Category Archives: Web Marketing

Web Marketing

‘Measurement, analysis and learning’ key bottleneck for marketers

In Unica’s recently published ‘State of Marketing 2011’ study, measurement and analytics was identified as the top bottleneck for the 279 marketers polled:

This is the first year that this has registered as the top pain point. I’d suggest one reason for this, could be the maturity of web marketing and the emphasis this discipline puts on measurement.

Interestingly, the survey finds that the key issue marketers face is turning data into actions. There’s a problem with obtaining data, and there’s a problem with converting that data into valuable outcomes.

This relates to an earlier IBM study which showed that businesses who can act on business insights generally perform better. Looks like many marketers realize this but are struggling to turn this into reality themselves.

Peruse the report in its entirety:

A wonderful use of the persistent URL: Unica Netinsight

image We currently use Unica NetInsight as our web analytics tool of choice on IBM.com. One of it’s advantages is that it’s highly configurable: on practically any report you can go in and add filters to hone in on the data you want and add metrics/dimensions to expand out on the information you get back (say if you want to add Visits as well as Views to a report).

All wonderful stuff.

But what happens if you want to pass that information around? One neat feature of the tool is that every report you run has a unique ID in the URL. So you can send someone the URL of a page you’re looking at and be confident that they will see exactly the same report as the one you are viewing. If they change any of the values (say run the same report but roll back one year prior), once they rerun the report, they get a fresh URL. The structure is setup like this:

https://xxx/xxx.cgi?base=getreport&id=29877

Every time you change any value and rerun the report, that ID on the end of the URL increments. The server does the work to map that ID to all the report variables as the page is being generated.

How does this differ from other tools?

Many other tools out there (such as Google Analytics and Omniture, if my memory serve me correctly) may use the URL to specify what kind of report you are running, eg. Keyword report versus Top Pages report, but other key pieces, such as which data profile you are viewing, are stored through other means such as cookies so what one browser sees will differ from the next. You can’t be exactly sure that the URL will generate the same report for everyone.

It would be wonderful to see other applications in the business intelligence and analytics space follow this example. It may require slightly more coding on the backend to map unique IDs to reports, but from a user perspective it’s great to have the sense of security that when you pass around the URL, you can be confident everyone sees the same thing and that you can record or bookmark the URL and know when you reload it a year from now, you’ll be looking at the same report you have in front of you today.

It’s fine to plot the interest graph, but what happens next? (Social Media Week panel)

In a panel discussion today on social listening at the swanky new SF PeopleBrowsr office, the interest graph formed the basis of a lot of the discussion. I guess I’m out of touch with social media monitoring as this concept was new to me. First we had the social graph, of which I’m aware: a mapping of all your connections (say friends and family) to whom you are connected across social networks. Now with some degree of overlap, you can also plot an interest graph: this time mapping connections based on a shared interest. Susan Etlinger of Altimeter used the example of a fashion site where people build connections based on couture. You may not share these interests with your grandma, but only a small subset of your friends, and the extended network of aesthetes you meet on the fashion site.

Jodee Rich from PeopleBrowsr suggests these interest networks are of more value to businesses as it gives a truer value of an individual’s importance to them. Businesses will get more value by targeting their communications around those people who have authority in that interest area (interest graph). Context is everything. You only have authority in relation to an interest (or theme). Having 500K followers on Twitter means nothing unless those followers share the common interest which is of value to the business tracking you.

This got me thinking where my own social presence and my social and interest graphs lie. By day I work in the technology sector and I generally share with people with this interest (from within my company or external folk) on Twitter. This is where I geek-out. Now I do have the other side to my online communication: where I share pictures of my newborn, other interests like music and art and bizarre oddities I find on the web. This extra-curricula activity all happens on Facebook. And rarely do the twain meet. I know not everyone divides up their online existence to this extreme, but many will have some degree of division and in these cases businesses need to ensure that they have tools that can map across the different networks in use.

When it came to what businesses should do with all this listening intelligence they build, I felt that there were more questions than answers. Tim O’Reilly proffered that sophisticated companies will go beyond business intelligence and use social listening to shape business processes. Effectively molding products and services around what the audience says it wants. However, he also suggested that this ‘autonomic’ model of business should have some human component if I understand rightly what he later said about ‘humans going the last mile’. Computers can only go so far before some level of human intervention is required to make sense of the data and take appropriate action. I’m uncertain as to at what point human intervention really makes sense and I know this is a hot topic of debate in decision management science.

O’Reilly also states that ‘great companies have everybody listening’. Listening isn’t just the domain of marketing or comms departments, but everyone can get involved and use this input from the market to drive the company forward.

I can see a flaw in this plan: the tooling.

I have problems enabling anyone to listen who doesn’t have social media responsibilities written into some part of their function. Even if I can get them access to a social media monitoring dashboard, they’ll be looking at the predefined generic terms determined by the marketing/comms team that setup the tool. This won’t include the terms that a local office would need to monitor the conversation relevant to them. So I inevitably end up pointing them to personal social media tools like Tweetdeck, which lacking any kind of workflow, offers no scope for coordinating conversations.

Brian Solis deserves a shout-out for doing a wonderful job of guiding the conversation and even working in a ‘sexy’ Marvin Gaye reference.

IBM turning 100: smarter planet, social media and meat chopping

2011 is quite a year for IBM. It marks its one hundredth year as company; as a brand.

What does this mean to me. Partly a reflection on what a brand means. Especially as I’m one of the newer entrants and wasn’t around when Big Blue was busy innovating punch card systems, typewriters, mainframes and the PC. Coming from an acquisition which only completed in the last two years, I have a much more recent relationship to the IBM eight-bar logo.

I was part of the web team that hoisted that infamous logo onto our website (before we transitioned over to the IBM.com domain for real) and from one point of view, that really was the extent of the change. Our teams remained intact and the day-to-day duties of the marketing organization remained largely unchanged: we had to continue our efforts of guiding prospects interested in our technologies. As always, we bemoaned the poor decisions of upper management and whined about the inflexibility of our business tools and processes, but now we just had a new object for our venom. So at one level I’d say the change has been superficial. A rebranding feels like little more than painting the lounge. Or a fresh application of lipstick. I had worked for a relatively large technology company. Now I work for a very large technology company.

But a brand goes beyond that.

It exists in our culture; our imagination. Hell, even my next door neighbor (an early-retired teacher) launched into an anecdote of how when he was studying at college he produced his essays on a shoestring budget by cobbling together bits of second hand IBM Selectrics typewriters he picked up at garage sales into one workable machine.

Currently IBM is driving a concerted push to create a ‘Smarter Planet’. I originally had my doubts around this campaign given my background in search marketing – we normally look to the market to find keywords to chase that fit our business objectives. This all felt a bit backwards. At the time (two years ago) ‘smarter planet’ didn’t even register as a search term. No one was talking about it.

I had yet to see the power of a major brand in exerting thought leadership.

Promotions appeared everywhere: from major newspapers to airports. But this was more than just an advertising campaign – internal business projects got on board too. This has given birth to such wonders as a machine that can compete at Jeopardy.

What has been the result? The Smarter Planet initiative is still very much a work in progress but just take a look at how search volumes have mushroomed on Google:

(click on image for more details)

The concept of a ‘smarter planet’ is now in our consciousness (or at least our Google-brain).

This level of cohesion and singularity is even more astounding given the dispersed nature of the IBM workforce. There are very few big hubs and campuses: around half of the workforce work remotely. This leaves little scope for water-cooler discussions but rather a heavy use of telecoms and social computing to bring teams together over teleconferences, screen share sessions or even ‘idea jams’ (short-term online discussion forums covering a set topic).

Internal communications also bleeds out onto the external web. As analyst Charlene Li points out in Open Leadership, “In 2005, IBM led the way… as one of the first companies to put in place blogging guidelines” and in December Mashable listed IBM as one of the top four companies to work for if you’re a social media professional. The nature of the organization has created the demand for social computing. Being one of the homeworkers, I’ll often find out about IBM initiatives through platforms such as Twitter.

So, it’s funny to think that with humble roots in the meat chopping business, IBM is now a global B2B technology force with an indelible print on our culture stretching back 100 years. And it continues to leave its mark: whether it’s easing congestion in major cities as part of the smarter planet initiative, or creating a large social media footprint. And I get to play my small part in this evolving story.

Daryl Pereira is a web and social media manager at IBM who tweets from his little corner of the B2B technology industry @cagedether. For more on the IBM Centennial, search Twitter for #ibm100

Optimize SEM and SEO Lead Gen Campaigns with Web Analytics (Webinar)

Integrating search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) projects and teams is a best practice that can deliver a powerful Virtuous Cycle.  Built on the foundation of an analytics platform such as Coremetrics Continuous Optimization Platform, an integrated approach to SEO and SEO can significantly improve the ROI from your web presence.

Multiple surveys and studies have indicated that SEO projects consistently provide extremely attractive returns on investment.  Yet eCommerce and online marketing teams frequently struggle to quantify SEO ROI: both prior to the project as part of an internal budgeting process, and after the project to evaluate its success.  Using a recent case study of a global powersports company, we will demonstrate how Coremetrics Digital Agency worked with the client to optimize their lead generation engine by integrating Search Engine Marketing with Coremetrics’ Web Analytics. Building on this SEM experience we then targeted keyword phrases with the potential for the highest, measurable SEO ROI.

We will show the virtuous circle at play between SEO and SEM:

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For instance, you can see significant improvements to your SEM campaigns by applying lessons learnt from analyzing your SEO efforts (such as which keywords drive most interactions).

Attend this upcoming seminar with Coremetrics’ John Zoglin, Senior Director, Search Marketing Services to learn more.

Date: Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Time: 1:00 PM EST | 10:00 AM PST 
Register now!

More about Coremetrics


Blog early, share late: research findings

Early birds catch the blogworms. Or so suggests research by blogging metrics maniac Dan Zarrella. You have the best chance of getting eyeballs to your posts if you get that content out before 10am US Eastern time. In a recent webinar hosted by Hubspot, Dan unleashed a torrent of findings from his surveys and research of over 170,000 blog posts.

This fine infographic does a great job of summing up general reading/feedback trends seen across the blogs studied:

Whether it’s views, links or comments, most activity happens early in the day. Saturday is a big day for commenting. Which could well be related to this activity on social networks:

Retweeting follows a similar path. It looks like most people read content early in the day, with little variance across the week. As we get nearer the weekend, people start getting social: whether that be retweeting on Twitter or sharing on Facebook (and getting around to commenting).

Judging by the success of this webinar, interest in blogging definitely isn’t on the wane, which makes me somewhat skeptical about a recent study suggesting that although corporate blogging isn’t exactly dead, it’s reached saturation point.

There was no evidence of this during Dan’s study of blogging, which had the Twittersphere ablaze for the full hour of the presentation. You’ll see there was particular interest in the tie-up between blogging and other social media: in particular those duelling siblings Twitter and Facebook. And that’s where blogging can really come into its own: as the content destination for inbound marketing tactics across Facebook and Twitter.

To my mind the Dan’s research also highlights a key difference between search- and social media marketing. For search marketing, attracting those indefatigable search bots that trawl the web for new content is a time-independent task. Just make sure you get content out in short order to win favor from the recency filter was the long and short of what I was told not so long ago by search experts here at IBM. The time of day really has little importance: algorithms aren’t more likely to read posts in the mornings.  Whereas this research from Dan bears a closer resemblance to the findings you might see around email marketing which is often deemed to be time-sensitive. Readership is near-synchronous and content is highly perishable. And if you are blogging outside the time-zone of your key audience, beware. Your content could well end up overlooked. As you may have noticed, I’m taking Dan’s messages to heart and working on getting this content out in a timely fashion. Right, now time for breakfast!

For further details on this study, check out the aforementioned post by Dan or listen to the On Demand recording of Dan Zarrella: Science of blogging

IBM strides towards inbound marketing

In a recent interview with David Meerman Scott of Web Ink Now, Ben Edwards, VP Digital Strategy and Development here at IBM talked of the move from outbound to inbound marketing.

See an excerpt of the interview:

What exactly does this mean? If you aren’t aware of the term ‘inbound marketing’, HubSpot has an excellent definition. Essentially, rather than pumping a message out through broadcast channels like billboard advertising, inbound marketing is more concerned with finding people that are researching your products or industry and engaging with them at that point.

This has a particularly strong fit with online marketing, whether that be a traditional channel like search or an emerging discipline like social media. On that note, Ben points out there are over 400K employees at IBM: 200K have profiles on Facebook and roughly the same number have a presence on LinkedIn. Add to that 30K declared IBMers on Twitter and you’re looking at a lot of connections! The communication through these channels is more about engaging in conversation. It’s more about helping those prospects that might be interested in your products and services speaking with employees who have expertise in that area.

For instance, if an IT architect from the retail sector is looking into a business process management (BPM) solution, she can join an IBM BPM group on LinkedIn and ask questions of IBM experts before synching up with the regular sales process.

To make this a reality, we’re seeing more integration between the IBM website and IBM social networks. Take a look at this section on the newly revamped Software Overview page:

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There’s a virtuous circle at play here. Giving prominence to social media on the corporate website helps drive up community involvement. As these communities grow, whether they be on Twitter, Facebook or on IBM’s own domain, they will channel more visitors back to the IBM site. All without spamming email inboxes or cluttering freeways with billboards:

image

On the subject of advertising, IBM has been experimenting with a new generation of online ads that moves away from the traditional broadcast model and lets the viewer interact and provide feedback through the interface. Here’s an example on Slashdot:

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The inbound marketing model serves as a good framework to look at the future of marketing where the communications are conversational, relevant and requested, rather than authoritative, broadcast and pressured. Social media usage at the business level shows no sign of abating, and it’s encouraging to see major corporations like IBM embracing this change at the highest level.

IBM’s marketing automation solutions: a primer

Christopher Hosford over at BtoB Magazine ran an interesting piece on IBM’s foray into the field of marketing automation focusing on the recent spate of acquisitions here at IBM. I thought it would be worth expounding on how each of these acquisitions fits into the notion of a holistic marketing automation solution – using an example that hopefully most of us can relate to: internet retail.

Coremetrics

Internet retailers use web analytics to explore which parts of their site are most effective, which channels are driving most visitors and what are the common paths taken by visitors who buy. Conversely, analytics can also highlight problem areas such as product lines that receive heavy traffic but little conversion to sale, expensive marketing channels that provide little revenue-generating traffic and navigational bottlenecks. You can take this further using a solution such as Intelligent Offer, which exposes the analytics to the visitor: much like the recommendation engine used by Amazon bookstore on their individual listing pages to say ‘if you like this book, you may be interested in these books too’.

Unica

An internet retailer that exploits different marketing channels, eg. email, web, social networks, can use Unica’s Interactive Marketing solution to track responses across the different channels and use this data on past behavior to tailor future messaging. It also allows you to uncover those prospects that have been most responsive and are more likely to cross over and become customers.

Netezza

Netezza can help the internet retailer wherever there are large sets of structured or unstructured business data. For instance you can use Netezza for bid price optimization of search marketing campaigns where you might have 100s or 1000s of keywords covering product inventory, coupled with multiple text ads and landing pages, leading to millions of permutations. Predictive analytics can help you determine what is the optimal paid search campaign structure.

Sterling Commerce

When it comes to order processing, Sterling Commerce can help internet retailers ensure consistency across different channels (eg. keep consistency across different web sites with different experiences). As one example, the system can help dealing with coupons and the correct application of discount codes across all channels.

I should point out that these are only individual examples. Each of these acquisitions have plenty of other offerings, many of which touch on different components of marketing automation.

I’d be remiss not to mention Cognos, SPSS and ILOG, all of whom offer business analytics offerings that can be customized in a marketing automation context.

IBM’s Business Analytics solutions are set to mature as these acquisitions are woven further into the fabric of each other and the expansive IBM quilt of offerings. Early indications are positive however, as IBM’s Business Analytics revenue has grown 12% over the last year to a net income of $3.6 billion. This would suggest we’re in for some interesting times ahead!

BtoB Magazine article on IBM’s marketing automation solutions