Building Optimization Into Your Business Culture

  |  February 27, 2009   |  Comments

Building Optimization Into Your Business Culture

There has been plenty of hot air blown into the bubble that's getting ready to burst on Internet marketers again. I watched it happen the first time. With all the financial chaos crashing around us now, the last we need is the blind ignorance of the "new economy" happening again.

Earlier last month some hot air came from Interactive Advertising Bureau CEO Randall Rothenberg, who wants to prevent the Internet advertising economy from becoming "performance based." This week provided another more disheartening statistic. Helen Leggatt, of BizReport, writes:

    With the number of channels a marketer has to manage and monitor increasing, you'd think technology would be employed to make their job easier. Not so. It seems marketers are foregoing analytics to measure their online marketing campaigns...When asked about their use of measurement applications, less than half (47%) of the 1,545 American and British marketing professionals polled by Alterian said they currently use analytics to measure their online campaigns.

Sure, the shear number of those ignoring analytics in today's marketplace is alarming, but it's not all that surprising.

At first blush, one could conclude that site owners suffer from either arrogance or ignorance. Marketers either believe they don't need analytics because they are smart enough to trust their gut (arrogance), or they don't know what to do with them (ignorance). The Web analytics community has been split on this issue. Eric T. Peterson, Web analytics consultant, argues Web analytics is hard, while Google's analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik argues Web analytics isn't hard. This still doesn't sufficiently explain why more than 50 percent of marketing professionals fail to integrate analytics into their marketing efforts. (No doubt, getting value out of Web analytics is complex, something I'll address in a future column.)

Mitch Joel, author of "Six Pixels of Separation," offers some valuable insight:

    It's hard to measure the success and efficacy of your Digital Marketing initiatives if we're feeling like our own home base could use a little renovating and extreme makeover. The problem is that many people built their online presence with a one-time budget. While they may have factored in ongoing budget for Web hosting and occasional updates, this strategy has left them paralyzed.

The bigger problem I've encountered in company after company is that most have failed to make Web site optimization a part of ongoing business operations. And who can blame them? For many, analytics have failed to live up to the promise that analytics vendors have been selling. Many companies have "been there, done that," honestly attempting to use analytics to improve and have seen very little result in comparison to their effort.

As I commented on Mitch's blog:

    I blame it on our ADD mentality. Campaigns are exciting and change frequently, providing us with our next, new, shiny object fascination. Most people's websites are static and lack the ongoing imagination and efforts required to reap the benefits of continuous improvements.

    Most campaigns would perform better if people only realized how many times a visitor engages with your campaign and then abandons only to search or reach for your "home base" later. This recession will weed out many of those who don't pay attention to this.

If only they had stuck with their effort to make Web analytics work.

Still, commitment alone could put you on a hamster wheel. How does one know when to stop a particular test, stop improving a particular element, or drop a complete design in favor of something new? You must also commit to learning. Learn about your visitors, why they do what they do, and how you can better give them what they need and want.

The companies that benefit most from analytics have a culture of optimization. Whether it is explicit effort or part of a company's DNA, each of these has some sort of process or system for analyzing the data, generating recommendations, and most important executing improvements, learning, and starting the process all over again. This improves the ROI (define) of efforts and ends up paying for itself and much, much more.

Optimization using analytics causes an interesting dichotomy. It is a rather simple concept, and there are many valuable and impactful "simple" lessons to be learned. But it is also complex; you can go very deep in analysis. To get the most out of your analytics -- or just your optimization efforts -- develop a cost-effective, smart system for improving continuously.

Not Using Analytics?

You are running out of excuses. Let's deal with some of the smaller ones.

  • If arrogance is your problem, do nothing. Your competitors will soon overtake you.

  • If ignorance is your problem, learn. A good start is to get good at using a free product, eventually you can pay for more.

  • If budget is a problem, it doesn't have to be. You can do all kinds of things for much less money than you would imagine. Some of them are even free.

  • If resources are the problem, that's OK. Just move forward at a slower pace. Optimize what you can as often as you can with the resources you have now. Soon you'll catch up and surpass the arrogant company mentioned above.

Optimizing the Organization

Want to have a culture with a constant eye toward getting smarter and better? Here are a few things that your organization can do:

  • Adopt an attitude that every action measured in analytics has an actual human being behind it. Don't allow your optimization team or analyst treat your visitors like stats. Try starting by looking at them as personas.

  • Don't get overly addicted to shiny new tools and technologies, or even to marketing platforms. New isn't always better. Here are a few wise words from the lovable venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki:

      Follow through on an issue until it is done or irrelevant. Many organizations set goals and even measure progress toward them. However, after a short time, some goals are no longer on the radar because people start focusing on the coolest and most interesting stuff. For example, fixing bugs in the current version of a software application is not as interesting as designing a new, breakthrough product -- but your current customers think it is. Legend has it that Pat Riley, the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, measured stats of his players and posted each player's progress on his locker.

  • Commit to a culture of execution. "Execution is not an event -- a onetime push toward achieving goals. Rather, it is a way of life," says Kawasaki.

One of the most important things about improving is making it a way of life, so that it happens over and over.

What's keeping you from using analytics to optimize your marketing?

Meet Bryan at Search Engine Strategies New York March 23-27 at the Hilton New York. The only major search marketing conference and expo on the East Coast, SES New York will be packed with more than 70 sessions, including a ClickZ track, plus networking events, parties, training days, and more than 150 exhibitors.

ClickZ Live San Francisco This Year's Premier Digital Marketing Event is #CZLSF
ClickZ Live San Francisco (Aug 11-14) brings together the industry's leading practitioners and marketing strategists to deliver 4 days of educational sessions and training workshops. From Data-Driven Marketing to Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email, this year's comprehensive agenda will help you maximize your marketing efforts and ROI. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.

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