[Posted by Ed Hadley, Senior Marketing Manager, Neolane, Inc.]
Neolane rocked the marketing technology industry today, announcing that Suresh Vittal has joined the company in the newly created role of Chief Product Officer. One of the foremost thought leaders in the marketing technology space, Suresh has spent the last six years building the Customer Intelligence practice at Forrester Research. His research agenda focused on enterprise marketing technologies, database marketing strategies, and customer analytics, so he brings to Neolane an acute understanding of the needs of marketers, as well as how the current technology landscape is equipped to address them.
Curious to learn more about why he made the move to Neolane, what his role will entail, and what trends he sees impacting the market in 2013, we caught up with Suresh in this video Q&A. We’ve also provided the full transcript below.
Q: You had a successful run at Forrester. What made you decide to come to Neolane?
I had an amazing six-plus years at Forrester, and I knew that I was only going to ever move for the right opportunity at the right time. Neolane was absolutely the best opportunity for me. Here’s why. Neolane is committed to transformation of marketing through technology. For those of you who read my research, I have a great deal of passion for this topic. Secondly, I would say Neolane – the founding team, the employees, the entire organization – was committed to product innovation and looking at new ways to deliver consumable technology to marketers. I’m very excited by that vision, and this made a great time for me to join Neolane and enable this transformation.
Q: Tell us about your role as Neolane’s Chief Product Officer. In addition to job responsibilities, what are your priorities coming out of the gate?
As Neolane’s Chief Product Officer, I am empowered to do two specific things. Firstly, I want to accelerate the product roadmap and innovation across Neolane’s products and the market. Secondly, I want to work with marketers of all shapes and sizes to help educate them on the use of conversational marketing techniques, and on the use of marketing technology to make them more effective at their jobs. Neolane has always had a track record of being innovative when it comes to delivering cloud-based technologies. My job will be to accelerate that innovation. We’re working off one very simply premise: marketers are operating in a digital world. This requires different techniques, different tactics, different technologies, and different skills. As an organization, I want us to be able to provide solutions that meet that need of operating in a digital world.
Q: Neolane talks a lot about “conversational marketing.” As someone new to the organization, how do you define the term?
For me, the definition of conversational marketing is as it sounds: providing marketers with the tools to enable them to have a conversation, a conversation with their customers across channels, across media, across goals. Put very simply, if you were at a cocktail party and walking around the room having a conversation with the different people there, you would not go at them blasting messages or just randomly making valued statements directed at them. You would have a conversation with them. You would get to know them a little better. You would remember what they told you. You would actively listen. You would tailor your message to interest them and prolong the conversation. That’s our goal here. With conversational marketing, it’s about having a lifetime of conversations with your customers. To do that well, you need to have access to data, you need to be able to tailor the message to their need, and you need to be in context. You don’t want to be shouting at them; you don’t want to be doing this in a batch-based manner; and you certainly don’t want to be doing this without respecting their privacy and their preferences.
Q: What trends are you seeing that will impact marketing technology in 2013 and beyond?
For me, the ultimate trend really starts with the digitalization of everything. Digital is prevalent across channels, across media and that’s really creating a couple of follow-up trends. One of them is this customer base that’s becoming increasingly activist. An activist customer base does two things: they have access to near-perfect information and they have a lot of clout and they’re not afraid to use it. The other thing that happens with digitalization of media and digitalization of channels and product is that you have competitors coming out of nowhere. You have competitors that don’t really follow the five forces that Porter has described in his seminal strategy work. You have competitors who can move cheaper, faster, better than you can. Now, these trends combine to make marketing very, very interesting today. You have to obviously cater to a customer base that knows more about your products than you do, and they’re not afraid to publish in real time, so you have to be able to react to their needs, their demands and be true to the brand that you represent.
In addition, you also need to be able to use this data that’s produced out of their digital footprints, use this data (and some people refer to this as big data) but use this data to tailor conversations, tailor messages, tailor products, tailor offers to their specific needs. And you need to be able to do all of this in real time because batch-based communications just don’t work with a real-time customer. And you need to be able to do this in context; you need to be able to do this when they’re shopping or when they’re in the act of doing something. And that would mean being able to deliver it in mobile, in email, in social—across a plethora of channels. To me, those are the big trends: the big data trend, the digitalization trend, and an empowered customer trend that’s really changing marketing.