Exclusive Interview with Alfie Atkinson
Alfie Atkinson launched the MiQ Canada team in early 2014 and has been the driving force behind the phenomenal growth of the Canadian business ever since. With more than a decade of digital media experience spanning UK and North American markets, Atkinson has built a career around innovation.
What was the inspiration behind the founding of MiQ ?
When Gurman and Lee founded MiQ in 2010 in London, they already had the core idea. They wanted to deliver more than high-performance digital ad campaigns – they wanted to generate insights that would drive real business change. When we founded MiQ Canada in 2014, this was our ambition too.
So, the first step in that process was working out what meaningful insights our clients need. SMEs are working hard trying to understand their consumers through “intelligence”. Terms like Artificial Intelligence, Business Intelligence, Customer Intelligence, and Media Intelligence are tossed around, and these businesses use data aggregation tools, content recommendation engines, ad targeting platforms and so on and so on, to work through their consumer data. But all of this misses an important dimension: Human Intelligence.
Don’t get me wrong, technology is vital. These advanced marketing tools have helped to minimize marketers’ reliance on spreadsheets and they’ve streamlined data collection and analysis. But if we rely on technology too much, at the expense of intuition, and emotional or cultural context, we’re going to end up making bad business decisions.
That’s why, in our business, interpreting data and making it work for a brand’s strategy is still largely a human endeavor: a job for our super-smart data scientists, analysts, engineers and so on.
Can you tell us about some of the services and benefits that MiQ Canada provides to SME owners and how it can help them grow their business?
Simply put, we can help SME owners use their marketing data better to get more, higher-value customers and tie marketing strategy to business strategy.
A lot of SME businesses don’t understand the enormous potential of the data they have access to. So part of our mission is to help SME owners understand the value of their data and how it can be used to inform long-term goals and make smarter business decisions.
Our first step of working with a business is to help them see the big picture. To take a look at all of the siloed data points within an organization – paid, first-party, partner, etc. – then work out how we can bring them all together to glean actionable insights.
Then, once you start getting these insights, the really exciting stuff starts happening. We can help clients go beyond one-size-fits-all marketing tactics to really strategic campaigns that can reach specific customer groups with relevant messaging on the right channels at the right time. That’s the stuff that lets SME marketers really kick-ass.
How can Marketing Intelligence help entrepreneurs better understand their customers and contribute to the success of their business?
Understanding your customer is a complex thing to do. You want to know who they are, what drives their decisions and what the best way to communicate with them is. The problem is you get one dataset answering one question, another dataset answering different questions and so on. Unless you have a complete picture of all your data, you’re never going to tease out the insights that lead to business-changing actions.
Marketing Intelligence helps businesses connect their siloed data and uncover key consumer insights that are relevant to meeting business challenges. It’s all about getting to know customers in details: digging deep into the data to understand their daily habits, their online behaviours, their external influences, and so on, to produce the insights that lead to better targeting and optimized media spend.
What sets MiQ Canada apart from other similar companies? Why should entrepreneurs partner up with MiQ as opposed to other companies?
At MiQ, we’re all about the ‘why’. Marketing Intelligence isn’t just understanding what a consumer did, but getting into the ‘why’ behind a decision. And that means looking at everything: online browsing, offline location and purchases, multi-channel touchpoints – even the cultural and economic trends around us – all offer part of the answer.
And that’s why we need smart technology combined with even smarter people. The tech lets us process and analyze vast quantities of data, but it’s our global team of data scientists, analysts, engineers, and media experts, who deliver the juicy insights that are tailored to help our clients find solutions for their specific challenges.
What are some of the strategies you use to help small business owners grow their brand?
It all depends on the individual business. But in general, our strategies always begin with trying to get a better understanding of your customer and how they interact with your business. And then we’ll look at things like competitor data, so we know where your competitor offices and stores are and what their marketing efforts look like. So now we can do things like use our increased knowledge of your audience to conquest customers buying from your competitors – i.e. produce a really impactful business outcome.
How important do you believe innovation is when it comes to the success of any business?
The ability to move quickly and be adaptable is a must. If you’re content to stay still, you’ll quickly end up falling behind.
Technology is progressing at an exponential rate – and every industry is affected. Business owners and entrepreneurs need to stop hiding away from the disruption coming from advances in technology and embrace the possibilities of innovation.
How do you believe your past experience has helped you in your current role?
Having a varied background across different media as well as a totally different degree (I studied Law) has helped me immensely. It’s given me a broader perspective on the world of business, and it’s helped develop my softer skills rather than anyone specialism.
In your expert opinion, what role does digital data play in the success of a small business?
Honestly, I do think that making the most out of its data is the single thing that any small business can do to set itself up for success. Look at the examples across the globe of small businesses that have suddenly become very big and successful – they are disrupting traditional larger businesses. The reason they can do this is because they’ve used their own data in really interesting and useful ways to know their customers better and improve customer experience.
What would you say is the most challenging part of marketing for business owners and how can MiQ help entrepreneurs overcome those challenges?
The most challenging part of marketing can be the overwhelming amounts of data that we currently have access to. Entrepreneurs and most business owners still don’t understand the true value of the data and what it can unlock for growth.
What are the top three factors that can help entrepreneurs have a better marketing strategy for the growth of their business?
You’re already sitting on heaps of data that will let you get to know your customers better. Collect it, use it, and look for other widely available data sets which can also impact your business
Scrutinize data for meaning. Data should be informing your business decisions. An entrepreneur has to take risks, but data can help you take more calculated risks.
Demand more of your marketing budget. Don’t just expect it to deliver media metrics – demand it helps you answer your business challenges – because it really can.
What has been the biggest accomplishment in your professional life?
Building a phenomenal high-performing team who are passionate, incredibly smart and ambitious.
On a final note, we hear that you’re passionate about cooking. What is your favourite part about cooking that has you so passionate?
It really relaxes me, and I love cooking for my family.