Season 1, Episode 9: Making Data-Driven Decisions
In this week’s episode of Outsmart, your hosts Nicole Allen and Rex Petrill chat with our VP of Performance Marketing at TEAM LEWIS, Melissa Marcelleti.
In this episode we talk through:
- Why you really don’t need a lot of data to make a data-driven decision
- How to view data in the context of your business objectives
- Adapting your marketing funnel for a non-linear customer journey
Melissa: You really don’t need a lot of data to make a smart decision, to make a data driven decision. You just need the right data, and it needs to be presented in the correct way to the right person at the right time.
Nicole: Welcome back to another episode of the Outsmart podcast. I am Nicole Allen, joined by my cohost Rex Petrill. And today we have a really exciting guest on board. We’ve got our head of performance marketing, Melissa Marcelleti. Melissa, welcome to Outsmart.
Melissa: Thank you so much, Nicole and Rex. I’m very excited to be here and to share a lot about performance and performance marketing.
Nicole: Yeah, well, and to share a little bit about yourself, too. Right? So, tell us really quick just who you are and how you got to where you are today. And I realized that’s a big question to say really quick, but elevator pitch, go.
Melissa: Sure. Absolutely. So, I started off always having a love for data, and I remember watching my brother code websites when I was in college, and I instantly got hooked into the digital world. So, my first job, I was a marketing director, and we didn’t really have a large budget, so I spent a lot of time looking at analytics and figuring out what changes could I make that actually had a database impact. So, when I moved to St. Louis with my husband, who is an Air Force pilot, I landed my first agency job, and I absolutely loved it. I loved being able to work with different clients, and I really saw a huge opportunity to bring data into a lot of what we were doing to really prove the impact that it was making. And now at TEAM LEWIS, I have a very fast-growing marketing performance team, and it’s very exciting. We are working with a lot of different clients in terms of measurement framework, measuring the ability to grow and change and optimize, and then also using data driven storytelling to prove those results.
Rex: My favorite phrase that you always use is, data by itself can’t do anything. Talk to us about your approach to setting up for success and how we look at the data and make important impactful decisions.
Melissa: Sure. So, I think when meeting with a client, one of the most important things is looking at what are the overall goals or initiatives that they have from a business perspective, and then tying that into what we’re doing. So, when we have a specific database goal, then we all know what we need to do in order to reach that goal, and then we can come up with a lot of strategies and tactics. And I think it’s so very important, Rex, for us to understand that there are a lot of different factors that can get us to reaching that goal. When we look at just data, what we are doing is just looking at numbers. So, if I look at a scale, for example, and I see that I lost 5lbs. What is that actually telling me? If I don’t have the information of maybe I worked out for a few weeks, maybe I ate healthier for a few weeks. But is losing 5lbs good or bad? Well, it would all depend on my goal. Was my goal to lose 10lbs in a month, and a month later I’ve only lost 5lbs. Someone could say, well, you’re losing weight, but if we have an actual goal that we’re trying to achieve, that will tell me, no, I’m not where I should be, and I need to make some changes in order to get there.
Nicole: So, Melissa, the way that this podcast originally started out, we were looking at broad strokes 2022 predictions. Obviously, we’re in March. We’re not necessarily talking about predictions anymore, but I would love to hear just from your mind, and Rex and I can chime in here a little bit too. What are some of the trends that you’re seeing happen in measurement right now? We’ve got changing behaviors. We have increase in privacy and decrease in data availability. So, what are some of those overarching trends, and how are you seeing them affect our measurement capabilities as marketers?
Melissa: One trend that I’m seeing is we’re getting a lot of requests to look at data holistically so that we can tell a bigger story about the customer journey. And I think that is so important. I think it really allows us to remove a lot of data silos, so we’re not just looking by campaign or by tactic, and we’re able to bring in other data sources in order to tell that bigger story. So, I know, Rex, that you work in Paid Search, and I know that working with your team, it’s been great because we’ve been able to see, for example, if we’re running paid display. We also typically notice on paid search, a lot more people are starting to search for these terms, bringing down our cost per click.
Rex: Yeah, I think it’s so important, like you said, to look at the full picture and understand your scale analogy of why losing some weight may or may not have met your overarching goal. And it’s so easy to look at channels in silo, but it can very easily lead you down to some totally incorrect conclusions. And I think the best-case scenario is when we have that framework out from the outset that says, okay, these are my overarching business objectives, but let’s drill down into each channel and see how are we going to ladder up to that objective and then look at all the channels together and say, okay, this is what paid search is doing. This is what organic search is doing. And here’s where social is really helping with the customer journey, and it’s really fun to bring all those pieces together. I know that Melissa, you’ve been so instrumental in helping us tie those dots together. When you look at those customer journey outputs, what gets you excited?
Melissa: Yeah, absolutely, Rex. So, attribution is a big one for me because we know that not everybody is going to have the same journey. And especially for a lot of our B2B tech clients, we know that there is a lot of multiple touches that happen before someone reaches a goal. Right? So, for lead generation, for example, we run a lot of lead gen campaigns and for those, if someone sees something for the first time, they’re not necessarily going to go ahead and completely sign up and dedicate to a webinar. So, I think attribution is something that gets me very excited because with data we’re able to see, OK, this person came on the site, we’re allowed to retarget them, serve other ads to them, and then we’re also able to follow them. So maybe we could say, for example, 10% of people who are coming onto our site have gone on to revisit the site within seven days and they’re now looking at this content so then that can inform our paid teams, our creative teams. And things are just growing so quickly that I think it’s so important to use attribution.
Nicole: One of the things that I feel like we talk to clients about this a lot, looking at the Omnichannel marketing mix and really looking at that full funnel journey and being able to have access to all that data so we can model out an attribution model that makes sense for their business and then we can look at funnel velocity and things like that. Right? And that’s kind of the dream and where we want to get. But so often I find that a lot of the companies that we work with and people we have conversations with don’t have access to all that data. Right? A lot of times we’ll have a conversation with a B2B Tech company about demand gen campaigns and the buck kind of stops with what they might deem a lead, which is essentially a name or a form fill. And so how do you approach kind of arming people with the right information to gain more access to that data so we can have that holistic picture?
Melissa: That’s a great question, Nicole. So, I think the first step is making sure we’re doing everything we can with the data we have available. I think that presenting the data in a way that makes sense, that excites the client and that is really proving a point, is the best way to get access to more. I think a lot of it is also educational. So, making sure that, for example, joining maybe a CMO with a sales lead to kind of walk through that we’re not trying to get PII. That we are not trying to see anything that is private information. But if we’re able to go on and see that these qualified leads have actually turned into conversion and ideally, what is that overall dollar amount then that really allows us to see the bottom ROI. And I think that even though silos are going to exist in large companies, we can use the data to help lower those silos so that there’s some conversation and there’s some data, because ultimately it benefits a sales team if we’re sending more qualified leads.
Nicole: Absolutely. And I think that partnership between marketing and sales is so key and it’s one of the more difficult partnerships oftentimes to form, especially at larger companies, at least in my experience. So, I think you really hit the nail on the head there.
Melissa: Rex, I know also for you doing a lot of lead gens, I think that it’s been great when we have clients that can actually provide us with X amount of people attended the webinar, X amount of people signed up and went on to attend. So, I think the bigger thing for people to realize is when we have that information that informs our media strategy so much. So, if we know, for example, that there was one specific creative of an ad, and we may have had 50 people sign up for A and 50 people sign up with B, but if we found out that those in A were three times more likely to attend the webinar, then that’s actually the best performing ad. So, I think the more data that we can see, even if it’s just one more layer, that then can inform us of our audiences and the decisions we’re making on the marketing side.
Rex: Absolutely. Because there’s the two kind of elements of campaign optimizations that we can make across all of our channels. It’s what is having an immediate impact and what can we change on a week to week, month to month, sometimes even day to day basis, being across content or our keyword strategies or anything that you’re putting out there into the ecosystem, like what are the levers that you can pull on a day-to-day basis? But more importantly, it’s looking at those trends over time and understanding, to your point, Melissa, what ultimately is driving the best outcome for the business? Say your all-in cost for a lead is $100 on channel X, but it’s three times that much on channel Y. But then channel Y is actually converting at 20 times more rate than your first channel. It’s a no brainer. You pay for the higher quality lead at the outset. But it really is unlocking that ability to see throughout the funnel, throughout the journey and understanding long tail like what is having the most success. Even if that’s not something that you can impact necessarily in a day to day, it’s something that if you’re improving trends over time and over months and weeks and years. It’s only going to benefit the business and your overall outcomes. I think context is so key to being successful in what we’re doing, and data is just another layer of context that’s so crucial. Melissa, one of the things that we’ve talked about and also Nicole and I have talked about on this podcast is and Nicole had mentioned it a little bit earlier, but we talked about visibility. But in reality, visibility on the digital side is changing rapidly. And from a paid perspective, from even just cookie tracking like you were saying, as far as retargeting, that is all changing. And in some elements, we’re having to go back to the drawing board a little bit and understand what are those longer tail engagements and what are the longer tail benefits if we’re not able to take such a money ball approach to things and understand. Well, Person saw at A. And then two days later they converted, and it cost us this much and so therefore we can model out the future in entirety. It’s no longer like that. What are your conversations around privacy and just how things are changing with user behaviors online?
Melissa: So, I absolutely understand and agree with a lot of the privacy changes that are being made. I think for us as marketers, what is important is are we being smart about data and are we thinking of it just from a first person’s point of view? Are we just looking at the data of the campaigns we’re running? And why this is so important is because there’s so much other data out there. We have an amazing research team. They provide a lot of qualitative insights into what we’re doing. There’s also a lot of third-party data sets. Most people may not realize this, but there’s Google Trends. Google Trends is a great tool that will let you know in real time what are people searching for. It can also actually take you all the way back to the beginning days of Google. So, we’re talking about several years and even certain ranges and it will tell you when a given topic or a given company has really peaked in search. I think that’s very helpful for us to use that tool. Another great thing is even within Google Ads you can use Google keyword finder and it will tell you how many people are actively searching for keywords each month. So, there are a lot of tools that will give you some insights. And I think it’s about being creative, looking at the data you have, looking at the data you don’t have, looking at the data you can get, and then putting all of them together and making data-based insights. And with those insights, when you take it to the next level with strategic recommendations, that’s when you actually start seeing change.
Nicole: I like the nod to being creative there and using what you actually do have access to and focusing on that to make those optimizations, to shift your messaging and tone and content, or shift your bidding strategy. Because with a lot of these changes, you’re right Melissa, we do still have access to so much information and there is a lot of low hanging fruit there. And I think too, Rex, you mentioned it and we’ve talked about this before, but just being open to giving those campaigns time to breathe and market and not being too antsy to shift and optimize on a day to day or even week to week basis. Right. As our access to data and privacy continues to change, it’s going to be more important to let some of that messaging really breathe in market for a longer period of time so that we can actually look at the long tail effect that it’s having on our business.
Melissa: That’s a really good point, Nicole. I think that also kind of has me thinking about are we trying to force our audiences through a funnel that we created or are we meeting people where they’re at? So, I know a lot of times we’ve seen a lot of success with having direct lead gen on LinkedIn or on Facebook. So, I think historically there’s always been let’s drive everyone to a website. But it’s very interesting. I’ve definitely seen a shift in which let’s email someone and within the email let them just have a form or let’s prefill the form in the email and have them just hit send to sign up. Let’s meet them where they’re at and have a prefilled form on Facebook where all they have to do is check a button and hit submit. So, I think a lot of it is meeting people where they’re at and making it easier for them and then that allows us to look at those platforms and really see what’s successful.
Nicole: Absolutely. Well, and Rex, you talk about this a lot, but it’s not a linear journey anymore. It’s not just a straight funnel we’re moving people through, and we have to really work to remove those barriers to entry. And yes, Melissa, you hit the nail on the head. Just meet people where they are. I think that’s really important.
Rex: It’s everywhere. We’re seeing it from Instagram, getting into the shopping experience, being able to buy products right on the platform, other channels, experimenting with kind of taking that experience, like Melissa, like you said, away from the traditional site, which was your digital storefront, and now your digital storefront is kind of for better or worse, it’s kind of everywhere. So, you have to be prepared to meet those customers where they’re at and not try to force them down this predefined journey. That makes sense on a whiteboard, but maybe in actuality it doesn’t actually apply to your target audiences or the moment in time that something is happening. I think the best brands are kind of ready at any point in time to take advantage of a trend or something like that. And it’s not just because they have an army of people sitting around twiddling their thumbs. It’s because they have the flexibility inherent into their ethos and their approach to be ready to make those adjustments. And they have the longer tail data and visibility across what’s happening across the ecosystem to understand when they should jump in and what has worked historically.
Nicole: Right? Who was it this week? It might have been Hulu. Somebody projected a QR code in the sky for users to scan, and then they landed on a trailer for a new show or something. So, to your point, Rex, our digital opportunities are literally everywhere and all around us now.
Melissa: Yeah, I think earlier we were talking about trends and the fact that a lot of our data sources, they may not be as accurate anymore. If there’s cookies on a website, for example, are we really getting a true measurement of how many people are visiting the site? One trend that I know I’ve seen that actually is great is that for a while we had so much data and it was almost very overwhelming. And I think what’s important is you really don’t need a lot of data to make a smart decision, to make a data driven decision. You just need the right data, and it needs to be presented in the correct way to the right person at the right time. The best data there is, is data that actually has an insight, and it tells you what to do about it. And that’s what we do in performance marketing.
Nicole: Well, I think that probably rounds us out for today’s episode of Outsmart and Melissa, again, thank you so much for joining both Rex and myself. I know you’ve got a jampacked schedule, so really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us today. I think we’ve all learned a lot and, yeah, I just look forward to continuing these conversations with you.
Melissa: Thank you so much, Rex and Nicole, for having me on today. I love the podcast and I’m super excited.