Melinda Emerson - Small Biz Lady

Zimana Client Spotlight: @SmallBizLady Melinda Emerson – Shining a big bright light on small business

Melinda Emerson - Small Biz Lady
Melinda Emerson, the Small Biz Lady, has hosted a weekly Twitterchat called #SmallBizChat, a premiere “town hall” for small business owners on Twitter.

You have to admire Melinda Emerson.  Her motto is to eliminate small business failure, and 2012 is shaping to be a great year for her to do so.  With her media site Succeed As Your Own Boss being seen by a quarter of a million unique visitors (and rising) annually, Melinda has been steadily attracting new  entrepreneurs seeking  ideas to operate a successful business and manage growth.   Melinda has seen growth in her own business, thanks to steadily increasing participation of  #SmallBizChat. SmallBizChat is a weekly Twitter town hall for small business owners.  Every Wednesday at 8pm Eastern, tweeting entrepreneurs gather to tweet questions and view answers from guest experts in finance, marketing, operations, social media, employee concerns, and more.   SmallBizChat followers also have the opportunity to give a shout out of their business at the end of the chat.  The mini-promotion is worth it – Melinda currently has over 160,000 followers on Twitter, and has seen increasing numbers of returning followers to SmallBizChat week  after week.

Melinda authored a book, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months (read a review from Zimana client Small Business Trends).  The book’s success encouraged Melinda to launch Succeed As Your Own Boss , which features business tips and summaries of the weekly SmallBizChats.  The site continues to attract other contributors such as Tai Goodwin of Launch While Working and a plethora of guests well known in small business circles, such as Deborah Shane, Michael Hyatt, Anita Campbell, Allan Weiss, and Barry Moltz.

Melinda Emerson "Small Biz Lady"
“Small Biz Lady” Melinda Emerson, addressing an audience at the 2012 New York Expo about start up pitfalls

Melinda has also branched out to commentary for several major media outlets and corporate online community sites, such as MSNBC, FedEx, American Express OPEN, and Pitney Bowes Smart Essentials.  In addition, she has been a guest speaker at numerous business trade shows such as the New York Expo and Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference.    The New York Times has added Melinda as a regular contributor to their small business online segment.

Zimana has provided analytic support to Melinda for the past year, and continues to salute Melinda in her quest to protect small businesses from failure. Join her by following the hashtag #SmallBizChat every Wednesday at 8 PM EST – learn more about SmallBizChat at Succeed As Your Own Boss.   While on the Succeed As Your Own Boss site, check out the Zimana twitterchat on analytics here.  And if you would like to see Melinda in action, check out her appearance on NBC Philadelphia.

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.


(Update) Google Plus for Business has arrived – Is Google Analytics integration being planned?

The stats for Google Plus + were initially impressive, kicking off a number of Facebook vs. Google + posts on the web.  As of end of July 2011 comScore reported 20 million unique visits to the network and averaging nearly 2 million visits a week according to Experian (source: Mashable).  Users also liked groups called circles to manage separate newsfeeds, keeping messages organized.

Google Plus logo
Google Plus

Google initially  cautioned business owners to not create a Google Plus profile, but has since released a Plus for business page.  Setting are similar in arrangement to that on Facebook; Business plus owners must have a personal plus page before setting up a business page.

No details have been released if there’s an integration to Google Analytics but the potential incorporation of analytic capability link would be an important development for Google.  Google has revamped its Google Analytics solution to include a social media plug in. Furthermore Google +1 buttons can be tracked in Google Analytics, so a refined integration with Google Plus would make further sense – imagine being able to see what traffic from shared networks is effectively coming to your site.

An analytics integration would provide more segmentation opportunities for participating businesses and lead to better identification of how traffic is being lead to a sign up, a purchase, or another designated conversion.  Conversion measurement is sorely lacking in Facebook  – a marketer can measure likes, comments and sharing a site, but no funnel analysis capability exists in Facebook Insights to guide a business to select a media based on conversion goals.

Linking Google Plus to Google Analytics would continue Google’s refresh effort for the analytics solution. It will also offer new ideas for small businesses beyond the current assumptions of how analytics can be used.

How to optimize marketing for serving customers across multiple websites

The fun part about creating websites for a business is that you are not automatically limited to having one website. However, many businesses do not realize that with some planning, their analytics solution can be a business intelligence tool that permits better marketing decisions and better chances to be profitable.

First a brief explanation — why track, even if the websites are not an e-commerce or a blog? A web analytics tool can indicate what referral sources contributed to the site, allowing businesses to better adjust their marketing.

An analytics solution works by attributing the last website a visitor came from as the referral source. In a sequence where the visitor can come from one website to a second, then to a third website tagged with a web analytics code, the second website is considered as the referral source in the analytics reports.

This scenario, which often occurs when running multiple sites, becomes a distorted view of traffic source contributors – you want to treat some visitor sessions as one visit across domains if those visitors are viewing pages in one sitting. The advantage of a multiple site tagging leads to better understanding of what attracts visitors and can affect website redesign decisions, product and service offerings, and even the business model itself.

To implement a multiple site tag, an analytics code is typically modified in the Javascript code. This step sounds technical, but it is not extremely so. Google Analytics, for example, employs a _pagetracker javascript callout in the code. The bold font below highlights where the pageTracker callout appears: The setDomainName addresses domain recognition in the Google Analytics cookie, permitting the desired recognition across domains, while the setAllowlinker allows for the Google Analytics cookie recognition through the link function between the domains.

Google Analytics code with multiple domain modification

In late 2009, Google Analytics introduced an asynchronous version of the code. The asynchronous version was introduced to address page loading speed, but has become now its latest version – you can learn the difference at the Google code site here. If you’ve added Google Analytics to your site since 2009, chances are you are using the asynchronous version. The asynchronous version of the modified code as such below. It similar to one above, except for the _Gaq.push script that is used.

Asynchronous Google Analytics code with multiple domain revision

After the Google Analytics code is modified, the next step is modifying links to the second will then add an on-click _link function to all the links between the tagged websites. For example, a HMTL link code that takes the visitor to the second site….

A link for a second domain

…would look like the one below with a pageTracker link function called by the on-click event:

Second domain link modified for multiple domain visitor tracking

This is the standard version. The asynchronous version looks like this below (Note — gap between link on onclick is due to blog format: No actual space is required):

Second domain link with multiple domain tracking

For submitting forms between domains, GA uses a different function at the link. It would like the following:

Post version of second domain link

This example is typically used when data is submitted across domain, such as entry windows on a contact page.

Other analytics solutions have similar arrangements. For example Piwik offers a similar set up for its analytics solution. Piwik users can learn more about setting separate websites, including subdomains here.

The point is that with good measurement, great service for all your website layout arrangements are possible. For your business, work with your design team to make sure the tagging reflects the way your business operates online.

When web analytics can’t save your business

Google Analytics Dashboard
Reviewing data when your business model is weak can yield insights, but many are strategic and take time to implement – a factor if your business is on the ropes.

Increased interest in measurement has come with the increase usage of websites and social media for business and organizations. Analytics has been seen as a godsend for making better, profitable decisions. But missing in many conversations is knowing when analytics may not be helpful to a business. How would you know?

One of the best quotes on this comes from Competing On Analytics, a business intelligence book written by Thomas Davenport and Jeanne Harris

“Without a distinct capability (What you do to set your business apart), it becomes impossible to compete and distinguish what data is important.”

These aren’t the only authors who deem distinctive capability as valuable. A great quote comes from Lance Bettencourt, author of Service Innovation.

“Services that provide distinctive value to customers have more than three times the success rate of me too services.”

Developing that distinctive value rest with the business model. A business model is a description of how your business delivers its product or service — how it delivers value. Having data without connecting it into the business model or operations is of no value to anyone. This is why analytics without a meaningful link to strategy becomes useless – it becomes a never ending reporting of metrics instead of discussion regarding taking action.

Moreover, a firm that thinks its online influence stops at webpage is kidding itself in this age — thanks to social media and the advancements in website language and features, a site provides an extension of a shopping experience in many cases. (See the article on online browsing ) and well as allowing customers to research a business ( See the article on the link between offline and online customers )

So what should a business do when it is somewhat unsure how to leverage analytic capability?

1. Determine how far your organization is willing to modify its business model. What is the objective? Does it make sense? Does everyone understand it? If your business is not willing to consider modifications to how product and service value is delivered, then your business will ignore the insights an analytics solution can bring.

2. Determine the commitment to act to analytic findings. Management must decide what alerts and metrics are important from the collected data. What metrics should be monitored and how frequently? What changes in analysis are necessary as the business grows?

3. Make sure people are available to follow through on the decisions. When you see people as a cost center rather than an essential part of doing business, you run the risk of destroying a business because you lose the right people who can understand your business model and implement changes. For a small business or group, someone who has experience with a given industry and experience with some website language can be a boon and provide the best combination of analysis and action.