Written by Robert Leitch.
For years, marketing teams have created ad campaigns far in advance, leaving little room for adjustments based on the changing economic climate or customer feedback. As a result, some campaigns were wildly successful while others fell flat. With the dawn of the internet, however, this type of long-term planning is no longer effective. Consumers prefer fresh, interesting content on a regular basis, meaning marketers must plan campaigns on a monthly or weekly basis. This creates a constant barrage of work that can be difficult to manage.
Cincinnati, Ohio’s ThinkVine is on a mission to help marketers stay organized and maximize the value of their marketing budgets. The company works with its clients to create detailed plans outlining how marketing dollars will be spent, when campaigns will start and end, and how to meet their goals. This includes identifying each campaign’s target audience and the most effective ways to reach it. In addition, ThinkVine’s software can predict the potential impact of marketing efforts before their clients invest in a campaign.
“Our goal is to help our clients understand how their efforts perform in terms of driving sales performance,” said Damon Ragusa, CEO of ThinkVine. “We look at data across all types of media including television, radio, print and online.”
For instance, a laundry detergent brand might use ThinkVine to predict that its target customers would be more effectively reached with heavier online advertising, possibly leading to a 20% increase in marketing driven sales. Using these recommendations, the brand can shift its advertising approach to be more web-heavy, and use ThinkVine again once the campaign is complete to showcase the positive results.
“We compile data from all over the world to give our clients that predictive power,” said Ragusa. “This includes how much time people spend on a certain type of media, the demographics of those people and how they react to the marketing they see when using the media.”
ThinkVine’s target clients are brands that spend between $20 million and $300 million per year on marketing. Current clients include companies across a variety of industries such as U.S. Bank, Valvoline, Urban Outfitters and the Cleveland Indians. Ragusa’s background is in consumer marketing analytics, and he developed the idea for ThinkVine when he started his own consulting company in 2000. He found that marketers were still using the same techniques that were common practice in the 1980s.
“Marketing teams were given fragments of really high-level market insight and were asked to build smart campaigns around that data,” said Ragusa. “It was an extremely inefficient process that sometimes took six months to see results. ThinkVine uses automation so marketers can build a campaign and test results within weeks.”
In 2008, ThinkVine received an early investment from CincyTech, a southwest regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier. The organization also helped connect ThinkVine with investors inside and outside of Ohio. ThinkVine has since completed multiple rounds of fundraising with support from CincyTech.
“When we first started working with CincyTech, we didn’t really have a product,” said Ragusa. “So we used their initial investment to build our development team and create our software. Later funding helped get that software to market and spread awareness of our brand through sales and marketing efforts.”
ThinkVine is currently developing ways for its technology to be used by companies with smaller marketing budgets, allowing the company to attract new customers. Ragusa says the landscape for startups in Ohio has changed dramatically since he started ThinkVine in 2007.
“ThinkVine was one of CincyTech’s first investments,” said Ragusa. “Since that time, there’s been an influx of companies formed in southwest Ohio. This is really thanks to the financial support the state offers to startups and their efforts to attract entrepreneurs to the region. It feels like we’ve reached a healthy equilibrium and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”