Aaron Gray // Greater Returns


Musings on Web Analytics, product strategy + other stuff.

Change Rolls in Like Thunder

Many of you know this by now as we’re likely connected through other social networks such as Twitter or LinkedIn, but, for those of you who don’t already know, in September I took on a new role at a company called Thunderhead.  Thunderhead builds products that help companies communicate with their customers in ways that improve customer satisfaction, increase customer loyalty, and, ultimately, help our customers develop more valuable relationships with their customers.

Those of you who know me well know that I view change as a good thing — I’m quite at home in a fast-changing environment.  In this fast-paced world, not changing is moving backwards.  Like a violent thunderstorm, change clears out the old growth and dead twigs and makes room for new growth.  It brings the promise of something new and the anticipation of a bright future.   This change is no different.

In my new role at Thunderhead I’m leading global UX efforts as Vice President, User Experience.  This is a particularly exciting role for me because, for the first time, I get to marry my experience in analytics with my background in UX — and I get to work with really smart developers and product people to build a new product from scratch.

The More we Change, the More we Stay the Same

This is a “full circle” moment for me as it brings me back to UX, which is where I got my start and which I thought was in my past.  Not because I didn’t want to do it, but because my career path had taken me away from it.  I didn’t realize how much I missed it, and how much I missed working with effing awesome designers.  It’s great to be back at it, and to be doing it inside a growing company that has mad respect for design and user experience, all the way up to the CEO.

So here I am – applying everything I learned in my ten year detour through analytics, which included time at WebCriteria, Coremetrics and Webtrends, to the design of a product that’s going to change how companies connect with digital customers.  The best part is that I get to do one of my favorite things…build a great team.  Building a new team, though challenging, is something you don’t get to do very often, but it’s a great thing.  To be able to choose the people you want to work with — people who share your passion for making something great — is a special opportunity, and I’m thankful to be in a position to it again.

Now Hiring!

So, if you or someone you know is a kick-ass Interaction Designer (IxD), UI Designer, or UI Developer with mad HTML5/CSS/JavaScript skills, we should talk.  I’ve got roles open in both the UK and in the US.

  • I’m looking for two senior level IxDs to lead UX on two different products.  I’m looking for one each in the US and UK
  • I’m also looking for two forward thinking UI Designers to work closely with the IxDs to craft a clean, modern, joy-inducing software experience for our customers.  Also one each in the US and UK.
  • Lastly, I’m looking for a solid UI Developer to work in our Boston-area office.

We run an Agile/Scrum dev process.  You don’t need to have tons of experience inside an agile/scrum process, but you need to be excited about doing it.  We’ve found a good marriage of UX and Agile – and it allows us to work quickly when needed while also allowing the time to explore larger design issues over a longer period of time.

If you want to do some really cool work – let’s talk.


Filed under: Uncategorized

Welcome to Day2

I’m pleased to announce today the public launch of Day2 – the project I joined ISITE Design nearly a year ago to conceive, lead, and bring to market.  I joined ISITE becuase we shared a mutual belief that the traditional agency model of launching projects and walking away is fundamentally broken. When there should be a focus on continuous optimization of the work just launched, instead the agency and internal stakeholders move on the the next project.

We also shared a belief that there was not a good solution to this problem offered to the market.  Agencies continue to launch projects.  Web analytics consulting firms are largely focused on short-term, project-oriented work, not on delivering long-term results.  Landing page optimization firms are just that…landing page optimization firms.

We believe that a website is an on-going process – a program that is managed for long-term gain.  We also believe that optimization goes far beyond landing pages to include the entire customer journey through the sales process from the first marketing touch-point to the landing pages, routing pages, key content pages, and conversion pages on the site.  Doing less than full-journey optimization is short sighted, and leaves potential gains in conversion and revenue performance on the table.

So together we launched Day2.  A digital optimization program that delivers continuously improving results starting on day 2 – the first day after the launch party.

Hop over the the newly launched site and check it out!  And, let me know what you think.

Filed under: Marketing, Web Analytics

Thoughts on Salesforce acquiring Radian6

I smiled when I first read that Salesforce had acquired Radian6.  I love trying to piece together what a company’s product strategy is, and who they buy is a pretty good data point.

I think this one is particularly interesting because Radian6 crosses over a couple of significant user communities…#measure people and #Social people.  So, the #measure people (my background is in #measure, obviously) are wondering “Is Salesforce getting into the analytics space? Are they going to get into marketing measurement? Optimization? Who else will they buy?”  For the #Social people, this is a pretty natural fit.  Social CRM is a huge deal, and lots of people are trying to figure out how to do it right.  The best use cases I’ve seen for social CRM are on the customer support side, rather than on the sales side.  We all know that people like to bitch about bad customer service on twitter (I’m guilty, I’ve done it).

A few years ago, I participated in Jeremiah Owyang’s future of social measurement summit (sorry, I don’t remember what it was actually called) at Xerox PARC.  One of the other participants had a particularly brilliant use case.  He worked for an enterprise IT products company.  He set up a program for monitoring twitter and specific forums for users complaining about, or asking for help with problems with their products.  They’d then engage that person and send them a link to the solution in their knowledge base.  Brilliant!  Solve the problem and engage the customer where they are.  Don’t wait for them to come to you.  I know, right?  Duh.  But it was a big deal back then.  A revelation.

It was an especially big deal that they weren’t bothered by issues of licensing or if the user had “bought support.”  They realized that if someone is having a bad experience with your product, and they’re talking about it in the social mediasphere, you better offer help.  Unless, you don’t want people to love your product.  At the time, I was working at a company that cared more about making sure they didn’t give support to anyone who hadn’t paid for it than they did about creating a community of zealot customers.  It was good, and refreshing, to see someone who realized that social media was changing the customer support model.

Anyway, that’s what I think this Radian6 acquisition is about.  It’s about better managing customer relationships.  It’ll be interesting to see if Salesforce crosses over more into marketing automation and optimization or into analytics.  My hunch is they’ll move in any direction that will help them solve the core problem their customers have: turning leads into sales, and managing the resulting customer relationship.  That would mean marketing automation and lead nurturing solutions are on their radar.  But straight analytics solutions would not be.

So, #measure people… the question on everyone’s mind…will Salesforce buy the last remaining independent analytics vendor?  I wouldn’t bet on it.

Filed under: Industry Observation, Social Measurement, Web Analytics

Web Data Takes Another Step Out of the Web Analytics Department

On July 28th, Adobe announced that it was acquiring Day Software, a web content management vendor that also offers “web experience management” and asset management.  Seen in the light of Adobe’s recent acquisition of Omniture, I think it’s clear that Adobe is carrying on Omniture’s mission to build a complete online marketing suite, as I predicted they would when I first wrote about the acquisition.

The vision, one can surmise from Omniture’s acquisitions and visible product strategy, was to create a closed-loop web management platform, that included content targeting and optimization, search and display marketing management, complex customer analysis via a warehouse (or warehouse-like product), and other commerce-enabling technologies.  Data collection to empower automated decision making and optimization would enable the whole platform (Omniture’s core competency).  What was missing, of course, was a true web-content management system (with a run-time for dynamically targeting and optimizing content) and some form of digital asset management.

The acquisition of Day Software is a significant step toward realization of this vision for Adobe.  Day’s products provide web content management and asset management, and they have a run-time on which they’ve built content targeting.  With that runtime already in place, it should be fairly easy to integrate more robust, data-driven targeting from Omniture.   And, Day has been noted for their back-end savvy and integration prowess.  I suspect that Day’s engineering team will have a lot to do with the products that result from this union, which is good, because while Omniture was great at strategy and execution, things could be a bit clunky on the product side.

Adobe has other assets that will probably be a part of this vision, too.  Namely, Scene7, a provider of product visualization solutions.

Ultimately, this means that web data is taking another step out of the Web Analytics Department.  As the unified web marketing / management platform begins to take hold, data collection will be automated (the run-time engine will generate tags dynamically at run-time – or simply bypass tagging and send data directly to the data-collection systems) and data analysis will be automated (personalization and optimization will be based on calculations and analyses done by the products themselves).   As this happens, the role of the web analyst will be less and less about tactical optimization of content and marketing programs, and more about analyzing customer patterns to find new insights to drive marketing strategy.  Essentially, the web analyst and the customer marketing analyst roles will begin to merge.   If the role of web data analyst exists, it’ll probably be a specialty in the customer marketing group.

Of course, this vision of things is a long way out from being the norm.  But I think we’re on that trajectory.  And, smaller companies may never run things this way (unless Google decides to offer a unified web management platform – which isn’t too far fetched).  In the mean time, smart web analysts will continue to have to straddle the fence between tactical optimization, and true, customer insight work.

Filed under: Industry Observation, Web Analytics

Your Web Site is a Value Generation Machine

Read that headline again, and make sure it sinks in.  Your web site is a value generation machine.  You feed it visitors, and, if it’s working properly, it converts them to value for your business.  It works by getting the visitors who arrive at your machine to perform a set of behaviors that lead up to a specific value-generating behavior – a conversion.

Your job as a marketer or site operator, is to optimize the efficiency at which your machine is working.  You want it to produce more value for less cost.  To manage the efficiency of this machine, you need to understand two things very clearly: how does your site contribute value to your business; and what are the visitor behaviors that lead to that value.

If you don’t have clear understanding of those two things, or buy-in from all of your stakeholders on those two things, no web measurement tool in the world can help you.   When you do gain a clear understanding of those two things, and when you become comfortable with them — when they are second nature — it will be easy to figure out what you should be measuring to help you manage and tweak your machine.  When you know what you need to measure to manage and tweak your machine, web analytics tools will cease to seem overwhelming and daunting.   You’ll know just what you need them to do, and, conversely, you’ll know what features of your tools you can ignore as simply more noise.

Filed under: eCommerce, Marketing, Web Analytics

Hear Me Speak at SearchFest 2010 (& Use My Discount Code)

I’m speaking on a panel next week at Portland’s SearchFest 2010, put on by SEMpdx.  Joining me on the panel will be Eric Peterson, of Web Analytics Demystified.  Together, we’ll present on measuring success online, from the top down and bottom up.  Eric will present the management perspective (top down), and I will present an “in the trenches” perspective (bottom up). Following will be questions and answers with the audience.  Expect a lively discussion.

SearchFest is happening on March 9th, at the Governor Hotel in Portland.  I’ve you haven’t registered yet, go register now!  And don’t forget to use my discount code (save $30!): SPKR-SEMPDXSF1020. While you’re there, you can check out Todd Mintz’s mini-interview of me on a/b testing.

Hope to see you there!  As usual, see my Plancast stream to see where else you can find me.

Filed under: Events, Web Analytics

Wrap Up – Social Media Club PDX Event

You missed some great speakers and lively discussion last night if you were not at the Social Media Club of Portland’s event, hosted at Webtrends.  Three speakers, each representing a social media monitoring tools vendor, presented their wares and answered questions from the audience.

Chase Reeves, Director of Marketing at Iterasi
Chase presented Iterasi’s PositivePress application, which allows PR pros to track “earned media” online, and has the benefit of archiving your mentions in its system, so you can always go back and see it.

Margaret Francis, VP of Product at Scout Labs
Margaret presented Scout Labs‘ social monitoring, reporting and workflow management application, highlighting their powerful tools for generating abstractions of the data quickly and easily, allowing strategic planners to easily understand the prevailing mood around a brand, and act accordingly.

Justin Kistner, Sr. Manager of Social Media Marketing at Webtrends
Justin presented Webtrends’ integration with Radian6, showing how social can be measured as a part of the traditional marketing funnel, and that social marketing can be optimized for conversion (not just traffic), like any other marketing tactic.  Justin also demonstrated Webtrends’ upcoming release of Facebook page and app measurement.

Thanks to the Social Media Club of Portland for organizing the event and inviting me to moderate.  I’d love to do this again!

Filed under: Events, Social Measurement, Social Media

Three Tools That Make it Easy to Measure Social Media

I will be moderating a panel discussion on social media measurement tools at the next Social Media Club of Portland (SMCPDX) evening event.  The panel, happening on Tuesday, February 23rd at 6:00 pm, will include speakers Margaret Francis, VP product at Scout Labs; Chase Reeves, director of marketing at Iterasi; and Justin Kistner, Sr. manager, social media marketing at Webtrends.   Each panelist will present on relevant tools available from their respective companies and will then stick around for an audience Q & A session.

I’m looking forward to what should be a very lively, impassioned discussion.  More information is available at the SMCPDX website.  Register for the event on Upcoming.

Don’t forget to check my Plancast stream to see where else you can find me.

Filed under: Events, Social Measurement, Social Media

Tracking Google Universal Search

Next week I’ll be on the panel again for Portland State University’s Quarterly Digital Marketing Breakfast. The event is put on by the University’s Multimedia Professional Program and features panelists from the Digital Marketing Strategies certificate program, in which I am an instructor.

If you want to register, hurry.  Registration closes in two days (2/12).  To find me at other events, subscribe to my Plancast feed.

On the upcoming panel, I’ll be talking about how you can better track search results in Google’s Universal Search results page, allowing you to understand not only what search terms drive traffic to your site and/or or value for your business, but which type of result (blog, image, etc.) is working best for you so you can optimize for the specific words and result types that best benefit your business.

Join me and the other panelists from PSU’s Digital Marketing Strategies certificate program for a lively and informative discussion about Google Universal Search.


If you were at the panel discussion and didn’t get a chance to jot down the blog posts I mentioned here they are…

This post, by Martijn Beijk at SearchCowboys.com explains how to set up Google Analytics to track which type of search result was clicked on the Google search engine results page.

This post, by Mike Belasco at seOverflow explains how to set up Google Analytics to track clicks on local search results on the Google search engine results page.

Filed under: Events, Tools, Web Analytics

Web Measurement Should be Goal Directed

I think it is well understood now by most managers that web sites should be goal directed.  That is to say, the web site should have a set of goals that are tied back the goals of the overall organization. Every organization has some kind of goals – the reasons it operates.  The web site should exist and operate in support of this set of goals.  Even if the goals are not well documented, many people will have a strong intuitive sense of what they are.  (And if intuition is all you’ve got – listen to it.  It’s better to act based on an internal understanding than to fail to act because of insufficient information.)

Goals are pretty simple, and need to be stated in simple terms.  Sure, there’s lots of complexity underneath the goals, but don’t worry about the complexity until you understand the goals in a simply stated form.  Goals are measurable things you want people to do, like Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Web Analytics


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