Keith Errington

marketing strategy
07860 267155

Measuring up to the web

Web analytics are seen as the marketer’s scientific justification for online marketing, but analytics are useless if the measurements are based on flawed thinking or poor methodology.

Why measure?
This may seem like a redundant question to some, but it’s a good opportunity to point out the implicit obligation in measuring – which is: are you going to make decisions and change strategy or implementation as a result?
If not, why are you measuring?
No really, if there is not the commitment to take action based on the results of measurements - there is no point to measurement – stop now!

Remember that simply measuring something changes nothing.

Analytics should go hand in hand with a culture of constant improvement. Sustainable online success only comes as the result of continued effort and a non-stop commitment to adjustment and support – support from search engine optimisation, advertising, content creation, social media marketing, PR, and all the other strands that make up a comprehensive marketing effort.

What to measure?
This is the key to the success or failure of the analytics exercise – get it wrong, and you could be at best wasting the budget, and at worst, acting on poorly chosen measurement data that could result in extensive damage to your marketing efforts.
Imagine a situation where dentists are paid based on the number of fillings they perform in a given period. Does this reflect the amount of work they are doing? Yes. Does it improve the nation’s health? Of course not – in fact it positively encourages dentists to give us bad advice so that we ruin our teeth and encourages them to ignore maintenance and remedial work – maybe even performing fillings that are entirely unnecessary. (And before any dentists complain – mine’s great by the way – I am talking hypothetically).

So where to start? Start with the goals of your organisation and work down to the goals of your marketing plan. Then work out how those goals can be achieved and measured. Look at identifying a few key performance indicators to check progress.
But then reflect back at these indicators and back up this chain – do they really help in assessing whether the marketing objectives are being met? And the organisations?
Working back from the indicators, look at all the possible implications of measuring these and acting on them. Make sure that they do not imply courses of action that run against your marketing plan or organisation’s objectives.

How to measure?
Just because we now know what we want to measure doesn’t mean that it is measurable. We may have to accept significant compromises in matching what is capable of being measured with what we would like to measure.
If so we again need to check they are truly appropriate for the task.

You may have to face the fact that some key performance indicators may not be measurable under any circumstances.

What was the real reason your customer bought a product? Was it in fact because their mother said it was a great product, and not the search engine ad?
Was it because your competitor uses flash on their website - which their browser had problems with – and yours did not, so they bought from you?
How could you possible measure this?
Perhaps a friend bought it for them and the registered owner of the product had no say in the decision whatsoever?

Make sure the measurement is unbiased – it’s very easy to construct measuring systems that will simply confirm what you want to hear.

What to do with the data?
Two issues here – analysing the data to extract useful lessons from it and taking action based on that information.

Any statistics related to the Internet are always highly suspect – there are still too many variables to draw detailed conclusions from most data sets. However, trends in the data are generally very useful and indicative.

Statistics can be tricky things – often reflecting the analysts preconceptions – the history of science is littered with cases where inconvenient measurements were ignored or misinterpreted because they didn’t fit the conventional wisdom, or where measurements were selected to fit some political agenda.

Once data has been analysed and key points have been extracted from the results, these should be presented to decision makers in a format they can understand and relate to. In a scientific environment this is all you may need to do, however in a business environment most decision makers would be looking for recommendations as to what action should be taken or what conclusions should be drawn.

It is also vitally important that this whole process takes place within a timeframe that makes the measurement meaningful.
It is no good measuring social media sentiment and delivering a report two weeks after the brand has been thoroughly trashed by bloggers, twitterers and Facebook users.

Finally, and most importantly, to reiterate the point made at the beginning, some action should be taken. (Which admittedly, might include carrying on doing what you are doing because it’s all working!) Otherwise it is all a pointless exercise.

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Trust, reputation & branding

We all know branding is essential on the web - but why?
The reason is that it links to trust through reputation. Next time someone asks you why branding is important, here’s a quick explanation.


There is no single more important commodity in business than that of trust.
It takes time and effort to establish and yet can be lost in the briefest of moments.
Every person in every part of an organisation has to work to engender trust in the customer and a single action by a single person on a single day can break that trust and undo many man-hours of effort.
So trust must be nurtured and maintained and preserved at all costs.
When doing business on-line, the importance of trust is multiplied by the remoteness and impersonal feel of the Internet.

Gaining trust is easier if an organisation has a reputation – and a good reputation is priceless.
When looking for an information source on the Internet one may find many hundreds of potential web sites – what makes you choose one over another? Reputation.
It is an organisation’s reputation that gives authority to the information.

To leverage – or make the most of – this reputation you need branding. Branding helps the customer associate the organisation with the reputation.
By being able to recognise the organisation behind the current message quickly, easily and even subconsciously you are making the connection between the message and the organisation’s reputation implicit – as the customer trusts the reputation, so they trust the organisation, and therefore the message.
Little or poor branding confuses the customer and they no longer have confidence in either the organisation or the message.

Strong branding allows you to recognise an organisation quickly and easily, triggering an associated feeling about that organisation’s reputation which leads to an evaluation of how much you trust that organisation.

Without branding you cannot leverage reputation and trust.
Without reputation you cannot engender trust.
Without trust you cannot do business.

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Web 2.0 – Collaboration vs. Control

THERE seems to be a battle being fought out in corporate cyberspace – between those who see Web 2.0 technologies as positively empowering, powerfully collaborative and potentially game changing, and those who see them as massively time wasting, security broaching, anti-corporate agents of chaos.

Now whilst these two poles may be overstated, there is definitely some debate in corporate circles as to whether Web 2.0 is truly good for business and if it is, how much should be implemented and with what controls?

So which is it? Unfettered collaboration or tight control? Well, like many previous technological revolutions, adoption really isn’t as clear cut as either view seems to suggest.

Adoption of Web 2.0 technologies, such as wikis, forums, groupware, and social networking tools really depends on what business you are in, your customer base, your culture and a whole host of other considerations.

Understanding of implications

And this leads us to the more fundamental problem behind Web 2.0 adoption. The people making the decisions at a strategic level, need to understand these technologies, what they mean and what they can and cannot do. Then they have to see how they can be used to meet their organizational objectives. And then they need to implement them to the depth appropriate to the proposed strategy and with the right level of control. They need to understand the implications of the success of such projects to both the budget and the corporate culture.

But one of the strengths of these technologies is that often their effect adds up to much more than the sum of the parts – that they generate new paradigms and evolve into systems that defy strategy and planning. They cross departmental boundaries and break down barriers between the organization, its customers, and its suppliers. And once users get the taste of openness and collaboration, they generally want more – it’s difficult to get that genie back in the bottle.

Even experts find it difficult to predict how these technologies might react with the corporate body, nervous system and mindset.

So how can directors and managers make strategic decisions about these technologies?

Three steps to a strategic decision

Firstly, look at the nature of the business – some businesses will never gain a significant benefit from these technologies – their implementation will be costly and unlikely to contribute to bottom line profit. It’s difficult to see, for instance, how a wiki might radically improve a small package delivery service. (Not saying it wouldn’t – just suggesting that a decent return on investment might be difficult).

Whilst businesses that would gain no benefit whatsoever from Web 2.0 technologies may be few and far between, there are still a significant number out there – and many more for whom the investment would not be worthwhile.

And then there are those companies for whom aspects of social networking would be a clear headache rather than a gain. A financial company may need to keep a very tight lid on communication to meet its legal obligations for example.

Secondly, look at the culture – if there is no culture of openness and collaboration – or a fundamental willingness to embrace those concepts, then Web 2.0 technologies will inevitably fail – probably in a spectacularly costly manner.

Just as a new corporate identity will not miraculously change an organization, so Web 2.0 will not change the culture – unless the commitment is already there from the top down.

Thirdly, look at the organization’s agility – Web 2.0 often results in a changed landscape – can your organization react to that quickly and take advantage of it? If Web 2.0 means new ways of working, can you handle it? If an organization is not able to change and adapt to the radical remodelling that Web 2.0 often produces or demands, then there is little point in implementing the technologies as the benefits will remain beyond it’s reach.

So the question of implementing Web 2.0 technologies follows directly from the bigger questions of organizational strategy, business goals and culture.

Only if board members and senior managers are familiar with the ‘new’ technologies will they be able to make rational and profitable decisions regarding their use at their organization.

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