Outsourcing your web analytics?
My football team is not doing very well this year – I was at the game the other week and apart from being cold and wet (I’m in Melbourne), we had not scored a goal by half time. So my mind started to wander and I got to thinking of the way the game has changed and how there are now all these statistics and information flows detailing the most minute things about every player on each side – the results are scrutinised, evaluated, discussed and used to form the basis of new ideas and plans for the overall team success.
Some of the basic statistics collected are obvious to everyone at the game, but there is a lot of more detailed, confidential information like heart rates, body temperature, recovery rates and injury details that remain close to the inner sanctum of the club. This information is very valuable and if it falls into the wrong hands it could cause enormous problems.
The same holds true in online marketing. Some of the basic stats about your web site can be generally available – you probably (hopefully) look at your Hitwise ranking to see where you fit with others in the industry. But what about the deeper level of detail? Who do you trust to help capture, track and analyse the information that has the real value of your business contained within it?
Who is it in your business that really knows how many people hit your website; what they do when they are there; how often they come back; which marketing channels work the best; which products are viewed most frequently; how many people sign up for newsletters; what is the conversion rate for first time visitors; how much you are paying for various marketing campaigns and what results you are getting; and what are the most effective acquisition strategies you are using? This is business critical information and it drives company performance.
For many businesses in Australia, the answer is someone outside the company. Most use external web developers, marketing agencies, SEM/SEO experts and even our IT vendors to track and report on our online business. How did we get to the position where we’re happy to trust this incredibly valuable business information to outsiders? (Albeit trusted advisors in some cases) Was it a conscious business outsourcing decision or did it just happen for convenience?
I think it appalling that many businesses do not have direct access and control of this strategic marketing information. To my mind it is the same as letting your company financial performance be controlled and managed by the folks who come to clean the building at night when everyone is away. Sure, you trust the cleaners, but you don’t leave financial statements and delicate employee information out on your desk.
So coming back to standing at the footy in the cold and my original thought: the coach and management of the football team want to know and control (manage) the detail of their team’s performance. They guard that information because it’s sensitive and provides real value. We do the same with our company financial data because it offers real value. So when did we forget that the knowledge and detail about our marketing also has real value and demands the same level of attention, ownership and protection?