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For this installment of the Traffick
Innovator series, we're delighted to share some fresh thoughts
from John Marshall, cofounder and CEO of web analytics
innovator ClickTracks, until he recently left to form a
new company, Market Motive. John has always been a popular
speaker at conferences like SES, and has been noticed for
his initiative in offering free webinars to anyone interested
in wanting to learn more about web analytics.
things, we learn that John definitely considers California
home, is big on granularity in marketing campaigns, and
seeks to fill a gap in corporate professional development
whereby companies today are nearly always handicapped by
a failure to keep up on the latest in specialized fields.
We agree with John -- anyone who is committed to sharing
information can move the needle for private companies more
than you generally expect. Few training sessions or focused
seminars today have employees walking away saying “hey!
I already knew all that!” -- especially when
those companies can gain access to the leading minds in
the field. .
* What did you do before ClickTracks? How about before
Well, I've done many things technology related, but
one that stands out was web analyst. It was my experience
of trying to interpret the data that lead me to create
ClickTracks. Go back far enough and you'll uncover that I
wrote video games in assembler in the 80's.
* You're British but you live in California. Do you
go back and forth a lot? Which do you consider home?
I travel back and forth 2-3 times a year. California
is home, definitely. It's a very welcoming place to entrepreneurs.
I still spell most words the British way, however, ignoring
the nags from Microsoft.
* Jim Sterne jokes that his "degree is in Shakespeare," but
he's also a stats maven and an analyst of the nuts and
bolts of corporate IT deployments. Early on he began
advising large companies on their use of web stats, and
wrote the leading book in the field. You grew up messing
around with technology, but you define yourself as a
marketer and thought leader, not strictly a CTO. How
important is it that online commerce fuses strategy and
communications with the more technical side of things?
I definitely find the technical aspects easy, whereas
the creative side less so. Therefore when I look at a
campaign I'm quick to notice technical questions but
I have to really stop and think about the copywriting
and the call to action. Many other marketing folks are
biased in the opposite direction, so I think I stand
out a little. Either way, you have to smoothly combine
both sides to succeed online. Marketers who think they
can 'leave the technical details to others' get burned.
* You were with ClickTracks a long time - six years,
a lifetime in some tech circles. Do you feel the company
developed a unique corporate culture internally in that
time? What was that like? Did ClickTracks contribute
a bit of a different approach to the whole field of analytics
and web marketing, do you think?
The culture was very strongly defined by myself and
even more so by Dr. Stephen Turner. We started with a
different approach to the analytical process. Stephen
carefully guided the design decisions we made and we
rarely regretted our choice to be different. We didn't
take a different approach for the sake of it, we simply
wouldn't accept mediocre implementations. Sometimes this
made the product harder to sell, because the customer's
frame of reference was all the other products, plus ClickTracks
with its different approach. The sales team might beg
that we implement a funnel report just like everyone
else, but Stephen and I stood by our choices because
we knew the other funnel reports simply didn't work properly.
A consequence of this was that we made ourselves available
to the entire company to explain these design decisions.
The entire company therefore was comfortable being different,
and unconsciously, we hired people like that, because
they needed to fit and accurately represent the product.
* About your new venture, Market
What interests you so much about the training and professional
education space, and what void in the marketplace made
you see an opportunity there?
I've always enjoyed teaching and explaining new ideas,
and of course speaking at SES and other conferences gave
me the opportunity. I found myself wishing I could do
that full time. Most people working in marketing at companies
can't keep up with the pace of change. They need a reliable,
authoritative source that is available on-tap. Traveling
to conferences helps with big strategy questions, but
day to day tactics get ignored. Their marketing efforts
are substandard because they need more knowledge. We
provide the environment to learn and advance.
* At ClickTracks you were involved in developing challenging
new products to help search marketers, such as a bid
management product, BidHero. You mentioned once it wasn't
always easy to coexist with leaders like Yahoo and Google,
because their search advertising API's terms of service
were often changing, you might not get top priority as
far as custom interactions with them in spite of your
large customer base, etc. I'm also guessing the cost
of API tokens affects a third-party service enormously;
and major changes in the ad programs might necessitate
going back to the drawing board and redeveloping new
software. Any comments on any of that? Can small third
party bid management services survive? What about larger
ones? Is Google setting things up so these kinds of companies
have trouble, while custom apps developed in house for
companies trying to access the API's for specific purposes
may be treated in more friendly fashion?
I think the situation is better than it was. You used
to have unpredictable rules for how many API requests
you could make and it was hard if you needed to make
more requests. Now you simply pay for requests, so although
the API costs money, you at least don't have an arbitrary
cap on how much you can use. I think the cost is reasonable.
The search engines need to do something to throttle usage.
* As a "neutral" technology vendor, surely nonetheless
you must have gained many insights as to best and worst
practices, let's say from the standpoint of improving
conversion rates from clicks to sales. What from your
experience are the top two best practices or uncommon
insights you might offer marketers wanting to improve
the user experience? What are the no-no's that make you
gnash your teeth?
Best practice #1: Test everything. You think you know
your customers. You don't. Test test test.
Best Practice #2: Once a week examine your keyword buys.
Kill the bottom performing 10% and reallocate that money
to new campaigns or better ranking on existing ones.
No-no #1: When I type keywords into a search page, I
expect to see relevant ads. When I click into the ad
I expect the page on the site to match exactly what I
just searched for, with copy that matches the ad. Too
many sites (usually national brands that should know
better) dump me into the generic page for DVD players
when one page back I specifically typed in the model
number I want.
* Is the click fraud situation improving?
Yes in that the big players have got much better at
reining it in. However small PPC engines keep popping
up like mushrooms and the problem over there is as bad
as ever. I recently blogged about these third tier engines
here : http://www.marketmotive.com/marshall/
* Now's your chance to plug your upcoming seminars,
and talk a bit about how you structure your services.
Market Motive fundamentally does two things: We teach
online marketing through a subscription service, which
is priced at $299 per month. You get unlimited access
to exclusive training content plus the ability to ask
questions and discuss specifics of your site and needs
with the worlds best practitioners. The content is created
by the top minds in internet marketing. Details here: http://www.marketmotive.com/knowledge/
The other side of the business is consulting, implementation
and best practices. Many people having learned what we
teach still want someone else to worry about the details
of getting it done. Our expert staff handles that : http://www.marketmotive.com/services/
* Will you come speak at SES Toronto next year? What
topic interests you most?
Social media is something I'm spending some time investigating.
Right now the SES crowd probably thinks this means Digg
and ways to game it, plus link building. Actually social
media is maturing and it would surprise search marketers
at the degree to which social media completely bypasses
search, and even the public web.
(Ed. Note: We're intrigued, but not surprised. :) Thanks
for the insights John
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