Interview with Clint Oram, Co-founder and CMO at SugarCRM
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us a little bit about your role and how you got here
I helped found SugarCRM in 2004 with the goal of empowering companies around the world to transform their customer relationships and turn their customers into loyal fans. I was one of the original architects and developers of the Sugar platform, and focused on building out the product, company, partners, and community. I currently SugarCRM’s CMO, lead the global marketing team as we disrupt the CRM status quo.
MTS: Given the massive proliferation of marketing technology, how do you see the martech market evolving over the next few years?
Video is going to be huge. With the rise of mobile, video is in high demand because people love visual storytelling. This includes short form, long form, snippets, streaming, etc.
Augmented and virtual reality will also become part of the marketing stack. I can see, in the not too distant future, auto dealerships allowing customers to choose and design their new car’s features and interiors using AR from their mobile device. Or, real estate agents selling homes entirely with VR headsets.
MTS: What do you see as the single most important technology trend or development that’s going to impact us?
Advances in health technology will impact humanity starting at a very young age. I sit on the board of trustees at a school for dyslexic children. The school recently partnered closely with University of California, San Francisco, to complete some groundbreaking research on how to medically diagnose learning differences in people through the combination of MRI technology and standard education testing. Together, they have uncovered a path to being able to diagnose learning differences. Their vision for the future is for a three- or four-year-old child to play a “game” on an iPad, helping diagnosis dyslexia or another learning disability. From there, they will be able to tailor a learning program to that specific child so their “learning disability” disappears. This will not affect the whole world by any means, but research shows that 10 percent of the population is affected by dyslexia or another learning disorder. This is a cause I am truly passionate about.
MTS: What’s one opportunity for using CRM that marketers often overlook, but has the potential for making a significant positive impact?
Marketers actually overlook CRM itself as a primary tool! Often, they see it solely as a sales tool, when it can actually help them do their jobs better. CRM can, and should, be tightly integrated with top-of-funnel marketing tools like marketing automation and the website. Building on that, CRM is the starting place for segmenting your customer base for install base campaigns. Rather than just blindly running marketing campaigns to your entire database, segmenting your customers and prospects by size, geography and industry helps you be more strategic and efficient. For instance, you will want to run a financial services campaign in New York and a manufacturing campaign in Detroit. CRM helps you do that.
MTS: What about challenges with CRM tools? What’s the most common challenge you come across and how can marketers get past it?
For marketers, CRM user adoption is a challenge. Marketers are smart people, and unlike our friends in sales, there isn’t the same mandate from management to use CRM. So, if the CRM doesn’t provide an easy user experience that makes their job simpler, marketing folks just won’t use it. As an organization, it’s the responsibility of your CRM selection team to not forget about their users when they select and deploy a new system. At SugarCRM, we have some wonderful examples of customers setting up creative on-boarding programs to make sure employees are comfortable and understand all the benefits of the CRM.
MTS: Marketers can use CRM tools to support initiatives across the customer lifecycle – from generating awareness to maintaining loyalty. Where are marketers currently under utilizing CRM tools? And what can marketers expect from increasing its use in that area?
Building loyalty by running marketing programs for current customers is underutilized in many companies. All the data tells us retaining and expanding relationships with current customers is much more cost-effective than turning leads into new customers. Marketing teams should ask themselves, ‘What else can we do to build loyalty, turn our current customers into advocates and offer additional products to increase revenue within the current customer base?’
MTS: There’s no escaping customer experience as a hot topic today. Marketers can use CRM to enhance many aspects of CX; some areas more than others. Where should marketers focus their use of CRM technology to make the biggest positive impact on CX?
Here’s why the customer experience is so important today: with a few exceptions, different companies in the same industry usually offer just a variation of the same services or products. And every one of those competitors is just a simple Google search away from the next. How you win customers is now based as much on how you treat them as it is what you sell to them. That means the need for an exceptional and unique customer experience is more critical than ever before. Think about it: I’ve stayed in many business-class hotels all over the world. There are some minor differences, but they all offer a comfy king-sized bed and a bathroom. The list goes on: airlines, rental cars, even Uber vs. Lyft. How do you differentiate yourself when you offer similar goods or services as your direct competitors? The answer is your customer experience. The companies that win in this era of empowered and intelligent customers win because they create better relationships with their customers. That makes sense, but a natural follow-up question is “How can you create a better customer experience when you are using the same, uninspired CRM system as your competitors?”
MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
As an advisor to EverString, I am keenly interested in how predictive analytics will shape the future of marketing and customer engagement. PandaDoc, a SugarCRM partner, is doing a great job reinventing what it means to deliver sales quotes and proposals. I’m also keeping an eye on BrainSharp and Engagio, as both companies are very interesting.
MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
For SugarCRM’s 2017 marketing stack, we’re using Drupal and WordPress for our website, Marketo for marketing automation, EverString for predictive analytics, Influitive and Jive for customer engagement, and Pipl for data enrichment within our sales department.
MTS: Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success)
Our home run campaign was our “It’s not me, it’s you” campaign that was targeted at unsatisfied customers of a certain CRM company. We rolled it out in stages and different geography and it generated a record number of net-new opportunities and forecast GARR. It was an example of the power of a coordinated effort between our content creators, digital marketing team and the sales team.
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader?
No doubt that artificial intelligence is hot right now, but quite frankly, the technology industry has overhyped it a bit. We won’t wake up one day and be in the era of artificial intelligence. Instead, it will slowly creep into the marketing industry just like most other technologies. I will say this: Adding cognitive intelligence will free up CRM users from tasks like searching for and organizing data — both things for which machines are better suited than humans. This will allow humans to focus on what they do best — communicating with other humans and focusing on other business-critical tasks.
This Is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work
Experimental. No idea is a bad idea.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
The way I manage myself throughout the day is through Evernote, Hipchat, email, and calendar. As far as getting my job done, I live inside of Sugar. This is where I am able to measure our leads and opportunities. Lastly, with all of the traveling I do, I would simply be lost in a random country without TripIt.
MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
For those who travel internationally on a regular basis, I highly recommend TripIt. Within the application, you can track your travel plans and map out your entire itinerary in one place.
MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
I read sci-fi books all day long. In fact, I read about 70-80 sci-fi books a year. I love exploring the “what if” scenarios, where we are going in the world, and how technology is impacting us and will continue to impact us. I’m also an avid Flipboard reader and collect my daily news through my personal hashtags, #technology, #spacescience, #Starwars and #humor.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I have received came from my dad, who was also a software entrepreneur back in the ‘80s. I was always told to hire people that are smarter than me and give them the authority to run their parts of the business and collaborate with them, but stand back and give them authority and accountability. I have taken that advice to heart and that is one of the things I feel I’ve done well at SugarCRM.
MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of success?
Persistence. It is my biggest strength and my greatest weakness.
MTS: Tag the one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Jimmy Carter – I feel like not enough has been said about his career.
MTS: Thank you Clint! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Helping people build better business relationships through technology.
I have a profound belief that business is about two people helping one another achieve their goals. One person has a problem that needs to be solved…a customer. The other person has the solution to that problem…your employee. Let’s connect them together.
SugarCRM enables businesses to create extraordinary customer relationships with the most innovative, flexible and affordable CRM solution in the market. The company uniquely places the individual at the center of its solution—helping businesses transform the customer experience and enable highly personalized interactions that drive customer excellence and loyalty throughout the entire customer lifecycle.
SugarCRM delivers a fully transformed, personalized user experience that is immersive, engaging and intuitive. Sugar fuses the straightforward simplicity, mobility and social aspects of a consumer app with the business process optimization of conventional CRM. Recognized by leading market analysts as a CRM visionary and innovator, Sugar is deployed by more than 1.5M individuals in over 120 countries and 26 languages.
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.