Tell us about your role and journey into Technology. What inspired you to start KORTX IO?
I’ve been writing software since I was a teenager. After studying computer science, I was fortunate to land a job at a traditional ad agency. Here my colleague and I were tasked with developing the agency’s first digital services group. We were terrified but successfully built a team supporting major brands such as Chevy and the U.S. Navy. Since then I’ve either worked for startups or started new practices within existing companies. Most of my jobs were heavily focused in technology, data and analytics, and digital media.
Through these experiences, I saw the rate of technological change and its impact on marketing and advertising. For most marketers it was challenging to develop an approach to MarTech that could evolve with the business. IT made most of the technology decisions and the concept of data ownership was all but foreign.
What is KORTX IO and how does it fit into a modern CMO’s Marketing Technology stack?
KORTX is a hybrid: part programmatic partner, data and analytics agency, and technology solutions provider. This is the three-legged stool from which the company was founded and those are the core areas we continue to invest in. I’m a strong believer that real digital transformation requires clear vision, owning data across platforms, and an intimate understanding of how the pieces fit together. Not in theory, but in practice and at scale. KORTX has done the legwork building solutions from the ground up to solve real business problems.
Every marketer faces strategic challenges and requires a team of dynamic individuals (internal and external) that can, frankly, figure things out at the speed of business. CMOs rely on KORTX to bring our expertise to every engagement whether it be defining the appropriate programmatic buying strategy, supporting data engineering and analytics services, or deploying custom machine learning models to improve targeting and segmentation. KORTX exists to simplify complex problems.
According to you, which businesses are fastest in adopting Marketing Technology platforms for personalized Customer Experience?
Gartner defines customer experience as “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.” While CPG, Automotive, Banking, and Retail are known as CX first movers, with 1 in 3 customers leaving a brand after one bad experience and 87% of firms saying digital disruption will affect their industry, the need to develop intimate relationships with customers transcends every business.
What are the technical challenges that you face in the adoption and deployment of Marketing Technology platforms?
The challenges we encounter are almost never technical. The primary obstacles to adoption are getting buy-in from the top and not having defined goals with clear ties to business outcomes. A program’s success is a function of these two variables.
Implementing marketing technology, and technology in general, involves making the business case to IT, security, procurement, and other stakeholders within an organization. The client must have influencers across these disciplines. We work with clients to identify these individuals at the onset of every engagement. If the client can’t get support from above, the likelihood of failure is high and it’s a project we will not accept.
Another common problem we encounter is “bright, shiny object” syndrome, where clients want to add new products prior to fully understanding how the new product adds business value and fits within the existing technology stack and data strategy. It’s difficult to keep up with the volume of new products developments even for those immersed in the industry, let alone someone who’s full-time job is not evaluating technology. We work with clients to help them define their marketing road map and justify investments with sound business decisions.
Which markets and geographies are you currently catering to?
KORTX currently provides services in North America. We work with brands and agencies of all sizes, from the regional level to some of the Fortune 500’s most recognizable names. We’ve executed in virtually every industry from automotive, CPG and entertainment to healthcare, education, government and more.
Tell us about the new-age integrations that KORTX offers with other Marketing Technology platforms such as Contacts, Contracts, Email and Customer Service.
KORTX’s data unification technology, the AXON platform, is the cornerstone of our competitive advantage. There is an arsenal of MarTech platforms and tools that those of us in the digital media technology space use to run effective campaigns, and every engagement point we establish presents an opportunity to learn more about an audience.
The challenge for advertisers is that the audience data they’re collecting is siloed within a given campaign channel. What they learn about a customer on SnapChat they’re not able to incorporate into a programmatic display campaign, for example.
KORTX developed the AXON platform to tear down those data siloes. AXON ingests data from the innumerable locations its being stored and created into a single platform, updating customer profiles in real time so our clients can build nuanced audience segments. KORTX can then target those segments across channels, delivering uniquely relevant content.
AXON harnesses the collective power of today’s disparate landscape, driving campaign performance across the board and setting in motion a snowball-like digital strategy that gets even more effective with time.
Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use in your current roles?
We recently began rolling out HubSpot’s marketing automation platform, which our sales and marketing teams use for lead intake, nurturing and tracking. On the AdTech side, we have a preferred partnership with AppNexus and utilize tested industry leaders with varying specialties such as ad verification, social, video, machine learning and more.
What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in AI and Data Management technology on CRM businesses for 2019-2020?
Cognitive technology (AI, ML, and “robots”), serverless computing, and stream processing will continue to reshape the entire technological ecosystem (including CRM) by making automated tasks seem less automated, drastically reducing the cost of expensive data processing workloads, and delivering relevant experiences in seconds. These improvements reduce the friction between data and activation which is great for CRM businesses.
CRM vendors will also continue to consolidate and develop intelligent orchestration layers atop the various acquisitions. The goal, of course, is helping sales and marketing teams focus on what’s important while balancing the delivery of exceptional customer experiences. Coordinating (and automating) communications across email, advertising, chat, CRM, contact centers and activities is only the start when considering the emergence of in-home and IOT. These are very exciting times.
What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
Serverless isn’t a startup but more of a movement. The cost savings in terms of operations, hosting, and development, under certain circumstances, are staggering. I’m constantly evaluating how serverless can improve our clients’ businesses bottom line while decreasing time to market.
Unomi, an open source customer data platform, should send chills down the spines of some established vendors. We’ve evaluated and implemented Unomi for a client and were blown away by its performance and features, native support for privacy, and emphasis on data ownership.
H20.ai has democratized artificial intelligence by developing a scalable, open source AI solution that dramatically simplifies the development and deployment of AI models into production. Modeling exercises that once required a team of statisticians can be performed by math savvy engineers.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Martech Business leader?
AI requires two fundamental resources: math and data engineering. Most of the AI/ML models (the math) required to produce value for the majority of businesses have been developed and are freely available as open source solutions. Data engineering is the process of collecting data from disparate systems, cleaning/processing/enriching data, training models, and deploying models to production in a continuous manner. This is where the real value lies. Owning our data and investing in these technical competencies gives us the ability to go where ever the market takes us.
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
One of KORTX core values is Continuous Learnings. Everything we do involves technology. If you’re not passionate, or at a minimum interested in technology, you’re likely in the wrong job. I don’t need to inspire the team to work with technology. The team continues to inspire me every day.
One word that best describes how you work.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
Patience. Often times being first does more harm than good.
What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?
The Fourth Age
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Learn first, follow your passion, and the money will come.
Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
I’m able to quickly translate business problems to functioning code.
Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Thank you, Damon! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Damon Henry is the Founder and CEO of KORTX and has led the company since its beginning in 2014. Passionate about building teams and products, Damon started KORTX to demystify the complex marketing and ad-tech ecosystem for brands and agencies. A developer at heart, Damon cross trained in various lead roles managing cross-functional software teams and large media programs for clients such as the U.S. Navy, Chevy, Chrysler, and PulteGroup. He holds an MBA from the University of Michigan.
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.