MarTech Interview with Mark Kilens, VP of Content & Community at Drift

Mark Kilens, VP of Content & Community at Drift took the time to share a few highlights from Drift’s recent State of Conversational Marketing Report while sharing a few thoughts on what will drive the B2B marketing game in the near-future:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Mark! Tell us about yourself and your journey so far. What’s the best part about being part of the team at Drift?

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me! I really appreciate the opportunity to share my story and talk about conversational commerce!

I’ve been in the marketing game for many years, but a significant turning point for me was joining a startup in the thick of the 2008 recession. 

We were struggling to grow the business and needed an injection of creativity to right the ship. So I went online in search of some fresh thinking so we could grow the business. One of the more fascinating concepts I learned about — believe it or not — was inbound marketing. 

From what I read, I believed this was going to be a gamechanger,  so I dove in head-first.

I took my learnings and moved on to HubSpot, where I helped develop HubSpot Academy — a learning platform and community for marketers and sales professionals. 

Fast forward to today, and I’m proud to be working with Drift as the Vice President of Content and Community.  I have the privilege of applying all my years of industry knowledge to a company that’s truly an innovator within the conversational commerce space.

And my favorite part about working at Drift is the strong sense of community. It’s something we’ve worked so hard to build with our customers, partners, and team, and something we all value greatly. As someone who helps lead this effort, it’s been so gratifying witnessing everything come together. I’m truly excited to be a member of this community and look forward to creating meaningful experiences for our customers every day.

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What are some of the biggest lags in typical B2B marketing processes that you feel CMOs and marketers have the right tools and processes to fix, but not the right implementation/ execution tactics?

What we’ve learned through our research—including our recently released 2021 State of Conversational Marketing report—is that marketers are moving towards more real-time channels of marketing, such as chatbots, and are ditching static channels, such as email.

In fact, the report showed that real-time marketing overtook email as the top B2B marketing channel: Year over Year (YoY) usage of live chat increased by 35.5%. Email usage has dropped by 25% since 2020. Spikes in online chat, phone and video calls, and chatbots show that buyers want to reach out to companies on their own time, without being inundated with more emails. 

B2B marketing has been evolving through the years, and the pandemic has changed a lot in terms of what marketers need to do to drive customer interest and value. What are some of the top trends you’ve been during this time, as well as ones that you feel will be key to the future of B2B marketing, as time progresses?

At Drift, we are very interested in authentic, tech-driven customer experiences. We’ve seen the continued evolution of this space—not only within our own business, but also in the expansion within the industry as a whole.

The main reason we’ve seen such tremendous growth in AI-fueled customer engagement is its status as the Swiss Army knife of round-the-clock solutionsallowing marketers and sales reps to maximize their productivity on the clock, while still generating sales during off-hours.

Drift recently released its State of Conversational Marketing Report. We’d love to hear about the key highlights from this research and key takeaways for marketers of today!

There were quite a few eye-opening stats from the report. And here are just a few:

  • For those currently utilizing AI-enabled technology, 82% find it to be a very valuable asset in their current sales and marketing strategy
  • 61% of marketers who saw increased engagement with their Conversational Marketing solutions attributed their success to quick response times
  • Demand for quicker responses grew by 64% (YoY)
  • 59% of respondents expect a response within 5 seconds or less when using a chatbot
  • The number of respondents who reported using Conversational Marketing solutions ineffectively almost doubled to 20% —up from 11.6%.

What this data reveals is that companies are adapting their marketing strategies to meet the demands created by the pandemic, and are also beginning to see the value and myriad possibilities of AI. However, it’s also clear that there’s a lot of room for improvement. And that finding is what actually excites me the most.

I’ve always really enjoyed the educational side of the business. Just as I did creating and running the HubSpot Academy, I’ve now helped Drift develop Drift Insider, a marketing and sales community of 50,000 members. Through its in-depth curriculum, Drift Insider educates marketers on the industry. Even if companies don’t use Drift, I sincerely hope they take the time to learn about the strategiesand become better marketers and sellers for it.

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For marketers still looking to strengthen their conversational marketing tactics and chatbot workflows, what top tips and best practices would you share? A few cautionary tips as well?

Any good marketer should anticipate the customer’s needs even before the customer does. So the key to elevating your customer experience game is to know what your audience wants. To that end, my first suggestion is to determine what questions your customers are most likely to ask consistently and then figure out how you want your chatbot to respond to those questions. 

Additionally, it’s important to work closely with your sales team on the implementation of chatbots. If your chatbot is going to make appointments for your sales team, it needs to compile the right information for the salespeople to be effective when taking those calls. So make sure you lock down  what your sales team needs before implementing the chatbot.

With that said, it’s also important to know the limitations of the technology. If you are publicly talking about how great your customer service is, you need to be able to deliver. Nothing builds more credibility than delivering on what you promise.

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

First off, I’d like to say thanks again for having me, these have been really insightful questions!

For my final thoughts,  I really hope marketers continue to embrace the possibilities of AI, and also invest in learning how to use it properly. 

In terms of predictions for 2022, I think 2022 will be the year of transparency. There are so many tools out there that marketers can use for analytics, but oftentimes marketers aren’t able to present the impact properly. Now that digital marketing has become the main source of marketing for many companies— and analytics and insights are readily available via various marketing platforms—I believe marketers are going to learn how to be more transparent in demonstrating how their tactics are working.

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Drift helps companies engage in real-time, personalized conversations so they can build trust and accelerate revenue.

Mark Kilens is VP of Content and Community at Drift where he leads the content, creative, and events teams. He oversees Drift’s community, Drift Insider, which has 45,000+ members, and Drift’s RevGrowth and HYPERGROWTH events.

Prior to joining Drift, he served as VP of Marketing and founder of HubSpot Academy. As a former customer, Mark joined HubSpot in 2010 where he spent two years working with thousands of HubSpot customers to scale their inbound strategy. 

From there, he went on to build HubSpot Academy from the ground up, and in doing so, educated and certified millions and helped grow HubSpot to more than $600 million in revenue.

When he’s not at Drift, Mark enjoys plenty of steak and lobster, a round of golf or two, and loves being on snow or in the ocean.

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