How Web Analytics Helps Small Businesses – Where to Start with Measurement

Many small businesses think of web analytics as search engine optimization, but that perspective is a partial view. Analytics encourages the organization of a digital presence for a business or an organization. These days such planning is important. It means providing speedy management of marketing content, be it online or off, such that a business can ultimately manage costs.

Some small businesses analyze results from a campaign effort – after a website is launched, a video is uploaded in YouTube, or a Facebook page is launched. This is an understandable step – many businesses see analytics in an application and treat the analysis as an audit. But the real work happens during the preliminary planning of a digital presence. This can consume some time, particularly now with so many options for a small business to choose. A business should review two aspects  first before tweet or a site visit is measured.

1. What is the purpose of the website in the business model? Does it serve as an augment for offline marketing?  Is it for sales through e-Commerce? Is it a way to deliver customer support through online chats and community hosting? Answering these questions will set the tone for what content should be on the site – images, downloads, and which pages should retain visitors for longer than a moment. Even trust badges can be influential (see my Business Agility post Building Trust Through Transparency).  It will also lead to how a site and its subdomains are set. The end result is the arrangement of how a site should be tagged.

2. What marketing is planned? Thanks to QR codes and URL tagging, for example, small businesses can create marketing plans to anticipate how customers discover the company site, and ultimately the business itself.  Experian, eMarketer, and other research firms have indicators that people tend to review products and services online prior to making a purchase.  The ideas is establishing an reasonable assumption of how your business is exposed to leads and customers.  An assumption may change overtime, but that is reasonable given that marketing materials can become outdated over time.

Once these two steps are addressed, a small business can begin to make reasonable adjustments to a marketing plan with few headaches and reduced expense.  There are still some technical verifications needed, depending on the complexity of the site and tagging required – many large enterprises have a team on analytic experts to manage the effort. But for small businesses developing a plan and monitoring as it moves ahead makes any analytics information valuable.


iPad ushering e-zine version of Car and Driver; How analytics on content, reader engagement may follow

Car and Driver on iPad (Image Source: Autoblog)

Car and Driver has just released an e-zine version for the iPad according to Autoblog.  This is part of the start of the e-zine movement, though C and D’s publisher is not alone (see the Zimana blog post on the foray by Bonnier/Popular Science into electronic magazine content ).

The Autoblog gang was a bit underwhelmed with the e-zine Car and Driver, considering the offering as just a transfer of the magazine with no significant features that take advantage of the new format.  That’s a missed opportunity to create renewed interest in the magazine, particularly as now there are so many sources that break car news instantly, such as … er…Autoblog.

That’s okay for now.  The discussion of content — and how to best measure its effects on readers — continues unabated.  The best that these and other organizations can do is to use as much analytics tagging as technologically possible to learn how people use the content and provide better services for all.

Loopt introduces location based ads — Wall Street Journal article

Loopt introduces location based ads — WSJ // This creates more options for local businesses to drive customers, in addition to other tools, such as ads (where businesses advertise on Twitter) and Yelp! (where customers rate their service).

Hip Hop gets the party going, but does it give branding lessons that lead to long term sales?

Blogspot has an interesting post where the marketing tactics of hip hop artists can potentially be helpful to B2B marketing. It’s a good article — You can see Blogspot’s get crunk post here. The Jay-Z example — allowing your customers to tailor your product which leads to sales — is a great one. But hip hop is about brand building in a way different thatn what has happened traditionally in music. For businesses, particularly B2B, the transfer of lessons requires a filter, because music has become a medium based on immediate sales. For a business starting out, gaining sales immediately is essential, but for longevity the efforts have to take a different form of development.

One byproduct of hip-hop is that artist development requires very short term and immediate results (sales), to the point of no true artist development, as was done by music producers like Barry Gordy of Motown (Let me be clear — this byproduct is widespread across the music industry, so there is no blame on this genre). Artists must be fully packaged – appearance, singing technique, marketing – prior to recording songs for corporate distribution and the consumer market. Furthermore, the ability to record music almost anywhere has also accelerated the pace of artist development, with artists not having to be located in Los Angeles to access production-level equipment and savvy personnel. For the music industry its product, the artist, is being developed with an immediate eye for sales, but not with a long term sensibility for product.

Countering the short term development, the traditional music ingredient for product – er, artist, longevity is the “marquee song”, a hit song so successful that when it is played, listeners associate the singer and moment with it. Elvis and Frank Sinatra are examples of artists with marquee songs. For Michael Jackson, it’s “Billie Jean” and “Beat It”. Prince had “When Doves Cry” among others. Aretha Franklin spoke about R-E-S-P-E-C-T (and we found out what it meant to her, too!). These songs are more than “hits”. They take a life of their own, because of the collective memory of the generation that heard the music. The marquee song image is strong among an audience, associated with an era as much as the artist. When the beat to Billie Jean is played, even a small children today that barely speaks says Michael Jackson and dances, while a teen is aware that the song is clearly the 1980s, a time period they can only image or gain insight from movies and video footage. Many people played Billie Jean when MJ passed this year. At that time they were recalling more than the artist, they were going back in time to where they were in life then. This is what a lot of artist want, as a confirmation of reaching and connecting with people (sounds familiar to social media, huh?). Yet many do not gain that marquee sensibility.

In hip hop many artists have developed a different mindset. The short span between albums (one year compared to 2-3 years for a pop album) can render an artist outdated. To counter, rappers choose to expand their artist development beyond their core offering, recorded music. Movie performances by Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and LL Cool J are examples, along with the breakout box office successful for Will Smith and Queen Latifah. Clothing lines from Sean Combs (Sean Jean) and Jay-Z (Rocawear) are also signs of “brand extension”.

To gain mindshare of a customer, businesses must seek to create their marquee service or product. The equity markets reminds people of this perspective repeatedly; Companies are cheered by analysts and rewarded via increased share price whenever an unprofitable business unit is spun off or when a company returns to its core market after fail new-product ventures. Small businesses that create “divisions” and “separate products” prior to establishing a “marquee service” can diminish their focus on the very product that can develop their customer base for the long term.

Unlike many genres, many hip hop artists have their “marquee song” in the form of a persona, adjusted bit by bit to match where the fanbase demographic is in a lifespan. Ice Cube is an excellent example. Ice Cube is no longer running from the police like he did in NWA videos but now appears in movie fair like “Are We There Yet?” and “Barbershop” as a no- nonsense father — roles more removed from his early movie days in “Boyz In Da Hood” and “Trepass” (which are extensions of the no-nonsense, not-for-playin’ image built from solo albums like “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” and “The Predator”). These are memorable long-term branding images, all crafted and adjusted from his “marquee song” — himself. The fact the he is executive producer for a number of his key movies proves this point even more and reinforces a self-sufficiency characteristic evident among many hip hop entertainers. Moreover, more rappers are inserting complaints in their lyrics about about the music game in their songs, so the interest to cross into other media and ventures shows no signs of abatement.

This branding of identity approach fits for many businesses where an identity fuels demand. But for B2B, a strong identity is necessarily not the strongest chess piece on the board. Quality of product and service is important, while developing a customer relationship requires consistent engagement efforts that do not lead to results immediately yet are important milepost on the trail to profit.

I still love many of the rappers from the (“cough, cough, ahem”) 80s and 90s. But I think instead of holding a one-size fits all, businesses need to derive the lessons in brand building to their respective industry. A brand that builds trust — a very essential quality in online marketing — will gain longevity that leads to conversions and to growth. It is essential for small businesses to weigh the examples against the results to develop the best fit of solutions. Any effort should be supported with an analytics process, be it Yahoo! Analytics or a simple review of marketing efforts, to ensure that the best fit brings the best solutions.

I just saw a Tide commercial which repeats the chorus line from Rebirth of Cool (Cool Like Dat) by the Diggable Planets. So maybe we are be closer to marquee hip hop than I can imagine. The rap fan in me can hardly wait.