Hello, My Name is Avinash. What is Unique About You?

DSC03659 smallAt conferences and summits there are always a lot of vendors and I imagine these events are really hard for them. Two reasons:

    1) They have to stand out in a large crowd.
    2) They have to do #1 when the most get is two to five mins with each person who stops at their booth.

But from a customers perspective this is a very interesting situation because it might be easy to see how good each vendor is by how they react to this high pressure environment.

I took some time at the recent emetrics summit in Washington DC to get to know all the vendors who had booths in the exhibition area. I stopped by each table and asked the first person that was available to talk at the booth two simple questions:

    Question # 1: Unique: What is the most unique thing about your company / solution compared to all other competitor solutions out there?

    Question # 2: Unique Feature: Is there a feature in your product that differentiates you from your competitors? Perhaps a report, a metric or a feature?

The first question was geared towards getting a 60,000 feet view about differentiation (because there is a rumor that they all do the same thing!) and the hope with the second question was that the vendor would highlight somethings specific about the product, the 6 feet view if you will.

Before we go any further the dictionary definition of the word unique is:

    Unique:


    1) Being the only one of its kind
    2) Without an equal or equivalent; unparalleled.

Here are some very insightful answers from each vendor, if you are looking for a solution this might be helpful to you or if you are looking for some fun read then you will also find this interesting.

[The "ORbAK Golden Star Award" for the best answer goes to Karen Hugins from Unica Affinium NetInsight NetTracker! She win's brownie points. :) Honorable mention for Steve Phillips from Numeric, he also gave a great answer.]

Web Side Story (Dave Datars)
Unique: "The way we capture data. Our solution uses page tagging and not web logs as others do."
Feature: "We are very good at reporting and metrics for streaming media. We also have Visual Sciences that can track you across channels by placing sensors"

ExactTarget (Pat Donnely)
Unique: "We have developed a open API and that leverages industry standards."
Feature: "Data is trapped in different systems in a company and we can pull all that data and use it to send timely emails."

Omniture (Trent Dava)
Unique:
“I have not used other web analytics products but Omniture's ability to create hundreds of custom variables is unique. We also have built in bid management in the latest version.”
Feature: “All the new optimizations that we have built into the tool. As a example you can measure RIA's (rich internet applications) and track across RIA's. You can also do Blog Value optimization and if you are getting the conversion rates that you like. With Discover you can get much deeper segmentation.”

X+1 (Heath Podvesker)
Unique:
"What we do is real time and we both product and service focussed. Our customers get a 20 – 60% by using our product."
Feature: "Kefta will optimize based on creative, we can go much deeper when we do optimization."

Atlas (Erin) [Represented just the Web experience optimization group. They compete, if that is the right word, with lab usability, focus groups etc. ]
Unique: "We use much larger sample of website users, initially we will go in and collect two weeks of data which is a lot more than ."
Feature: "Our ability to tie to quantitative data and ability to do deep segmentation."

Numeric (Steve Phillips)
Unique:
“Our background is in Direct Marketing Analytics, highly quantitative positions and we are not dedicated to web analytics and brining our background with us makes us unique.”
Feature: “We don't have recruiters who are focussed on generic positions, they are specialized in analytics and they provided very personalized high level service. We also offer a 90 day money back guarantee.”

iPerceptions (Jonathan Levitt)
Unique: “Our methodology is what makes us unique, the new iPSI we have introduced is the only index that is measuring the pure online experience. We believe that there are different customer expectations from a online experience and creating a pure index is better.”
Feature: “The ability to get a 360 degree view of the customer experience, looking not just at customer satisfaction but also how specific segments of customers behave and what each segment is looking for.”

ForeSee Results (Eric Head)
Unique: “The ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) model is very unique and exclusive in our tool. The model is time tested, it is credible and the model links Satisfaction to Business Performance.”
Feature: “A unique feature in our product is the ability to assign a score to the impact of a chance, it is all about the numbers.”

Optimost (Scott Simonelli)
Unique: “Out ability to use true multi variable testing methodology and uses "optimal design", our system / platform was built from the ground up just to do MVT. Other vendors are just can test "islands" and not truly multi variable tests.”
Feature: “Reporting is very customizable, you can customize to your KPI's to your success metrics.”

Site Spect (Eric Hansen)
Unique: “Our solution is non intrusive, there is no code to integrate and you can have a managed or hosted solution.”
(On a follow up question I requested a clarification of what non-intrusive” means: "We have a solution, hardware or software, that sits between the customer and your web servers and in real time can detect the content going out and send the content that you want to go out for the test to be executed." Think of how packet sniffers work by sitting on your servers (software) or in your data center (hardware)).
Feature: “Our solution will dynamically build orthogonal arrays based on all the variables that you want to test.”

Unica Affinium NetInsight (Karen Hudgins)
Unique: “We provide the most robust reporting for marketers doing cross channel marketing. We have built integration robustness into the tool, for example easy integration with your CRM data.”
Feature: “Our "drag and drop" functionality. For example you could be looking at a group of referrers and you want to see which referrer traffic stayed on your site for ten minutes or more. This is really simple, just drag and drop the time from the menu and drop it on the referrers and your report is ready. The ease of use of our tool is unique, for both new users or long term users.”

Google Analytics (Jeff Gills)
Unique: “Scalability. We have thousands of users and we can tap into their voices and feedback to select features that we implement, features that will be most relevant to them.”
Feature: “Cross segmentation, for example you have the ability to look at a webpage and which keyword brought people to that page and analyze that. You can also compute life time value.”

indexTools (Dennis Mortensen)
Unique: “Web analytics is increasingly becoming a commodity with similar features showing up in all the tools. If you have $100k to spend on web analytics then our tool will give you all the features that you are looking for a fraction of the cost of other vendors and you'll have money left over for investing in analysts.”
Feature: “Ability to segment and the ease of doing segmentation. We make it easy to take the idea that you have in your head and help you easily do that segmentation in our tool.”

Instadia (Anders Jorgensen)
Unique: “Instadia is a integrated service solution that will give you clickstream analysis but it will also give you the ability to understand why people who visit your website do what they do (via a built in surveying capability). We have a architecture that allows us to store unaggregated data what in turn allows our customers to have the ability to do infinite segmentation and aggregation so that they can look at the data any way they want.”
Feature: “The ability to create your prefect dashboards / reports / views using excel and then uploading it into Instadia and going forward Instadia can produce your excel created dashboard and populate that with the latest data (even from other non web analytics data sources) and produce new versions and email them to your decision makers.”

Maximine (Michael Fung)
Unique: “Our customer retention rate is greater than 90%. It is because 80% of our features from our customer's feedback and our ability to scale to meet our customers needs.”
Feature: “Our "web map" to represent the web architecture is very unique. Out ability to store all the information in a spatial database which makes things very relevant but allowing us to answer questions very quickly.”

[I have to apologize to two vendors who were at the summit but I could not interview. Ironically I have a great deal of affection for both of them, and I forgot. So I feel worse. The vendors are ClickTracks and Visual Sciences. John, Eric, I am sorry, you can answer the questions via comments with benefit of hindsight!]

From my quick interviews here were some overall, surprising, observations:

* It is amazing how many times the vendor representatives don't / can't / won't answer the question who their competitors are. Some seemed to be genuinely perplexed that they have competitors.

* A lot of them answer the question "what is unique about you" but sharing what is not great about their competitors. That might not be optimal framing when speaking to your customers, even if the competitors suck.

* I have the privilege of having used many of solutions these vendors were selling. Hence it was especially interesting to hear answers of these vendors. For many I would have answered the two questions completely differently from how they answered. So a difference in what a company thought was unique, and what I think it is from my perspective as a customer. Which could be ok, but in some cases I could have answered the questions better for them! : )

So what can you do with this blog post:

Vendors: Is what is below truly reflective of your unique and differentiated value proposition? Does everyone in your company know why you are so unique and can they articulate it to all your customers? [Perhaps this post might be of value: Make a Great Vendor / Agency / Consulting Pitch - Win Big Contracts.]

Customers (practitioners): Even though the two questions are seemingly simple they are very tough questions (very few people are good at answering to ambiguity). As you consider these vendors hopefully this post has given you some food for thought.

What do you all think? Are there other answers above that you would have voted as the best answer? Do you agree with answers to the two unique questions from your current vendor? Do you have a better answer to these questions for your vendor? Please share your feedback via comments.

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Comments

  1. 1

    Interesting experiment, Avinash. May I answer for ClickTracks?

    Unique: Two things: well-designed reports that anyone can understand; and segmentation that anyone can set up and that appears in every report.

    Feature: Our Click Fraud Report, which detects campaigns that are underperforming or suffering fraud "out of the box".

    It would be interesting to ask the same questions to two people from the same vendor, and see how different their answers were!

  2. 2

    I also find this highly interesting, but -Stephen already touched this point- I think it should be made clearer that in real life on a summit this is a test on persons or salespeople, not on vendors. It would be however highly interesting to focus this on the answer a real Expert from each vendor would give, so other Experts, add to Stephens comment, please?

  3. 3

    Oliver: Think of it this way. The goal was for me to very quickly get the essence of what a company does (there were some I did not know). So many vendors, so little time.

    My assumption was that if you are standing at a booth trying to convince the 560 people who attended the emetrics summit (or any other conference) that they should do business with you then you should be able to clearly articulate the answers to these extremely simple questions.

    Company experts are not everywhere representing the company and hence companies should make sure that the people who stand in booths or in front of new customers can atleast parrot what the experts might say. To me (and the other 560 delegates) the person we speak with is "the vendor".

    Maybe it is time to bring back the Japanese early morning drills where each company employee has to stand up and in unison we all sing the company song! Three times a day. Every day. Even on weekends!!! :) :)

    I second your suggestions, if there are any vendor experts reading this blog please feel free to provide your "expert answers". :)

    Thanks so much for your comment.

    -Avinash.
    PS: I will admit that if I were standing at the Clicktracks booth I would not ask Dr. Turner these two questions, he is way too smart!

  4. 4
    Doug Hansen says:

    Empowering Business Optimization…

    It's a great question, Avinash, and one that is a fundamental starting point to everyone considering upgrading their analytics tools.

    Another fundamental question is, "what purpose does my website serve in contributing to the success of my business?"

    That question, along with another, "Who in my organization has a stake in my online business succeeding?"

    Omniture's tools are designed for those who would answer that their web site is crucial to the success of their business and that many (especially non-technical) members of their organization hold a major stake in its ongoing success.

    Those questions are characteristic of today's e-business environment and its culture of meritocracy and vested, highly motivated employees.

    Similarly, Omniture has developed its tools to be peerless in getting data quickly, directly and easily into the hands of all of the business stakeholders who use this crucial data daily, even hourly to drive the success of the companies they work for.

    That is why Jupiter named Omniture as the analytics leader in involving the greatest number of business roles in successfully using web marketing and online performance data.

    With Omniture, for instance, a CEO or VP of Marketing can monitor just 5-6 dashboards that are key to their online business to stay in touch and in control. A web developer can drill down into page-by-page internal placement performance using the industry's only dynamic self-updating and content-caching overlay report, ClickMap (R).

    Only with Omniture, can offline marketers easily upload disparate brick and mortar or direct postal mail data into realtime web reports and track the efficacy of their campaigns to the online business.

    No company but Omniture offers the full depth and array of complex rules-based segmentation analysis delivered in a highly accessible intuitive interface to the largest number of business users in an organization.

    Thanks you,

    -=Doug Hansen

    OMNITURE

  5. 5

    Good one Avinash.

    Would like to add answers for European Vendor WebtraffIQ

    Unique: We are industry leaders not followers; we have developed quite few industry firsts…

    1.)First page tagging system 1995 and used by NASA
    2.)First SMS alerts
    3.)First Fraud application in conjunction with http://www.iwf.org.uk
    4.)First terrestrial Television and Radio directed to Internet campaign with Halifax
    5.)More to come

    Feature: Brand Tracking and Vendor Agnostic consulting

  6. 6

    Great post, Avinash. Kudos to vendors who can say what's unique about them in under 30 seconds. As for Omniture, if I were them I'd cut the B.S. and say "We're public, we market, sell and implement our commodity solution better than anyone else, and are certain to be a long-term player in the space."

    Here's Efficient Frontier's U.V.P.:

    "We're the only firm applying portfolio trading applications from Wall St to the optimization of large paid search campaigns. This unique math approach coupled with the experience gained from managing more paid search spend than any firm on the planet gives our advertiser clients better returns from and control over search marketing than can be had elsewhere."

  7. 7

    Nice post. Here's a quick clickdenisty response:

    Unique Solution: Integrated Usability and Analytics platform, with 'enterprise' functionality available at an affordable pricing model. Unique data visualization, too…

    Unique Feature: Hmmm… which one to pick? Probably the integrated A/B Testing suite.

  8. 8
    Steve Jones says:

    It's unfortunate that certain vendors feel that they are the 'only' vendor to be able to offer a specific type of functionality. It shows true lack of knowledge of their competitors' solutions and clients see right through this.

  9. 9
    Steve says:

    Evil Avinash. Pure Evil. :-)

    I have found it fascinating how all the answers seem to focus around what the vendors can technically do in their tools. None have taken the position of being unique by being a great partner to "your" organisation.

    I wouldn't be as blunt as Chris, but the reply referenced did read a lot like a "Yes Minister" episode with Sir Humphrey in full flood.

    And agree with Steve. Amazing how many have the same unique functionality.

    Very evil. :-)
    – Steve

  10. 10

    Steve: I have to stress that this effort was purely to understand what each tool can do and how well they can articulate what they can do. In my professional life I use three of the above vendors. Another four of them are actually used on this blog to measure various things. So atleast half of the bunch above are friends of this blog.

    I know you are kidding but no "evil" involved.

    I'll agree with Dr. Turner and Mr. Schiffers above that it is, at best, a "interesting experiment".

    Thanks as always for your feedback.

    -Avinash.

  11. 11
    Jethro says:

    Interesting post Avinash! Tnx.

  12. 12

    It makes me sad. You'd think that the vendors would send their best pre-sales to such an event, wouldn't you?

    Imagine how the level tickels down to other far less specific events, where so much misinformation is actually given that we all spend so much time getting the facts straight again!

    The vendors have a responsibility and they should take it more seriously as their lack in training internal people is actually one of the reasons, in my eyes, of why the evolution of Web Analytics is so slow.

    During the WAA training day, prior to the eMetrics summit, I talked to several WA tools users. Amongst the discussions I had, at least 3 were switching vendors! and we are talking about from Omniture to WSS or vice-versa, to Coremtrics, etc. Not the smallest of players on the field and change between vendors is not that easy, due to the lack of standardisation.

    As long as vendors keep on focussing on selling licenses – which they can as the market is still relatively unsaturated – this issue will not disappear overnight.

    Ideally, they should also focus their objectives on life time value…

  13. 13
    david hammer says:

    What is unique about us:

    Unique: Outsourcing company with a variety of business services that is useful to a company

    Feature: Low cost solutions

    We also have a business blog where we provide tips to bring in more repeat business. It is at http://www.globalintegra.com/blog

    [EDIT: Avinash: David's company is Integra Global Solutions Corp and they provide bookkeeping, medical transcription and business outsourcing services.]

  14. 14

    Avinash,

    I’d like to respond on behalf of Coremetrics. Firs of all, I’m sorry we missed you at eMetrics. We had great traffic at our booth and were really thrilled with the conference. And, by the way, Jane Paolucci our VP of Marketing, mentioned to me that she thoroughly enjoyed your session on “Creating a Data Driven Web Decision Making Culture.”

    Unique: Coremetrics high-touch approach to working with clients ensures they derive value. We assign an account team that creates an agenda of activities (e.g. custom data pulls, ad hoc workshops) that map to the client’s business goals. The account team then works with that client over time to ensure they are understanding and acting on the data.

    Unique feature: Coremetrics offers the industry's only platform built from the ground up to capture and store all online customer and visitor click stream activity in a comprehensive LIVE (Lifetime Individual Visitor Experience) Profile. Because the data warehouse is native to our solution we allow for more flexible visitor-level segmentation and analysis and our clients are able to precisely target key visitor groups with highly relevant content and offers.

    As you probably are aware, your colleagues at Quicken Loans use Coremetrics. We just launched a new release and have added new functionality that you may not be familiar with. We’d love the opportunity to update you on the current Coremetrics solution.

    Thanks!

    Elizabeth

  15. 15
    Matt Bailey says:

    Excellent experiment, Avinash!

    Having been on both sides of the aisle, I am very aware of the problems that each side has in communicating. From a vendor standpoint, I was equally struck by the ignorance of other competing vendors and their abilities. There also seemed to be a lack of actual real world application to many of the responses.

    From a buyer standpoint, it always makes me laugh when I hear words that do not mean anything other than creating fluffy-sounding PR spin. Can we please just say what the product does? Give real world explanations and not some lofty ethereal aspirations to greatness. Save the promotional language and the “we’re the best!” cheerleading for the brochures – I’m not buying that – I’m looking for something that will make MY life easier.

    Another aspect to that is to find out whom you are talking to and what they need – Obviously, that was not part of the exchange, but many of the responses would make any decision maker's eyes glaze over . . .

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  2. [...] If you are into web analytics, but haven't visited Avinash's website, I highly recommend it. Take a look at this post where he challenges analytic providers to tell him what makes them unique (turns out most of them say the same thing). [...]

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