Martech Interview with Nick Jordan Founder & CEO Narrative

Nick Jordan throws light on Marketing Technology shaping the business arena. He shares his insights on Martech development with the rise of online businesses.

The data-driven forces are nothing but power of the martech industry insofar that you can do a number of things now that were very hard to do before the proliferation of data and the way we conduct business today.

1. Tell us about your role at Narrative, and your journey into this market.
I’m the founder and CEO at Narrative, and I would’ve been the company’s first client if it had existed before I started the company. Frankly, in my previous role, I would have chewed my arm off to get my hands on a tool like Narrative. I had assumed that someone had already solved that problem, and it turns out the more I looked for a solution, the more I realized none existed. Narrative was born out of that need. At the end of the day, while being a founder and CEO is not terribly unique, one of my superpowers is that I actually think of myself more as a customer of the platform than I do as the person heading the company. This has allowed us to be very product driven, and to make sure that we’re actually solving problems that people have.

2. What do you think is the biggest technological challenge in marketing right now?
The technological challenge in marketing is that it’s too complicated. If you were to look at the Marketing Technology LUMAscape, there’s thousands of products bucketed into 40+ different categories. For the average marketer that’s trying to sell products or get people to be aware that their product exists it’s not a technological problem, it’s an ecosystem problem, and we’ve just made everything really, really difficult. The folks who ultimately benefit are the vertically integrated platforms, the Googles, the Facebooks, the Amazons of the world, because while everyone else is trying to string together 15 different technologies to help make marketing possible, they give you a single stack that does all of those things in a way that as the marketer you don’t have to be consumed by the nuance and the technology that underlies what your strategy is.

3. How has a data-driven approach empowered the Martech industry?
The amount of data, and how it can be leveraged for marketing has increased by orders of magnitude over the last 20-30 years. We have a quicker feedback loop over what’s working and not working,
more fine-grained controls over who you’re putting your message in front of, and what message you’re putting in front of them, and a better capability to measure the outcome of your strategies.

The data-driven forces are nothing but power of the martech industry insofar that you can do a number of things now that were very hard to do before the proliferation of data and the way we conduct business today.

That is not to say that marketing hasn’t always been data driven. You could put an ad in the newspaper in the 1800s and see if more people came to your store as a result. It was just a very coarse-grained way to understand if what you were doing worked, and how that would inform an evolution of your strategy. It’s just gotten faster and more precise over time which has allowed for better strategies for literally anyone who is willing to leverage the data they have access to.

4. Can you explain how your Data Shops platform eases marketing functions?
On the sell side, you can think of data like any other product. Whether you’re selling cosmetics or clothing, in order to build a successful business, you’ve got to market that product. But historically, companies that have tried to sell data have thought of it as something that is nebulous or that lives in the cloud or doesn’t have a brand associated with it. So effectively, they either haven’t marketed it, or they’ve done a really bad job of marketing it. And we think that’s a fundamental mistake.
Data Shops, or as we like to call it — the ‘Shopify of Data’, makes it easy to treat data as a product that can be marketed. And not as a homogenous product, but as a collection of smaller things that are very purpose-driven and specific. So, if someone created a data product of the most popular products on Amazon, by creating separate pages for each of those products, giving them rich descriptors, images and metadata, and by making sure that those product pages aren’t behind a registration wall, you can now market them in the same way that you would market cosmetics or a pair of jeans.
I push this narrative all the time, but if you were selling cosmetics, you wouldn’t make people log in to see the products. You could go to the Sephora website for example and look at all the things that they sell without logging in. Now, if you want to buy the product, you may have to put in your credit card and email address, shipping address, and maybe create an account. But there’s a whole lot of merchandising that happens before you get to the point of transaction, and that’s a big piece of what Data Shops allows for. You can treat data like any other type of good, and not a B2B thing that needs to live in some private sphere. And then like a transaction that happens in a traditional store when you’re actually ready to buy something, then yes, you will have to give the details of how you’re going to pay for it, and where you want it shipped etc. But with Data Shops even that is fully automated and not something that has to be taken offline which is how it has historically worked.
And then, to answer your question of how it makes marketing functions easier. By having Data Shops, if you’re looking for a particular type of data, or have a hypothesis that a type of data can help you with a marketing activity, it should now be easier to find by virtue of the marketing that’s happening on the sell side. Once the data is easy to find, assuming there’s availability across different sellers, and the types of data, you’ve removed a whole piece of the workflow that’s traditionally taken a ton of time and effort. You can now focus on actually using the data as opposed to trying to find the companies that have it and understand what it is ,and try to figure out if it’s something that you ultimately want to procure.

5. What features of your Data Shops solution differentiates it in the market?
A key differentiator of Data Shops is that it is no code, neither on our side nor our clients’. No engineers need to be involved in order to use it. It’s fully self-service and automated, soup to nuts, you can sell data/find data without any human intervention. And the marketing and merchandising of the data is a clear differentiator. We allow our sellers to set up their own brand experience. While a lot of our sell-side customers participate in our marketplace, they can also only sell data using their own storefront if they want to.
Nike has and they will sell you all of the Nike products on because it creates a really cohesive and compelling brand experience. Nike would be crazy not to also sell their shoes on Amazon because that’s where a lot of their customers are shopping for shoes, so their products are also available there. But on Amazon they don’t have nearly as much control over the brand experience when users are buying shoes there. So they have a multi-pronged strategy, and I think the same thing should and can be true for data. Outside of Data Shops, historically there has been no turnkey system for letting data sellers set up their own storefront.

6. What are the biggest changes you expect to see in the martech industry in the next few years?
Clearly, there’s a bunch of regulation around consumer data in the form of CCPA and other state level regulations in the U.S., and there are others internationally as well. So that’s going to shake up the data that is used, how it’s used, the players and the platforms that can leverage that data. It’s very similar in the way that native mobile became a large part of the ecosystem. Prior to that, all of the technology was built to work in a web browser with a cookie. And suddenly there was this new thing that wasn’t a web browser and didn’t have a cookie and there were winners and losers. And the winners were the ones that could either adapt very quickly, or who could build purpose-driven technology around the new lay of the land. As data usage rights and privacy and compliance regulations change, the same thing will happen, a bunch of legacy technologies that were built to work in a certain time and place in the universe will no longer exist, and they will either adapt or fail, and you’ll see a bunch of new companies that were created to fit within the new realities of the world. I think that will be interesting to see how that plays out. And it’s not just related to regulation, it’s Apple changing how people can work within their ecosystem, Google making changes to how their browser works, so while some of the changes are being regulated, some are being implemented by the walled gardens. That’s where you will have an additional set of anti-competitive questions come up. One thing that’s clear is five years from now, when we look at how martech works, especially vis-a-vis data, it’s going to look very different than it looks like today.

7. What advice would you like to give to technology startups?
Technology startups have no business succeeding. They have none of the structural advantages that their bigger competitors have. They’re not as well capitalized, they don’t have as much name recognition, they literally are starting from zero. And if you look at things logically, there’s no way that any technology startup could ever succeed.
Where startups can do better is that they can innovate, whereas larger companies are so focused on their existing P & L they often don’t look for ways to innovate. Tech startups can move quickly, and they can build things maybe before their time, but once the rest of the market catches up, they will be well-positioned to capture a lion’s share of that market, so… I guess if I were to boil it down to an overused phrase, I would say my advice is to ‘Think Big’ and build your technology for the world that may exist a decade from now, not the world that exists today. That goes above and beyond the changes that are coming from regulation, and from changes in the ecosystem.

8. What work-related hack do you follow to enjoy maximum productivity?
This is a boring answer, but it’s Inbox zero. If there’s something in my inbox, it’s something I need to do. If there’s something not in my inbox, I’ve either done it or I’ve snoozed it until I actually need to do it. I funnel all communication into my inbox. When someone asks me to do something in Slack, if I’m not going to do it immediately, I ask them to send me an email. Someone sends me a text message asking me a question that I can’t answer right away, I ask them to send me an email. Between email and my calendar, it runs my day. And so, even on the calendar front, if someone wants to grab a coffee for a few minutes, put it on my calendar. Something in my personal life, it’s date night in my personal life, put it on the calendar. I also intersperse a bunch of time on my calendar to do work, or to get out from behind the computer, because if I don’t block it off, someone else will. I’m a big believer in working smart, not working long.

9. How do you prepare for an AI-Centric world?
I don’t know that you do. AI is an overused term, so if we’re going to use it to say that computers will make decisions that maybe humans historically made, that’s already happening. Literally, everywhere. Will it become more sophisticated? Will it enter spaces that it is not in today? Sure, but I would argue that the vast majority of decisions that get made in business plausibly, specifically advertising and marketing at this point, are largely already left up to computers to make.

10. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
My goal is to be the least effective person on my team. Generally the way I think about everyone at the company but specifically my direct reports is they should give me leverage to work on the things that the CEO needs to work on, so I don’t have to work on the things that they or their team are working on. My team is better at doing their job than I would be at doing their job. I’m a big believer in team building at every level. Effectively making yourself obsolete through staffing like that gives you a lot of leverage to go focus on the things that no one else is tasked to do. My team, soup to nuts, is great at their jobs and gives me time to focus on the big picture things like fundraising, investor relations, and the long-term vision of the company.

11. What movie inspires you the most?
I just saw Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain. Looking at how he transformed from a drug addict to a chef to this international ambassador for travel and culture and food was remarkable. Clearly, he had his demons, but he motivated others throughout his life and his travels, and I find that inspiring.

12. We have heard that you have a very joyful work culture. Can you share with us some of the fun pictures of your workplace?

13. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?

Thank you.

Check Out The New Martech Cube Podcast. For more such updates, follow us on Google News Martech News

Narrative is a category-creating company that has redefined data commerce and helps forward-thinking organizations acquire and monetize data more efficiently. As the Founder and CEO, he is passionate about replacing the data brokers with a transformative technology that eliminates friction and inefficiencies. He is a problem solver at heart with broad experience leading the design, development, and implementation of client-focused technology systems, while managing operations and project-based initiatives. He is also excited about making Narrative a better place to work for our employees and creating a better experience for our customers.

Prior to Narrative, he was the SVP, Product + Strategy at Tapad, where he helped evolve the company from a media business into a data and technology licensing business, which led to an acquisition by Telenor for $360M in 2016. He has spent his career in data-related product management roles at global technology-driven companies like Adobe and Yahoo!. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science, management information systems from St. Bonaventure University.

Narrative is a category-creating company that has redefined data commerce and helps forward-thinking organizations acquire and monetize data more efficiently. Narrative is focused on the fundamental principles that make buying and selling data easier, safer, and more strategic.

Previous ArticleNext Article