On this week’s episode of Performance Delivered, we speak with Stephen Akhterov, CEO of Something About Marketing, an agency that helps SMBs grow with personalized marketing strategies. Stephen’s area of expertise lies in social media strategy, PPC advertising, content marketing, SEO, website development, and most importantly, branding.

Stephen says, “We want to take people through a process that we know works. It starts with awareness, getting them to know your product, then we get more specific on how they would use the product, then we make sure to throw them some kind of conversion to show them why people just like them are purchasing this product. So, we determine what channel or what specific ad gets them to close the deal, but, it’s important to know how you led them up to that point.”

We chat about Stephen’s journey to founding Something About Marketing, as well as:

  • Multi-touch marketing and the benefits of utilizing multiple channels
  • Visualizing the impact of different channels within your sales funnel
  • Determining the most appropriate attribution model for your marketing campaign
  • Fine-tuning your target audience
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Steffen: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success Podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst.

Today, we’re going to talk about multi-touch marketing. Here to speak with me about the topic, Stephen Akhterov, who is the CEO at Something About Marketing, an agency that helps SMBs grow with personalized marketing strategies. Stephen’s area of expertise, licensed social media strategy, PPC advertising, content marketing, SEO, website development, and most importantly, branding. Stephen, welcome to Performance Delivered.

Stephen Akhterov: Thank you, Steffen. Nice to meet you.

Steffen: It’s quite a lot of things that you are providing to your clients. Looks like you have a good grip on almost all aspects of digital marketing.

Stephen: Yeah, that’s the goal, at least. You know, we found that kind of utilizing more than one marketing method at the same time gives us a lot better results than sticking with just one.

Steffen: That makes sense. That makes sense. So before we talk about multi-touch marketing, Stephen, tell our listeners more about yourself. How did you get started in marketing?

Stephen: Right. So, I got my first marketing job a couple months out of college. Had to, you know, teach myself because there wasn’t a lot out there on the digital field at that time. So I kind of had to invest my own funds, build my own online store, trying to figure things out on my own there. And once I landed my first gig, I realized there was a lot more to it than what I was expecting. So I quickly tried to master every area.

This company was a startup software company. So I was essentially all marketing fields at the same time, which wasn’t easy having to learn SEO, PPC, advertising on Facebook and social media management all at the same time. But it definitely helped me get a better understanding of marketing as a whole.

And once I streamlined that process, I realized I was turning my 40-hour work weeks into less than 20-hour workweeks, so I had a lot of time to kill. And at that point, I decided to venture off and start my own agency and you know, get more than one client under my belt so that I could, you know, utilize that time. And essentially, what that turned into was Something About Marketing. And we decided to not limit ourselves, but help all types of different businesses cater to their audience where their attention is already at.

Steffen: I see there are a lot of agencies out there and then they all differ just slightly, right? They all offer the same services you had mentioned earlier, and kind of, there’s not much difference as to how you can do certain things. When you decided, other than that you had a lot of time on your hands, when you decided you wanted to found your own agency, was there something in particular that you saw in the market that you wanted to take advantage of and said, you know, with Something About Marketing, I really want to cover that part?

A Relative Newcomer Into Social Media Advertising

Stephen: Yeah, well, it started off with social media advertising. You know, I had talked to a lot of companies and they were very much against it. They barely had a social media presence at the time. Now you look at businesses, and I think it’s something over 80% of businesses are on social media. Back then, it was more like less than 30. So that was kind of a sign to me that, hey, this is obviously something that’s going to blow up. So I knew that we had to jump into the social media advertising avenue.

But, you know, one thing I realized was we were neglecting the other areas in the beginning. So, you know, utilizing something like SEO and social media, those don’t go hand in hand. They don’t really offer too much value with one another. At least at that point, they didn’t. I started grouping things together. You know, social media advertising following with email ended up working out really well. That was a lesson we had to learn along the way.

Steffen: Interesting. Now, when you use several digital channels, there’s always a problem with, you know, which channel gets the value or which channel gets the sale or the lead attributed? Which kind of leads us into multi-touch. Did you, at that point, where at a similar path that you said, You know what, well, now that I have managed more than just one channel, how am I going to show that both of them create value?

Stephen: Yeah, it was not easy, right? You have to get very analytical at that point. Using just one channel, for example. Let’s go with Facebook advertising, you get a lot of data there. Facebook itself is collecting data on your website visitors through its pixel. So you have a good amount of ability to do retargeting and narrowing down on your audience.

But to combine that with a different, you know, avenue like, let’s go with email, it doesn’t necessarily line up. You know, we worked around methods to try to be able to attract this by, for example, if you have your email list, you could actually upload them into Facebook. Now you know that you’re targeting your specific email list with these types of ads and then you’re hitting them with messaging that’s very similar through email marketing. And then you’re able to use these two different platforms to track that data.

As far as which one converts or which one creates that sale, it’s a hit or miss sometimes, but you figure out where your audience is spending their time first and that gives you the opportunity to not go into a different channel that might waste your time. That’s the part that takes the most resources, trying to find out where your audience is already spending most of their time and getting specific on that.

Because if you’re targeting, let’s say, Mike, who uses Twitter for about five minutes a day, and you’re spending all your advertising money on Twitter to try to get a person like Mike, you know, your money’s gonna go down the drain. You’re not gonna convert anybody from there. But if you know Mike spends most of his time on Facebook and tech websites, that’s where you put your ads on. You know, you’re going to get a much lower ROI on that.

Steffen: Okay. Now, obviously, today’s topic is multi-touch marketing, what do you mean by multi-touch in that regard?

Stephen: Yeah, so that could get a little confusing. The better description would be multi-touch attribution, essentially means that you’re hitting someone with advertisements from multiple platforms at the same time. And it doesn’t just mean multiple touches as in you repeat the ad to them multiple times on one avenue, like Facebook ads, but you’re actually advertising through them through multiple different avenues to try to get them to see it in different areas.

Steffen: So just to clarify, when you talk about avenues, you talk about channels, is that correct?

Stephen: Correct. Yeah.

Steffen: Okay. So basically creating different approaches or different touchpoints with people across different channels. Now, that’s obviously nothing new. I mean, you know, a lot of companies use more than one channel, you know, even PPC companies, they use usually Facebook and paid search and they would still have a problem of, you know, attributing the right channel for an action.

What systems are out there that can help a company or an agency to visualize what part of a sales funnel, if we just think about a sales funnel, in a very, you know, basic way. You have awareness, consideration, and action. What system can help people to visualize where a channel sits and how much a channel has attributed to a final action, whether it’s a lead or a sale?

Stephen: Right. So, you know, there’s a lot of different software, for example, you could use. You know, HubSpot comes to mind. And then there’s Marketo, and, you know, Analytic Partners. You know, depending on what you’re using, they have their own analytics. So, as far as putting that together, you know, you can use a couple different platforms to kind of synchronize it.

Or you could just run the different data that they provide together and kind of, I guess, put the data into its own collection, so that you could see, you know, this channel is doing this, email’s doing this, Facebook’s doing this, and create your own kind of graph out of that. Which is what we like to do. We like to have our own data, put it together ourselves in a way that we could present to our clients, as well as, you know, present to our guys who are doing all the research and advertising.

Steffen: So, you talk about your own approach. Can you talk a little bit more about how you visualize what the impact of certain channels is on the bottom line?

The Bottom-Line Impact of Assigning Correct Attribution Channels

Stephen: Absolutely. So we could start off by, you know, taking the guy Mike I mentioned earlier. So, if we know that, let’s say, we sell solar panel phone cases, we need to figure out exactly who would be most likely to purchase this phone case. Now, Mike works in construction and he’s really into tech and he’s around the age of, let’s say, 50. We’re gonna have to get very specific to target people just like Mike if that’s our like, our ideal audience, right? So we have to figure out where exactly Mike spends his time. Is he spending his time on Facebook, maybe he only logs into Facebook for 20 minutes a day after work.

Then he goes onto a couple tech blogs that he loves and checks his email, reads through all his newsletters and then goes to bed. And that’s what he does every day, right? If we’re going to reach Mike, we can’t invest all our money to Facebook or all our money to Twitter. It’ll be a waste. It’ll take a lot more money to convert him through one avenue than it would to reach him where he’s at, at different times.

So the method behind that would be to get as targeted and specific on this guy, Mike. And Mike represents a group of people that we want to target to convert as we can. So the way we would do that is do our research, do our due diligence. For example, Facebook audience has an ability to find out what Mike’s interests are. And it’s a great tool because it has a lot of data, which, you know, some might seem scary but for us marketers, it’s fantastic. We can get a lot of data on what kind of things people like Mike actually, like, what they’re doing. Are they single or married? How much income they make.

So that’s all information we can collect on Mike. Once we have that information and we get a solid profile, we could then see Oh, Mike loves these kinds of blogs. Let’s go ahead and target these specific blogs so that when he’s logging into his favorite tech blog, he sees our ad, he clicks on the landing page, we then get to utilize, you know, retargeting. And this is where we’re able to get a little bit more specific. If Mike has, I guess, what we would call like an aversion or a reason he wouldn’t want to buy the product, we have to take that into account.

So now we show him a follow-up ad and say, Hey, Mike, we know you’re in construction, so let’s show Mike a picture of the phone being used outdoors, maybe on a construction site. Now we could see oh, you know, it’s not going to be a waste of time, like my wife said, because I’m not going to leave my phone in my pocket the whole time. I’m going to actually leave it outside while I’m working, then she can’t get mad at me for my phone always dying, right? We’re kind of cutting out these reasons for him not to purchase because we know a lot about Mike.

And if we get enough reasons for Mike to say, you know what, there’s no other reason for me not to purchase this, let’s go ahead and do it, it’s really awesome, then we could sell that to Mike. And that takes knowing exactly where Mike’s gonna be. You know, if we spent $150, for example, on Facebook, we could probably get the same results if we spent $50 on Facebook and $50 on Google ads. We just saved, you know, $50 on that conversion because we know Mike’s gonna be on Google as much as he’s gonna be on Facebook.

Steffen: Okay. So I get this. This sounds a little bit more like strategy. But what happens once you have the data, Stephen? So once you have the data in, I assume Google Analytics or any other data platform that you’re using to measure the performance of campaigns, how are you using the data to make a decision about, you know, should I move more money into Google or more money into Facebook? Or what is the right split?

Stephen: So to be able to figure that out, you have to run some tests. You have to figure out, you know, are the conversions coming from Google? Are they coming from Facebook? And, you know, we, we could figure that out through tracking pixels. We’re able to see, did this person convert through this Facebook ad within that same day? Or did this person convert to that Google Ad within that same day? And we’re able to see that result per platform. Google ads will show that, as well as Facebook advertising, will show that. So to be able to find out the cost per conversion is going to be essential.

And, you know, a lot of people have that automatic setting where they get seven days to convert. You know, that’s not going to get you accurate data. We need it to be the same day data because if we’re doing multiple avenues, we need to make sure that there’s no, I guess, cross manipulation from different platforms, taking credit for what they’re not doing, right? So by doing that, we’re able to make sure that we know where the sales are coming from. And another method we utilize is more than one landing page. We don’t get all the same Facebook ads or we don’t get Facebook ads going to the same landing page as we do Google ads.

The difference between those would be, you know, it’s another layer of data that shows us Hey, this page is only from Google ads. These guys came strictly from here. We know that there’s no Facebook people on here. So when the conversions comes through here, we have all of that data to back it up to showcase, hey, these ads are showing us the correct data. These conversions are doing what they need to do, that way we don’t have a lot of overlap.

Steffen: Okay. I think even today and we see that here quite often, a lot of companies use last-click attribution. There are, obviously, there’s also first-click attribution. There’s even attribution. There are different attribution models to identify which channel has what impact on a final action. What’s your view? How are you approaching that part in identifying whether last-click is the way to go? Whether it’s first-click? Whether it’s more even attribution? How are you looking at that and how are you talking to your clients about that?

The Dating Approach

Stephen: Yes. So, absolutely. We use last-click for the reason being that it takes multiple touchpoints for someone to convert. This comes into play something like how dating works, right? You have to wait, we’re talking, generally speaking, until the third day till you get lucky, essentially. And the reason is, it takes more than one interaction with somebody to be able to get to that point. So we’re looking at what creates that conversion. What’s the final straw that did what we wanted it to do?

You know, the conversion is more powerful than the view, the page view. If somebody views your product, that’s great. But we want to see what gets them to actually convert. Now, we still utilize things like a funnel, right? We don’t just assume they’re going to convert, so we throw as much conversion type of advertising as we can. We want to take them through a process, a funnel that we know that works, right? So it starts with, you know, an awareness. Of course, getting them to know your product.

Then we get a little bit more detail and specific on how they would use the product, then we make sure to throw them some kind of conversion to show them like, Hey, you need to buy this now. Here’s a great deal. Here’s three reasons why you or people just like you are purchasing this product. So go ahead and do it before time runs out type of thing. So, you know, it matters what channel or what specific ad gets them to close the deal. But it obviously still is important to how you lead them up to that point. So in short, I think it’s most important to focus on the last advertising that gets them the sale but you know, that could be debated for sure.

Steffen: I understand that. I understand, you know, what are you thinking there. My question is still is, how are you deciding how much money to invest in the mid and upper-funnel compared to the lower funnel? I get it, you know, I mean, the final result is you want someone to take an action. Again, whether it’s a sale, a lead, or whatever it is, right?

But in order for you to maximize your media or your client’s media investment, I would assume that you look at, you know, should I spend, you know, $100 on prospecting on Facebook, or $100 prospecting on Twitter or $100 on display ads on the Google network? How are you approaching that part? Because we have a last-click attribution, you literally just look at what was the last channel that created the action.

Stephen: Correct. Good question. So that depends on the audience. You know, the more specific you get, the better decision making you can do here. So if we’re talking about Mike in his 50s, you know, we’re able to figure out where he spends his time. So that’s the most important step. Once we figure out where Mike is spending all of his time, then we could focus on, you know, how much we spend. So, with Mike, he has maybe two or three drawbacks on why he wouldn’t want to purchase the product.

So if we know these drawbacks or the reasons why he would be averted from purchasing, you know, we allocate a certain budget towards, I guess, the middle stage of the funnel that would say, you know, let’s get these aversions out of the way, versus somebody who has maybe seven or eight aversions, that’s going to be a lot larger of a budget to get those out of the way. So if Mike has two or three, then we could focus on first, I guess, awareness, which is probably the least expensive. If you utilize something like video, you get the lowest cost per awareness.

So it’s a great way to utilize retargeting with video content because it’s by far the cheapest of all platforms. That’s including LinkedIn at this point. So video is the way to go when it comes to awareness. We could gather as much of an audience as we can and, you know, retarget people who viewed let’s say, 50% of the video, or just people who visited landing page from the video. Then we, you know, we get a good size budget, I would say, probably close to 35 to 40% of the budget would go into the second stage.

Try to get them onto the website, viewing the product and putting away any reason they wouldn’t want to purchase. After that, you know, we focus the majority of the budget on conversions and the reason being it’s a little more expensive, usually, to try to get someone to convert and those ads are going to be for a smaller group of audience members, meaning they’ll charge you more to reach these people because they know that they’re important to you in the sense.

That being said, it really does depend on your audience, your ideal, I guess, person that you’re trying to target. Some people are going to be more expensive than others, or some people, like let’s say, we have Sarah, age 22 and she also wants to buy this phone case but she wants it for completely different reasons. She wants it for environmental reasons. She may have, you know, six more aversions than this guy, Mike. But, you know, so the budget is going to be completely different based on who we’re trying to target.

Steffen: Yeah, I mean, that sounds like you are up for having to create a huge amount of copy variations in the first place and a huge amount of potentially landing page environment variations because you just gave to audiences or audience profiles. But I’m pretty sure if we stick with the phone case, we could come up with easily 10, 20 fine-tune targeted audiences for which, you know, a phone case might be interesting too and that have specific needs, why they want one. How do you address that? When you build campaigns, how do you address that? Because I would assume that takes a lot of time to do that.

Stephen: Well, the beauty of it is, we could figure out right off the bat, which audiences are going to work through that first stage of advertising, through that awareness stage. A lot of times, you’ll see a lot of interaction, people viewing more than 50% of the video, if you’re choosing the right audience. If you’re choosing an audience that, you know, you think might be the most ideal audience ever for this type of phone case, solar panel phone case, and, you know, you get a few people viewing maybe less than half of the video, as much as you want them to be the right audience, you know, they’re not interested.

So you know you just don’t want to spend your time on these people because it’ll take more time, it’ll take more effort, more money to convert them. And, you know, we want to convert the guy who’s most likely to buy or the girl who’s gonna, you know, promote your brand for you because she’s so in love with your product. That’s what we want to focus on. It’s not the guy who we think would be the best sale but the guys who show us that they’re most interested.

Steffen: I see. Okay. Then from an audience perspective, how much do we have to adjust your attribution approach with the different audiences that in the end, you decide to go after?

Adjusting Attribution Approach For Your Specific Audience

Stephen: Yes, so you have to adjust quite a lot. So the difference between Sally and Mike is Sally’s not going to be on Facebook whatsoever, right? She’ll be on Instagram, she’ll be on Tik Tok, she won’t be on Facebook. So we’re gonna have completely different messaging on Tik Tok than we would on Facebook. Tik Tok, we’re gonna have to showcase something that is with a current trend. And so when we create a, you know, an ad with somebody on Tik Tok, we’re gonna have to make sure that it’s for people on Tik Tok. We can’t make it something that we would utilize on a different platform. With Facebook and Google, those could be the same video.

But when it comes to something like Tik Tok, it has to be completely different because that’s a different audience and they expect different kind of content. If they view your ad, and they see it as Oh, this is just another funny video, then they realize, Oh, wait, that’s an ad, that’s going to do a lot better for you then, if it’s just a product showcase that has cool features about the phone case. Nobody’s going to care about that. They’ll see it as an advertisement, completely swipe away, which is going to be a lot different than, you know, something on Facebook.

Steffen: Stephen, if you are when you engage with new clients, and, you know, before they have just maybe run some Facebook ads or add some Google ads and then you’re now approaching, you know, there are more channels that we need to look at in order to engage with your target audience and convince them that the product or service that you offer is the right thing for them so that they basically, you know, request that product or service. How are you talking to your client about that? How do you approach them? How do you break down potential push backs?

Stephen: Yeah, that’s a good question. No, that’s definitely something we bring up at the start of that conversation we’re having with the client. By bringing that into light, we showcase what it looks like for the future. Like you said, they may just want Facebook ads for now, which, you know, might work out for a little while, but eventually, it’s going to come to a point where, you know, we could increase sales drastically or increase the return on investment. At that point, we have to say hey, look at our work, look what’s been done.

You could see the results. Most likely good, but sometimes maybe not as good as we expected. This is the, you know, then we’ve pushed for here’s the avenue that’s going to help convert these people. Here’s why. And a lot of times, we don’t want to push too many avenues at the same time. If they’re somebody who is a little bit more conservative with their funds, you know, we have to be considerate and say, you know, let’s go with two avenues at the same time, two different platforms.

And then we’ll have, I guess, let’s say, a couple of test months with that and showcase what that looks like. We don’t like to put any kind of long-term contracts on people because we want them to be able to feel like, Hey, you know, I don’t know if this is working. I don’t want to use two platforms, I want to use four. I don’t want to use any, I just want to stick with email marketing. We want to give them that flexibility. But at the same time, it’s more of a safety net. You know, we’ll definitely push as hard as we can to use this multi-touch attribution model because we see the conversions increasing and the cost decreasing when we do this.

Steffen: So last question, Stephen, as we’re coming towards the end of this podcast. For the listeners out there who think you know what, so far, we just bet everything on this one channel, but we really are interested in kind of exploring more channels, how would you recommend them go about it themselves? How can they start the journey to look at, you know, what channels might be the right channels for them to add to their mix?

Discovering the Right Marketing Channels For Your Business

Stephen: Yeah, so I guess the easiest thing for the everyday marketer would be log into Facebook, go into audiences and find out what your ideal person looks like, get specific on your ideal customer. And it could be one or two to start. You don’t have to have eight or 10 right off the bat. Just find one or two audience members that you could get very, very specific on, then go ahead and target that audience member through, you know, a simple funnel, get their attention first, put away any reasons that they wouldn’t want to purchase and then convert them.

As far as which method or which platforms to use, you know, there’s a lot of ways you could get that kind of data but the simplest, I guess, easiest way would be ask your current audience, if you have a Twitter following, go ahead and create a Twitter survey and ask people what they’re interested in or what platforms they use most. I mean, it could be that simple. Otherwise, you could find out by going out of your way and actually speaking to people. That’s also a method. Or you could go into, you know, the technical side and do research on different platforms, let Google do your research for you.

Your best bet would be start off with something like a social media platform like Facebook, or probably not Twitter at this point. I see that as dying off a little bit but, you know, if that’s where your audience is, please do. And follow up with something like a Google type of ad, whether it’s Google and Gmail ads, or display ads, go ahead and try something out. See if it works. Put a small test budget on and you can start to get an idea of how this is working for your current audience.

Is it performing well? Are Google Ads completely failing? If you put a small test budget on you could see, you know, Google’s not the way to go. Maybe I’ll stick with Facebook and try email this time. And you kind of test the waters a little bit. You don’t have to use a big budget right off the bat. Just by testing the waters with different platforms, you’re able to see, hey, I was right. This guy, Mike is spending all of his time on these different websites. He’s not really on Facebook. You know, it’ll give you a better understanding of your audience and your ideal customer.

Steffen: Perfect. Well, Stephen, thank you for joining me on the Performance Delivered Podcast and sharing your knowledge on touch attribution model. If people want to find out more about you and your company, how can they get in touch?

Stephen: Yeah, so, let’s say Instagram and LinkedIn, we’re Something About Marketing. On my LinkedIn, my name is Stephen Akhterov. You could search me there. And you could always reach us on our website, somethingaboutmarketing.com.

Steffen: Perfect. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you like the Performance Delivered Podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.