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.”

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