MarTech Interview with Dennis Becker, Chairman and CEO at Mobivity

MarTech Interview with Dennis Becker, Chairman and CEO at Mobivity
MarTech Interview with Dennis Becker, Chairman and CEO at Mobivity

“I think that the misperception of AI is that it’s general and not understood that it’s specific.”

Could you tell us about your role and journey into technology?

My role as CEO is self-explanatory. My journey into technology started at a very young age and that was the start of a lifelong love affair with technology. I had a genuine curiosity on how everything worked and started programming at a very early age.  As I got older, I was fortunate enough to study Computer Science during the dot-com era. From there, I started my career as an Entrepreneur.

You’ve had a long track record of leading successful businesses. How did you arrive at Mobivity and what attracted you to the MarTech business?

We played around with payment concepts, alerts, and interactive television. We did campaigns where you could text into Anderson Cooper or Wolf Blitzer on CNN. We did content concepts with Universal Music Group and Disney – where you could get text messages from Mickey. We had sports teams including the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Dolphins, where we were involved with fan engagement. We really ended up narrowing our focus to Marketing tech as we started to work with brick-and-mortar brands. Seeing how much stronger of an impact we could drive through text messaging, and through local store marketing, it was amazing. From there, we started to understand the bigger challenges brick and mortars had to solve.

At one point, we were the text messaging provider for the NFL. We powered all of their fantasy alerts. We also powered the MVP voting at the Superbowl, but there just wasn’t a lot of revenue with those types of deals. Then, we started helping Chick-fil-A engage local consumers through text messaging. They were willing to pay a much higher premium for that because the impact was much more dramatic. To be clear, MarTech is a very broad term for us. It’s really about taking MarTech to brick-and-mortars because they are operators that are not driven through e-commerce, but have a completely different set of challenges that need to be solved. To reiterate a fact, brick-and-mortars are still 80% of the economy.

For example, banner ads and display ads, may not work for a quick-serve restaurant (QSR). It’s not often that people are going to get engaged with a display ad to influence where they’re going to eat at a QSR because it is such a very brief moment in their decision making. Around 70% of consumers don’t know what they’re going to have for lunch within an hour of lunchtime. That’s where text messaging, and some of these other things Mobivity does come into play and are necessary for being able to connect to the point-of-sale data. After working in different markets like Sports and Entertainment, Media and Content, we discovered the opportunity for a new form of MarTech that is more tailored for brick-and-mortars that work.

Online Customer Experience Management is a very recent phenomenon. Where exactly do you trace its roots? How do you help your customers achieve success?

Back in the old days, it used to be called UI design. Then, it became a user experience design. Now, it’s called online customer experience. It’s a recent phenomenon in that it’s being called something different now. However, it’s still reducing friction and delighting customers. I think it’s more focused now because of the amount of business that’s done online has grown significantly.

I trace its roots is going back 20, 30 years ago with software design. You tried to create user interfaces and it was really about user interface design. Then, that broadened to the UX, then the UI nomenclature and now a user is a little bit of a different definition than a customer. It’s broadened to now describe customers because, with the increased business that’s done online, those businesses have customers. Today, you just don’t really think about experience management or interface design through the lens of a ‘user.’ Instead, you broaden that focus to a ‘customer’ because by definition, ‘customer’ means they’re paying you for the experience.

I think that the way we help customers achieve success is that the engagement to technology is no longer confined to a graphical interface. You were once showed a computer screen – a graphical interface. When you look at your phone, that’s predominantly a graphical interface. However, with Alexa and Siri, those are not graphical interfaces. We at Mobivity are proving that a mobile messaging conversation, which oftentimes is not really a graphical interface, can have a very profound impact on a business. It can also provide the customer with a better experience, which goes back to customer experience management.

The mobile phone is the channel you go to for immediacy. If I want to get a hold of you now, I engage your mobile phone, either call you or text. If you need to engage the customer with some urgency and immediacy, an app is not going to do that. 60% or 35% of customers don’t have push notifications turned on their phone with apps. A lot of times when they get a push notification, they miss it.  They swipe it away, and they never see it again. That app is four swipes to the right on their homepage and they will never see it or be reminded that they have a message waiting. Whereas with a text message, people check their phones and their texts around 70 times a day on average. That’s what we’re really trying to educate our customers about. The experience needs to be thought of beyond graphical interfaces. This is a more holistic approach enabling our brand customers to understand what they can do for their customers. Because nowadays, interfaces are starting to broaden to voice interfaces, text interfaces, messaging interfaces, etc.

One Customer Success/Win that you would like to share with us a lesson for all young Sales professionals

Subway. The success with Subway is because we have been able to use data to prove the value of doing business with Mobivity. The way I would then convey that to a young Sales professional is a lot of technology selling is ‘show and tell.’ For example, ‘I’ve got an email platform, here are my features.’ The difference is that what we were able to do with Subway was articulate the value in dollars and cents – essentially, what it means to do business with Mobivity. Our key is to articulate and convey the value and upside and stick to it.

There are new technologies turning up left and right. If what you sell is unique, you need to emphasize why it’s different, why the value it delivers is unique and special. Lastly, you need to know how to approach your market.

We got Subway because we were able to convey value, put meaning behind the value, and make it unique.

Could you tell us about your “Recurrency Platform” and how it helps CX Managers deal with Omnichannel challenges?

Recurrency provides a 360-degree view of the true frequency and incremental revenue performance of all channels of marketing. With that clarity, you can then invest your Marketing dollars in the highest performing channels that are going to drive the best return on Marketing spend.

An example of this is since we’re the point-of-sale data stream, we see how well a restaurant’s free-standing inserts (FSIs) offer, email offers and how their app is performing. Our software automates a verdict on all of these. For example, it’ll just clearly state how frequently your app is being used and how much customers are spending as a result. It will also indicate whether your FSIs are effective and who is redeeming their offers. Once you have that clarity, you can then create a clear return on Marketing spend model. From there, you can halt the programs that are generating a flat or negative return on Marketing spend and double down on the ones that are performing.

What we know is that our mobile messaging and receipt programs crush everything else and that’s been the big revelation. We didn’t appreciate the magnitude of how much waste is in Marketing budgets until we started looking at everything. Because we have the data to tell us and some of our customers, (even ones that swear by FSI) are surprised. It happens every year.

What kind of Marketing, Sales technologies, and Automation tools do you really missed having in the early part of your career? How do you work with these tools now?  Could you tell us about your tech stack for Marketing, Sales, and Collaboration?

We’re B2B. LinkedIn has become such a powerful platform to target B2B audiences. Then beyond that, it’s just the trackability of everything. Then the opportunity to put some automation onto that trackability. I can’t have a multi-pronged journey approach to different behaviors across hundreds and hundreds of buyers in my market without HubSpot or Pardot. Additionally, our tech stack for Marketing and Sales collaboration is Salesforce plus HubSpot.

As a CEO of a technology company, what kind of specific training and learning do you undertake regularly? What keeps you sharp in your game?

Training and learning. I’ll do a course, from time to time. There’s just a ton of online literature, LinkedIn groups and YouTube content that can educate you on technology and the MarTech trends. I attend and speak at conferences every year and I’m a pretty aggressive bookworm. The best learning that I get, not just for MarTech or for technology, but on leadership and culture and building and growing a business is by reading the books of other leaders (e.g., Mark Zuckerberg, General McChrystal).

How do you pass the learning and development lessons to your Marketing and Sales teams?

Anytime I stumble upon an article or any piece of content or a book that I think is interesting, I pass it along to the teams. In terms of development, we try our best to put KPIs and other measurement tools in place. We’ve used Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), which was one of the latest methodologies in measuring development.

What message do you have for your young Marketing and Sales reps? 

The message I have for young Marketing and Sales reps is, ‘find one thing and sell it to 50 people.’ Don’t build 50 things and sell it to one. A lot of times, when you’re a young marketer or Sales rep, you miss one of the most important concepts in becoming successful. Which is, that it is a numbers game. Half of the battle is understanding what an opportunity is and what is not. You usually don’t know that answer when you don’t know what you’re selling; and if what you’re selling is very broad, then out of the gates you’re going to be challenged. Focus on one thing that could be very important, very impactful and that’s profound. Something that you can take to the market and then go sell it 100 times.

What kind of Sales playbooks and media do you usually refer to?

I’m a big fan of The Challenger Customer and it’s my go-to.

What is your opinion on the way AI makes it easy (or hard!) to forge great customer relationships built on Experience?

I think that the misperception of AI is that it’s general and not understood that it’s specific. Now, AI is still really all about automation.

What happens with a lot of AI and machine-driven Marketing is a lot of noise. I get tons of emails and I can tell they are all automated. I’ve seen emails for example, “Go Ducks,” and then you look in the email and clearly there’s some crawler that’s AI looking at college backgrounds and then trying to A/B test different scripts. I think that if you have a very specific and narrow use case for AI, it can make life easy, but at the same time, unabated AI can make your life miserable.

Additionally, with AI you need to be really careful. I’d say it’s a ‘handle with care’ approach because your customers can have a really good experience with it or they can have a really bad one.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology? 

I’m a big fan of storytelling. Anytime I see a great story on how technology did something interesting, I talk about it. An example is a recent Bloomberg article mapped the economy to the release of fast food products. The jobs and earnings reports were mapped to the launch of the Big Mac, the Carl’s Jr. $6 burger and the new Popeye’s chicken sandwich (which was all the craze recently) and that was inspiring to me.

It was interesting to me because it showed that our customers were a part of the pulse of the economy. This is an example of the transformative effect of technology on everything.

One word that best describes how you work.

Tenacious.

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

Text messaging, email, calendar, and maps.

Which superhero character/movie do you most profoundly relate to?

Obi-Wan Kenobi. He went toe to toe and he was like the marquee victory. If this were for college football playoffs, Obi-Wan would be in the top four because he had the top-five win and nobody else had that win. Also, if you look at the early Obi-Wan stories, he’s just constantly running up against impossible situations, but he always came through in the end by being smart. That is how it has been for me my entire entrepreneurial career.

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

Boomerang.

What are you currently reading?

I just read The Simulation Hypothesis, Fourth and Goal, and just read The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

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

Long-term relationships. If you focus on everything that you do with others through the lens that you’re building a long-term relationship, it completely changes how you work with people. Everyone’s so transactional these days, but I’ve really focused on long-term relationships. And that was advice that was given to me early on from my first investor.

Something you do better than others – the secret of your success? 

Creative agility that produces opportunity.

Tag one (or more) Sales leader from your community whose answers to these questions you would like to see here –

Our VP of Sales Jeff Michaels. Another name is Ethan Gustav of Open Market. He’s their Global Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

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

With more than two decades of experience building, financing, and acquiring enterprises redefining the way technology and business interact, Dennis Becker leads Mobivity’s vision of bringing businesses more customers, more often through disruptive technologies. An inventor of several patents, Becker’s background also includes awards as founder of Frontieric Corporation and CEO of Bexel Technologies. Prior to Mobivity, Dennis studied Computer Science at the University of Oregon and served in the USAF.

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Brick and mortar stores struggle to manage customer connections in a digital world. Mobivity provides a platform to connect national restaurants, retailers, personal care brands, and their partners with customers to increase retention, visits, and spend. Mobivity’s Recurrency platform increases customer engagement and frequency by capturing detailed POS transaction records, analyzing customer habits, and motivating customers and employees through data-driven messaging applications and rewards.

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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