Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with Stephen O’Rowe, EMEA marketing manager at ActiveCampaign, on why and how to focus on customer success:

Carlota Pico 0:13
Hi everyone and welcome back to The Content Mix. I’m Carlota Pico, your host for today’s show and I’m excited to introduce Steven O’Rowe, who is EMEA regional marketing manager at Active Campaign Dublin and also has over nine years of experience in marketing. Welcome, Steven, and thank you so much for joining us today on The Content Mix.

Stephen O’Rowe 0:36
Thank you for having me. Really happy to be here.

Carlota Pico 0:39
The pleasure is ours. I can’t wait to learn more about ActiveCampaign. So Steven, let’s start off with a little bit of information on your background. How did you get to where you are today?

Stephen O’Rowe 0:48
Yeah, so I think you opened with nine years of marketing experience, which is true, but it’s been a funny journey to get where I am today. Starting back from where I studied, I studied engineering and not the software type, the mechanical type. That was one of the first areas that I got involved in. I always say sometimes you have to do something fully to understand that you don’t want to do it anymore. After I finished that degree, I decided to go back and study journalism and media. That’s really where I found a real interest in how we communicate, the content that we use to communicate and generally the media landscape was really interesting in those early years. As I was studying that topic what was happening, around 2011-2012 you probably remember this, was social media started to become a kind of business channel more and more. Facebook was really building out its ads platform, all social media platforms coming up were making sure that it was somehow able to monetize what they were doing. Basically, when you were studying media at the time, they were saying, hey, look, all the stuff that we’re teaching you right now is probably not going to be very relevant because we see this huge social media industry monster coming over our shoulder, which may take away from more of the traditional styles of media that we’re used to. This really peaked my interest, I was like, okay, I wouldn’t say that I’m great with change but I do like to investigate change. So one of the first things I did when I finished college was start looking for a job in social media. I found one in a really interesting space, it was like a brand new space, in a telecoms company, domestically in Ireland. What they were looking for was what we kind of take for granted as being like, part of the normal marketing mix or part of the normal kind of acquisition mix and that’s social CRM, which was a brand new word back then, even CRM wasn’t spoken about that much when it came to marketing. They wanted to understand how they could start side by side looking at people’s social profiles and understanding who they were as a customer. Pretty normal now, I think pretty much every software platform you can buy will offer you some kind of service like that, including ActiveCampaign where I’m working, but it was a really interesting project to work on. From there, I decided, okay, I really like this new area and I was really interested in the software and tech side of things in the startup areas. So I applied for a job in a software company and I got a job as a community manager where I was overlooking more social and community building for that software company. They were global and that’s when I really got that perspective outside of domestic markets, looking at your audience or looking at your customer base across multiple borders and trying to figure out who needs what and when, and where? What kind of experience do all these different people need and how do we cater for that in our marketing campaigns and communications? That’s where it led me to ActiveCampaign, I had some really great success with that company and then ActiveCampaign decided to set up their EMEA headquarters in Dublin. I was part of the first group to come in there as representing their marketing departments for EMEA and that’s where I am today. That’s my life story.

Okay. Wow. Very exciting. So you’re an engineer turned marketeer?

For sure. Yeah. I wouldn’t say I’m a very good engineer, but i’m probably a better marketeer than I am an engineer.

Carlota Pico 4:55
Did you learn anything during your engineering years that you’ve been able to transfer over nicely to marketing?

Stephen O’Rowe 5:06
Love that question, basically yes, what I’ve noticed in the last couple of years, and this is well documented, is that marketers are no longer just creatives. They also need to be analysts. I think every marketer could probably nod along with that, at the end of the week, the end of the month, or the end of the quarter, whenever your reporting day is, you’re pulling through a lot of data and you’re pulling a lot of different information. You’re trying to make a narrative, trying to make a story and make it make sense. I think engineering is all about numbers and calculations, algorithms. So for me being able to bring those two things together, it was a skill set that I didn’t fully realize, going into this area, that I can really bounce back on. Engineering skills, which I thought were locked away forever and never to be used again. I was really able to pull out those mathematical skills and really understand data in a much better way. So, yes, I think it I think it did help.

Carlota Pico 6:12
Okay, awesome. So talk to me a little bit about ActiveCampaign. What is ActiveCampaign?

Stephen O’Rowe 6:20
Yeah, so ActiveCampaign is a category defining, customer experience automation platform. We’ve got 100,000 customers around the world in 170 countries. What we do is offer customers, whether you have 10 people or 1000 people or whether you have 10 customers or a million customers, we offer you a solution, which allows you to really orchestrate, personalize, and then automate customer’s experiences. That’s everything from their email marketing to their marketing automation, to the way that they talk to their customers through our conversations feature, and to how they build out their CRM.

Carlota Pico 7:07
What makes ActiveCampaign so special?

Stephen O’Rowe 7:09
I would say what makes us so special is our unique focus on our customers. We have a guarantee to all our customers for their success. I think the root and the heart of the company is in our success and support teams. I believe in the very early days of the company, back in the early 2000s, our own CEO would spend time on support calls, speaking with our clients, speaking with our customers, to ensure their success. I think one of the values that we really hold here is the idea that our customer’s success is a reflection of our own business success. If our customers are not successful, then how do we expect to sustain success ourselves?It’s a pretty cool value to work in a company that really lives that.

Carlota Pico 8:01
So you’re a very customer centric company?

Stephen O’Rowe 8:05
I would think so, yeah. I think that’s what’s necessary, today especially, I think a lot of companies forget that and a lot of marketeers can sometimes stray away from that idea, that they need to be looking and thinking about their customers and hearing their feedback and truly listening to the problem that they have. At the end of the day, as a business, you want to solve that problem, right? So unless you really understand what it is, how are you gonna do that? I think being at the center of the customers is important for all departments in the business.

Carlota Pico 8:46
Yeah, definitely. I would totally agree with that. Steven, I read that you recently came to Europe right? After a campaign I mean and you recently established a branch in Dublin? Could you talk to me more about that? Why did an American company decide that it was important to have feet on the ground in Europe?

Stephen O’Rowe 9:03
Yeah. One, there’s obviously huge opportunity in Europe, but for ActiveCampign it’s really, really unique. Out of 170 countries that we’re in, 55% of them are international anyway, 35% of them are in the EMEA region, including a huge chunk of that in Europe across the UK, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, some of the well known suspects, but also throughout the Middle East, throughout Africa, we have customers that are using ActiveCampaign to plan success in their business. So it’s a no brainer when you’re looking at maybe 30 to 40,000 customers in that region. To go there, be local, be close by, get a better feel for exactly what they need, get a better feel for the EMEA region and most importantly, start recruiting people across our sales, success, support and marketing that have experience working with that market, understand those people and speak their language. It’s pretty important to be able to communicate with these people, these customers and these prospects in the right way.

Carlota Pico 10:14
Yeah, definitely. I mean, to be able to talk the talk, you have to be able to walk the walk as well, right? And what better way to walk the walk than to have feet on the ground? What have you accomplished over the last 12 months?

Stephen O’Rowe 10:27
So it’s been a crazy year for pretty much everybody. But I think what we came here to do, was first to make sure that the customers that came and trusted ActiveCampaign for their business actually found the success they needed. So when we first started thinking about what functions do we really need to build out here we started thinking, okay, we definitely need a support team, they need to be diverse in language, they need to speak all these different languages that our customers represent, which are amazing, and we need to get success people there. We need great onboarding people, solutions experts and we need people that are not only going to help our customers use our product, but also be able to be consultants for their business. To make sure that as they grow, we can grow, as we grow, they grow and make sure that we’re building a sustainable business for them. So our focus over the last 12 months, has been to build out those teams, make sure we have good outreach to those customers, make sure that we’re really building the collateral and the information as well on our digital platforms that these customers can use and language. So this meant putting in place a localization operation in Dublin and EMEA and this has really helped us move our success collateral and our help center collateral into different languages. We just recently launched them into Portuguese and Spanish. We’ll be launching into Italian, German and French very soon. This is 600 articles and I think over the last 12 months, we’ve translated 400,000 words across all of these different languages. We’ve also been perfecting the product language as well. Very early days we started, years and years ago really, to localize the product into different languages because we realized that people wanted to use it in different languages. Then, over the last year, we’ve really been perfecting and tweaking those experiences in the product as well. So very, very busy aligning to the different markets and their needs, especially along language and cultural adaptations.

Carlota Pico 12:49
Okay, very interesting. So spinning off of that response, Gary Vee actually said the other day that it’s more important to hire people according to the qualities that they can offer versus the skills because you can learn new skills right? You can train yourself in a new tool, you can acquire that type of education, but qualities you really get through experiences and you’re born with certain qualities as well. So let’s say you had to hire somebody for your current role because you’re promoted to global marketing director, what type of qualities would you look for in a new hire?

Stephen O’Rowe 13:24
That’s a really, really good question and I think that’s exactly why you should be hiring. There’s always an argument for hiring for skill set and I think that’s going to be your filtering system for your candidates, to make sure that they can at least do the job or at least you think from the previous experience they can do the job you need them to do. But then, on the other side of it, you have to be thinking, okay, I kind of want to get somebody with the right qualities and attitude because the other stuff, a lot of the time, you can teach it, and when you go into different businesses as well they do things differently. So if you take someone from another business that comes into yours and they want to do this role or that role, you’re probably gonna have to do a little bit of learning, and they’re probably gonna have a bit of on the job learning anyway. So for me it’s really all of their qualities. But to get back to the question of which is the main quality that I go after, I suppose honesty and I don’t mean that in like, they don’t lie, but they’re pretty open and honest about keeping in the marketing sphere. For example we want to run this campaign, or we want to do this or whatever, maybe they don’t have experience on that. You can find a lot of marketers that will say, okay, and they’ll go and they’ll give it a go and there’s a lot to be respected about that. But what I really find is somebody to hold up their hand and say, hey, actually, I’ve never done this before, I probably need some support in this. I don’t really care how experienced that person is or how experienced their CV says they are, if they don’t hold up their hand and say, hey, I haven’t done this before, I’m going to go do it, but you know, just to let you know, I might need some support with this. I think that’s a quality that, in the long term, really comes back to benefit the business because you can teach that person how to do those things, and you can put the support mechanisms in place to help that person succeed.

Carlota Pico 15:24
Excellent. Okay, so now looking forward, what do you hope to accomplish in the next 12 months at ActiveCampaign Dublin?

Stephen O’Rowe 15:33
Yeah. So I think if we call the first 12 months, phase one, that’s what I just spoke to there where we were really looking to common serve our customers that existed here and give them all the different resources they needed for most to be successful.I think as we move into phase two, we want to really get the message out there and raise awareness that we’re here. We’re in EMEA and we can offer this absolutely fantastic tool and we can offer CXA to small businesses, medium businesses, big businesses, so they can really, really get the benefits from their business. I think getting that message out is going to require a lot of marketing work, it’s really easy to come to a new region sometimes and put out some kind of half baked messages from marketing across different regions but I think what we’re going to be focusing on a lot is understanding our exact customer personas within each country, really pulling that information out and understanding what aspect of our product actually solves the problem for that customer persona. Rather than reflectively saying, we have this product that solves this problem, we’re going to tell people about it, we’re actively going to go in and find out what the problems are in EMEA and show people that we have the solution to those problems. So a lot of awareness, a lot of growth, I think our team is probably going to grow by another 50% that will take us up to probably 150 to 200 people after two years of settling in EMEA. So super fast, immediate growth. So growth and awareness if I have to put it in two words.

Carlota Pico 17:19
Wow. Okay, so interesting times ahead.

Stephen O’Rowe 17:22
Yeah, big time.

Carlota Pico 17:24
Okay. Now let’s take a walk down memory lane. Could you talk to me about some of the most memorable marketing experiences that you’ve had to date? What has shaped you as a marketing professional?

Stephen O’Rowe 17:41
I think something that I always go back to which is at the base of who I am professionally is how long I spent in my early days looking at social media and communities in general. I’ve looked at so many different perspectives from customers, I’ve aggregated feedback, I have manipulated data, quantified it, twisted it, turned it around. But I really feel like, I’ve never come across a piece of customer feedback that wasn’t leverageable in a campaign for marketing. So for me, I’m always about what will work if this was a one on one marketing campaign, if this was some kind of AGM sort of thing, and then working out how do I scale that AGM one to one, into a one to many campaign? Thinking back to my career, the customer feedback I have, that’s where I always go. I’m like, what are customers saying, what language are they using and how are they describing the problems they’re having? How can we become part of that conversation in a really meaningful way that they don’t need to go and Wikipedia different marketing terms that we’re using or different industry terms that we’re using. Really being side by side with the customer is a real core principle I have when I approach any campaign. On the other side as well, as my career started to grow, I started to realize how important it was to internationalize. Sometimes, more often than not, the American influence of somewhere like Silicon Valley doesn’t always excite markets in Europe, right? Like, just because it’s big in the US and the software space, doesn’t mean that everybody in France is going to be like, yeah we’ll take it no matter what experience you give us, because it’s cool over there. From my experience, I always thought growing up, oh it came from the United States it’s probably really cool. This is probably whatever. And obviously, Ireland’s an English speaking place so I had that perspective. As my career started to grow in the international markets, I started to realize, actually, that’s not the case at all and that’s not the way to grow meaningfully and create meaningful brand equity in those markets and longeivity. What’s really interesting if you’re looking for a funny example of how this really came about was in one of my previous roles, we were entering the Japanese market. We ran a community at the time and we used to call our best community members, ninjas, they were product ninjas. As we entered the Japanese market, that didn’t translate in the same way that we have here. So it was a real eye opener that sometimes positive rhetoric that we use in marketing in the Western world often does not translate whatsoever in the eastern world. It was in no way offensive, but it was just the wrong terminology to use.

Carlota Pico 20:44
Yeah it’s a great example of why localization is important. Steven, could you zoom into a project or a campaign that just really exceeded all of your expectations?

Stephen O’Rowe 20:56
Yeah, I think one that comes to mind and one that’s quite relevant as well to what’s going on in the world and how you can pivot when something really dramatic, like a pandemic, approaches the world from an American perspective, was when this all kicked off. As a marketing team at ActiveCampaign, we were thinking, what what can we do? What should we do? What’s the next step to take? I was really proud to work at a company that turned around and said, okay, let’s look straight to our customers and what they need. Let’s see how much marketing can mean in here. And this meant a lot of different things that were really, really cool and don’t just come from me, but from the wider marketing team. We started to use the expertise we had in our business by getting directors to run webinars on how to run paid ads on social media for example, educating people who maybe had brick and mortar businesses that are now forced to sell online and probably have no idea how to do that sort of stuff. From an immediate perspective, one of the first things that we were able to leverage was one of the tools that we built out, a webinar template guide. So this was available on our website and it’s a guide that gives you a script, slide layout, all that sort of stuff. We were very quick to turn around and say, you know what there’s a lot of small businesses that are struggling right now in Europe and they could really use a resource like this. So we were able to leverage the localization operation in our company and push that through and get that into a place that we could then provide it to not only our customers, but also prospect with it. So it made a really good marketing campaign. But it was really cool to be able to go to our customer base and say, hey, look, we know that you’re pivoting to a more digital presence, here’s some collateral to help you with that. We started to scale up that idea of how can we help more by putting out promotional information about our onboard team and offering business reviews to get on a call and discuss the entire business of our clients. So yeah, I think that time, although it was super strange times, thinking back to the campaigns ActiveCampaign ran as a company, it makes you proud that we went that direction where we were helping customers succeed.

Carlota Pico 23:33
Okay, beautiful. And to wrap the section up, Stephen, if you could do anything in this world, would it still be marketing?

Stephen O’Rowe 23:45
I could probably do anything and I’d probably end up doing something about it in a marketing perspective. Imagine if in a real world I can go to Elon Musk and be like, I want to travel space, maybe power your Space X program, I want to go do that or something. Within a couple of weeks in the company, I’d probably be like leading a marketing meeting. Like what’s going on with that campaign? I think it’s always been a trend of mine. Like I said, I started my career with the idea of being an engineer and ended up going back and studying media and journalism and getting involved in marketing anyway. So yeah, I don’t know if that answers your question. This is a difficult question.

Carlota Pico 24:34
It leads me to my next question, actually, what makes you so passionate about marketing then?

Stephen O’Rowe 24:42
I think it’s important to have good marketing because marketing is, especially today, marketing is everywhere. By today, I mean, the last five or 10 years, it’s everywhere, it’s part of your life, it’s gonna be part of your children’s life, you see it everywhere, all the time. I think we should set the bar pretty high when it comes to marketing and what we do in marketing, making sure that it’s ethically and morally right and making sure that we’re bringing marketing into a new phase in the future, which is positive, clever, and serves people, rather than annoying people. So yeah, that’s what makes me passionate about doing a good job.

Carlota Pico 25:31
Yeah, definitely. I think marketing measures the pulse of society.

Stephen O’Rowe 25:36
Sure, yeah. I agree with that.

Carlota Pico 25:38
Okay, moving into our rapid fire section, which is basically your recommendations for our audience about different topics. To get this section started off, I’d like to ask you about your source of inspiration. So who do you admire, perhaps an influencer or role model?

Stephen O’Rowe 25:55
It’s funny I don’t like to pin myself onto one influencer, I follow a lot of them. What I tried to do was take their thought leadership and critique it a little bit because what I found early on in my career was anytime I had an influencer or someone, I’d become very one sided with them. I was fanatical with everything they said. So I started to critique them and what that led to was not one huge influence, but like various different ones. You mentioned earlier on Gary Vee, I was late to the Gary Vee party. I’ve only really started to follow stuff in the last couple of months. I think he’s quite interesting, I don’t think he’s influenced me a lot in the last couple of months, but I’m definitely a little bit addicted to his content on Instagram. I can watch a lot of that, he says a lot of interesting things and he has a lot of interesting content. So I suppose begrudgingly, I think maybe he is actually influencing my state of mind a little bit.

Carlota Pico 27:00
Okay, excellent. He influences me as well. Now what about a book, a publication, a podcast, on top of The Content Mix podcast obviously, a group or community that you’d like to recommend?

Stephen O’Rowe 27:14
Sure, I think i’d go to book and I read it within in the last year and it’s always come back to me every time I’m making a decision in work, in my life and whatever. It’s not a particularly new book. It’s Start With Why by Simon Sinek, this book is really, really obvious concepts, but articulated very, very well and it can also be very influential when you’re making any decision. It’s also a really, really cool book to read when you’re thinking back on your life and why you may have done different things and putting the why alongside it. So that would be my recommendation.

Carlota Pico 27:58
Okay, excellent. To finish this interview up, what’s your favorite app at the moment? And why?

Stephen O’Rowe 28:07
Can I be really corny and say that it’s the ActiveCampaign app? Well, to be honest, it is because we at EMEA, we joined the company fairly recently. So we do everything around our field, we use our product and marketing. It’s a marketing tool. So there’s been a lot of requirements coming into Europe, to make sure that we’re using the product in a way that works for these different markets. So I’ve been head down in our own products a lot and I have to say I’m really enjoying it, it’s a really easy to use product. I know this sounds like a really big plug but I can see why so many small businesses and solo entrepreneurs that don’t have any real idea of how to pull out marketing in their business and how to use this as a leverage, they can use ActiveCampaign’s automations to just do that for them. It’s like having another person in your business to do that stuff for you. It sounds like a complete plug I know and it kind of is.

Carlota Pico 29:18
And you’ve recently hit your 100,000 client mark, right?

Stephen O’Rowe 29:25
Yeah, we hit 100,000 customers, and we must be over that now. We hit that in July. So over 100,000 customers, 55% of them outside of the United States, 35% of them tour Europe and EMEA. So we’re really an international or a global native company.

Carlota Pico 29:47
So it’s not only you that likes ActiveCampaign, it’s also 100,000 other customers that can validate it?

Stephen O’Rowe 29:53
Yeah. 110,000 I’d say, 110,001 i’m going to advocate.

Carlota Pico 30:01
111,000 then. Well, Stephen, thank you so much for joining me on The Content Mix. It was awesome to meet you and to learn about ActiveCampaign.

Stephen O’Rowe 30:09
Yeah, it’s been a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

Carlota Pico 30:12
The pleasure has been ours, and to everybody listening in today. Thank you for joining us on The Content Mix. For more perspectives on the content marketing industry in Europe, check out The Content Mix. We’ll be releasing interviews, just like this one, every day. Keep on tuning in. Thanks again. Have a fantastic day, and I’ll see you next time. Bye.

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