“I believe with everything going on in the world right now, between riots and protests, between COVID, between massive unemployment, between disruptions in technology — this is your moment. This is your moment to innovate and to win in the new economy. You have to be smart, you have to use technology and you really have to focus on what the data says.”
And with those words, noted marketer Phillip Stutts wrapped up his keynote presentation on Wednesday during the FreightWaves Carrier Summit. The event, with headline sponsor Blume Global, is streaming live Wednesday and Thursday on FreightWavesTV and on freightwaves.com. The keynote address was presented by Seat My Trucks.
Stutts, who is the founder and CEO of Win Big Media and founder and executive chairman of Go Big Media, has spent his life helping companies and political campaigns navigate tricky marketing waters. He is the author of “Fire Them Now: The 7 Lies Digital Marketers Sell” and has played key roles in helping more than 1,000 political candidates, including George W. Bush, wi
Dive deeper into the data
“The Bush campaign [in 2004] came to people like me and said, ‘We want to figure out how to use voter data — the data of the voters — to turn them out based on what they care about, not what just the candidate wants to talk about,’” Stutts told interviewer Emily Szink, the executive vice president of content for FreightWaves. For the first time, he said, a campaign used “very intricate data to understand what TV shows people watched, what magazines people subscribed to, what they bought on their credit cards and then we formulated all these assumptions based on what they cared about.”
Bush would go on to win the election, but the data-oriented strategy was taken to new heights by Barack Obama in 2008 and the limits pushed further by Donald Trump in 2016.
“How [this] affects your business is really interesting,” Stutts said. “We are constantly innovating in politics. We have an election every two years. I either win or I lose. I’m either going to stay in business or I’m going to be out of business based on my win-loss record, so it forces innovation out of us.”
Stutts created a five-step program for campaigns and quickly realized it applied to businesses as well. Those steps are finding out what the voter (or consumer) wants; building a marketing plan based on one or two key points; getting the branding right; testing the message; and executing the marketing plan.
Find the right message
He said the Trump campaign ran a single message 162 different ways on Facebook — the background colors or the people in the picture or the fonts might change.
“Ultimately they would find two or three of those ads, of the 162, that got crushed and people clicked on them and they had no idea why, but they knew that they were effective. So before they went and spent a bunch of money, they had to go test the ads and figure out what works,” he said. “In business, it’s the exact same formula, except I’d never seen a corporate marketer utilize this formula — ever. So we used it as the backbone to build our business.”
Stutts advised Carrier Summit participants to look at the data, understand what the data is telling you and stick with the marketing plan.
“You have to find out what they care about and then you have to be committed to your marketing. I always say this: ‘Are you committed or are you interested?’ There are a lot of business owners out there, and I’m sure there are a lot of business owners and marketers out there that are going to laugh at what I’m about to say. But they’re like, ‘I’m all in, we’re going to be doing this, this is the new plan,’ and then three weeks later a shiny object runs by the owner’s face and he or she chases that shiny object and they abandon the plan they are in,” he said. “We see this in marketing all the time. Everybody says, ‘I’m going to use that five-step plan,’ and then three weeks later they say, ‘Where’s that get-rich quick pill?’”
To illustrate his points, Stutts spoke about a client he’s worked with and the success it has seen. The national pest control company had spent $1.8 million over the previous two years on marketing and had lost market share. Its message? Discounts.
Listen to the data
Using Win Big Media’s extensive database of 200 million consumers, 550 million connected devices and the tracking of 10 billion online decisions each day, Stutts looked at the underlying data. What he found was surprising and led to a revamp of the marketing plan.
The average customer, it turned out, was older and viewed discounts as cheap and preferred a higher-valued service, so the company was advised to ditch the discount plan and “bundle” services.
“Bundled services make the consumer feel smart, and we also realized in the data that most of their consumers were bundling their cable, their TV, their phone. … It was already something they were familiar with,” Stutts relayed.
A revamp of messaging and strategy led to a 180% improvement in a Google search for the company at $20 less spend per customer, a conversion rate two times higher than previously achieved and the greatest month in the company’s 45-year history (coming just before COVID hit).
The takeaway, Stutts noted, is the effective use of, and listening to, the data. And it is something trucking and logistics companies can benefit from as well.
“I’ve been called the data whisperer; I’m obsessed with data,” he said. “I use data not to manipulate [but] I use data to understand how other people feel. I think today’s marketing is so tone deaf because everybody is out there talking about what they want to talk about and they are not trying to figure out who they are marketing to and what resonates with them.”
Align with the audience
Saying that companies need to find “alignment” with their target audience, Stutts went back to his political example.
“The political candidate is always going to care about a lot of things, but the voter only cares about two things. It’s the same premise. Your drivers really only care about two or three things. You may be communicating a hundred different things to them, so what is it? What is the [thing] that makes the difference?” he said.
“You have to build a relationship [and] part of building that relationship is understanding how they think. How do they feel? What are their concerns? What do they want?” Stutts added.
In the end, marketing is similar to social media. Stutts said social media started as a means to connect but has morphed into a way to show off how great you are as an individual.
“That’s the opposite of what your truckers want or what your customers want in society,” he said. “They want to be seen and heard. A lot of these protests and riots are just about people that don’t feel seen or heard. I use data to understand how these people work, what matters to them, what’s important to them and then I deliver my marketing to make sure they feel seen and heard.”
Data, like people, needs to be listened to.
“Either you are going to run a marketing campaign to grow your business over the long term or you shouldn’t be in marketing at all,” he warned. “If you are not trying to build the relationship with the driver or customer over a lifetime, you are not going to retain these people — or recruit them in the first place.”