CityTech Wooing The Technology World With the Amazing Adobe Platform Services

Babar: Welcome to another edition of Ephlux Insights. My name is Babar Khan and I’m the entrepreneur in residence for this particular program. I’m joined today by Ryan Lunka, a digital strategy consultant at Citytech, Inc and he’s based in Columbus, Ohio. Thank you for joining us Ryan and could you please start off by telling us what the value proposition of Adobe Experience Manager is, one of your areas of expertise? A little bit about your book, a little bit about the pitch towards brands in terms of how it benefits in time-saving and cost saving and understanding the customer in the best possible way to leverage the insight.

Ryan: Sure. Thanks for having me. I work with primarily Adobe Experience Manager, and a lot of technology around it like the Adobe Marketing Cloud, and Adobe Analytics. It’s all part of the grand vision that Adobe has for digital marketing, typically the technology part of it. They have the marketing cloud – a holistic technology platform to help you manage all the different aspects of marketing. The vision is that they’re all going to integrate into one consistent look and feel, and plug and play the different solutions. The big task is that if they’re going to let everybody have everything,  We really focus on taking that vision that Adobe has and applying to our clients. There’s a technical challenge there and a strategic challenge there. There’s a lot of exciting things going in that space, that’s the general idea.

Babar: That’s the general overview. Could you talk to us about the concepts of agile marketing, agile technologies and processes? How does this platform help you achieve this new era of jargon? For example, I’ve seen videos of an agency talking about the Obama campaign, real-time A/B test, use the word donate or contribute, or they would A/B test color schemes that sort of thing where everything is real-time, where people are not just using AEM but similar products. Could you give us more examples from your work? Something  that is not analog and gives results straightaway. We had just talked to the CEO of an agency MBA  in UK, that they do 15 minute tests, and after that they change the campaign. Even Jeff Schumacher, CEO of Boston Consulting Group Digital Ventures we spoke to last week and he said they take hardly 5 minutes and change the campaign up. First of all, is that a realistic time-frame? Tell us about other ways that you’ve used the technology, to better gauge the tactics that you’ve used for digital media campaign.

Ryan: Sure. The big thing that you’re getting at there is the shift in marketing right now. The traditional way where you had these long running campaigns you put all effort into, and you don’t know how it will bring you product or service . It’s very difficult along the way to assess whether you’re going to have success. IT’s a classic example of why we’re switching to agile in a lot of places. Started developing software and the market is ready to embrace that – quick moving learn fast fit fast mentality. AB testing, or content optimization is one very good example of how technology is enabling marketers to do that. Because now instead of having the argument of what color should the landing page be, you can put three or four options out there and statistically show which one leads to more conversions, probably sales or lead generation, whatever your goal is for the particular website. I’m actually working with a client to build out the personalization, search optimization program. I want those two together because they are tied together. Obviously, in Adobe test and target , they went through the same technology for testing and targeting personalizing content. The big thing is that you want to start small. You don’t want to bite off this huge complicated testing on the personalization program – this person sees this thing and the other sees something else. It’s really difficult to measure the effectiveness of what you’re doing at that scale. Start small, get some success and build out from there. You mention people running tests every 10 – 15 minutes, if that’s only possible the challenge is that you must have the program in place, the people, the processes ready to be able to react that quickly, so they really know what they’re doing. You also have to have the traffic to support that. When you’re doing statistic analysis, sample sizes cannot be big enough to take a relevant decision.  For 40 – 50 brands, that’s absolutely possible.

Babar: Alright. Could you reference some examples on some cases or clients that you’ve worked on? Is there any example that goes beyond Adobe that you’re working on right now? In terms of agile marketing , or the three-legged stool analogy?

Ryan: There aren’t really a lot of defined ways to do Agile marketing. When you’re doing software development, there’s a lot of different ways you can do agile. I think you see a lot of people trying to apply scrum to marketing and it’s great because you’re having some success, but that’s not the solution to do agile marketing because it’s really a process built for software development. In our projects, we’re implementing technologies that promote agile marketing, implementing with agile software development processes. You start to run into the marketing processes that are already there and that’s where there’s a little bit of tension, trying to figure out to learn how to be quick like that. I see we see the projects on variant degrees.

Babar: It sounds like a dream product or platform, what every marketer is looking into. If you look into the trend or jargon last year, it was all about engagement and reach, and now the focus has turned to measurability. You’re working with Adobe and you’re working with clients, with success stories and what people are getting out of it. There’s the Caesar’s Palace, Palm’s and you’ve got success stories and the people are investing in it and getting a deeper understanding of the customer and getting returns. Yet, there is a group that is hesitant to make such a move, what is your understanding of this mindset?

 

Ryan:  Yes. There are two extremes. One group is really reluctant to do anything, just a slow pushing back sort of process, we don’t want to change, kind of classic people don’t like to change what tthey’ve been doing . On the other end of the spectrum, you have an organization that just see the vision and they buy everything and say alright let’s go, but we find that you can’t really flip a switch and have all of this happen. So, the key is really how to build a roadmap over  a couple of years to get to the holistic marketing type technology vision that Adobe is laying out. We have clients that are n both of those scenarios and its about working with them and there’s a lot of change management, education, culture change that needs to happen, and it takes time. I’m cautious of anybody saying that any technology is going to change the world, but in terms of marketing technology that Adobe is putting out, the Adobe platform is by far the best, in terms of executing the vision.

They’ve got some really intelligent people like David Nuescheler working on it and every single year, every time we go to the summit, we see the next generation of things and it gets better. They’re continuing on the trajectory that they have with marketing cloud, especially in 2 or 3 years when they’ve got this thing going on, putting technologies together, integrated well, it’s going to be an impressive platform. I mean it already is, but it’s going to far exceed it,

Babar: When I first heard about it and what it could do, I thought why every business that calls itself innovative and market-driven hasn’t invested in this platform for any reason. The rationale that chief marketers generally say is that the idea of training people from scratch for a platform that might go obsolete in a year or so is something that they cannot bear. Could you tell us about the ease of use of Experience Manager and how it complements between the agency and the brand side? It could be possible that, like in Asia, the agencies can approach the brands easily rather than Adobe approach the brand and ask them to utilize it. In our region, for example, Pepsi would ask them to talk to its agency, JWT, and JWT is reluctant to empower the brand as such. It would not allow for a work that is happening in 100 hours a week to be done at 50 or 25 hours per week as everything is real-time. It’s a mindset and it’s difficult to change that. How would you pitch to agencies on this side of the world that this is something beneficial to them, and they should get on board and implement this amazing tech that can save time.

Ryan:  I think there’s a role in the vision for the marketing cloud for the agency or consultancy that does a lot of technology and strategy, like Citytech does and the organization who has the platform itself are contributing to quite the same role. What really helps with the marketing cloud is that its cloud based. Everyone can get into the data as necessary, its in the cloud its available, especially when they start pulling in interaction with the creative suite portion of Adobe’s stack. There are really impressive workflows on how your creative agency can build out on creative assets, and the soft fluffy part of your brand so that companies like ours can work on the digital asset management platform , building up the web properties. It’s a very seamless workflow where in the past, that’s been kind of throw it over the wall thing. The agency is out doing their thing, pull their stuff together and send it up in a zip file or put it in a Dropbox and someone picks it up. WE have to figure out what that meant, how the designs translate into webpages , all these things. It’s becoming a lot more collaborative all three of these parties or anybody involved, as opposed to kind of segregated. That’s why the platform itself is valuable. They take in the best of breed technologies – your analysis platform, content management platform and tie it in a layer called the marketing cloud that creates a holistic experience.

Babar: I’m not a techie at all, so things like site catalyst and test&target and the roles they play – it’s modules within AMF if I’m not mistaken, so how does that benefit a campaign for example, well something that you’ve worked on.

Ryan:  Site catalyst, Test&Target , I’ll answer that with Experience Manager as well, because the three of those right there are the core place you want to start with technology. So Experience Manager manages your web experiences, your websites practically and that’s a best of breed managing system that has a WYSIWYG, manages your pages, your workflows , ties into the digital asset management platform. So your creative content is where it’s supposed to be but its great if you have a very nice content management system and a really pretty website, but until you can quantify your success against your marketing goals. I won’t call it useless, but you’re not getting anything out of it. That’s where you bring in SiteCatalyst – and that platform Adobe Analytics is designed to give you the framework for measuring success. You define the variables about your site visitors , what they’re doing on the site you custom define all of this, which is different from Google Analytics, where it’s just simple analytics of how many visits. It keeps track of all of these things for you, so there’s evidence if you’re achieving what you want to achieve , so you can adjust course accordingly. Test&Target, now called Adobe Target takes it a step further because now you can start experimenting and using A/B testing, multi-variant testing to learn about your customers actively, understand what their preferences are, you can really tailor your experience to exactly what your customers are looking for. That’s the optimization part, with personalization you’re able to target to tailor not only your customers on the whole, but we have customers from Ohio who behave differently from customers in California, so here’ s how we can target this stuff over here and the other away there. It’s really about creating the most effective customer experience for each customer that comes to your website. Adobe has acquired what used to be called  Neolane and now you’ll be really able to pull in the email marketing, offline marketing into this experience so it’s not just a web, but it’s a new thing for Adobe  they’re starting to build the integration, so we’re really looking forward to work with.

Babar: We were talking to Hugh Berkitt, he’s the Chief Executive of the Marketing Society in the UK. There’s a slight trend in his part of the world where the consumer brands no longer, I wouldn’t say outright stopped relying on retailers but they are exploring the options of selling directly to the consumers . That doesn’t obviously mean that if you want a Mars bar, Mars is going to send you a singular bar, nor will they send you an entire box.  The brand is using a content marketing strategy to reach out to the customer saying this is how you can utilize my brand, and the idea is that the customer would buy enough of the product via other partners that are online as opposed to retailers who buy the product. So if a brand in the US wants to move to e-commerce, in their consumer goods brand, does Adobe Experience Manager allow this, along with its analytics and e-commerce mix?

Ryan: Absolutely. Experience Manager has got the Adobe e-commerce framework, available as part of the platform and what that really does, like a common interface, to be a solution integrator , to be able to tie Experience Manager to an e-commerce platform. It’s a starting point so you can subtract it with any concepts and integrate it with any platform you’d like. We’ve also done fully custom integrations which really just depends on the use case and the needs for that particular client but Adobe Experience Manager is a platform based on open-source technology, built on Java, all standard based or any other technology based possible. What Adobe is trying to do is minimize the amount of custom, start from scratch integration that you’d have to deal with.

Babar: You mention use cases, can you just mention any example that can contain the challenge you faced, and the solution and outcome of the solution in terms of the benefits the client gained? Maybe along the lines of Adobe Campaign Ad Optimizer.

Ryan: I’d probably leave out campaign because we don’t , that’s a pretty new thing for Adobe. That’s not something we’ve really dug into yet but coming soon. The Ad Optimizer and Social don’t really need the integration, you just use those. I’d leave those but I can talk about .. We have a lot of B2B clients actually, which is an interesting challenge for this digital marketing platform, it’s really easy when you’re talking B2B, and you sell something online, you understand the customer journey, how sales converts to revenue at the end of the day. You meet a customer, you sell him a product and you make money. B2B gets a bit complicated because the point on the web experience is little less clear. Sometimes it’s lead generation, sometimes it’s brand awareness, some of those things are harder to quantify success for. We have a number of B2B manufacturing kind of clients, where we were able to help them manage their web experience.  We often integrated with solar or data search to create an optimized search features, so you can direct customers to the information they’re looking for and then track that you’re able to get there.

Babar: This next question is something that interests me and I ask this quite a lot. How does a business market itself, like your business CityTech? Aside from having a panel, who’s also a published author?

Ryan: it’s something we’re growing to learn as a company as well. We face a lot of B2B challenge that a lot of our clients face, where its difficult to define what success for our digital marketing is. Somebody came to our website and read a few blog posts and convinced them that we know what we’re doing and now we’re just up on their mind. It’s really difficult to quantify that or tie it to  a tangible number. We focus on content marketing, we have a technology blog that is a big part of our online marketing strategy, a huge traffic driver to our site and we know from talking to clients that when we come up on the sales process, they check us online. We develop white papers, more of a formal medium for content marketing as well as webinars , where anyone wants to come and we’ll talk about some of the things we’re doing. Another way that we’re marketing without marketing about it is that we contribute heavily to the open source community.  We have a number of open source products, like to make the path of building Experience Manager implementations easier. We have a better way to show the things that can be done. It’s not to market but we want to help and demonstrate and contribute to the community but that eventually adds to the marketing.

Babar: You came to my attention when I was given the agenda to learn more about, as part of the knowledge sharing platform,  the players in Adobe, in the Adobe Experience Manager and then the sub product space. I googled and Amazon was at the top, clicked on it and got to you. Do you think that too gets you leads besides the personal branding? Because you mentioned on the medium, that somebody approached you after reading your blog.

Ryan: I’m not going to say that it generates leads directly, but it’s possible that it has or does.  It’s quite difficult to quantify unless you ask the customer or client that if they read the book and then called us. It definitely reinforces our reputation of expertise. I’ve literally had people say, oh you wrote the book, I trust you now!

Babar: I was like ok he’s written a book, good job! Then I went on your website, the book is shown prominently on the page as well, good job! Then your book is referenced about on various blogs for Adobe Experience Manager again and again. Even your competitors reference it, maybe they’re the B2B partners or clients but they reference your book at the end. If you’re not getting leads, but you’re definitely earning brand trust or brand preference. One of your counterparts, not from Adobe perspective, but Stephen Maher from MBA talked about brand action technology and the way they market that is through a discussion where they gather the non Chief level people from companies and choose a topic and industry. For example, owned media in the pharmaceutical sector that someone reading the magazine will think that this person not only knows about the function, but knows the industry within the function.

Is there anything that you would like to add because most of our viewers are CTO oriented from the brand side, and also the 2 side, and from the B2B side, we’ve got more academics – professors emailing me and asking me to cover certain topics. Is there anything you would like to broadcast to the audience or share your advice with the CMOs of 2014 and what they should now about the tech and what priorities should be set for this year?

Ryan: Sure. I think that I’d like to say that if you’re not aware of how marketing is shifting to a more agile approach, a measurement driven and technology driven approach, it’s time to start educating  what that’s going to mean for your brand or organization. It’s going to get more complicated. There’s actually a blog, one of my favorite blogs, called Chief Marketing technologist at chiefmartec.com. Every couple of year, the writer puts up an infographic that has a categorized slot of logos for the marketing technologist out there and it keeps getting bigger and bigger!

There’s all this awesome tools out there, really big opportunities to differentiate and innovate with your marketing but the challenge is to pull it all together, to achieve a strategy that you can actually execute on.  Adobe is really helping in that regard because instead of just saying that here’s 500 different technologies that you can pick and choose from and figure out how to put them together, you’re creating a solution that’s flexible enough to tailor to your own brand, but kind of pre-constructed enough so you don’t have to start from scratch. It allows you to start building these marketing technology platforms. Its going to be challenging but there’s going to be some really cool stuff happening in the future. I would encourage everybody to not try to do everything yourself, call on partners, call on agencies, try to build teams of experts that will help you execute all these things. It’s going to be a better outcome.

Babar: Even in the case of CityTech , what do you focus on and what do you rely on partners to do for you?

Ryan: We focus on delivering this marketing technology platform in such a way that it is technically excellent and strategically perfective. So we start from square one building a strategy, building the roadmap, up with the content strategy, putting together the plan for how you’ll be implementing a web experience platform that’s going to solve your problems. We’re built around a technical core – this really good capitancy in terms of implementing the technology. According to Best Practices Architecture, best practice for the Adobe Technology we work with and then we just stick around to help you, really analyze your optimization platform, and eventually your campaign management platform to make sure you realize the investment. We like to partner with our customer; we don’t like to come in and do a 3 month application and disappear. It’s a long-term relationship and we’re talking at all levels: strategic, software development to infrastructure to make sure your marketing program is executing well.

Babar: I found quite a few links online that show that you went from A to Z with the project, while other companies claim to have strategize and give a general overlay and then they have a development partner come in for the integration and development. Kudos to you for doing it absolutely from A to Z.

What challenges do you face with the Adobe Experience Manager, taking into account that you’re actually experts in this area?

Ryan: Yeah. I think the same challenges that our customers face as it is a very fast-moving environment. We struggle to keep up, there are so many things you need to learn, and you want to learn. So we’re constantly putting effort into doing that. We only hire experts in technology and strategy and the different things that we work with, so we’re not a huge company. We’re not 5000 people. It’s difficult sometimes to scale that. This is an exciting fast-moving field to be in and everybody here is really motivated about it.

Babar: Yeah, You’re just shy of around a 100 people. I don’t know if there are a few people not registered on your LinkedIn company profile that’s gauge of how many people are working for the company or maybe there are a few people that aren’t on LinkedIn. But, you’re somewhere between Sapient Nitro and , it’s just that middle gap. I say that because some of the giants that are Adobe certified, as per Adobe’s list on their website. They say that they will follow through to a certain extent and then they’ll stop. Like you mentioned, A to Z, they’ll do it from A- H and then hand it over to someone else. There’s someone else for integration and there’s someone else for strategy but yours is like in a line with everything. So I had to check with the book and the claims on the website. Everything checks out as far as I’ve seen. Do you want to add something there?

Ryan: I just want to add a little bit there. We’re actually a little bit more than a hundred, we’re 120. We have an office n Bangalore and Australia that services Jpack, and then we have our Chicago and Columbia’s offices as well. How we differentiate between all the players in the field is that we’re not like an agency because we don’t completely focus on the strategy part and the creativity, but we’re not even a typical solution integrator only doing the technology part. We’re somewhere n between, with a more intimate and family oriented relationship. IT’s the kind of benefit you get from working with a smaller company – actually small-ish company.

Babar: We’d say you have a lean start-up approach to things but you’re a large company. There’s this idea that you can be flexible. With you the projects are not just strategize but you follow through. That’s where you guys have your edge.  Thanks for your time and we’ll touch base again and talk about new developments. If someone’s written a book on this kind of  platform, you immediately become an evangelist. We hope to have you again on Ephlux Insights.

 

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