Econsultancy held its first American Peer Summit this week, and we
learned a lot from the marketers who gathered in New York at the
Metropolitan Pavilion.

We brought together about 100 digital marketers from such brands as
Conde Nast, The Wall Street Journal, JP Morgan and Yahoo, and sat them
down together to discuss their issues and upcoming plans in roundtable
discussion led by experts on such topics as email marketing, social
media, user experience and site optimization.

It was an off-the-record event, but there were some themes that
continued to pop up. Many digital marketers at large brands are seeing
a shift in acceptance of online marketing in their companies, though
getting their online and offline teams to cooperate on advertising buys
and large decision-making is still an uphill battle.

According to keynote speaker Marc Schiller, CEO of Electric Artists: “People would rather have a conversation with a person than a brand.” He was talking about customer service and social media, but as the day went on, it was easy to see those words in action.

Representatives from all sort of brands that might not meet online were exchanging ideas, problem solving and sharing best practices.

Keynote speaker Bryan Eisenberg has lost a good deal of weight in the past few months, and his upcoming book, Trim the Fat, draws parallels between improving website conversion and his recent 50 pound weightloss. For starters, he explained that losing weight isn’t about cutting things out blindly, it’s about improving quality. And he had some thoughts about metrics, as well:

“if you can’t have metrics that you know what to do based on seeing it, it’s a bad metric. Period.”

But going about finding the proper metrics was a recurring problem for many marketers working at large firms.

Jim Sterne, the author and consultant who specializes in web metrics, explained the questions he answered during his day of moderating roundtables: “The problems, they’re always the same. The names just change sometimes.”

Are digital marketers not listening to the answers? No. It’s just that what we want from metrics is always changing, and it makes it hard to gauge effectiveness online. Sterne explained in his keynote:

“Always think about what people are doing rather than about data. Models and trends and coefficients are great but if it doesn’t relate to how you are conducting business with people, you need to come back to the real world and try again.”

That, however, is easier said than done. And a good reason why the measurability — and lack of efficient measuring tools — still frustrates so many of the Peer Summit participants about their jobs.

But getting a day to discuss and problem solve was a bit hit with a lot of the people I spoke with. And without the intermediary of brands looking to sell their services, many people enjoyed our open discussion situations — though was a new event format for many.

One person explained it thus: “Other events try to do this usually over lunch which doesn’t work in the same way – then it is more social rather than case study based and faciliation is often weak. This didn’t feel like people were trying to sell to me the whole time. Felt more like a professional networking event than the more glitzy type ‘push’ events.”