Tech Duolog

Interview with Kelly Jo Sands, EVP, Chief CRM and Martech Officer, Ansira

Interview with Kelly Jo Sands, EVP, Chief CRM and Martech Officer, Ansira

1. Tell us about yourself and your role in Ansira.
As the chief CRM and martech officer of a leading marketing services and technology firm, I’m passionate about using technology to help personalize, contextualize and orchestrate customer experiences for our clients’ brands. While we do have proprietary solutions, primarily in the B2B/B2B2C space, which help national brands enable local channel partners with customized, brand-compliant marketing, I lead a team of practitioners who primarily leverage leading third-party martech solutions such as Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle, etc. Being in a martech role at an agency provides a unique vantage point to see both the client challenges and successes across a variety of industries, ultimately leveraging technology to help them drive increased customer engagement, brand loyalty and ROI-driven results. And when I’m not at the office, I’m chasing after my three young boys here in Texas!

2. In which ways do you think the marketing sector is adapting technology in their day-to-day routine?
In order to succeed in today’s marketing landscape, brands must go beyond the concept of being customer obsessed and deliver against rising and rapidly evolving customer expectations. With this in mind, the only shot at meeting those expectations creates an increased reliance on technology to efficiently manage various marketing tasks needed to scale across channels. And although the concept of leveraging technology in order to automate processes isn’t new, many brands have been so focused on making platform investment decisions that they haven’t yet made steps to change their fundamental marketing strategy. Leveraging technology in day-to-day activities of the modern marketer is a current necessity to staying competitive and effective.

3. How do you think data-driven marketing has boosted the performance of companies?
Consolidating data silos and building intelligence based on that data, continues to be a competitive advantage for companies who know how to leverage data. This is not only true for marketing activities but for increasing overall satisfaction and reducing friction points their customers experience when interacting with the brand — especially those with distributed models and local operators, such as franchisees. Activating this data through Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning and marketing automation continues to produce more data with the ability to measure performance-based ROI, further solidifying marketing’s role in driving company performance.

4. What are the major issues that a chief CRM and martech officer face?
I think that our clients are feeling a bit overwhelmed at the sheer volume of options and overlap within the martech landscape. Many are experiencing a fear of missing out and worry they are falling behind, given the pace of change and overall confusion over what marketing problems a given investment is intended to solve. From my perspective, I see the marketplace challenges as opportunities for those of us that are helping to guide clients through the strategy and enablement of this technology. The Ansira team has deep expertise in leading martech, coupled with real-world implementation and day-to-day management/run-op experience that allows us to really evaluate and recommend the right strategies and road maps for our clients. We are guiding clients to seek solutions that enable them to have direct data ownership and access by the brand; there should not be a black box anywhere in the mix. We also counsel clients to look for solutions that are flexible and easily accessible by other platforms — and find partners that act as an extension of the team who can stay current in the ever-changing landscape.

5. If given a choice to select one, what do you think is more important: developing good products and services or customer satisfaction?
That’s a tough one — in my opinion, developing good products and services provides a legacy of excellence that outlasts the latest trends and builds a foundational reputation of excellence. However, in the cliche of the “customer is always right,” if you don’t put your primary focus on customer satisfaction, you will likely lose the very lifeblood of a successful company … someone to buy your products and services. Brands who focus on driving loyalty through every interaction with their customers will not only see increased grace from them when experiences go awry, but also incremental sales and increased advocacy.

6. Please tell us some of the latest trends that have started in customer engagement.
Experience planning is a hot topic, with brands knowing that they’re now competing not within their traditional competitive set, but rather with brands that are meeting and exceeding customer expectations. A stumbling block is often that many companies are not structured to fully integrate what is needed to deliver on expectations because often they are siloed, resulting in disjointed experiences across touchpoints. To further complicate this, there is a proliferation of solution partners. However, when experience planning uses data, insights and prioritization to drive local and contextual communications in real time, a company can really move the needle to deliver for their customers and truly compete in the marketplace.

7. Can you share with us your idea behind sponsoring Adobe Summit 2019?
As one of only a handful of Adobe Solution Partners worldwide to be have three Adobe Specializations, Ansira wanted to highlight this achievement and garner further market interest in our partnership with Adobe. Given consolidation in the martech industry, some clear leaders have emerged with large bases of customers needing guidance to continue maximizing their investments and keep up with the rate of innovation. Year after year, the Adobe Summit attracts top-tier brands for us to engage with and partners to build within our networks.

8. What advice would you like to give to martech startups?

Think big, but start small.

The landscape is crowded so what capability are you bringing to market that is a true differentiator for brands?

9. What innovations that will highlight 2019 in the martech industry?
Customer data is ubiquitous, but there still needs to be a better way to centralize data and create unified customer profiles across offline and online sources. Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) emerged quickly on the scene in recent years, promising to solve all marketers’ problems with less reliance on IT and increased data access. However, the debate continues on the true vendors providing incremental value in the market versus the “me too” effect of others jumping on the bandwagon last year. I think 2019 will mark a leveling of the definition while also seeing large cloud providers offer very compelling solutions if integrated with broader activation services. Additionally, managing data with increased governance and scale will only grow in necessity with increased regulations and customer control over their own data’s usage. The ability to personalize experiences across channels continues to be important, and although we’ve seen their presence for a while, disparate martech platforms are still inherently complex to execute. A key example of this is the need for technology-driven creative content as increased targeting and AI/ML leveraging data often results in exponential 1:1 customer interactions needing relevant creative assets across channel properties.

10. Which books are you reading these days?
I’m currently reading “Molly’s Game” by Molly Bloom, which is an out-of-the-norm change from my normal books on business. I had the pleasure of listening to Molly present as a keynote speaker at our inaugural Ansira Client Summit this year, which had an event theme surrounding how marketers can succeed in the Customer Expectation Age. Although I saw the blockbuster movie a few years ago, listening to Molly retell her story and connect it elevating the gambling experience for her clients was masterful. Although a somewhat edgy choice for a conference speaker, I was blown away at her ability to recognize opportunities, take ownership over her mistakes, and have consistent resilience in the face of obstacles. #MollyFan

Kelly Jo Sands joined Ansira in 2010 and brings the fusion of data-minded processes and analytical-based engagement marketing to the team. Before joining Ansira she has worked behind the curtains with some of the leading brands in the world, and has extensive experience in enterprise applications, digital solutions, interactive outsourcing, direct and permission-based marketing, business intelligence and database solutions. Kelly Jo works with Ansira’s clients as an engagement manager and technology strategist to ensure the details are covered to deliver solutions seamlessly.
She attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she attained her BBA in marketing, and holds a graduate certificate in business analytics from Southern Methodist University (SMU).

Ansira, the first integrated customer engagement agency, leverages superior marketing intelligence to build deeper, more effective relationships with consumers and the retail channel partners that engage them locally. Marketing intelligence is infused across all disciplines and executed through trade promotion, digital, direct, marketing automation, media and creative activities. The Company is among the 20 largest privately-held marketing agencies in the United States. Clients include Coca-Cola, Domino's Pizza, Ford, Rent-A-Center, Honda/Acura, Nestlé Purina, Microsoft, Wendy's, Cisco and others. Ansira has offices in St. Louis, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, Atlanta and Cedar Rapids.

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