Interview with The Marketing Insider - "What the heck does the Head of Marketing @ Cluey Learning do?"

I can’t believe it’s been over 3-years since my last article or video posted here – coincidentally the same time as I started growing and scaling the marketing for Cluey Learning (ASX:CLU) which has become one of the fastest growing tech companies in Australia – raising a Series A and then going onto IPO – all in a few years. More on how we achieved that one day soon! In the meantime, here’s an interview I took part in which originally appeared on The Marketing Insider.

Interview with Duncan Jones – Head of Marketing @ Cluey Learning

In this exclusive we cover:
👉 Duncan’s day to day leading and building Cluey’s internal growth marketing team
👉 Duncan’s role in evolving Cluey’s draw competition, making it the company’s most popular customer acquisition channel
👉 Entry level roles into tech marketing

1. Before we dive into your role at Cluey Learning, what has your career journey looked like so far

I was intrigued by computers and the internet from a young age. I think we had around 10 hours of internet a month in our household at the time – it wasn’t enough! I built some websites as a teenager, sold some advertising spots and tried out a new thing called ‘Google Ads’ when it launched. Spending your own time and money on marketing is a great way to learn – every click that didn’t convert and wasted money hurt, which accelerated the learning process!

From there I was hooked, and after moving to Sydney from New Zealand I secured a job at Webprofits, a growth marketing agency (now a consultancy) where I worked for 8 years helping companies in a range of industries and with different business models to grow revenues and profits. The team at Webprofits are very talented and hungry to learn, try new things, test new tactics and channels, and evolve what they’re doing. That combined with lots of clients with different challenges built my marketing experience and knowledge significantly.

2. Transitioning into work, what the heck does the Head of Marketing @ Cluey Learning do?

What is Cluey Learning?
Cluey Learning is a fast-growing ASX-listed online tutoring business with 2,000+ tutors across Australia and New Zealand and 20,000+ students receiving 1-to-1 and group tutoring to help them learn and build confidence at school.

What does your role entail?
I was hired in 2019 to lead and build an internal growth marketing team (replacing ineffective and expensive external agencies) and to accelerate leads, sales and ultimately the growth of the business, in the most cost effective way possible.

The key parts of the role and things I focus on to enable successful growth are:

  • Hiring a talented fully-remote team – we now have a team of T-shaped marketers from across Australia who are specialists at their respective channels but are curious and keen to learn outside their channel (which improves their overall marketing skills). We have a specialist in Google/Facebook Ads, SEO/Content & Native Ads, Partnerships/Email, Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO), Brand/Offline Media, Creative & Copywriting (the next two roles im hiring for are a CRM/Email Marketer + Web Developer for our team). Most of the work we do is cross-collaboration across channels/skill sets to ensure we maximise the ROI from every piece of work done.
  • Improving tracking – half of my work life seems to be tracking, reporting, analysing and then fixing tracking errors! We have built our own tracking system that enables us to optimise channels and campaigns by lead quality and sales (vs lead volume). We have also spent significant time building connections from our CRM system to our biggest channels (Google/Facebook) via their API so we can optimise campaigns by sales in real-time. The main metric we look at on a daily basis is CAC (customer acquisition costs) per channel which includes both the media cost to get a lead and the sales salary and commissions to convert leads into sales. We rarely look at metrics like CPL (cost per lead), Conversion Rate, Clicks, Click Through Rate etc.
  • Balancing supply & demand – we have a team of 28 sales people and 6 call qualifiers at the moment and it is essential we get the balance between leads generated and available time to call the leads right. At our peak periods we can generate >1,000 leads per day – if we spend too much and get too many leads that are not called quick enough then this impacts our sales conversion rates and ultimately leads to our CAC being too high per student. So we have to balance lead supply and demand on a daily basis to get the mix right.
  • Optimising everything – unfortunately there are no perfect tracking methods or a 100% accurate way of attributing which marketing has worked, BUT there is always some data you can use to optimise and improve the next campaign or next month of marketing activity you do. Whether that’s a metric in your CRM, a metric in the platform itself or research results. Whatever you use it is better to make improvements with what you have than doing the same thing again and again. A good example of this is our TV campaigns – we found an amazing agency Direct Response Media and work with them to optimise our TVC and Advertorial ad placements based on people who visit our website (from specific locations, referrers and above a set baseline) after a set amount of time from the ad airing. This gives data to optimise the channel-mix, program-mix and time/day placements and improve our TV results with every campaign.
  • Using research – for most client-side marketers using qualitative and quantitative research to improve your marketing is probably not new but for anyone in the agency world this is something that is generally lacking. Cluey has a full-time customer insights researcher and the data we get from her consistently improves the campaigns we run. For example, most parents are driven to get tutoring by building their child’s confidence as opposed to getting better grades – most of our competitors’ advertising, however focuses specifically on grades and misses this and other insights that we are utilising.
  • Automating (almost) everything – Whilst most marketers understand that their advertising budget is a finite resource that needs to be spent effectively (spending each dollar as if it was your own) – the one area that is not focused on as much is minimising the use of non-productive time within a team, so that you can invest it in projects where there is the highest possible chance of incremental growth. That’s where automation comes in and is something we focus on a lot at Cluey. A good example of this is the communication we have with our CRM database of 500,000+ subscribers. Instead of sending lot’s of one-off emails which require a recurring time investment (and a lot of last minute scrambling each week) we have built long, automated communication journeys. No matter how parents/students or teachers first interact with us (download a free resource, enter a competition, enquire for pricing) we communicate weekly, using evergreen content and offers to convert them into customers. The automated journeys span 6+ months and vary based on factors they tell us (ie. selecting maths on a form), factors we select (lead closed reason) and factors we detect (ie. view of a pricing page). Automating our entire communication journey in this way required a big one-time effort up front but now continues to generate a positive return on that effort without additional time investment – allowing time/focus to be spent on other projects.
  • Testing & learning – our business has two “peak” periods per year and two with lower demand which leads very well to testing and trying new things. Every six months we have large brainstorm sessions where ideas good and bad are discussed, improved and ultimately tested before being rolled out for our peak period. This cycle of using the time in our off-peak periods to innovate and evolve what we are doing has contributed significantly to the successful growth in each of our peak periods.

Most recently we have been working hard on doing it all again with an acquisition we made, Code Camp, plus learning how to make our “lead gen” focused marketing approaches work for an eCommerce business – a whole new challenge!

3. What’s a project you’ve worked with on in your current role and how did you help bring it to life?

A project we have worked hard on as a team over the past few years is “evolving competitions”. We know most brands run competitions, get brand awareness, collect email addresses and build their databases but we wanted a more commercial outcome from running competitions – ie. direct sales then and there.

We started by running a 6-week competition giving away 1 year free tutoring which worked well and generated thousands of email addresses at a few dollars of marketing costs per email. However these emails take too long to convert and with email open rates as low as they are we missed many opportunities to sell to competition entrants.

So we thought about asking their phone number and sending ALL competition entries to the sales team. However, every lead costs us around $10 in sales salaries to call and with expected low conversion rates from competition entries, the sales team’s time would be too expensive to call all leads.

That’s when the evolution of the competitions we run began, by asking this question:

If they selected Yes they went straight to the sales team (around 8% of people) and then were converted into sales (around 25% of them). We now optimise this question and how it is worded/displayed to increase/decrease lead quality based on CAC targets.

We also optimised other elements – the prize, the length of time we run the campaign and how we promote it. This year we’re running a year-long competition giving away a year of tutoring every month. Check it out here:

Competitions are now our number one campaign in terms of customer acquisition costs with the campaign paying for itself in terms of direct customers acquired then and there. The additional emails acquired (which go onto automated email sequences) and brand awareness from the competition are then effectively “free”.

4. What do the entry level pathways into marketing in tech look like?

In my opinion there is no one “pathway” to becoming a great marketer and building a career. I’ve hired people with no experience working in completely different positions, right through to people with much experience from companies and agencies. The key factor is how curious and interested in marketing and business the person is, their drive to learn and get better, and increasingly for most roles, how good they are with numbers and analysis.

I would recommend anyone wanting to build a career in marketing starts by working for an agency – you’ll upskill faster, get experience across a wide range of industries, learn from a lot of other talented marketers and work out which area of marketing you want to move into.

5. What’s one thing you recommend someone who wants to work in tech marketing do right now?

Start your own small business or find a friend/family member with a small business and test and try some marketing campaigns for them. Using your own money or when the stakes are high (ie. your parents’ business) is a great way to learn and will ensure that when it comes time to spend a clients or companies money, you’ll spend it as if it was your own. Put this experience, where you learnt from (feel free to check out my blog) and the results on your resume – it will help you stand out and most companies will look at self-motivated experience and entrepreneurialism as big positives, especially when interviewing for entry level positions.

Check out interviews with other Australian marketers on The Marketing Insider.

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