Southwest Airlines. Whole Foods. Lego. Dollar Rent-a-Car. Under Armour. These are all great brands. And behind every great brand these days, it’s worth asking — if you’re a marketing technologist — what marketing software are they using?
The common denominator across those five — and many more like them — is a cloud-based digital marketing suite from Responsys.
Responsys was named a Leader in email marketing by Forrester last year, but that’s just the tip of their iceberg. They were named a Visionary in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for CRM Multichannel Campaign Management. But looking at the breadth of their different capabilities, and how they’ve woven them together, it becomes clear that the classic distinctions for vendors that analysts have used in the past — marketing automation, multi-channel marketing, campaign management — are becoming increasingly blurry.
Therefore, I was excited to have the following Q&A with Steve Krause, SVP of product management at Responsys and a fascinating pioneer in Internet marketing, to get his first-hand perspective on how this space is evolving.
Can you tell us a little about your background and your current role at Responsys?
I got into Internet marketing technologies when they began, in 1994. At the research institute SRI International, I led the iVALS project, which was the first consumer segmentation system built for the Internet. Those were the days when companies like Netscape, Yahoo, and Amazon were just being formed.
In 1996, I co-founded Personify, where I was the CTO and chief product designer. Personify was the first interactive-marketing platform centered on cross-channel, behavioral user profiles. Today, it would be called a DMP for owned media.
In 2002, I co-founded and was the CEO of ExactChoice, a company that did data mining, analytics, and recommendations for complex products. It was acquired by CNET in 2005.
After integrating ExactChoice into CNET, I was asked to start a new business within CNET. That became Intelligent Cross-Sell, an e-commerce technology for cross-selling and upselling. At one point, we had four of the top 10 brands on the Internet Retailer 500 list as customers. Intelligent Cross-Sell is now part of RichRelevance.
Since 2012 I’ve been the SVP of Product Management at Responsys. I am responsible for the product strategy, and the execution of that strategy by a team of product managers and user-experience professionals. I am also very involved in partnerships and acquisitions, because there are some things we want to build and some things we want to get from outside.
Congratulations on Responsys being named a visionary in multi-channel campaign management by Gartner. There appears to be a lot of overlap between what some people call marketing automation software and multi-channel marketing software. What do you see as the similarities and differences?
One of the reasons Responsys gets called a visionary is because we’ve gone beyond those terms. For example, we make a distinction between “multichannel” and “cross-channel.” With multichannel marketing software, it was acceptable to simply have the capability to do different campaigns in different channels, and any integration was an afterthought. In contrast, several years ago Responsys rebuilt its core infrastructure around the idea of making channels work together. For example, you can coordinate email and display-advertising campaigns, with consistent targeting and personalization, all triggered by a Web behavioral event. Responsys did this in a structural way, so any combination of channels could work together.
To make this work for the marketer, we went beyond “automation” to “orchestration.” We provide a drag-and-drop environment for the marketer to orchestrate interactions across channels and over time. So the Web/email/display example I just mentioned could be graphically defined in less than a minute. And it could just as easily be embellished with testing, branching, and the like. Of course, the execution is automated. But we see far greater value in the intelligence that drives the automation — that is, the orchestration.
We see far greater value in the intelligence that drives [marketing] automation — that is, the orchestration.
The bigger marketing software becomes — incorporating more and more diverse capabilities — it seems like it would be ever more challenging to balance features and usability. How do you manage that?
We try to remember that usability is a relative term. That means simple tasks should be easy for the normal user, and complex tasks should be possible for the power user. Of course, the big win is if we can make a complex task easy, as we’ve done with our graphical orchestration technology.
Separately, as a matter of process, I like to explore initial solutions via our professional-services team, working directly with customers. It’s great for quickly flushing out the devils in the details. So when we productize the solution, we already have a clear path to something usable and effective.
What are some of the changes you’re seeing in organizations that use your software? How is marketing management changing? How is the marketing team changing?
I see less tension between marketing organizations and corporate IT, because marketing organizations can buy a software-as-service offering like the Responsys Interact Marketing Cloud and be largely self-sufficient with it. That’s in contrast to IT buying and running the CMO’s marketing infrastructure, which can create a dependency relationship that satisfies neither party.
Also, in terms of roles within marketing organizations, I’m seeing more marketing technologists and data scientists. In the past, these types of skill sets lived elsewhere in companies.
Within marketing organizations, I’m seeing more marketing technologists and data scientists.
Similarly, how is technology and data changing the relationship between internal marketing teams and agencies?
With the rise of new channels like mobile and social, specialist agencies have proliferated. The same is true for agencies specialized for new advertising technologies like real-time buying on exchanges. So for now, companies are back to working with more, not less agencies.
Also, marketers increasingly expect their technology providers to do more than just provide tools. CMOs are saying, “Don’t just give me a marketing technology. Make me successful with it.” Because of this, Responsys has ended up with world-class groups in strategic services, email deliverability, campaign services, and creative services — not because we had a master plan to provide those services, but because they’ve made us a better software company to our customers.
Marketers increasingly expect their technology providers to do more than just provide tools.
If you could offer just 30 seconds of advice to a CMO for the future of the marketing organization, what would you say?
Organize for excellence at: learning what individual customers want, designing personalized experiences, and delivering them where and when it matters. Measure, improve, and repeat.