MarTech Influencer Interview with Douglas Karr, CEO at DK New Media

Douglas karr

Hello Marketers! In today’s interview, I had the opportunity to speak with Douglas Karr, the CEO of DK New Media.

Douglas Karr is a speaker, author, podcaster, and consultant specializing in marketing and technology. Douglas has worked in the marketing and technology space now for over two decades, preceded by a decade in the newspaper, direct marketing, and direct mail industries. He’s respected throughout the world as a passionate and relentless marketer who has helped hundreds of companies advance their digital marketing strategies.

In the following martech interview, he shares with us his journey and knowledge about marketing and technology.

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Douglas Karr, Tell Us About Your Role and Journey Into Marketing and Technology? What Made You Choose This Profession?

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It’s been quite the journey. I was actually an Industrial Electrician in the United States Navy who served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The foundation there provided me years of practice in logic and troubleshooting. After I was honorably discharged, I was lucky enough to land a job with a newspaper that was owned by a family who invested heavily in Linux and internet technologies. We didn’t have IT groups in those days, I was wiring and programming logic controllers, automating data processes, and building intranet databases to help reduce manufacturing and distribution costs.

I was recruited by a database marketing company where I jumped into ETL (extract, transformation and load) tools to build massive data warehouses for the largest newspapers to target acquisition, advertising, and measure retention. Before we knew what Software as a Service was, we began to build browser-based GIS tools where we could optimize and measure the impact of newspaper and direct mail delivery. It was amazing times… until the dot com bust!

I was a single father at the time and decided to move my children to the Midwest to be closer to their Mom and I found a database marketing job in Indianapolis at the regional newspaper. Unfortunately, while we had incredible growth and profitability, the company continued to ignore the Internet and they invested elsewhere. I wasn’t a welcome voice in the company so they eventually terminated my employment… thankfully!

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So, How Did That Lead to Your Specialization in Marketing and Technology?

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With a foundation in networking, hardware, software, and now online, I was ready for my next opportunity and that came with the Indianapolis Colts where I helped to implement and integrate a customer database, ticketing data, social media, and email platforms. The email company saw what I did and quickly recruited me… that company was ExactTarget which is now known as the Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

I was so addicted to marketing and technology that I had launched my own blog (which is still active… Martech.zone). ExactTarget entrusted their largest clients with me to assist with integration and automation as well as helping to develop their REST API product requirements. It was an incredible experience – I traveled all over the world and helped hundreds of companies to implement email marketing. I programmed in every language and helped work with every system on the planet.

When the company skyrocketed in growth, I left to start up a couple more companies and to launch my own consulting firm. In my spare time, I wrote a Dummies guide on corporate blogging as well as launched my own podcast.

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How Are You Distinct From Other Marketing Technologists?

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Because I’ve always bridged the gap between business results down to the nuances of system architecture, I’ve built a great reputation in the industry. Most marketing consultants work at each end of the spectrum where I’m fluent all the way through. Developers enjoy working with me because I recognize the complexity of the systems while business leaders enjoy working with me because I recognize technology enables businesses… but isn’t a magic bullet for it. Over the last decade I’ve helped hundreds of companies – in fact, over $4 billion in investments and acquisitions, because I assist in focusing on the solutions platforms, processes, and internal talent necessary to drive marketing forward.

This caught the attention of Mark Schaefer, who asked me to co-host and produce the Dell Luminaries podcast. It was an incredible project where Mark and I introduced the world to many of the people you’ve never heard of that are digitally transforming every industry – from racing to brain injury diagnosis.

More recently, I’ve enjoyed working with a local university in building agile curriculums and corporate workshops to help educate marketing teams on how to best leverage technology. I absolutely love developing talent and speaking so I look forward to doing this a lot more in the future.

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Can You Tell Me a Story About How You’ve Used an Existing Technology in Your Stack to Solve a New Business Challenge?

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Wow, that’s a daily exercise for my clients. Currently, I’m assisting an eCommerce company with home delivery to optimize their eCommerce site and logistics. They had a hodge-podge of apps and platforms that are causing a ton of inefficiencies so I’m leading an initiative to build out a geocoded customer data platform. We’re now able to target neighborhoods with acquisition and retention initiatives. We also merge in household data so we can tighten our targeting as well as optimize their routing for quicker delivery. It’s a complex array of APIs and third-party tools but the result is increased acquisition, improved customer lifetime value, and reducing delivery costs.

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Can You Please Explain, How MarTech Companies Are Changing Their Approaches to Lead Generation and Prospecting?

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For too long, martech companies were all about doing more with less. Digital media was so inexpensive that these companies pushed to profit from sending more. Of course, that just added to the noise and irritated consumers who are tired of being spammed all day. The most successful companies are integrating machine learning and algorithms to reduce overall messaging while increasing the impact of those messages. Targeting, personalization, and delivery optimization are the future of prospecting and acquisition. As well, algorithms don’t have nearly as much bias as we do as humans… so these systems tend to help us execute campaigns that are more effective rather than executing campaigns we’re more comfortable with.

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So, What is Next for You?

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We’ve been working in the wild west of digital marketing for far too long and the backlash has already started. Regulations like GDPR and the Consumer Protection Act in California have been implemented because of technology and marketers abusing privacy and ignoring the risks of security. I’m already working with financial technology, healthcare, and life sciences companies on securing their marketing stacks and implementing processes and solutions that are compliant, audited, and secure. Our industry needs to adapt and adopt compliance if we hope to instill confidence in our customers… and I want to help businesses get there as quickly as possible to secure their futures.

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