From Putting Out Fires to Seizing Opportunities: Discussion With Jim Sterne

We recently sat down with Jim Sterne, founder of the eMetrics Summit, to hear what’s going on in today’s big data universe, as well as what’s on tap for the eMetrics Summit 2015. Here are a few takeaways:

How has the eMetrics Summit changed in the past 13 years and what does that say about the evolution of big data?

The eMetrics Summit operates under the old adage of being an “overnight success after only 13 years.” The most visible change is that we have more and more people attending and taking interest in this space every year. When we first launched, people didn’t know we were supposed to call it Big Data, but that’s what we’ve been doing this whole time – volume, variety, velocity. For instance, Big Data has been going on in some narrow areas like astrophysics, because those areas have always had massive amounts of data. What’s changed now? It’s the first time we’ve had this much data in business. Also, the tools are more sophisticated and the process for capturing and deriving value from that data has matured.

What’s new at this year’s eMetrics Summit? What can attendees expect?

In terms of what’s new this year, there is even more data integration than we’ve ever had before…and by that I mean the new tools are now even more sophisticated. Instead of just having an open API, we’re collecting data in new ways and allowing it to be managed easier. This is progress, but the real endgame is for people to be able to stop worrying so much about the mechanics, and focus on asking really good questions.

eMetrics Summits are all over the world. How is analytics—adoption, usage—different across different countries? Are we seeing different trends or thinking surrounding analytics abroad?

William Gibson said “the future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” Rather than the adoption rate of analytics being a function of country or culture, it’s a function of corporate size. The trend tends to be countries with more gigantic companies have more analytics going on, with some cultural exceptions like Germany and Asia.

People used to talk about Internet marketing, now it’s data-driven marketing. Have we reached the point where we assume that these components—Internet, data, digital, analytics–are just part of marketing and not their own distinct categories?

We are not at that point yet, but we should be. Internet marketing and data driven marketing are still distinct categories, and are not fully integrated into the term “marketing”. William Gibson’s quote also speaks to analytics as a marketing technique. Some businesses (and marketing teams, by that reasoning) have figured analytics out and are actively doing it, some aren’t there yet, and some never will be. Is it smart for some companies to continue on without integrating analytics into their marketing efforts? No. But some never will. Analytics is a competitive edge, we all know that. But the hardest part is onboarding analytics – most companies and people looking to finally integrate analytics have to feel confident that they have no other “fires” to put out first. Predictive analytics should be your #1 priority when you switch focus from putting out fires to seizing opportunities.

What tools and technologies are essential for good marketing?

What’s exciting is that I am seeing incremental moves to an important part of marketing: honing a single source of truth with a common key across all systems (i.e. identifying, analyzing, and targeting the same individual regardless of platform or mobile or in-store). That’s what I call good marketing, and in B2B, there’s opportunity for massively good marketing. 

It’s often said that B2B is years behind B2C marketing; What’s your take on the debate? Is one ahead of the other when it comes to marketing? Is B2B catching up? Can the two learn from each other?

B2B is a strange confluence of selling. On one hand, it’s actually an easier task than B2C because the goals are simpler and clearer – like increasing efficiency or lifting revenue – things companies will always want and need. B2C contains more emotions and abstracts, like personal preferences and impulse buys. At the same time, B2B is more difficult. For example, B2B buyers are a committee, rather than an individual. Moreover, the decision making process is often unknowable. Who is on the committee? What are the corporate priorities? Which criteria get the most weight on the committee? You have to find the change agent in the company who’s willing to do the work.

But B2B and B2C can learn from one another. We’re talking about influencing humans. Putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time. Whether it’s a soccer mom or the head of an accounting department, it’s still about buyer personas. Both B2B and B2C need to be targeting their different segments in different ways.

Don’t miss San Francisco’s eMetrics Summit March 29-April 2. We’ll be there! Will you? Tweet to us at @6senseinc

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