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Episode 11

Responsibly using data in today’s marketplace

Mark Irvine is chiefly responsible for creating WordStream’s data-driven industry research, analyzing data, and spotting trends within AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook. Mark regularly publishes on the Wordstream blog whenever a new feature, trend, or major change to the SERP is announced. He regularly presents his research on trends in the PPC industry on webinars and at conferences around the country, such as SMX, Social Media Week, and Pubcon.

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Mark Irvine


Hosted By

Kyle Nordeen

In this Episode:

  • How recent events will impact how users engage with advertising as a whole.
  • How to collect the right data and use it appropriately across channels.
  • Where professionals should be investing their time from a skills perspective.


  • A lot of people want to use data to validate the beliefs they already have. We have to be open to the idea that data tells us a different story.

  • When you’re working with limited resources, you can only leverage so many bets at once.

  • If you’re not confident in how you’re storing your data, you need to begin solving those problems as quickly as possible.

Episode Transcript

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Kyle: Thank you, everyone, for joining us today. I’d like to take a minute just to introduce my guest. I have Mark Irvin from WordStream. How are you doing today Mark?

Mark: I’m doing great. How have you been?

Kyle: I’m doing good. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Mark: Thanks for having me.

Kyle: No, no. Super happy to have you here and have a chance to pick your brain a little bit. Just to kick things off though, can you just tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional background?

Mark: Sure. So, my name is Mark Irvine. I’m a senior data scientist at WordStream. And so what WordStream does is we manage page search and page social efforts across Google, Bing, Facebook and Instagram in one community platform.

Kyle: Awesome. So, one of the things I’m very curious to hear your thoughts on, especially with your background which you specialize in, is with Facebook’s, you know, recent news and how they’ve been in the press lately, how do you feel this sort of negative attention might influence how marketers and users also engage with their advertising platforms.

Mark: So topical. Right now Mark Zuckerberg is currently testifying in front of a senate. So really it could not be more topical than right now. I don’t know the end game for what this means to Facebook here, but I think that this isn’t going to be exclusively a Facebook problem, that as we look at how these big companies leverage data, be it Facebook or Google or Microsoft or whomever, one thing that’s going to come forefront. And that’s going to be that first-party data is always going to be sacred. The E.U. is comfortable with first-party data, we are seeing the U.S. prefer first-party data, Facebook is being slapped heavily with its use of third-party data and how it buys and sells that. I think the advertisers who have their first-party data, be it CRM, be it email lists, be it direct mail lists, however you have that information about your customers in a compliant way in that data is going to always win over these third-party platforms.

Kyle: Yeah. Absolutely. And even speaking of data, it’s kind of like what drives everyone’s marketing efforts. One of the things I’m mostly curious to hear your thoughts on is, like, you know, we want to try and use data to optimize our search email and other campaigns of that nature, like, what sort of recommendations do you have for people to make sure that they are collecting the right data and using it appropriately?

Mark: I think a lot of this is going to come down to your approach towards collecting data and what you want out of it. When I was first hired as a data scientist, one thing that a lot of people are going to turn to you is they are going to turn to you to use data to validate the beliefs they already have. We as marketers need to be very open to the fact that some of our ideas are false, are wrong, are not perfect even. And so we wanna make sure that us as marketers are open to that idea that data tells us a different story at the end of the day. At the heart of all of this, all of marketing is about providing a solution to a people. So, I think that the most valuable types of data you can collect are on your audience, those people who are engaging with your ads, and those people who are not engaging with your ads and seeing how you can better reach those people.

Kyle: Absolutely. And then in kind of, like, building off of that from the skills perspective, where do you think marketing professionals should be investing their time just to make sure they are set up for success moving forward?

Mark: I mean, everywhere, to be honest. This is definitely an industry that you can continue to research and improve. I’m doing it every single day and I like to pretend I’m good at what I do, but I discover that I’m still bad at things on a regular basis. I think that the big wins are again in terms of how you use data to identify those audiences and how you then use that data to come up…either build personas or decide who else you need to reach, not just in…I come from an ad background. I’m biased towards how I reach people across these different ad platforms, but this is true in my email, this is true in my contact marketing. If I’m writing content to a person that doesn’t exist or if I’m trying to write a content to everyone I’m reaching no one.

Kyle: Absolutely. And kind of along the same lines of that, you know, it’s a big thing for marketers to constantly try to better themselves but keep up-to-date with the latest trends and make sure they really rent out their skill set, is there anywhere that you turn for inspiration, whether it be other brands or thought leaders, to kind of help get your wheels turning a bit?

Mark: I think that one of the best ways to build your horizon is to attend an event like Marketing United. Obviously, I come from an ad background, again. I know a lot of things in the ad space. I don’t know a lot of things in the email space, I don’t know a lot of things in the content space. These kinds of broad conferences are way easier to get something out of than necessarily one of those hyper-focused industry-specific ones. Beyond that, follow people on Twitter and look at some of these things that, like, follow brands or follow ad platforms that might not be in your natural vertical. One thing, when you study for a test you often study 80% of the time on things you already know. So, look at that 20% of things that you don’t know and spend time with that rather than that stuff that you’re very comfortable with.

Kyle: Okay, awesome that makes total sense. And at least because you were touching on marketing united, you know, a lot of the people that attend this event are also from the smaller brands or smaller companies, what sort of recommendations or advice do you have for small teams that have limited resources as far as just trying to how to prioritize their marketing approaches?

Mark: I think you need to be very scrutinous. When you’ve got very few resources you can only leverage so many bets at once, right? So, this isn’t…you’re not going to become trending on Twitter with a $1000 budget, or you might, but that is going to be your single buy over all of this. So, you’ve gotta be creative, but you also have to think about specifically what does audience…what are they looking for and how can you answer that solution. And one thing that I see a lot in small companies is that small companies, they have that one solution and then all of a sudden you’re a hammer and everything looks like an egg, that you can’t necessarily go in and you can’t necessarily solve all of these problems with that same solution, that you kinda have to think about other ways towards engaging prospective clients and how you ultimately convert them that are different than necessarily just, like, “Okay. Buy the solution, everything is peace, happiness, and rainbows.”

Kyle: Okay. Awesome. I can use that. That totally makes sense. And one last thing just to kind of wrap up things a little bit more is, what do you think is one thing marketers should be doing now to set themselves up for success for the rest of 2018 and beyond?

Mark: I think that the number one thing that you need to do right now is, if you either don’t have a great CRM or database of your customers or your prospects or if you are unconfident in how you are storing that data, that these are problems that small-medium enterprise businesses all struggle with. When you create that foundation for how you collect customer information, it doesn’t correct itself naturally in time.  So, you need to make sure that the earlier you solve those problems the sooner you solve the problems of 2018, 2019, 2020 as you get are those people back further down your funnel.

Kyle: Awesome. Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, really appreciated the time and look forward to having you back on here in the future.

Mark: Awesome. Thank you for having me.

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