January 09, 2011

From Database Marketing to Web Analytics

Have you seen this chart?

I have.  The Web Analytics community likes to send this image to me, with comments like "... you are a Database Marketer, how does it feel to be overtaken by those who have the keys to the future?  Ha!  :) :) :)"

How does it feel?

It feels great.  I'm more than happy to pass the torch to you.  In fact, let's do it right now, in a formal ceremony.

Now, to whom much is given, much is required.

Oh oh.

Oh boy.

Might we explore what is required of you?

It's Not About The Community, It's About The CEO:  Database Marketers spent two decades trying to impress each other ... trying to top each other using fancier and fancier techniques, until we couldn't even explain what the heck it is we were doing and how we were doing it (i.e. Neural Networks).  Read your typical Web Analytics blog or read the tweets of a Web Analytics expert, and you see the same thing happening in this community.  Enough of the "Eight Steps To Using Google Website Optimizer To Foster An Analytics Culture" stuff.  If you own the keys to the future, start acting like you own the keys by speaking to the right audience.  That audience is the CEO.  Communicate to the CEO, using a form of language that the CEO understands.

Stop Ripping HiPPOs, Stop Being A GIPPO:  You embraced the phrase "HiPPO", or "Highest Paid Person's Opinion" as a way to criticize Executives who rely on gut instinct instead of data to make decisions.  That's cute, funny, and insightful.   But is it possible that you are the problem?  Is it possible that you are asking an Executive to trust the "Geekiest Individual's Preferred Productivity Option?"  Database Marketers made this mistake for two decades, speaking a language that made it next to impossible for Executives to understand or trust the Database Marketer.  Database Marketers created overly simplistic solutions without having a broad understanding of overall business issues.  The Web Analytics community is heading down this path.  DON'T BE A GIPPO!

Don't Lose Focus:  Database Marketers lost focus in the late 1990s, embracing technology and diving into the four-letter word known as "CRM".  This distraction led to a new generation of analysts, called "Web Analysts", and these folks created a new generation of software tools.  Web Analytics leadership are doing the same thing in 2011, focusing on topics like "Do Not Track".  Sure, this is an important topic ... it's been an important topic for fifteen years.  Here's what history tells us ... once you get distracted, somebody else picks up the torch and runs with it.  Two years from now, you may still be fighting an important issue while others have created the mobile analytics software of the future.  Keep your focus on what matters.  It's ok that online individuals don't want to be tracked.

Empires Never Last:  Have you ever reviewed "Rand McNally's Histomap of World History"?  Nothing lasts.  Nothing.  Database Marketing gave way to Web Analytics.  Web Analytics, most assuredly, will give way to something else.  What is your career development plan for 2015 and beyond?  The online world operates faster than the offline world operated.  So if Database Marketers enjoyed two decades of thought leadership, Web Analytics experts have, what, another five years?  Something else is going to come along and disrupt the Web Analytics empire.  Again, what is your career development plan for 2015 and beyond?  Make sure your career is dependent upon your skills, not software.

Bigger Picture:  I cannot tell you how often this happens.  I'm sitting in a Board Room.  The Web Analyst shares a story of what is happening with online customers.  Then the CEO asks the Web Analyst a question about overall customer behavior, across all channels, and the Web Analyst goes silent.  The CEO turns her head to another individual in the room, asks the same question, and receives an answer ... maybe not the right answer, but an answer.  The CEO smiles, then moves on to another topic.  Database Marketers failed by always having a narrow focus on customer behavior, failing to take into account interpersonal dynamics or business issues.  Web Analysts are failing by having a narrow focus on online customer behavior.  It is good to expand your horizons, focusing on more than just the online world!

Focus On The Future:  I make a living because Web Analysts spend their time looking into the past, measuring what happened in the past within just one channel.  CEOs hire me to analyze what happens across all channels, and more important, they ask me to forecast what is going to happen in the next five years.  When is the last time you read something from the dozen or so Web Analytics gurus who dominate the blogosphere, where the author outlined a methodology for predicting the future, then demonstrated that she was right based on prior predictions?  The data exists to take what happened in the past, analyze it, then use it to forecast with accuracy how customers will behave in the future.  This is what CEOs care about.  Database Marketers did a terrible job of predicting the future, and by doing so, pigeon-holed themselves into a CRM-based world of analytics observations about campaign performance.  Please, do not follow Database Marketers into this hole of doom!

It's The Story, Not The Tools:  The Web Analytics community seems to replicate the errors of the Database Marketing community.  Database Marketers became "SPSS" or "SAS" or "R" or "SQL" or "Business Objects" or "MicroStrategy" wonks ... there were long and boring arguments about which tool better achieved business objectives, with evangelists passionately offering an elaborate defense of each tool.  Fast forward to 2011, where Web Analysts argue about Omniture or Coremetrics or Google Analytics.  Please, be agnostic about tools, focus your efforts on telling a story about how customers behave.  Outside of the Web Analytics community, nobody cares that Omniture or Webtrends have better optimization solutions than Google Analytics.  Tell a story that a CEO cares about.

I could go on forever on this topic.  I'm part of the Database Marketing generation, and we failed miserably.  We represent a generation of unrealized potential.  You don't have to repeat our mistakes.  Now take the torch, and do something great with it.  To whom much is given, much is required.