“Digital First Marketers” is a Q&A series devoted to marketing executives and professionals trailblazing their industry.

In 2015, I’m sure you’ve heard the term “marketing unicorn” at least a few times. Suneet Bhatt, the CMO and Chief Media Sales Officer of LiveIntent, seems to be one of those talented unicorns (as if being a CMO is a part-time gig!). He is not only a visionary for the full customer experience for the company, but is also an evangelist among LiveIntent and its customers to help drive success.

At Marigold Engage by Sailthru, we’ve joined forces with LiveIntent in the Sailthru Compass program so Sailthru customers can up their own email advertising game with this next-generation technology. The value added by LiveIntent to Sailthru customers is pretty amazing. LiveIntent allows Sailthru clients to implement LiveIntent ads directly into Sailthru emails and unlike traditional display ad servers, LiveIntent’s real time ad server actually works in the inbox. Its technology begins with the open of the email to optimize messaging in real time, while messages are based on the recipient’s geo-location, mobile/device/browser, time of day, age, gender and more. And that’s just a snapshot of the power behind LiveIntent’s technology.

We recently caught up with Suneet to pick his brain on some of the topics that matter most in marketing right now, such as how to triumph the challenges of becoming more data-driven; what’s next in advertising; and more. Check out his answers below, and if you have any additional questions for Suneet, please drop in the comment box below!

SAILTHRU: Tell us about yourself. What’s your current role and what are you primarily focused on?

SUNEET BHATT: I wear two primary hats at LiveIntent: Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Media Sales Officer. My focus on the marketing side is supporting the entire customer experience (externally) and ensuring education and awareness around the industry and our solutions (internally). The team is set up with pods autonomously owning specific aspects of the customer lifecycle and the internal teams (sales, product, sales development, account management) that support them. On the media sales side, I shift from a marketer who markets to other marketers, to a marketer who sells to other marketers. My focus is to help remove obstacles and incentivize our sales team responsible for finding brands and advertisers who want to reach the 120MM+ people we deliver marketing and advertising messages to every single day.

What strides are you taking to become more data-driven? How are you balancing data-backed decisions with new ideas to drive the business forward?

SUNEET BHATT: We continue to focus on one reporting metric at a time to gain more visibility. For a company like LiveIntent, we’ve had to connect disparate systems and will continue to have to do so. At a micro-level, we look at areas where we have data, and we look to analyze that data. We also look at areas where we don’t have data, and look for ways to capture that data. Everything is about getting a little bit smarter each day about where we spend our time and our money.

The best way to balance data needs with a lack of data to drive the decision, is to poll your stakeholders. If you get a large enough sampling of your sales or account management teams, asking them very clear questions about what’s working, what isn’t, and where they need the most help, you’ll find the innovation you need to keep things moving. That, and we also always have an individual who is always evaluating and trialing new tools to improve our productivity).

With the landscape of digital advertising in a state of uncertainty, how are you planning to incorporate (or further refine) strategies for optimizing advertising as a revenue driver?

SUNEET BHATT: I believe every landscape is uncertain. But I have a few high-level guiding principles that shape my overall approach: maintain data integrity, respect for customer choice, data synchronicity. After that, I focus on ROI to test and learn like hell.

The idea of intent to me is one of the most powerful around. Digital has made it possible to truly understand when a customer has intent (to purchase, to engage, etc.) AND then deliver the appropriate message to that customer based on that intent. These concepts put us in better position to understand and capitalize on intent.

What do you think will be different about the customer experience in five years?

SUNEET BHATT: It will be even more driven and dictated by consumers. It will be more respectful of consumer choice versus a brand’s prerogative to advertise by any means necessary. I believe the pendulum will swing to a point of mutual respect between consumer and brand, with publishers facilitating respectful engagement. And then…I believe people will grow blind and bored by that interaction.

Brands and publishers will find new ways to create experiences (interruptions or not) that capture their audience’s attention. For all the debate about customer respect, there will always be an aspect of advertising and marketing that is about doing the thing that nobody else is doing. Being in the place nobody else thought to be, so your message can be seen (no blindness).