Five Questions on Marketing Analytics with Jim Sterne

In preparation for next month’s Internet Marketing Conference in Vancouver, Techvibes is running a couple of pre-conference interviews. Today’s subject is keynote speaker Jim Sterne, a veteran web marketer who wrote one of the first ever books on the subject in 1995. Since then, he’s written eight more, with the most recent being “Social Media Metrics”.

Techvibes: What are you going to be talking about at the conference?

JS: “The Human Side of Marketing Analytics” looks at two sides of this coin. First, the fact that we are trying to capture data about humans. Behavior, attitude and propensity to buy are all pretty fuzzy, so I’ll be talking about how we have to back off of hard numbers a bit in order to arrive at an understanding of what the data might be telling us. The other side of the coin is how humans use data–the human side of putting analytics to use. Numbers can be scary, accusatory, revealing, concealing and even mysterious. I’ll talk about what a good analyst does to help their organization make the most of the data.

Techvibes: What’s the most common misconception about online measurement and analytics?

JS: It’s exact and accurate. It’s ubiquitous. It’s invasive. Stop me at any time…

Techvibes: Some aspects of marketing, such as the results of public relations work or so-called “brand awareness” activities, can be challenging to measure. What approaches do you recommend for measuring these activities?

JS: The data we can collect in social media, on our websites, via mobile apps, and so forth make it much easier to calculate brand awareness, brand affinity and propensity to buy. We have much more detailed behavioral and attitudinal data than ever before. If we take a baseline of all that information, we can see how it changes over time and due to specific incidents. We can measure the impact of our direct mail campaigns on search traffic, the impact of our social media activities on public opinion and the impact of all of the above and more on specific behavior on our interactive properties. All of this, of course, must be backed up with classic market research and customer satisfaction studies to provide checks and balances.

Techvibes: Is Google Analytics losing its hold on the analytics space at all, or is it still the go-to tool for most small and medium-sized businesses?

JS: Google Analytics is most definitely the go-to for small and medium businesses – as well as large businesses that need point-solutions for specific campaign tracking where their Big Analytics Tools might be too cumbersome to implement. But no tool can help small and medium businesses without intelligent humans to make the most of them. Anybody can stick sensors on you and run electrocardiogram reports, but it takes trained medical personnel to tell you what the reports mean. For that, there are hundreds of consulting companies that are worth their weight in gold.

Techvibes: From a high-level strategy perspective, what’s on the horizon in terms of online metrics and measurement?

JS: Integration and internal standardization. We have so many ways to reach out to potential customers. Each one of those represents an impact point that can alter opinion and behavior, but is also a touchpoint where data can be collected. There are an overwhelming number of data streams. The way for all of it to make sense is when it is collected and correlated in one place–an enormous challenge, but a lucrative one to solve.

The technical data manipulation issues are plentiful. The standardization issues are taxing. The cultural issues may even be insurmountable. But any company that can master the art and science of bringing that data together and has the talent on board to explore and investigate the assemblage stands to be a long-term marketplace winner.