New data tools let marketers seed and reap Ag dollars
This month we are launching the new Industry Watch + section, in which we will feature a collection of stories, Q+A's, How-To's and more to give readers a 360 degree look at one topic. This month's topic is SEO — below you will find a story about SEO in the agribusiness sector, a Q+A with industry experts on SEO best practices and an extended interview with Marty Weintraub about taking SEO to the next level.
Harvesting a digital crop
New data tools let marketers seed and reap Ag dollars. By Kevyn Burger
It was a rainy June day, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the outing by a team from the broadhead. agency. A squad of 15 social media strategists, PR gurus and account managers caravanned from their offices in downtown Minneapolis to don rubber boots and troop through two family-owned dairy operations 100 miles into western Wisconsin.
They arrived to study the farmers in the field (pardon the pun).
“We’re seeing the changing of the guard,” says Dean Broadhead, founder and CEO of the full-service marketing communications agency that bears his name. “We want to find out what’s on their minds when they’re sitting in a piece of machinery that’s priced like a Rolls Royce and drives itself.”
Thinking like a farmer
Millions of acres of American cropland are in transition, with the Baby Boomer farmers nearing retirement. They’re giving way to the next generation of producers; schooled in advanced agricultural science, they are tech savvy, data-driven and bottom-line oriented.
Broadhead, 47, has developed a lucrative knack for getting inside their heads — and tractors. As a group, farmers are prized because they make vast outlays of cash for seeds, chemicals and implements, and must do it every year.
“The progressive and aggressive young farmer is hungry for information,” Broadhead explains. “We track their mindset to incorporate it into what we do for clients.”
Thinking like a farmer is second nature to Broadhead. He grew up milking Holsteins on a Wisconsin dairy farm founded by his great-grandfather. He’s married this fertile background with the latest in cutting edge SEO techniques and big data. Two-thirds of his clients are in agribusiness, from Minnesota firms like Mosaic and Cargill, to California Almond and Germany-based Boehringer Ingelheim.
An analytic approach
Since the agency began in 2001 as a one-man shop, broadhead. has shown weed-like growth, expanding by 25% per year in the past five years to reach its current level of 90 employees. That places it in the nation’s top 10 largest agencies toiling in agribusiness.
“Today, farmers are entrepreneurs who run sophisticated small businesses,” Broadhead says, then pauses to correct himself. “Actually, a lot of them are not so small.”
The recent field trip (oops, we did it again) to the Wisconsin family farms proves the point. The larger of the two has 1,400 cows, 1,700 acres and 22 employees.
“We’re seeing a big shift in the way farmers use digital information,” says Maija Hoehn, broadhead.’s vice president and director of engagement. “Their mobile consumption is higher than the average consumer. They’re moving away from the desktop, so we help our clients get in front of them by updating mobile websites to be more responsive.”
Hoehn led the agency team that visited the farms, using the on-site debriefing as a chance to augment their analytics.
“In the past five years, we’ve accessed robust tools that allow us to look at their digital footprint, see what they’re talking about, where they may have conversations about our client. When they’re on an Ag website, we can cookie them and follow them, then get ads from our clients in front of them,” she adds.
That allows the agency to strike with greater accuracy for placing ads.
“We can be in lots of places at the same time. Digital analytics help us place many small bets. We check analytics daily; the data doesn’t lie. We drive our dollars to where the bets pay off,” Broadhead explains. “You need an analytical mindset to see what the data is saying; it’s an art and a science.”
Digital tools across the agribusiness sector continue to evolve. Minneapolis digital agency Spyder Trap set up an online portal for an agribusiness client’s grain transactions.
“The user interface we created has real time data around pricing of commodities customers want to buy or sell,” says Travis Smith, Spyder Trap’s digital marketing manager. “It has a contemporary look and feel. It’s a global business.”
The agency evaluates and alters the online presence of its clients on a minute-to-minute basis. “We don’t make educated guesses,” Smith says. “We can be really smart about how we use data sets and analytics to understand user behavior and personas.”
Smith says it’s essential to keep a close eye on both hardware and software that targets customers’ use. “You must be grounded in the vertical to understand its needs,” he says. “Value is created by crafting content, building inbound link strategies, leveraging partnerships and updating keyword research. That’s how you expand your reach and show the search engines your relevance.”
The analytic approach is evolving at the same time that the public’s appetite for information about agriculture is mushrooming. Questions about how and where food is raised are becoming ever more commonplace.
“It used to be consumers didn’t care where their food came from” Broadhead says, “But now they ask questions and want to know about sustainability. We help our clients be part of that conversation.”
Leadership: Dean Broadhead, Founder and CEO
Revenue: $55 million
Description: broadhead. is a full service marketing agency based in Minneapolis that specializes in connecting urban and rural clients.
Leadership: Mike Rynchek, CEO
Description: Spyder Trap is a digital-only marketing firm made up of strategic leaders who use their expertise to transform businesses by looking at the big picture to help clients create data-driven digital strategies that generate results.
SEO Best Practices
by Morgan Mercer
When it comes to sales, most companies underutilize an unseen member of their team — search engine optimization. Good SEO practices increase the visibility of your website in search engines and create an easy pathway from customers to your business.
Every year search engines like Google make hundreds of revisions to SEO rules to create a better consumer experience. Businesses that follow suit and update their websites show up higher in online searches.
“Search engines want to reward websites for matching the user intent and providing a great experience,” says Nina Hale, founder of Minneapolis-based digital marketing agency Nina Hale Inc. “If you’re doing SEO right, it also means you’re doing things right for your customers and website visitors.”
As SEO evolves, here’s a hit list of what to know from two Twin Cities experts, Nina Hale of Nina Hale Inc. and Darin Lynch, founder of digital agency Irish Titan.
- SEO works in two layers on your website. First, ensure the structure or architecture of how you built your website allows search engines to find it. After that, focus on developing content that is sharable, interesting and representative of what you do. “Search engines are like a good English professor. They will grade you based on a well-written paper, and that paper is your website,” says Darin. You won’t find success without one or the other.
- The algorithms that drive SEO change constantly. “Think of it more like farming than hunting,” Darin says. “If you’re hunting you go out for the weekend and it’s a one-time event. If it’s farming you realize you do a lot of work in the spring that has no visible impact for six months. That’s how SEO works. You have to be prepared to make a commitment over a certain amount of time.”
- Mobile experience now trumps desktop. If your site’s design isn’t optimized for a cellphone, it’s nearly impossible to get good ratings.
- Brevity, please. People don’t read long web pages anymore, so search engines won’t list them high up on search results. Design each page on your website around a central focus and keep information short.
- You need speed. Search engines reward websites they can find quickly and easily. Your website should load in 3-5 seconds, so make sure you compress images and have enough power on the back end to run your website. “If people have to wait, they will abandon that website and the search engine will punish you,” says Nina.
- You can no longer game the system with keyword tricks. In the past, “keywords” referred to a descriptive word not seen on the screen. “A keyword could be red, blue and yellow, while on the screen you could be talking about pizza, bacon and chicken,” says Darin. “That red, blue and yellow would be what attracted traffic and what the search engines used to look at.” But people started using trendy keywords unrelated to the content on the page to drive traffic. Now the only keywords search engines look for are words actually written in the content on your website.
Nina Hale Inc.
Leadership: Nina Hale, founder
Revenue: $9-10 million
Description: Nina Hale Inc. is a performance digital agency focusing on lead generation and ecommerce for companies using paid media, SEO, content strategy and social media.
Headquarters: St. Louis Park
Leadership: Darin Lynch, founder and chief liberation officer
Revenue: $3 million
Description: Irish Titan is a full-service digital agency using its “Business First. Online Second.” philosophy to deliver ecommerce, complex websites and digital strategy. Irish Titan delivers these digital solutions by engaging in relationships that are “Partnerships. Not Transactions.”
From SEO to Filtered Retargeting
Interview with Marty Weintraub, founder of Aimclear.
To turn big data into new customers, Minneapolis marketing agency Aimclear builds detailed profiles of Internet users. Then it helps clients like Dell, eBay and LinkedIn attract the right consumers by using a holistic approach that goes beyond SEO to find and target the perfect buyer. Founder Marty Weintraub, CEO emeritus, shows us the future of marketing.
MNBIZ: Could you describe your business?
Marty: We're a marketing agency focused on customer targeting and acquisition. We use big data to get new customers.
MNBIZ: Okay, well that all sounds so very simple. Could you complicate that a little bit and tell more about your business?
Marty: That's my favorite request in a long time, to complicate it. "Marty, would you please make it more complicated?" "Okay, I will." There's generally two ways in this world to target customers. You can either target them for what they search for or who they are. You can match that in with a third variable that is their behavior in websites and in the world, so what we know how to do is build complex layered profiles of what people search for when they're shopping, who they are, income, where they work, what their peccadillos are, anything, relationship status. Thousands and thousands of really mod variables, and what we know how to do is build out layers to form true "personas," which is a maligned word in this universe, "personas."
We build out layered personas comprised of what people search for and who they truly are, bring them to a website or into a social environment, sell to them, or nurture them and sell to them later. Making the stew even more interesting is once we bring these users into our web experience, social or a website that we own, then if they don't purchase or take a desired action, then we can follow them around on the internet adding more layers of data until we're done with them. That is, that they take the desired action, a purchase, a lead, a behavior, or we let go. Complicated enough?
MNBIZ: Yeah, it's complicated on a few levels. I'm not sure which direction to take. One, let's just get rid of this talk about persona. Persona is for Greek for "mask," and that's where we get the word personality, but what?
Marty: First, persona is one of the most maligned words in the entire ecosystem of leveraging data. It's sort of like rehab. Basically, persona means whatever the hell I say it means. There's no real agreed upon meaning for what persona means in marketing. SEO people say, "Personas are about the behaviors and actions that people take mashed in with what they search for." For us, it's actually true persona building where we go, "Yeah, Caucasian female. Sixty-three years old. Makes one-hundred and twenty thousand dollars a year. Has five-hundred thousand dollars of liquid net worth. Graduated from Harvard with a degree in X. Has this job. Likes this sports team. Listens to this music. Is this sexuality. Is this status, in terms of being partnered, etc." Any variable you can think of about who you are. When we say we build up personas, it's the real thing.
MNBIZ: Anything you can have that depicts a person helps predict their behavior?
Marty: That's really interesting, because if you're a criminal defense attorney on the west coast of America and you make your money by representing people who sadly have been involved in DUIs, then you can target people who have contradictory behavioral characters. "They're a college professor. They make a large amount of money and they're into geezing up, smack, weed, and snorting coke by eight balls, or something like that. There's all kinds of predictors that are about things that are dangerous for a person who's in authority, or a conservative parliamentarian in the UK who is gay, even though he or she is advocating aggressively against those positions. Remember when we were talking about personas, however, that we're talking about operating an anonymous class.
I can target you or someone for the characteristics that make up you, and I won't know who you are yet. I'll be operating on you as a class, meaning I can know the nature of you and I can see how you interact with my web content. However, if you fill out a form to ask for information, you buy a widget or something, then we will associate that layered targeting data with your customer profile, thus outing you, if you will, for the layers that you are. Basically, the worst thing you can do on earth is click on one of our psychographic banner ads, because if you become a known customer we'll associate the targeting layers.
Keep in mind that I'm indulging in hyperbole about potential negative human characteristics, but it works the other way too. "You're forty-three years old. You have a million dollars of net. You generally tend to contribute to charities, and you like Doctors Without Borders. You're a mensch." We could target you to donate to something or to take an action that's based on that, so even though I'm using hyperbolic examples that speak to darker sides of human nature, it works for everything that's beautiful about people, too.
MNBIZ: Okay, well there's a little balance there. Let me see if I understood that. In other words, you don't target individuals, you target classes.
Marty: Yeah. Highly focused layered classes made up of what they search for and who they are. We study them in terms of their behavior as an anonymous class until they become a known customer, at which time we can associate the targeting layers with their customer record.
MNBIZ: Okay. Let's go back to the other original question that I had. You mentioned the different layers of what you do, starting with people searching for things. Then, we get into SEOs, search engine optimization. That's where we wanted to start and to find out what you're doing with your psychographics, which goes beyond that. What is SEO in the most simple of terms?
Marty: That's a beautiful question. To many marketers and business people, "SEO" means "anything we do that's marketing on the Internet. Yeah, we're going to go SEO it." That's been forever. Thinking that SEO means everything about digital marketing is as old as dirt, on the internet. In reality, what SEO, search engine optimization, means is being discovered any place search is offered, without having to pay the platform or engine. Search engine optimization. It's not free of course, because we cost a lot more than free to do it for you, it's that the result is free and you're not paying the engine. Now, that's kind of interesting. The delineator for what is SEO is does a user type something into a box, press submit, and get a result, aka search engine result page.
The acronym we use in our business is "SERPS," search engine result pages. That could be Google organic results where the marketer didn't pay for it, but the content was optimized for discoverability.
SEO has two sides. The technical side, where your site needs to actually facilitate the search engine's spiders crawling them. That's technical SEO, and to a great extent these days that is automated, where you install rather expensive tools with names like "Search Metrics," "Bright Edge," "Conductor," or other such tools that range in cost between $200 and $1,000 a month. That used to be $20-,$30-, $40,000 dollar audits, so technical SEO, the part where you remove the barriers to the site being discoverable.
The other side is semantic SEO, and that's where you're writing the title tag and the words that are on the page, the meta-description, and image alt tags that describe what the images are in text. What's really interesting about semantic side of SEO is that Google, Bing, and other search engines around the world, Yandex, Baidu, international search engines, they now work with entities of synonyms.
In Google, that update was called "Hummingbird." Now, if I say that I'm searching for "most joyful cities in America," Google will return results that are all about happiness, because it buckets joy. Google doesn't know from joy. It buckets joy into happiness. That holds true in fascinating ways to the entire English language, where Google basically buckets synonyms and concepts, and it uses artificial intelligence to discern what you are asking for, and then suggests in the box when you type in for search, and then comes up with the results it expects you will want. Then, as you search more it personalizes it for you.
The reason I said all that is because, while the technical side of SEO is now automated, the semantic side is a Rubik's Cube to where there's just no use trying to outwit the search engine. When we first started, search engine optimization meant anybody who was really smart and knew what to do could just clean up, because there were so many tactics and tricks to fool the search engines. Now, the search engines have really amazing and gorgeous bullshit detectors, so the only way to really get over with semantic SEO is to do notable things. The variables that Google looks for, aside from the words on the page and in the meta, is to see how many authoritative sites link to you and to see how you're buzzing in social.
Search engine optimization means I type it in the box, I ask a question, I press submit. That could be searching in Spotify, it could be the App Store for Apple where you optimize your app variables for discoverability. SEO, search engine optimization, is when you optimize the variables of your content in order to gain discoverability when people search for specific words. It's bolstered by you having done notable things, other authoritative sites linking to you, and authoritative social figures buzzing about you, which pushes the whole shoot and match higher. That's SEO.
MNBIZ: What's a notable thing?
Marty: If you discover a new cancer drug that's going to save twenty-five thousand lives in the next three years, and you announce it on Good Morning America with the Surgeon General of the United States, then it's a pretty good bet that you're going to have discoverability in Google for that, because news drives SEO. News drives social, social drives SEO. If you're Bubba Watson, and you work with a sunglass manufacturer and you just show up at a major golf tournament with a hovercraft, and just blow across the pond and go, "Hi. How are you doing?" That's pretty notable. It costs a lot of money to do that. What's ironic is that doing incredibly amazing things that cost a lot of money and really harness human ingenuity, that has a surer bet of success, but that doesn't mean that you can't be the butterfly wing that causes a monsoon across the world. Think of the things that touch your day in the news cycle. Those are notable.
MNBIZ: Notable, newsworthy. What you're saying is in the old days before the search engines got smarter, you could kind of fake notably.
Marty: Yeah. Ironically, it's people of our experience level that have a leg up now, because it's not about whether you could do something technically with a page, it's whether you have anything important to say. Once again, someone who knows how to tell a story ... Listen, for fifteen years our brains turned to crap. When I started this in 1992, 1993, if you could center Helvetica text on a gray page, then you could get over for search engine optimization.
Now, it's the old school skills that matter. Search engine optimization is the free part of discoverability, oftentimes with paid professionals organizing it for you. Remember that on the search side of things ... That's called "organic," by the way. Organic search is the other way of saying SEO, organic meaning it just happens for the search engines. Organic search, search engine optimization, discoverability.
There's another side of search, which is how the search engines make their money, which is called "paid search," also known as PPC, Pay-Per-Click, though there are models other than Pay-Per-Click around the world. When you talk about search marketing, which has been around since about the mid-90s, you're talking about SEO, organic, and you're talking about paid. That's where you pay Google, Bing, Yandex, Baidu, Yahoo Australia, or whoever to own in a bid, they're by bids, certain keywords that return ads in the search engine result page. What's happened is in the entire history of marketing and publishing, any time any publisher created something where marketers could get something above the fold for free that would help them sell things, publications began charging marketers for these things. That's why Google is the biggest company in the world and not me, because what used to be free is now monetized.
There's very little SEO above the fold. Because of Hummingbird, keywords that trigger ads and organic SERPS are fewer, so basically most businesses can get quite a bit done by search engine optimization, but not enough for scale, so they buy Google AdWords. It used to be that you could just win your whole business with SEO. There's very few businesses in the world these days that just only do SEO. I ask crowds, "How many people get so much free organic traffic from Google that they never need to buy AdWords Pay-Per-Click? Nobody? That's what I thought." On the search side, it's organic search engine optimization and there's search Pay-Per-Click. Even the Apple store just announced that they're going to be doing search engines for iOS application downloads, so if I make an app, I'll be able to pay Apple to bid for certain keywords. The higher you bid, the higher the ranking goes against other bidders. It's an auction. The whole world of search has gone search Pay-Per-Click, so that's SEO, that's paid search, that's search marketing.
MNBIZ: Getting back to your semantic...
Marty: Semantic SEO. That's the words that you used to describe.
MNBIZ: Is that the same as content?
Marty: Yeah, it is. Just keep in mind that there's extended variables that aren't on the page, like the title tag, which is what shows up in Google. Interestingly enough, as Google has become smarter, oftentimes the title tag isn't what shows. Google parses its own explanation of what it is. A certain percentage of search engine results for keywords don't have the keyword in the title anymore. Go search for "Most joyful cities in America," and look at the returns. The word "joy" is nowhere in any of those titles.
MNBIZ: The engines are getting trickier and trickier, and therefore more people are trying to thwart them.
Marty: Yeah. The really great big mind F and the reason that if you're going to spend any money in investing in ad tech, you go with Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, is because what's good for their revenue intersects with what's great for the user. Google does a better job at organizing content for human consumption than humans do. They've got better technology. It's really amazing. As marketers, we sometimes want to get mad at having to pay. We go, "We long for the days and pine for it to be free." What's ironic is it's actually a better user experience now than it was before.
MNBIZ: That's ironic.
Marty: It is. What we have to remember as marketers is if it weren't for Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc., we wouldn't have a job because they're the printing press of the current.
MNBIZ: I think I have a semblance of what an SEO is now. Now, how do you get from there to the psychographic stuff that you're into?
Marty: The roots of psychographics are words. Ironically, words are what we have to describe psychographic targeting. Psychographic targeting are the things that make you you, interests, affinities, proclivities, biases, politics, peccadillos, weird stuff, anything you can think of about who people are as humans. Here's the genesis of that. Back in the day when search marketing, which is still arguably the most focused and also the most expensive way that you can advertise for its effectiveness, there was this thing called display targeting. Mid-2000s was when it really began to pop. That was interesting, because we would take publications like ... You would offer yourself up as a partner to Google or another search engine, and they would put a little piece of code on each of your page and know all of the words on your page. Then, I could target those publications based on the words that were on the page, including negative keywords too, things I don't want on that page. That was minimally effective, but it was pretty cool and it was a lot less expensive.
MNBIZ: Can you give an example of that?
Marty: Yeah. If there was an article in the New York Times about a great new rule for how you can handle your taxes, then money managers could target people who were consuming that page and serve them a banner ad for their services in that city, which is interesting because nobody is searching for anything. They're consuming content. It's contextual advertising. It's no different than the advertisement on the boards at the hockey game or the tire ad in the newspaper next to the sports section, where you say, "Yeah," because there's some research that says, "Someone in the family buys tires." Contextual advertising. The little sister of search marketing is contextual advertising and the earliest targeting was about keywords. What words are on the article? There were millions of pages, and that was a really great place to accidentally pee away thirty-thousand dollars of media spend and get nothing done. The road to ruin is your plea with idiotic nascent banner advertising buys based on keywords. It was not effective. People didn't click on them that much. They were display advertisements like in the newspaper. It was really early targeting.
MNBIZ: I remember one from a few years ago I wrote a column on this. There was an article on whether the abuse or the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay was torture or not. I think the Red Cross or somebody was looking into it, and one of the display ads on the online version was "Meet Hot Guys from Cuba."
Marty: Right, exactly. You understand perfectly. A shrewd marketer would figure that out and use a negative keywords, Cuba. It can't say, "Cube." It's got to say, "Etc.," but it can't say, "X." That was early display advertising. Display advertising has become radically more focused in the data that can be used. Here's how it generally works. Many, many, many, hundreds of thousands or even millions of websites in this world, gather data on you and sell it. If you go to a badminton site, and you research birdies and you buy an unbelievably expensive birdie, if I own that badminton site I can set a cookie on you. I can then contact another marketer and say, "Hey, would you like access to that cookie and then you could target these people with banner ads? We know that they buy hugely expensive birdies," so in psychographic speak we could say, "They have badminton affinities and they buy expensive things." There's dozens of companies in this world that have businesses that organize taxonomies, outlines, of data and they make deals with website networks to gather the data, and then they make that data available in layers to marketers by various methods. Lots of companies sell that data, including the largest websites in the world.
Now, enter Facebook in 2007, which was the first true psychographic display advertising platform on earth. Really amazing, because Facebook went, "We have this many millions of users. We know what content they're into. We know what they enter into their profiles. We know a lot about them. We know the messages that they send people. We know a lot about them," so Facebook began organizing user behavior into variables. Some they told us about and some were black box. In 2007, I was working for an audio recording school here in Minneapolis and the credit card ran out of money for our Google Buy ... Audio Recording College Minnesota, Minnesota Recording School ... The Facebook platform was new, so I targeted people in Facebook's psychographic display channel. They were seventeen years old. They were single. They lived within fifty miles an hour, and they played guitar in a band or wanted to be a rockstar. It cost almost nothing and we crushed it. Like, there was one year where we spent like seventy-thousand on media spin and put like $4 million of business in. It was amazing.
Facebook has developed over the years to have much more intensive data. It's the same principle, though. Psychographics are when huge networks of websites organize your behavior and then make that available to marketers in layers to target. It gets particularly fascinating to understood that companies, like Experien, sell their data as anonymous classes, or Dun & Bradstreet ... The data is amazing. The data is incredible. What we have here with psychographic targeting is the logical evolution of early display targeting. Ultimately, it's no different. There's two kinds of advertising in this world, the kind where you ask for what you want. It's been the same forever, since the Colosseum. You walk up and you go, "Which way is the beheading?" "Over there." You go to the Yellow Pages. That is paper search marketing. "What am I doing? I'm looking for a plumber. It's geo-targeted because it's in my city."
That's different than when the first ads showed up next to output from the printing press. Nobody's searching for anything, but because the publication is apple picking today, I know that if I make apple picking implements and baskets, if I place a direct display placement, that's a lot of psychographics there. That's why direct banner buys work, the focus on the publication. That's why PR people who come from a classic placement background are geniuses, because now, what we do is we don't need to buy a direct banner ad from you. We just target the people who like your publication and we access to them without having to pay you the middle man price, with the same focus.
MNBIZ: Is that like the cutting edge now of digital marketing?
Marty: No, but the world is just getting good at it. We started it in 2008 and brought Martha Stewart to psychographic targeting in 2009. We've been doing it forever. We've sold nine-hundred million dollar water treatment plants and mini-vans to pregnant couples, and pizza delivery in London to people who smoke weed at night. Like, we've been making hay with that. There was a very, very small select group of people. The reason that fewer folks didn't do it earlier is because it's always been very labor [intensive]... Like any new advertising medium, you have to be willing to do three times the work by hand until the tools come out. As the tools were developed and become more user friendly, and now there's a billion and a half people on Facebook, now everybody and their brother has hung a shingle, so it's not cutting edge. It's been around forever and the world is just beginning to get good at it. What's cutting edge is when you bring people into the system with contextual psychographic display, for psychographics for who they are, and then if they don't take the action you desire, running search campaigns to just those people, or sending somebody into the marketing system for a keyword and if they don't buy, following them around on the internet, but only certain people.
Like, if you search for "Nikon binocular sale," come to the website, they don't buy and I "retarget them," that's the following around word. I don't retarget everybody. I only retarget the ones who make two-hundred and fifty K a year, they like Audubon Society or two-hundred different geeky species of birds and they tend to buy outdoor sporting equipment according to MasterCard data, and so I follow a much more select group, and therefore my conversion is ridiculous. On the geeky side, cutting edge is when I do the first hop, I do the filtered second hop, and then when they come back I capture all of those layers. That is persona modeling. To my mind, that's the only true persona modeling in the world, and exactly nobody is that good. We work with some of the largest companies in the world. LinkedIn is our client, eBay is our client, Dell is our client.
I know from working with the largest companies in the world that the reason they hire us is to help take them to that level, and five years from now that will be in appliances. That is the future. Psychographic targeting is not cutting edge. It's just the data is getting better and companies are able to take it on with much more efficient tools that require less elbow grease and expertise. A layered search and psychographic targeting, where you keep track of each new layer of data, that's what's cutting edge. Like every generation, it's almost impossible. It's really hard to do. It takes elbow grease, commitment, and a lot of work.
MNBIZ: What do you call that?
Marty: Filtered retargeting, where I know who they are so I run search campaigns to those people. If I drive in somebody who's an MIT professor, who's into these geeky algorithmic things and measurements, because I'm trying to sell an oscilloscope and they don't buy, and I run my search campaign about shopping for oscilloscopes to that lady who did the original psychographic segment, theoretically that search keyword should do better than if I just run to anyone in the whole world who asked that keyword. In that sense, it's retargeting, meaning there's another hop, another ad served, but it's filtered. Filtered retargeting.
MNBIZ: When people sell data or when businesses sell data, are they selling cookies?
Marty: Yeah, that's a wonderful question actually. Let's play that through. Let's bake some cookies here. If you come to my website and I set a cookie, and then anywhere you go on the internet, mostly, I can follow you with an ad. That would be considered a first party cookie, even though you're viewing it somewhere else, because it's on my website that I set the cookie. It's my data, my website, my cookie. I could call up my friend Joe and I could say, "Hey, Joe. Would you like access to my first party cookie?" He'll go, "Hell yeah. I want to target people who are our marketers." My first party retargeting cookie for following just became his third party targeting cookie.
Companies like Facebook, Datalogics, Epsilon, Bluekai, or Dun & Bradstreet, etc., what they're in the business of is collating their data and other websites' data and network and they go, "Hey, I'm the data broker." They go out and buy in a revenue share model, a licensing share model, or some model, a first party retargeting cookies in a taxonomy, and then they resell them. It's fascinating, really. It makes me excited. It's an amazing time to be a marketer. When I retire, this stuff is going to all be black box. It's already getting there.
It's already getting to be where the level of operator required to execute this ... You still need to go, at this time in marketing, "Yeah, when a family is having a baby -- that is the time they would consider a bigger car." Still, at this time in the history of marketing, the only thing we have to describe psychographics with is words, "pregnant." It's so interesting. Wordsmithing and the class of creative skills and marketing, where you try to marry up the true value of a product with people's needs, wants, and ability to buy it, that skill is paramount. PR, where you know the things to say to the media to achieve notably, ironically it's the old school skills now.
MNBIZ: I think we've come full circle, from the cutting edge to the...
Marty: Did you track with me there?
MNBIZ: I think so. I got lost at the black box.
Marty: What that means is right now I need to do the research and say, "They search for Nikon binoculars with another word that's not free." I still need to do that research. I need to understand. I still need to know, "Hey, people use binoculars to go birding, to go opera, when they're mountaineering," and so if I bring the users into the website for a Nikon binocular sale, I still need to think up. "Yeah, a lot of customers buy it for birding. How about if we retarget them filtered by cardinal species?" I still need to go, "Our average customer tends to make over X a year." I still need to know that. I could plug that all in and then it can do it, but it still requires human intuition.
Also, in the future when I say it will be black box, I mean the system is going to know that. You'll go, "I sell binoculars," and it's going to go, "Here." It's going to tell you all of those vertical interests. It'll do it for you. The one safe harbor for marketers that will not be replaced by any algorithm or black box in the foreseeable future is creative, because there's too many words in the human language to try everything and not enough people are money. The smartest agencies in the world right now are going, "Yeah, how do we replace our add operations people with creativity?" Which is what we're doing. That's what we're doing.
In the next five years, if you're not one of the best classic creative houses, then you're not going to get advertising work, because the operations, the targeting, and the know-how is going to be black box. Ironically, at the end of all of this stuff, twenty years on the internet, it comes down to knowing what to say to what person. How cool is that? Ironically, old school is new school. Like, the age of the drone operator are over.
I wrote an article that's generally credited as foundational in the industry, in 2012. I got to tell you a side story. I've tried to talk about filtered retargeting as early as 2013. The audiences didn't get it all. I remember one experience in Seattle, speaking at one of the coolest conferences in the industry, and the person who ran the conference came up and sat down on the stage with me in front of eight-hundred people and said, "Marty, we sense that you're onto something and that this is going to become very important, but frankly we don't know what the f--- you're talking about." I sat there cross-legged on the stage, and he interviewed me and I explained it, and I kind of got over. Then, I went, I sat under the soundboard, cried, and sucked my thumb for about half an hour because I was just really bummed, and then that's the way the internet turned out to be. Everybody understands that now.