Tell us about your role and how you got here? What galvanized you to be a part of Selligent Marketing Cloud?
I co-founded and led a digital agency called Schematic back in 1999. We grew rapidly to 350 people in seven offices and three countries before we sold to WPP in 2007. As the process was ending, I wanted to get involved in data-driven marketing. I believed that data and platforms that leverage data effectively were the future. When I saw what Selligent Marketing Cloud had to offer as an omnichannel platform for B2C marketers, I was intrigued. I joined the Board first and later become the company’s first CMO.
How is the Silicon Valley today different from when you first started?
The big difference I see is that innovation is now much more likely to be focused on addressing problems and opportunities in the marketplace, rather than just being revolutionary for the sake of it. In my agency days in California, we worked with dozens of companies that were offering exciting technology solutions without much of an understanding of how that technology could really unlock benefit for brands or for consumers. Today’s software companies recognize the need to fully understand the problems they are trying to solve before throwing technology at them.
How has the B2B2C relationship marketing industry evolved in the last two decades? What were the biggest marketing moments from this period?
The first decade saw the rise of three relationship marketing pillars: website, search and email. And all of them are still key channels. The Can Spam act actually did a lot of good for serious marketers. Consumers became used to regular email marketing, and even today email is cited as the most effective marketing channel for many activities. More recently, there are really two trends that have changed relationship marketing. One is the smartphone and the other is data. Consumers are now in control of a real-time anywhere dialogue, and so marketers are focused on collecting data and communicating more effectively with an always-on consumer.
What would you say is the biggest driver for the change in the marketing and sales automation industry?
Data, data everywhere and not an insight to be found. Marketers are like the proverbial thirsty man who is delighted when he finally gets some water but soon realizes that he’s trapped in a tank without a tap and the water level is rising and rising. Data access and availability are no longer the questions. The race is on to help brands take winning actions based on data. That’s where the opportunity truly lies. We all thought marketing was going to get much easier in an era of ubiquitous data, but based on my conversations with B2C marketers, it’s actually getting more difficult.
How do you define the ‘Universal Consumer Profile’ at Selligent? How does it help in adding better context to all cross-channel marketing campaigns?
Brands sell to people, not email addresses or phone numbers. Consumers today believe that brands should have the facility to aggregate and interpret all their interactions with that brand, anything less frustrates them. As we marketing professionals know, it’s extraordinarily difficult to actually create a full picture of a consumer that updates in real time. Selligent Marketing Cloud’s universal consumer profile makes that process much easier. Not only do marketers aggregate key consumer insights in a single place, they have open and flexible access to the data in order to create more relevant communication with those consumers.
Tell us about the new standards of Marketing Automation and their idea of optimizing customer journeys?
Marketing automation used to be about personas and segments, grouping soccer moms and creating a campaign for them. Now marketers are trying to automate to a “segment of one”, generating personalized messaging to individuals using unique insights. Doing this effectively, and at scale requires a new approach. Marketers must be obsessed with data, putting relevant insights at the core of their activities. They need to be multichannel. They also need to be nimble, consumers operate in real time. The second she buys a new tea kettle is the second you stop marketing tea kettles and start marketing tea cups.
How do you see digital experience platforms evolving with the maturity of AI/ML and voice?
AI and Voice are both part of a trend in technology, and in marketing, to adapt and evolve quickly. Let’s start with AI, which is a huge category and often misrepresented to marketers. AI can help you win a chess tournament, but AI doesn’t have to be huge and intimidating and costly. Well designed AI should be purposeful and seamlessly integrated with the rest of your systems. The goal is to enhance your insights with recommendations, to get smarter over time. Voice is less of a background enhancement and more of a new channel for many marketers. We recently had a hackathon and our winning code tapped into the value of Voice, but we’re a way off from the day that marketers ask Alexa to create a report for them. Already, voice is becoming standard in the home, and so marketers must think of voice as a channel for communication as well as insight and data input. Asking Alexa a question is no different from a search query. We should be thinking about tapping that.
How do you see the technology evolving around omnichannel analytics experience and customer data management in the coming years?
Data is the key and for the relationship marketer, data starts with a CDP, a Consumer Data Platform. The emergence of the CDP as the preferred marketer-managed data platform is an important development for relationship marketers. For too long, attention has been focused on DMPs and their third-party data while the marketer (and company) derives infinitely more value from collecting and using their own first-party data. As a company building products around consumer insights, we’re happy to see this trend picking up speed. I think with GDPR, the importance of first-party data will continue, and marketers will next have to decide if they want to invest in a new platform like a CDP or work with partners like Selligent Marketing Cloud, where the CDP is built into the system.
How do you help companies can transform customer relationships through the digital landscape?
The future of marketing lies in building 1:1 relationships with consumers. Consumer expectations of marketers are high and rising. Today’s consumer understands how much information brands have and expects marketers to act on that data to deliver timely, personalized, relevant engagement. Furthermore, consumers measure the efficacy of brand communications against the best experiences they have regardless of sector. It’s a high bar from brands saddled with legacy tools, disconnected data sets and siloed marketing organizations.
What marketing and sales automation tools do you use?
We use Selligent Marketing Cloud. It provides us with the tools we need to drive personalized communications to clients, partners and prospects.
What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
Hire people who have different strengths than you do. My team is fantastic and posseses a fantastically diverse range of skills, most of which I don’t have personally. Why replicate yourself?
What are you currently reading?
Grant by Ron Chernow. Ulysses Grant was the introverted general who led the United States to victory over the Confederacy in the American Civil War and later served two terms as President. I read widely, including some business books, but also history, biographies and novels. I often find the most instruction from books unconnected to the Digital Age, including this one.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” It’s what a high school American football coach says to his team before all of their games on the television series, Friday Night Lights. I love it because it touches the three things I think are most important to success: understanding, empathy and objectivity (clear eyes); commitment and passion (full hearts); and an insatiable appetite to keep moving forward (can’t lose).
Thank you, Nick! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Digital marketing executive expert at scaling marketing services businesses with 20+ years experience as a marketing and strategy leader in the US and Europe. Currently Chief Marketing Officer of rapidly growing relationship management software company. Nick joined the Selligent Executive Advisory Board in 2013, and became the company’s first CMO a year later. Selligent was recognized by VentureBeat as the world’s fastest growing marketing automation company in 2016.
Nick speaks around the world on the evolution of marketing, addressing a broad range of topics relating to consumer behavior, technology evolution and opportunities for marketers to engage with their audiences more effectively.
He began his career at Harris Interactive, a market and public opinion research firm. He subsequently joined Monitor Company, a global management consultancy, where he led project teams.
Forsaking massive PowerPoint decks for entrepreneurship, Nick’s next role was as a founder and President of Schematic, a global digital agency that grew from five people in a Santa Monica coffee shop to $100mm leader in digital marketing and multi-platform services design during his tenure. Schematic was acquired by WPP in 2007, and was the largest agency merged into POSSIBLE, now part of Wunderman.
Nick is a graduate of Harvard College and has a master’s degree from Oxford University, where his thesis on building workplace trust earned a university commendation.
Selligent Marketing Cloud is a marketing automation platform that enables B2C brands to engage consumers across all critical channels. Built for the relationship marketer, Selligent Marketing Cloud is the only marketing cloud built on a single code base, featuring artificial intelligence and a Customer Data Platform with a universal consumer profile at the core of every action. More than 700 brands across retail, travel, automotive, publishing, and financial services rely on Selligent Marketing Cloud’s proven platform. With 10 offices across the United States and Europe and more than 50 agency partners and resellers, Selligent Marketing Cloud serves over 30 countries with local, personalized service.
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.