On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us a little bit about your role and how you got here. (what inspired you to start a martech company)
The role of a high-tech founder evolves over time. When I started Ifbyphone, now known as DialogTech, I did it in response to a personal experience. In 2006, I was shopping for a professional grade digital camera and found the majority of e-commerce sites I visited did not offer the option to call to ask questions. This struck me as strange, given I was shopping for camera equipment worth thousands of dollars. DialogTech was founded to remove the friction inherent in voice communications and so marketers can easily add calls to their customer journey. As a cloud-based solution, the DialogTech suite of services works with any telephony infrastructure without installing any onsite hardware or software to deliver marketing insights to business of any size.
To get started in 2006, I sat down and began experimenting with new voice technologies, specifically VoiceXML and Asterisk. After receiving seed capital for the business and adding employees at the beginning of 2007, we launched a minimum viable product and started to look for venture capital. At this stage I was still very hands on with the technology and sales teams, and I ran marketing. In July 2007, we raised our “A” round and were off to the races.
As the company matured from an idea to a viable business my role evolved from founder to leader. As a founder you often do a bit of everything. As a leader you begin to hire great people; people that are often smarter than you, and you only need to provide direction. At this stage you are still running 150 miles and hour and you have not yet evolved into the ultimate CEO role: the coach.
Now with 150 employees, nearly 5,000 customers, and a focus on business expansion versus proof of concept, my role has firmly settled into the role of a coach. While at times it’s still possible to lead by example, as a coach you should be hands off of most day-to-day business functions. Your job is to make everyone around you better, to help your team see they can accomplish more than they think is possible. It’s to win the Super Bowl, the World Series, and the World Cup without ever carrying the ball. In many ways the role of coach is the CEO’s most difficult responsibility.
MTS: Given the massive proliferation of marketing technology, how do you see the martech market evolving over the next few years?
Humans are complex beings, and it’s unrealistic for marketers to expect consumers to follow a single path to purchase. So then why is it that marketers still believe people follow a single path to purchase through an online experience and a shopping cart?
Over the next couple of years marketers will fully embrace the rich, complex journeys their customers take to purchase. These customer journeys will involve a range of interactions, complex dialogs, and multiple technologies throughout a customer’s interactions with your brand.
Take voice, for example. We think of voice today in terms of virtual assistants, voice search, and phone calls. The latter is especially critical as our smartphones and mobile marketing evolve the customer journey. By 2019 US businesses will receive 162 billion phone calls annually, up 114% in only five short years.
The companies that fully embracing how customers want to engage with their business will be the ones that grow the fastest.
MTS: What do you see as the single most important technology trend or development that’s going to impact us?
I see voice as a window into a brand. The device in your pocket is called a smartphone for a reason. We use it for everything. Whether it’s to engage with advertising, messaging, applications, to make a phone call (yes people will continue to make phone calls), or a range of augmented virtual experiences, smartphones are our lifelines.
And voice is finally making it into the big leagues with the help of Siri, Alexa, and Google and using smartphones as a portal into voice-driven engagement. Layer in the fact that people still need to have conversations with businesses for complex, considered purchases and marketers have a better understanding of how that smartphone is still a phone.
MTS: What’s the biggest challenge that CMOs need to tackle to make marketing technology work?
Most CMOs today spend as much, if not more, time thinking about data and marketing stacks as they do building creative content. The biggest challenge is to avoid abandoning the creative process. The media, message delivery systems, and analytics models are constantly changing, but creative ideas and content will always rise to the top.
MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
I am very interested in the blurring of the marketing and sales channels. Companies like DialogTech instrument the top of the funnel (marketing), while other companies like Gong or Chorus instrument the bottom of funnel (sales). The line between marketing and sales funnels are arbitrary divisions along the customer’s journey. As these lines merge, and marketing and sales professionals engage in overall customer journey management, companies that support them will rise to the top.
MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
Here at DialogTech we use Marketo, DialogTech, Google Analytics (of course), AdWords, and Salesforce, with Tableau as an additional analytics layer.
MTS: Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success)
While it should not be surprising, simple still beats sophistication. We have been doing webinars on a variety of topics for years. Often we focus on advanced topics like Omni-Channel Campaign Optimization. Recently our Director of Digital Marketing presented a webinar on viewing phone calls in Google Analytics. This entry level webinar, covering a topic we always assumed everyone already knew about, broke all of our records for attendance. More importantly it lead to strong top of funnel opportunities across companies of every size.
Sometimes to move ahead you need to just simplify and step back. We often forget that potential new customers did not see all of the content we distributed last year, or the year before and it is important to mix the basics in with your advanced campaigns.
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader?
Embrace change. In today’s technology-driven world the rate of change continues to accelerate. We can no longer assume the way we measured and managed marketing campaigns in the past will be the same in the future. AI will help us automate many traditional quantitative marketing roles, but it’s unlikely to automate creativity for long time, if ever.
This Is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
Focused. I am a unitasker.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Mixmax, a Gmail/Chrome extension.
MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
I work from home or offsite a couple of days a month to catch up. In fact, I am working from home today.
MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
I read business-related material on my iPad using the Kindle application. I read fiction hard copy. Right now I am reading Radical Candor by Kim Scott, and A World in Disarray by Richard Haass.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
Risk does not bother me. I thrive on change.
MTS: Tag the one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Elon Musk. I wish I had his intelligence and energy.
MTS: Thank you Irv! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Irv is a senior executive with over 35 years of computer technology industry experience and deep technology and management expertise. He is passionate about the delivery of technology solutions that improve peoples lives.
Currently as the CEO/CTO at Ifbyphone he is working with a very talented team to build the leading company in the delivery of Voice Based Marketing Automation solutions.
DialogTech’s platform solves one of the most pressing challenges in today’s mobile-first world by eliminating the black hole inbound calls create in understanding true marketing performance. As marketers face mounting pressure to drive not only leads but revenue, DialogTech’s platform empowers them with the call attribution data needed to confidently invest in campaigns that drive calls, as well as the conversion technology necessary to convert callers into customers.
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.