An open message to the WAA

We’ve all worked or work for global organizations. The way they are run is that usually there is a central set of rules, standards, global controls and global belief and culture passed down to locals who then execute the vision. Â I believe that the WAA is attempting to do the same thing (essentially) whilst maintaining a unified brand and a unified approach on a local level.

Let me first say I have no problem with that approach, especially in immature markets. It has served us well for the first 5 years of the WAA but I just feel in certain cases it is outgrowing this method. I don’t dispute the good work done to date by Jim, Aurelie, Rene, Miles, Dennis, Stephane and a ton of others I haven’t mentioned but do you really think that going forward a global organization based in the USA can service other countries as well as the US?

We had 300 people at the last WAA event in Finland and we got 2 sign-ups for the €1000 or so that was spent by the WAA on the event according to Petri – Finlands country manager.

Is that a good ROI for the WAA? I would argue it’s a very poor return on both the Finnish WAA funds for the year 2009 and for the global WAA. A CPA of €500 per sign up. So where is the mechanism to activate that crowd? How do we get them involved with the local community beyond free events? Where is the benefit for the WAA?

In Finland at least the groundwork of awareness has been generated (300 people is a good size), that’s the first job of a country group or country manager but when you get to a certain size you need more local organization to activate things and that costs real money to take it to the next level. That is the brutal reality.

A global organization can work if it is prepared to heavily invest in local operations. Usually global giants follow the model where the most successful countries are the ones where the steady funds are directed with smaller “exploratory” funds directed to high potential markets.

The WAA can’t do the same thing as it’s a non-profit, they simply don’t have the resources. There are only 2 ways to generate finance.

1) The WAA as it stands now funds operations. The question is how do you allocate budget? Kalle Heinonen submitted a budget request based on reality in 2008 to really build the Finnish membership and it was refused on the grounds that what we’d asked for was simply too high.

2) We generate local funding when certain levels of maturity are reached in different markets. Finland, Sweden, Denmark, France the UK and Spain could be focusing their efforts on supporting local memberships while paying a percentage of subscription fees back to the WAA in order to use the brand and have access to global standards, materials etc.

I am not trying to be controversial for the sake of it, all I am saying is that when a certain level of maturity is reached in the local market you need an increased level of professionalism and finance to run things. I am not saying an EUWAA would help either. I think it needs to be a kind of mature market by mature market kind of franchise.

Steve is a well known analytics specialist, author and speaker. A pioneer since 2002, he established one of the first European web analytics consultancies (Aboavista), later acquired by Satama (now Trainers’ House) in 2006. In 2008 he wrote his first book Cult Of Analytics published on May 14th 2009. He currently serves as CEO at Quru and has presented and keynoted web analytics topics across Europe. These include The Internet Marketing Conference (Stockholm), The Search Engine strategies (Stockholm), IIH (Copenhagen), the IAB Finland (Helsinki), Media Plaza (Amsterdam), Design For Conversion (Amsterdam) The eMetrics Summit (London, Munich, Stockholm), Divia (Helsinki) in addition to sitting on dozens of panels.

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5 comments on “An open message to the WAA
  1. Aurelie Pols says:

    Hi Steve,

    I’d like to paraphrase our industry’s Godfather, Jim Sterne, by thanking you for allowing me to stand on your soapbox to call out.
    It looks like this week, I’m trying ton convince people to collaborate, unite around the Country Groups initiative that was launched by René, last year.
    Can I point out that this initiative wasn’t born from some kind of top down decision making process as the roots spun from those that are not based in the U.S.?

    I would also like to remind Finland that you guys have a budget (yes, yes, you have, I sent it over) and I for one, will be very interested in finding out how the Finish Country Group is planning on spending it. Besides having diner, of course!

    And if you really want to talk about numbers, well, let me see, how far would Finland go with their entire budget allocated back to them as a solo group? Would that break the overwhelming chains of U.S. supremacy that is holding you guys back?

    I asked Petri for names of Country Group members that would want to support our EU Research & Education Committees, as that’ll be our first point of business. He didn’t come back with what I asked for.
    I also asked for content for the website, specifically dedicated to Finland. No response, which is a great shame as the idea is really to share knowledge & best practices across our beloved continent and the world.

    So, let’s try to be constructive here.
    Is our industry heavily influenced by the U.S.? You bet your cute ass it is! I’m seeing projects now on both sides of the pond and I can tell you, this is a U.S. driven sector.

    Now, I’ve been championing local vendors for some time now between Nedstat, Mindlab AT Internet, Webtrekk and Snoobi to name just a few as there are issues and opportunities related to being outside of U.S. soil that need to be addressed. Ask the Asians! Take a look at privacy issues in Germany!

    Example: how does the WAA respond to the EU’s recently published “Consultation on the Future European Union – United States of America (US) international agreement on personal data protection and information sharing for law enforcement purposes”? (http://ec.europa.eu/justice_home/fsj/privacy/news/index_en.htm)
    I’ll bet you a bottle of Veuve Cliquot that UK’s Country Manager Matt Bragg might not share your point of view when I think for example about Phorm and what you so eloquently wrote about some time ago. And then for the record, you’re also partially responsible for making me care 😉
    Couldn’t we create a pan-European task force to look into this and maybe have the guys on the other side of the pond do the same so that the WAA can, as an association, have its say?

    So, for the sake of the evolution of our industry, let’s stop ranting about what doesn’t work and let’s unite to stand stronger. Once we can speak with a global coordinated voice, it will certainly become time to think about evolving towards a more decentralized structure. Skype?

    Kind regards from Madrid,
    Aurélie Pols – Globalization Chair for the WAA

  2. Hi Aurelie,

    Regards your first point, I understand your frustration and I supported René when he asked me personally to unite around the country groups initiative, but now 9-10 months on from that I don’t think it serves us any better here in Finland than say 5 years ago. We tried it, we gave it a go but it isn’t really working in my opinion. Ok it’s improved a little because we’re now seeing a trickle of funding where we didn’t see anything for years and I salute René, before him Neil and Vicky as well as yourself to get us to that point.

    BUT you yourself (god bless yer cotton socks as my mother would say!) have just hit the nail squarely and supremely on the head when talking about numbers. This is the entire point of my stance and why I won’t at the moment allow myself to be distracted from it until someone has given me a reasonable objection.

    I quote;
    “And if you really want to talk about numbers, well, let me see, how far would Finland go with their entire budget allocated back to them as a solo group?”

    The answer is nowhere fast. This is my entire point. We have about 30 members, so what’s that about €3-4K? Enough to fund maybe one good event. It’s as pointless asking for just this kind of resource as it is to receive 25% of it.

    Now you may ask why I am calling Finland a more mature market when we have like 30 members? The reason is the repeated requests from practitioners and consultants alike to continue the work we started 5 years ago, except then it was 10 folks in a bar, now its 300 in a seminar (as you saw last year).

    What has to happen though is that the 300 people that turn up have to value the association, they have to see the benefit of joining and get something from it themselves. Other than a website, some webinars and standards the Global WAA offers little to be worth the $200 to an individual based in Finland (or I would argue anywhere else outside of the US).

    So what am I asking to be considered?

    Firstly lets be clear about what I’m not asking for;
    1) A splinter group.
    2) A European WAA.
    3) Anything unreasonable or impractical in my opinion.

    What I am asking for is a Finnish bank account and a registered Finnish non profit company that can locally produce it’s own funding and locally establish it’s own products and services using the WAA brand. We can even probably live with the same membership and funding structure you’ve already established the only difference would be that the Global WAA would pay a different bank account.

    If this works (I would say success is 100 members in 12 months) then you could establish this in other markets where the potential exists.

    Another quote;
    “Couldn’t we create a pan-European task force to look into this and maybe have the guys on the other side of the pond do the same so that the WAA can, as an association, have its say?”

    For sure and this kind of work is vital – this is the work of the association and I fully support this, but what I am getting at is we’re not tapping into the whole potential of the market at the moment.

    There should be a clear roadmap for new markets for the WAA. Step 1 is to raise awareness. In Finland this has been achieved through sweat equity mainly but things are changing and I appreciate the difficulties involved in getting the association off the ground having been heavily involved in the Nordic developments over the past 5 years.

    Step 2 should be about training the market to understand the subject we’re all so interested in and beyond the free seminars it’s not possible at the moment as there is not a structure to do so.

    Regards your comments around Petri. He can speak for himself but my feeling is he may be a bit disillusioned with the WAA at the moment and that’s maybe why he hasn’t responded.

    So I hope this clarifies why I’m ranting.
    Best regards
    Steve.

    PS; Thanks for the comments about my ass. I also think it’s cute. :)

  3. Emer Kirrane says:

    Hi Steve,
    I’m glad you’re not advocating for some kind of revolutionary splinter group in Europe that is going to show the darned Americans how it’s done. I’ve been a bit concerned recently by some calls to split the WAA.

    Yes, the WAA is currently rather US-focussed, but the US is rather large, I’m told. Being in the US doesn’t mean you can get to US events. I’m in Hungary, that doesn’t mean that as a member of an EU WAA I can get to any events. Plus, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve heard rumours that there are continents outside of Europe and America. I think a global approach is the most important. Otherwise, what happens – little old me in Hungary is obliged by location to be part of a particular group? Then there’s competition between the groups – then those in Asia and Australia perhaps start grumbling about how US-centric or EU-centric the WAA is – i.e. back to square one.

    I’ve only been a member for a year, but I’m aware of the work that’s going on to make the WAA a global body. This internet thing is global, I can’t necessarily get to WAA events, so I depend on being part of the global network. I do agree that it’s important that non-US voices are heard and that membership spondoolicks are fairly distributed but spreading the web analytics message involves helping those countries with a developing WA community to feel connected, not feel further isolated. I see your point in terms of having mature markets drive mature markets but I do think that over-localising elements of a global organisation could ultimately cause more issues than it solves.

    Which is just my 2 cents speaking as an individual member who burns with jealousy every time eMetrics is on :)

    Cheers,
    E

  4. Hi Emer,

    Thanks for the comments. Finally someone seems to understand I am not a Che Guevara trying to usurp the American infidels.

    1) I am NOT asking for more budget from the WAA. Just a framework to allow us to grow without relying on their small budget every year.

    2) I am not asking for an EU WAA which would be a complete waste of time. A WAA run from Brussels, Paris or London would not have any positive effect on operations in Finland or Sweden. For a time the main International operations *were run from London* and the only positive was the time difference for telcos.

    3) I am not even saying this is an “American” problem or a top down US led decision. I’m not laying any blame to anyone nor pointing the finger. I’m simply stating a fact that hasn’t changed since Eric Peterson brought this to the public’s attention in 2008 (though he called for an EU WAA – I’m not even doing that). Europe is not served AS WELL AS the USA. That’s not the Americans fault they just happen to have the benefit of geography and a local organization.

    What I am saying is we have tried and failed to grow beyond a small International organization due to a lack of funding and professionalism Internationally. This is the reality. It took €10,500 plus 300-400 hours of free work to do what we did in Finland last year. We won’t manage that again until there is some way for local member organizations to benefit.

    AGAIN if you read this far and feel put out for whatever reason I’d urge you don’t take this personally, it’s just an analysis of the situation.

    The European efforts in the WAA are all admirable and there have been successes but I’d like to try something different so that indeed small markets like Finland and Hungary can begin to grow beyond the bar and the free seminar.

    I think Emer makes one of the best points in this discussion so far by saying that carving up the WAA into various continents won’t help anyone. I agree 100%.

    All I think we need is the ability to grow locally which requires a little more professionalism. The IAB in Finland did this with the backing of the US IAB, as did the IAB in the UK.

    I just think we should try the same approach.
    Best
    Steve

  5. Thank for the giving message to the WAA.Best comment. :)

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