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Digital Velocity Podcast Hosted by Tim Curtis and Erik Martinez

41 The Opportunities of Out of Home Advertising - Sam Mallikarjunan

This week on the Digital Velocity Podcast, Sam Mallikarjunan of OneScreen.AI joins Erik and Tim to discuss the opportunities of Out of Home advertising and how it can facilitate revenue growth.

In the past, marketing has been fairly straightforward, but recently it has become more challenging. Sam says, “I think we've been spoiled for the last 15 or 20 years because marketing actually got pretty easy for a while. SEO was easy. PBC, you could just pour money into it. And then also, frankly, you could have customer acquisition cost targets that were much higher in a world in which you had 0% interest rates and no inflation. That world has changed.”

Many digital marketers don’t want to change strategies even though advertising has gotten more complicated. Sam explains, “... if what you're doing is like getting minor results ... when what you're doing isn't working, you tend to do more of the same, but with greater intensity. That's what the profession of marketing is doing right now, is like things are starting to not work ...  are over-optimized or harder to measure, harder to target, and we're all just like, 'Hmm, let's run more experiments on Facebook ads'. It's not how marketers need to think. We need to think about how we change the conversation.”

Out of Home advertising can help digital marketers change focus and set themselves apart. Sam says, “... if you do what everyone else does, you'll get what everyone else gets kind of situations. Everyone else is doing the same stuff and most of them are not having a really great time right now. So, if you want something different, you have to do something different, and Out of Home is actually the only medium that I saw. It's why I got excited.”

Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about how Out of Home advertising can benefit your business.


About the Guest:

Sam is the CEO and co-founder of OneScreen.AI, the marketplace provider for buying and selling Out of Home advertising. He was Chief Revenue Officer at and Head of Growth at HubSpot Labs. Sam taught Advanced Digital Marketing, SaaS Economics, and Innovation Management at the Harvard Division of Continuing Education. He is co-author of the bestselling book, Inbound Commerce - How to Sell Better Than Amazon, and is an avid podcast guest and industry speaker.


Erik Martinez: [00:00:00] Hello, welcome to this episode of the Digital Velocity Podcast. I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.

Tim Curtis: And I'm Tim Curtis from CohereOne.

Erik Martinez: Today we would like to welcome Sam Mallikarjunan. Sam is the CEO and co-founder of OneScreen.AI, the marketplace provider for buying and selling Out of Home advertising. He was Chief Revenue Officer at and Head of Growth at HubSpot Labs. Sam taught Advanced Digital Marketing, SaaS Economics, and Innovation Management at the Harvard Division of Continuing Education. He is [00:01:00] co-author of the bestselling book, Inbound Commerce - How to Sell Better Than Amazon, and is an avid podcast guest and industry speaker. Sam, welcome to the show.

Sam Mallikarjunan: Thanks for having me, and good job on the name. You probably feel like you flubbed it, but that's dramatically better than most people do.

Erik Martinez: Sam, we are really excited to talk about this topic today because I think you have a very unique approach on inbound marketing that I think is incredibly relevant in today's really highly cluttered digital commerce marketing. Sam, before we get rolling into our questions, could you just tell us a little bit about your background and your journey to OneScreen.AI?

Sam Mallikarjunan: Yeah. The short version is I was a talk radio show host in Tampa. I had a talk radio show about cigars, and the cigar industry wanted me to help them build websites. They're like, ah, you know how the internet works, right? I'm like, yes, I know how the internet works. I built them websites cuz that was easy. Then they didn't know how to make money with the websites. And [00:02:00] so I Googled around and that's how I found HubSpot.

Woefully underqualified to work at HubSpot. So, I built a site called, and ran ads targeting people who worked there to register for the free webinar on why you should hire me. Spent almost eight years there. Led the Ecommerce team, helping Ecommerce companies do email marketing. Wrote the book while we were there, and then was the Head of Growth at HubSpot Labs, which was fun. Taught at Harvard for a while, and then after HubSpot went to Flock.

And then when the pandemic hit, myself and a few other former HubSpot alumni did a hackathon to say, how could we help small businesses make money with the occupancy restrictions. You know, my co-founder, Andre, his wife, is like a doctor and we're not. So, like, how could we help? And so the idea was what if there was a Google display network for the real world, right? What if, instead of paying to show TV commercials in your bar, your restaurant, your barbershop, you could actually have a smart network of connected TVs that paid you?

And so we did that. You can by those giant checks, by the way. We did [00:03:00] the photo op with my barber in Boston, handed out like 50 grand in checks. Then did what we only half-jokingly called a reverse stealth mode, called everybody we could find in the industry, Clear Channel, OUTFRONT, Lamar, the tech companies, et cetera. Discovered that everything we thought we knew was wrong.

So, one, it's the only traditional ad medium still growing. Two, it's a 120 billion industry that runs on spreadsheets and post-it notes. That's when we're like, okay, this is like a classic, disruptive innovation is a cliche for a reason, but there's a few industries that it still applies to. Classic opportunity for that. That's when we set out to say, what if we could build the first integrated ecosystem to help marketers do in the real world what we've spent 20 years optimizing for in a kind of two-dimensional internet-based context?

Erik Martinez: Tell us a little bit more of that. Cuz you guys are focused on Out of Home advertising, which I find absolutely fascinating. A lot of people think it's boring, it's irrelevant. You know, you only got a few seconds while you're [00:04:00] passing by, driving on a car. Tell us a little bit about why Out of Home advertising is so important to inbound marketing.

Sam Mallikarjunan: So, I confess that I also didn't know much about Out of Home. When we started this I'd done Out of Home campaigns twice in my career and once was just to piss off a competitor. One, it's way more than just billboards. So, there's thousands of different types of inventory. So, we had a company called Hunt a Killer, which is a dating game. I guess you get like clues in the mail, right? So, you and your spouse can solve the murder. They did street stencils in Austin that looked like body outlines, with the hashtag who killed Beth. And they did like bus transit wraps and things like that.

It's the only ad medium where the ad itself is also content. So, it gets posted on social media. T-Mobile's TV commercials now are just them driving around the US showing their billboards to show how they have reach in the real world. You can do these, like, you know, wrapped cars. It's great for LED trucks. You can do these drone formations that fly at night and form words or [00:05:00] QR codes, anything you can imagine. There's branded sandcastles. That's what drew me to it. The billboards angle is interesting. They really do work.

This is the most fun I've had doing marketing since they invented social media. I think nerds like me kind of ruined the profession of marketing cuz we've just spent the last 20 years running 10,000 AB tests and everything is optimized to death and it's boring, right? We've become spreadsheet jockeys, instead of being able to be creative.

Tim Curtis: You know, it's interesting, when I started my career Out of Home was a very static industry. There wasn't a lot of sophistication. Today, I don't think there's any particular area of marketing that has so dramatically changed in terms of capabilities and how you think about it than Out of Home.

One of the examples that I think about with Out of Home is a lot of times what you're beginning to see is sort of this mix of the really smart technology, understanding who to target. But then it gives you a lot of really interesting [00:06:00] content opportunities that really wouldn't necessarily be as strong in other mediums. And so, you know, you see almost this gorilla-type marketing that's being played in the Out of Home space. You mentioned, you know, the bus wraps and the signs. You can sort of build interest. It's really almost like a page out of the old David Ogilvy books in terms of how he would develop back in the day using Out of Home.

Now there's so many capabilities for what you can do. It really does make you completely think about it. And I did see, I dunno what you wanna call it, like a drone fleet if you will, that we're doing some of the advertising and everybody stopped to watch. Commanded total attention. But again, a great opportunity to use something that people just don't think about in terms of the marketing mix oftentimes. Wow. What opportunities you have now? That's insane.

Sam Mallikarjunan: One of my favorite stories is we had a company that was direct to consumer called CROSSNET. It's, you know, four square, but for volleyball. Forbes 30 Under 30 CEO should be very proud of themselves. His [00:07:00] mom commented on his LinkedIn post saying how proud she was of him when he had his first billboard campaign. And I'm like, I've spent a hundred million dollars on internet ads in the past 15 years, and my mother has never commented on how proud she is of my Facebook ads.

Tim Curtis: Rude.

Sam Mallikarjunan: So, yeah. It's, I, yeah, I know. Well, she also still thinks I work at the internet. So, um, you know, it's one like taking a very data-driven approach. So, people think about it like a broadcast medium and buy, you know, the billboard that gets the most exposure instead of taking like more of the audience-based approach that we're used to thinking of. You wanna reach people who are technology early adopters, who drink bourbon, and who like dogs or whatever, right? We take all of these different data sources and then that's where the AI comes in.

Facebook AI and Google's AI are so important just for that very simple context. Like, we have one advertiser who's a liquor store. There are 3% of people who go to the liquor store and then go to work. Super interested to find out who they are, but in general, the system's gonna [00:08:00] say like, if you want to reach people and get them to go to a liquor store, don't reach them when they're on their way to work. It's an obvious example, but like it is a really complex medium to figure out. There are, we did the math earlier, four octillion different permutations of five pieces of inventory in our database.

Tim Curtis: Wow.

Sam Mallikarjunan: And nobody has that much money, right? So, we help you choose, go for what you should buy to what you could buy, and then automate the buying and deployment process, so you're not sending spreadsheets and emails and actual faxes. That's still a thing. And then, more importantly, be able to analyze it afterwards. Say what did work, what didn't work, and have that feedback loop so that your next campaign is smarter, your next campaign is smarter.

Performance marketers need a chart we can move up into the right, right? I mean, we can do these one-off campaigns, but nobody's getting promoted for a single flashy campaign using Out of Home any more than they're getting promoted for the 0.001% increase in Facebook ad yield.

Tim Curtis: Did you just see the opportunity that technology was providing for the Out of [00:09:00] Home, and you already had the concept of AI and all those multiple data platforms sort of converging into one? Is that sort of how that unfolded for you?

Sam Mallikarjunan: The first step for me was realizing that everything I thought I knew about the industry was wrong. One, it's not like this is direct mail. It's the only traditional ad medium still growing. We're not putting direct mail or something on life support here. It's growing anyways, despite being that fragmented and archaic. It's owned by a ton of small companies. The big 10 media operators that you could name, combined, own less than 7% of the inventory. And realizing that it can fit anywhere in the funnel.

So, you know, I kind of always thought of Out of Home as something for companies with more budget than brains, like broadcast television or something like that. All of us are feeling a lot of pain as marketers because we're now to the point where everybody's doing the same thing and everybody's good at the same thing. It's not like in 2006 I got a cigar website to ring for the term health insurance because I was bored, right? Like, you can't do that anymore, especially if you're a smaller company or if you're a [00:10:00] startup. Even Facebook ads and some of these other things, you're not gonna beat one of these incumbents who's had a team of 50 optimizing their ads for the last 10 years.

It's one of those, like, if you do what everyone else does, you'll get what everyone else gets kind of situations. Everyone else is doing the same stuff and most of them are not having a really great time right now. So, if you want something different, you have to do something different, and Out of Home is actually the only medium that I saw. It's why I got excited.

My team could have done anything. Right? Andre, our CTO was an executive at Wayfair. He's got a master's degree in AI from Columbia. We picked this industry specifically because we wanted to make life fun and better for marketers again. We're not the team that sits in the corner playing with crayons anymore. Right? Like, you have a real demonstrable impact on your company's revenue. That's what got me into it was as a marketer, it's just fascinating.

If I had known about Out of Home when I was at HubSpot, I would've done a lot of things differently. Going after Salesforce users. You're telling me I could have just wrapped an ice cream truck in HubSpot orange and parked it out front [00:11:00] of the Dreamforce Conference. You can sponsor little league teams. I really wanna find the CEO of Salesforce, Benioff, if he has like a kid who has like a little league team. Sponsor that team but make it be HubSpot orange, so they have to put like a HubSpot shirt on their kid every week.

It's just an incredibly creative medium. And to take that combination of data and creativity and put that together again, it just made marketing fun again. I suppose that phrase has been ruined, but that was what got us excited about it. And the fact that like, how many industries are there out there that it's fragmented, it's archaic, it's got an overserved. Literally, all the stuff that we teach in terms of innovation management, we always teach from a historical perspective. And this is kind of my only opportunity I'm gonna have in my career to actually implement myself the tenants of disruptive innovation and such that I've spent years teaching.

Erik Martinez: That's really cool. So, I consider myself pretty uneducated in the Out of Home market as well, right? My background's direct mail, digital marketing. I understand those things. So, this sounds [00:12:00] incredibly expensive and difficult to measure. Can you kind of talk about, how do I plan or budget for this thing? What's the way to test into it? And then how do I evaluate overall performance? I know in our pre-show we were talking. There's a study coming out that's talking about demonstrating how much impact Out of Home advertising has on an actual retailer. So, can you kind of talk through that a little bit?

Sam Mallikarjunan: Yeah. There's two parts. One, the cost. The cost comes in, again, two parts. One is the sheer difficulty of executing Out of Home. Florida, where I live, has something like 16,000 different media operators. Even if we gave you perfect attribution in analytics, you're not gonna call 60 different companies and send emails back and forth. There's a cost of effort there that we have to automate for this to work.

The cost is also from the campaign is relative to what you're trying to do. So, literally, the beginning of every consulting call we have bringing people into the platform is talking them out [00:13:00] of running in Manhattan and San Francisco. That's flashy. It's what people think of. But it turns out your target audience probably does also exist in Dallas or Atlanta or Miami or Kalamazoo, Michigan. If you don't know what you're doing, you should start smaller, establish a baseline of data, and then grow and improve.

Weirdly, we may be the only like marketplace that tries to get you to buy less the first time. Because otherwise, we talk to these companies who are like, oh, we tried Out of Home and it didn't work. And we're like, no, you tried a stupid plan, and of course, it didn't work. They figured they could just spend like a lot of money and that would overcome, you know, not having the data.

One, you can start small. Two, depending on your goals. I joke, cause I live near Kennedy Space Center, this is where I grew up. If you wanna reach Elon Musk, you're not gonna get him with Facebook ads. Maybe you'll get him with Twitter ads now. Who knows? But there's one road into Kennedy Space Center that he has to drive past to go see the launches. And there's a billboard there and it's owned by a small family who owns like 15 in the area. It's in no database but ours cuz we crawled all the state permit websites, which is how we had to build our [00:14:00] database. And right now there's a like electric wheelchair, it's very Florida, company that's on it.

And I'm like, no one wants to reach employees at NASA or Boeing or SpaceX or whatever, more than like the Sego's Home Medical Equipment people. I find that unlikely. But if that's just all you wanna do is reach Elon Musk, like one road into Star Base in Boca Chico, one road into Kennedy Space Center. Unless you work for the Space Force, which he doesn't, and you're probably talking about a thousand dollar campaign to reach them. And on a CPM basis, it's actually cheaper than most of the other channels. Like your five to $10 CPM. Connected TV is like almost at a hundred dollars CPM. So, that's my like unsatisfying. It depends, answer. This is why B2C marketers love it a lot.

Erik Martinez: No, but I think to give some context, right, because you don't have to go spend a hundred thousand dollars to get started. We talk a lot about, with previous guests, having a solid plan. Part of it's education. We're talking about this and we're getting educated. You're educating our audience, [00:15:00] right? We're educating the audience, but really making sure that people understand this is accessible. This is not hard to do. It may involve some intricacy and some expertise to get started, but it's not impossible to do and it's actually easier than you think.

Sam Mallikarjunan: It very much reminds me of the early days of internet marketing where we had to explain to people what a search engine was before we could sell them SEO software at HubSpot. And people thought that like blogging was something their nephew did on LiveJournal, and social media was, you know, not something serious businesses did. Now every company has social media, they're all doing SEO. Like, all of those things were new concepts back then, and we had to educate people on the proper way to do it.

Like, I remember Ecommerce companies used to just hook up their product feed to Twitter, and I'm like, who do you think is gonna follow a never-ending stream of tweets about your product catalog? It required a change in mindset. Same for email marketing, right? Like, email marketing in the two thousands was just [00:16:00] blast your list three times a week with a coupon. That was the extent of the strategy. It's definitely a lot of education in terms of like, how does it work? The first step is deciding who you want to reach, what's your target goal, and then work your way back from there. Just like with any other marketing medium.

You talk about measurement. I don't wanna lose that piece because, as an example, so Northeastern University, their data science program is publishing the first peer-reviewed, academically rigorous study on Out of Home ROI. Spoiler alert, it works. You can drive website traffic and conversions with, they were just doing digital billboards. That whole experiment, I think was like seven grand, and that was to get statistically significant data for a bunch of academic nerds.

So, I wouldn't let the thought of the cost scare you away. Because one, it may be worth. It may be something where you start spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a month because it works better than anything else you're doing. Two, it's not that expensive to get started and to find out like where it fits into your mix.

The measurement bit, depending on what your goal is. If it's website visitation, we give you a pixel just like anybody else, [00:17:00] but we take one additional dimension of data. So, an average pixel is looking at cookies and IP addresses and stuff like that. We're looking also at mobile device data, how they move around. Somebody who drove past your billboard, did they then take a down funnel action? Such as like going to visit your website or buying something. And we can tell you down to the individual, like unit, piece of creative, et cetera, what worked and what didn't. It's how I know the true story, but funny true story about the liquor store and the people who go there and then go to work. I'm really hoping they work for like, I don't know, like...

Tim Curtis: an agency.

Erik Martinez: An agency, it's probably a government agency,

Sam Mallikarjunan: Very, very plausible. Like any marketing, I think people get hung up on analytics and thinking that you're gonna somehow have perfect analytics. No aspect of marketing do you have perfect analytics. We're a social science. Economics is a social science. It's not physics. The key is can you get better data faster and make better optimization decisions faster than your competitors?

For example, even with our [00:18:00] pixel, we probably only detect 15 to 20% of the people who actually were exposed to your campaign, who then took a down funnel action. But we can control for that with a similarity group that's unexposed, and just help you know this worked better, this didn't work. This drove mobile app downloads or Ecommerce transactions and this didn't. You don't have to outrun the bear, right? You gotta outrun your buddy. It's the same thing in marketing. You don't have to have perfect attribution. You just have to be able to make better decisions, smarter decisions, with a faster feedback loop and iteration cycle than anybody else you're competing with, and you'll crush 'em.

The issue with Facebook ads and Google ads and everything else now is the decisions that we can make that create leverage, they're all like minor, minor optimizations now, and so none of us are able to get ahead of the bear because our buddies are all running at the exact same speed we are.

Erik Martinez: Well, and to be honest, all those platforms are taking the control, the ability to make those distinctions, the levers to pull, [00:19:00] they're reducing the number of levers that we can pull. By definition, that means everybody's gonna end up doing the same thing. That makes perfect sense.

Sam Mallikarjunan: People thought truck drivers would be the first to lose their jobs to AI. Turns out it's Facebook ads managers, right? Like, just integrate with their conversions API and let it make the decisions for you. Unfortunately, one, it's using your data to help make everybody else's decisions smarter too. Two, when everybody's using the same AI algorithms, there's no differentiation.

In the real world, by the way, despite us having AI in the name, it's really useful for choosing what to buy and for the analytics, et cetera, but we're like several Nobel Prizes away. Everybody thinks we're gonna replace sales reps in this industry. That's not gonna happen anytime soon because you still need somebody with local context who knows that like the local high school football team plays there on the weekends. Or like the Elon Musk thing, right? I only know that because I live here and because I worked at Kennedy Space Center and I know there's only one road cause I got a speeding ticket the other day.

And we were gonna do like a chalk campaign in Boston, and I just [00:20:00] happened to know it was gonna rain that week. And I was like, shouldn't do that. Right. And so like, these are all the things where you really need kind of that local context and you're not commoditized even as a seller, much less as a media buyer.

Tim Curtis: The Elon Musk example that you were sharing there. I'm sitting here listening to that and I'm thinking, you know, you're an advocate for, you know, modern performance marketers have to think beyond clicks, right? They've got to think differently. Intellectual curiosity is how I kind of articulate it. That's sort of what Out of Home advertising allows you to do, right? It's not as constrained as some of the other mediums. There are more opportunities there. So, how do you think modern marketers have to think beyond that? What do they have to do differently to really lean into this and take advantage?

Sam Mallikarjunan: I think we've been spoiled for the last 15 or 20 years because marketing actually got pretty easy for a while. SEO was easy. PBC, you could just pour money into it. And then also, frankly, you could have customer acquisition cost targets that were much higher in a world in which you had 0% interest rates and no inflation. [00:21:00] That world has changed. And if you're a startup, for example, you can't have the 25-month payback period like we had in the early days of HubSpot. Now you've gotta be more disciplined about how you're using your capital.

The creativity aspect, it's literally four-dimensional. So, you've got not just like the one screen, you see where the name comes from, that you're using that separates you from the user, but you've got screens you can create an experience. You can have billboards that tell a story as you go down the highway. I love that. Or, you know, you can have projectors, you can have, B2B marketers, I still am waiting for somebody to do an LED truck. You just park it out in front of the account you're trying to sell to and you're like, this is Erik. He's gonna call you next Tuesday at 2:00 PM. If you don't want him to go to It's such a bigger canvas.

When I say four-dimensional is the concept of time. Reaching people on their way to work, or from work, or on the weekends. Or if it's raining, it doesn't make your Facebook ads campaign not work as well, or if it's a bright, beautiful, sunny day and you're a CROSSNET, and you're targeting people who are at the [00:22:00] beach. It's all the tricks that we learned online. The internet has almost been a sandbox for us to just learn how to develop a hypothesis, target an audience, collect data, and then use that data to make an optimization, and now it's time that we have to like graduate. We have to like, grow up and go into a more complex medium that isn't quite so easy.

When I say marketers have gotten like really, really myopic, I actually got to feel quite old the other day because I was trying to explain to our team, do you remember how marketing was really hard to measure? Then the internet came along and made it, you know, much easier to measure and deploy, and our head, Brandon Buzz reminded me that most of the people on our team don't actually remember doing marketing before the internet. And so like, no, they don't remember how big a change that was. This is that same kind of like paradigm shift of there's now a new medium.

It seems ironic that Facebook ads is now traditional advertising and Out of Home is for people who are innovative. When you look at people who [00:23:00] use our platform, it's not the dumb people, it's the growth marketers. The really sophisticated marketers are the ones who are always trying something new. And that's our job as marketers is we've gotta be trying something new so that we're staying ahead of the company's growth goals and ahead of competitors.

So, as a general rule, if what you're doing is like getting minor results, like this terrible quote that has haunted me for decades. When what you're doing isn't working, you tend to do more of the same, but with greater intensity. That's what the profession of marketing is doing right now, is like things are starting to not work. Things are over-optimized or harder to measure, harder to target, and we're all just like, Hmm, let's run more experiments on Facebook ads. It's not how marketers need to think. We need to think about how do we change the conversation.

Erik Martinez: I think that's a great point. I'd like to pivot a little bit to your book. You know, as we're talking about this conversation of Out of Home marketing and just innovating your marketing, you talk in the first part of your [00:24:00] book about personas quite a bit. I'll be honest, I've seen personas and I've always been a skeptic up until fairly recently. It took a conversation we had with another guest not too long ago to talk about storytelling. And in that context, the persona conversation just like crystallized in my mind. Let's talk a little bit about personas and why you think they're so important.

Sam Mallikarjunan: It turns out that people are actually really difficult to describe. On paper, the three of us on this podcast might look similar, gender, age, demographics, et cetera, but we might be very, very different. I could never pull off Tim's hat that he has going on there.

Erik Martinez: He's got a cool set of hats.

Sam Mallikarjunan: And I could also never pull off your hair, Erik.

Erik Martinez: Nor would you want to.

Sam Mallikarjunan: But what personas do is they allow us to tell a story that describes a bunch of parameters that the human brain can then fill in context with. So, when I talk about at [00:25:00] HubSpot we had Owner Ollie and Marketing Mary as these buyer personas. When I talked about Marketing Mary, who was either the only marketer or had a marketing team of less than 10 at a company where they didn't have IT support, they had to integrate all these different solutions, et cetera. You already know somebody that is similar to what I'm describing here.

It's very much the way artificial intelligence works is the way that like organic intelligence works. Which is you could never feed enough targeting parameters into any platform or analytic system to adequately describe the type of person you're trying to reach, and also what drives them. Nobody buys a quarter-inch drill bit, they buy a quarter-inch hole. Or beyond that, like they'd buy like a deck that they're making for their kids.

You can go to any intern at HubSpot and ask them describe Owner Ollie to me, and they'll be able to spit it out. It gives you that kind of institutional knowledge. That obsession with who are you trying to reach, what are their motivating factors, what do they actually care about? We were doing our first case study, and their biggest thing was that their sales team didn't complain [00:26:00] for an entire quarter, which is a completely novel concept for a marketer. That's a motivating factor for them.

So, personas allow us to describe data sets that we would never be able to like type in and quantify. Our target persona is Performance Paula. If you don't care about analytics and data, you're actually like a really bad fit for our platform. Even if you're already doing Out of Home. Because we're helping you do the thing you're already doing in a smarter way that you don't care about. Even just me saying Performance Paula, you can probably like guess the different types of marketers that we care about and try to get into our platform versus, I don't know, Comcast or whoever's like doing broadcast television.

That's always been the power for me is, you can ask somebody who hasn't worked at a company for years persona and to look at a piece of content and say, you know, would this be compelling to them? I tried to do like the advanced statistic guide for Ecommerce marketers, and my sales team almost threw me out the window at HubSpot back in the day. Because like anybody who knows the phrase correlation coefficient, much less like what it means, how to do it, and why it would be used in marketing, was not a good fit [00:27:00] for the HubSpot platform back in the day, right? They were for like mid-market people. That's the power for me. Being able to tell stories and then associate that in your mind with all the variables that are hard to quantify and turn that into a plan.

Erik Martinez: And I think that's the critical piece. You just said it there, telling stories, right? The persona allows you to tell a story, about a buyer's journey, about what their unique challenges are, how to solve those particular challenges. Those are really, really compelling ways to go about marketing and then put that in your creative and advertising. You're talking about Performance Paula, but let's talk about something that might be a retail case.

I think, you were talking in the book about somebody buying a large screen TV and his name is Charlie, I think if I remember correctly. You were talking about his persona and then the micro persona. So, maybe you could give us some context just by going through that example and demonstrating how relatively easy in some ways this is to do.[00:28:00]

Sam Mallikarjunan: Yeah. Mathematics and analytics are just a simple way to describe the behaviors of groups of people. I always tell this to the marketing team, if there's data that doesn't make sense, if the open rate is really low on the email, right? Like, you know that there's something wrong with the subject line, the offer inside could be very compelling. It helps you identify things that don't fit the pattern that's expected. When you try to just follow the data without thinking about what's the actual experience that the user's having, you're never going to really understand like, what's the blocker, why are people falling off?

It's why, you know, I love tools like, Hotjar and some of these other things. You can literally like watch people who are using your software platforms. You can see where they fall off. Amplitude's another really good one. You can create these kind of like sub personas all the way down to an individual, right? Like, if you created 300 million sub personas, you could describe every person in the United States, but you'd have to interview each one of us and be able to tell a story about each one of us.

It's a trade-off between like creating groups of people who are similar enough that you [00:29:00] can create content for them, you can create a value proposition for them, without going too far down the rabbit hole of wanting to have direct one-to-one targeting. Not to get too nerdy, this is what Google and Facebook are struggling with right now, is they are trying to figure out the math behind how do we not be creepy and target an individual. It's their federated learning and cohorts that they're doing.

It's the great advantage of Out of Home and why we're more futureproof as well is we don't really care about individuals, right? We care about audiences and personas. The math is inherent for us. I mean, some of the best AI researchers in the world work at Facebook and Google and they cannot figure out how to not be creepy by going too far down the rabbit hole.

Tim Curtis: Yeah. Or how now to be able to work within the type of constraints that they have that now reduce the visibility on individual behaviors. The hard part for AI, when you're working in an AI that's dependent on a one-to-one relationship with individuals, is as those elements of behavior and data are shut off from [00:30:00] a privacy perspective, AI does not have the same amount of data to churn to perfect its operation. So, there are cascades of issues with that. Out of Home, you're right, you're not even targeting at a one-to-one basis. So, you still have a lot of flexibility and freedom to pursue something different than what we're gonna call now is the traditional media, PPC, or social, paid social. It's a whole different world.

Sam Mallikarjunan: And I think there's another future there, which I don't talk about too often, but I think that your personal data, for a really long time, has been monetized without your consent or knowledge, in most cases.

Tim Curtis: Right. Absolutely.

Sam Mallikarjunan: And I think that the wrong answer, which is the standard government answer, is just like regulate it and don't let anybody use it. And I think that's a bad idea because it's obviously, it's creating hundreds of billions of dollars in economic value. Uh, and this was our original thesis, right? Going back to the barbershop was how would it change the world if the most powerful, targeted medium [00:31:00] wasn't Google or Facebook, but it was a barbershop.

I'm fine with those screens knowing a lot of really creepy stuff about me because it makes them more money, or my local school or, you know, these smaller businesses. That's what we've never been able to have. There's some companies doing really cool work in this space, like Reclaim, et cetera, which are paying people, and giving people the ability to control their data, to monetize their data, so that marketing doesn't revert back to being totally stupid and not running any analytics. But you've gotta give people a reason.

This is a whole thesis behind inbound marketing, to begin with, is you've gotta give people a reason for why sharing, you know, 10 years ago was just their email address and their name on a lead form. Now it's their personal data, why sharing that data with you is gonna create value for them? That's my big thing when it comes to data is no one cares if Facebook and Google make more money. I mean, I have some friends over there, but like, we don't really, right?

My old high school was still, when I moved back here from Boston, was still using the same football gear that was old when I was there. This is the school that all, like the NASA employees and stuff go to. Even the banners [00:32:00] on the football stadium fence, we've all seen those, right? It's like the local dry cleaner or something. They should be making 20 grand a month off of having really good data about the parents who are there. And parents, instead of selling world's greatest chocolate or whatever kids do for fundraisers these days, being able to allow my data to monetize physical spaces in a way that I actually care about and opt into. So, my first webinar for the industry, and I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say this or not, but like, I opened with the phrase, why is Out of Home always portrayed in sci-fi as a dystopian hellhole?

Erik Martinez: Minority Report, Blade Runner.

Tim Curtis: Last breaths of planet Earth. Yeah.

Sam Mallikarjunan: None of us wanna live in that world. None of us wanna create that world, but like sci-fi writers who are pretty good at predicting the future don't think we're gonna be responsible with this power. To me, the core long-term vision is like, can we change the way, just like you could have a blog and you could make money by selling subscriptions, selling products, or by selling ads. You should be able to have multiple mechanisms of monetizing a physical audience [00:33:00] that you've earned as a small business, as a retail shop, as anything else like that. As a billboard owner who has, you know, the billboard outside Kennedy Space Center, the same way that you do online.

I think that is the future of data is that people are gonna be able to spend it like a currency, and that's gonna change the way that we think about how we create businesses.

Erik Martinez: That's profound.

Tim Curtis: As we start to wrap up here, I had one last question that I was just really intrigued. You are sort of passionate about the key of renaissances of new business models in life. I'd just love to hear what your perspective is on what that key is.

Sam Mallikarjunan: So, you're the only one. My team is tired of hearing me talk about this, but like the Renaissance, the key to kind of the end of the Middle Ages was connectivity. Whereas the mercantile fleets of Italy that made it so that you could move information and goods and products from one place to another. We had the advent of banks so that you could not have to carry all your coins with you, et cetera. That connectivity and interoperability between like different companies is what [00:34:00] allowed the Renaissance to happen and for so much economic value to be created. The same thing happened with the internet.

We can use a hundred different systems that all talk to each other. I don't have to build a Zoom platform in order to have conference calls with the team. I don't have to build everything. And this is, I think where startups fail is they think about competitors from a very defensive perspective instead of thinking about how can I integrate with competitors. If you've got an Ecommerce website, you wanna make it so that they come back to your website.

When I had the jobs board at HubSpot, I was feeding in the API from If you didn't find the job you were looking for, I didn't want you to leave us. Right? I would rather Indeed make some money and I still kind of control and own that experience. For me, when we talk about the Renaissance and when we talk about the value that the internet created, the value that now the internet of the real world, the internet of places is gonna create, is how can a printer talk to mobile data analytics, talk [00:35:00] to intelligent brain in your car, talk to your website, et cetera.

Never fight someone when you can partner with them instead, like HubSpot and Salesforce. We have great integrations. Not to keep talking about my ex-girlfriend here. You're gonna be a more successful customer of the Salesforce CRM if you're using a marketing platform, whether it's theirs or HubSpots. Same thing with HubSpot. If you're using a CRM, you're gonna be a more successful user of the marketing platform. They'd love for it to be their CRM, but at the end of the day, just care that you're using a CRM and that it's integrated seamlessly with your marketing stack.

Tim Curtis: I really like that merchant fleet example. I hadn't really ever thought of that before, but that was a big key to expanding trade.

Sam Mallikarjunan: People ask me who I want to go meet, what entrepreneur I wanna go meet. When I say like Cosimo de' Medici, first of all, they're like, who? Once I explain, I'm like, it's that idea that I'm gonna carry my competitor's cargo. SpaceX is flying their competitors. Not Starlink, they launched Starlink, right? But they're also launching one web telescopes.[00:36:00] Because at the end of the day, everybody's riding on the backs of their rockets, and it's creating more value for everybody. It's creating adoption of satellite internet as a thing.

It's the same thing with inbound marketing and HubSpot back in the day. Like, the biggest competitor was the inertia of changing people's behaviors. Even if you're frenemies, anytime you can work together, I think every Ecommerce website on the planet should be like Amazon, where it doesn't matter if it's actually sold by Amazon. Amazon just cares that you keep coming back to them.

This is the key to how to sell better than Amazon, right, is compete earlier in the buyer's journey. Educate people, solve for the customer lifetime value. Don't just sell like 500 versions of the same widget because people only need one. The other is how do you create that repeat behavior by giving people the value they need, whether it's your product or not. There probably is a startup for this that I just don't know about, but there should be like a related products thing that shows products you don't actually sell. Because that's what's gonna keep people coming back to you.

Erik Martinez: Lots of different [00:37:00] ways to think about marketing and growing your business, and I think you've given us great ideas on how to do that in a variety of ways. Sam, as we move to wrap up this discussion, what might be the last piece of advice that you would like to leave our audience with?

Sam Mallikarjunan: The last piece of advice is that you gotta skate to the puck, which is not a reference I knew growing up in Florida. I learned it living in Boston. If you are waiting for something to become mainstream where everybody else is doing it, you're already behind. Maybe Out of Home isn't the right medium for you, but if you're gonna wait for your competitors to test it for you, you're not gonna win that battle.

People ask me how I got like a bunch of Twitter followers, I started early. I was the number nine CMO on Twitter, behind the CMO at Best Buy. That's cuz there were like 12 CMOs on Twitter. I didn't wait for every CMO to be on Twitter and then try and play catch up. Everybody who's listening to this, if you're looking for best practices instead of trying to create best practices, then you're already [00:38:00] falling behind. That's the key to everything that you do, right? It's like, just like how I got, I got a job at HubSpot in the first place, right? Was I had to do something different with the campaign because otherwise I never would've gotten hired there? Cuz I didn't have the qualifications on paper. So, if you do what everyone else does, you get what everyone else gets. Don't be the second person to realize that there's a trend you need to be on top.

Erik Martinez: I think that's great advice. What's the best way for people to reach out and get in touch with you?

Sam Mallikarjunan: Great thing about my name, other than it being hard to pronounce for podcast hosts, is if you Google anything even close to it, you'll generally find me. So, I've got the Twitter, I've got the website. You can find me at Mallikarjunan anywhere. And I always respond, especially when people hear me on a podcast interview.

I also encourage you to check out We're still an early-stage startup, so the odds is that you're gonna end up talking to me, you know, along with my team are pretty high. So, find me on Twitter, find me on LinkedIn, come visit us at and I love having conversations.

We build the platform with the concept that we don't already know all the right answers, how to do [00:39:00] things. The account-based marketing, we didn't build it for that, right, B2B marketing. Somebody figured out how to use it for that. That's what we want. I wanna have conversations with just marketers who are what did you call it, Tim? Intellectual curiosity.

Tim Curtis: Intellectual curiosity. Yeah.

Sam Mallikarjunan: We've lost that as a profession. We need to get it back. So, let's have a chat.

Tim Curtis: Yep.

Erik Martinez: Also take an opportunity to look at Sam's book, Inbound Commerce - How to Sell Better Than Amazon.

Tim Curtis: It's a good book.

Erik Martinez: You can actually buy it on Amazon. Which is awesome. I think that's perfect irony. So, that's it for today's episode of the Digital Velocity Podcast. I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.

Tim Curtis: And I'm Tim Curtis from CohereOne.

Erik Martinez: Have a great day. [00:40:00]

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