MarTech Interview with Vivek Sharma, Co-Founder and CEO of Movable Ink

Not only have marketing roles been redefined over the recent years as martech innovations and new marketing best practices have inspired change in the typical B2B marketing hierarchy and ecosystem; the core fundamentals used to implement and drive strategies have evolved: Vivek Sharma, Co-Founder and CEO of Movable Ink dives into these dynamics:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Vivek, tell us more about Movable Ink’s journey through the years and what inspired the platform?

I had a long history building e-commerce systems but marketing software was an area I was deeply interested in. I had built mobile software in 2004 (pre-iPhone) and realized the difficulty of being on the bleeding edge, waiting for the future to arrive. 

My co-founder, Michael Nutt, and I started discussing email. Email was a fascinating channel to us because it is built on open protocols and is incredibly capable. Email can be a marketers tool, a digital wallet, a social network, and the best way for a business to build a direct relationship with its customers without an intermediary.

We noticed that the email service providers were capable of segmenting audiences and delivering messages, but that the content people in the milliseconds they opened an email would often fall short. We also had a technical breakthrough when we realized that the images inside an email could be generated on-the-fly and incorporate contextual factors like time, location, weather and device. We theorized that the combination of a new dataset with the ability to generate unique email images would be very interesting for email marketers. This initial concept got us in the door to major brands but we’d only realize the full potential of the technology many years later. It was in connecting to and activating the vast amount of 1st-party data that brands already managed about their customers.

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As marketers strive to drive deeper customer engagement with better personalization, what are some of the top challenges you see them face today?

One of the top challenges we see marketers facing is ensuring consumer privacy while also delivering the level of personalization that consumers expect. 

Upcoming changes, like Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection, are designed to enhance the consumer privacy of the channel, but are going to create challenges for marketers as they shift away from being able to use opens as a critical signal in their customer journeys or as the most ubiquitous top of funnel metric for program performance.

However, just as with the shift away from third-party cookies before this, we have seen marketers investing significantly more in activating first-party data to create meaningful customer experiences. In fact, 75% of marketers cite first-party data as generating the greatest consumer insights (Source: Signal).  And the results that these strategies drive speak for themselves – 62% of marketers believe first-party data garners the highest return on investment of any data type (Source: Signal). 

Can you share a few thoughts on some of the best customer engagement models you’ve seen in B2B and what key takeaways marketers can grab from there?

Movable Ink works with over 700 leading Brands including many of the world’s leading B2B marketers who have formidable mandates. B2B marketing differs from our B2C clients in some fundamental ways such as list size and average order value, but we see many similarities as well. One of the biggest is around the content bottleneck. B2B marketers have made significant investments in recent years in understanding their prospects and clients and tailoring their sales and customer success experience strategy to match their specific needs. When their  marketing continues to be one size fits all or one size fits many, it really undermines these efforts. 

So what we’re seeing now is that our B2B clients are leveraging Movable Ink to personalize newsletters with nuanced, relevant content and recently viewed blog posts from their website using behavioral data – creating infinite combinations of the email all from one HTML file with our content assembly capabilities. These are strategies our B2C media clients have used for years and it’s been great to see B2B marketers reap the performance and efficiency gains as well now.

As the need for better data and insights and richer personalization gains more prominence, what can marketers do to improve how they invest in and plan their overall martech stack to improve their data and processes?

Marketers have made significant investments in data in their martech stacks over the last five years especially but have found it increasingly difficult to then activate that data. And that is problematic because customers don’t experience data, they experience content. With enterprise tech organizations reporting record breaking tech debt it’s essential for marketers to find quick to market strategies that will help them access their own trove of first-party data without having to wait multiple sprint cycles to do so. 

We saw this phenomenon first hand over eight years ago when our largest enterprise clients realized we could tap into their APIs, many built to power their websites or mobile apps, to automatically create more meaningful personalized user experiences that both elevated the customer experience and improved KPIs. This approach not only bypassed lengthy tech integrations but also auto-generated millions of versions of brand approved creative in the customer in box, saving marketing teams thousands of hours in production and QA.  

In 2019 after we crossed over 1,000 first party custom API integrations for our clients we launched our Exchange – making it easier for all clients to activate other parts of their tech stack into personalized content and now we have over 50 integrated partners for our clients to use like Braze, Pega and Oracle CrowdTwist to name just a few. All of the data from these campaigns is automatically sent back to our clients’ data warehouses so they can continue to build that single view of the customer, but without sacrificing any speed to market that they would have had they build the solution themselves.

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A few thoughts on the future of martech and how martech innovations will further lead to change in marketing roles across the marketing hierarchy?

Movable Ink was founded over a decade ago, and in that time we’ve seen a tremendous evolution for the mandate of the marketer in driving the martech strategy and implementation for their organization. 

For one stark example, ten years ago marketing teams would often have to borrow analytics resources from finance teams to interpret results from their various platforms. Today we’re seeing clients make significant investments in their own BI teams to have access to data in real-time. 

We’ve also seen the rise of the Chief Customer Officer role – which typically unites the product and marketing functions allowing them to work in well needed concert with each other. 

And lastly we’ve seen marketing organizations move away from the traditional annual budget cycle, which often stifled true step-functions in digital transformation – towards marketing led multiyear martech roadmaps, which require more investment and support from tech partners.

As post-COVID omni-channel strategies continue to dominate into 2022, capitalizing off of brands’ new bumper crop of ecommerce customers, we see no end to that expanded purview – and most of our clients are in the midst of significant hiring efforts to support this. 

Some of the top personalization ‘’don’ts’’ that marketers should keep in mind for future campaigns?

Over time every marketing organization tends to have a few best practices which become akin to golden rules internally – which is of course important for global brands to adopt as needed. 

But it’s also important to test the effectiveness of these practices and tactics on a regular basis. Consumers are adopting new digital channels and experiencing more media at a higher rate than ever before so the effectiveness of any marketing variable be it creative or copy has to be continually reassessed. 

Some last thoughts and takeaways for CEOs and business leaders to consider through the rest of 2021?

At a time when many businesses are reimagining the future, it’s important for business leaders to keep in mind how employees are coping and working as they adjust to a post-COVID life. 

With many uncertainties around the future, it’s crucial for leaders to remain flexible, nimble and keep a transparent line of communication with their employees and their customers.

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Movable Ink activates any data into personalized content for over 700 of the world’s most innovative brands

Vivek Sharma is the Co-Founder and CEO of Movable Ink

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