The author of this month’s Book Club selection, Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies is Christina Inge. Confused about goals, KPIs, and metrics? Christina shares strategies applicable to brands and ad agencies and explains how ancient military tactics can inspire innovation in marketing. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can claim a 20 percent discount on Christina’s book, Marketing Matrics, by using the promo code BIGEYE20 at KoganPage.com.
Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:
Christina Inge: Most of us go into marketing to either be strategic or to be creative. We don’t go into marketing to do rote and repetitive work. if you position yourself to be a data-driven creative or a data-driven marketing strategist, there are really, really major opportunities.
Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tenant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. At the beginning of this year, Jason Davis wrote an article published by Adweek that discussed the increasing sophistication of the technology platforms agencies use to access, share, and integrate ad performance data. Digital marketing produces prodigious amounts of quantitative data, of course. And as we move towards solutions built around first-party data, brand marketers and agencies are keen to leverage that data to drive business decision-making from optimizing paid campaign performance to enhancing digital customer experiences. Our guest today is a pioneer and expert in data-driven marketing. Christina Inge is the Founder and CEO of Thoughtlight, a consultancy specializing in digital marketing and analytics strategies. She’s worked with major brands including Nissan and the Smithsonian, as well as many startups and nonprofits. Christina is a member of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council and has served on the board of the American Marketing Association. She’s also an instructor at Harvard University Extension School and Northeastern University College of Professional Studies, and the author of a new book published by Kogan Page, Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies. To discuss the book and share her insights on how brand marketers and agency teams can make better decisions based on data, Christina is joining us today from Boston, Massachusetts. Christina, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!
Christina Inge: I’m very excited to be here. Thank you for having me on, Adrian.
Adrian Tennant: As I mentioned in the intro, your new book is entitled Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies. What prompted you to write it?
Christina Inge: I have to say, I saw a huge need out there. People are really struggling with “How do I get to the bottom of all of this data that I have?” A lot of our clients come to us with an enormous amount of data that they have within their organizations or have access to through third parties, but no clear plan of how to leverage it. They struggle to even organize it. Most of us do, let alone use it to make marketing decisions. So this is really a hands- on, practical guide for marketers and business leaders at all levels in any kind of organization to finally get a handle on their data and see the big picture, while also getting actionable tactics for every kind of data, from their social media data to their email, to their web analytics. So it’s really to help people start to work with their data. That’s the inspiration.
Adrian Tennant: Now, before this interview, I searched for marketing metrics in Amazon’s book section, which returned over 350 results. So Christina, what can readers expect to learn from your book that typically isn’t covered in others?
Christina Inge: Well, I’ve got a couple of things that we use at my marketing agency, Thoughtlight, that I developed, and I’m publishing them for the first time in this book. One is my content marketing analytics framework which can really help you optimize your content marketing. This is proprietary to us. I developed it within our organization to help our clients. And so this is a completely new way of looking at your content analytics. I think the other thing that this has uniquely, I’m gonna quote from one of the wonderful reviews that have popped up on Amazon about the book is that it’s really a college course in a book. It is a distillation of the components of the course that I teach on marketing metrics. So I feel that it is the most comprehensive strategic guide for managers on how to use marketing metrics.
Adrian Tennant: Christina, you are also an instructor at Harvard University Extension School and Northeastern University College of Professional Studies. I imagine that some of your students will have come across words and phrases, including metric, performance measure, and key performance indicator sometimes used interchangeably. What’s the difference between a key performance indicator and a metric?
Christina Inge: Oh, I’m so glad you asked that question, Adrian. So I teach graduate management students, and this question comes up all the time because again, they’re managers, they’re in charge of a lot of different functions within their organizations. And I always say the key performance indicator is the thing that you are measuring that speaks to the goals of your organization. And that’s something that managers especially are responsible for within their organizations. Whether they have full P&L responsibility or not, they’re often responsible for driving towards those big goals like growth, brand awareness. Those are key performance indicators. Metrics are the ground truth. Those are your numbers. So you may be tasked with monitoring growth, but how do you measure that? That’s where metrics come in. Metrics are things like your ad click-through rate, your email open rate, your marketing automation open rate, your social media followership, they’re the tactical, actual numbers that tell you whether you’re driving towards your goals and the key performance indicators are what you are measuring that ties into those goals. That’s where the big picture numbers come in.
Adrian Tennant: When we chatted last week about what topics we wanted to cover in this podcast, you mentioned that your Northeastern students are creatives who anticipate being in marketing for the next 20 years or so. Christina, how do folks interested in the creative side of the business benefit from developing an understanding of marketing metrics?
Christina Inge: Well, this is where I’m going to get a little geeky on you because one of my lesser-known interests happens to be business lessons that we can learn from ancient military tactics. Do you know who ultimately defeated the Spartans? Who defeated them? People are stumped by that. And it was a little city-state called Thebes. And what they did was they stopped playing by the rules that you would see in ancient warfare, which was that you would confront people head-on, one line to another, kind of like a rugby scrum, and instead, they were able to regain their democracy, throw off the tyranny of Sparta by figuring out a strategy whereby they went around the Spartans who expected them to attack head on and hit them obliquely. It was a very interesting geometric configuration because they had a mathematician general running their show. And in doing so, they were able to get around the problem of “How do I confront a larger and stronger force with fewer and lesser-equipped people?” By finding that data that allowed them to see, “How can I get around a problem?” And so I use this as an example to show that creativity and data and innovation are not mutually exclusive. A lot of times creatives will think, “Well, if I start looking at the data, if I try to innovate based on data, I’m going to lose that aspect of my creativity.” But it actually makes your creativity more effective and allows you to have a greater impact with fewer resources, because it lets you concentrate your innovative efforts in directions where you know they’re going to have the greatest impact. And so it’s much more exciting when I act this out with Sharpies in the classroom. But that is my answer – that it allows you to concentrate your efforts in directions where your creativity will have a strong impact toward driving revenue growth and results.
Adrian Tennant: In the second chapter of Marketing Metrics, you identify four basic types of customer metrics, which you call The Core Four. These are revenue-based metrics, conversion metrics, communications data, and customer loyalty, value, and retention data. Christina, could you give us an overview of each of these in the context of how brand marketers and agency professionals might work with them?
Christina Inge: Great question, Adrian. So, first I’ll start with the overview. So your revenue-based metrics are those that look at what are you doing to generate revenue and where is that revenue coming from? You know, I’ve been in marketing for 20 years now, and we always had to account for marketing investment and prove ROI which was much more challenging before we had all of the tools that are available to us today. So revenue-based metrics are those metrics that essentially prove ROI. Those are, for instance, what awareness channels, what sales lead generation channels are driving the highest return on investment? Where is not only your highest revenue but your highest profit coming from? Is it from people who’ve had a social media engagement with your organization? Is it from advertising? Is it from SEO? So that’s where you find out which of your marketing efforts are driving the most revenue. Now, the challenge with revenue-based metrics is that there’s such temptation to stop there. However, as marketers, we know that revenue doesn’t happen overnight, and so we need to look at other metrics on the road to revenue. You’re not necessarily going to publish an ad and have that generate immediate revenue. You are going to need to do incremental steps to build awareness, push your consumers through the sales funnel, through the customer journey, and build relationships with your consumers. So that’s where the other three of The Core Four come in. First is conversion metrics, and those are metrics that look at where are you getting your conversions from and what marketing efforts are converting the best. I’ll give you an example of what’s the difference between a conversion and revenue. I actually keep props on my desk for this very reason. So this is a $2 lip balm and I, I purchased it, I’m very happy with it, but I’m sure that the manufacturer of this $2 lip balm is less than happy with the amount of profit they’ve generated off of this. If it costs $5 to acquire me as a customer, and I’m not loyal, I don’t ever come back, the conversion – it really happened, right? I went out and bought this, but the revenue’s just not there. I’m a net negative revenue purchaser with this $2 lip balm. So conversion metrics are important. because they tell you what was working in the moment, what ad got me to click or email got me to open that email with what subject line to have me make a purchase. And from there, that’s where the really fascinating marketing activities come from. What made this customer click? What made them purchase begins to answer “What makes my customer tick?” And you wanna look at it separately from revenue because again, revenue may not necessarily be tied to a conversion that click, that sign on, or even that purchase may not be revenue-driving, but it’s still incredibly valuable data in terms of your consumer psychology, but also what channels are working for you, what marketing creative is working for you. We often, for instance, at Thoughtlight, A/B test and multivariate test different creative just to look at what the conversions are. And that leads me to another value you get out of conversions, which is that frequently, especially in B2B, revenue is not immediate. You know, If you’re selling millions of dollars worth of construction equipment, that conversion may be three years down the line to revenue. But the immediate conversion of the lead is something that you can always measure to determine marketing effectiveness. And of course you tie it back to customer lifetime value when you have that data. But you don’t need to wait for that data to come in if you have a slow sales cycle to begin to gather important information on what marketing is working. And that’s where your conversion metrics come in. That brings me to communications data, and that’s data that tells you what sort of messages are resonating, and it could be a particular value proposition you are emphasizing. It can be particular kind of creative and also in what channels are those communications resonating. And that really helps you go even deeper into your customer’s psychology. Conversions are partly a product of consumer psychology, but they’re also a product of time of day, happenstance. Communications data really gets to the core of what messaging delivered in what format is truly resonating with your customers. And then that finally, drives us to customer loyalty, value, and retention data. So if we envision revenue-based metrics being the company’s big picture, how is marketing delivering ROI for us? And then conversion metrics being around the mechanics of how well is marketing working. And then communications data goes one step more specific into what messages are resonating. Then you have customer loyalty, which is who are our customers, what is keeping them loyal, and how are we keeping them engaged so that we have built a long-term relationship with them? And that really gets to the heart of the individual relationship with customers and more broadly, but still very specifically, with customer segments.
Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.
Tim McCormack: I’m Tim McCormack, Bigeye’s VP of Media and Analytics. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as media professionals, often inspired by data points reported in consumer research studies. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, through our own research, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers – analyzing their attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. We distill this data into actionable insights to inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – with strategic, cost-efficient media placements. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused media and analytics to work for your brand, please contact us. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in marketing, consumer research, and customer experience. Our featured book for October is Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies by Christina Inge. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Marketing Metrics, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N, P A G E dot com.
Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Christina Inge, the Founder and CEO of Thoughtlight, and the author of this month’s featured Bigeye Book Club selection, Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies. At Bigeye, in common with most agencies, we’ve seen a shift from traditional media to digital channels over the past couple of decades. Over the past two to three years, many clients have been increasing their investments in social media relative even to other digital channels. Because social strategy often combines organic content, boosted content, paid campaigns, and influencer content, how do you approach creating a dashboard that combines data from many different sources?
Christina Inge: Well, there’s two ways to answer that. One is tactically and one is strategically. Let’s start with strategically. You need to figure out which of your metrics truly matter because otherwise you’ve got a dashboard that holds you back more than it pushes you forward because there’s just so much data there that people get frightened away, don’t look at it at all. And then that’s a useless dashboard. So strategically, the first step is to have clarity on which metrics are most important and reach consensus. And that may mean determining that you need a range of different dashboards. That’s what we recommend, it’s what I talk about in greater depth in the book as well is the need for different levels of dashboards, depending on the stakeholders, um, from strategic to tactical. Now, the next step though is then there’s a ton of tools out there, but use something where you can get the talent to manage that dashboard. You know, Google Data Studio has a lot of proponents. There are many people certified in Tableau, Power BI. A lot of times you want to make sure that your selection of dashboard aligns with what you have as in-house talent, because good data analysts, a good people with skills even in dashboards beyond just data science, are very hard to find. But that is tactics. Most importantly, you need to get clarity on what that dashboard should be talking about. Not everyone needs to stare at all of the same data all the time.
Adrian Tennant: I mentioned organic and boosted content as components of social media. In Marketing Metrics, you have a chapter devoted to content marketing metrics frameworks. Could you talk a bit about why establishing a framework is foundational?
Christina Inge: Absolutely, Adrian. I think number one, hands up everybody here who has always kept up with their blogging schedule and never, ever failed to do their blogging. I don’t think there’s a hand raised out there, and so, most of us struggle to generate content at the level that we need to, right? At the volume and for the quantities that we need. And so having a framework where you have solid metrics, again, it goes back to that example of using your data to push your creativity in the right direction. You want to figure out where you can concentrate your blogging efforts or your other video efforts or your TikTok-ing efforts, whatever your content work is, where it’s gonna drive the most results. And so having a framework like the CV: the Content Value Framework that we talk about in the book, that I developed at Thoughtlight, it helps you identify which content is the most important to create. We look at different factors such as its propensity to convert, as well as its importance and relevance to your brand. And if you wanna learn more about this framework, buy the book! But the value of that framework is that instead of wondering, “Is my blogging actually doing us any good? Why am I writing all of these blog posts?” You figure out where to put all of your efforts so that every piece of content that you create delivers the maximum ROI, and that actually builds momentum and builds a strong content program.
Adrian Tennant: In Marketing Metrics, you write, quote – “The tools that are today’s must-haves will be tomorrow’s forgotten technologies, and the platforms that we rush to today may not be around in five years” -end quote. So based on your two decades of experience, what skills do brand marketers and agency professionals need to develop to be metrics-driven and enjoy long careers?
Christina Inge: Number one is divergent thinking. You know, I keep getting back to my analogy of the Battle of Leuctra, which I bet you didn’t think was a good metaphor for marketing, but it was won on the basis of divergent thinking of there, here’s this paradigm, right, of you hit your opponent head on like a rugby scrum, and if they had done that, we would’ve never heard of Thebes – not that we’ve heard of them anyway! But, the ability to use data, not just to validate, “Oh look, we sold another lip balm,” but to think about, “Well, what is this telling me about the path forward? How is data pointing to creative new directions?” Computers are gradually taking over all of what I call the bread-and-butter work. You know, just being able to crunch numbers no longer makes you special. Just thinking about, “Oh, these numbers tell us that this ad had a higher click-through rate than that ad. Google Ads, for instance, has already taken that work out of marketers’ hands. They’re testing your ads and optimizing and delivering the highest click-through or highest conversion rate ads automatically all the time. So simply being able to do math and make very simple tactical decisions such as, “This ad got more clicks than that ad, let’s run the ad with more clicks” – it’s over. If it’s not already over with the particular tools or the skillset you use, it’s going to be over within the next five, maximum 10 years. What’s not going to be over is what I call being a general of data, being able to look at the whole field, look at all of the information that’s coming into you, look at the situation and the players, and make new breakthrough decisions based on that data that move your organization forward, that help them come up with creative new approaches. So if you are focused right now on what’s called convergent thinking of just analyzing things, and coming up with this is the one and only, you know, sole version of the truth on this very simple level of what ad to click on or what creative is performing the best, that’s great data to observe, but now you need to deduce, and more importantly, you need to be able to strategize from those deductions. So don’t be afraid to come up with crazy ideas based on the data. Don’t be afraid to think.
Adrian Tennant: We’re seeing more AI-driven and machine learning-assisted data analysis tools emerging in the marketing space. Do you view these as threats or opportunities?
Christina Inge: I actually see them as opportunities, and I’ll tell you why. They are elevating what marketing can do. Throughout my whole career in technology, I’ve always seen newer and newer tools come up that take some kind of tactical work away, and that it always causes shifts, right? It always causes changes, shifting landscape of what jobs are available out there. But ultimately most of us go into marketing to either be strategic or to be creative. we don’t go into marketing to do rote and repetitive work. And so if you position yourself to be a data-driven creative or a data-driven marketing strategist, they are really, really major opportunities. It’s a threat if your focus has been on carrying out somebody else’s plan on doing very, very basic work. I know that some entry level work does not have as much of a creative component, and some of that may shift also. But ultimately for marketing, it’s going to take away that impression a lot of the C-suite often has, all due respect to the C-suite, that we are makers of posters and senders out of pretty newsletters, and make marketing more of a strategic job.
Adrian Tennant: In this interview, we’ve only scratched the surface of what you cover in Marketing Metrics. In addition to the 285 pages of content, you also include a chapter of resources, a dictionary of marketing metrics and related terms, and end notes that allow readers to learn more about the sources and case studies you include in the book. Christina, in the period that’s elapsed between submitting your final manuscript to Kogan Page and the book being published, are there any topics that you wish you’d covered in more detail or perhaps ideas that you’d like to expand upon in a future book?
Christina Inge: Yes, absolutely. So Marketing Metrics was designed to be a broad overview of all of the data-driven thinking that today’s managers, especially marketing managers, but also executives need. It’s meant to be your 360-degree guide to everything you need to know about marketing metrics. What I’d like to dive into deeper in the future is customer analytics, and in fact, I’m building out a course on data-driven customer journey mapping to get very specific. So that’s an area that I hope to. Stay tuned.
Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners want to learn more about you or your consulting firm, Thoughtlight, where can they find you?
Christina Inge: You can look me up on LinkedIn. Send me a message and say you listen to this podcast if you wanna connect there. and you can also go to my website, which is thoughtlight.net. “Thought” as in thinking. “Light” as in light bulb, and it’s the dot-net.
Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like to obtain a copy of Christina’s book, Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies, as an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you can save 20% when you order directly from the publisher at KoganPage.com. Just enter the promo code BIGEYE20, that’s B I G E Y E 2 0 at the checkout. And that discount applies to printed and electronic versions of the book. Christina, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS!
Christina Inge: Thank you again. It was wonderful to be here. And again, if you’ve got any burning questions about marketing, I’ve probably answered them in the book.
Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Christina Inge, the Founder and CEO of Thoughtlight, and the author of Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com. Just select ‘Podcast’ from the menu. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for joining us for IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.