When Readers Write… White Papers

In an attempt to develop a shared understanding of what I will be talking about in this column in the weeks to come, last week I suggested some basic definitions for the quickly emerging e-metrics industry.

Many of you responded, mostly vendors in the data analysis space who wrote to share your own offerings as best-practice solutions to the challenge online marketers face. There were lots of large attachments and links to sales brochures and marketing information, all of which I will be going through in depth in the weeks to come. (Believe me, I received several weeks’ worth of reading matter!)

Although much of this information will help me do a better job dissecting the disparate market positions of the many different metrics suppliers out there, none of that tonnage gets to the core issue of clear and understandable definitions of what to measure and how to measure it. And we can’t effectively communicate about individual products and services until I first offer an overarching view of what all this stuff means.

Then I got Jim Sterne’s email…

Many of you know Jim as a ClickZ columnist, a prolific author of Internet marketing books, and a speaker at industry events. One very smart guy. He emailed in response to my last article, suggesting that I take a look at “E-Metrics: Business Metrics for the New Economy,” a white paper he had written in conjunction with Matt Cutler, cofounder of NetGenesis.

Now some of you will understand my reluctance. On the one hand, I respect and like Jim and don’t think of him as a guy who wastes someone’s time. On the other hand, the industry white paper, once a term for a serious and objective look at a business issue, is more often these days a code name for a poorly disguised sales pitch, with limited research value except when making vendor selections.

I received lots of good company pitches (which I will read, I promise), but would this be any different?

So it sat until the weekend with the truckload of other materials I’d received, when I finally had time to tackle that overpowering stack of reading matter. And, to my amazement and gratitude, Jim’s white paper really is a white paper in the traditional sense of the term, chock full of facts and data and solid research about the current state of the online metrics market. And not one word about why the sponsoring companies (Target Marketing of Santa Barbara, CA, and NetGenesis) ought to be your preferred provider.

Download your own copy, and see for yourself.

This is a must read for anyone hoping to master the language and implementation of the current state of online measurement. In its 60-plus pages, it covers a lot of the basics (such as reach and frequency) in a straightforward and helpful way, and it moves smoothly from there into the trickier measures, such as customer acquisition, churn, retention and customer life cycle funnels, and seducible moments. Best of all, it’s easy to read for the novice and compelling enough to interest the experienced marketer.

Please forgive the gushing, but it would have taken weeks of articles to cover a fraction of the definitions and formulas covered in this important work. Its very existence allows me, in this space, to leap past the definitions and straight into the controversial stuff (such as which metrics matter in which sorts of businesses and which solutions address which parts of the problem).

I know that you won’t all take the time to read this document. But you should. And you should pass it around your company to fuel conversations about which measurements matter to your business.

By engaging seriously in that thought process, you will be in the right frame of mind to join us over the coming weeks as we look at how this metrics discussion applies to various business types and the very different types of customers who do business with them.

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