On December 20, 1981, Doug Smail of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets set the record for the fastest goal from the start of a game – five seconds. His hockey team went on to beat the St. Louis Blues 5-4. If you take a moment to look at your watch and count out five seconds, you realize how fast that goal was. The St. Louis goalie probably still had the Canadian national anthem ringing in his ears. Smail’s quick goal would have energized the entire Jets bench and caused an early momentum shift in their favor.

Just like in ice hockey, it is also important to score early – and often – in web analytics by delivering quick wins to the organization. When choosing a new web analytics solution, most companies go through a thorough business requirements gathering process involving various key stakeholders and then an equally long evaluation process to select the right vendor. After deciding upon SiteCatalyst, Insight, Test&Target, or other products from Omniture’s Online Marketing Suite, many people who were involved in the aforementioned process will be eagerly awaiting the anticipated improvements to their websites and online marketing efforts. In other words, many eyes will be watching to see what happens. While they may be initially patient, their excitement will start to wane if they fail to see tangible value from the new solution after a reasonable period of time and their initial enthusiasm will quickly turn into disappointment, resentment, or apathy.

Time to Value

Marketers and start-ups are familiar with the term time to market. How quickly can we convert an idea or concept into an actual product sitting on a store shelf? In web analytics, time to value is an equally important phrase as it underpins the need for quick wins. How quickly can we convert insights from web data into valuable enhancements to our online business? Individually, quick wins may not encompass the full value that will be received from web analytics, but they will help to build credibility within the organization and demonstrate a positive return on investment to senior executives. Tony Bradshaw and his analytics team at Daveramsey.com have been able to string together a series of quick wins that have resulted in 589% ROI. As Yosemite Sam would say, quick wins prove “there’s gold in them thar hills!”

What is a quick win?

Let me start with what quick wins are not. Although reporting and dashboards are important milestones in terms of getting web analytics in place, they are not quick wins. They may initially feel like quick wins as data-starved teams may celebrate when they receive a new customized report or dashboard. This reporting may be the first visible output to the organization after deciding to go with Omniture. However, the celebration is usually short-lived and forgotten when they realize they need more than just reporting.

Insights gained from a deep-dive analysis may also feel like quick wins, especially when they’re warmly received and devoured by various internal teams. But they’re not quick wins . . . not quite yet. The only lasting and meaningful quick wins are analysis insights or recommendations that are acted upon and result in a positive return for the company. For example, you may have identified a problem with your checkout process that when fixed increases your conversion rate and revenue per visit, resulting in $150k in additional annual revenue. This is a quick win. In summary, quick wins are not data, reporting, or analysis – but data-driven action that creates a positive return.

Quick wins build data-driven momentum

For companies that are striving to become more data-driven, quick wins play a key role in strengthening or changing their internal culture. Quick wins turn into success stories that build momentum for organizations to become more data-driven. In their groundbreaking book “Made to Stick“, authors Chip and Dan Heath illustrate how stories are one of the most effective ways to make ideas sticky (ideas such as being more data-driven). They highlight how stories provide simulation (knowledge about how to act) and inspiration (motivation to act). Quick win stories fuel enterprise-wide education efforts as they create curiosity and interest in web analytics across the business.

Web analytics teams often feel understaffed (“if only we had another analyst”) and underequipped (“if only we had Discover or Test&Target“). For web analytics teams, quick wins feed team growth and the addition of extra tools. As the organization sees tangible value from its web analytics investment, it will want to invest in more web analytics staff and tools. Working with different clients as a consultant, I’ve seen several successful web analytics teams build momentum, grow their teams, and leverage multiple products along the way. I’ve also seen stagnant web analysts, who are probably still churning out the same SiteCatalyst reports they were three years ago.

Another key benefit of quick wins is that they buy time for web analysts to focus on larger, more time-intensive “high-value” projects. If a new director came along and said they wanted four years and a $300 million production budget to produce a 3D sci-fi blockbuster, most studios would show this audacious director the door. However, James Cameron had a few wins under his belt (e.g., Terminator, Aliens, Titanic) when he made the same request to 20th Century Fox in 2006.

In the next part of this article, I will focus on how quick wins relate to your implementation and what to do if you haven’t been focusing on quick wins up until now.