Interview with Mark Frost, CEO, Sitecore

Mark Frost

“B2B marketers need to centralize all their customer data, across all channels so that all their digital marketing tools are working off the same data set.”

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Tell us about your role and how you got here? What galvanized you to be a part of an enterprise tech?

I was delighted to join Sitecore as their CEO because it’s a great company with fantastically talented people and a wonderful culture. I was excited by some significant trends — half of our species is now online; WCM and Commerce are massive and rapidly growing markets. Consumers are increasingly getting sophisticated and are expecting personalized online experiences. With the emergence of CIOs, CMOs and digital marketers who know they must differentiate their brands by providing the best experiences for their customers – I knew I was joining a company that is in the right place, at the right time, with the right solution and the right people to capitalize on those trends.

How is the Silicon Valley different from when you first started? What would you say is the biggest driver for the change?

Clearly, there has been massive growth since I started my career. Over that time, Silicon Valley has developed a kind of gravitational pull that has continued to attract top talent from around the world. As a result, today it’s where you’ll find the largest and most diverse concentration of creative, innovative and inventive technical and business people on the planet. This talent has delivered waves of technologies that have powered and enabled subsequent waves of exciting technologies that continue to drive innovation at a continuously increasing pace.

One of the biggest shifts I’ve seen is the way technology and new business models are improving and disrupting entire industries and changing the very fabric of society. The enduring constant here in Silicon Valley is the ceaseless engine of human creativity.

How do you see the technology evolving around Omnichannel Analytics Experience and Customer Data Management in the coming years? 

Today, many organizations must rely on skilled Data Analysts and Scientists to extract usable insights from all the data they collect.

Tomorrow, marketing technologies for omnichannel analytics, customer experience, and data management will be better connected and, at the core, will use AI to automate and scale to create the best, individualized experiences for their customers.

In turn, customers will discover new insights and opportunities that will drive competitive advantage, brand loyalty and other benefits. AI will also drive increasing levels of automation, which will require less manual intervention by marketers and free up human bandwidth. Regarding Customer Data Management, privacy is an important topic, with GDPR going into effect at the end of May in Europe.

Technology will need to protect and support privacy by design – and from a marketing perspective, it becomes a matter of exchanging tangible value for the permission to apply insights from the customer’s data.

Which type of marketers would benefit the most from Sitecore’s marketing stack?

We help a whole range of marketing professionals, from web content managers to digital marketers and merchandisers – anyone who wants to exceed their customer’s expectations for personalized digital experiences.

For instance, merchandisers tasked with acquisition and retention use our commerce platform to go beyond facilitating transactions to provide the richest, best shopping experience possible. Digital marketing managers use the Sitecore Experience Platform to create multi-lingual, multi-site, highly-personalized digital experiences across channels like email, social, web, and mobile. Increasingly, we work with “marketing technologists” who want an end-to-end martech solution that will meet their needs every step of the way in their digital transformation.

How should B2B marketers leverage Customer Data and Content Marketing for better audience reach and targeting?

What they need is relevant customer data – at the individual level – in order to optimize reach and target with accuracy. And, they need to centralize all their customer data into a 360-degree view across all channels so that all their digital marketing tools – email, social, campaigns, analytics – are working off the same data set.

We’re extremely popular with B2B marketers because with our platform they can move beyond the traditional audience segmentation approach to collect data at the individual level and collect it across a continuous state and across channels. This allows them to use intelligent data to serve up continuous personalized campaigns from one device to the next, taking the customer seamlessly through the journey with relevant, meaningful messaging, promotions and content.

Which marketing and sales automation tools/ technology would see dynamic growth in 2018?

In 2018, leading organizations will comprise their marketing technology stack of two core components with seamless integration to the back office. First and foremost will be a Digital Experience Platform, comprising the functionality of content management, commerce, analytics, testing/optimization, and personalization across all digital channels – backed by strong capabilities throughout in AI/machine learning.

The second major component will be a marketing automation solution to drive end-to-end closed-loop marketing campaigns. Of paramount importance will be having a 360-degree view of the customer across all channels that can track each and every customer interaction. This will allow for 1:1 personalization ensuring that customers get the right content or touch at the right time, all of the time – to maximize conversion and lifetime customer value. Nothing causes churn faster than delivering the wrong message at the wrong time.

To make this happen, the DXP and automation solution must be seamlessly integrated at all levels.

The joint stack will need full integration to the back-office – systems such as CRM, ERP, POS, and contact center – and have the flexibility to integrate with potentially any player in these back-office categories. This is a stark contrast to historical behavior, which has focused on point solutions that are not well-integrated to deliver digital experiences coupled with limited integration to back-office systems.

Tell us about your best digital transformation campaign?

I think the reason brands are so responsive to our value proposition is because they are all going through some kind of digital transformation. They are all at different points in their journey, but one thing is consistent:  customer expectations are outpacing what brands can deliver, and this shows no signs of stopping. So, as you look at any vertical, senior business leaders are turning to us to help plot their course. All of our engagements – from C-suite to IT leaders – focus on business transformation and how our vision plays into their challenges and aspirations.

For example, the Dollywood family amusement park needed to transform a series of disconnected customer experiences into a consistent journey that would help them see clearly which customer interactions resulted in sales. To capture and unite data across their website, parks, ticketing, and hotel, they used Sitecore XP which combines a powerful CMS with a backend database to analyze how each individual customer has interacted with its brand – in real time – and then act on those insights. Dollywood is a great example of how a brand has fulfilled their vision of digital transformation in a way that makes their customer experience better and helps boost the bottom line.

How do you see experience platforms evolving with the maturity of AI/ML and voice? What challenges do you foresee marketers will face?

AI/Machine learning is one of the hottest trends shaping the digital experience platform category at the moment.

First, AI/ML will automate tedious repetitive tasks such as content tagging. Second, AI/ML will also automate extremely complex tasks such as A/B or multivariate testing/optimization or personalization. Third, AI/ML will deliver insights to digital marketers that they may not have discovered without significant manual data mining, such as segment discovery or correlations such as grouped content or product recommendations (e.g. frequently bought together).

In short, AI/ML stands to both enhance the productivity of digital marketers as well as increase conversion when delivering digital experiences. The challenge will be getting it right and not delivering a bad experience. At the end of the day, any AI/ML solution is only as good as the underlying algorithm and model. Having the ability to train the model and/or augment it with context-specific business rules will be critical to maximizing success and ultimately conversion.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric ecosystem as a business leader?

Business leaders will need to ensure several foundational technical elements are in place. First, and most importantly, is having a high-fidelity 360-degree view of the customer. To achieve this, customers will need to have a data platform that consolidates each and every customer interaction in detail across all channels (all digital touch points + back-office systems). AI/ML models are only as good as the data provided to them, so having the highest quality data will maximize success. The other element is having a digital experience platform and marketing automation stack that is AI/ML-enabled. This will allow marketers to deliver the right content at the right moment to maximize both conversions in the short-term and lifetime relationship value over the long-term.

Achieving this will require both — a person/process and a technology investment for most organizations.

Today, most organizations have disparate, point solutions that are not well-integrated; this will have to change in order to achieve both a high-quality customer view and to deliver AI/ML-driven customer interactions. Coupled with this, digital marketers will need training and have to change their processes in order to fully leverage the power of the technology platforms as they are put in place.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Internet access, my mobile device and email.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?  

I maintain a list of my top priorities on my whiteboard and knock off as many as I can each day.

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

I read 2 or 3 books a month as well as publications of various types, tech blogs, and I love listening to Ted Talks on YouTube while I’m commuting.  I’m targeted in terms of what I read and usually focus on business, personal improvement, and trends. I also enjoy reading history books as well as autobiographies and biographies of people who inspire me.  My reading list now includes:

  • The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly
  • The Inner Lives of Markets: How People Shape Them – And They Shape Us by Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan
  • The Master Algorithm by Pedro Domingos
  • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

My Dad told me that I must take personal responsibility for the decisions I make and their consequences.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Marc Benioff

Thank you, Mark! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

As a Silicon Valley native, Sitecore CEO, Mark Frost, possesses more than 30 years of experience in Silicon Valley/Tech businesses, with 15 years doing cloud transformations at enterprise software companies such as Documentum, PeopleSoft, NeoVista and MarkMonitor. Mark is known to drive business transformations and category leadership, and during his time as CEO of MarkMonitor, he drove record topline growth and customer acquisition, and ultimately completed a sale of the company, to Thomson Reuters, in October 2016.

Prior to that, Mark served as General Manager for the SaaS Business Unit of CA Technologies, where he was part of the Global Leadership Team and responsible for pioneering and leading the transformation to SaaS for this $4.2B IT management software company. He also served as EVP and General Manager for the SaaS Business Unit of MarketTools, where his efforts accelerated time-to-market and resulted in a more than 90 percent customer satisfaction score.

Sitecore logo
Sitecore is the global leader in experience management software that combines content management, commerce, and customer insights. The Sitecore Experience Cloud™ empowers marketers to deliver personalized content in real time and at scale across every channel—before, during, and after a sale. More than 5,200 brands—including American Express, Carnival Cruise Lines, Dow Chemical, and L’Oréal—have trusted Sitecore to deliver the personalized interactions that delight audiences, build loyalty, and drive revenue.

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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.

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