#491: On a Mission to be the World’s Best Loyalty Company: Ellipsis & Co

In this episode, join us for an insightful conversation with David Parsons, the Co-Founder and CEO of Ellipsis & Co, an Australian-based company specializing in pioneering loyalty consulting and focusing on achieving Return on Loyalty as a commercial outcome.

Discover the evolution of the loyalty landscape in Australia over the past two decades, as Dave Parsons shares his experiences as an early pioneer in this field.

Learn about the highs, lows, and game-changing moments that have shaped the industry, and gain valuable insights into the tips and hints from this seasoned loyalty professional.

Explore how Ellipsis & Co utilizes proprietary methods and data-driven insights to design, implement, operate, and optimize customer loyalty programs and initiatives, delivering state-of-the-art services that not only grow customer value but also optimize overall performance.

Hosted by Carly Neubauer

Show notes:

1) David Parsons

2) Ellipsis & Co⁠

Audio Transcript

Paula: Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m Paula Thomas, the Founder, and CEO of Let’s Talk Loyalty and also now Loyalty TV. Today’s episode is hosted by Carly Neubauer, Co-Founder and Director of Elevate Loyalty, and Pay2Elevate, an Australian based company specializing in loyalty and incentive services, global rewards and digital payment technology.

If you work in loyalty marketing, you can watch our latest video interviews every Thursday on www.loyalty.tv. And of course, you can also listen to Let’s Talk Loyalty every Tuesday, every Wednesday, and every Thursday to learn the latest ideas from loyalty experts around the world.

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Carly: Hello, and welcome to today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty. My name is Carly Neubauer and I’m the Co-Founder and Director of Elevate Loyalty and Pay2Elevate, a loyalty incentive services company, specializing in global rewards and digital payment technology. 

Today I am thrilled to introduce David Parsons, Co-Founder and CEO of Ellipsis & Co- an Australian-based company who designed, implement, operate and optimize customer loyalty programs and initiatives. Ellipsis & Co use proprietary methods and data-driven insights to deliver state-of-the-art services that grow customer value and optimize performance. Today we’ll discuss the evolution of the loyalty landscape in Australia, the highs, lows, and game changes over the last 20 years, along with some tips and hints from an experienced loyalty professional. I hope you enjoy my discussion with Dave and leave with some valuable insights and new ideas.

David: Welcome, Dave. Thank you, Carly. And thanks to Paula. I feel like I’ve finally made it. After all this time, I’m very excited to be on Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

Carly: Excellent. Look, I’m really, really looking forward to this conversation. I know we’re gonna hear some fantastic insights. You’ve got such an extensive background in loyalty across a range of industries and also program types, but firstly and, and you’re very famous and well known as the tallest man in loyalty in Australia. So first question, exactly how tall are you? 

David: I dunno if it’s just Australia, is it, isn’t there some sort of global benchmark as well? Maybe? 

Carly: Maybe globally. Maybe globally? Absolutely. 

David: I am two metres, six foot seven. I am actually not the tallest person at Ellipsis where there is a taller individual. Alex.

Carly: I didn’t think that was possible. Fantastic. 

David: There is, yeah. but I am the best basketball at Ellipsis and, that’s been evidenced, at an offsite. So, you know, I may not, I may no longer have the tallest, but I’ve definitely got the, you know, the best basketball or I’ll take that.

Carly: Excellent. Well, I, I was gonna say with the height you have, if there’s ever a loyalty basketball league, I, I definitely know which team I’m choosing to play on, so that’s for sure. 

Now, let’s kick off. As you know, and as our listeners all know, Let’s Talk Loyalty always starts with one very important question. Which is your favorite loyalty program and why? 

David: Good question. It’s hard to pick favorites. We’ve worked on so many programs and with so many brilliant clients over the years, and I love them all. I think if I look at it at a personal level, my favorite would be a really, really new program, Star Alliance Rewards. This is a world first. It’s, it’s live in Australia. It’s super innovative and, really interesting in terms of the design. You, you join the program and you take out the, the co-brand, that HSBC issues, the HSBC Star Alliance product. 

And what’s really cool about this program is you can spend your way to Star Alliance gold status. There’s, there’s nothing else like it. so it’s got a really modest first year spend, spend threshold, and then you can choose Star Alliance Gold from any of the participating carriers. And what that means for Australians is that you can very rapidly get into Singapore Airlines Gold Status, Air Canada, United Thai, Eva Air, Air New Zealand, and then there’s a, there’s an annual, spend requirement to maintain that.

But it’s not just the gold status you accumulate Star Alliance points, and you can convert those into any of the participating airlines, which means that you’ve got the broadest and richest inventory of reward seats available, and that the points that you end up with happen to be the richest way to earn those points in the market. So it’s, it’s really cool. Any, anyone that’s, traveling overseas that wants to get into the lounge and wants all those, those gold benefits, it’s the card to have. 

Carly: Absolutely. That is really innovative and, and really different because obviously as we know in historically most of the airlines, it’s all flight-based. So the fact that it’s more spend-based and it’s more accessible to people, that, that’s really fantastic. I can, I can see why it’s your favorite. Absolutely. Especially if you’re traveling a lot for work. 

David: Yeah. No, it’s cool. And, and look, we, we love, we love the travel and payments industry. It’s our home. It’s kind of our heartland. And we’ve, we’ve, we’ve established some really good relationships across all of the, the sort of participants in that from HSBC, the airlines. But Renato Ramos at, at Star Alliance has been a big, a big, driver of this innovation. And he’s a good friend of ours. So we’re, we’re really happy for him in terms of bringing this world first to market.

Carly: Awesome. I love this. Now we are gonna talk a bit more about your business shortly as well, but firstly, let’s go to you. So I’d love to hear about your background, a bit about how you moved into the loyalty industry. So what’s, what’s your story? Tell us a bit about you.

David: Yeah, so, short version, I didn’t even know what the loyalty industry was when I, graduated uni. I did a commerce and marketing degree, worked in banking and then went traveling, lived in London and, had a, had a great time. At that stage of of my life, I came back to Australia and it was either go back into banking or worked for a company that I’d never heard of that did something that I knew nothing about, which was Carlson Marketing or a loyalty company. I still don’t know why I did it. Actually. 

Carly: Nice news. I like it. 

David: Maybe it was doing something different but that, that was, that was the start of more than 20 years in the industry. And, you know, we, we were, we were at ground zero of the, of the loyal, the modern loyalty marketing industry back then.

There was, really a small number of participants. There was Carlson that became AIMIA Pinpoint that’s become Mastercard. And then, and then all of our wonderful clients we worked with back then, it was the airlines and credit cards mainly. And we kind of did everything, the call centers and, and, marketing and, and data and proposition development and, and, you know, reporting and everything that went along with, with, with loyalty management. So, so I started out, and I, I sort of had learned from the ground up really. There’s, there’s no loyalty degree. You don’t, you don’t, you don’t go and study this at university. It’s a really diverse, sort of industry and profession.

So you need to be able to understand, you know, loyalty economics and marketing and technology and data, operations and, and, and a range of other specializations. But, you know, having grown up, in what, what became the global leader in loyalty, it really gave me a good pedigree to have a breadth of, of experience and knowledge and also be able to go deep on all of those topics.

And one, one thing I reflect on is like, if I think about my network and the relationships that I’ve built, ha having been in the industry from kind of with the really early days, you know, you just get to know so many talented people that have gone on to have really great careers in really senior roles. I, I won’t name all of them, but, a lot of the, a lot of the people that I worked with back then are, are running some of the biggest brands and programs here and overseas. So, so, no regrets, from being a banker, but certainly no regrets stepping over into loyalty at the early stages.

Carly: Absolutely, and that’s such a great way to build a strong, long-term network, no doubt as well. So from here, you then into Ellipsis. Tell us a bit about the business Ellipsis, and what were you hoping to do there? 

David: Yeah, it was interesting the, at the time, I was in a senior role at AIMIA and AIMIA was the, was a, was the global leader in loyalty. I think it was a $5 billion market cap and we’re having a lot of fun. We had a brilliant team and, and we built a great, great business and, and, and profile in the market. and I, I’d been there for 11 years. I had a newborn and a pregnant wife. So, may, maybe unwisely decided then that it was time to do something different.

And the catalyst for it really was that there was the, I saw a real change coming in loyalty. You had a smaller number of really big full service companies providing loyalty solutions and services. Back then, I just saw that the loyalty industry was growing and it was exploding in terms of the industries that were getting into thinking about loyalty investments, it was getting more complex in terms of the choices that brands had to work through and the decisions that they needed to make. And, you know, the money that was at stake. And, and, and, and I was, became really, really fascinated by, by the, the strategy, the strategic, questions that come up when it comes to loyalty.

We were having some really good conversations with a whole range of different clients that were really pondering, do I need a program or how do I think about loyalty? Or what does loyalty mean? And how do I, how do I have, I got, how do I think about loyalty in the context of my business? And there was a really strong connection between the strategic challenge around loyalty and, and data and, and, and execution and sort of, you know, how you think about sort of putting together plans and, and so, yeah, I, I, at, at the time, I, I, decided that, time to, to move on. 

And I was really fortunate that my business partner today, Tim, was keen to go on that journey. And, yeah, we started the business in 2014. It was a bit of a risk. We didn’t have any clients. We didn’t have a team. And we were really pioneers, back then because there wasn’t a thing called a loyalty consulting business. We, we sort of invented that pure play loyalty consulting model. And, we were, we were really fortunate early on to hire some good people and to win work with some excellent clients. And, yeah, it feels like it’s happened really quickly, but it’s been a really fun and, and good 10 years since starting it. 

Carly: That’s a really gutsy move and a gutsy time to do it. I think. Tell us a little bit about anything you didn’t expect. So what were the unexpected things that may have popped up? ’cause you, you ventured off into starting not only a new business, but a new style of business in loyalty. And as you touched on earlier as well.

Not only is there no way to really study loyalty in, in full depth and get a degree in loyalty, most people in loyalty these days have come from such a plethora of backgrounds. But then you’ve also taken a leap of faith to start a whole new style of business. So what are some of the highs or lows or things you weren’t expecting when that happened?

David: Yeah, good, good question. I think the, probably the thing that stood out the most was the kindness of friends and the network in the early days. And I’ve really tried to sort of pay that forward. When we started and we went out on our own, everyone gave us a hearing. Everyone wanted to help. And we had, we had some, some people that were really generous in terms of finding us some, some, some work to get going on. And so the sort of the kindness that you get from, from your network and from people that you know, where they see that you’re taking a risk and you’re doing something new and they want to help.

I didn’t expect it, but it helped a lot. And, you know, since we started an event scaling Ellipsis, we’ve seen a whole lot of other people go on that similar journey and hopefully a lot of those people will, will say the same thing about us, that we’re always open to partnership and try and sort of pay that forward.

Carly: Absolutely.  And I think you, you really highlighted a point, the loyalty industry, in most cases, the people are really loyal. They, they’re really, stand for those, those beliefs and, and usually, and live them. So it’s fabulous about this industry. Do you wanna talk to us a little bit about return on loyalty? This is a proprietary trademark and, and a different way to approach in a consultancy as well. Tell us a little bit about your trademarks. 

David: Yeah, it’s, so we have got a trademark. I think that’s important because, you know, we need to protect our IP and, you know, as a lead, as the leading loyalty consulting business, we need to, you know, we need to, we need to make sure that we stay ahead of the market and that we’ve got, distinctive and compelling, products and services for our clients.

We really, I’ll, I’ll go a little bit broader then I’ll narrow in on that Carly. I think we started Ellipsis and we actually came up with the name, because we saw that there was a lot of questions when it came to loyalty and the answers weren’t always easy. And so the brand name Ellipsis really is the three dots at the end of a sentence, an unfinished thought. 

And we called the company Ellipsis because when it comes to understanding your customers, when it comes to your customer strategy, loyalty, analytics, and insights, there’s always that, that, that unfinished question around your customers. And that’s where we come in. and what often the question relates to performance and returns. 

And so we spent a lot of time in the early days building capability and services around what we call Return on Loyalty, which is our proprietary trademarked, service, service offering and capabilities around loyalty, program performance measurement. And you know, that really sort of ladders up to our, kind of CVP and brand where we really wanna be the, we’re on a mission to be the world’s best loyalty company. And, and that means that we’re, we’re attracting incredible talent and clients. 

But we want to, we also want to, want to be the best at helping our clients measure, manage, and grow customer value and in loyalty. What’s really interesting is it’s, it’s actually easy to spend money on customers. You can discount, you can, you can do all sorts of things around incentives and rewards and the costs are very real. You can’t, you can’t miss them. They’re either, they hit your margin or they hit your P&L and the balance sheet in some cases. And so there’s a lot of focus on loyalty when it comes to, you know, how do we do it and should we do it? And, what are the different ways to build loyalty? You have to invest. It’s either better service experience, better product price, incentives, rewards, etc. 

What’s difficult though, and what we saw was that most loyalty managers, most companies that had a program really struggled to articulate the value that their programs or their investments were generating. And, and the danger there is that the costs get into focus and without a really clear line of sight in terms of the incrementality that they’re generating, bad things happen. Customers get what you, you affect the relationship you have with customers because you have to take things off them or you have to change things.

Now, sometimes you need to do that because the program’s not performing. So we do a lot of work, you know, making sure that it is, and if it’s not, we have to make changes. But return on loyalty really is a lot of, where all of the IP sits around this, the process, and what we call the attribution methodologies for identifying where the lifts are. And, and, and it’s complex. You know, there’s a lot of data science. It’s pretty heavy hit, hit, heavy hitting in terms of capability around, you know, managing data and modeling and analytics. And we’ve built a lot of capability around handling transaction-level customer data, ingesting third-party, data sets. And, investing in the team and their capability around all of the methodologies that you might need. 

And so return on loyalty for us really is, is, we, you know, we, when, when clients need confidence around how their program’s performing, and what sort of returns they’re getting, we really see ourselves as a, you know, the leader when it comes to loyalty program performance measurement.

Carly: I think this is, what you’ve touched on and what you covered here is just so essential in any loyalty program, without really stating the obvious. Because without the ability to articulate this, it’s really hard then externally and internally to sort of justify and grow a program. So the services that you’re offering there, making it easier for the loyalty teams and the head of loyalties of the world to actually quantify and showcase the value. It, it’s so essential for any sort of long-term loyalty program. 

Now, from there, do you wanna talk to us a little bit about the industry as well and how you’ve seen that play out with some of the big programs, so the successful, the maybe lesser successful, any key game changes of the industry where that may not have worked out as well as those loyalty programs may have hoped.

David:  Yeah, where do you start? If I start locally, it’s been a fascinating 20 years in Australia. There’s, I had a look the other day. I think there’s something like 56,000 people in Australia that are connected to the loyalty industry. I mean, you go back to its roots and you probably have, you know, you probably have, you know, maybe less than a thousand at the beginning if you, if you take those few companies on the service side and then the, the sort of big, the big operators of programs being Qantas, Virgin, Ansett back in the day, you know, American Express and the banks.

So it’s just fascinating. We saw it, we regularly keep an eye on the, on the size of the market here in Australia, it’s a, it’s about a, we believe about a five to six billion market at the moment in terms of the money that’s being, that’s being spent with customers and with, you know, all of the associated machinery to make it all work.

But it’s growing rapidly. The CAGR is, sort of, you know, well into the double digits, and I think that that’s just gonna continue to grow. When I look at it at a global level, Australia really is you know,  a mature, what I would say a mature market. So Canada, the US, Australia, the UK, terms of, and then in Asia probably, you know, Singapore, New Zealand, the, these markets, English speaking mainly markets are, are, you know really mature markets. But even within and across those markets, there’s, there’s big differences outside of the, outside of those markets. There’s some wonderful examples of great innovation in other parts of Europe, in Asia, and even South America. 

I mean, there’s, there’s, there’s, there’s so much happening globally, and, and we have to, and we do spend a lot of time making sure that we are up to speed with what’s happening on a global level because on particular topics take financial services and banking. Some of the things that are big drivers of change here, there’s a crystal ball somewhere else that we can learn from. So, you know, I think about, if I think about one of the big changes to the industry, it’s really been, the role of, and the evolution of credit card loyalty.

You know, credit cards have been the driving force of, of loyalty in, in this market and in many markets for many years. But, the funding for loyalty that the credit card issuers have relied on, have, has reduced over time. And a whole lot of other changes to how you manage credit card portfolios, including regulation and, and, you know, responsible lending and, and some other things have meant that there’s just not as much money at play in those programs.

And, and that’s obvious because the earn rates have come down. So without going down a kind of wormhole on that, we’re not the only market to face into that. Which means that we, you know, when you look at the UK and other markets that are facing into that, you can kind of see how they react to and how the market evolves because of those influences. And it’s interesting because the US is sort of facing into this now. 

So it’s a fascinating industry. It continues to evolve. I think that it, it really was the genesis of modern loyalty was airlines and credit cards and, and what a marriage made in heaven that’s been, in terms of getting, you know, high value customers to take products, that generate an enormous amount of high margin income for the frequent flyer programs.

And those programs have, you know, really become kind of secondary sort of currencies and secondary economies, everyone’s collecting. And, they’ve added lots of partners, and we’ve got some really good friends and they’ve been great clients for us over the years where they, they really are the sort of hotbed of innovation.

But the, in the industry itself now is facing into this I think real maturity when it comes to proliferation across industries. And so we just have, you know, brilliant clients that work across, you know, the utility sector, whether it’s telecommunications or, or, you know, you know, in, energy we’ve got, we’re doing a lot of work. Heap, heaps and heaps of work in retail, a lot of work in B-to-B channels. There’s almost not a industry sector that isn’t contemplating what do we do with loyalty and what’s our, you know, what’s our move? and I think one of the, one of the big things that we’ve seen evolve is this move from, sort of what you would call coalition loyalty, where you have an independent owner running, the program for the partners in, into these loyal, this development of loyalty ecosystems that are often, often powered by and run by the, the anchor. And it’s really interesting to see how the loyalty models are evolving. The participants are growing, the complexities just continuing to grow when it comes to how to play, how to invest, how to partner.

And so I think that we’re at a really exciting time. We’ve sort of seen a wave of innovation and new entrance into the market. And, and I think what we’re looking at now is there’s a whole lot of really good questions being asked. Have I got the right strategy? is my program working?

What, what does loyalty mean to me as a business? How do I, how do I manage the economics? How do I deal with the re regulatory change? How do I leverage a lot of innovation around technology and AI and machine learning and a lot of stuff that comes out of the data opportunity? and, and it’s fantastic. I think we’ve got this wonderful industry that have really, really bright intelligent people that, will hopefully, you know, just on the beginning stages of this, of this continual sort of growth of the, of the industry. 

Carly: So what I’m gonna ask you to continue on with that a little bit further, we’ve got so much potential here and you are obviously, you’ve got a good view across so many different industries and loyalty as well. Where do you really think we need to improve? Where, where’s the really, the focal points for us to really improve in our loyalty, do you think? 

David: I think there’s probably three parts to this. Number one, at least in the markets that we do more of our work in, Australia, New Zealand, UK, North America, parts of Asia, no one ever says they’re doing it well. Certainly on the client side, there appears to be a huge amount of headroom. So in terms of that sort of like maturity curve where, where, where, where brands see themselves, whether it’s, you know, you know being good at actually, building the capability or using the capability. There seems to be an enormous amount of headroom. 

So I think, I think we’re, we’re still in the sort of, early stages of, of an overall proficiency. What does that mean? It means that there’s a big opportunity for e expertise and, and resource and capability bill, both on the client side and on the sort of services side. No one, no one, no one will tell you it’s easy to find the talent and the capability they’re looking for. And, and that’s not to say that it’s not out there. I just think that it’s in, you know, it’s the demand’s greater than what the industry can serve us at the moment. 

I think the other issue that we have though is that there’s, there’s a bit of bad PR about, about the loyalty industry at times. It seems to be a loyalty program industry. We have a lot of focus on loyalty being a program, and we do a lot of work with clients and they’re like, oh, don’t use that word. Like, we want, we want a proposition and we want to know our customers better. We wanna have more levers other than product and price to be able to influence customer outcomes. But loyalty’s got a bad name. Why is that? I think over the years what’s happened is a couple of things. 

Number one, it’s been badly managed in part where the loyalty program is the answer to any loyalty problem. And our view is that a loyalty program is one of many ways to think about how you build loyalty.

And so we really need to think about loyalty in a broader context than just a programmatic sense, even though programs can work. And what that has done is it’s opened the door to, I think, the broader marketing industry to really start to throw rocks at loyalty. and you’ve got, you’ve got people and companies out there that are sort of that believe in other, other ways other than loyalty to grow your brand. So, you know, you’ve got, yeah, institutions like the Ehrenberg-Bass and Byron Sharp saying, don’t do loyalty. Loyalty, loyalty’s a waste of money, you know, that you, you build your brand through mental availability, physical availability.

You know, they claim to have a whole lot of marketing science supporting that and we haven’t responded. There’s, there really hasn’t been an industry sort of equivalent come out and say, well, this is what loyalty is and this is how it works, and this is how you do it, and this is where it works and how to do it well.

And, you know, companies like Ellipsis are sort of fighting, fighting that battle because we really see ourselves as data-driven and we use customer science and, we’re not a loyalty program company. We’re a loyalty company. We help clients. You know, across lots of different ways to compete and there’s, there’s lots of other brilliant brands out there doing that, but it’s still in, its in its infancy.

But the reality is, is that loyalty should be and will be, part of the marketing mix. And, you know, we, we agree with, with, with Byron and Sharp. In some ways when he says that brands like Colgate and Mars bars don’t need loyalty programs, you’re a hundred percent right. You gotta be, you know, you gotta be, you gotta, you gotta build brand and you gotta be available when the customer’s looking to buy you.

But when you are, when you are the shelf, when you are the retailer or, you know, in, in many other contexts, loyalty does work and can work. So I think there’s a huge opportunity and that’s why we love what, you know, what you’ve done with, you know, women in incentives and we really love being part of that.

And if you look at the industry associations, what Sarah’s doing with APLA or ALA. Bringing the best in the market and the best in the industry together to really, you know, to really grow the industry. I think that’s a massive opportunity, and I think that’s only gonna help. I think what that does is it actually, gets the loyalty industry where it should be in terms of thinking more broadly around loyalty, but also to the table when it comes to, you know, the C-suite and,na kind of, more embedded part of the marketing mix.

Carly: Absolutely, and I think, I mean you, you’ve spoken to my heart a little bit, obviously bringing out Wynn and the ALA as well. Also the fact that loyalty really, it’s a behavior set. It’s not necessarily just a program where we tick the box. If we step through these, you know, processes and deliver this out to customers, they’re automatically loyal and it’s all happy days. It doesn’t work like that. There’s a broader mix and no doubt each loyalty program slash retailer slash client, it’s different for each of them as well. 

Do you have an opinion on where you see the loyalty world in the next five years or any, any big things coming in that regard? 

David: Yeah. I’ve got a, I’ve got a few. I’m a big believer in constant, constant learning, Carly. So, I might not have all the answers, but, you know, I’m obviously very biased towards, what’s happening in the loyalty world and where the industry’s going. Oh, look, it’s, it’s definitely growing that hasn’t, that hasn’t tapered off.

So I’ve, I’m very bullish on the prospects for people that work in the industry and for brands that are invested in investment, investing in loyalty. I think that it’s maturing, and it’s demonstrating that it’s a really important part of how you, how you manage customers and how you grow your business.

There’s a lot of regulatory headwinds coming around data and data privacy and, you know, competition and compliance and, you know, things like payments and you know, what traditional sources of loyalty funding. A lot of our banking clients talk about the fact that all, all they spend their time on now is regulatory and compliance. So I feel like that’s gonna kind of wash through the loyalty industry as it should. We’ve been pretty fortunate that you know, we haven’t had too many major issues in sort of things like data breaches and so forth that they’ve happened. I think loyalty and big, big programs are kind of honeypots for that sort of activity. So we need to be super careful. 

The sort of role of loyalty has changed as well. I mean, you know, Tim, my business partner. He was the, one of the, you know, small team that designed and launched the first Everyday Rewards program. And back then it was about getting identity. It was about knowing who the customer was.

And a lot of the work that we did in the early years was really helping retailers, move from anonymous customers to known customers so that we could know a bit more about them and be more targeted with how we market to them and incentivize them, etc. Most brands know who their customers are, or they at least know a large proportion of them. So the way in which programs are designed, the role of them will continue to evolve. It’s less about ID, it’s, I think it’s more about insight, permission, and then, you know, community and membership. So, I think that’s really interesting. 

The other thing that’s happening though is that regulators everywhere wanna make it easier for customers to switch. Particularly in like regulated, more embedded ongoing services industries, whether it’s banking or telco energy, etc. So that presents a massive switching issue for brands. And you know, obviously a switch, a customer that switches is a customer that you lose. So I think that really becomes quite interesting in terms of what do you do about that? How do we actually create more reasons for customers to stay? And then I think it’s what’s really fascinating is the way in which, you know, emerging technlogy and things like AI come in and influence the industry. We’re doing a lot of experimentation at Ellipsis around it, in the context of how we work, but also how we deliver services.

And, I think that there’s some fascinating use cases emerging in terms of how you drive efficiency in terms of running the business, but also how you bring new value to clients through the services that you offer and the, you know, the value that you can create. So it’s really fascinating.

I think that there’s sort of, there’s probably more change coming than what we’ve seen. I think that’s a good thing from an industry standpoint, but it creates a lot of complexity for our clients. So, you know, we’re really trying to make sure that we’re connected to where those, sort of hotspots are gonna be, and, and we wanna make sure that we’re, we’re there to help clients work through some of those issues.

Carly: Awesome. Now, I know you just mentioned that you don’t have all the answers and you, and you love continuous learning, but what about some tips that you’ve learned over your career? So what would be sort of one of the most important lessons you’ve learned? Let’s say you’ve had 20 years in loyalty. What would be one of the most important lessons you’ve learned throughout that career?

David: Couple of things. Number one, you, you have to think long term in loyalty, and that that means that you need to invest in relationships. You need to partner well and you need to protect your reputation at all costs, which means that you need to say you do, do what you say you’re gonna do, tell the truth. Have a high degree of integrity and deliver on the promises that you make. 

And I think that we, at Ellipsis and, and me personally, are we try and do that every day. You know, I think that, what I’m, what I’ve learned is that, if you, if you look after people and if you look after the team and the clients, then they’ll always look after you. And that’s really important. So we’re, we put a high degree of importance on, you know, making sure that we have great relationships with everyone that we deal with. 

I think the other important lesson is like, you gotta, you gotta enjoy it, you gotta have some fun. Some of my best friends are colleagues and clients, people that I’ve worked with and worked for. They, they become, you know, they become an extended part of your family and they become, you know, you know, you, you know, they become a big important part of the journey that you go on. So, yeah, I think it’s a, it, it seems like things move quickly, but it’s a long, it’s a long sort of career and you, you know, whilst we’re trying to build businesses and build, you know, be successful, I think what’s really important is, you know, have some fun along the way and treasure those friendships you build up over time.

Carly: I love that. I really love that. Now, I know you are an exceptionally busy individual. There’s no question with your life, and obviously running a very successful business as well, would you have a favorite productivity hack? So how do you manage all the stuff. Let’s say, you know, there’s a lot going on. What’s your best productivity hack? 

David: Yeah. So I’m probably the worst person to talk to about productivity hack. I know, I know. One thing I’ve learned quite well is that I’m, I can’t multitask. I actually think that you can’t multitask. I think you can do one thing at a time really well, or you can try and multi-juggle multiple things at the, and you can do that poorly.

But basic things like making lists and having focus and delegating well, all those things that life coaches will tell you make a big difference. you know, in the context of a busy day. I don’t know anyone who’s exceptionally brilliant at perfect task and delegation management.

I always need to improve on that. My team will tell you that the biggest productivity hack for me was taught to me by a good mate of mine and an Ellipsis. Nick Rosen over at Salesforce wake up early. If you wanna get stuff done, if you want to, you know, be at your best when you need to, you know, go get into some deep thinking. If you need some time to catch up on stuff for me, it’s early morning. And Nick’s, a 4:00 AM riser and, I’m a 5:00 AM riser. And I, I think 5:00 A.M. is not bad, but I can’t do four because there’s just not enough coffee in the world that I can drink in the afternoon. So, I’m impressed by that. So that’s my productivity hack. Carly, get up early.

Carly: I love it. I love it. And a shout out to Nick. Couldn’t agree more. That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. 

Actually, on that as well, do you have a particular mentor that you’ve worked with over the years, even if it was early days or more currently? Anyone particularly that stands out as a particular professional mentor?

David: There’s been heaps of people that have really shaped, you know, my career and given me opportunity and, and I’ve been inspired by. We’ve got an advisory board that evolves and there’s some brilliant people in that and on that, people like, like Lee and Simon and Phil, Stuart, Jules Dorman. She’s this, she’s the CEO at the works and she’s, she’s been the chair of our advisory board for many years and she’s just so good. I’ve had some brilliant managers over the years, people that I’ve worked for, you know, and without naming all of them people like, Moss and Karl Schuster who, who are both ex- AIMIA execs have, have, have been great leaders of, of mine over the years, and I’ve learned a lot from them.

But I think the person that I’ve learned a lot the most from, and that I valued their relationship the most would be my business partner, Tim. So, Tim Tyler is a real legend of the loyalty and CRM industry. He was there at, at ground zero. He you know, he was the, the, the Chairman of Peppers and Rogers Group, which was the real pioneers when it came to one-to-one Marketing.

We’ve worked together for nearly 20 years. He’s one of my best mates. You know, there’s not a day that doesn’t go by where I don’t talk to him, you know, a hundred times. He’s incredibly smart experiences. He’s, he never loses his call, which I, which I respect. And, and he’s, but he’s, he, there’s not, there’s not a topic that he doesn’t really have a lot of good experience and, and kind of input that he can’t provide. He really is a, the one of the world’s leading voices on, on customer and loyalty strategy. And, what that means is that we have this you know, brilliant resource at Ellipsis for all the team to be able to use and rely on and take inspiration from.

And it gives me a high degree of comfort when we take on complex or stressful or quite intensive projects with clients that we can deliver. So Tim, as well as the team that we’ve built and, and I’m inspired, I mean, inspired by the rest of the team that we have, they, they are just so good. It allows me to sleep at night that we, you know, we take on assignments that we can deliver and we often take on things that very, very bright and talented clients haven’t been able to sort of fully work through. So you end up, you end up, you know, you end up being in a position where you have to deliver in order to maintain the reputation and grow the brand.

So, I probably don’t tell him enough. He might listen to this. He might not, he’s more of a reader than a listener. But, mate, yeah, Tim’s been brilliant and he wants to work less, but I just keep him busy and so, hopefully that can continue for a while yet. 

Carly: Oh, fabulous. Well, a big shout out to Tim and, we’ll have to make sure he does listen to this in full right to the end then as well.

So. I wanna ask you just a couple more things, one of which is what would you be most proud of? So if we, we’ve done a, we’ve talked a lot about the industry and ellipsis and your background, but what’s something that you are really proud of throughout this time? 

David: Yeah, I think there’s probably two parts to that. Number one, it’s the team that we’ve built. I, I still  can’t believe that the caliber of people that we have wanna come and work with me and work with us. And we’ve deliberately decided to that we’re gonna, we, we are gonna, we are gonna assemble the most experienced and, sort of talent dense loyalty company we can.

And what that means is that you need, you need really good people, first and foremost, to wanna dedicate their career to loyalty and that bring you know, a high degree of value to the table for our clients. And so we’ve got, we’ve got people that are just, you know, almost world’s best in what, what they do, that are really, wonderful people to work with.

And our clients constantly give me great feedback about just how, how good the team is. And I won’t name all of them ’cause there’s, there’s heaps of them. And, it’s continued to grow. And we want to continue to grow and we are hiring and we’re looking for more people. So we wanna, we want to continue on this, this journey that we’re on.

But I’m most proud of the team that we have. They inspire me and they never let me down and they work really hard and, and they all, I think have. Come on this journey of believing in what Ellipsis is and what we wanna be. And, and so, I thank, I thank them and, you know, I, I, I hope that we can continue to build a place where they wanna stay and, go on their, you know, go on their career journey.

But the other, the other side to that coin is the clients that we have. So we, I’m just stunned at the quality of the clients that choose us and stay to work, continue to work with us. They really are world’s best brands. Big banks, retailers, airlines, other travel companies, you know, and a whole range of, of other, leading brands in Australia, New Zealand and globally.

So it just like, when you think about what are you proud of, if you’ve got, if you’ve got brilliant people that wanna work here and you’ve got amazing clients that choose us and generally speaking, and we have to work very hard all the time strive for a high degree of client satisfaction. It’s amazing. I mean, I’m so happy with that. It was just a bit of a dream to start with, but never really take that for granted. 

Carly: Amazing. Well, a huge congrats to your amazing team as well. So life and loyalty. What do you know for sure? 

David: Well, look, you get one shot, don’t you? You get one career. So I think you have to do something you love. You know, I’m a big believer in surrounding yourself with people that inspire you. And there’s lots of ways that people can do that, but generally speaking, they’re, you know, they’re, they’re good people and they’re smart and they work hard and they wanna have fun.

I think it’s important to stay healthy mentally and physically. And so what that means is everything in moderation. Whether that’s, you know, mental stimulation through the work that we do, physical exercise, and also sort of staying, staying mentally fit and, and balance. You know, from a mental standpoint means everything in moderation.

We have some fascinating debates. You know, we’re fairly highly caffeinated at Ellipsis. I think someone passed away once when they, when they drank forty-nine coffees in a day. So we know that forty-eight’s the limit. 

Carly: You’ve got a maximum. I’m glad to hear it. 

David: Yeah, exactly. But we’ve also, we’ve also got a pretty good, pretty good, we’ve got a pretty good, Ellipsis record, collection and whiskey collection, including some pretty hardcore rakia. So, you know, it’s we try and celebrate the wins. 

The, I think the other couple of things just to add is we, you know, you, you gotta keep learning. and, and we’re big believers of that. We try and always make sure that we’re, we encourage the team to go on a path of lifelong learning. And, I love the comment that a former client of ours left with me, which was, you can never be under, underdressed or undereducated. I love that. 

But, you know, I think the final point on this one is that, you know, a big believer in the industry and the importance of not just a successful business, but a successful industry. And, one of the guys that we’re really happy to be working with, Phil Gunter, he taught us about the abundance mindset, which is that there’s, you know, the belief that there’s enough resources in the world for everyone. And so we need to work together and we need to encourage each other and we need to help each other because if the, if we, if the industry grows, it’s in everyone’s best interests. 

Carly: Yeah. Brilliant. Really, really brilliant. Now for anybody listening, how would, how would we connect with you? What’s the best way to find you and the team at Ellipsis?

David: Well, you can go to ellipsisandco.com, otherwise find me on LinkedIn. we’ve got, you know, we’ve got a a, a brilliant team. We’re growing fast. We’ve got global clients, and we’re, we’re end-to-end loyalty. So whether it’s, whether it’s strategy through to implementation, support services, platforms, all the way through to, ongoing analytics, data science, program performance management, and broader marketing and customer strategy support. Yeah, we’d love to, love to talk to, to anyone who’s interested in any of those topics. So, yeah, find me, find me through the website or on LinkedIn. I’d love to hear from you. 

Carly: Awesome. Fabulous. And thank you so much, Dave, for joining us today on Let’s Talk Loyalty. Thank you. 

David: Thanks Carly.

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