Interviews

Interview with Robert Oberhofer, VP Technical Sales & Marketing – ItsOn Inc.

Robert Oberhofer

Robert Oberhofer

VP Technical Sales & Marketing, ItsOn

Asking the right question can be a much more powerful tool to influence someone vs. trying to teach and preach.

On Marketing Technology


MTS:
Tell us a little bit about your role and how you got here.

I joined ItsOn early 2015. Having worked over the last decade and a half in both the telecoms industry and having brought to market mobile apps, I knew how big a gap was between how consumers now interact with business and how mobile carriers approach their customers. What attracted me to ItsOn was that it has a disruptive solution for addressing this very problem. At ItsOn I focus on enabling our customer facing organization with all the information and tools they need to be successful and help feed back what’s next in the product road-map.

MTS: Given the massive proliferation of marketing technology, how do you see the martech market evolving over the next few years?

Increased focus on hyper-personalization and contextual relevancy. Or in other words: the right information (offer) in the right context at the right time. As consumers are giving up more and more data I think it seems reasonable that the technology should be able to better understand the user and provide what is needed at the moment of intent or interest.

That is from an end-user perspective. From a marketers perspective the focus is whether my marketing spend is bringing in the results that I expect. E.g. more business related answers to by marketing ROI questions. Many (digital) marketing metrics do not provide this adequately.

MTS: What do you see as the single most important technology trend or development that’s going to impact us?

The big underlying trend that powers all new services is ‘real-time’. Whether it’s Amazon, Uber or Google – to have a seamless, transparent and immediate on-demand service, it is necessary to have a technology stack that is able to provide a 360 degree insight into the customer and all of his/her previous interactions plus the current context. Without it, the app model will not work. Without it virtual assistants (Amazon Echo, Siri etc) would not work.

This is simpler to do if you build a new business or app – but hard when you are already in business for a long time with older legacy technology that has not been created for this. The industry terminology for getting there is called Digital Transformation. Banks and Airlines have gone through this, Telecoms are just getting started – but there are thousands of businesses that still have that journey ahead of them. The migration to ‘real-time’ is happening – it will take time but will be pervasive.

MTS: What’s the biggest challenge that CMOs need to tackle to make marketing technology work?

Looking at it from our customer base – a mobile carriers perspective, the biggest challenge that a mobile service provider CMO faces is in the area of customer engagement. The old model of ‘monetizing’ a user with unwanted or irrelevant or obscure services (how much is a MB when roaming in Europe?) are over. But what to replace it with? To build trust and provide value I have to inform the user, provide transparency, be upfront. This is a shift in the mind-set of the telecom organization as well as a technology shift that is needed – going back to the ‘real-time’ aspect.

How can I replace confusion as to how much I pay for roaming data when on a business or holiday trip with clarity: Show a notification that welcomes the customer to the destination and offers clear options right there and then. It is doable – though needs the collaboration across different players within a carrier to do properly (namely marketing, business and IT).

MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?

I find what Luis von Ahn is doing with Duolingo quite fascinating. Love the App.

MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?

Funny enough for a technology company selling advanced digital transformation technology and marketing tools to customers, we are and have to be pretty old-school in working with our customers. Our target audience is the CxO’s at large international mobile carriers – not someone you reach with a Google Adword campaign. Thus relationships and industry word-of-mouth play a big role.

Our strength is that we can immediately show via working examples how our technology can empower their business. No PowerPoints needed.

 

This Is How I Work

 

MTS: A few words that best describes how you work.

Being in support of our customer facing teams, means that each day brings a new challenge with less predictability as perhaps in other roles. I shift through the communication necessary and then focus on 2-3 most important deliverables for the day and strive to get them done.

MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

My Android phone, Outlook (I don’t like the Gmail UI much), Slack and Evernote. But can’t live without? Post-it notes. I tried all manner of digital replacements and productivity apps, but there is something about the physicality of it that always brought me back.

MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

Headphones.

Putting my headphones on is a physical anchor for focused work. It reduces ambient noise, communicates to others that I am heads down in/on something. It must be music without lyrics though.

MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum by Alan Cooper. Not new but still highly relevant. A former colleague recommended it to me. I also have a list of blogs and news feeds that I track in Feedly and read on a regular basis.

MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Asking the right question can be a much more powerful tool to influence someone vs. trying to teach and preach.

MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

Active listening. I always try to understand the underlying intent of what someone is saying.

Plus I seem to have a knack in explaining complex technology in a way that makes it relatable and allows people to trust it. The combination of both is especially great when working with customers.

MTS: Tag the one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Elon Musk

MTS: Thank you Robert! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Robert is an experienced product evangelist with years of hands-on technical experience, product and innovation creation, customer and partner interaction skills.

His specialties include wireless and mobile technical planning, strategy, definition, product management,
client/server, telco infrastructure, consumer/apps, large scale systems and the cloud.

ItsOn logoFormed by world-leading pioneers in the wireless field to fundamentally change how mobile services are delivered and consumed, ItsOn began leading the Smart Services™ revolution six years ago.

Through our cloud-based service platform, we’ve created a world where mobile service is exactly how people want it.

A world where carriers have the ability to turn existing wireless service offerings into dynamic service options and consumers have full visibility and control to personalize their mobile service right from their device.

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About the MarTech Interview Series

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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