How Twilio's CMO markets to developers

Chief marketing officer says her strategy continues to boil down to trust and authenticity, but there are a number of content and channel nuances key to success

While marketing a product to developers may be different in many ways, there are many similarities, says the CMO of Twilio, Sara Varni.

For Varni, it all boils down to the marketing fundamentals of trust and authenticity.

The cloud communications platform is booming in Australia, with plans to triple its team over the coming years, which Varni puts down to the Australian 'entrepreneurial spirit'. Twilio recently also completed its acquisition of SendGrid, an email API platform.

Varni says the acquisition represents the need for businesses to change their engagement strategies because of the explosion of communication channels over the last five years.

The CMO, who has been with Twilio for a little over a year, spent the previous decade with Salesforce, something she said gave her amazing, and highly relevant, experience for her new role. She started her Salesforce career as a product marketer, before ending up as SVP of marketing for Sales Cloud over an 11-year tenure.

“When I first started, app stores didn’t exist, it was crazy selling applications from a website to be downloaded. It really was the wild, wild west of cloud platforms back then,” Varni tells CMO. “It was fun to learn the business from the beginning. I was exposed to everyone from small start-ups, to some of the biggest enterprises in the world. It was a really great experience for me.

“So when the opportunity at Twilio opened up, I was excited for the opportunity to do it all again. It’s an exciting time to be here, to see how developers and line of business users are incorporating our product into their customer journeys. It is an interesting prospect."

It used to be businesses could have a phone number for customer communication, and that was it. Now, businesses have to keep up and be available with text, messaging, chat, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Line...the list goes on. Couple this with demands for increasing personalisation and the communication preferences of different generations, and it can be a challenge for any business.

This is why Twilio recently acquired SendGrid, Varni explains. “We are constantly listening to customers, and our customers need to be able to service their customers on any channel, whether that be SMS, video, voice, messages, so we must have an API for everything," she says. 

“Email is something we are consistently told by our customers was needed, so it was a great match to make SendGrid a part of our communication strategy. While email is the most established communication channel, it is still very much a part of the communications mix."

SendGrid will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Twilio and will continue to be led by SendGrid CEO, Sameer Dholakia.

With SendGrid, developers and businesses can use Twilio to reach their customers over any channel - voice, SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, video, and now email. Across a wide variety of customer touchpoints, companies can now trust one platform to deliver the right communication, on the right channel, without having to setup different vendors for each approach.

Practising what you preach

In Twilio's own marketing strategy, how email and other channels are used very much depends on the type of information trying to get across and how users interact with that.

“We focus on what segment we are trying to attract, and produce relevant and the right tactics for that audience," Varni says. "For example, an SMB or startup is more likely to be more online and content-focused. So we might drive more marketing engagement via an eBook around topics, through to product demos and tutorials.

“However, on the enterprise side, it is much more of a relationship and networking approach. We have to ensure that give/get by making our events valuable for an executive to take time off work, offer networking; it is much more high touch engagement than what you might see in SMB."

There is a generational impact to marketing generally as well. "Baby Boomers prefer phone and email, Gen X more likely to connect over text and e-commerce, and Millennials and Gen Z prefer new messaging channels, which is why there are major trends shifting to this," Varni continues.

“For anything, internal or external, it’s about getting the right message to the right audience at the right time. And no one is less forgiving than millennials if you send them the wrong message.”

Along with channel and generational challenges, Twilio also markets to developers, which is different again to B2B or B2C marketing, as these professionals consume information differently, Varni says.

“For developers, it comes down to trust, it’s got to be a give/get relationship. Are you making their lives easier, supplying them with the right docs, connecting with the right individuals in the community? Yet developer marketing relationships are in many ways similar to traditional marketing too, as the way you approach building those relationships must to be based in authenticity.

“We must earn the right to talk to a prospect. Whether it’s a developer or a line of business user, we can’t just come out of the gate and talk about a product. We have to talk about the bigger themes and challenges that person it trying to tackle, and get their opinion well before you mention product.”

This naturally leads into customer engagement, something Varni is very passionate about and the battlefield on which brands will win or lose in the future.

“If you look at the companies making the news today, they not inventing a brand new product or service, but what they are transforming is the way communication happens around that product or service," she comments. "Ultimately, it comes down to the experience, and companies need to be mindful of increasing customer engagement to get the full experience of the brand.

“Experience is now a powerful component of any brand. Nike was founded in 1962, but because they focus on engagement and experience, they are able to reinvent themselves year after year.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu     

 

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