Interview with Steve French, Global VP Product Management and Marketing at OpenMarket

By Ankush Gupta, MarTech Advisor

1. Could you tell me a little about your background and how you came to be the Global VP Product Management and Marketing at OpenMarket?

After serving eight years in the Navy and going to graduate school for my MBA, I started working at Nortel Networks as a technical product manager in charge of their core routers, optical switches and networking software product sets. That was my first taste of real-world, tech marketing experience – and I was hooked.

I then moved to Tellium and Global Crossing where I broadened my marketing role with global responsibilities for product launches, sales support and training, and marketing communications. I spent time at Tekelec and then at NewBay Software as their VP of Global Marketing, where I managed a team of product marketing managers and marketers across several regions.

I had known about OpenMarket as a mobile company in Seattle. Working at OpenMarket appealed to me because it was in a hot mobile engagement market. The company was transitioning to focus on the enterprise space, and I would be able to use my global marketing knowledge to make an impact right away. I’ve been with the company almost four years and it’s truly been a great experience.

2. What is the core marketing technology capability of OpenMarket that you bring to a marketer? Where does your product fit in vis-a-vis the customer life cycle?

For marketers, our philosophy is that you must have a mobile messaging component to your customer communications strategy. That means figuring out how to send the right message at the right time using the right channel for the consumer.

Most consumers today, including millennials, actually prefer to interact with businesses – especially for real-time time notifications – via text message (or SMS) instead of email, voice or social media

That’s where OpenMarket comes in. Using our cloud-based mobile messaging solutions, companies can send text messages to their customers throughout the entire lifecycle. For example, within sales & marketing, businesses can create awareness, deliver coupons and offers and help drive sales. They can be proactive with new customers and send them a welcome message or order confirmation – followed by order updates, delivery notifications and appointment reminders. Next is customer management, where SMS can really help create loyalty with up-sell or cross-sell messaging, the ability to re-order, security protection and fraud alerts, and support requests. Lastly, text messaging can be used for advocacy by sending customer surveys, Net Promoter Score rankings or asking for reviews and referrals.

3. What are the key metrics to measure customer engagement for the SMS marketing space? To what extent would you say, this kind of mobile marketing fits into the omnichannel customer experience that brands hope to offer the mobile-first generation?

If you look at all the different marketing channels, SMS has proved to be one of the most valuable tools to marketers. Read and engagement rates are much higher than email (SMS has a click-through rate of nearly 20%, whereas email is 4.2%) and, since it has at low price associated with it, SMS provides marketers with a cost-effective solution. In terms of customer engagement metrics, there are a few key ones to consider. Delivery rates will tell you how many SMS messages were successfully delivered. Open rates and opt-out rates measure how many messages were opened by the consumer or opted out of after receiving an SMS campaign. If you include a call-to-action in your message, you can track click-through rates and ultimately conversions like purchases, sign-ups or even page views.

In our experience, there’s always some point in the customer journey when using SMS is best, especially when it comes to millennials who actually prefer to communicate via text versus other channels. In general, you want to be using SMS under the following conditions:

  • Time sensitive – when you really want the message to reach the recipient and be read almost immediately. This is different than email, however, where you know when it has been sent, but you can’t be sure when it will be read. Over 90% of SMS is read within 3 minutes, so this means the message is being opened and read promptly – something you can’t be sure about with other communication channels.
  • Higher response rate – SMS is possibly the best way of guaranteeing a quick response; and by using call back technology, you can make this experience seamless for the consumer.
  • Global reach – every mobile handset can support SMS. In addition, SMS almost always works when you are roaming. The same cannot be said if you are relying on data roaming to be activated, which given the cost, not everyone willingly does. With omni-channel communication on the rise, businesses should examine how their organization engages with its key constituents. Many times, the age-old maxim of “less is more” applies. If your messaging requires any of the three attributes listed above, then SMS is the right solution for you.

4. From a technology perspective, what are some of the biggest challenges that your marketing team faces today?

Like any business, we have challenges around keeping up with all the marketing technologies that are available. Aside from some of the key providers, there are literally thousands of platforms and tools to evaluate. Deciding on which tool to use for certain marketing programs can be taxing. We usually try to evaluate at least one or two new tools each quarter for consideration.

5. What would you say are the common difficulties that marketers face in terms of mobile advertising? Also, from your experience could you share some of the misconceptions you have seen amidst marketing leaders about taking up mobile marketing or the myths they have about this space?

Even though mobile advertising is on the rise, it’s still challenging for marketers to measure conversions accurately. The ability to track multiple clicks (for each customer touchpoint) instead of single clicks will help with that. In terms of mobile myths, the one that stands out to me is that ‘all you need is a mobile app.’

While apps certainly have their place in the mobile marketing mix, they really only address power users who are looking for a very rich user experience

In addition, research shows that nearly 80% of business apps are abandoned after the first use. This means you need a better way to reach and engage all mobile users – and that means using SMS.

6. Are there any new features or upcoming upgrades that you’re excited about and would like to give us a sneak peek into?

One area of expansion for us has been global SMS. We’ve expanded our support to 81 countries for two-way SMS. We’ve also launched a new global SMS API, which enables enterprises to create and manage multiple message originators, including short codes, text-enabled toll-free and local numbers, and alphanumeric codes via one API. Bundled into this new API are features that help reduce the technical complexity of sending SMS messages, increase the successful delivery of messages worldwide, and ultimately improve consumers’ SMS experiences.

7. With instant messaging gaining popularity, how can marketers make traditional messaging services relevant and effective in a continuously evolving mobile marketing space and engage with customers using this tool?

Choosing the right customer engagement tool can be challenging for marketers, and there generally is not a ‘one-size fits all’ solution

IM, by definition, is instant and brief and will likely be immediately read. It also requires both parties to have an account with the IM service. You also need to sign-in to communicate, and you might lose the history of your conversations over time. It might be a good solution for communicating within an organization, but it’s not the best engagement tool for customers. With SMS, it’s universal and available to anyone with a mobile phone. It’s not proprietary or intrusive. According to our research, consumers prefer to communicate with businesses via text messaging over other channels like email, voice or social media.

8. What is your take on the massive explosion of MarTech cos across so many categories? Do you see competition, opportunities to partner and/or integrate?

I recently read that there are over 2,000 MarTech companies across more than 40 categories, which is amazing. Content marketing solutions appear to be the biggest area of growth. My take is that marketers need to start with the basics like email marketing, web analytics and social media.

Even though there are lots of players in each category, it’s likely that only a few large players will survive in the end. It’s best to align with the solutions that will help your business over the long term

MarTech companies that include communication channels are potentially good prospects for using SMS.

9. How do you weigh in on the whole ‘buying into vs building a marketing cloud’ choices that marketers have to face today?

For many companies there could be value in going either route, depending on your company size, budget, internal resources, and other factors. If you purchase a marketing suite from a company like Adobe or Oracle, there could be some efficiencies in how the different technologies work together or perhaps even a price break if you buy the entire package. The risk is that you’re locked into one vendor’s platform capabilities and now they have your data – potentially for years. If you can self-select your own technologies, then you have more flexibility in finding just the right solution for your needs, or changing solutions when it’s right for your business. At OpenMarket, we like to be nimble in selecting our marketing tools so that we can find what works best and also try new technologies that might help our business down the road.

10. What can marketers look forward to in the mobile marketing space in general and SMS messaging space in particular in the future? What specific changes are you expecting in mobile advertising in the next two years?

Mobile marketing is an exciting space and it’s constantly evolving. SMS has certainly become more popular over time and in fact, it’s the #1 used feature on a mobile phone. That means there is a huge opportunity for marketers to connect and engage with consumers in new ways, using a channel and device that everyone’s already familiar with. Companies will see results in their bottom line and in long-term customer satisfaction.

In terms of mobile advertising, marketers should start by knowing their customers inside and out. Get to know their habits, how they like to receive information, and where they are at any point during the day. We’ve seen very creative advertising campaigns that use short form video to capture immediate attention, so that could be a growing trend to watch for.

11. Could you share for our readers, an infographic or description depicting your marketing stack (various marketing software products or platforms your team uses or subscribes to)?

As a global marketing team, we use several tools and technologies to help us do our jobs. Some of them are built internally and other are well-known products like Salesforce/Pardot for CRM and email marketing, LinkedIn for prospecting, Hootsuite for social media, Google AdWords and Google Analytics for paid search and web metrics, and Word Press as our content management system.

12. Can you share a screenshot of the homepage of your smartphone (iOS/Android/other)? It would be interesting to see some of the apps you personally use on a daily basis to get things done and stay on top of your day.

Sure, here is my short list of personal apps:

  • OneBusAway for getting around Seattle by bus
  • FlipBoard for something to read when I’m standing on the bus ride home
  • Uber for travel just about anywhere I go – US, UK, Poland, Belarus, etc.
  • Camera to take photos and videos of my twin daughters
  • Vudu for getting episodes of Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Disney classics for my little girls
  • Yahoo for personal email, which dates how long I’ve been connected to the Internet
  • Productivity apps for work – email, calendar, contacts and the alarm clock to wake me up for work