Dave Brotton
December 20, 2019

Big, Dirty, Greasy Marketing With Purple Wave

Guest: Dave Brotton - VP of Marketing, Purple Wave

Ask most senior marketing executives to describe their company, and you’ll often hear words like “workflow,” “optimization,” or “disruption” get thrown around. When you ask Dave Brotton, Vice President of Marketing, about Purple Wave, you’ll get something a little different—they like to say they “sell big, dirty, greasy equipment.” Now that’s a description with character. Purple Wave is, in fact, is in the business of big, dirty, greasy equipment—they are an online auction platform focused on things like construction and agricultural vehicles. So, think of it as eBay, but instead of a cute, $30 vintage sweater, you’re bidding on a $43,000 2012 John Deere S660 RWA combine to help harvest your next corn or soybean crop.

Believe it or not, marketing a company geared towards industrial agricultural equipment is a little different than marketing a company where you can sell your sibling’s old sweaters for some pocket cash. Purple Wave has devoted significant time to ensuring proper persona slicing for their efforts and have committed to building a strong community that can help them draw in both buyers and sellers. On this episode, Dave and Drew meet in Tampa at The CMO Club Summit in their escapes from Manhattan, KS and Manhattan, NY, respectively. They talk about company growth, community forming for customers and prospects, meaningful customer relationships, and more. Check it out!

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Dave Brotton

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Thinkers! Special episode for you today. We are live at the CMO Club Summit here in Tampa, or actually at St. Pete’s beach in the Don CeSar hotel. I’m here with David Brotton and—it’s just Dave, right?

Dave Brotton: It’s just Dave.

Drew Neisser: Okay. And we are actually ditching a session here—don’t tell Pete—but we wanted to talk about some cool programs that David has been doing at Purple Wave, which is an online auction company. But it’s not like eBay and auctioning your precious little things from your home. No, we’re talking about huge things that you use on farms. Giant tractors, combines, and other things. There’s some really interesting, sophisticated marketing that’s going on there. So, with that, I want to welcome Dave to the show. Welcome to Renegade Thinkers.

Dave Brotton: Hey, glad to be here.

Drew Neisser: Here we go. You have an interesting background. You’ve been at Purple Wave for seven years, but you had experience before that. I think you mentioned that you started as an engineer.

Dave Brotton: Background in chemistry. I thought I wanted to go into medicine, and I chose a different path and ended up working in chemical sales for SC Johnson for several years.

Drew Neisser: Now when you told your parents you were going to be in medicine, they thought that was pretty cool. And then you said you’re going to do what? How did they respond?

Dave Brotton: Yeah, there were several more years of school there and maybe I wasn’t in the best shape to continue my education, so maybe it was time to get out and get a real job.

Drew Neisser: All right. One of the things we were talking about is that you spent some time at SC Johnson, and they were analytics-driven. Talk about that experience and how that helped you set up for this job.

Dave Brotton: Oh, yeah. They were an awesome place to work. The best and the brightest, smartest people, great bosses, and mentors. I really felt we were ahead of the curve. I was in marketing and product management, and they were real big on analytics and we didn’t have data lakes and warehouses at the time. I can remember when they chose somebody out of the marketing group to move their cube over by the IT folks and our resident expert said, “We’re gonna go over here and we’re gonna set this up.” We were pushing things into Excel spreadsheets and Cognos at the time so, yeah, we got a really early, early look at analytics and their power. We were a big player, and just being able to see our market shares in different countries around the world and understanding our customers and their needs and being able to see that through data was a huge jump off learning point for me.

Drew Neisser: Well, it sounds like they were a little bit more than a family company. I always remember “SC Johnson, a family company.”

Dave Brotton: It was a big family company.

Drew Neisser: It was a big family company. All right. The thing that attracted to me about this story is that I got to know Dave when we were prepping for a Summit session here. Talk a little bit about Purple Wave. First of all, you’re based in Manhattan, Kansas.

Dave Brotton: Yep.

Drew Neisser: Kinda cool. Right in the middle of farm country. Home of the Wildcats?

Dave Brotton: Kansas State Wildcats.

Drew Neisser: Kansas State Wildcats. Go cats, I guess.

Dave Brotton: EMAW.

Drew Neisser: What’s that?

Dave Brotton: Every man a wildcat. EMAW.

Drew Neisser: Every man a wildcat. See, you learn a lot of new things on this show. You’ve been there now seven years, what was the situation like when you arrived?

Dave Brotton: Purple Wave is an online auction company—we like to say we sell big, dirty, greasy equipment—focused really in the construction and the ag markets. We do a lot of government work and a lot of fleet work as well. We’re a growing company and we’ve been blessed to have good people and good markets and we just keep growing. We really got into heavy segmentation and heavy automation as a need. We only have a limited amount of time to sell our equipment before goes to auction. We never get the same equipment twice and so we didn’t really have six months or twelve months to lay out a product plan and move something through the pipeline. We are constantly getting material and equipment in and we needed to find out a way to automate it.

Drew Neisser: First, just to give a sense, we’re talking about things like combines, so what’s the most expensive thing on your website right now?

Dave Brotton: On the website right now, there’s probably a couple hundred-thousand-dollar tractor or bulldozer. I haven’t looked at the website in the last couple of days since I’ve been here, so they’ll shoot me for that, but yeah, we tend to run lot values of $5,000. That takes care of a lot of heavy equipment all the way down to small parts and buckets for utility tractors and things like that.

Drew Neisser: So, if I’m in the market for a $200,000 combine and I’m going online to search this because this is a hobby, I need this for my business, right? It feels like you would need to do almost a marketing campaign for each of those individual products.

Dave Brotton: You betcha. We worked really hard to get the Purple Wave brand name out in terms of being a place to trust, having a no reserve auction. We run a no reserve auction, which means that everything starts for $10 and moves up, and everything will sell. We don’t have hidden reserves; we don’t have games or gimmicks. The first several years at Purple Wave, they sold a lot of different products and then they kind of made a pivot about 10 years ago into heavy equipment. We really built up a trust factor there and as we’ve gotten bigger in our footsteps from footprint from outside of the Midwest to more of a national footprint, we really do focus in these industries and we had to find a way to automate that and to get the word out. That really came where we started figuring out what we could do with our email and—we still use physical mailers…

Drew Neisser: We’ll talk about that.

Dave Brotton: Sounds good. …And a lot of digital advertising. We still do a lot of printed flyers where our sales reps are going around and hanging them locally in their territory. We have a nice mix of old-fashioned marketing the local newspapers and shoppers, and then a lot of high tech AdWords/Facebook digital marketing combined with our email and other types.

Drew Neisser: Let’s step back for a second. You talked about building the Purple Wave brand. I would think, if I’ve never heard of Purple Wave and I’m going to buy a $200,000 combine, I’m a little nervous because I don’t know if I’m going to get a chance to kick the tires or not. How did you go about building the brand of an online auction? It’s essentially something you never physically touch. How does that work?

Dave Brotton: Well, there are a couple of things with the brand. I’ve been there seven years and Purple Wave’s been around a little over fifteen or sixteen, so the brand was already started. We probably wouldn’t choose Purple Wave as the best descriptor of a website that sells big, dirty, greasy equipment, but there may or may not be a story of the founders and K State’s colors, purple, and something to do with a hot tub or something like that. But that’s not for me to tell that story. But, you know, we just conducted great auctions, did what we said we were gonna do, showed up on time, were fair and honest. We tried to do good, honest descriptions of the equipment that we were going on, and that really built the brand. The brand was built by the people that were there and I think we’ve mixed good technology with it, but your brand is always built on the people that are there.

Drew Neisser: And that’s a really interesting thing because you don’t make the stuff you’re selling. This is mainly used equipment.

Dave Brotton: Yes.

Drew Neisser: It’s used, and that’s a tricky area, too, because you’re essentially used car sales, but it’s used trucks and tractors and things. How do you make sure that the quality of the product that is on the site is, in fact, the quality that someone expects?

Dave Brotton: Sure. That’s a great question. We take all the pictures, all the videos. We list the listings of all the descriptions of the equipment, our folks come out to wherever that piece of equipment stands. We sell it as is, where is, which means that if you’re in Lincoln, Nebraska, and you have a bulldozer to sell, we’ll have somebody come and visit you in Lincoln, Nebraska, and we’ll take the pictures and the descriptions. If somebody from Mississippi buys that dozer, they’ll be responsible for coming and picking it up.

Now, I would say if it was a piece of equipment that was only worth a couple thousand dollars, there’s a pretty high trust there and we’re not talking about a lot of money. If it was a $200,000 dozer, there’s some due diligence that needs to take place, so people will jump on a plane and go test drive it. We’re open and we share who the seller is, so we encourage them: “Hey, pick up the phone, call this guy. Talk to him. How did you use it? Where did you use it? What sort of options does it have on it? You guys are gonna speak the same language. Talk about it. Ask some questions.”

We try to encourage that open marketplace. With any business, we get some jokers that will try to hide something or not pass something off and we try to rectify those situations is as nice and as clean as we can. But, yeah, those are the kind of things that you have to do to monitor your community, to make sure that you have good buyers and good sellers.

Drew Neisser: That’s a perfect place for us to take a break, and when we come back, we’ll just dig into what community really means here. Stay with us.

BREAK

Drew Neisser: We’re back. My guest is Dave Brotton, and we’ve been talking about big, dirty, greasy equipment, but we’re really talking about a brand with kind of a funky name, Purple Wave. But I think it’s a great name. It’s easy to remember. It’s unexpected. It gives you the ability to sell all sorts of different things. But you found your niche in this world and you used the word community in the last segment. What does that really mean in terms of, you know, is this a database of folks, and how do you build and nurture your community?

Dave Brotton: As we’ve grown over the years, obviously our databases for known customers and potential customers has grown but if we go back six or seven years, we were putting together the traditional auction flyer, which was once a month, and we tried to cut out different pieces of equipment and we sent it to press. We had a problem in that everybody in the organization wanted us to just hold off on that mailer one or two more days, “because I’m really close to booking this really big piece of equipment and I want to make sure that it gets the marketing.” Then we were rushed on the other side to get it to press and get it out in time for the open window to get it delivered before the auction started. We’d been growing significantly at that time and we started looking at, well, what other ways could we get this message out?

We’ve converted from a once a month to a once a week mailer, we digitized it, and that really started us down the path of what could we do with all of this data. We’re an online auction, we have a lot of data, we have lots of databases. We kind of grew up using Tableau Analytics, so we would create visualizations, we would chart things, we were really, really heavy into segmentation. We’ve segmented like crazy—the construction market, the farm market, the government market—and as we started going to more digital, we started looking at what could we do with the segmentation.

Machine learning, we were starting to talk about it, but we really didn’t have anything out there that was available, so we were kind of running our own algorithms. You know, a bridge-builder definitely likes bridge-building trucks, but he also buys bulldozers and he may use this certain type of pickup truck or something like that. We had that data and we were starting to put together those mailers, and over the years, we’ve gone through several iterations of these, but now we’ve to the part where we really have built out personas and user experiences on our website. We want to blend those with the customers to kind of walk them down a path of getting familiar with Purple Wave, how to use the site, and how to find equipment.

Drew Neisser: All right. I’ve been ranting a lot about personas on the show and in my writings, and I just want to make sure that we’re using the same language here. I’m not going to talk about my rant at this second, but I’m curious—when you talk about personas, what do you mean and how are you executing against those personas?

Dave Brotton: Sure. I have heard the podcast on the persona rant, so I’ll make sure that I choose my words carefully here. We definitely segment our customers, but as far as a customer gets comfortable with Purple Wave, either on the buying side or the selling side, let’s just start there. It takes both. We need to get equipment and we need to sell equipment, so we have buying personas and selling personas. Are you a newbie? Have you ever purchased anything from Purple Wave? Have you registered? Have you ever placed your first bid?

We’re talking about high dollar equipment and it does take a little bit of, you know, if you’re going to press the button for a $75,000 bid, that’s not like buying a pair of tennis shoes off of Amazon. There’s a fair amount of investment here, and so we use our site analytics, we understand where customers are at in that journey. Have they’ve been online for six months? Did they just register yesterday? Have they looked at 47 dozers before they’ve done this? Oh, this is their first dozer, this is their tenth dozer. They’ve never won, but they’ve started slowly creeping up their bid amounts.

We have the data that supports that and so we try to walk people through that process and through our weekly emails and our weekly mailers that go out to people, not only do we try to position equipment based upon their segmentation, but we try to introduce them to their local customer support rep and their territory manager, which is pretty standard stuff on the digital side. But then we also will start walking them through, “Hey, you’re new. Let’s get started with the comfort of bidding and what we have is a max bid, which means that you can set it and forget it.”

If I’m going to spend $100,000 on this thing, let’s put the $100,000 in and walk away and I’ll go back to my job, and the bidding engine will automate that bid as other people come in and do that. That’s can be a nerve-wracking thing if you’ve never done it. Then after you’ve done that and you’ve kind of passed that process and, you know, you were comfortable that, “Oh, I ended up winning that tractor at $86,000. It didn’t run me all the way up to $100,000, it just did what was next in line.” We take you to the next step. Have you learned to use your portal? Have you learned to use Purple Wave to look at past histories of these types of equipment to get an idea of what the value of this is going to be? So, we use those types of personas, and I would keep it simple. There’s the newbie, the average user, and then there’s the massive power user.

Drew Neisser: That to me is very different than some of the things that I’ve been talking about when I’ve been ranting about personas because these are folks that are on a journey and because they’re on a journey that’s pretty clear they’re going by or they’re not, and you might not buy this time, but you might buy next time. I would imagine, based on the folks that have gone through that journey to completion, you have a lot of data that says if they do this, this, this, and this, they’re more likely to buy. So, for example, again, we’ll go back to a $100,000 dozer, as you called it. Do you know how much research does the average buyer do and what that research is?

Dave Brotton: Yeah, that’s a great question and we have lots of data. You can always break the data if you want to. There are people that show up on the website without any experience at all. They register, and day one, they buy a $200,000 tracker and you’re like, “Wow!” Chances are they have definitely done that before on another site, but what you will see—and this is just your due diligence in buying a home or buying a large piece of equipment is you’re going to do your due diligence—there are multiple days back to the site to look at something. How long do you look at something? How many pictures do you look at? We have probably 70 high def pictures of all different parts of a piece of equipment and they’re all metrics. If somebody’s spending a lot of time looking at a certain part of the cab or the chassis or the tracks, they’re starting to make a business decision.

Is this the right thing for my company? Can we use this? Are we going to have to modify this? How did they perform in the last auction where they were bidding and buying? Big drop off, right? When somebody wins, they disappear a lot of times from the site for a couple of weeks until they need another piece of equipment and they show back up. If somebody has been looking for a skid-steer and we’ve got lots of information on that skid-steer, we’re obviously putting a lot of skid-steers into the marketing to encourage that activity. But as you see that they get closer and closer to the highest bid that will win that skid-steer, you can see their investment in time going up. And so, yeah, obviously, we use those metrics to try to help push those things along.

Drew Neisser: I don’t know what a skid-steer is, so I’m thinking that it’s the skids that stack all the—

Dave Brotton: A uniloader. The guys that show up at your house and deliver new grass and they’ve got the little loader? That’s a skid-steer.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. Nobody has shown up in my Manhattan apartment to deliver grass, but we do actually have a backyard, and grass is the bane of my existence. Maybe that’s what I need, a skid steer. Anyway, I’m curious, as we wrap up this segment—a lot of CMOs I talk to aren’t the ones who are doing the data analytics and imagine you’re not. What have been the lessons that you’ve learned in this path to just being able to make some of these choices and decisions? What did you need to do in terms of staffing and personal growth in order to become able to manage this data and capitalize on it?

Dave Brotton: Yeah, that’s a great question. Obviously, I’ve worked at bigger organizations. Purple Wave is still a relatively small company.

Drew Neisser: How many people do you have?

We’ve got about 120 people now. The marketing group is eight or ten, we’ve got some agencies that do some work, but we really dug into the data ourselves. It was a learning process and it was out of necessity. You know, how do we do things better, faster, cheaper? We just don’t have time to touch everything, and as we got more equipment and as our communities got bigger, we started looking at the Martech, the automation, the stuff that we can use. And we’ve been plugged into a number of different things, but I think the thing that we’ve learned the most is, you know your business better than anybody else. There’s no consultant, there’s no agency that’s going to be able to come in and talk to us about skid-steers or their time online or what’s the buying process in an online auction. We know these things, so if we know the data and we can figure out how to build the triggers in our data and we can build an automation process around that, then we can take advantage of those things.

Having grown up and got a little bit smarter in doing this, the thing that I never realized was, if you have 100-day project, it’s going to take 99 days to get the data right and it’s going to take one day to do the visualization or the trigger. But it’s the 99 days that you set the thing up, you know, it’s the same thing with machine learning. It’s not about machine learning or the algorithm, it’s about what type of data are you making it available? Is it the year, the make, and the model of the equipment? Or did we also add the color and the miles or hours used? For most pieces of equipment, we have an idea of what the four or five biggest value drivers are. Think of a used car—I want to have a sunroof and I want to have an air conditioner.

So, a skid steer, if it’s going to go north, they want a cab on it so they can run it year-round. They want to have air conditioning and heat on it. They want to have a certain type of hydraulics on there. We know the things that are value drivers and then we know the things that just aren’t gonna do it, so if we make that data available to our algorithms, then those are things that are going to get picked up.

Drew Neisser: Cool. All right. Skid-steers. I’m still just thinking about how I can get my hands on one of those. All right. We’ll take a break. We’ll be right back.

BREAK

Drew Neisser: All right, we’re back, and we’ve been talking about skid-steers and big, dirty, greasy equipment. But now I want to talk about the executional thing that really motivated me to want to talk to you about this and get you on the show. You’re using this data to create an old-fashioned mailer that is not old fashioned at all. Talk about these postcards that you’re doing and the role they play, how you decided to do them. Talk a little bit about those.

Dave Brotton: Sure. So, we like these old-fashioned postcards. I think they’re a remnant of the auction business with auctioned flyers and posters. We obviously have a lot of equipment to show, but how do we personalize this and bring it into the next generation? We obviously got hooked up with a digital printer. On a weekly basis, we send out anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 mailers. Every mailer is unique and different and if you look at one of our mailers, there are 20 pieces of equipment that have been run through an algorithm that is matched up to your segmentation. There are panels on that mailer where we promote what would what we would consider to be a local type of information.

If there’s a big construction company whose name would be recognized in the Kansas City area, we would want you to know that we were selling equipment for them because there’s some name brand recognition that comes in from there. If you’re out in southwest Oklahoma in a really dry, sparse area and it’s a farm retirement, we would want you to know the name of the family or the farm that was doing that and we would try to pull that information in.

We use it for equipment, we use it for sellers and name-brand recognition. We use the personas that track and educate you through the process of buying and selling equipment on Purple Wave. We use it to introduce you to customer service and to TM. Then we also do quite a bit of work in associations. This is where—the Kansas Land Improvement Contractors Association is a group of 40 or 60 large contractors in Kansas and those would be prime grade-A customers for Purple Wave to use, so we’re part of the association. We also end up flagging and telling those customers, “Hey, we’re also a part of this association. Hey, we’re like you. We’re a trusted place to do business with.” And so, as you start to think about—I think we have over 100 associations across the country that we’re part of—we’ve got that built into the data, too.

Drew Neisser: This is great. And I just want to make clear the difference between personas and personalization. You have data points, a lot of data points. You talked about local, you talked about buying behavior and the type of equipment that you know they would be interested in based on past behavior. That’s personalization and, to me, that’s tremendous value, because if I’m not interested in a dozer, but I am interested in this and you show me pictures of things that I’m interested in, you’ve helped me. It’s not just that you’re trying to sell the thing you know, but you’ve actually provided a service for it. But the fact that you do 10,000 to 15,000 personalized mailers—it’s kind of extraordinary to even think that you could do it at that kind of scale.

Dave Brotton: Oh, and we’ve got a great partner that we digitize the files, put them in a Dropbox, and an hour later they’re on the press. Within four hours they’re printed and they’re out the door. We worked really hard to automate as much of this as we could so that we could lower the price so that we could send more. And they’re a great calling card because once you’ve been to the site—”Purple Wave, I’ll bookmark that. I recognize that. I’ll get back to you”—but there are so many people that we don’t yet have a relationship with and people still get mail. Our customer types range from all over. There are people who are highly active on their iPhone looking at the auction while they’re in a piece of equipment and there are some customers who’ve got their password written down for Gmail on their desk and that’s the only thing that they look at.

Drew Neisser: It’s an AOL password.

Dave Brotton: Yeah or Yahoo. But they will over time get a stack of Purple Wave flyers sitting in there in their inbox. It will catch their eye and we definitely know the segment that they’re in, so it lends a bit of intelligence to Purple Wave that we’re not pushing things that we shouldn’t be. There’s an expertise when you start to look at the equipment that shows up and says, “Hey, these guys have got stuff that I want,” and I think if we do that in a clean and professional manner, it’s a twofold win. They may want to buy something from us, but if they also have a lot of equipment, they turn around and say, “Hey, I want somebody that’s going to sell my equipment and I want my stuff sitting in somebody else’s inbox like what they’ve done to me.”

Drew Neisser: Yeah, that’s interesting because your buyers are easily sellers as well, which is fascinating. So, in terms of these mailers, have you been able to—because I know that today, with a lot of folks, it’s always about the measurement—can you see a lift? What’s tricky here is because there are 20,000 potentially different mailers going out, how do you track the performance of these things?

Dave Brotton: Oh, yeah, it always comes back to the numbers. We track everything. We have what’s called a master ID base, so whether we have you in the system or whether we’ve pulled you off of the list, we’ve put it in a database and started tracking the touchpoints on you. We will see, a lot of times, six mailers over the course of maybe a year. Every other month we’re hitting they’ve gotten into that weekly mix—we don’t want to drown somebody, we just want to lightly introduce them to Purple Wave—but we’ll watch it for six months and then all of a sudden a phone call will take place that will get logged into the system.

They called and reached out, and they either filled out a lead on the website or they just picked up the phone and called and said, “Hey, who’s my rep? I want to talk to somebody.” If we do a good job and put that in our CRM, you can see that as well as the touchpoints for marketing. We had a substantial boost when we went to the variable personal personalized mailer and it’s done nothing but continue to grow.

Drew Neisser: When we say of a good boost, are we 10%, 20%, 30% increase in leads or conversions, or a combination?

Dave Brotton:  The first year that we did it, we had 2x in the number of calls that came from the first contact with mailers. When you get into to attribution, everybody can argue—it’s the first touch, it’s the last touch, it’s multi-touch. There’s sometimes too much data, so let’s just keep it simple. If you go back and look at our old mailers and you look at the number of times that a customer hit something before we had any sort of response from them in the system and to that first touch or that first interaction, we ended up selling $12 million worth of equipment for those people. We saw more than 2x from that and it’s done nothing but grow. We have a good team where our marketing and our sales force work together. I always think things end up being better when both sides of the house are touching a customer and trying to kind of work them through the funnel and help educate them. But yeah, we definitely look at those numbers and track.

Drew Neisser: So, as we wrap up the episode, there are a couple of reasons why I wanted to bring this all to your attention. The level of data and personalization is really impressive. And again, this is not a huge company so, in theory, you all could do it. It’s a little bit different if you’re selling software and it’s the same kind of software to all folks, but I do think there’s an opportunity for personalization. This notion of mailers is really interesting. I mean, if you go back to that episode I did with John Miller of Engagio, you’ll remember he talked a lot about it, and this is a sophisticated ABM company doing high impact direct mail. I think people forget that mail has gone down, so your chance of cutting through in mail is going up.

Physically being able to see your brand right there, and sometimes if it’s the right combination of information, people don’t throw it away. It hangs around, and if it looks good, it says something about the brand. We’ve got a group of CMOs listening and they want to understand what it’s going to take from a structural standpoint in order to build this system. What have you learned? Let’s boil it down to some very basic things that they could do today. Let’s say they’ve got no level of personalization in the market. Where should they start and what are some of the lessons that you’ve learned so they don’t make any of the mistakes that you did starting out?

Dave Brotton: Yeah, that’s a great question. A couple of key learnings: If at all possible, I would try to make as many decisions on segmentation as I could, using just raw data without any input from the sales force. The reason why is that everybody will be hot and heavy when this starts off and then you’ll only have 10% of your customers segmented. If you could figure out how to do it from the data—from website activity or things that you’ve sent them—and segment like crazy—we segment like crazy, our customers, our equipment—once you get those two things done, then it’s really all about the data and the customer journey where they’re at. Then start to use the data to do that.

Get to know your IT group. Sit down and talk to them. Bigger companies obviously will farm this out. We went ultimately to machine learning, and we do machine learning for recommendation on our email and on our website. We still use algorithms on our mailer because we’ve built the process out, but machine learning takes it to another level in that it starts to pick up on the nuances that you just couldn’t build into the—for example, pickup trucks. We can’t segment pickup trucks into one segment of customers or another. Every one of our customers buys pickup trucks, but they buy different types and sizes and colors, and that would just be a nightmare to do. But it pops up in the recommendation on their web page. It pops up when they open up their email at the beginning a week to look at what our auction schedule is.

I would say segment like crazy, build a good relationship with your IT department, but own the data, swim around in it, play with it, use your business analytics to try to uncover things. The things that we found—we would take all of the buyers that happen in an auction and we would reverse look them up for the last 45 days and try to find things that were common threads. Then it was like, “Oh, wait, look at this. It’s not how much time they spent, it was the physical days that they came back and spent.” and it was like, “Okay, we’ve got something here. Now we’ve got a trigger.”

We use things like the number of page views or the number of times that you’ve looked at a picture, but then we also look at the time amount invested. These are business guys, so you could look at one item and have ten picture views and spend three minutes—not a lot of time. You could look at another item and only look at eight pictures but have 47 minutes invested in looking at those pictures. Then we’ve buying signal, right? Figure out how to put triggers on the most important thing and start simple. Don’t go crazy. Figure out two or three things that match up with your segmentation and start. By the time you get done building your first one, you’re gonna have like ten ideas like “Okay, well, the next time we build this, we’re gonna do this different.” I think we’re probably on our fourth or fifth iteration. About every time we get done with it, we come back and change it up again.

Drew Neisser: That’s very cool. And thinking about that, there are opportunities for you to have buying signals on whatever you’re selling to. Again, this goes back to years ago when I first talked to John Miller when he was at Marketo—they knew that the minute someone went to the pricing page, assuming they had looked at some other things, this was somebody who was real and they had to follow up in 24 hours to make it happen. I know it’s really hard in a lot of B2B situations where you have a 12-month cycle, what’s a buying signal? But again, all we’re trying to do is use this opportunity of a web visit to connect with them in a way that will help them on their journey. The trigger that they’re spending a lot of time coming back, it’s not a cry for help, but it’s certainly an opportunity—as you said, a trigger to do something, to take action, to provide some value in their journey. Again, if I were talking to a guy from Drift, he would have a bot there or a real person live chat that says, “Hey, I noticed you spend a lot of time with this particular product. Can I have you talked to an expert on these kinds of things?”

So, the opportunity—and again, this is very different than persona marketing because this is personalized. You’ve indicated personal behavior and you’re following up on a personal way. I think that’s a huge thing. There’s no doubt, as a buyer, I want to work with companies that know me and are not wasting my time. There’s a lot of respect that goes into this and we all get upset now when you have to refill in the same form. It’s like when you go to your doctor or dentist and they ask you to fill out a form, it’s like, “Wait. I’ve done this 25 times. Why are you making me do this?”

Dave Brotton: And how to not be creepy is something that we talk about a lot because we have a lot of data and there are things that we’ve learned that we just can’t use and we certainly can’t expose it to the rest of the organization. The last thing in the world I want is a sales rep who is out making cold calls one day and decides to stop in on a contractor and says, “Hey, I was noticing in the database that you’ve been back and looked at this bulldozer seven times.” I mean, that doesn’t do anybody any good, and there are much bigger companies than us who have a lot more access to data than us and I don’t think we’re doing anything that’s creepy. I think we work real hard to try to stay away from that notion. But I think that’s something that, depending upon what industry you’re in, you’re gonna have to work real hard about what type of information can we actually make actionable and what type of information do we just need to pass on and move on down the road?

Drew Neisser: Right. It’s funny. All right. We’re gonna get a quick second and creepy and not creepy. So how do you use that data? I think the example that you and I talked about was that, yeah, the sales guy can’t go to the person who was looking at that red tractor, but they might be able to make a call and just say, “Hey, checkin’ in. What’s on your mind these days?”

Dave Brotton: Exactly. Timing is timing is everything. If you know that you potentially have a hot buyer, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with stopping by and introducing yourself and saying, “Hey, I noticed that you’ve been on Purple Wave and I just wanted to stop by and say hi. If you ever have any questions about how to use the website, I’d be happy to spend five minutes with you. Sit down, take you through your first bid, get you comfortable with this.” That one-on-one experience that they have with us is what builds our customer relationship with people

Drew Neisser: Yeah, that’s very cool. All right. We’re going to wrap this up. It’s been great talking to you. Thanks for taking some time out of the CMO Club Summit for joining the show.

Dave Brotton: Thanks for having me. This has been awesome.

Drew Neisser: All right. So, I think you’ve learned a lot on this episode. I hope so. And as always, if you’ve got a second, go ahead and put a five-star rating up there on iTunes or your favorite channel. I do appreciate that. Share the show with a friend if you got some value out of it. And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.

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