Interview with Carl Landers, CMO, Conversica
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us a bit about your journey leading Conversica?
Over the course of my career, one issue was pervasive – sales and marketing alignment. The two functions are completely dependent on each other, yet often find it challenging to work together effectively. So, when I came across Conversica, I recognized immediately this AI-powered lead engagement technology would solve a big part of the alignment problem. I welcomed the opportunity to join the company and since being here, have seen over and over the payoff for our customers of aligning sales and marketing teams. It works incredibly well, so as CMO, my challenge is now finding ways to evangelize our platform and increase awareness.
MTS: What, in your opinion, are the usual suspects for non-conversion of inbound leads?
Businesses often get more leads than they can handle. It’s not practical nor economical for the typical sales team to engage and follow up with every lead. On top of that, the lead qualification process is time-consuming, which puts an added strain on companies’ limited resources. As a result, salespeople end up cherry-picking the leads they think will convert, leaving potential good opportunities behind and frustrating their marketing colleagues. Luckily, the problem is now easily solved by following up with 100% of the leads 100% of the time.
MTS: How should B2B, non-retail firms leverage virtual AI assistants?
Many B2B firms can leverage AI assistants to automate specific tasks. For example, we use our own product, the Conversica Sales Assistant, to engage inbound leads via personalized, two-way conversations. ‘She’ is able to determine interest and intent to purchase, and instantly passes qualified leads to a salesperson. Other virtual assistants are being used in B2B for suggesting next best actions for salespeople, scheduling meetings and engaging website visitors in chat discussion during off hours.
MTS: What enables Conversica’s lead engagement platform to function without a CRM?
The Conversica platform works best when integrated with CRM or marketing automation systems, as leads can be accessed and updated in real time. However, many of our customers use our platform without integration, providing lead information by email or FTP. They still get the benefit of 100% lead follow-up and have full visibility to how their assistant is working in their Conversica dashboard.
MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
Any startup applying AI technology in the sales and marketing space – Chorus, X.ai, and Node.io to name a few. It’s an extremely active space so we’re proud to be a leader there. I’m also very interested in what Salesforce is doing with Einstein, as their big investment validates the benefits of using AI in sales, marketing and customer service.
MTS: Would you tell us about a standout digital campaign?
For a recent conference, our marketing team created a campaign to “Come meet your next digital assistant,” with the objective of booking as many meetings in advance as possible. We used our own AI assistant, Rachel, to reach out to registered attendees, while the sales team worked in parallel to book meetings with their target accounts.
Rachel booked over 60 meetings, which was a major validation that persistent, personal outreach pays off in getting people’s attention.
MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
In addition to using our own lead engagement platform, we use Salesforce, Marketo, Node, LeanData, UberFlip, WordPress, Hootsuite, Chili Piper, Chorus, and Crystal. We are naturally big believers that automation can help marketers be better in many ways, and are constantly exploring new tools and systems to that end.
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
I think it’s important to be aware of the many manual, time-consuming processes that are having a bottleneck effect on your business, then searching for solutions to address those pain points. AI offerings today can be categorized into two types – advisory and autonomous. Advisory AI analyzes data and offers insights, enabling business leaders to make better decisions. Autonomous AI actually ‘does work’ by automating a task, freeing people to focus on other things. The two are not mutually exclusive – each can be applied to seize different opportunities throughout the business.
This Is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
Creatively – otherwise AI will take my job 🙂
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
I live and breathe by Salesforce dashboards. Conversica (of course!), LinkedIn, Excel and my favorite, PowerPoint!
MTS: What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
My productivity hack is building great Salesforce dashboards that automate reports on our team’s performance. This allows me to regularly monitor the health of the business and see where I need to focus my time.
MTS: What are you currently reading? What do you read, and how do you consume information?
Giftology, by John Ruhlin; it’s about the art and science of building relationships through tactile giving.
Behind the Cloud by Marc Benioff. Many of Benioff’s experiences when he created Salesforce resonate with how we are building Conversica.
Lots of children’s books for my two kids. They love the If You Give series (If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, etc.) and science books (thankfully!).
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
A simple adage my mother taught me still holds true: you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Basically, be nice to people. Take time to cool off when you’re frustrated; sleep on it before responding. Your perspective changes drastically in the morning.
MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
Combining an engineer’s analytical mind and a marketer’s creative gives me a unique advantage!
MTS: Tag the one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
MTS: Thank you Carl! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Carl is an enterprise software marketing professional who is always looking for new ways to best position his company, engage customers and turn leads into revenue.
Conversica is the leader in AI-powered business conversations and the only provider of AI-driven lead engagement software for marketing and sales organizations. The flagship Conversica® AI Sales Assistant helps companies find and secure customers more quickly and efficiently by automatically contacting, engaging, qualifying and following up with leads via natural, two-way email conversations. Used by more than 1,000 companies worldwide, Conversica’s sales assistants are built on a proven AI platform integrating natural language generation (NLG), natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) capabilities. Recognized by Gartner as a Cool Vendor, Conversica is a portfolio company of Providence Strategic Growth, Kennet Partners and Toba Capital and is headquartered in Foster City, Calif.
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.