AJ Yager is a serial entrepreneur, speaker, and best-selling author. He is the Co-founder and Chief Growth Officer of Praxis Metrics, a company that helps e-commerce brands increase profits and drive change through data. AJ is also the Founder of Yager Media Group, a direct response digital marketing agency that specializes in conversion optimization, funnel building, and overall traffic conversion.
In addition to this, AJ hosts the DataRich Podcast where he helps companies turn their data into growth. Throughout his career, he has worked with a number of successful organizations and has been featured by Inc. Magazine, CNN, and more.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- AJ Yager explains how he used data to scale his business
- The importance of measuring the lifetime value of your customers — and how to effectively track their data
- The five “desert island metrics” that e-commerce brands should track
- What is the key to running a successful remote company?
- How AJ tracks the happiness of his remote employees and clients
- Common mistakes to avoid when tracking data for your business
- How to navigate ever-evolving privacy laws and data policies
- AJ’s tips for cultivating a data-driven e-commerce business
In this episode of the Ecommerce Wizards Podcast
For growing e-commerce businesses, your data is your best untapped resource. Like a glimpse under the hood of a car, tracking your data can help you solve problems you didn’t know you had or optimize functions you hadn’t considered before. Because of this, effectively utilizing data can give you that much-needed edge in the competitive online marketplace.
As the Co-founder and Chief Growth Officer of Praxis Metrics, AJ Yager knows firsthand the power of data for growing and scaling a business. While growing Praxis Metrics, he tracked data that helped him not only improve the lifetime value of his customers, but also boost the overall happiness of his remote team. Now, he’s on a mission to help other e-commerce companies utilize their data to transform their businesses.
On this episode of the Ecommerce Wizards Podcast, Guillaume Le Tual interviews AJ Yager, the Co-founder and Chief Growth Officer of Praxis Metrics, about how data can be transformed into profit. They talk about how to use data to scale your business, the importance of tracking lifetime value metrics, and the common pitfalls companies face when tracking data. AJ also breaks down his strategies for building a remote team and culture that thrives from afar. Stay tuned!
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This episode is brought to you by MageMontreal.
MageMontreal is a Magento-certified ecommerce agency based in Montreal, Canada. MageMontreal specializes in and works exclusively with the Adobe Magento ecommerce platform, and is among only a handful of certified Adobe Magento companies in Canada.
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Guillaume: Hello everyone Guillaume Le Tual here, host of the E-commerce Wizards Podcast where I feature top leaders in business and e-commerce. Today, I have AJ Yager, who’s the co-founder and CGO, Chief Growth Officer of Praxis Metrics. Today we’ll be talking about turning your data into business growth and turning your data into something that the whole company can rely on, and how a company can become more data driven, to be a data driven organization. And of course, we cannot talk about that without also addressing KPI, Key Performance Indicators.
Before we get started, we have a sponsorship message. This episode is brought to you by MageMontreal. A business wanting powerful e-commerce online stores will increase their sales or to move pile up dormant inventory via cash reserves, or to automate business processes to gain efficiency and reduce human processing errors, our company, MageMontreal can do that. We’ve been helping e-commerce stores for over a decade. Here’s the catch, we are specialized only on Adobe Magento commerce. We do everything Magento if you know someone who needs design development, maintenance, training, we got their back. They can contact us at [email protected] or go to magemontreal.com.
Now, we got connected to AJ through a mutual contact. So, I want to give a shout out to Robert Rand of JetRails Hosting. So, thank you Robert, and let’s get started. I’m happy to have you here.
AJ Yager: Thanks for having me on. It’s been a long time coming, I’m excited to dig in. Robert is such a great guy. I’m really appreciative, he’s connected us with a lot of people. So, let’s do this!
Guillaume: Alright, so I think a very nice way to start, you can explain, perhaps a success story on how to use data to scale a business, something that you’ve lived, to better understand today’s topic?
AJ Yager: Yeah, that’s great. Um, telling stories with data is what is really all about to help us get to the end point of what we can take action on. I know data is not sexy to everybody, but we’re going to do our best to make it as sexy as possible. I’m going to start with, we’re right at home in our own business. We are a data agency, so we will help work with e-commerce brands to help them grow and scale with their data. Now, sometimes it’s not about 100 metrics, it can be about one metric that is the most important. Over the number of years, we had seen inside of our own data, every year, we would go do a data summit, where Meghan and I and our leadership team would get together and look at all of our data from the revenue side, from the transactional side and in the project management side. And we were wondering why on earth, our profitability just kept shrinking. No service-based companies have lower margins generally, but we were still operating at too low of one. As we dug into the data and we took the time to analyze the data as a team and democratize that data, we found out there was one metric, just one thing if we could shift would change everything.
And that one metric came out of the fact that we were delivering excellence to our clients, and we loved to make sure we were overdelivering. But what we didn’t notice was that our data engineers were actually being a little too nice. So, when you’re in startup mode, you want to just overdeliver for everybody and get such a great response and a great testimonial. But as we were maturing, we kind of forgot that was startup mode. Even though we were delivering great value, our data team members were going over in unbillable hours. And so, we looked at how many unbillable hours there were as a whole that we were not monitoring on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Once we looked at it, we said holy crap! We didn’t say crap, we said something a lot worse, but I was like, wow! We need to really fix this.
So, we said okay, every single day, every single week we’re going to focus on minimizing the amount of unbillable hours, and long story short, we had a hockey stick like this. The next few months got us to over 33% profit margin, as we were watching this one metric. So that’s a quick one to get us started, but sometimes it’s about one or two needle movers we like to say, that you can focus on that can make everything else easier or unnecessary. Any thoughts on that one?
Guillaume: Well, it’s a great example because you’re using your own company’s growth as an example. Yes, for sure, I can totally relate that to overdeliver are a mix of scope creep or lack of scope control and project management, stuff like that. But I can totally relate. That’s a critical move and what worked when you were let’s say five or 10 percent will not work when you go to 25 and up.
So yes, that’s pretty interesting and feel free to tie up more success stories here as we’re talking about this. And there’s one very important metric you’re talking about. I have another customer in mind. They’re not measuring their lifetime value per customer, highly successful, like eight figures of sales per year online. Calling them and telling them you have got to start measuring your lifetime value. So, let’s talk about that. How do you measure it? First of all, how do you apply all these stuff because if you’re thinking long-term with lifetime value, you might be okay with acquiring a customer at the cost, or perhaps even losing a little bit. But then you need to be very confident in that data, especially if you go with a path that you lose a little bit in the short-term saying I’ll make it back in the long-term, and I can grow this way. Especially if you’re not venture-backed, it’s your own money as entrepreneur. So, let’s talk a little bit about that.
AJ Yager: That’s a great one. Actually, that was the next one I had in mind as well. So, before we jump into the story, to get to answer your first question, we look at lifetime value over a cohort analysis over time, based on when that customer first comes into your funnel or to your e-commerce store, whatever you want to call it. I think a lot of people just look at lifetime value, like you were saying, whether they have a long runway of budget or a small one. They say, well, we think we can afford to acquire a customer at this price, and then we’ll get it on the backend.
But not a lot of people dig into what does that actually mean at the end of the day, from a not only marketing spent point of view, marketing cost point of view. But we’d like to also factor in cogs, cost of goods sold to that as well. Are you truly earning that money back, or is it just getting stale? Or you are in the negative? So, lifetime value is literally one of the most important metrics. We can talk about this later on. We call them the desert island metrics, we have about five desert island trips that all e-commerce should track and lifetime value is one of those.
So, here’s an example of how lifetime value can work really well. We had a client, danettemay.com, she’s in the information digital marketing side but she also has supplement brands and e-commerce brands underneath her big kind of bubble. She went from 15 sales per day to 315 sales per day with one key metric, and that was lifetime value, understanding their true lifetime value. So, they’re client of ours, they were struggling with a particular funnel that they had built. And now when you’re building funnels, sometimes e-commerce companies don’t really build funnels, but basically, it’s where are you sending people into your landing page? Are they converting from there? Are they adding it to the cart? Are they going step by step all the way to the to the end point, which is the transaction? Well, they were bringing in like 15 sales a day and they were getting ready to shut down this funnel that they spent a lot of money on. Before they did, they reached out to us so that we could help them find their true value in the long-term. What they didn’t have was the whole picture of their lifetime value.
So, they were looking at it on the first 30 days, but they didn’t know 60, 90, 120. So, we helped them discover what the real lifetime value was of their customers that it was much higher. They thought that their cost per acquisition of clients was that they had a cap, and that cap was lower than they expected. So, they weren’t spending enough money to get enough people through there and not realizing that they were making 200 or 300 dollars on the back end, on day 60, 90 and 120. So, once we saw all the data over 60, 90, 120 days, we said you guys are earning way more than you think. You can afford to spend more money to acquire customer on Facebook. So, they bumped that up to $15. And literally within a week, they started going from the 15 sales a day all the way up to the 315 sales a day within two weeks.
This was a funnel that they were going to cut completely, just by knowing truly. And we went through and built the algorithm, we went through and did all the math and made sure that this was accurate. They just didn’t know what they didn’t know. So, they weren’t able to spend enough to acquire the customers to get this this funnel profitable. But once the metrics worked for them, this made them millions of dollars, this one funnel. Now, how many times do e-commerce brands or digital brands cut things that they think aren’t working? I think too many times that we cut things we think we know the data, but have you really actually gone through and mapped this out all the way through and made sure all your costs are aligned as well. So that’s just one story of how they went from 15 to 350 sales a day with lifetime value.
Guillaume: That’s amazing. Of course, it’s leveraging the power of Facebook ads in this case or Google ads but knowing how much you can actually spend, and that you know you’ll be profitable with it because you trust your data. And you did the exercise of actually having that data truly being tracked properly.
AJ Yager: Yes, and the big challenges that, there’s a lot of different ways to measure lifetime value, there’s no one exact, correct way. And so, I think a lot of companies just have troubles bringing all the different pieces of data that needs to be combined into a cohort analysis over time. That’s one struggle but then on the other end, once you’ve got to pull together, you got to make sure all the costs are pulled in, and your tracking is in place. We can talk about tracking all day long, that can be a whole other separate podcast. But if you’re not tracking the right data, to be able to answer the question for lifetime value, then you’re never going to have that true lifetime value there. And so that means your Google Analytics setting up your whatever platform, if you’re on Magento, making sure that everything is tracking to answer lifetime value, which are several different metrics, we can get into that later. But I just want to make sure that if you have the data, if you’re collecting all the right data, you can make sure you have your true LTV.
Guillaume: A very tactical, very detailed question here is something like, well, lifetime, how long is lifetimes? And while we says lifetime, when is lifetime? So, the cutoff, you seem to be putting in like 120 days in this case, for this example, some people may go with a year, or in some other cases, like an IP provider sending large managed service plan over three years contract. You might think over three years as being the lifetime value of the customers that you have. If I understood correctly, what you’re saying is you choose where you set the end point of, what’s the lifetime value for when you want to calculate return on investment, but just don’t think about the single transaction of the first purchase?
AJ Yager: Exactly, it goes so much further beyond that and you’re so right. If subscription products, some companies will have initial product upfront, and then they can upsell into a subscription product. Sometimes they’re just like a subscription box company. So that’s going to have a different type of lifetime value calculation. So, you get to define the parameters, you get to define how you want to look at lifetime value. Most time we do day 1, 30, 60, 90, 120 days. That usually is a good fit for most people. But then each company suffers from terminal uniqueness and that’s where we have to tweak the data and the visuals to make sense for each brand. But you’ve got to be making sure that all your data points that you’re collecting from your CRM, from your e-commerce platform, from your tracking side, even from the merchant side. Are you going to be factoring in taxes, are you going to be factoring in shipping refunds? There’s a lot of parameters. I think it’s really important for the marketing team or the whole company to define what that means to them, and then start from there. And if they’re able to take action on it, it is wonderful and then they can tweak it as they go.
Guillaume: Okay, so that seems clear enough to me about the lifetime value. KPI, Key Performance Indicator. You said you have five KPI, your desert island KPI. What are the other four?
AJ Yager: Yeah, there’s a lot of metrics setups. Number one is revenue. It seems like a basic one. It is the sexiest of them all and it’s the really the scorekeeper. So, revenue, Cost of Goods Sold COGS. The more mature brands probably have this loaded in but many brands I think are very focused on the sales and the marketing side. And they don’t really talk much with the finance side. Bringing in true cost of goods sold, whether you’re in Quicken or Zero or NetSuite, whatever they’re using, that needs to be matched up and be looked at very carefully. Not just the CFO, but I think that has to be disseminated across the whole company, especially the leadership team.
Number three is return on investment, return on ads spend. Maybe you’re not running Google ads or Facebook ads, but what is your return on investment for the marketing just going out, for lifetime value LTV, CLV? And then last but not least the allowable cost per acquisition. For e-commerce companies, that is what we’ve found to be the five desert island metrics that you’ve got to not only have, make sure accurate, but also be taking action on consistently.
Guillaume: Very interesting one. The first one revenue is clear, the cost of goods sold. This has, of course, an official accounting definition. But in your definition, how you count it is it just directly the cost of the product, you sell it for 100 dollars. I can buy this thing for 50 dollars and my cost of goods sold is 50 dollars. You don’t factor in any kind of overhead or other stuff on it?
AJ Yager: To us it’s understanding the cost of your business and is the only way to stay afloat. There’s an economic principle that states as long as you can cover your variable costs, you can eventually scale the business into profitability. While this may seem initially counterintuitive, it actually holds true. If you can exceed your variable cost even slightly, then you can eventually scale your business to profitability. However, if you can’t meet your variable costs, your losses will actually grow as your company scales. The natural question is, what are my variable costs? The answer is anything that will scale as you sell more of your products, that includes commissions, materials, shipping, credit card fees, things like that.
We’ve had clients who’ve had a hard time drilling down and finding their true variable costs, because they purchase materials and ship in bulk, let’s say. This makes it difficult to drill down into the individual costs. However, if you leverage a robust business intelligence tool, like what we use, like many clients probably already have, you can perform complex calculations to drill down and assign costs to each individual item in the shipment based off of weight for that one example. And just having a firm grasp on all your variable costs, and your COGS allows you to better analyze the next metrics that we talked about real ads and LTV and all that.
Guillaume: Let’s dig into that a bit more. You have your base product cost. My example was 50 dollars, it’s something you sell for 100 dollars. And then you have your variable cost on top of it, your typical overhead, the staff in the company, sales commission and all that stuff. And then of course, that begs the question, how do you know if you’re selling whatever it is you are selling, a camera phone, a cosmetic something? How much of that overhead? If you have a million dollars a year of overhead, how do you distribute that across all the products? You’re saying that you go by weight as one possible solution?
AJ Yager: You want an example. It’s getting it down to those individual variable costs. Not just oh, this is one chunk sum. It takes a little bit of massaging, it takes a CFO or a financial person on your team to help break this stuff out. But the more detailed and more separated it becomes, the easier it is to connect those to the things that are going to help with the return on ads spend and things like that, to be more accurate.
Guillaume: Yeah, the manufacturing accounting to find your true cost and reallocate the cost patterns and so on, it’s challenging. Let’s say right now, with COVID, there’s more and more companies being either entirely running remotely or partially running remotely. How does that data driven organization benefit in a case of running a remote company?
AJ Yager: Well, this is something that I like to say we were doing before it was cool. Before we formed Praxis Metrics, when I had a marketing agency, we’ve been working remote for a long time. It’s an incredible advantage, when you’re saving a lot of costs on having a physical place for people to be, which I think can be distributed to employees, team members, profits, or given to charities that are wonderful. I think there’s a great opportunity to lower those costs. One of the things that worked really well for us to attract talent, was that we were remote.
I’d say many of our team members, we’ve had about 35, many of them came to work for us, because we had a remote culture, literally on our careers page. It was about, look, we don’t care where you are in the world. As long as you’re showing up for your meetings, you’re getting your work done, your priorities done, you’re reporting and have good communication with us based on these standard operating procedures we’ve set up and based on our schedules, and you manage your time zone, well, we want you to be out there exploring and being free and living your life now not waiting for a while to go take a vacation for only a week or two.
For attracting talent, it was more like look, we’re giving you more than two weeks off. If you want paid time off, or you want just more free time, you have a more flexible schedule. I think remote for us was just about attracting talent, especially before COVID. People love that, they were having to do the nine to five and had to be at their desk or do these commutes. So, people were absolutely loving that. That’s one big part of remote work.
Obviously, remote work has its challenges. But with the toolsets we have these days, zoom or comparable products like that, amazing project management tools. Google Suite, whatever you’re using as your back office, allows us to get so much done so quickly and have access to all the information. I think it’s really the only way to go. And I’m really curious what’s going to happen with all the buildings that have been built in cities as people are leaving and realizing oh my gosh, they don’t have to be somewhere in person all the time. What’s going to happen to our economy there with the commercial real estate? That will be interesting.
Guillaume: Yeah, we purposely did not invest in commercial real estate just before COVID, we invested in residential real estate, that was safe. It was already in our place here. MageMontreal, we have a very high-level occupancy in South Shore.
AJ Yager: If I could throw in, there’s things we’ve learned by being remote. Especially Megan and I, as the owners as well. When we’re traveling, there are a lot of tidbits and tricks and tips to make sure that you have in place so that you don’t miss meetings so that things don’t get screwed up. There’s a lot of planning and preparation that it takes to be effective and efficient as a remote employee or team member. If you’re not just staying in one place, if you’re bouncing around a lot, there’s a lot more to consider. So, we do our best to help educate and train and teach our team members, hey, when you’re going somewhere, when you’re doing this, here are the things you should prepare so that your remote working session does not affect the professionalism or the delivery what you’re doing with the client. Because a lot of our stuff is face to face, technically, with clients on calls like this. That needs to be efficient, can’t just miss things, can’t have crappy internet, although sometimes it happens. You got to be prepared.
Guillaume: Right. I did not hear a lot of difference, though, in terms of data tracking, from running the agency that fit locally with everybody going to the office. But I do understand very well the perks with recruitment, because you will recruit some people who would otherwise work at way higher salary for the very large agency, 400 people and up kind of agencies, or even the worldwide agencies have thousands of people thus offer very high salary, but very bad lifestyle sometimes. So, then the smaller agency can attract top talent by offering that flexibility. We were doing the same, but more on the part time basis, like two days a week at home and then three days in the office, that was before COVID. After COVID, there are a lot of people who never want to go back to the office.
AJ Yager: That’s so true.
Guillaume: It’s completely different. But what else do you track in terms of running a successful agency or company when people are working remotely? Is there anything else that you’re tracking that’s more specific?
AJ Yager: Yeah, happiness. Happiness is a great thing to track.
Guillaume: How do you track that?
AJ Yager: We have a Google Sheet, or we have a piece of our software of our project management. We’re always checking in and doing a mini survey at the end of each week for our team members. And we have one for our clients, and we have one for our own team, we want to make sure that our team is not just going through the emotions. Because we can’t be physically by them and kind of pick up oh, you know, Bob, what’s going on there? What makes you happy? People can kind of put on a face when they have this on or not be on the screen, and we can’t go know what’s going on.
So, we put in mini surveys in place. And one on one check ins with the project manager who’s in charge of that person to not just talk business, but literally understand their happiness, understand their engagement. Is anything going wrong in their life? The data we’re collecting on our team members allows us to over time see our team, are they generally happy? Is this seasonal? Do seasons have anything to do with this? Do people get happier or more stressed out when, for us I guess it’s building up to Black Friday, for the end of the year, and Christmas sales and all that. It can get pretty crazy, because we have a lot of promotions. And we have a lot of people that want their data before and then after Black Friday, and so we have more stressful times during our year. And so, we want to check in with our team members to not only make sure they’re doing the best work they can, but that they’re happy and they’re enjoying their work.
Because as we’re assigning data engineers to our clients, we need to know that we’re sending the right person who’s got not only the capacity, but then they’re really engaging, really happy and excited to do what they’re doing. So, happiness is one thing. And another one is for our clients, we’re looking at green, yellow, and red, just a status indicator on clients. How are they doing? Not just are they getting value, which is super important, but also, how are they feeling and experiencing us? We want to know and quantify that as much as we can. Because if we can understand that they may be happy with results. But they’re very disappointed in communication times or other things like this. These are little questions we go through and ask them once a month, because weekly is too much for clients. We’re pulling that data in and putting into a database as well to understand if that needs to kind of trigger any other people to step in. So those are just a couple of examples.
Guillaume: That’s pretty good. You do survey your clients, like once a month and there’s a good response rate on this?
AJ Yager: That varies. Many times what we do instead of just sending them an email and saying hey, here’s your monthly thing, click on it. It’s on one of the calls hey, is that time of month, let me ask you some real quick questions. And then you type these or a client success manager will go ahead and fill it out for them and put that through. So no, it’s not 100% at all, but at least 60% 70% is better than not having that insight and reducing the result of a client being unhappy or a team member being unhappy and it being so close to us but we just couldn’t see it being remote. So, that kind of data helps us understand it.
And it’s not a measurable data thing but we do our best to get our team together and have fun. Oh, I’ll tell you one thing that was really, really huge. This one’s awesome. A lot of companies have Slack, or click or these little things that they use to intercommunicate outside of email. When we created a daily gratitude journal, this was huge. We had three questions. How am I doing? How am I doing in my personal life? What am I thankful for my personal life? Am I thankful for a team member or in business? And then what am I thankful for, that I’ve done for myself? And then we had an open ended.
So, every day people go in and fill out a gratitude journal and one of the channels in slack. And when we have that happen, we saw involvement, we saw encouragement, we saw engagement, and just happiness across the board go up, that was really cool to see happen. And we just got more and more people excited on their meetings, and they’re just showing up happier, which is one way to see. Even though we could see in the surveys, we literally could feel the energy from a remote distance of how much happier people were and they were talking about. And they could call each other out and give each other awesomeness, like shout outs. And that was a big boost for remote work.
Guillaume: That’s pretty cool. So, every day they were filling a thankfulness or gratitude journal. What I’m grateful for, what I’m grateful for, what I’m grateful for, every day everybody does it.
AJ Yager: It was really fun. And we could see we were tracking who was doing it, who wasn’t doing it. And the ones who were not doing it, it makes sense, but they’re just we’re not as engaged and didn’t feel as much as part of the team and the culture. And as soon as you said look, you need to be doing this just start getting it, some people just don’t like to share that information. But we found out it wasn’t that they didn’t want to do it. It was that they’re more private and more personal. And we said, as long as you’re writing it down somewhere do it but start sharing and seeing how this affects you. And then we saw them just start to like it. That was a really fun project.
Guillaume: Well, you’re working with data scientists, not just marketing people here. Data scientists, programmers.
AJ Yager: Kind of introverted, I don’t like saying their dungeon, but they’re definitely more introverted. So that has helped them get out of their shell a little bit.
Guillaume: Yeah. And ask them what do you think? Well, I don’t know. Yeah, you got to help them a bit to get out of the shell.
AJ Yager: Exactly.
Guillaume: I can understand. Let’s see, if we’re back to merchants and e-commerce, like a merchant that’s running his company, what kind of mistakes should they avoid in terms of either tracking data or not tracking data to grow the business?
AJ Yager: Okay, let’s talk about some specifics, tracking data. We or any other brand cannot build dashboards that make sense, that are accurate without the right data. We can’t just make stuff up. I call them leaky buckets. Part of having dashboards and visuals to make decisions from, helps you see where the leaky bucket is, where the holes are in the bucket. So, you can go back to the tracking team, or whoever’s in charge of that and make sure we’re not tracking these pieces of data. And that could be something like an audit, like UTMs, Urgent Tracking Mechanism, which is a Google term. It’s a free thing to do. But even large brands we find aren’t organized in what they’re doing. They’re consistently doing that.
So UTM is a huge topic that we talk about making sure that companies are using Google Analytics in itself, as good as they can. Also, sometimes it’s CRM. Sometimes there are literally like a sales people or customer service people in the CRM and adding in information. If they’re missing fields, or they don’t know, they’re not trained to input information in there manually, that’s missing. And then it’s also dirty data. And so going back and fixing those SOPs, standard operating procedures for companies and letting the people that are entering that information understand the importance on the backend of like, hey, when you put this information in, we actually can do this over here and make a better decision, which makes us more profitable, lowers our costs, things like that.
So, from a tracking standpoint, it can be manual or can be automated inputs that need to be assessed on a monthly basis. Quarterly is probably plenty but we kind of have checks and balances. And want our customers kind of audit they’re tracking monthly, especially depending on how many campaigns and marketing campaigns that they’re doing a month.
Guillaume: And in terms of tracking it, I don’t know if you do this. Because when you do tracking for AdSense or a very wide marketing campaign that’s on all channels on Facebook, it’s through SMS text messages, it is through emails, all over the place. How do you assign which of those channels gets the credit in terms of the conversion or even an affiliate tracking in some case? Because they saw on text message, they saw also your ad on an email and then they click a Google ad and they bought, who gets the credit and all?
AJ Yager: When you’re on Google and Facebook and YouTube and you’re paying money, all these things, each of those platforms want to say, nope, it was us we did that. They all want to take credit. But that’s not possible because there’s a first click, there’s last click, there’s about six or seven different models of attribution, that you can use. And I think more data mature companies who have had a lot of tracking, a lot of data there, how do you attribute it? First, you’ve got to make sure that each channel is being tracked in a specific way, every single thing consistently. UTMs can be used, affiliate IDs, AF IDs, or affiliate programs can also be as similar to UTMs, sometimes SMS and all that. They usually have their own tracking built into it. We need to make sure that okay, whatever modality or technology you’re using for each of these channels, that that data is being able to be pulled out and combined into the database for all your marketing, and then it’s labeled, tagged, and it’s accurate.
So, those are in the top part of the marketing, the frontend, it is all up to them to make sure they’re tracking it right. So that that can all be compiled into an attribution model that allows them to see Okay, so what we see is, what’s happening is we’re going on podcasts here, we’ve got the organic content, we’ve got our Facebook advertising, and we’ve got our SMS text blasts go out. While all these are coming through, with attribution window set up, you can actually see where people are bouncing from and to create that best journey. If they saw an article in a blog, then they watched this video, then they came here and got a retargeted ad, then they finally got an email from us and bought. That’s the journey.
Now you get to decide first click, last click who you’re going to tie that to. We have a lot of clients that have a big email list. And once people are on there, they’re blasting out offers, sales and things like that. They gained that client from let’s say, the blog, then the Facebook reiterated that and they saw it, but they actually purchased once they got really good copy from email copy. So, it’s not necessarily which one is always the best. It’s like, what is that journey that we want to push people through so that we have the highest conversion rate? Does that make sense?
Guillaume: Yeah, totally. So, you’ll decide literally like, okay, the guy received an email, now I want to send him a text message, I want the purchase, if there’s a way to retarget them through other ads.
AJ Yager: Exactly, it’s getting enough data and looking at that journey to say, oh, there’s a pattern here and this goes back to lifetime value, too. If you can have all of these different channels tracked really well. Then we can see, look, is there a higher lifetime value associated with the clients that come in through a content blog, or from a Facebook ad? And literally in our lifetime value cohort you see day 1, day 30, day 60, day 90, when you have the data right, click on OK. I want to see from a specific channel, on Facebook, what is the lifetime value of those people that came through these specific campaigns in Facebook and compare that to the ones that came in through the organic? And for example, we’ve seen many times cold traffic is a lot harder to convert and get that loyalty. What we’re saying, look, Facebook, cold customers are converting, let’s say 35% less than the ones that just came in from these organic posts. Okay, do we want to do a less ad spend, and then take more of that and get on lot more content posts, find a lot more affiliates out there and what not?
We’ve got a client that literally stopped spending so much on paid media and said, looks like we’re maxing out and we’re more than breaking even here at this bend. We’re going to take more money and buy a ton of these blogs that have great content that we can push through our best funnel. And that absolutely quadrupled their business by just going and taking that money and redistributing it to that journey that worked better for them.
Guillaume: That’s great. Because here, you’re talking about tracking the customer, where you first encountered this potential customer, let’s say he came through that blog post here. And that was more valuable as a customer driven than if he came through the ads from Facebook as in your example. With all the privacy stuff that’s going on right now, are you still able to track correctly the user across the journey?
AJ Yager: Great question. It used to be the wild, wild west. And up to a few years ago, things have been getting a lot more intense. And unfortunately, every month that goes by, it’s almost like we’re getting as marketers, more and more limited as brands more and more limited the data that we can pull. Number one is data ownership, now is the time to make sure that on every platform that you’re advertising on, everywhere that there’s data, you need to be extracting everything, so that you can have it historically. Because if you don’t, and those platforms go away, or they start removing fields, you won’t be able to get that again.
Number one is data ownership, get your data off of that things. That means you have somebody manually export it and set up automated email exports, have the API, have a company like us, or whoever’s running your BI. Make sure that’s all going into a database, you can own that data for your lifetime, and go back and see what’s going on there. And then also, with PII, personal information, I’m forgetting about the other I, you’re not able to track certain things. There are other ways around that, it’s getting harder to track it. But if Google Analytics is set up right, your CRM, if you have your tracking set up correctly, you should be able to gather the right journey that’s going on there. But honestly, it’s getting harder and harder.
My tracking team, they’re the experts, they’re the ones that would be able to answer that better for you. But with Google Analytics 4 coming out and a lot more enhancements and changes in how we’re tracking cookies and all that. It’s constantly changing right now. It’s going to get harder and harder. So, the sooner you get to know your journeys and have all your tracking in place, all UTMs, do a Google Analytics audit, do an attribution audit and get this fixed? That’s the competitive advantage you’re going to have over your competitors.
Guillaume: Right. Is there any other topics that you’d like to cover in terms of being a more data driven organization or data driven e-commerce company?
AJ Yager: Yeah, I think that is really important to. Once you have the data, and you’ve got dashboards. Let’s say maybe you’re at a point where you’ve got some dashboard, democratizing that data and making sure you invest the time with each of the departments to have at least weekly data stand ups, weekly meetings, or assign a portion of your meetings that are with all your department heads for where people are owning a certain metric, or metrics, reporting on them, literally standing up, putting up the dashboard, or having it up in front of everybody and talking about what’s going on with each of those.
Many of our clients, the ones that have actually democratized the data, put it up on a dashboard, or made it easily accessible to all the different people on the team. From the lowest level people to the highest leadership team seem to have the most increase in revenue, in profitability and lowering their costs. Because they’re not grabbing the data, just kind of keeping it for themselves for certain departments. When other departments start to understand what each other are doing and how it affects each other, that’s when there’s true holistic growth that can happen in the company. I think the sharing of data, making it very easy for everyone to understand and making sure the whole company understands, look, if we can change this one or two needle moving metrics together, and understand how each of those play a part, then you’re truly becoming a data driven organization as a whole. I think that’s an important part to talk about.
Guillaume: All right, that covers it for today. Thank you very much AJ for being here today.
AJ Yager: Happy to do it. Thanks for having me. It was fun.