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The words metrics and analytics sound too much like statistical terms to appeal to a lot of sales- and marketing-oriented b-to-b media executives. But Chuck Richard, VP and lead analyst at research and advisory firm Outsell, said that impression may be diverting many of the b-to-b media from the true value in tracking users of their sites.

Speaking at American Business Media's December breakfast education session, "Turning Metrics Into Gold: Making Numbers Work for You," Richard emphasized that the Web's tremendous measurability is the path to gaining and engaging more users, delighting more advertisers and, most important of all, making more money.

Richard identified several ways b-to-b publishers tend to use metrics incorrectly, including:

  • Tracking and charting various user behaviors but not using those data to make positive changes;
  • Focusing on the numbers rather than user needs;
  • Spending time manipulating data and generating reports rather than using the information to improve the user's experience;
  • Allowing analysts to work in a vacuum rather than in partnership with the management team; amassing so many data that no one can get through them to take action; and
  • Reviewing metrics periodically (i.e., monthly, quarterly) rather than continually.

Instead, Richard said, "start with what you will do differently." By this, he explained, publishers must decide to make a change in their Web site or marketing strategy first, and then gather before-and-after metrics that will indicate how that change affected user behaviors. "You must test everything; you can't assume," he said.

Richard pointed out that the b-to-b media must hire and/or nurture people who have a passion for improving their users' experience and watching those changes happen right before their eyes. "This is something you can do, you should do and it pays," he said, adding, "This is something you have to do or you're going to be left behind."

In the panel discussion that followed, Stuart Bogaty, global managing partner for Universal McCann, said the idea that the Internet allowed a marketer to measure everything has been around for more than a decade. "Where we have advanced is with tools," he said, "and advertisers are now starting to look for more data. They are willing to pay more when the media company is able to cut the data more finely."

Shari Cleary, digital marketing consultant for analytics firm WebSideStory, added that publishers should use Web metrics for two reasons: "to increase the value of your advertising and to sell more of your inventory." To do that, she said, publishers must choose an action to measure, such as watching a video or registering for an e-newsletter.

John McNicholas, marketing director-information marketing services at McGraw-Hill's Aviation Week division, explained that Aviation Week makes money from paid registration on its Web site. "News has become a commodity," he said, "and [traditional] market research is very expensive and time-consuming. We are incorporating [metrics] into our business process so that we can give our audience deeper, richer data products that have greater value."

Bruce Rogers, VP-marketing at Forbes.com, who moderated the panel, noted that having a one-to-one relationship with the user has long been the promise of the Internet, "and it still is. The only question is how do you monetize that?" In the meantime, Web analytics provide "a very clear pathway to success," he said.

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