The Agency Imperative: Helping Clients Ask the Right Questions

Helping our clients pose relevant, sophisticated questions is one of our most critical responsibilities as an agency.

We’ve all heard someone say, there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

While there’s certainly truth to the aphorism — particularly in the context of data analytics — many of history’s greatest thinkers have tempered this truth by pointing out that arriving at the best answers begins with asking the right questions.

“A prudent question is one-half of wisdom,” wrote Francis Bacon. “If you desire a wise answer, you must ask a reasonable question,” added Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. “If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing,” W. Edwards Deming concurred.

At Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, we work to ensure our clients not only arrive at the best, most comprehensive answers, but are able to leverage those answers to improve outcomes in a consistent, meaningful way. As such, especially in the early stages of our client relationships, we dedicate a great deal of time and energy to helping clients achieve enough of an understanding of the space in which we operate that they’re able to identify, articulate, and, when necessary, refine the questions that are most relevant to their business goals.

Encouraging Deeper Questioning

Fostering this level of understanding can be particularly challenging in my discipline, called Tag Ops. While most executives — and, arguably, even most marketers — in the healthcare industry see a digital asset like a brand website as a repository of information on a specific condition or therapeutic regimen, Tag Ops professionals like myself see these assets as a source of critical data describing the members of a brand’s audience — their demographics, their online browsing behaviors, their responses to various pieces of creative, etc. Without a sufficient understanding of these data-centric back-end considerations, it’s all but impossible to pose the right questions.

For instance, it’s only natural for clients to want to know how the creative on their website is performing. However, unless they’ve had ample experience with website tracking, clients’ inquiries usually take the shape of, “Is my site meeting or exceeding industry benchmarks for bounce rates, page views per visit, and/or time on site?”

The short answer to this question is always going to be, “It’s complicated.” The overwhelming majority of standard site tracking metrics are significantly influenced by the unique media mix in which the site owner has invested. Traffic arriving via a display ad typically registers a far higher bounce rate than traffic arriving via an organic search, meaning a brand that has invested heavily in display can’t expect to achieve a low bounce rate comparable to that of a brand that relies primarily on organic traffic.

Of course, instead of telling clients, “It’s complicated,” full stop, we try to provide them with the background information they need to ask deeper, more nuanced questions. In many cases, we’ve crafted customized regression models capable of predicting a client’s site performance based on factors like the composition of the client’s core audience and the client’s current media mix. We’ve then helped the client compare the model’s predicted bounce rate (or page views per visit, time on site, conversion rate etc.) to the actual bounce rate the client measures over time.

If there’s a considerable disparity between predicted and measured values, it says to us as analysts, “Look here! Investigate this! Something happened!” It might mean we are seeing the effect of new creative, it might reflect the success or failure of optimization attempts, it might mean untagged media or other things we haven’t foreseen. At the very least, we’re providing a solution that is valuable and reflects the client’s original intention when they ask, “Is this good?” At the most, we’ve additionally provided a monitoring system to identify potential break downs in data collection.

Laying the Groundwork Ahead of Time

While our team can certainly herald the importance of Tag Ops (and analytics more broadly), it often takes time to guide clients through this evolution in thinking. That’s why, as a matter of course, we incorporate best-in-class tagging and analytics into every client asset we touch — regardless of whether a particular client intends to take advantage of them from the get-go.

As a result, when clients arrive at those specific, high-value questions, we can immediately present months’, quarters’, or even years’ worth of invaluable historical data with which to start formulating answers.

Ultimately, gaining access to the kind of insights that improve outcomes and cement competitive advantages will require a concerted effort to ask the right questions and track the right data. As an agency, it’s our responsibility to ensure our clients have the requisite background information and data infrastructure to do so.

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