Data mining allows businesses to collect a pile of not only interesting, but very useful data, that can be used to help with growth as well as helping to determine what is and isn’t working with their current products and/or marketing strategies. This data can be very useful when it comes to finding patterns, changes, or anomalies that you may not have been aware of but can use to your advantage.
Janelle Hailey explains what tools she uses at Olika to find this important data, and how she’s used it to help the brand and products align with what their mission represents, and how they’re giving their customers what they want by better understanding their behavior.
Rich: Equal parts data lover, and marketing maverick, and strategy whisperer, my guest today is a passionate and conscious leader who loves connecting consumer insights to unique growth opportunities. Having joined Olika in the spring of 2020, she is excited to bring clean wellness efficacy, with a big splash of joy, to personal hygiene.
Today, we’re going to be looking into how to get better information from the data that is already at your fingertips, with Janelle Hailey. Janelle, welcome to the podcast
Janelle: Hi, Rich. Thank you for having me today. I’m excited to be here.
Rich: Me, too. I’m excited to jump into this topic, because there’s always this talk about how big data can be used to understand consumer behavior. But the focus always seems to be on big corporations who gather big data. So I’m curious, can this actually work for small to medium-sized businesses?
Janelle: A hundred percent. And I would say that it’s actually most effective for small to medium sized businesses. Everybody has access to data, it’s all around you. You’re probably sitting on it and don’t realize it. With the internet there’s data everywhere, so it’s just a matter of going out and finding it and using it.
Rich: So, what are we talking about when you’re talking about that we’re sitting on the data? And no, I’m not going to get up and look underneath me right now. But I’m just kind of curious, when you’re either for Olika or if you’re ever working with another client, how do you even get started with this if you have never really thought about using data in this way?
Janelle: Absolutely. So there’s a few things that you have to do to get stuff. The first is really understanding your data resources that you have. What your analysis options are, as well as a plan to organize. Those resources include things like, if you have a website, you have data. Really getting familiar with the website analysis platforms, Google Analytics is open to everybody, it’s free. So plugging in that to understand your website performance, your consumers, their behaviors, where they’re coming from. It’s something that’s easy to do. It’s really valuable to do. And that’s at the tip of your fingertips. Because most businesses, no matter what size you are, you have a website.
There are things like ratings and reviews. So you most likely have those on your website. So digging into those ratings and reviews, you can do that from a qualitative perspective and copying and pasting reviews into a Google spreadsheet. You can also use some other tools to harness that data. But really taking some time to go through those, as well as your competitors, ratings, and reviews. I think people forget about that. Going to their websites, going to retail websites. There’s a lot of people out there who are telling you what they think and how they feel. It’s just a matter of going out there and getting it.
And then one of my most favorite is social listening. Everybody’s on social, whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Facebook groups, they are out there leaving comments on your brand, leaving comments on other brands, following hashtags, and leaving comments there. So it’s a matter of just going to these places, combing through them, and listening to them and seeing what they’re saying.
Rich: And that all makes a lot of sense. And obviously we probably also have email reports as well, open rates ,and that sort of thing. When you’re talking about ratings and reviews on your website, this feels like more of an e-commerce thing. Like if we have a lot of products on our site and we have the tools available where people can rate their experiences with this, not necessarily like a service based industry that might put testimonials on the website. I just want to clarify that point.
Janelle: Yes, that’s correct. And I did leave off consumer feedback. Which whether you are an e-commerce brand or a services brand, that could just be in the form of emails, phone calls that you get, and really tracking those and taking robust notes to understand what consumers are saying. And I think that applies to any business as well.
Rich: And I liked your idea about doing some competitive research as well, taking a look at what your competitor’s ratings and reviews are. And I guess that would be both the products on their website, as well as maybe people are saying about them on Yelp and Google. What does that process look like? How do we decide who our competitors are? And then what is the actual work that you might recommend we do so that we can gather those competitive reviews in a way that might make sense to you?
Janelle: There’s a couple of things that you need to do. I think the first is really getting clear on who you are as a brand. What do you stand for? What verticals are you playing in? What are your product or service attributes?
For example, if you’re a natural brand, you’re going to be in a little bit of a different space than a brand that doesn’t prioritize naturals as much. Which means you’re going to have a different competitor set. The reason this is so important, is because it’s going to help you understand who your competitors set is, and the ones that you need to track and monitor. So that that’s super, super important.
Along with that, getting really clear on who your ideal consumer is, and going beyond just the demographics of the age, they live here. But really understanding what are their big motivating factors for using your product or service. Getting into their mindset. Because this is really the essence for consumers. Once you understand how they think, feel, do, and desire, in the bigger picture context, this is what will unlock who your brand is and what do you stand for for them and then what are the other competitors that are in the space.
Once you know that and are crystal clear on who you are, what verticals you’re in, and what your competitors are, then you can go out and do that research. Who is showing up on the shelf as you, who is showing up when consumers are searching certain phrases for you on search. Search is like a really big minefield of insights. And again, that’s free. You can just go into Google and type your brand, type other competitors brands. Competitors are probably buying your brand sometimes in order to get some of that traffic so you can understand those things as well.
And then of course, if you’re following hashtags on social, you can see the brands that are popping up in that feed. If you’re following that hashtag, odds are your competitors are too. Because those are the same consumers that you’re buying for. So that’s super important, really knowing that landscape. And then going into all the tools, whether it’s their websites, the social sites, to really find what people are saying about your competitors.
Rich: So let’s walk through that. So Olika is the company you’re working for. Tell me briefly just about who you guys are, you don’t have to mention any of your competitors names, but what kind of stuff are you looking for when you start looking at your competitors websites? And maybe even if you have an example of something that you draw, maybe somebody left a positive or a negative review on a competitor’s website, and all of a sudden you’re like, here’s something we need to be talking about or thinking about or whatever the example might be.
Janelle: Absolutely. So Olika, we’re a clean wellness brand at the heart of what we do. And we really focus right now on selling safe, sustainable, and effective hydrating hand sanitizers that are made with aloe and glycerin. We have a great bird shaped product, cruelty-free, vegan, and made with natural essential oil. So we are firmly in the clean wellness economy. When we look at that, there’s definitely a strong segment of more natural, clean-based hand sanitizers versus some of the other hand sanitizers.
So recently, and actually in order to understand communication for the brand and how do I want it to stand apart and feel really different, I did do a competitive analysis of some of these more natural inspired brands. Some things that I found either through ratings and reviews, or even positioning on what they have on their website, is that they are seemingly natural, but sometimes their ingredients list wasn’t natural. Some consumers would actually ask, okay, well, what do some of these ingredients mean? And there wasn’t really robust or transparent descriptions behind them. Just because they’re natural doesn’t necessarily mean the experience is good.
So a lot of these competitors in the natural space, they had dry, stickiness, goopiness, because some of them were gels, whereas we were a spray. These were really, really important clues for us in terms of our marketing communication. And even as we consider more innovation of how do we stand out, really owning our clean credentials, owning our transparency. We put our fragrance ingredients list on the website, so we’re taking it way beyond just the product ingredients list.
And then really owning the experience. That aloe and glycerin we have leads to a sort of really hydrating experience as well as eliminating germs. So really those two things together help set us apart from the competition in our communication. And we knew that because we went on the search looking at our competitor’s websites, as well as social, to see what consumers are playing back to the brands that they were dissatisfied with.
Rich: I love that whole thing, and it makes a lot of sense. And so often we don’t pay enough attention to what people are saying about our competitors.
One thing that I started hearing, we have obviously a much smaller dataset at my digital agency than you would have, because there’s so many people who are using your product and your competitor’s products. But one of the things that we always heard from people who are coming in, either wanting to work with us or starting to work with us is, we’d ask that question, why did you move away from the other agency? And the recurring theme was, “They never bring us any new ideas. They only do what we asked them.” And we knew like, oh, well this is an opportunity for us because we think we already do this, but now we’re going to double down on it and we’re going to communicate that. And that became a very effective tool for us capturing more business.
So, when people hear ‘data’, I think their minds just kind of get overwhelmed with the idea of numbers floating around in algorithms. And really it could be as simple as just looking at another website to see what the reviews are like to understand why people like or dislike a competing product or service, and then how to position your own and communicate that to your audience.
Janelle: A hundred percent. I think that’s the perfect example. I’ve been in innovation for so long and it gets really, really hard. And some of the best ideas have come from just listening to what consumers say about your competitors. And whether it’s a product you have or a product you need to create, you can just go from there. I love that example.
Rich: Cool. Now, Janelle, we’re kind of talking about how you can do this on your own. You mentioned social listening, and it’s not something I can say that I’m really an expert on. When you’re doing social listening, are you using any tools, or is it that you’re just literally following the different competitor’s social media accounts and then paying attention to what’s going on?
Janelle: Yeah, that’s a great question. It can be as robust or as simple as you want. I think when we talk about getting into the habits of doing it every day. Just following the accounts as if you’re a fan, or as if you’re interested in the trending hashtags, is really important because you can check in with the daily to see how the conversations are shifting and what people are saying.
Of course, if you have a good memory and you can keep it all top of mind, then you know that’s okay. I actually like to sit down, maybe on a monthly basis, and go through all of the accounts. I’m literally sitting there copying comments, putting them into a spreadsheet. And then there’s two things that I do.
One, if I’m not really seeing any trends or themes pop up, I’ll put them into word clouds. I know that’s old school, but it’s just really a great visual map to see what heavy words are coming out that a lot of consumers are saying, so that you can identify those themes and trends. So that’s super helpful if you feel like I just have a bunch of comments and I’m stuck, and I’m not really sure where to go.
The other tool that I like to do, or process I should say, is I’ll sit through and started reading them and finding common themes. People will usually say the same thing, they’re just saying it a little bit differently. So whether they’re talking about the product experience, the colors, the fragrance, I’ll literally color code and take those comments and put them into buckets. And then the next thing, I’ll have 20 or 30 comments where people are talking about the size, 20 or 30 comments where people are talking about the fragrance, and that’s really insightful for me to really understand where are the trends going.
I think we can get easily focused on like the end of one. Like, there’s just one comment, whether it’s really bad or really good, or this is amazing. But you want to see where the trends and the scales are.
So those are two things I do, absolutely free, we’re very scrappy here at Olika. Of course there’s other social listening tools that you can apply for, and use, and do some of this analysis for you. But those are just really easy ways to do it on your own and make it a habit.
Rich: I think that’s great advice. I’m always a fan of doing it yourself. And then when it gets to a point where it’s keeping you from growing your business or within your position, that’s when you start to look into paid software that can automate and simplify that thing for you. But always working with your own hands first, is the best way to understand anything, certainly including the data.
But, I’ve heard you talking about turning the numbers into a brand story. What does that mean, exactly?
Janelle: So I touched on this a little bit, but it’s really about organizing to find themes, trends, and patterns. Whether it’s qualitative or quantitative. Really pulling back the layers of the onion. That’s a phrase that’s used a lot. And continuing to ask why you’re finding information, like why is this happening, what’s happening and really connecting the dots across the different data sources.
So we talked about a website as being a great source of data, and it is, it can tell you what’s happening, what products are they buying, who’s buying it from what regions of the country, and then marrying that to some of the why. Which you’re going to get from social listening, ratings and reviews, consumer insights and feedback. When you bring those together, that’s how you’re able to tell a brand story.
All of a sudden you know that your consumer audience is millennials, and they really prioritize clean products. And these are some of the adjacencies and things that they’re buying when they are also buying your brand. And here’s what they really value about having clean products. And here’s where they feel like there are some opportunities, and here’s some things that they don’t want to make tradeoffs on, by really kind of connecting all of those data sources together and using data to tell us.
Rich: That’s great. I love that. So, you must have seen other people making mistakes when it comes to finding and analyzing data. What kind of mistakes are businesses likely to make when they start this work?
Janelle: Yeah. So I think the common mistake is really just not using the data. I mentioned earlier everybody has access to it. And I think sometimes sitting on it and feeling overwhelmed to your point earlier, people just hear ‘big data’, and they think it’s like this big, monster, Excel sheet or some sort of data dump, and it’s really intimidating to get started. Don’t let that intimidate you. Don’t let it stop you from getting started. Like I mentioned, Google Analytics is great and it’s simple and it’s user friendly and they understand their audience. So tapping into these free tools that you have available for you.
And then also, and I mentioned this a little bit earlier too, but just focusing on that sometimes that wild, crazy, exciting thing that you’re only seeing one time and taking that to run forward as like the holy grail can be a little bit misleading. If it’s only coming from one person, it can be great inspiration, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I’ve seen things that really caused me to think and open up doors for other areas and opportunities. But just making sure that you are not focusing on N of one and looking at the right places for the right answers. Understanding that social listening can tell you more about the why, but not necessarily the what, and web analytics can tell you though the one a little bit more. So just being really clear about those things.
And then the last thing I’ll say, because it’s just came to me, is making sure you’re really starting with a question or problem you’re trying to solve, being really clear on what is it that you’re doing this for. What is your objective of the data mining? Because that’s really going to dictate where you’re going to go to look for information. It could be as simple as I want to understand what people like about my product. I want to understand what people like about the competitor’s products. I’m looking to innovate in a new fragrance, so I need to understand competitor’s fragrances or my fragrances. Or I need to go to a whole different vertical or industry to understand about fragrances. But really being crystal clear on the objective will just really help because you can easily spiral and go to other places. If you’re not really focused on what you’re trying to achieve by mining this data.
Rich: I think that is such a valuable point, Janelle, and I appreciate you making it. Because I think that’s one of the biggest problems we sometimes get when we just look at Google Analytics, right. So we go to Google Analytics and there’s all this data and we go, “Wow!” And then we don’t know what to do with it. But if you go to Google Analytics with an idea, like, I wonder if our search traffic is up or down, I wonder if we’re getting people to fill out our contact form, I wonder how long people are spending on this particular page. Then all of a sudden, the answers are really easy to find. So that’s a great point. And thank you very much for bringing that.
Now Olika is obviously a B2C company, business to consumer company. Do you feel that there’s any difference if you’re a B2B company, like flyte new media would be, or is it still the same idea but maybe there’s not going to be as much data perhaps?
Janelle: I think it’s still the same idea, not much changes. At the end of the day, whether it’s B2B or B2C, there’s still a consumer that you’re focused on. It’s just the decision process is different as well as why they’re in this funnel. And trying to purchase your product or service is going to be a little bit different. And you just might have to look at different places. So sometimes that might mean less data. Sometimes it might mean more data.
For example, as a hand sanitizer brand, I think Staples is a perfect example. We could look at B2B in the Staples business advantage section, which actually has ratings and reviews. It has, when people who are owning businesses and purchasing for businesses, getting business supplies, and that can give us some insights there. Or we could go to regular staples.com and that’s really the consumer facing component of staples. Yes, there’s probably still some businesses that are buying there, but it’s a lot more kind of consumer driven than it is business driven. So I think it’s pretty same.
I’m a believer in a consumer is a consumer, it’s just different decision processes and needs that they’re looking to fulfill, but the data is right there for you. And there may be more with B2B when you think about lead generation for performance, and the content downloads, and all of those interactions you’re having before a cell even made can give you a lot of robust information at your fingertips. And that’s really critical for B2B sales performance. So I argue there might be even more data there.
Rich: All right. As I’m thinking about a lot of the data sources that we’ve looked at today, or we’ve discussed today very much, it’s the consumer is sharing something. They probably understand that some of it is public, because they’re putting on social media. Some of it they’re not paying attention to it being public it’s in our Google analytics. But all this is kind of like they’re sharing it maybe without being conscious about it. What role, if any, does in-person interviews with your customer base have in this? Do you include that or is that a separate conversation?
Janelle: It should be included. You have to facilitate it as a separate process. Doing in field study is super important. In my prior experiences, I literally would be in the bathroom with people watching them wash their face, talking about their showering process, but just really observing them in their environment to see, not only what they tell you, but what they do. So that’s super important. And that’s kind of a really robust study that you can do.
Also going to the shelves. I think once you own a business, become a marketer, it’s really hard to shop. Normally a lot of times I’ll be at the shelf, and I’ll see people picking up things and trying to decide what they’re buying, and I’ll just start asking questions like, “Oh, do you like that product?” Or “What are you looking for?” Some people think it’s a little interesting, but a lot of people are willing to talk to you. And it gives you a sense of, again, not just what they tell you, but what you can see and observe.
So I think that that’s really important. That’s a really big part of the qualitative research that you need to do, and the observation. And sometimes you can just take some of the consumers that you have, people just love giving you feedback and helping you win and helping brands win. That’s just kind of innate and human nature wanting to do well. Sometimes you can just, if you have an email list, you can set up a panel. It’s easy to find 10 people and invite them on a zoom call and just have a conversation with them. Again, you’re not observing them in action, but just a fluid conversation where you can go back and forth. Or getting their number and setting it up in a way where you can text them back and forth, if that’s too intrusive these days. But that’s a very, very, very important part of the equation.
Rich: Do you have any tips on implementing the change once we’ve identified that there may be a problem or an opportunity? Like once you’ve discovered something, let’s say that Olika’s competitor keeps everybody talking about how tacky the texture is, just to make something up. Is there something that you would then say, okay, here’s what we’re going to do with that information?
Janelle: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a really good question. A perfect example is, we relaunched Olika last September. It’s been, I was going to say last fall, but it’s almost been a year. And one of the things when we were relaunching was, we had a lot of consumer feedback in our regional version that, “We wish you were refillable. We wish you were refillable.” So we took that information as we were looking to update the brand and brought our supply chain team together, design team, marketing innovation team, all of us in a huddle to really understand how we can tweak the product in order to make it more refillable. So, there’s a lot of steps involved in that. It depends on what people are telling you or what the issue is. That’s a little bit more of a longer term action plan.
There are some shorter term things, even in that vein, people are telling you that you, we want you to be refillable. Okay. Standability message that they’re giving us. If we’re doing that in the long-term, what are some short term things we can do in terms of recycling and helping people recycle a little bit more. So you really can develop a short and a long-term approach to those.
The best is when it’s a communication message. Because that’s really just pulling together a marketing team or a sales team, and really making some real time pivots in order to address it. So I think it’s really developing a culture of agility at an organization to be at the ready to take this feedback and action it as soon as possible, depending on what the feedback you have is.
Rich: I’m glad you brought up that example. Because very often people are thinking it’s just going to be about me changing the message, so I talk about how non tacky our product is compared to the competitors. But in certain cases, you actually have to look at your systems operations, production, everything else. That’s obviously going to be more investment. But if that’s what the customers are asking for, then that’s probably the direction you need to go in general.
This has been great. For people who want to learn more about you, more about Olika, where can we send them?
Rich: Awesome. We’ll have those links in the show notes. And Janelle, it has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for coming by and sharing your approach to analyzing, maybe we’ll call it ‘small data’ for improvements in your website.
Janelle: I love that. Thank you so much for having me.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.