My Friend John

two A story today, a personal one, and a public thank you.

My friend John Marshall called me in the morning to tell me that he was leaving his job. He is (now was) the CEO of ClickTracks. A couple of questions came to my mind but mostly it brought back a rush of memories.

I had been a "web analytics manager" (in reality it was just me and Michelle and Excel) for a few months when my manager, Blaire Hansen, suggested that I should perhaps attend a conference in San Francisco that had a session on Web Analytics by a "famous guy". I had been in my job for just a few months when attended one day of the Nielsen Norman Group Usability Week 2003 (May 12 -16).

The "famous guy" turned out to be Jim Sterne, who at the end of his talk invited me attend this second edition of his Emetrics summit. That turned out to be a life changing experience. I have spoken at six Emetrics summits in the US and London, and if Jim will have me then I'll be honored to speak at many more. I owe Jim tons for his invitation that fateful day in May 2003 and since then for his generous support.

nng badge avinash

On that same day in May 2003 I was walking around the tiny exhibits area trying my best not to engage in eye contact and just pick up all the vendor literature (you see I am not too fond of over eager booth sales). This kind looking person standing in front of the table (not behind it) asked if he could answer a few questions. He did not try to sell me anything, he just answered my questions about log file parsing (yes that's what we were using at that time!).

I still remember the ClickTracks brochure said something like "you can install and be up and processing your data in less time it would take you to make a cup of coffee". You can see how that would be appealing to a guy like me in a corner of the company trying to make things happen fast.

I was so impressed with the non-sales sales that I invited him later to come visit me at Intuit, we bought ClickTracks to process the logs. It would be another year or so until we would buy the ClickTracks JDC version to move all our sites to a tag based solution that ran in-house.

the blue manOver the years I have had the opportunity to work closely with John and, along with Dr. Stephen Turner, he has had a big impact on my thinking and approach to Web Analytics. My love for segmentation ("any
combination of date+time / URLs / URL parameters / referrer / host / cookies"
), instant reprocessing, being able to explore data, believe that analysis is our God given right and not reporting, the power of segmented site overlay and more.

I had skipped the web analytics books (trust me the irony of that statement does not escape me), sadly not being the textbook type (though I am a voracious reader). My education was working on problems in real life, trying different solutions, taking risks, not getting boxed in, and consuming every word on the web analytics yahoo forum and the emetrics summits.

But a ton of my education was learning from John's perspective on analytics and collaborating with him to make tiny contributions to making ClickTracks better to solve business problems. I was always impressed at how often, and fast, things would get built. I fondly remember our visits to Santa Cruz when Dr. Turner was over, arguing about features or approaches or pushing the envelope.

It was a lot of fun.

One fateful day in May 2003 that had a huge impact on my professional life and its direction.

I think ClickTracks will miss John (though it is in capable hands at J. L. Halsey Group), I am going to miss John at ClickTracks, I am going to miss having him on stage at the Vendor Variety Hour (where he could be counted on for unvarnished truth), I am going to miss the conversations about clicktracks features.

But at the same time John has come exciting plans for his next steps. First up is a much deserved two weeks away from email and web analytics.

We say good bye to jmarshall at clicktracks dot com and say hello to johnmhome at yahoo dot com, looking forward to hopefully some exciting new collaborations.

Thanks for everything my friend. Thus far!

[If you care for some witty banter between John, myself and three hundred other folks, then check out the archived version of this webinar: Unleash The Power of Web Analytics.]


  1. 1

    Wow, that's big news. John Marshall is synonymous with ClickTracks to me. It's not long since I interviewed him:

    It will be interesting to hear what he's up to.

    I enjoyed reading your story of how some things came to be.

  2. 2
    Tim Leighton-Boyce says

    I bet you'll hear loads of similar stories. Here's mine.

    I was at the London Emetrics, wandering around also trying to avoid eye-contact with vendors. In my case this was because I thought I would be wasting their time as I wasn't in the market for a new system (the irony is that within weeks I find that I am). Meanwhile every delegate I spoke to seemed to be from some big multi-national, while the mail-order sites I work on typically see about 10,000 visits a day when things are going well. I was starting to feel like a fish out of water.

    There I was, waiting in the line for lunch, beginning to wonder whether I was really in a relevant place, when John came up and introduced himself. I'm a Clicktracks user and had attended some of his online seminars, but I don't think we'd even exchanged emails directly at this point. So maybe he just spotted the name badge. Or perhaps you, Avinash, had pointed him in my direction?

    Anyway, John sat me down and spent his lunchtime chatting with me about analytics in general. He grinned at the message on my 'Making Customer Experience Count' card and pointed it out to Jim Sterne. I was the one who brought the conversation round to Clicktracks by asking about the general line of development in the future. This was not just some vendor spiel opportunity. I learnt a lot and meeting John was one of the major plus points of the conference for me. It's always fascinating to talk to someone who knows their stuff and is prepared to share in an open and generous way.

    And, talking of generous, he also split the bill with you for that rather large gathering on the final day of the conference, of course.

    All in all, a very good bloke. I hope that he's sticking around the industry, even if not as part of Clicktracks, and I certainly wish him well whatever he does next.

  3. 3

    A sad day indeed. In the hope that John is fine and there are new challenges ahead for this fine gentelman of Web Analytics.

    On our side, I know René has been bothering me for ever with his "anything by anything" report, ever since his first conversation with John.
    He has helped raise the bar in terms of what is possible or should be possible through the use of less cost effective vendors.

    Also note that except for Dennis from Indextools, John is/was the only vendor actually paying attention during the Emetrics summits. One couldn't state enough what you can learn at these great gatherings!

    In any case, all the best to you John, don't become a stranger and take good care!

  4. 4


    I will be damned! John is the without doubt the most friendly person in the industry. However; I am most sure we will see him again in another venture …, and John, if you do another start-up – make sure to add us to your initial “calling list”! :-)


    Thanks Aurelie! :-)

    Dennis R. Mortensen, COO at IndexTools
    My Web Analytics Blog

  5. 5

    I met John in January, 2003 at the Great Bear coffee shop in Los Gatos. He had called me to introduce himself and when I emailed my "nice to meet you on the phone, how about in person?" he replied:

    > We can meet in a seedy donut shop, and armed
    > with laptop I'll pitch you without mercy.

    Which, of course, he did not.

    Coffee and a donut took about three hours and only 10 minutes of that was a demo. The rest was pure, shared enthusiasm for an industry that was pretty much Enterprise Only and John had an idea about how to change that.

    Since then, I too have been charmed, delighted, informed, inspired and generally impressed by Mr. Marshall.

    Will he be missed? I don't plan on allowing that to happen. Some people are too good to lose track of. John – consider yourself cookied.

  6. 6

    No more John at Clicktracks? But Clicktracks IS John! Sad news Avinash. Well, good luck. I hope now Mr. Marshall has some time for a holiday in Venice :)

  7. 7

    I can only agree with Jim – John can't be allowed to disappear too easily!

    Like many, since I first met John in Santa Barbara in 2003, I have been impressed by his friendly manner, enthusiasm, knowledge and sense of humour. His unique perspective on our industry is always refreshing as evidenced by the chat we had when we last caught up in London.


  8. 8

    Like Miriam, John is ClickTracks to me. John and ClickTracks make web analytics approachable and the difference between "reporting" and "analyzing" crystal clear.

    And it looks like John was on tour in 2003 (with Jim Sterne). I first met John (and Jim) at the Nielsen Norman Group event in New York in March 2003. Unlike Avinash, I didn't save my name tag :) However, since then I've seen and shown "Bob's Fruitsite" many times.

    John – all the best and I look forward to learning more about your new ventures.


  9. 9
    Johnson Charles says

    I can only agree with Jim – John can't be allowed to disappear too easily!

    Like many, since I first met John in Santa Barbara in 2003, I have been impressed by his friendly manner, enthusiasm, knowledge and sense of humour. His unique perspective on our industry is always refreshing as evidenced by the chat we had when we last caught up in London.


  1. […] John Marshall, founder and CEO of Clicktracks is leaving the company. I learned this today from the Occam's Razor blog written by Avinash Kaushik. I must admit that I was a bit shocked to see the news.

    I began my own, so far, brief journey into the world of web analytics because of a blog post written by Rand Fishkin offering a Free Link bait Idea. This post by Rand resulted in our launching a major web analytics survey, and culminated in our 2007 Web Analytics Shootout Interim Report.

    Very early in that journey, I found myself at SES Chicago, and I walked up to the booth at Clicktracks. Standing out in front of the booth was a tall man wearing a suit. Shortly I found myself discussing web analytics with him, and he was incredibly open and friendly. The man, of course, was John Marshall, CEO of Clicktracks. […]

  2. […] I had to do a double-take when I read Avinash Kaushik's blog this morning. According to Avinash, John has a few exciting plans on the road ahead of him. My mind is flooded with thoughts about the relationship that I’ve enjoyed with John and ClickTracks. Honestly, I owe most of my web analytics beginnings to ClickTracks. To me, John has been a vital feature that was built into the tool. The odds are that if you’ve ever met John, you’ve been infected by his contagious enthusiam for web analytics and his software. […]

  3. […] I did learn recently however that John Marshall is leaving his post as CEO of ClickTracks. I've had the pleasure of speaking to John several times in the past few years. First as a customer, then as an author, and he has always struck me as one of the most intelligent and insightful persons in this complex analytics industry. I believe that he was largely responsible for the success of ClickTracks and I always looked forward to each release as I knew it would contain many improvements that pushed the analytics bar even further. […]

  4. CMS Watch Trends and Features says:

    ClickTracks CEO moving on…

    With little fanfare, ClickTracks' CEO John Marshall is leaving his post to pursue other opportunities. This perhaps isn't too surprising considering that ClickTracks was purchased in August by e-marketing roll-up company, J.L. Halsey. Marshall founded ClickTracks with Stephen Turner in 2000 and focused on analytics for the SMB market. In my research for The Web Analytics Report and subsequent chats, I found Marshall to be the most accessible web analytics vendor CEO in the market; someone who didn't mind explaining the finer points about ClickTracks data processing, storage, and query model — as well as web analytics issues in general. He didn't just talk about product usability; he tried to guide the company to focus on user experience as a critical part of its feature set. This led to the development of a highly graphical interface and a well regarded visitor segmentation capability…….

  5. […] There was some surprise and discussion, and borderline witty banter, when I left ClickTracks. Perhaps some people thought that I was gone forever, never to share a Heineken at a trade show again. Well, you're not getting out of it that easily. Now that I no longer work for a vendor, I am free to pontificate, opine and rant at will. I will be developing the curriculum within Market Motive, and helping subscribers squeeze the maximum optimization out of their marketing. That means you'll be hearing plenty from me. […]

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