How to Suck Less: Avinash Kaushik @ The Art of Marketing

This post is my take on a recent presentation I attended.

I had the opportunity yesterday to listen to Analytics guru Avinash Kaushik speak at the Art of Marketing Conference here in Montreal.  Of all of the speakers in the lineup, I had been looking forward to hearing Avanish most because I thought that I may learn something practical about marketing – in this case using the Google Analytics tool – that I didn’t already know.

As it turns out, I didn’t come away with any new Analytics trick, but I did come away with a strengthened belief in the power of Analytics as the backbone of a successful online business strategy.  I was already a believer in this, but watching Avinash speak about Analytics so passionately made me not only a bigger believer, but also made me more aware of my responsibility as an online marketing strategist and Accounts Manager to ensure that my clients also understand the power of Analytics data.

Avinash’s main point in his presentation was that Analytics are about understanding your customers and website visitors, and using this understanding to provide them with exactly the kind of content they are looking for.  Or in simpler terms, as he put it, to “not suck”.

As an example of what sucking means to Avinash, he demonstrated search engine results (from Bing) for the keyword “fuel efficient suv 2010”, and proceeded to show that each of the top results, which were all of top vehicle brands, led to a page which had nothing to do with SVU’s at all.  It’s hard to argue against the suckiness of that.

Avinash also highlighted the fact that many big-brand businesses still use the online marketing channel to shout at consumers, and showed the example of the Telus Twitter channel which is chock full of promotional tweets.  As a contrast, he showed the Red Bull Facebook page which is engaging, entertaining, and creates a community around Red Bull-sponsored athletes.

The solution to sucking less, he says, is to use Analytics to understand your customers and then engage them by thinking differently.  He says to slash, burn and re-imagine everything you know about marketing.

Getting into the nitty gritty of Analytics evangelizing, he took some time to show the audience how to dig a little deeper into the data to get to the really insightful stuff.  Although I didn’t learn anything new (I already know it’s important to look at bounce rate, as I’m sure most Analytics users do), I really liked his emphasis on what he called “segment or die”.  What he meant was, go much much deeper than bounce rate, or overall traffic volume, or any of the basic data that is at the surface.  As he said it, data in aggregate is crap, so segment.

I love this because I go to great lengths to dig as deep as possible into the Analytics data of my clients’ websites to present them the most insightful information possible that is relevant to our goals.  But no matter how deep I dig, I always know that it is possible to go even deeper, and to understand even more about the customers and users of the website.  To me, this is the wonder of Analytics.

Translating the vast amount of data into something that clients can understand, value and use remains an ever-present challenge to me and, I suspect, to every other online marketer.  Avinash provided an example of how he uses his Analytics data, whereby he applies a pre-determined monetary value to each non-ecommerce website conversion (i.e. “about page” visits) and is then able to translate data into an easily-understandable value (i.e. $26,000) for the non-“marketing dork” types.

What I took away from Avinash’s presentation is that the power of Analytics continues to be a vastly underestimate and underused tool, and that as internet marketers it is our responsibility to not only unleash it’s potential, but to help our clients to also see the value of it as part of a successful business strategy in the world of new marketing.

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