emetrics_2011_logo.jpgMarketing landscapes are changing in order to cope with the explosion of new forms of media and communications. In fact, according to Forrester, a whopping 75 percent of chief marketing officers plan to rearrange their teams by the end of 2011. With the help of this year's eMetrics conference in San Francisco, we took a look at what these true end customers are ultimately seeking, and why they might be seriously misguided. 

A Good Story

When a toddler wants to be told a story, often times it’s perfectly acceptable to grab a picture book off of the shelf and just wing it. Who cares if you’ve used the same book on another occasion -- they won’t recognize differences in the words so long as you deliver the story line with enthusiasm and a happy ending, right?

Funnily enough, it turns out CMOs are largely considered to behave the same way when it comes to analytics.

“As long as you tell them a positive story, it almost doesn’t matter what format you present it in, claimed Brandon Bunker, Sr. Manager of Analytics at Sony, at this year’s eMetrics conference in San Francisco. Bunker was one fourth of a panel of experts that also included Michael Metz of Cisco, Dylan Lewis of Intuit, and Microsoft’s Peter Sanborn.

“It’s not because they don’t find analytics interesting," defended Metz, who went on to point the finger at a myriad of different culprits including a difference in business goal alignment. "The last thing I need when I have a question is data. I need a business strategy and the implications and what the real story is.”

To put it simply: the data won’t speak for itself. It’s the analysts job to present it in a way that is not only digestible but compelling in business terms. So, when telling evening analytics stories, be sure to tuck your CMO in with a good one.

All of the Social Media Tools

Many a CMO suffers from Shiny Object Syndrome when it comes to social media measurement. Sanborn aptly compared this to shopping for a car:

People who tend to really like tools are like people who really like sports cars -- after a couple of years it’s time to get a new one.

Problem is, switching up your measurement methods too often can add up to years of time spent implementing and learning a system for nothing. The eMetrics panel unanimously agreed that in this niche, successfully utilizing tools is largely about trying to justify the value of consistency and sticking with the solutions currently in place, no matter how imperfect you might think they are. 

On the other hand, there's a large pool of people who believe there's something very important about testing the waters. Scott Ryser, co-founder and CEO of Yakabod, recently made an argument for a  more reckless approach to Enterprise 2.0 adoption, naming a few counter-intuitive methods:

  • Launch before you are comfortable
  • Training discourages adoption
  • Compliance is not victory
  • Impossible deadlines work best
  • Past successes don't count
  • Accomplishment trumps productivity

Meanwhile, Eric T. Peterson of Web Analytics Demystified admonished over indulging: 

You can use online measures of social influence to make decisions relevant to the online world. Trust me, I love it when our customers tell us they used Twitalyzer to identify bloggers and other individuals who successfully helped them spread their message. But I strongly encourage readers to be careful not to place too much faith and too much import into these metric's ability to understand honest to goodness, flesh and blood relationships and interactions.

As usual, what it boils down to is finding the right balance between the old and the new, and finding the best way to explain the importance of that to a CMO (again, tell a good story). As Metz put it: "If you aren't measuring social media you aren't doing your job. If you’re not putting social media in its place, you also aren’t doing your job." 

Move Towards the Right Questions 

Finally, it would make good on your mission as an analyst to acknowledge that most CMOs, however interested they may be, don't typically understand all the ins and outs. Accordingly, in closing the eMetrics panel discussed what questions should get asked but don't.

For example, what does 800,000 Facebook friends translate to on a business level? Execs with rose-colored glasses on might be satisfied with a number that large, but most analysts are smart enough to know that in social media, a large follower count doesn't necessarily mean you're out of the woods. 

"We have to help contextualize the data forward," said Sanborn, who suggested presenting a variety of metrics for measuring success. 

Add all of these tips up and at the end of the day it's about working smarter, not harder. "We need to do less," said Sanborn in closing. "My team needs to do less, and we need to do a better job of telling people about the work we’re doing."