Monday, February 23, 2009

Missing Conversion Metrics and Power

It's been a crazy couple of months, now trying to catch up on my posts :-) 

First on BI front, I am working on an email metrics benchmark that we will present this week on Friday exclusively to Responsys customers. What's intriguing is how few companies actually track conversion and actually calculate ROI. One would think that if you were spending any money on "one-to-one" marketing campaigns, wouldn't you at least track how much money you made on the campaign? Few years ago, when we worked with a different email company, the big spiel was about moving on from open rates to clickthrough rates -- but clickthrough rate doesn't tell you the real deal, does it? And it's not that tricky to configure your website to track conversions using pixel-tracking. Am I missing something? Can someone please explain why companies are not doing this? Not just to make my benchmarking project more fun (although that will be nice), but come on people, for your own sakes!

Ok - I'll get off my soapbox.

Secondly, I've picked up a new hobby borderlining on obsession -- this whole whoopla around clean tech. Yes, yes... I know you're going to say, another one jumping on the bandwagon, and maybe I am, but seriously, you have to admit that there are very few things as important for this world than finding, and (more importantly) scaling clean, renewable sources of energy.

Earlier this month, I was in Nepal for a week doing some training at our offshore software development company Codemandu (and also visited family, old friends, and tried some home cuisine -- business with pleasure indeed :-) -- but back to my main point -- the government there has issued a 16-hour daily load-shedding because of power scarcity. That's right, you only get 8 hours of electricity in a day, and even that in two 4-hour chunks. Trust me, you get a whole different perspective on energy conservation when you have that sort of constraint. 

Interestingly, this has led to a huge increase in the sales of inverter and battery-based backup systems. Everyone who can afford one, has bought an inverter and a battery. At Codemandu offices, they have enough inverters and batteries to make sure all computer systems can run uninterrupted for at least 24 hours. One of the officials from the local utility company told me that with the load-shedding the power consumption has actually gone up, because in the 8 hours when electricity does get turned on, everyone hordes the energy like crazy and stores it into however many batteries they can get their hands on to.  And because there aren't any new power sources becoming available any time soon, they are now talking about running some large-scale diesel generators to keep up with the demand.

Both these instances, the lack of conversion tracking and the lack of electricity, it seems to me a manifestation of a lack of foresight, although in different levels of extreme and of course, very different levels of impact on daily human lives. Well, I'm sure lots of critics have probably explained and commented on both these phenomena, but I'm more interested in learning how to get out of these bad situation caused by bad behavior. 

Fixing conversion tracking is easy -- just start tracking. It'll take you a few hours at max in terms of IT resources. And while you're at, track your product/services sold and the dollar amount. Running campaigns without any ROI figures is ... well .. flying blind.

Fixing lack of electricity is not that easy -- if people still wait for another big power plant to be built, nothing will be solved. My advice: don't wait for a big government or corporation. They can't do anything any time soon. What you can do is to take the matter in your own hands. I've been very fascinated by the advances in both solar and wind energy where it truly democratizes energy production by enabling a household to produce its own energy. Yes, the cost is still a factor, but the prices have now come down to a point where if you get 3-5 year financing, your monthly payments are the same as your regular energy bill.  And specially when you have 16-hour blackout, it makes all the sense in the world to go for it.

But above all, there is something very liberating about this model where each house and each building being its own little energy producer, like a million little mini-Chevrons or PG&E's, being self-sufficient and big time conservationist, while producing clean energy -- I don't have the actual projections, but I'm pretty sure it's a hell of a lot better than burning more borrowed diesel to fix the situation.