In this episode of The Kula Ring, Justin Rinaldi from Safety Speed Manufacturing discusses the impact of switching from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, how to help ease that transition, and ways to adapt to increased privacy regulations.
How Manufacturing Marketers Can Prepare for GA4 Transcript:
Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White.
Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring, a podcast for manufacturing marketers brought to you by Kula Partners. My name is Jeff White and joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how you doing, sir?
Carman Pirie: I’m doing great, Jeff, and you know, I think it’s really good to be chatting today and kind of digging into the topic at hand that we have for today’s episode.
Jeff White: Oh, it is certainly something that is top of mind, or coming to the top of mind, for a lot of marketers these days. Maybe sneaking up on them, as it were.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. You have this ticking time bomb of the GA4 migration that of course is in people’s minds, and then I think… But that’s just one part of the shifting sands of privacy, and tracking, and analytics, attribution, etcetera, that marketers are having to navigate, and I’m looking forward to today’s guest shining a light on it all for us.
Jeff White: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. So, joining us today is Justin Rinaldi. Justin is the Marketing Director at Safety Speed. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Justin.
Justin Rinaldi: Thank you. It’s great to be on here talking about all these important topics, and how we’re gonna solve the world’s problems for marketers.
Jeff White: I love that our podcast is at the forefront of solving the world’s problems. It’s a heavy weight, but we’re happy to bear it.
Carman Pirie: But think about it, you know, the fact that we got to spend probably about a half hour or so exploring this fairly nuanced problem that isn’t live or die by anybody, that’s a nice place to be in. I mean, we should be appreciative of this in our world.
Jeff White: Absolutely, absolutely. So, tell us about yourself, Justin, and tell our listeners a bit about Safety Speed as well, please.
Justin Rinaldi: Yeah, so I run the marketing operations here at Safety Speed. If you’ve ever been to a Home Depot or Lowes and you’ve had to break down lumber to fit in your car, in all likelihood they’re using one of our machines to break down the lumber. We’re pretty industrial manufacturing. We also do a full line of wide belt sanders, screw pocket machines, edgebanders, different configurations of panel saws for different applications. So it’s pretty heavy B2B industrial. A lot of cabinet makers, a lot of site jobs, a lot of small woodshops, lumberyards all use our machines.
At Safety Speed, I run the marketing operations. I’m responsible for our search engine optimization, content creation, web development, graphic design, social media platforms, overseeing the video production content—whether it’s an intern or an outside source that does it for us. I kind of have a lot of responsibilities that I oversee. I also manage our eCommerce platforms, growing the eCommerce platform, and most importantly, staying on top of the algorithmic shifts, getting keywords to rank within the search engines, whether it’s Google, Bing, or any of the other ones out there.
Carman Pirie: You’re wearing a lot of hats, my friend.
Jeff White: Yeah, broad range of expertise and responsibilities.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. And I guess, Justin, what really kind of excited us in meeting you, and kind of getting to know about your work, is kind of this… Well, I think there’s a lot of exciting parts about it, but I can be easily excited by wood saws. But the way you’re thinking about the organization navigating these challenges with respect to privacy and analytics, it just… I think you have a bit of a deeper thinking about it than many. So, I guess kind of diving into that a little bit, is it really the GA4 migration that’s driving your immediate interest and need to solve this problem?
Justin Rinaldi: No. It’s really a bunch of marketing activities and initiatives that are all dependent on data that’s started within Universal Analytics within Google—whether it’s the conversions from seeing the conversion values from the Google ads campaigns, the traffic from specific cities, where you can filter by city by page within the website; or the secondary path to conversion, where you can see how long it actually took someone to convert within making an eCommerce transaction.
Because for our business, it’s not like buying a KitKat at Walmart on the way out the door. We’re dealing with pretty high point per transaction—pretty high price point—so within the different parts of the marketing operation, pulling different data from Google Analytics, Universal Analytics to support different marketing initiatives. And going into Google Analytics 4, a lot of the information that I’m relying on is no longer available within Google Analytics 4.
And it’s just interesting to see just how the shift is coming up quickly, because the great SEO expert, Barry Schwartz, put out a poll on Twitter about how many people have adapted to Google Analytics 4, and I think it was under 25%. So, it’s kind of like going in the door and walking right out because it’s literally living in a whole new house, having to learn a whole new language to be able to adapt to and live through.
Jeff White: Well, and it’s interesting too, because it’s not as if you’re going to be able to run Universal and GA4 at the same time. Google has put a deadline on making this transition, and everybody is going to have to do it whether they have prepared for it or not. So, it’s not like some other applications where maybe you can run the old and the new simultaneously and kind of see how things are going once that date has passed. What is the date again? It’s later this year, isn’t it?
Justin Rinaldi: I think it’s either… I think it’s July 1.
Jeff White: July. Yeah, that’s what I thought, so basically we’ve got six months to kind of sort this out and get everything going. There are challenges just in making the transition in terms of implementing GA4 versus Universal Analytics, and then there’s the even bigger challenge of what you no longer can see, and how it works is completely different. It’s pretty interesting.
Carman Pirie: But I suppose, Justin, in this instance, I think because you’re taking a lot of action in marketing decisions as a result of the data, you’re integrating it into your eCom planning, etcetera, you’re engaging SEO tactics because of the data or with the data, so you’re therefore more attuned to its impact. When you think about that poll and only 25% of people making the migration, I think so many marketers and organizations—yes, they’re tracking, but they’re really not doing anything with the information other than looking at it every once in a while.
Justin Rinaldi: Right.
Carman Pirie: My guess is that that’s why you’re a little bit more on it.
Justin Rinaldi: Yeah. No, the information stored within Universal Analytics has really guided almost every marketing decision I’ve made, whether it’s utilizing a third party app like Semrush to figure out keyword densities, keyword search volumes to integrate within pages to try and target different pages to rank. But yeah, data is key, and going to Google Analytics 4, it’s kind of taking a shot in the dark now, unless you have your well-refined strategy with how you’re gonna be able to get similar revenue. Because with companies heading into this transition, there’s gonna be a lot of communication that needs to be done, and I don’t think that a lot of marketers out there right now are prepared to be able to communicate everything precisely with what’s happening in Google Analytics 4 and how it’s different than Universal Analytics. Because I know I can’t.
Carman Pirie: I think that’s an important distinction. It’s one thing to say we can’t make the ongoing iterative improvements and changes that we need to make to our campaigns and our work, because we’re losing a data source or it’s changing dramatically, so we need to figure that out. But then what you just mentioned, it also means that our ability to manage up, our ability to report to executive teams, etcetera, is changing dramatically, and that’s gotta lead to some pretty serious reeducation of folks that frankly don’t think about marketing all that much, or certainly don’t think about analytics all that much.
Justin Rinaldi: Right.
Jeff White: And we probably had to educate them to begin with just to understand what we were already telling them.
Justin Rinaldi: Yep.
Carman Pirie: And I’m chuckling to think about how some of that education is like, “Okay, it’s okay if they don’t really understand it. They’re getting this part of it, so fine, and we’ll just let it go.” And now you’re like, “Okay, we need to kind of expand it all over again.”
Justin Rinaldi: Yep. The reality is that for anyone reporting on Universal Analytics for a KPI, it’s in all likelihood you’re not gonna be able to report on the Universal Analytic. It’s not gonna come over the same way in Google Analytics 4 as it did in Universal Analytics, so it’s just going to be weird, honestly, because it’s a whole reeducation of the relevant numbers and backing up how the numbers have changed.
Jeff White: Have you started having these conversations already or are you kind of planning for them? Yeah? What has been the response from the executive team?
Justin Rinaldi: Right now, I’m really working on seeing what first-party data we can track more efficiently that we receive, being more precise on number of communications with our customers—whether it’s culling in our email forms or on our chat on our website—just starting there to really track the number of people that we are getting because they want to give us their data to begin with. So, I think that’s a good starting point for us, as well as looking at Semrush.
Semrush is a crazy powerful tool, but it’s a lot of relevant numbers where the number is based on a calculation. So, if they don’t crawl your page, the numbers can be off. So, it’s all in a database where the crawlers may or may not pick it up, if they’re scanning it a couple times a month. It’s not like having it straight from the source within Universal Analytics I guess is what I’m getting at.
Jeff White: Yeah, more an estimation of your traffic and those things, because they’re not seeing it all, obviously. I think it is interesting, this move towards first-party data, and Carman and I recorded an episode in the fall talking about how this was probably going to be the path forward. It’s a bit like reviving Seth Godin’s principle of permission based- building that permission-based list a little bit more strongly, and kind of beginning to rely more on the things that you own, as opposed to being reliant on a tool that Google is providing and then changing and pulling out from under us.
So, what kinds of things are you looking to collect with first-party data, and do you have a sense of where you’re going to take that and how you’re gonna use it?
Justin Rinaldi: Definitely. I think leveraging trustworthy vendors, news sources, industry sources, is going to be vital for us. Recently, at the end of December, we delved into our first influencer to reach different groups of woodworkers that we’ve been missing. The home hobbyist, the cabinet shop, the woodworker who wants to be engaged on social media platforms. So, in all likelihood we’ll be going a bit heavier with influencer marketing, cutting back on email marketing unless we have someone’s consent that they are interested, which we already took a pretty big step back with our email marketing focusing solely on engaged customers, engaged prospects, as opposed to mass emails. We found that when sending an email directly to someone that we were getting like 60, 70% open rate, while sending in a mass email, we would get like under 3% open rate. And I think that’s because of the cookie tracking on the emails going out to 5,000+ contacts.
So, trying to leverage the data we have available to us to be able to make sure that our touch points are better touch points and can… It’s a better use of our time or the actual touch point. Because we don’t want to… As a marketer, I hate when someone gets an email and they say, “I never signed up for this. I don’t want to be on it.” It’s like, “Well, that’s a problem for us because we try and curate our list and make sure that we’re only marketing to people that are engaged with us, because we don’t want too many emails coming out.”
Carman Pirie: So, I know that it’s obviously kind of not quite the same challenge as analytics, but it’s tangentially connected. It’s just kind of the management of digital consent and the enhanced focus on that with GDPR and other similar regulations. My assumption is that you’re kind of encountering those headwinds at about the same time.
Justin Rinaldi: Definitely. We leverage HubSpot for a CRM system, and luckily they have a pretty good GDPR compliance. They have it built in with their system, so it’s easier for us to deal with those issues.
Jeff White: Yeah. I think the GDPR question and kind of… I mean, it’s interesting that it’s happening at the same time as the move to GA4 and away from Universal Analytics that more and more people are becoming aware of, and concerned with the implementation of GDPR compliant cookie tracking—or lack thereof—with implementation of tools like CookieYes and stuff like that, that end up actually hiding a significant portion of traffic from people who are used to seeing that information in their analytics.
It’s the kind of thing that feels like you’re becoming a bit more blind about what’s actually going on in the traffic that’s coming to your site. You don’t necessarily see 30% of it, or perhaps an even larger amount, or it transitions to direct, and you don’t know why. Certainly, a confusing time to be a marketer, but you know, the move towards more privacy is the way it’s going to go. Not less. How is that kind of idea impacting your strategies, especially for eCom, where you’re so reliant on kind of seeing that path of finding you, and then making a purchase, or considering something, and then actually transacting online? Are you kind of thinking about the fact that you won’t be able to see some of this traffic at all, let alone seeing it differently like with GA4?
Justin Rinaldi: Honestly, I’m not too worried about it. The only reason I say that is because when I rebuilt the website two to three years ago, I implemented some pretty high level strategies, rewrote pretty much 95% of the site. We focused on providing answers to questions that people were having. The Wayback Machine—I really relied on the Wayback Machine for seeing what websites were performing well, what pages were, what pages I needed to modify. And looking back at it three years later, I can tell that by providing a lot of content, by loading up our pages with as much information as possible that helps the consumer make a buying decision, that we could be ahead of the curve knowing that we’re putting our best foot forward, that we’re including the key attributes that people are searching for, that the breadcrumb navigation is where it needs to be for the crawlers to understand what is within our website, what we’re actually trying to sell.
So, having built that into place in 2020 and refining it pretty much every month since, I’m very confident that our eCommerce platform is going to continue thriving, because our number one goal is to keep providing relevant information that helps someone convert to make a purchase—whether it’s someone in accounting that’s getting a credit card from an engineer that needs to buy our machine for his plant 30 miles away, or whether it’s an engineer that has a credit card and he’s ready to buy, then he just needs to look at the product specs. He needs to understand and know what he’s buying.
So having as much information as possible with the right attributes, the right measurables, is the most important thing for me as we head into Google Analytics 4. Because it’s like walking into the house I left this morning but having it cut off, and put on stilts, and it’s really just walking into a new house. It’s a little shaky. So, as long as I have the basis, the furniture, the foundation within the website, and my systems that I’m living in, I’m confident that it’s not gonna be too much of a transition.
Carman Pirie: I think that’s important. You know, in some ways the right answer in 2018 or 2020 is the right answer today, right? What you need to do as a marketer in order to really serve the customer, that hasn’t changed as much as all the toolset and everything else that we have to do with that.
Justin Rinaldi: Yeah. As long as you’re not doing anything black hat, as long as you’re not cloaking with your ads campaigns, I think it’s pretty easy heading into the transition. It’s just the information that is going to be lost is a real unknown with how much that impacts and what reporting numbers it really is going to hit, because I’m still working through my process of how I want to handle this and how I plan on it. It’s a little scary at the same time knowing that I have a pretty good house on stilts to live in heading into this shift on July 1.
Jeff White: You bring up an interesting point around ads and things like that. Are you exploring new media channels and new ways of kind of getting the messaging out beyond the walls of your house on stilts?
Justin Rinaldi: Oh, absolutely. There’s a power in numbers. Having the right vendors, the right industry partners is really important, but looking at going after new and emerging technologies, influencer marketing obviously being the big one for us. Working on a couple influencers for 2023 that I think have pretty good opportunities, and just looking at what has worked, what has not worked. Obviously, with magazines and print, that’s probably a whole nother podcast recording just about the media trends.
But it’s a big part of marketing strategy is having the right graphics, having the right people backing up your products and supporting it, because as a manufacturer, there’s only so much that you can provide without beating someone over the head being too biased. You know, without having the message be too biased because, “Oh, it’s coming straight from the manufacturer,” as opposed to having an actual woodworker sign maker that tells someone about their product and they buy it from you.
That has a lot of legs because it opens up another door of, “Well, could other sign shops do this? Could other woodworking shops advocate for our product and drive its revenue?” Especially with challenges within dealers and resellers that have 2,000 SKUs they’re trying to sell. It’s interesting to see who consumers find as credible, and how do we get to people that are engaged by them—whether they’re doing different projects on Instagram, or they’re on different trade shows, presenting at trade shows. It’s how do we work with them, how do we work and promote our product together?
Because we’re seeing a really big shift in how people decide to convert and where they decide to convert. We used to be heavy on email marketing and it’s really started to steer away from email marketing. It’s a lot of going to Google finding it, and there’s some concerns heading into Google Analytics 4. It’s do we know which keywords they’re coming in on? Not sure that’s gonna be accessible.
Jeff White: It’s interesting. We’ve had other B2B tool companies on the podcast in the past, and thinking of Klein Tools, and National Nail, and a few others, and the drive towards the use of influencers to create interest in the product, and get new product launches out there, are you exploring kind of primarily around new product launches with influencer campaigns? Or are you doing that with just everything that’s available and just sort of looking for people who are using the product day to day? Or are you actually involving them directly in the creation of new products? How far are you going?
Justin Rinaldi: Both. Because our company was founded in 1958, so we have a lot of legacy products that just kind of are flagship, so everybody knows our company for the panel saws, and we do it well, but we want to market it better at a higher level. So my goal is to find people that align with our values, that align with our products, and that aren’t just gonna use it through the contract and get rid of it, but actually have a place for it in their day-to-day life, or in their day-to-day business operations. [Someone] that actually knows how to take care of the machine, and it’s not just gonna sit in storage for a year after they’re wrapped up using it.
Carman Pirie: It’s interesting to me to think about how it’s a bit of a different muscle for marketers to flex. You know, there was a time when you could be doing a pretty full suite of marketing things and never leave your office, never leave the computer screen really. Didn’t have to collaborate with folks too much. You could pretty much be a one-person show in some respects. And as organizations kind of have to, like you say, pivoting from say email marketing to influencer marketing, that’s pivoting from something you can do solo in some way to something that you now need to collaborate with other humans on, which means other humans are messy! And they have preferences too that you may not know about in advance.
I just think it’s an interesting mindset shift for marketers to be navigating, and it scales quite a bit differently, too, doesn’t it? I mean, or how you think about scaling it.
Justin Rinaldi: Yeah. The metrics are obviously pretty trackable when you’re publishing videos within Instagram, YouTube—knock on wood—and so it’s really nice to be able to track, see who’s commenting, the followers that come in. As opposed to magazines where, “Oh, it’s gone out to 70,000,” but you’re on page like 63, and unless you have a QR code on it and someone scans it, you’re not actually tracking it. A lot of magazines hit the trash can before they get opened.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. There’s no question from a traditional kind of print-based outreach to digital there’s just a huge difference in-
Justin Rinaldi: Yeah, because the price points are pretty much the same with the magazines. I look at previous contracts that I was involved in on the magazine spend and I want to throw up because of how much money was put into the magazine and print side of it while seeing better results and strategies that have been implemented since on the digital side.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. I like to beat up on those trade publications pretty hard, especially their digital, what they do digitally, because it’s almost always frankly half-assed and overpriced, and just kind of running off of the legacy benefits of their print publications, which are also overstated. So, I don’t think you’re alone as a marketer calling BS on that, but it can be sometimes hard to convince the powers that be that have been in those publications for 50 years that maybe now it’s time to give up the back cover, you know?
Justin Rinaldi: Yeah.
Jeff White: You’ve had a really interesting and far-reaching impact on what you’re doing at Safety Speed, and you’ve been at it a while, and learning things, and learning to adapt to these challenges that are thrown at you that aren’t necessarily… Normally, we’re used to getting challenged by our executive to do things, and now we’re getting new things that we have to adapt to, and change based on the technology and tools. Can you recall a time where you experienced something like this that completely redirected your strategy previously and how you might have approached that then?
Justin Rinaldi: Yeah, that’s an easy one. In 2019, about three months into the job at Safety Speed, our website pretty much crashed. We could no longer take payments from our WooCommerce platform. It was just… It just literally broke. So, we had to shift the marketing initiatives: instead of trying to get people to convert online to try and get people to call in over the phone while the website was rebuilt with all the content rewritten that I rewrote. So, it was just really chaotic, because I was new on the job, and went through that, and obviously the numbers took a tank my first year. So it was just really challenging to keep my sanity while the new website was rebuilt, and obviously website rebuilds, if it happens within two or three months after the timeline, you’re in a good spot.
So, we fought a lot of timeline issues, too, because we obviously needed to get our eCommerce platform up and running, and it was just a lot to take on while still trying to manage all the day-to-day marketing ops.
Jeff White: Man, you’ve been through the ringer in the last four or five years.
Carman Pirie: It’s amazing we’re talking to you and you’re still there, to be frank.
Justin Rinaldi: I know, right?
Carman Pirie: Well, Justin, it’s been great to share your story with our listeners today. I’ve enjoyed getting to know more about you and Safety Speed. Thanks so much.
Justin Rinaldi: Yep. Thank you so much.
Jeff White: Cheers. Thank you.
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Justin RinaldiMarketing Director
Justin Rinaldi oversees the marketing operations for Safety Speed Manufacturing, overseeing all eCommerce, digital experience, website development, and marketing initiatives.