Vivek Sharma began his career as a software engineer, then shifted spheres into sales, and finally began exploring uncharted territory for email experience and, along with a partner, founded Movable Ink. As Sharma alludes to in his Q&A, we live in a visual environment — but not enough customer experiences (or marketers behind them) are focusing on those kinds of interactions. AI and automation will help to free up more time to focus on these efforts, as Sharma describes.
New York, NY
Founder & CEO
One word that best describes how you view the state of marketing today
Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today
I actually started out as a software engineer at a retail CRM software company called Blue Martini Software. I joined in 1999, when there were about 20 employees. Three years later, we were a $6 billion public company with 800 staff globally.
My first foray as an entrepreneur was a mobile social network I launched that ultimately failed. We had a lot of innovative ideas around using location and proximity networks to predict who people would likely hang out with — but we were out over our skis with mobile capabilities at the time (2004).
I then jumped head first into sales with a company called Engine Yard, which is a programmable application services platform for Ruby on Rails. I was the second sales hire, and it was here that I was really exposed to the importance of sales. To this day, it’s something I wish I had learned earlier on.
In 2010, Michael Nutt (Movable Ink’s co-founder and CTO) and I started exploring what we saw as uncharted territory for email. We noticed the focus was primarily on list management and delivery. Content and experience were an afterthought. We set out to change that, and today we work with hundreds of the world’s biggest brands to deliver the best visual experiences possible across email, web, and display.
What do you see as the biggest challenge faced by marketers today?
Simply put, marketers and consumers aren’t speaking the same language. We live in a visual era, and the biggest challenge for marketers today is generating personalized, visual creative at scale.
“Marketers & consumers aren’t speaking the same language – we live in a visual era, but the biggest challenge in #marketing is generating personalized, visual creative at scale,” says @vivsharma CLICK TO TWEET
Over the past decade, marketers made it a priority to gain a deeper understanding of their customers, which led to databases filled to the brim with words and numbers. With all of this information at their fingertips, marketers got really good at identifying who to market to… but they’ve been less successful at the last and extremely critical step: what consumers see. That last act of translating data assets into compelling visuals for every consumer across multiple channels is where Movable Ink sees a huge opportunity.
How can they overcome this challenge?
Marketers need to embrace technology to bring data and creative together in the moment. This requires stepping back and taking a strategic look at their larger martech stack and evaluating how it can be optimized for the visual era.
If you could tell all marketers just one thing, what would it be?
Unique content and reach is not a zero-sum game. Many marketers fall into the trap of thinking they have to compromise on reach to make their messages compelling or market with generic visuals to reach a broad audience. Technology is making both possible.
“Unique #visualcontent & reach are NOT mutually exclusive – #technology is making both possible,” says @vivsharma CLICK TO TWEET
Technology has already transformed marketing in so many ways. How do you see tech continuing to revolutionize the marketer’s role?
The more things get automated, the more marketers can focus on being strategic. AI will play an increasing role in this. As AI evolves, it will grow to support layout, language, visual identity, voice and tone, etc. It won’t replace human creativity but will instead augment and multiply the capabilities of marketers and creative professionals. In doing so, AI will help marketers optimize content presentation in the same way it helps them optimize audiences or offers.
What are you currently reading, or what would you recommend for marketers?
I recently finished reading and would recommend Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to marketers?
We just recently held our third annual client summit, and one of the presenters was Saul Lopes from Virgin Holidays. He had a great insight I wanted to share: Don’t think of yourself as an email marketer, but as a marketer generating compelling experiences for consumers. Think about your role more broadly, not by channel. This really applies to any marketer!
Special thanks to Vivek Sharma for his time, energy, and insight.
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