MarTech Interview with Michael Dickerson, Chief Executive Officer at ClickDimensions

MarTech Interview with Michael Dickerson, Chief Executive Officer at ClickDimensions
MarTech Interview with Michael Dickerson, Chief Executive Officer at ClickDimensions

“As the leader of a technology company, it’s easy to get caught up in the benefits of AI, but it’s also essential to acknowledge the importance of the things that only humans can achieve.”

Tell us about your role and journey into Marketing Technology.

My first company was a licensed apparel company that sold apparel with the licensed marks of colleges and pro sports teams. For a variety of reasons, we wound up buying the source code for a telemarketing system that we converted into a system to manage customer interactions and help our sellers make product recommendations. This was in 1986, long before CRM was a thing. While our business was selling apparel, we had 12 developers working in New York on software developed in PickBasic, a competitor to Linux, based around a multivalued database. The value in our company was our ability to manage and sell so many SKUs to our 5,000 + retail customers.

I sold that company in 1999, but I continued to follow new Sales and Marketing technology. I invested in Silverpop, a pioneering Email Marketing company, later that year. In 2006, after a six-year stint in Communications technology,  I wound up leading a turn-around of an email business owned by an NYSE firm PGI. We ultimately sold that business in pieces in 2009. One of those pieces was a spin-out of a built-for-cloud email delivery engine that became MessageGears.

In 2017, after 7 more years back in communications technology at  PGI, I left to become CEO of  ClickDimensions and returned to the world of startups and Marketing Technology.

What inspired you to be part of ClickDimensions?

The founders at ClickDimensions solved the most difficult problem in building a MarTech business; they figured out how to win new subscription customers without needing tens of millions of investment dollars. Their secret magic was building a partner community of hundreds of partners around the globe who sold their software along with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

What’s more, they showed how a Marketing Technology company could harness the core platform and data technology investments by Microsoft to simplify the data complexity and reduced the total cost of building a Marketing Automation system.

How does ClickDimensions fit into a modern CMO’s technology stack?   

Our goal is to simplify the MarTech stack and reduce the cost of ownership. We see the ClickDimensions’ Marketing Automation platform as a core element in the middle of this stack, and we aim to extend both above and below our current position– whether through integrations or acquisitions to achieve our objectives of simplification and cost reduction. We also understand that technology alone won’t meet the needs of modern marketers, so we offer a full range of services that support our technologies.

What does your Ideal Customer Profile look like? Which geographies are you currently focusing to grow your market?

ClickDimensions is natively built inside Microsoft Dynamics 365, so at present, our ideal customer first and foremost is an organization that uses Dynamics. Another view is to say, from a Product Design perspective, we focus on small to mid-sized B2B and B2C companies. We do have more than 400 customers with over 5,000 employees. We are proud to serve customers in 76 countries around the globe. We recently expanded our presence in EMEA and APAC with offices in the Netherlands and New Zealand as well as our Customer Center in Cork, Ireland which opens this month.

Which industries have been the fastest to adopt Marketing Automation platforms?  

Not surprisingly, technology companies were the first to adopt Marketing Automation. Now it’s a mix of businesses of all kinds, B2B and B2C alike. Today, it is less a matter of if your organization will adopt Marketing Automation and more a matter of when.

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in CRM and Customer Analytics? How can Marketing teams better benefit from choosing ClickDimensions solutions?

The biggest disruptions come from changes in the way buyers buy. Each of us is a buyer in our consumer lives, and we are exposed to incredible experiences provided by great companies like Amazon, Netflix or Uber. The biggest disruption comes from those Consumer Expectations that carry over into Business.

One of the biggest disruptions for CRM is that it has been the one customer-oriented technology-driven exclusively used by Sales teams, and the needs of Marketing, e-Commerce, and Service have specific needs, particularly around data, that are not well served by the CRM. At the core of this disruption is the abstraction of customer data away from the Sales application such that Marketers can have access to a system they can control, AI applications can join data from different business applications and the historical Sales system, CRM, can stay in perfect synchronization where necessary.

The second big disruption is that the MarTech stack is just too expensive.  This is particularly true when you get beyond CRM and Marketing Automation into AI-driven applications and Data Analytics.

Building ClickDimensions natively on the Microsoft Dynamics data model is helping us not only address, but take advantage of these two disruptive trends. With our solutions, marketing teams – and entire organizations – can connect with, utilize and benefit from the power of customer data to drive personalized experiences for their customers and quantitatively measure the financial impact of their activities.

Tell us about your recent acquisition of Sweetspot. How do you plan to extend the benefits to your existing customers?

Understanding the financial impact of sales and marketing spending is so critical to revenue growth and profitability, but it is very hard to measure. This is a unique corner of the Data Analytics universe, characterized by technical challenges of harmonizing data and a lack of understanding by the technologists of the business context that surrounds that data. Recognizing this, we decided that Marketing Analytics would be our next strategic step in meeting the needs of marketers that use Dynamics 365. We closed on the acquisition of Sweetspot, a leader in the marketing dashboard space, in March and our team is currently hard at work making this essential technology available to our customers with data from both Dynamics and the ClickDimensions marketing automation platform. With it, ClickDimensions customers will have on-demand access to analyze and optimize the campaign, channel and revenue-impact performance data at a price that starts at about one-tenth of the other market leaders. We expect this to be available in the summer 2019.

Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use in your current roles?

I’m sure it will come as little surprise that I use Microsoft Dynamics and ClickDimensions. We also use InsideSales.com and LinkedIn.

How do you prepare for the Data Science Economy in Marketing Technology? What is the route to optimized Digital Transformation for any business today?

Our acquisition of Sweetspot is currently our biggest preparation for and investment in the critical importance of data in Marketing Technology today. At ClickDimensions, we look at it as less of a Digital Transformation and more of a digital imperative – it is an unavoidable demand with significant consequences for not adopting. Accessible and actionable data are an essential part of responding to this imperative, and we are committed to helping our customers do exactly that.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

I like to keep an eye on startups that are focused on using AI to do things like Persona creation, Segmentation, Content Optimization, Media placement and other tasks where best-practices can be embodied in the software to reduce the technical skills required of today’s omnichannel marketer.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business leader?

I think it’s important to embrace AI while also recognizing its limitations. As the leader of a technology company, it’s easy to get caught up in the benefits of AI, but it’s also essential to acknowledge the importance of the things that only humans can achieve.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

The ClickDimensions team needs no inspiration when it comes to working with technology. They are passionate about using it, creating it and helping others realize the benefits of utilizing it.

I do push the envelope in terms of collaboration, using tools like Asana and Microsoft Teams, and we are big consumers of real-time dashboards. I try to lead by example and then check-in on who is using their dashboards effectively and who is lagging.

One word that best describes how you work.

Inspire. It is incredibly powerful to help people identify problems that need to be solved, the possible joy of solving them and the power that they have as individuals to solve those problems by working with others.

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

  • Email – sorry
  • Omnifocus
  • Evernote – thinking about revisiting One Note
  • Tableau

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

Hire great people and empower them to be responsible and accountable for everything you can!

What are you currently reading? 

I’m currently reading ‘ The Fifth Season’, ‘Build a Better Brain’, ‘The Coddling of the American Mind and Data-Driven’. I read and consume information via my iPad – it lets me buy more books and start more books than I can finish!

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

Try to make the world a little better every day and make each person you meet better for having met you.

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

Not sure I do anything better. I try hard, reflect on what I learned today so I can do better tomorrow.

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

Jeff Bezos.

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

Mike Dickerson is the Chief Executive Officer of ClickDimensions, the leading Marketing Automation solution for Microsoft Dynamics 365. Mike joined ClickDimensions from PGi, a global provider of Web Conferencing software and collaboration technology, where he served as Executive Vice President of Strategy and Business Development.

In that role, he developed partnerships with some of the biggest players in the technology industry, including Microsoft. Prior to that, he started PGi’s Global Collaboration Services division, growing it from $86 million to $240 million in revenue and serving as a trusted advisor to some of the most recognized brands around the globe.

clickdimensions logoClickDimensions was founded in 2010 to help Microsoft Dynamics users worldwide bridge the gap between Sales and Marketing for bigger business wins. The ClickDimensions Marketing Automation solution brings together essential marketing tools like Email Marketing, Campaign Automation, Web Intelligence, Surveys, Web Forms, and Landing Pages, Social Marketing and more to help organizations attract more leads, close more sales and more effectively engage customers – all from directly within Microsoft Dynamics 365.

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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