Interview with Manu Mathew, Co-Founder & CEO – Visual IQ
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us a little bit about your role at Visual IQ and how you got here. (what inspired you to co-found a martech company)
Back in the early 2000s when digital was taking off, I was working on the Vonage account at a leading advertising agency. I was frustrated by my inability to use data to demonstrate how our campaigns impacted Vonage’s overall business goals to the company’s then CEO, a former finance expert who wanted to know exactly where, how and why his money was being spent. This frustration drove me to create Visual IQ in 2006, and launch an attribution solution that would enable marketers to leverage their data to gain an accurate and holistic view of performance, better allocate their marketing dollars, and prove the impact of their investments.
The company has grown significantly since 2006, and we now help some of the world’s largest and most successful brands manage, analyze and optimize their marketing and advertising spend. We’ve also significantly expanded the capabilities of our platform by adding audience data to the mix. In recent years, the balance of power has shifted from brands to consumers, who expect relevant and personalized experiences. By combining audience with attribution in a single platform, marketers can not only customize conversations with prospects and customers, but also optimize their spend within and across channels, devices and environments to drive engagement, sales, revenue and other desired business results.
MTS: Given the massive proliferation of marketing technology, how do you see the martech market evolving over the next few years?
We’re going to see a lot more consolidation. Today’s marketers use a multitude of tools and technologies to plan, execute, and measure the results of their marketing and advertising efforts. While these technologies provide access to more performance and audience data than ever before, its scattered across siloed systems with no easy way to tie it together.
To achieve ultimate effectiveness, marketers need the ability to combine the profile data they have about their consumers with analytics that provide a comprehensive view of their journey and the influence of each channel and tactic along their path to conversion. Only then can they match individual consumers with the right message, in the right place and at the very moment it’s relevant. In the age of the empowered consumer – where customers and prospects expect brands to know what they like and dislike based on their needs, preferences and behaviors – the ability to consolidate and normalize data from disparate adtech and martech solutions will become a marketer’s greatest asset.
MTS: What do you see as the single most important technology trend or development that’s going to impact us?
We’re going to see people-based marketing begin to dominate in the months and years ahead. Today, consumer expectations are soaring. They want their experiences with brands to be relevant, convenient and friction-free. Moreover, they expect brands to know them and earn their loyalty.
To continue acquiring and retaining customers, marketers need to deliver personalized ads, messages and experiences across online and offline channels, as well as devices. However, marketers have historically faced challenges recognizing customers and prospects across multiple screens and environments. Most of the marketing and advertising technologies marketers use today aren’t just siloed; they also generate their own unique identifiers for each individual consumer, making it difficult to get a comprehensive, 360-degree view of customers and prospects. A people-based approach combines all of these disparate digital, device and offline IDs into a single anonymous identifier.
The result is a comprehensive, end-to-end view of the consumer journey and how customers and prospects engage with a brand, regardless of where that interaction occurs. When these robust profiles are used to feed the attribution process, marketers get the actionable intelligence they need to optimize their budget across touchpoints, and deliver tailored messages and experiences at key moments of opportunity – whether online, across devices, in stores or elsewhere.
MTS: What’s the biggest challenge that CMOs need to tackle to make marketing technology work?
Harnessing the massive amounts of audience, marketing and business data that CMOs need to inform and enhance their efforts is probably the biggest challenge. Managing advertising and marketing channels separately using channel-specific strategies, tactics and metrics is no longer effective. To be successful, marketers need to move away from channel and functional siloes and operate through the lens of the consumer.
Sophisticated marketing intelligence platforms can help corral all of this disparate data to provide a consolidated view of the consumer and every marketing interaction leading up to a given success criteria (engagement, conversion, in-store visit, etc.). Armed with clarity around consumer attributes and how different audiences interact with your brand across channels and devices, marketers can optimize budgets and create the types of relevant and coordinated experiences that drive meaningful business results.
MTS: What would be your advice to CMOs when they start planning to invest in marketing technologies?
Introducing technological change in an organization can present a number of challenges. I typically advise CMOs to clearly define their business goals before investing in any solution. Every business has different metrics for success, and it’s important that CMOs understand what those measures are and what’s important to both their direct team, as well as executive leadership.
Operational aspects of technology investments are also often overlooked, such as team structure, workflows and training, and these factors can come back to bite you well after it’s too late to turn back. Success relies on dedicating time up front to educate internal stakeholders on the new technology, how it works, the timelines for implementation and adoption, and most importantly, the financial impact to the enterprise.
MTS: A lot of martech companies are preparing for an IPO. What are the factors that CEO considers before filing an IPO?
Deciding whether a company can, or should, go public is not an easy decision. There are a number of factors to consider, from sales and revenue projections to the management team itself. For instance, above industry average growth rates, a solid sales pipeline with indicators of continued growth, and strong revenue growth projections of the space by industry analysts are all important factors to look for. Moreover, preparing for an IPO can be a lengthy process, so CEOs need to make sure they have sufficient capital to see the company through to a successful public offering.
Finally, a strong management team must be in place. The demands of becoming a public company often require additional strengths and capabilities, from strong senior and mid-level management who can clearly articulate the company’s vision, to experienced bankers, legal counsel and audit partners who understand the complex financial and accounting requirements of going public.
MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
– Visual IQ
MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
Our marketing stack leverages a number technologies to drive our marketing and advertising efforts, from CRM systems and email platforms, to analytics tools, customer success platforms, and learning management systems. In 2017, we will add marketing automation and content curation tools to this stack as well. Perhaps most exciting, we also plan to leverage our platform to apply multi-touch attribution to our own efforts, so we can better understand which touchpoints drive performance and optimize accordingly.
MTS: Could you tell us about a standout Visual IQ campaign? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success)
We recently announced the results of a very successful Facebook pilot program with our client, O2. As a business, O2 understood the reach, targeting and engagement value of Facebook, but third-party tracking limitations on the social platform prevented the company from measuring its effectiveness to the same degree as its other digital efforts.
Through a partnership with Facebook, we were able to ensure that information about O2’s Facebook campaigns, including its Custom Audience placements, were included in the attribution process. By integrating previously untracked Facebook touchpoints into our platform, O2 was able to eliminate blind spots in the consumer journey and measure the value of their Facebook investments relative to other digital channels, publishers and placements for the first time.
Not only was Facebook proven to be a key component of O2’s marketing and media strategy, but the company also uncovered some unexpected performance insights. For instance, O2 saw converter rates improve by 16% to as high as 123% when Facebook Custom Audience ad placements were used in combination with other digital channels, such as affiliates, paid social and paid search. The pilot also revealed the importance of people-based marketing and the efficiency gains driven by Facebook. When Custom Audience impressions were included in the broader tactical mix, O2 saw a 52% improvement in cost efficiency for new customer acquisition, and a 38% improvement for existing customers.
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader?
Marketers have long referred to the ability to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right place and time as the holy grail of marketing. But this isn’t possible without the ability to aggregate and analyze huge repositories of data. AI provides a way to uncover audience and performance insights to across huge sets of data, incredibly fast. For marketers, this means having actionable intelligence at their fingertips, so they can match the right content, offer, product, etc., to the right person at the right time, via the channel of their choice with greater speed and efficiency than ever before.
This Is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
In addition to my newsfeed app, I use the Expensify and Salesforce apps regularly. Both are great for busy executives on the go.
MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
I love GoodNotes. It enables me to take notes directly on my iPad and instantly converts my handwriting into text. It’s a great time-saver.
MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
I like to start my day with the Wall Street Journal and end it with a good novel.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
From my father, who encouraged me to leave home and come to the US to pursue higher education. Even though the pull was to stay in Botswana, a place of comfort, he allowed me to test my wings and move on to the next thing. The journey teaches many lessons in life, and it’s important to always move forward knowing the best is yet to come. In the process, always be happy, as nothing else matters.
MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
Team collaboration is big for me. It’s absolutely essential and critical—not only for building stronger relationships between our internal teams, but also with our clients.
MTS: Tag the one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
MTS: Thank you Manu! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.