How to Use Any Tool to Optimize Better

How to Use Any Tool to Optimize BetterAs a self-professed tool junkie, I’m a sucker for shiny new tools. I love tools of any kind — Web tools, software tools, and on a Sunday morning you might even find me in the Brooklyn Home Depot wiping the drool from my mug as I admire this fine kosher beef grilling tool.

No doubt, these are exciting times if you love Web tools. For the many folks who are dizzy trying to sort out conversion optimization tool choices, it might be a little frustrating.

In “The Interactive Marketer 2.0,” I made the case for improved optimization in interactive marketing and for thinking outside the campaign. I listed several steps to get started, including the first step: Get good at free tools, then pay for them. Tools aren’t the indicator of success, but having a process and the people in place to take action are.

The good news in this barrage of 2.0 goodies is that many believe we’ve finally reached tool parity in the Web analytics space. JupiterResearch states the following:

“Despite some small skirmishes over capabilities like video and audio measurement, the Web analytics feature race is largely over,” explained John Lovett, Senior Analyst and lead author of the report for JupiterResearch. “Leading vendors will forge ahead by making data accessible and actionable while expanding offerings into adjacent marketing technologies.”

I agree.

Several people have accused me and my firm of having a Google bias. (Full disclosure: FutureNow is an authorized Google Optimizer consultant.) This simply isn’t true. A sizable percentage of our clients use other tools like Omniture, WebTrends, and Coremetrics. Our policy has always been to work with the analytics/tool vendors of the client’s choice. For many who are just getting started or are experiencing a marketing budget squeeze, the free and robust Google offerings simply make sense. Others have found a need for features available in other tools, and we’re happy to help them use those tools better.

A tool is just that, a tool. A tool doesn’t persuade your visitors to take action, nor is it exclusively responsible for a company’s success in optimization. So when a client approaches me requesting a tool suggestion, I always answer the same: If you have a tool in place now, use it better. If you don’t, start with something free and get good at using it.

A free tool may be all you need. While certain analytics vendors offer what are considered enterprise-level tools, the free and lower priced solutions are typically labeled for use by small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Still, you’d be surprised at the number of large clients who are satisfied with free or cheaper tools. And we also have several SMB clients that have more sophisticated needs.

Bottom line: Don’t get hung up selecting a tool. Any business, no matter the size, that isn’t optimizing today can extract great value from any tool on the market today. The important thing is to get started optimizing and measuring more effectively. There are no more excuses, not even a lower optimizing budget.

Which brings me to my next point: How does one use a tool effectively? You must operationalize it. Your process must lead your team to take an action, e.g., make a change that you can measure. Lastly, you must be able to gain insight about customer behavior from the data. And you must do this over and over again. Without those three things in place, no tool will usher in the success you seek.

You must always do the work of optimization. A better treadmill won’t, all by itself, trim your love handles. Likewise, a cheap camera in the hands of a skilled photographer will always take better pictures than one used by a clumsy newbie.

A tool is a tool is a tool. Pick one, learn how to use it effectively, and you’ll see optimization success. Then we can talk about what other tools you might need.

Then we can all afford drool worthy of gas grills in our backyards.

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