eMetrics Boston 2014 Recap: A Web Analytics Consultant’s Perspective

dalmatianLast week I had the pleasure of attending eMetrics Summit Boston at the Seaport World Trade Center as both an Edgewater Web Analtyics consultant and an attendee. For those of you reading this that may have been there yourselves, we were the booth with the cute Dalmatian. 😉

Overall, I really enjoyed the event and was motivated by some of the topics covered. Below are a my highlights:

  • It’s All One Big Decision: AB Testing, Predictive Analytics, and Behavioral Targeting
    Speaker: Matt Gershoff
    I thought Matt brought an interesting perspective to these topics and really came up with a great title for this session. All too often marketing departments decide to get into AB Testing or Behavioral Targeting for the wrong reasons – someone told them they should, or they heard a particular tool was good. It is important to step back and think about the WHY before the WHAT. There are a lot of great tools out there but ultimately optimization is all about positioning your business with the ability to make better decisions.
  • Boston Red Sox – One Year Later
    Keynote Speaker: Tim Zue
    As a Red Sox fan and New England native I must admit a bias here but it was very interesting to see some of the measurement issues a huge sports organization like the Boston Red Sox faces. While most of us can’t directly relate to same specific issues, Tim’s presentation illustrated the importance of out-of-the-box thinking. I found it particularly fascinating how Fenway Park has been transitioning from traditionally more flat pricing into more flexible ticket pricing based on true market value data imported from after-market ticket sales. Seats that have proven higher value have increased over time while others have decreased. Analyzing after market prices to make these adjustments to the primary market was a very clever strategy. Kudos to you Tim Zue.
  • Five Big Analytics Project Lessons
    Speaker: Jim Cain
    Everyone can learn from what someone else has already learned from. A few quick takeaways I found particular useful:

    • Utilizing “Active Community Members” as a social KPI.
    • Making sure web analytics data matches internal systems, “If the CFO doesn’t agree with your numbers, no one else will either.”
    • “Most social analytics tools stink.” It was reassuring for me to hear this from others in the field and I heard essentially the same sentiment in multiple sessions in the two days I was there. I would agree with this in most cases and I have also found most social tools to be extremely overpriced. Working directly with social APIs whenever possible certainly seems like the way to go. It saves money in the long run and allows for greater flexibility. Win win!
    • And while maybe not useful but particularly amusing, “BIG DATA – It doesn’t refer to font size.”
  • It was great to have a break from the normal day to day and attend eMetrics. I’ve personally been inspired to write a few more blog posts on various analytics topics so more on that soon. See you next year Boston!

    5 things you need to migrate web analytics on-premises to SAAS

    netinsight sunsetRemember the IBM announcement back in April to sunset NetInsight? The truth is on-premises web analytics is a dying art. The only other well-known vendor that provides on-premises solutions is WebTrends. It is destined to suffer a slow death – there have not been any new releases for the last few years and customers are encouraged to move to the SAAS version. So, the next best thing is to prepare and plan for inevitable – migration to SAAS.

    1. Assess Web Analytics vendors. Sunsetting the on-premises solution presents a good opportunity to reassess the web analytics landscape instead of blindly sticking with the same vendor and moving your data from on-premises to SAAS.
    2. Documentation. Documentation. Documentation. I said it three times and I meant it. No one likes to create it. I get it – it’s a boring, monotonous task to write every variable, every processing rule, every customization. However, switching your web analytics tool without documentation is like going into battle and forgetting your ammunition. You need to ensure you have documented the following:
      • A List of Key Custom Built Reports and Layouts. This is your foundation for stakeholder expectation management and therefore the golden key to your sanity during migration. This task can become a project on its own since going through such an exercise will confirm what reports and metrics are critical and important for the business and which ones you can delete because no one is using them anyway.
      • Current Tool Configuration rules. This is a big one and can cost you dearly. I had many urgent calls from clients desperately trying to understand why their data tanked 20 – 30% when they switched to a new tool or data collection method. In 99.9% of all cases the answer was due to configuration such as page view definition, filtering, visitor tracking methods, etc. The configuration topic certainly warrants a separate post, so check back in a while.
      • Site/Metric Matrix. List all custom collected metrics per site, including metric definition, collection method and syntax. This exercise should be completed hand-in-hand with report documentation to ensure every single custom metric is documented. This is your bible. Keep it on your nightstand and refer to it often. If you need a sample template, come back in a few weeks – I will be posting further on this subject.
    3. A Project Manager and a Project Plan. Web Analytics migration is like surgery – you need to make sure that your patient (aka reporting) will not die during the surgery (migration). You may get away without a plan if you a dealing with a simple site and basic data collection (wart removal), but if you a dealing with multiple sites, channels, applications and vendors (open heart surgery), a solid plan is required for successful execution.
    4. Assessment against Current Reporting Capabilities. Migration from on-premises to a SAAS solution (or one vendor to another) almost always results in loss and/or gain of features. E.g., SAAS solution is likely to have greater social and mobile tracking capabilities but you may need to make some data collection tradeoffs in order to adhere to your company’s data collection policies, especially if you are in the healthcare or financial industry. Create a loss/gain matrix and use it to manage change. No one likes to give up things that they already have. Over communicate any changes to stakeholders in advance, quantify impact of such changes on business and help to define mitigation plan, if necessary.
    5. Assess Current Roles, Responsibilities and Processes. Switching from on-premises to SAAS will impact current roles and processes, e.g., there will be no need to maintain servers.   Process-wise, you will not be able to re-analyze collected data, which will have an impact on new report deployment as well as the ability to apply new reporting requests to historical data. Don’t wait for a bear to get you – review current roles and processes, outline necessary adjustments and manage change before the migration occurs.

    Feel free to comment or add to my list!

    The Consumerization of Health Insurance: Adapting to Private Exchanges

    findcustomersThe new Affordable Care Act (ACA or ObamaCare) is introducing new opportunities and challenges for health insurance companies. The complex set of regulation, exchanges and integrations needed is still a political and technical mess but one thing is clear: health insurance companies will have to embrace their consumers.

    It’s no secret that currently most health insurance companies’ customers who make buying decisions are not the actual consumers but employers or benefit brokers. This is about to change.

    The process started even before the latest reforms and is modeled to a large part after the successful pension / retirement benefits model where companies moved from a company provided pension into a marketplace. The employer is putting in a defined contribution, and the employee is choosing investment vehicles from various providers.

    The model works very similarly for health benefits with private exchanges giving employees more choices. Walgreen has recently moved its 160,000 employees to a private exchange and estimates are that by 2017, 18% of the American public will buy their insurance at private exchanges.

    So what do health insurers need to do to better compete in an open marketplace? Mostly, steal the best practices established by other competitive markets such as the aforementioned retirement benefits and P&C insurance providers:

    1. Enable consumers to make an informed buying decision. While prices and coverage may be negotiated with employers, additional tools and content written for consumers is essential. For example, a “find a doctor” tool that lets you see if your physician is part of the plan, and detailed coverage comparison between plans.
    2. Give consumers full access to their information and personalize the experience. Web portals, mobile applications, email and text messages all tailored to consumer preferences and health interests. The self-service aspect will both give consumers control and save call center costs.
    3. Know your customers. Since until now most group members were not customers, the interaction was very transactional and focused on claims. A huge part of the consumerization of healthcare and of health insurance is starting to use ecommerce style tools – CRM systems that help track and manage all interactions; improving data collection, tracking and analytics to help segment and personalize user experience and wellness communications and offerings.
    4. Establish a clear measurement and analytics framework. New measures and metrics need to be put in place to judge the effects of this transition on the business and the determine best ways to react. The new measurement framework has to look at metrics such as:
      • Customer acquisition cost
      • Customer retention rates 
      • Customer profitability by source and segment
      • Customer lifetime value
      • Impact of wellness activities and user engagement with them on costs
      • Impact of self-service portal and mobile applications on call center volume and costs.
    5. Adapt and optimize marketing. The direct approach requires multichannel direct marketing.  Analytics can help guide the best mix of marketing options to achieve the different acquisition and retention costs.

    A lot of people question whether going after the direct channel is even worth it. Some have had bad experiences in the past with individual members that tended to consume more healthcare since they were not always in a good enough health to hold a full time job.

    The transition we are seeing to private exchanges and defined contributions seems much more substantial and can dominate the market in 5-10 years. A good toolset, marketing approach and measurement framework will be invaluable to compete for the right segment.

    From Web Analytics to Customer Intelligence

    CIWe recently were invited to present internally at a prominent health care payer network about the rapidly changin role and importance of web analytics. Gone are the good old days when it was enough to just run a log analyzer or put a simple tag to collect all the information needed about the interactions a customer has with you. Analysis used to be limited in scope and focus on a handful of parameters that could be optimized, such as bounce rates and conversion rates, by tweaking the checkout flows and usability improvements.

    Not that conversion rate optimization is less important today but as customer interactions focus less and less on just the company website, the new critical need is to try and get a coherent picture of general customer behavior across all touch points. Instead of trying to infer customer thoughts and concerns through their clickstreams, many are now openly expressing needs and problems through social media.

    This goes beyond “cross channel marketing” into the new area Forrester and others are now calling Customer Intelligence (CI). Similar to the way business data evolved from simple reporting into Business Intelligence (BI), as customer data gets more complex and varied, putting everything together and drawing conclusions and trends from it will need to employ similar methods and tools.

    This is primarily a mindset change from the somewhat passive “analytics” to the broader and much more active role of managing and providing customer intelligence.

    The expectations from Web Analytics professionals and systems are changing as well from the cyclical analysis and response to the providing of on demand, immediate intelligence for both individual and aggregate customer needs and problems. In some companies this evolved into a real “command center” that has 24/7 monitoring and interaction tools to listen, interact and respond to customer needs.

    There are a few challenges that mark this transition:

    • Quantity: The quantity of interaction points is exploding due to social media, online videos and mobile devices.
    • Traceability: It is very hard to identify users across various media. Mapping a web user to a Facebook account or twitter feed is not always possible.
    • Immediacy: There is an overwhelming need and expectation for immediate response.

    Here is a conceptual diagram of this new reality illustrating all the new interaction points being consolidated into the central Customer Intelligence and the introduction of the analytical services that can be used to optimize the user experience.

    These analytical services can work on both an individual and aggregate level:

    • Individual: If we can aggregate customer data and interactions from different channels, this will dramatically improve segmentation, insight for sales and customer service professionals interacting with the customer, and services that can target offers or content in real time based on user past interest and behavior.
    • Collective intelligence: By looking at customer activity across all channels we can:
      • Optimize targeting through the different channels and our investment in them
      • Improve recommendations
      • Identify trends
      • Identify problems / issues / sentiment changes and address them quickly.

    To start implementing Customer Intelligence, the process is now becoming quite similar to implementing a BI solution

    • Expand use of social listening and data capturing tools and store their data
    • Adjust data models to accommodate multiple user identifiers, channels, devices etc.
    • Redefine KPI’s
    • Define and implement analytical services
    • Adjust reporting and analytics
      • Real time
      • Dashboard level

    The Web Analytics vendors are starting to step up and offer tools and support for Customer Intelligence. In upcoming posts we’ll look into WebTrends, Omniture, Google and IBM to see how their offerings stack up and the type of solutions they support.

    Adobe, IBM, WebTrends, and comScore named leaders in Web Analytics

    Independent research firm Forrester recently released their annual “Forrester Wave: Web Analytics, Q4 2011” report naming Adobe, IBM, comScore, and WebTrends as the current leaders of the web analytics industry. AT Internet and Google Analytics were also included as “strong performers” while Yahoo Analytics took 7th place as the lone wolf in the “contender” category.

    Not surprisingly Adobe Site Catalyst and IBM Coremetrics stood out with the top two scores overall but WebTrends Analytics 10 and comScore Digital Analytix showed major stengths as well. Unica NetInsight, another offering from IBM did not make the list because of its inevitable fate to be merged with Coremetrics. In 2010, IBM acquired both Unica and Coremetrics. The Forrester report states, “IBM is incorporating the complementary and notable features of Unica NetInsight into a merged web analytics solution based on the Coremetrics platform.”

    The full report can be downloaded from Adobe or WebTrends and will likely show up on other vendor sites soon.

    Keeping it Fresh: The 6 Pillars of Web Content Governance

    Content. It is the bane of existence for web marketing managers everywhere. As soon as a new site is up and running, the content is getting old in inaccurate by the minute. Chasing business owners to revise, update or write new content is a constant struggle. To make it worse, many areas may not have an owner at all..

    Fancy CMS systems were supposed to solve all that with expiration dates on content and distributed ownership but the tools themselves are just the means. People still need to use them.

    That is where Web Content Governance comes in.

    Web Content Governance is the overall approach to the way content is created, managed and maintained intended to ensure consistency, accuracy, relevance and compliance. It generally comprises of 6 main components: Process, Structure, Policies, Standards, Ownership, Processes and the Systems that are used to enable, enforce and automate them.

    The details of each component vary between companies but generally include the following:

    • Process
      • Creation
      • Updates
      • Retention / expiration
      • Archiving
      • Workflows:
        • Editorial review
        • Legal review
        • Brand Review
        • Publishing
    • Structure
      • Content classification
      • Media types
      • Taxonomy and Metadata
      • Hierarchy and inheritance
    • Policies
      • Legal
      • Security
      • Data collection
      • E-mail
    • Ownership
      • Roles
      • Permissions
      • Escalation
    • Standards
      • Brand Guidelines
      • Content guidelines
      • Accessibility
      • Legal
      • Copyrights
    • Systems
      • Content Management System (CMS)
      • Digital Asset Management (DAM)
      • Document Management
      • Business Process Management (BPM)

    Few tips and tricks

    1. Assign a bad cop. A senior enough executive who would be the enforcer.
    2. Build a team of champions. Department of area champions who have enough familiarity with the tools and can provide knowledge and communication channel to different business units and groups. The team should meet on a regular basis.
    3. Use automation. The ability to set content expiration is a great way to ensure all content is looked at (however briefly) regularly.
    4. Don’t relinquish control over the last step. Someone from the centralized web / marketing team should still review every page before it is being published

    Five keys to thriving during hypergrowth

    When your successful strategy pays off and you find your business in a period of hypergrowth, keeping everything moving forward in alignment (instead of spinning out of control) is your biggest challenge. Here are five keys to sustaining your success:

    1. Work smarter, not harder – review your business processes and look for ways to eliminate tasks that don’t add significant value, or automate manual handoffs.

    2. Great tools are always a good investment – you can’t sustain hypergrowth with yellow pads and Excel spreadsheets. Put more power into the hands of key users, so they don’t have to rely on IT for queries and reports.

    3. Keep an eye on profits while focusing on growth. Sustain your sales momentum, but eliminate waste and manage your profit margins.  Make sure you are getting maximum value out of your marketing efforts, as well as keeping an eye on your cost of goods sold.

    4. Bureaucracy strangles growth – your backoffice organization should avoid imposing cumbersome processes on the parts of your business that sell, produce and deliver your products and services. Use effective collaboration tools to cut the middlemen out of your business processes.

    5. Choose meaningful KPI’s. Less is more–they aren’t KEY performance indicators if you have a list of 20 KPI’s  for one area of the business. Hypergrowth KPI’s differ from downturn KPI’s.  

    If you are in a rapid growth phase, what are you tracking now? If you are hoping to achieve hypergrowth what are your KPI’s? Leave us a comment.

    Multi-Touch Attribution Campaign Tracking with WebTrends

    This article is a follow-up to the webinar

    All web analytics platforms have some way of tracking marketing campaign performance usually out-of-the-box or with a little bit of set up. Generally they all do a pretty good job of this and provide key reports to make important business decisions about which campaigns to invest more money in, which to reduce spending on, and which to get rid of altogether. But often these decisions are made without insight into the whole picture. Why? The answer is simply because most campaign reports are set up in the industry standard way of attributing all conversions to the last or most recent campaign clicked. This is and has long been the industry standard, but it is time for a change as this method ignores the fact that people often go through multiple campaigns before converting.

    So what other attribution options are there? And why wouldn’t I want to attribute conversion credit to the most recent campaign? – There are typically 3 options for campaign attribution:

    1. Last Touch (Most recent campaign)
    2. First Touch (Original campaign)
    3. Multi-touch (All campaign touches)

    Technically there are two options for multi-touch attribution. One option is to give full credit to all campaign touches and the other option is to give partial credit to each touch. For example, if 3 different campaign touches resulted in a sale of $30 you could credit each touch with $10. But for the purposes of this article we will focus on the full credit option. As for the question “why wouldn’t I want to attribute conversion credit to the most recent campaign?” – this is not really the right question to ask. The better question to ask is, “Do I have the best possible insight into the performance of my marketing campaigns?” The answer to that question is almost always “no” if you are only analyzing a single attribution method. So rather than replacing industry standard last touch reports, adding first touch and multi-touch to your arsenal of reports is the best course of action.

    Fortunately for WebTrends users, there has been a great method for gaining insight into all campaign touches for quite some time although a little work up front is necessary to gain the full power of this. If you are already doing basic campaign tracking within WebTrends then the visitor history table is already turned on and with minimal effort you can set up two new custom reports which report on the first touch campaign and all campaign touches respectively. To do this you need to make use of two features of the visitor history table and create two new custom dimensions, one based on WT.vr.fc (the fc stands for “first campaign”) and another based on WT.vr.ac (the ac stands for “all campaigns”). Once you have the dimensions set up you create custom reports using those dimensions and whichever metrics you want applied. To make things easier, copy the existing campaign ID report and just change the dimension to base the report on.

    The “first touch” report ends up looking nearly identical to the existing campaign ID report but the rows of data will be different since the revenue and other conversion credit is applied to the first campaign that referred the conversion as opposed to the last.

    Standard Campaign ID Report Sample
    First Touch Campaign ID Sample

    The “all touches” report is where you’ll notice more differences. You will see some or many (depending on the date range you have selected) rows of data that have multiple campaign IDs separated by semi colons. To view only the data that contains multiple campaign touches just filter the report by a semi colon.

    Multi-Touch Campaign ID Report Sample

    So what do you do with this information? What does it all mean?
    Spending some time with this new data will likely reveal some patterns you never had insight into before. For example, you may notice certain campaigns appear to perform poorly according to your traditional last touch reports but the same campaign’s performance as a first touch is much better, or vice versa. Since the first touch report is so similar to the out of the box campaign ID report it is fairly straightforward. The only difference is that the first touch gets the credit. The all touch reports are more complicated though. What I find most useful about this report is the ability to determine a campaign’s total reach and compare it to its absolute reach.  Take for example campaign ID 32. In the above screenshots you will notice that this campaign ID has $63,441 attributed to it as a last touch campaign, $35,839 attributed to it as a first touch campaign, and $82,036 attributed to it when you search for it in the all touches report (See fig. 4 below). What this data is telling us in this particular case is that:

    • $63,441 in revenue was most recently referred by campaign 32
    • Only $35,839 in revenue was initially referred by campaign 32
    • But overall campaign 32 at least partially referred $82,036 in revenue

    As you can see, there can be very significant differences in campaign performance depending on how you look at the data. Taking the easy way out and looking only at a single attribution method can lead to less than fully-informed decisions being made about your campaigns. What if you were relying solely on first-touch reports in this example? That could lead you to reduce your budget on campaign 32 when in reality it was performing much better than your first-touch report told you.

    Multi-Touch Report Filtered by Campaign ID 32

    Ok, so all that is well and good but manually analyzing campaign IDs one at a time is a lot of work! Yes it certainly is using the methods I just provided as examples. But there is a much better way to approach this. Taking things a step further we can export each of these reports and combine them together in Excel using the campaign IDs as our key values. What we want to end up with is something like the following which will allow us to analyze first, last, and multi-touch all within a single interface.

    Multi-Touch Reporting in Excel Sample

    In part two of this article I’ll show you how to set this all up in WebTrends. But for now, follow the steps discussed in this article to get these super handy reports in place so you’ll be ready for the next part.

    Your Company’s Social Debut

    Planning Your Company’s Debut or Strategy in the Social Media Sphere

    Corporations have long been regarded by the law as having “legal personality”-  which means they have rights, privileges, responsibilities, and protections just like humans (with some differences, like marriage).   It should come as no surprise then, that they’re acting like humans more and more – now they’re relaxing with friends, and socializing! As communication gets easier through digital technology, humans are now able to interact with corporate personalities.  And these personalities are just beginning to awaken to the new freedoms they can find in the digital landscape.

    If you’re like me, and I bet you are, you are both human, and, also a part of bringing business personalities to the social scene. In this capacity, I recently attended SocialTech2010 in Jan Jose, CA, right from my desk in NYC.

    As the Twitter stream flowed by rapidly with commentary and quotes from the speakers, I watched and listened to advice, case studies and stories from the experts on Social Media for Business. I came away with the recognition that Social Media for business is just like a big networking cocktail party!

    Companies aren’t accustomed to acting as social creatures and the adjustment will take some time. We all had to learn social skills growing up; companies can do the same. There are a few things that etiquette would require of a cocktail party attendee and that’s the same strategy the speakers at SocialTech2010 are recommending:  Know who you are, be interactive and respectful, don’t gossip, be a good listener, and don’t be afraid to share yourself.

    As businesses gain proficiency in this kind of interacting, they follow an arc towards maturity. Kathleen Malone of Intel outlined the following 5 stages of a Social Media Approach:

    1)      Listen: In this stage a company finds out: What are people saying about my Brand and/or my field? Where are they having this discussion? Who are the major players and influencers?  Services like Radian6, which Malone says Intel deployed 18 months ago, make this possible.

    2)      Analyze: This is the time to read the room/space, figure out what your angle will be when you eventually do pipe up. Which conversation will you enter? What are your expectations? Why are you going to participate?

    3)      Create: This is the stage where the business comes up with something appropriate to say. To participate effectively in the conversation, Malone says your content should be: useful, interesting, human, “snackable” (meaning in bite size pieces, easily consumed), inspiring and should cater to egos and build community.  

    4)      Engage: In this stage you go public and enter the conversation, getting your content out there in new ways and/or by participating in the conversations that already exist.

    5)      Measure: Your social media approach is not complete without an understanding of how you’re doing. The internet is an amazing forum for measuring how people behave with your content, and you should use a variety of tools to understand the response to your forays. Measuring properly will provide insight on how to proceed, both in the ongoing conversation, and with the business itself.

    Both Malone and Brian Ellefritz of SAP outlined the natural evolution of Social Media programs at large companies  – first there are what Ellefritz calls “Grass Roots” efforts, where excited individuals branch out in ways that are unpredictable and non-uniform. He says companies should encourage these exploratory missions. Leadership will begin to emerge internally, and informal education will get the ball rolling. Following the “Grass Roots” period, Ellefritz sees “Silos Form.” This may not feel 100% smooth, but is an important step, as “coop-eteition” (a kind of cooperating/kind of competing relationship, sort of like sibling rivalry that spurs each one on) sees different silos jockeying for position. During this step, Ellefritz encourages companies to “invest in leaders, not laggards”, and to get the players from various silos together to learn from each other.  Also, he says, “don’t wait too long for governance.”

    The next evolutionary phase in a corporate Social Media Program is “Operationalizing” – where leadership becomes clear, channels become well formed and in alignment with the divisions in your business.  Tools begin to consolidate and more emphasis on measurement and results appears. By this point your business may have headcount devoted to social media, and content should become less problematic, less of a focus, because it’s running more smoothly.  During this stage it’s important to align and integrate silos, and focus on strategy, ownership, metrics and priorities.

    After this shift, the next phase is what Ellefriz calls “Lifestyle.” This is when the Social Media program has engaged and competent employees and success is understood and positive outcomes are frequent. This is a level of Social Media implementation that is fairly rare in today’s scene, though Ellefritz points towards Zappos as an example of a company that may be at this level.

    .. .. ..

    The wonderful thing about participating in social media is that it lets your personality out! For a business that hasn’t previously seen itself as the kind of entity that has a social life, this might seem daunting at first.  That’s why Ellefriz’s evolutionary arc makes so much sense to me. The way I see it, people and businesses want more than ever to get clear on who they are, and who they want to be, in order to present themselves well, and to participate in Social Media conversations. The best advice is to be authentic. Just like at cocktail parties, the people you’re conversing with generally know if you’re “full of it”, or if you’re being sincere.  Your conversational counterparts like to be complemented, offered nuggets of useful information, and generally considered and included.

    For businesses, (and the teams of people that perpetuate them) this will mean really focusing on what the goals are, what opportunities exist to communicate clearly and uniformly around these interests, finding “friends” out there to talk with, and owning up to the inevitable minor mistakes that are so easy to make along the way. Since SM is such a public sphere, the resulting increased level of transparency is going to make businesses change and open up in new ways.

    Coachdeb:”RT @MarketingProfs: “When someone says they need a Facebook strategy, a Twitter strategy, I say… Wait! Take it back… What’s your story?” @scobleizer #mptech”

    So, armed with the Social Media/networking party analogy and with the stages of approach and evolution path laid out before you – what are you waiting for?  Participate!

    Here are 10 tips to consider as you get started:

    1)      Go where the fish are – target engagement carefully where the conversation already is.

    2)      Social Media is Local. The goal is to be uniform while being decentralized – Intel communicates internally with their 1000 “Registered Social Media Practitioners” with guidelines and trainings (some mandatory). Intel also has their own internal newsletter that aggregates Social Media content – Malone says this makes management comfortable as well as keeps everyone updated.

    3)      Have a Content Calendar for the year to coordinate Social Media messaging across channels and people, and to keep it focused on your message. Kathy Malone said at Intel, 2/3 of the content that gets put out falls under the guidelines of their content strategy calendar.

    4)      Consider in advance how to manage Social Media Risk. One of the most interesting things Jaime Grenny of SalesForce said at SocialTech2010 is that all their employee training videos on Social Media strategy (and how to use online video for B2B marketing) are up for the public to see on YouTube (here).  This level of transparency lets everyone know what to expect upfront.  Malone outlined a “prevention/detection/response” approach in which 3 teams worked from different angles to mitigate risk on the social media front. And experience teaches: “if you screwed up, fess up”, and be transparent.

    5)      If your company is doing moderation of dialogue, consider having a light hand to keep the conversation honest – as Intel puts it, they let the good and the bad in, but moderate the ugly – mostly meaning profanity and non-constructive comments, and they’ve found their audience appreciates it.

    6)      Build a business case for your business so you know why you’re entering into Social Media – not only will it legitimize your efforts internally, but it’ll provide clarity for your message. Will it extend customer service? Will it increase SEO? Can you use it to create brand advocates and champions? Can you collect ideas on where to take your product?

    7)      To measure, use Context. As with all web metrics, in order to understand what’s happening you need to understand the context of your data, and compare it to a baseline to view trends. Knowing your goals will assist you in setting up context.

    8)      People are the PlatformLaura Ramos of Xerox encourages us to get our people out there and seen. Show video of your thought leadership. Get your salespeople to share their stories and knowledge with the rest of your company and make them heroes. Build relationships, and let your existing customers create new business for you. Social Media Marketing is not about reaching many to influence a few but engaging a few to influence many!

    9)      Social is relevant. Here are some StatsRené Bonvani of Palo Alto Networks says that FaceBook has a 96% penetration in enterprise, meaning that only 4/100 people aren’t using it at work! He also said that only 1% is posting on Facebook but that people are 69 times more likely to use FaceBook chat than to post.  Another impressive Bonvani stat: 69% of business buyers use social media to make purchasing decisions.  No matter the numbers, it’s clear that with the cost of communication dropping close to $0, as social beings, we’re using the web to communicate more often with more people, and in smaller chunks regularly.

    10)   Social media has to be part of WHAT you do, not something else you do. Jeremiah Owyang in his keynote said that the only difference between the Social Site and your business is the URL. He says that in the radical future, websites will be dynamically assembled on the fly based on social profiles. URLs and domains won’t matter – the web will be sorted around people and contextual situations.  Because of this, ads will become useful content.  This is already evident.

    So – Get out there and participate!

    Edgewater Technology provides strategy, consulting, web metrics, and implementation expertise to help you focus on the best ways your company can engage in these dynamic communities and track your success!

    Step by Step: Creating Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4 Reports Using Silverlight, RIA Services and VisiFire

    I recently read an article on how to build advanced custom CRM reports using ASP.NET and Silverlight.  Since it was using Visual Studio 2008 and Silverlight 2, I decided to write a more updated version using Visual Web Developer 2010 Express and Silverlight 4.  Also I decided to make the report work with the on-premise version of CRM 4.0 and as you will see it looks very similar to one of the dashboards enabled for the on-demand version of CRM 4.0.

    First you will need to make sure you have the necessary tools installed to build a Silverlight application.  I decided to go with Visual Web Developer 2010 Express because it is free and Silverlight 4 Developer tools for VS.NET 2010.  You will also need to download VisiFire Once you have your development environment setup you can follow these steps to easily create a new dashboard for your on-premise CRM instance.

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Step 1: Create a Silverlight 4 Project.

    Open up Visual Web Developer 2010 Express and select New Project from the Start page or File menu.  Expand the Visual C# project templates and select Silverlight.  From the Silverlight project types, choose Silverlight Application (see Figure 1).  Name your project CrmSalesPipelineDashboard and click OK.

    Figure 2

    Figure 2

    Now you will see a popup which allows you to choose how to host your Silverlight application. Choose to host the Silverlight application in a new Website with type ASP.NET Web Application Project (which should be the default).  Choose Silverlight 4 and check the Enable WCF RIA Services option (see Figure 2).  After you click OK it will create your two new projects (CrmSalesPipelineDashboard and CrmSalesPipelineDashboard.Web) in one solution.

    Step 2:  Add an ASP.NET Entity Data Model

    Figure 3

    Figure 3

    Add a new Models folder to the CrmSalesPipelineDashBoard.Web project where you can store your data models.  Right click on the new Models folder and select Add New Item which will open a dialog box.  Select the Data section under Visual C# and select the ADO.NET Entity Data Model.  Change the name to CrmModel.edmx and click Add (see Figure 3).

    Figure 5

    Figure 5

    Figure 4

    Figure 4

    Now you will see the Entity Data Model Wizard popup dialog.  Select Generate from database and click Next (see Figure 4).  Either create a new Connection to your CRM database or choose an existing one from the dropdown list.  After you click Next, select the StringMap table from the list of Tables.  Then select the Opportunity view from the list of Views.  Leave the default options checked and change the Model Namespace name to CrmModel and click Finish (see Figure 5).  The new model window will be displayed with the new StringMap and Opportunity entities.

    Build the solution to make sure everything is still in order.

    Step 3: Add a Domain Service Class

    Figure 6

    Figure 6

    Add a new Services folder to the CrmSalesPipelineDashboard.Web project where you can store your services.  Right click on the new Services folder and select Add New Item which will open a dialog box.  Select the Web section under Visual C# and select the Domain Service Class.  Change the name to CrmDomainService.cs and click Add (see Figure 6).

    Figure 7

    Figure 7

    Now you will see the Add New Domain Service Class popup dialog.  Check the checkbox by the Opportunity and StringMap entities, uncheck the Generate associated classes for metadata and click OK (see Figure 7).

    Insert the GetSalesPipeline method (see Listing 1) after the GetStringMaps method in the CrmDomainService class.

    Listing 1
    //Return the total estimated value for each sales pipeline step
    public IQueryable<SalesPipeline> GetSalesPipeline()
    IQueryable<SalesPipeline> salesPipeline = from opportunity in this.GetOpportunities()
    join stringMaps in this.GetStringMaps() on opportunity.StatusCode equals stringMaps.AttributeValue
    where stringMaps.AttributeName == "statuscode" && stringMaps.ObjectTypeCode == 3
    group new { opportunity, stringMaps } by stringMaps.Value into g
    where g.Sum(o => o.opportunity.EstimatedValue).HasValue && g.Sum(o => o.opportunity.EstimatedValue).Value > 0
    select new SalesPipeline { SalesPipelineStepName = g.Key, TotalEstimatedValue = g.Sum(o => o.opportunity.EstimatedValue).Value };

    return salesPipeline;

    Insert the SalesPipeline class (see Listing 2) after the CrmDomainService class.

    Listing 2
    public class SalesPipeline
    public string SalesPipelineStepName { get; set; }
    public decimal TotalEstimatedValue { get; set; }

    Build the solution to make sure everything is still in order.

    Step 4: Add the Pie Chart to Silverlight

    Download the latest version of VisiFire (http://www.visifire.com) and unzip it to C:\VisiFire.  Add a references to the both the FJ.Core.dll and SL.Visifire.Charts.dll to the CrmSalesPipelineDashboard project.

    Insert the XAML necessary to display the pie chart on the page (see Listing 3).

    Listing 3
    <vc:Chart Name="salesPipelineChart" xmlns:vc="clr-namespace:Visifire.Charts;assembly=SLVisifire.Charts" View3D="True" Theme="Theme1" Width="800" Height="400">
    <vc:Title Text="Sales Pipeline" FontFamily="Verdana" FontSize="20" FontWeight="Bold" />
    <vc:DataSeries RenderAs="Pie" DataSource="{Binding Data, ElementName=salesPipelineDomainDataSource}">
    <vc:DataMapping MemberName="AxisXLabel" Path="SalesPipelineStepName" />
    <vc:DataMapping MemberName="YValue" Path="TotalEstimatedValue" />
    <riaControls:DomainDataSource Name="salesPipelineDomainDataSource" xmlns:riaControls="clr-namespace:System.Windows.Controls;assembly=System.Windows.Controls.DomainServices" xmlns:my="clr-namespace:CrmSalesPipelineDashboard.Web.Services" AutoLoad="True" d:DesignData="{d:DesignInstance my:SalesPipeline, CreateList=true}" QueryName="GetSalesPipelineQuery" Width="0" Height="0">
    <my:CrmDomainContext />

    Build the solution to make sure everything is still in order.

    Finished Pie Chart

    Finished Pie Chart

    Step 5: View the Sales Pipeline Pie Chart

    Run the solution by pressing F5 and view the pie chart in the browser.  You will notice that out-of-the-box VisiFire allows you to click on the different pieces of the pie to pull them out.


    Other Resources

    If you are interested in learning more about .NET RIA Services and how to use them in Silverlight I found these videos helpful: