Interview with James McDermott, CEO and Co-Founder at Lytics

James McDermott
[mnky_team name=”James McDermott” position=” CEO and Co-Founder at Lytics”][/mnky_team]
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[mnky_testimonial_slider][mnky_testimonial name=”” author_dec=”” position=”Designer”]“Today’s best tech companies have realized that customers want you to lead the way with innovation.”[/mnky_testimonial][/mnky_testimonial_slider]

On Marketing Technology

MTS: Tell us a bit about your role at Lytics and how you got here (what inspired you to co-found a martech company).

Lytics helps brands orchestrate meaningful, one-to-one interactions with people. Our vision is to make customer data the central nervous system for the world’s most successful companies.

Companies such as Atlassian use our customer data platform (CDP) to communicate with each user of its software products in a very tailored fashion — from in-product messaging to triggered emails. The Economist uses our machine learning to personalize its website to the content preferences of each visitor. Dr. Martens employs our data science to realize a 60 percent conversion increase with customers of its iconic shoes.

I first met my co-founder, Aaron Raddon, at Webtrends. Together, working with analytics customers we noticed a bevy of companies wanting to do something with their data, and not simply look at their results. They needed to take action with the data in their marketing tools. Raddon had previously worked for a large private university system — which at one point was one of the largest online advertisers — where he built a platform for reading signals and taking action on the behavior of students to help ensure retention. Together, we decided to launch Lytics to help more companies leverage customer data in their engagement efforts.

My job is to help ensure we’re keeping our eyes on our vision and growing internationally, while listening to customers and employees alike. We more than quadrupled growth in 2016 and are set to do it again this year.

MTS: How does the Lytics platform enable building custom audience segments using predictive insights?

Lytics helps brands orchestrate one-to-one interactions with their customers by serving as a central hub for all of a brand’s customer and visitor interactions — across sales, support, email marketing, web engagement, advertising, social media and more. In short, Lytics lets a marketer actually see what’s going on and finally access a comprehensive customer profile instead of having to piece together snippets from individual marketing tools. Having all of this cross-channel engagement data in one place not only allows a marketer to create custom audience segments and targeted campaigns but it also enables the Lytics platform to surface predictive and behavioral insights that marketers couldn’t otherwise access. Our built-in machine learning algorithms go beyond traditional marketing assumptions and heuristics (clicks, page views, etc.) and surface insights such as who is most “likely to engage” or what content a user shows affinity for based on hundreds of data points.

MTS: What is the range of analytics that Lytics provides?

Lytics provides traditional analytics around reach and conversion on the campaign level (we have native personalization tools that let marketers run digital campaigns within Lytics). From an overall audience perspective, Lytics provides analytics around audience segment growth and we integrate with analytics platforms such as Google Analytics so that marketers can compare analytics from specific audiences segments in Lytics against aggregate Google Analytics data. This enables marketers to filter down metrics and reports to a specific audience or group of audiences for a more refined analysis of user and customer journeys.

MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?

The old-school way of doing things was to watch your competitors and just copy what they’re doing. However, today’s best tech companies have realized that customers want you to lead the way with innovation. So, we’re inspired by the most successful tech companies in the world.

In marketing tech, I’m watching Google and everything they’re doing with Google 360 and their innovation around AI. We’re thrilled to be one of the default tags in Google Tag Manager and we are deeply integrated with Google Adwords, Google Analytics, Google BigQuery and Doubleclick.  As part of their ecosystem, we see customers expanding their use and investments in Google, replacing some of their older and more extensive tools and leverage Lytics + Google as a new modern marketing platform.

In terms of companies outside of marketing software, I’m a huge fan of Snapchat. I’ve been using it with my family for years. And, now, Lytics is collaborating with them and agency RGA around some really cool stuff as part of their marketing tech venture program.

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

We develop marketing technology, so we use our own software every moment of the day to build our business. Using the Lytics Customer Data Platform together with various marketing tools from Google and other partners, we can easily personalize our email, website, ads and so on. We have so many integrations with third-party marketing tools that we think it’s only right that we use each of them on ourselves. At any moment, we might be trying out five third-party email service providers (ESPs)!

Customers and analysts often say our machine learning is one of our stand-out differentiators, so we’re always looking for ways to improve all aspects of our business with it — from marketing and sales to content development.

MTS: Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success)

Our customers (as well as us) have used our data-science based insights to send more efficient email and ad campaigns. For example, most companies run blanket ad remarketing campaigns based on website visits regardless of how likely that user is to convert. By simply filtering this audience segment by those identified by Lytics as “likely to engage,” we’ve helped customers save money and significantly increase their return-on-ad-spend when compared against traditional marketing heuristics. One clothing retailer, Wildfang, made its online advertising 40 percent more efficient using our data science. Emma Mcilroy, CEO of Wildfang, says, “Lytics helped us grow our business by 73% in one year.”

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

There is certainly a place for traditional marketing and a marketer’s intuition, however, AI gives marketers the ability to analyze large data sets at unimaginable speeds and surface insights that go beyond our human abilities. While it’s become a hot topic right now, AI and machine learning have been a part of the Lytics platform from day one. Our goal is to help businesses use machine learning and data science to understand individual customers first and let that guide their individual engagement experience based on their unique interests and personal engagement history — as opposed to starting with a piece of content and pushing it out to a large group of people.

This Is How I Work

MTS: One word that best describes how you work.

Persistent. I wouldn’t be an entrepreneur if I couldn’t put my head down and stick with it. In the people we hire we look for persistence as well. Persistence in making the company better, perfecting the platform, delivering results for our customers and helping our customers orchestrate more relevant experiences for their customers.

MTS: What apps/software/tools you can’t you live without?

Snapchat, Google Apps, LinkedIn, and our partners’ software!

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

Evernote’s mobile app for making mobile lists — especially when I’m traveling on a plane or in transit.

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

I usually have 3 or 4 books going at once. Right now, I’m reading Voices from Chernobyl (The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster), Will in the World (How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare), The Score Takes Care of Itself (Bill Walsh’s Philosophy of Leadership) and Anton Chekov’s A Nervous Breakdown.

MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Two things:
– Be curious and committed to learning; and
– Relentlessly focus on improvement.

MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

Put the team ahead of myself and find ways to work with great people.

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

Marc Benioff.  I love how he re-invents Salesforce every year and builds full commitment and momentum around the mission. I also enjoyed reading Behind the Cloud.

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

Experienced entrepreneur and technology executive with over 15 years of diverse business experience.


Lytics helps enterprises automate personalized marketing experiences through the industry’s most advanced Customer Data Platform (CDP). Popular retailing, media, consumer goods, banking, and tech brands use Lytics to execute one-to-one marketing programs that their customers welcome.

[mnky_heading title=”About the MarTech Interview Series” link=”|||”]

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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