Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Interview with Steve Sachs, OneSpot
Content is king--or so they say. However, what if you were creating lots of content, but nobody ever saw it? That's the situation that many marketers and brands are finding, according Steve Sachs, the CEO of Austin-based OneSpot (www.onespot.com)--and a problem that OneSpot is tackling by using content advertising. We sat down with Steve to learn about exactly what content advertising is, why marketers and brands are using it, and how OneSpot's products help in the area.
What is OneSpot?
Steve Sachs: OneSpot is a content advertising company. For many marketers in the Fortune 2000, who target both consumers and businesses, that means that in addition to developing traditional advertising, they are creating all kinds of content. They do that to attract new customers, as well as to build better relationships with their existing customers. Content could be information on a product, or whitepapers, or webinars. However, after creating all this content, they run into a significant problem. The problem--and media companies know this--is that it's hard to develop good content, but it's much harder to get anybody to see it. There's so much content out there, it's difficult to attract an audience. They have marketers create this content for new customers, or for existing customers, and then not as many people see them as they hoped. We solve that problem, by taking that content and convert it into content advertising. We predict which content will be the most responsive, and convert it into advertising content, and integrate that into twenty leading ad exchanges around the world, including Google, Microsoft Network, and Facebook. Rather than placing ads in advertising, we're putting content there, which helps to distribute that content, get it out to key audiences, and also drives audiences that our clients to content they want them to see.
How did the company start?
Steve Sachs: What we saw was that marketers were having this problem. We had been talking to our product team, engineering team, and founders, who all have a background working on different parts of advertising, marketing, and content. In talking to those clients, we saw they were all having this same problem. When those clients start releasing content, they are essentially turning themselves into a part time media company. They have the same needs of media companies. Talking to them, with our previous experience at Time Warner, Google, and ad agencies like Arnold Worldwide and Hearst Digital--all places where our management team had worked before--they were all struggling with this issue, which was a new market opportunity for us.
You have a lot of name brands as clients--how have you managed to sign them up as a startup?
Steve Sachs: It's a few things. First of all, Fortune 2000 companies are all facing this problem because they're investing, collectively, several billion dollars per year in content development, to market and develop all this content. However, the Chief Marketing Officer then faces the problem that they've invested all this money, but it's not driving the results they want at the scale they want. They need to figure out how to solve that issue. We're the only ones in the country who are solving this in this way. As I also mentioned, our senior team includes people who have worked for both big companies and startups, and we have access to those clients from our previous relationships and experience. Having that trackr ecord of working with them before has been helpful too. Third, after they run with it and see how it works, it really is helpful in building our credibility. Potential customers talk with our other clients, see what they've run with us, and see that we've created results. So, there's a big problem, we have a product to solve it, and our team has access to those marketers. Once you get success, it breeds more success.
What are the biggest challenges you've run into so far tackling this problem?
Steve Sachs: We've built a very sophisticated piece of technology, a platform based on machine learning. However, it takes time, and many iterations, to get the additional features built in that we need. Plus, we're still relatively small. We have fifteen people now, and five of them joined in the past six weeks. We're hiring additional people, especially on the engineering side. With our small team, we've built some very sophisticated piece of technology, with the quality and scale of technology that Google might build or Apple might build, and it's very hard work. So, as we get more resources and a bigger team, we're able to build more features, and more media platforms, so we can expand into other areas like new ad networks and new capabilities. That's why we raised our Series A in November, and with those additional resources have expanded our team.
What have you found that your most successful clients have in common?
Steve Sachs: What all of our clients that we do well have in common, is they don't just have one or two pieces of content. They don't just have a single press hit they want to distribute. Instead, they've made an investment in content, with dozens, or hundreds, or even thousands of pieces of content. What they all have in common, is they have developed lots of content, they all want the same person to see multiple pieces of content. It's a business situation where it's not just one and done, they want the same person to come back, and so that they can build and nurture relationships with that person through content. That's what our system does better than anybody else. Once someone engages with that client's content, we then serve up another piece of content, and another after that. We call it content sequencing. The idea behind content sequencing is that once someone engages with a piece of content, whether that's watching a video, or clicking on an article, we cookie them and start to collect data on what they are doing and what they're interests are. We use all of that data to serve up the next piece of content, picking from the hundreds of pieces of content for a particular client in the system. It's a unique proposition, and one that is very effective in driving people back to our clients. They're not just seeing one piece of content, but multiple pieces of content. That's what our most successful clients all have in common--they don't just want a prospect to come to their site one time and try to sell something, they want people to come multiple times, to build a relationship, and have them see dozens or hundreds or even thousands of pieces of content. We can take all of that into our system, and create a unique sequence that meets that goal, so that a user sees that content multiple times.