Analytics alone will not get job done

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Businesses with long sales cycles are sometimes mystified by the contribution their Web site can make to the company's financial results. Despite the complexities in b-to-b or considered-purchase buying situations, this contribution must be measured. Setting up business-aligned analytics can provide ROI capabilities and create the framework for determining how a Web site contributes to revenue. Analytics most importantly should provide insight into purchasing patterns.

ROI is only one data point. Contextual understanding is also needed to make adjustments and create Web pages that spur action, combat buyer resistance and lead to improved ROI.

This will not be solely derived by installing an analytics tool. Many businesses that invest in analytics software either drown in a sea of traffic and page view stats or measure campaign-specific initial responses and final conversion events.

This level of data and insight does not reveal what site visitors really want or show their relative financial value to the pipeline. Businesses need to develop a framework to gain both deep customer insight and pipeline visibility.

A Web site needs to be viewed as a relationship development or improvement platform. Measurements must be tied to segment-specific strategies, which will provide insight into visitor patterns and relate them to a specific location in the buying cycle-awareness, consideration, serious consideration, trial and purchase.

A framework or "translation" architecture also needs to be based on specific activities on site pages. It needs to incorporate segment-specific understanding of what those activities represent from a sales qualification or relationship development perspective. Implementing tracking for unique users' paths and actions on the site is necessary as the first step. The next and most important step is mapping these data to relate to meaningful business views that answer and create direction to these questions:

Are hypotheses about targeted segments correct?

Are there any unknown segments on the site not being addressed?

Are content, tools and "offers" most valuable to each segment at every point in the buying process or is the priority the need to sell products?

Is there a focus on converting the most profitable segments?

By translating meaningful prospect activities such as requesting specific white papers or providing contact information for e-mail communication to their relative relationship value and assigning scores for each, a comprehensive financial benchmark can be determined.

The Internet has shifted the balance of power from seller to buyer. Many businesses have failed to embrace this reality and face "relevance extinction." Those that bridge business intelligence that exists-such as segmentation and knowledge of buyers' behaviors-will build a system that eventually accomplishes marketing's Holy Grail: optimizing their ability to acquire and keep the most profitable customer segments.

Karen Breen Vogel is president-CEO of ClearGauge. She can be reached at [email protected]

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