MarTech Interview with Zachary Goldstein, CEO and Founder, Thanx

MarTech Interview with Zachary Goldstein, CEO and Founder, Thanx

“It’s all about relevance these days — consumers are sick of being spammed but are happy to engage when the message resonates personally.”

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Tell us about your role and journey into Marketing Technology. What inspired you to start Thanx?

Working with restaurant and retail clients at Bain & Company, I learned brick-and-mortar businesses have a data deficit. The 80/20 rule is particularly true in the offline world but not only do most brands do a poor job of personally engaging their top customers, many don’t even know who those individuals are. Thanx is the system-of-record for offline customer data — CRM meets marketing automation, but custom-built for otherwise data-blind real-world businesses. In effect, we combine elements of loyalty, customer sentiment, artificial intelligence, and multi-channel marketing to enable merchants to move away from generic “spray-and-pray” marketing and toward automated, personalized communication with customers both inside and outside the four walls of their business.

How does Thanx fit into a modern marketing technology stack? How does Thanx automate Customer Engagement?

Thanx is a complete customer engagement platform. Many of our merchants were previously juggling a variety of point solutions and datafeeds— email tools, plastic card loyalty programs, mobile apps, customer surveys, mystery shoppers, social, reservations, online ordering, and more — with no single view of the customer. Thanx offers a multi-channel marketing platform that replaces and consolidates point solutions so that our merchants can always deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time.

From the time you started Thanx, how much has the Marketing Automation Technology for B2B and B2C evolved?

It’s all about relevance these days — consumers are sick of being spammed but are happy to engage when the message resonates personally. This push for relevance — best measured in actual results for the advertiser — defined the online industry’s evolution from Cost Per Impression to Cost Per Conversion. Offline business need to same evolution — moving away from useless metrics like email opens and clicks toward measures such as incremental revenue. This will, in turn, drive a flight toward relevance in marketing. Thanx delivers a variety of personalization tools informed by data science — from tier-based rewards modeled after the airline industry to churn avoidance promotions that resemble online retargeting — but packaged in a simple “one-click” user interface that we call Thanx Campaigns. The merchant defines a desired behavior and Thanx takes care of the rest.

Tell us more about your recent digital marketing campaign with Tommy Bahama. What analytics do you have to show its success rate?

While we don’t share specific results from our customers’ loyalty programs and marketing campaigns on Thanx, the Tommy Bahama program is indeed doing exceptionally. Better known for their retail lifestyle clothing brand, Tommy Bahama also operates on-brand restaurants across the US — from 5th Ave in Manhattan to Hawaii. While the retail operation has long had a robust customer database which it used to personalize customer communications and maintain relationships with top customers, the restaurants didn’t even know if their customers were the same individuals, let alone have any tools to drive repeat frequency. Through Thanx Campaigns, Tommy Bahama restaurants are able to reward regulars — and it turns out they have quite a few more than they knew from OpenTable data alone — and create unique experiences for their VIPs. In general across the Thanx network, these VIP-focused reward programs see as much as 55% increases in customer spending.

As a CEO, how do you identify the biggest advantages and challenges in Digital Commerce? What role does Thanx play in overcoming these challenges?

Traditional loyalty programs are fairly useless — they’re basically channels through which brands endlessly give out “rewards” on a proverbial hamster wheel without any meaningful impact in long-term customer spending. To get value out of loyalty programs, brands need to invest in taking action on top of the data they acquire — the data is the true gold, not the basic reward offering. This is where our marketing automation and data science tools help turn what would otherwise be a pretty rote program and make it feel like one-on-one communication between a brand and their best customers. In fact, in many cases it literally is one-to-one communication as Thanx enables consumers to leave private-channel feedback — very different from the anonymous postings on Yelp — and gives the merchant the tools to understand that individuals spending behavior and respond personally. Bad public reviews are shown to decrease with our Reputation Manager tool live because unhappy guests are intercepted and personally engaged before bringing their complaints to review sites.

Why retention is a big challenge for Influencer-based brands? How do personalization and relevant context impact retention strategies?

It’s seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to secure an incremental visit from an existing customer. In effect, it’s impossible to grow a business sustainably with new customers alone yet that’s what most brands are doing. This is the secret weapon of the best brands in the world — on rare occasion the product is so amazing that natural brand affinity bring customers back over and over. More commonly, merchants need to work for that loyalty to avoid “out of sight, out of mind.”

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

It’s all about having great people. Sometimes we have an empty role and it’s tempting to rush to fill it because the hole is hurting our growth and straining other members of the team — but that’s a way to rush a hire and cause even more backtracking in the future. To me, rapid growth is about quick decision-making and people you trust which starts with hiring.

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

We are, of course, avid Thanx users and consumers. But the business our marketing tech stack includes Eloqua, Outreach and Salesforce.

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

I think Square’s execution for small businesses has been remarkable to watch. And yet they still support a tiny fraction of the overall market. But in the startup landscape, I’m using Airtable and Superhuman as my personal work productivity hacks.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business Leader?

Capture every bit of data you can — nothing is “exhaust” to be let float away. And hire people way smarter than you.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

Our vision is big — to personalize every interaction between merchants and their customers. Find people who want to make that a reality and they inspire themselves (and me).

One word that best describes how you work.


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

I’m an Excel junkie. It’s sometimes my happy place after two days straight of meetings. Superhuman for email is a fantastic tool. I absolutely wish we didn’t have Slack.

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

I use a web plugin called Momentum that is my homepage on my browser and I set one “Must Do” goal every day. I also started charging my phone overnight in the kitchen instead of in the bedroom because I was instinctively grabbing it right when I woke up. No I don’t look at it until I’m actually walking out the door to work. It gives me some moments of peace in the morning.

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

Twitter. A lot of Twitter ha. But two books are getting the back-and-forth treatment right now — Sapiens and Becoming by Michelle Obama. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight was the last booked I finished all the way through — love his genuine founder story.

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

A former Bain colleague of mine taught me about a military principle from when he led platoons in the Marines: “Turn the Wrenches”. He said the best military leaders were able to command respect with their rank but didn’t hesitate to occasionally get their hands dirty with their teams to demonstrate that they weren’t above the most menial of tasks and to learn about the day-to-day of their soldiers. This has stuck with me; I try to find time every week to stop by people’s desks and learn about what they’re doing or offer to help however I can.

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

I’m decisive. I like to gather complete information when possible but I have grown comfortable making decisions without it and accepting the outcome either way. I prize action over correctness because I think even mistakes teach us a lot.

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

Kane Russell at Halo Neuroscience built our original marketing function at Thanx and is incredibly thoughtful about brand-building and modern marketing. Not a MarTech company, but certainly an active user of MarTech.

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

Zachary Goldstein is the founder and CEO of Thanx. He is passionate about retail customer retention and satisfaction and the Sacramento Kings. Dartmouth College (BA) and Stanford Graduate School of Business (MBA).

thanx logo

Thanx is customer engagement done right. Thanx is unique because we focus on making customer engagement effortless for both merchants and consumers. Merchants get a complete view of customers based on behavioral data all without any additional hardware or point-of-sale integration, allowing them to quickly and easily send targeted campaigns customized for their business. And, they can measure their success in real revenue not just vanity metrics like opens and clicks.

Consumers pay as usual and automatically receive personalized rewards on their phones, which eliminates the hassle of check-ins, loyalty cards, and added steps at checkout. To date, we’ve helped our merchants generate 30-50% increases in revenue from their existing customers.

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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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