TechBytes with Jeremy Koven, Chief Platform Officer, Needls

Jeremy Koven

Jeremy Koven
Chief Platform Officer, Needls

After spending 10 months creating advanced filtering and a proprietary purchase intent engine needls. was born. Needls. analyzes millions of social media posts each day to identify buying signals and find actionable business opportunities. We spoke to Chief Platform Officer at needls., Jeremy Koven to understand how his team is using AI to optimize social media campaigns and budgets for SMBs .

MTS: Tell us about your role at Needls, and how you got here?
Jeremy Koven: I’ve always had an affinity for both technology and business. When I was a young teenager, I was one of those kids who was up all night in the basement building websites and learning how to market online. I then went to Dalhousie University for Commerce.  In my free time, I continued to build websites, apps, and keep up with the latest trends. Once graduated, I had the opportunity to go into a lucrative position in Finance but decided that I wanted to continue to be entrepreneurial and build businesses. Prior to needls, I spent the past 12 years building custom websites, business backends, and apps for small business customers. I also provided marketing consulting and managed online advertising budgets of over 50MM which gave me great insight into what SMBs need, how to market to them and how to run a profitable campaign.

As Chief Platform Officer of needls, it’s my job to drive the product vision of needls.

I act as the conduit between the business and technical side of our business.

A lot of my time is spent speaking to our users, overseeing our user success team’s activities, staying on top of all of the latest industry trends, and analyzing usage of our system to help determine our development roadmap and priorities. I also work with our channel partnership team to help develop strategic relationships and then oversee the implementation.

MTS: How can a small business/single business owner benefit from using Needls?
Jeremy: With only 5M SMB’S advertising on FB out of the 65M on the platform, it’s clear that there is a significant gap. It can be challenging to set up your first campaign, time-consuming and also requires knowledge to do it right. The power of needls is both the ease of use and the ability to maximize user’s campaign budgets. Needls was designed to help even the least tech-savvy user who can breeze through our campaign creation process and launch their campaign in a matter of minutes. By leveraging Data Science, needls can hone in on the user’s ideal audience and find people who have an immediate need or want for their offering. The last piece is the ongoing optimization. While traditional agencies rely on humans to optimize a campaign, needls uses AI to optimize and maximize the campaign budget 24/7.  From the feedback we’ve received from our users, not only are we showing them great results but on average we save them well over 20 hours a month in time they typically would spend managing a campaign.

MTS: How does Needls identify target audiences for small and local business customers?
Jeremy: Needls uses Data Science and Natural Language Processing to search public social media posts for Purchase Intent. These are posts that have buying signals and display that the user has an immediate need or want for a specific product or service. To put it simply, when someone says “My tooth hurts what do I do? “ we show them an ad for a Dentist. This pinpoint targeting gives our users the best chance of converting this click into a customer and has proven to be very effective.  The more users and industries our system sees the stronger our system becomes. We are continually retraining our classifiers to more accurately detect purchase intent.

Also Read: Always On, Cross-Device Multitaskers: Understanding the Mobile Consumer

MTS: Tell us about the landing page partner you have signed on and how this has benefitted customers. What are the other partnerships that you envisage in the future?
Jeremy: We work with leadpages to provide quick and easy to update landing pages for our users with no programming knowledge needed. These pages are professionally designed and set up to maximize conversions by having proper calls to action in place and easily identifiable value propositions. While our primary focus is on filling the top of the sales funnel by providing them with highly targeted traffic, we see a natural progression to offer other parts of the funnel to our customers.

Specifically, we focus on partnerships with businesses that provide tools such as CRM, Email Marketing Automation, Scheduling, etc.

We just launched our partnership with HubSpot who provides best in class CRM and Marketing automation tools. This is a natural fit for needls, as it arms our users with all the tools they need to close a sale once we provide them with the initial lead.

Also Read: Why the Tug-of-War Will Continue in 2018 Social Marketing

MTS: How does Needls enable a small brand to have a voice in a space dominated by big brands that have much larger budgets at their disposal?
Jeremy: While larger brands may have more significant budgets, we feel that social media helps level the playing field. If you have a strong offering, you can leverage social media to access a global network of buyers. The built-in engagement that Facebook offers through comments and sharing allows even the smallest company the ability to “go viral” and have millions of new people introduced to their product or service. We hear stories every day of small or local businesses experiencing significant growth through social. These are our favorite stories and what motivates us to keep building great products. These SMB’s are the backbone of our economy, and it’s our mission to help them grow.

An SMB doesn’t need the same budget or high production value creative for their social media ads to generate a high ROI – compare it to TV or other mediums that required more productions dollars and ad budgets. That said, the ability to properly track ROI on social media is incredibly valuable to the scrappy small business owner who needs every dollar to count.

MTS: How does Needls leverage AI to help automate a brand’s digital marketing strategy? What part of this AI driven process is open to human intervention?
Jeremy: AI is deployed during two parts of the needls process- targeting and also optimization.

On the targeting side, we deploy social listening to find purchase intent or buying signals.

By analyzing public conversations on Facebook and Twitter, we are able to find people who are in various stages of the buying journey for our user’s products or services. This results in timely advertising that maximizes the chances of conversion.

We are also able to analyze current and historical data to predict which ads should be focused on and continuously reallocate the customer’s budget to achieve optimal campaign performance.  We call this predictive budget allocation. To do this, we analyze over 20 metrics such as cost per conversion, click through rates, frequency, engagement stats, and more. Our optimization methods also include Day Parting to determine the best time of day to run the ads, Extensive A/B testing to hone in on the optimal audience and creative elements, and cross-platform budget allocation, amongst others.

Our user success team helps guide users over live chat and phone calls through the campaign creation process as needed. These are skilled marketers and copywriters who primarily assist with the creative aspects of the campaign, such as coming up with strong headlines and choosing the right image.  In addition, we have flags in our system that notify us if a campaign is underperforming. For example, we track performance by industry so if a new realtor joins our platform and we notice that they have a below average click-through rate or cost per click, our system notifies us. After notification, a human will review the campaign to ensure it’s set up optimally and make suggestions if appropriate.  This typically applies to less than 10 % of our campaigns.

MTS: Thanks for chatting with us, Jeremy.
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