Marketing has evolved into a profession significantly more complex and far-reaching than what it was in its early days. Marketers are on the hook for a lot more than they ever were before, and Cintell, the premier persona-based marketing platform, understands this challenge firsthand. We sat down with Apparao Kari, Cintell’s founder and chief executive officer, to discuss the sales and marketing landscape, how it has changed, and how modern marketers are adapting to the climate. Read on for the rest of our conversation.
What lead to the founding of Cintell? What was the genesis behind the company?
I was working as a technologist building sales and marketing software and data assets for a number of companies. That was roughly 20 years ago, and since then, there has been significant growth in the number of business- focused software enabling and automating workflows. Automation feels rudimentary to us today, but two decades ago, it wasn’t. Logically speaking, if you know you have to complete ten different steps in order to execute one campaign, it would makes sense that there be a fluid way in which to cohesively expedite those manual steps. Thanks to technology, we can do that today.
Automation has given businesses the power to complete multiple activities swiftly, and in large volumes, with reasonable effort. And with this has come an increase in the volume of sales and marketing outreach. Instead of simply fine-tuning what needed to get done, companies began deploying generic and misdirected outreach. This didn’t always reap results, and risked damaging the reputation of a business: hence the term “clogging my inbox.”
We saw a need for a next generation, intelligent way to deliver customer experiences. The rise and maturity of data science, specifically, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, allowed us to combine technological advancements and newly available data sources to make sales and marketing efforts more relevant and timely. That is the reason Cintell was born.
What has changed most significantly since Cintell’s founding fifteen years ago? How has marketing as a discipline evolved as the marketing technology industry has grown?
I’ll start off with what hasn’t changed. What holds true today is marketing’s need to cultivate high-quality leads and deliver messaging that furthers attention and interest from desired customer bases. What has changed is marketing’s accountability. Marketing is much more than messaging, brand and product evangelism, driving eyeballs, and broadly representing the company to the outside world.
Marketers today are expected to be technologists as well as scientists, and are as equally responsible for revenue as their sales counterparts.
Due to the sheer volume of data we have access to today, there is no longer one formula for solving campaign relevancy. Delivering precise results and highly qualified leads is all about experimentation and analysis-based iteration. There is a change we all feel, and that is marketing’s widening scope.
What do you consider to be the greatest challenges facing modern marketers today?
As marketing becomes more technical, one of the greatest challenges marketers face is figuring out how to work with software that isn’t entirely mature. The amount of technology being thrown at marketers – and their sales teams – can be overwhelming, and it is important to remember that even though learning curves differ the window to get up to speed is narrow. Marketers have become guinea pigs throughout this technology explosion, and working with tools that are still nascent can be tricky.
Another major change has been how the marketplace and the business community perceive marketing as a discipline. Given the amount of marketing technologies available today – from data management tools to predictive applications, content marketing, and other methods of personalization – it is assumed that marketers can achieve an elevated level of accountability with greater ease and precision. The marketer’s conundrum orbits around answering: how can you not hit your revenue numbers when you have so many tools at your fingertips? It’s certainly challenging, but every challenge comes with an opportunity.
As an entrepreneur and CEO, what do you do consistently that you recommend everyone else do, too?
Hire the right people and empower them appropriately. Focusing on the team should be every manager’s top priority. Ensuring your people are poised for success often leads to customer satisfaction and tangible results. As a leader you want to ensure that your team is aligned and poised to achieve their milestones. It is important to remember to tap into your team’s professional goals, and even some of their personal ones, to ensure they are positioned to perform what you brought them on to do.
If customers are pleased, sales teams thrive, and investors are more inclined to fund product development that can further enhance a company’s capabilities, awareness, and reputation. This principle of people empowerment is close to my heart, and one I focus on wherever I go and in whatever I do.
How will technology play a role in the future of content analytics?
Thanks to machine learning algorithms and natural language processing, marketers are able to quickly segment different types of content and how it performs among people who consume it. The marketing community has begun to noticeably shift away from producing long-form content, whether that’s product-specific materials and datasheets, or lengthy infographics. Instagram and Snapchat have become new marketing venues in which an image and call-to-action suffice. The form factor is being adjusted in ways we couldn’t predict 20 years ago.
Additionally, natural language processing and tonality will have a significant role in the way marketers segment content and those who receive it so the two are almost reflective. The next level is what we call deep learning, where images and other visual elements can be measured. I believe these techniques will be essential to marketers as they set out to ensure that the content they’re producing resonates with the individuals they are creating it for.
When launching a new venture and making those initial hires, where do you begin? What are the characteristics you look for when expanding your business?
There is a certain degree of relevancy that is required – whether it’s functional expertise or a specific set of applicable skills, like, programming or data analysis. Outside of this, I always look for passion. If an individual is looking to come on board simply because they are interested in pursuing a new job – that’s just not going to cut it. A definitive interest in the company and the market is critical. Most importantly, I believe there has to be a strong professional and personal incentive for someone to want to be a part of our journey, and I look for those who can articulate that. Having a compelling professional and personal goal as a result of their role keeps it interesting for the people who join the team, as well as their peers.
How do you bring ideas to life? How do you know when an idea is the idea?
Ideas are always evolving. With the inception of any idea comes the billion-dollar question: “is there a need for what I want to create?” If you can’t identity that need, then you need to go back to the drawing board. The fundamentals of any idea start with a need, and needs come from pain.
For an idea to succeed, the pain must be compelling enough that it drives you towards a solution of relief.
If someone is willing to pay for the solution, that’s an even better indicator. If a remedy already exists, your idea needs to stop the pain faster, better, and cheaper than whatever is being done right now. There are also many ideas today that are driven by technology advancements. Ideas born from a desire to advance what already exists may not be directly driven by pain, but fervor to enhance what is in play. This can be tricky. Even if you see a pain point resulting from technological or generational gaps, if people are happy doing what they’re doing, your idea may not always resonate. That’s why it is so critical to identify the root, or pain point, of your idea as you develop it.