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InsiderInbox with Kara Trivunovic

September 14, 2016  •  By: Renee Chemel

Kara Trivunovic - Epsilon

Q&A with the Influencers & Experts Driving Digital Marketing Innovation

Welcome to the latest edition of InsiderInbox, where we hear from some of the biggest influencers in digital marketing about their take on the current—and future—state of the business.  Last time, we heard from Return Path’s George Bilbrey, who told us why he thinks email personalization is the next big thing and about his mad whistling skills on a certain Otis Redding tune.

Next, we’re excited to hear from Kara Trivunovic, VP of digital solutions at Epsilon. Epsilon has become a pioneer in the data-driven marketing business, leveraging Big Data and innovative marketing technologies to empower some of the biggest companies in the world to derive insights and build strategies that bond people to brands.

With nearly 20 years in the business, Kara has worked in virtually every aspect of marketing, including email, mobile, social, display, direct mail, database management, audience segmentation and loyalty programs. Specializing in email and social strategy, she is also an expert in best practice application. Prior to her work at Epsilon, she was VP of Strategic Services at BlueHornet (Digital River). She’s also held senior and executive positions at StrongMail Systems (now Selligent), Premiere Global Services and Preferred Hotel Group, and launched her own email marketing agency.

Here’s what Kara has to say about digital marketing today and tomorrow—and her role in the industry.

1. Why did you choose marketing as a career? Or maybe it chose you?

I knew very early on that I couldn’t do anything in the medical field and I didn’t like accounting or working with numbers, so I started exploring majors that didn’t require that. I sort of fell into a marketing major because of a professor, whose classes I really enjoyed. He made it fun and enjoyable, and it just felt comfortable.
Of course, it’s ironic now that I went into this job because I didn’t want do a lot of math, and modern marketing has become very much about numbers. But, I still love it.

2. What is your personal mission statement?

For me, it’s about finding the right balance between business and family. My family always comes first, but given my job, I have to travel quite a bit. My goal is always to find that balance, enjoy my work and feel fulfilled in both my work and personal life.

3. What is it about your job at Epsilon that inspires you every day?

The people. We have a really great group of people, who are extremely passionate about what we do. They’re big thinkers, who want to push the bounds of digital marketing and growing loyalty. It’s great to have a group of people aligned and focused on working toward a common goal.

4. Offices or open work space?

I work from home, so I don’t really care! I have worked from home for the better part of the last 10 years. I do have an office, but I can’t imagine going to a “real” office all the time.

5. What is a skill that every digital marketer should have and why?

The ability to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. A lot of times, in both B2B or B2C marketing, we lose sight of the fact that our brand is not what our audience is thinking about all the time. They have other priorities. We sometimes take a self-important approach, and you have to pull yourself out of your objectives and brand goals, and realize realistically where your place is inside your audience’s ecosystem.

6. What is the best part about your job?

The diversity. I get to work with a lot of brands, each with different challenges. It’s very exciting, never dull and there’s never any monotony. I love being able to work with brands and help solve their challenges, but I also don’t mind the “misses” either. There’s a lot you can learn from that, to help reshape your approach for the next time. I sort of enjoy being proven wrong. Not everything is going to happen the way you hypothesize it. Sometimes you can learn more from the misses than by actually succeeding.

7. If you could only use five marketing tools, what would they be? And why?

If I could use five tools only – oddly enough I would have to start with the telephone. The ability to have a solid digital plan comes from a cohesive strategy and approach, which is best facilitated through a live, interactive conversation with the parties involved. Next I would throw in the digital channels that are driving the most impact on the customer today: Email, Mobile (apps and push app notification) and Display. All three channels play very nicely together, are highly customizable and completely targeted. Finally, I would wrap up with Excel…I spend a LOT of time in Excel analyzing the results of the programs. Without it, I would be lost.

8. Facebook or Twitter?

For marketing? Definitely Facebook for B2C, but for B2B, Twitter is better.
Personally? I’m not the biggest fan of either for personal use. I think there’s an oversharing that happens in the world, and I like to keep things more private. Plus, it can get a little weird to be Facebook friends with business associates. When Facebook first came out, I had a client on the phone who told me about his trip to the Bermuda Triangle. He suggested I add him as a friend on Facebook so that I could see his photos, which I did. Afterward, it seemed that he started trolling my page, digging into my private life, bringing up personal details in business meetings. The whole thing made me a bit uncomfortable, so I’ve been a little more careful about what I share and with whom. I know there are controls and permissions I can add, but it is honestly more work than it is worth.

9. What is the biggest digital marketing trend that will drive success for the second half of 2016?

I think the biggest opportunity—and challenge—is putting things into context. As an entity, we have the ability to read more digital cues about what’s happening in people’s lives, to put our marketing messages in context with what’s happening in that moment in time. In fact, the functionality that PowerInbox provides is very akin to this trend—to recognize what’s happening and adjust accordingly. It’s a big opportunity for success, but also a big challenge, being able to harness enough of that data to put this kind of program into practice. A lot of people in the business know they need to do it, but they’re struggling with it.

10. What’s your go-to Karaoke song, and why?

Oh that’s easy: “It’s the End of the World” by REM. It’s just a really fun song to sing!

Bonus question: What’s the one thing you can’t live without to get the job done?

No question: my children. My daughter is 11 and I have 9-year-old twin boys. It’s summertime, so they’re home from school, and the fact that I can walk out of my office and see their smiling faces makes even the worst day at work completely manageable.

Thanks so much, Kara, for sharing your insights with the InsiderInbox!

In our next edition of InsiderInbox, you’ll hear from Jose Cebrian, VP and GM of email  & mobile messaging at Merkle—and another big fan of Excel—where he uses data-driven strategies to help Fortunate 1,000 companies and more to connect with customers. Stay tuned!

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