What is Programmatic Marketing?

Hack the Stack – Five Ways to Automate Like A Human from The Coloring In Department

Hack the Stack – Five Ways to Automate Like A Human

I recently had the privilege of taking to the stage at the inimitable Turing Fest to talk about this very subject, and, given the number as well as epic nature of the questions, I thought I’d write the talk up. Save the tennis elbow on the notes front.

To cut a long story short, everyone has a different perception of paid media, and even more so of its bigger, scarier, better sibling, programmatic marketing. We are all guilty of occasionally doing marketing 1.0 in a 3.0 world, a little bit like sticking a five-year-old in a Ferrari. Not that technology in this case should be ignored, like a Ferrari, it should be aspired to.

To drive this estimable vehicle however, we need to be smarter than we’ve been, because if we are not careful we’ll be using new technology in old ways. I hate the word integration, and just because the whole team is using the stack, doesn’t mean they are working together. Brand messaging is one size, repetitive and stuck at the top of the funnel.

Performance messaging is locked into an eternal spiral of “buy now” and “join us” garbage. Basically, everybody is not at their best.

The talk explored how the factors of programmable advertising (automation, data, integration & scale) come together, and hopefully don’t blow your brand and budget to pieces. Maybe then we’d even start to move past leveraging the buying technology and start serving the right messages, in the right way, to the right people.

To a degree though, as much as short talks allow, this is an oversimplification of sorts. If it were easy, we’d in fact be doing it. The fear factor of new, unknown, sometimes impenetrable tech options does, and should, bring pause. Equally, the speed at which is changes take place can be extremely daunting. The panic is inherently warranted but isn’t really that productive.

Productive is driving towards efficiency at speed. Leveraging automation in advertising, both buying and serving, using the audience data available to the best of your ability and measuring the living hell out of the lot. Admittedly, we say we are doing this already, but I have to just drop a little note here and say – we aren’t.

The truth is, if we are advertising centric, we can hit our short terms goals with relevant (hopefully) advertising. We rarely satisfy human needs, we “add value,” sure – but we also get in the way, a lot. On top of that, we have one team force feeding relatively irrelevant advertising to people, or worse, just doing “performance” and stalking people around the moment of purchase. Let’s stop before we drop. Stop and think. A few tips on the thinking front.


In advertising, as we know, the audience is god – and we are tired, and sometimes lazy. That means, we mostly want to identify who they are and what they want, as well as give it to them as quickly as possible. Now, we can do this, between our own data (1st party), media platforms, like Google (2nd & 3rd party), and good other fashioned third-party data providers, from Experian, for instance. Practically, that might look like a few things:

  • Remarketing – around some kind of behavior e.g. shopping cart abandonment
  • Affinity – around some kind of interest e.g. snowboarding
  • Environmental – around some kind of context e.g. a warm day

Don’t get me wrong, getting the right audience from the black box of the stack is hard work, but you’ll know you are nearly there when they start to nail the KPIs you’ve set for yourself.


Great, found them, got them – but what to say to them? We tend to, on the whole, communicate messages that we want to communicate, not those messages that the audience actually want to hear. We need to thing sequentially here, in our story at least – it helps to answer these questions in constructing linear messaging:

  • What will you say that grabs their attention in the first instance?
  • How can you inspire them to want to know more, or better, provide more?
  • What can you say to turn that intent into an action of some sort?
  • How can you create loyalty, and repeat purchase?
  • How can you turn them into advocates?

Lead them down the digital garden path, as it were.


If I’m honest, people get lost here, big time lost – as there are up to a thousand different major ad units at this point in time. The media agency knows some of them from planning, the creative agency only knows what they are told to work with, and the brand – knows very little of anything beyond the position. When’s the last time you sat down and looked at the new, cutting edge formats, I’m going with never.

There isn’t a right or wrong format for you though, there is for a campaign, a customer, and an outcome however. To be both genuinely impactful, as well as helpful, is the name of the game here – and answering these questions might help:

  •  Intent – does this creative match the user’s expectation
  • Digital First – would this be possible in TV or print world?
  • Brand Links – could I swap out your brand for a competitor, and no-one would notice
  • Useful– is this creative genuinely useful, interesting, or informative?

If it’s no to any of those, start again.


Listen, some of the greatest campaigns in the world managed to be all things to all people – but none of them lacked for measurement. You can just pay the money, spray ads everywhere, and pray to gods (old and new) that it all worked. You need to not just measure and track your work, but also validate the effectiveness of your media and creative, which the questions here might help you with.

The People Who Matter

To make all of the above work, we need to work together. Now it’s not my intent to harp on about collaboration here, but it is my intent to encourage you to think about the different skills that make programmatic pop – the business folks, the data nerds, and the creative people. Now, more often than not, these people speak totally different languages, totally. So, you need to hunt out those who can bridge the gap, the integrators, the godsends, the magicians. Magicians make the magic happen.

In the End

If we don’t genuinely appreciate that we have new capacities technologically, new ability and skills, as people – and a whole ton of news processes that we need to get working – we might as well fill a trash can with money, put it on the boardroom table – and light it on fire. We are trying to be environmentally friendly now, sustainable even – don’t burn your budget.

Think fast, think smart, think together – and everything is going to be ok.

I promise.


Favourite Metrics from Influencers

What is Your Favourite Digital Marketing Metric?

We have been asking key influencers across the Digital Marketing landscape a number of questions around digital marketing metrics. Questions like, what are your favourite metrics? What top metrics would you take to the board? As marketing departments engage in digital transformation, why ican it be so damn hard to be a data driven marketeer, why the struggle? In this part 1 of 3 blogs we’ll be sharing what Rand Fishkin, Dave Chaffey, Edwina Dunn, Brain Clifton, Matthew Tod,Tink Taylor and Mathew Eisner had to say when asked.

What is your favourite metric and why?

Big thank you again guys for giving up your time to respond to the questions!

To make the most of these metrics, I have mapped the answers to a basic funnel using.Building Awareness Unique Visits – Rand Fiskin talks about Keyword Opportunity Metrics Audience Share- Edwina Dunn loves Customer Commitment (brand love) Engage Audience Engagement Segments – Brian Clifton goes into detail about engagement rate by segments (using Google Analytics)  Achieve Conversion to Marketing Goals ROI- Tink Taylor, because Sales is what matters.  Build Customer and Fan Relationships Net Promoter Score – Dave Chaffey, how satisfied are your customers. K Factor- Matthew Eisner, do your customers do some work for you and get you more customers? Matthew Tod- doesn’t have one favourite metric……read on to find out what he had to say. Ready to read? Let’s go!

Building Awareness

Rand Fishkin, former Wizard of Moz, Founder SparkToro

My favourite metric……. is Keyword Opportunity. It’s a metric that the SEO world has only recently come around to using, and tries to estimate the relative click-through rate to the organic, web search results for a given keyword. With Google introducing so many types of rich data in search results, there’s a huge difference between ranking #1 for a query with 10 blue links vs. one with a Knowledge Graph, three ads above the results, a news block, an image block, etc. Keyword Opportunity helps us prioritize the right keywords to target, not just the ones with high volume.More about it here and in the KW Explorer tool.

Edwina Dunn, CEO Starcount

My favourite metric is customer commitment (brand love)because just using spend, value or frequency places no value on the degree to which a customer is truly engaged with the brand; too often a valuable customer may be disloyal and spending with others also and so we have to fight constantly to keep our share of spend.

Engage Audience

Brian Clifton, Author and Director of Data Insights & Analytics

My favourite metric is engagement. This not something you can directly lift out of your analytics tool – you need to give it some thought. In Google Analytics Engagement Rate is obtained as a segment i.e. a segment constructed to include all visitors that have done something of value on your website.

What constitutes “value” is what requires thought. Mostly, value is defined as completing a call-to-action. These include the obvious candidates of:⦁ visitors who clicked an email link (made contact) ⦁ visitors who completed a contact, subscription, or survey form (made contact) ⦁ visitors who logged into a private area (existing customers, members, subscribers) ⦁ visitors who add-to-cart but did not purchase ⦁ visitors who transacted with you ⦁ visitors who commented on a product, post or article However, engagement should also include softer metrics such as: ⦁ visitors who viewed specific content that requires genuine interest (or effort to find) e.g. special offer related to previous content viewed. Amazon does this very well with their “People who viewed this product also viewed…” ⦁ visitors who’s visit goes beyond the “site average”, such as spending x minutes longer on your site, viewing y pages more. INSERT PIC

Basically any action that constitutes real visitor engagement on your site should be included this segment i.e. its a count of visitors that engage with your brand in some shape or form. Then calculate what percentage of your total traffic this represents – I guarantee you will be surprised, and not in a pleasant way! Around 150 years ago, John Wannamaker famously stated:“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”Amazingly I find that is still true today.

Achieve Conversion to Marketing Goals

Tink Taylor, Founder of dotMailer

My favourite metric is ……. ROI Because …… Sales is what matters… not opens, clicks, reads, visitors etc

Dave Chaffey, CEO Smart Insights

Customer satisfaction rating (with online experience or overall multichannel brand experience).Why? Since marketers need to go beyond the web analytics and commercial metrics to get direct insight from consumers to get their perception of your online brand / multichannel experience.

Building Customer and Fan Relationships

Matthew Einer Global Marketing Manager 

Favourite Metrics: K-factor/viral coefficient – if you can create a product where users onboard each other, all you have to do is hit a single node in each network of people to gain adoption.

One metric to rule them all?

Matthew Tod, Director at D4td PLC

My favourite metric is ……. one that I know impacts the whole business not just a digital channel. For example the number of people who are doing high quality pre-purchase product research in a digital channel prior to purchase in ANY channel is always interesting. Because …… single channel thinking is for numpties, those who don’t want to progress and those who are to lazy to figure it out!

So what next?

Interesting right? For any marketeer, metrics, data and all those numbers can quite frankly give even the most astute data geek the night sweats! If you want to find out more about Google Analytics and how to report more effectively to the board, we have a number of free resources ready for your download here – enjoy!


How to Turn Data into Insights

How do you turn data into insights?

We all know that we should be data driven, heck, it is a buzzword these days!

Yet so many of us are ‘data rich, insight poor’.

But when you are looking into the abyss of what can look like data vomit, how do you turn these data points into insights for your company’s growth?

This post is a starting point before you dive into the deep dark woods of analytics. You know the phrase “If all you have is a hammer then everything you see is a nail.” Abraham Maslow. So you need to focus.

In this data insight post we’ll cover how to set your goals.

Establish Goals and Tracking

For starters you need to have, at a minimum, your objectives and goals set up. You can’t manage what you can’t measure, so what is it that you want to achieve? What are your companies long and short term goals? Think about your goals from a macro and micro level.

Why? Because setting clear goals and objectives help your company to reach its goals. Say for example you had a site converting at 4%. Say for every 100 people, 4 parted with their cash, what did the other 96 people do? Knowing what these micro moments are helps you to understand your audiences behaviour. By tracking their behaviour, it gives you insights into what triggers and activates your visitors. Example Goals Could Be:

  • Visit duration goals
  • Pages/visits goals
  • Event goals
  • Engagement
  • URL destination goals
  • Track leads
  • Track file downloads
  • Highest driving social media channel
  • Open and click through rates for email
  • ROI on PPC campaigns

You need to make sure that your business and marketing programmes are designed to be measurable. Make every effort to track everything that is critical. For example campaigns that are tagged correctly, make sure that your analytics are setup on your marketing machines for things like your email, ppc campaigns, paid social right through to your  apps and/ or websites. Bottom line: every business with a digital presence should have analytics set-up for maximum data insights. Once you have all of these set up, you will have lots of juicy metrics looking back at you! We’ve created a bloody awesome goals template to help you get startedYou’re welcome. You Need Solid Facts, not Fluff! A useful exercise from the  Lean Analytics book by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz is to map out your business on 1 page aka a ‘1 pager’

Know the difference between your numbers

  • Lagging metrics are historical, things that have already happened, such as sales last month.
  • Leading metrics are forward looking, the metrics that help predict tomorrow, such as number of marketing qualified leads, or free trials of your product in your pipeline.
  • Correlated are two variables that are related but may be dependent on something else, for example, the number of people drowning and ice cream sales.  You wouldn’t look at a correlated graph and conclude that we should ban ice cream sales to save lives.

Causal is an independent variable that directly impacts a dependent one, for example, summertime. It is summer that is the causal effect in our case example here for sales of ice creams and number of drownings.

Now, if you find a leading, causal metric, you have found something that can drive growth and know what causes it, now you can grow your company at will. None of this is possible though if you do not have a solid set of objectives, a fully tracked analytics suite, and looking at the data points that matter. Se those objectives marketers!

Post it Not Reporting You should have your big business data available for the entire team to dig into, ideally on some form of shared drive like Google Drive.

But to avoid the data vomit we talked about at the start of this article, can you put the company’s top level metrics on a post it note?

Post it note reporting

Task for you: Write down your companies top-level metrics on what we like to call, ‘post it note reporting’ Why? To keep you focused on the metrics that really matter for your business. You should look at this high level pulse point of data and use it to make changes to your business and remember If a metric does not change the way you behave it is a bad metric. Not all reports are created equal Not all metrics are equal to the same person, so my final tip is to make a list of who are you reporting to? What do they care about? Yes you will have a high level business report for the state of the business, but what do the rest want on their post it note? What metrics matter to them? For example: Your VP of marketing may want.

  • Unique Visitors
  • Number of Free Trials
  • Return on Investment
  • Churn Rate of Paying customers

Your CFO may want

  • Cost per Visitor
  • Cost per Acquisition
  • ROI
  • Monthly Recurring Revenue

If you want to report like a boss you can download our Reporting Template Here. 

If you want to dive into the nitty-gritty process of building fantastic dashboards, we have a module in our online Google Analytics course. Head over here to get the full details, but short version, learn our process (with a handy word doc template) and see how to use Data Studio to make it look all shiny and glossy.


How Can You Measure Content Marketing ROI

How do you measure content marketing and validate that your work is bringing in the big bucks?

We all want more bang for our content buck, but unfortunately we’re not mind readers (sigh). Making your life as a marketer that little bit harder. You need to be able to tell what content is driving ROI. So how do you measure content marketing?

To improve your content and the channels you’re using to publish your content on, focus on these three key things:

  1. Event Tracking
  2. Segmentation
  3. Testing

1: Event Tracking

If you are not tracking your content assets and your business objectives via website goals then you can’t measure its performance and define its ROI.

Are you using event tracking on your website or app? No? Then you’re missing a massive trick! We have a handy guide on Events for you, using a chicken analogy.

What is Event Tracking?

Event tracking, according to Conversioner is:

“A method that is available in Google Analytics. It lets you record user interactions with various web elements like a menu system driven by Flash. You can do this by attaching a piece of code to an element in the website. When you do so, all activity on that element will be displayed and calculated as Events in the interface for the Analytics report”

As event tracking can track all your users interactions, from a content perspective that would be things like:

  • video plays
  • flicking through gallery images
  • downloading ungated content
  • sharing on social media
  • or scroll reach (i.e reading your long form content)

How to set up event tracking?

For a more detailed description, check out the Event Tracking page on the Google Analytics developers page here: Event Tracking

When you have set up the tracking you will find all this lovely information in Behaviour/Events>Overview

event tracking

One of the best things about having Event Tracking set up is that some of them will be goals  for you, BUT, you can not create an Event Goal until you have the Event data inside your GA account. So you really, really need to have this set up. Those PDF downloads, video plays, and scrolling down the pages will not track themselves.

As we are on the topic of goals, split them into Macro Conversions eg the big hitting goals such as making a purchase or a lead from downloading content via a web form, and Micro Conversions eg the smaller interactions that lead up to the big goals such as reading your blog, watching a video, interacting with your live chat etc. we have written about this topic What Marketing Metrics Matter.

2: Advanced Segments in Google Analytics

If you have created events and goals you can find out how well your content marketing is impacting your bottom line. To really see the impact of your content, get familiar and start building Advanced Segments in Google Analytics.

  • Does downloading un-gated content (eg PDF downloads) trigger goal completions?
  • Do customers spend more money with you if they watch a video?
  • If visitors read the blog, are they more engaged and more likely to return to your site?
  • Do more women or men flick through my images? Etc etc

content segments

How do you make data insightful? Context!

How do you get context? By comparing your data sets over at least 2 of these time comparisons

date range context

So instead of saying 10 people downloaded content this month you could say 10 people downloaded content this month, compared to 8 people last month and 4 people from the same period last year. Those that downloaded the content completed x goals with a value of y.

3: Testing (testing and more testing!)

With solid data to measure progress, you should have an always test mindset.

You can test anything!

Words – little things can make a big difference. Do people convert more when you used the words “kids” or “children”.

Images – what style and placement of images work best for your customers and prospects?

There really are a million things you could test, but how do you work where you should test and in what order? Use Chris Goward’s PIE framework!

Potential: How much improvement can be made on the pages?

Importance: How valuable is the traffic to these pages and do they cost you a lot of money to get there?

Ease: How complicated will the test be to implement form both a technical and political viewpoint?

When you have your order, form a clear hypothesis to test. Your hypothesis should be measurable, have a goal of solving a conversion issues, and you are looking to gain some insights on how to improve moving forward.

Does changing the call to action from “Watch the video” to “See the solution” get more people to view your content? Does adding images to your blog engage users? Never stop testing folks!

Now it’s your turn!

What techniques are you going to use from this post first?

Will you set up event tracking to track your users interactions with your website?

Or are you ready to dive right into advanced segments?

Whatever technique you choose, there are a few free tools we’ve created to help you along the way here.


What KPI’s Would You Take to the Board


What Marketing Metrics Matter

How do you build a KPI dashboard for the boss?