MarTech Interview with Phil Lore, Chief Revenue Officer, Affinity Solutions

Phil Lore talks about Martech Stacks focusing on customer experience underlining contextualization. He highlights the findings of their recent survey with marketing decision-makers.

While we are moving toward a more programmatic world, the market definitely focused too heavily on AI and tech in general over the last few years, and we are currently seeing a market correction.

1. Tell us about your role at Affinity Solutions?
As EVP and Chief Revenue Officer at Affinity Solutions my focus is on building the next generation of truly transformational customer experiences in Banking/Loyalty platforms and enabling Brands and Marketers to drive greater ROI and efficiency within their Martech/Adtech stack. I’ve spent my career building businesses predominantly in financial services at Acxiom for 12 years and previously as a leader in Financial Markets at IBM (Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs) and large global accounts like American Express.
Never has there been a greater need for businesses to use real time dynamic signals and data to sharpen customer understanding and inform the path to purchase across channels. With customer expectations at an all-time high, and the visibility into consumer behavior at an all-time low, it’s an exciting time to be in the data, insights and customer-intelligence business. There’s huge runway for growth in the space and I’m really excited to help lead that growth for Affinity Solutions.

2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
I was the second member of my extended Italian-Irish family to attend college, studying economics and computer science at Rutgers University.
After graduating I was hired at IBM where I spent the early part of my career. It was there I Iearned the value of a company culture focused on training and growing leaders from within based on a strong meritocracy. I was fortunate to have held a variety of management roles across different parts of the IBM organization prior to becoming a sales leader for financial services and large accounts. My experience at Acxiom running Financial Services, including the acquisition of LiveRamp and the scaling of that business across our clients, gave me unique insight and experience in helping with the transformation companies were going through as they moved from in-store and traditional channels, into the high growth digital and on-line space. Eventually Acxiom was bought by IPG and I saw first-hand the evolution and implementation of their strategy to leverage a strong data backbone to help drive their agency business. This model was adopted by all of the big 5 agency holding companies over the last decade.

3. What do you think is the biggest technological challenge in marketing right now?
I believe many people are struggling with making the right choices on technology and how to build out their marketing tech stacks, as there is just so much out there to choose from. Senior leaders need to wrap their heads around applying AI/ML in ways that augment their marketing talent, not replace it.

While we are moving toward a more programmatic world, the market definitely focused too heavily on AI and tech in general over the last few years, and we are currently seeing a market correction.

Striking the right balance of humanity and technology, or art and science, right now is key. That’s also why we are seeing so much more coordinated leadership across the C-Suite as data becomes less siloed, and functional roles like the Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Data Scientist work shoulder to shoulder. I would also say that many brands are struggling to make the leap from data, to actionable insights that inform and optimize customer engagement across the path to purchase. This is a major focus area for us at Affinity Solutions.

4. How have data-driven approaches empowered marketing professionals?
The future is all about data-enabled marketing strategy and creative execution. The most vital currency for a marketer today is improved contextualization to give their customers better experiences.
This can only happen via a multi-dimensional view that allows them to know not only what consumers want, but who they are, particularly during the time spent outside of your brand. When we work with our clients to afford them that type of additive lens of understanding, it empowers them to deepen engagement with customers, which ultimately leads to improved business results.

5. Recently Affinity Solutions conducted a survey related to data deprecation across digital channels, can you put some more light on the findings of this survey?
While marketing decision-makers are generally aware of why data deprecation will upend their current approach to targeting and measurement, many require education on how to effectively address it and lack key technical functionalities to navigate these challenges. We are excited to have worked with Forrester on this important research. It furthers our mission of using our unique external datasets, focused on purchase intelligence, to help clients and partners understand consumer behavior in real-time so they can make better decisions that help grow their businesses.
Below are some of the key findings from interviews with more than three hundred marketing-decision makers in North America:

• Data-centric initiatives are top-of-mind priorities over the next 12 months. Eighty-four percent of decision-makers say solving for data deprecation is a high or critical priority for their organizations. In addition, the top five strategic priorities in the upcoming year all address aspects of data collection, deprecation, and application.

• Current technology stacks leave a lot to be desired regarding data deprecation preparedness. Ninety-two percent of marketing decision-makers say their martech/adtech stack is insufficient to meet their marketing priorities. This gap will only widen as data deprecation becomes more prominent.

• Alternative data sources are necessary for your future data plans. Eighty-six percent of respondents feel alternative data sources will be valuable to their future data strategies. Almost all (99%) expect various specific benefits from using them. If alternative data sources aren’t a current part of your data strategy, they should be — they can fill in gaps left by data deprecation.

6. Why do you think alternative data sources are necessary for future data plans?
Amidst rising privacy concerns, the industry is moving away from the use of the third-party cookie as the primary tool for marketing to consumers across digital channels, and the likeliness of new regulations on the collection of consumer data, it is no longer possible to answer all your business-critical questions with only first-party data. Increasingly, brands need to incorporate external, alternative data sources to compete and thrive. To really accelerate transformation efforts, a data acquisition strategy is imperative. Currently, at best, marketers can only see what customers do inside their own stores and on their websites, and have no insight into what’s happening at their competitors and in adjacent categories.
Affinity is helping brands sharpen their data acquisition strategies by providing a privacy-safe platform/environment for connecting alternative data sets. The data platform we are building to do this is designed to help achieve a more panoramic view of a business’s customers and prospects. Our goal is to help marketers reimagine how they can provide a better consumer experience while validating and improving performance across their Martech/Adtech stack.

7. Can you share some tips with our audience that can help them in sharpening their data acquisition strategies?
As I stated earlier, one of the most important things that brands need to think about when enhancing their data acquisition strategies, is how to create the most accurate and intimate portrait of a customer in a way that is protective of their privacy, while also always delivering value at the moment of need and channel of choice. The thing that will separate the winners from the losers in the years ahead will be those who understand that providing a customer something that is meaningful to them is critical to them engaging with you, trusting you and being loyal to you. The current system is not delivering on the promise of value to the brand or consumer. You cannot develop that type of crisp understanding of who your customers are, or develop a dynamic of mutuality and respect, by relying on first party data alone.

8. What are the biggest changes you expect to see in the martech industry in the next few years?
It is imperative for brands to continue to up level their offerings to best meet rising customer expectations. Therefore, finding the right mix of art and science to deliver on not just a product or offering promise, but a service promise, will be key. Every company will need to figure out how to place the customer at the heart of their enterprise and build the non-linear ecosystems required to serve them, rather than just transact with them. Finding new and innovative ways to approach everything from data-led strategy enablement, to data-enriched CX and storytelling, will be critical.

9. What advice would you like to give to technology start-ups?
While everyone in the start-up world has grown to hate the phrase: “let’s bring in the grown-ups,” we cannot forget the wisdom that legacy brands bring to the table. There is something to be learned as much in the rigor and discipline of incumbent brands as there is in the fluidity and iterative spirit of a challenger brand. I think it is also important for start-ups to think about scale at every step of the way, as without it, significant growth will never be possible. While you’ve always got to act small enough to be agile and meaningfully disruptive in today’s world, you’ve also got to grow big to be a true contender. As the Chief Revenue Officer of Affinity, that’s obviously where my passion sits and where my focus lies.

10. What work-related hack do you follow to enjoy maximum productivity?
I’ve long gone by the motto of ‘work smart, work hard,’ with an emphasis on the former as it’s what drives success and results; especially in sales. I am a big fan of scheduling automated breaks and think time on the calendar to ensure I stay focused on the strategic and important; but often not time sensitive. Also, email management is often a challenge so I’ve set automated rules to manage my inbox, e.g. cc items go in a separate folder to be reviewed during down time. These help me stay laser focused on priorities in a world where we’re often on back to back zoom meetings.

11. How do you prepare for an AI-Centric world?
Preparing for an AI-centric world ironically starts with humanity. In order for AI to succeed, it’s got to be used to augment humans, not replace them. There’s a very fine line that needs to be walked when doing that, and I think those that nail the right mix of creativity and science will not only succeed but lead.

12. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
It starts with your family and friends and I am fortunate to have great support. My wife, Erin a marketing consultant with deep industry experience across all facets of marketing keeps me focused on the CMO and the challenges and opportunities they have to be truly consumer-centric. I’ve also had the opportunity in my career to hire and inspire great teams. My leadership style is one of collaboration while respectively challenging the status quo. You can only do that with strong teammates across different disciplines who are passionate and able to speak their mind to make the company a better place.

13. What movie inspires you the most?
I am a big fan of ‘Rocky.’ We played a movie clip from one of the sequels at our sales kick-off. It was the scene where Rocky was explaining to his son about how life will at times knock you down, but you have to take the hit and keep getting back up. I’ve found that anything worthwhile achieving in life typically isn’t easy and those that persevere and learn from their past mistakes tend to succeed. Since I am going with the boxing analogy, I also like the quote from Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight boxing champion, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

14. We have heard that you have a joyful work culture, so can you share with us some of the fun pictures of your workplace?
These pictures were done as part of a birthday video for me re-enacting a scene from The Godfather which is one of my favorite movies. Several employees from the Sales team are playing different iconic characters in the film. This was done to bring a joyful conclusion to an annual multi-day Sales Kick-Off meeting earlier this year.

15. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?
The usual suspects for business including Microsoft Office, Zoom, Salesforce, LinkedIn and Slack. On a personal note I’m late to the game but I am now on the podcast train, Waze for travel, Spotify for music, NY Times, WSJ, and The Atlantic for news.

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Phil Lore is EVP, and Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) for Affinity Solutions. Prior to joining the company, he served as Group VP of the Financial Services business unit at Acxiom Corporation. Phil has over 20 years of experience building high performance sales/account teams in Banking and Financial Services. Phil began his career at IBM, holding many management, sales and operations roles. He has been a guest lecturer at the MIT MBA program and was a Certified IBM Client Executive through Harvard Business school. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a BA in Economics, and a minor in Computer Science.
In 2019, Phil was recognized by New York City and New York state as one of the top 100 professionals for his charitable efforts. He serves as the co-chair for NYC Academies helping disadvantaged students with career and college readiness. He currently lives with his wife Erin in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY.

Affinity Solutions is the first data-led intelligence platform that uses purchase signals as the authoritative source of truth in helping marketers, agencies and media organizations deliver emotionally resonant experiences that enrich people’s lives.
Building on our foundation of innovative solutions for Financial Institutions and Retailers that drive acquisition, share of wallet and loyalty, we’re redefining data driven marketing to make it highly personalized.
Our unique approach turns consumer data intelligence into actions, and encourages consumers to opt-in. Our solutions are proven to drive shopping behavior and engagement that unlock brand and market share growth for our clients.

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