Ran Shaul is the chief client officer at Pursway, a platform that gives marketers data on the friends of their existing audience to scale their reach.
Tell us a little about yourself. Describe your job, how long you’ve been doing it, and how you got into this field.
I am marketing analytics practitioner and a co-founder of Pursway, leading our overall customer engagements — anything from laying out the strategy to overseeing the tactics for implementing Pursway initiatives. I am passionate about data monetization, and over the past decade, I’ve led hundreds projects for Fortune 500 companies in areas including market segmentation, social network analysis, customer profitability and lifetime value analysis, behavioral modeling, data mining, retention and communication strategies, customer advocacy, and campaign management.
What is Pursway?
Most consumer behavior is influenced by the opinions of people we know and trust — family, friends and colleagues. While marketers have known this for quite a while, they are challenged to act on it. How can they target those friends, etc.? Pursway’s smart targeting technology platform offers a way for marketers to expand both their on and offline audiences by allowing them to target people with high social affinity to their brands. Pursway transforms existing customer, prospect, and online databases into a customized social graph, identifying actual relationships between people and empowering marketers with the knowledge they need to motivate action. The platform sits on top of a proprietary database that maps relationships between more than 150 million North American consumers, and the technology analyzes billions of pieces of data from thousands of open data sources to connect the dots and accurately determine who is a real -life friend of whom. Pursway believes targeting the friends of your best audiences is a smarter way to scale your marketing reach and better reflects (and leverages the power of) real-life social buying behavior.
How can the marketing industry use Pursway to create better results for its agency or clients?
Agencies with consumer-facing brand clients are facing challenges on many different fronts. First, changing consumer buyer patterns like online and mobile purchases are creating a multi-channel mix yielding enormous amounts of data with very little clarity on how the data insight can be used to attract new customers and foster loyalty within the base. In addition, both go-to (think direct mail and email) and emerging (think social media) channels are not delivering the ROI marketers need. Mass email campaigns are yielding weak results and eroding goodwill among customers and prospects. The promise of social media-based influence programs, which seemed particularly bright for retailers, has not been fulfilled.
Using Pursway’s audience extension platform, Pursway Connect, for their clients’ campaigns, agencies can broaden their original target list to include real-life friends of their audience with a higher propensity to act or buy given their social affinity for the brand or products. Pursway Connect is currently available for direct mail and social media targeting and will soon to be integrated for online advertising. Using Pursway to identify targets, agencies can more intelligently target every single client campaign and see 3-5X better ROI as a result.
What changes in your industry made you realize that Pursway would fill a void?
Despite promising the world, targeting based on social media activity simply hasn’t delivered real marketing results. If the goal is measurable bottom-line results, applying traditional targeting tactics to social media marketing doesn’t work. In fact, while social media spending forecasts tend to be high, actual spending isn’t keeping up – likely because they can’t prove the sales value of social media programs that ignore tangible sales results. A recent CMO Survey documented the continued gap between U.S. CMO plans and follow-through. Does social media serve as a valuable relationship-building and awareness tool? Absolutely. But monetizing social media influence using tools like Facebook and Klout scores is unlikely.
Another major issue for B2C marketers has been list fatigue. There are brands with databases full of millions of customers that can’t be marketed to because they have opted out after too many poorly targeted email campaigns cluttered their inboxes. Many who don’t opt out still aren’t reading the emails because they are tired of receiving non-personalized offers that don’t apply to them.
Today’s data-driven marketers are under pressure to deliver measurable results and prove how campaigns are driving bottom-line impact. Being able to increase sales conversions and drive revenue are the true measures of marketing success and to do this, marketers need to improve their campaign targeting. My co-founders and I saw an opportunity to leverage our knowledge of machine learning and anti-terrorism techniques (from our time in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF)) to develop a more accurate and scientific approach to targeting influencers that would be based on identifying actual relationships between people that carry real influence over actions, not the perceived relationships and influence of social media friends and commentary.
Describe a few core features of Pursway?
1) Pursway Connect is an audience extension platform that identifies an individual’s five to 15 best friends, enabling marketers to expand their reach to people with high social affinity to their brands. It’s as simple as this: you give us your audience of interest (customers, visitors, prospects, etc.), and we will give you back their best friends so you can better target your marketing campaigns.
2) Pursway’s web-based marketing dashboard, myPIVO, provides detailed graphical insights into customer influence and behavior. The dashboard gives marketers easy access to a fresh view that reveals actionable social behavior in their customer base and prospect data.
3) Easy-to-understand graphs empower marketers to better target their campaigns based on…
- Identified influence by demographics
- Value or loyalty
- Product virulence
- Key influence factors like transmission speed and product pairings
How do you see your industry evolving in the next few years?
All forms of marketing become addressable and measurable.
As technology becomes even more advanced and the data available on consumers grows, I predict even more demand for tools that can help marketers pinpoint their best customers and prospects off and online. People will keep move away from “traffics” to audiences and will keep improving their targeting. Agencies will need to show that they have a firm grasp on the most advanced forms of data-driven marketing to keep their clients happy.
In a survey we conducted a few months ago, we found that the majority of marketing professionals were under intense pressure to make better use of their existing data. As we’ve seen, more data doesn’t always equal better results, but brands will rely on their agency partners more and more to sort through the data glut. This is a trend I see continuing to grow, especially given the new sources of consumer data that will no doubt emerge on a regular basis. Agencies will need to stay ahead of the data-driven marketing curve to add real value for their clients — and to keep their sanity as pressure continues to mount.