#061: Selling the Value of Analytics with Sayf Sharif

April 25, 2017

“Psssst! Hey! Buddy! Want some analytics? Whatcha’ lookin’ for? Insights? Recommendations? Maybe some implementation? I got anything you want, and I got it at a great price!…” Sound familiar? No? Well, then you’re just not hanging out in dark corners next to executive washrooms the world over! On this episode, Sayf Sharif of SEER Interactive joins us to chat about the how and when of selling analytics — from outside OR inside an organization. Plus, there’s a nice throw down about the proper pronunciation of “GIF.”

People, Places, and Things from the Show

Episode Transcript

[music]

00:05 Announcer: Welcome to the Digital Analytics Power Hour. Tim, Michael, and the occasional guest discussing digital analytics issues of the day. Find them on Facebook at facebook.com/analyticshour and their website analyticshour.io. And now, the Digital Analytics Power Hour.

00:29 Michael Helbling: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Digital Analytics Power Hour. This is Episode 61. You know, back when I first got into analytics, it was really confusing whenever anybody didn’t understand how amazing analytics was. And the reality is, even today, the value of analytics is not readily perceived by a lot of the people who’d be best served by embracing it. Why is that? Well, we wanna talk about it on this episode, selling the value of analytics. Hey, Tim, would you like to buy some analytics?

01:06 Tim Wilson: Is it free? I hear Google Analytics is free! Can I get free analytics?

01:10 MH: It’s so free and that’s… Certainly this podcast is free and, well, welcome, Tim. It’s a pleasure to, [chuckle] once again, join you. But to do this topic some justice, we needed a guest to agree with all the… I mean, we needed a guest to provide balance and counterpoint to Tim’s extreme views and we are excited to welcome Sayf Sharif. He’s the Director of Analytics at Seer Interactive. Prior to that, he was the Analytics Department Lead at LunaMetrics, and we’ve talked about them before on the show. Really great group of people. Lots of Pennsylvania digital analytics excellence in the house. Welcome, Sayf.

01:52 Sayf Sharif: Thanks, guys. Long time listener, first time caller.

[laughter]

01:57 MH: Nice! No, it’s great to have you on the show and so, just to kick it off, so Sayf, what was it about this topic that kind of… What brings you to this topic and what are some of your kind of starter thoughts on this?

02:11 SS: What brings me to this topic? It’s one that, I guess, for me, I understand the value, and when I understand something and other people don’t, it drives me absolutely insane and it drives me to try and convince people, “Hey, this is actually great.” So that puts me here. [laughter] It’s not so much that I enjoy it as much as it’s like an obsession or psychological damage that propels me towards it, so…

02:41 MH: Yeah. No, it’s an ever-present mandate and, yeah, I am super… I’m never more awkward than when I get too excited about analytics in corporate settings. [laughter] So I’m right there with you.

02:55 SS: Right. Which always goes over well. Everyone loves when the data guy starts talking about numbers.

[laughter]

03:01 SS: Yeah. They’re, like, “Oh, quick! Shut him down. His eyes are starting to shine.”

03:04 TW: I know my time at a creative agency… It was kind of like selling analytics was what the biz net folks would… They saw it as, “This is easy money.” They didn’t really understand it. They knew they had to talk about it. It had to be in the RFP response and they saw it as being an extra $20,000 on the contract, which was really, really tough ’cause it was like… They wanted to quote it as, “Here’s free money,” but then you’d actually try to deliver value and there was a struggle. Whereas part of the draw to consulting for me was I felt like the clients already felt that there was value there and they needed help. Whereas you’re kind of in the spot where, certainly at LunaMetrics, it was an analytics, I don’t know, agency or consultancy, what they think of themselves as, and Seer definitely has a heavy analytics component, right? So are you still needing to sell service offerings… Not getting too far inside the world of Seer, but how much are you having to sell? I guess how much is… You guys do a lot of SEO search, SEM stuff, and it seems like, to an analyst, it’s just obvious that analytics goes along with it, but are you still needing to sell how much and what’s required and what it takes and are you needing to sell it to people within the agency or to clients or to both?

[laughter]

04:38 SS: Yeah, so there was a lot there. Let me unpack it. So before even LunaMetrics, I had my own agency for 10 years, and so… Where we did everything front-to-back, including creative and front-end development and things like that, and started in with Urchin and that kind of stuff with tracking. You go back that far and the stories about trying to tag on analytics to projects was difficult if you wanted to get anybody to spend any money on it, particularly if they were coming for a website and you’re trying to make a claim of, “Hey, we’re gonna redo your website and we’re gonna try and increase your conversion, but to do that, we need to measure it and we need to this work on the analytics side,” and people are… Kind of like you were saying before, “It’s great, but that’s free, right? Google analytics is free.” So now, step to the future and we get a lot of… At Seer, it’s mostly SEO, PPC focus, so we’re growing analytics at a rapid clip, but most of the work that comes into Seer is SEO or PPC first. And it can be SEO, PPC, and analytics or it can be SEO and analytics, but there’s a lot of stuff that comes in and it’s just people that… They wanna move the needle. They want more traffic, they want more conversions, they want more revenue.

05:54 SS: They’re coming in for a business reason and it’s sometimes up to us to really kind of put them… Make them understand, “Your data’s terrible, we can’t make decisions from it, our SEO team can’t make decisions from it. Your conversion is offline in SalesForce, and so we can’t measure the value of assisted conversions if we can’t connect your website with your SalesForce conversions and get that revenue connected to assisted conversions.” So sometimes it’s easy, sometimes people get it, and other times they don’t and there’s very little… At a certain point, you just can’t force people to give you money to do the right thing.

06:34 TW: But there were legitimately people who were saying, “I want SEO,” and that’s… They’re coming in thinking that means, “You’re gonna do an audit, you’re gonna tell us the best practices, and you don’t really need to dig into the data. You just need to look at our website.” Is that…

06:49 SS: Yeah, it happens.

06:51 TW: That happens?

06:53 SS: Yeah, the metaphor I have for that, which is imperfect and I think does some disrespect to the PPC practitioners, is that people come in and they want… The way they want to just pour money onto traffic and volume is… I compare it to pouring gasoline on the side of your car and hoping some of it gets in the tank.

07:08 MH: Nice.

[chuckle]

07:10 SS: Whereas analytics is what lets us kind of steer that hose, the nozzle, “Let’s get that in the tank a little bit more.” And I even had the creative team whip up a little graphic of a guy literally pouring gas on the side of a car to really drive it home because that’s what people wanna do. And sometimes it’s… I get it for some people. Some people come in and they have their budget, they have their quarterly budget or they have their annual budget, and when you’re dealing with these companies and they have outlined for 2017, “We have $50,000 a month that we can spend on paid spent,” or something like that. And they have $10,000 a month that they can spend on SEO, and they have zero dollars on analytics. So you come in and you say, “Well we want analytics,” then they say, “Well, that’s great, but I don’t have the budget for that. Maybe next year.”

[laughter]

08:05 MH: Oh, yeah, or they assume that any analytics just comes with the other stuff they bought. Like, “Oh, yeah, that’s just… Analytics comes with it.”

08:14 SS: Right, to a degree. And sometimes we’ll bury… Not bury, that’s the wrong word. We’ll include the analytics portions within a search project, but at the same time, that then takes away from our search team’s ability to do their work. If the search team is saying, “We need to do $100,000 of work next year,” and we say, “Well, we need to do $40,000 of analytics ’cause this thing is garbage,” then we’re gonna put out a 140k bid, and they’re gonna be comparing that against SEO contracts to people that aren’t doing it the right way that are gonna be significantly lower. And part of it’s just doing it the right way, but at the same time, I don’t necessarily want to hide it in there, but also, some people will… They’re gonna see it, it’s analytics. They’re gonna see that we’re doing their tracking and they’re saying, “Well, we don’t need you to do tracking. We have Becky,” or, “We have whoever,” doing their analytics.

09:10 MH: Gonna say, that name came right to you, so…

[laughter]

09:15 SS: Well, there’s a name…

[laughter]

09:17 SS: There is a name and it’s not Becky and it’s someone else that we’ve been talking to recently who literally has someone that they’re paying a considerable amount of money to internally who doesn’t do a good job at this stuff.

09:29 MH: If you’re inside an organization, do the SEO people and the analytics people work better together, or do rarely do companies actually have those as formalized roles where they even would? They’re gonna outsource one or both of those functions.

09:46 SS: I’ve dealt with companies where they did a great job. They had a really holistic internal team with people that owned their own responsibilities and they worked really well together. I still work with some of those companies. They are the exception in my experience. Now, I’m a bad sample because I have a lot of connection to people who have problems, [chuckle] and they’re coming because they have problems. So my hope and dreams are that there’s a lot of people out there listening to this that are in wonderful environments and they’ve never actually had to come to me for help. Don’t shake your head. They’ve never had to come to me for help.

[chuckle]

10:21 SS: I’m an eternal optimist in that regard, that most of the people out there are wonderful, but… No, I mean, most situations are from small teams that people get real territorial about what their jobs are, to large companies that are just so siloed in the specific jobs from some people… I mean, to the point where you have… There’s companies I’ve worked with that don’t even have a single person in charge of their paid ads, they have multiple people that don’t communicate, who each do different paid ad placement that ends up competing against each other, or has competed against each other, because they don’t even communicate to that degree.

11:04 SS: So as far as Seer, it’s definitely something that we work on very consciously to integrate our different teams and expertise so that we can go out… When we’re pitching someone, we can… ‘Cause that’s what we’re sort of talking about is that when we go to pitch people, we will bring, depending on what’s going on in analytics, a subject matter expert and an SEO one and a PPC one, and we’ll each present what we wanna do and how it inter-relates to each other. So the paid ad guy might talk about re-marketing, and I might talk about using analytics to do some sort of cluster analysis where we can derive quantitative personas that we can do precision re-marketing onto, and blah, blah, blah. And how we can actually use the data they have and use that to lower their CPA and increase their ROI and their average order value and whatever else, and improve that value and have that tie together and say, “These things all work together and we can do that.”

12:03 TW: Have you used the gasoline analogy in an actual pitch?

12:07 SS: Yeah.

12:08 TW: I like it. It may be flawed, but the flaws haven’t bubbled up for me yet. I like it.

12:12 MH: Well, and it’s interesting to me that we started looking at it kind of through this lens because you could also flip it and say, “Hey, everybody believes in analytics, right? We all wanna be data driven.” So what’s the dichotomy or the…

[chuckle]

12:31 TW: Do they?

[chuckle]

12:33 MH: Well, there is a… How do I say this, because, like you, I wanna believe the best. And yes, you’re correct, like in practice, it’s not always… Oh, I’m trying to be so politic right now.

12:48 S?: Why? Don’t be politic.

[overlapping conversation]

12:53 MH: So, it’s not… It’s still not easy out there and it’s always surprising to me that we haven’t come as far… How far we have not progressed together in terms of sophistication around digital analytics specifically. And certainly there’s been growth, there’s been tons of growth. Eight years ago, this concept of integrating external data was like, “Whoa, that’s crazy! What are you talking about?” And now it’s pretty common, it’s pretty understood. But people do believe, “Hey, I need to get this data, we want to be analytical.” And maybe you hear it come out in certain phrases or words that even people don’t even necessarily understand what it is they’re saying when they say it. Like what I hear that always gets my dander up, I guess, is, “We want to do ‘advanced analytics’.” [chuckle] “Okay, well, what does that mean to you?” They do want to do something, but it’s often kind of in this weird world of not real meaning. So that’s another aspect of having to go sell it from my perspective is, “Okay, we need to make it real. How do we break it down?” What’s your guys’ take on that?

14:08 SS: Yeah, to me, I think that it’s… I’ll get on a call with people and I’ll ask a lot of questions. And that’s really the starting point because people will come in and they say, “Well, we want real-time dashboards.” They’ll say, “We want to be data driven.” So it’s, “Why do you want real time dashboards? What do you mean by data driven? What does that mean?” Because I’ve sat in meetings with people who… You’re in an annual meeting and they say, “This is the year of data, and we are going to be a data-driven organization. And we’re gonna invest in data this year, and it’s important. The only way that we’re gonna reach X revenue is through data, and… Okay, guys, how much do you need? No, no, no, make that a little bit smaller. No, no, no, make that a little bit smaller.” [chuckle] “A little bit smaller, a little bit smaller.”

[laughter]

14:57 TW: Are you saying they’re playing buzzword bingo a little bit? That you…

15:00 SS: Yeah.

15:00 TW: How much do you… You go down the path of probing and finding out there’s not a whole lot of there [15:04] ____ there. It is a CMO or a CEO or somebody who’s decreed it, and everybody has said, “I understand that term, now I’m gonna run off and tell my agencies, or my partners, or my team, that we need to do this.” And then as soon… It’s a little bit of an emperor has no clothes. Well, what, ’cause it does. As you were… I was hearing in my head the, “We want real-time dashboards.” “Well, what for?” “Well, so we can make real-time decisions, so we can get real-time insights.” “Well, what are those insights gonna look like?” “Well, those insights are gonna be like… That way we can make recommendations.”

15:44 MH: “They’re gonna be real-time.”

15:47 TW: They’re gonna be real-time. So how do you… I do feel like I’ve headed down that sort of path of I’m trying to probe and then I’m starting to hear myself starting to potentially sound like a dick because I’m not accepting their answer when the reality is I’m like, “No, I’ve genuinely have not yet uncovered from what… ” Really, what I’ve uncovered is, “Oh, maybe you don’t have a whole lot of clarity of thought there.” But when you’re trying to sell, you really… Most sales people would say, “You know how to sell? Maybe try not to be a dick. That’s not gonna help you close the… ”

16:18 SS: It’s situational. Sometimes that works for you, but… [laughter] It’s true. I would say it’s probably a good rule, to just… If you want to sell someone, don’t be a dick to ’em. It’s probably a good rule.

16:32 MH: Words to live by.

16:33 TW: But how do you get into that when… As you said… And the real-time dashboards is like a perfect one, or, “We want to… ” Or the other one where they’ve… Or their technology vendor. They’re using Salesforce or they’re using… Pick your third party vendor who is giving them the story of, “We can integrate… We’re Teradata! We can hook in your data,” and they tell this surface level story, so then they turn around to the analyst and say, “Isn’t this gonna be awesome? We’re gonna do X, we’re gonna do this data connection thing,” and you kind of want to step back and say, “Well wait a minute, have you… What are you really trying to accomplish? And how do you kind of become the… ” Now you’re the… Instead of the gasoline going in the car, you’re a wet blanket saying, “Hold on there, cowboy, you’re gonna spend a lot of money on technology and you don’t really know what you’re trying to do?”

17:25 SS: Yeah, and sometimes… I’ve had conversations where I’ve basically said, “Look, I don’t want to be selling to you right now, I want to kind of be your data fiduciary, where I want to represent you for a little bit,” because people will have these grandiose budgets where they say, “I’m gonna spend $30,000 on this tool, and $60,000 of that tool,” and I’m looking at their site and it has classic Google Analytics Triple tracking with the traditional tracker at the bottom. And it’s kind of like, “Okay, guys. Appreciate where your heart’s at, but that’s the… Let’s talk about the golden city on the hill. What is that? And then let’s step backwards to where you are now and figure out what we need to do to take each step to get there.”

18:10 SS: And so sometimes it’s just a question of, “What decisions do you want to make? What do you see yourself making as far as decisions on your site or your app or whatever.” And it’s not just, “Oh, we want to make real-time decisions.” “About what? Do you wanna be able to make your paid campaigns more efficient? Do you want to increase your conversion rate? Do you want to determine what content is good at 4:00 PM on a Tuesday and so you can make more… Post more cat photos or whatever?” It’s just, “What is it that you want to do that you can make decisions on that you want to track?” “Where are we at right now? How do you… ” And all these questions in between. “How you want to report on it, how you want to interact? Do you have a team internally that’s gonna be coming up with the insights or not?” That’s where…

18:55 SS: And I’d mentioned another metaphor was the sail boat metaphor, where we had a client that they came in and they… We built them out a great analytics implementation, but we had no ongoing support built into it, which I generally prefer to have built in because data is entropic in that as soon as you walk away from it, it’s gonna start falling apart again. But they didn’t have that because of budget. And we finished the project and he called me up and he said, “Sayf, you built me this great sail boat, but now I don’t know how to sail it. How am I supposed to sail this boat?” And I think that part of it is our responsibility when we’re selling analytics to not just talk about the tool or the implementation, but that insight part because that’s the whole point. That’s where the value comes from it. You don’t get value by having a sail boat in dry dock. Some people do, but we don’t like those people. [chuckle] You get value by sailing that boat to Hawaii or wherever. So…

19:56 TW: But is that a challenge, that people actually don’t… I like that analogy, but is that a challenge that it is so easy to get sucked into, “If we just had a more perfect implementation, then we would just get insights.” Like the insights would be easy. A perception that it’s…

20:13 SS: Yeah.

20:13 TW: “90% of the effort is getting the data and 10% of the effort is getting the insights,” when it’s really more like 20% is getting the data and 80% is the thought and the work to get insights? I’m making up those ratios.

20:26 SS: Right. I’m doing math. I’m like, “I don’t know if… ” [chuckle] Yeah, whatever the ratio is, I think that there are people that… It goes both ways. There’s people that think they can get historical data before they’ve even placed GA on their site. They think that insights are not just free, but omniscient in some way. And then there’s people that think the opposite. There’s people that think the implementation is basically easy and free, and people that think the insights are basically easy and free. “Oh, you can just… I can just have my cousin’s nephew’s brothers in this garage install GA on the site.” So some people are going to value one over the other, and some people will value both and neither. It’s just a matter of kind of figuring out who those people are and how to approach them, I guess.

21:16 TW: The selling of… The value of analytics, it kind of pivots to selling the necessary portfolio. It winds up being the abstract… People process technology… There’s… Part of me that feels like… As I’m listening to you and you say that you’re gonna be the fiduciary for someone, I’m thinking of the sales person in the room just cringing like crazy, saying “Sayf, no, no, no. You’re supposed to tell them that you have the answers.” Or… And I’ve run into this in my past as well, and even currently with teams that I’m working with internally when internally, when I’m like, “Well, we need to ask the questions of, ‘What problem are we trying to solve? Are we all on the same page? What are the questions that if we answer we can act on?'” And literally I’ve got just an array of mental images of people, mostly this was agency side, sales and account managers saying “No, no, no, that’s your job. We need to tell them that you are gonna come up with… Whatever you need for analytics, you are responsible for doing it.” And that includes figuring out what the business problem is, framing the question, developing the hypothesis, digging into it and making a recommendation. That was my hands down, my number one frustration when I was at a creative agency, was being told what my job really was, which was much broader.

22:39 TW: Now, I’m getting old enough and have been in marketing long enough that I can do some of that other stuff, but it’s not efficient. And you’re not gonna be happy that 80% of my bandwidth is gonna be spent doing what is marketing and strategy and thought work that could have been reduced drastically by having an in-depth conversation. So I guess that’s selling the value, but do you also wind up needing to sell, “Yeah, there is value here, but it’s not just the technology. It’s not just the technology being implemented. It’s not just the technology being linked up to other technology. And it’s not just a smart person who knows how to punch the buttons on the tool.” That those have to go together with some independent thought and partnership, and that seems to me to be like part of the challenge of selling the value of analytics, is you’re selling that it’s not a magic… You don’t just get there. You gotta… There’s work involved to get to that value.

23:31 SS: There is, yeah. And so let me crack a Blue Moon, if I can mention a brand, which is Simo Ahava’s favorite beer. I mentioned that I wanted to make sure Simo knew that I was drinking a Blue Moon.

23:43 TW: Digital Analytics Power Hour brought to you by Blue Moon.

[chuckle]

23:48 SS: Love you Simo.

23:49 MH: And powder milk biscuits.

23:51 SS: Yeah. So one thing I’d respond to there is how I’ve been places before where the sales people aren’t SMEs, right? They’re not… They didn’t grow up in the trenches…

24:04 MH: Subject matter experts, we’ll have that acronym spelled out on our show page for anybody who is not familiar with the “TLA”, that three letter acronym. Carry on with your train of thought.

24:17 SS: Yeah, so even our Director of BD at Seer, he’s not a… He didn’t grow up in the trenches. He’s a finance and sales guy. But the thing for me, when I’m out selling it, is that I have been in the trenches. I know what is possible and what’s not possible, and I’ve been there, and I think luckily, at Seer… Which is in every place, but Seer, I’m able to tell people, “You know what? We can’t help you,” or, “What you want is not possible,” or, “You know what? I don’t like the tone you have on the phone, so good luck in finding someone.” We’ve got plenty of work coming in that I don’t need to have my people dealing with someone who’s going to be a jerk to them because that just ruins everything.

25:07 TW: Oh my God! You are like the… This is… You are sounding a lot like Michael Hobling right now.

25:11 SS: Easy does it. [laughter] [25:13] ____, we accept any and all clients until we don’t. [laughter] We… Everyone comes in and gets the same hourly rate.

25:25 MH: But you’re absolutely right. There are organizations who are or are not ready to kind of… And I view it as a journey, right? There’s a progression that has to happen within an organization, and most of the time, and like some of the things you’ve brought up and that word… I’m a big fan of the word fiduciary, just wanna get that out of the way right off the bat, but a lot of times they come in and say, “Oh yeah, we want to do real-time or predictive,” or whatever it is. All wonderful things, but it’s like, “Okay, well what are you doing today with your data? How much do you trust your current implementation?” “Oh, no it’s pretty broken.”

[laughter]

26:06 S?: It’s a mess.

26:08 MH: “Nobody… We don’t use that for anything.” “Well how are you going to do step 10 if you’re not doing step one?” And then that’s usually when you can kind of pull it back in, but it’s a lot of… And honestly, to quote a beloved and former podcast colleague, “It’s the hype, lies and shitty sales guys,” right? It’s the… We are a vendor-driven industry to a large extent. A lot of the education that people get comes from dominant vendors in our space who tell people, “If you buy our products, what comes with those products automatically is all these high-value outcomes.” And the reality is… And all of us know and all of our wonderful listeners know that is not true, that those products are wonderful, but there is a lot of work that comes in between those products and those high value outcomes that people are wanting and wanting to invest in.

27:11 MH: And I think that’s at the crux of this conversation, which is, “What’s the best way to help companies or organizations understand, ‘The things you want aren’t wrong, but the steps you need to take to get there are measured and certain and start in a place that you’re not actually considering today.'” And I don’t feel like I’m “disagreeing with people” when I sit across from a table and tell them that, as much as I’m just saying, “The path is there, but it’s like the… ” I’m a big fan of kung-fu movies. The brash young guy comes up to the old monk and he’s like, “Oh, I’m awesome,” and the monk is basically super humble and kind of kicks his ass.

28:03 SS: I was wondering why you were wearing a kimono, but now…

28:05 MH: Yeah, well… Yes.

28:06 TW: He’s going to open the kimono later. We’re going to use that a little…

28:10 MH: When you can snatch this KPI out of my hand, you will be ready. [laughter] No. But that’s kind of the idea, is like… We’ve got to start at the beginning. The first thing you have to do is learn how to stand on your own two feet, and then you start balancing, and then you start kicking the crap out of things, or whatever.

28:31 TW: So for the analyst inside a company that has finally spent two, three years building credibility, building relationships, and they’ve finally gotten the budget to switch from GA-free to GA-premium. So their life is going to get much better because they now have a bunch of things they can do stuff with, but they also are understaffed and they have now gotten… And maybe this is they’ve already tripped up by chasing the technology too far, but there was a step function of, “We need to get GA-premium,” or “We need to buy… We need to go to Adobe. We need to overhaul.” And then… I feel like I’ve seen analysts in this situation, where they’re saying, “I can’t go back and ask for more,” ‘more’ a lot of times being people, because I don’t have enough bandwidth to service all the blocking and tackling and do the other stuff on top of it. “How do I convince the owners of the purse strings that, ‘Yes, we spent whatever this amount of money on Adobe or GA, and yet that’s not enough? We’re not done’, because I am terrified that they’re going to come back to me and say, ‘What the hell are you talking about? I just cut a big check and I’ve signed up for this in perpetuity, basically. I know I’m going to have to pay this every damn year and now you’re telling me you want more?'” What is that analyst’s move to say, “Yeah, but I’m not done spending money before I can get value.” Or they’ve just got to be scrappy?

30:04 SS: I think that if they are in that position, they… That’s a tough spot, okay? So what I probably would recommend to people is before they buy Adobe Analytics or GA-premium, that they’re already showing value and proving ROI through analytics. If you can… Yes, GA-premium 360 branding is… Has more stuff in it and if you have enough traffic, then you can get rid of the sampling or maybe you can double click or whatever, but you can… GA free is a pretty strong tool to let someone who is scrappy bootstrap their analytics to showing value. Everything we do is… Once you get to a certain point, yeah, we’re talking all these expensive tools, but you could put me down at a startup, but don’t because I don’t want to work on a single product. I like agency [31:00] ____. [chuckle] But you could put me down on a product, say like the Oscar Mayer Wiener Rover, I don’t know if you seen that but it’s amazing. It’s like a big… It’s like a RV, Wiener Rover, that has hot dogs in it.

31:11 TW: Oh yeah, you mean the actual Wienermobile?

31:14 SS: No, not not the Wienermobile. It’s like an RV that’s like a controlled RV that is like a four-wheel RV, radio-controlled thing that carries hotdogs in it, that looks like the Wienermobile but it’s a tenth the size and it’s amazing. Anyway, but you could put me in charge of selling that product and I don’t need to spend any money on tools. I could say, “Okay, we’re gonna put GA on the Wiener Rover site and we’re gonna use GTM and we’re gonna add some events here and we’re gonna track the transactions there, the sales of the Wiener Rover and whatever else.” The knowledge is money, but the stuff is free to do it. If you’re not already showing value by making decisions, insights, something with free GA, then it’s a mistake, I think, to think that spending money on GA 360 or Adobe is going to solve your problems. And if you are able to already say, “Hey, we’ve made 16 decisions last year based off the data that optimized the Wiener Rover blog and brought in X number of more conversions. We saw this content opportunity so we created this content and it went from zero conversions to 16 conversions, and we got a whatever order from Toys ‘R Us.” So if you’re proving your value on the free stuff, I think that people are going to start writing not blank checks, but they’re gonna start listening to you when you say, “If we had this tool, I can escalate it.”

32:44 SS: “I had a 20XROI last year with a free tool, I think I could get a 40XROI if you give me a Adobe Analytics or GA-premium, and this is why.” And I think at that point you’ve proven yourself. If you haven’t proven yourself with an ROI from your insights and you’re stuck there with Adobe or GA 360, I would almost say bite the bullet and say, “You know what? We’re not ready for this. We’re going to stop paying for it until… And we’re gonna use that budget for something else until we’re ready for it.” And that would be my advice to that person, is not to dump more money into the problem, but to actually dial back until you can prove value first.

33:26 TW: I disagree with you not at all.

[laughter]

33:31 SS: Oh! We were so close. Got my heart racing, I was like, “Oh no!”

33:34 TW: No, no. I think that’s… I feel like I… Well because I can still hear the analyst saying… Because I’ve heard this so many times, “But you don’t understand, we’re just so slammed.” I have a client right now that it is, “But I just have so many requests that I have to fulfill, I can’t find time to do the real analysis and find the insights.” Now, a lot of times what I find is, I’m like, “Yeah, you’re kind of a shitty analyst.” Because even when I’m stuck in that, I will basically find a way to prioritize my way so that I’ve got the bandwidth to actually chase the cool stuff and show the value. No, so I agree with you 1000%, that even if you need to… If you need to go figure out how to go do some clean up on your implementation, it is getting easier and easier and easier and easier to avoid… To get around sampling issues as long as you’re not hung up on using users. And okay, users are great and that’s all wonderful, but there’s a shit ton that you can do with Sessions and other stuff, so…

34:33 SS: Yeah, and honestly, it’s the same for me within an agency setting, not just internal. We do a lot of weekly analysis and bi-weekly analysis and monthly analysis and reporting and all this kind of stuff. We have a lot of that that we do for people because they don’t have the internal resources and I have… I have a lot of people, but I have… I call them my ‘raptors’, I have these three associates that… These three girls that sit in a row and whenever I round the corner, they all kind of turn and look at me so I kind of get scared by them, [chuckle] and they… They’re great. They… Everything that they do, we record… Every insight that we put down and then we track it. So if we’re giving someone three insights this week, then we record those insights, we record what we said, how we measure it, what our hypothesis is, and then we follow up with them on, “Did you follow up on this? Did you do this?” And if you did, then we annotate and we look and we try and prove before and after value because…

35:31 SS: So if you’re not doing that internally… That should be the core of your job if you’re an analyst, you should be looking for stuff and then documenting it, trying to get the change, and then… And using annotations and documenting it and trying to say, “Is there a difference before and after?” And being okay with it being, “No. We did this, it didn’t work. It’s okay.”

35:52 TW: Yeah. Or, “Hey, we actually gave you the stuff. You nodded your head, but 80% of it, when we asked you about it later, you didn’t do anything with it.” So it seems like that’s another fiduciary, “Hey, I could try to sell you more stuff, but based on past evidence, you’re not actually gonna act on it.” I think that’s great internally as well, to do that.

36:11 SS: Yeah. And sometimes people might be actually… I might be able to… If I was like that kind of guy, I might be able to talk certain people into doing a weekly analysis and saying, “Every week, we’re going to do an analysis and we’re gonna get it for you.” And there’s people that I’ve talked to that I probably could have gotten to do that, and instead I said, “Let’s start with monthly. Let’s start with monthly, it’s a lot less money for me, and if you’re able to act on it, act on the insights we give you and quickly, and you want more, then we can increase and we can go to a faster pace.” Because… The other thing is if you’re making insights and no one is doing anything with it, if you’re the analyst in the corner of the office and you’re shouting… You’ve got… You’re a Cassandra analyst or whatever, you’re shouting stuff and no one is listening to you, then you also might as well turn off your GA.

36:56 MH: Yeah. One thing I’d want to say, though, is I do think it’s potentially possible to come up this curve taking maybe two stairs at a time. And if you’ve got the right approach or the methodology, you can advance it. So for instance, okay, if I have line of site into the value creation that happens with me buying, say, GA 360 versus staying on the free version, and I’ve got a way to get there… In other words, if I can put… “If we do these things, we can get this value out,” then I’m okay moving forward. I still am a pretty big believer in sort of an iterative or incremental approach, but I’ve grown in my confidence of, “Okay, we can jump out a little bit further because we know what to do in those intermediary steps very quickly.” I don’t know if you guys agree or disagree with that, but I just wanted to say it because I haven’t talked that much.

[laughter]

37:55 SS: I agree with you. I think it depends on what those double steps you’re hopping are, but I think that…

38:01 MH: Well, right over implementation, anybody could do that. It’s really easy.

38:04 SS: “I’ve got a guy with a garage, his cousin’s brother… ”

38:08 MH: Yeah. [chuckle] Just read Simo’s blog and boom, you got it. They’ll see [38:13] ____.

38:14 SS: Yeah. You read the LunaMetrics blog, the Simo blog, you read Avinash, you read Daniel Weisberg, you listen to this podcast, you’re good to go.

38:22 TW: I’m glad you rattled off a bunch of people, and I would agree with almost all of those.

[chuckle]

38:28 MH: Yeah, for the record, we will not be giving any implementation tips and tricks on this podcast ever. So hit stop and delete this from your feed… No, I’m just kidding. [laughter] So one thing, we’ve talked a lot about it from sort of our perspective, but for people sitting in the chair at their company trying to figure out what they can do to drive additional value so that they can kind of move their organization in the right direction, what are some practical ideas? Maybe some quick ideas of how do you think about moving the needle?

39:06 SS: So I would say to the person in the chair, “Hello, don’t panic, it’s okay. We’re all with you and we’re watching. We have cameras installed, the measurement protocol is activated.” No, I think that it’s, “Look for ROI in value. Segment your audience. Look for… At the most basic level, just get into GA, and even just comparing time range differences across metro areas. Or anything about… Any kind of simple difference and look for change that you can identify as opportunity. It’s hard to really say what that is for every company ’cause it can be really different, but it can be, “Hey, our visits from… Our visits to our school page from India are up 14% over last year, we should do something about that.” And pass that information on to the international recruiter or whatever.

40:08 SS: So, what is the value? What is the objective? Maybe even dive back and do a measurement strategy for yourself and say, “What is the objective of the organization? What are the primary goals that measure success? What are the secondary goals that drive to the primary goals? What are the behaviors and engagements in the site that drive to secondary goals to primary goals to the objective? Who are my audience? What are they made of? Are they… How would I define them? How would I define them based on their behaviors on the site? How can I then segment them in my data based on my assumptions of how they behave and what they consume and they’d act and how they’d convert?” And then use those segments and use that engagement and look for differences and changes and trends and things like that. If you don’t have it, start with that strategy and go from there, is what I would say.

40:55 TW: Shoot, I want to blend those two together and kind of go right down the middle and say, “Figure out the people who actually have roles who are gonna be receptive and what… ” Even if you’re not engaging with them… I built this thing, I think I blogged about it awhile back, it was like a search… It was taking a couple different people’s ideas about site search. Like site search is just such easy pickings for… Like a gift to give to the right people. And if you’ve got somebody who’s managing your site search engine or if they’re a content person and… Nancy Koons, years ago, talked and blogged about the whole, “Just do a Reg X for who, what, why, where, when, how on your site search terms, and just give that to the right person.”

41:41 TW: So I think that’s like trying to find… Trying to figure out who the people are who are receptive, who are also reasonably well regarded in the organization, and just kind of surprise and delight them with a few gifts. It does fall on the more… Maybe it’s on the more tactical… But that’s kind of bridging between the you have the data, you have to understand the organization and what they are trying to solve enough to scrap together some stuff that nobody asked you for, but that you found. And even if it’s not something that drives them to, “Oh my God, this changes the business,” they’re like, “Holy shit, I should be talking to you, you can actually help me do stuff.” But then actually trying to find the person who you know is gonna be off when you’re not around, and saying, “Wow, Tim gave me this cool thing,” and “I’m so on the same page with you from the grass roots”, like you gotta show value before you ask. It’s a lot easier to sell when you’ve already delivered value than it is to say “Just believe me, just trust me.”

42:45 SS: Yeah, but I… I totally agree with you, though. What’s the point? Again, you don’t wanna be like that Cassandra in the corner screaming to nobody., So I think your point is totally valid because you want to create allies in your organization and you’re gonna create those allies by not just screaming from the corner, but you wanna find those allies and you want to provide them… Like you’re saying, it doesn’t have to be the most amazing thing in the world, but if you start providing other people value, then they are gonna see you as value, they’re gonna see analytics as valuable, and they’re gonna become defenders and supporters of you and they’re gonna be those triangulation points where they’re gonna… You’re not gonna go… Really, that’s what you want. You don’t wanna be internal to an organization and going to your boss and trying to talk them into giving you more money. You want everyone else in that organization be going to your boss and telling them to give you more money. That’s what you want to happen. You want Becky in E-Comm to go to him and say, “He’s providing me great insights, you need to give him more money to do XYZ for me.”

43:47 MH: Yup. No, that’s good, and I think that’s right. There’s a balance in between because if your organization… No one’s asking, then you try to hang out in hallways with some really sweet analysis and show to people. Or if there are people asking questions, you find out how to help them with that.

[laughter]

44:05 TW: You said that and the image in my head was like the nerdiest guy in the world standing in a hall with a stack of papers and like, “Lemme tell you about the conversion rate,” and a guy walking along and like knocking, “Outta my way, nerd!”

44:18 MH: Get out of my… Hey, I have lived that, okay? [laughter] This has been… It’s my life. This is what I… This is me… [laughter] No, this is really good conversation and I think helpful, at least structurally. So, Sayf, thanks again so much for coming on the show. One thing we like to do as we wrap up the show is we do a thing we call the ‘Last Call’ where we go around the horn and just see what’s interesting out there, what have you seen lately that kinda piqued your interest and you think people would wanna hear about? So we’ll kick it off, Sayf, what do you got?

44:56 SS: The thing that really jumped out to me the past week was I was looking at a number of these really creepy kind of tracking things that are either the beacon technology in mobile devices or companies where they track people and look at what they’re browsing. They have a product that they put on your computer or your mobile device, and via that they track you, like ComScore, and you can then see everywhere they went, or on a mobile device with the beacon technology, they can see every store you went into before you came into the local one, ’cause we’re looking at doing a lot of… On the analytics side, we’re trying to help our local SEO team prove the value of local SEO’s. So we’re looking at these kind of things to say, “What can we do on an analytics site?” And I gotta say, there’s a certain point that we’re gonna get to that… I used to be the guy like, “Let’s track everything.” And some of this stuff is really… [chuckle] If people knew really what this stuff does, it’s gonna freak people out! It’s like, “Wait, you know what car dealership I went to before I went and bought that Subway sandwich? Stop! That’s really creepy!” So I don’t know, would I use the data? Absolutely. So maybe I’m a complete hypocrite, but [chuckle] it’s still… I feel at some point we’re gonna… In our industry, we need to be careful because we’re gonna hit a wall and we’re gonna get backlash if we’re not careful.

46:18 TW: I feel like, in a bizarre way, I have a complementary last call to that in that, it came up a while back, but the fact is it came up over a decade ago, and this was a conversation on the Measure Slack a few months ago, and it just… It was a term that I didn’t really know, which was ‘functionalism’. And I was like, “I don’t really know what that is,” and then somebody pointed me… And this is a blog post by Gary Angel from August of 2006, so it goes back aways. And I don’t know that it’s necessarily right, I don’t know that it still fully applies. What kinda struck me is… And what he was talking about was… And this is a little simpler times for the web where we just had websites with pages, and he was saying, “Look, you should look at every page on your site and say, “Is it a page that’s there for routing? It’s routing people to other places on the site? Is it a page for explaining? Is it a page for closing, getting people to do something? Is it a page for reassuring? Is it a page for completing? Is it a thank you page?” And it sorta talked about these different sort of functions of pages on a website, and, I don’t know how much it applies today, there’s part of me kinda wants to reach out to Gary and say, “Hey! What do you think of that… How does that apply now?”

47:35 TW: It struck me as being… I have no memory of that when it came out, it doesn’t seem like it really got traction. I’m sure it applies to some much larger body of work that others have talked about that I just wasn’t familiar with, and what made me think about it is now that Gary has kind of jumped from the digital world to more of the offline world with his latest venture, I was like, “Oh, maybe he’s doing some of that creepy… Maybe some of his beacons are saying, ‘Is this car dealership an explainer or a router or a closer?'” But it was more like a historical… It’s actually… In Gary terms, it’s practically a tweet. It’s only like a couple of screens long. And he is known to be very, very detailed, but it’s very readable and just kind of fun little walk-through web analytics philosophy of days past.

48:26 SS: We should put that link up on the podcast page when we’re…

48:29 TW: Oh, we will. Our podcast links are… Our link pages are getting more and more lengthy and bizarre and catchy.

48:36 SS: Yeah, I like it.

48:37 TW: The Wienermobile RC will be absolutely linked, I assure you.

48:41 SS: I have an animated GIF I can send you.

48:43 MH: Oh, that’s perfect. We don’t have one of those on the site yet. So that’s great.

48:47 TW: Now we’re into the GIF versus GIF. Michael, you have last call.

[laughter]

48:51 SS: It’s GIF.

48:54 MH: No, so my last call is morphing rapidly.

[laughter]

48:57 MH: So I guess it’s a three-fer. First, it’s a GIF and everybody knows that. No, it’s interesting, Tim, because back in 2006, I was reading Gary Angel’s post about functionalism and rapidly deploying it as best I could figure out from his, with that point, more cryptic than later years blog post. So that’s… It’s a cool blast from the past. Secondly, I would just say give in… Sayf, your last call, let’s all remind our listeners that the DAA’s Web Analyst Code of Ethics maybe [49:33] ____ good reviewer of that there.

49:36 SS: Wow. Also a bit of a blast from the past.

[laughter]

49:38 MH: Yeah, I know. But hey, hey, here we are, though. And then lastly, a little while back, the DAA also came out with a new compensation survey which I have found interesting. So it’s been a few years since they have done some of that research and I think it’s a pretty decent approach, always it’s a struggle to capture the amount of data that you need to really be able to be as descriptive as you need to be across all levels and geographies, but all that to say, if you are a DAA member or… Oh, man, I’m gonna say this and I’m probably gonna get in trouble later. If you know a DAA member, [laughter] you can get a hold of that survey. It’s good just to be aware of what you’re worth out there in the market place, and if your current company is not paying enough, then search… No, I’m just kidding.

[laughter]

50:37 S?: [50:37] ____.

50:41 MH: No, I don’t know what our… I don’t know what we’re… We’re full up. We don’t need any new people yet.

50:48 SS: One more question, though. If you say GIF, is that because G is for graphic?

50:53 MH: I don’t… No, it’s not… It’s like a lot of words in the English language. It’s not intuitive, it’s doesn’t follow the rules, but it is a GIF.

51:04 SS: Okay.

51:04 TW: Because when people say, “They say GIF because G is for graphic,” then I say, “Then you should say JPHEG instead of JPEG because the P is for photographic.”

51:12 MH: Yeah, and I don’t believe it’s for graphic, I believe it’s just because it’s crude GIF. And it’s sort of like English is a terrible language. We do a bad job of making… Spanish is frankly much better a language to learn in my opinion.

51:30 SS: I respect you being wrong on this issue.

[laughter]

51:38 MH: And it has been an experience having Sayf Sharif on the show. No, Sayf, it’s been great having you on the show. Thank you so much for coming on. I’m sure…

51:47 SS: It’s my pleasure.

51:48 MH: As the folks have been listening, I’m sure you’re thinking of questions, comments. I know that you guys comment on the Measure Slack and we love hearing from you. So if you’ve got those, please hit us up on Twitter or on the Measure Slack or the Facebook page. It’s great to hear from folks who are listening, and not even when you just agree or like something, but even when you disagree, or need to join me in helping the world understand how to pronounce GIF. [laughter] Anyways, so we… It’s been great, thanks so much from my co-host, Tim Wilson, and I. Keep analyzing.

[music]

52:37 Announcer: Thanks for listening and don’t forget to join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or Measure Slack group. We welcome your comments and questions. Visit us on the web at analyticshour.io, Facebook.com/analyticshour, or @analyticshour on Twitter.

[music]

52:57 Charles Barkley: So smart guys want to fit in, so they made up a term called ‘Analytics’. Analytics don’t work.

53:06 TW: But if you pause too long, Tim may start talking again and…

53:09 MH: And then you’ll never get the [53:11] ____.

[laughter]

[music]

53:15 MH: You don’t have a running Google sheet like I do so that you already have…

53:18 TW: Tim, we’ve talked about this. [laughter]

53:22 MH: Are you familiar, Sayf, with the old show, The Odd Couple?

53:25 SS: Which one are you, are you the Oscar or are you…

53:28 MH: Ah, I’m not the fastidious one, that’s for sure. [laughter]

53:34 SS: The Oscar might be like…

53:37 MH: So good, but now you know the secret. [laughter] Anyways, it’s really good, it’s that tension keeps the show interesting. People… When we’ll tense that. [laughter] I think the other aspect of this is… Well, actually I don’t know where I’m going next.

54:10 TW: Oh, that is almost correct. [laughter] [54:16] Rock flag and Wienermobiles.

[music]

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One comment on “#061: Selling the Value of Analytics with Sayf Sharif

  1. Tim Lynch Apr 26, 2017

    GREAT Episode! I love the part about clients demanding realtime dashboards 😉

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