Leadership Edge with Adam Mittelberg, Chief Marketing Officer at Datasys
Adam Mittelberg is a successful sales and marketing executive and the current Chief Marketing Officer of Datasys. Adam has over two decades of experience of senior leadership in channel sales, data, digital marketing and consumer products, playing key roles in the building of multiple $100M+ brands.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, or readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path? Growing up, I watched my father get up every day and head off in his work truck to sell postcards and souvenirs to the various gift shops, hotels and attractions throughout South Florida. He worked hard every day of his life and provided for our family, but he also always had this deep determination to do more and better himself. Without any formal training or financial backing, he leveraged his personality and industry knowledge to build a highly successful distribution business from the ground up. His tenacity to work and his abilities to develop relationships with so many people stuck with me throughout my life and was the impetus for my professional path.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that? Sure, Christina. I got involved with internet marketing in the late 1990’s…this was back when the majority of agencies and brands didn’t really have budgets for ‘the internet.’ We had to develop and validate an entirely new approach to reaching consumers through a medium that was quite foreign to those who were making the decisions on marketing investments. What it turns out we were really doing was creating ideas and opportunities that didn’t exist within a then-undefined industry.
We’d brainstorm and experiment with just about every idea we could think of about educating agencies, brands, and CMOs from across the country the value of internet marketing. We would test new ideas on small scales; often finding ourselves going right back to the drawing board when something didn’t pan out. There were a lot of people who didn’t understand what we were doing or why, but we stuck to our process and built one of the nation’s largest online marketing companies in the US as that time. Unbeknownst to us, we were paving the road for today’s modern digital marketing. Just like any organization or individual who is first through the wall, you get bloody along the way… But, we knew there was no way forward without taking chances and improving our strategy on the fly.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that? I, like many stubborn people who are driven to succeed, had an initial vision that I could do everything myself if I was willing to work 23 hours a day, and that’s exactly what I did early on. But my largest professional gains and personal growth came from learning how to be strategic and building a team and culture around me. When I recognized the value of trusting and supporting others, my entire approach to daily work and projects shifted. I began surrounding myself with strong people… people who are smarter than I am who are willing to share ideas and put in the work. When you allow yourself to open up to new ideas and approaches, you find that the best outcomes are possible.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story? There are a lot of interesting tech-stacks and solutions that are helping organizations grow and win in the digital marketing space. The challenge many of these solutions have is that they are one leg of a 4-legged stool. Just because you have great tech doesn’t mean you are solving a complete problem for your customers. To provide a well-rounded solution for digital marketers is to empower them with tech, data, analytics and distribution. These are the four legs of the stool that are critical to executing smart and effective digital campaigns.
At Datasys we are able to provide our clients with all of these. Datasys is a company built on data. It’s our data that truly separates our company from those around us, and with our data we are able to provide transformative solutions for our clients. Simplified accessibility of our algorithms and data through our tech stack provides our clients with a wide array of marketing solutions at their fingertips. From deep analytic dives to enabling our clients to reach the same consumers across the various and critical online and offline channels, we believe that we offer a truly unique partnership that our clients can’t find anywhere else Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people? At Datasys, we’re very close to unveiling exciting data marketing platforms that will have a huge impact on how our clients execute digital campaigns. I can’t go into a lot of detail at this time since all the technology is proprietary, but we are coming to market with new platforms that we believe will revolutionize how the marketing world acquires, structures, segments and executes campaigns with their data and ours.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout? If you’re innovating and working on something truly great, there’s going to be hundreds of obstacles to clear before that product or service is ready for the mainstream. My best advice is to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day; it took years of planning before the real work could even get started. So, whenever you’re feeling stuck or burnt out, take a big step back and try to look at the problem from a completely different angle. Maybe there is no clear-cut solution to get past that next obstacle, but there’s almost always something that can bring you one step closer to finding that answer. There’s an old saying that ‘you have to learn how to walk before you can run,’ but the truth is that in business you’re constantly adjusting your speed depending on the task at hand. Sometimes, it’s much better to stop and analyze your next step to avoid making a colossal mistake.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that? One of my earliest mentors was my high school DECA teacher, Mr. Verbek. Every time he led the class it was inspiring and upbeat. His approach towards business and life was so refreshing compared to the other courses I was taking. He was the type of person I wanted to be and had a career I was dreaming about having. In his classes, I was able to visualize my aspirations and see what is truly possible. I grew up in a lower middle-class area where people would tend to gauge success based on the success of those around them. Keep in mind that this is before the internet and before national news and information was easily accessible. Mr. Verbek opened my eyes beyond my neighborhood and, for the first time, I was able to realize that it’s not how you start but it’s how you finish.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There are hundreds of memorable marketing campaigns that have become part of the lexicon of our culture. What is your favorite marketing or branding campaign from history? Can you explain why you like that so much? As a child, I can still remember turning on Saturday morning cartoons and hearing the Toys R Us jingle- “More games, more toys, oh boy! I want to be a Toys R Us kid!” I think every kid in America knew that song and we all wanted to be a part of that in-crowd of childhood shoppers at what seemed like the greatest toy store the world had ever known. It was a truly legendary campaign because they spoke directly to their ideal consumer and made us excited about their brand.
If you could break down a very successful campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas. Our core blueprint for success really hasn’t changed over the years for my company or our clients. We’ve always been completely obsessed with understanding our customers, their pain points and their thought process for finding a solution. At Datasys, we’ve developed one of the nation’s largest consumer and B2B databases that incorporate hundreds of attributes to each consumer profile. So, before we even think about creatives or marketing platforms for a campaign, we’re going to use our structured data to guide us in answering those critical questions.
For instance, let’s say you’re a B2B tech startup catering to the financial industry. It would be easy to say, “Okay, we’re targeting decision makers at banks and lending institutions.” We always want to go a few levels deeper to discover what websites those financial leaders frequent, what their interests are outside the office and how they’d normally solve problems when looking at new solutions. All of that information is going to guide us to the ideal channels, messaging and creative. The wealth of data we have today allows us to differentiate a consumer’s brand experience to be more in line with that consumer’s needs and wants. When businesses are able to get that connection right, and deliver relevant content, positive results will follow.
Companies like Google and Facebook have totally disrupted how companies market over the past 15 years. At the same time, consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. In your industry, where do you see the future of marketing going? I saw a pretty shocking statistic the other day: Over 50% of all Google searches don’t lead to a single click by users! The number was much higher for paid ads at the top of the search results and I think we’re reaching a point in marketing where the search engines are no longer the dominant force they were only a couple of years ago. I believe there will be new solutions in Search Originated Marketing that are going to come to market and truly redefine this channel. I feel like the internet is pretty wide open for much more personalized solutions that are geared toward building trust with consumers before trying to sell them anything.
The future of digital marketing is in highly targeted, personalized campaigns that speak directly to a small segment of your customer base. We’re already starting to see that trend with some of the more forward-thinking Fortune 500 brands and it’s quickly becoming a mainstream principle of digital marketing. Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Always take the time to network, even with competitors, and try your best to pay it forward to your peers in your industry. You never know when you’ll need a favor or simply a different perspective.
Likewise, do everything you can to avoid burning bridges. Even though you may move onto bigger and better things in your career, your ex-boss or past colleagues could end up being the people you need in your corner in the future.
Make it a habit to say ‘thank you’ and show appreciation towards your best employees. This may sound like common sense, but it’s also incredibly easy to forget when you’re meeting 50 deadlines and juggling a hundred other things.
When in doubt, ask your customers for guidance! Consumers want to feel like they’re a part of your brand and asking for feedback is a sign of a caring, responsible company. Keep those communication channels open!
Don’t ever settle for just an “okay solution” if it’s not ideal for your company or your clients. It’s better to go back to the drawing board today than implement something that doesn’t fully work and causes countless headaches down the road.
Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners to become more effective marketers? Something that isn’t ours but it’s a tool that I love is Slack. They have taken fragmented pieces of the communication process and brought them together to create an incredible collaboration platform. Their simplistic approach to how users can share ideas, stay organized by project or team, and its inter-company functions are all really well done. As is relates to Datasys, we spoke earlier about search originated marketing (SOM) and how users are slowly losing faith in Google to deliver relevant results. There is a trend taking place right now in which search engines are costing more to participate in with consistently lower results. One of our new innovations coming to market this year will allow our clients to see how search engine users are interacting with their most important keywords on mobile devices and giving them the ability to bypass the search engines to target these users.
For example, I used a financial institution example earlier: probably 75% of those specific searches are people trying to log into their online banking portal. Google delivers an ad to anyone who types in “mobile banking” regardless whether they’re an ideal customer or just random traffic, but our new solution can intelligently deliver ads to potential buyers based on their search patterns. This will save our customers a small fortune in irrelevant impressions and will drive their conversion rates up.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skils? I am a big fan of history, both of war and US industry. Learning more about how generals approached each battle and how they shifted their strategies based on the latest intelligence of their opponents can be translated back to the professional arena. At the same time, to understand how some of the biggest companies in the US today started, the challenges they had to overcome, and the bets the founders had to make are great examples of what it takes to succeed. “The Men Who Built America” is a documentary I would recommend your readers watch…. It’s eye opening.
Who is your hero? Can you explain or share a story about why that person resonates with you? As I shared earlier, my father is one of my biggest heroes for teaching me that life doesn’t have to have limits if you’re willing to work hard, stay focused and keep moving forward. His compassion towards his customers, his drive to grow professionally, and his love for his family were all very well balanced. I can’t say enough about my father. He was liked and/or loved by everyone who knew him. In the end, life is a one-way ticket and I think he did it right. I hope I can follow in his footsteps and maintain the same balance and zest in both my personal and professional lives.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. I spent six years working with the American Addiction Centers and our team built a massive portfolio of websites with close to 10 million monthly visitors. Even though we were incredibly successful in our mission, addiction is still a huge problem in American society that crosses all economic and racial boundaries. Almost anyone you talk with knows of someone either close to them or part of their family who battles with the disease of addiction. For me, it’s one of my brothers. I was able to get my bother the help he needed and I am so happy for him because he has been clean and sober for several years. His life has changed for the better. I would love for our communities to get to a place where the stigma of addiction is removed and replaced with sympathy for those who are sick.
How can our readers follow you online? I’m not super active on social media these days, but readers can always connect with me via LinkedIn.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.