MarTech Interview with Ani Obermeier, VP of Marketing at Smartling

MarTech Interview with Ani Obermeier, VP Marketing, Smartling

“It is essential to create robust knowledge bases that drive operational efficiencies, scalability and growth that can be automated through AI.”

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Tell us about your role and journey into technology. How did you end up at Smartling?

Like for so many, travel has been my passion since childhood. You could call me a “stamp collector” if that was still a thing. There is nothing more invigorating to me than experiencing different cultures, immersing myself in local customs and communicating with the locals. It feeds my curiosity, creativity, and love for languages. So it was no surprise that my passion for travel quickly morphed from yearly vacation trips into a career spanning three continents to date.

After finishing school and spending my first five years at IBM in Germany, I decided to follow my dream to live abroad and moved to Sydney, Australia. The move didn’t only mean adventures in a new country, but also led to a shift in my career focus from Sales to Marketing which tapped into my love for creativity and analytics. I subsequently spent the next six years heading up Marketing at various tech startups and seeing two of them to acquisition.

The last acquisition brought me to New York, where I most recently worked on the Episerver/Ektron merger in 2015. Smartling has been my home for the last two and a half years and, from the get-go, it felt like a natural fit for my background. Here, I am able to not only leverage my 17 years of experience in the tech industry across Sales and Marketing but also my international experience over the last 12. It is deeply rewarding to work at a company that helps companies reach their audiences authentically and I’m glad I get to be a part of it. Plus my team and colleagues are the best.

What is Smartling and how does it fit into an enterprise’s SaaS stack?

Smartling is a translation management platform and language services provider that helps customers localize their content across devices and platforms so they can reach their customers in their language, authentically and on-brand.

Our solution automates the process surrounding translation by seamlessly integrating with the customer’s tech stacks. We work across departments from E-commerce to Marketing to Product, and ingest content from Content Management Systems (CMSs), Code Repositories, Marketing Automation Systems and well beyond.

I’m very proud that we’ve been recognized by CSA Research as the #1 Leader of the 2019 MarketFlex for language-oriented TMS, and by G2 as the Leader of the 2019 G2 Grid for Translation Management. A testament to the company’s commitment to delivering excellence at every step of the way.

Who are your customers? Which businesses and economic regions have been the fastest to adopt your platform and services?

With more markets, more content, and new content mediums comes an increase in complexity to manage its multiple languages. At Smartling, we help solve the challenge. We work with companies that are looking to centralize and scale their translation efforts, and/or break into new markets. Whilst we have customers across the world, our main hubs are North America and Europe.

We typically see the highest and fastest adoption rates from companies who are either providing cutting edge technology and services, or large global enterprises that have recognized their need to scale at speed in the past few years.

Tell us more about the Draft. How does the feature leverage Machine Learning?

Draft is a Natural Language Generation tool built on the premise that translation quality is best managed when source content is written with consistent tone and language. The software helps writers repurpose words and phrases previously used when crafting original content to stay on brand and on message, increasing the speed of content production and ultimately, translation.

Draft is the first product on the market that leverages a “translation memory” for source content, automatically customized to specific organizations, and enabling content writers to multiply their content creation efforts, simplify the authoring process, while keeping the entire global content experience in mind.

What role should Machine Translation play in Localization vs. Human Translators?

Machine Translation (MT) has come a long way since its inception in the 1940s. Even until a few years ago, MT was far from perfect, but thanks to AI and Machine Learning, the quality of its output has been improving immensely.

At Smartling, we’ve been watching this trend closely, of course, and our customers have been using MT for lower value content for a number of years (such as FAQs or older blog content), and started to adopt it also for higher-value content may need to go live immediately such as storm warnings. What’s been interesting to observe is that the engines, based on their algorithms, developed their unique strengths for certain language pairs so most recently we developed a new feature called MT Autoselect, which automatically selects the right engine based on a number of inputs such as source content, target language, and tone.

None of this is, however, a replacement for human translators and a personal touch. Localization is not equal to opening a dictionary and finding the direct translation, rather than transporting the meaning of the source content into the target language. I love this translation quote from Günter Grass that one of our translators shared with me: “Die Übersetzung verwandelt alles, um nichts zu ändern.” In English: “Translation is that which transforms everything so that nothing changes.” To achieve this type of translation, a human is an absolute necessity. It requires creativity and knowledge of local customs, culture, and idioms that a machine simply does not possess.

Are there any unique Marketing initiatives your team has been working that have resulted in a measurable impact on the organization?

We hardly have to debate that delivering a personal experience is key to a business’s success, yet I find that barely any company really lives by it. At Smartling, my team is laser-focused on this goal through everything we put out.

The implementation of Drift has been one of those core initiatives that have fundamentally changed the way we work as a marketing organization. Whilst previously we were hiding direct interactions behind forms, we now meet our audience right as they “walk into our shop” aka land our website. Not only has this initiative led to a strengthened relationship with our sales teams by breaking down barriers and increasing lead flow by 33%, but we also increased overall customer satisfaction.

In working closely with our customers and understanding their desire to learn from their peers, we also developed our Global Ready event series for localization experts which range from 20-person workshops to our marquee event, the Global Ready Conference in both San Francisco and London, which have grown by 285% over the past two years.

We also removed a lot of the traditional conversion points on our website in favor of no barriers. We wanted to make sure that our content is widely accessible and not hidden behind forms. Harder to measure but just another way we are helping our audience make the right localization choices and stay on the pulse of the industry.

And lastly, we’ve launched a brand Marketing campaign called Move the World with Words. It started with the idea that there are people behind everything we do for customers: translators. So we set off on a worldwide trip to document the lives and stories of 12 Smartling translators who live all over the world. We’re excited to bring these stories to life in the form of a coffee table book in late September. You can get a sneak peek at!

Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

As a tech company ourselves, we love to use the best in class to support our Marketing team. At the core we use Pardot for Marketing Automation, Salesforce for Customer Relationship Management, Contentful as Content Management Platform and Drift for Conversational Marketing and preferred a place of conversion.

We have multiple other staples that support our efforts to further personalize experiences reaching from Zoom (video “on” is mandatory in our company!) and Clearbit to Chorus, Sendoso, and many more.

We also introduced Bizible to help us track Marketing Attribution and enable deeper insights into what is working and what we can continue to iterate on.

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in translation technology for 2019-2020?

Digital transactions are expected to increase exponentially, which will give an advantage to a business providing local experiences to the market. To stay ahead, businesses will need to continue to double down on data insights to create better solutions for their customers and make better decisions.

At Smartling we’ve managed well over eight billion words over the past 10 years, which translates into 1,000 words translated per minute. In short, we learned a lot and have access to a vast pool of data that we surface up to our customers so they gain deep insights into their processes.

Armed with this information, they can make data-driven decisions to improve translation outcomes. A great example is the InterContinental Hotels Group, who, thanks to deep data insights, refined their internal validation process after realizing less than 4% of all content is ever edited by their internal team. This is just one of the many insights and process changes that enabled IHG to reduce its translation spend by millions of dollars.

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

I think everyone is watching Drift right now and we are also happy customers of theirs. They have managed to capture the attention of the entire industry by providing a solution that gets the customer in front of their clients without delay. Very powerful.

What are you currently reading?

I most recently read Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime”. Quite the page-turner and a wonderful example of someone that pursued their dreams despite their circumstances.

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

Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.

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

Ryan Bonnici, CMO of G2. I absolutely love the way the G2 brand has evolved over the years and am especially in love with the new logo.

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

Over 16 years of experience in the technology market, extensive international experience having worked for leading software companies in various Marketing and Sales related roles in Europe, Asia, and North America. Strong track record of developing and executing marketing strategies that generate results.

Currently heading up the Marketing team at Smartling, the leader in translation solutions. Prior to that, headed up marketing and business development for North America after leading marketing teams in North America and the Asia Pacific for various companies including Verint Systems, KANA Software, Ciboodle, and FireScope.

Specialties: Leadership, Marketing Strategy, International Marketing, Demand Generation, Direct Marketing, Partner Management, Technology Marketing, B2B Marketing, End to End Campaign Management, Close alignment with Sales, Build and Manage high-performance teams

smartling logo

Smartling Translation Cloud is the leading translation management platform and language services provider to localize content across devices and platforms. Smartling’s data-driven approach and visual context capabilities uniquely positions brands for efficiency. Seamlessly connect your CMS, code repository, and marketing automation tools to Smartling’s TMS via pre-built integrations, web proxy, or REST APIs. No matter the content type, Smartling automation tools help you do more with less.

Smartling is the platform of choice for B2B and B2C brands, including InterContinental Hotels Group, GoPro, Shopify, Slack, and SurveyMonkey. The company is headquartered in New York, with offices in Dublin and London.

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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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