Customer engagement will be the battlefield where brands win or lose in the future, according to Twilio’s chief marketing officer Sara Varni.

She said if you think about those companies making headlines like Uber or Airbnb it wasn’t because they invented something new but reinvented a way to consume an experience.

In that sense I think that your customer engagement strategy needs to be a really front and centre for everything that you’re doing because it’s not only about the delivery of it but it’s also a huge brand building opportunity for your company,” Varni told Which-50.

Twilio builds in-app communication platforms in various mediums like video, voice and chat. Some of its customers include Uber, Airbnb and Salesforce.

Varni has been in Australia for the past two weeks visiting local entrepreneurs and customers in the region.

“I think there are a lot of parallels with the Silicon Valley market… there is an entrepreneurial spirit in both Sydney and Melbourne which we think pairs really well with our technology,” she said.

Varni said there is massive momentum in Australia and the APAC region at large, and Twilio plans to triple the team in the next 12 months.

She explained how the company’s technology solves the problem of consumers communicating on various platforms.

“At Twilio we provide a rich feed of communication API for all different types of customer engagement so whether that’s SMS, voice over IP, video or even just fax basically anyway you want to communicate with your customer, we want to provide an API that can service that,” she said.

To fuel its growth, Twilio is targeting two main customer groups, developers and digital executes responsible for customer communications.

Twilio has always had a strong focus on the developer and their needs and what we can provide them to help them build the most powerful application,” Varni said. 

The second cohort of customers include heads of product, heads of marketing and heads of customer service, as communications are increasingly being becoming a part of what their role.

Varni said Twilio tailors is marketing approach to these different groups by, identifying the “KPIs and business metrics are they trying to achieve and how Twilio products on our platform can really meet those challenges.”

Marketing to developers

Marketing to developers should be built on trust according to Varni. She said it is all about meeting developers in places they are and building on authentic relationships.

“My joke is that, you’re not going to make any friends walking around a developer event with a lead scanner, that’s not just the way that model works.

Sara Varni, CMO, Twilio

“You really have to build a give-get relationship so, what is our perspective on relevant topics like AI, machine learning? What is our latest viewpoint on IOT and wireless? and helping them get up to speed with some of the current trends in the industry,” she explained.

Varni said on the enterprise side there is also a need to build trust, “If I think about my view from a marketing perspective I’m constantly thinking about how I can better optimise my funnel and so if I’m marketing to a marketer around communication.

“I’m going to really want to make sure that I’m talking about trends around funnel optimisation without necessarily having to talk about Twilio out of the gate.

“You have to earn the right to talk to your prospects and that often takes the form of not leading out of the gates explicitly with your products. It’s hard to restrain yourself as a marketer from doing that but I think it’s critical to building a really healthy funnel long term,” she adds.

Effective methods

Varni said for a marketing method to be effective it depends on the segment of markets you are trying to target.

She said, “The channels that will be more effective really dependent on what segment and customer you’re targeting and for me, in the SMB space for example, your strategy will more likely to be more heavy towards online.

“That’s obviously the place you get more scale and there’s an expectation in that part of the market that you could go end-to-end completely online without really engaging with a sales expert.”

When it comes to changing the way companies think about marketing, Varni said those who focus on being hyper relevant are finding success.

She said, “There are massive customer expectations today especially when it comes to new generations like millennials and gen z right around the corner.

“There is the expectation that the content they receive is hyper relevant and they’re getting the right message at the exact right time to the device they want, or the channel they want.”

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