Are your marketing tactics really converting clients?
Without data, it’s all guesswork.
You might be wasting thousands of dollars on a campaign that doesn’t bring in revenue.
My guest, Tim Luukkonen, is here to fix that.
He’s going to show you how to tell a compelling marketing story with data…
So you can make informed decisions to get prospects through your pipeline.
In this episode, Tim reveals:
- The basic data collection systems you need to implement
- How to take advantage of data trends
- Why some data is more valuable than others
- And more.
Mentioned in this episode:
Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.
Steffen Horst: 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. The topic for today’s episode is telling a compelling story with the marketing data to get C suite to buy in and to make the right decisions for the company. Here to speak with me is Tim Luukkonen who is the Director, Account Leadership at Gagen MacDonald, a strategy execution firm that specializes in employee engagement, cultural change, and leadership development.
Tim is an accomplished marketing communication professional with nearly 20 years of progressively challenging positions in marketing, corporate communication, brand management, and stakeholder management. His key areas of expertise include developing strategic marketing plans, b2b technology marketing, marketing in the education space, building integrated marketing teams, branding, new market development, product management, acquisition communications and consultative marketing for clients. Tim, welcome to the show.
Tim Luukkonen: Thank you for having me. It’s pleasure to be here.
Steffen: Now, that was a long list of things you’re really, you know, working on or have experience in. Tim before we before we explore today’s topics, I would love to find out more about you. Tell our listeners about how you get started in your career, especially with marketing.
Tim: So my career is really kind of bounced all over the place. Initially, my passion was to become a photographer. But I found out that just wasn’t as lucrative as I had hoped. So I transitioned into more of a comms role, but I wasn’t, it wasn’t really set on any one path. And I thought the best way to to grow and advance my career was to learn a little bit about everything. So that went from comms, you know, internal comms, change management, organizational comms all the way through graphic design.
And throughout my entire career, the principles that I used for all communication were marketing principles. So it was a natural progression there for me. I ended up getting my MBA in marketing. And as I was leading comms for for an organization, I saw some marketing pitfalls that the company was was experiencing. I talked it over with the CEO, he agreed with my assessment. And lo and behold, he made me the the VP of marketing to kind of right the ship, so to speak.
Steffen: Well, that’s, that’s, that’s really interesting. Now, today, we want to talk about, you know, telling a compelling story with marketing data. Tim, why is data critical when making marketing decisions?
Tim: Data is critical for making marketing decisions, mainly, because without the data, you don’t know whether the decisions you’re making are are correct, right. So there are certain things where we’ll go, okay, if I, if I put out so many ads, or if I get so many, you know, clicks or this or that, you know, I’m doing the right thing. But if you don’t have the data to support it, right to show that there is an ROI, or that maybe you’re getting the clicks, but then when they get to that landing page, they’re not taking that next call to action. Without the data points to support those kinds of things, you don’t know what changes you need to make in your marketing plan.
And this, you know, speaks really, really heavily toward how you influence the C suite. You can give, you know, anyone in the C suite all the data they want. But if it doesn’t have have context, or actually ties to the bottom line, the almighty dollar, realistically, they don’t care, right. So you’ll end up on one of two paths, either they don’t, they don’t know enough to give you more, you know, more marketing dollars, or they don’t know enough, and they just tell you to keep doing what you’re doing. Neither one is good for the business. So data is really that linchpin that separates, you know, good marketing from great marketing.
Steffen: Now, you know, in my day to day, I have a lot to do with with companies that advertise and what I see a lot is that their data collection is set up faulty, basically. From your point of view, what are the basic systems that company should have in place to start collecting that data that we’re going to talk about today?
Tim: So the basic systems they need to have in place would be what are we programs like HubSpot. Really anything that can that can track the activity that you’re doing. And a simple approach also would be to really start utilizing things like, like Excel, you know, so that way you can take that data, synthesize that data, and put it in a usable format for you to access later, for you to pull into reports. And some of this stuff is done by programs like HubSpot, Marketo. It’s really then determined by you know, what your experience is with with different programs, is you get deeper into marketing.
You know, there’s, there’s tons of b2b type of type of programs out there that you can use to get more of the, the data that shows kind of what your target audience is doing what they’re interacting with. It really, I guess, the system that’s most important is the one that you’ll use, and the one that you know how to use. I’ve been in situations where we had, I mean, extremely robust marketing, automation, marketing, tracking platforms. But no one really knew how to make it work. And then conversely, no one knew what, what information it was giving them. So we spent a lot of money on programs that were essentially just email devices. And you don’t want to find yourself in that situation.
Steffen: Now companies these days, can collect a lot of data, right, different type of data. Are some data points more valuable than others?
Tim: Yes. Some data points are more valuable than others. But all data has value. What really differentiates the data is who’s going to use it how. So certain data sets influence the decisions that I make as a marketer, but are completely useless to the CEO or CFO because they lack context, right? So it really depends on who’s using it and the audience that’s going to receive the data. With that said, I’d like to add that there are there’s just some, some key things you want to focus in on.
And those are, what are those data sets that are going to tie back to your to your marketing plan, that are going to tie back to the plans that the C suite has, right? And what are those data points that let you let you look at things and make those critical decisions, right. You don’t, you don’t want to have data overload. And you certainly don’t want to give data overload to the to the C suite, because again, without context, they don’t know what they’re doing with that information.
And it’s important too, that you you tell the right story with data, right, you want to guide the the C suite, and whoever you’re presenting this data to along a story. And at the end of the story, they should already be nodding their head or have in their mind the same conclusion that you do. Right. So when you when you use data, that’s really how I start to approach it with the C suite. And then for my marketing purposes, really, the data is just telling me to shift campaign funds from X to Y, or increase both. So that’s, you know, that’s the thought on on data, and why it’s valuable.
Steffen: Yeah, I think you’re for my perspective, you’re spot on there, right? Because, I mean, you can give information to the C suite about, hey, our cost per x is this or lifetime value is that, but they might be more interested in, you know, what is the return on our investment, for example?
Tim: Exactly. Absolutely.
Steffen: So, so focusing, the data that is being passed on to the different stakeholders in a company is, I think, really important. Now, you talked about marketing data, what are the different data sets that are important from a marketing perspective, Tim?
Tim: So as I look at marketing data, I really try to group it up in my mind into into three different groups. The first group is the information you might get from tactical activities. Those are things like open rates, click through rates, web traffic, you know, things like that. That data helps me decide, okay, on my on my day to day activities, this is what I’m going to do. The other data set is the data set that tells that larger picture and influences the strategy. So as I look through open rates and click through rates on a tactical set, I might look through a whole campaign or similar campaigns, and see how different levers I was pulling, whether it was an ad campaign through social media, or an email campaign, how those bits of of information led me to one decision or another.
So for example, if I ran a campaign, and I found that social media ads, were getting me a higher ROI and then I ran a similar campaign and saw the same thing. That is, that falls into that second set of data. So now I’m able to start to influence my strategy when it comes to similar campaigns. And then the last set of data is all of the necessary information that tells you, you know, again, what kind of campaigns to run, what is the lifetime value of a customer, you know, monthly, quarterly annual revenue goals, the median sale per customer. So with that information, I’m able to go, okay, you know, it’s, it’s a good idea to run this kind of campaign, because the lifetime value of a customer is great, the cost to acquire customer is low, if I get these type of customers, you know, I’ll attract revenue goals.
And again, the reason this, this plays out and how this is important in real life is, I had a situation at one of my companies, where they said, we need to, you know, increase sales in consumables. And so we want to run a marketing campaign. And I said, okay, can we compete with the, you know, the Amazons in the world, both in price or shipping? The company said, no. I said, okay, can we compete with OfficeMax or Home Depot in, you know, cost or, you know, availability? And again, they said, no, not really. I said, okay, so we can’t compete in any of these markets. But you want to drive this this consumable campaign?
And they said, well, yeah, we, you know, we need the revenue from that. In digging further, we found out that we had a client that used our consumables as part of a larger package. And when we lost that large client, our consumables dropped. So instead of running a marketing campaign for for consumables, we ran one to attract a large client, that would then also purchase consumables. So without asking these questions, or without looking at the data available, you know, we would have spent, you know, 1000s of dollars on something that would have netted no revenue, or at the very least, wouldn’t have covered the cost to run the campaigns.
Steffen: That’s a pretty, pretty interesting story there. I think it highlights that, you know, there’s no one solution for for every business out there. You really have to look at the data points that influence your particular business, and that make the needle move, basically. And once you have done that, then you will be able to identify, you know, potential areas where you can have your marketing make an impact on your bottom line.
Steffen: Now, a second ago, Tim, we already talked about that, you know, the data for C suite is probably different. Or the data that C suite needs is probably different in that for for marketing or any other department. But how do you as a marketer identify what type of data, individual departments or even the C suite need for them to make decisions or to see how things are going?
Tim: Really, the first step to any of this is to understand the type of decisions your audience is making, right? What could they possibly do with the information and the data you’re providing them? Right? So when you understand that aspect of it, it gets a little easier to hone in on what you need to provide. So if we use the C suite as an example, if I just give them all the information that I have, they’re gonna get data overload. And really, the the data would be without context, right? They, there’s no decision you can make from all of that. So if I tell the C suite that our open rates are 50%, and our click through rate is 1%. What will the leadership really do with that information?
Best case scenario, they tell me I need to fix something, or I need to keep doing what I’m doing. Right. But they they have no, no scope of or understanding of what to do with that. But if I let them know that our overall campaign is generating X dollars in revenue, and it’s only costing us Y dollars, you know, I’ve and because of that I’ve shifted spending from advertising and email campaigns to ad campaigns, because I’m seeing a greater response and an increase in pipeline. Then they go, okay, good. Our marketing plan is on track, and it helps them go okay, if, if he’s seeing this increase in pipeline, they can start doing projections on on revenue. They can start adjusting their projections on, on the potential for for growth, you know, maybe they’ll start seeing higher quarterly earnings or they can anticipate higher really quarterly earnings.
And what I could also do with some of that information, you know, given the example I gave a moment ago, if I talk about, hey, we’ve now secured this type of client through marketing, right, or we’ve attracted these kinds of clients in our pipeline for marketing, they can then anticipate that we’ll see an additional revenue coming in from some of the tangential things that are tied to those bigger campaigns. You know, consumables, things like that. So that’s really the data that I want to provide to the to the C suite, you know, because at the end of the day, usually, that level of leadership cares about, you know, the financial aspects. So I want to show them how my activities are relating directly to the revenue to the finance to the costs that the company is incurring.
Steffen: Now, as a first step, how are you getting the data that C suite needs? Because you might have a basic setup, right, a data collection setup. You might not be tracking the data they need, or how do you go about to fulfill that data need? If you don’t have anything on it at hand or not everything on at hand?
Tim: Sure that the first step is really just finding out what they want, right? What do they want to know? Sometimes that involves conversations that are a little easier and harder to have. There are some people that just want to know everything. So then it’s our job as marketers to go back and go, well, I can give you a list, but help me understand what you would do with it. Right? And they might realize, oh, I can’t do anything with this great, well, let’s, let’s save that data. Let me get you really what you need to know to make those informed decisions. Once you have those kinds of conversations, then you can begin looking at what you’re currently tracking, and also what you could track with with your current capabilities, but aren’t tracking.
So you’re, you’re then going through this process of okay, I thought X, Y and Z was important. Great. I’m already tracking these things. Leadership really wants to get more insight on A, B and C, I’m not tracking this. But in conversations now I’ve understood why that’s important to them. So now let’s see how I can track that. And then lastly, if if there isn’t the capability to track certain things that leadership wants, then you have to, you know, talk about investments, you know, is there a part of your your technology stack that you need to bolster, right. And then you have that conversation with with the leadership going, hey, guys, you said you want to learn more about this. And by getting this information you can have, you can make better decisions.
To do that, we need an investment of however much money that is to get this new software, to engage outside agencies, to get other experts on on the team that can help do that. And I think that’s that’s an important point to make is, a lot of times it’s hard for companies to track marketing initiatives to, to the dollar, to revenue. And that’s where data plays a big part. But some companies hire marketing teams that, you know, are great at running email and ad campaigns and collecting that kind of data. But don’t go into that next level of, of marketing, or really understand, you know, account based marketing, or the things that their clients are using or how they’re interacting with marketing. And so in that case, it’s perfectly acceptable to hire consulting firms or to hire outside agencies that focus solely on that bit of information, and have them augment and supplement what you’re already doing.
Steffen: Now, Tim, from a KPI perspective, what are the KPIs you recommend marketers should track and then why are they important? The ones that you outlined?
Tim: Sure. So I mean, some of the basic ones are your lead conversion rate. That’s really when you’re looking at the types of leads you’re getting, how quickly they’re they’re converting into the different stages of the pipeline. That one’s important because it really lets you start to understand who your marketing is attracting and are they the type of person that’s taking the steps necessary to grow revenue? You want to look at average spend per per customer, that helps you decide what kind of marketing dollars you should invest in various avenues. So if, if my average customer spends $50,000, right, and to attract that customer is going to cost me $10,000. And then to get them through the pipeline, let’s say another $5,000, in additional kind of nurture activities, well it’s the cost of $15,000, but I know this customer is going to spend $50,000, that’s an easy sell, right.
And so as I go through that process with, with leadership, and I’m asking for, for marketing budgets, I can start to show hey, if we invest this, we’re going to see an X return on revenue. Again, and that really ties to the next KPI lifetime value of a customer. So if I look at the cost for nurture programs, and again, that acquisition cost, and compare that to the lifetime value of a customer, I can determine if that that investment is worth it. You know, it’s really important to know your sales revenue goals. That drives all of the marketing decisions in terms of, of effort.
So one of the things that that I’ve had to deal with in my history is being responsible for dozens of different solutions, products, services, all within the same company. And some of them were at that stage where I could throw no marketing dollars at it, and I would get revenue. And if I, you know, increased marketing spend on that client, it really wouldn’t adjust revenue, right? It was just one of those things that people came to my company, and they bought the same thing every year. So in that sense, you know, if I look at those revenue goals, they’re not changing, nothing’s shifting, I don’t want to invest my marketing spend there. But if I have a revenue goal, say for a new product, and it’s a high revenue goal, then I’m going to, you know, shift more marketing dollars over there.
Another one is cost per lead. Again, you want to know how much how much it’s costing you from a marketing perspective, to get that lead, look at the revenue goals, look at all of those things to determine if that cost is worth it. Traffic to lead ratio is important. So once you’re getting those people on your landing pages, or to those pages with call to actions, you want to see what that next step is, you know, are they converting to leads? And if not, why not? Again, that works to landing page conversion rates, organic traffic, all of that starts to flow into that.
Steffen: I mean, there are obviously a lot of data points that a marketer needs to look at, right? What do you use to keep an overview of all of that, because these data points can change, you know, not even from a month to month basis, but could be day to day, week, weekly basis, etc. So how do you keep an overview of, of what the trend is positive, negative or flat, right, so that you identify a trend early enough to either take advantage of it, or to take actions to counter a positive, negative trend.
Tim: So again, it really depends on how experienced your marketing team is. So we’ve done some really successful things by by tracking all of this data in an Excel spreadsheets, as you start to really dive into data and analytics, you know, you can use other software, Tableau is really good for that are and then even the systems that you use to generate campaigns. So you know, HubSpot, Marketo, all of those can track this information. The the critical part here is setting up the right reports, and to know what you’re looking for.
So that’s really where someone at, you know, Director, the VP type of level, the CMO type of level, they’re the ones that are looking for those for those trends. And to really start to anticipate those shifts. It’s great when you have a data and analytics person catch that or a marketing manager, catch those things. But a lot of times what we’re seeing is those individuals are focused on the the more tactical level. But again, the system that works best is the one that you’re comfortable with, one that your company can afford, and the one that you know how to use. So it’s it’s really dependent on the the capabilities.
The more the more savvy you are with, the more experience you have with it, you know, invest in those, those deeper systems. And then again, if you don’t have that capability within your organization, hire someone that does or use an external firm that is solely focused on that. If everyone is in agreement of what the expectations are and what you’re looking for, you should see a return on investment. And if you’re not seeing the return on investment, that tells you something too that you need to stop or change that activity, which is just as valuable.
Steffen: I agree. I totally agree. Now, Tim, before we come to the end of today’s podcast recording, I have one last question for you. How do you make people care about data? And the reason I’m asking this is, you know, we here at Symphonic, we, we talked to a number of companies, and we sometimes identify that ecommerce, even b2b companies, their setup from a data collection perspective is really bad. It’s incomplete, not existing. And it feels like as if those companies don’t understand the importance of the data they should collect. So how do you go about to make people care?
Tim: Really, if you if you want someone to care, you’ve got to tell a convincing story. The first part of that is understanding the baseline, where are they in this journey of data? Right, your audience is what I’m talking about, where are they? What are what are kind of their expectations, their their preconceived notions. Get get a sense of that. The next step is when you provide data, you have to have context for the data. And that context has to relate back to what they’re expecting, or what their goals are, or what their you know, their ambitions might be. All of that has to sink.
So you’re really focused on sharing the right data with the right audience. And then the next part of that is that story, that you’re telling with this information needs to lead the audience in the direction you would like them to go. Now saying that it sounds a little, you know, duplicative or shady. And it’s really not. When you’re telling a story with data, it’s usually for the betterment of the company, or at least it should be. And so when you’re guiding your audience along that journey, you should be having head nodding, people are, you know, kind of have that, well, of course, this makes sense. And if they’re having that experience, then you know, you’re you’re telling the right data, and that they care about it. At the end of the day, data is just information, it’s comprised of, usually of numbers.
To tell that story, and to really make them care, you’ve got to go past the numbers and start sharing insights that the numbers give you. Right? So again, instead of saying I have X open rates, or my conversion rate is Y, you need to tell them why that’s important, and what decisions you’re making based off of that, and what decisions they should make based off of that. Right. That’s the that’s the power of information. That’s the power of data. It allows us to make informed decisions that gives us insights into what’s happening. And to a large extent, what’s going to happen in the future. Right. I know markets are volatile, things are shifting, no one could have predicted a pandemic. But those outliers aside, with data, you can make really solid predictions on how your activities are going to influence the bottom line.
Steffen: I mean, I couldn’t agree more with what you said in the end. And, I mean, again, we can as companies as marketers, we can collect so many data points. But if we’re not able, in this, this obviously was the topic for today’s podcast recording, to tell a story or or to look what the data means. And what is the recommendation based on data points that we collect, then we’re just at the end of the day collecting numbers. And they don’t mean anything. If someone is not able to say why, why that number is important, why an increase or decrease of a specific number has an impact on a business for example. Tim, thank you so much for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast, and sharing your knowledge on using data to telling a compelling story. Whether that is for C suite or for other departments or to make decisions within an organization. If people want to find out more about you and or your company, how can you get in touch?
Tim: One of the easiest way to get in touch with me is on LinkedIn. So you can just look for me Tim Luukkonen on LinkedIn and you know, I’d be more than happy to answer any questions or or connect that way. And for my company, just go to gagenmacdonald.com. And you should find out all of the great things that we do and how we can support other companies with our consulting services.
Steffen: Perfect. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you’d 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.
Voiceover: Performance Delivered is sponsored by Symphonic Digital. Discover audience focused and data driven digital marketing solutions for small and medium businesses at symphonicdigital.com