Knowing Where to Go

I’ve been writing in this column for weeks about the need to tie online metrics to product, situation, and specific marketing goals. And I’m going to keep pounding that drum, because only when the business goals and objectives determine the choice of metrics do those measures have the desired impact on business results.

Remember the story about the drunk crawling around on his hands and knees under the streetlight late one night? A passerby asks if she can help and learns that he’s searching for his lost car keys. So she joins the search, as do others leaving the bar, until several people are diligently scouring the pavement for the poor man’s keys. Finally, wondering how so many searchers could miss finding them, a more sober participant asks whether the keys were lost right under the streetlight. “No,” replies the drunk, “but it was dark in the middle of the street where I dropped them, so I’m searching where I can see.”

Looking in the right places is a necessary prerequisite to getting useful results.

No provider of analytics, no outside expert, no quantitative guru can provide your business with useful online metrics until you take the time to deeply analyze your business objectives. So, before I write about various solutions providers, I want to write a bit about the sorts of issues solutions are designed to address.

Determining Where You Stand

There are many valid and useful ways of analyzing business objectives and marketing goals, and the intent here is not to choose one above all others. If you have an internal process that is working for addressing these issues, stick with it.

If, however, your organization is not accustomed to systematically dissecting the marketing realities and business challenges or your marketing group is having those discussions without being able to involve other functional areas in your company, I strongly recommend starting that conversation — and choosing a simple model to begin with.

It’s fine to select a very basic, generic customer life-cycle system and then use it to encourage a broader discussion about how customers and prospects really perceive and interact with your firm. Over time, as you get organizational buy-in to the process, it will make sense to customize the model you use and fine-tune it to fit your particular situation.

Who needs to be involved in this discussion? Well, if you are serious about being a customer-focused, customer-driven organization, then everyone does.

Making Your Findings Matter

There are many examples of companies with Web sites that wax eloquent about their attention to customer issues, but the technical staff refuses to invest the time to understand the customer-interaction patterns. Or companies where the CEO and COO give speeches about the organization’s client-centric views but internally make it clear that their own time is too dear to invest in “that feel-good customer life-cycle stuff.”

If your company fits some variation of the above description, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the response you get when you begin to present your marketing findings in terms of an organized and tested framework. If the marketing group does a good job of internalizing the framework you choose and positioning all marketing directives in the terminology of that model, you are likely to see the company skeptics come around.

Marketing feels a lot less “squishy” when it is backed up by a consistent analytic approach further supported by respected academics and business leaders.

Next week I’ll look at some of the frameworks I’ve seen businesses use successfully to more deeply understand their business and marketing objectives and challenges.

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