Epsilon’s President Of Data Talks Changing Relationships With CMOs

staceyhawesAs the CMO role has evolved, so too has Epsilon’s selling strategy.

“We were trying to sell everything to every customer,” said Stacey Hawes, president of Epsilon’s data practice. “We want to step back and ask, ‘Where does methodical selling make sense, rather than being everything to everyone?’”

In September, Epsilon reorganized into six practices to become a long-term partner for marketers’ data efforts, rather than a one-off provider. These include automotive, data, technology, agency, media (Conversant), and shopper marketing (Catapult).

Hawes, who has worked at Epsilon for 17 years, became data president as part of the reorg.

“I’m trying to get my data sellers to be more strategic and consultative,” Hawes said.

Epsilon’s data practice serves more than 3,000 marketers across verticals with four primary assets. Abacus is its retail data co-op, TotalSource Plus offers core demographic and propensity information, Shopper’s Voice houses self-reported intender data and Market View houses transactional data to tailor offers in specific verticals to the right audience.

Market View in particular provides some of the offline transaction data that Conversant uses to do closed-loop measurement and reporting. Hawes’ couldn’t comment further on the Conversant side of the business.

Hawes, who hails from DoubleClick before the Google days, spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: What’s your focus as president of Epsilon’s data practice?

STACEY HAWES: I work across practices within Epsilon to pull data and insights through at every touch point. For example, we have data siting in our Harmony [email and cross-channel marketing] platform. How do we get that data into their CRM and loyalty databases? Our focus for next year is getting our infrastructure in shape to be able to onboard data anywhere we need it.

I spend the other 10 hours of the day trying to pivot the business because it’s changing so rapidly. I train the data sales teams and client teams to change the conversations they’re having. We aren’t talking about one part of the marketing campaign. We’re talking about what a marketer is trying to accomplish campaign by campaign and how we can add value. We teach them all of the ways they can utilize that data across everything they do.

How is the data practice changing?  

Ten years ago, almost 100% of what we provided was offline data to fuel direct mail. Today, it’s to fuel campaigns in any channel.

Matching is something we spend a lot of time on now in terms of consumer IDs. A few years ago, everyone we worked with had a name and address. Now, if we’re working with a cable or media company, they might not have personally identifiable information. An addressable TV company may only have a device ID. 

To be privacy compliant, you have to go through a lot of steps, like hashing IDs to make sure it doesn’t get back to a marketer. We’ve always taken privacy seriously. We won’t be the first mover to do new linkage or hashing that might cross over that privacy bridge. We spend a lot of time thinking about what data we can link back and forth when we work with Conversant. It’s actually easy to bring offline data into an online world. It’s the other way around that’s hard.

Do you work more closely with marketers or agencies?

We work with some agencies and have strategic partnerships with companies that resell our data on behalf of customers, but 90% of the time I’m talking to a marketer. Epsilon in general targets the Fortune 500 and Fortune 1,000. The data practice its quite different; we sell to companies of all sizes. Multichannel marketers need data just as much as a bank or a Comcast.

How do you onboard first-party data?

Through a data management platform (DMP), a hosted database or their agency. We have direct relationships with a lot of marketers where we can pipe data in directly. We clean and hash it all at Epsilon and then we onboard it.

Marketers can take in our data sets and work with a DMP of their choice, or we can onboard the data on their behalf. Up to this point we’ve done a lot of, “Here’s the data, go do your thing.” I want to stay part of that marketing cycle longer. We’re not just going to hand you data. Tell us where you need the data to go so we’re able to partner better and understand what you’re trying to accomplish. Onboarding will be a natural extension of that.

Are marketers hesitant to share data?

Not as hesitant as they once were. When I started, sharing was a huge hurdle. Access and social media has changed that. If you think about it from a consumer perspective, what you’re giving away just to be on Facebook today is frightening. What are they doing with that information? But that sentiment has eased up and marketers are more willing to share data almost too freely. Choose one or two partners that you really trust and mitigate that.

Are CMOs becoming more data-savvy?

Yes, absolutely, and thank God. At first, data was a necessary evil to them. Now, it’s a must-have. The CMO and the CIO are working a lot more closely now. Sometimes they get along, sometimes they really don’t, which is interesting.

What do they disagree about?

Who really owns the decisions. It’s a power thing, to a degree. I met with a client yesterday. The IT team had chosen Epsilon to build a database and bring in data. The marketing team was like, “Why did we choose you? What is it about you?” We had to prove our value all over again even though the decision had been made. Marketing didn’t want some of the things the CIO demanded we provide. We’re seeing where we used to sell to the CMO, now we sell to the marketing team and IT teams.

What do marketers still need help with?

They need us to keep them focused and steer clear of the shiny object. You can’t pick up anything today without reading about big data. It’s all about volume, velocity, using tech to house it and being able to quickly go through reams of it.

But marketing is not about as much data as you can get your hands on. It’s about the right data that will be actionable for your brand. They’re not staffed for it and they get so bogged down in it. Marketers need a partner to say, “Here’s all the data we’ve got. Let us go through this reduction process and help you determine what you need to be successful. Then take that in.” When someone says, “Just give us all of it, we’ll figure it out,” they come back six months later.

Updated: Names of Epsilon’s six technology practices. 

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