so stay tuned for more.

    Another Web analytics vendor Lyris HQ just gave me a preview yesterday of their new social media measurement capabilities adding more steak to the sizzle. They’ve added social media tracking to their analytics solution to identify referrals from various social marketing efforts as well as the opportunity to create segments from social media channels to identify opportunities. Expect a press release to drop on Monday.

    Really measure. Clearly there’s been a lot written about Social Media Measurement already, so I’m not breaking new ground here. However, I am excited about the progression beyond buzz monitoring and aggregate dashboarding of social metrics (not that these tools aren’t valuable…they are), but most lack real analytical chops regarding the ROI of social marketing. The recently published The Forrester Wave™: Community Platforms, Q1 2009 (here’s Jeremiah’s take) identifies analytics as a critical component to monitoring a successful community. Yet, many of the Strong Performers identified in the report still fall short on their analytical capabilities. Listening is the first part of the solution, but taking action is where I see most companies stumble with analytics.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009

    Moving Analytics Forward, Collectively

    It’s a shame that Brandt Dainow couldn’t have been a bit more copasetic regarding his views on the Web Analytics Association’s standard definitions because he does make a few salient points. But his words and my unpublished retort forced me to think about what each of us can do to move the Web analytics industry forward. We are, after all, a relatively nascent industry and we will shape our own destiny, whether we like it or not.

    Yet, this presents a problem: Web analytics is inherently an introverted exercise. Individuals within their respective organizations can apply insight, rigor and analysis to data in hopes of improving the realm over which they control. We may share ideas or tactics for individuals to take back to their own data sets and poke and prod with hopes of finding efficiencies and improvements. Sure, you can pay a hired gun to implement process, develop strategy or create sexy dashboards, but ultimately they are helping analytics practitioners to improve individual companies. Vendors facilitate advancement by acting in the best interests of their customers and shareholders to develop and deliver innovative products. But again, the application of these solutions is up to the individual organizations.

    Where we break free from the shackles of analytics solitude is in our network and thriving community of evangelical data savants. Findings from the most recent WAA Member survey show that 41% of members surveyed consider themselves champions for Web analytics. We champions sing the praises of Web analytics. We identify problems and attempt to provide solutions. We talk to each other to commiserate about the shortfalls with technologies and lack of comprehension by the rest of the world. We network and blog [and tweet] in hopes that the persistent din of our ramblings captures an audience. But we accomplish this collectively.

    So, instead of detracting from Web analytics with grievances and diatribes, here’s how I encourage those vested in Web analytics to move forward:

    Expand your network. If you haven’t noticed it yet, Web analytics people are social and welcoming creatures. In my experience nearly every person that I’ve ever reached out to in our industry is responsive and genuine. And there’s lots of opportunity to meet new people. Attend a Web Analytics Wednesday event, sign-up for an eMetrics conference, trade big ideas at XChange or tune into the conversation on the Yahoo! User Group. These are just a few of the many resources available today in Web analytics.

    Give back to the community. So this is where my thoughts for this post originated. The WAA, despite its shortfalls, is an extraordinary organization. Comprised of nearly 100% volunteers, active participants are pushing the industry forward by tackling monumental tasks such as attempting to establish a common vernacular for Web analytics with their standard definitions. Further, the recently published Outlook 2009 findings provide some fantastic insight to where we’re headed and what’s in store. This information would not be available without committed individuals giving back to the community. And by no means is the WAA the only method of contribution…host an event, attend one…share a revelation…just spread the good vibe of what you do.

    Communicate with conviction. A recurring challenge that I’ve heard over the past few weeks is our need to elevate awareness of Web analytics to senior management. This challenge isn’t new; but the urgency is reaching a crescendo. Thirty-two percent of respondents to the WAA Outlook survey listed this as the second greatest hurdle they will face in 2009. Here is where I think Dainow was onto something…by creating computing standards…will we finally be accepted? Perhaps, but the process of gaining consensus on definitions is a necessary step in the progression. In the interim, communicating Web analytics in tangible terms is paramount. This will mean different things to unique organizations, but I offer replacing complexity with accountability as a starting point. Communicate in terms that resonate with management by avoiding the esoteric. Then relay your successes to your fellow champions.

    Thus, in the spirit of moving Web analytics forward, I offered these few thoughts. More will follow, yet I am just one individual in our collective environment.

    Are you a champion for Web analytics? If so, what are you doing about it?