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July 5, 2022

Get comfy with data because it is the future: Ed Locher from HG Insights

In this episode, Ed Locher from HG Insights discusses his marketing journey and how he uses data to drive real business outcomes.

Get comfy with data because it is the future: Ed Locher from HG Insights

Ed Locher was torn between marketing and finance when he started out. As it turned out, destiny chose marketing for him: The tech bubble burst in 2002, and the only offer to be found was at IBM, where he’d interned during school. From there on to becoming the VP of Marketing at HG Insights, there has been no looking back. 

Transcript (auto-generated)

0:25: I was sort of torn between marketing and finance and really wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to go. When I graduated in 2002–for those of you that were old enough to remember that was when the tech bubble burst. And, I had an internship in marketing at IBM during school. And, when I graduated in May of 2000, the only offer to be found was at marketing at IBM.  It was a very tough time to find a job. It was the only offer that I got which actually simplified my decision between finance and marketing. But in hindsight, I’m really fortunate that it happened that way because I have found that marketing as a discipline encompasses so many different things– from the very creative, you know, brand, even down to palette or colors and things like that– all the way through real hardcore data analysis to make better decisions. And, I feel like that I’m better suited to that type of environment than I would have been, you know, an FP and definitely not accounting, my balance sheet never balanced, which meant marketing was probably the better route for me anyway. But, it was sort of serendipitous that it was somewhat made for me, but I was definitely lucky that it happened that way. 

Understanding data

1.54: As growing up in IBM, it was a very standard, normal, typical marketing communications role, very creative, very campaign programs. Unfortunately, working for IBM, maybe one of the top five world’s most recognizable brands– as a marketer, I got a free pass, I could do anything and people would open it, they would open the email, they would open the letter because it came from IBM– instant credibility. So, we didn’t really need to do a ton of data work. We would just be able to spray a bunch of messages out there and people would engage with them because it came from IBM. And, about a decade ago I had bounced around a couple of places, I was in the agency world for a while and then I was in commercial satellite imagery for a while. But ultimately I landed at a company that was a mapping software and that company was in the midst of somewhat transforming themselves,  reinventing themselves from a data perspective. And, I was very fortunate to work with some very talented people at the time, from a marketing technology perspective and from a process perspective where we built from scratch a very robust, data driven marketing engine that literally reinvented how marketing was perceived within the company and we made better decisions. We adopted what I now call a testament best strategy, which is rather than spending six months building a ginormous campaign pushing the launch button, and crossing your fingers that it’s all gonna work. Develop four or five different very different mini campaigns with different variables, send it to a small percentage of your audience, figure out which one is actually engaging at the highest conversion rates with your audience, and then reinvest or just invest the rest of the budget money behind the one that’s working. And fast forward now for about 10 years where we’re at, where I’m at right now with HD insights and just using our own data, we’ve seen a lift of about 500% on our marketing return by focusing on those organizations with the highest propensity to buy a solution from us, based upon a successful examination of successful engagements in our past. And then engaging things like intent, techno graphic intelligence, and these key criteria that suggest a company is ripe and ready to use data to improve their operations. And like I say, a 500% increase in the return on our marketing investment. When I started to get those initial results back, I didn’t believe it. I actually went back to the team and I said– you guys we need to dig into this because these numbers are quite literally unbelievable and I’m not taking this up the chain to say that we got a 5X improvement. Turns out we did. We double-checked again and again and the data is there and it supports the fact that we are driving this kind of increase in our returns from marketing perspective by embracing data. I will never go back. 

The go-to metric

4:59: I had the good fortune to meet with the CMO of Adobe one-on-one a couple of years ago– and I should really memorize her name because she, this was an important meeting in my life, forget what her name was, but I’ll go back and figure that out. But I asked her, I said, look, you know if you’ve looked at the adobe stock price, it’s basically one of the world’s greatest success stories over the last 10-15 years. And I said to her like when you go into the boardroom every quarter and they ask you ‘did we have a good quarter’ and you say yes. And they say, how do you know, what’s your answer. Like what do you measure at adobe that suggests that things are going well. She says it’s as simple as three things. It’s impressions, engagement and conversion. Those are not just about digital advertising, right? You can apply that same model to any marketing tactic out there. Impressions are you getting in front of the right people through a preferred channel that meets them on their own self-directed journey.So some people are very excited that in-person events are coming back and so are you getting in front of the right people on the show floor. Are you doing it from your digital media? Are you doing it from your email marketing? Getting it through LinkedIn and your social, Tiktok and all those things? So are you getting in front of the right audience? Do you have a compelling message?And so what that means- are they engaging with, are they clicking on it? Are they striking up a conversation? Are they watching your videos? Are they coming to your website? Are they engaging with the content because it was compelling enough to pique their interest, Right? You’re not,you haven’t sold anything yet, but you have started the very important process of convincing them that the status quo is no longer Ok, right. Something has to change. May not be with you, but the status quo is too expensive to keep going down that road. And then the final one is conversions. Are you getting them to trade something of value from a marketing perspective, typically that’s their contact information, get them to raise their hand and say, I would like to learn more about what you are saying. And if you are doing a good job on impressions, engagement and conversion, she said the rest of it takes care of itself. So your conversion rates down your funnel are gonna be high because you’ve got the right people engaging with the right content and are converting because you’ve convinced them that they need to do something. So your conversion from lead to marketing qualified lead to sales acceptable leads to opportunity to close one should take care of itself because you’re getting the right type of contact upfront in the top of the funnel. And then you can also apply that in the microcosm post opportunity creation. So in the negotiation phase can you provide an ROI calculator for example so you don’t have to discount as much. Can you do customer references of the customer use cases or case studies at the discovery face? Oh I had no idea Oracle was using this company like that. I’d like to do that too. So there’s a lot of things that you can do as a marketer using that model of impression, engagement and conversion.

Favorite tools for data insights

8:14: I am a fan– if you can afford it, –the Adobe creative suite– not just the Photoshop and indesign things like that but the CDP and the whole nine yards. If you can afford it— it’s really good, because it allows for a lot of scalability. We used to have to hire an army of people to be a successful marketing organization at scale. You just don’t anymore. The tools are pretty amazing. At its core, there are three things that you really need. You need a marketing automation platform, you need CRM and you need–not a crazy sophisticated but inadequately sophisticated underlying your website, I always forget this acronym–a WordPress or something like that. So you’ve got those three systems and you can make a lot of hey if you have a talented campaign/program manager, if you have a talented webdev person and you have an ability to have quality content created, whether that’s internal or you outsource that to an agency from a designer writer perspective. And then very very importantly, you need an analytics metrics person. So the models, the machines that I build typically have a product or a marketo as our marketing automation platform everywhere I’ve worked is Salesforce, which is pretty, pretty common and then the WordPress site is good enough. But the important component of that is building a visualization suite on top of that. And so we use Tableau here, but any visuals look or any of that stuff can work. The trick is getting the data out of the individual systems and that’s really where you need to invest in the right person who has the skills to bring data from Salesforce or Marketo from all these other systems into a tableau so that you can actually visualize what’s happening on the ground. And so we’ve had a lot of success using that model in building literally real-time dashboards. So, every night when marketo syncs with Salesforce at HG, it updates based on pulling campaign objects and other objects out of salesforce, linking that together with the Marketo piece and then it does show us the target the impressions engagement conversion metrics in real time. So every morning I wake up and the dashboard is slightly different and I can see how we’re performing across those lines, but for those of us who have been at it for a while, we all know that you can get a salesforce report to tell you anything that you want. The real challenge is getting it to tell you the same thing as it told that other person over there, because there are so many filters and there’s typically a lot of confusion and fog between how people are pulling the data and the Salesforce reporting suite to me has been deficient for a long time and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. And so that’s why I’ve I’ve used these third-party visualizations, but that brings its own brain damage and that you have to get the data out of Salesforce, which is not intuitively easy or accessible right out of the chute, you have to put some energy into that. So those are the tools right? And if you have four or five people and you have those tools that can take you to 100 million in revenue. 

The way to future

11.51: Organizations, as they, as we move through time, right– so those organizations that were quick to the marketing automation– and things like that started to overperform and or outperform their peers set, which explains why there are now over 9000 vendors in the Martech space, right? Everybody has a great idea and everybody seems to have found some money to start a company to address using technology in this space, whether it’s data or future functions, things like that, there’s just it’s really crowded. There’s a lot of people trying to help with this process. And there are organizations out there that are further along the adoption of that than others. And, you know, just from my own personal journey, what we did hear what we’ve proven at HG If I’m getting a five X improvement in my our life from a marketing perspective and my competitors aren’t, I’m taking share. So there’s gonna be a Darwinian effect there that those people that are embracing data that are making these better decisions based upon objective insights, real data facts, they will outperform and over time will create separation and then ultimately, those companies that aren’t embracing that will have a very difficult time making a go of it, Right? And so those 9000 vendors, there will always be more jumping into the space. But there is a there’s a long tail of those that are falling out because they have not yet improved or embraced the perspective of data. So I’ve actually thought about this a lot. 10 years ago I fell into the opportunity to really learn how to do this stuff. I didn’t sit at my desk in my previous job and say this is where I see the market going.These are the boxes I need to check in my career so that I’m prepared for how this is gonna go. Wasn’t that smart. I am very lucky in where I landed and what I was able to do with some talented people along the way. And as I view it and I’m biased of course because I live in the marketing world. I think we’re gonna start to see more CEOs come from marketing and we’re gonna see more CMOs have a greater share of influence at their organizations because finally marketing at the table is using data. So a decade ago finance– they had spreadsheets galore, operations had been using ERP for years. And they can say look if we look around and we find a million dollars laying on the couch we should invest in additional manufacturing capacity in gary indiana because here’s the business case and here’s the ROI and here’s what we’re gonna do and then they look at the marketing person and around the table and they’d say what would you do with a million dollars? And he or she would say I’d spend a lot and it’s gonna be big, we’re gonna kill it, we’re gonna drive all kinds of revenue and it’s gonna be so awesome, it’s gonna be great and they’re gonna be like prove it. And the response was I mean and oftentimes they couldn’t even prove what they were doing, today, let alone what they would do with the next million dollars. That’s not the case anymore. Again I’ve had the good fortune to work in an organization where we knew that investment of an additional $100,000 into the machine would yield $1.2 million 5.7 months later. So when the operations persons at that table saying Gary Indiana and I’m saying $1.2 million $100,000 you invest. I may not win that conversation but I have a fighting chance for the first time in my career. And so you know data isn’t going away. Data is becoming more and more important every single day. And the advice that I give to my team and my colleagues and my network– things like that is if you’re not getting familiar with it and you’re not getting good at it, you’re getting left behind and there will always be a need for brand and creative– and all those things are still very important. But even those things can be measured their impact on organizational value, and if you’re not doing it, you’re gonna be stuck at that old model where you’re saying you’re just gonna have to trust me, this is gonna be huge, and you won’t be able to prove it. So my advice to anybody who might be listening to this– get comfy with the data, because it is, it is the future man, it’s already here.

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