Interview with Ed Messman, SpotRight

As a business in an increasingly connected, social world, how do you tie what's important to you--your customers--into social networking activity and online marketing? What you need is a way to analyze your customer database and correlate that with social networking and online activity--which is exactly what Boulder-based SpotRight ( has developed. We spoke with Ed Messman, CEO of SpotRight, which just raised a round of funding a week ago, to learn how the firm helping direct and brand marketers understand the social world.

Explain what SpotRight's products are all about?

Ed Messman: We're a social data platform that is focused on direct and brand marketers. We're essentially looking to identify the right people in a customer's marketing database. For some background, I was previously at HiveLive, building enterprise social software. We sold that to a CRM company, which was since then bought by Oracle. My co-founder comes from the data side, working with Epsilon and DoubleClick, and has over fifteen years of working with consumer data and applications of consumer data. Our technical team comes from Cisco, dealing with Big Data. Our approach to this is really at the intersection of social marketing and social engagement, treating social as a channel for direct response. We talk about direct response in the context of the way marketers communicate with their customers, and how they find potential customers in a direct way.

The challenge with social, however, is that it's not a direct channel. We've discovered that marketers spend, and continue to spend lots around Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. They've created followers, but they don't really know who they are. They're not the same people who bought something from them in the past. We're now trying to bridge the gap, to help them through that process, and be the first to help them towards demonstrating ROI around their social media marketing channels. Our product and platform allow us to pull in a marketer's customer database, and find the social intelligence on those customers, including where they live online, how active they are on what social networks, and how big their community is, do they publish content,are they active, and what kind of content do they publish, and if the do, are they influential with that audience. Marketers can use that data to do a couple of different things, such as activate the social influencers they have in their database, socially map out where their customers live, and turn on social signals, where they can trigger different, specialized offers, and personalized messages based on what those signals represent for the marketer.

After HiveLive, what drew you to this part of the market?

Ed Messman: We had just sold in October, and I left HiveLive in January of 2010. I stayed on for a few months post-merger, and then ended up getting into the social fundraising and social campaign space with a company called Giveo. We raised money around that, and ran a bunch of digital campaigns on social, mobile, and the web for marketers. We observed that the whole space was getting really crowded, really fast. Through that, we observed lots of consumer engaging in applications and mobile marketing campaigns, but we saw that the marketers running those campaigns didn't know who those consumers were. There was no way to identify them, to target them later with offers and campaigns. Because we started seeing all this data streaming off, we then started to dive into what we could do with all of that data, and how we could help marketers better understand customers, and figure out how they could use that to better deliver products and services.

Are people using this yet?

Ed Messman: We've launched the first version of our offering, and we have clients using it. prAna is one of those, Quiksilver is also using our platform for their Roxy brand, and several nonprofits, such as the ASPA and the Environmental Defense Fund are also using the platform. These clients have hundreds of thousands to millions of customers, and we're able to take all of that data, and identify the people who are the most influential and have a high affinity for their brand. We're helping them to identify potentially new, loyal customer, or people they might want to put special offers in front of. We're also able to identify some of the social content that those customers are publishing. An example is with the Environmental Defense Fund, they were working on some new environmentally friendly legislation, and wanted to identify in their existing base of donors those with an affinity for that particular topic.

Is this something marketers use online, offline, or both?

Ed Messman: It's online primarily with regards to the signals we can detect, but it's offline in the extent that marketers are giving us some of their CRM data. In almost all cases, we ask them to give us data from their CRM database around what the lifetime value of the customer is, their transactions, the date of their last transaction, which allows us to quickly assimilate those people who have purchase most recently and are also on social. We can identify those who have high influence, and once we identify those groups, can help them glean insights into acquiring those customers. We're primarily detecting online signals, across social, digital blogs, forums, and more, to get some offline data.

Is it difficult to take that customer data, and correlate it to online, or is that your magic sauce?

Ed Messman: That's the magic sauce. In the context of data evolution, traditional data companies have had credit data, demographics data, purchase data, and other types of data, which don't change very quickly. They're pretty structured in nature, such as telling them I'm male, and that I'm 42. It doesn't change very frequently. The difference with this new data type, social data, is it changes every day. It's not structured, and it's not easy to make sense of. Our secret sauce, is we're able to capture that data, organize it, and make it so marketers can use it.

What's been the biggest challenge figuring this all out?

Ed Messman: I think the biggest challenge is not dis-similar from the emerging markets and industries. Social data is a greenfield opportunity. There are lots of people talking about social data. We're fortunate to live in Boulder, where there are lots of social companies and data companies. But, you realize that social is moving at light speed. You cover the news, and you must see that the amount of social news and companies participating in the social landscape is staggering. Marketers, I think, are challenged to sift through all of that noise. As a company, we're challenged to keep up with all the new social companies and opportunities in the market. So, our biggest challenge is to stay ahead of the social data marketplace, and figure out how we continue to refine the data we're getting, so that marketers can get their hands on it and make it useful. It's a fast marketplace, and having to keep up with everything going on can be a big challenge. Fortunately, we've spent lots of time growing our engine, have clients and our package, and have a running start.