Chapter 4:

Why do we suck?

We suck. There's no argument about that, it's all about the magnitude of denial. In some drug or alcohol program they say that the first step towards healing is agreeing to having a problem. To help, we made you a list.

1. We suck because we don't set good goals and objectives #

How much money do you make per month personally?

Everyone knows the answer. This is one of the most important numbers in our lives. This is also pretty much the only question we are really interested in a job interview. You have a fever if your body temperature is over 37 degrees Celsius. Mount Everest is mostly famous because it is measured at 8848 meters above sea level. A football game is won by the number of goals. It is all about numbers. Then why the hell do we treat numbers with low importance when it comes to work things?

If a company would offer you "quite a bit" of salary, you would not take them seriously. If you told you boss that your head is quite warm, they would tell you to get in the car and drive to the office. If Everest hadn't been measured, it would just be a tall mountain that helped a lot of people die.

If Everest hadn't been measured, it would just be a tall mountain that helped a lot of people die.
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So when it's not personal, when it's not our own money at stake, we start sucking. Too easily we succumb to be vague in our metrics. We even lie to ourselves. It's much easier to justify possible failure when we can't measure it. We fail, because we are so afraid of failure.

You want more revenue? More sales? More visits on your site? More salary? Lose weight? Well, how much? Even more, how much is it worth to you and how much are you willing to spend on it? The most successful marketers spend thousands on search engine marketing, and that's not per campaign, that's per word. The reason they can do this? They know what they're doing and they accept the facts, but most importantly they know that their investment will return to them.

Ever since Google Analytics came out and democratised analytics, a lot of sites set it up. In 2008 the easiest way to land a new customer was to ask if they had analytics installed. In 2014 that question is whether the numbers have improved at all in the last six years. Probably you have it running on your site right now. A lot of people have used it too, but what are you using it for?

Most people use it for measuring visits to the site. You have your unique visitors and returning visitors. You have bounce rates and exit rates and all sorts of other stuff. Relying on numbers because of numbers is stupid and it's even more foolish to base business decisions on them.

Setting realistic, achievable and even more, real goals and objectives allows companies to do business online. Business online is just as real as business offline and people behave just the same on both sides. In order to not suck, we need to run our business the same no matter the channel. Your website can be a sales channel just like any other, but you have to start taking it seriously. If you are aiming for more sales, what kind? How many? What share of your revenue should come from online?

We've been measuring stuff online for over a decade and we still manage to fail setting reasonable goals.

2. We suck because we spend bucket loads of cash on getting eyeballs #

Imagine you own a small store in the suburbs. You run an advertisement in the local paper and people love it, they see it and they fill your store right up every time it runs. Congratulations. That's successful marketing either by luck or design depending on how clever you are. You know that the paper is hitting the right audience (your customers) and therefore you pay the newspaper to tell them about your convenient little store that has exactly what they need.

Why then why do website owners spend buckets of cash promoting poor websites without a thought to their target audience? If these sites were the proverbial suburbia store, they wouldn't have any products or a cash register. And they would be marketing to people in a different country.

The only awareness you need is that you're wasting your money.
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Are your campaigns creating awareness? The only awareness you need is that you're wasting your money.

The biggest issue? They build websites which convert to sales at the average 2% if they're lucky, but of course they don't know they convert 2% they just know they make some sales. Instead they pay for more advertising and expensive redesigns because they are basing their decisions on the wrong goals.

They pay for traffic, but they sure don't pay for science.

3. We suck because we use numbers as an emotional crutch #

"How's our awareness campaign going on, Johnson?"
"It's great, boss. We have eight thousand more people than last week!"
"Fantastic, it was really worth it and I think you've earned a raise."
"Where do all the people come from?"
"They come from Google, boss. They come from Google."

So, what would happen if Google would collapse into a singularity? Would we go out of business? Would our sales drop? How much would they drop? Why?

How many discussions end with every participant blissfully happy in their ignorance, thinking the numbers someone just muttered actually meant something? How often have we been patting each other on the shoulder because our "viral" video got ten thousand views? How many times have we explained our way out of an embarrassing situation by using these numbers?

How many times have we explained our way out of an embarrassing situation by using numbers?
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When did we start believing in the lie?

4. We suck because we communicate like a bunch of nerds #

A colleague and a friend once taught me that in his home country of Mexico, business starts by first gaining the trust of your future business partner. When that's done, business may commence. We are not doing ourselves any favours sounding like a drunk Yoda garbling 250 point Scrabble words in our first meeting.

Albert Einstein famously said that, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." The online industry has been at the forefront of this for ages. Now, it's alright to use these words with other gurus or consultants, but most normal people won't understand the language.

The hard part is convincing people in a business to do something and that can only happen when we communicate well. For instance we talk about sessions, (we're not jazz musicians!) when we're actually talking about people visiting our site. We talk about bounce rates when it's just people leaving or conversion touch points when it means people buying or doing something on our site.

Does it really make us better as people or our speech more impressive to use such fancy words? Would we be impressed if our local butcher told us how he used Taguchi theory to improve the meat carving process? Why do we even bother using anything scientific, when we can just make stuff up like the "Twitter acceleration ratio" that Steve saw some guru present at the eMetrics 2011. The only mention of it was the next day when Steve mocked it as a prime example of how not to communicate. Everyone agreed!

If someone knows what the hell Twitter acceleration ratio is rationing, please tell us. The super sucky part is that we ourselves use terms like Twitter amplification ratio, which is totally okay, because amplification is much more important and science-y than acceleration, which is only good in fast cars and thrown objects.

Have you ever wondered why all those sports equipment multi super gym products in infomercials sell so well? People understand them. They speak the people's language. Think about this, you are talking to the regional sales director of BMW and you want to make him understand that your company might be a good business partner for them. Do you say, A.) "I know how to help you sell the value of ten 5-series BMWs online without spending any more than we are now." Or B.) "If we reduce our bounce ratio by 10% it will improve our CPA by 25% meaning we can significantly improve our online revenue."

It's the analysts job as a professional to be understood and if you're not an analyst it's your job to keep asking until they start making sense. If they can't, then they're not the droids you're looking for.

5. We suck because we don't get the Hippos working for us #

The hippopotamus amphibius is responsible for over a hundred human casualties every year, making it one of the most dangerous animals in the world. They are also pretty damn awesome. But apparently there's an even more dangerous animal, the one in the business world. The HiPPO is a commonly used abbreviation that stands for the Highest Paid Persons Opinion.

We suck because we think this guy doesn't understand that what we're doing is great work and he makes gut decisions rather than have data informed opinions. However, just like real hippos, they're not dangerous or malicious by nature. The reason in most cases they don't understand is because we communicate like nerds. Don't be that idiot tourist trying to take a photo of a baby hippo while standing between its mom. The hippo is paid more than everyone else for a reason. Live with it. Get the hippo on your side by proving the value of your work.

Find the highest title with accountability for online performance and make him or her your friend and mentor. Find someone who can back you and your ideas. Analytics is not a project and it requires senior ownership. Just like a controller or a business analyst does.

Seriously, which other industry has a fancy acronym for a name to call a corporate bully?
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Seriously, which other industry has a fancy acronym for a name to call a corporate bully? Are we that spineless?

6. We suck because we live in a goldfish bowl #

Our history, culture and fairy tales are full of warning signs that although we humans are social animals, we really struggle to organise ourselves when in large groups.

Small businesses always have the upper hand when it comes to information management and growth. The bigger the corporation, the more confusion and in many businesses it is like the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. The web analytics silo, the business silo, the CRM, or other sales & marketing systems are all disconnected and in different departments. IT is building systems for finance, while marketing is scheming to replace IT with a cloud service. Meanwhile finance is planning to outsource marketing to Latvia.

Most companies do this because they don't collaborate well. They also might be missing a lot of details or context. They might not have access to the correct numbers or they may simply forget to work together. Find out what the real cost is. Find out where the real returns are. They have silos and they might not even realise it. Even if no one else wants to share information within the organisation, you should. Don't just sit in your own goldfish bowl. Get out there and learn stuff that is going on in your business. Even if it's a small one.

7. We suck because we're not building a house, we're polishing our hammer #

We're obsessed with the perfect implementation of tools. We are the kind of people who go out to buy everything our new hobby or sport needs in the first day. We want to know what the eVar does and how the s.prop works. We are obsessed with the latest updates and the most technical schemas available. Were you at that conference about the tool that will make squirrels speak german? We need that.

We're obsessed with the perfect implementation of tools.
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Figure out the business requirement first and then set-up your tools to suit. Don't try to get the perfect implementation first time out just get the basics right first. It's ironic how our industry preaches not trying to build everything in the beginning but to launch early and iterate into perfection. Meanwhile we're going all obsessive compulsive on our own tools when we should be building a house.

Don't get this wrong, tools are important. To a point.

If you notice the topic of discussion being more about the tools than the business requirements or concrete results, you need to take a day off tool shop duty. Start asking people why you are doing this project in the first place.

8. We suck because we don't do things today #

"We have a lot of things going on", we say to ourselves. "I don't have time to do it today, I'll do it tomorrow," we hear ourselves mumble. Perhaps it's because these campaigns have been just practicing and the next one will be the one being measured. Or maybe Tom who is responsible for the campaigns looks really busy right now.

Let's say a site gets 40,000 visitors per day, you have an average purchase of $10 with a 1% conversion rate. By adding the one report to the site, you would notice that your shopping cart button is faulty on most browsers, causing 50% of buyers to drop out from the purchase process. That means that every day that this problem is unfixed causes a direct loss of $4,000 per day. That's $28,000 per week and $112,000 per month.

Even if you only got 4000 visitors per day, you would be missing $11,200 per month of revenue, which could be used to hire a person or two.

The sites will never be ready, so you might as well start measuring them today. Right now.
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The sites will never be ready, so you might as well start measuring them today. Right now. Your analytics tools are not fire and forget missiles either. You'll have to do some checking and see whether you are measuring the right things and if everything is going as planned. Compare it to your hypotheses. Yes, you should have some kind of estimated outcome you expect people to do on the site. Now is a great time to plan and execute that multivariable test you've been planning to do ever since you read that Seth Godin article you shared on LinkedIn.

9. We suck because we fail at the basics #

You might be the best corner kicker in football but even the best have bad days. They might be called the best players because they have the least bad days. But still, to succeed they have to do the basics right and we suck because we don't.

There are a lot of basic mistakes we've seen. Banners sending 6 hits instead of 1 to the analytics server every time someone landed on the page. Basically that meant it looked like you had 6 times as many visitors. We've seen 30 odd countries sending traffic to 5 different shopping carts and wonder why the numbers were different across different systems. We've seen websites not tagged, URLs not tagged or if they were tagged then they were tagged incorrectly.

That is just on the online side. When we take into account different business intelligence systems, web stores, IT systems and the people using them, the probability for a broken phone is exponential. This kind of muddled confusion means that the data looks weird, which leads to the last reason we suck.

10. We suck because we are losing confidence in numbers #

We are the boy who cried conversion rate. Not only is our day and age full of information, it is also full of numbers. Data has changed from a privilege into a burden. Fortunately, we have all the tools required to collect, handle and store this data. We even have some people who know how to use and present it. Unfortunately, we have too many people who don't know how to use and present the data.

We are the boy who cried conversion rate.
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Whether it's a bad experience here or failed basics there, we are misusing the numbers. We are diluting the trust. Already we can see defence lines being formed in the business because analysts keep on bombarding people with trivia instead of helping them with clear and concise information. We have become shampoo advertising.

So we spend shitloads of money trying to do things perfectly, we screw up the basics and then don't believe anything the analytics data tells us because we don't trust the numbers. If we keep spending more time on setting up the tools than focusing on the goal, more time in workshops wowing middle management with fancy terms, more time in industry events trying to figure out what the hell a Twitter acceleration ratio is, the more time we lose.

We are living in an age where technology is no longer an inhibitor. It has become an enabler. Now is the time when we should be securing our foundation, practices and morals. If we are to be trusted advisors or creators of something lasting to build upon, we have to start acting. If we assume that we can handle the big stuff, even when we fail at the little stuff, we're on a dangerous path. Dangerous because we might end up causing serious harm to business practices and the future of how things are done.

We are on the path of losing the only tool we ever really had. Science. If we manage to accomplish that, we're no better than lame copywriters writing scripts for infomercials. And no, of course we don't mean the ones with Chuck Norris. They are awesome.

But honestly, we suck.

If you liked this chapter, please recommend it to others.

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What's been said about the book?

"Data, data everywhere and yet all decisions from the gut!" That just about encapsulates why our marketing strategies are faith based, why our websites are barely functional ("the CEO loves purple!"), and why we are not making the types of profits we deserve. I love this book because Steve and Markus provide specific advice on how to unsuck our lives! Buy. Don't suck. Win.
Avinash Kaushik
Digital Marketing Evangelist - Google
Author - Web Analytics 2.0
In your face and a Must Read for beginner and expert analysts alike.
Jim Sterne
Founder - eMetrics Summit
Author - Social Media Metrics
Chairman - Digital Analytics Association

About the authors

We have a single goal together, to make our customers a billion euros in profit. This won't happen in one year, it might take five years, but we will not stop until we have generated a billion of provable profit for our customers.

We love meeting and talking to new people! Get in touch with us. Come have a pint with us! We are available for projects, especially in warm places with great fishing opportunities and/or great beer.

Steve Jackson

+358 50 34 35 159
Markus Sandelin

+358 44 36 99 887