August 17

Episode 135: Cracking the Marketing Code: Boost ROI with Data-Driven Insights


In this enlightening episode, Mike sits down with marketing guru Michael Wolfe, the brains behind Bottom Line Analytics. With a knack for turning data into captivating stories, Michael reveals how he helps clients revolutionize their marketing strategies for a better ROI.

Get ready to unravel the mystery behind effective marketing and discover how a single sandwich sparked a sales explosion for a major brand. Dive into the numbers, anecdotes, and insights that will change the way you approach your marketing game.

Michael Wolfe’s Bio

Want 2-8% more revenue without extra marketing costs? Let’s chat. I’ll make you a “data-driven marketer” and turn insights into growth. With 30+ years’ experience, I’ve worked with giants like Coca-Cola, AT&T, and more.

My passion? Boosting your revenue and ROI. I’m all about optimizing your marketing. Let’s innovate together and achieve results. Here’s my expertise:

  • Crafting compelling ads for real ROI.
  • Nailing down marketing returns and refining results.
  • Visualizing a future aligned with your dreams.
  • Unlocking your competitive edge in marketing.
  • Guiding you through analytics.
  • Building an exceptional Analytics Department.

In This Episode…

  • Learn how to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts like a pro.
  • Discover the power of turning data into compelling stories for better decision-making.
  • Find out how to identify which marketing strategies work and which ones need a makeover.
  • Understand the significance of differentiation and targeting in successful campaigns.
  • Gain insights into turning marketing dollars into real, measurable growth.

Links & Resources Mentioned…

Read The Transcript

Mike O'Neill: Welcome back to Get Unstuck and On Target. I'm Mike O'Neill. Whether it's our team at Bench Builders working with a company, or it's me coaching one-on-one, a high performing CEO. Getting people unstuck is at the heart of everything I do, and that's exactly what this podcast is all about. Each week, I get to bring you incredible guests who share their hard won experiences of getting themselves or others unstuck back on target and moving forward.

And I hope it gets you unstuck and on target as well. I've got a question for our listeners. Are you getting the most from your marketing budget? If you're not sure, you're going to enjoy. This episode because today, joining me on this podcast is Michael Wolf. Michael is the founder of Bottom Line Analytics.

He's worked for or with Blue chip brands such as Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, McDonald's, Starbucks, Capital One, FedEx, and the Florida and Georgia Lotteries. In addition, Michael has done work in over 35 countries throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Today's topic is how to really answer that question. I ask how to analyze how effective your marketing in fact is.

Welcome Michael.

Michael Wolfe: Thanks Mike. I appreciate you asking me to do this with you. It's my first time and I'm excited about it.

Mike O'Neill: Well, when I, I spoke to you, I'm glad you're excited. When I spoke to you, I kind of go, you know, I personally would not describe myself as a numbers person, but you are in every sense of the word.

And I felt that our listeners, and as you well know, are key leaders. They're business owners and they probably have responsibility for a marketing. Budget. And I just, in our prior conversations, I just felt that you just offer a wealth of, of experience that we can benefit from. How did you get into this type of work?

A little bit about your, your background. How did you get into this type of detailed data analysis?

Michael Wolfe: My educational background, I got a degree, an advanced degree in economics. There's a branch of economics called econometrics. So I just like numbers and I like the insights I can get from numbers.

The that's that basically there are two things, terrestrial things that I love that's outside family and God. Okay.

Mike O'Neill: Okay.

Michael Wolfe: Baseball. The work that I do. Okay. I started my career in 1980. That's a long time ago with a Kellogg company. I worked for Fisher-Price Toys. After that, I worked for a market research company in Cincinnati.

I worked for Kraft Foods, the largest food company in the world at the time, in Chicago. Then I came down, worked for Coca-Cola Company, and I worked for an ad agency. So I've had very diverse across different kinds of businesses work, and I find the diversity challenging and interesting. But the most important thing is I love what I do because I'm able to get dollars and cents results for my clients.

I've actually developed a process, go through the process. Lots of data and analytics. I mean, analytics is just a tool, okay? To give you, give you answers and perspective on what the data is telling you, what the opportunities, business opportunities are in that. And I just, I go from there. And the thing that it, it, from a, from a business standpoint, what I've found, whether it's a, you mentioned a lot of big companies.

I can work with small companies as well, and I have done so. Some of that, some of the work I've done with small companies actually may be even more more fun, if you will, because I know the impact. I know the appreciation. You're not talking to a whole bunch of, you know, committees and things like that, so I, I, I will work in both, both big and big and small.

The thing that a lot of companies don't understand, whether it's even a small company, They're swimming in data. And every single company, there's diamonds there. Okay. They need to be able to find it. And if making marketing more effective is a critical part of what I do. I also do things with pricing as well.

How, how to make the best decision with pricing. We're going to talk about marketing and I wanna share a couple. Famous quotations. There's a gentleman named John Wanamaker. He's actually over a hundred years ago. He was a businessman. He owned some retail stores in New York area. The only thing he was basically known is this quotation, but he was, he's kind of considered the father of modern day advertising.

He says, I know that half. Of the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The problem is I just don't know which half. Believe it or not, that's still somewhat true today. Many marketing people kind of think, well, you know, I'm, I'm having fun creating ads, going to the agency, creating new commercials, all that stuff.

Without necessarily being accountable for what they're doing. What I do answers the questions that Wannamaker was asking, so I got a little bit of a joke to tell you, okay? When I say I'm a numbers guy, right? Once, once time I said that I was in at a dinner, this woman says, you mean you're a numbers guy?

That means you're, you're better than a sleeping pill.

Mike O'Neill: Well, I surely hope that that won't apply to our conversation here. You know, I normally would stay clear of this, but what really drew me to you and having this conversation is that I see companies large and small. It's almost like they're throwing spaghetti at the wall when it comes to marketing.

They're trying all these different things, and the thing that really attracted me to you is. You mentioned those diamonds, whereas you look at where this money is spent, how it's being spent, and through analysis, you come back and you make observations and you back it up with the data. I'm not an economist.

So in practical terms, what have you found has been the most common mistake that companies make when it comes to marketing?

Michael Wolfe: Not measuring it. Or, or doing, doing it in a token way not totally understanding the effectiveness of what they're doing.

Mike O'Neill: Now, how do you measure marketing? What are the things that, that we should be thinking about when you describe measurement, please.

Michael Wolfe: So, okay. Well, so let's just conceptually think about a client. Client Will, will, or through their ad agency, and I work with the ad agency a lot. Collects data on all the ads that they place or buy.

Okay. That's data. Then you've got the revenue or sales data. You link the two over time. So there's, there's, you know, waves in the data, there's waves in the revenue. You're connecting the two together, you're monetizing. All of the advertising and promotion that the company's doing. So if you can monetize it, and of course you know what you spent on it, the cost, then you can determine whether you're making any money off, off of it or not.

And there are three types of marketing or advertising. There's the good, the really good ones that actually generate more revenue, more profit than they cost you. Then there's things that they work, but they don't quite cut the grade. And then there's the things that doesn't work at all. I remember three years ago working for a company that's a, a law firm that's a personal injury law firm.

I won't name names, but when I first did the work for them, I found that 45% of the money they were spending. Very large number, by the way, did absolutely zero. No, no revenue generated from that at all. No cases, in other words. So that still exists today, and by working with us I, I'm, I'm going to give my, the, my Florida lottery case study here.

And by working with us over time, the waste, the wasted spend will go away. So I was going to, so what really excites me is I'm a numbers guy, but what I really do is I tell stories with numbers.

Mike O'Neill: Yes.

Michael Wolfe: Okay. So one of the stories I've had, this is almost, almost too good to be true, but it is true. One of my clients is the Florida lottery. I first engaged them. My company first engaged them in 2018, and I did this marketing effectiveness analytics, and I did this.

I've done this each year. I'm on the fifth year with them now, okay? And so when I did did this, I say I'm able to just tell them what's working, what's not working so well, but is working a little and what's not working at all.

Mike O'Neill: Yes.

Michael Wolfe: And I make recommendations, spend more on this, less on this. Quit spending on that.

And the amazing thing, I was working with their ad agency because I'm getting much more detail than the client ever gets because the agency buys in, in the course of a year, the Florida lottery places something like four or 500 different ads and promotions into the market. I evaluate, I monetize every one of those.

Mike O'Neill: Okay.

Michael Wolfe: And I say, this is what's working. This is what's not working too well. This is not working at all. This is how you should spend your money. They actually did this stuff, okay? So what kind of results did they get? So in 2 20 18, I can go back five years. The Florida lottery was growing in the prior five years, about 3% per year from 2018.

The end of their fiscal year 2023, which it ended in June. They went from $6.2 billion lot lottery's a big business.

Mike O'Neill: Yes.

Michael Wolfe: To 10 billion in that amount of time. That's a 10% per year annual growth rate. So the growth double or tripled actually. Triple.

Mike O'Neill: Triple, yeah.

Michael Wolfe: And I can ascribe about out of that 3.8 billion dollar increase, I can ascribe about $2.8 billion to the things that they actually did. Okay. The amazing thing was that in 2018 there's about 40 some state lotteries. Most of them are run by government state. The states largest. US lottery, state lottery in terms of revenue, and 2018 by 2021, they were number one.

So they leapfrogged over New York and California in terms of revenue, and they're still number one.

Mike O'Neill: That's an impressive story. I mean, as you're describing it I don't want to end that story, but I also wanna make sure, you know, when I think of the lottery and that's, that's a big organization. When I rattled off the companies you worked with, these are all blue chip type companies.

Could I ask the kind of work you did for the Florida lottery? Those are huge numbers. Lots of zeroes. Behind that for a moment, let's shift gears and think about a small to mid-size company. They don't, they're not spinning that in their marketing efforts. To what extent does the work that you do change, or is it essentially the same for small to mid-size company?

Michael Wolfe: Let me give you a, a recent example. I don't think I'm going to step on a toes here. Because they're a unique organization. If they're a unique organization, nobody's like them. You can talk a little bit more. I have a client that was the Harlem Globetrotters. You know who they are?

Mike O'Neill: I do.

Michael Wolfe: The basketball team. So they wanted me to do this work a little over a year ago, and so, The way it works is they actually have two or three different globe prodders teams that goes around in different cities all the time. And so they, they go in like 500 different cities during course of a year, goodness engagements.

And they they go in all size of cities, okay. Relatively small towns, midsize cities, large places like Chicago. LA, New York. So I did, we did models for, for all of the different cities that they were, they were in, what's working, what didn't work, and basically what we found out is they needed to spend their money in the mid-sized cities.

Okay. Basically, because the audience is going to be more.

Mike O'Neill: Yep.

Michael Wolfe: Okay. The big cities, you know, it's okay. The small ones is they don't get enough people. The midsize cities, that's between three, maybe 300,000 and 800,000 population. And so when Covid hit, they almost got wiped out, okay? For a year, they couldn't do, they couldn't do anything, right?

So they're trying to, well, but they've actually recovered to their. Pre covid levels, which is saying a lot.

Mike O'Neill: Yes it is.

Michael Wolfe: Alright. So, you know, they were un, if you wanna call it what's stuck or unstuck. They were stuck. They didn't know they were going to even survive. Okay. And now they're doing, doing well again.

Mike O'Neill: You know, that's a great example. COVID has impacted. Everybody, every business that's a kind of a high profile business, but you're kind of sharing it from a business model standpoint by which your analysis says that you get the biggest bang for your marketing buck by targeting quote, mid-size cities.

I did not know that there were multiple groups.

Michael Wolfe: So, so they're, they're a unique organization because, you know, almost everybody's aware. The Harlem Go Trotters. I mean, my dad took me to Globe Trotters when I was like eight years old.

Mike O'Neill: Yes.

Michael Wolfe: In Iowa was where I'm from. But nobody knows they're going to be playing in Phillips Arena next Saturday. Okay. So they have to advertise a lot for the size of an organization. They are.

Mike O'Neill: Yeah.

Michael Wolfe: Or simply people are not going to show up. Right. So they have to, and so, And they, they're, they manage it well.

Mike O'Neill: So let's continue that. If you don't mind. Assume that I'm a business owner. I've got a, a marketing budget and I really wanna know if my money is being spent.

Well, can you give us a little bit of a insight behind kind of the curtain When you and your team kind of go to work for a client, what are those things that you're going to be asking the client for so you can do the analysis that we're describing here.

Michael Wolfe: Well, usually the client has to find the data for me.

Mike O'Neill: Okay.

Michael Wolfe: So if I'm talking to a consumer packaged good company like Coca-Cola, there, there's a third party service called Nielsen AC Nielsen who collects scanner data at the supermarket. And they may have o other sources of, you know, bars and restaurants and things like that. But the data resides in, that data resides in the.

In the company. So it's a, excuse the French, it's kind of a pain in the ass to collect the data, but it's, you got to do it. Okay.

Mike O'Neill: Right.

Michael Wolfe: Then you have to make sure that the client knows that the data's good. Okay? So you have to review it with them, but then you have to work very well with the ad agency.

There are two types of ad agency, the kinds that create the ads. There's kinds of buys and places. The ads. The buy and policing agency are the ones that you have to work very closely with. There's so much detail in the ads. Okay, so let me give you an example. TV ad may be the same commercial, but it may be in a 15 or 32nd or a 62nd version of it, right?

There's also what you call day parts. What time of day is it aired? All of those are separate entities I look at, so, we'll not, we may tell them to spend more on tv, but only on certain day parts.

Mike O'Neill: Yes.

Michael Wolfe: Prime time is very expensive, so it has to be really, really good to, to pay off on prime time. It's that level of detail when they execute the, the media buying agency is able to execute against that without the client having to look over their.

Shoulders and I fortunately got a great relationship with their agency. They believe in it. A lot of times agencies think it's a report card on them, and they're not exactly, you know, in line with it. But getting, getting the client aligned on what you're going to do and what you're going to do, what are they going to do with what you're doing is really important.

Mike O'Neill: That's helpful to know. I hesitate to go here, but I want to ask it nonetheless. You mentioned that you worked with injury law firm and we were returning from a trip recently and I just started noticing the billboards and it seemed

Michael Wolfe: to be highly correlate, highly correlated with the number of accidents on the road. On that road.

Mike O'Neill: Well, that's that. That would make sense. I was on an interstate, but I noticed this, the sheer volume, and maybe more importantly, I began kind of looking at for every 10 billboards what percentage of those billboards were in fact injury attorneys. And it's not very scientific, but well over half.

Michael Wolfe: Of course. Of course.

Mike O'Neill: Clearly billboards. At least these injury lawyers. Have concluded work?

Michael Wolfe: Yes.

Mike O'Neill: They did look at billboards of them.

Michael Wolfe: Some of them do. Okay. Some of them don't.

Mike O'Neill: Okay.

Michael Wolfe: So with the, the company I work with, I don't know if you're familiar with Interstate 10, that goes right to Orlando.

Mike O'Neill: I am.

Michael Wolfe: Alright. Basically that road is bumper to bumper all the time. 75 miles an hour. Nobody has any time to look at billboards.

Mike O'Neill: Yes.

Michael Wolfe: The billboards along that particular road just didn't work.

Mike O'Neill: Interesting.

Michael Wolfe: But we also, you know, with billboards, it's location, whether it's a urban location or along an interstate location. I mean, if you're a McDonald's and I've done some work with McDonald's, I. McDonald's, you know, a really effective billboard is McDonald's next exit. That's it.

Mike O'Neill: Yes.

Michael Wolfe: But, you know, to go out and talk about a branding exercise, I, I'm, sometimes I've worked with clients. I'm still at a mystery of why something works. I just know that it does. We did a project recently closed a project with a hospital.

12 hospital unit healthcare company up in Philadelphia, where the most effective ad was outdoor ads. Don't I, I still don't know why, but I think it's because a branding message, they had one big other hospital they competed with and getting their brand in, in people's minds all the time was kind of, the big thing.

Mike O'Neill: You mentioned McDonald's, and I can't think of a better time. Could you share a little bit about your work with McDonald's? And I think what you shared with me, the example that you're going to give goes back far enough by which it doesn't create a problem for you to divulge.

Michael Wolfe: Yes.

Mike O'Neill: The client and the results. So I wanna.

Michael Wolfe: In, in most cases, I have to, I usually sign a non-disclosure agreement with a client that has a life of 10 years. Which I can't even talk to anybody about them theoretically.

Mike O'Neill: Gotcha.

Michael Wolfe: So McDonald's was this situation, it was 2005. They were really my first big client. So I was doing marketing effectiveness model and like the lottery, I'm evaluated their advertising, the return on investment in their advertising.

And it so happens they've got owner operators in McDonald's. Who send 10% of their profits to the headquarters in order to fund the advertising, right? So they're not, not sure that it's working for them, okay? So, I, I, I showed that it was working for them, but that was not the big issue. Here's a, this is a stuck versus unstuck situation, right?

For the prior three years, McDonald's measured itself by how well they're growing relative to their. Dastardly competitors, burger King, Wendy's, and maybe pizza because they all, you know, everybody knows their revenue and quarterly reports and stuff like that, but they were, they lagged all of them. So that usually in consumer products, there's a, you, you need to evaluate something else that's launching a new product.

Mike O'Neill: Okay.

Michael Wolfe: Okay. They launched a new product in 2005, and I evaluated the, there's two types of new, new products. Products that cannibalize all the other products that you have. Those usually end up failing. Okay. They're off the market in two to three years, which happens to be 90% of new products fail.

Okay. And then there's the ones that I saw lifts, lifts all boats in the harbor. This was one of those.

Mike O'Neill: Okay.

Michael Wolfe: The interesting thing, they hardly spent any marketing money behind it at all. And yet I could see where, where it got people by it was actually lifting the, the, the sales of the entire enterprise.

Okay. And I basically said, you know, this is such a success. I says, and you're not spending nothing. You are spending virtually nothing. You need to spend 10 x on this.

Mike O'Neill: Okay.

Michael Wolfe: Like a drunken sailor, you got to spend a lot on it. They actually did this. Okay. And in the next three years, there was situation of of them being less, less than the competitors Reversed itself.

Mike O'Neill: Okay, gotcha.

Michael Wolfe: So they were stuck. Okay. They were stuck in mediocrity. They weren't growing like your competitors were. And all of a sudden that changed.

Mike O'Neill: You're pointing out that you found something that was working, but for it to really work, they needed to lean into it. You recommended a, a much bigger advertising.

Michael Wolfe: It made, it made me a little nervous. Okay.

Mike O'Neill: Frankly, no. Why did it make you nervous?

Michael Wolfe: Well, you, you never know, you know, they could have spent, you know, 10 times more and they didn't get what they thought they would get at it. I see that product was valued dollar value menu. Which the concept was very different from all of their other product lines.

So differentiating yourself, that's differentiating the product is really important to its success. As long as you don't differentiate it and your differentiation's crazy. You know, people don't, don't buy into it.

Mike O'Neill: The example you gave there with the dollar menu purposely is an example that goes back greater than 10 years.

But now that's a very common thing that we see with pretty much all of the fast food companies.

Michael Wolfe: Oh, yeah. Really? They're doing that all the time.

Mike O'Neill: Yes.

Michael Wolfe: And most of them fail. Okay.

Mike O'Neill: Yes. Interesting.

Michael Wolfe: Now, there was one recently, I, this was not a client, I tried to get him for a client.

Mike O'Neill: Yep.

Michael Wolfe: Okay. About three years ago they came out with this chicken sandwich, right? It became like a phenomenon. And it was very good. I've tried it and it drove their business for three years.

Mike O'Neill: Yeah, it, it took off like wildfire. Now you and I are in we're speaking from Georgia the base of, of Chick-fil-A. And I, well, I, I need to bring somebody on from Chick-fil-A. because I just seemed like everything they do, they do very, very well. But what I found is they were going toe to toe with a Chick-fil-A.

Now Chick-fil-A has done just fine. I don't know what's happened to Popeye's, but what you're saying is that one product, that one sandwich fueled sales for, for not months, but literally years.

Michael Wolfe: Yeah. In fact they were bought out by they company that owns Burger King.

Mike O'Neill: Interesting. I did not know that.

Michael Wolfe: Yes.

Mike O'Neill: You know, Michael, I, what I really like about this is you've described yourself is yes, you are a numbers guy, but what you find really works, particularly when you're working with clients, is take these numbers Put them in the form of a story. Let the numbers kind of be the story and to have the gift to take numbers and put it in a story that people can understand.

We've gotten a little bit of a taste of that. You know, Michael, if people wanna want to learn more about Michael Wolf and your company, what is the best way for them to reach out to you?

Michael Wolfe: Well, if you can spell the, spell the word bottom line analytics Okay. Or you can email me mj w Michael J. Wolf, just mj Or just send me send me something over LinkedIn.

Mike O'Neill: Gotcha. Matter of fact, that's how you and I first met was via LinkedIn. And as I kind of looked into you and, and your background kind of go, you know, this is something we've not discussed on this podcast and I'm glad we did. I just, I really enjoy hearing some of the backstories things that we might hear.

Michael Wolfe: Well, well, thank, well, thank you. I'm glad you're still awake.

Mike O'Neill: I, well, I'm awake and I'm confident that folks who are listening are also aw awake. I also wanna thank our listeners for joining us today for even more insights about getting unstuck and moving your business forward.

You can subscribe to this podcast by going to Unstuck Show while you're there. You can subscribe to our weekly management blog called The Bottom Line. So if you're a leader and you're trying to grow your business, but people problems have slowed you down, let's talk head over to to schedule a call.

So I wanna thank you for joining us and I hope you have picked up on some quick wins from Michael that will help you get unstuck and on target.

Thank you very much. I really enjoyed this.

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