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A holistic view of analytics

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Daveramsey.com, the website for financial-services guru Dave Ramsey, plugs the advertising for more than 20 live events a year around the country in which Ramsey doles out his financial advice and counsel.

The website accounts for 60% of overall ticket sales for the events and the vast majority of the business leads for high-end events, said Tony Bradshaw, VP-Internet business and technology at daveramsey.com.

However, when daveram-sey.com introduced the “Live Events” link on its home page in 2008 the link hardly resonated with its target audiences. Working with software company Adobe Systems, daveramsey.com discovered that only 10% of the website's visitors from a particular local market ever made it to the live events pages.

The website then started to deploy Adobe Test&Target software, which is able to identify visitors through geo-targeting and offer them a home page banner advertisement promoting an upcoming live event in their area. Once a visitor clicks through the event banner, daveramsey.com is able to modify subsequent Web pages and its checkout process to follow that local-market theme.

What's more, using the “geo-exclude” capability in Adobe Test&Target, the website can now appeal to visitors who live in areas where no events have been scheduled. Instead of event banner ads, those users are linked to some of the company's other online product offers, such as budgeting tools.

By integrating the geo-targeting initiatives with its Web analytics, daveramsey.com was able to meet its initial 60-day goal of 400% ROI on the additional spending required for Test&Target, Bradshaw said, adding that the website has been able to maintain the initial ROI.

“We were able to go from a generic ad model, one-size-fits-all, to a very targeted ad model that said, "If you're from Atlanta, we know you're going to see this ad on our website'; so we would get near 100% visibility from a particular market, and we had not had that before,” he said.

Matthew Langie, senior director of product marketing for the Omniture Business Unit of Adobe, said that daveramsey.com is also able to wed the advertising creative for its live events links to advertising networks online.

“When I'm on the Internet surfing a financial blog site, if that blog site is part of an ad network that daveramsey.com is also part of, they could serve up display ads saying, "Dave Ramsey is going to be in Salt Lake [City] on May 11. Come check him out; click here,' ” Langie said.

The remedy deployed by daveramsey.com to lift sales for its live events via its website is one illustration of the increasingly sophisticated tools b-to-b marketers are using to improve their Web analytics. It also shows that marketers are taking a more holistic view of how to interpret data they collect from their websites and better target prospects and customers.

Web analytics is fast evolving away from marketers having to rely on the narrow scope of click-through rates and funnel reports to enabling them to understanding exactly who is visiting their websites and what actions visitors take once they get there—and allowing those marketers to respond in kind.

“The tipping point is that Web analytics—and business analytics in general—is becoming more mainstream and getting into the front lines. And now we have the tools to enable this,” said Abe Cohen, director of business analytics software marketing at IBM Corp. “It's getting the analytics into the hands of the individual users and allowing them to make better decisions in the context of their jobs.”

Marketers are also learning that, amid the myriad of metrics now available to them, selecting those tools that can provide the best returns is crucial. Indeed, b-to-b marketers have to discover the connection between their Web analytics and their companies; overall sales and revenue goals.

“Web analytics is still largely about analyzing the website, and that is becoming increasingly problematic,” said John Bastone, global product marketing manager-customer intelligence at SAS.

He added: “A lot of companies are getting to the point where they want to link what's being clicked on and what's being accessed online to a discrete customer entity or a discrete company entity. That's really the foundation issue” to building more cost-effective analytics online.

A growing number of “tagless” tracking technologies have been key to marketers' ability to capture data online more efficiently than otherwise possible through more traditional, labor-intensive tagging approaches, Bastone said.

He added that such technologies enable “a more complete information capture on clicks and keystrokes occurring in the browser and that's driving interest around how to structure and integrate that behavior with customer data, invoice data and revenue data to start to make meaningful connections on how website activities impact bottom-line performance.”

For example, SAS' Customer Experience Analytics ties to data collection from the website with customer records through its bundled extract, transform and load routines.

The software presents marketers with a view of what customers or companies are looking for on their websites and the impact those visits will have on the overall business rather than simple summary statistics of page and Web views.

“Data is a means to an end, with that end being able to make an informed business decision,” said Jason Luis, analytics director of b-to-b advertising agency Doremus.

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