Patricia Sonius – Ster

Patricia Sonius – Ster

Patricia Sonius is Manager Research and Development at Stichting Etherreclame (Ster), the foundation that commercializes advertising space for the Dutch public broadcasting channels, the Nederlandse Publieke Omroep (NPO). Her team offers research solutions to (internal) clients, as well as providing the right insights to Ster’s marketing department to strengthen the brand. Patricia is also a board member of the Radio Advies Bureau (Radio Advisory Bureau, RAB) and in that capacity involved with the National Listening Study (Nationaal LuisterOnderzoek, NLO).

Main KPIs for brand growth

When it comes to brand growth, Patricia thinks you should always look towards the business goals: “We are a sales organisation, so that is the main goal. To strengthen your brand, I believe in following the principles of Byron Sharp: as many people as possible should know your brand and think of your brand in relevant moments of purchase and usage situations. Secondly, you need to make the purchase as easy as possible. We are the only one in the market to have a client portal where you can buy your media directly via an online platform. It is not quite as cheap tickets or bol.com yet, but that is the ultimate goal. Next to that, I am convinced that although you have brands with more specific target groups – think of stairlifts for example – you never know who will buy them, it could very well be the daughter who is worried about her parents. You have to make sure that as many people as possible know your brand and link that to relevant associations.” Patricia emphasises the importance and relevance of both new and returning customers in business to business sphere: “If an FMCG brand loses one customer on a product of one or two euros, you wouldn’t notice the difference, but stakes are much higher in b2b, where one client can make a difference of a few million. Relation management is very important in the b2b market.”

“We also follow some core internal principles”, Patricia continues. “We want to be accessible to every advertiser, on both ease of purchase and price. We want to be leading in the research that we do and the events and activities we organise. Finally, we are a reliable partner, we deliver what we promise, yet we are human so whenever a mistake is made we always compensate for it. These values are measured among our clients in interviews and in surveys .”

Data-driven decisions

Regarding data, Patricia believes you should always make decisions based on insights: “In marketing, it is important to test product development and all forms of advertising, be it radio, TV or outdoors, and decide based on data which one to use, and the same applies to your media buy. Measuring effectiveness is where it becomes a different story. You can measure the effectiveness of radio, TV and outdoor campaigns very well, but measuring your entire marketing mix is quite difficult. You can map out the effects on your marketing KPIs, but it is trickier to attribute that to something like website conversion. I notice that there are a lot of different methods in the market, and often very simple methodologies are used which means that the effect of radio and TV is not included, whilst these efforts do contribute. To combine the effectiveness of both long- and short term campaigns into one model is a challenge.”

Patricia shares an example of a data-driven approach within Ster: “In 2018, we started working on a data-driven trajectory to organise and prioritize our sales organization better. In a customer matrix, we map out where our customers stand, whether they are regular, returning customers or new customers, as well as their potential, expenditure on all types of media, when they have been in contact and what their potential for Ster is. The potential score is based on an AI model in which we also look at the core target group of the client itself. NPO serves a certain target group, so if the target group of an advertiser fits the score will be higher. Our sales process is therefore nowadays becoming more data-driven, and there are a lot of data sources linked up. At the moment, we are also implementing a new CRM system, and the matrix will be at the heart of it. In the future, we want to keep track of all our actions to predict which action will lead to which customer behaviour.” Without loosing track of the human part of doing sales and the importance of relationship management off course. Patricia has come across some challenges: “My biggest challenge is that Ster’s B2B target group is fairly small, and therefore researching the growth in marketing KPI’s very difficult. Because I can’t find respondents, or the right respondents, I can’t interpret the figures I get from our brand tracker accurately.” According to Patricia, there is also room to grow in marketing automation: “We aren’t utilising those marketing leads enough, and that is something we will tackle within our new CRM system. We do great things to get customers in, from webinars to whitepapers and sharing content, but the process of making a marketing qualified lead into a sales qualified lead isn’t in place yet. The goal is to create a nice flow so when someone registers for an event they should receive an automated follow-up. We want to link the amount of media budget we spend to the number of registrations, whitepaper downloads, newsletter signups and people contacting us. That is very valuable information we need to organise better.”

“Often, decisions are being made based on data you can’t compare. In my utopia, those figures are all comparable.”

Utopia

Patricia believes the biggest challenge for the future of the market will lie in measuring everything in the same way: “KPIs you receive from Google differ from Facebook and data you receive from research agencies. Decisions are being made based on data you can’t compare. In my utopia, those figures are comparable and all the same. That is what we are doing with NMO (National Media Research) and I am very proud to be involved through my board position of Radio Advies Bureau (Radio Advisory Bureau, RAB). As an advertiser, you will know who you have reached and when, and through which channels, a true cross-media reach study. I think that is a big step into the future, but we still need to look at the effect. From the client side, it would be great if a party like Esomar could create a standard all research agencies would adopt, of course, it would become difficult to compete on the agency side, but I think that will be an essential part of data-driven decision making. An impression means something different everywhere you go, so it might be time to stop comparing apples to oranges and develop standards. Everyone has a different opinion and that is the biggest challenge, but also the biggest gain.”