Larry Fisher Of Rise Interactive On How To Use Data To Take Your Company To The Next Level

An Interview With Ben Ari

Authority Magazine Editorial Staff
Authority Magazine

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Know your financials: Stay on top of the key metrics that define your business. Establish connectivity across the marketing and finance teams so both teams know how to access, read, and think about the data and prove value. The goal is to understand the data you have and know the levers to pull to improve business outcomes. Risers are focused on top line metrics and profitability, like EBITDA and revenue growth, to help define how we’re performing and what we need to do differently in order to meet our goals.

The proper use of Data — data about team performance, data about customers, or data about the competition, can be a sort of force multiplier. It has the potential to dramatically help a business to scale. But sadly, many businesses have data but don’t know how to properly leverage it. What exactly is useful data? How can you properly utilize data? How can data help a business grow? To address this, we are talking to business leaders who can share stories from their experience about “How To Effectively Leverage Data To Take Your Company To The Next Level”. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Larry Fisher.

Larry Fisher is the Chief Executive Officer of Rise Interactive, A Quad Company. This full-service performance marketing agency helps brands drive better business outcomes with its proven approach to cross-channel media management, analytics, and CX. He is a board member for the Michael Matters Foundation and Ramsay Innovations; involved with the Google Leadership Circle, a select cohort of C-suite leaders from key agencies; and consistently interacting with major online platforms, such as Meta and The Trade Desk. In between travel soccer games and walking the family dog, Miley, Larry enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

It’s probably not surprising that I started out in finance. Though, throughout the course of my career — no matter the industry, the company, or my role — I’ve always helped organizations and people use data in creative ways to meet their goals. For me, the skillset of using data was easily transferrable from finance to marketing, where I am now. One of my strengths has been knowing which kinds of data to collect, how to understand the data that’s available, and how to use it to make important decisions. I drew on my early experiences and helped build Rise Interactive in a different way, using the analytical skillset I had developed through the years to help Rise succeed in a data-driven world.

It has been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about a humorous mistake you made when you were first starting and the lesson you learned from that?

I often tell a story from when I was starting out in my marketing career. One of my clients had just launched a campaign, and, on the very first day, asked why it wasn’t working and why we weren’t seeing better results. Unfortunately, being inexperienced and immature, I lost my composure. I couldn’t even remotely understand why they were asking those questions on day one, without giving the campaign the time it needed. But I quickly regretted my response and recognized that professionals have to be able to control their emotions. One of the biggest parts of our job is empathizing and putting ourselves in the client’s shoes. We need to help them understand the process, have realistic expectations, and learn how to synthesize data so they truly understand the results.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader?

I’ve learned through experience that leadership is about being fortuitous and knowing when to stick with something when it’s not working in the short run, but having conviction that it will work in the long run. In 2020, as an example, Rise was investing in our account-based marketing to grow the agency. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything — and our pipeline slowed. It was a moment in time when our leadership team had to say: “We know this isn’t working now, but it will work, and we have to stay focused and trust the process.” Even in the face of the pandemic, we always believed that our offering was something companies needed regardless of what was going on around them. Keeping our team together and focused and helping them believe in our data ended up paying off. It proved that we’re playing the long game — and we need to continue doing what we’re doing.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Marketers have always been challenged with driving results while proving commercial value to CFOs and company stakeholders. To give marketers, business leaders, and decision-makers 24/7 access to their marketing data to make decisions in real-time, Rise launched Connex®. It’s a purpose-built digital marketing platform that provides companies with better insights faster, including media spend, revenue, leads, ad performance, fees, budget pacing, and forecasted results.

Using Connex®, brands can:

  1. Unify and normalize their marketing data to uncover performance trends by audience, creative, product, and location.
  2. Capitalize on what’s working in real-time with Connex Alerts (delivered via email, Slack, or SMS) to identify specific growth opportunities and immediate actions to accelerate performance.
  3. Drive impact at scale and optimize towards business goals, such as CLV and profitability, with full transparency of every automated action.

Connex supercharges marketing performance by providing:

  • On-demand access to data with full transparency.
  • Side-by-side, normalized performance results across all major ad platforms in one streamlined view.
  • Real-time performance alerts for growth opportunities within and across channels.
  • Strategic recommendations for campaign configuration, goal-setting, and optimizations.
  • Flexible and predictive budget and goal forecasting in real-time.
  • Automated optimization across millions of data points.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I recently took a Hogan assessment, which is like a personality test for business leaders, and the results aligned perfectly with my approach to leading. My top two traits were that I am results-driven and I am caring. This combination — being focused on hitting goals while understanding the importance of nurturing people and cultivating a team — is unique for a leader. And it felt like an affirmation of what we are doing at Rise.

These qualities have allowed Rise to scale significantly over the years. When I started on this journey, there were a lot of digital marketing agencies <$5M in revenue. The differentiator for our agency has been this attitude of relentlessness and then creating an environment where success is possible. Our growth has created upwards of one thousand jobs, something I am especially proud of.

On a personal level, I spend a considerable amount of time and energy mentoring people, whether they have a long career at Rise or learn here and move on somewhere else. Historically, people have come to Rise with little digital marketing experience, and we’ve helped grow them into some of the best in the industry. Risers go on to work for the most important companies in the world, like Google, Meta, Amazon, and Salesforce to name a few. It’s rewarding for me to be a small part of their success.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about empowering organizations to be more “data-driven.” For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what it looks like to use data to make decisions?

When I think of what data-driven organizations look like, I would point to:

  • Being able to use data to make better marketing decisions.
  • Being able to use data to prove value.
  • Being able to use data to understand their audiences.
  • Having a tool or tools to help do these three things easily and efficiently and allow teams to answer questions as they arise.

Companies that can act in real-time to make marketing spend decisions will outperform those who cannot. Similarly, people with data at their fingertips to inform decisions have a huge advantage. When used appropriately, data can elevate entire marketing programs and help balance investments across the entire customer journey. But data on its own can only do so much. To turn data into a powerful decision-making engine in the workplace, you need to bring together three critical pieces: 1) smart, analytical people, 2) the right data, and 3) a proven framework. When you pair talented people with robust data and systems that other companies don’t have, your business will evolve.

Also, I believe that effective marketing begins and ends with brand strategy and creativity. Data is used to fuel the brand engine. If you focus too much or rely too heavily on data, your CMO and marketing team are going to check out. First and foremost, they need to have the freedom to bring new and interesting ideas to the table and then bring those ideas to life, without the pressure of hits, impressions, levels of engagement, and open rates.

Based on your experience, which companies can most benefit from tools that empower data collaboration?

Between privacy, marketing technologies, and tracking systems, the business landscape is constantly changing. Moving forward, every company will need to rethink how they look at data, how they collect it, how they use it, what decisions they can make with it, and what questions they can answer with it. This will become more and more difficult because marketing platforms are becoming more siloed. Whether we like it or not, the marketplace has moved in this direction

If you look at the trends in media consumption, we are seeing the fastest growth in YouTube shorts, Facebook Reels, and TikTok videos, which all have a certain level of immediacy in consumption. Because of this, the companies that get ahead will have the ability to use data in real-time to create content faster than we’ve ever seen. Moments that matter are happening almost instantly; if you think you can wait days, weeks, or months to ideate around them, you’ve missed the moment.

Can you share some examples of how data analytics and data collaboration can help to improve operations, processes, and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.

Data is instrumental to running our business and delivering for clients. Internally, we put a lot of rigor into our resource planning and investment strategy; as we’re making sizeable investments in innovation, sales, and marketing, sometimes it can be difficult to measure ROI. So, it’s critical for us to have certain data available to support making those investments.

Data has allowed Rise to make a number of other strategic decisions and help us grow. When our new business was flat, for example, we turned to data and realized we were stuck in a plateau. Our leadership team agreed to prioritize hiring, which proved to be a turning point for the agency. By adding new and highly capable team members, we nearly doubled our new business over the next calendar year.

When we start a new client engagement, there’s one question that leads to a bigger conversation around data and gives us a sense of how the strategy should unfold: “If we could spend your entire budget today and achieve your goals, would you let us?” The response tells us what type of information we need to provide to empower a client. Additionally, our team spends a lot of time helping clients understand and identify trends in their data.

From your vantage point, has the shift toward becoming more data-driven been challenging for some teams or organizations? What are the challenges? How can organizations solve these challenges?

In order to become a data-driven organization, you need three key things: 1) data infrastructure, 2) a way of collecting and storing data that allows people to make more informed decisions and 3) a consistent approach or philosophy of how to analyze data. This starts with having the right technology and practices in place, and organizations must recognize when to invest in the right types of technology to store and manipulate information and data.

One big challenge I’ve observed is inconsistent data collection. It’s best to establish a company-wide philosophy on how to analyze data and how to make decisions using it. Make sure the philosophy is universal throughout the organization before spending a significant amount of money collecting the data or doing an attribution study. At Rise, we’ve created a framework that we call the Rise Five, which is composed of five critical questions that every Riser must be able to answer about a client: what are the client’s goals, what is the client’s budget, how are we tracking against these goals and budget, why, and what are we going to do about it?

Additionally, alignment is critical to every organization’s success. You need buy-in across the company and among decision-makers. If the data being collected doesn’t drive business outcomes, then organizations won’t find the alignment and collaboration needed. Many times, I see data analysis go up the ladder, if you will, but if stakeholders don’t believe in the data or the results, then it’s futile.

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Effectively Leverage Data to Take It To The Next Level”?

  1. Have the right infrastructure: When it comes to using data to drive business, collect and have access to metrics that answer a series of questions, starting off with: “What is our pipeline, and is it big enough to hit our goals?” Your answer will lead to a series of follow-up questions, including: “If it’s not, what are we going to do about it?” and “What kind of investments do we need to make to get the pipeline where it needs to be from a sales perspective?”
  2. Use data to understand your sales opportunities: Begin by looking at your average order value conversion rate and pipeline value. If you can understand both sets of data, you can start to see trends and assess your performance on closing business. Then, when business closes, look at renewal and churn rates to find patterns that help assess client turnover. How are you creating long-term relationships to prevent clients from leaving, cancelling a subscription, not renewing, etc.?
  3. Know your financials: Stay on top of the key metrics that define your business. Establish connectivity across the marketing and finance teams so both teams know how to access, read, and think about the data and prove value. The goal is to understand the data you have and know the levers to pull to improve business outcomes. Risers are focused on top line metrics and profitability, like EBITDA and revenue growth, to help define how we’re performing and what we need to do differently in order to meet our goals.
  4. Tap into data from a Human Resources perspective: Data is immensely beneficial when it comes to recruitment and can be used to support every step of the process, from targeting certain skillsets to vetting candidates to knowing how many applicants are needed for your pipeline to result in a hire. In this case, data helps companies understand how much effort to put into hiring and keep the mission moving. At Rise, we use data as our guide to determine how many people need to take the initial exam, how many will pass, how many will continue on to the phone interview, how many will get through to the in-person interview, and how many of those will join the company.
  5. Put data in place throughout your organization: When teams have data at their fingertips, they are more accountable. Additionally, companies that use scorecards and reporting are more consistent in their decision-making. To be truly data-driven, data needs to available everywhere in your organization: in sales, finance, marketing, client service, and HR. When teams are empowered with the right data, and maybe even different data than your competitors, they will have an advantage because they can see things others just can’t.

Based on your experience, how do you think the needs for data might evolve and change over the next five years?

Like its internet and TV predecessors, AI is a gamechanger — and every single thing we do, especially in the world of marketing, is going to be different.

Everyone is at an equal starting point because AI is so new, and when you have everyone at the same starting line, there are opportunities for those who really lean in and learn. Companies must understand the ecosystem and where things are going.

The amount of data and the speed at which we analyze data will continue to increase. The ‘secret sauce’ data that brands have on their customers — and the need to use it to their advantage within platforms — is going to become one of the biggest differentiators in the future.

Because many AI platforms are more affordable than ever, it’s becoming increasingly important to know how to get the most out of each. Take, for example, ChatGPT. You don’t just “turn it on.” There are prompts, and you have to ask it a question or give it direction. You have to tell the AI model what to do, and this all comes from data and a strategic vision.

To keep up with data evolution, companies must be ready to hire a new breed of leaders who have the ability to act on real-time opportunities. The next generation must be:

  • Comfortable integrating AI into their daily work: AI-powered tools like smart assistants, voice recognition software (e.g., “Voice In”), and video-monitoring apps with closed captioning help teams streamline everyday workflows and scale content quickly, leading to improved efficiency.
  • Able to optimize the most cutting-edge technologies: This includes AI powered by GPT-4, the latest version of the sophisticated language learning model ChatGPT.
  • Know how to collaborate cross-functionally: People who look at their strategy and see silos are struggling to keep up. It’s essential that you break down organizational silos and drive collaboration across teams.

Thank you for your great insights, We are nearly done. You are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would try to teach people how to have more empathy towards family, friends, and colleagues alike. As humans, we all are faced with challenges, but it’s incredibly difficult to understand what another person is going through or feeling. Approaching everyone around us with an empathy-first mindset and lens could create a more inspiring world.

How can our readers further follow your work?

You can find me on LinkedIn where I like talking about #strategy, #leadership, #growthmarketing, #digitalmarketing, and #performancemarketing. I also write a blog called Late Night with Larry, which started as a way for me to stay connected and hopeful with Risers during the pandemic. It has since become a forward-thinking and actionable LinkedIn Newsletter on media, business growth, and life.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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