MarTech Interview with Lewis Gersh, CEO, PebblePost

MarTech Interview with Lewis Gersh, CEO, PebblePost
MarTech Interview with Lewis Gersh, CEO, PebblePost

“The efficiency of email marketing is great, but because many campaigns can come off as “spammy” to shoppers, its efficacy suffers.”

Tell us about your role and journey into Data-driven Marketing Technology. What inspired you to start at PebblePost?

Prior to founding PebblePost, I worked for over 20 years as an entrepreneur, venture capitalist and startup executive. My background is in digital and programmatic advertising, and dates back to its earliest days. I was fascinated by how quickly programmatic was evolving, and by 2014, I was spending a lot of time thinking about where programmatic would go next. This was on my mind as I retreated to one of my favorite places to think, my farm in upstate New York – call it free-range thinking. I was cutting some grass on my tractor, running all these various programmatic scenarios through my head, when it hit me: Everybody had forgotten about direct mail. It’s the second-largest ad spend next to TV, has the highest response rate of any media, and there’s been no new product in 25 years…

I realized there was potential to make some major efficiency improvements. By infusing digital intent data with direct mail, we could bring the best of digital marketing to the physical world—and create the first new marketing channel since search and social. That was the beginning of Programmatic Direct Mail, and how PebblePost became the leading digital-to-direct mail marketing platform.

From the time you started at PebblePost, how much has the Digital Marketing paradigm changed?

In an increasingly digital world, email, SEO and retargeting campaigns have become the gold standard for a digital marketer’s playbook; but the popularity of these tactics creates a competitive landscape, with marketers vying for key real estate on shoppers’ electronic devices. The efficiency of email marketing is great, but because many campaigns can come off as “spammy” to shoppers, its efficacy suffers. And no matter how enticing the content of a company’s messaging, there’s already a high likelihood it will be skimmed over or deleted.

People are also becoming more digitally savvy and taking ownership of their online browsing experience. This means shoppers can download plug-ins and add ons for email platforms that block or filter promotions, resulting in failure to even reach shoppers. In addition, it’s easy to unsubscribe, which means shoppers that might still have interest and would have made a purchase—but just hate junk mail—will lose out on promotional offers.

The solution is to increase the efficacy of email marketing or any supporting campaigns by connecting with consumers in a more respectful and meaningful way. The key is to deliver a highly relevant message so shoppers don’t feel spammed or stalked by brands through retargeting. At PebblePost, we do this with Programmatic Direct Mail. We increase consideration and drive conversions by delivering a timely, relevant, physical reminder at home.

What is Programmatic Direct Mail technology? How can CMOs leverage the technology to drive Email Marketing campaigns?

Programmatic Direct Mail combines the power of digital with the performance of direct mail to help brands find new buyers and drive great marketing results. Our platform combines advanced targeting, algorithmic optimization and quantitative analysis to identify and select consumers most likely to be influenced by Programmatic Direct Mail. This solution allows brands to continue the conversation with qualified consumers at home.

Our brand partners—including Boxed, Parachute, Dyson and Bear Mattress, to name a few—use Programmatic Direct Mail to reconnect with their shoppers at the right time—in a highly relevant and respectful way. Whether the campaign strategy focuses on new customer acquisition, retention or broader brand awareness, Programmatic Direct Mail offers a unique way to activate at-home purchase decisions and drive conversions across channels.

How does your role at PebblePost enable your product innovation and development teams to deliver to customers?

At PebblePost, I leverage my 20-plus years of industry experience to ensure product, sales and marketing teams have their needs met, and feel good about the work they’re doing. On the funding side, I make sure that investors feel confident in the strategy and quality of Programmatic Direct Mail performance.

Since we invented the first new marketing channel since search and social, innovation comes naturally to our teams, and it’s exciting to be a part of something that has never been done before.

Tell us more about your recent report on home-based digital intent data and how Programmatic Direct Mail works for retail.

Our latest research study, Home is at the Heart of Commerce Marketing, demonstrates the importance of direct mail in a shopper’s path to purchase, with nearly 90% of buying decisions made at home.

The central role of the home, coupled with 90% of intent data available online and 90% of purchases occuring offline, means that marketers must align digital and traditional marketing strategies — including direct mail — to maximize ROI and drive conversions across every purchase channel.

Our product, Programmatic Direct Mail, goes a step further by bridging the digital and physical worlds. PebblePost helps brands find new buyers by capturing real-time online intent to deliver timely, relevant direct mail at home—where most purchase decisions are made.  It’s a way for brands to create a physical experience for the consumer in the home, using a channel that has proven, year after year, to generate response rates that are among the highest in the industry.

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in direct marketing technology for 2019?

  • More Combined Digital/Physical Strategies: More brands, particularly challengers and disruptors, will look beyond digital and embrace new touchpoints on the path to purchase that help disrupt the typical shopper experience. This includes leveraging the best parts of digital and traditional marketing tactics to make a meaningful impression on shoppers in the physical world. When delivered in a relevant and respectful way, direct mail can help keep brands top of mind and part of meaningful household conversations that drive consideration and conversion.
  • Improved Measurement: Measuring tools are becoming significantly more accurate at tracking campaign effectiveness, but there’s still a long way to go in offering a holistic view of cross-channel performance. More specifically, measuring omnichannel digital marketing, for all its high-tech flash, isn’t there yet. And without a fully functioning digital component, true omnichannel marketing remains a mirage. The reason is, it’s difficult to accurately measure when digital ads are targeting online shoppers who are more likely to purchase offline.

What part of these developments could be accelerated by Big Data Analytics and AI?

Combining digital and physical marketing strategies will lead to more complex and broader data sets. Using AI and big data will help marketers better understand and identify the right marketing mix to optimize campaign results. AI and big data will play a key role in advancing attribution and improving measurement for marketing campaigns. Marketers will be able to see what people are buying, where they’re buying it, and why—with significantly more accuracy.

Which marketing and sales trends are you excited about trying and working with, in 2019-2020?

I’m excited to see how challenger brands and direct to consumer (D2C) brands begin to adopt more omnichannel strategies and embrace programmatic technology’s transformative effective on direct mail. As newcomers and disruptors in retail, D2C brands are innovation leaders when it comes to the space.

By working with brands that challenge the status quo—like us here at PebblePost—we might be able to find even more innovative ways to evolve Programmatic Direct Mail.

How do you prepare for complex digital marketing challenges?

The best way to approach any complex problem is to start solving with the end in mind. It’s the most reliable way to uncover what’s working — and what needs to be fixed.

A marketer or brand needs to have clear line of sight into what their campaign goals are, before they can decide the best technology, channel or strategy to employ.  We work with lots of brands who are surprised to find that once they are clear on the desired outcome they’re looking for, the path to achieve it is not what they might have initially assumed.

For example, omnichannel marketers looking for insights into how to better sell to customers should look at regression as it relates to purchase channel. Each purchase maps back to one individual person in one household. Therefore, if we look at where people make purchases by channel, and then append data about the product segment and what level of consideration the purchase required, we’ll have some incredibly useful data about that buyer and that purchase.

How do you identify the biggest advantages and challenges in making data analytics and intelligence technology a staple in modern CMO’s stack?

Most marketers recognize the value of data analytics, but many can be skeptical about how direct mail can significantly improve ROAS for most brands. Omnichannel attribution is one of the last remaining hurdles to solve in the marketing world. Once we have an effective system that can trace purchases back to the points of influence and decision, we get a clear picture on the efficacy of different marketing channels. By demonstrating how most conversations about purchase decisions center around the home, people can begin to see how a piece of relevant direct mail taped on a fridge and used as a point of discussion can have a lasting impact the entire household.

What role does PebblePost play in sales acceleration processes and acquiring loyal customers?

Programmatic Direct Mail provides an additional and highly effective physical touchpoint along a shopper’s path to purchase. Brands can significantly increase conversion rates by providing relevant and respectful direct mail to shoppers who have shown the highest propensity to convert.

In addition, our latest research shows that nearly 90% of conversations regarding purchase decisions revolve around the home, meaning that a physical world touchpoint, like mail, can provide an important catalyst towards checkout for shoppers.

Tell us about your go-to strategies to support rapid growth, lessons learned through period of massive shift and transition in 2018.

 In 2018, we recognized the need to expand our team and further build the capabilities of our platform. In November we announced the close of our Series C round, which will allows us to continue to support a growing number of brands with the best internal team and leading digital-to-direct mail marketing platform.

Specifically, we plan to invest the new funds into our Programmatic Direct Mail platform, with enhancements in the areas of attribution, re-engagement and prospecting to help brands measure and optimize goals. In addition, we plan to expand PebblePost’s footprint across new vertical and partner channels, giving all brands the simplest and most powerful tool to convert shoppers into buyers.

Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

We use HubSpot as our marketing automation platform and Salesforce as our CRM software. We also use Slack, Asana, Outreach, Google Analytics and Meltwater.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

Direct-to-consumer brands are gaining fast adoption and are experts in creating digital disruption. That’s why I’m keep an eye on innovative DTC brands like Root Insurance, quip and Allbirds.

Tell us about your most outstanding digital marketing campaign. How did you measure the success of the campaign?

BOXED.COM — shopper retention

A bulk online retailer, Boxed wanted to engage customers who unsubscribed from emails, yet were still visiting the site. Boxed knew these were interested customers but didn’t have another way to showcase products or promotions (because they unsubscribed from email).

By positioning Programmatic Direct Mail as an additional channel to reach consumers at home, PebblePost solved how Boxed could reach this elusive group of shoppers.

Customizing our approach, we suggested Boxed test different offers and creatives with direct mail to further incentivize return visits. As a result, the company saw a 60% improvement in Cost Per Order vs. comparable marketing channels. Through the re-engagement strategy we proposed, PebblePost helped Boxed earn a 28% Conversion Rate, which well exceeded their expectations—Boxed typically saw an average Conversion Rate of 5% in other channels.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

My leadership credo is that everyone at PebblePost must take a critical eye toward improving client success. The culture I’ve established for the PebblePost team is one that fosters continuous innovation and improvement.

My goal for my team is that our standards for excellence and customer success are reflected through every touchpoint, from sales and account management to technical support.

One word that best describes how you work.

Always-on

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

Docusign 🙂

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

Hiring people who are smarter than me.

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

Cybersemiotics: Why Information Is Not Enough

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

Follow your passion.

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

I’ve always been comfortable going against the grain and challenging the norm when it comes to technology. During my time fundraising for PebblePost, I was often turned away for the very reason I decided to build Programmatic Direct Mail—because combining the efficiency of digital and efficacy of direct mail had never been done before.

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

Ann Lewnes, Executive Vice President and CMO, Adobe

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

Lewis Gersh is founder and CEO of PebblePost®, guiding corporate strategy and company vision with over 20 years of board and executive management experience. Prior to PebblePost, Lewis founded Metamorphic Ventures, one of the first seed-stage funds, and built one of the largest portfolios of companies specializing in data-driven marketing and payments/transaction processing. Portfolio companies include leading innovators such as FetchBack, Chango, Tapad, Sailthru, Movable Ink, Mass Relevance, iSocket, Nearbuy Systems, Thinknear, IndustryBrains, Madison Logic, Bombora, Tranvia, Transactis and more. Lewis received a B.A. from San Diego State University and a J.D. and Masters in Intellectual Property from UNH School of Law.

Lewis is an accomplished endurance athlete having competed in many Ironman triathlons, ultra-marathons and parenting.

pebblepost logo

PebblePost is the leading digital-to-direct mail marketing platform. We capture online interest and intent data to send relevant direct mail that activates buying decisions at home and drives conversions everywhere. We invented Programmatic Direct Mail to help brands convert more shoppers into buyers using advanced targeting, algorithmic optimization, attribution and quantitative analysis. PebblePost is a venture-backed company based in NYC.

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