Customer Equity Accelerator Podcast

Ep. 77 | Five Questions Marketers Need to Answer


"These questions first came about because I get a bit of a nerdy thrill when I lift the covers on a company’s website to see what kind of data they are capturing." Allison Hartsoe


This week Ambition Data, CEO Allison Hartsoe lists five questions modern marketers should be able to answer in the Accelerator. Although the digital sciences are new for marketers, modern marketers need to know how to think in customer data. From personally identifiable information to whether your agency should host your customer data, Allison fills in the gaps that many marketers have missed. In addition, to help companies trust their data and eventually do more for their customers, she throws in a free audit available at

Please help us spread the word about building your business’ customer equity through effective customer analytics. Rate and review the podcast on Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Google Play, Alexa’s TuneIn, iHeartRadio or Spotify. And do tell us what you think by writing Allison at or Thanks for listening! Tell a friend! See the full transcriptView all episodes.


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Show Transcript

Allison Hartsoe: 00:01 This is the Customer Equity Accelerator. If you are a marketing executive who wants to deliver bottom-line impact by identifying and connecting with revenue generating customers, then this is the show for you. I'm your host, Allison Hartsoe, CEO of Ambition Data. Each week I bring you the leaders behind the customer-centric revolution who share their expert advice. Are you ready to accelerate? Then let's go! Welcome everyone. Today's show was about five customer analytics questions to which every marketer should know the answer, what do you, you might not realize that it's only been in the last five or so years that you could actually get some kind of digital data degree and that means that yes, our industry moves very fast and I personally love it. These questions first came about because I get a bit of a nerdy thrill every time I lift the covers on a company's website to see what kind of data they are capturing and let me also say that because every company should know this, I'm offering a free audit to podcast listeners.

Allison Hartsoe: 01:17 Just go to to sign up. Now let's jump into the first question which is, do you know what Pii is? Now let's play a game. I'll list the type of data, and then you answer if it's personally identifiable information or not. Credit card number. Social security number. When a customer visits your website. The device with which they visited the site. And finally their email address. Technically all the answers are yes except a site that's visited by your customers and the device which is, it depends and more on that in a bit. So the catch here is that personally identifiable information which we all call Pii is data that can be used to identify someone. It is typically collected actively, meaning that the information is provided directly by the individual, but it doesn't always need to be that case because it can be provided by the individual and then stored in the analytics, which still creates some Pii issues.

Allison Hartsoe: 02:33 Typically things like your name, your address, your phone number, your social security number, your credit card number, and even your email address. All individually identify you. However, something like your birth date, which is very odd, is not a specific identifier of you. Since many people can have the same birthday, but when you combine it with other things, it becomes more of a specific identifier. So there's kind of a, uh, a gray area here as we think about Pii. Further, not just individual pieces of information that you give, but the behavior that you illustrate can be used to understand more about who this person is, who your customers are. So typically things like new or repeat visits, the device type, the pages viewed, the sites visited, things like this are behavioral data, which we don't typically consider Pii unless there is a specific identifier attached to it.

Allison Hartsoe: 03:38 One thing in this space that's a little bit borderline is the Ip address because an IP address can narrow down exactly where you live and exactly which device. So it's kind of a thin line to say it doesn't personally identify you if that Ip address happens to be attached to your phone on your home network. So it's not just about Pii as we might think about it in personally identifiable information. If we consider Gdpr, that actually has a much larger footprint than just PII based data. GDPR is really about personal data, meaning any information relating to an identifiable person who can be directly or indirectly identified by reference to an identifier. So that means that if I don't really know who you are, but I see your behavior, and then I match it into other sets of information, then I might be starting to step on the GDPR regulations because I'm really starting to identify you.

Allison Hartsoe: 04:46 Um, that means things like your mobile id, your cookies, your Ip addresses or pseudonyms of data, like hashed identifiers, uh, all fall into that broader GDPR category when it may not be crystal clear Pii. So we still have to consider this in terms of what is the privacy policy for our company. Now we could do, and I am hoping to do an entire episode on privacy, but for now, the rule of thumb I like to use is the sunshine law. If you shined a light on your marketing practices and all your customers saw what you were doing, would they approve? And if you don't know the answer to that, then why not run a survey or a focus group to simply ask them. This is one thing I think is a responsibility of all marketers. So now question number two, can I see what is actually captured when a customer clicks?

Allison Hartsoe: 05:49 I think everyone who works with customer data should be able to verify what kind of information is actually being collected. Now I'm going to geek out here for a minute, but this means that you need to know how to operate something called a packet sniffer. Something like Charles or fiddler, if this is too Geeky for you, then you can go to built with or even Ghostery just to happen to just to see what is present on your site. And even better if you want to see all the tags and the way they affect the speed of your customer's experience, then Pingdom is one of my favorite tools for that. It is not the IT department's job to look out for customer information, and modern marketing includes the use of technology. So it's your job to ensure that the data you want is collected. And also that the tools that you add to your site or to your mobile apps are not killing the customer experience.

Allison Hartsoe: 06:51 A side note here, true story. I once worked with an online publisher who had so many advertising tracking bugs on their site that it took over eight seconds just to load one page and for reference if you didn't know the standard is two to three seconds. If you want to know what your page is loading, how fast it is for free and get a free report of all the stuff that you could optimize. Google has a great tool called Google page speed insights, and they will tell you all about it. Their benchmarks, and these are a couple of years old, so I would even say that these metrics should be faster, but if your site loads in 2.9 seconds, then it's faster than approximately 50% of the web. If it loads in 1.7 seconds, then it's faster than approximately 75% of the web, and if it loads in less than a second, so 0.8 seconds, it's faster than approximately 94% of the web.

Allison Hartsoe: 07:51 And this is the whole effort behind Google's app optimization effort where they're really rewarding through search results sites and mobile experiences that are fast. So very important not just to know how fast your site is loading, but to be able to understand what kind of information is being captured. You cannot walk away from the technical part even though your job is marketing. So that gets into question number three. What information am I actually making public? Well, back to our sunshine example, anything you track on a site is basically public with the right tools anyone can read it. That includes query string parameters, which might even be on your emails. What is a query string parameter? Again, another geeky term, but it's super easy to understand. It's just dub dub, dub my whatever your URL is. And then after the final slash, there is a question mark.

Allison Hartsoe: 08:52 The question mark is the query string parameter not tells any tracking system to with the correct identifier pick up different pieces of data and stuff it into different slots that you can use for analysis. So a common query string parameter might contain information such as what marketing channel the click came from or what kind of customer segments or id or a more detail about the channel the marketer was using. So for example, let's say that I get a marketing email about new shoes that you have on sale. If I click to learn more, it's likely that a lot of that detail is passed along such as email channel, sale campaign name. If I've purchased before, then my customer's segment might be included, and if that's a readable name, then I can see what you think of me as a customer. So I can see if it says HBC or shoe purchaser or any other term that might be used in that public query string parameter.

Allison Hartsoe: 09:55 And possibly I might even see an anonymized customer id. That's usually a 20 digit number, which is anonymized Hash. I can't tell much from that anonymized hash other than the fact that you might be looking at me as an individual. When I land on your website, this is appended to more information such as whether I've been here on this device before or not or what kind of products I look at. So it gets very rich very quickly. Now, by and large, your average customer isn't going to be lifting the hood to understand exactly what is on the site, but the fact that it is public means that you should be aware of what information you're sending, especially as we start to get further into personalization, segmentation, and testing. So again, because every marketer should know this about their company, I'm offering a free audit podcast listeners.

Allison Hartsoe: 10:51 The address again is ambition to sign up. Third question, do I know where our customer data lands? And the usual answer here is everywhere. While most companies are still figuring out their warehouse strategy, and if you're here, you are not alone. Realize that the more tools you add to understand customer information, to manage emails, to run personalization, to run your site, the more you add without a central warehouse, the harder is to create a data-driven strategy later on. That's because when all the data is splintered across the tools, it has to be moved back together. That takes time, especially when you have to do it again and again and again. So let's say that I wanted to kick off some kind of personalization that was very time-dependent. So you're new to the site, you come through, you look at something, and then I want you to feel more welcome.

Allison Hartsoe: 11:57 I want you to engage more with my company. So I want to kick off some personalization that's designed for just you, but I want to do it on the site while you're there, while you're in the moment. That means that I have to run those calculations altogether, not just to say, is this a new device that I've seen, but is this really a new person that I've seen? So that kind of quick thinking takes faster warehouses, faster analytics systems to pull it together. Now these tools that you use to make your life easier to run tasks should be thought of as an endpoint. They will not go away. We still need lots of tools to help us do more heavy lifting to help us make our jobs easier. But they are not the place to run customer analytics, which requires a broader view and a fast review in order to understand what to do when.

Allison Hartsoe: 12:56 Also be sure that you know what data, any third party tool you're working with is collecting and allowed to use. I'm not seeing this as much anymore, but it used to be more prevalent in the advertising space and somewhat in the social media space. That tools, we're gathering information in order to aggregate it and understand how to make improvements. Nothing wrong with that, but there have been some that will actually use that data and resell it. And that's where I think you start to get into what I would consider a data leak. I don't want my customer data being resold. So if you came to my site and you shared a story, I don't want the third party tool that I'm using to be profiting from that and capturing my customer data along the way. So make sure you really understand what those tools are allowed to do and what you're permissioning them to do.

Allison Hartsoe: 13:53 Finally, last question. Is it okay if another company such as my agency hosts all my marketing data? Well, let's think about this for a minute. If your ad agency was a shipping company, would you give them customer information? Well, of course, you would. You have to give it to them because they need it to do their job effectively. But what if the shipping company wanted to analyze your customer information to see which people were returning packages and then encourage you not to sell to some of these people, but to sell to others? Well, that starts to feel more invasive. And the point here isn't, you know, whether ad agencies are evil, they're not. But the point is that the agency is not there to run your company. You need to run your business. And data is the heartbeat of your business. Even if you're not using it that much today.

Allison Hartsoe: 14:49 When you store your data with an agency, you don't get 100% access for that information yourself. And that's critical because it's making the view of your customers incomplete. Find, duplicate that information, but make sure that not only do you have access to that information and maybe you're just sharing a portion of it out, but that any additional enhancements that are put on top of your data in order to run that aspect of your business more effectively are also shared back with you. So if the agency has rights to do certain things with your data, how will you get those rights in order to do those things with your data if you ever decide to do that in house? So to summarize, as a modern marketer who works with customer analytics data, you should know the specifics of one, your customer data collection policy. Two, what customer information is actually being captured.

Allison Hartsoe: 15:49 Three, what customer information can be seen publicly. Four, where your customer information is landing. And five, what you need to bring it together all under your own roof. If you want to know more about where you stand on these issues, then again, take advantage of our free audit where you can sign up at It is the best way to build your customer analytics quickly because you've got the trust of your data. As always, you can reach me at or ahartsoe on Twitter or Allison Hartsoe on LinkedIn. Links to everything we discussed, including the tools that I mentioned today are at Thank you for joining me today. Remember when you use your data effectively, you can build customer equity, it's not magic. It's just a very specific journey that you can follow to get results. Thank you for joining today's show. Thank you for joining today's show.

Allison Hartsoe: 16:54 This is your host, Allison Hartsoe, and I have two gifts for you. First, I've written a guide for the customer centric Cmo, which contains some of the best ideas from this podcast, and you can receive it right now. Simply text, ambitiondata, one word to, three, one, nine, nine, six, (31996) and after you get that white paper, you'll have the option for the second gift, which is to receive The Signal. Once a month. I put together a list of three to five things I've seen that represent customer equity signal not noise, and believe me, there's a lot of noise out there. Things I include could be smart tools. I've run across, articles I've shared cool statistics, or people and companies I think are making amazing progress as they build customer equity. I hope you enjoy the CMO guide and The Signal. See you next week on the Customer Equity Accelerator.


Key Concepts:  Customer Lifetime Value, Marketing, Digital Data, Customer Centricity, Long-Term Customer Value, Marketing Leaders, Analytics, Creativity, Product Development, Audience Research

Who Should Listen:  CAOs, CCOs, CSOs, CDOs, Digital Marketers, Business Analysts, C-suite professionals, Entrepreneurs, eCommerce, Data Scientists, Analysts, CMOs, Customer Insights Leaders, CX Analysts, Data Services Leaders, Data Insights Leaders, SVPs or VPs of Marketing or Digital Marketing, SVPs or VPs of Customer Success, Customer Advocates, Product Managers, Product Developers

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