MarTech Interview with Jeff Samuels, COO at Iterable

Jeff Samuels, COO at Iterable shares a few top B2B personalization and marketing data trends in this interview with MarTech Series:


Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Jeff. We’d love to hear about your biggest marketing highlights through the years and more about your role as COO at Iterable!

Throughout my career, I’ve witnessed so many great marketing moments executed by some amazing marketing leaders. Marketers drive and catalyze so much for a business and they are rightfully proud of larger, more public wins, like brand launches, product launches, and thought leadership spotlights. These kinds of wins have been exciting for me as well, and certainly worth celebrating. However, when I think deeply about what I would consider my personal marketing highlights, my memories lean to more transformative moments.

The moments that stand-out to me are when our marketing team helps drive alignment and growth to achieve our goals. When we work together towards a shared vision, we provide enormous value to our customers, advance the market, and, as a result, we grow.  For me, that’s what marketing is. It’s the integrated effort of being able to embody the voice of the customer and the voice of the market, and translating that voice to drive aligned outcomes. 

And now as a COO, I’ve come to appreciate even more that the strongest asset of any company is its workforce. When you put people first, and when you prioritize education and alignment around a noble purpose and goals, the business benefits. It’s pretty simple, actually.

This people-centric mindset has been an enabler of Iterable’s explosive growth and unleashed significant innovation. Since I joined Iterable, we’ve announced Series D funding, Series E funding at a $2 billion valuation, and more recently, surpassed $100M in Annual Recurring Revenue. We also expanded our operations overseas to London, shared our Future of Work initiatives, and hired Markita Jack as our Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Importantly, we’ve successfully hosted Activate — our signature marketing conference — twice since the pandemic began. This was an incredible feat, and proof of our fortitude and agility. Guided by our values, we deliver on our promises to the market and our customers. Whatever the circumstance.

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In your view, how have you seen marketing concepts evolve since the start of the Covid pandemic and what are some long-term changes to typical marketing strategies that will remain as result of this?

The pandemic really accentuated changes that had already been brewing in the marketing practitioner world for the last decade. It compressed the timeline of digitization significantly, which opened opportunities for marketers to think differently and, in many cases, think bigger about our work. More than anything, it pushed marketing practitioners to be laser focused on the audience. To focus on that goodness.

As a long time marketer, I can tell you that fundamentally we care deeply about our work, and our audience. We aspire to be gracious and people-centric. However, we often get distracted. When the pandemic made prioritizing the customer — their cares, desires, emotions and motives — an “all hands on deck” priority, it gave us an opportunity to take a step back and refocus – to silence the noise. The pandemic really put people back into our campaigns.

Technologies and platforms, like Iterable, which were audience and digital-first before the pandemic, are well positioned to help this community accelerate this personalization focus. We are equipped to provide marketers with the tools, perspective and support they need to be competitive and achieve their goals. 

In a multichannel digital marketing environment, how would you advise brands and B2B marketers to format better omnichannel customer experiences that can drive retention and customer loyalty?

If the pandemic brought anything to light, it was the value of relationships. Businesses that had bolstered their loyal customer bases before the pandemic saw incredible ROI in the first months of lock-down; while other brands were struggling, these businesses were buoyed by a reliable stream for loyal customer revenue. Marketers are now more focused on determining how much value their customers will provide to the brand for the duration of the relationship.

Prioritizing the customer as an individual and embracing the digital transformation are really the two staples driving customer lifetime value (LTV) in this environment. Brands that are supplementing their traditional marketing channels with digital marketing channels, and focusing resources on creating a more holistic view of each customer’s behavior and preferences, are winning in the short and long term. 

For marketers, the devil is in the detail. There can be unique business uses for each of the different marketing channels (email, push notifications, SMS, In-App, Mobile Inbox and Direct Mail, to name a few) but the key is understanding how each of your customers uses each channel, and catering campaigns and communication based on these preferences. 

I view every time that a customer interacts with a brand as an opportunity for additional data collection. Through cross-channel marketing, marketers have the ability to constantly collect data to gain visibility into not only what customers purchase, but how they shop. By focusing on customer interests and preferences, marketers can ensure that a single transaction isn’t the end of the road for the relationship. 

Personalization has now become the name of the game, how are you seeing marketers struggle with the basics here and what best practices would you share? 

Most marketers are great at building relationships with people. We’re empathetic listeners and dynamic storytellers by nature. Frankly, we’re energized by new friendships and collaborations. So building connections isn’t challenging to marketers. The challenge is building simultaneous connections with 10,000, 100,000, or, even, 100 million people, and continuing to cultivate these relationships over time.

That’s where a growth tech stack and customer engagement strategy comes into play. The right technology enables marketers to deliver these empathetic experiences, personalized, at scale. And it’s worth the investment. Brands that deliver humanized experiences are twice as likely to outperform the revenue growth of their competitors. And 91% of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them.

What the consumer wants, goes. And today’s customers won’t be pleasantly surprised to find their name in a subject line. They won’t be blown away when a brand remembers their birthday. They expect that level of personalization, and a lot more. Now that brands have the power and permission to collect massive amounts of data and create in-depth customer profiles for each individual user, it’s become critical for marketers to be able to capture the right information about customers in order to fuel their personalization efforts.

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With customer data privacy trends evolving, in what ways would you advise B2B marketers to drive privacy norms without affecting their overall brand experience?

Consumer data privacy trends are gaining traction and many marketers are worried. But this concern is misdirected.  Consumer privacy regulations are actually a really good thing — not just for consumers, but for brands, too. Privacy regulations give consumers greater control over the data that is collected and who their data is shared with. Brands gain the opportunity to better manage the data they collect and build stronger, more trusting relationships with customers. 

The vast majority of consumers (83%) are willing to share their data for a better experience. Marketers just need to focus on collecting the right data — transparently. This is where first and zero-party data really comes into play; since zero- and first-party data are collected directly from the consumer with consent they can help marketers create higher quality experiences for consumers. 

Now is the time for marketers and brands to revamp their data practices and put the “individual” back in “individualization”. 

Overall, it’s essential for marketers to listen and adhere to their customers’ preferences about their data, at all times. The most dangerous assumption you can make about a customer is how they want you to deal with their data. 

Some last thoughts and marketing / martech takeaways and predictions for 2022 before we wrap up?

At the end of the day, marketing is meant to form connections and drive emotion. To accomplish this, you need to be able to reach consumers, and ensure the messages you are delivering are catered to the individual preferences and expectations of customers or users. That’s where mobile comes in. It’s the medium that can enable deeper customer connection. 

To get the most value out of the mobile medium, it’s really important marketers go beyond a standard SMS or push notification, and adopt a digital-first marketing strategy. Customers want to be able to research a product on their desktop computer, add it to their cart, then log into the app, find the same product in their cart, and easily checkout. The need to be able to bounce around the different devices they use in their shopping journey and have a seamless experience across all platforms. 

Marketing is on the precipice of great change, meaning there’s a huge opportunity for innovation in many arenas. By taking a holistic approach to the customer experience, and investing in integrating mediums that matter, marketers can build better relationships with customers and achieve their goals in 2022 and beyond.

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Iterable Reviews, Ratings, and Features - Gartner 2021Iterable is a cross-channel platform that powers unified customer experiences

Jeff Samuels is the COO at Iterable

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