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Exclusive - Jeff Winsper Founder of Black Ink Talks Analytics and that Game 7 Final Out

Jeff Winsper is Founder and President of Black Ink. Black Ink develops innovative SaaS-based software solutions, providing deep analytical capabilities for today's C-suite, sales, and marketing leaders seeking new ways to derive growth and measure marketing ROI. Jeff is a charter member of the Marketing Accountability Standards Board.

Jeff has over 20 years of dedicated experience in the advertising and marketing industry, working with startups to the Fortune 500.

icrunchdata News talks to leaders in Analytics about what drives them in their career and who they are outside of the data. We recently chatted with Jeff to discuss his current mission to bring accountability into marketing with analytics, where the industry is headed, and that final out in Game 7.

Jeff, thank you for speaking with us today and I’m going to jump right in…

You founded Black Ink in January 2012, an analytics and technology company that helps provide alignment between finance and marketing leadership by measuring, monitoring and improving marketing ROI. What has been the biggest change in marketing analytics since you founded the company?

In this exploding market, many of the companies we talk to have a lack of focus. As a result, it’s challenging to have clear and actionable outcomes for making strategic decisions to drive growth across the enterprise. We discover that this is because of five root causes: Alignment, Governance, Leadership, Confidence, and Confusion.

Governance is about structure, discipline and guidelines for managing and adapting behavior within the business rules established at a company. These governance rules tend to be very strict for finance due to standards, such as GAAP reporting and accuracy of data management. With marketing emerging in the analytics field, there tends to be a bit of a wild west for data capture, analysis, accuracy and definition within the marketing function, as there are no standards established on a global basis. There is extra effort required to build the proper foundation so finance and marketing can agree upon reporting models and usage of data to meet a business outcome.

The more marketing can report on its contribution to the same KPIs as finance, it creates alliance.  Alignment with finance can be extremely powerful for marketing, as it can now hold claim to be as disciplined as other functions that have gone through the natural course of maturity; for example HR, Manufacturing, Supply-chain and sales. To reach this alignment, leaders need to be confident to plan for the best future state and fully acknowledge the journey to reach this state. It’s never perfect but having discrete learnings on where to invest dollars to get the best return is fundamental for any function.  Marketing is catching up quickly, but there are many that are still stuck in laggard land. The confusion is basically based on two sub-sets. The first being that marketing has too many marketing analytic tools at their disposal, which only solve micro-based issues. When they should have one platform that demonstrates the true Enterprise-wide view of the truth. Secondly, marketing often feels the need to capture more data than what is required to meet finances KPI reporting. This creates risk of drowning in data lakes without swimmies.

In the last 3 ½ years, was there one specific moment that was the turning point for the organization?

At first, we thought only reporting on Marketing ROI would fill the void of where the pressure was the highest for marketing leaders. We thought if we could answer, “What is my ROI? Where did it come from? Who gave it to me, and when can I expect?” we reached the pinnacle of need. But we quickly discovered that was not enough. Please don’t get me wrong, answering those questions are extremely helpful, but it was just the tip of the iceberg. Whenever you deliver those critical answers, invariably another set of questions emerge, and we weren’t prepared for the next level of questions. Our customers wanted to know about growth and revenue realization opportunities they couldn’t discover on their own. So we dug deeper and built models to identify customers, markets and product mix growth across various sales channels, which opened up a whole opportunity of discussions beyond marketing. The discussion includes CEO, CRO and CSOs who are constantly trying to find new and innovative ways to maintain or gain a competitive advantage.

You are also an Advisory Council Member for the Marketing Accountability Standards Board. Is the marketing industry reluctant to embrace an organization that holds them accountable or are marketing companies embracing the fact that the gap is narrowing between marketing efforts and financial outcomes?

I think there will always be two archetypes: those that are “CYA,” and those that are future growth leaders. One looks to the past to justify their decisions and lay claim to success of past decisions – a quasi-self-justification for doing a good job; and the other learns in the moment and is willing to use analytics to support where to head in the future. After all, marketing is a social science, so it moves as fast as its customers and competitors do in the current environment. Accountability has been the leading issue of concern for top marketers for at least 8 years in a row, according to the ANA annual benchmark study. I think the word accountability is too ambiguous and causes more consternation than clarity. All marketers want to be successful for their brands. What is more important is narrowing down what’s the most important business impact marketing can deliver to move the incremental profit upward. For that, archetypes that have the ability to pair up with finance team are most successful in partnership.

In the next 5 years, what do you think will be the biggest shift in marketing analytics and how companies market to and connect with their customers?

Identifying the difference between behavior and intent. Right now, most marketing analytics measure behavior. Behavior is only a by-product of intent. When the analytics configure the intent, they win the ballgame.

If you had to make a complete career shift today, but you couldn’t do anything related to technology or marketing, what would you choose to do?

Golf. Which I suppose you’ll have a follow up question about that!

If you could choose any 3 people in the world to be in your foursome for one round, who would you choose?

Depends on their handicap. Just kidding. Dead or alive, I would play with Teddy Roosevelt, because he would add new meaning to carrying a big stick on the course and would have no problem heading into the woods to find my lost ball. Plus he’s my favorite President. Also, I’d pick Richard Branson. Then I can pick his brain on how he continues to institutionalize innovation for consumer experiences. Lastly, Robert E Lee - just so I can get a perspective on how he almost beat all odds in one of America’s most trying periods.

Another one of your interests is “watching Yankee fans cry.” It was Wednesday, October 20, 2004 and the Red Sox came back from being down 0-3 in the series and beat the Yankees in game 7 of the ALCS. Where were you and what did you do next after that final out?

True story. My friend called me from Vegas when we were down 0-3. He asked if I wanted to put in a wager, and I never asked for the odds. I still had hope the Red Sox would come back even though we got thrashed in game 3. So I did. Unfortunately, it only paid out 2:1. I thought I was going to be a millionaire.

I was at home, with my son who was 11 at the time. I tried to explain to him about the pain of Bleepin’ Bucky Dent. Of course, he didn’t get it. But it made me feel good to try and explain the situation. I probably had about 12 Bud Lights over the course of the game.

Since I was a fan for a losing team for so long, I just kept my mouth shut until the final out to avoid any living curses hidden in the room wanting to come alive and bite a chunk of my heart out again. Of course, this is even when we were up 10-3! I took no phone calls and made sure no one made any comments. (Why, because the year before my wife took a congratulatory call just before Wakefield gave up the 10th inning homerun to Boone – much to my dismay.)

When we won. I fell to my knees. Cried and drank more beer watching replays all night.

You graduated from Providence College with a BA in History in 1989. If you could have a conversation with yourself on the day of graduation and give him one bit of advice, what would it be?

Remain relentlessly competitive to achieve the goals you outlined for yourself. And, oh, make sure you thank your parents.

Jeff, a great way to end… Always thank your parents. Thanks for taking the time today to discuss Black Ink, the future of marketing analytics and of course, the Red Sox.

Article written by Todd Nevins
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