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I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Chris Slovak, VP Global Solutions Consulting at Tealium, to get an in-depth look at his role, his inspiration and what he believes are the keys to a brand’s success.
Tell us a little bit about your role as VP Global Solutions Consulting at Tealium and how you got started in the martech industry.
My background is extremely colorful. I’ve been in Project Management, managed eCommerce platforms, worked in publishing and ad serving technology, ran a team of customer success individuals and have worked for CMS systems. I’ve also worked on Yahoo!’s API team as well as in search consulting – so I’ve done a little bit of everything. Slowly but surely I’ve learned everything about the martech space – what’s working, what’s not, what technology is solving the most common problems and that’s what led me to Tealium.
Wow. You really do have quite the colorful background. So what exactly does a VP of Global Solutions Consulting do? And what does your team do?
I manage all of our pre-sales + engineering groups and our channel enablement partnerships. We test out integrations and create cool things we can develop in the industry.
Our primary teams work with our customers, prospects and technology teams in developing the product and our sales groups formulate solutions that work for everybody. We’re building great products, so we work with the Engineering team to refine and polish. And sometimes we see that customers think they have one problem, but really end up having another – so we work closely with them to really get to the core of the issue and help them solve their martech problems with Tealium’s technology.
Listening to the customer should really be at the core of what a brand is offering in their solution stack. Why do you think some technology providers struggle with being able to provide the right solution offerings based on what their audience wants and needs?
Because brands are usually coming from a known channel or a known problem and those problems are very defined. Brands are making their best attempt to getting their technology (that was built for this straightforward and specific purpose) to now solve a completely different problem – which ends up being a disorganization of data across all of the different channels.
I think companies are feeling the problem and seeing the problem – they’re just having a hard time defining it. And they have an even more difficult time solving it because they’re using technology that was built for something else.
Speaking of problems – what are some lessons learned you’ve been able to glean from any mistakes made along the way in regards to solution offerings?
Product wise there’s so many things that we (Tealium) thought were going to happen, and did happen, but just wasn’t within the timeline we imagined. And some things we thought were going to happen didn’t and we had to quickly shift with our solution offerings.
Can you give an example of something you thought would happen that didn’t turn out as planned?
Strategy wise – sometimes customers aren’t ready to deal with the foundational problems around their data. We try to work with the space as a whole to get brands to understand that this is a foundational issue that can cause a lot of the major downstream issues. We were a little early for the market to realize that, though it’s already changing based on what leaders in the industry (like Forrester and the Customer Data Platform Institute) are talking about and all these other tools are coming out that say this should all exist.
What would you say to brands that are uncomfortable having this conversation and looking under the hood about any of their problems?
It’s important for brands to think about any overarching challenges in terms of overall strategy. Marketers need a robust and strategic foundation to build up from, and once that’s in place, everything else will align and trickle down seamlessly.
What do you think is a common problem most brands face today?
I think marketers have a bad connotation of what personalization is. They think of it in terms of “what do I put in front of this person in order for them to buy?” and that’s not true personalization, it’s instead, just an acquisition strategy.
True personalization is thinking about the experience a user needs with a brand at any specific moment – and sometimes that experience may not be to convert (even though the brand wants them to). If a brand is talking to the right customer at the right time with the wrong message, the brand trust could be extremely damaged. For example, even as a purchaser and as a loyal customer I have been re-targeted with ads by certain companies encouraging me to make that purchase when I already have. And now that image of the brand is stuck with me forever and I end up just never want to purchase from them again.
And that really shows the power of the first impression.
Absolutely. I recently read an article from Richard Branson about using machine learning and AI for brand messaging and customer interactions. A brand means something, and the message a brand conveys when going to an individual means something. And if an organization assumes that they can guess who an individual is based on zero interaction in the past, and then attempt at giving them the ‘right’ message that means something, they will fail. This type of experience would be the same as walking into a room of strangers and talking to them about how old their kids are because of looking up some things on Facebook.
Brands can’t have these inconsistent and irrelevant experiences with their audience – they need to build a relationship with their core message, and then overtime they can fine tune it to generate those in-the-moment experiences that are critical for success.
What brands inspire you with how they personalize their messaging? Who do you think is doing it right?
I love Patagonia. Their brand means so much to so many people in supporting a wide array of interests in the outdoor space. The messaging that I personally receive from them is always about the outdoor activities that I care most about – snow, surf and mountain adventures. They are a highly sought after brand who provides extremely personalized messaging to their audience, and the fact that they can do that within a very specific niche is impressive.
The fact that surfers drool over Patagonia wetsuits in California, and a fisherman in Wyoming gets excited over waders for fishing is crazy. It’s crazy both from both a product and marketing perspective.
They are listening to and watching their customers and are therefore able to send extremely relevant and targeted messages on what matters most to their people. Patagonia is doing it right when it comes to putting the customer at the center of everything they do.
What would you say is the one main key to any brand’s success?
Keep it simple. A good example is the re-targeting someone gets after purchasing a product. Little things go a long way. Marketers are so hell bent on trying to convert people, they forget about the experiences. Brands should take a deep breath, take a step back and imagine how they would want this same experience to be if it were them in those same shoes. Organizations should start looking at the easy things that can be fixed, especially the problems that can be fixed with data, so a more simple, and unified experience for the customer can be provided.
By keeping it simple I would almost guarantee that brand trust goes up, and when trust goes up conversions, and customer satisfaction goes up – everything goes up. MarTech professionals have a lot of cool stuff at their fingertips – so it’s important to get the basics right first.
Thank you Chris!
Be sure to be on the lookout for more inside looks and in-depth chats with the team here at Tealium.