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In the spotlight, PPC reporting, SEM

Behind The Scenes Of Marketing Analytics Summit With Founder Jim Sterne

25 September 2019

With over twenty-five years in sales and marketing – most of that time focused on online marketing analytics – Jim Sterne is an internationally known speaker, consultant, author and co-founder of the Digital Analytics Association. We were very excited to interview Jim to get a behind-the scenes peek at his upcoming Marketing Analytics Summit (formerly eMetrics Summit) which will take place in conjunction with Data Driven Business Summit this October in the UK. 

What’s the origin story behind Marketing Analytics Summit? When/why did you launch it?

The Marketing Analytics Summit started in 2002 as the eMetrics Summit. I had spent eight years as a top speaker at Internet World conferences around the globe as a means of attracting consulting clients. When it went into its decline at the end of the 1990’s, I decided I’d put on my own conference. “Internet Marketing” was oversubscribed, so I went deeper… into web analytics. I wanted to learn from the leaders in the field and invited them to a conference in Santa Barbara (my back yard).

In 2004, the audience decided that one conference per year wasn’t enough, and founded the Digital Analytics Association. I’ve been a very active volunteer on the Board of Directors and on a wide range of Task Forces ever since. The DAA is now over 5,000 members.

How has the conference grown over the years?

The first event attracted 50 people. Thirty of them were vendors (!), ten were consultants, and ten were people in corporations, trying to do the work. After a few years, Santa Barbara was too small so we moved to San Francisco, and added Chicago, New York, Boston, London, Berlin, and Milan. We’ve also held conferences in Stockholm, Paris, São Paulo, Toronto, Sydney, Melbourne, and Washington D.C. 

Have you seen any change in the types of content attendees are looking for now compared to the early years of the conference?

 In the beginning, we were simply trying to understand what insights could be gleaned from a web server log file. Soon, we were tagging pages, bringing in email data, search data, display ad data, followed by social and mobile. The data gets more varied, the tools get more sophisticated, and the people problems all remain the same. Changing an organization’s culture will forever be a struggle.

Who’s your ideal speaker and how do you tackle the selection process?

The ideal speaker meets three criteria: They come from a name-brand company that others are interested in learning about. Everybody wants to know what the Big Dogs are doing. Net, they have to have a story to tell that is valuable to the audience. It’s really hard to emulate unicorns so we don’t want stories with magical success – we want stories about innovation and process management. We want stories that give us nuggets of useful advice we can all implement back at our desks. If this name-brand person with a valuable story is a great story-teller, then I am all in!

We put out a Call for Speakers months in advance andI keep my eyes peeled for up-and-comers who need a break. And, of course, there are always the tried-and-true speakers whom my audience has rated super high. They are welcome back!

What marketing channels are the most successful for promoting the conference? Why?

Email is the queen of marketing. The king tends to be the flavor of the month. We did very well on Facebook a couple of years ago and then did well on Twitter for a while. Because we’re in a B2B environment, LinkedIn is a solid platform. But nothing beats email.

What are you most excited about for the October event?

I’m really looking forward to giving my Introduction to Artificial Intelligence for Marketing workshop. I always learn the most when I am teaching. The rest of the conference? Well, I’ve hand-picked these speakers as the most interesting. Just looking over the Agenda makes me excited! 

What tips do you have for attendees to maximize their time on-site at the conference?

Decide in advance what you most want to learn about and find the people on stage (or in the audience!) who can help you. This is not a lean-back-and-relax event. It’s a lean in, ask questions, get people to talk about the things you want to learn about. But most of all – bring business cards and MEET YOUR PEERS. Online is full of good advice and searchable answers, but nothing in your career will beat a personal relationship with that one woman who knows all about analytics process improvement or that one guy who really knows his page tagging techniques. 

How do you want visitors to feel when they leave Marketing Analytics Summit?

I want people leaving Marketing Analytics Summit with the feeling that they have been in an alternative universe of learning, community, and mind expansion. I want them to feel transported and optimistic that they have some new capabilities for their professional toolkit and some new things to try when they get back to their desks.

What are the top 3 conferences – other than those you produce – that you attend every year? Why?

Digital Analytics Hub is coming up in the United States which is a marvelous mind-meld of best-in-class analysts. I also love SuperWeek in Hungary but don’t get to go every year. This year will be the first Digital Analytics Association One Conference. Wouldn’t miss that!

Where do you see Marketing Analytics Summit in 2 years?

I see the advent of Machine Learning becoming more important to digital analytics. I also see digital analysts embracing more marketing analytics like Market Research and Marketing Mix Modeling. Beyond that, marketing gets really weird and we marketers are going to have to prepare for advanced technology in the hands of customers – rather than depend on being in control of the relationship. Interesting times ahead.

What have you learned about producing conferences that you didn’t know when you got started in the business?

I’ve learned what it takes to make an event special. I’ve learned that a small group of people can help shape the tenor of an industry. In our case, the Marketing Analytics Summit is made up of people who are genuinely interested in helping everybody else succeed. We are a group of seekers who feel success when we can get others to see just how fascinating analytics can be.

Interested in attending Marketing Analytics Summit or any of the other conference events taking place as part of Data Driven Business 16-17 October in London? Learn more about the agenda and networking opportunities, and save 15% across any of the conferences when you register with code SWYDODDB.


Jim Sterne has been in data processing since 1979, an online marketing consultant since 1993, and an online marketing analytics consultant since 2000. Sterne focuses on proving the value of digital communication as a medium for creating and strengthening customer relationships. He is the founding president of the Digital Analytics Association and producer of the eMetrics Summits. Sterne was named one of the 50 most influential people in digital marketing by the United Kingdom’s premier interactive marketing magazine and one of the top 25 Hot Speakers by the National Speakers Association, to which he credits his degree in Shakespeare. He has consulted to some of the world’s largest companies; lectured at MIT, Stanford, USC, Harvard, and Oxford; and sat on a plane to Las Vegas grading the CRM strategy plans of a Nigerian mobile phone company for a course he taught in Singapore produced by a training company in Shanghai. Sterne is the author of 15 books on online marketing and analytics including his latest, “Artificial Intelligence for Marketing: Practical Applications” (Wiley, August, 2017)