Matt Bailey Discusses the Intersection of Data and Digital Marketing
Matt Bailey is an educator at heart, blending his backgrounds in IT and marketing to advise global brands on marketing strategy. He is the founder and president of SiteLogic Marketing, which provides online and in-person training, and the host of the Endless Cup of Coffee podcast.
Bailey spoke with us recently about his “aha” moment, and how he empowers marketers and decision makers to have their own.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
How did you get started in your work?
I started in the late nineties building websites to sell bed and breakfasts, hotels and inns. After a couple of years, my website analytics showed that 95% of all my leads came from search. My initial assessment was that I should put more focus on search. But when I looked at sales data, I realized none of my sales came from those search leads. All of my sales came from an advertising link that I bought on another website for $35.
That’s when I learned that big numbers lie. That was the “aha” moment about what made me money. It made me rethink my digital marketing through that business lens.
Can you talk about the intersection of data, technology and marketing?
One of the things I learned early was how to connect analytics to marketing. People were hungry for that — tying measurable outcomes to their efforts. We went through a phase during which analytics was seen as purely an analyst’s responsibility. Over the next 15 to 20 years, marketers became more adept at understanding data and translating that data into actual business value.
What is the intimidation factor for marketers in using data?
When I do my analytics training, the number one fear that people have is understanding the data. When they open up an analytics dashboard, they freeze and their response is, “Where do I go? What do I do?” Yet, they know the answers are there.
From a marketing standpoint, as soon as you start adding in more data, you automatically get more accountability. If I love developing content for different channels, but all of a sudden I start measuring the results, that accountability could stifle what I want to do, or it could provide some very honest feedback about profitability. So there’s a level of fear that additional accountability from analytics may not allow me to do that I want to do.
Have marketers gotten over that fear?
Once marketers have that “aha” moment that I had, that’s when it clicks. They connect revenue to actions to understanding. That’s when they get excited about applying this data and learning something new.
Does the large quantity of data create a challenge?
Absolutely. The first thing I tell companies is there is no correlation between the amount of data you have and the amount of brilliance you achieve. Absolutely none. Some of the most brilliant analyst marketers I’ve worked with do amazing things with limited data. They know how to approach a problem, ask great questions, find great insights and make impactful differences.
More data confuses that. But the problem is that to your decision makers, data is a drug, and they believe more data gives us more insights.
How do you educate those decision makers?
When I had my agency, clients would come in saying they needed SEO or social media marketing. Everyone is self-diagnosing, saying things like, “Our problem is we don’t have enough visitors.”
I said, “No, what you really want is to make more money.” You need to get people to that realization because otherwise, they’re chasing tactics. When they get there, everything is up for game — your logistics, your customer service. We’re looking at driving profitability rather than just driving new people to the website, because ultimately, that’s your goal.
You commit many of your podcasts to personal growth. Why is that?
I read a statistic the other day that 72% of marketers are confident in their tracking and measurement abilities, but 75% of marketers are less than confident in their ability to present the information in a way that persuades and influences action.
I’m working with a brand right now, and we’re identifying skills for the next 20 years. While they need people to understand the data, they also are dependent on personal skills such as communication, influence, persuasion, presentation and creative thinking. The organization needs individuals who are not only adept at understanding data and drawing conclusions from it; they also need people who can present that information in a persuasive manner and turn that data into the actions needed.
That’s the big skill gap right now.
You studied journalism. Has that shaped your marketing work?
The same thing always happened when I was a journalist or student and submitted something. The feedback was, “Say the same thing but in half as many words.” That has stayed with me. When I’m reporting data, how can I say the same thing in half as many words, half as many charts. I try to drill down to the most important thing.
What I find most valuable is when I can report data and present an “aha” moment. When they put it together, and someone turns to somebody else and says, “That’s a problem,” I’ve done my job. I’ve exposed the problem. Now I can guide decision makers and stakeholders about what I see, but it’s ultimately their decision. I want them to feel the fire.