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Digital Velocity Podcast Hosted by Tim Curtis and Erik Martinez

17 Developing a Digital Marketing Strategy Plan - Vithya Kuckreja

This week on the Digital Velocity Podcast, Vithya Kuckreja of Blue Tangerine joins Erik and Tim to discuss how to develop and implement an effective digital marketing strategy plan.

Vithya explains that there are two main components to a digital marketing strategy plan. She says, “When I think of digital strategy, I think of it as a plan that's informed by what are you serving for that customer and how they find you? Those two things go into that digital strategy plan Also part of that plan is aligning your business goals with how people are coming to find you. So, overall, in a nutshell, I think of digital strategy as a plan that's informed by your business goals and consumer information.”

It is imperative to have a strategic approach when considering a marketing strategy plan in the constantly evolving digital world. Vithya describes, “This is the challenging part, but also the exciting part of the job because the digital world, what I love so much about the digital world is it's always changing. You'll figure something out and then it completely changes. That's why also having a strategic mindset while we're managing the campaigns is so important.”

Listen to this week’s episode to learn how to create, improve, or enhance your digital marketing strategy plan.

About the Guest:

Vithya Kuckreja is a Search Engine Marketing professional with experience in both in-house and agency marketing. Vithya oversees paid search and paid social marketing for various clients spanning numerous verticals, including home builder, apparel, B2B, specialty home goods, specialty food. An experienced growth strategist, Vithya is passionate about getting results for clients, identifying opportunities that will truly make a difference, and extending expertise as part of the client's extended team.


Tim Curtis: [00:00:00] Welcome to this week's edition of the Digital Velocity Podcast. I'm Tim Curtis, your co-host from CohereOne,

Erik Martinez: and I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.

Tim Curtis: This week, we are happy to have Vithya Kuckreja. Vithya is the Director of Paid Media at Blue Tangerine. Vithya is a search marketing professional with experience both in-house and on the agency side. Vithya overseas paid search and paid social marketing for various clients spanning numerous verticals, including home builder, apparel, B2B, specialty home goods, and [00:01:00] specialty food.

An experienced growth strategist, Vithya is passionate about getting results for clients, identifying opportunities that will truly make a difference, and extending expertise as a part of the client's extended team. Vithya, welcome aboard. Good to have ya.

Vithya Kuckreja: Thank you for having me.

Tim Curtis: Great. Well, go ahead and get things kicked off here. Let's start. We kinda like to get a little bit of background information on you. So, if you could maybe tell us a little about who you are and maybe a little bit about your story, something maybe people don't know about you.

Vithya Kuckreja: Sure. I have been in digital marketing for over 15 years and my journey into digital marketing was a little bit not a traditional, you know, the path of going to undergrad marketing and then landing in digital marketing. I actually did my undergrad in electrical engineering and I worked in that for a little bit. I was always kind of in a basement, not really seeing a lot of people and I love people. So, I was like, you know what? I think I'm going to change it to I've always loved marketing. So, I was like, I'm gonna change into marketing.

So, then I got into [00:02:00] digital marketing and I've just really loved it. Love to see how people get to a site, how they interact with the site, how they purchase, because I, myself, am an online shopper, and it's just really interesting to see their journey. So, something that people may not know about me is that I'm actually a classically trained Indian dancer. It's this like program with a lot of set poses and regiments and things like that and you go through this whole training. So, I learned a lot of stamina from that, that I definitely take into my job.

Tim Curtis: That's probably one of the cooler things mentioned on the show.

Erik Martinez: I can attest to her stamina because if you're not awake in a meeting, Vithya will wake you up.

Tim Curtis: She will call you out.

Vithya Kuckreja: That's right.

Tim Curtis: So,15 years in the industry. Obviously, an interesting start there in electrical engineering. Let's go back. Let's think back, what is something that you wish you had known 15 years ago that you could tell yourself now?

Vithya Kuckreja: Yeah, so when I first started my digital marketing career, I was just soaking it all up, learning all the different [00:03:00] channels, those kinds of things, and I think about a year into my career, a mentor worked with me and said, hey, really look at the why's of what you're doing and really look at why does a customer purchase that product? What is it that we're solving? You know, why do they want to come to you? All the time. Just keep asking why, and I think that was like one of the most important lessons that I learned in my career and it really stuck with me.

Another thing that I learned in the first couple of years was when you go into a meeting with the president of the company, and he or she only has a minute, what's the most important thing that you want them to know about. Just kind of having that mindset, even as I'm working through anything, going, okay, what's the most important thing here? Why is someone coming to the site? Why are they purchasing from us? How can we help them? Those kinds of things really sticks with me.

Tim Curtis: That inquisitive mindset is so important. One of the things that you're chiefly responsible for in your work is the strategy piece, and as Erik and I were preparing for the show, one of the things we [00:04:00] sort of wanted to hear from you was maybe in your own words, helping to define what is strategy? What do you think strategy is?

Vithya Kuckreja: Yeah. When I think of digital strategy, I think of it as a plan that's informed by what are you serving for that customer and how they find you? Those two things goes into that digital strategy plan. Also part of that plan is aligning your business goals with how people are coming to find you. So, overall, in a nutshell, I think of digital strategy as a plan that's informed by your business goals and consumer information.

Erik Martinez: So, Vithya, I think there's a lot of confusion in the world about the difference between strategy and tactics. You know, a lot of people think, well, that's a strategy and it's really a tactic. In your line of work, in your day-to-day work, what's the key difference between the strategy and the tactics?

Vithya Kuckreja: Yeah, [00:05:00] So, when I think of the tactics, I think of it as the individual steps that are going to help you to achieve the goals set out in the strategy plan. So, when I think of the steps, those are the tactical, individual, executable steps.

Erik Martinez: So, can you give us an example. You know, in your day-to-day directing paid media, what might be an example of a strategy and a tactic that actually somebody can employ very simply?

Vithya Kuckreja: Yeah, absolutely. So, one of our clients, they have a handful of brick-and-mortar stores in addition to their digital presence and one of their overarching goals for the next six months to a year is to drive more traffic to the brick-and-mortar stores. So, part of the strategy is outlining, hey, how can we bring more people to the stores? What are the channels digitally that we can drive more traffic to the stores?

Then the tactics [00:06:00] are, for instance, one of the tactics that we're taking is in our paid media campaigns for those store locations, we are looking at what are the peak hours that people actually visit those stores and during those peak hours, can we adjust our bids? Can we be more top of funnel, top of mind during those hours that people are searching on their mobile for those store locations? So, the dayparting or the bid adjustments are what I would consider the tactical portion of it, but the strategy part of it is going okay, here's from Facebook how we can drive traffic to the stores. Here's from paid search, how we can drive traffic to the store, and so that's kind of how I look at some of those things.

Erik Martinez: So, from a tactical standpoint, I get it, right? We're going to daypart, we're going to make bid adjustments, we're going to do all those little things, but what are the things that are informing the overall strategy? We want to grow traffic in the stores. That's the [00:07:00] overarching objective. What are the little things that you have to consider as you're building that plan or that strategy for achieving that goal?

Vithya Kuckreja: Yeah, absolutely. So, I actually read a really amazing book. I'm going to do a little plug for a book that actually Erik introduced me to is Carla Johnson, RE: Think innovation. She has an amazing process in that book and my own process falls similarly to that. Where before creating that strategy plan, what I like to do is gather all of the data points and observations of let's look at how are people getting to the store currently. Let's look at what's the store environment currently.

All of these different observations, I'll just gather them, and then after I gather them, I start noticing patterns. What are some patterns of how people are coming to the store? What does that mean for our channels, and start to kind of marinate on that, percolate on that? Then some distinct patterns start to come about, and then from that, [00:08:00] then I start to go, okay, what are the channels that are really important that are part of our plan? What are the methods that we're going to take for part of our plan and then I'll marry in the metrics also of like, okay, we need to achieve a 10% increase in-store traffic? Where are we are currently in-store traffic? What are some of the trends of where it's increasing or decreasing? How can we change that? Those kinds of things. So, when we're putting together that strategy plan, a lot of it is gathering your data first and then being able to determine, okay, what's the most important things from those steps.

Erik Martinez: So, when we're gathering data, you're talking about observations.

Vithya Kuckreja: Yes.

Erik Martinez: What types of observations are you making to help inform the development of a strategy?

Vithya Kuckreja: The types of observations that I tend to look at, a lot of times I'll look at Google Analytics to start. That'll be one place where I start to look at, you know, what are the KPIs? What are the changes in KPI? [00:09:00] I'll also gather notes about just what the client has shared overall in their business, what their observations are. Using that to inform, and then I'll make my own observations like going into, for this example, for instance, I will go into the store landing pages. I would go into, what are the competitors messaging on their store landing pages?

If I do a search for X products near me, what are the types of results that are showing up in the search engine results pages? The top people in those results pages, what are they doing on those landing pages? Is there anything different? What are they doing on their Google My Business profiles? How is that different from what we're doing and starting to gather all of those observations in that landscape to try to find what are the patterns that we can influence.

Tim Curtis: So, as you're pulling together your observations, you're differentiating between what's a strategy and what's a tactic and you're starting to put all this stuff together, talk to me a little bit about how that strategy [00:10:00] informs the marketing plans because oftentimes, I'm guessing when you're working with a client, there's some form of a marketing plan already existing. When you have your strategy, are you then working with the client to change that marketing plan? What's that look like on a daily basis?

Vithya Kuckreja: Yeah, absolutely. Great question. As you said, this kind of does happen. Our clients may have a marketing plan that they've already built-in, and then we have our strategy observations. So, for me, I always want to think of myself as an extension of the client's team. So, the idea is never to go, okay, we're just going to totally X the marketing plan that's existing because there were some thoughts put behind that plan. There were obviously some reasons for that plan.

So, what I like to do, and the team likes to do as well, is look at the existing marketing plan and then see where do some adjustments need to be made? What we've found across our clients is when you have a really good integrated marketing plan that's informed by a strategy that really takes into [00:11:00] consideration how your customer finds you and why they want to find you, when all channels are aligned to that plan, we see great success and we've seen it many times.

Sometimes I like to call it a media multiplier effect. Where when all of these different medias are aligning to the same goal, we see them all kind of working with each other and multiplying them. So, the idea is never to just throw away a marketing plan, but to make sure that we're filling in the gaps, if there are any.

Tim Curtis: Yeah. So, you know, a real-life example. So, we're the end of Q1, 2022 here, and a lot of clients are dealing with supply chain issues. They're dealing with just a number of fuel surcharges, just extraordinary fuel prices. Put them in a little bit of a different spot. So, those marketing plans are somewhat fluid because they're having to respond, to sort of one crisis after another. One of the things that particularly has hit [00:12:00] the digital advertising community so hard has been the Apple intelligent tracking prevention and the impact, the cascading impact that has.

You know, we know that Google serves up search ads based on keywords, right? Well, that differs from Facebook. Facebook is going to match ads to users' data and targeting choices and what they follow, what they're interacting with. The result of that privacy, of course, has caused a tremendous amount of challenges for Facebook in particular.

So, what we're seeing right now is Facebook revenues down tremendously. We're seeing some questions about attribution with Facebook since the ITP, Apple's ITP has been released. It's very difficult to determine the incremental value of what's happening for your paid social. Then you have the traditional search continuing to get more expensive, and you've got some of the [00:13:00] Google feeds, like shopping, are a little sluggish. So, what do you do? What do you do when you got a situation like that where it's hard to find true north?

Vithya Kuckreja: Yeah, absolutely. This is the challenging part, but also the exciting part of the job because the digital world, what I love so much about the digital world is it's always changing. You'll figure something out and then it completely changes. That's why also having a strategic mindset while we're managing the campaigns is so important. So, one of the things with Facebook, for instance, for our clients after the Apple changes, we did see an impact in our audience sizes and different things.

We have several rockstars on the team, and they looked at, hey, what can we do after this audience size changed? What are some other ways that we can get qualified audiences? We've been finding actually that look-alike audiences has been working really well. So, getting more information from the client of their email list, their catalog list, all of those things, and mapping out look-alike audiences from that, and then measuring, [00:14:00] you know, if we have a match rate of 1% versus a match rate of 5%. How does that change? So, we're doing a lot of testing on the look-alike side and we're finding that that's getting much more success.

The attribution window is a challenge because it's a 7-day instead of a 28-day. We are seeing that you know, some of those sales that were originally attributed to Facebook is going sideways. One of the things important for us to look at is just again, to look at the business holistically, strategically. If it's going sideways, where is it going? What does that mean for the campaigns that we're building out? So, we look at, in Google Analytics, the assist conversion paths for our clients, and we look at okay if it didn't get attributed to Facebook, where else did it get attributed to? So, what we are seeing is that it's going sideways to paid search, sideways to organic search, and sideways to direct.

So, what that means for our strategy is that because Facebook a lot of times we'll be top of [00:15:00] funnel. We have the middle of funnel, bottom of funnel too, but a lot of time is top of funnel traffic. So, we want to do, is that in the paid search campaigns, in the organic search campaigns, we still want to make sure our message is aligned with our overall marketing plan. We still want to make sure that at every customer touchpoint, we are emphasizing that unique selling proposition. Why someone should click through our ad instead of the other. So, the actual strategy is still holistic and still looks at the business as a whole, no matter what changes may be happening in the audiences or the channels. So, we've been seeing that overall for our clients, even though with the changes with Facebook, the overall channel mix is still growing for many clients.

So, another point I wanted to address that you were talking about with the supply chain changes. That's another thing that with our clients that we've been seeing and the important point is that the marketing plan, you know, we put a plan in place. It's not something that's meant to be like, this is set in stone. It has to be continually informed by business decisions, [00:16:00] the environment, you know, what's happening. Again, coming back to that strategy of like, why are we doing this, how is the customer getting to us, and why do they want to choose us, and what does that mean for the plan? So, it's a continually dynamically moving organism.

Erik Martinez: So, I think that's a really important point that the marketing plan is not set in stone. So, in your day-to-day work, if the marketing plan is not set in stone, how often do you guys re-evaluate what's working and what's not working and making adjustments to it? Is it daily? Is it monthly? Is it half a year? What are those timelines that you recommend in this fluid environment?

Vithya Kuckreja: So, there's this balance. There's just like tight rope balance of we can't be, changing the plan every day because then we are not being strategic. Then we're kind of being like knee jerk reaction and being you know, kind of more tactical and not really understanding the why's of the business.

So, we can't change the plan every day, but [00:17:00] we also have to understand that it is fluid and we have to change with the business environment. So, on a day-to-day basis, we are looking at the metrics very closely, all the KPIs, very closely, and then we look at the trends. What is the last 30 days? What is the last 45 days, 90 days, six months?

We start to again, gather those patterns, and say, okay, is there a pattern happening? If there is a pattern happening, do we need to reevaluate the plan? There's no set answer. Each client is a little bit different. For me, what I've found for our clients is sticking to a plan at a minimum for a month.

Just having that 30 days of sticking with that plan. Then observing all the metrics and understanding what the patterns are and then knowing that, okay, maybe we need to tweak something here. Maybe we need to do that. We see that a lot with our paid media campaigns. We need to test the campaign, if we're testing something for four to six weeks at a minimum to really get a read on it, to really get a pattern with it. We work with such wonderful clients that they have all [00:18:00] been really good about going, yeah, let's not make any knee-jerk reactions. Let's really see what's happening and let's see what's going on.

We really work closely with our clients to talk with them, and they talk with us too, about what's going on with their business, and for us, what's going on with the different channels and where the patterns we're seeing and what we think we recommend, and so, it's never a knee jerk like, we're going to change the plan in 24 hour period. There may be times where there's examples, for instance, again, like supply chain issues where, hey, guess what? We are totally out of this product. Let's pull exposure for that product because we're not going to be able to fulfill those orders. Certainly, those are examples of when we need to act really quickly.

Tim Curtis: I have kind of a follow-up question. Obviously, being nimble, being agile, understanding that there are certainly more changing factors now than let's say two years ago even, you know, at the start of COVID. We're still kind of jockeying around a little bit. Supply chain issues. You know, there's a lot of products that aren't in stock, right?

So, it's, you know, it's turning off visibility for [00:19:00] some of those products, et cetera, but following up on that sort of that Facebook example. When you're noticing, okay, well that attribution window go from, you know, 28 days now to 7. Then, you know, how do you measure success? Do you go sideways and you look at, you know, direct, organic, and paid to help calculate that success. Because at the end of the day, you're still going to be asked and the client's still going to be asked in the marketing team, are we being successful with this? That's what, you know, is sometimes where the clients, I see them white knuckle it. They get real nervous about that.

Vithya Kuckreja: We look at a lot of our KPIs, of click-through rate, conversion rate, cost per lead, all of those metrics, return on ad spend, all of those metrics from our last-click attribution. We also do again, look at those assist conversions, the conversion path. We've seen this over the several years is these channels that customers are coming through to the site, it's never just like a one-to-one relationship anymore. It's so multi-touch, and so the way that we look at all of these digital channels [00:20:00] has to be holistic and not just we only look at this one last click KPI that came through.

We have to look at the overall mix. It certainly is a challenge because it's not so black and white. It's got a lot of nuances in there, but what's important for us is to look at everything holistically and not siloed. So, that's what we've been doing with our clients is really looking at those conversion path reports, looking at the assist conversions in Google Analytics, looking at other factors in their business. The information that they provide us as far as like inventory, as far as mailers in-home dates, those kinds of things that all come into play. So, it really is just an overarching discussion instead of just this channel led to this person coming to the site because it just doesn't work that way. So, it's a very evolving kind of conversation.

Erik Martinez: So, you've said a couple of really important things, and I'm going to go back to the previous question for a second. You said we need four to six weeks [00:21:00] to evaluate whether what we're doing is working. Now. I remember many, many, many, many years ago, I was talking with Phillip who is also part of our team, and, you know, he's like, I can figure this out in seven days.

So what has changed? Why have we gone from seven days to four weeks or maybe the seven days was just a microcosm for a particular client on a particular day, but why four to six weeks? Second question related to that, is that channel-dependent, because certain channels bake longer than others, at least in my experience like organic search, as an example, has a much longer window to determine whether it's successful or not?

Vithya Kuckreja: Great questions. So, there's a little bit of both in the sense that for some clients we will be able to see the results a little bit more quickly, and that could be just a factor of they just have more traffic, the statistical significance of what we're doing. We can see what's changing a [00:22:00] little bit more. The other part of it, which I feel across our clients, is just the nature of its a multitouch digital world and they're just going through so many different channels, and for us to actually see what is happening, it just takes a little bit longer to actually determine some patterns.

Then there's the other part of it for instance, in our paid media channels, there's artificial intelligence, that's feeding kind of some of the bid algorithms, some of the audience selects, those kinds of things, and all of those artificial intelligence systems, they are looking at a population of traffic and trying to extrapolate, hey, based on this traffic we think the bid is going to be better than this and stuff. The more and more information that artificial intelligence gains, the smarter it gets, and so that's another reason why we can't do these really short burst tests as well cause that's starting to evolve a lot across the paid media channels too.

Erik Martinez: Well, that's really interesting because I think there is a view [00:23:00] and maybe it was just me and my being a little myopic, but I have the sense that many marketers feel like the holy grail of marketing optimization is artificial intelligence. That it can solve all your problems, whether you're big or you're small, and when I'm hearing you say is that's not necessarily the case. That the machine needs time to learn and get educated in order to help you make better performance decisions. Did I hear that correctly?

Vithya Kuckreja: That's what I see across our clients, especially like on the Google and Facebook side, when we create like a new test campaign, the platforms will even say, this is in learning mode. Meaning that artificial intelligence is gaining some learning on it to really understand okay, this will be really better served to this audience, or this will be better served at this time. That kind of thing.

The trends of digital marketing is definitely towards automation and more algorithms and things like that, but what we [00:24:00] have found, at least in our world right now, is that all of those automation pieces need to be married to a strategy. So, for instance, there's all these different automated bidding methodologies that we can use, but all of those different bidding methodologies have to be married to a strategy of, hey, for this particular client, what's really important is return on ad spend. That's what's most important for them. So, let's focus on the strategy that matches with that.

Or for another client, when they get more new users to the site, their email program grows, their catalog program grows. Paid search is actually driving more lifetime value. So, we need to look at some other metrics that inform that strategy. So, just going through automation is not going to cut it basically, and that's a big thing that digital marketers are finding across the board.

Erik Martinez: Automation is part of your strategy?

Vithya Kuckreja: Part of it.

Erik Martinez: Not the whole strategy?

Tim Curtis: It's sort of like Amazon in the sense that [00:25:00] brands will say, well, we're not going to sell on Amazon. Okay, but that's still not a strategy. If you're not going to sell on Amazon, you have to have a strategy. If you're going to go in the direction of automation, you need to understand what that means. You need to understand some elements of the loss of control that there may not necessarily be built into the algorithm, and I've not seen it strongly convincing that there is a strategy inside the algorithm, necessarily.

 AI has been marketed well. We aren't told about all of the elements of AI, where it gets it wrong, and there's a lot of elements across all sorts of verticals. You can go back to the teaching examples in New York City, where individuals are going to be graded based off of AI teachers and it was a disaster. You name it, it went wrong. AI is an important element of what's happening in the future, but we need to have sobriety about what it is and what it isn't.

Vithya, your point about attaching AI to a [00:26:00] strategy. I think the end goal, of course, is total automation and I can see why Google would want that. There wouldn't be anybody able to look in on their walled garden to really see how things are performing. It's basically sort of a trust system. I think a lot of people who are very seasoned are quite skeptical about AI's ability to just go it alone. What do you think?

Vithya Kuckreja: That's exactly the tug and pull that we're seeing in digital marketing and our team always talks about it a lot, and we joke about it. We're saying you're going to have to claw this, like out of my hands kind of thing, Google. Like, we still want to like see what's going on. At present, what we see is that the automation is a part of our toolbox and that what we see is managing these paid media channels and these digital marketing channels, one part is science, but one part is art.

The business acumen of you know, why does a customer want to find this, or what would they search for kind of thing? It goes beyond just we have keyword planning tools that we use for finding the [00:27:00] types of keywords that we'll go after, but we also look at how would my sister search for this? How would my dad search for this, you know?

All those kinds of business decisions come into play. I think that AI, at this time, still is not going to be part of that. For our team, we keep a really good close eye on all the developments in AI for these different channels because we definitely want to know what can we influence. It's not a matter of oh, no, we're not going to use artificial intelligence, and no way, we're just not going to use it.

That's just not realistic and that's just not the world that we live in right now. It's more of let's understand really what this artificial intelligence can do for us, and then how do we fill in the gaps where we think that it's going to be missing? So, that's our approach that we've been doing for our clients.

Erik Martinez: That's awesome. Let's pivot back to the success or failure of a strategy and how you measure success? How do we know that this [00:28:00] grand strategy that we just came up with is actually working?

Vithya Kuckreja: In my experience, what I have found across our clients, is when there aren't specific goals set in place for the strategies, it does not go very well. So, what really works is to have those key KPIs that we're measuring. There's a handful of KPIs that we use in the digital world very easily. You know, the click-through rate, conversion rate, cost per lead, return on ad spend, those kinds of metrics, but in addition to that, there's other things like lifetime value, the number of customers, number of email signups, all of those things. Based on the strategy and based on a client, those will change a little bit according to your plan.

The overall statement that it's really important when we do put a strategy in place that we're identifying what are the different metrics that we're going to be measuring against? The times that I have seen the plans that I've put in place not work is when I do not have those guidelines set in place. That's when knee [00:29:00] jerk reactions can happen as well. When you're not following the plan. When you don't have a KPI set in place, and it's just like, well, this isn't working. You've got to pull back from it. It's more anecdotal versus based on data observations. I have found that it's way more successful when we're looking at data observations, making informed decisions, and changing our course from that.

Erik Martinez: So, what I'm hearing you say, just to rephrase this a little bit, it really is a function of your objectives. You've got to have a really clear objective statement and say, this is working or not. So, let's go back to that previous client we were talking about where their goal is to grow store traffic. Is that clear enough or is that too still too ambiguous?

Vithya Kuckreja: In my mind, that is too ambiguous. We need to define by a certain time period, we are going to increase our store traffic from X to X. That's how I would want to look at that particular part of that plan.

Erik Martinez: Since we both read the Carla Johnson book, I [00:30:00] know that that objective statement came from her methodology in terms of rethinking innovation. So, to add to that, there's also some constraints, right? What would those constraints be in this particular scenario?

Vithya Kuckreja: So in that particular example, some of the constraints would be the number of stores that we're measuring, the date range that we're measuring. Is there actually a counter in the store? Is there a mechanism in the store or in our measuring systems that we can actually measure the impact? So, we need to have those set in place too, in order to measure the success.

Erik Martinez: Yeah, and whomever Vithya is referring to in this particular client's case, they're in the process of installing counters in their stores, so we can actually measure foot traffic more successfully and see if the overall strategy of increasing store traffic is working.

Vithya, let's [00:31:00] pivot again and let's talk a little bit about who can create strategy. Who can create strategy?

Vithya Kuckreja: I love that question so much because my answer is anyone can create strategy. It's really kind of a mindset in my view, and I've seen this actually on our team. We have so many rock stars on our team, and I've just seen that beautiful, evolving side of them, of how they're starting to think more and more strategically. Several of our team members have said, hey, you know what? I'm going to take a stab at this. Let me take a stab at this. Let me put the strategy together.

You know, they put it together and I look at it and I'm like, it's so awesome. All the questions that we're trying to ask, the why's. Why does a customer actually want to find us? What do we serve them other than besides the competition? All of those things. So, I really strongly feel that it's a mindset. It's a mindset of the team that will continually evolve. It's never going to be like, yeah, you're a [00:32:00] strategic thinker and you're done. It just keeps evolving and getting more nuanced and more refined, and of course, experience. Like, we'll see some strategies win, and then we'll see some strategies not win, and like from that we go, okay, well that didn't really work. Let's see if we can kind of adjust a little bit and all of those learnings come into play of that overall strategy.

Erik Martinez: So, give me the most spectacular strategic failure you have ever seen.

Vithya Kuckreja: One of our clients is in a super hyper-competitive space. The competition is a bunch of like little small mom and pop shops and then as some big publicly traded companies as well. To gain impression share for the keywords that they need to be at top of page, it is really expensive, and the return on ad spend is very challenging. So, we started out with them with more of a general let's get top of page impression for these keyword themes and went a little bit more broader because we know that's our category, but what we found is that with [00:33:00] the increasing competition that they have, we needed to get more refined on the way that we were going after that top of funnel traffic.

One of the things that we realized was we needed to add more layers of geographic targeting, audience layers, different kinds of refinements, so we could tweak the amount that we're spending and look at what's working, what's not, and pull away from it. So, the biggest lesson I learned from that was sometimes when we go too broad., It's not going to work for a client that has really high competition. We've got to make sure that we're getting really refined in our audience so that we can have control over the spend or the return on ad spend.

Now they're starting to dominate a little bit more in certain regions of the United States because we were like, you know what? In some regions of the United States, it's just too competitive for them. They cannot be on the first page results and you know what? We might come back to it another day, but for right now, they're going to dominate in certain areas. So, that was what we learned from that, and we've been looking at that across our clients is how do we layer in [00:34:00] these different segmentations so that we can be more thoughtful in our approach of how we're getting the top of funnel traffic.

Tim Curtis: So, I have a sort of a question follow-up. We're kind of circling the airport here to land, but I wanted to get a little bit of prognostication from you. So, you know, we talked earlier about Apple and Apple's intelligent tracking prevention and just how that is roiled the digital advertising industry, turned it upside down, and of course now email as well. Have the ability now to shut down the click activity, so email marketers can't always see who's clicking on their emails. That of course is problematic, but here's the kicker. Yes, Apple is a huge player, but if you look at Android and Android has a numbers advantage in terms of market share, but Google has announced now that they're going to follow suit and they're going to shut down the click activity and the tracking activity on the Android [00:35:00] platforms. Which when you combine that with Apple, there's going to be some major impacts. What are you anticipating will be the case when Google flips that switch?

Vithya Kuckreja: Yeah. This is certainly an industry trend, of course, that consumers are very concerned about their privacy. This is going to be our new world. There's not going to be as much tracking on activity. However, I think, what is really key for digital marketing, is that the actual approach and the strategy and the why's of how we get a customer to our site is actually probably not going to change as drastically.

We're going to have to get a little bit more creative about how we're getting customers to the site and how we're measuring that, but actually the strategy of where do people go to find your site? They still go on the search engine results pages. They're still going to these different websites that they find your display ad. They're still using Facebook. So, the customer is still there on those [00:36:00] platforms, and so the way that our ad messaging is, or the way that we approach that customer is still going to be pretty similar. We may not be able to see at that granular level as we have before, but also the platforms are going to evolve because it is in their benefit to give us more information on who the most relevant audiences are.

So, we may see in the future more cohort audience groupings that we're going after. For me, I remember marketing basics of when we had magazines and billboards and things like that. The audiences, the way that we chose those audiences, were still who wants to see my site, who needs my product? How do I get in front of them? All those basic questions, I feel like still remain intact. Our measuring might be a little bit different, but the actual why's are going to be very similar.

Tim Curtis: It will be similar to broadcast media, which is sort of what you're referring to, where instead of now having that Wild West that we've enjoyed for so [00:37:00] long in digital of knowing exactly who is wanting what by their click activity. Now we're going to be in the position where it's going to be by going with cohorts. It's going to be implying these people may be interested rather than I know they just clicked on three things within an ecosystem that's not ours. You're right. That's gonna be quite a change.

I think the other thing that is sort of that elephant in the room when you're talking about paid media is the fact that what now, 70 plus percent of searches begin on Amazon, not on Google? People are starting inside of an ecosystem that Google has no visibility into. That's going to continue, I think, to be sorted out here over the next couple of years.

Erik and I have talked many times. We've had several guests on talking about Amazon and, you know, the rise of the Amazon ecosystem and how it's a little mini Google, right? Getting less mini by the week. Those are all implications, you know, not only the privacy stuff, but you have this Google animal that [00:38:00] is now being chased by a much larger animal, which is Amazon. I just don't know that any of us, 10 years ago, thought it would get to this degree.

Vithya Kuckreja: Google, they recognize that, and so like shopping campaigns. A lot of our clients use shopping campaigns and those continue and continue to grow for our clients because Google is putting more emphasis in that area and to become the marketplace that people think of to go to. So, I would say that's only going to continue. We are going to still see that. We're going to still see that Google is going to put more emphasis into the shopping campaigns.

Erik Martinez: I've been a big believer that the hyper-targeting is too targeted, and Vithya and I have had the experience recently of working with a client where we see some ad campaigns that are too targeted. If there's such a thing. It's so narrow. So, the question is, as we talk about getting more creative with our marketing, we're talking about inferring [00:39:00] information about where that customer is coming from, how do we get them, and at the end of the day, what the bottom line is returning, right?

All of a sudden, we're actually going to have a real difficult time with this concept of attribution. We've got all these metrics that we've developed over the years and we think they're important, but really there's only a couple of metrics that are really important, and the bottom line is, did we get a sale? I'm curious on your thoughts, Vithya, as we talk about getting more creative and being more strategic in that creativity, how do we advise our customers, our clients, or if I'm the CMO or director of marketing, how do I inform my leadership that we're going to be able to achieve those goals in an area where attribution, which has always been a set of assumptions, becomes an even bigger set of assumptions?

Vithya Kuckreja: This is such a great question because this is[00:40:00] our world right now. What I am seeing right now, a client came to mind. The previous agency that they worked with, they really focused just on last-click attribution, and so all of the reports were just on last-click attribution, and we've been showing them on Google Analytics, the whole ecosystem, all the little touchpoints that they're coming to before they come to the site and our client was like, wow, I had no idea. I am so glad that you're showing me this. I had no idea.

So, I think part of it is just again, being an extension of the client team and really working with them to understand the whole landscape because the whole landscape only helps us to make really good, informed decisions. Why do we want to look at, things beyond just the last-click attribution, because we want to actually make good decisions?

It's going to be holding hands and walking through it and going okay, you know, as a group of people who really love what they're doing, let's look at what's going on truly, and let's see how we can influence that. I don't think there's going to be a set answer. It's going to be more of an evolving discussion, [00:41:00] but what I think is really important in that discussion is to see these different starting points, see these conversion path reports, assist conversions reports, the overall business, all of those starting points to piece together the story of what's actually occurring and truly happening.

It might be that maybe for a certain client, a certain metric is a little bit more important that we need to look at that actually is driving more of their business, you know, the overall bottom line, and so we need to look at that. What we have found so far across our clients is really, again, transparency into all the channels, how they're interacting, and then our clients have been so wonderful and gracious to have giving us transparency of what's going on in their business and then together we're kind of stitching this overall story and stitching together what actually is going to impact positive results.

Erik Martinez: Tim, I actually got a question for you.

Tim Curtis: For me?

Erik Martinez: For you.

Tim Curtis: Oh, well. Alright.

Erik Martinez: For you, because you're having these conversations too.

Tim Curtis: Oh, I'm having a lot of them. Yeah.

Erik Martinez: You're having a lot of these very same conversations. You know, just to feed [00:42:00] on what Vithya was just saying. what are those conversations sounding like when you're talking about this topic?

Tim Curtis: Yeah. So, no question, you know, CohereOne we measure incrementality. At the end of the day, its contribution and incrementality, and what are you getting by running these campaigns that you wouldn't get organically, right, or maybe health or performance of a channel? So, what that's looking like right now is yeah, we have those instances where, and I've done it before running digital, where I worked too hard on an audience and it was very small and ended up with 15 clicks because I had, made the audience too small. So, we obviously can't overcorrect here, but I think when people start looking at the new normal, I do think you're going to see more people leaning into solutions, such as measured or attribution or Rockerbox, that's going to try to find an element of a source of truth, right, in terms of the attribution.

Attribution is a very [00:43:00] slippery thing. It is different for everybody. Everybody claims to have a secret formula, but what we found is that, in general, hold out testing and hold out panels will give you the best sense of attribution because you can measure the halo effect. Most of the platforms don't measure halo effect. So, when you're having conversations about this, attribution is a good thing to talk about, but what's more important than what we don't want to lose sight of is testing and measuring, and understanding what the lifetime value of each channel is.

They are different. They are radically different. Some channels are more prone to people who are just looking for quick fixes, quick searches. They're not loyalty bound. Before you invest a ton of money into those channels, you're going to use them because every channel has value, but you got to make sure that you're expecting the right thing from that channel.

Shopping, for example, is a great way to move product. You can move a lot of product through shopping, but shopping has more challenges [00:44:00] becoming a loyal base of shoppers. The shopping is typically people who are looking for an item and a transaction. They're transient or transactional buyers. So, you know, you got to understand some of those elements.

Email's always great, right? Email is always one of the top lifetime value, but it's not scalable. You can't just go out and get more email. It just doesn't work like that. So, you've got to understand what it means to know what you're looking for, and before you go off on a unicorn hunt with attribution, which it can very quickly get to be, understand the health of those channels and understand what is providing the biggest feedback and then base your media mix on an element of lifetime value, and then what you're going to achieve with that strategy. Then you can put the tactics in place, but that's how we do it, and when you deploy that, it sorta ends up working out for itself. I don't know if it's just because you're leaning into channels for what they're meant to do, and as far as they can extend you, but it's a [00:45:00] great place to start.

Erik Martinez: I think I can add to that. We've had a recent experience with a large B2B client, who has for the last two years, been working on lifetime value and ROI projects. So, now they're getting to the point where they're starting to talk some attribution, but the outcomes, the benefits of going through this lifetime value analysis, and these ROI projects has been a lot of learnings that their team has been able to deploy to absolutely change the outcomes of their businesses. They happen to have five or six brands and they've been very successful at turning those brands around in such a way and positioning them to maximum effect.

So, going through these data science projects, and by the way, folks, lifetime value is a data science project. It is not for the weak, the weak of heart. You have [00:46:00] to have patience. You have to understand your data. It has to be clean, but the result of going through that process, it's like investing in the space program in the sixties. If the United States hadn't invested in the space program in the sixties, there's many technologies that we have today that would not even exist because they had to invent new things. So, I would definitely spend some time, as a part of your business strategy, to invest in some of that data science and understanding lifetime value.

Tim Curtis: Well, Vithya, this is important stuff, and I really appreciate you coming on. You know, it's nice to have somebody with your degree of experience in as many verticals as you have to be able to help make a little bit of sense out of the period of time where there's not much you can take to the bank anymore. To say it's fluid doesn't do it justice. So, kind of in closing, if somebody wanted to reach out to you, what's the best way to get a hold of you.

Vithya Kuckreja: So, [00:47:00] the best ways to reach out to me is either through LinkedIn or my Blue Tangerine email alias and because my name is so unique, I will probably just have you guys maybe just put it on the notes or something like that. I need like a stage name or something.

Erik Martinez: Well, Vithya is not hard. It's the last part that's hard.

Vithya Kuckreja: It's the last part. Exactly.

Erik Martinez: Your maiden name.

Vithya Kuckreja: Oh my gosh. Yes. Yes. My maiden name.

Erik Martinez: How many letters does that thing have? It has like 26 letters just by itself.

Vithya Kuckreja: No, I think it has 36. I think it has 36. When I was a kid, filling out those standardized tests, I'd be like, ah, I don't have any more bubbles.

Tim Curtis: Oh, that's funny.

Erik Martinez: She married just to shorten her last name.

Tim Curtis: Well, good for you. Thirty-six to eight, not bad.

Erik Martinez: Well, Vithya, thank you so much for coming on board and sharing some of your experience and knowledge with us today. This is a very important topic and, I know a lot of companies out there are working on their strategy, and just to be able to give two or three things that you [00:48:00] can do today. Thinking what your objectives are, what your observations are, and bringing that all together in a plan, I think are really critical elements. So, thank you very much for that.

Vithya Kuckreja: Thank you for having me.

Erik Martinez: All right. Well, that's it for today, folks. Really appreciate you guys listening. I'm Erik Martinez from BlueTangerine,

Tim Curtis: and I'm Tim Curtis from Cohere One.

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