Wednesday 26 February 2020, Bristol

TLT’s 15th floor offices at One Redcliffe Street afforded PM Forum South West members dramatic views across Bristol. And they were views that formed the backdrop to a fascinating talk by Simon Marshall, managing director of TBD. The topic was how data must inform (rather than lead) marketing in 2020. 

Simon’s talk was delivered in three parts. In the first he shared findings from TBD’s latest The Digital 100 report. He then expanded on why data should inform rather than lead marketing. And finally Simon shared ways in which data can be used to demonstrate success.

The Digital 100 

The Digital 100 is a report researched and produced by TBD. It benchmarks the performance of digital marketing at the largest 100 UK law firms. And after a brief foray highlighting the “Find nearby” feature in LinkedIn as an example of how data can inform real activity, Simon shared the findings from TBD’s latest report. He was generous with the quantity he shared, so we’ll rattle through: 

  1. No UK law firm ranks in the world’s top 100,000 websites. 
  2. But three of the Big Four rank in the top 10,000 websites. 
  3. The total web build/development cost of getting a visitor (excluding PPC etc.) is 10p per visitor over their lifetime. This is very useful to know when deciding digital marketing strategy and budget. 
  4. Pay attention to user journey. Only 16% of site visits come through the home page. So content is key. But the average time on site is only 138.4 seconds. Consider how people consume your content (e.g. skim reading). 
  5. Issue content when the audience is ready, not when the content is ready. Don’t schedule emails on the hour, and never between “half past” and “quarter to...”. In fact, 6.47am on a Tuesday is the optimum time to send marketing content. This stuff works. Simon applied the analytics to his own business and got a 400% increase in results. 
  6. Too many law firm websites and email systems remain unsecure. And Google punishes them for it through their ranking results. 
  7. Engagement with content within law firms is poor. Engagement outside is even poorer. But Facebook is easily the best place for getting engagement. 
  8. Some firms are absolutely nailing YouTube, and you should be too. It’s so easy to self-shoot a video with comment on a news topic, and send it to the social media team for tidying up and distribution. At the other end of the spectrum, one US law firm one an Emmy for a YouTube video they produced. 
  9. Generally, website technical load times are terrible. And this is another factor which Google will punish you for. Don’t forget, Google is essentially the gate-keeper to your entire audience other than that which is already on your database. So strive to keep Google happy. 

There was a lot of information packed into this first section. It’s worth reflecting on it as there are plenty of practical take-aways which you can bring back to your team. 

Simon ended this first part of his talk by calling for an end to, as he calls it “random acts of marketing”. All activity should have some purpose behind it, whether backed by gut feel or data. Don’t just do something because you are told to or because it is “what’s done round here.”

Using data to inform marketing

So how should we be using data to inform our marketing activity in 2020? First, Simon made some general observations about the availability of data. So much of it is actually free or freely available – but you have to look for it. Ask the right questions.

This was simply demonstrated by a quick poll of the room to find out what mode of transport people used to attend the talk. Surprisingly, considering it was Bristol, there was only one cyclist. Actually, most people walked. 

But of course not all data is equal: there is good data and bad data. Sometimes data which appears to come from a reliable source is bad. Simon relayed an example of a mischievous artist who manipulated Google Maps into falsely reporting a Berlin traffic jam by hauling a cart full of smartphones around a city block. 

And with that, Simon shared a collection of marketing-based scenarios in which data can inform. This included what data can’t tell us – like exact personal reasons of why we all attended today’s talk. But we can follow hard facts, like who opened the invitation email. 

In another scenario, Simon outlined a case study of a firm which was trying to grow a £600,000 sub-sector into a £900,000 one. They had painstakingly developed a comprehensive sector marketing comms plan. However, after the plan was prepared, the data showed that £580,000 of the £600,000 came from one individual at just one organisation. The data meant that the original marketing plan went out of the window, and the play was transformed into developing the personal relationship with that individual.

Demonstrate success 

In this final section of the talk, Simon discussed using data to demonstrate success. He suggested reporting on two levels, a marketing level to the relevant people, and then a business level to serve others in the firm with the information they need to see to make sense of your work. 

A key to success is to define the right KPIs to measure yourself by, and then own those channels and align your own performance with them. 

Another point, which Simon could not emphasise enough was to ask the right questions when working for someone. And these are: Why? Why? Why? Why? And why? 

That’s right, if you ask the question enough times you will really drill down into what is driving them, their actions and behaviour. Once you know the answers to those questions you can start to consider how to quantify them. What data do you need? And is it freely available, canvassable or creatable? 

And finally, how do you show data off? And to whom? You’ll likely have several audiences including marketing, management and even HR. It is not difficult to produce a dashboard with a splash of colour to communicate it effectively. 

Good data can depersonalise difficult conversations. In some contexts, gamification can be a great way to make an impact with data. When using data to inform what you do, always get some context – at an industry, firm or departmental level.

Come to our next event

Expert talks like this are put on by PM Forum South West in Bristol throughout the year. Get in touch to find out how you can attend our next event.

written by Huw Bendon, Managing Director and Founder
On Point Copywriting