Jeanette Jordan leads corporate communications, employer branding, public relations, and product marketing for AdRoll Group. With over a decade of experience working in the advertising industry, she has a depth of knowledge ranging from big data, audience targeting, to multichannel marketing. Jeanette held various marketing positions at Factual, Neustar, Verizon, Millennial Media (acquired by AOL), and PayPal. Her responsibilities have ranged from B2C customer acquisition programs to B2B product marketing.
Marketing is a Soft Science, and Other Myths
Jeanette Jordan is Director of Marketing for AdRoll Group, an independent marketing technology company that offers intelligent, data-driven products and solutions for B2B companies.
“Marketing is not a soft skill. It’s a quantitative function.”
An engineer at heart and by trade originally, Jeanette has spent the last ten years of her career translating her quantitative skill set into high-performing marketing strategies. A staunch advocate for building cross-functional teams, Jeanette has charted a nontraditional path into marketing with a keen eye for identifying and forecasting industry trends.
We spoke with Jeanette to hear why engineering and marketing are more alike than you think, how she predicted the rise of mobile years before it happened, and what the next big thing in martech will be.
How did you get into marketing?
I didn’t take the traditional path into marketing. I actually transitioned into marketing after graduate school. Originally, I was a civil engineering major and I started my career in construction. After a few years in that career, I enrolled in business school because I really wanted to get a better sense of people management. During my first semester in business school, the housing crisis hit and I found myself out of work.
I was lucky that, simultaneously, I had a marketing professor in my first semester at business school. She always used to say, “marketing is not a soft skill—it’s a quantitative function.” I was drawn to that because, as a kid, I actually liked ads, funny as that sounds. I loved the commercials. I loved the jingles. I found them engaging. But I know for my skill set, I was much more mathematically oriented, so marketing felt like a real entry-point into doing more of the things I love, including advertising, while also blending my strengths in quantitative reasoning.
What was your first role and your first experience in the marketing world?
When I graduated from business school I got a job at a company called Bill Me Later. They had recently been acquired by PayPal to integrate into the PayPal wallet, as we called it at the time. So I was responsible for cost-selling Bill Me Later to existing eBay and PayPal customers. I would analyze the customer base, and I worked with the team to determine the lifetime value of the customer. Then I would segment the population and give them acquisition offers—for example, $10 off or 10% off, all the way up to $100 off. The offers were based on customer lifetime values. Higher value translated to a higher offer. Then we would run campaigns to drive adoption, and we would measure the performance of those campaigns to optimize usage. It was actually very metric and data-driven, which I absolutely loved.
What led you to your next role after working for Bill Me Later?
It’s a pretty cool story. One of the things that I realized is Bill Me Later was primed for mobile adoption. To give you a little background, it was actually a credit card that didn’t have a card number. So you would use the last four digits of your Social Security number, along with your birthday, to check out instantaneously online. Realizing the opportunity, I went to the head of marketing and said—When am I ever sitting at my laptop, and there is typically a credit card within reach? However, I saw a very clear use case for people on-the-go. At the time, she said she didn’t have mobile on the product roadmap, but she saw I was passionate about it.
That was the first domino for me. Thereafter, I decided to leave to get mobile experience, because I felt that was the next wave of innovation in the field. As I was leaving, and this is a true quote, I told the head of marketing, “You can hire me back when mobile gets on the roadmap, or I can stay and you can hire me a boss, but hopefully once I get mobile experience you will hire me back.” After that, I transitioned to Millennial Media, which is a mobile advertising company that has since been acquired by AOL and Verizon, and went on to learn all about what people were doing in that space.
Did you ever go back to Bill Me Later?
Unfortunately, I never did go back. Funny enough though, I moved out to California about four years ago and ran into some of the product managers I used to work with, and they were making a big splash about PayPal and mobile apps and all of these new features. So even though I didn’t get recruited back, I felt validated that they got there, even if it was four or five years after I left.
Has your background as an engineer fed into your success as a marketer?
I absolutely feel that my engineering training has translated to my success as a marketer.
I transitioned into marketing before the term “big data” was really popularized, so I think with the emergence of big data, people really understood my background clearly, because marketing has become increasingly quantitative.
I have spent the majority of my career focused on audience creation, audience segmentation, and targeting solutions, and the way that you develop and segment an audience has a lot to do with math and statistics. The same way that you determine area under a curve is the same way you lay out some kind of math or stat parameters and decide the data points that get included or excluded in that segment, and what the frequency or tolerance is to create audiences.
I feel like my background has given me a deeper understanding than probably the average marketer, which helps me talk about them and translate them into layman’s terms much easier.
What do you think are the key things that engineers can learn from marketers, and vice versa?
I think the two fields should cross-pollinate much more than they do. I think having an engineering mind is really important to understand the nuances of what we’re doing, but I also think marketers can help engineers by getting a deep understanding of their customer.
An analogy I like to use, which may not be really popular, but if you’re an engineer and your job is to work on making a car engine go faster, but the customer is only taking the car to the grocery store, they actually might not care how fast it goes. They might care more about the color of the car more than they do the engine’s performance.
So, it’s really important for engineers to have a deep understanding of the market and the use cases in order to build scalable products and prioritize what features are going to be most impactful to the market. Engineers don’t want to build things that are not going to be used or sold, and so by cross-pollinating the fields and giving them deeper insights about how people are going to use a product, they can actually build better, more useful products.
In your organization, have you taken any steps to bring those two sectors together?
I am happy to say that’s not something I’ve had to take on at AdRoll Group, because it did exist prior to me. I think that there is a great collaboration, and we actually have a monthly product and engineering meeting where cross-functional people come together—salespeople, marketers, product managers, engineers—and we rotate on a series of topics about different products and challenges. Each team gets to showcase aspects of things that they’re working on to educate the organization about, not only a specific product and how it works, but what it means to the customer. The concept makes me happy and was one of the reasons I was excited to join AdRoll Group—because that high level of cooperation exists.
As a trained engineer, do you think that you would have gone into marketing if people-based marketing didn’t exist?
It would have been challenging to make that move. One of the reasons why I ended up in the tech field is really interesting. I actually wanted to be a CPG brand manager coming out of grad school, and every time I interviewed, I would get the same feedback. They would say to me: you were an engineer and you want to be a marketer. I don’t get it.
When I interviewed with tech companies, at the urging of some of my friends, the reaction was wildly different and better. The reaction was—great, you’re an engineer. You will talk to my engineers and you will talk to my marketers. This was in the very early days of the term “product marketing” being considered as a function. In other words, I feel product marketing was really born out of the need for cross-pollination.
In some ways, tech marketing found me because my quantitative, data-driven background was appreciated. It’s also what attracted me to the field. I don’t know that I would have been a marketer without that, but I do think people-based marketing is a simple evolution of data-driven marketing. I think people-based marketing has been an evolution of trying to understand the entire journey, not just selective customer channels. It’s about how we can start to recognize a whole person who might have multiple channels and devices, and how they want to be talked to at each stage of the journey in each channel.
What needs to happen in order for the advertising industry to get to a place where—unanimously—consumers receive personalized experiences that are well-executed and well-targeted?
In order to have great, highly customized user experiences, you need a combination of high-quality data and the technology that allows you to leverage and execute on that data. There have been significant strides in the industry around identity and identity resolution, but I also think you need it to be connected tech platforms. And you also need smart teams that can pull in and leverage all of that data and act on it.
What part does martech play in increasing ad relevancy?
Martech is crucial in increasing ad relevancy. Martech has often been the system of record for our customer data. That’s where it starts, and it’s really the foundation of how all of the other platforms connect and share data.
The lack of ad relevancy is due to either a lack of quality data, or siloed data that is not being used and actioned upon. The martech system is the foundation where all of the other systems will start to plug in, leverage that data, and write data back to the martech system so that we can actually start to realize this dream of a single view of the customer.
What opportunities does people-based marketing offer to small businesses (SMBs) as well as traditional brands?
People-based marketing is really important to companies of all sizes, and I think that’s because customers expect it, and really good brands are going to be customer-centric. As technology evolves, SMBs benefit because they are going to be able to leverage their consumer data in a way that they haven’t been able to do before. Traditionally, SMBs do not necessarily have the marketing teams or data analysts, and all of the other people larger companies have. With automated and programmatic advertising, SMBs have the ability to keep an equal footing with larger companies.
Do you think that there is an ideal martech stack for people-based marketers, and if so, what would you qualify that as?
This is a hard one. I don’t think that there is any ideal martech stack. It’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and I think you have to find the right tools and partners for where you are in your company. Some tools are going to require much more onboarding and deep integration work, and some are going to be pretty user friendly, but they may not have as many deep or customized features. It’s most important that you select the right one for you. But, again, the key to people-based marketing is really ensuring that your tools work together. It’s more about evaluating your current stack—What are you using for web analytics? What are you using for email? What are using for CRM? What are you using for display ads?—and making sure that you’re getting a suite of tools that can be interoperable. That’s how you’re going to hone in on people-based marketing.
In addition, we’re starting to see the rise of what is being called CDPs—customer data platforms—as a way to help marketers create a centralized view of their customers. Regardless of what your tech stack is, starting to go down the path of working with a CDP or integrating with tools that have those capabilities to pull customer data together is going to be the key to aggregating and orchestrating all of your data across the channels that you’re using.
What is your advice for marketers who are having trouble making a business case for providing a particular technology or application?
I would say it’s pretty simple: you should test out any new technology. Results are absolutely the best way to make a business case, and most companies that I have worked with, or that I have tried, usually have a trial period. If they really want your business, they’ll enable some kind of head-to-head test. This is all the more important as tool-interoperability becomes prioritized, and as you look at your tech stack holistically.
You also want to think about the impact to the rest of your teams—What is it going to take to implement this? How many scripts are you going to have to add to different places? The integration and onboarding can be a beast in and of itself, and you want to do your due diligence and make sure you’re getting the ROI before you make not only a financial investment, but also a resource-heavy investment in a new technology.
You were spot-on in your prediction around mobile adoption years ago. What kind of forecasting would you make today? What’s on the horizon?
I think being in this industry for a long time, we’d always talk about the rise of mobile before mobile actually hit, and I think we’ve been in the same kind of phase with people-based marketing.
I am really excited because I think we are finally getting to the point where true, people-based marketing can be achieved, while we’re simultaneously having a conversation about privacy and consumer rights. As we move down this path of clarifying privacy, we are going to get to a place where there is a more explicit opt-in, and I think that a more explicit opt-in will only further help us achieve real people-based marketing. So, I would say that’s one.
I would say two is the rise of video—the proliferation of video across all channels and how that’s going to be one of the dominant ways that people communicate content, advertising, all of it. The use of short-form video for engagement I think is not going anywhere, and I expect it to continue to grow.
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