An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Fail fast and iterate faster: Not every idea is a winner, and that’s OK. More often than not, I learn more from my failures than my successes. As cliche as it may sound, brushing off failures and rising up to try again is the hallmark of a great marketer. It’s okay to fail as long as you brush off your shoulder and spring back into action to iterate, iterate, and iterate again until you land on a winning solution. It is equally important that on your climb to the top of the mountain, you celebrate the small wins and give yourself the recognition and self-praise needed to persevere forward.

As part of our series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Marotta.

Andrew Marotta is Growth Marketing Manager at SmartBear, a leading provider of software development and visibility tools. Since joining the company in 2020, Andrew has changed the game for SmartBear’s self-service go-to-market motion, implementing best-in-class marketing strategies using complex tools and programs to grow various e-commerce businesses. Andrew has also made improvements to his products’ lead flow that has led to an improvement in sales qualified leads by 7% YoY. Based on his accomplishments, he was recently nominated for a BostInno Under 25 Award. Previously, Andrew held marketing operations roles at Sovos and Bullhorn. He has a bachelor’s degree in big data and business analytics and master’s degree in management and organizational leadership from Suffolk University.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I fell into the world of marketing entirely by accident, but I sure am glad I did. If you asked me five years ago what I thought I would be doing today, I probably would have said, “I want to be a financial analyst at a mutual fund company,” and described myself with any adjective other than creative. At that time, I saw the idea of work in true black and white and thought of that as my only roadmap. Boy, was I wrong, and thank goodness for that. I was first exposed to marketing in a marketing operations role, which entirely changed my outlook for the better and quickly debunked the false narrative that marketing is only for the creatives in advertising.

In my senior year of college, I realized the days of sitting in class would be coming to an end, and I needed to start planning what I wanted to do next. With little sense of direction for what I felt my calling would be, I made a list of things I know I like to do and my strengths, and I realized I thrive in situations that rely on data analysis, deductive reasoning, and strategic problem-solving. Hours of scrolling through LinkedIn and Indeed later, I arrived on a listing for a marketing operations role, a business function I had never heard of before. Fate struck when I decided to review the role, the only marketing role I had even considered in the swatch of what I believed would be my calling as a financial analyst, and I was instantly lured in with the job description. My naive assumption that all marketing roles were straight out of a scene of “Mad Men” had been disproved. For the first time, I realized there is an entire world of marketing where I can flex my analytical muscles and grow in the greenspace of opportunity far beyond the bounds of work as a financial analyst. I found myself quickly re-wiring, observing the gray space that is “Marketing” as I started my first role at Bullhorn in Boston and instantly knew I had landed in a career where I was meant to be. The everchanging terrain of the marketing world is what fills me with excitement every day and challenges me to seek out new and innovative ways to deliver value to our customers.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

If there is one thing SmartBear loves, it’s webinars. Putting together webinars is no slight task and becomes a rather grandiose production from generating titles and abstracts, to putting promotional content and graphics live to orchestrating the involvement of product marketing and solution engineers as keynote speakers. Rarely, if ever, do things go according to plan or 100% perfect every time, but the audience never knows and the show always carries on. However, I found myself in quite a tricky situation in my early days at SmartBear where in my haste to get a webinar program promoted and live, I forgot to ensure my product marketing counterpart was available to join the session and kick off the presentation. Showtime crept in, and I realized it was too late to draft my colleague and that I would have to run the introduction as best I could before handing the reigns over to the solution engineer running the product demo. Fortunately, the content I would be delivering was very high level, introducing who SmartBear is and how we meet the needs of developers across the software development lifecycle. In hindsight, the five minutes of improv I had thrown myself into were indistinguishable for the usual routine my counterpart would have done, but I have never let go of that mistake and have learned from it to double and triple check before every campaign that all contributors are accounted for and aligned on expectations so I never resort to that last minute panic again.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Arielle Daigle, my boss and Senior Director of Growth Marketing at SmartBear, has been my biggest, unwavering supporter, and I would not be where I am without her. Her guidance, compassion, and support have built the foundation of my career, and I cannot thank her enough or express enough gratitude. She embodies what it truly means to be a leader, a coach, a mentor, and a friend. Arielle is the most ideal role model for how to command respect, lead with confidence, and build team comradery. I am so fortunate to have been a student to her incredible tutelage and relentless support on my quest to become an expert in customer experience and product led-growth. From day one, she has worked tirelessly to move mountains to challenge my growth and ensure I am given visibility. As I progress in my career, I aspire to become even a fraction of the incredible leader and person that she is.

I would be remiss to not also praise Ariel Harrington, Director of Product Marketing at SmartBear, who has been my right-hand woman every step of the way. Ariel has never failed to prioritize my growth by including me in a wide array of projects that few people early in their career would have the opportunity to take part in otherwise. From launching new products to crafting dynamic, persona-based messaging, Ariel has been one of the best teachers that I have the privilege to work with. Ariel’s commitment to delivering timely and effective go-to-market programs has imprinted on me and inspires me to go deeper and be more strategic in every initiative.

Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

Customer experience is everything! If nothing else, a business exists to enrich the lives of its customers, so why wouldn’t an incredible customer experience be the cornerstone of its values? When I think of a great customer experience, I think of empathy and how I can best put myself in the shoes of our end-users. I ask myself questions like, “Does this program make sense for where the user is in their journey?” and “Does my message convey excitement or provide enrichment?” Failing to employ empathy at every step of the journey is a risk marketers cannot afford. In my experience, meeting users where they are has led to the greatest success in scaling our user base, creating brand-advocate power-users, and promoting a supporting onboarding to adoption journey.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

It is very unfortunate that customer experience is often the first line item to be cut when organizations are focused on hyper-growth. Where many organizations fail to insulate themselves from vulnerability is the inattention to storyboarding an ideal customer journey that focuses on the creation, delivery, and protection of value. When organizations become too obsessed with growth without acknowledgment of what is required to excite, educate, and empower users, customers will inevitably churn out of frustration or inability to grasp the full value of the product. Organizations that fail to prioritize customer experience are caught in a recurring loop of new user acquisition and failed retention. By focusing on what is required to deliver excellent onboarding guides, nurture programs, and adoption support, organizations are chartering a path toward true hyper-growth by building brand advocates and power users who are likely to evangelize the product and be cross-sold into the rest of the company’s portfolio of offering.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

Absolutely! I have learned more from our competitors than I have ever expected to. I think the cliche of, “competitors are out to get you,” could not be any more untrue. I have been extremely fortunate in building working relationships with many of my counterparts at competitor companies where we have been able to exchange ideas and share our own approaches to the same challenges. At the end of the day, we are all chasing the same target but with a different set of tools. Why not learn from each other? It is my colleagues working for competitors who inspire me to bring my A-game each day and to never stop tinkering with new innovative ways to delight customers.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

The best anecdotes of successful customer experience have been shared with me directly from our solutions engineering team who spend extensive time with new customers onboarding tools into their tech stack. A large part of this past year has been dedicated to ramping up the use and deployment of in-app messaging to create bespoken paths of feature adoption and onboarding support for both new and existing customers. The primary goal of this program was to help shore up time for our solution engineers by empowering users with self-service learning where they experience gradual onboarding as they navigate through the product layer by layer. The hallmark success of this program proved itself in the feedback from our solution engineers stating that the quality and level of onboarding support required in their weekly sessions had elevated beyond the introductory, “How to set up X,” and “Where to view Y,” which had grown to be tiresome, and other rudimentary topics. With a plethora of new in-app onboarding guides, the volume of human-to-human onboarding sessions decreased dramatically as more users were enabled with independent in-product learning resources. Additionally, our solution engineers provided incredible feedback that the human-to-human onboarding sessions that remained have elevated to higher level discussions inquiring guidance for more advanced features that users previously rarely discovered.

Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

Our in-app messaging strategy is one that I am constantly refining, tweaking, and optimizing to ensure we are delivering the right message to the right user at the right time in the right area of the product to maximize their consumption. As such, the most impactful measure of success I rely on is measuring the rolling time-to-value of the 10 core features our product team has defined as flagship features that indicate a sticky user. Through ample trials and tribulations of short copy versus long copy, video pop-ups, in-app knowledge centers, retargeting guides, tool tip highlights, and training certification courses, we have successfully moved the needle to a 20% increase in time-to-value for new customers adopting core features in their first 90 days of product onboarding.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Trust the data: Data is your best friend whether you are starting from scratch building onboarding guides and adoption programs, or looking to identify areas of optimization to accelerate customer experiences. Trust the data to validate your assumptions and avoid shooting in the dark when it comes to understanding what your customers need. Understanding where customers are gravitating in the product and where they are falling off is crucial information to understanding where you can add value via in-app messaging, email nurtures, or other engagement programs.
  2. Inquire users for feedback: The best marketers are those who lead with curiosity, empathy, and a desire to be effective stewards to users. When possible, engage your users for anecdotal feedback or what they are enjoying in the product and where they would like to see improvement to better uncover the full value of your offerings. No matter how amazing, innovative, or shiny a new idea may be, it is only as valuable as its reception and impact on the user-base. Marketers who are stewards with profound understanding of the wants and needs of their users are best equipped for delivering long-lasting customer experiences that delight.
  3. Foster cross-functional relationships: Marketing can lead the charge in customer experience, but at the end of the day, the initiative involves much more than Marketing and requires active participation from Sales, Product, Engineering, and many others. Establishing dialogue with each cross-functional team is so important to setting yourself up for success. No matter how well-versed you are with your product offering or how many years of experience you have in Marketing, establishing collaborative relationships with your cross-functional counterparts is necessary. Without a doubt, your peers likely have their own lens on how to deliver excellent customer experiences; leverage them for insights into how you can bring their ideas to life.
  4. Take the risk and experiment: The job of a customer experience architect is never over. Now, that may sound daunting to some, however, that elates me beyond words. The challenge is never over and no solution is viable forever. Being comfortable with the uncomfortable is so important to being a successful marketer. A willingness to take on risk and appetite for ambiguity is the best way to grow and uncover new ways to accelerate customer onboarding and retention. The approach I default to is, “Yes, this is great, but how can I make this better for tomorrow, for next week, for next month….” Push yourself to your limits; you will be surprised where you end up and proud of the work preceding you.
  5. Fail fast and iterate faster: Not every idea is a winner, and that’s OK. More often than not, I learn more from my failures than my successes. As cliche as it may sound, brushing off failures and rising up to try again is the hallmark of a great marketer. It’s okay to fail as long as you brush off your shoulder and spring back into action to iterate, iterate, and iterate again until you land on a winning solution. It is equally important that on your climb to the top of the mountain, you celebrate the small wins and give yourself the recognition and self-praise needed to persevere forward.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

Transcribing customer success stories into “customer spotlight” stories has been an incredibly successful and impact program that SmartBear runs on a quarterly basis where we highlight the triumphs of various customers through webinars. During these segments, our customers own the conversation where they share how they were introduced to the product, how their onboarding journey faired, and how they knew they found a match with SmartBear. The customer spotlights have been by far one of the most effective ways for my team to broadcast not only the success of our customer experience-driven marketing but the very real value we are bringing to market. After each quarter’s customer spotlight, like clockwork, we get unsolicited requests from other customers eager to share their incredible journey which truly validates how solid our customer experiences are that our customers are eager to share, unprompted, their stories with other customers and prospective buyers.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

As a career-learner who spends most week nights and weekends taking any and every course and certification I can find, I am a huge advocate of academic growth. I strongly believe in the democratization of learning and ensuring knowledge bases are within reach to anyone seeking resources. Fostering shared learning and providing a platform for other career-learners to teach-back, exchange ideas, and find psychological safety in their environment are incredibly valuable characteristics of successful organizations. My late-stage career goal is to become an adjunct professor to continue my love of learning as well as helping others to reach their highest level of performance. If I can impart any wisdom: never stop being curious and inquisitive, the best ideas come from a mind that never rests, and the lessons you will uncover along the way will shape your career in ways you would never expect. I would love to start a movement where many others have access to life-long learning.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Andrew Marotta Of SmartBear On 5 Ways To Create a Wow! Customer Experience was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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