Interview with Mark Josephson, CEO, Bitly
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us about your role and how you got here? What inspired you to head a link management platform?
I have always been a huge fan of the product and a power user. I can trace my account back to November 2008 and remember putting Bitlinks in my emails to my boss, just to see if she’d actually clicked! When the opportunity to lead Bitly came up, I didn’t think twice. It’s a product with a presence in every corner of the world, unfathomable scale, and one that genuinely makes people’s lives easier.
MTS: What is the most exciting part of running Bitly in an era when the customer lifecycle management is deeply driven by audience behavior data?
Companies that use Bitlinks can understand their audiences’ behaviors in different platforms, channels, parts of the world, and other qualifiers by looking at their real-time link data.
Every click, tap, swipe, scroll or play button has a link in it and can therefore be tracked and improved, which is what our links help do. But more importantly, every click, tap or swipe signals intent, and what’s exciting about being at Bitly is that we can give marketers the data that matters and that can lead to conversions and better experiences.
MTS: How has the link management landscape evolved with the maturity of analytics and data science?
Two parallel trends in the past decade have changed not only the link management landscape, but the entire way marketing works: consumer-centricity and fragmentation. Social media and the smartphone made the individual consumer matter at an unprecedented level. They also brought about the proliferation of channels and platforms, each with their own rules and limitations.
Customers expect brand experiences that are tailored to their tastes, needs, timelines and preferred channels. The only way major enterprises are able to achieve personalization at scale while facing today’s digital environment is by turning to data science and analytics. That need, in turn, created a demand for tech that could provide valuable, differentiated data, which intelligent links can do.
Link management also represents a return to simplicity in the face of an incredibly challenging, fragmented landscape. Robust analytics and data science functions are certainly powerful assets, but they also often add to the complexity: data storage, security, and accuracy are just a few of the issues that arise. In contrast, part of the appeal of Bitly and link management to enterprises is that we remove the complexity behind a customer interaction, and make it more powerful. All it takes to strengthen brand integrity, cut across channels and devices, and collect data is to optimize the elemental and ubiquitous link as we have done.
MTS: How does the culture of a company impact the way their sales and marketing teams work with customer data?
A company’s culture, derived from its vision, mission, and values, is the starting point for every decision about building, marketing, and selling a product. Our own mission is to optimize the link so that businesses can own their customer experience. We put our customer in the driver’s seat, and that applies to the way we created the Bitly platform as a very manageable, highly customizable and easy-to-integrate product.
Another major part of our culture is R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and that’s reflected in how we treat each other but also very clearly in how we treat our customers. We ensure that our systems and processes to handle customer data are aligned with that value, and consider data security not an afterthought or a nice-to-have but a top priority connected to the respect we owe to our customers.
MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
There are three types of companies I am watching now:
- Growth stage software companies — how do you go from $25mm to $100mm? It’s distinctively different than the stages before that. So, for obvious reasons, I’m studying those best of breed companies like SurveyMonkey, Litmus, Lucid Charts, etc.
- AdTech Companies that have achieved some level of success, but no clear path to exit or differentiation — There is a ton of venture capital and customer spend locked into these companies and I’m curious to see what happens here.
- Health Care Tech — my son has severe food allergies and there is a lot of investment and innovation happening now in the space. Sure, technology start-ups can improve customer experience, targeting, etc, but can we save lives?
MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
Our tech stack is not too different from most B2B SaaS companies. We use Marketo for email marketing, WordPress as our CMS, Intercom for Customer Engagement, Salesforce as our CRM, Google Analytics for our web analytics, Zendesk for customer service, and of course Bitly (which integrates with almost all of them)!
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
I think many companies and leaders see AI as a silver bullet that will solve all our problems. It will definitely optimize and make us smarter than ever about the customer experience, and I am just as excited. But it’s important to remember here that the same skills that make us effective marketers today will guide us tomorrow. Asking the right questions. Finding the right balance between customer goals and good marketing practices. Leveraging opportunities to delight customers with a human touch. When AI becomes table-stakes, these are the capabilities that will set the best brands apart from the rest.
From Bitly’s perspective, we’re already starting to see our customers – enterprises of every industry – using cognitive computing to enable immediate, accurate communication with their own customers. The next step is for these cognitive systems to weave together the massive amounts of data residing in each part of the stack –reaching across silos– and aggregate and cleanse it. This will enable A.I. to anticipate customer needs and companies to create and scale ever-more personalized experiences.
We expect that AI will enable Bitly’s enterprise customers to integrate our massive first party dataset with other sources to create the ultimate CX. Because our data is collected in real-time and easy to export into external DMPs, Bitly’s link data is well suited to this.
This is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
I don’t know about one word, but here’s a symbol: >(!=) . It means greater than not equal to, or to strive for excellence, and it’s my favorite out of Bitly’s values.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Slack for team communication, iMessage for texting with my family and NYT Crosswords for my free time. Also Peloton for at home bike rides.
MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
Approach the day prepared. Take 15 minutes the night before to organize your thoughts and plan for the next day.
MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen Autobiography on iBooks.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“It doesn’t matter who signs your checks, you work for yourself,” from my father.
MTS: Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Russel Fradin, CEO of Dynamic Signal
MTS: Thank you Mark! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Mark Josephson has been Chief Executive officer of Bitly, Inc. since March 10, 2014. Mark has served as Senior Vice President of Revenue and Marketing at AOL. He is an Entrepreneur Advisor at NextView Ventures. Mark has served as the Chief Executive Officer of Outside.in Inc. and has also been the President and Chief Marketing Officer of Seevast Corp. He has also served as the President of Kanoodle.com, Inc. and Pulse 360, Inc.
We optimize the link so marketers can own their customer experience. Since 2008, we have been committed to optimizing the link so marketers can own the customer experience. Bitly Enterprise – branded links, mobile deep linking, omnichannel campaign tracking, audience intelligence – gives the world’s leading brands a holistic, unbiased view into an increasingly complex digital landscape, and a powerful way to see, control and own their customer experience across the internet. We are headquartered in New York City, with offices in San Francisco and Denver, and are trusted by leading brands like IBM, eBay, Nike, GE, BuzzFeed and thousands more.
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.