So many businesses focus on capturing data for data’s sake, but they do little with it to really improve the business feels Dean Brown, VP of Agency Partnerships at Selligent. In this chat with SalesTechStar, Dean talks about the shifting business trends cause by the Covid-19 pandemic while sharing a few tips on building stronger customer relationships during this time.
Can you tell us a little about yourself Dean? What has your career journey been like?
For the past 35 years, I’ve been focused on building programs that support partners and their clients. Most recently, I was a Senior Director of Partner Sales at marketing services provider, Epsilon, where I led vertical market partnering initiatives with Adobe, SAP, and Sitecore. Before that, I spent some time at Adobe where I ran strategic alliance partnerships in North America for Adobe Campaign. I’ve always seen the value of collaborating and worked to turn partner relationships into valuable company assets. My philosophy is baked on finding ways to create value for end-users by leveraging the strengths of both partners. To me, bringing people, companies, and technologies together can be a win for everyone — companies and customers alike.
Given the new normal that people are still adjusting to today, what shift in attitudes in business are you seeing now?
Brands that are sensitive to changing environments and consumer situations are faring better. For example, there’s been a sharp decline in employment — whether that means reduced hours or pay, or altogether job loss — businesses that are taking that into account in their consumer communications are embraced. There’s an even bigger shift toward cost-consciousness from consumers. We are finding ourselves working with brands who are now focused on helping their customers on cost (via sales and deals or rewards); putting empathy into action. All around, we’re being more considerate of the business realities of some of our partners. In some cases, clients are in markets that are growing. For some, their businesses are suffering. At Selligent, we are looking at this holistically and focus on creative solutions for each client’s unique environment. This allows us to be a partner that helps create ongoing business value.
Overall, there’s real value in relationships. The pandemic has created physical separation between us, but most people have invested in ways to continue to stay connected. The silver lining is that we’re all spending less time on planes, trains and automobiles and are at home more. We’re rushing around less, allowing for more time to have conversations and connect with one another digitally. We are afforded the time to focus on building bonds and relationships and leaning on digital to support those connections — Zoom calls, FaceTime, Social Media — and those habits will extend themselves to the way we work, too.
How has the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic changed how you and your organization is redefining your sales and partnership processes or outreach for the rest of the year?
Selligent’s first step has always been to help companies understand who their audience and customers are. Businesses need the ability to capture important customer information to understand how best to engage and personalize experiences without compromising consumer trust or privacy. It can be a delicate balance but it’s an area where we have a lot of experience navigating. Almost all of our client conversations start with the data discussion: What data is important? How do we capture it? How does it affect their end customers? How do you intend to use that data? Ultimately, we are working with clients to devise a strategy to ensure that data is used to develop and execute smarter marketing campaigns.
Even though we’re a tech provider, our focus continues to be on our clients’ customers — we are focused on helping deliver strong experiences to keep them engaged. Data is critical. It informs successful strategies more than anything else. Now more than ever, it’s extremely important that we stay focused on what’s really important to our partners and their customers. Our focus is on being able to execute on their priorities. With ever-tightening budgets, we need to help maximize effectiveness and efficiency across the board, and show tangible results that impact the bottom line.
What are the top areas / tasks you would tell your partners and clients to focus on as businesses reopen and customer behaviors have changed?
There’s a lot to take into account, it’s not going to be all about the business itself and its products or services. You’re dealing with a lot of outside factors and customers are paying attention like they’ve never before. For example, the economy has changed significantly over the last six months. Customers care more about brand values and executive conduct than they have in the past. This shows us that behaviors and mindsets are always evolving so our advice is often centered on being patient, flexible and supportive.
Every business scenario is different so manage expectations while being considerate of the implication of what we’re asking and expecting people to do. Approaching working relationships like this will bring out the best in people, and in business. For example, as the start of the economic fall-out of the pandemic, T-mobile started providing a ‘Stay Connected’ program, which cut wireless bills by 50% for three months. They knew, financially, this was going to shift revenue for the business, but they did it to help its customers, many of which were finding themselves in unforeseen financial hardship. It was a classic example of a corporate goodwill. Long term, it will help build customer trust and loyalty, which is huge in a very crowded mobile carrier market.
What are some of the ways in which you still see marketing in tech not utilizing the full capability of their marketing automation capabilities to target the right clients at the right time…how would you tell them to fix this?
While data is an important part of martech solutions, there are still so many brands and solutions providers that are focused on breadth of data — and not depth — which is hindering them versus helping them. So much of the work Selligent does with our clients focus on smart data strategies that are aligned with clear goals from the start of planning. We work with clients to first try to understand their end customer, identify the data points that capture the customer behaviors they care about, map those data points to business goals, and develop strategies that can activate the data they have. Following this formula allows us to quickly figure out what information is useful and which is not.
Ultimately, martech solutions and data should work for you. At Selligent, our Universal Profile ties all brand-consumer engagement together to tell a full story of the customer. And our clients use those profiles to appropriately segment and build out customer journeys that are relevant to the end customer’s experience.
There are a lot of martech solutions out there that are highly capable — including Selligent Marketing Cloud — but solutions are only as good as the people and processes behind it. Companies need to bring in partners that can do the important work of listening, strategizing, and executing to figure out the right blend of tech and channels to create the best experiences. That often can be found in digital agencies given their focus on being strategic partners to their clients on all levels.
As a tech leader, in a challenging environment due to the Covid19 pandemic: what are some of the ways in which you are supporting your sales/partner teams?
We are performing near-constant environmental assessment. Our teams talk often and openly about how things are changing and how we can support our clients. But every client is different, and every agency partnership relationship is unique. So addressing challenges together drive creative resolutions more than if one person were to go at it alone. Leadership needs to know how to listen to their teams to know where the needs are. There’s a lot of value in listening, then acting.
Our general approach is to stay optimistic and stay prepared. While the environment is challenging now, we know this won’t last forever, and if we can properly help our clients prepare for the eventual bounce-back, we will. That way, we can position ourselves to accelerate and build momentum when things pick back up.
A parting thought!
“Be patient and understanding, and never forget that we can all move forward more successfully when we embrace change, lean on our creativity to empower new opportunities, and support each other at every step.”
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Selligent is an intelligent omnichannel marketing and experience cloud platform that empowers ambitious companies to create meaningful engagements with connected consumers across all channels. With native AI capabilities, a robust data layer, and a powerful omnichannel execution engine, Selligent enables businesses to deliver ultra-personalized and always relevant customer experiences that speed time to value swiftly and at scale. More than 700 global brands in retail, travel, automotive, publishing, and financial services trust Selligent to help deliver their programs. With offices across the United States and Europe and a global network of partners, Selligent serves over 30 countries with local, personalized service. Learn more at www.selligent.com or connect with the team on Twitter, LinkedIn, and our blog.
Dean Brown is the Vice President of Agency Partnerships at Selligent. Brown will spearhead the company’s growing channel partner strategy and lead efforts for building, enabling and developing profitable partnerships with digital agencies and marketing service providers in North America. He will play an important role in growing Selligent’s indirect channels business, drawing from his experience in developing and nurturing teams focused on sales, partner management, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), go-to-market strategy, and professional services.
Brown’s 35+ years of experience in direct and indirect sales and sales management, successfully creating and leading programs centered on a win-win approach and joint value creation for partners and their clients. Most recently, he was Senior Director of Partner Sales at marketing services provider, Epsilon, where he led vertical market partnering initiatives with Adobe, SAP, Sitecore and Crownpeak. He brings a depth of industry-specific knowledge and experience related to driving joint sales engagements within healthcare, CPG, QSR, tech and energy verticals. Prior to Epsilon, Brown served as Vice President of Strategic Alliances at Neolane, later acquired by Adobe, where he ran strategic alliance partnerships in North America for Adobe Campaign.