Baxter Denney is a San Francisco based VP of Marketing Operations at New Relic. His department is multifaceted, mastering reporting, analytics, email marketing, marketing automation, operations, budget management and a dizzying array of other pieces necessary to New Relic’s day-to-day marketing puzzle.
We had to hear what this public speaker and marketing master had to say about programmatic, especially for the newer kids in the game.
PA.O: What do you do for a living?
Baxter Denney: I head up the marketing operations team at a technology startup called New Relic, a software analytics company. We offer a suite of tools for software developers, chief digital officers and other IT leaders to help them glean insights from their software and applications.
The best example of what we do? We were a part of the team that was brought in to help optimize HealthCare.gov after its launch.
PA.O: Part of your role is planning and forecasting for marketing spend at your company. How have you been able to improve your forecasting with programmatic?
Baxter Denney: Programmatic has helped us to get more consistency in our marketing campaigns. We know that when we go out to the market, we are going to spend a certain amount of money. Now, I can be confident that we can be at the approximate lead percentage we want, based on what we saw in past data. This is really helpful for letting us forecast our lead flow. I can work with the people in lead generation and be confident that they are going to be able to hit what I need, at that budget.
In doing it this way, you are really able to get a periodical lead flow and see what is going on in real-time. Programmatic also helps us make adjustments on the fly. If you see a program is not performing you can cut it and invest it elsewhere rather than letting it be a sunk cost.
PA.O: We want to let our audience know of things they need to look out for when they begin a programmatic campaign. Do you have advice for someone who is just starting?
Baxter Denney: People need to keep in mind the kind of data that they need to make decisions. They often only think about cost when they think about advertising. Just like buying a billboard back in the day, you don’t want to just spend your money and hope something comes back. After we get our data, we need to think of what we are actually doing with it.
You also need to develop an infrastructure and have good processes for your lead management databases, so you are capturing all of the information that you need. Get a good CRM or sales force automation tool and sync it up with your site reporting. Make sure that is set up before you go out and start spending a lot of money on advertising. Don’t start spending a lot of money right away on programmatic advertising without setting up an infrastructure that enables your success.
PA.O: I like what you had mentioned about processes, infrastructure and data. What else would we have to watch out for as a newcomer to programmatic?
Baxter Denney: Sometimes people commit too big. They commit to big programs and initiatives, and too much spend. Do a lot of small tests, and then increase your investment. Kind of like a much more iterative approach. This is much better than handing an advertiser a bunch of money for one campaign. If that campaign doesn’t go well, you’ve just put all of your eggs into one basket. You diversify your portfolio for your personal finances, so you should diversify your ad portfolio as well so if one campaign isn’t going well it doesn’t ruin your whole month, quarter or year.
PA.O: I understand the importance of pooling risk. What does this “iterative process” look like exactly? Do you work with a variety of agencies? Or, does this mean you work with one agency but have them launch a bunch of different campaigns and then optimize over time?
Baxter Denney: I am a fan of the former. I think using different programmatic providers and setting firm goals is good – just be on top of them. Make sure you are asking good questions. When they come back with reports, they always say we are hitting our lead goal, but you have to have a very critical eye for what they are doing and achieving. Essentially, you have to break up with them if they are not successful. It is easier to do this when you work with many providers than when you work with just one. If you work with one and your relationship is good, it can also become much harder to pull the plug and use someone else.
PA.O: In a report from Duke not too long ago, I read that some CMOs are thinking of drastically cutting back on their traditional advertising. Should all of their ad spend really be in digital within the next few years?
Baxter Denney: Traditional advertising itself is evolving and will continue to evolve. We are seeing a blend of traditional and digital. We’ll see more digital ads in analoglike forms, like interactive highway billboards. You will be able to interact with ads as they are presented to you, in real-time, wherever you go. As you are close to the mall, you will get delivered coupons as you are driving. I really think digital is going to be in all advertising, but it will be a blend of those traditional methods to be a more sophisticated way of reaching your target audience.
PA.O: How have the skill sets marketers need changed over time? I have often heard it said that in school we learn one thing, but once we are in the real-world, we need different skills. What are some key skills and experiences marketers need to focus on?
Baxter Denney: We often think of the “creative” marketer who comes up with pithy ad campaigns (which are useful for sure) when we think of marketing. However, people these days need to be more analytical and data driven. They have to be digital natives, as in, be very comfortable with using a suite of online tools to optimize performance, and have a very scientific and analytical mindset. Creative types are going to get passed by the people coming to meetings with data and numbers if they aren’t prepared. That whole notion of making decisions based on gut and intuition is dying. You want people who aren’t afraid to go in and create an excel spreadsheets, do pivot tables, download reports, create graphs and things like that. Those are the people who are going to really move up the marketing ranks in the future.
PA.O: So, what will happen to the people that we call the creative type?
Baxter Denney: I think there will be a need for them, for sure. But I think their role will evolve, too. It won’t be about spending a bunch of time crafting the perfect campaign, but more of a “we already have a brand, so we need to just drive this brand identity in some creative and test a bunch of things, stick with what works, kill what doesn’t and then evolve very rapidly” kind of approach.
PA.O: I see, so sticking with data as the litmus test of what works and what doesn’t. So, if it doesn’t test well it doesn’t stay – cut and dry – no sentiments attached. Gotcha.