• Roberto Marzo, Head of Strategy and Business Development, MessageBird Q&A
  • Roberto Marzo, Head of Strategy and Business Development, MessageBird Q&A

    TechMarketers Q&A for Roberto Marzo, Head of Strategy and Business Development, MessageBird

    SMS & voice service provider marketing leader Roberto Marzi takes the TechMarketers Q&A

    Roberto Marzo, Head of Strategy and Business Development, MessageBird

    Tell us about yourself?

    I am the VP of Sales Strategy and Demand Generation for MessageBird, a cloud communications platform company that enables businesses of any size to easily communicate with their customers all over the world via a wide range of communications channels (SMS, WhatsApp, WeChat, Messenger, Voice, etc). Our technology enables you to call or text your Uber driver or get real-time updates from your airline, your DHL delivery person or even confirm or reschedule appointments with your doctor. We also power mission-critical communications: banks sending two-factor authentication or fraudulent activity notices, and Amber Alerts to spread the word of emergencies. 

    Tell us a bit more about your company?

    MessageBird is modernising business communications. These days, enterprises can no longer call the shots when it comes to dictating how customers interact with them. Customers today expect businesses to meet them where they are, instead of the other way around. In order to provide the digital experiences customers expect, businesses need scalable, flexible communications systems that enable them to experiment and innovate quickly. MessageBird makes it possible for consumers to communicate with businesses the same way they do with their friends and family—via their favourite communications channels, on their own timeframes, and with all of the context of previous conversations. 

    Where are you based?

    I'm based in Amsterdam and am also the site lead for our recently opened office in Dublin. 

    Where were you born and raised and where do you live now?

    I live in Dublin, but I'm originally from Italy—not far from Milan. 

    How did you enter the technology sector?

    At university, I studied economics and statistics. This was right around the time that the tech startup scene was really beginning to gain momentum and traction here in Europe. I was drawn to the fast pace of business and the speed of disruption and decided to take a leap. I started in demand generation at Oracle before landing at Salesforce, where I led EMEA sales strategy and operations. At MessageBird, I'm able to combine my experience in both demand generation and sales to lead a rapidly-growing, global team as we help innovative enterprises and emerging disruptors communicate with their customers worldwide. 

    What aspect of marketing doesn't get enough attention?

    The rise of omnichannel communications is a key area to watch. Right now, marketing is at a crossroads. Businesses no longer dictate the terms of customer communication; customers do. And, more and more, customers want interactions with businesses to happen on their own timelines, with all of the context of previous interactions, via the communications channels they like and use—from SMS and email to WhatsApp, WeChat and the like. For businesses, however, maintaining connections to those channels has, historically, been expensive, time-consuming and reliant on developer resources—which, even at the largest enterprises—can be scarce or maxed out. 

    Cloud communications platforms like MessageBird are rapidly changing what businesses can achieve. Low-code and no-code tools are enabling non-technical teams to contribute to creating a great customer experience.  Building omnichannel communications is no longer out of reach for marketing departments. By using intuitive, drag-and-drop interfaces, marketing teams can create their own campaigns—tailored to customers' preferences—without looping in often already-overburdened developers. 

    Which marketing technology or other tools do you rely on in your job?f

    We leverage marketing and sales automation tools and technologies such as AutoPilot, Segment, Salesforce CRM and Google Cloud. MessageBird has also integrated with other marketing technology platforms, which include many of the tools which businesses already use. SalesForce, Zendesk and our recent partnership with SparkPost even enables businesses to use the MessageBird platform to send email quickly and reliably anywhere in the world. 

    Is building a good team one of the most important aspects of your role? 

    Building a strong team—with a culture that encourages ambition, creativity, and outside-the-box thinking—is the backbone of the work that I do at MessageBird. In fact, nothing is more important than hiring and building a team that scales.  Revenue is just an output of the engine you are building.  

    Which words or phrases do you use or overuse?

    "Ciao!" I say it constantly—to the point that my entire team has started saying it casually in conversation. I also remind my teams to smile. If I see a serious face, I'll just say, "Smile!" to them. It always seems to do the trick. 

    Are there words and phrases you hear used too much?

    There are plenty of buzzwords out there in the SaaS world. "Synergy" is one. "Game-changer" is another. Here at MessageBird, we're on a mission to cut the jargon from our marketing materials altogether. Back in 2016, MessageBird went through the Y Combinator programme, and one of the key takeaways there is to "Kill the Fluff." Essentially, it's a directive not to overhype or embellish by cherry-picking metrics. We take that to heart in our marketing efforts. We choose meaningful metrics and focus on our customers to drive the stories we tell about our brand and our business. 

    Is it hard to balance work and your personal life? 

    When you choose to work at a rapidly-scaling company, part of what you sign up for is rolling up your sleeves and digging in to do the hard work. The startup world moves quickly, which sometimes means late nights and early mornings. But, as you grow your team, and you build an environment where your employees can work effectively and efficiently, you'll be able to set boundaries—which is important for both you and your team. 

    Is there an over-reliance on metrics and KPIs in the job today?

    The shift to data-driven decision-making, rooted in customer demand, is necessary and valuable. You need to have numbers to back up the decisions you make. You can't just go with your gut. 

    What do you find is the most successful way to measure RoI of marketing? 

    There are a number of ways to measure ROI and some are easier to track than others.  For example, a campaign that delivers leads and ultimately sales opportunities is pretty straightforward to track.  We find that a marketing campaign is most successful when it helps shorten the sales cycle by helping educate the customer in advance.  Understanding the ways that a technology can solve a problem a business is facing is something that a great marketing campaign will do.

    What do you think of Gartner's notion that CMOs and CDOs are often outspending CIOs on IT?

    It's not surprising. There's no question that marketing technology is directly responsible for growth in the enterprise, particularly when it comes to the customer experience. Today, we live in a one-click, buy-it-now, one-stop-shop world. And that means businesses, now more than ever, are caught up in a tug-of-war to capture the attention of their customers. Businesses now have to provide an engaging experience that builds brand loyalty and creates a strong connection with customers while also providing on-the-go convenience that our increasingly on-demand world expects. 

    To do that, savvy marketers know they can't just rely on core channels and tactics to deliver results. They have to embrace new channels, models, and methods to remain competitive. Investing in marketing technology, especially cloud communications software, is money well spent because it saves developers time and businesses money by empowering non-technical teams to create and provide customer experiences that increase customer satisfaction and drive brand loyalty. 

    What is the most exciting aspect of the role?

    With the speed of innovation always on the rise, transformation is happening everywhere, from banking, insurance and logistics to retail and healthcare. MessageBird is driving change and spurring innovation in industries across the board. Because success in the digital era often means to disrupt or be disrupted, it's exciting to be part of a company that is spurring innovation on a global scale. 

    As a marketing leader, are you focused on customer retention as well as winning new customers?  

    We focus on both. Customer feedback, as well as inbound inquiries, are a clear indicator of whether your messaging and marketing efforts are resonating in the way you want them to. 

    All businesses and industries can benefit from better communications with their customers. Never before has it been so crucial for businesses to provide an engaging experience that builds brand loyalty and creates a strong connection with customers, while also providing on-the-go convenience. Our increasingly on-demand world expects it.

    How much time do you spend in your company's offices and where do you work when not there?

    Just this summer, we opened a brand new office in Dublin—our eighth global office. When I'm not there, I'm in Amsterdam. 

    On average how many times a year do you travel outside of your own country? 

    I'm based in Dublin, but I hop over to our headquarters in Amsterdam on an almost weekly basis to get face-to-face time with our teams.

    Which companies do you admire for their marketing prowess?

    We're seeing retailers of all sizes embrace omnichannel communications strategies to change the way they market to and interact with their customers. Case-in-point, SuitSupply—a retailer that helps men, and now women, find their perfect fit in tailored fashion by incorporating technology into the customer experience. It starts with the Fit Finder app, where customers provided guidance as they select the size and style they want. The service then connects customers with personal stylists via WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, phone and email. It's the same technology that Hugo Boss and Rituals Cosmetics use—not just to tell customers when products go on sale, but to tell customers when their favourite products go on sale. 

    CataWiki is another example. It's a curated online auction platform that helps consumers and collectors buy rare items. CataWiki accounts for users' unique tastes by leveraging real-time alerts via their preferred channels, so prospective buyers know the moment they're being out-bid for one-of-a-kind, one-in-a-million treasures, like a T-Rex jaw bone, the world's most expensive Lego set, a lock of Napoleon's hair or a 1982 DeLorean. 

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    About Mark Chillingworth

    Mark Chillingworth is Contributing Editor to Tech Marketers and one of Europe's leading CIO Editors


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