In this episode, show host Callum McKeefery talks to Tink Taylor, Founder and president of the Dotdigital Group PLC. Tink is a giant in the world of tech and a true industry veteran with 25 years of experience in the digital ecosystem.
In this conversation, Tink and Callum discuss such topics as:
How relevancy = results
How data is the foundation for delivering exceptional customer experiences
How to solve problems with processes not people
How success should not be measured in the number of employees
The benefits and pitfalls of PE/ VC funding - including the impact on the end consumer
How smaller industry events seem to preferred by merchants
Books: The Tipping Point: Malcom Gladwell
Podcast: How I Built This with Guy Raz
Callum: Thank you for tuning in. We’re about to deep dive into the world of eCommerce and startups with Tink Taylor. Tink is the founder and president of DotDigital. He's a giant in the world of tech and a true industry veteran with 25 years experience in the digital ecosystem.
Tink, thanks for joining me today on the pod.
Tink: Yeah, my pleasure. What a wonderful intro.
Callum: Tink, you're an absolute veteran of this industry. You've been around for a long time and you're not that old. So, can you tell us a little bit about how you got started and what the journey was with DotDigital?
Tink: yeah, we, we founded, around the time of the dot com bubble bursting. I, you know, I had a background in tech and I was, you know, websites were just coming into fruition. We were just being, being built. I'd worked at a company where I'd been given a project.
Actually, our team had been given two projects. One of them. Was, you know, will the internet be any good for communication going out, go and research it, and the other one was to invent cloud computing, which the company did and they sold. And yeah, where we all live and work today's or, all harps back to that team.
After that, I took some time out. I was spending my life living overseas. I was a windsurfing instructor there by day, worked at the largest windsurf school in the world. It was quite an exclusive place, so it was sort of c- level executives would come.
And so I taught a lot of those, but when it wasn't windy , I was bored. So I just built this website for the windsurf school. They have an online booking systems will be years before anyone else did in, in that area. And as a consequence, all the people I taught were like, when you come back to London, could you, uh, build our website and tell us, sure, who do you work for?
the BBC is like, that's a bit big for me just by myself. So that's kind of, I pulled together. Collection of a couple other friends I knew, and fortunately they were better designers than me and better coders than me, and I sort of ended up doing the commercial stuff, yeah, so we started a web design development company.
We were very [00:02:00] technical, more technical than a lot of our peers. Static sites were being built back in those days. We were building content and maintaining your website. We built an e commerce variant of that as well. And, you know, all of our customers typically came back to us and said, can you help us market our site now?
It's launched and we cannot make updates and what have you. So that's when we built the marketing tool that later became DotMailer. We actually had at that time a CRM dot digital. Uh, DotEditor, sorry an eCommerce version DotCommerce and then DotMailer as the company grew, we had to, you know, focus for me is everything, I think, in any world of business.
And, we were competing in three very competitive markets, bootstrapped against some giants. So, you know, we sort of did a Dragon's Den style exercise, I guess, where we pitched at some friends of ours who were consultants who liked the business. And they sort of pitched to us, I think we're turning over a million, it's like, how can you make it?
Four million in three years, and we sort of pitched individual [00:03:00] plans. My plan was around the Dot Mailer side of things. And I think I went back and said, look, there's there's 12 million. I think we can smash that, forget your four million and sort of everyone turned around and went, Ooh, go on then, you know, prove us right.
And, and I guess I did. So the DotMailer thing really got some injection of, belief and, maybe a bit more focused than we'd had. Over time, we slowly, you sort of put to sleep. Is that the right word? The other, we had a Dotagency, you know, it was a web company.
That was our bread and butter of our first child almost and, we had to sort of slowly close that down, but we migrated all the really good people we had in the other elements of the business behind the marketing platform, which obviously over the years has transitioned just from email into multi channel and to, into marketing automation and now into CXDP.
As we built more features and functionalities and capabilities, that, that we think are cool and actually what, our customers come to us and ask that, that they want and need. So, yeah, quite the journey, I guess, from a beach in [00:04:00] Greece to now I'm living here in Whistler, operating, what is now a global company.
So, yeah. Yeah. So how
Callum: many staff are you up to at the moment? How many staff?
Tink: I think we're just shy of 500 is probably the, we went, we went through a phase, certainly in the early days, you kind of measure success by the amount of people you got, that soon gets expensive. So I think maybe as many as 10 years ago, we kind of the mindset is solve problems with process, not people.
And then put the people on top of the process is all right, because it is dead easy. Just go and hire those people and think that success. But then, you know, as you would know, that comes with a lot of distractions, a lot of costs, a lot of complications. Yeah, yeah. It can get
Callum: tough. At REVIEWS.io, we definitely made that mistake of hiring certain roles too soon.
Like VPs of this, VPs of that, and it just, we didn't have the right processes and then you end up, those people become disenfranchised and end up leaving and yeah, it can be tough. How many, [00:05:00] how many of the founding team back in 1999 are still with you guys?
Tink: In terms of the actual team and the first ever employees and what have you.
Yeah, we, we have a, a huge amount of them still with us. And, and there's probably an argument to be made here and I, I dunno which one I should go and I dunno how, how this is settled on a day-to-day basis. But our very first paid for employee, we took this young boy on as a work experience.
One of my co founders, Dave, knew his dad very well and actually we were doing a project with him. He worked in telecoms, BT. So we're doing a big project for them and he said, Oh, can you take on my son for a few weeks? So I got him in and I think I got him copying and pasting loads of HTML before we discovered include files to do menus and stuff and crazy when you look back.
So he was there for two weeks, but during that period, we actually hired our first full time employee. He was someone who just a graduate, super smart graduate, and we [00:06:00] needed to expand our tech capability. So we had this guy. John come in both, but Steve, who was the work experience guy, then left, obviously went and built a career, very successful in his own right.
And he's now our CTO, so he's back, he's gone off and trained, but John stayed with us from day one. So the very first two, I mean, is it full time back?
Tink: John's been with us for the whole journey. In fact, a number of the team that, you know, John helped, helped, hire, are still with us as, as well
Callum: I love that, that you've still got staff.
I mean, I always kind of ask that question to companies. Right, have you still got your first members of staff? Because that's always, to me, is a good sign of a great culture. From those early days. It's those people who build that culture. And it's those people who are like, they're those
Tink: guys that set the tone.
We massively believe in culture. And a lot of the culture, in the business, I guess, came from us. But we actually gave that responsibility. Over to the team, from the shop floor, a [00:07:00] term, you know, came from nowhere called the Dotfamily, and that was the team had named themselves that, because they all hung out in work and outside of work and, we, we actually sort of handed a culture over and said, well that family, uh, you need to own that.
And what does that mean for all of your peers as employees? What should we be doing as a business? So one of the. Fantastic initiatives that come out of that sort of team in that environment is all of our environmental and green policies, we are the first, I think, still the only ISO certified, company for green technology.
In this space. So we are very proud that firstly that was something we enabled in the culture for them to suggest. And then we, we've taken it on. We've delivered that. And now, hopefully the whole, the whole industry follows us in that suit. And we'll never, ever be forgotten as the first and the leader in that, in that space.
Super important to all of us. You know, you're down in California. I'm up here in in Vancouver. [00:08:00] and, buyers burn every year. So, you know, that that particular issue is very close to home for us. Yeah,
Callum: definitely. I mean, especially, you know, you'll turn the news on at the minute and you've got Hawaii in in a terrible state.
It's awful. I think dot digital is kind of been that pioneer in the industry. But then, you know, and you've you've grown in kind of a natural way you've never really, you've never taken VC. But you are listed on the AIM, right? So there's a couple of questions I have around that. So how do you feel about these, these new brands that have came out and kind of jumped into platforms like Shopify?
I'm talking about like the Klaviyo, the Omnisend of the world. Obviously from what I understand is they don't own their own technology, but you guys do, which is, which is a key differentiator in, you know, I was really surprised to learn that Klaviyo didn't. [00:09:00] Own the actual email send or their SMS send technology, and they really were the CDP I suppose would, would be the right term.
The, just the database of all the data from the customer, so how do you, you've seen competitors come and go over that 20 year term!
You know, you've seen these competitors, which were probably huge, like I'm thinking brands like Bronco and brands like that that got purchased, you know, and then you've seen the evolution and the dying off of brands. Yeah, I mean,
Tink: this is, I mean, you mentioned a couple there, but this isn't our first rodeo, in terms of competing against, that sort of situation.
We have always been bootstraps. We took the decision to list that gives us access to money. That's kind of decision at the time we were making. You might want to make a number of different acquisitions. That's when we were sort of operating to say all those different business business areas still.
So the eCommerce, [00:10:00] the content management, the agency and the marketing, you know, we spun off a little bit for a while into the search and pay per click before we really doubled down the focus just on the on the marketing side. So that was one of the drivers behind it and being listed on the London Stock Exchange, you know, very different from NASDAQ, which, it's much more traditional in terms of what the investor base is looking for, potentially, you know, it's top line growth, but also, you know, bottom line profits.
So it's different set of metrics where. If someone comes in private equity or VC comes into a company in the US, and for them, it's all about dominance, top line growth, client numbers, and they'll grow that as quickly as possible, probably on a three to five year cycle is your private equity playbook and either try and find a private sale or list somewhere, you know, a significantly increased cost.
So everything is about domination. And there has been a huge amount of success [00:11:00] stories where that's really works. People come in. They have these untapped budgets, where it's like, go and spend this on hiring people. We've talked about hiring off, off air, you know, you know, how, how challenges that is as you grow lots of people very quickly, but when you, when you don't have to make a profit, that's easy when you've got unlimited marketing budgets, grow up people and tell everyone, you know, you are the best thing since sliced bread.
It's, it's very convincing to the end customer or the end prospect. When they hear all those stories, they see you everywhere. They see you sponsoring everything, you're having drinks, parties, you're dominating, but the reality is, sort of the underpinning of that isn't a profitable business and there probably is a, a lack of duty of care, like, probably not the right words, but essentially the objective is to, to move the company on.
So if you sign up today with a long contract, those you're talking to that have ownership and what have you, might not be there. Down the line in the future. So, you know, what's the long game here? Obviously, the world we're living in right now has significantly changed in [00:12:00] terms of the macroeconomic environment.
You know, COVID, what's going on in Eastern Europe, Europe with Ukraine and Russia and so on. So, the markets are really struggling. So, that money is kind of dried up. So, a lot of companies Typically you're told, here's the load of money, go spend it, get top line, you know, client numbers, doesn't matter the price, no contracts, all that kind of stuff, sign them up, looks great because that's a good story where we can find someone to buy this or it's a great story for when we list.
The challenge now is that, they go back and say we've spent all this money and the private, equity is sort of said, we're, we're just being a bit careful right now about funds and we're just going to hold investing anymore. And it's like, what are we suddenly now as a business have to break even.
Yeah, that's why we've seen, widely publicised in the tech space. Yeah, there's been. So many layoffs, people are trying to get back to a break even point. Whereas we've, you know, undoubtedly, if we were growing in a similar way, and there's definitely some envy there that I would have loved to have done that.
Even as a private company, private [00:13:00] equities, you're much more, in charge of your own destiny and what you spend and what have you compared to a public company where we have to say, this is our three year projection. This is how much profit we're making. We're investing that back in the business, going to be reserving this for other stuff, which, you know, people always ask me what acquisitions we may or may not make and what have you.
So we've been sort of trundled along nicely, always hit, growth year on year, successfully had to be very open and transparent. About, the quality of the business. All of our metrics are in the, in the public domain. So the world sort of swings back to us, you know, we haven't made any redundancies.
Yeah. You know, who knows what the future holds in terms of the, the, the climate and might be the, the economic climate we're living in. But, you know, we'd hope not to. You know, one of the reasons, the ability that, that we have with that is because we are a solid business. We have sensible metrics from top line growth, through your EBITDA right down.
Into your bottom line and your profits, whereas we've got competitors now who have promised the world to loads of [00:14:00] people, hired loads of people to deliver that, had sort of untapped marketing budgets to sort of achieve that. And the easiest thing to do when you need to make money, you know, save money within the business, is kill your staff because that's your biggest cost.
And to cut back on your marketing. So they might promise partners that, we're gonna give you this marketing or that we're gonna sponsor this show, or these drinks might be that, that all suddenly starts drying up. So as an end customer, you'll be faced with, I’ve, challenges with service.
No doubt. And we hear that, all the time. Heard that over the last 24 years.The first big one was Exact Target. And, they, they were desperate to get acquired and we, we always position themselves next to Salesforce and what have you.
So yeah, over the last 25 years, there's always been someone, a noisy neighbour that has just received a whole load of funding and could go and hire a load of people and splash marketing messages everywhere. So, yeah, but it's an interesting world, where we live today in terms of. Economic climate things will probably swing back the other way [00:15:00] in due course.
We all hope, of course.
Callum: I mean, for me, I can almost predict now I can go, you know, talk to people and I'm like, okay, this is what's going to happen in 12 months with this business.
They're going to start raising their prices because they've got to prove to their board or they're looking at IPO -ing. So in, in 12 months, they're going to start hiring in 24 months. They're going to start backing up prices in 36 months. They're going to start firing. You know, I can start, I can almost.
Like, you know, when you see these, some brands coming to the market with huge amounts of capital, you can almost predict each step on the, on a, on a graph almost once you've seen it a few
Tink: times. I mean, I, I do work as an advisor for several firms. I mean, they have been on that journey in the past. And I think one of the bits IBM's good advice on there is it, once you get given a large chunk of money, it's quite easy to be blindsided by just frivolous spending. And it's like, if you still, you still have [00:16:00] the rigour around, tracking your ROI and your costs and your profit and all of that sort of stuff, despite what you're being told and you're encouraged always to go spend it all, and dominate.
But yeah, I think if you still have sort of the central, sensible, level headedness about, you know, where you are spending, rather than just being so frivolous , but we've seen lots of examples of people come along and just splash cash everywhere. And, you know, they're trying to, you know, people trying to hire our staff, higher salaries and what have you.
So, people, but that's where the culture. Piece you talked about earlier is very important to people, they see that they get that and they can understand is that, we're happy where we are love the culture and we know what it's like to dive into that. We've had plenty of people that have maybe taken the 30 pieces of gold.
And then come back later with their tail between their legs, like the grass isn't, you know, greener on the other side. Yeah,
Callum: yeah, yeah. So where's your main focus at the moment?
Tink: for me? I look after all of our partnerships that all of that stuff wraps up to me. It's something that [00:17:00] I sort of sat and watched and helped with for many years as we were talking off there about expanding the business overseas and how that happens.
but at one point I was finding myself on 150 flights a year, somewhere flying around the world, speaking at conference meeting the teams, seeing the customers, but also meet all the partners. And it got to a stage where, you know, we started, you know, we have three regions,
You have a GM structure for EMEA, the Americas, and APAC. But what I consistently kept on hearing is, partnerships are different in all of those regions. Or actually, when you've gone to, and seen all the partners and had a few beers with them, all the kind of stuff that they want and they need, A good 80, maybe 90% of it is very, very similar, so we would like replicating effort, and it was a bit like walking through treacle to get all of the tools that were needed for the partners.
So I kind of kept on suggesting that we should do this in a global way. We had some very good [00:18:00] leadership that was doing that and actually bought that team, unfortunately we lost them, but also I think part of the challenge of losing them is very difficult. You need the whole business to buy into this because, you know, partnerships touch on marketing, support, finance, products.
You name it, every, every division and to get everyone to kind of change this. Centralized, global team, from a partnerships perspective, aspect is, yeah, it's, it's quite a challenge. So there's a lot of internal business change we needed to do. And there's lots of materials that. We would need to deliver to our partners that you would assume, you know, lives in the business somewhere.
So, and we needed to make sure that was consistent across all of the regions. So, it's quite a bit of work and, I kind of looked at it and said, I love all the partners. It's great fun. And probably I'm the only person that could go get all the other partners to sort of get into this and do it. To buy in.
Yeah. So, yeah, I was, I always maintained. Big relationships, you know, Adobe's your Microsofts and BigCommerce, [00:19:00] Shopify, and so on, but then everything that falls below it, I said, you know what, just give it to me. And then we'll do it. But it's a whole lot of fun. I have three really good leaders, within that team.
You probably know our guys over in the UK, and, you know, they're a pleasure to work with. You know, they work very collaboratively. We go back with a single set of requirements to the business. So, we need this and kind of like the way I talk about that with the team is,
Our sales team are our customer. Yeah. We must deliver them referrals and business. Yeah. Our partners are a customer but then equally all the teams within the business, yeah.
We're their customers. So again, marketing needs to deliver this stuff for us, maybe. Product needs to deliver or or whoever. So yeah, there's there's a food chain thing. So it's very much the language I've used internally with the team and to our partners and then also to the internal team.
Callum: It's interesting what you say about creating that global team. At Reviews, we've created, we've probably done what you guys did originally. And maybe, I've just literally [00:20:00] wrote down what you just said about the global partnership team, because it's something that Not I'm struggling with at the moment, but it's starting to get that way, you know, as we're growing, we've got partnerships team in, in all regions, similar regions to yourself, Europe, UK, Australia, and, uh, the US and I have individual partner heads in those depart in those areas.
And, you know, maybe we should look at doing that at a global level instead of them being. In in that regional team, Callum: Yeah. How, One of the things that I find really interesting in the post COVID world is how events have changed. Um, and I have a real view on this. I really don't like the big events anymore.
I don't think they offer the value that probably they offered free. pre COVID. What's your take on how you see the events working now? Are you still doing, because you know, you've always done the [00:21:00] big events. You've always had those stands. You've always had a footprint at all the big events how do you see that?
Has it changed? Has it changed your views or are you still going doubling down on big events? Or are you? Yeah,
Tink: probably the honest answer is we're still figuring it out. And again, it's different in different worlds, you know, from what I hear from my UK team, there's been some really good, events.
You know, the appetite there is for people to go back I think from a partnership point of view, all events are really well attended. Then, uh, I look at comparable events in the US and there's been less, you know, end customers there, you know, very expensive to travel.
It's time consuming. People are used to working from home and not having dream to travel to the office. So I still think in some areas, some of the events have fared better than others around the world. And I know we're definitely reviewing, uh, what we would do maybe say in the U. S. where events are just an order of magnitude more expensive.
Oh, yeah. Like the [00:22:00] cost for a booth. The travel, the accommodation, everything is, you know, it's, it's 10x than what you would see in the UK, for example. So, you need to get significant ROI for them. From a partnership point of view, it's great to have all your partners there, but if no customers turn up, the sales team aren't happy, customer success team aren't happy.
And I think it's still a little bit hit and miss in some parts for some of those conferences. We've come back from a couple in the last few months, and they were hugely popular. I know those particular ones. It's the first year out of COVID. There was hardly anyone there. I mean, I'm been on about whether we should actually attend that.
So I definitely think time will tell. There, there's definitely appetite to get back out there in terms of the ecosystem is whether the end customers start doing it. And they see. Mass in some places, but not others, but they used to do it in both. So yeah, I just see
Callum: customers going to smaller events.
Now I see so much noise about those smaller, [00:23:00] like where it's not 3000, it's 300 people I'm seeing a definitely a swing. I'm not. You know, maybe not seeing, I'm feeling it. I'm feeling there's a much bigger appetite from merchants, especially, not partners so much, but merchants, or customers, we say, brands, let's talk about brands, from brands to visit these smaller, more focused.
Events where they're not getting bamboozled by a thousand brands, but they're talking to five brands. And I'm definitely seeing a shift there, especially in the
US so you, you definitely seeing those, the smaller events seem to be working better in California where I am, New York a little bit. I went to one in Boston last week and it was amazing.
Small event, 300 people. And they were just, the brands just seemed [00:24:00] much happier to
Tink: talk. They're more engaged, yeah. Yeah.
Callum: I just feel that we're having better conversations at those smaller events. Whereas 3, 000 people, it would have cost me 10x more for a little booth, you know, the noise would have been a lot more. So for me, you know, I didn't know whether you'd seen the same thing and that was, I'm looking for you for validation, but they're not giving it me right now.
Tink: I'd say that there has been some of the bigger ones, yeah, were a real hit. And I think some of them have been a miss. On air, we were talking about our first trade show that as DotMailer, we went to and, you know, it wasn't sort of guerrilla tactics. It was being smart and wise with the with the money that we had because we had so little, and I think that's probably the best way to go right now.
I certainly know we talked about some of our competitors and in this world outside. Maybe I've sat on the email [00:25:00] Council in the UK and the equivalent in the US and Australia over time, and so a lot of my competitors are very good. One was still really good mates, and he US, I think, did platinum sponsorship of everything.
The biggest thing load of money. And we sat down and talked about it afterwards, and he goes, I didn't make any money out of that at all, nothing. But it goes to show, when you have all the cash, it doesn't necessarily deliver the results. And I
Callum: know how much that platinum sponsorship
Tink: is! I just think you need to get smarter about, um, yeah, what you're spending money on.
There's a lot to be said about smaller, more intimate, more engaged, uh, events and what have you.
And you can almost like print the t shirts and take that on tour, isn't it? Yeah. Yeah.
Callum: And, and I think, I just think the merchant, the brands prefer them. That's kind of the feeling I get from my gut when I speak to them. I think there's this chore of going to the big events.
Tink: You know, when you started, you expanded into the US?[00:26:00] because I tried to break into the US three times and I only managed to get a foothold the third time I failed twice miserably came back with my tail between my legs and a painful bank account.
And I tried, I tried everything. Did you have instant success in the U. S.? How was that journey, that transition from, I mean, obviously you had got a lot of experience, but no, like when you first went there, how was that?
Tink: Yeah, I mean, we did go, we took a small team. We've never retracted back to the U. K. So we sort of toughed it out.
I think our clients took us there initially. We kind of looked at, you know, where are we sending all the invoice? We had a significant base in the U. S. so we sort of used that as the, the flagpole as it may, and then sort of piggybacked top of that. We soon looked at the cost of everything, which was, say we, we talked about as astronomical.
So we [00:27:00] very much focused on a couple of areas where we, we were excellent. And, you know, in that, in that respect, we took our Magento, integration and our e commerce business. And that was our focus because we couldn't sprinkle. Marketing dollars wouldn't go any further. Now, in the UK we do BTC, we do commerce, we CRM, we're, we're a bit of everything.
So we, we always led with that, with our international expansion. We did the same in Australia actually, obviously then that, the whole industry changed. Magento was dominant. You know, Bronto was dominant at the time in the US. So it gave us a target, those guys are actually really nice guys.
That the people, the product wasn't too dissimilar to us. So it was difficult to displace, but, people were familiar with, with how we operated because the, the job that Bronto had done, and ironically, you know, Bronto's been through that cycle they sold to, to NetSuite, and I'm very delighted to say we have a number of lovely Bronto, ex Bronto's now work for our US operation.
But, yeah, I think it was the focus, we had to knuckle down. sometimes that was turning [00:28:00] away business that we. Would usually have taken, but it deviated from that focus to say focus everything. And then if we were getting dragged somewhere and sidetracked, I was always quite adamant we wouldn't do that.
We've grown and maybe, you know, we've bumped along a few times as we, you get the foothold going and you put some management in, we've gone through a couple of changes of that over the last 10 years or so. And the team that we've resulted in now
They came in with a similar culture, knowing the industry, very similar platform capabilities. I love that
brand that they built. Yeah. The Bronto brand was, was a great, it was a great, event brand. Yeah. It
did. Winston, our watchdog, who's now the front man for all of our clever stuff.
Yeah. All our AI and what have you is now called Winston. Winston being, a British bulldog. We used to have, he was the data watchdog. And when you uploaded data, it wasn't going to [00:29:00] update. Our systems for the spam files were checked with like the receivers for there And no, no bad accounts. So we can see if someone was using a dodgy list, essentially.
So we had the data. So we named him, Winston. We had a little cartoon of him in the app. But then when we got to the States and we have Bronto and the inflatable dinosaur was everywhere, we said, it's time to bring Winston alive.
Tink: If you want a funny story. I had a meeting at, what was Magento's?
HQ U down in California. Not a problem. Where you are. Yeah. I was chatting to Mark Val, about the, the Bronto stuff and saying that we're, your platinum partner. So, and yeah, we have all this relationship. It's great at senior level. but you know, brands Bronto is, you've come from open source and everything's all fair and equitable and what have you.
And, I've just looked around your office. It's full of these inflatable dinosaurs. Yeah. We're supposed to be your preferred partner here. And we had to jump, we never paid for that. You know, we had to jump through a number of hoops, test out. Business. We could do B2B and B2C Commerce.
We could do [00:30:00] SME through to corporate. We could do change to any language. That was some of the primary drivers. You know, us versus Bronto. They just couldn't do it. And there's a few other people that looked at that and said, we've earned this. And so we got these inflatable dinosaurs everywhere.
And I only kind of said that as a joke. And then I went off and I had lunch and I came back at the Ben Marks. So lots of people will probably know in the e commerce world. He's now I think at Shopware, I’ve gone back to the office after lunch and he said, what on earth did you say?
I was like, why? Because as soon as you left, they went around the office and stabbed all the dinosaurs with knives. I was only kidding, but yeah, it works.
Callum: Yeah, I do like that. I do like that. So going forward, that's, you know, that's the, in the past, what's in the future for DotDigital in terms of products?
Tink: Well, the product, we, we've recently integrated, rebranded, sorry, as a CXDP, obviously everyone knows what a CDP is, you know, we absorb so much data. We always have done from [00:31:00] so many different sources. We have the smarts and the intelligence and the AI, within that data to then generate the experience, but which is the X bit and we that experience is augmented by all of the channels we brought online. So we've gone from email to SMS. But nowadays we've got game. The live chat that all the data is synced together. you've got WhatsApp, it's coming online. We've got WeChat and things like Line in Asia that we look at as well.
So those different channels, the customer and customers probably in charge these days in terms of like, where they start the conversation and where they want to receive the information back and the really important bit for us. And he talks about, some of our competitors and they don't have their own technology.
If they're sort of bolting technologies together, which do deliver the different channels. That's great. But the clever bit is when you merge all that data back together. And then you can use that in anger. You know, I've been on live chat. You know, I'm, I'm chatting now up here in [00:32:00] Whistler. So I'm chatting to the Snowboard company.
I'm into blue snowboards on the live chat with the agent. They've recommended it for you. You need to make sure that the next email goes out, they sent me that conversation I had in a different channel. And when you bolt those bits of technology together, that bit doesn't happen. So that's kind of the principles of what we're doing is data.
Data is the foundation to help us deliver the right experience, to end customer. And that experience, things have never changed with the old adage, you know, right message, right person, right time. Now it's in the right channel, and my fifth, fifth right, or fifth R, is relevancy. I’ve always said relevancy equals results.
And now we have to deliver relevancy across all of those channels. And so it's the integration part of that. So a big piece of work we've done behind the scenes over a number of years, as an email company, as we started, you know, email was our primary key. We live in a world now where, we go to Asia, no one even has an email address.
So we had to de key the [00:33:00] database, and that means changing pretty much every line of code within the platform and Steve, the tall chap I was talking about earlier, Steve, our CTO, has run that project with his team, and a lot, a big part of that team are the guys that have been with us for 25 years.
But they described it as, we've had to change the engine as the cars running. Um, so an unbelievable feat of, technical engineering. So essentially, we are a brand new platform, right now. So it's all been rebuilt. It's brand new. We have our summit coming up in September, our global summit in London.
So there'll be lots of information about that. It's probably the big splash. But, you know, we've been dripping out information about this for some time. but yeah, the driver is being an email. Isn't the primary anymore. It can't be, people have multiple, wants to talk on. So that whole key acts, exercises needs needed to be done.
And so from a development point of view, there's not a line of code that, that, that doesn't impact, so we've had to do a whole lot of work behind the [00:34:00] scenes of the exciting thing for me. Over that period, we've still delivered quite a lot of other additional functionality, features, integrations, yeah, the user AI stuff, but, you know, we should be freeing up some technical resource now to do even more cool stuff, on the work that, we're talking, you'll of the tip of the iceberg, we've been working on, you know, what, what lives believe the surface, but those foundations that we put in place, with the rewriting and refactoring, speeding things up, you know, using smart technologies where we can, you know, the decaying in the database is going to help us all make the platform, to, you know, A much greater extent.
So it is exciting times actually on that front. Yeah, that's interesting 'cause
Callum: I didn't, you know, from an outsider looking in partner, I honestly didn't know you was going through all that for the last year or so. So it, it's pretty good that you managed to do it. Why
Tink: or still it's one of the things that've always struggled as business UK to us.
It's about beating the drum about [00:35:00] ourselves. We're very British, we're very reserved.I remember we used to release features and I'd be like, let's not tell anyone about them, you know. Whereas, in America you might be sitting there and everyone's... Pumping their fists with a bunch of vapourware that's not even been built yet, yeah, it's probably the right way to go, you know, you go to a car show, and you know, they always have their concept car, it's not available for a couple of years, but that's the bit that makes the front news of the magazine or whatever, the front page of the magazine, so yeah, we've always, I've made, anyone who's sat in a of said, we need to, you know, sort of be a bit more fist pumping, but we can't help it, we're British, we're reserved, in our approach,.
But the engineering team here at DotDigital is quite, the significant driving force. It's, it's magnificent. Uh, and yeah, but I, I personally feel we're a bit reserved in the way we should beat the drum about that, especially again, we're on a bootstrap company, without, taking all that extra money to deliver that, it's a, it's a phenomenal feat, something I'm personally very proud of that.
Callum: Oh no, you should be, you should be for, for the growth you've had and the time in [00:36:00] market and the things you guys have seen to still be at, be not slowed down, you know, like you see these companies, you know, every company, every big tech company, they get slower and slower as they get older because it's legacy and legacy, legacy tech.
But to still be fast moving, you know, 2020 years on it is an amazing feat. Never wanted
Tink: to be in that position where the tech is old and legacy. Yeah. Again, I won't name names, but say I'm friends in the industry, and, uh, one of our competitors in the UK that did the right overseas, they've sold now.
But I know those guys and they program into some language that I used to use when I was a programmer over 25 years ago. And that's the core of their system. Do
Callum: you think it's different because some businesses who have like this problem of, not staying current with the tech, do you think it's because they're sales led and not product [00:37:00] led that that's kind of how I feel about in our industry.
I feel that some of the ones that have developed slowly is because their focus is so much. On bums on seats, on the telephone, so focused on the numbers that are coming in on a daily basis and not focused on the tech. There's
Tink: probably some, some truth in that. I mean, ironically, we're probably a tech company that happens to be in the marketing space and we're probably not as good at ourselves as our technology is.
Probably shouldn't say that, but yeah, we, we had tech at the heart. I think there's a timing issue here. Like when we did the switch. You know, the process we actually ran two technical teams, two products to support teams and almost two sales teams. We had to run two businesses. You have the old version.
Business as usual and the new one that we were building in and slowly, you know, Selling people onto a new one and then we had the migration thing. And we probably did that at a time where we saw that being significantly painful. But that would be so [00:38:00] much more painful to do that now, 15 years later or what have you.
And that was, having gone through that pain, that's why we engineered the platform so we wouldn't have to do that again. We would allow ourselves to be future proof and make these updates as we went. Rather than falling behind. And I think there's, there's probably some companies you're right, probably completely sales led that don't know that much about tech or don't have the foresight.
And then you just get into such a situation where actually making that change in that legacy system is so expensive and so painful that it's impossible to do.
Callum: I think that there's not an appetite to do it if you've taken that VC money that or you're, you're, you're having to hit numbers if you take equity money or, you know, you have to hit the numbers.
So there's not really an appetite to go. Hold on. Let's, let's be, let's be a product led company now.
Tink: Yeah, I mean, if you're in that cycle, and it's say it's probably three to five years on the private equity cycle. It [00:39:00] almost isn't your problem. if we could sell this. Or IPO this within that timeframe at someone else's problem.
And like, that was the exact target back in the day. You certainly had some creaks with their technology, but it didn't matter. You know, in Salesforce, we bought it knew that they would have to refactor it to integrate into their other technology. So they bought it knowingly. And it's not like there's no technical due diligence.
If you're in that type of company in that cycle, there is an element of this isn't our problem. and I'm sure there's some systems out there that are held together with, you know, bandaids and, you know, sticky tapes somewhere. .
Callum: So something you mentioned a minute ago was, you mentioned, you know, Dotdigital and AI.
So how does, how do you see AI. Playing a part in, in marketing automation as a whole. How do you see that, that being integrated into the marketing automation tool? Yeah, I mean, there's
Tink: some obvious ones now, you know, we've already released some of this, there's, there's more to come and I'm sure we'll be announcing lots of stuff [00:40:00] at the summit, so I don't want to steal all the thunder, but like, we've gone from spellcheck into generating the content.
Making sure it has the right grammar. Generate, you would help you predict the best subject line, but we can tell you what the best subject line is now, type of thing. We've gone from back in the day when Dotmailer first started you would upload your contact list and your creative and send everything out to everyone, but now we need that relevance, so we need to look at the data all the time to understand.
What we can learn from that to almost send one to one messaging all the time to everyone. Every time you send out a message, regardless of the channel, you have an opportunity to convert. So you want to be doing that all the time. You know, it's kind of a mindset thing. You actually want to send more, whether it's email or SMS.
It feels kind of spammy, but it's not if you're not sending the same message to everyone. If you're sending more in total by understanding and interpreting from data that you've got. That you actually have an opportunity to send a one to one message out right now to this person because it's going to help with [00:41:00] the conversion cycle or tip someone over the edge right now, but the volume of data that we have and everyone else has now is so vast you can't do that with the human eye.
So it's that artificial intelligence and some of the automations
that that go alongside that, that helps empower some of those decisions to really sort of drive that messaging and the content that therefore lives within it to make it relevant.
Callum: Yeah, no, it is interesting how it's going to play a part. I always, I was thinking about this the other day was actually, I wonder how.
You know, AI is gonna affect the marketing automation landscape. And obviously creating some of the content is one thing, but actually, you know, coming to the same conclusion as what you just said was picking that right time, picking that right channel, um, and, and, and being relevant at, at that right
Tink: exact point.
The data, the data points do live. As data points within your [00:42:00] data set always have done, but as they've grown, you know, you have merchants earlier, but just general marketers, you're pulling in data from the CRM, maybe your commerce platform, your POS or whatever it is, just so much available.
You're sending messages out and you can see the level of engagement, you know, what's working or not. You can look at similes, you know, you go people that look like Tink also bought this. It's not merging, it's just, there's an untapped, unlimited amount of data. And that's what's led into this whole CDP, world sort of get established.
It's like pulling all of those sources together. So that's where we come, you know, we've got it usable. We've got the intelligence and then got the output mechanisms and the messaging is the experience to deliver that. that relevancy, and that's kind of where I'll. What sort of lives at the heart of our essence and what we believe in.
Callum: Amazing. Tink, honestly, I could talk to you all day. You're such a wealth of knowledge about the industry and about [00:43:00] Dotdigital and the product, and you know the landscape so well. I'm always looking for book recommendations. So books, uh, audibles, podcasts, newsletters, I just, you know, I think every entrepreneur just wants to keep learning.
Tink: I struggle with this one. Firstly, I'm dyslexic, so I'm struggling with this. Me too. Me too. I've never been a big, big fan of books, so I kind a, kind of struggle with that a little bit. The, the podcast I do really enjoy is where you have Richard Branson's journey on how I built this podcast. Yeah. I love that one. Starbucks one. I thought it was very interesting.
So I think that's a, that's a great podcast and there's definitely. That's interesting,
Callum: the, the, the, uh, Starbucks one. I've not, I've not listened to that. So,
Tink: yeah, I mean, as a brand and what they're known for and actually what the essence of where they started and what they believed in and how that evolved and maybe swung both ways over time is quite, quite a good story.
Also from a book point of view, [00:44:00] one of my favourite books, I guess I've read that I do recommend to people. It's an old one now. Tipping point by Malcolm Gladwell, just on, you know, on marketing and I love the story in there about Sesame Street and like every single element of Sesame Street as was by design, that you use marketing tactics and data points.
And everything about that show was really, really well thought through about how to get the result you want. You know, in our world, the result is probably sales and conversions. And the result was the learning of children. But it deployed all the smart data tactics. Delivered for a TV show. So I've always enjoyed that.
But that really
Callum: is honestly think you've been an absolute superstar, such a, you know, brilliant guest on the show. I look forward to meeting up soon and having a beer. I know our two brands are working together closely and I look, I love that.
Tink: I might see you [00:45:00] up here in Whistler. We, we did an event dot ski just before COVID.
Um, we're just trying to do the number punching. It's for our partner network. So, uh, I'm hoping that maybe in 2024, we could, uh, uh, do something next season. So watch your space
Callum: Cool. Yeah. Cool. thank you so much for being a guest today. You've been absolutely brilliant. I can't wait for our listeners to hear this podcast.
It's gonna be a great one.
Callum: Thank you for listening today. In reviews we trust is a bi-weekly podcast where I hope to be bringing you advice and insights from brands that are taking the e-commerce world by storm.