Expert Interview with Douglas Karr on Marketing with the Help of Big Data

Marketing with the help of big dataWe asked Douglas Karr, CEO of DK New Media and founder of the Marketing Technology Blog, about the biggest challenges facing CMOs when it comes to harnessing all the data now available to them.

"Talent is harder to find than tools," he says. "Having marketing analysts that are able to properly test, measure and make assumptions is getting harder than ever."

Douglas says that much of the work he and his colleagues are doing with companies centers around identifying the gaps that have fallen through their teams' strategies and providing guidance on how to measure, what to measure, and how to make decisions based on the data.

Marketers tend to always go large, but oftentimes the largest opportunities are in the small pockets of data, he adds.

"This is where strategies like data cleanliness and the services that ReachForce provides are so critical," he says.

Read on to learn more about Douglas and his take on smart marketing today.

Tell us a little about your professional background.

After honorably serving in the U.S. Navy, I went to work for a newspaper as an industrial electrician. Since there were no "IT" groups in those days, we became it. I helped integrate networks, configure platforms, develop databases and eventually write platforms to access the data. The expertise there prepared me for a rapidly growing database marketing market.

I moved to Denver and worked for a world-class consultancy building data warehouses - including ones for The New York Times, Toronto Globe & Mail and more. We developed our platforms online, which grew my expertise in marketing-related technology.

I moved to Indianapolis to run the data operations for the regional newspaper and eventually made the move online, assisting companies like ExactTarget, Compendium,, the Colts, Angie's List, GoDaddy and more.

I formally opened my consulting agency about six years ago to do it full time for those clients.

Can you tell us about DK New Media and the Marketing Technology Blog?

The Marketing Technology Blog started as my personal blog about a decade ago, but I transitioned it to purely speaking about online marketing technology about seven years ago at the current domain.

We've grown double digits the last few years and have over 3 million listens to our podcasts, and hundreds of thousands of readers and subscribers each month. Our agency, DK New Media, handles the sponsorship, research and consulting behind the blog. We help investment firms, large enterprise companies and marketing technology firms with their competitive analysis and help them improve their market share.

What marketing headlines or innovations are exciting you the most these days?

I've always loved integration and the low barrier to entry for big data, and analysis tools that can be easily integrated to provide meaningful data is what excites me the most. For our largest client, we developed a big data platform that provides search feedback in every major city across topics, brands and geography so we can monitor their overall web authority and provide predictive metrics on what they should be writing next. I believe every company should be looking at opportunities for building marketing hubs and dashboards that integrate third-party and transactional data to help their retention and acquisition.

What are some marketing trends you wish would go away?

The "I did it and it didn't work" is perhaps the most frustrating trend. We listen every day to companies that say strategy X didn't work for them, but then we're able to provide evidence that their competitors are destroying them with a similar strategy.

Marketers tend to work in their level of comfort since that's where they achieve results. We execute test campaigns with them over time to show them that alternative strategies work just as well, if not more. It's not about the medium, it's about where your audience is and how they're researching that next purchase.

What are the most common frustrations or pain points your clients are coming to you with?

There's a specialty agency and a vendor out there for virtually everything, and all of them are fighting for budget and destroying each others' effectiveness in the marketing landscape.

One example I love to provide is an agency calls and wants a company to invest heavily in search strategies. At the same time, an email vendor or marketing automation company wants the company to invest heavily in messaging. Both want the budget. But when email gets the budget, the company can't be found on search and the company doesn't acquire subscribers. When search gets the budget, the visitors arrive and leave without subscribing, so they never return. To be effective, you need a balance of both and they'll help one another.

What brands do you think are doing the most innovative or interesting marketing work?

To be honest, I'm appreciative of scrappy brands more than big ones. Huge brands often have the budget and resources to try everything and then build processes around it. Small brands with few people or smaller budgets are typically more agile and can turn cost-effective campaigns out.

I'm not going to single any out, but brands that have "depth" to their content strategies where they produce social content that drives to blog content, that drives to infographics, that drives to interactive tools, that drives to whitepapers or demonstrations, that leads to conversions. They strategically build the breadcrumbs that pull the visitors in without spending huge amounts of money on viral videos or massive branding campaigns.

What do you think are some of the most useful tools for CMOs trying to harness data?

There are a new breed of big data hubs that are hitting the market right now, including Redpoint, Bloomreach, Webtrends Explore, Lytics, GoodData, Lattice. Their goal is to provide a holistic view of the customer journey and provide answers to the questions that marketers are asking, including predictive analytics based on real-time data analysis.

Many can bring in third-party data like customer service, billing, social engagement, analytics, and other sources that help marketers better understand the buying patterns so they can reduce unnecessary expenditures and do more targeted, less frequent messaging when the time is right.

Without data management to ensure normalized, quality data, all of these hubs are useless. Bad data in produces bad decisions made by companies.

How do you coach your clients on making the most of the data they collect?

Too many clients continuously work on data collection but often do very little with it. Why have it if you're not going to use it?

Coaching is a great word, as we often get a bit aggressive with ensuring our clients are making decisions off of data and not off of their opinions. You may, for example, think Twitter is worthless. But companies are utilizing Twitter to predict medical outbreaks, brand sentiment over time and cultural shifts to products and services.

Wouldn't it be great to have a list of topics that your marketing team should be pursuing to maximize engagement with prospects and customers?'s already there with real-time data. If you're not integrating it effectively and accurately, it is worthless. If you're using it well, it can be priceless.

Connect with Douglas on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube.


ReachForce helps marketers increase revenue contribution by solving some of their toughest data management problems.  We understand the challenges of results-driven marketers and provide solutions to make initiatives like marketing automation, personalization and predictive marketing better.  Whether you have an acute pain to solve today or prefer to grow your capabilities over time, ReachForce can unify, clean and enrich prospect and customer lifecycle data in your business, and do it at your own pace.

To learn more about how ReachForce can help you optimize demand generation and your impact on revenue, check out our real-time web form enrichment demo, or request a free marketing data diagnostic. Get the power to let data drive marketing and higher performance.

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