How to Rise Above the Data Clutter: Interview with Brad Mattick

 
Glenn: Hi, everyone. I’m Glenn Gow, Founder & Advisor of Crimson Marketing. Welcome to Moneyball for Marketing where we talk about the incredible changes happening in marketing organizations around big data and marketing technology. We feature marketing technology insights from the top marketers in the world. The reference to Moneyball is from the story of how the Oakland A’s baseball team were able to win and win and win because they figured out how to use data and technology to their advantage. If you’d like to learn about how to use big data and marketing technology and marketing to help you win visit us at CrimsonMarketing.com or email us at info@CrimsonMarketing.com. And now on to our podcast.
Today I am very pleased to welcome Brad Mattick. Brad is the VP of Marketing and Products at BrightEdge where he leads all marketing related initiatives including PR, Demand Gen, product marketing, and product design. So how does BrightEdge describe themselves? BrightEdge is the leading content performance marketing platform for the enterprise. Their technologies help marketers rise above the increasing clutter of the web to understand the performance of their content and drive measurable business results. Brad, it’s great to have you here.

Brad: Thanks, Glenn. It’s great to be here.

Glenn: You know, I am really actually fascinated by this concept of the intersection of content and data. Every client we have is trying to get smarter in both categories and here we are talking about the intersection of those two. Tell us what’s going on in the world of the marketer as it relates to the intersection of data and content.

Brad: Yeah, happy to. Really, really topical, very exciting. Obviously the world we live in right now is driven so much by the need to produce content as a marketer and also the need to understand and gain insights from the explosion of data that’s out there so maybe I can start, Glenn, why don’t we talk a little bit about some of the stats and some of the data just to size up what’s going on out there?

Glenn: Excellent.

Brad: So if you look at some of the research that’s been done you’ll find statistics that are just overwhelming. Things like 93 percent of B2B marketers are using content marketing as a strategy. You see numbers like marketers are dedicating 39 to 40 percent of their budget just to content and they’re producing 27 million pieces of content every single day. So just a tremendous explosion in the popularity of content and I think it’s good to reflect on why, what’s the story? Why are marketers so focused on content?
I think that digital has really allowed marketers to create content and they aren’t as reliant on the publishing industry as they once were so brands are becoming publishers, right? We’ve all heard that and I think it’s true. The interesting thing though that comes from that is just the volume of digital information that’s being created. So, I’m not sure if you’ve seen this quote going. There’s a quote that IBM did a couple years back that said, “Ninety-five percent of the world’s data had been created in the last five years.” And so there’s this explosion of data and content that’s happening. There are predictions out there. IDC predicts that by 2020 the Internet, essentially, the digital universe will be 44, and I got a new word here, zettabytes. And a zettabyte is 44 trillion gigabytes. So lots of zeros. Not quite a Google with a hundred zeros after it, but well along its way there.

Glenn: But getting up there. Well, Brad, I have a couple of quotes for you and I may not get these exactly right, but we’ll get the gist of it. One quote says that, “Most B2B buyers receive content and consider the vast majority of that content worthless from the vendors that are trying to pitch them.” Another quote which is even more fascinating is that 70 percent of the content developed by companies doesn’t get used.” Those two numbers really scare me when you think about all the effort going into content.

Brad: And they should. I feel the same way. I think those stats, frankly, are true. The way that we think about it at BrightEdge we think that the digital world is a battleground. We think that your content is fighting a battle and the reason why it’s a battle is there’s just so much content out there with this explosion the quality bar gets higher and higher. Think about your own personal life. If you work in Silicon Valley or at a successful company as a marketer think about how you go through your day. During the day you’re on your laptop and you’re looking at content, maybe reviewing internal content, you’re looking at competing content, you’re trying to understand how leaders are using content. In-between meetings you’re on your phone, you’re doing the same thing. Then you’re on your tablet at night when you get home. Maybe you put the kids to bed, maybe you don’t have kids yet, congratulations if you have kids, and you’re interacting with content.
So the point here is that people are so used to living a digital lifestyle and the reality is that content viewing and interaction time is not constrained to one brand’s content. So none of us go really, “Gosh, I’m going to get on my tablet and follow the Nurture Track and subscribe to the emails and read the white papers of company A,” or, “I’m going to and follow the buyer journey on the e-commerce site of company B.” So the content that we interact with is intersecting or slicing across all these different brands and I really believe that it’s fighting a battle out there in the landscape across the web.

Glenn: That’s right, it’s a battle for attention.

Brad: Absolutely, yes.

Glenn: Because it’s not just your direct competitors you’re fighting for, it’s even getting your potential influencer or buyer to pay attention to you.

Brad: Mm-hm, that’s right. Yeah. And so we talked a little bit, Glenn, about the emphasis, the explosion of content, all the data that’s out there to track around this content and the thing is, I think, marketers are really challenged to make sense of it all. So there’s a couple of things that I think are really interesting.
The first one is I think a couple years ago, maybe three, four years ago marketing said, “Gosh, you know what? We’ve got an explosion of data, we’re producing all this stuff. You know what we need? We need a data scientist. We need to hire somebody who’s really smart, who can come in and really understand the scale of data and understand what’s happening here.” And I think as there was some initial success people said, “Great, now we need another data scientist,” and then so on and so forth. The challenge is there’s too much data. A team of data scientists is not going to be able to keep up with 44 zettabytes of data across the web. And so I think we’re at this tipping point in the marketing technology industry where we need a new approach and the new approach has—and I’ll give some examples of how I think this could work.
The new approach has to be about two main components. The first thing is this new approach has to automatically generate insight. We need technology to tell us when something is happening and why because there’s just too much data. We can’t see it and we can’t instrument it manually in spreadsheets and analyses and all this work that we’re doing.

Glenn: That’s right. That’s a good definition of big data, you really can’t humanly without some machine, or machine learning, actually process all the data.

Brad: Exactly, right. So machine learning, but machine learning itself is definitely not enough and I’ll give you an example in a second on that. The other thing I think that marketers need is they need to stop relying on just first party data. So what do I mean by first party data? I mean your website analytics are great but they don’t tell you anything about what else consumers are interacting with. Your e-commerce and your social campaign metrics and your email nurture metrics are also really helpful and really important once customers are engaging with you, but that’s really a siloed kind of view in a vacuum that doesn’t take into account this content battleground where people are interacting with so many other companies’ content and their messaging and their creative and all this stuff that’s out there across the Internet. So I actually have a story on this if that’s all right, if I can tell a story about how this plays out.
So we’re fortunate at BrightEdge to work with the 10 largest retailers in the world and one of our customers, this was a little while ago, but they ski clothes and you know it was ramping up the ski season everywhere except California mind you, there’s no snow at all here in our mountains and what happens is they had a category for ski clothes, it was actually ski jackets. And usually during peak season they’re selling roughly about $1 million a week in ski clothes in this category page and they realized about midway through the week on a Wednesday that they were only at $200K, so they weren’t tracking for the revenue they were expecting for this page. So the question is what happened? And in the world that we’ve lived in for the past 10, 15 years in digital marketing they did what everybody else does they said, “Okay, well let’s check analytics. Maybe there’s something wrong here. Maybe we actually are okay.” There’s nothing wrong with analytics. So then, “Okay, let’s talk to the e-commerce team. Is there something wrong with how this is coded or the pricing or fulfillment? What’s going on?” Nope, everything’s fine there. They say, “Okay, well, gosh maybe there’s something about CMS. Did we mess something up? Like is a page buried? Is it not found? Does the title not match the ads we’re running?” Nope, that all looks good. So then they go across the building to the campaign team and they say, “Hey, are we still emailing about ski clothes?” “Yep. We’re doing social ads.” Then they find the SEO guy. “Hey, are we doing okay there?” “Yep, rank’s good. We’re good. I checked everything.” And so what do you do, right? How do you figure this out? And that’s a classic example of what I would call the first party data centric approach that doesn’t take into account the content battleground and the fact that this category page they have in their campaign and all these things they’re doing they’re actually fighting a war and they aren’t even aware of it or measuring how they’re doing on the content battleground.

Glenn: All right, so what was going on?

Brad: So here’s what happens. It turns out, and you can actually check, I was looking at some stuff although we have no snow here. It turns out Zappos had started selling more and more ski wear earlier and they were running a promo. They had free shipping and then they put out all these coupons and made it really clear that they had cut rate pricing on all these great products and inventory. And so it turns out there were a set of category pages at Zappos that were essentially eating the retailers’ lunch in this case. And so I think this is a good cautionary tale that really underscores the need to have 1) the data to understand who you’re competing with across the web and then 2) to actually automate this and figure this out. Why do we have to manually go and troubleshoot this? Why can’t we just have a layer of intelligence that warns us when things are coming like this?

Glenn: Exactly, because I’d want to know the minute that came out so I could adjust on the fly.

Brad: Yeah, definitely and I think that another point I’d like to make on this is I think we’ve all seen—everyone in marketing knows that there are—the chief MarTech diagram that we all know and love that highlights all the marketing technology companies doubled again this year.

Glenn: Right.

Brad: There are 1,800 marketing technology companies. It’s a great time in Silicon Valley and one of the challenges that I see if you look at all those companies across those categories whether it’s email marketing or analytics or social or video ads or whatever happens to be your content marketing they all have one fundamental flaw and that flaw is that all of them are based solely on first party data. My data, my site, my analytics, my app integrating into that analytics or integrating from that and so marketers are kind of continuing on this path that ignores the content battleground and we think that’s actually not what the industry needs going forward. What the industry needs is technology that understands all the content across the web, like we’re talking about here, that has all that data and can provide insights automatically because you can’t hire enough data scientists and you can’t do enough data analysis and you can’t see it all with the human perspective.

Glenn: So, Brad, are you saying then that there’s data available, we’ll call it third and second party data, that helps me understand what’s happening in the world of my potential buyer?

Brad: Absolutely. Yeah, so think about it, the web is a public place, right? So Google crawls the web, Bing crawls the web, and they crawl all this content and then they run heuristics on it and it could be the heuristic of how your search page shows up. Facebook is constantly indexing and looking at all the data that they have in their platform. They’re constantly crawling through that and giving insights to people within that network and so the question is why can’t we, as marketing technologists, have a technology that understands all the different sets of content, the entire universe of content and then boil it down to insights? Boil it down to action and making a different in how we’re doing our marketing. I have an example for this if that sounds too abstract.

Glenn: Great, great.

Brad: So one of the things we think should be possible and actually we believe is possible, let’s say you’re a typical marketing organization. We talked about e-commerce, let’s talk about hospitality. So hotel companies, right? They do the vast majority of their bookings online. We work with a number of great hotel companies at BrightEdge and let’s say you’ve opened a new property and you’re trying to figure out as you open this property we need a page where you can start reserving a room. Essentially it’s a landing page, but it’s a hotel landing page. So the question is as I’m doing this the classic process people go through is they say, “You know what I’m going to do, I’m going to go out and I’m going to try to figure out gosh, what are the big guys in the area doing. I know there’s a Marriott in here somewhere. I know there’s a Sheraton in here somewhere. I’m going to look at that and try to make sure I have a good experience that competes with those guys.”

Glenn: Right.

Brad: The challenge is it may turn out that there’s some boutique hotel or some smaller chain that’s actually the most popular hotel in the area and it’s getting most of the eyeballs and most of the reservations essentially and they’re running a more profitable business. So the question is why can’t technology do the following, why can’t technology just say, “Okay, it looks like you’re trying to build a page for this new hotel that you’re opening and you’re trying to understand who you’re going to be competing with. Why can’t the technology just go into some massive data set? A huge cube of data and say, “You know what? It looks like, based on what we understand of this web-wide scale of the data these are the three pages that are doing the best that you’re competing with. So as you think about your promo strategy and your CTA and your page and design and all those things you want to be informed about what you’re actually competing against on the content battleground. So it’s a pretty new concept, but we think that’s actually the big gap that’s missing across everything that marketers are doing and I actually would take it a step further and say, “Why should the marketer then manually figure out, gosh, so these three other pages why can’t the technology just recommend and say, “You know what you really should do? This should be your call to action. This is the most effective promo.”” All this data’s out there and it’s public. We can see how people are interacting with this content through social, we can understand search performance, we can understand who else is connecting to these pages with their own sites so these are all indications of quality and performance. We should just be able to automate a lot of this work that we do.

Glenn: So, Brad, a question for you. We encourage our clients to do testing as a part of their culture to kind of test everything that they’re doing because there’s so much to learn from that process. What I think I’m hearing you saying is that in addition to testing on your own property you can see what’s actually working with your competitors.

Brad: Exactly.

Glenn: And learn from that and say, “Wow, we should try the color blue because that seems to be performing better than our colors over here which are brown and red.”

Brad: Exactly. So did you ever play any sports in high school, Glenn?

Glenn: I did, yeah.

Brad: So think about your experience as a high school athlete. Your coach didn’t just talk to you and your team about what you guys were doing I’m sure. If you were playing competitively your coach would go to competing teams’ games. They would understand the coaching strategy of the other teams.

Glenn: Watch the film.

Brad: They would watch the film. In professional sports they analyze the heck out of the competition. They understand the landscape. We don’t do that when we test in marketing. We kind of take our head and look down towards your feet and oh, there’s my belly button and we just kind of keep looking at that. We don’t put our head up and look around and say, “What am I really competing with?” So yeah, what I’m saying is—and testing is a great example, we should be automatically understanding who we’re competing with and also testing is a great point, Glenn, because I don’t think creating a challenger often is, “Okay, I’ve got some idea.” Maybe I read that top 50 landing page blog post that comes out every month and then I looked at the guys we really don’t want to lose to so I can tell my boss I did that and then I notice some people who are really smart I used to work with, I look at what they’re doing and then I go to the developer and the designer and I say, “Hey, I think we need to do this on the page.” That’s a lot of manual work and it’s very inconsistent and there’s a lot of guesswork. It’s like a patchwork of guesses.

Glenn: And you may have missed complete offerings out there or just not seen them.

Brad: Exactly, because you can’t see it through manual effort. So what I am suggesting is what we should be able to do is just automatically the system there’s this learning that happens across all this content that says, “Not only are these the pages, these are the things you’re competing with, but your landing page challenger, it should look like this. The best promo on the Internet right now it’s free shipping. I don’t know why, but it is because everyone’s doing it. If everyone’s doing it it’s go to be working pretty well and if you don’t have it it’s going to look really bad.” If everyone else has a call to action that’s worded a certain way why can’t we just automate the creation of a challenger based on that? Because it’s just changing a lot of metadata for the most part within a page and I think that is a good example of how we see the need for change in everything that we’re doing in content and digital marketing.

Glenn: All right. Fantastic, Brad. And we’re going to wrap up shortly. So we have two options here, one: you might have a story for us to tell us an example of how this is playing out, and if you do great. And if not, if we have enough time, we may not have enough time to talk about what do you think is going to be happening in the future. So which one would you like to pick here?

Brad: I feel like I’ve told a bunch of stories that are actual examples from folks we work with so–

Glenn: Sure.

Brad: I love talking about the future. I also have products in my role. So my product role thinks in the future and it’s a lot of fun.

Glenn: Okay good. So tell us what do you think is going to be happening in the world of the marketing as it relates to content and data in the next say year or so?

Brad: Yeah, I think one of the really big trends—did you ever read The Four Hour Work Week?

Glenn: Oh sure.

Brad: Yeah, so I look at The Four Hour Work Week as a guiding principle for technology and a roadmap as a technologist for what we need to do for marketing. Digital marketing is just way too labor intensive, way too based on guess work and manual digging through data and assumptions and gut feels and it’s just too big for that. So I think if I were to predict the future think about how technology could take 20 hours of work out of your week, or 30 hours of work out of your week, now this is true whether you’re a content author and you’re trying to figure out what the heck to write about and whether your page is going to perform and whether it’s going to deliver the results your business wants. This is true if you’re a landing person. We talked about that a little bit. This is true if you’re doing email nurture.
Why do we come up with nurture tracks based only on what we seen in our own world without looking at what other people are doing. So I think that if there’s a way that the combination of having true web-wide understanding and the next step, I think, is automating all that, making it easy. An analogy I like to use, I was at Salesforce for a number of years, for six years and the CRM approach, as we call it, the sales rep puts the data in, they update the data, they get emails, I sold for a while. “Why didn’t you update your stuff? Update your stuff.” It’s very manual. It’s a very intense process. Marketers don’t really want to work that way and I think we need to make it so that marketers spend less time trying to push technology and instead have the technology to say, “Hey, human being, I think I have the answer. Do you approve? And then I’ll do the work for you.” So that I think is really where the whole technology landscape needs to go and, again, I don’t—in those 1,800 marketing technology companies most people are building workflows that people have to click through and feels a lot like CRM to me.

Glenn: Well I hope that future happens in less than a year it sounds really good to me.

Brad: Yes.

Glenn: Brad, thank you so much. I appreciate the stories, I appreciate the insights, and your vision of the future. It’s been very enjoyable.

Brad: Great, thank you very much, Glenn. I enjoyed being here.

Glenn: Talk to you soon.

Brad: It sounds good.

Glenn: If you like this podcast please subscribe and rate us on iTunes and tell your friends about us. You can also go to our website, CrimsonMarketing.com, and sign up for our free monthly newsletter featuring the very best of our marketing insights, featured Moneyball for Marketing podcasts, and one of our favorite features called, “Bad Marketing,” or email me at info@CrimsonMarketing.com. Thanks for listening to Moneyball for Marketing from Crimson Marketing. Have a great week and let us know if we can help you in any way.