Trendline Spotlight Featuring David Baker of Cordial

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about two companies that should be on every marketer’s radar, and it received a lot of interest from many of my industry colleagues. David Baker is one of the co-founders of Cordial and in my opinion is one of the smartest people in our industry. I had the chance to interview him a few weeks ago about the happenings over at Cordial. I did so after our team had a chance to view a demo of the Cordial platform and take it for a spin. Our tech and strategy teams were so impressed that I wanted to really dig in deep to what Cordial is up too.

Full disclosure: David Baker and I have been colleagues and friends for over 6 years, and I have nothing but the deepest respect for him and his entire team over at Cordial.

Cordial is doing things that are unique and in my opinion are game changers in our industry. Don’t take my word for it…below you will find an unscripted look at David’s insights on the industry and what Cordial is doing.
 

Q&A with Andrew Kordek and David Baker:

Why did you leave Acxiom and start Cordial?

I was ready for a new challenge, and the timing was just right to combine with some people I’ve known and respected for a long time. Cordial is our vision of the future and how to build products, not just a solution to problems.

I’ve seen many people develop solutions that didn’t scale and became very expensive for both the developer and customer as things grew. So, even though we have a great idea, I really left to be in the small-business culture, out there on the edge of what’s next.

I learned so much from Acxiom. Having access to all that data, insights and big data solutions is invaluable. It was just time to finally build something I felt the market needed and wasn’t being served by others well enough.

I was also really fascinated with where the Internet of Things (IoT) is going and the future of connected devices. Not many companies focus on that. I felt we could build a nice test bed for bridging consumer IoT with marketing and analytics.

Does the market need another messaging platform?

The market does not need another email platform, and I think the term “email service provider” is going to be a legacy term most won’t use anymore. With hundreds of companies doing things so similarly, it’s hard to distinguish what is good, best or different.

With consolidation and with big marketing clouds owning a lot of market share, I think the industry is in for a culture shock when “big” is too expensive and “small” isn’t flexible enough or becomes too expensive because of the labor costs to do what you want. With that, the market will shift a bit.

It happened in the past when Experian, Acxiom, Harte-Hanks, InfoGroup and Epsilon all invested in email technologies to grow “the stack.” It’s very hard to connect disparate acquisitions and serve all markets. It’s a big vision and even harder to deliver on.

Net is, we believe a substantial market opportunity exists for new-breed technologies and innovators. That’s why we built Cordial.

We believe messaging and the concept of personalization through messaging will change to become more real-time, more machine-learning-driven solutions and more optimization-oriented. Although messaging will be the overtone, it’s really about the experience and devices.

So, the orchestration layer of messaging will evolve. The data-management layer will have to become cheaper, and the integration layers will need to be much simpler. All of these are core challenges we chose to address out of the gate at Cordial.

Lots of your competitors talk about delivering 1:1 experience with data. What makes you different?

How we think about data as objects, how we are disrupting how people test and optimize, and ultimately [that we realize] the future of automation will require new approaches.

To do any type of personalization or 1:1, you have to balance what you know, what you see, what you think your recipients might do, and then how and when they consume the message.

All of these are objects. Some are observed, some self-disclosed and some derived. That mix is what makes personalization scalable. Now, add this new dimension of a hub device, and all these interconnected devices that do more than just help you communicate. This takes on an entirely new dimension of how you engage and respect privacy but still strive to deliver the most contextual experience.

So, our vision of 1:1 and how we talk about it is a bit different from how others refer to it.

“Designed for the marketer, architected for the developers and IT” sounds like something we have all heard before. Have you finally solved this issue, or am I reading it wrong?

That is our way of saying we built multiple ways to do most critical things. More options and less customization. We try to make it easy for IT people to program smart template languages with rules, get data in/out and integrate quickly.

We also built an intuitive user interface novices and advanced users alike can use. Ironically, the early adopters of our platform are the more advanced users. They see the value in the APIs and in building interactions with their site, and they think about testing differently.

There is no perfect solution for everyone, but I do believe more features doesn’t mean better product. As I’ve said many times in articles, I don’t believe the big eat the small; rather, the fast eat the slow.

Are you looking to change the way marketers think about messaging? Or are you looking to create something around how they are running their programs?

Of course we are. We believe it must be more real-time, less channel-centric and interdependent on the devices of today and tomorrow.

We have to recognize that behaviors on your mobile phone are different from your laptop or tablet. Behaviors at home are different from those on the go. “Lean Forward” and “Lean Back” are concepts that used to describe laptop and tablet behavior, but the physical nature of what people do at different points on different devices is a distinction all marketers will have to come to grips with.

Doing things the way we’ve done it for two decades isn’t enough. We have to challenge how we think, execute, optimize and look for new opportunities. We believe if we can make marketers faster and more informed and give them more options to experiment with while in market, we can help them do what they are really good at: marketing, creative and strategy. 

What is the biggest problem Cordial is looking to solve?

SPEED and OPTIMIZATION. We’ve been doing the same things over and over, but the problems have just gotten bigger.

Cordial is helping marketers better optimize their unique digital experiences with their customers. Everything should be faster: how you view, store, visualize and analyze data. How you orchestrate, program and optimize campaigns and audiences.

Ultimately, we help marketers better understand channel impact on reach, engagement, data and predictive, and align that with an interaction layer that lets you react to what’s happening now.

In the past, it has always been guesswork to interpret what people did based on which message and offer. We believe there is a brighter future, and that will help with automation and understanding what you can program, as well as what needs to adapt to what’s happening today.

What other technologies are you looking to integrate with?

 

The obvious ones are — first — ecommerce, data companies and channel providers (SMS, push, email). But we built Cordial to be modular with some big thinking around IoT. We don’t think Consumer IoT is years away. It’s upon us, and we will need to provide context to how people are using new devices to manage their lives and what data is valuable to make the customer experience more of a value exchange. Beacons, sensors in products, and the wearables market will only grow, and we plan to play a role in that.

What is on the plate for the next 6-12 months for Cordial?

Roadmaps are really a lot of BS. They are blocks on a chart that rarely line up to what you are delivering.

Over the next 12 months, we will have a killer optimization engine driven by machine learning. We have the foundational experiments in work now. We will have a fantastic orchestration layer that I feel will be a future way of managing your entire portfolio of communications (transactional, promotional and triggers). We will have the first platform to bridge the IoT gap and will do it in both how we store new signals and how you trigger off these.

But, most importantly as a young, yet experienced company, we are just scaling. We have built a great platform and have great clients on it pushing it every day. We just have to figure out how to share that with the world without just making it a noisier place.

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