Marketing automation helps marketers scale daily (and essential) tasks including segmentation, lead generation, lead scoring, relationship marketing, cross-selling and up-selling. Our host Peggy Anne Salz catches up with Lior Barak–Managing Partner of Tale About Data, a company offering consulting services and software to meet the needs of startups and other growing companies facing data challenges–to explore how companies can prepare to drive automation and overcome the obstacles that can stop teams in their tracks. Lior also details the steps to adopt marketing automation and the tools his company has built to make marketing activities simpler by focusing on the data that truly matters.
Hi Peggy, happy to be, really honored to be again and talk to you.
Well, it’s great to have you. I wanted to point out that, you know, full disclosure, I bring a lot of the guests on the show because I’ve seen them out there in the wild, you know, at some sort of conference, some sort of presentation that left an impression and that’s the case with you as well, Lior. I mean, I know about you but our audience doesn’t so why don’t you tell us a little bit about your track record because you’re one of those people on data who’s seen it from both sides.
So, yes, I actually in the past three years was working for Zalando and still working so I’m now on parental leave, actually, which ends very soon and at Zalando basically what I done, I started in the data department for the marketing and we done the entire conversion from the old manual school processors that we had for downloading the data from our different attribution partners and from our ad partners, I was getting costs in an easier way and we basically done the entire digital transformation of the department from Excel to state of art visualization tool.
And then in later stage I joined the personalization marketing department which basically there I was leading the project of automating the Google Ads and this is basically my connection from data and development and marketing knowledge altogether arrived to this, at the moment when I needed to build a product that we can actually start using.
A little bit of background for our listeners in the States where I’m from originally, I’m based here in Europe, that’s why I bring such eclectic interesting guests to the show – Zalando, you could, I think, get away with saying it is the Amazon of Europe, so people understand you have been in the major leagues.
Yes, it is. It’s one of the biggest – basically, it’s the biggest e-commerce in Europe and it’s one of the biggest internet companies in Europe, definitely.
So, you bring that with you to Tale About Data or I’ll say Tale About Data because we say “Data” and you say “Data”, that’s what makes it so sweet when we get together, Lior, but it is a consultancy but it’s also really sort of hands on. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about what Tale About Data is?
So, Tale About Data is a company that helping organisation to do the data transformation and start doing automation. We helping basically the organisation to first of all to understand how they should handle data and what data should they collect and what not, and how they need to build it. So there is an entire theory that I developed in the past years when I worked with different organisations which allow me today to understand basically that there should be more structure and more flow in the way that we are actually dealing with data and if we dive already inside it, so we can say that many organisations that we arriving into having some kind of a database or having a little bit of data that they already started using but they not leveraging it to the right way and when we arriving together with our tools, we help them on the one side to understand the data and on the other side we’re doing the development for them also for some tools and we’re allowing them basically to download the data to aggregate it, to understand what data they need to see and how to visualize it and also to receive it at the end of the day in an easy to read reporting that will drive actions.
Because when we’re talking about data driven, I think that data driven is not only to have the data, it’s also to make the right decision in an easy way when you have the data there.
So, you know, we talk about exactly that, you have to know the data, you have to visualize it – am I to understand that, I’m just going to be blunt here because it’s like Excel, you like it or you hate it, right? And I’m just wondering what camp you belong in because there’s a whole lot of people who point out that Excel can miss data, can do things to it but a lot of people are still in Excel – I’m not going to say where I am but is it one of those things where we should be in Excel or should we be elsewhere?
You should not be in Excel.
Okay, so you’re an anti-Excel person?
I’m completely anti Excel. At Zalando, I was known for my zero Excel processors, so I’m not allowing to use Excel.
So how do you get people away from that because it is a habit, I mean, I absolutely agree, it is the worst way to visualize the data because you’re going to make mistakes and there are tons of stories, you know, even like companies, airlines that the stock went down because, you know, there was a blip somewhere in that sheet and it means a lot. So, it’s not effective but how do you get people off of it because that’s the first step to automation?
So the first step is actually to understand what people are actually doing for their data and what is the end goal when they started working with an Excel sheet? We had a lot of conversations always of “Okay, how many actually KPIs do you need to have to make a decision, do you actually need this entire Excel sheet with 50 KPIs, do you really think it’s going to help you to having it in a keyboard and then visualize it in some table?” and we found out the answer is “No”. And the answer is that people usually using at the end of the day two to three KPIs and if they’re using more than that, they’re very inefficient in the way they work because it means they’re spending a lot of time on processing data that’s not really helping them or supporting them in making decisions.
And this is my approach usually it’s to come with my visualization tool and whatever I’m using, it doesn’t matter, and visualize it in a very easy way from the first look, I say, “Okay, what are the actions they need to make?”
So how does that work? You go into your client and you understand, okay, you’re looking at this data, you want to achieve these objectives, you’re looking at this, you need to report this often – is it that type of a checklist discussion or is there more of a standard approach that gets you from there into understanding, “Okay, what do I need to actually do and how to improve it?” which that brings us to of course automation. So I guess the question is how much of this is truly individual and how much could people sort of maybe do even in prep before they interact with you or someone like you?
So, before they interact with me, I think it really makes sense to at least understand what are the data sources they have but then when I’m arriving, there is a process that we’re working through and it’s starting with a data discovery workshop which basically we’re starting with asking the questions, okay, what questions do people have, do they want to know how many installs they had, are they interested in their ROI or are they actually questioning using Google Firebase as their attribution tool? And we’re raising all these questions at the beginning and we’re starting from there to create subject groups for that.
So part of it’s going to be KPIs, part of it’s going to be dimensions that they need to have, part of it’s going to be basically general questions like okay, Firebase, is it the right tool for me or not – mostly the answer is not but we’re still allowing people to raise these questions. So, what we’re doing is we actually instead of going against people, we’re binding them into a conversation, we’re raising the points, we’re explaining to them why they should have less KPIs and less information and we’re letting them make a decision and we’re telling them that we’re willing to do it or they need to will to do it for three months. After three months, we can rethink about it but I think that after three months, most people are going to adopt this approach because it’s quite easy and simple.
And just to be very clear, in a nutshell, this is about first starting that data discovery workshop, this is about understanding what they might think they already know – is it surprising, in a nutshell, do people say, “Oh, I thought I knew what I was looking for and now I’m talking with you, Lior, and I know that I wasn’t looking in the right place or I wasn’t approaching this correctly at all.”
So, I was a couple of weeks ago in an organisation that I was sitting with them in a discovery workshop and they had a completely wrong view about how they actually optimizing campaigns – they used to go by CPM and then when we were sitting in the workshop, I asked them “Why don’t you go for ROI or why don’t you go for campaign scoring so you’re creating certain KPIs that are going to drive your campaign scoring and optimization?” and this is sometimes when I’m coming to an organisation and I’m actually changing the way they’re looking at stuff because they didn’t think about it before and when I’m coming into an organisation, I’m telling them always, “Don’t think as humans, think as machines”. If a machine is to make a decision, it can create a lot of calculations but at the end of the day, the machine going to have one number and no feelings...
I like that.
...and it’s the same thing as we need to think.
I like that because that is so true – we get sort of attached to our data models the same way as we got attached to our spreadsheets. It’s old habits to break, we do have to go to a break right now ourselves but when we come back, we’ll talk more about once you have done it, once you have given up your old habits and accept the new more efficient effective ones, what do you automate first and how and how do you deal with those challenges? So, loads of reasons to stay where you are, we’ll be right back after the break.
Welcome back to Mobile Presence. I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz with Mobile Groove and our guest today, Lior Barak, he is Managing Partner of Tale About Data
And we’re back to Mobile Presence. I’m Peggy Anne Salz and we have Lior Barak, he is the Head of Tale About Data. I call you the Head and sort of the brains behind it but I think Founder is a better way to put it, correct, Lior?
Yeah, I have a Co-Founder with me but I’m the Founder, yes.
Okay, Founder. Alright, so, we know what you do at your company, first it’s a discovery process figuring out, okay, this is the data that you really are looking at even if you yourself don’t know it. So once you’ve narrowed it down, I would imagine another big part of the process is to figure out what can you automate and how? Because that’s what it’s all about, that’s where we’re hearing that effectiveness is, the efficiency, how can you drive automation. But what are you seeing are the proof points of this? I mean, I read a lot of articles and it’s all about how marketing automation is where it is, it saves time, it allows you to do more, do things more effectively, free up teams to be more creative but how are you promoting the reasons to drive automation first of all?
So, as I see it automation is not to replace people but it’s making their job much easier. When we’re talking with companies, mostly we found out that the biggest pinpoint for them is in creating new campaigns, they are challenged by that because the thing is not big enough to manage to do it and this is where automation can come into the picture and the same thing goes when we’re coming into bids which is also taking a huge chunk of their day and the data processing which everybody complains that on a daily basis, they’re spending between 30% or 45% of the time on processing their data.
And it’s a lot of time being taken out of a campaign manager that his job is actually to go and create new campaigns. But then when we’re looking at automation implementation actually should make it much more simple for the campaign manager because his job is becoming instead of creating thousands of campaigns or tens of then because he doesn’t have enough time, it’s to become the challenger of the system.
When I look at automation implementation is some kind of a baseline. The automation of today does not have the sufficient power to replace a human being completely. Some will tell you, yes, we can do it and we can do it perfectly fine but this is not the truth. The truth is that we are way, way behind where we’re supposed to be right now with automation but we’re getting close to this point that a lot of campaign managers that have joined today from a very pragmatic work, let’s call it, they’re not going to be existing anymore because there’s not going to be a need for them and this is where we’re going with automation.
So what we’re trying to do is to first identify what are the major time spenders for the organisation and it’s really usually coming to campaign creation which in campaign creation when I’m talking about it, it’s to generate these creatives, it’s to set audience, it’s to upload it to the different partners that are existing out there which we have many today. So we have a dual poll of Facebook and Google and this one can be automated quite easy and then it’s going to free the campaign managers to go and do campaigns on Snapchat or to do campaigns on Tick Tock and they have more free time to actually challenge the system and show it that there are better ways to work with stuff.
Makes perfect sense because that’s very – first of all it’s a big time suck, as you pointed out, and everyone is telling me that, yes, you have to do your Facebook and your Google absolutely but everyone is excited about the other opportunities – well, how can you get in on the other opportunities and check out the other channels and experiment if you spend all your time doing the same old same old. You talk about the challenges to this – is it a money, it is a mindset – why aren’t we as far along in automation as we could or should be because many of the tools are there and we’ve got people like you to help us put it together, so what’s the hold up?
The mindset on the one side, people not yet accepting the fact because they’re afraid to lose their job and then this is the thing that I’m seeing with many of my clients when I’m arriving and I’m starting talking about it – I see the tic in their eye when I’m starting to talk about automation and basically changing and everybody’s starting to push, “Okay, what does it mean? Does it mean I’m going to have a job tomorrow?” and of course you’re going to have a job but you will need to adapt it and you will need to change it. And this is also from the structure of the team which today marketing departments mostly are based on business people with no tech experience and if they have tech experience, it’s very low and this is something that we need to encourage more and more of the marketing departments to become more techy rather than keep the soft skills that they have today.
Would they also not benefit in a way, you know, I think if I have someone really smart, I imagine it this way because I’m not a marketing person, I do a lot in the industry but I don’t do this daily and I imagine that if I have something sort of a smart assistant, sort of tapping me on the shoulder and doing things for me and pointing out “I can automate this campaign and I can do this with that bid”, you know, doesn’t that free me as a marketing non-techy person to be doing more of what was marketing was about in the first place? I mean, I’m not staying techy and geeky, I’m merely adapting to those skills so I can do what I wanted to do in the first place, isn’t that right?
Exactly, so as I see it in the future of marketing department, we should have two positions basically. One which will be the controller and this is more techy people, they have the experience from the marketing and they can talk to tech people and actually create and maintain the machines. And then on the other side, we should have people that will be the challengers which are more creative and more free thinkers which will go and actually try to prove that the system can work much better and this for them will be the old school marketing, just freeing them from working with tons of campaigns and tons of partners but more focusing on okay, now I have a budget and this is something that I also find in many of the organisations when I arrive into – there is no set budget for testing, the budget is usually mixed between the general marketing spending and the testing, they’re also doing under one account and it shouldn’t be like that.
It’s actually, this is another set of mind that I think needs to be changed in a lot of marketing departments, they need to do a separation between a budget for our day to day spending and a testing budget which basically will be focused on allowing the campaign managers to free themselves and actually do some testing, spend some money without any outcome to it but just to try and see if they can actually prove that things can be better.
And that also makes sense because that’s that search for those amazing channels, you know, that low hanging fruit people talk about. Cora, they talk about, Reddit, they talk about, you mentioned Tick Tock and others, Snapchat, you know. To get your head around how that works, you have to experiment but the pay off could be quite large and significant because you’re in a place where not everyone is – everyone is over in Facebook, everyone is in Google AdWords, they have to be – we all have to be but the question is can’t you be elsewhere where maybe less competition, therefore higher return on your spend as well as your experimentation. How are you working with your clients? You’ve been in business now with your company, I believe, about two years?
Yes? Can you tell me about a client you might have taken from good to great and how that went?
So, we took several of them, we have now a great client that we basically started with them, they didn’t even have any paid acquisition in an organised way, let’s say that, and their vision was that they don’t want to hire any marketing people at all, they want to have everything automated in the machine, they didn’t have enough resources at this point and they preferred to invest it in automation. And this is something that we took them – it took us, I can say, around nine months to twelve months more or less to have a stabilized system, we started by collecting the information, collecting data, understanding what’s going on with the processes, what do they think is important.
So, we talked to product guys, we talked to developers, they didn’t have any marketing person at all on board, they didn’t even know how to market their product and the first thing we done was hiring somebody that’s actually going to do it as an external. We brought them a designer that helped them to design their ads and everything which is less of our effect because we are not focusing on the marketing specifically, we’re more measuring the impact of stuff and we’re creating personal information. And we helped them to set up campaigns to start running it, we let the system learn what actually works and what not and taking this information from the designer so all the metadata that we had and then we started to automate it inside the system.
What they have today is basically it’s a completely automatic system that’s creating all the campaigns, all the creatives and everything almost automatically and every month, they’re taking a designer in-house again, the freelance designer that we have for them, he works for several hours creating some new designs for them, some new things to test and we just run it through the system. And this is acting how it should be but we need to understand also that this is very static, right, so the machine won’t be able to completely do it but if we’re looking at the future of Facebook and Google very soon, which will be very easy to automate the Facebook and Google Ads but the problem is with the high costs and then what we do is for them we’ve set up Google and Facebook, they both are running as they should and then we’re allowing them to explore other opportunities with basically freelances that they’re hiring.
That sounds very interesting because of course what you’re also doing is you’ve got a sort of a fluid flow, you have external people, you have internal people, it sounds as if it might even be good news in automation for small teams that can’t really afford to be big teams full-time but they can, you know, orchestrate those talents, you know, external and bring that into internal results. So there’s a lot of possibilities there. I want to get into that and maybe some best practices from you, Lior, about how small companies can be bigger with the help of automation. But right now we do have to go to a break so these are some of the topics we will be covering in just a few seconds.
Welcome back to Mobile Presence. I’m Peggy Anne Salz with Mobile Groove and we have Lior Barak, he is the Founder of Tale About Data. And Lior, up until this point you’ve been telling us, you know, first of all we need to automate – why do we need to do this, how can we do this, what are some of the benefits, so let’s just imagine that the audience is like, “Yes, that’s it, I give up my Excel starting tomorrow, I’m going to get on this bandwagon” because it is extremely important and popular and one of the top topics I’m seeing at conferences everywhere is marketing automation, what is the new marketer in the future going to be like? All that, let’s say they buy into it, what is the top tip – let’s say three top tips, three things they need to take back to the office right now to get started. Let’s start with number one, what is it?
So number one would be data and then they’re more than welcome to contact me and I will be happy to come and (a) help them to do the discovery workshop so they can actually understand how to work with data, and (b) actually we constructed in the last couple of weeks a very cool tool that in a very easy process, they can deploy it on their server and it’s going to download data for them, it’s going to aggregate it for them, it’s going to correct it so it’s making sure that actually the right data is arriving. It’s QA, the data and I think this is the most important part – if you don’t have the right base for data, you will never be able to do the automation. So this is my number one point to do.
Then the second point that they need to do is to start thinking at machines, as we said, so they need to actually drill down and decide which KPI is the really most important so what is the golden event for the organisation that will actually allow them to steer a campaign and decide if it’s a good one or a bad one. This will be the second most important thing that they will need to do in the process.
And then the third one will be to decide what is more important for them, is it campaign bidding optimization or is it campaign creation and then they will need to figure out how they’re getting the engineers and here, again, I can come and help them or they can do it themselves by basically researching a little bit on the internet, API is existing out there and they can start to deploy it and start using it.
The tool you mentioned, that’s interesting, I had no idea about that, that’s something that you have built yourself, that’s your own IP?
Yep, exactly, it’s our own construction from zero to 100 but this is based on our learnings from a lot of companies at our meeting that there is an issue in the data processing because BI is not sitting on the marketing and go fight with the data engineer and explain to him why Facebook KPI data is very important for you and he doesn’t even understand what it means having data for marketing and we decided that we’re going to develop some tool that you can actually deploy it on any AWS account, in less than 48 hours people can start basically using it. Right now, we’re having kind of a soft launch for that and we’re allowing users to give us a lot of feedback so we can deal with it and what it does is basically it’s taking all the information from the attribution tool to the APIs from ad partners, combining it together into one database and then we visualize it. So they are actually receiving all the data they need to start making decisions in a quite easy way.
As you mentioned, it’s like a discovery process that’s really, really important because a lot of companies don’t know what they’re looking at, don’t think they’re collecting the right data to do what they’re doing but often it is not the case, it’s something that somebody’s been collecting it and it’s just there. Maybe not even proper data hygiene, so I can’t over-emphasize the importance of that discovery process, it’s interesting that you have your own tool for that. How would our listeners find out more about that – you say it’s in the soft launch, as you mentioned, how would they find out more about that or maybe even just keep up with you after the show, they have questions or they might want to find out more about your services. What’s the best way to find out about the tool and about you?
They can contact me directly, I’m always happy to talk to people and explain to them how it works – I can also share with you the link.
Okay, we’ll put that in the show notes, absolutely, I’ll put that there.
And then, yes, basically contact me and then we can take it from there and I can help people. So the ideal way is that we had a lot of learnings in the past years and we’re taking these learnings into action tools so helping organisations to actually construct the data in the right way, this is the most important part.
Okay, and as I said, we will have those in the show notes and it’s Tale About Data, so Tale as in story, taleaboutdata.com. We’ll have all of those in the show notes for you. And Lior, we might have you back again, Lior, if you’re open to it, maybe you’ll come back, you know, I would think the best time to come back would be after the soft launch and you’re fully out there in the wild with your tool and maybe a couple of case studies to share, what do you think about that?
Yep, would be happy to do so, of course.
Great, excellent. And friends, if you want to keep up with me throughout the week or find out more about how you can be a guest or sponsor on Mobile Presence, then you can email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile Groove is also where you can find my portfolio of content marketing and app marketing services and more about the show.
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