Why I Left Corporate America and Joined a Marketing Technology Startup

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Dan Gingiss

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Marketing & Customer Experience Executive + Author and Podcaster

“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!”

That phrase more than any other helps explain why I left the corporate world after a 20-year marketing career to join a martech startup.

Persado‘s Marketing Language Cloud uses machine learning to predict the best possible language for virtually any marketing campaign, based on previous campaigns. Named to CNBC’s Disruptor 50 and Fortune’s 50 Companies Leading the AI Revolution, the technology crushes long-standing control language because it takes bias out of the equation and focuses on data. But it isn’t just about robots and math. Persado brings a human touch to the digital world by using unique insights to unearth the emotions a specific audience responds to. In essence, it uses AI-generated language to engage any audience, segment, or individual across multiple channels. And I can tell you that it works, because I’m a two-time client.

One of the things you get used to at big corporations – besides lots of hierarchy, slow progress, and doing something “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” – is receiving lots and lots of emails from salespeople.

It’s impossible to keep up. We’ve all seen the Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic that seems to get bigger every year. That leads to more and more email sales pitches, each one vying for attention; it’s like a game of Whac-A-Mole trying to sort through them.

I had seen every witty variation – from those claiming to have loved my book or latest blog post, to those offering a free Starbucks gift card just for having a conversation, to the ones asking me to respond to a multiple choice question about why I hadn’t responded – with one of the choices invariably being that it must be because I was being chased by some wild animal. Heh heh, good one! (Insert eyeroll or forehead smack here.)

At Discover Card, my boss in the E-Business division suggested that we all syphon these “opportunities” to a single poor soul, whose job it became to sift through them and determine which ones had potential value. Then we’d all book a full day once a quarter and sit through back-to-back, 30-minute pitches from about a dozen vendors. All the decision-makers were in one room, and at the end of the day we picked the one to three companies with whom we wanted to pursue a business relationship. I thought it was a brilliant approach.

It was at one of those pitch days that I first encountered Persado. From the beginning, I could tell that they were different. They had done their homework on Discover (better than one vendor that – I could not possibly make this up – actually misspelled “Discover” on the cover slide), they were clearly data-driven and analytical, and there was this quiet confidence that they knew their technology was a game-changer. We decided to try it out, and the results were incredible.

When I moved to Humana, I introduced the email lead on my team to Persado. I warned him that Persado’s initial presentation was going to seem too good to be true, but that I had seen it with my own eyes at Discover and the hype was real. After we ended the first video conference, he turned to me and said, “You’re right, it does seem too good to be true.” But he trusted me, and another successful relationship was born.

So after two decades as a marketer, I’ve decided to stop trying to beat ’em, and instead join ’em. Why keep struggling to develop the next great marketing message when Persado can do it better and in a fraction of the time? I’ve seen Persado’s email subject lines beat my controls not just once or twice, but 14 times out of 16. And not just by a few percentage points, but by 70% or more. I’ve seen it work in email bodies too, and Facebook ads, and even direct mail. Game-changer, indeed.

But here’s the most remarkable part – Persado is just getting started. What if you could generate the precise language that resonates with an individual rather than an entire segment or mailing list? What if you could use what you learned in an acquisition campaign to communicate with a new customer – whether for marketing or customer service – in the way in which they specifically are most likely to respond? It’s actually possible, and the results are mind-blowing.

In fact, the Retail Industry Leaders Association just named Persado a winner of the (R)Tech Retail CEO Innovation Award for “groundbreaking work in promoting the industry’s move towards shopping wherever, whenever through artificial intelligence and augmented reality.”

With every job I’ve had, I’ve let passion lead the way for me. When I’m passionate about something, it’s easy – and fun – to tell other people about it. It’s easy to wake up and come to work every day, even though I’m not a morning person (I’ve long judged my job satisfaction based on the number of times I hit the Snooze button). And with this job, one of my primary responsibilities is making sure that our clients are happy and successful, which plays right into my passion about customer experience.

So I hope you’ll join me in this new endeavor. I’ll certainly keep writing about it and sharing what I learn. If you are a marketer and want to see amazing results with your campaigns, reach out to me and I’m sure you’ll soon share my passion for Persado. And if you don’t, I promise I won’t make a joke about you being chased by a wild animal.

Marketing & Customer Experience Executive + Author and Podcaster
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