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Movable Ink’s Da Vinci thinks outside the campaign box

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Movable Ink's Da Vinci thinks outside the campaign box

Vivek Sharma

At its Think Summit conference earlier this month, Movable Ink announced the first tangible outcome of its February acquisition of content personalization engine Coherent Path. It’s called Da Vinci.

Da Vinci provides AI-powered personalization capabilities intended to go beyond identifying the next-best-action to secure a conversion. It’s objective is to optimize customer lifetime value by building meaningful relationships.

Movable Ink’s journey. New York-based Movable Ink has been around for over ten years now. It initially established itself as a solution to generate dynamic email content that rendered at time of open, creating the possibility of personalizing emails in real time. Over the past few years, however, it has broadened its offering, promising to generate real-time personalization across the range of customer touchpoints.

CEO and co-founder Vivek Sharma explained: “Our customers kept bringing up personalization. Years ago, that was equated with recommendation engines. It was clear from the way our customers were talking that they needed something much bigger than simply that.” The answer, for Movable Ink, was data-activated creative. “We’re the center of how they get the benefit of their data, be it from a CDP or other data management platform.”

Movable Ink activates data insights to generate multi-channel creative content. “Systems of engagement the companies are using are often channel specific,” said Sharma, “so there are email service providers like Salesforce Marketing Cloud, or engagement platforms like Braze, or SMS marketing like Attentive – we do content generation and decisioning that makes those other investments even more effective.”

LTV rather than campaign revenue. Using AI to achieve personalization at scale is nothing new, of course. Indeed, Da Vinci joins a gallery of impressively named AI solutions, from Salesforce Einstein to Adobe Sensei. But in de-emphasizing the next-best-action approach, Da Vinci differentiates the value it sets out to bring.

“How do you map the relationship between a product catalog and customer behavior over time?” Sharma asked. The objective is not just to reinforce a customer’s interest in products and services they’ve looked at in the past, but to anticipate their interest in other products and services based on past behavior. This means thinking outside the box of campaigns.

“There’s the old paradigm of running campaigns,” said Sharma. “The campaign process itself is decades old — and its super-laborious today with all that’s been bolted on. You have to get data, clean it, transform it, put all these pieces together. Being beholden to the campaign process makes it harder to be people-centric. How do you serve people what they’re looking for?” The traditional campaign approach also leads to short-term thinking. “What’s the click-thru rate, what’s the revenue for this particular campaign?” A better question, said Sharma, would be “How do you build a better customer over time? If you exposed them to all your products and services, they could be even more loyal, likelier to stay on your list and want to engage with your brand a lot more.”

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It’s about the lifetime value of the individual customer — for which Da Vinci can provide metrics, he said — rather than revenue maximization for individual campaigns.

Read next: Movable Ink and Stensul announce email partnership, integrations

Against the background of the pandemic. Sharma reflected on the challenges of the past two years. “In aggregate, Movable Ink did really well – but when you look at the individual companies we work with, or the industries that they’re in, there was a lot of variability. On the positive side, e-commerce did really well, drug stores did really well, financial service firms did well, streaming media did great. But the things people couldn’t do any more – cruise lines, airlines and hotel chains we work with – they had to pause their business. By and large they’ve kept up Movable Ink because they had to still create loyalty and a connection to their customers, but the businesses were struggling to some degree.”

Many businesses had to face the hard truth that digital transformation is a necessity, not a luxury for prosperous times. “Digital transformation is a multi-year effort and brands have to make those investments through bull and bear markets,” he said. “The ones who don’t make those investments are going to find that they’re becoming obsolete compared with digital brands that get it right away and are very nimble. You can’t be a laggard now because the world is moving past you.”


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Why we care. The thinking behind Da Vinci reflects a number of trends in today’s marketplace. The emphasis on brand trust, customer experience,engagement, empathy and community, and long-term relationships. Some CPG brands might be able to get by with driving simple, iterable conversions, but it’s increasingly the case – even in B2B – that customers will be loyal to brands they like spending time with; brands that not only meet but anticipate their needs.

If Movable Ink is building algorithms that can design a personal journey for a lifetime – an ambitious project – they are moving towards meeting this market’s needs.


About The Author

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space.

He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020.

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Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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MARKETING

Follow This Purpose-Driven Path to Greater SEO Success

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Follow This Purpose-Driven Path to Greater SEO Success

Historically, getting content to reach the top of a search engine results page usually hinged on your team’s ability to fulfill the rules of Google’s algorithm – no matter how complex, obscure, and sometimes unwritten.

However, that picture is changing now that AI has arrived behind the scenes of the top search engine, says Dale Bertrand, Fire and Spark’s content and SEO strategist. Its machine learning delivers more precise, adaptive, and contextual search results. It also gives marketers another approach to search result success – a purpose-driven strategy.

Develop a purpose-driven #SEO strategy that would please @Google’s #AI algorithm, says @joderama via @CMIContent @pageonepower. Click To Tweet

At the 2022 ContentTECH Summit and a recent Ask the CMWorld Community interview, Dale discussed what Google’s heavier reliance on an AI-controlled algorithm means and how a purpose-driven approach can help your brand compete with – and even beat – bigger fish in the SEO sea.

Search for greater SEO intelligence

In the early days of digital search, Google’s founders used the web’s link structure to rank the most relevant page results. “Basically, if you had the right links to your website and the right keywords on your pages, you would rank well,” Dale says.

But now, it’s more important to understand how that AI engine gets trained than to follow technical SEO rules. Dale says making this mindset change can help set your content on a path to increased visibility on search and stronger marketing performance overall.

It’s more important now to understand how that #AI engine gets trained than to follow technical #SEO rules, says Dale Bertrand of @Fire_and_Spark via @joderama @CMIContent @pageonepower. Click To Tweet

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Engineers set the technical quality guidelines

Human engineers are still involved in ranking content relevance. But instead of programming the algorithm, their role is to rate a site’s trustworthiness, content accuracy, authoritativeness, and connection to other relevant content providers on the topic at hand.

“That quality information is collected as a big dataset from websites that have been graded, which is part of what they feed into Google’s algorithm to train the AI,” says Dale. There’s a big, long document out there – the web quality raters guide. Any marketer can read it to see what the raters look for when building the training dataset for Google’s AI.”


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AI adds behavioral signals

From that point, Google’s AI engine takes over, tracking search behaviors, analyzing signals of intent, and correlating those insights with the quality rating data to determine the most relevant content to a search query.

But, Dale says, keep in mind: “Google’s AI engine doesn’t care about your content – it only cares about its own performance.” It’s looking for confirmation that the content it selects will deliver a satisfying experience for searchers. Your job is to make sure it sees your brand’s content as a likely win.

Prove your #content has what it takes for better search results. Build momentum through community and demonstrate multifactor authority, says Dale Bertrand of @Fire_and_Spark via @joderama @CMIContent @pageonepower. Click To Tweet

Shared purpose promotes multifactor authority

Dale discusses two ways brands can prove that their content has what it takes to deliver the AI’s desired results:

  • Build momentum through community. A community behind your brand frequently visits, engages with, and links to your website. They recommend your products and services and amplify your site. Dale says these actions demonstrate a high level of customer intimacy. Google’s AI uses the artifacts of success from this content – high engagement, low bounce rate, and a high click-through rate – to confirm your site and content are loved.
  • Demonstrate multifactor authority. Part of AI’s investigation of brands that resonate with online consumers is the company you keep, Dale says. Authoritative individuals, organizations, and influencers can contribute to your brand’s authority by linking to, citing, and amplifying your content across their channels and platforms.

Prove your #content has what it takes for better search results. Build momentum through community and demonstrate multifactor authority, says Dale Bertrand of @Fire_and_Spark via @joderama @CMIContent @pageonepower. Click To Tweet

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How to use purpose to build SEO power

Dale describes an SEO strategy that can help build authority and momentum by focusing on a purpose your brand believes in: “Hopefully, your brand stands for something. But [for SEO], it’s even better if your brand is actively promoting a change that you want to see in your industry.”

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By using your content to build valuable conversations around that change, you give the tools to those with an established interest to spread your brand messages. This data around this reciprocal relationship demonstrates the brand traction Google’s AI sees as proof your content is a solid search bet.

Dale shares a client example:

I worked with one brand that was selling handmade children’s products. The US government was about to pass a law that would have made it so [small businesses like this] would have had to do $100,000 worth of testing before being allowed to sell a single product. We were able to lead the movement against that law and turn that into an SEO campaign that generated authority, backlinks, and website engagement – all the things that Google’s AI is looking for.

He explains the process he used to achieve those results:

Step 1: Find high-profile groups and learn about the causes they support

Find potential partners – influencers, non-profits, advocacy organizations, and others who are working towards a purpose in which your business might have a stake. It could be an organization that’s written about helping previously incarcerated people find jobs, influencers promoting veteran-run businesses, or an event that supports disadvantaged youth in your local community.

When you’ve identified viable candidates, research their positions and how they communicate about them in their online conversations. “You need to understand what issues these influencers care about, what they’re writing about, what’s going on in their social conversations. All of those things are targets for your purpose-driven SEO campaign,” Dale says.

Step 2: Choose a mission your content will support

Once you find an area with enough grassroots supporters, craft a mission statement around it for your brand’s SEO campaign. It should be something your brand can speak to authentically; otherwise, audiences will see right through it. “It has to be based on your organization’s values because you’re going to get behind it. At the end of the day, if you don’t care about feeding hungry children, that just can’t be the mission,” Dale says.

If you’re on the B2B side or operate in a crowded market, it may be worthwhile to adopt a unique or even slightly controversial mission to differentiate your brand. “[You might think] sustainability is a good [purpose to build on], but so many companies have taken this topic on that it doesn’t move the needle from a search marketing perspective,” Dale says.

Rather than just choosing a hot topic, he suggests looking for a niche, such as a critical change affecting the supply chain for your industry or a regulatory issue that impacts product costs, to rally around. Doing so can help insert your brand name into relevant conversations that your bigger, higher-profile competitors may not be associated with.

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Step 3: Create “citable” content aligned with your mission

The goal isn’t to promote your brand’s involvement with the chosen cause; it’s to create content your partner organizations can cite when making their case for the cause. “The content is fuel for their advocacy – it gives them credible, authoritative information they can use in their arguments,” Dale says.

For example, Dale says, interview someone personally affected by the mission, write an opinion piece about the change your business is advocating, or publish an original research report. “This is the type of content that [they] would organically mention and link to while trying to get their point across in their own content conversations. That’s how you’re going to get the deeper engagement and increased backlinks that Google’s AI can see,” says Dale.

Step 4: Reach out to other like-minded influencers

With a body of purpose-focused content cited and linked to, you can increase your content’s authority and reach by sharing the outcomes with other influencers who care about the topic. But rather than conducting a blast email campaign, contact them individually by email or personal message on social channels.

In this outreach, focus your messages on furthering the mission. “We’re not promoting our business, our products, and services, or our content. We’re saying, ‘Hey, I saw that you’re a big advocate for helping previously incarcerated youth find jobs. We’ve got an interview your audience would be interested in … would you help us promote it?’” Dale explains.

Not only are influencers more likely to respond to this type of outreach, but they may be more willing to promote your content without compensation because it helps them create content in an area that they’re passionate about, Dale says.

Fuel a shared purpose and find greater search success

In a crowded landscape, where reaching a top spot on SERPs is harder to achieve than ever, it’s time for marketers to stop trying to outsmart the search algorithm. By putting a shared human purpose at the center of your SEO strategy, your content will broadcast all the signals of authority, relevance, and value Google’s AI is looking for.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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