Data Science

“Our ability to do great things with data will make a real difference in every aspect of our lives.” – Jennifer Pahlka 

Traditionally, advertising and marketing were based on the hope of a random chance. You’d see an ad at just the right time before you were going to buy or, as you walk down an aisle in a store, you’d see a display that would catch your attention. Brands were built through the strategy of frequency and reach. With enough positive impressions, a brand could create an idea in your mind, and, if done correctly, it would tap into the zeitgeist and become part of the culture. This has been the dominant advertising paradigm for the last 50 years. 

With the advent of TV and radio, advertisers were in the position to deliver their messaging at scale. For the first time ever, there was the possibility to overcome randomness with enough advertising and money. In 2014, global advertising spend exceeded $575 Billion and is growing at a healthy 8% per year. In the US for example, advertisers spend $565 dollars per person, per year on paid media. 
Unfortunately, most business models expand to a point of absurdity and then collapse. I’m not saying that the ad business is going to collapse… at least not yet, but we’ve reached a point where the number of touchpoints, channels, and outlets has become too expensive to dominate. The result is a chaotic mess of ads seeking to capture your attention. The model of frequency and reach is now reserved for only the wealthiest of brands. 
This is where disruption begins. Because the expense is too high, innovation is required to achieve similar outcomes. Tahzoo is a byproduct of this next wave of disruption. We are helping our clients transition into a new way of doing business. I talk and write often about personalized and relevant content – well, this is a way for marketers to break through the clutter and engage audiences. A new paradigm for the 21st Century that ironically has its roots in a more traditional business model of knowing your customers and building personal relationships. No longer do they have to deliver a one size fits all, lowest-common-denominator message to the broadest audience. They can now begin to transform the digital customer experience into something personal and relevant. 

Seeing this change in the marketplace is what compelled me to start Tahzoo. I was excited because I could see the change coming and I knew if we built a company with the right expertise, we’d be relied on by our clients to help them change. This is really what digital transformation is all about and what Tahzoo is all about. 
The way that Tahzoo uses data to understand customers and their expectations of the customer experience is unique. We see people in the context of the type and style of content they prefer to consume. We use data from many different sources, web analytics, social data, and behavioral data to understand the format and then the semiotics of the content required to influence behavior or provide a more pleasing experience. With our ability to implement sophisticated content management systems, we can use insight and data to deliver a differentiated customer experience. This is markedly different than the traditional model of understanding people by age or income or other demographic metrics. With the rise of the web, agencies moved to personas rather than demographic models, however, they are utilized to inform the creative experience and not the personal experience. We use data to understand people or discreet audiences, in an effort to provide a more pleasing customer experience. We are actively seeking to understand the models of engagement. Without data science, we cannot deliver personalized or relevant content. We are more or less guessing. 
With all the talk of “Big Data,” the real trick is to make the data actionable. If we combine our expertise in building the integrated marketing platform with great data science, we create the possibility of truly connected experiences. We need to continue to innovate in this area and focus on bringing the art of the possible together for our clients. The future of Tahzoo depends on it. 
Let’s go be great! 

The Importance of Personalization

I hope you enjoyed the retrospective on advertising and marketing last week. It’s important to know where we came from so we can understand where we are going and how big is the step is forward.

For those who were wondering, Mark Goode won the contest on the ad campaigns, and here are the answers:
• Plop Plop Fizz Fizz oh what a relief it is – Alka Seltzer
• The Energizer bunny – Duracell Energizer Batteries
• Quality is job one – Ford
• Just Do It – Nike
• Where’s the beef – Wendy’s
• The most interesting man in the world – Originally Dos Equis
• We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two – Farmers Insurance
• MMM MMM GOOD – Campbell’s Soup
• Melts in your mouth not in your hands – M&M’s (Mars company)
• Don’t leave home without it – American Express
• Because you’re worth it – L’Oréal Paris
• A diamond is forever – DeBeers Diamonds

As you’re reading, watching TV, and surfing the internet, try to notice how marketers are influencing you with mnemonic tricks to change your brand perception.

Back to the importance of personalization. Companies that can provide efficiencies and a great experience win – look at Amazon, Uber, Lyft, and Venmo. Simple, efficient, and they solve everyday problems. Social platforms have given rise to companies that enhance the human experience by connecting people and their choices… think of Facebook, Yelp, and Netflix – all tools for enhancing your experience.

When you think about Fortune 500 companies, they’ve been successful by increasing market share and refining business models over decades. They are empires with millions of customers and well-established practices for managing growth and profit. They have the most to lose as technology advances and consumer expectations change. One of our insurance clients was lamenting the fact that millennials are buying life insurance at an ever-decreasing rate when at the same time they are spending more money on monthly subscriptions to products and services – more than the previous generations by some order of magnitude. Why it so hard to get a millennial to make a monthly payment for something that is a wise financial choice?

I believe it has a lot to do with how people make purchases and how information is consumed today. Since most purchases now include some measure of research and glancing at customer reviews, this model lends itself to simpler, quicker, purchases that are amplified by word of mouth. So, if you’re a big company with an empire to protect, how do you maintain a relationship with your customer, evolve it over time, educate them, and leverage the latest technology? And, if you don’t, some technology-enabled startup that’s in tune with the new purchasing paradigms is going to clean your clock.

We believe the answer is creating efficient and personalized experiences for your customers. ‘One size fits all’ isn’t enough anymore, and it certainly doesn’t overcome the complexities of building relationships and educating your customers so they make good decisions. We are helping our clients replicate human to human interaction digitally.

There is a great documentary called AlphaGo (you can find it on Netflix), about how Google built an AI program to compete with the best GO player in the world. GO is arguably the most complex game that humans have created.

At Tahzoo we are offering a profoundly different way to approach personalization, digital marketing, and customer experience. We are leveraging the latest technologies and applying them in innovative ways to change the world, or as I like to remind everyone, we get to make millions of people just a little bit happier every day.

Let’s go be great!

The Experience Effect

The Experience Effect is changing how we do business. This is where Tahzoo comes in. No longer does one-size-fits-all content suffice. Today’s leading businesses need to consider everything they do in terms of “The Experience.” This goes for every company I know. If you make three-dimensional products; good for you, but that product is an experience. Look to the iPhone for inspiration, it’s as much an experience as a phone. If you provide a service, even better.

We live in a service economy. Services are experiences, too. Technology has allowed us the privilege of learning what our customers want, need, and desire and we can use that information and some pretty remarkable technologies to meet them on their terms. We can speak to them in their language and we can treat them to experiences they really care about. This is what the customer experience is meant to be.

For you and me as individuals, the Experience Effect means we will increasingly define our experience by our ability to share them with our families, with our friends, and with the world. For the businesses of the world, the Experience Economy will mean understanding that no matter what product or service we deliver, we are ultimately delivering an experience, some make that experience something different, something memorable. And lastly, companies must be honest and truthful about the experiences they create. Only when experiences are sharable, different, and authentic can they truly transcend.

The Experience Economy is real and it is changing the world. It has already altered every business on the planet and it will continue to do. Now, more than ever, the quality of what we experience is more valuable than the quantity of what we own.

Let’s use that knowledge—and this moment in time—to make millions of people happy.


Transforming Experiences

When we started the company, our tagline was ‘Driven by Big Ideas’…

As I mentioned earlier, we live in a time of unparalleled change and opportunity. The signs of economic turmoil are ever-present, and it’s because the way in which business is conducted is changing. Over the course of history, during these transitions, companies that established themselves as a force for change and as the instrument of change have shaped the world.

I aspire to work for a company and be part of a team that changes the world. For whatever reason, I can’t and won’t rest until I’ve accomplished this… The problem I aspire to solve is changing the way business is conducted.

We live in a time in which the rise of mega-corporations, consumerism, and technology have sterilized and dehumanized the interactions between people and companies. My dad still goes to the bank to get cash rather than an ATM, and when I ask him about this, he explains that he likes to see his ‘friends’ at the bank, and then rattles off the names of all the tellers in the bank. To be clear, I don’t see us returning to some 1950’s style world in which everyone purchases from the neighborhood store… the efficiencies of globalization are too compelling to be ignored. I do see how Gabi is friends with the UPS man who delivers goods purchased online every day… we’re still able to have humanity in how we buy and sell.

We are currently working on personalization strategies; I never saw this as an endpoint – only the beginning of how we transform the customer experience. Let’s aspire to build a company that brings some humanity, some relevancy, and some good old fashion customer service to how people buy and sell goods. For me, it’s an obligation and moral imperative that we work hard to make the world a better place.

Let’s go be great,


Customers, Content, and Context

“All progress takes place outside the comfort zone.” – Michael John Bobak 

Customers, Content and Context 

If I knew everything you ever posted… if I knew every piece of content you ever consumed… would I know you? 
Humans are fascinating creatures; we have belief systems and values that manifest differently in various contexts. When presented with similar problems, how you react and respond on behalf of your family might be very different than with a co-worker. Take that a step further – the context around you plays a role as well, for example; are you alone? Is it late at night? Are you not feeling well? Is this interaction being recorded? 
Predicting human behavior or the response to a variety of situations is still exceedingly difficult because of the number of variables that need to be considered. Humans can do this math exceedingly well – I am sure you remember the Sherlock Holmes stories, where he notices the smallest details to help solve crimes. You’ll observe that someone is in a bad mood before you make an ask or start a difficult conversation, and based upon that, you might decide to strike up the conversation at a later date or time. We evaluate and attenuate our interactions with people as a natural part of our humanity.  
In the world of digital marketing, we’d like to replicate human-to-human interaction. As I’ve always said, “we want to deliver a Nordstrom-like customer experience, online”. Marketers and Computer Scientists have been overwhelmed by this complexity of managing all the possible variables and contexts. In addition to solving for the behavioral ambiguities, we also must address the format of the device, the context, and the immediacy around the task that needs to be accomplished or the information requested. Taking all this into account, it is no wonder that most companies chose to ignore the complexity of delivering personalized experiences. 
Almost all the digital/CX agencies are still pitching A/B Multivariate testing, which is best described as a better strategy for guessing. Not only does it not inform personalization efforts, but it also feeds the tyranny of the majority, because 51% percent of the traffic responded favorably to the blue button, the other 49% are force-fed the blue button, despite a different expectation or preference or additional colors. 
At Tahzoo, we’ve figured out how to solve this problem. The work that we’ve performed over the last few years has provided us tools to better understand customers, context, and content – and then leverage Algorithmic-based solutions and Artificial Intelligence to achieve better results. Over the course of the next few months, we will be aggressively investing in our data science capability to bring the Tahzoo approach to the market. We do a lot of things well at Tahzoo, however, this might be a point of leverage that sets us apart from everyone else in the world. Not only can we build sophisticated systems, but we can also provide the data services and methodologies to take advantage of the software we implement.  
I am working on a whitepaper that I will publish in the next month on the Tahzoo position on how to best leverage Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Algorithmic-based personalization technologies. The preview is that it takes what we do well; you have to know your customer, your content, and have the context to provide a Nordstrom-like personalized experience in a digital world. 
Let’s go be great! 


As our Innovation Day (Innovatiedag Herfst 2016) events draw to a close this week, I’m proud to see the strong spirit of innovation clearly evident in our Tahzoo family. I’d like to thank the attendees, presenters, planners, and all of the hackathon participants who contributed to this successful event.

This is a perfect time to revisit a note from a while back, which serves as a good reminder about the value of innovation. It focuses on three of my favorite innovators and the lessons we might draw from their experiences that can inform our thinking about our own innovative spirit. You see, I believe that innovation is not a matter of fleeting inspiration, but rather a skill that can be learned, practiced, and, most importantly, improved over time. Like taking up a musical instrument, all that is needed to innovate is the right attitude and the receptivity to change ourselves.

For any new company to succeed there has to be innovation—often a lot of it. Apple. Amazon. Uber. Facebook. The examples are easy to come by. The message is pretty simple: to stand out, you have to do things differently than those who went before.

That’s why we talk a lot about innovation here at Tahzoo. We are not in the game of operational efficiency, or of trimming expenses to preserve razor-thin margins of profit, nor of selling volumes upon volumes of widgets. We are in the marketplace of ideas. Our clients turn to us for our ability to think differently than the herd of consultants out there. We must, therefore, place the highest value on innovation to assure that we always stand head and shoulders above the competition.

The first lesson of innovation is effort. In this, there can be no greater role model than Thomas Edison. The man held at least 1,093 patents when he died—including as you know the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and motion pictures. Think about that for a moment. He “held” 1,093 patents, but there were surely numerous ideas the at didn’t pan out. He certainly knew more than his share of failure through all that. This is a lesson in believing in an idea so strongly that one is willing to soldier on in pursuit of the dream, never relenting, never giving up.

Speaking of dreaming, that brings me to another of my favorite inventors, Nikola Tesla, who, it was said, often dreamed of his inventions before he set to inventing them. Tesla bragged of his ability to perform realistic “dream experiments,” while fully awake.

This is a lesson in vision. Innovation often requires one to be able to imagine an ideal state or a solution to a particularly vexing problem in order to make that vision a reality. Interestingly enough, Tesla was such a good dreamer that many of his most interesting and ambitious ideas never came to fruition during his life because they were too ahead of their time. He imagined television and cellphones long before they ever became everyday things. He also dreamed of a way to power electrical devices without wires that is still a largely unrealized ideal today. So, take it from Tesla, if you’re going to dream, dream big!

Lastly, innovation requires perspective. No one but Einstein himself is our role model here. He conceived of his mind-boggling “Theory of Relativity,” while working as a humble patent clerk reviewing closed-loop train switching patterns. Einstein’s breakthrough was in his ability to apply learning from one field to another—of shifting perspective. It’s interesting to me that the lessons of perspective that Einstein imparts are in some ways a distillation of Relativity itself, which held that our perception of time is relative to the speed of light. That is: perception changes as perspective changes.

So, there you have it: innovation in a nutshell. It takes effort. It takes vision. And, it takes perspective. If we all apply these lessons to as many aspects of our personal and our professional lives, we cannot help but develop innovative ways to see and do great things.

Our Mission

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed 
by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. 
So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. 
Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”               
– Mark Twain 

Our Inspiration, Our Values, Our Mission… 

This is the last of my three-part return to the three things that drive Tahzoo to be great. Our Inspiration. Our Values. And today. 
Our Mission 
As I mentioned in previous emails, we are in a time of change, business is fundamentally changing. It is during such periods of transition that companies who are forces for change come to shape the world. 
IBM (International Business Machines) led the world with the practical application of mainframe computing. For a long time, they have been one of the largest and most powerful technology companies in the world. Early on, they recognized the impact that technology could have not just on science, but also on business hence the name. It was this understanding that drove the company to greatness and, while they’ve had challenges over the years, they are still leading the market through innovation. 
During the late fifties and sixties another technology, television, hit the market. TV led to the creation of many large and powerful companies. In particular, Madison Avenue was a product of, more than anything, television. 
Advertising agencies, recognizing the power of a mass-market medium like TV, and understanding how to use the technology, created lasting strategic advantages for their clients. The ads they created are now part of our collective conscience Madison Avenue has shaped the world we live in. 
Now, we’ve entered a new time. The rise of mega-corporations, consumerism, and technology have sterilized and dehumanized the interactions between people and companies. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the way Madison Avenue has applied mass marketing principals to the digital experience. We hold Amazon and Netflix in great esteem because they can suggest products that other people have been interested in and we call that great user experience. 
Tahzoo is founded on the idea that we can do better. 
My dad still goes to the bank to get cash rather, not the ATM. When I ask him why he explains that he likes to see his friends and then rattles off the names of all the tellers in the bank. An important part of the human experience is the connection with our community and between one another. From the beginning, humans have built marketplaces in the center of town so we could purchase from our favorite merchants, but also establish a sense of community and to fully participate in our culture. Unfortunately, the poor implementation of technology has diminished our culture and our communities. 
I don’t see us returning to some 1950s-style world in which everyone purchases from the neighborhood store the efficiencies of globalization are too compelling to be ignored. I do, however, see how Gabi is friends with the UPS man who every day delivers the many goods we’ve purchased online.  It’s good to see that we are still able to have humanity in how we buy and sell. Technology can create rich and meaningful interactions between consumers and companies. If Tahzoo can innovate and lead to a new and better way of doing business, we can shape and change the world. 
Tahzoo aspires to build a company that brings some humanity, some relevancy, and some good, old-fashion customer service back to how people buy and sell goods. 
That is our mission. 
Let’s go be great! 

Tahzoo’s Customer Experience 

I was listening to an old interview with Steve Jobs today, he was discussing the process of product development and how he’s learned over the years to start with the customer experience in mind rather than the technology. I was again struck by his passion to deliver a phenomenal experience to his customers. I have been focused the last couple years on making sure that Tahzoo had the capability to help our clients deliver a great experience, but, candidly, I haven’t spent enough time crafting the experience I’d like for our clients.

When I founded the company, I established the company values as part of a strategy to ensure that we had the right people. In the early days when I was acting as the account manager, I labored over the quality of our work and ensuring that we provided the best possible deliverables, I figured setting a good example would carry the day. As we began to grow, we focused on hiring smart and happy people as a core tenant of our customer experience strategy. More recently we created the Delivery Lead role as the keeper of the customer experience.

While these are important in setting the foundation for our company they are not nearly as explicit as we need to be around our customer experience. I was talking with one of our clients who had recently hired McKinsey to conduct a strategy workshop, and while the workshop was in process they filmed the white boarding exercise and interaction between the teams. The video was streamed live to a group of graphic artists who produced a slide deck that represented the meeting inputs outputs and decisions. At the conclusion of the meeting, the McKinsey team handed the client a freshly printed and readymade deck. Our client was blown away by the experience and we talked in detail about how Tahzoo could make similar improvements in our customers’ experience to set us apart from the field.

Just another example of how you never know where the next inspiration might come from or the surprising ways that the customer experience can be continually improved. Like Steve Jobs said, start there and you’re going to do alright.

Let’s go be great! 


Virgin Atlantic Takeaways

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none —  William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well 

I had the great pleasure of spending Tuesday afternoon with Richard Branson (Virgin Group) and Kevin Plank (UnderArmor) at a symposium for entrepreneurs in Washington, DC. They spoke at length regarding their strategies, their successes, and, yes, their failures. I had a couple of big takeaways that I wanted to share with you. 
Both men have a passion for their customers and products that was infectious and unyielding. They were so clear about what the experience should be … that it drove their companies forward. I often write about the state of the market or customer experience, but I don’t spend nearly enough time talking about the experience I’d like our customers to have. People hire us because they believe in us because we can help them do things they can’t do for themselves. 

So, what’s the experience that I want for our customers? I want them to enjoy a great relationship with us, one in which we are trusted advisors and agents of change
The second takeaway was about disrupting markets. In both cases, Kevin and Richard identified a market where a superior service and product would be disruptive. For Branson, he had a simple goal: to make flying fun. He talked about being the first to put a bar in a plane and the importance of great entertainment. UnderArmor was focused on making a better shirt than its competitors, not just another shirt, but one that was designed for athletes. In both cases, I was taken by the relative simplicity of their goals. They were not elaborate or high-minded. They were focused. Most of all, they were achievable. 
In some ways, you can say that Tahzoo needs to do both things well we need to have provided a great experience and seek ways to wow our clients. Because we do digital transformation, our product is not really a product at all, but the outcomes we deliver for our clients. 

The measure of our success with our clients’ needs to go beyond just the quality of our builds, documentation, or code, but to the central result we produce did our work improve the customer experience? Did it achieve the business result for our client? I have been pushing the business development side to do a better job of articulating the Tahzoo value proposition, well beyond the breadth of our capabilities, but what makes us unique. In my mind, we should be able to sell Tahzoo with a single slide with a summary of the results we’ve achieved for our clients. 
If you’re working on a project and you don’t know what the expected business result for the client is then start asking questions until you know. By the way, if the answer you hear is that we finish on time, on budget with good quality, then you got the wrong answer. We get hired to achieve results. Ask questions. Get engaged. Get to the heart of the matter what is the business result your client is trying to achieve? Then go out and help them do it. 
Let’s go be great! 

The Experience Economy: Part 1

I have long contended that history goes in reverse—that is, time goes backward, not forward. If you want to know what is happening today—or, more importantly, if you want to know why it is happening, you have to look at yesterday and the day before that and so on to truly understand how we got where we are.

I believe that our current value system is amid a profound and permanent shift. Consumerism is dead. Experience is all. People no longer care about what goods you have; they care about how good you have it. Businesses built upon old value systems must change to meet these new expectations or fail.

People no longer care about what goods you have; they care about how good you have it. #CX

— Brad Heidemann (@Brad_Heidemann) July 12, 2016

How I came to this conclusion started in a Starbucks in Bethesda, Maryland in 2010, the day I founded a company known as Tahzoo. In many ways, our success is a product of these shifting cultural values and of the rise of social media and the sharing economy. It all comes together in what I like to call The Experience Economy.

Tahzoo works with FORTUNE 500 companies to perfect their “customer experiences” in the digital world. We use data to identify who our clients’ customers usually with great specificity and clarity. We use that data to understand those customers’ wants and needs. We create websites, mobile apps, and digital content that speaks to those customers as if they were a real person—a living, breathing human being. And, last, we use sophisticated technologies to deliver that content to them on the fly. Each potential customer receives not a one-size-fits-all, off-the-rack website, but rather a multichannel experience tailored to them specifically. Some people call it personalization. Some call it the “customer experience.” We call it the future.

But, as I said before, the story of today began yesterday, and yesterday began the day before that and so on. Back in 2010, I sat in a warm, cozy Starbucks contemplating the next phase of my life, enjoying a nice cup of coffee and some free wifi. I realize now that I was not just in a run-of-the-mill coffee shop, but rather I was ensconced in an experience that was carefully shaped by Howard Schultz and his amazing people over the course of the prior two decades.

Schultz had worked for Starbucks in the 1970s when the company sold only beans and machinery. He had a radical idea: he thought Starbucks might want to sell, you know … coffee. Eventually, he traveled to Italy and witnessed espresso culture and wanted to bring that all-day, everyday, neighborhood coffee house to the whole of America. Now, if you know anything about coffee in America in the 1970s and 80s you know it was a miserable experience and what a radical idea Schultz’s brainstorm represented. If you don’t recall those days, trust me, it was miserable. Weak, lukewarm, served up by the ladle into squeaky Styrofoam cups. Anyway, that idea was the spark of a revolution. Starbucks changed it all. Coffee went from a commodity to an experience.
Schultz dubbed his innovation, “The Third Place.” It was not home. It did not work. It was a place in between that hadn’t existed before; a place where people could meet and share their days over a good coffee—an affordable luxury to use another of Schultz’s phrases. In return, you got a comfortable seat, ample wifi, and no pressure to leave until you were good and ready. Starbucks felt like home. And that’s exactly how I felt on that day in 2010…. for this and many reasons I am so proud to have Starbucks as a client and to be working with such an innovative and leading-edge brand.