Tam Tam is a top digital agency based in The Netherlands with more than 130 employees. Tam Tam works with clients such as HBO, Nestlé, WWF and FIFA FIFPro. They are a fully digital integrated agency that runs campaigns, builds apps and designs digital experiences for top brands. The agency differentiates itself by having a strong data driven culture, internally and with their clients. We had the opportunity to interview Jeroen Heydendael, Senior Strategist at Tam Tam and explore how they became a real time agency and developed a strong competitive advantage.

Below are some excerpts from our conversation.

Jeroen, what is your role at Tam Tam?

I am a Strategist Advisor; I can’t build anything. I’m not a technician. Instead, I help customers to think about the digital channels they should explore, I help them to identify clear goals and understand their audiences. I help our clients to prioritize their digital activity. When did you start using Geckoboard and how did the drive to report in real time start at Tam Tam? It all started with a recommendation, two years ago I was in a meeting at a Social Media monitoring tool company and they said, “Oh you should look at Geckoboard”. We pretty soon signed up and started using it. At that time we were focusing more and more on what your online channels can produce for you, in stead of just how cool a website looks.

When we started this company 17 years ago we were just building websites, an online Bob the Builder. Now we are with 130 Tammo’s (pet name for our co-workers) and thinking strategically with our customers so we need to know more about the numbers. Data became the center of our intelligence internally and also for our clients. When we started using those dashboards, people changed, mainly because if you see those numbers on the wall in your marketing department, or anywhere, then people get more focused on the data. Those numbers represent the goals, so it helped me as an advisor to implement that goal- oriented thinking with our customers. Marketing nowadays is staying in touch (and in sync) with your clients. Real time data is a bare necessity to do that.

How did you manage to build this kind of transparency into client relationships? I can imagine it is a challenge, and once you start sharing real time data about what is happening with the campaigns, they have full visibility if things go wrong. Maybe you don’t want to share everything until you can fix it, or maybe you want to anticipate things before you make the client panic. How does that work?

We are always very transparent and a bit optimistic about it. With clients, transparency goes both ways, they also need to be transparent with their numbers and help us get the big picture. It is always a process but it is worth it. For instance, if you are talking about web numbers, real time, or maybe with a little bit delay, or social media campaigns, sometimes the numbers go down because it is the nature of digital data. Once, one of our customers took their whole board of directors to see the dashboard on the wall and they noticed some numbers were down and they went, “Whoa! What’s wrong, what’s wrong?” Well, there’s nothing wrong. We had a Google ad campaign and it stopped, and so the traffic goes down. That’s normal. At the beginning, they are always a bit shocked, and then they get used to it and guided by it thereafter. So that’s the transformation. It helps the clients to better understand digital and what the numbers really mean.

How is having real time metrics displayed in the agency helping operations internally?

We love online, and try to bring our administration as much as online as we can. Almost all of our internal data is open for all our co-workers (e.g. vacation hours, planning, sales information, customer satisfaction) Everybody is informed and on top of what is going on and we never liked big reports, who does? Having real time data visibility also helps us to be more consistent because everybody gets the same information and, more or less, the same view on stuff. Things change so fast in this industry that you do not have time to start debating things just because people do not have the information they need. You can’t spend time on those discussions, instead you spend time building insights and generating ideas to improve what the data is telling us.

What advice would you give to other agencies that are interested in becoming more data driven?

I think, from a marketing perspective, the ultimate marketing is being constantly in contact with your customers. It is not always selling. Data can help clients to understand how to design experiences and improve communication by understanding their behavior and responding faster to their needs. We have this analogy here with the movie “The Matrix”. You know when all those green characters are dripping over your screen? Then suddenly at the moment that Neo achieves enlightenment, he sees that somebody. That’s what we’re doing as an agency; we are helping clients to see their clients through the numbers. We want to still be creative, but we need those numbers to formulate the right assumptions. So those numbers help us create an image of our customers’ customers. We need that to act. Because the customer is changing so fast, we have to always be in sync with them. That is the real challenge!

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