Keen Decision Systems Co-Founder and CEO Greg Dolan knows the challenges marketers face all too well. As a brand marketer for consumer product giants like Kraft and Campbell’s, he experienced the lack of relevant data to support multi-million-dollar marketing-investment decisions.
Dolan always had an itch to become an entrepreneur. After settling down and starting a family, he moved from New Jersey to North Carolina where he took a giant leap—leaving behind the relative stability of corporate America to start Durham-based Keen Decision Systems with Co-Founder and decision-support expert John Busbice.
Busbice had been working in marketing analytics as a data scientist for close to a decade. Dolan said he and Busbice aligned on their view of marketing’s challenges—and the needed solution—so the two kick-started their own company with the goal of delivering on that unmet need.
“The founding vision behind Keen was to solve some of the frustrations, challenges and pain points related to marketing-investment decision support,” Dolan said. “At these big companies we had a lot of data, but we lacked the tools to guide these multi-million-dollar decisions we were tasked with making.”
Keen’s predictive marketing analytics platform provides a portfolio view across both brands and channels that allows marketers to model the impact and financial contribution of their marketing spends. Instead of being forced to make decisions about the future based on historical data, brands can now use Keen’s platform to model what’s likely to happen in the future, optimizing their marketing decisions by channel and by week using timely, accurate data. This allows them to accurately demonstrate the financial value that their marketing investments are delivering to the business.
“The focus right now is on granularity of data and measurement,” Dolan said, “when in our opinion the focus should be on what’s called ‘the marketing-proof gap’—the gap the C-suite perceives between the value marketing claims to deliver and what can be proved. How do you get to a better understanding of how to allocate your marketing budget in a way that relates directly to financial performance and growth? That’s the gap we’re filling and the change we’re trying to drive in the industry.”
Keen has evolved its mission and purpose over time, an evolution that includes its 2015 pivot away from its original, broader offering of tech-enabled consulting services for marketers to its current SaaS business model, although the focus on marketing-investment optimization remained central. Over the years Keen has seen tremendous growth, boasting a client list of over 100 brands and a recent investment by New York’s Spring Mountain Capital, estimated at $3.5 million.
“The end game here is for Keen and our platform to be seen as the leader in marketing-investment support and analytics,” Dolan said.
“We are boldly disrupting the way marketing decisions get made and re-framing the challenge around marketing investment measurement and decision support. It’s all about drawing that correlation and connection from marketing-investment decisions to their financial performance and ability to drive growth for the business. We’re aiming to close that marketing-proof gap so marketers can speak the same language as the C-suite and be seen as a key driver of growth for the business.”