Decode Digital

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July 17, 2017 Issue



Data-Driven, Full-Service Digital Marketing Agency Turns to Transparency to Optimize Results



Kathleen Perley

Founder & Chief Executive Officer


Decode Digital


Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – July 17, 2017


CEOCFO: Ms. Perley, what was the vision when you started Decode Digital and where are you today?

Ms. Perley: When I was at an automotive agency, which was a startup at the time, I helped them grow from about four employees to about eighteen. The owner of that agency had some very different thought processes on transparency and how agencies should be run. When I set out to start Decode Digital, I wanted to be able to be viewed as an agency where there is complete transparency to clients. I wanted to really open up the digital space because so many individuals are afraid of it because there is a lot of trickery going on and things of that nature. So I really wanted to create a completely transparent and data-driven agency.


CEOCFO: How does that play out day to day? Would you give us some examples of how that philosophy comes into use?

Ms. Perley: We are very transparent, and not only on where the media is being spent. We will also look at ROI. One example is that we have a recruiting client we are doing a lot of digital marketing and advertising for. When we initially started working with them, the thought process was that LinkedIn would be the best platform to get resumes and new hires. However, we actually looked into the data, and we discovered that Facebook and paid search advertising were higher drivers. Resumes, submissions and our cost per conversion were about one-sixth of the cost of LinkedIn. Therefore, we shifted budget away from LinkedIn into Facebook and paid search to better optimize their advertising dollars and get a better return on their investment. That is something where we started off with the preconceived notion that LinkedIn would be the right platform and channel, but because we offer complete transparency to our clients, we were able to have an educated conversation about what was working and why that platform might not be the best to utilize from a paid perspective moving forward.


CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the companies that turn to you? What is the common thread, other than smart?

Ms. Perley: We are currently doing a lot of healthcare and finance because of the data-driven analytics that we have access to and how we purchase our media. We utilize things like diagnostic codes from a healthcare perspective we can look at, as well as from a financial perspective, for example, whether they are potentially eligible to refinance their homes or vehicles. We use the data to help really isolate target audiences and give them the right segmented messages. I think that from a client perspective, the ones that we work well with are those individuals who understand the importance of data and are really excited about what that means for them in terms of the opportunities to align goals with marketing campaigns and who are interested in really measuring what works from a marketing and advertising perspective. There is that saying, “Half of your advertising dollars are wasted; you just do not know which half.” As an agency, we try to get rid ourselves of that philosophy. We believe that was said in the early 1900s. While that was a long time ago, many agencies and clients still accept that as the norm. We really try to push our clients and show them that that is not necessarily the case. You can create zero-waste campaigns or get fairly close.


CEOCFO: Would you give us an example of what you might do differently given your understanding; something specific a client was looking to accomplish and Decode Digital was able to achieve?

Ms. Perley: One of our clients was a medical group. They were looking to increase patient volumes. When we first started working together, one of their initiatives was to expand the call center for the medical group so that they could get individuals calling after normal business hours, and on weekends as well, to schedule appointments. Therefore, we worked on a campaign utilizing both social and paid advertising on search as well as display advertising. What we actually found through call tracking was that a majority of the phone calls that were coming in from a medical group perspective were actually occurring Monday through Friday, usually in the morning, with Monday through Wednesday being the most prominent days we had the most conversions of appointments scheduled. After running this campaign, we made the recommendation to the client to actually scale back their call center hours to be reflective of when we had the most conversions. They did that, and they were able to save, not only from an operations standpoint, quite a bit by scaling back that operation. Over the year, we increased patient volumes by about twenty percent, by really just optimizing the ad campaign so that when individuals were more likely to schedule appointments, we had a higher frequency of ad units running.


CEOCFO: Are you able to help your clients understand the part they need to play; for example, if they are getting more calls, maybe they need more people on at certain times to respond more quickly? How do you work with your clients to understand their part in the whole program?

Ms. Perley: That is a great question! I think that sometimes what is so often overlooked is really understanding the funnel. We work with our clients very closely. It is almost a partnership in a way, where we identify not only how we drive individuals, but what that funnel looks like in terms of what is step one after users see an ad. What is step two, step three and then how we finally get them to convert or let’s say, maybe make a donation for the nonprofit. What are the steps after the process? We really structure conversations on understanding that funnel approach. We provide access to our clients to things like call tracking, where we can do recorded phone call sessions. That has really helped them from a management perspective to identify opportunities for customer service and engagement, by having these recorded phone calls. It has really brought to their attention some potential challenges. One thing that we have done recently where the sales funnel approach really has come into play is with appointment scheduling. Not only is it important to get them scheduled, but also remind them. Therefore, the text reminders are something that we have implemented for one of our clients. That is because that was where they were seeing high drop-off rates and some no-shows. By implementing a text message campaign that alerted the patient twenty four hours before their appointment and asked them to confirm really helps not only get them to make an appointment, but to make sure they show up to the physician’s office. Really understanding each step of the process is something we work very closely with our clients on.


CEOCFO: How do you work with your clients? How much in depth can you go? How do you know when enough is enough, when enough layers are being hit to get everybody in that you can?

Ms. Perley: We develop such strong relationships with our clients, many of them provide us with access to actual operational and financial data that we then can tie back to our marketing and advertising efforts. Then we map that back to the different digital advertising channels and segments. Oftentimes we will tie it back to an IP address, see where the fall-off is in the funnel and where we are losing individuals. The clients have been very receptive and we, as an agency, try to provide as much data as possible so that our clients can make the best decisions, whether it is marketing or operations, to help them achieve their goals.


CEOCFO: Do many of your clients want the detail or do they want the answer?

Ms. Perley: Interestingly enough, I would say ninety-five percent of our clients really enjoy the detail and the data we are able to provide. What we always say is that the data and the insights we bring to the table, while they are coming from a digital perspective, can be applied outside of the digital arena. Therefore, they will utilize it for marketing decisions on traditional advertising or for an operations standpoint. We do a lot of consumer research for our clients. I think it is really interesting to see that, I would say, almost every client loves to dig into the data and see the trends that we are seeing. It is simple things like looking at the demographics of where we are getting the best conversions. One example would be a freestanding emergency room that was getting high conversion among young women, age 24 to 32. Most of them had children in their household. Therefore, we looked into knowing that demographic since that is what our patient type looks like from a digital perspective. We were able to create custom messaging that was geared not only to the patient as a female aged 24 to 32, but also as a parent. Being able to really adapt a nugget of knowledge that we gain from the digital assets and apply it to not only traditional components, like direct mail, but other aspects. For instance, now they are looking at potentially creating a child-friendly room with some toys and games in the waiting room.


CEOCFO: If someone is looking, particularly in search, how do you jump off the page? What are you doing as outreach and how do you get people in to take a look at what you do?

Ms. Perley: Right now, we have been really fortunate in that much of our new business has come by word of mouth and client referrals. We also do a lot of award submissions for our work. We recently won nine awards at the AMA Houston Crystal Awards. They are critical awards held once a year, and they are based on campaign success and results. Our winnings were all based on our results that we were able to provide for our clients. We are really utilizing case studies and data. It’s kind of interesting that it goes full circle. When we work with our clients, we utilize the data as proof of what is working and what is not in developing our strategies and optimizing our strategies. We take a very similar approach from a new business perspective. We use a lot of data and will also pull in information and case studies for our clients and prospective clients to look at. We do what we say and show that through those case studies.


CEOCFO: What surprised you as Decode Digital has grown and evolved?

Ms. Perley: I think what really surprised me is the lack of this approach being utilized in this market. We are currently in Houston and you have, let us say, Silicon Valley, and you have Austin, which has a strong digital and advertising presence. One thing that has surprised me is the lack of expertise and knowledge in Houston from a digital and data perspective.


CEOCFO: You are in Houston now. Are there plans to expand?

Ms. Perley: There have been conversations around it. We have grown quite significantly this past year. However, in today’s digital world there are access points through virtual meetings and video sessions, and it is so easy to get on a plane today that we do have clients across the country. There are thoughts of potentially opening up other offices where possible, whether it is in New York or the West Coast, down the line.


CEOCFO: Would you tell us a little bit about your corporate culture and how you keep it the way you want?

Ms. Perley: We joke that there is a code at Decode. It is kind of a code that we ask all of our employees to live by. It is the idea of first to be authentically passionate. My background is in linguistics, but I was always data and analysis driven. I love data and analysis. That is really what my passion has always been. I ask each individual that we hire—and I think we have done a great job—to be authentically passionate about what they are doing. Whether it is graphic design, web development or social media, and we are always encouraging our staff to expand their horizons, pushing them to try new things as it pertains to new releases of code or new social media ad formats, for example. We really try to strive to make sure that everyone is really authentically passionate about their area of expertise. Then we often say to not only be authentically passionate, but also really focused on being boldly authentic and understanding who you are and what you are and doing that very well. We are very candid as an agency and honest in what we do. There are no vague promises. We will be very candid about what we can deliver and what is attainable. Also, being curious; we ask individuals to be curious, and as an agency, we are constantly curious about how we integrate with new technology and new strategies. One way we have done this recently is with a freestanding emergency room. In emergencies, it really is a moment need, moment address. You are in a current emergency, you need to go to an emergency room. So how do you get into a person’s mind ahead of time? That really was a struggle. We came up with a campaign called Plan For It, encouraging people to plan ahead for those moments when minutes matter. As part of that, we developed a New Year’s Eve campaign—because they do get such an influx of patients around the New Year’s Eve holiday—where we partnered with Uber and the client provided $10 Uber discounts for individuals to get safe rides home during the holiday. Being really curious about what is available, what is new, what is driving people and being open to try those new ideas is really what makes us stand out as an agency. Then also, just our strategic creativity and opening up ideas that might not have been brought to the table previously make a lot of sense.


CEOCFO: What is the takeaway for our readers? What should they remember about Decode Digital?

Ms. Perley: What they should remember about Decode Digital is that we are a full-service digital agency, and we truly provide data-driven strategies for our clients. Sometimes that goes beyond the digital realm into traditional or operations. Also, that we develop true partnerships with our clients in identifying what their goals are and really helping them achieve them and measure them successfully.


“I think that from a client perspective, the ones that we work well with are those individuals who understand the importance of data and are really excited about what that means for them in terms of the opportunities to align goals with marketing campaigns and who are interested in really measuring what works from a marketing and advertising perspective… You can create zero-waste campaigns or get fairly close.”- Kathleen Perley


Decode Digital



Kathleen Perley

(713) 352 -8440






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