Maureen: Hi Morgan! Thanks for being a guest on our Women We Watch interview series! Can you tell our audience a little bit more about yourself and what Trendline does?
Morgan: Sure. I’m the CEO at Trendline Interactive. I am one of the two co-founders. What do I do here? I try and make sure that we stay on track. I make sure that it's all working and that everybody is swimming in the same direction. It changes from day-to-day. One of the things that I enjoy about leading an organization like this is that I get to rewrite my job description every year.
We're a full-service email marketing firm. Our mission is to help organizations who are running large enterprise. Primarily, email programs. But, it carries over into things like text and mobile and push and that sort of thing to really connect with their customers and drive value.
Maureen: Tell me a little more about the challenge that Trendline is trying to solve for.
Morgan: I think one of the challenges that email has had is that there is an over emphasis on the tactics and just getting the messages out. When in reality, it's really about connecting and saying “how do we drive value through this?” From day one our approach has been let's make sure that we have all of the necessary resources, whether it's strategists, or creatives, or copywriter or technologists, or operations folks, to make sure that we are actually helping our clients exceed their customer's expectations as well as make an impact on the bottom line.
Maureen: What challenges to retailers face when it comes to email marketing, and the other channels that Trendline works with?
Morgan: Retailers, in some ways, have it the best and worst of companies from an online perspective. I say that it’s the best because the outcome is the easiest to observe.
At the same time, it's sort of the worst and most challenging in the sense that there's a lot of noise. You're often dealing with enormous amounts of data, and data that's hard to interpret. Really, the challenge is how do retailers read all of the signals that we're getting from our programs, coordinate them and make sure that the messages and whatever promotion products positioning are really relevant to customer’s interests. It's easy to pick up a bad signal and run too far with it.
An old friend of mine is your average man’s man. He bought a Barbie Dream House for his niece for Christmas. Somehow for this retailer, who had a very broad product set, started emailing him frequently with Barbie products. Of course, we both thought was rather funny. But, it's an example of just you picked up the wrong signal. Just because that's what the person bought, doesn't mean that he is somehow a closet Barbie aficionado.
Maureen: What a great example! That happens all the time to friends of mine who buy baby gifts for friends. They get spammed by programmatic advertising for baby accoutrements that they’ll never need.
Morgan: Exactly. So, that happens with travel too. I like travel. But just because I went to Bakersfield, California on a business trip doesn’t mean that I need to be served vacation ads for Visalia because the hotel has capacity. No amount of excess hotel capacity is going to entice me there.
As marketers we want to make sure we’re weighting different behaviors differently. Taking things like seasonality into context. Saying if it's in the holiday season, I'm not going to attribute the dollhouse to this individual. That's a big one.
No matter how tempting it might be to sell excess inventory of anything (hotels, widgets, whatever), it needs to serve the customer. Each stakeholder has their set of objectives of I'm trying to move product in this department. For example, my co-founder had a pretty senior person in another company that sold toys who had over-ordered on plush toys. So, every time they were sending out an email, he pressured the marketers to push the plush toys. Maintaining structures of corporate discipline to protect consumers and make sure that corporate dysfunction doesn't get in the way of their experience.
In fact, I've worked with large retailers who implemented rules to say that if you're going to send out a campaign to the customer base, you cannot send it to more than 50% of the customer base.
Maureen: Highly segmented. That's smart.
Morgan: There's no rationale for why it needs to be 50%. It's just to force you have to think about who it is you're trying to talk to. Blasting something out to the customer base is just verboten.
Maureen: It does make sense because if that message is geared for everyone, it will likely resonate with very few. If you have to think it through and create a customer experience that's specific to your persona, and you’ll have a better result.
Morgan: It's playing the long game as opposed to the short game.
I think sometimes short term pressure forces or encourages people to do some not very smart things. I think, operational alignment and control that is really intelligent, frankly is the biggest challenge that I see organizations face. It’s really about finding the right tools to help us sift through the data.
If you don't have the framework, and you don't have common sense business practices behind it, people do all sorts of silly stuff. Frankly, from a challenge perspective, I would say that's, typically, the most difficult one for us to help clients work through.
Maureen: Awesome. That's a perfect segue. Let's talk about how you help clients work through their technology and infrastructure challenges.
One of the things that I love about the work that we're involved in is we're building native audiences. From an email, mobile and even direct mail perspective, we're working with client to build their own audiences. We look at that audience as an asset and we can either do actions to make that asset appreciate or depreciate over time. If we tap in too fast, too hard, or frankly too dumb we will decrease the value of that asset. If we leverage that asset appropriately, then we'll see it appreciate.
Then we build the creative and technical foundation and by putting those elements in place to align with brand and execution, we’ve got a firm foundation. Then we start testing. A lot. We try all sorts of new ideas. Say a client says “I want to start using machine learning to drive content within my hero image. On a personalized level!” Great. As long as we have the foundation in place, we can do that test all day long and we can do it quickly.
Maureen: That makes sense. How do you use your talent to stay innovative?
The Innovation Funnel is a phrase you might have heard of. Much like the sales funnel, where you need to keep new leads coming in to ensure some of them are buying your products, you need to knock down and eliminate barriers to open up the funnel of new ideas. The only way you get more ideas is by having people with different experiences and perspectives.
For example, I love thinking about big ideas but I have to be balanced by people who are much more detail oriented. And beyond personality types, we need to have perspectives of people from a variety of backgrounds including a variety of ethnicities, religious, physical abilities, and neuro-diverse backgrounds. We need to make sure that we give equal voice to everybody in the room. Although, we are working on diversifying the company wholesale, we celebrate the fact that women are well represented.
At Trendline, many of our leadership of that group is all female. And we are working on building a cultivation program to ensure that we’re helping them grow in their roles. We invest a lot of time, and money and energy in it. We've hired an outside consultant to help us operate as a healthy, functional organization for everyone.
The consultant’s time and energy along with tools we’ve implemented have helped us highlight that everyone’s experience is valid. But we take it a step further by bridging the gap between the celebration of someone’s perspective and being seen in the workplace. We coach people on how to communicate their world view effectively so everyone ends up getting maximum benefit from it.
Maureen: Well it sounds like you’re well on your way! Thanks for sharing your perspective with us.
Morgan: Thank you.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.