*The Power Players series highlights industry professionals who are expanding the boundaries of content operations, marketing and martech strategy, and digital asset management. Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
The Power Player: John Horodyski a.k.a. The Oracle
The Power Play: “It’s all about the data.”
For John Horodyski, Managing Director at Salt Flats and a digital asset management and metadata expert, data is absolutely the name of the content operations game.
In our digital era, John is confident that the most successful companies of today and tomorrow are those who have the means to glean competitive insights from intelligently collected data. Not all data is created equal—without a way to accurately interpret what your data is telling you, there’s just no way to create the personalized content you need to engage your customers.
In this interview, hear what John Horodyski has to say about the marriage of data and content, why personalized content is only getting more and more vital, and why data is the language of our modern society.
All About The Oracle and Salt Flats
Ed Breault, CMO at Aprimo: John, tell me more about your new venture. What is Salt Flats all about?
John Horodyski, Managing Director at Salt Flats: Thank you, Ed, and I appreciate that question.
Salt Flats is an innovation platform with a diverse, creative group of disrupters who challenge the status quo and create tomorrow’s future, today.
We bring a diverse team of innovators who are focused on excellence in a collaborative environment and deliver results at rapid speed. We work with leadership teams to solve and create innovative business solutions, and our proven framework for innovative excellence will allow our clients to explore uncharted territory and make game-changing discoveries along the way. We call it the “Arc of Innovation.”
Our “Insights and Analytics” team makes data work for you. We know that the winners in the digital era will be those who can harvest competitive insights and knowledge from access to strategic data and collective intelligence techniques.
Our vanguard data, content and information management processes are foundational in order to further apply technology like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and cohort analysis techniques.
Our data-driven and user-centric approach to information organization leverages data to create consumer experiences that maximize content ROI.
It’s a great time to be in data and DAM.
Personalized Content Is Key
ED: Today, we will be talking about the marriage of data and content and how data is so important in helping unleash the power of content. Five to 10 years ago, we were talking about “big data” but now we are making a shift to “big content.” Let’s talk about some trends happening today, like the 4 Vs of content—Volume, variety, velocity, and veracity.
- Volume: petabytes, terabytes of content to deliver personalized customer experiences
- Variety: numerous, different and emerging types of content, even content that isn’t file based
- Velocity: the speed at which we need to move content from within our org. out into the world and how we can’t allow our lack of bandwidth to get in the way
- Veracity: the truth in content—content has to be trustworthy and has to be there when you need it
Are you seeing those trends play out in your world, John?
JOHN: What a great question, Ed, as “personalization” initiatives are no longer buzzworthy, but very much real in most organizations.
If you’re trying to reach out to your audience with generic, impersonal content, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to engage them and encourage them to stay with you in the long run. Talking to them directly, and truly understanding them is your best way to win them over.
This is all about marketing personalization which means interacting with your audience and customers in a way that feels both personal and human, taking into consideration their likes, preferences and interests.
Personalization is becoming not just a competitive advantage, but something that your customers expect through every interaction with you and your brand. It’s interesting to note that a recent Deloitte study found that 36% of customers are interested in buying personalized products, and 48% said they would be willing to wait longer to receive it.
That’s where automation and data analytics come in. Your customer data is the most valuable thing you can leverage in order to build the best personalized campaigns.
If you’re trying to reach out to your audience with generic, impersonal content, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to engage them and encourage them to stay with you in the long run.
For example, in order to build newsletters that recommend relevant content for your customers, you can automatically gather data from their previous reading history and recommend other blog posts and articles on similar or related topics. Likewise, knowing your customers’ job title, area of expertise, topics of interest, previous purchase patterns, and even their geographic location can work in your favor to help you segment email marketing campaigns.
It goes without saying, that data … and good quality data, is the only way to play in today’s economy.
The Aspirations of Experience-Driven Companies
ED: We talk about personalization, but we have to get beyond personalization, the problem is static approaches to personalization through segmentation didn’t deliver results, having all of the data doesn’t mean anything if that data isn’t there when you need it. John, tell me about experience-driven marketing organizations you work with, what are their aspirations and how do you guide them?
JOHN: Yes, the aspirations are always high—and so they should be in today’s disruptive economy.
You not only need goals to get you where you want to be, but an effective roadmap and strategy to help you get there. And, in terms of data, it’s often a dilemma of having either “too much data” or “too little data” to get you where you want to be.
Our greatest guidance to clients is always to approach their new aspirations with knowing where they are now, what they have with them, and where they want to go. I am a big believer in the crawl, walk, run approach … and it works.
And, let’s be clear … disruption is everywhere … just take a look at our economy as we continue to move forward in our pandemic times.
I think many people in marketing and DAM have taken this to heart and have started thinking more about what good change they can bring to their product offerings and in their product roadmaps. I have seen much more new interest in optimizing service offerings for more AI work as well as integrations or connections with other systems within the MarTech space.
But, more importantly, it is the ability to use that “Arc of Innovation” to solve and create innovative business solutions, to allow you to explore uncharted territory and make game-changing discoveries along the way.
Climbing the Analytics Maturity Ladder
ED: Let’s talk about changing the game. Analytics play such a core part in descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics. John, can you give me some tangible examples from your clients on how they climb this maturity ladder?
JOHN: Ultimately, we all want to mature in our business process, and in our interaction with our customers. Maturity is always a very good thing.
At Salt Flats, we believe achieving data maturity is a journey, and we are here for our clients at every step of the way.
Regardless of your data goals, nothing can be achieved without a strong data foundation. Our team of library scientists develop and establish taxonomies that allow data to work for companies. When the data is ready, our data scientists then get to work translating data into visualizations, forecasting algorithms, and predictions to inform business decisions of tomorrow.
At the foundation of that is data alignment where the focus is on data governance and processing to enable technology. This starts with the foundational elements of metadata and taxonomy to support all that follows such as data processing and change management. You need to know what you have, how much of it there is, how to describe it, and what it is trying to do. Then you can organize your data and your content in your most valuable and robust DAM to become the core of your MarTech efforts and truly enable the technology.
Then you may move up into descriptive analytics where you can leverage data to better understand your business. You want to identify what has happened with your brand, and products and services and your consumers, and then make it real for them with data visualization. Descriptive analytics, like a corporate dashboard, makes it all meaningful.
Next is predictive analytics, which is enabling machine learning and artificial intelligence to anticipate your business tomorrow. This includes such functionality as image recognition to natural language processing, to improvements to supply chain management, and data management.
Lastly, there is prescriptive analytics which builds upon all your data efforts to have strategic program management, and truly make data driven decision making.
The goal of this data maturity is to move up the ladder, and mature your data along the way … essentially, optimizing your information from hindsight to insight to foresight.
Strengthening Data Today to Create a Better Tomorrow
ED: Let’s talk “Not Skipping the Data.” Why is data so foundational to this strategy and why is the metadata management and taxonomy standardization the first area of focus?
JOHN: Exactly. This is all about strengthening today, in order to create tomorrow.
There are many good examples of why not to skip things. Your doctor might tell you to never skip a meal, or don’t skip the gym, and that’s based on the sound methodology of following the data routine built from a good data foundation.
A great example of this in the market today is the interest from many businesses in AI and machine learning programs. The ideas of AI and machine learning are no longer science fiction, let alone fiction. This is both exciting and concerning as that reality forces us to realize that data is the foundation upon which these types of computer intelligence can be built. We want the machines to learn and do more, but we must provide them with good, quality data in order for them to do that. The robots should not work in splendid isolation, but instead, with great human interaction the entire way through the process
We need to get our metadata house in order to support this AI-based technology.
You cannot skip this data step. You need it in order to achieve your goals.
And, remember, with good quality metadata and effective insights and analytics, you are able to understand: What happened? Why did it happen? What will happen? And, how can we make it happen?
Quality data equals smart data equals great results. Don’t skip the data.
The Critical Role of DAM
ED: So we didn’t skip the data, we have the foundation, let’s layer in some technology. How does DAM play such a critical role in the enrichment of an experience-driven marketing organization’s personalization initiatives?
JOHN: Without metadata, you have nothing. So start there first, and start to build upon that foundation.
Your DAM serves as the backbone on which you can build the rest of your marketing tech stack. It’s where all your creative content and data lives. And, choosing a strong DAM system gives you a great base to build upon.
However, it is important to remember that a good DAM is nothing without the data that moves through it. Metadata, taxonomy, and governance are the muscles that allow your DAM to function. These are as vital as the DAM software itself.
A good experience driven marketing initiative begins with your data flowing through your DAM.
Implementing strong metadata and workflow standards in a DAM makes all the difference when implementing your MarTech stack. Your DAM is the single repository for all of the creative assets created by the marketing and creative services departments. Being able to track, find, and distribute assets in an efficient manner makes all the difference in day-to-day creative operations, and allows for experience driven marketing opportunities for your brand.
Simply put, the DAM connects all other tools in your MarTech stack. A good experience driven marketing initiative begins with your data flowing through your DAM.
John Horodyski’s Power Play
ED: What would you claim as your “power play” and how would you use it to advise the audience who currently face challenges to properly invest in the data layer of their business?
JOHN: If data is the language upon which our modern society will be built, then metadata will be its grammar—the construction of its meaning, the building for its content, and the ability to understand what data can be for us all.
In an ever-changing business environment, metadata must be adaptable and must evolve over time to stay relevant to the digital assets that they support. If maintained and governed well, then metadata can be a very real contribution to your business goals.
To answer your question, data is the power play.
The future of a prosperous society and business will be dependent on those who innovate. So, start now and learn, build, innovate and prosper … or you will wither away in this new economy.
Time is short. The choice is yours. Data is your power play.