Interview with Monica C. Smith, Founder & CEO of Marketsmith Inc.

Interview with Monica C. Smith, Founder & CEO of Marketsmith Inc.

Monica C. Smith
interviwes
Monica C. Smith
Monica C. Smith
Founder & CEO of Marketsmith Inc.
Marketsmith

On Marketing Technology


MTS: Tell us about your journey as a marketing leader

I founded Marketsmith, Inc. in 1999 and the agency is now a leader in data-driven direct marketing strategy.  Marketsmith was ranked by Inc. Magazine as the #1 Woman-Led Company in the New York metropolitan area and #5 nationwide. In August 2015, Marketsmith was ranked #97 in the Inc. 5000.

Recognizing that my agency and its clients needed a faster, more efficient way to churn and analyze vast amounts of data, I founded i.Predictus, a predictive analytics-based platform in 2011, which currently is the definitive leader in marketing and media automation. On average, our users see 30 percent increase in ROI. In 2015, I purchased Brushfire, an industry-leading creative agency. Today, all three companies allow for unfettered collaboration and innovation.

For three straight years, I have driven over $1.5 billion in retail sales annually and am responsible for the management of $200 million of media spend annually (about 10% of all DRTV inventory), and am one of only a few women who has successfully raised capital in the tech arena. I was also a finalist for the 2014 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

MTS: Tell us about your journey as an investor:

For the most part, I have invested in technologies that would take my business to a new level.

MTS: What is the inspiration behind starting i.Predictus?

When I first invested in i.Predictus, it was because I was looking for a way to have the people on my team use their time to make decisions from information rather than having them use it to create information.  You see, we were spending an extraordinary amount of time trying to find answers in large meta-data sets. It was an untenable situation because we were going through data line by line but still couldn’t guarantee our clients a better outcome on next week’s spend. I knew I had to find a better way.

That said, I invested in the development of a product that would leverage my own business model and give me the ability to use my human capital more efficiently. What I realized later was that I was looking to automate the marketing function before marketing automation technology existed.

MTS: How much time did it take for i.Predictus to realize Jules as a tangible platform for marketers?

All told, it took three years from concept through development and trial for us to realize the final product. The issue we struggled the most with was attribution.

MTS: Help us understand the difference between Audience Data, Device Data, and Identity Management. How is analytics different for each of these?

In terms of audience data, the consumer is one of many, but there are similarities between them. There are similar personas in each group with like preferences and traits, so they are grouped by the similarities. Device data looks at individual devices and focuses primarily on micro data such as key stroking, geo-location, and other factors such as the number of apps that they may have and what those apps are, how they’re used, etc. Finally, identity management collects information about individual consumers. We focus on all three, but we look at them differently depending on the analysis we are trying to get to. As a direct marketing agency, we hyper focus on individuals, and we score against many audiences. We also use outside data sources to understand a particular person or cohort and what they are actually reacting to.

MTS: There is a lot of ambiguity around data privacy from a consumer POV, as well as from a marketer’s POV. Could you help with a benchmark definition?

I don’t believe there is a benchmark definition because currently there is no absolute on data privacy. You could say that privacy is in the eye of the beholder. There is a myriad of privacy statements that are constantly undergoing revision, and there is no one aggregated source. You’ll always be at the mercy of the last statement you read.

MTS: Do you think the B2B market is ready for customized audience data? If yes, why so?

The B2B market is clearly ready for customized audience data, and it is available for analysis and actionable insights in this space – but the challenge is in communicating with CMOs. The CMO position has a fluidity now, more than ever before – so the longer-term commitment needed for true data analysis has become much more elusive.

MTS: What do you see as the single most important technology trend or development that’s going to impact us?

According to Gartner’s latest CMO Spend Survey the technology spend of the CMO is on track to eclipse that of the CIO this year with the average CMO’s tech budget representing 27% of their overall budget.  This is no surprise with digital advertising budgets rising significantly and the Martech and Adtech explosion.

On the marketing side, this highly competitive, fast-paced, data-driven digital world forces the CMO to remain on top of a myriad of technologies.  Technologies like predictive analytics, big data, behavioral targeting and the Internet of things are just a few of the technologies a modern CMO requires to survive.  This puts a strain on enterprise IT departments that tend to move at a slower, more deliberate pace and focus on things like security and scalability.

To bridge this chasm between marketing and IT, a new type of leader is emerging in many companies, the chief marketing technologist (CMT).  Like the ancient Roman God Janus, the CMT is simultaneously looking in two directions. Part IT and part marketing, the CMT is the fulcrum, and with a mission and vision to drive marketing’s agenda while embracing IT’s processes and controls.

I believe another trend will be the continuous reduction of costs in terms of data warehousing. We will soon be able to access more data faster and cheaper than ever before.

MTS: Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign?

I’d like to direct you to our case study for Ninja Coffee Bar.  We directly went after people that were spending significant amounts of money at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. We were able to create a $100 million business model within 90 days.

MTS: How do you see data visualization transforming B2B commerce in 2017?

Data visualization has replaced ADTECH and SaaS as the most important marketing economy. I predict that ADTECH business models will fall by the wayside as data visualization gives B2B marketers the ability to create the way they want to see and report with complete control and understanding of their data. Visualization is here to stay and will get more competitive and innovative with time.

MTS: Do you think mobile-first brands have to find better ways to tackle data privacy issues related to the consumer?

Absolutely!

MTS: What are the possible action plans for such marketers?

Interestingly, we find that younger consumers don’t have the same expectations of privacy as do the boomers. I think these marketers should be researching Gen X, Gen Y and Millennial data sets with go-to-market tactics to explore the issue.

MTS: What was your opinion on our recent piece: Modern Marketers Awry About Turning Into Data Scientists?

Clearly, today’s CMOs find the amount of available data to be overwhelming. This is why we’ve invested so heavily in a visualization platform that allows marketers to quickly and easily understand the value of their data. We believe it eliminates the pain of “analysis paralysis” and gets you to your insights faster than ever before.

MTS: Will ID management ever become part of marketing automation like LinkedIn is trying to do? Or, will it continue to be a stand-alone category for CMOs to choose and invest in? 

ID management is 110% specific to strategic business models. CMOs have to look at it individually in terms of where their company is headed.

MTS: Do you think regulatory policies prove a restrictive barrier for marketers in providing hyper-personalized experiences to customers owing to adherence of data privacy?

I feel it is necessary, but not restrictive. I don’t believe they are overreaching. In fact, this is where a creative marketing agency like ours has the ability to shine. We are able to source and comprehend the data that is legally available, to create and execute personalized programs that impact our clients’ businesses.

TRENDS, CHALLENGES, AND INSIGHTS

MTS: How do you see account based marketing evolving with the proliferation of AI?

There’s a lot of talk right now about AI, but AI is what direct marketers have been using since the beginning of time, but didn’t have a name for. Simply put, AI uses and maintains data that has value and the ability to solve marketing challenges. It’s nothing we haven’t done before; we’ve just automated it.

AI and data go hand in hand because we are now able to aggregate data at the speed of light. We just did a project where we collapsed to three years of data and produced a modeling report in 48 hours. Back in the day, such a project would’ve taken four months.

MTS: What’s the message to B2B enterprises that neither use PA nor ABM in their stack?

Get with the program or prepare to face extinction! What many B2B enterprises fail to realize is that predictive analytics is less expensive than they think it is, and it’s also more accessible and noncommittal, so there’s really no risk.

MTS: How can marketers use PA (Predictive Analytics) for CRM data cleansing and data standardization? What’s the ideal roadmap for CRM users to do it effectively?

All of this language is really direct marketing 2.0. Data cleansing is where most companies seem to get it wrong. They are just not focused on it because of the sheer amount of human error is so high. We are better because we spent so long building up data cleansing and error management algorithms. Marketers need to realize that you don’t need to spend a large amount of money to get your data clean.

The roadmap is to start with comprehensive data discovery and, as we like to say, find the dead bodies and eliminate them. You have to assess the situation and determine where your data is, what it looks like, and where is the highest risk for errors. This is usually a result of where the data is or how it was acquired.

MTS: What is the biggest challenge for startups that are yet to integrate an automated marketing analytics platform like i.Predictus?

What we see most often is that startups seem to be frozen because they are unsure about what to do with their data and they mistakenly believe the solution requires an enormous budget. I think they find it overwhelming because they tend to look at enterprise solutions that are far too large, when, in fact, a scalable solution like i.Predictus — combined with marketing support services — would be a much better fit.

MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?

We rely on our proprietary technology like error management, warehousing tools, and machine learning/AI.

MTS: How do you prepare for an AI centric world as a marketing leader?

AI is clearly a faster way to process data, but it is not a foreign concept to us as marketing leaders. That said, we’ve already prepared…our challenge now lies in educating and preparing others.

THIS IS HOW I WORK

MTS: One word that best describes how you work.

Fierce.

MTS: What applications or software tools can’t you live without?

Waze

MTS: What is your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

Our Collective.  I have two leaders from each area within the agency that I bring together to help me solve challenges.

MTS: What are you currently reading, and how do you consume information?

I am a voracious reader. I’m currently reading a book titled Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.

MTS: What is the best advice you have ever received?

Read.

MTS: What is something you do better than others, the secret of your success?

I’m an excellent coach. I know how to create great teams and nurture each player to bring out the best of what’s inside them so they can rise to their full potential.

MTS: The one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Jeff Bezos

MTS: Thank you Monica! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

In my world, outcomes are critical. I am driven by the idea that part of my personal journey is to make an impact for this world. I wake up every day with great desire and unbounding energy to drive outcomes for my clients, my team and those in need. I believe that those of us who have found success owe it to this world to give back and share what we have gained.

I love what I do, who I do it for and who I do it with. I am extremely dedicated to the idea that stereotypes, biases, bad habits and otherwise dysfunctional human practices have no place in the workplace. I believe the workplace should be filled with joy, kindness and laughter.

My mission is to share these beliefs to create massive change in the business environment; to grow our economy by relentlessly improving upon successful business models; and to embrace diversity of all kinds–gender, racial and neuro–in the workplace and in the “C” Suite.

I believe that our economy is a global economy; that it is critically important that everyone should continue to build on and keep sharpening skills, no matter how successful or experienced a person may be in a career. That is why learning, growing and evolving is inherent in the DNA of our company culture.

That’s also why I share my story, without holding back, of how I became a successful woman entrepreneur with learning disabilities. It is my belief that people underestimate their abilities all the time. My job is to inspire and lead my team of extraordinarily talented and passionate people.

Marketsmith

Founded in 1999, Marketsmith Inc. is a fast-growing, woman-owned integrated marketing agency born out of direct-to-consumer response marketing. Our goal is to use data to optimize brand communication and deliver greater ROI across all channels using the patented algorithms of our iPredictus marketing analytics platform. WBE Certified, we employ a diverse mix of talented professionals and handle over $200MM in media billings. We believe that Technology is the New Creativity – and most importantly, we do great work so we can do good things. We are also recognized as one of NJ’s 2017 50 Best Places to work, and Coolest Places to Work by NJBIZ.

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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