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    Acoustic share it’s tech and strategies in an exclusive interview for progressive marketers to become dominating Martech leaders

    Published on September 3, 2019

    By Sachin Murdeshwar

     

    Matt Marriot

    Mumbai : Acoustic emerged as the largest independent marketing cloud, offering marketers purpose-built solutions on the industry’s most exciting and open marketing platform. Formed by Centerbridge Partners’ acquisition of IBM’s marketing and commerce software offerings, Acoustic launches with a total focus on unleashing the brilliance in marketers by empowering them with freedom to do their best work. Led by an experienced team including former IBM executives, Acoustic enters the industry with market position, customer scale, and a proven technology platform.

     

    In an exclusive interview with

    Matt Marriott, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Client Success, Acoustic – MM and

    Navneet Narula, India Sales Leader, Acoustic– N, our reporter Sachin Murdeshwar – SM (Journalist) unfolds their insight and expertise for marketers eager to apply new technologies and take advantage of industry-leading AI development to enhance business with remarkable results and proven successful track record.

     

    Navneet: So we have Matt here who is the head worldwide leader for us. He’s in town. He

    Landed on Monday morning and we did not let him sleep.

     

    Matt Marriot: It’s been I get to meet with a lot of the clients and some of the business partners and so I’m excited to be here. This is actually my first trip to Mumbai. So I’m learning a lot and trying to listen and understand what our clients and business partners want from us and see if we can react accordingly. So I’m thrilled to be here. So there’s only a few moments I got in Monday morning at 2am. Yeah, second thing second, this is my second day.  So we’ll go to Bangalore tomorrow morning and then BNWL are returned from Delhi.

     

    Agency representative: Matt if you could begin with the overview of the company first?

     

    MM: So and maybe I’ll just back up just a little bit and talk about why we decided to extract this portfolio from IBM and spin it into its own company. Because I, I’ve been with IBM for a long time, right? I’ve been with IBM for 18 plus years. And it actually when the concept was traveling, it actually surprised me a little bit. So five or six years ago, IBM bought several companies we bought demand tech. We bought Silver Pop, we bought TV, Court Metrics, we bought Xtify define about several companies with the idea to create division within IBM called smarter conference that really sort of oriented itself around, our ITT mates to focus on Commerce or the Office of the CMO. And our goal was to integrate the platform to make it not only look and feel the same, even though we just purchased it from a bunch of different companies, but make sure that the data was actually in a consistent place across all these different areas.

     

    At that time, there was one senior executive who was in charge of Smarter Commerce at IBM, his name was Mike Rhodin, and often I’ll come back to why me sharing that with you is important in a minute. But after we bought these companies, Mike was quickly moved on to another area of IBM. He helped start Watson or IBM’s brand of AI and then he ultimately ended up starting Watson health and then, you know, a couple years after he ultimately ended up leaving IBM, and in his place, there were several different executives who came in and ran Smarter Commerce and Smarter Commerce became brand called Watson Customer Engagement where we actually work now. So, even though these different offerings from these different companies exist in sort of the right hand side of the Magic Quadrant, whether you’re working with, you know, Forrester or Gartner or IDC or whomever I mean, they’re, they’re good products.

     

    Within IBM, the promise we wanted to make to our clients is we were going to invest in them, we were going to, you know, have a lot of different functional releases with these products, we were going to tie them together and make an integrated platform. And because Mike left and there was a, you know, sort of a revolving door of different general managers in this product and in offering area, that promise never really came to fulfilment, right. So, a lot of our customers, you know, probably wanted a little bit more from us. And IBM has lots of different priorities. In fact, you were to ask some of my friends that I’m close and is IBM know for marketing they both say IBM is known for other things. So it was hard to differentiate ourselves as a marketing company.

     

    So about a couple of years ago, we decided we were going to begin exploring with these products and services exists more effectively and more elegantly outside of IBM inside. So we began talking with some software companies. And there was a lot of software companies who raised their hand and expressed interest in buying this portfolio. And we took a pause because we didn’t want to create another version of IBM. Our goal in this was to be focused, right? So if we just took, you know, a very large software company, just add this portfolio to it. I don’t know if we would serve our customers any better. Right? So we turned our sights to working with some venture capitalists and some of the venture capitalists had very short term investment ideas, where they looked at the five or six companies that we bought and they thought, maybe there’s an opportunity for us to break these back up again.

     

    And we still believe that the sum of these parts together is probably the most valuable thing for our CMOS, right? Especially if we built them in an open way and actually, integrated with the platform. So then we started looking at venture capitalists, or rather private equity firms with a little bit more of a long term thesis, because we knew that there was some tech debt associated with these products. And if we could shed the tech debt, it would take some time, it would sort of help us leapfrog our competition. And we wanted to work with the private equity firm that was more inquisitive in nature because we knew that this portfolio, while it is very focused on the Office of the CMO, it doesn’t encompass everything that’s important in the office of the CMO and the things that are most notably absent our media, which is very important to CMOS and ad tech, which is very important to CMOs. So we wanted in while not prepared to announced anything today, we want to partner with the private equity firm that was acquisitive, that they knew that they were willing to acquire maybe other solutions in the future with us.

     

    So, after we talked with lots and lots of venture capitalists and lots of private equity firms, we finally settled on a company called Centre Bridge. And they’ve just been an amazing partner so far. And by the way, they are very large, they have $28 billion under asset and they’re very conservative in nature, because they handle the pensions for you know, firemen, and policemen and teachers, and so they there, they want to make money, right. And I’m not confused that they’re a private equity firm that wants to make money. At the same time. They did have a little bit of a longer term investment thesis, right, which is good for us because we knew that there was some tech debt associated with our products. And so we’ve launched a very fast and very expensive sprint to integrate our platform.

     

    And we wanted to make sure that as we integrated in our platform, like we said before, it wasn’t just making it look the same. It was making sure that the data was consistently accessible in all areas of the platform. And we wanted to build in a very, very open way, which is different from some of our competition. Because if the CMOS that you talk to or anything like the CMOS that I talked to, they want to explore lots of different tools, so we wanted a very open platform where they could take a tool and we can take the data from any tool and use it in any other area was not proprietary at all, because CMOS like to tinker with lots of different things. So, so far Centre Bridge has been awesome. The reason that Mike Rhodin comes back into the story, the senior executive at IBM that bought all these products and services, is he’s the he’s the one who sort of whispered to us and whispered to Centre Bridge long after he retired from IBM. That you know, this is probably a good fit. And now Mike Rhodin will be the chairman of our board. Since he’s the chairman of our board of directors now, working with Centre Bridge, which is sort of great to see him again. So we are about a year just over 1300 person company, we’re going to take with us about 3500 different clients. So we’re the largest private Marketing Cloud in our sector. So while there’s a sort of a lot of entrepreneurial energy around the company, we’re still kind of big, a big company. And so it’s been tons of fun and there’s a really cool energy in Acoustic.

     

    SM: So Centre Bridge has only Acoustic under its portfolio or any other brands as well?

     

    MM: So they won’t they won’t merge us with any other any of the other companies that are their portfolio so will be completely standalone under Centre and Centre will be our owner, they won’t operate Acoustic  they’ll be our owner. And Centre Bridge is… they’re not really an operator to begin with. So they’re different than some other private equity firms where they want to seed the company with a bunch of operation partners, Centre Bridge is more of an investor. So of course there, they’ll give us advice where they can get advice, but they’re not really an operator. They’re just an investor. So we’re going to, we’re going to run the company ourselves.

     

    And I think we have a good strong executive team, which I’m excited about. It’s been fun to get to know them. And now we have finally at team. And the last thing I would offer is, the breakout between IBM was it was not as clean as we would have wanted it to be. Because we’re setting up a brand new company, we needed to sign leases on buildings, we needed a way to pay people, we needed an HR system we needed, leave the stuff that’s not sexy, we needed the cell phone plan, right for our employees to have that all that’ll take a little bit of time to sort out so we’re leasing back space from IBM releasing back laptops from IBM releasing back buildings from IBM. And so now exists the brand actually launched on July the 15th. But Debbie, and Carrie, you still get your pay check from IBM, right? You’ll get your pay check from IBM, until we’re ready to transition all the employees over which will be, you know, a few months from now. So we’re excited about that. And IBM has been a great partner in that regard, allowing us to sort of lease back that, that that space and that those services.

     

    SM: So you’re present in 70 countries. So started your business recently in Mumbai in July?

     

    N: All our customers will be taking right now. Will be moving into the facilities that we’re using, the teams that are here are the same, so some of the team members are moving over. So we already have offices in Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore, and most of my team operates. We achieving Pune. And so on the IBM facilities, we have offices. So it’s just the continuation. But on whatever we have, will be working on as well as our employment offers.

     

    SM: So we are primarily focusing on marketing. So we were competitors like you’re facing.

     

    N: So, so our range of it, we see Adobe, Oracle. And then we’ve got a lot of tier two players that we compete in the marketplace.

     

    SM: Recently, company in India, started an IPO. So will Centre Bridge be also stating that? As a private equity?

     

    N: not aware

     

    So but yeah,

     

    SM: So yours is marketing and advertising is still with IBM?

     

    N: So like, like Matt said, the reason we the leadership chose Centre Bridge or partnered with centre Bridge was the lunch the wire or the they have we have today they want to grow the footprint and they want to be more relevant to a CMO and to CMO advertisement is also pretty big and very important fact more spends are diverted there than in the marketplace. And that’s why he’s saying why he’s not announcing. But eventually we will have a play in the advertisement space through acquisition or partnership

     

    MM: we can fit our portfolio. Now to me, all of it is pretty focused on things that are interesting to a marketer. But it’s not just running campaigns meaning running campaigns is a piece of it using you know, different meetings mediums like email and text and the like, but also, one of our largest offerings is customer analytics. So helping, you know, our marketers identify and classify and target effectively the different customer segments appropriately. And also journey analytics. So when customers hit your website or sort of other apps we can have you know, session playback, so you can see where they get stuck in your site and how they’re having difficulty working with you or where it’s effective working with you. So they can make adjustments we can even use AI to make adjustments to those websites. And then content repository for the content of where marketers can use again AI to search for and select the best content for their campaigns. So rich and robust content management system. We also have something called Acoustic Exchange where when marketers like to use lots of different stuff and they like to their stuff to talk that like all their tools to be able to talk to one another. So in our game we call the Universal Business Exchange and Acoustic s called Acoustic Exchange, where it’s sort of a bus that allows these different disparate tools to talk to one another. And then we have another offering set around merchandising. And it’s creating deep economic engines so customers can, you know, have real time pricing and merchandising and promotion in the right way. This is something that, you know, on my team, because I have all the sellers as well. It’s such a services oriented sale, because unless you’ve done that job at a customer, you can’t really teach a salesperson to do that. It was a really deep sort of Jedi Knights sale, if that makes sense. So that merchandising is also a piece of our portfolio, so all things that are really focused on the Marketer. And then where we have gaps like ad tech and media, we hope to fill those with other offerings.

     

    But the point I wanted to bring up is more than just campaign, campaign and analytics and content and creating content repositories and, you know, tools to help the different disparate marketer tools talk to one another.

     

    SM: So what is your present market share internationally?

     

    N: So we generally don’t disclose that I’m looking on those market share.

     

    SM: so you are into all verticals of marketing, so which is the major segment?

     

    N: So, if I bought you correct, you mean, which industry? So right now, banking and financial services and across the world map it would be the biggest?

     

    MM: Yeah. I mean, I look at the if I sort of looked at the rear-view mirror, they’re the ones that you’d think like, you know, retail and wholesale, so are distant, anything that sort of orient around the distribution market, so a lot of retailers and financial services including banks, and insurance,

     

    Denise’s big for us if you look into the comms the communication sector like travel and transportation and utility oriented companies, because they have a lot of reasons talk to people, but many reasons to run campaigns against their big disparate clients. That’s those are also big sectors for us here.

     

    So there’s lots of, you know, I was actually surprised when I first came to the brand and how many different types of industries and then when I think about it a little bit more deeply sort of make sense. These are marketers who need to talk to their clients, and sort of get under the radar of certain messages with their clients. And so the industry became a little bit less pronounced because there’s so many different industries that take advantage of our products and services.

     

    The one that’s only thread through retail is really our merchandise. We don’t have a lot of, you know, oil companies that are using their reps and pressing purpose for creating promotions for their

     

    SM: there is a lot of data security trading in banking and finance. So how do you overcome that?

     

    N: So, so again, we work with largest to the bank. So let me answer this in two ways. On the data centre side, IBM is known for the security world’s biggest banks, largest retailers, and consumer services to our data centre so and it’s been on we generally do all that as well. Right man, so on the SMB side. So that’s one side the other side if your question is about the latest trend, which we believe to actually wouldn’t be alone data residency, see, so we already have a data centre in India, which is also for banking customers are on that data centre, so they can put signs up to can leverage that data centre.

     

    SM: Any new acquisitions you’re planning?

     

    MM: So, yes, there were thinking about a lot of different they’re not prepared to announce them here. But yeah, you bet. And to follow up on what he said about security as well. I think that’s one of the things that service so well at IBM, because IBM was so oriented around making sure that we have, you know, bulletproof security. It’s one of the things that I hope we take from IBM to Acoustic. There’s a lot of learnings that came with us into Acoustic and so I’m excited about that.

     

    SM: Regarding inventory, so what kind of inventory generally Acoustic have?

     

    N: so there is no inventory just a software as a service, which people consume.

     

    MM: Yeah, there’s only one product that we offer the option to locally deploy. And it’s the heritage TV product. So we call it Acoustic Analytics can deploy that online. Let me said, really 95% of the company is software as a service. So there isn’t. Yeah, but

     

    N: in software, there’s nothing quite inventory. It’s an IP

     

    SM: So how revenue has been put up in India in the last one year?

     

    N: So again, we don’t disclose that, sorry

     

    Yeah. Sitting there two, three things I want you to think about and don’t have to be an IT guy to think you consume, not if not consume. You’re targeted by many brands today on your mobile phone. Whenever you’re on website. You also have a news channel, right? So think about that. What has happened over the years, and I’m talking about bigger news agencies Avian, ABB, India today’s of the world. Whoever had a muscle power. And media is our own example right now because you’re in media. How things were different was media companies were interested in sending ads for them, knowing their audiences was important because they will set the audiences to the brand saying, you don’t have a basic demographic as well as more attributes. Now you can target them as well. But if you think it from a different perspective, from a brand perspective, and if you have a deep pocket, and some of them were very well funded, some of the e commerce have already been funded, because there was a major liquidity in the market and people were funding time ready to spend anything if you had a good idea. What they did, they bought heaps of technology, anything that was flashing marketing, it was like a toy they had over the period of time, they realized

     

    While those toys they bought for help them or punish, they were able to operationalize it optimize their spends too much to an extent. But what they were not able to achieve was not many CMOS are confident to tell them what was in a conversion what was the impact of me getting this technology in house or by acquiring a marketing automation technology. Now, what where I could take the story to everyone the my hypothesis was in the analytics race, most of them told them the story that this has happened, no one was able to turn them what it happened. Now, when knew did this has happen? They had no idea what to do with that information. And that’s where I think a lot of it fell apart. People had already in our 1.3 million people generate so much of data, right and it became one more data that was coming through one of the technologies they acquired and they had no idea what to do. So, in essence, that brand new searching came to mind knew that someone can be by my side but never knew why I fell off.

     

    So, the why was not answered? Now, what we are trying to do in the marketplace aside what everyone does, we will do, where we are trying to differentiate is a two or three things one of them is we cannot pinpoint and if my customers are interested, I can show them why such inventory. Simple example a how many people today in their form type Bengaluru? We all still have coming from Delhi economy, right? But I still type Bangalore right. I can show you companies because the name changed. And I want the most important form when you shop or when you try to get a trial.

     

    I get an insurance the landing page of the first page where you fill your basic information is the most important page otherwise if you fall from there you’re not going to the next week

     

    I know plans will have fed that city was mandatory name city for number of mandatory logical but plan would have never known that the guy fell off because he kept typing Babylon and it was not allowing them to go to the right and now I’m taking this analogy in the analytics would give them thousand people came luckily out of those thousand 900 we’re not typing Bengaluru. So they went to the next page the guys who are typing Bangalore couldn’t so what a marketer will get a view is thousand came hundred fed off that stuff. When someone that comes through in our technology once in a while I want to know what happened to those hundred why

     

    They can replay those sessions in certain cases technology can help them to detect those are normally generally thousand people come 900 fall or 900 go to the next place today you know what thousand are coming? Only 50 are going to the next page. What happened? Right? Think about you as a person and everyone in our especially marketers, all those who are your audience is 300 million people who are on smart devices or who are connected to the internet. Now, if technology can support that, and when I say support why shouldn’t our technology tell them rather do that guys there’s something wrong… right or in the other example, where Bengaluru or Bangalore, if it is analytics, it has to tell me why they fell off so that I can rectify. It doesn’t really matter to me, 900 k 100 fell off. I don’t know why the they fell of it all. So those are the small things where we are saying one, we will let you know what exactly is impacting that conversion. Think about that being the last page of the first page of an insurance company, if you’re not able to go to the second bridge, it’s a loss, right? If they knew they will fix it. So that’s an impact.

     

    Second place where we are trying to make an impact is let the technology do the execution job. Let me let up technology offer you options to make a smart decision quickly. I can give you options. That means you can say okay, I’ve got two guys coming to my website. And I know from his past behaviour is typically like this, right, and it can come as a story below. Or there are scenarios where you probably are coming from and typically you like, say, candies. But today, we know that you’re coming from an email that I’ve sent to you, which was about chocolates. Right? So I believe when you come to my mind, my website should know in coming from the film coming from an email that I sent around chocolate, so your starting point should leave the chocolate why not chemical? Right? A lot of people can do it. But since and to a point what made the experiences broken because the data sets, tools, doesn’t talk to each other doesn’t talk to each other. It’s not like today I want to have fun with my friends or my customers that I need. Let me give such an ad of something that she never buys. It is because the market here who’s on the other side, doesn’t know because he knows Sachin from what he does have an email what he doesn’t want SMS what he does. So what we are trying to change this with that since everything will be talking to each other exactly we know that Sachin came from an email who today clicked on chocolate but generally he likes candies. And when you come to a website, you will see a chocolate starting point with the chocolate or tomorrow if the one an online offline I can trigger a message. So you know guys what the last day she was on. And he kind of liked it but did not buy was chocolate. Why don’t you when you go to say for example, any of the retail store, which would be our customers whenever they are customers will have an ability. The guy with an iPad, telling you its Sachin had left chocolate in his basket on the web store or in my website. I should offer him that that would be like dual transaction. All of that few simple things, were technology helping the market here to deliver a service.

     

    And we do not do a mistake, we’re very customer focused and not face. A lot of our customers today, work very closely with that said, we want to make them successful. We want to a mistake of what happened three, four years back there. Everything was sold and the person walked off or the brand walk off. That’s what we want to do well we are really particular about it. That’s where I spoke about our legacy being very customer centric and quite in depth in game within focus.

     

    MM: So the other thing I would just offer is one of the reasons I’m here is because India is such an interesting market for Acoustic and it’s not that IBM didn’t focus in India, IBM had a deep focus in it. But if you look at this brand area, India you know, look at the revenue from certain customers India wasn’t at the top of the list and we view India’s having such a significant opportunity that we as a company want to be number one in the in the US market. So we’re going to staff appropriately make the right investments appropriately so we can be a really relevant partner in India. So that’s it again, I’m here to learn all that I can in my short stay and then my commitment to my teammates and the customers is I’ll be back as often as I need to be. So Acoustic can be number one here in India. I’m really excited about it.

     

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