Hello PPC Ian readers,
Today is a tremendously exciting day! Following is one of the best posts on PPC Ian, in my opinion. I’m honored to interview Chad Baldwin, Vice President of Sales at Kenshoo. What is Kenshoo, you ask? It’s one of the leading search engine marketing platforms around. You may remember from my post about SEM automation and my video about pay per click technology build versus buy that I’m a huge fan of search marketing platforms. It makes perfect sense, I’m a Stanford CS grad after all. Moreover, it’s systems like these that have fueled the growth of my past companies, leading to amazing success! I’m going to tell you right out the gate that Kenshoo is one of my all time favorite technology platforms out there. If you’re in the market for an SEM platform (or even if you already own one), it’s imperative that you consider Kenshoo very seriously!
The team and story behind this company are amazing and the company has been growing at an unparalleled pace. Over the years, I have been very fortunate to build a personal bond with the team over at Kenshoo. Without further ado, let’s jump into this exciting interview! Today’s interview is part one of three, I’ll be posting parts two and three over the coming days! Update: Kenshoo Interview Part 2 of 3 and Kenshoo Interview Part 3 of 3 are now live!
Welcome, Chad Baldwin, VP of Sales at Kenshoo
Ian: Chad, thank you so much for doing the interview! It’s a true honor and I know this will become one of the most interesting posts on PPC Ian!
Chad: I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you.
Ian: Let’s first start with your personal background. How did you get started in this industry? When did you join Kenshoo?
Chad: I started at J. Walter Thompson after college as the third employee of JWT Digital. I was into the Internet early and was lit about it. There I was an account exec, a producer, a coder, a designer – whatever needed to be done to get a site and an ad campaigns out. I launched some big sites and at one point owned California’s division of tourism which made the top 10 sites in the country. Pretty fun and dynamic.
After JWT, I decided to go to a direct marketing firm (Miller/Kadanoff) for a few years and learn about driving leads and direct sales on the internet. There I worked with Cisco, Netscape and Oracle and learned the value of databases, segmentation, targeting and leads.
Later, I joined Buzzsaw.com, an online project management start-up to lead the development of their website. Buzzsaw was acquired by Autodesk and I was drafted into the role of Product Manager. I loved analyzing needs and developing solutions with Engineers. I spent 5 years in product management in that early SaaS business.
Google Is The Operating System For The Free World
I was always attracted back to my roots in advertising and was fascinated by Google and Search. I remember thinking… Google is the operating system for the free world. I’ve got to figure out how to tap into the potential. I came up with a business plan to create an optimization system… and then went to Coremetrics to see if they were thinking of building out this area. I spent over two years there with a tiger team building Coremetrics Search. It was a great experience and got me steeped in multi-channel attribution and a deep understanding of online retail.
Kenshoo’s First US Employee
I was a 120% fan of search and was beginning to see a bigger picture where advertising and merchandising would become one. I thought to start a company focused on media-mix modeling against multi-channel attribution data. I was getting things together when Kenshoo, an Israeli start-up funded by Sequoia Capital, reached out to me and I got to meet Yoav Izhar the CEO. Yoav is quite a charismatic individual. Someone I could follow up a hill. I joined as the first employee in the US to build out the business here. Evolved to become head of North American sales. We started with one client and have grown dramatically since.
Ian: That is a really amazing story. As a career-minded individual within the SEM space, your personal career is one that I have been following closely! In short, I’m inspired. Now, let’s talk about Kenshoo! For those new to your platform, could you please give a little background? How did Kenshoo get started?
Chad: Kenshoo was founded by two engineers in Israel – Alon Sheafer and Nir Cohen. Alon is visionary and an artist. He has an eye for elegant design and a strong desire to know about all pieces behind something and how to improve it. Nir is a brilliant engineer – quite someone to meet and know. He’s totally Zen about his craft with a keen ability to understand many points of view and synthesize a direction. Once a problem is studied, he is discerning; an execution machine.
Alon and Nir first started working together to create a new type of Comparison Shopping Engine called Bazman. They built this tremendous crawling technology to scrape website content. They became practiced in the art of SEM – driving traffic to their site and generating revenue as an affiliate.
Dynamic Ads, AdGroups, and Keywords
After trying many technologies for SEM, they decided to build their own. This new system dynamically created ads, adgroups and keywords based upon a single SKU pulled from a website and could automatically deep-link the ad back to the page the content came from.
While working on their start-up, they met Yoav Izhar, an experienced entrepreneur and tremendous leader. Yoav assessed the technology, partnered with Alon and Nir and started building the business.
As Kenshoo grew, the opportunity to become a unique SEM provider became clearer and clearer. After putting up a lot of their own money to boot-strap the technology, they went to Arts Alliance and Sequoia Capital to accelerate the growth of the company. The rest is still being written.
Ian: Chad, that’s a truly impressive history. What are some of the main features and selling points of Kenshoo? Where does the platform really shine?
Kenshoo Drives Incremental Revenue
Chad: Kenshoo is awesome software. It’s built by search marketing engineers and the most robust system on the market today. There are many features in the software, but before diving into the detail, I think that the first measure of a system’s value is how much incremental revenue it can help a company drive.
There are many "dials" to refine a search program and we have a stellar track record of driving incremental volume and hitting efficiency targets. A few focal areas that are driving tremendous results for our clients:
Realtime Campaigns – In retail, travel and other long-tail businesses, Kenshoo is helping to automatically build out the tail by tying into backend merchandising and inventory systems to dynamically create campaigns. This drives higher relevancy, stronger coordination, and higher conversion rates. We’ve also seen time savings of up to 80%. This is a foundational aspect of Kenshoo’s software and helping to facilitate complete integration of merchandising and advertising.
Massive Campaign Management – We have focused on how to easily manage larger and larger programs. Customers tell us that they really love Advanced Search – a way to find any aspect of a campaign based on any criteria and do anything to it.
Bid Algorithm – The sophistication of our math is constantly growing. We have a team of PhDs and, with every release, the algorithm becomes more sophisticated and nimble. We have filed a number of patents and believe that our newest seasonality work is unparalleled.
Data Scoring & Reprocessing – This past year we have delved heavily into processing downstream and offline data. Financial Services customers and lead-focused B2B companies have helped us uncover more sophisticated ways of measuring value along the conversion lifecycle. We integrated with a number of data firms to make this easier for clients.
Ian: What are some of the newest and most exciting Kenshoo features? What’s been added in the last year?
Chad: There’s a lot that has moved forward with Kenshoo in the last year. I would say that I’m excited about four main areas:
Local – Kenshoo has been blazing a new trail in how search can be optimized on the local level. I think that what this team is doing now is a guide to what will be standard practice in years to come. How can the word "Porsche" be worth the same about of money in rural Michigan as it is in San Francisco? I think we will know in the next few years that location-location-location is also critical in search. The future of well-run search programs is more and more granular campaigns with robust mass management and optimization. I’m excited to see the next generation of innovation coming out of the Local team at Kenshoo.
Facebook Is Becoming The Operating System For A Personalized Web
Facebook – I’m really excited about our Kenshoo Social product. We are pushing lots of investment into this area and are very bullish on opportunities with Facebook. Facebook is becoming the operating system for a personalized web and going to create an environment with the most targeted advertisements around.
Kenshoo Universal Channel – Kenshoo now can manage multi-channel attribution data. We developed and launched a really elegant system that allows us to capture the click and cost data together. We’ve developed an open XML format for attribution data and are excited to bring this idea of open standards to the marketing optimization market.
Kenshoo is Blazing Trails With Its Forthcoming Desktop Editor
Kenshoo Desktop Editor – We are taking the most robust technology in the market and we’re also making it the easiest. With our new Desktop Editor, any Search Marketer can start day one and know how to fly the plane. Our editor scales to over 20x what Adwords Editor can do in volume and works across Google, Yahoo! and MSN. It’s in Beta now. So watch out world… it’s coming soon.
Ian: You probably know where the next question is going… What’s in Kenshoo’s future? Where are you guys heading? Any new features on the roadmap that you can discuss?
Chad: I wish I could talk about our futures as we have lots of exciting stuff in the pipeline, but working on a team comprised of many former members of the Israeli Defense Force, I’ve learned that keeping our plans close to the chest is part of competitive advantage.
We have much in store for the market. Kenshoo has established its leadership position in search and we are now looking to expand our footprint and bring additional value to our channels. We are undergirding our entire platform to understand customer value within a multi-channel environment – and to be able to optimize. You will see more expansion with Local and Facebook. You’ll also see a few surprises from us in the near future. Innovation (and late nights) is in our genes.
Ian: Wow! Chad, I can’t thank you enough. This is truly amazing stuff! Everyone, this is part one of a three part interview. Stay tuned, parts two and three will be posted in the coming days! Update: Kenshoo Interview Part 2 of 3 and Kenshoo Interview Part 3 of 3 are now live! Make sure to check it out! Don’t forget to check out Kenshoo. Also, if you’re interested in a job at Kenshoo, they are hiring aggressively. Please don’t hesitate to email me your resume and cover letter and firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll forward over to Chad directly.
Images in this post © Kenshoo