#53 A conversation with the one and only Jim Sterne (with Jim Sterne @ Target Marketing)
This week Dan and Dara chat with Jim Sterne and chat about his long and illustrious career in digital. They talk about how the Digital Analytics Association was formed off the back of the Marketing Analytics Summit meetups, how he’s managed to publish 12 books, and what exaclt an analytics cohort is exactly. Be sure to listen to the end to find out why Jim is a “goofy footer from the days of steel wheels”, and what theat even means!
There’s loads of links for this episode, so if in doubt, just head to Jim’s website and everything is linked from there – https://bit.ly/3SI2nGH.
- Analytics Cohorts – https://bit.ly/3C1ipWh.
- Data Driven Leaders Studio – https://bit.ly/3S7RZYz.
- (Book) Artificial Intelligence for Marketing: Practical Applications – https://bit.ly/3Rayuxk.
- (Book) The Devil’s Data Dictionary – https://bit.ly/3xK7WfF.
- (Video) The Day Our Privacy Died – https://bit.ly/3dybjiI (A MUST WATCH!!!).
Marketign Analytics Summit – https://bit.ly/3BX540j.
The Digital Analytics Association – https://bit.ly/3f0OaWu.
- DAA compensation survey 2022 – https://bit.ly/3C2jeOL.
- DAA Competency Framework – https://bit.ly/3UxCF9d.
- DAA OneConference – https://bit.ly/3LyJGTj.
Jim mentioned a great article from Tom Davenport called “Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century” – https://bit.ly/3dy9kuO.
In other news, Dan becomes a skateboard coach, Dara goes to Belfast and Jim writes some birthday poetry!
Follow Measurelab on LinkedIn – https://bit.ly/3Ka513y.
Intro music composed by the amazing Confidential – https://spoti.fi/3JnEdg6.
If you’re like what we’re doing here, please show some support and leave a rating on Apple, Spotify, or wherever really.
Quote of the episode from Jim: “in 2002 we were overwhelmed with data because we had not heard the words ‘big data’ yet”
Quote of the episode from Dan: “finally, there’s someone that’s willingly and able to listen to you and understand it“
Quote of the episode from Dara: “GA4 as a kind of evolution of GA, maybe with a bit of privacy sprinkled on top, maybe not”
[00:00:00] Dara: Hello, and welcome back to The Measure Pod, a podcast for people in the analytics world to talk about all things surprise surprise, analytics. I’m Dara, I’m MD at Measurelab.
[00:00:24] Daniel: And I’m Dan, I’m an analytics consultant and trainer also at Measurelab.
[00:00:27] Dara: We’re also joined this week by none other than Jim Sterne. So Jim firstly, a big welcome to The Measure Pod, thanks for joining us.
[00:00:36] Jim: Thank you very much.
[00:00:37] Dara: So what we always do, Jim, rather than try and do a really bad job of introducing people we hand it over to our guests. So that way you can’t blame me.
[00:00:45] Jim: Well, I will anyway, it’s okay. I’ll find a way. Let’s see the short version that’s actually the most informative is degree in Shakespeare, followed by selling Apple IIe’s out of a retail store to explaining computers to people. Followed by selling business computers to companies that had never owned them before, followed by selling software development tools to enterprise and government, sidestepping into marketing and finding myself unemployed in 1993 when Mosaic came out, and I got 16 kinds of excited and started public speaking and writing books. So 50 countries and 12 books later, some people think I know stuff, but actually what I do is ask a lot of impertinent questions and then write it down.
[00:01:31] Jim: In 2000, I shifted my focus to analytics because I had been propounding my opinion about how ugly people’s websites were and now I could prove it and we could do testing and that just got me all kinds of excited. So that required a new book so Web Metrics came out in 2002, which was the year I started the Marketing Analytics Summit, originally called eMetrics Summit and a year and a half later, the Digital Analytics Association was born of the audience of that conference, and I’ve been doing all of that sort of thing ever since.
[00:02:06] Daniel: Wow, so there’s lots of threads there right, Jim? We were chatting before via email as well, and we were trying to narrow it down and not take a 24 hour podcast. Right off the bat, I think there’s two things there that I find really fascinating and I want to pick your brains a little bit if I can. And the first thing is about Marketing Analytics Summit. It’s it’s something that I’ve not been able to attend, it’s not been UK-side or where we are based, but it’s something that I find very fascinating, super relevant to the kind of work that me, Dara, and the rest of Measurelab do in the marketing analytics world. We’ve talked to a couple of people that have started conferences and different talks in the analytics space on this podcast already. I’d love to get your sense of your story, of how that came about, why did you decide to start a meetup for marketing analytics people, and I suppose a bit about the evolution because it’s kind of grown and grown from strength to strength.
[00:02:47] Jim: Let’s see, in the late 1990s I acquired consulting clients through public speaking. I spoke at internet world conferences around the world and when that conference got sold to a new owner and that owner drove it into the ground, I needed a new way of finding clients and I thought, well, I’ll just do my own conference. Online marketing in the year 2000 was all the rage, it was the boom time and there were just way too many competitors. In the meantime, I had connected up with a guy named Matt Cutler who was the founder of NetGenesis, one of the original web analytics companies. And I connected with him because he was one of the best speakers at Internet World around the world and we kept going to each other’s presentations, even though we had seen them before a month earlier in some other country. So over dinner in Sydney, Australia he and I said, well, we need to find a way to work together, this will be interesting. He said well first of all come and give a keynote at our user group meeting and talk about what you think about analytics, and then let’s write a white paper.
[00:03:51] Jim: We interviewed 25 companies and said, what are you doing with web analytics? This was 2000 and they all said, we’re overwhelmed with data, we have no idea what it means, we don’t know what we’re doing, we don’t know how to parse it. So we wrote this white paper that was 5 pages of survey results and 60 pages of what you could and should be doing if you had the proper data. Fast forward another two years, I interviewed another 25 companies and got some actual answers on what they were actually doing and that became a book. So when it was time to, oh, I need to create a conference to get new clients. Oh, here’s a topic that’s narrow enough that nobody’s done it yet, so that’s been my kind of stock and trade. 1995 I wrote a book about online marketing and 2000 on web analytics, and 5 years ago a book on using artificial intelligence in marketing.
[00:04:39] Jim: So looking over the horizon, finding something that’s about to be interesting and then doubling down on it. So the Marketing Analytics Summit was a chance for me to practise marketing, can I get people to show up in Santa Barbara, California, and we’re going to have it in the spring of 2001. So in order to get clients, I decided to put on my own conference and web analytics was a small enough subject matter. That was a time when nobody wanted to get on aeroplanes because September 11th had just happened, so we pushed it off to June of 2002, which was the first time I did the Marketing Analytics Summit. I attracted 50 people, 30 of whom were vendors, 10 of whom were consultants and 10 of whom were actual people doing the real work. And the instant community that happened was astonishing, we closed the lobby bar every night because these people had not met each other before and they felt each other’s pain and they were dealing with the same problems and nobody in their company knew what they were talking about, and here was a chance for them to have lively arguments about whether log files or tag management was better.
[00:05:45] Jim: Privacy came up even then at the very beginning as an issue, but not one to be worried about because, hey, it’s the United States, we don’t care about that stuff. And we watched the vendors get together and start partnering and cross licensing. We watched the consultants get together and start buying each other. And as years went on, more and more practitioners showed up who are the actual audience, the people we want to hear from, that’s the short version.
[00:06:11] Dara: And how has it evolved over the time since then, Jim? What’s changed since the first one in 2002?
[00:06:16] Jim: It started out as a technical conference and it was about web analytics in particular. And then as the vendors started doing their own events, I mean the Adobe Summit, right. We moved more towards management and strategy and the people and process side and less on the technology side. And broadened the subject matter from web analytics to everything else we were responsible for. Email, search, social, media mix modelling. It’s marketing analytics including some nonprofit people saying, hey, we want to know about measuring public relations and we want to know about not just eCommerce funnels, but how do we build relationships and how do we tie CRM into these, and to take the data and operationalise it. So it’s gone up the stack as far as away from the technology and more toward the management, and it’s broadened to across more of the marketing analytics landscape.
[00:07:14] Daniel: It’s really interesting a couple of things you said there around starting to talk about privacy, what should we be doing, not just can we do something. But also a lot of the stuff you were talking about, a lot of people not knowing what to do with the data, or they’re overwhelmed with a sense of volume of data, even back then in the early days of the kind of analytics industry, I suppose, or at least the commercialisation of it. You could have changed the year and said that was this year, and the conversations we’re still having now is that people are still being overwhelmed with data. People are still talking about privacy, but obviously the context is different and the time is different. Do you think that the industry has moved on and progressed and that we are having better and deeper conversations about more important things? Or do you actually think that maybe there’s something else there at play, which is that the conversation or the language you’re using is evolving, but we’re not really changing the tone of the conversation. I’d love to get your views on how we’ve as an industry progressed over the last 20 years, even though we’re talking about near enough the same goddamn thing.
[00:08:04] Jim: Significant changes, and then some things are perennial problems that we cannot figure out. So the big changes are, in 2002 we were overwhelmed with data because we had not heard the words big data yet. It was kind of the advent of the internet that really the volume of data swelled to such a degree. So it really was overwhelming to have more data than when fitting in an Excel spreadsheet was beyond reason, and so we’ve certainly become accustomed to that. We also have new recognition from on high, back at the turn of the century, we had a chief technical officer who was responsible, like a facilities manager, you know, keep the lights on, keep the plumbing working, keep the computers updated to the latest version of the operating system.
[00:08:51] Jim: We did not have chief information officers, we did not have chief analytics officers. And now that we do, we have these distinct roles. These people are responsible for the tech, these people are responsible for the data, these people are responsible for the insights and getting business value out of the pipeline. Those conversations were never, never ever happened at the C-suite, today they do. Today it is a matter of data is an asset, we know that we have to invest in data quality, we know we have to invest in security and privacy. We know that we have to invest in people who, well, it takes a village. Back in the mid 1990s, we had a webmaster, right? One of my favourite stories was the webmaster, the webmaster at Hewlett Packard who answered every email that came into email@example.com and it took an hour a day, right? That was then and as we know today, analytics, it takes about 10 different specialties to run analytics in a decent way. Somebody has to be responsible for collections, somebody’s responsible for cleaning, we’ve got data stewards responsible for different data streams. We need people who are really good at data science, we need people who are really good at interpreting data for business purpose. We need people who are good at communicating insights to the business side.
[00:10:12] Jim: These are all skills that never anymore fit inside one human body, one human brain. So it literally takes a village, which is why analytics agencies have become so necessary. If you are an enterprise company, you need 10 people to run your analytics for each brand, for each campaign, or you go out to an agency that does it for a living and knows how.
[00:10:39] Daniel: So Jim, you mentioned that the DAA spun out of an audience at the Marketing Analytics Summit. I mean, knowing where the DAA is now, how the hell does that happen? How does something like the DAA spin out of a bunch of people at a lobby bar?
[00:10:53] Jim: Getting together at a conference once a year was insufficient and the biggest problem that everybody had at day one, which continues, is how do we train people to do this work? Where do we find more employees? We are shorthanded, and of course that has only gotten worse. How are we going to train people? Well, the vendors will teach you how to use the tools, yeah that’s not enough. We need to know the strategy, we need to know how to build a framework. We need to know how to build a team, we need to know how to translate data into business value. And that’s not what buttons to push, that is people and process. People, process and politics.
[00:11:32] Jim: So it was in one of the round table discussions that somebody said, hey, wouldn’t it be a good idea? And so the next day at the next round table discussion, was throw a bunch of yellow stickies out on the table and say alright, if we were going to form an organisation, a nonprofit trade association, how would it be structured? What would it do? What value would it provide? And those yellow stickies went up on the wall and several of us raised our hands and said we would be interested in following up. And about a month later, I got a phone call from Brian Eisenberg and Andrew Edwards saying, we’re going to start this thing and you need to be with us to do it. So I’m actually member number three, but over time I stuck with it. Brian was our first chairman of the board and treasurer and we rallied the troops, we drummed up volunteers. The Digital Analytics Association is membership driven and volunteer powered.
[00:12:34] Dara: And Jim, going back to a point you made earlier about analytics now involving so many different people, rather than it just being all inside one brain, how has the DAA kind of evolved over that time period with the change in the landscape now, I guess maybe another way to put that is like, what’s the focus now compared to maybe what it was in the earlier days.
[00:12:54] Jim: The focus has stayed the same, it is around building community and providing professional development. So community is events, and yes, in the last few years that’s been pretty much online, what a shame. But, you know, in 2023, the DAA one conference is going to reappear in person, so we’ll be able to gather again. The professional development side is training, education, group discussions, a variety of initiatives. So there’s a group that’s interested in privacy, there’s a group that’s interested in diversity, there’s a group that’s interested in anti-racism, there’s a group that’s interested in growing management skills. We have done the things that only a trade association can do. So for instance, the salary survey, the compensation study, how much do analysts earn in what parts of the country and the world.
[00:13:47] Jim: We have done the second version of our competency framework, which I had never heard of, I had no idea what that was. We hired an econometrician who walked us through the process of tell us what does a digital analyst do for a living? What tasks are done? And for each task, what skills are needed and what knowledge is required? And at what level of seniority are you responsible for which tasks? So there is this document that outlines all of those things and we shocked ourselves with the diversity of knowledge and skills that are required to bring it all together and make it work.
[00:14:24] Daniel: That’s really fascinating. I’m really excited about all the avenues and the stuff around diversity and inclusion that they’re focusing on, I think is, you know, very, very important in our industry.
[00:14:33] Jim: We kind of walk the walk if you will, if you look at who’s on the board of directors. Like, yeah, we’re working hard on that. I do have to point out one stone in our shoe of late has been our efforts on privacy where, because we’re volunteer powered, our website is not the latest and greatest and most fancy and a couple of people whose names won’t be mentioned out loud have pointed out how bad the DAA has been at walking the talk when it comes to online privacy, we have a policy posted, but the technology that we have oh, there’s lots of leakage. So there’s been a great deal of attention put into, okay, we need to up our game here. We know this is important, we tell everybody, we try to teach everybody, but we’re not doing it, oops. So there’s a very talented handful of people that are working very hard on that as we speak.
[00:15:25] Dara: On privacy in general, what’s your kind of high level thoughts on the privacy challenges that the industry’s facing at the moment?
[00:15:32] Jim: The biggest challenge that we’re facing is legal restrictions and the fact that governments are coming after companies. Now if I’m a 10 million dollar company selling widgets, do I need to worry about that? Probably not, nobody’s coming after me, but that’s the legal side. Then there’s the ethical side, which is a whole nother story. That’s sort of where I just draw the line and say, it’s all about consent and if I can convince you to share personally identifiable information with me in a fair exchange of perceived value, we’re fine. Let’s go back to 1995 when Amazon said, Jim, we want your email address and we want to know who your favourite authors are. Like why, so you can spam me, like no. So that when your favourite author is about to come out with a new book, we will let you know, you’ll be the first one on your block to know about it and we’ll give you a discount for pre-purchase. Well, I’m going to buy their books anyway, so yes give me a discount for pre-purchase, that’s a service, I’ll be happy to share that data with you.
[00:16:31] Jim: The same time I got a message from my bank that said, answer a few questions and we’ve got this great newsletter for you. The questions were, what is your household income? What is your level of education? How big is your mortgage? What are your retirement plans? How big is your pension? In exchange we’ll send you an email once a month telling you about all the services that you could purchase from us. No, that does not pass the smell test. So it is a matter of convincing people to exchange data for value, that is the marketer’s job from now on.
[00:17:05] Daniel: It’s really interesting how that’s still a thing that marketers and people in the digital world just haven’t really got the hang off or realised that it’s something they should be doing yet. I mean, look at supermarkets with loyalty cards or fashion retail specifically that have loyalty cards. And, you know, you go into a supermarket anywhere in the world and you would probably be able to get discount on your purchase by using a loyalty card. And just to put that into context or reframing that, the data of your purchase behaviour is worth more to them than the money they’re giving you back on the products and that is crazy, that’s a lot of money. And what they’re making out of the data is tenfold on the savings that they’re passing on to you. And I think this is something that is so obvious when you say it in a context like supermarkets and loyalty cards, but you go onto a website and it’s like opt into everything, sign up to everything so I can continue doing some kind of quite personal and intrusive marketing that I always used to do. And it’s actually more about a reluctance to change more so than anything else it’s like, I want to keep doing what I’ve always done because I’m scared of change, I’ve always found it very fascinating and a bit of an odd one that the digital world hasn’t come round to this idea that it can be an exchange of value rather than let us do everything without any value back, it’s always been an odd one.
[00:18:11] Jim: I think there’s a large piece here that is transparency. So I know that my grocery store that includes a pharmacy, they know how much alcohol I consume, they know how many condoms I buy, they know how many prescription drugs I purchase, this is not information I want my mother to have. And yet I’m perfectly okay in the store because I get $2 off at the till, isn’t that great. But I go online and, oh, it’s spooky. I don’t know what you’re collecting and sure enough, it actually is spooky. I mean, it is to the point of being dangerous, that if all of that data that is so easily collected about me online is repurposed by bad actors. Well, I think we call that Cambridge Analytica.
[00:18:55] Dara: I think your typical web user as well, maybe we fall into this category as well, but when you go on a website now and you see a cookie banner. You’re either going to be one of those people who just clicks accept because you fall into that, I don’t have anything to hide, so I don’t care category, or you’re maybe in the slightly more cynical well, I’ll just reject them because I’m not going to take the time to read, dig into the terms and conditions and find out exactly what they’re using these cookies for, so I’ll just reject them.
[00:19:20] Daniel: How do you do informed consent though? Because you saying there’s the two, you’re saying the two camps, but there’s the other person that falls into the first camp, which is people that don’t understand. And they feel like they might have an interpretation that means they need to accept something to access the products that you are fulfilling or information that you are providing, even if it’s stupid click bait articles, you know, there’s an element of like, I have to accept to get entry, whereas that’s not technically the case and maybe we know that, but they fall in the first camp of blanket accepting too. There’s a whole industry that’s ballooned out of consent management, which is consent rate optimisation, which is like a whole new world of like, kind of like now you are playing a game of increasing the consent rate so that you can do this other thing it’s such a weird way of thinking about things.
[00:19:58] Dara: Switching tack slightly, so we talk a lot on this podcast about GA4, because that’s what we do. So have you got any thoughts on GA4 as a kind of evolution of GA (Google Analytics), maybe with a bit of privacy sprinkled on top, maybe not, but what’s your overall take and from people you’re speaking with, because we’re quite biassed so it would be interesting to get a perspective that’s maybe a little bit less biassed than ours.
[00:20:24] Jim: First of all, you should know that my technical expertise is such that when you did who wants to be an analytics millionaire (episode #50)? I scored two and a half points. I knew GA stood for Google Analytics, and I know what UTM stood for because I knew about them before Google bought them. And then the half point was just a random guess I got right, I don’t even remember what the question was. None of the others was I familiar with, I could not answer them to save my life.
[00:20:50] Dara: Well my audience were a big help to me, to be honest, I had a lot of help along the way.
[00:21:00] Jim: In general, the technical evolution is spot on. We need to move away from page views and sessions and into events, that’s just the nature of the beast. It’s what should have happened all along, the pain is that it requires an entire new implementation. The opportunity for competitors is, hey, if you’re going to have to switch from Universal Analytics to GA4, you might as well look at, fill in the blank. In fact I have heard and I’ve come to believe that using Piwik PRO looks more familiar from a user interface perspective than GA4 does, that’s an intention by design. But you know, their underlying statement is, gosh, we are collecting and allowing you to analyse your data. This is not Google collecting data for the purposes of selling advertising oh, by the way, here’s some reports, that’s a different story. It’s a different animal.
[00:21:55] Jim: Yeah, but it’s free. Well, yeah, it’s free, but you know how much manpower and time and money you’re going to spend implementing it, it’s worth reconsidering. Now, if I am a Google shop and we all are, it’s you know, Google Ads. We are tied into the Google ecosystem so there is incredible value with staying within that realm as long as the recognition is that Google’s plan is that you collect with GA4, you analyse in BigQuery and you report out through Data Studio. If you understand that, great, it’s going to float, it’s going to fly and it’s going to help you do your Google advertising better than anything else, because that’s what it’s designed for. All that said, I expect to become much more educated about all of that in about an hour when I have lunch with Krista Seiden, who is a GA4 goddess by history, she was in on the product team of Firebase back when Google said we need a mobile solution. So she knows this product from the deep inside and I will know a little bit more soon.
[00:23:02] Dara: So maybe you can come on the next who wants to be an analytics millionaire after all then?
[00:23:07] Jim: No, but I will definitely challenge you to put Krista Seiden on that and come up with a question she cannot answer. Good luck.
[00:23:15] Jim: Yeah, we’d have to work pretty hard to come up with some really advanced questions.
[00:23:19] Daniel: Do you know what I had so much fun creating the questions for that, I know it was all for Dara to answer, but coming up with those questions, I didn’t practise run this, obviously I couldn’t. So like going off on the deep end on some of the questions, I’d love to have the challenge, Jim. When you next chat to her, let her know that the site’s set on that.
[00:23:32] Jim: At lunch today, I will pass that invitation along.
[00:23:35] Dara: I bet she would squirm a lot less than I did in the hot seat. Can we talk a bit about your books? I’m still astonished, you said you’ve written and published am I writing in saying 12 books?
[00:23:47] Jim: 12 books, yeah. It used to be a book a year and then I started producing conferences and that kind of slowed down yeah.
[00:23:54] Dara: So do you have, and I appreciate you probably won’t be able to share much about it, but do you have anything in the works at the moment or any areas you’re looking into that might kind of inspire your next textbook?
[00:24:03] Jim: You know, at any given point, if you held a contract to my head and threatened to pull the trigger, I could come up with a topic. For the last few years it’s been web 3.0 about how people are going to own their own data, but that’s been a topic on my mind for 15 years, it has not yet hit the tipping point. It is logical, it’s reasonable, but we haven’t discovered the business use case that allows for profitability that would suggest somebody’s going to invest a great deal of money in making it happen. But we’re not seeing companies jumping on board because it makes sense financially. Next project that I’m working on right now that’s got a lot of my attention is helping CDAIOs, chief data, chief information, and chief analytics officers create an analytics strategy.
[00:24:51] Jim: So in January in Santa Barbara, we’re bringing together people, working with Tom Davenport who wrote competing on analytics. He was the one who wrote the article that the data scientist is the sexiest job of the 21st century. So he and I will be leading a group for a couple of days peer to peer planning on how do you put together a strategy to increase senior level support, to improve data literacy, to get a handle on data governance, and actually put a plan in place, so that could easily end up being a book.
[00:25:23] Daniel: I’ve been looking through the books you’ve written and I’ve stumbled across a gem, that’s The Devil’s Data Dictionary. You have to talk to us about this because it just looks, I mean, it’s the kind of thing that only people like us would get and love and everyone else will be like, what the hell is this book about? But talk to us about that, because this looks fantastic.
[00:25:39] Jim: The Devil’s Data Dictionary. I’ve done a couple of music videos on YouTube. One is, I am the very model of a modern data analyst. The other is the day our privacy died, so every now and then this creative quirk has to have a way to express itself and The Devil’s Data Dictionary was the result that year. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Ambrose Bierce’s devil’s dictionary, which is late 18 hundreds and very funny and very tongue in cheek. There was another book that got me, which was The Notebooks of Lazarus Long, which is the same format as my book, which is where I stole the format and so I thought, well I’ll do a combination of those. And it just got sillier and sillier and yeah, it’s fun. I self-published, it was available on Amazon for a while, but picking, packing and shipping my own book was not fun. I could not get it to be printed on demand because it is actually an art book. I had it illustrated by a wonderful Ukrainian artist living in New York and no print on demand will do that because it requires colour, press checks. Printing in black and white that’s fine, this is not. So Dan, if you will send me your postal address, I’ll be happy to get one into your hands.
[00:26:52] Daniel: For sure, I’m already writing the email. So Jim, I think there’s one other thread that I wanted to pull on and this is something that I found absolutely fascinating. Especially people like me in the job that I do and people like me, but that is something that you started called Analytics Cohorts. I’ll be signing up to that immediately but talk to us a bit about what that is and why it is actually, that’s probably the more important question.
[00:27:13] Jim: Well, the why is easy. I am the kind of person that goes to a conference and am energized. And, you know, I go to a social event with my wife and we come home and I’m bouncing off the walls and she’s exhausted, we’re just different animals. So this idea of let’s go to a conference and have conversations at lunch and in the lobby bar, that’s where the magic happens. During COVID we did virtual events, which are in my mind less than disappointing. I mean, I can just watch YouTube videos, why am I here? What was missing was the casual conversations. So I thought, okay I’ll create them. So the Analytics Cohort is a small group of people, the number five seems to be the perfect number. It is 90 minutes, twice a month for six months and the same people. We talk about what people are working on at the moment, what technical problems they’re having, what personal problems they’re having, both at work and at home, what their big wins have been, what projects are coming up that they’re nervous about, that they want to get feedback from.
[00:28:18] Jim: People who it’s not their boss, they can’t talk to their boss about their fears. It’s not their team, they can’t show weakness in front of the team. It’s peer to peer, it’s fully Chatham House rules. So talk about anything you want, we cannot share who said what or what company they’re from. You can blog forever about what we spoke about, but you can’t identify who it was that said anything. So the conversations are very forthcoming. I’ve had cohorts where, one of the fun ones was three people who had been running their own agencies they all had about 12 or 15 years of experience and a woman who was deciding whether digital analytics was the right industry for her. And so she would listen into what the industry talk and then when it was her turn, she’d say, well I’m wondering about this, this and this and we would just pile on all of our best advice and say, well, I’m going on this interview what should I say? Which of these two tools is best? Or should I learn Python or R? It’s fascinating, it doesn’t matter how much experience people have, the problems and the insights are well, because they’re coming from such left field. I’m putting together this report to the board, I have a deck with a hundred slides. Oh no, we all say don’t show a hundred slides, show 10 slides and have a big appendix for the conversation.
[00:29:37] Jim: And then in the same call, somebody else says I’m putting together an entire framework for how to measure customer experience for a major pharma company across all divisions and here’s what I’ve got so far, and it’s like six slides of these arrows and frameworks and like I’m not sure how I’m doing here. And it’s like, you’re doing great, this is amazing, but oh my god, there’s too much detail, don’t show that to anybody that’s for you to know and them to ask about. And here’s somebody who’s way at the bottom of the stack and somebody up in the stratosphere at a major corporation having the same problem. It’s amazing and then it’s also building the professional network. If you meet for 90 minutes, twice a month for six months, with four other people, you get to know them and then you can have more conversations on LinkedIn and when there’s a job opportunity, it’s like, oh, I know that person, you should interview her and it’s just the highlight of my day.
[00:30:33] Dara: So are you a participant as well as a facilitator? Do you participate in the cohorts themselves or are you more of a kind of overall facilitator for it?
[00:30:42] Jim: I’m a facilitator who doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut. So I’m desperately trying to learn how to be a coach. I’m definitely a teacher and a pontificator and I’m actively learning how to say that’s interesting, what three things do you think might help you, rather than say, oh, here are the three things you need to do, which is my default and I’m struggling with that one.
[00:31:02] Daniel: When you figure that out Jim, let me know because I think we are kindred spirits in that perspective. I’m very much a teacher and I love contributing, and I love talking about stuff. And I think actually what I was going to mention about the cohorts and it’s kind of what I thought, which was, I originally started thinking it’s kind of like peer to peer mentoring, but actually it’s more like peer-based therapy. I talk about this all the time to people at work, I’m sure Dara is sick of me talking about this, but what I talk about is like the stuff we do for a living, no one has any clue about in the real world, right. And so having a peer, someone to talk to about this. I’ve talked to death about this stuff with all my colleagues. I’ve kind of worked through them, I need to find other people and finding other people to go into these conferences is really exciting. I feel really energised from them because you get to talk about the stuff that you know a lot about, you’re interested in and get excited about. And finally, there’s someone that’s willingly and able to listen to you and understand it and I think these cohorts kind of tick all the boxes.
[00:31:51] Daniel: My wife, she still doesn’t really truly know what I do for a living and she explains it when we’re in public or with friends that I have a Chandlers job from friends, you know, like no one really understands what it is, but it’s important enough to do something with. I’m rambling now, Jim, but yeah, so I’m a huge fan of this kind of stuff, and I feel very similar to you, energised talking to people and I’m really excited about it.
[00:32:10] Jim: Well I look forward to you signing up and joining our next analytics cohort, that would be wonderful to have you part of the team. In my world, so my wife is in the legal business and when I go to her social events and people say, what do you do? I help companies measure the success of their website and people go, oh, that’s interesting. So how about that game last night?
[00:32:33] Dara: We’ve all been there so many times.
[00:32:35] Jim: Yeah, I work on the internet. Oh, interesting, okay. Cat videos, huh?
[00:32:41] Dara: Somebody’s got to make them. SEO’s another common one, I have people often saying, oh, so can you help my website like reach high up on Google? I’m thinking it’s not quite the same thing, but maybe.
[00:32:52] Jim: Yes, I can if you have $15,000 we can talk.
[00:32:57] Dara: Okay Jim, it’s been amazing talking to you and I feel like we could carry on, but for now let’s draw a line there, but we’ve got two more questions for you before you’re off the hook. The first one is probably the trickiest one, what do you do outside of work when you’re not evangelising about analytics and technology, what do you like to do to wind down.
[00:33:14] Jim: I’m sorry, outside of work, what is that?
[00:33:17] Dara: I told you it was a difficult question.
[00:33:19] Jim: Well, I’m delighted to say that last week the family got together to celebrate my father’s 95th birthday. And he came up with a, he likes to write poetry. He refers to it as an occasional verse that he writes for occasions and so he wrote a poem about his 90th birthday, to which myself, my sister, my brother and my father’s brother all wrote responses. So we had a bit of a recitation over birthday cake for a 95 year old man, it was absolutely charming. I want to be him when I grow up.
[00:33:50] Daniel: That sounds fascinating.
[00:33:51] Dara: That is amazing, yeah. And 95, it’s so hard to even imagine, it’s incredible.
[00:33:56] Daniel: Let alone writing poetry, right?
[00:33:58] Dara: What about you, Dan? What have you been up to, to switch off from work?
[00:34:01] Daniel: Well I’m going to cheat slightly because at the time of recording it’s happening in two days, but I’ve been working in the last couple of weeks to become a qualified skateboarding coach and the UK governing body Skateboard GB holds these coaching sessions, qualifications, whatever we call it. But I’ve done all the online learning, I’m now qualified to work with children, that’s one thing, that’s a byproduct of all this, but also I’m looking forward to the kind of final element of this and the practical element. So I actually get to go on a skateboard and hang out with a bunch of other people doing the course on Saturday. So as of Saturday, assuming I pass, I hopefully will, I’ll be a fully qualified and insured skateboarding coach.
[00:34:35] Dara: Amazing.
[00:34:36] Jim: What fun.
[00:34:37] Daniel: Yeah, looking forward to it.
[00:34:38] Jim: It takes me back, I’m a goofy footer from the days of steel wheels.
[00:34:43] Daniel: Amazing, amazing. How about you Dara what have you been up?
[00:34:46] Dara: So I was in Belfast over the weekend. It was my friend’s 40th birthday, so she’s from just outside Belfast and we made it a long weekend and did a bit of touristy stuff. We went to see the Giants Causeway. I don’t know if either of you have ever seen that, but it’s well worth the visit, and naturally we found our way into a couple of pubs as well while we were there. But all in all a really nice weekend and actually we were reasonably lucky with the weather. We were expecting it to rain solidly, and there was actually a few little bits of sunshine, which was really nice. Final question for you, Jim, where can people find out more about you or get in touch with you if you are happy for people to do so?
[00:35:23] Jim: I am happy for people to do so, I’ve had the same email address for 30 years. So that’s all over the internet, thank god for spam filters. My domain name is targeting.com, that’s you know my personal website. It will connect up with marketinganalyticssummit.com with digitalanalyticsassociation.com with analyticscohorts.com. And currently the new one up is the data driven leaders studio, which is datadriven.studio, and boy that’s me all over.
[00:35:55] Dara: And Dan, what about you?
[00:36:01] Dara: Okay that’s it from us for this week, to hear more from Dan and myself about all analytics related topics, especially around GA4, you can listen to any of our previous episodes on our archive at measurelab.co.uk/podcast or you can just use whatever app you’re listening to this on now to find all the previous episodes.
[00:36:19] Daniel: And if you want to suggest a topic for us to talk about, or a guest we should be speaking to, there’s a Google Form in the show notes, which you can access via our website or via the app you are listening to right now.
[00:36:28] Dara: Our theme is from Confidential, you can find a link to their music in our show notes. I’ve been Dara joined by Dan and Jim. So on behalf of all of us, thanks for listening, see you next time.