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Author: Robert Morris

Small Data

13 Mar Marketing’s Big Data Challenge – “Small Data”

Brands suffer no shortage of data measurement today.

Impressions. Interactions. Engagement. Views. Visitors. Leads. Qualified leads. Lift. Frequency. Reach. Amplification. Share. Shares. Likes. Comments. Tweets. Recall. Recognition. Awareness. Spend. Purchase. Loyalty. Consideration. Conversion. Favorability. Share of voice. CPA. ROI. P/E. Growth. Influence. Sentiment. NPS. Click Throughs. Uniques. Time. Intent. Rank. Traffic. Reputation. Advocacy. Usage. Earned. Earnings. Exposure. Pages. Logins. Affinity. Retention. LTV. CAC. Reputation. Participation. Value.

And this list doesn’t even begin to touch on the pre-go-to-market research inputs informing targeting, segmentation, audience, competition, etc.

This isn’t a “big data” problem. It’s a “big pile of small data” opportunity. Big data has been defined based on at least three “V”’s (some prognosticators go up to six):

1. Volume

2. Variety

3. Velocity

The insights below demonstrate this relationship nicely:


Small Data

Source:  Diya Soubra


Taken individually, many of the standard marketing metrics have become or are creeping into big data territory. However, too much of this data is silo-ed across internal departments or spread across a roster of specialized agencies. So, who’s doing the “knitting?” How should the business and marketing strategy be organized to actually leverage the power of big data?

The answer lies in a fourth “V”: Value. The disparate sources of data measurement must be restructured under a holistic architecture that provides real “Value” for better decision making by CMO’s and the rest of the executive suite – only then can the pile of small data be transformed into useful Big Data.

The funny thing is – consumers don’t think or act according to these terms. The industry’s metrics are a proxy for measuring and influencing human behavior. In our view at Trade, what’s needed is a framework that focuses on what’s really happening in people’s lives. Put simply, people are either living a story or telling one. So listen to and identify these narratives first. Plan second. Then execute to add value to the personal narratives. Measure, rinse and repeat.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 312-909-2800

To contact the author

Jeff Mikes, Partner

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14 Dec Using “Old School” Personas is a Serious Marketing Mistake

Let’s be honest. There’s probably a beautiful document, maybe even a video, a large wall chart or even a digital dashboard that contains your personas floating around your company. For generations of marketers, the persona served as the guiding principle for nearly all communication strategies. Your personas were the result of psychographic, demographic and ethnographic research. You made serious investments in those personas and your agencies / partners worked for months to develop them. There’s only one problem. They’re completely irrelevant. Let’s follow the logic.

Personas are based on the following:

  • Market Research
  • Audience Insights
  • Categorization of Attributes (Behavioral, Demographic, Psychographic, Ethnographic)
  • Purchase / Decision Influences
  • Response Criteria
  • Messaging & Media


Personas are supposed to be representational of key audiences. They are the basis from which brand architectures are developed, messaging strategies defined, creative execution aligned and measurement defined. Sadly, they are expensive exercises that today, are completely irrelevant and essentially counter intuitive to marketing success. Let’s delve into the “why?”

Fragmentation, Pace, Interest, Engagement & Influence

Personas were based on data sets that effectively represent a “moment in time.” Having worked with highly recognized companies that specialize in research, marketing automation and media planning, it’s interesting to see how legacy approaches continue to permeate insights and drive decision making. As we describe it at Trade, in a world where data drives narrative, storytelling drives brand and technology facilitates participation – engagement is dynamic.

If you’re using personas, they’ll most likely be built from a combination of the following:

Demographics:   1.) Gender; 2.) Age (Range); 3.) HHI; 4.) Marital Status; 5.) Size of Household

Psychographics: 1.) Values; 2.) Interests; 3.) Attitudes

Ethnography 1.)  In-depth visits to audience locations; 2.) Contextual interviews; 3) Product / service usage

How do you solve for fragmentation, pace, interest, engagement & influence?
  • Start with data that accessible and affordable; build data models that incorporate paid, earned and owned media into a set of customer and prospect “views.”
  • Combined with tools that capture “human generated information” (i.e. blogs, social posts and news sites)  built off of DataSift’s  core feeds such as  Zignal Labs, Nuvi, Hootsuite, etc.
  • Overlaid with paid, earned and owned (standard analytics from Adobe, Google, DoubleClick, etc.) with data sets from tools such as Salesforce, Pardot, Eloqua, Marketo, SAP, Oracle, Genesys and Avaya with
  • Data sets from tools such as Ensighten and Tealium to deliver experiences that drive customer experiences on owned platforms such as Adobe, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle and provide additional data sets that make programmatic significantly more value rather than solely optimized for spend.

This sounds complex, but in actuality, it’s the basis for real-time / near real-time decisioning in support of marketing spend and it’s easier than it sounds.  With the opportunity to capture insights from social channels where people aggregate into discreet communities that are in many instances, temporary – the model above provides the ability to build a marketing structure that operates more closely to a newsroom, (editorial) than a waterfall of research, brand messaging, asset creation, media buy and measurement. It affords your organization the ability to deliver the right content, to the right audience in the right channel at the right time. Your target audience(s) are constantly changing / evolving – hourly, daily, weekly. The question is – Is your marketing strategy dynamic? If it’s driven by legacy persona models, it will limit your ability to intersect to your target audience.

Don’t take our word for it – talk to our clients.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Robert Morris, Partner

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27 Aug Marketing technology lessons – Avoiding the wasteland


By Catie Starr, Director Customer Acquisition

Credentials: $7B+ in deposits delivered to GE Capital Bank in 21 months

Director, Digital Marketing – GE Capital Bank
Managing Director, Digital – Charles Schwab

According to a recent study published by Ascend2, only 9% of marketers believe that they have all of the tools that they need AND that they fully utilize what they have.1 This leaves the other 91% of us needing more tools and/or more resources to fully realize an ideal marketing technology strategy. Sure, some of the 91% will never be satisfied, but I believe that to be a small percentage. The vast majority of marketers need a clear roadmap to get to the ideal solution.

The ideal stack?

But what is the ideal marketing stack for your business? In Q1 ’15 the marketing technology (MarTech) category had 1,876 companies listed within it. 1,876 companies in 30+ categories. Now that’s overwhelming. How are you supposed to source, let alone run 30 tools in your marketing technology stack?- especially given the ever-increasing pressure on efficiencies in marketing.



The good news? You don’t need 30 and, most likely, that figure includes just a handful, at best. There is a core set of tools that make sense for most companies, but the rest of the categories are pretty niche. The ideal stack all depends on your business, go-to-market strategy, internal capabilities, agency partner ecosystem and the level of investment that you can make. In particular, the investment isn’t so much about how much investment, rather, what does the business case support? The trick is finding the tools that make sense for your business model and determining the priority of bringing them on. But where do you start? My recommendation is to start with what you’ve got.

Start with what you’ve got

I’ve been involved in several different businesses with varying degrees of sophistication as it relates to the marketing stack – from a blank slate to a hodgepodge of systems strung together with duct tape and baling wire. But the most important first step that I’ve always taken is conducting an audit of where and how the data flows between the systems. It’s almost guaranteed that there are quick wins that you can have through this exercise. Before you make another investment in a new tool, look into what you have. You’re most likely to find an opportunity to make your current systems more productive.

For example, most of you will tell me that you have web analytics, right? But is it pulling its weight? Can you track end-to-end marketing efficiency by dollar that you spend? Is it a full closed-loop or are there gaps? The thing that we see the most is that companies have a lot of tools that aren’t properly used. And without closed-loop reporting, you’re flying blind and any tool that you add to the stack will not prove its worth.

Your ideal stack

Once you’ve evaluated your current stack, it’s time to determine if there are gaps in the transparency and optimization capabilities of your data. This is the key to determining where investments should be made and the priorities of those investments. This is a good exercise leading into next year’s strategic planning. Understanding the key business goals and strategies will help clarify where you need to improve and what you need to focus on. Is your business looking to improve it’s Net Promoter Score (NPS)? Maybe you should focus on voice of the customer and social analytics. Is your business focused on the lowest cost of acquisition? Maybe you should focus on conversion optimization and attribution tools? Your investments in technology need to be aligned to your business goals.

This is the fun part. It’s time to envision the ideal stack for your business. It’s time to get to know new technologies, talk to your existing partners and your network. It’s time to build a roadmap to achieve the vision.

Don’t forget about the people

One of the biggest reasons I have witnessed a lack of productivity in the marketing technology stack is a lack of people to run it. Idle tools do you no good. Under-supported tools will be under-productive. You will never reach a state of full utilization without the right people and skills on your team.

When you put together your business case for a technology investment you MUST include the cost of the resource(s) needed to run it. Unless you have the capacity and appropriate skills sitting idle on your team, your investment will also need to include people. It’s an often-overlooked piece of the puzzle that can make or break the productivity of a tool.

It’s a marathon

The process of getting to an ideal and fully-utilized marketing technology stack is a long one. It’s not a sprint. It’s not something that you can accomplish overnight or even over the course of a year. As more and more tools and technologies come on the scene and as your existing platforms mature or don’t – unfortunately in certain cases, it will continue to be an ongoing process of evaluating what’s available and determining if you need it to accomplish your businesses goals.

The keys to making your stack as productive as possible include: Understanding what you have and ensuring it is being utilized properly; constantly learning about and evaluating what is available to you; and surrounding yourself with smart people who are also looking to make sure that their system can stack up.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Catie Starr, Director, Customer Acquisition


1 Ascend2: Marketing Technology Strategy – Survey Summary Report

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14 Aug Stop Renting Eyeballs, Start Investing in Marketing Assets

Traditionally, using paid media to access audiences, whether offline or online, has been a “renting eyeballs” exercise. Much upfront effort is spent on targeting, segmentation, and creative production – all of which is then activated by placing the outputs where audiences aggregate (print, radio, TV, web, social). The hope is that these audiences will excuse the interruption to notice your marketing message and ultimately be influenced to buy your product. It’s been a tried and true method for a century but one that now suffers declining ROI due to fragmentation of both media channels and attention spans.

So if “renting” can no longer pay the rent, what else is a marketer to do?


The answer is simple: invest. Invest in building long-lived assets (owned media), invest in building relationships that spawn advocacy (earned media), and more generally endeavor to become part of the personal narrative of your target market rather than a passing interruption in their regularly scheduled programming.

This audience investment (rather than rental) approach requires a different way of thinking about how to create marketing assets and how to measure their efficacy. Marketers are now content creators – requiring adoption of the tools and techniques of narrative architecture on top of traditional segmentation and targeting. Unfortunately, great storytelling that reaches the right audience may win an Academy Award, but it won’t alone move a brand or, more importantly, sales in the right direction. So in addition, marketers need to establish performance measurement systems and metrics that allow them to optimize and do more of what’s working and improve or discard what’s not.

Let’s move from theory to application. Say you’re a senior marketer charged with driving more leads into the organization. Your peers in brand awareness are spending copious amounts of money renting eyeballs with their latest TV spots to make sure the average consumer has at least heard of the product. You also have a top-notch sales team that closes a respectable percentage of net new leads. You own the middle of the funnel (consideration). Typical media strategies would recommend renting more eyeballs, but at a more targeted, perhaps direct marketing level. It’s really a numbers game at this point – spend more on mailings, display ads, promos, paid search. A certain percentage of the audience that views your efforts (typically below 1-2% and sometimes well below), will interact – beginning the conversion phase of the sales process. But once you turn off the spigot of media funds the process grinds to a slow natural halt. You’re renting eyeballs and your marketing ROI is directly tied to your rent payment.

The alternative is investing in narrative strategy, content development, audience relationship building, and performance optimization. To be clear, this is an investment – an approach that may have a longer payback period than quarterly eyeball rental, but also a much higher ROI. Most marketers are already familiar with the general concepts of storytelling as well as content production, and have also likely been exposed to the huge upsides of direct interaction with consumers via social platforms. The missing ingredient that ties these elements together is a unified narrative architecture – one supported by a marketing technology stack and predicated on ongoing performance optimization.

Back to the example. Rather than pushing out the latest agency mailers and display ads, the smart marketer decides first to better understand her target customers – what’s going in their lives and how the brand can participate and add value. Notice the difference here – it’s not first about the brand’s story, it’s about the personal narrative of the potential customer. Knowledge in hand, the marketer can structure an editorial calendar that delivers content, not just ads, across channels. Both the content and the channel distribution are built on standardized frameworks and insights that can be measured for effectiveness at the point of interaction and across time as the customer relationship is developed and nurtured.

Deeper, more meaningful customer relationships lead to more and better-qualified leads. And once these customers become consumers they can also become advocates – driving additional awareness-consideration-conversion through earned media in a virtuous cycle. This modern approach to engaging audiences through investment rather than rental requires a shift in attitudes in the marketing budgeting process. But with the tools now available to measure and manage investment performance, it’s a natural evolution for brands and marketers to start building relationships rather than paying for the privilege of interrupting their target audience.


To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Jeff Mikes, Partner

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16 Jul The “Other” 1% – Are you on the endangered species list?

The “Other” 1% – Are you on the endangered species list? 1 of 3 

If you’re not aware of all of the talk about the “1%”, you’ve most likely been sequestered in a jury pool for the past 24+ months. For those who’ve done jury duty lately, you’re not laughing. Actually, the 1% we’re referencing here is the exclusive group of marketers that represent the most effective, data driven, performance focused within the industry. Let’s stop here for a moment and take a step back. The AMA defines “marketing” as the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. (July 2013). This definition is extremely broad, and yes, there’s a disagreement here regarding the functional role of marketing.

Some of you will have an issue with this premise, agreeing that this correct. What’s missing in this definition is data, insight and relevance.

Let’s get back to the 1%. Actually, let’s start with the other 99%. This is the group that views marketing as an “art” with a practical application of “science.” This is the group that still uses page views and click through rates as key measures – OK, they may use a bit more, but not much. This goes back to the fact that nine out of ten global marketers aren’t trained to calculate ROI and eight out of ten struggle to demonstrate the effectiveness of their spending to leadership – 2014 Fournaise Study. There’s a bit of irony in this study. One in ten figured out how to demonstrate effectiveness of their marketing, while not knowing how to measure the ROI. We’ll leave that item for another day. Here’s where the differentiation comes in. The 1% understand ROI and with that comes an appreciation for and understanding of the science and the art, effectively the role of the “alchemist.” Yes, the art is critical, but it’s value is defined when it’s applied to the science. Data is ubiquitous, so why do so many marketers fail to take advantage of the opportunity?

The answer: It requires a significant organizational change. Change that includes:

  • Investments in strategic planning
  • Investments in people (hiring, training, mentoring, etc.)
  • Organizational alignment (Shifts to a matrix model, yes – the loss of siloed management and “ownership)
  • Investment in technologies
  • Impacts to accounting (SaaS vs. On Premise, etc.)
  • Shifting of models that reflect “publishing” vs. traditional “linear” marketing
  • Requirement to listen and understand how to participate in the customer journey
  • Cross functional accountability (Teams comprised of technologists, marketers, data scientists, finance, media, etc. working collaboratively not within artificial org structures)

Those marketers that have taken on the challenge to focus their organizations on data driven marketing – not database marketing for clarification – have a significant advantage. Let’s take a look at a few categories within the market. If some of these platforms and solutions don’t look familiar, it’s time to assess the state of your marketing – and by the way, this is a small sub-set.

Tag Management

Data Management Platform

Behavioral Attribution

Trend Intelligence

Campaign Management

A/B Multivariate

User Experience Monitoring

Customer Communications Management

Identity Management

Offer Management

In Q1 ’15 the marketing technology (MarTech) category had 1,876 companies listed within it, and one can argue a number of companies could have been included that most likely feel a bit “left out.” Through Q3 ’14 over $21.8B1 in funding had been received collectively across the category.

So, what does this all mean? We’ll skip the typical high-level, which leads to “I didn’t learn anything from reading this.”

Introducing: The Human Interactions Officer:

We’ll start with the first of three insights in this post. You’ll need to come back for the next two. Insight 1: Organizations need a “Human Interactions Officer”, not a Chief “Customer” Officer, but rather someone that understands behavior tenets. The positive of technologies is that they provide incredible insights; the negative – they remove the “human” factor. One person needs to “own” the experience that humans have with a company. Why? Look at it this way – Marketing, Sales, Customer Support, Customer Care, Retention, etc. all have a different lens they use for determining success or failure relative to their role. They’re incentivized differently, which leads to discrepancies in the human experience. The organization model in and of itself is outdated and needs to change – again, that’s for a future discussion.

By structuring a company around an individual that’s responsible for each touch point in the human lifecycle, we can understand the relationship between needs, desires and outcomes as they relate to a company’s products and services. In order to do this, an organization has to first, understand their prospects. Second, it has to understand where in the life of a human, their product or service is relevant and valuable. Third, it has to become part of the human story – not interruptive, which is the role of advertising, (unfortunately). Forth, it has to use data to understand motivations and objectives. And fifth, it needs to nurture the relationship once it’s established.

What are the takeaways?

  • Organizational design needs to mimic the desired human relationship
  • Technologies need to be deployed that provide a holistic view of human interactions, guided by a unified set of objectives
  • A master human record needs to exist that contains the “body of knowledge” collected from the prospect through the customer stage (old terms)
  • The Human Interactions Officer should have a collective team that’s comprised of representatives from:
  • Product / Service Development
  • BI (within the marketing function)
  • IT
  • Legal, Risk, Compliance – wherever necessary
  • Economics
  • Customer Service
  • Merchandising
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Logistics
  • The marketing ecosystem should live in a state of “perpetual beta”, constantly evolving, leveraging the potential of SaaS tools


To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Robert Morris, Partner

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