The paradox of (tool) choice

Graham Cooke, managing director of QuBit Digital and former global leader on Google’s strategy for conversion rate improvement, discusses the importance of choosing the right analytics tool.

There is definitely an overwhelming amount of tools designed to help improve our marketing nous – the question is which of these tools are useful. It’s important not to get distracted by too many tools and make sure your analytics is working right – over 50% of analytics installations are predominantly broken. To understand why there are so many tools, it’s important to trace back to the roots of software development. With the emergence of web technology, the cost of product distribution has decreased to virtually zero. This has happened in many industries and heralds a remarkable change. The big question for today’s marketers is: how do you find the best tool, know that the one you are using is the most relevant and avoid being taken for a ride?

Looking back there are two previous stages that have lead us to where we are now. In the first stage, a developer would write their software and then distribute it physically. When I was a bit younger, lots of tools were sold on the front of computer magazines – a relatively cheap distribution model for developers. The next distribution model for the tools marketplace was to create an executable software package that lived on a website. You still needed to download the tool and install it on your computer – a relatively high opportunity cost as it required time to install (and eventually remove). Now we are in the third stage, where web technology such as JavaScript, combined with faster browsers and connections means the most powerful tools can be completely web-based, requiring the user to do nothing more than to sign up online and start running. This presents the paradox – with tools for everything now (some good, a lot bad), how do you find the most appropriate one?

To understand which tool to use, you need to know exactly where the problem lies. Many people can be seduced by something that sounds flashy, but in reality it will be siloed and only solve a small part of your problem. Much like a mechanic knows the right wrench to fix the engine; you need to know what’s wrong with the engine before you start to tinker. I always see the analytics package as the starting tool to solve most of the problems – it is the core that directly relates to your website’s engine. If it is set up right, it can tell you what is wrong with your marketing – from a set of keywords with a high bounce rate to a page that is performing badly.

By telling you where the problem is and how big an issue it is, you can decide if you need to action the problem and move to stage two – this is where a lot of the tools that exist in the market come into play. For instance, if your analytics indicated that your SEO traffic had started to decline, then you should find an SEO diagnostic tool that can pick up where you have either made a mistake with the content on your site or where you have a link issue. Your analytics could also tell you that visitors have increased exits in the checkout, in which case a diagnostic tool such as Crazy Egg or ClickTale would enable you to watch what those same users are doing in order to know what to fix.

Today we marketers are working in exciting times – chances are someone has written a tool to help you solve your problem. Always start with your most important wrenches; your analytics data. Enable this to figure out which category you have a problem in and then search for a tool to solve that problem. Ensure you read reviews and testimonials about the tool, and ultimately make sure it has the right features to solve your specific problem.

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