Foursquare Sales Exec Ocean Fine on Equality For All, Listening Instead of Selling, and Re-Opening Businesses

Editor’s note: This interview is part of Mission North’s “Marketing Risks Worth Taking” series, an ongoing forum with marketing leaders who are sharing their perspectives about adapting to a new reality. 

Ocean Fine, Foursquare’s VP of Sales and Demand, has cultivated a two-decade career in technology, sales and marketing. During those years, she’s seen the digital space evolve through a series of historic events (9/11, The Great Recession, COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement) and too many business-world disruptions to count. 

We’re grateful for Ocean’s insights as a well-respected industry expert—especially during a time when she and her team are hard at work combining locational technology and talent in light of the recent Foursquare-Factual merger. (For six years, she was a Factual exec before the companies joined forces.) 

Ocean spoke with Dispatch about the merger, Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) at her company, what her sales org has done during coronavirus and the role of location in reopening our retail economy. Our Q&A has been edited for length.

Given the urgency to address the effects of systemic inequality, what is your company doing to promote D&I?

We have an employee resource group called Fourmation, which is dedicated to serving Foursquare’s community of people of color, by advocating for a truly equitable workplace that fosters sustainable career development, upward mobility, creating inclusive experiences and promoting diverse voices.

I believe it’s important that all companies—tech players, brands, advertisers, and otherwise— take this time to reflect on the areas where they can improve to support racial justice and equality in their workplace. I’ve been reflecting personally on the topic, focusing on how I can make more of an impact, just as Foursquare has focused on open dialogue and how we can always be improving. I’m proud to work alongside a group of leaders and allies standing in solidarity against racism and committed to continual work on these issues.

I believe it’s important that all companies—tech players, brands, advertisers, and otherwise— take this time to reflect on the areas where they can improve to support racial justice and equality in their workplace.

With coronavirus, are there things your marketing team has been doing differently in the last several months? 

At the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns around the globe, we were all just trying to figure it out, so we advised our teams to put “selling” on the back burner, and to start by listening. We have thousands of marketers using our platform, and we realized that to determine our strategy moving forward, we had to take a pause and work first to understand their needs and concerns. 

So in the early days, our team’s touchpoints were more about connection and consulting as marketers tried to understand the landscape and the implications for their businesses, and how we could help them figure it out. 

What were your customers saying?

What we came to realize as a result of all of these conversations was that many customers wanted to pause or stop location-based campaigns because people weren’t moving around the world. Seems like an obvious, simple solution. But using our data, we helped them understand that now might be the time not to pause, but rather pivot to lean in and figure out how to stay top of mind as the rest of the market pulled back.

How have you been able to help them with all of that?

Our Recovery Index has been a critical tool in helping marketers—as well as partners and platforms—to understand the importance of this strategy. As places are beginning to open, business is rebounding and consumers are rebuilding the muscle memory of consumption. Consumers are relearning patterns of moving around in the physical world, and the brands and marketers that stayed out in front are going to capture consumer market share more effectively than brands that are only turning on marketing campaigns now. We’ve been able to put data in front of clients quickly, show them what we’re seeing and how we can help them make business decisions about where to market, if/when they should expect changes, and how to best invest their time and resources.

Consumers are relearning patterns of moving around in the physical world, and the brands and marketers that stayed out in front are going to capture consumer market share more effectively than brands that are only turning on marketing campaigns now.

You were at Factual before the merger. With Foursquare-Factual together, how has the new data capability aided customers? 

For example, when COVID-19 hit, we quickly launched the ability to add online interests data to our location-based targeting, so we can understand what people are interested in based on browsing behavior while at home, in addition to their real-world movement. This was a quick win for our clients that helped them adjust their targeting strategies quickly over the past few months.

Are there B2B brands you admire for how they have adapted during the pandemic?

I’ve been really impressed with the way Zoom adapted their product not only for B2B companies, but for consumers as well. They recognized immediately that they had a tool that was important for connectivity, and they made it available to everyone, from school-aged kids to grandparents who had never used a video conferencing program before.