Dave Brotton
December 20, 2019

167: 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!


For a company with no level of personalization—where should they start? What lessons would you have for them?

 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, everybody will be hot and heavy when this starts off. And then you’ll only have 10 percent of your customers segmented. If you can figure out how to do it from the data, from website activity or things that you’ve sent them and can then segment like crazy—we segment like crazy, both our customers and our equipment—once you get that done, then it’s really all about the data and the customer journey, where they’re at. Then, build a great relationship with your IT department, own the data, really swim around in it. One thing to keep in mind is, start simple. It’s good to aspire to really in-depth analytics, but don’t go crazy. Figure out two or three things that help your segmentation and start there. Once you finish those, more great ideas to improve future iterations will be there.

How have you managed the growth you’ve been experiencing?

Purple Wave is still a relatively small company, about 120 people. With marketing, it’s 8 or 10. We’ve got some agencies that help us as we just don’t have time to touch everything ourselves, especially as we get more equipment and as our communities get bigger. But, when it started, we really dug into the data ourselves to help keep pace—it was a learning process and it was out of necessity. Then we started looking at the martech, the automation, and we plugged into a number of things. That’s all important. But, I think the thing that we’ve learned is the most valuable, is: know your business better than anybody else. So, knowing the ins and outs of your industry and the data is really the key. That’s where you can get really strategic with how you use your data to build out your algorithms and analysis. We use machine learning, but it’s more about the data we put into machine learning than just the concept of machine learning. So we have to decide whether, as we grow, we’re serving things to different segments based on the make and model of the equipment, or if we’re adding in color and the miles a vehicle has driven. Know your industry and know your data, and you’ll be able to answer those questions.


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