The person with a clear understanding of where your data comes from and how that data can be used to improve the business, will be the one to rise to the top.
Back in 2005, Bob Chatham, then at Forrester Research, spoke at an eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit in London. He got everybody's attention when he predicted that people who were in "web analytics" today, would find themselves in business intelligence tomorrow and, eventually, the C-suite.
Bob talked about the data warehouse people striving to answer Big Questions with Big Data on the one hand and indulging in pattern recognition and discovery on the other.
Web analysts are a different breed, he said. Web analysts are interested in optimizing specific functions: get more traffic, attract more valuable traffic, optimize landing pages, improve conversion, grow lifetime value, etc.
When web analysts, indoctrinated in the arts of process optimization, turned their attention to the massive corporate data warehouse, they would look for more processes to optimize. After optimizing prospect acquisition, lead management, persuasion, and conversion, web analysts would look at product development, product delivery, customer service, and more - and end up with a front row seat on what it would take to optimize the whole company. The eMetrics audience thought he was wonderful.
In July of 2010, I wrote a blog post called "What if Analysts Ran the Show?" In it, I introduced Craig Sullivan, formerly the manager of digital and usability at LOVEFiLM.com and now at auto glass repair giant Belron.
Craig grabbed multivariate testing tools and A/B split testing methods with gusto and went to town. He was the first to admit that he didn't have the answers, but he had really good questions and a testing methodology that couldn't be beat. He has mastered the fine art of online persuasion through the automated manipulation of text and visual elements. "I can run tests on ten thousand lab rats on my websites whenever I like. It's exhilarating."
And then Craig turned his testing tools on the call center. What sort of music should be on hold? Should the voice intoning how important your call is be male or female? Craig is on his way to integrating multiple touchpoints.
That brings me to the story of Joe Megibow. Joe built avionics systems at EDS and then moved to helping Ernst & Young clients get organized. He then joined a technology company called Tealeaf, assisting its clients to monitor and manage online customer experience. When calls came in, customer service reps could see where the caller ran into trouble on their website.
One of Joe's old college friends hired him to run the Tealeaf implementation at Hotels.com. Joe dove into the practical side of matching systems monitoring with web analytics. The company did so well that it was acquired by Expedia and things got even more interesting for Mr. Megibow.
Joe went from vice president of customer experience and online marketing at Hotels.com to vice president of global analytics and optimization at Expedia, to vice president of mobile and e-commerce optimization. Last month, Joe told me it was time to update his keynote bio on the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit website because he was just made vice president and general manager for all of Expedia in the U.S.
Bob Chatham was right. The person with a clear understanding of where the data comes from and how the data can be used to improve the business, will rise to the top. Of course, being wicked smart and contagiously enthusiastic helps, but the lesson is that our relationship with data is changing - for the good.
Jim Sterne is an international consultant who focuses on measuring the value of the Web as a medium for creating and strengthening customer relationships. Sterne has written eight books on using the Internet for marketing, is the founding president and current chairman of the Digital Analytics Association and produces the eMetrics Summit and the Media Analytics Summit.
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