Interview with Co-Founder and CEO, Target Data – Ross Shelleman


“Focus on solving real business problems not on designing technology”

1. Tell us about your role in Target Data?
As founder and CEO I set the strategic direction and have overall responsibility for Target Data.  This year I spent a lot of time on M&A.  This year we completed the acquisition of Social Fulcrum, a highly specialized Facebook agency.

2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
In the very early days, we thought we were going to build a data company.  As time went on it became very apparent that brands needed help applying the data.  We began to offer targeted media execution and then grew from there.

3. How do you think technology is upgrading marketing Sector?
Technology is upgrading and also hurting the marketing sector.  Where it is upgrading the sector is that the cost has come way down to utilize data.  What used to take a year and cost millions can now be down in weeks for a fraction of the cost.  What is hurting the sector is that there is so much technology that in many instances people have forgotten the basics.  Technology by itself will not solve 99% of the issues marketers face.  There is so much hype over things that really in many cases are unnecessary or simply only solve one piece to the puzzle.   CDP’s are a good example of this.  Most brands do not need their own CDP.

4. How has data driven approach optimized the performance of marketing professionals?
For all but the largest of brands, most things are now or should be measurable.  Unless you are a Fortune 500 Global organization, if you are using a data-driven approach you should have much more clarity.  Spend can be tied to revenue in attribution. While not simple, it is much easier when taking a data-driven approach.

5. Can you explain why performance-based marketing is growing as an important part of marketing strategies?
We think of performance marketing as marketing that is constantly changing and evolving.  For us performance marketing is all about testing as much as possible and focusing on the channels and tactics that are performing the best. Rinse and repeat.

6. How do you define your Managed CDP platform?
We specifically designed our CDP to be managed by us to help our clients leverage their 1st party data to drive addressable media execution.  Most brands do not need to be hands-on using their own CDP.  What our CDP allows us to do quickly and at scale is normalize and clean 1st part data and then combine it with rich 3rd party data.  We are then able to deeply understand who our client’s best customers are. The CDP then builds a series of prospecting models that score the entire U.S. population.  Media is then served strategically based upon the score.

7. Can you explain how acquiring Social Fulcrum will benefit your clients?
Facebook done right is magical.  The reach and scale for large brands is unmatched.  We had paid social expertise but not extreme depth.  Social Fulcrum now allows our clients to benefit from a paid social team that is literally helping Facebook design product enhancements.  The expertise they bring to the table would have taken us years to build internally.

8. What advice would you like to give to the technology Start Ups?

Focus on solving real business problems not on designing technology. 

I have seen too many Start Ups fail because they build a feature not a comprehensive solution.

9. What digital innovation in the Martech scape you think will make its mark in 2020?
We are watching the CDP landscape although I am very skeptical.  I think there will be massive consolidation in that space, especially with what SalesForce is building.  We are also very bullish on Advanced TV.  We have a long way to go but positioned correctly we have seen great results.

10. How do you prepare for an AI-Centric world?
We are constantly asking ourselves how do we incorporate more AI in everything we do.  Eventually a lot of decisions will be made without human intervention.

11. What major developments are you planning in terms of enhancing your capabilities?
We are always looking at acquisitions and places where we can enhance our capabilities.  This year we will be launching a strategy practice that will work with in-house teams or brands that would be like an outside set of eyes.

12. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
I have a wonderful team.  The two people I rely most on are my President Marshall Gibbs and my Admin Katie Kinkead.  Both have been with me a long time and I could not do what I do without them.

13. What movie inspires you the most?
Such a hard question…

14. We would love to catch some glimpses of your much talked about chic and fabulous work culture
Here are some photos!

15. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?
I fly a lot so my United Airlines app is heavily used.  I spend time on Facebook and Instagram daily and also read a lot of new content on various apps.  There is also a section for games for when my two-year-old daughter steals my phone.

Ross co-founded Target Data in 2007, and is responsible for overall company strategy and operations. Throughout his career, Ross has held various Senior Business Development positions in technology, healthcare, and managed services. Ross has also invested in multiple franchise businesses including locations for PODS and 1-800-GOT-JUNK? He is also an active angel investor and serves on a handful of early stage company advisory boards. A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ross holds a B.A. degree from Franklin and Marshall.

Target Data is a performance marketing agency fueled by data and focused on results. As a leader in people-based marketing, we help our clients solve their biggest marketing challenges by leveraging data, technology and content. Our people-based solution provides strategy and multichannel paid media execution across programmatic display, direct mail, paid search, advanced TV and paid social.

For more information please visit our Website.

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