Natalie Serota Joins SteelHouse to Lead Biz Dev Charge
New Head of Business Development Discusses What It Takes to Build Strong Partnerships
You know what they say — teamwork makes the dream work. Businesses thrive when team members are all working toward a common goal. The same applies to companies looking to strengthen from the outside as well, in the form of partnerships. “As SteelHouse continues to grow,” says Chris Innes, SteelHouse Chief Monetization Officer, “we need an evangelist to deepen our relationships, particularly with our social partners.”
Recently, we found that evangelist. Natalie Serota, formerly of Google, has spent over a decade in senior sales roles for some of digital’s biggest players. She joins the SteelHouse team to lead the charge in developing partnerships that can help propel SteelHouse forward. “Natalie’s perfect blend of adtech and sales experience, combined with her knack for cultivating successful partnerships, makes her an ideal leader to drive these initiatives,” says Innes.
We sat down with Natalie to get insight into the art of building strong relationships, her outlook on adtech, and her belief that partnerships are built with people — not businesses.
Let’s start with the basics. What initially drew you to SteelHouse?
What really caught my attention was the vision Mark (SteelHouse President & CEO) brings to the company, and his influence on the industry as a whole. A major issue facing adtech is clutter and fragmentation, a lot of companies can sound similar — they can just blend together. SteelHouse doesn’t have that problem.
When Mark gave me a demo of the Advertising Suite, specifically the real time audience segmentation and the Creative Suite, I was floored. I knew this was something special, and I saw a unique opportunity to build and expand the business strategy around what is truly an unmatched product. It makes me excited to be here, and I’m eager to start contributing in the conversation around SteelHouse’s value proposition.
You’ve built a wealth of experience at some major players in digital — how has that influenced your approach to your professional life and your role at SteelHouse?
I never want to be pigeonholed in one industry — I love variety and challenge. I’m an analytical thinker and a problem solver by nature (mixed with a touch of perfectionist), so I need to keep my brain on its toes by constantly learning new things and developing expertise in multiple disciplines.
While at Google, I worked across multiple verticals because I wanted to know as much as I could about selling our products. My greatest fear is becoming a one-trick pony, and by familiarizing myself with as much of the business as possible (as well as networking and building my own brand), I force myself to be nimble and adaptable. It keeps me ahead of the curve.
How does your past sales experience help you identify partnership opportunities?
I’ve never loved the title “sales,” and saw myself as more of a consultant and client advocate. I learned from some of the best sales leaders at Google on how to build trusted relationships with customers that go beyond just an IO, and instead develop into long-term partnerships. I parlayed that approach into building multi-partner campaigns at Omaze, a VC backed tech start up in LA, and now driving platform partnerships and API integrations at SteelHouse.
My approach is constantly evolving, but one thing has remained the same since the beginning — everything is built on trust. Without that, you don’t have a foundation to build anything.
It sounds like you took a more holistic approach in the past when building relationships. Is that the secret to maintaining a strong partnership?
Yes, definitely. The best partnerships are based on shared trust, transparency, and joint goal setting. Even though platform partnerships are B2B in nature, people do business with people — not businesses. It’s why establishing a strong foundation is so important. You have to be able to rely on and respect the people sitting on the other side of the table, and they should be able to do the same with you.
I’m proud of the business network (which also bleeds into my social network) I’ve created in my career. And I know working at SteelHouse will only extend it further.
What key elements do you look for when approaching a potential partnership?
The first thing you should always look at is the potential value for your customers. Ask yourself, “What benefit will they see from this partnership and how quickly?” When you put your customers’ needs first, the path to success becomes clear because you’re working for your customer right from the start. And if they benefit, so does your business. This is the mindset we’ll be using to build a framework for evaluating new partnership opportunities going forward.
Speaking of which, I’m excited about finding new opportunities to enhance the Advertising Suite’s offerings. There is a lot of opportunity in social — we have a strong partnership with Facebook and Instagram, and I’d like to see more partnerships like that in our future. I’m also excited about expanding the mobile and cross-device tracking we already have, as well as finding the right partner to continue to build our online-to-offline attribution solutions. There’s a lot of exciting things happening out there, and I’m eager to dive in.
Where do you see the biggest opportunities for growth in digital advertising?
I read a lot about changing consumption trends – wearables, VR, AR in social, and native – and there’s going to be plenty of new channels for advertisers to engage with their audience in the near future. I like following early stage companies working with cutting edge technology, and thinking about future monetization opportunities and how advertisers will want to communicate with audiences in new ways. For example, our partnership with Facebook also allows us to bring our customers early beta access to cutting edge social engagement targeting and ad types.
Okay last question, let’s end it with a fun one. What do you do to unwind?
I love to travel — the more adventurous the better. In December, I spent three weeks in South Africa and the highlight was going on safari in Kruger National Park. I realized quickly there is no greater feeling of vulnerability than being in an open jeep in the middle of a dense forest at dusk. The feeling really catalyzed when we saw two female lions take down a 1,300 pound African Buffalo, then gather ten cubs around to feast. I was also excited to learn about how new technologies including drones and satellite imagery are being implemented to track and catch suspected poachers to reduce the number of animals, specifically rhinos in Kruger, from being killed for illegal trade. I recently started working with an LA-based charity, Pilot Light Fund, which supports sustainable, incoming generating projects in sub-Saharan Africa, and I’d love to go on a volunteer trip to visit the communities they are impacting.
When I’m in LA, I love being outdoors as much as possible. During the week I use ClassPass for morning workouts at my favorite studios, and on the weekends I’m usually hiking or playing tennis. If you’re in the LA area and are looking for a good day hike, check out Wisdom Tree overlooking Lake Hollywood or Parker Mesa with views of Malibu – both are Snap worthy.
A huge thank you to Natalie for giving us insight into her process and thoughts on building partnerships.
If you’re interested in seeing what SteelHouse has to offer, check us out at steelhouse.com.