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Little things mean a lot

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There are any number of "boutique" marketing tools designed to carefully parse customer behavior and prompt quick tactical shifts. These shifts may or may not result in better sales, but at least you can't say marketers aren't trying. Web analytics have become increasingly important to marketers intent on knowing who's visiting their Web sites and why, with new optimization techniques that help attract the right customers to begin with.

Search optimization

The most well-known technique is simply one in which Web site designers embed keywords they feel are most likely to be searched. A more sophisticated (and expensive) technique is to buy keywords through such search engines as Google and Yahoo, to allow a company's Web site to be "featured" at the top or sides of the search window.

Now, using new tools that can identify computer users via their individual Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, marketers can have the results of particular user searches appear.

Education Management Corp., which runs several continuing education companies offering art, fashion and culinary institutes, and a multitude of online degree programs, has a vested interest in funneling visitors to the most appropriate of its Web sites, since its offerings vary so widely.

While normal keyword searches ("graphic design," "adult continuing education" and so on) will return specific informational pages, its paid keyword program, combined with search optimization techniques supplied by search engine marketing company Impaqt, also allows it to group Web visitors into appropriately descriptive "buckets."

These segments include so-called lifelong learners, visitors comfortable with online courses and visitors interested only in career advancement, as well as merely curious Web site visitors.

With these data, appropriately tailored information automatically appears to select audiences. And these lead data can be captured for follow-up.

Performance management

There are many touches involved in any sale, including sales visits, call centers, Web sites, trade shows, webcasts, etc., and multiple databases (CRM, SFA, Web analytics software, accounting, etc.) that log customer activity.

Hard Metrics offers a dashboard-type technology that consolidates these kinds of marketing outreaches into an aggregated form for quick analysis and campaign evaluation.

One of Hard Metrics' clients is Bulldog Solutions, a supplier of webcasts and podcasts that wanted to better demonstrate for its clients the success of its campaigns.

For Bulldog, performance management technology consolidates various behaviors of webcasts attendees, such as cost-per-lead, click-through rates, open rates, conversion rates and sales pipeline activity.

Previously, to "close the loop" for its clients, Bulldog had to analyze as many as 40 different databases, such as Salesforce.com, and Web analytic tools from Eloqua, and devote enormous resources in doing so. Hard Metrics consolidates these data quickly to demonstrate and refine a campaign's effectiveness.

Media analysis and response

"It is easy to get buried in the day-to-day influx of news clips and forget to ask what it all means," said Janet Harris, president of Upstream Analysis, a newly formed "rapid response" media analysis company.

Upstream's service, said Harris, "plots the media landscape," but its goal isn't just to log public relations "hits" for clients. The company's technology offers one of the latest iterations of smart media analysis, offered as well by companies such as StrategyOne and Cymfony.

Rather than just logging in the number of times a company is mentioned in the media, these technologies use computer analysis to tag language and determine the content, tone and viewer/reader demographics of any article or broadcast.

"Public relations is only one element of the whole marketing mix," said Barbara Coons, senior VP-media analysis at StrategyOne, a division of Edelman Public Relations. "More than just impressions, you want to gauge their quality and key messages you're trying to articulate."

Coons added that smart media analysis can uncover hot industry issues, potential market opportunities, competitor successes and failures, price resistance and consistency of marketing messages, among other metrics.

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