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5 Questions with Ryan DeShazer, CEO of Solistic

Loretta Shen

The marketing and advertising technology landscape is ever-changing and oftentimes marketers need to engage outside expertise to help navigate the industry. Solistic Decision Sciences helps brands and agencies make smart, data-fueled marketing optimization decisions. We sat down with Ryan DeShazer, CEO of Solistic, to discuss the broader challenges facing marketers today, and what platforms and KPIs every marketer needs to consider when establishing their marketing tech stacks and strategies.

Q: What are the main data challenges for marketers that you see today?

If you look at the bleeding edge, and you see advancements being made in MarTech and AdTech, there are some very exciting possibilities. However, very few organizations have the wherewithal and the bench strength to take advantage of everything that is available. Plus, the industry is incredibly fragmented. There’s a reason why the Lumascape is painful to look at – the space is exploding. Even savvy digital marketers are overwhelmed by the range of options available to them; there’s not enough time or talent to go around.

At a base level the biggest challenge is lack of expertise and sophistication. Many organizations believe that, from an analytics standpoint, Google Analytics is good enough. The insights and information that you can derive from a toolset like that is certainly good, but it doesn’t nearly reflect the current state of play for marketing analytics.

Beyond that, when you go up in terms of sophistication in the organization, we often see data siloes. Whether that is the result of a multi-layered organization or multiple agency partners in the mix (or both), each individual entity has their own fiefdom when it comes to analytics.Even within organizations where an internal accountability exists – it is not uncommon for us to see organizational structures that prevent collaboration in terms of marketing performance data and the sharing of that data.

Q: How does Solistic help solve these challenges?

We are a marketing performance optimization firm and our team has a combined 35 years experience in this industry. We were born out of the recognition that many marketers, even smart and savvy ones, could not make sense of analytics and the data surrounding them. Even Fortune 500 tier brands struggle with basic things like defining proper KPIs and very quickly getting actionable information in front of those who need it. The global scale of their teams, partners and data become big challenges for them to overcome.

In the path to data discovery, we will often identify a handful of free or low-cost data sources that round out the POV of market opportunities. This underscores the range of opportunities that are available to a company. For example, we often recommend the use of Google Search Console (GSC) – it’s a great data set to understand the range of terms that are bringing organic search traffic to your doorstep. We also recommend competitive data sets like SEMrush for organizations very committed to search. SEMrush is great at identifying what terms competitors are bidding on or even if you really dig into that data it’ll show you what ad creative they have running across the search auctions. You can derive insights from the language that organizations are using.

Ultimately, we partner with both brand and agencies alike to corral data and strive towards a 360 degree view of the customer in order to make the smartest marketing performance decisions possible. That is where Datorama comes in as well – it’s a powerful toolset to make that job that much easier.

Q: How about marketing intelligence? How can clients use this technology?

Platforms like Datorama are immensely helpful. There are a few standard use cases. For agencies, one of the most immediate benefits that they’re able to realize from the toolset is report automation. The whole pain that many digital marketers, and particularly agencies, go through every month of having to create performance reports – there’s no need for that. You can streamline and automate that.

I think that a lot of organizations that embrace technology like Datorama can offset their short-term investment with the future revenue gains. This is especially true on the agency side. Wework directly with agency partners that are looking at toolsets like Datorama, where they know that when their customers get access to this information it’s going to make the client-agency partnership stickier. Relationships are more difficult to dislodge, and it’ll open up many more interesting conversations that will ultimately lead to more business opportunities. From that standpoint, they’re looking at it not necessarily as cost but as an investment in growing the relationship with their clients.

For brands, I think the biggest benefit is breaking down data silos. If we can gain access and demonstrate to the organization and its leadership what harmonizing all these data sources can mean for their insight into the marketplace overall, it’s really powerful. I have yet to hear someone tell me that I’ve shown them too much. Every time we expose data via Datorama to our customers, invariably they want more and want to add more to the mix. What typically starts off as a simple engagement will often turn into a multi-department, highly complex data assignment where stakeholders throughout the organization are very excited about what we’re doing.

Q: What are top KPIs that every digital marketer should be pay attention to?

This is a tough question to answer precisely. We usually conduct workshops just to define KPIs and get stakeholder alignment. It’s very industry- and even channel-specific. However, regardless of industry or channel, we try to deliver an executive level roll up of marketing performance overall.

Things like share of voice are really critical for an organization. We are working with a client right now where we pull data in from their public relations agency and marketing campaigns for brand awareness and lead generation. Each of these streams contributes in some way to their SOV reporting. It’s such acritical KPI, though there can be a variety of ways to define and calculate it.

Other KPIs include, conversions, conversion rate, cost per acquisition (CPA), which are relevant across B2B and B2C. For eCommerce we look at Average Order Value. Marketing automation can help you arrive at a Customer Lifetime Value that is validated repeatedly for accuracy. This KPI can help you optimize the entire marketing mix if you know ultimately how much value or revenue you will derive from that customer relationship over time.

And it’s also essential to apply context to KPIs too. Dimensionalizing data by geography, product line, customer type, time of day/day of week, etc. are all ways to add greater depth of insight to a KPI-driven analysis. Again, everything really should be custom to each individual organization based on business goals and objectives.

Q: What are key issues and trends facing your clients and the industry today?

In general, there are rising customer acquisition costs across most every marketing channel. This is due in part to heightened competition, especially across digital channels where the ROI is (mostly) visible. It’s also due to what we’ve begun referring to as the “elusive consumer.” Consumers are savvy, and marketing communications can be easy to ignore, or even turn off as is the case with ad blocking technology. This is exacerbated too by the explosion in channels and tactics through which consumers can be reached; hot “new” opportunities like ABM, premium programmatic, voice search, podcasts, and others keep data-driven marketers on their toes.

In order to affect positive returns, marketers have to rely on data – there is no margin for error!

And this is a fairly universal challenge: every client wants more conversions, more leads, and more customers at a lower CPA and higher lifetime values (LTVs). That’s what we’re all striving towards but the nature of most industries is the opposite. It’s become difficult to acquire customers, period.

Last, I think too many organizations focus on customer acquisition almost exclusively to the detriment of customer retention. In an age where consumer fickleness is high and barriers to switch brands is low, placing an equal marketing emphasis on customer retention is wise.

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