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Why Marketers Can’t Ignore the Data Problem

Posted February 1, 2023
Why Marketers Can’t Ignore the Data Problem

Sean Daily, Business Growth Strategist and CEO of Adentities, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Sean shares his insights on his path in B2B marketing, what B2B marketers are getting wrong, and why digital advertising isn’t dead.

Sean has been a serial entrepreneur for three and half decades now and has owned a grand total of six businesses. The three most recent of which have been agencies. Sean started his career as a tech author and then parlayed that into writing and speaking in the Microsoft Windows Enterprise space. He ended up backing into marketing almost unwittingly. One day, somebody pointed out to him that he was a  marketer. They told him, ‘you’re building these ebooks and programs for these software companies like Microsoft and Dell. that’s marketing!’ Sean demurred saying he was a publisher, but the friend insisted, “you’re a marketer, you’re generating leads.” That was twenty-two years ago. At the beginning of this chat, Sean explained his career path.

When we spoke first, we bonded over eerily similar paths to marketing in several ways. Tell us how you got here.

“So I was doing a lot of B2B marketing mostly in the tech space and then sold that company successfully in 2005. I then went into everything podcasting. I became the old man of podcasting. I was doing it back in the day when people didn’t know what a podcast was. I was also doing blogging, social media, and all these things. I ended up starting an agency in 2010, focusing on both the local and national space. At one point, I was doing a smattering of probably 22 different industries. That lasted until I sold that agency just a little over a year ago. There were actually two agencies. So here I am in my latest iteration and that kind of plays into what we will talk about today.”

What’s THE THING B2B marketers in particular are getting wrong right now?

Sean discussed at length his opinion of what B2B marketers are getting wrong when it comes to data. 

“There are perennial things that marketers tend to get wrong, but those are well known. You can chat GPT and fix it. That’s a joke. However, that’s what everyone thinks now. 

I think it’s more like marketers are being victimized lately for the last three years. We are all collectively suffering from this. This is what happened to me in 2019 along with everybody else. Just to do a recounting of how things got the way there are in marketing, especially online marketing and especially with paid advertising: During the 2020 elections we had the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

And the response was Facebook getting dragged in front of Congress. So now they’re going to champion reducing what advertisers can target in Facebook and Instagram campaigns as a step amongst other measures. They have also put lockdowns on political advertisers. Things like that are okay. That’s all great. What happened, as an agency running like  50 different client campaigns and for all the advertisers out there and media buyers, we all thought, ‘oh, this is starting to get really difficult.’ Because we were kind of printing money. Unless you weren’t paying attention, you were kind of printing money on Facebook and other platforms in 2013 and 2014. It was kind of the golden age for paid ads.

“And then all of sudden it got really hard and we weren’t able to target as well anymore. We weren’t able to target based on financial information. A lot of personally identifiable information was taken away and things started getting hard in the agency space. Therefore, we found ways to counter it. We started using a lot more lookalike audiences with 1st party data, emails, lists, and things like that. We were starting to counterbalance that to some degree. 2021 came along and if we thought that was bad, Cambridge Analytica happened. We had another thing coming because at that point Apple decided we are going to champion privacy and we are going to make everybody anonymous in iOS 14.5. And the opt-out was optional. The default was not sharing my information. Advertisers don’t know who their visitors are anymore. And only 4% of people actually statistically allowed it. 4% of people actually say yes, you can track me. Everyone else didn’t.  That was a complete change.

People call it the cookie apocalypse. It has cut $300 Billion since then of revenue from major platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Google, and Twitter. That is huge. So marketers are all suffering from this. We are all suffering from this. In the agency space, at that point, we sort of said ‘screw this! This isn’t fun anymore.’ Interestingly, in 2017, I had a conversation with a friend. If you’ve ever seen the movie The Graduate, It’s like plastics, my boy, plastics. He whispers to the guy at the party (Dustin Hoffman) like the future is plastic. Obviously dated reference there. 

“I felt like I had a “graduate” moment with that friend of mine who is actually my mentor. He has been in the marketing game for a long time. He said that 1st party data is going to be the way and site visitor deanonymization is going to be the way, and something called in-market data. I thought that sounded really cool and I decided when I got out of the agency game, I was going to come back and see if this is really happening.  And I did it five years later. My friend said, yep, still here, still doing well, still fixing everything that was taken from us on Facebook and all that. I thought okay. Therefore, I decided to get into this game. 

“Essentially, what’s happening? 3rd party data cookies, everything’s going away now. Google and Facebook are freaking out. They’re losing market share. Google has now pushed this date back to eliminate cookies twice. It was going to be 2022, now it’s 2024, right? That’s because they don’t have a good answer for this. But, you’ll see the messaging that’s coming from Facebook and Google is, hey guys, just upload your 1st party data, and your email list and we are going to help you out with this. However, that’s not really an answer. It’s a limited answer. 

“So user tracking data is the only way to really counter these changes as a marketer, and as a brand advertiser, it’s 1st party data that you have collected directly from your audience, from your website, from social media, whatever it might be. That’s not going to get hit the way that all these other privacy regulations are hitting CCPA etc. We are just seeing waves of it. It usually starts in Europe and then it comes over to the US and usually hits California first and then goes across the rest of the US.

“When you have your own data, it’s very unlikely. I never want to say never, but it’s very unlikely that it’s going to get legally hit in the same way that third-party data is. Therefore, what this comes down to, essentially, is a better collection of data on your own website, in our own properties. That’s basically the technology that I am involved with now. It deanonymizes website visitors. We can actually identify personally identifiable information from people around the website. We are doing 30 to 50% on average. We’ve got sites doing 70% deanonymization. We can then upload that data to Facebook, Google, and other platforms, which is awesome. We can push it through a customer data platform to get even more deanonymized data, at least at minimum, with that #256 unique identifier. The hash code which is what they eat up. And then they say, ‘oh yes! we have that person in our database. That’s what we are looking for.” 

I think we have all read the article in Forbes about major brands cutting 50% of their ad spend and not seeing an impact on their bottom line. The easy assumption is digital advertising is no longer effective, what do you take away from that headline?

In 2020, Forbes came out with an article where they stated that a few major brands cut their digital advertising budget in half. They’re spending half as much and they had absolutely zero change to how much sales they were generating. They stayed the same, if not better rate. The obvious takeaway a lot of people ran away with is digital advertising is dead or doesn’t work. There are a lot of nuances in the data though. Sean explained the other things that should be explored before we say we are not doing digital advertising anymore because it doesn’t work.

“That’s really unfortunate because it’s so deceiving and misleading. I’m here to tell you digital advertising works better than ever. I think what happened is we all collectively got kind of lazy. There was a heyday and if you look through all industries and all technologies, the curve, right? But there is an adoption. Making cryptocurrency, there was a period when it was easy to make money in crypto. It was a very short period of time and it had a horrible flaming death at the end. However, there were people throwing darts at dartboards and making money. The analogy here is there was a time with digital advertising when there was just a lot of leverage with a low IQ quotient in terms of what you need to know as a marketer.

“Now, it’s just gotten back to you actually need to know what you’re doing and you need to have tools on your side that level the playing field. It’s knowledge. Again, it comes back to data not to beat a dead horse. I’m telling you from the field, like an agency, I’ve watched this happen across 22 different niches. I mean it did get really difficult to deliver results and so that affected everybody.

“What happens is it became like that for a lot of companies. It was just that the inefficiencies were being exposed. Most advertising campaigns with very few exceptions become very inefficient and wasteful from 2019 to the present day. It’s still happening right now. I’m not going to talk about it being dead. So what that exposed is inefficiencies, but the correlation doesn’t equal causation. You can draw wrong conclusions from data. It’s not, again, saying digital advertising is the culprit. It’s the inefficiencies within your digital advertising.

“Let’s go back to the premise of marketing. What works in marketing? The right audience, the right message, and the right time. That hasn’t gone away. Guess what? Without that, without a strong offer, let’s even forget all that.  Without an amazing offer, you’ll never go anywhere in marketing. You’re not going to shoot fish in a barrel. Therefore, you’ve got to have a compelling offer that’s better than your competitors. That makes people get off their butts and take an action. You have got to have it, very few people have that. They think they do. But most of the marketing copy I see just absolutely sucks! Even from big companies. It’s almost like the bigger the company, the worse it is. It’s like scrappy startups are the ones I see with better and better copy. So you’ve got to have those three things; the right message, the right audience, and the right time. You also have to have all those other things.

“Good attribution. Attribution’s really important. Having 1st  party data is really important. And then, also things like old school skills such as creativity and strong copywriting. Things like that. These have all become important. I believe what’s happened is we started phoning it in. I think stuff’s getting real again and we are back and I am down, I am here because I’m an old-school marketer. Let’s go back to like separating the wheat from the chaff. Good marketers will survive this period and bad marketers are going to go away. That is my viewpoint on the market and what I’m seeing.”

For more expert interviews and advice, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.

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