Interview with Ken Leren, Founder, Tech Essence

Ken Leren
Ken Leren

“The shift in the market towards getting consent for marketing will result in a more B2C-like approach to B2B brand advertising .”

Tell us about your role and how you got here? What galvanized you to start Tech Essence?

I’m the founder of Tech Essence and brain behind Marketing Town, a SaaS-based marketing technology that provides marketers with a trustworthy and transparent solution to make faster, data-driven marketing optimization decisions based on a clear view of their data.

The idea came to me as a result of personal frustration at a lack of one comprehensive, seamless marketing platform. Before I started Tech Essence, I had difficulty finding a platform that could manage all multichannel marketing campaigns in one place. That’s when I decided to solve the problem by building Marketing Town from the ground up to relieve myself and other marketing professionals of the frustrations associated with using multiple platforms to manage, track and report on campaigns.

How is the European tech industry different from its contemporaries in the Americas? Which markets do you particularly focus on to promote your ideas and products?

One of the biggest differences between the European and US tech industries is the regulatory landscape. Europe is heavily regulated and sees data privacy as a fundamental human right, whereas, in the US attitudes towards data protection are not as stringent. It’s almost like two different worlds.

In May this year, new European General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will come into effect. The law applies to any company that handles data that relates to EU citizens and therefore, will affect US technology companies.

Furthermore, the US maintains the highest density of tech firms resulting in higher levels of competition for talent. In contrast, Europe has the same high caliber of talent, but with less competition. This is a major advantage for those who are trying to attract and retain technical talent because they can tap into a less competitive, but equally talented market and go the extra mile for the perfect hire.

We currently focus on the UK market, but my vision for the future is expanding overseas, specifically in Germany, France, Spain and Scandinavia.

Which marketers would benefit the most from leveraging Tech Essence?

All of them! I say that because all marketers should want to make the most of their time, maximize the return on their advertising spend and understand where consumers are in their journey – from awareness to conversion and beyond. Cross-channel attribution is the holy grail of marketers who want to optimize marketing campaigns and make better data-driven decisions.

Marketing Town creates a single view that accurately measures customer interactions across all channels, devices and touch points. The platform also provides granular data that enables marketers to understand where each publisher stands in the path to purchase.

How do you see a CMO’s budget changing to include powerful Marketing Performance and Data Management tools in 2018?

As a whole, and in stark contrast to the last 5 years, marketing budgets are declining, according to Gartner. The driving force behind this change CMOs’ relentless demand for results.

Digging deeper into this trend we see that the percentage of the CMO’s budget that is allocated towards marketing technology dropped, from 27% of the CMO’s budget in 2016 to 22% in 2017. Meanwhile, budget spent on paid media increased from 22% to 25%.

Both GDPR and ePrivacy will affect the marketing practices of all companies doing business in Europe or have customers who are EU citizens meaning CMOs will have to re-address budgets and resources.

C-level marketers have to understand that the new regulation changes the way marketers manage their prospects’ and customers’ data which includes cookie-based data, email list subscribers and consumer databases. Compliance is going to play an even bigger role as the industry continues to evolve.

We will see budgets increase in areas where companies can collect opted-in, first-party data, for example, email marketing, website optimization and SEO, but there will be a decline in digital, and especially programmatic, advertising budgets as the data available to manage and optimise dries up.

How should B2B marketers leverage customer data and content marketing for better audience reach and targeting?

The solution is no mystery: targeted, relevant advertising that will foster ongoing trust between brands and consumers. I believe, the shift in the market towards getting consent for marketing will result in a more B2C-like approach to B2B brand advertising though marketing trends such as influencer marketing, mobile advertising, social media, content marketing and augmented reality.

For example, use your customers as marketers because customer advocacy marketing through case studies and testimonials is by far the most valuable. Also, if you combine video marketing with influential people from your industry, you will hit the jackpot. Leveraging the channels that are most widely used by your B2B target audience is the way to go – at the end of the day, they are consumers too. The game is changing – more and more B2B businesses are having success leveraging B2C channels. You should be too.

What marketing and sales automation tools are you using in 2018?

  • Hubspot – CRM and marketing automation platform all in one
  • Mailchimp – simple, straightforward email marketing solution
  • Hootsuite – social media posting, listening and scheduling

Tell us about your best digital transformation campaign at Tech Essence?

Businesses that welcome GDPR and use it as a catalyst to update their processes and technologies to support their digital transformation initiatives have an upper hand in the market. One of our biggest clients, an online retailer, came to us as they recognized the need to consider the operational risks associated with using third-parties as data processors.

Through Marketing Town, we helped them transition from traditional third-party advertising to first-party data, as well as gave them the visibility, clarity and insights they needed to improve their campaign performance and get the maximum value from its supply chain while operating within the GDPR guidelines.

Being able to build their confidence in their business’ ability to view and manage data, while significantly reducing their reliance on third-parties means they are now able to compliantly drive more conversions and have more insight into their customers.

It is an indisputable fact that one of the major difficulties in many digital transformation projects revolves around low-quality data, but when you solve that problem you really see results.

How do you see experience platforms evolving with the maturity of AI/ML and voice? What challenges do you foresee marketers will face?

Digital experience platforms (DXPs) have grown in popularity as organizations have shifted from web-centric digital marketing conducted in a silo to multi-channel customer-centric marketing. Similar to Marketing Town DXPs act as a single house for data, no matter where it is sourced from.

Companies such as IBM and Salesforce are investing heavily in AI development and I expect we will see this play out across a broad range of their products, including DXPs.

One of the most interesting concepts is the idea of an AI-powered DXP acting as a personal assistant to a CMO. Let’s say that a CMO receives an automated report every Monday morning at 8:00 am that shows the company’s top line performance over the last 7 days, 30 days and 365 days. That report is reviewed and the CMO questions the marketing leaders about changes in performance, they query the data, provide answers, decisions are made, changes implemented and the process repeated each week.

What AI within the DXP learned from the questions asked of the data and resulting actions and pushed information and advice to the CMO? What if it did this across multiple connected devices? The CMO could be in the car, driving to the supermarket and the speaker system in the car could alert them of a drop in performance, provide answers to questions typically asked of the data when a similar drop is seen, and recommend action based on the outcome of previous actions taken under similar circumstances?

I’m not suggesting the CMO is going to say “OK, yes please go ahead” (not yet anyway) but they can act on the insight much faster than in the previous scenario I described.

Trust will be an issue, as will adoption as people will fear their role will become redundant. However, savvy-marketers will see DXPs and AI as an opportunity to add to their skill sets and do more innovative work to add additional insight and value in ways that machines can’t.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric ecosystem as a business leader?

It is vital that all business leaders understand what AI is and how it is changing the industry. However, it is also extremely important that people recognize its strengths and weaknesses before making any significant decisions about AI. A good way to prepare is to keep an open mind, stay curious and explore the possibilities. AI can be applied anywhere where you can collect, measure data and make predictions and as a curiosity-driven person, I always look for ways to identify opportunities for applying AI to my business and embrace the change.

How do you inspire people to work with technology?

Technology is inherent to everything we do at Tech Essence and I strongly believe that the right technology can make everyone’s life easier. Considering this, we use (and design) technology that has an intuitive, user-centric interface and is ruled with high functionality. Modern design and usability, when blended together, inspires people and keeps them happy for longer.

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

CharlieHR – a powerful HR tool that simplifies all our HR processes
Inbox by Gmail – brings emails, to-do lists and calendar together
GitHub – good solution for online code repository
Hangouts – best communication tool

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

I get things done right from my inbox. I use Inbox by Gmail as my daily to-do list and I only leave unread the things that I plan to do on that given day – nothing else.

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

Right now, for personal development, I’m reading Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss which is an incredible source of routines, habits, and beliefs of the most successful people in the world. It’s the kind of book you will need to keep on your desk for the next time you need a bit of inspiration. I like to keep up with the news and general trends in the technology and business world, as well as monitor the web for interesting new content through Google alerts.

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

‘Your network in your net worth’ which is so true because if you need to achieve more in life and business, you need to invest time and effort in building a strong network of contacts. Your network will help you achieve anything you set out to do.

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

Dhruv Ghulati from Factmata

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

Ken is passionate about – and has extensive technological expertise – in all things digital. Over the last decade, he has worked on multichannel marketing campaigns, bringing in-depth experience in lead generation and performance marketing strategies.

Having identified a gap in the market for performance management software, he founded Tech Essence and launched Marketing Town, a campaign management, tracking and analytics platform, to help businesses realize digital potential through the innovative use of technology.

Tech EssenceTech Essence is a SaaS-based marketing technology solution provider, specialising in helping marketing professionals make informed decisions on measuring and optimising their multi-channel marketing efforts. With the intention to revolutionise partner marketing, we have developed our own proprietary platform, Marketing Town, to take campaign management, tracking and analytics to the next level.

Tech Essence received received a Highly Commended award for the ‘Tech Business of the Year’ category at the Startups Awards in 2017; was recognised as one of the top startups in the UK (Startups 100 2017 Index) and was shortlisted for the ‘UK Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ Award at the UK IT Industry Awards.

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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