It’s important to realize that you can be a brilliant marketer but selling a product or service that doesn’t create value is both deceitful and unfulfilling.
MEDIA 7: From entertainment to retail to Information Technology- you have a long track record of successfully working in multiple roles and managing diverse teams. How has your professional journey been like?
JOSHUA KANTER: I feel extremely fortunate about the places my career has taken me because each step in the journey has provided me with valuable experiences and skills that transfer across industries and contexts. All of my previous experiences are now surprisingly relevant in my new role as Encora’s Chief Marketing Officer.
I began my career as a consultant where I worked across a dozen industries as an expert in loyalty programs, database analytics, digital marketing, customer experience, and more. After leaving the consulting world, I began my first “real” job in the casino-entertainment industry at Caesars Entertainment—Harrah’s Entertainment at the time. In this role, I directed a 350-person organization that delivered one-to-one marketing programs, about 13,000 campaigns a year and over 750,000,000 direct marketing communications. And while casino entertainment is not a personal passion for me, it gave me world-class experience with data-driven marketing.
After six years with Caesars Entertainment, I moved into an industry that I was far more passionate about - pet specialty retail. In 2017, I became the chief marketing officer for PetSmart where I was responsible for all aspects of the company’s customer engagement strategy. While I was at PetSmart, we implemented a more customer-centric, and data-driven approach to marketing. We designed and launched PetSmart’s industry-leading Treats loyalty program. And again, based on best practices from the casino industry, we developed in-store events that would make the store into an experiential destination… featuring the kinds of experiences that consumers cannot get from digital commerce players like Amazon.
Fast forward to 2020 when I joined Encora. The opportunity to work in the B2B technology space was very exciting for me because as a CMO, I had always been one of the core clients for leading-edge marketing technology. The truth is that the worlds of strategy, marketing and technology are increasingly intertwined, and in order to be an effective CMO you really need a thorough understanding of each. My background at Caesars and PetSmart has prepared me to better understand the needs of Encora’s customers and the value we provide to them. Additionally, helping companies fundamentally reinvent and enhance their business through digital transformation is more critical now than ever. It’s rewarding to be a part of a company that is leading the way in this type of work.
M7: Could you please briefly describe the impact Encora would have if a company were to engage you tomorrow?
JK: We’re in the business of helping companies become leaders within and across industries through the use of new and emerging technologies. We deliver unique value to clients through mastery of these modern technologies, enhanced agile methods, proprietary tools and frameworks, and a global talent pool and deep industry expertise. Our proprietary Extended Delivery Center (EDC) model provides a governance framework to drive transformational outcomes, and accelerate innovation cycles. We believe that innovation acceleration is emerging to become a new source of competitive advantage.
When it comes to digital transformation, organizations are often too slow to innovate and weighed down by technical debt. All of this gets in the way of evolving quickly. Encora partners with companies to help them define their strategic innovation roadmap, providing the agility and flexibility necessary to evolve their core technology assets quickly.
Our services include next-gen product engineering services like platform modernization and cloud enablement. We also excel at data science and predictive analytics, AI and machine learning, DevOps and test automation. And we serve customers globally with offices and innovation labs in Central & South America, India and Asia Pacific.
When it comes to digital transformation, organizations are often too slow to innovate and weighed down by technical debt. All of this gets in the way of evolving quickly.
M7: Over the last few years, how has Encora developed the proprietary EDC (Extended Delivery Center) framework to accelerate innovation for its clients?
JK: Encora has been around for 20 years. When we started, we used traditional agile engineering frameworks. Over time we have added to and enhanced these frameworks, including proprietary reporting and analytics, governance, etc. It has evolved into the Extended Delivery Center (EDC) model that today accelerates value for our clients. Through this model, we have addressed a number of issues: the time to ramp up a client team, the risks to clients’ intellectual property (IP), the need to develop a collaborative and transparent relationship.
One of the hallmarks of the EDC is that we seamlessly embed teams of world-class engineers within our client’s development organization. Our engineers get internal emails from the client, participate in internal processes, evaluations, etc. For most intents and purposes, they are client employees. But of course, we hire them, we train them, and we manage them. This removes the burden from our clients and allows the collective team to accelerate the innovation roadmap.
Another is the fact that our engineers are fully dedicated to only one client. The biggest reason for this is to protect our clients’ IP. But it has other benefits: our attrition is so low that over time, our teams become the institutional memory of our clients. Our engineers understand what has been tried, what has worked (or not) in the past. We are able to help clients navigate the complexity of their innovation journey with increased efficiency and expertise.
The last core element of our EDC model is that it is designed for long-term engagements. From the outset, we seek long-term partnerships with our clients, ensuring that all interests are aligned. We invest in doing bespoke hiring for the client, ensuring that the team comprises experts with exactly the profiles required by our clients.
And we ask that our clients commit to us that we will grow the capability and the team over the years to come. Because we set the expectations that we are committed to the long-term, it enables both us and our clients to invest in establishing a collaborative relationship. It allows us to make smarter and more impactful decisions that help our customers transform into the future.
M7: What marketing channels do you use and which ones do you see as the most promising, given your target customers?
JK: We are fortunate that most of Encora’s business comes from existing clients, referrals, or sometimes ex-clients who have switched to new companies. Through this lens, it could be said that our number one marketing channel is the level of service and delivery that we provide to our clients.
But I’m sure that is not the core of your question. For finding new leads, we use all of the standard marketing channels to engage potential prospects, including Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. We create content that we can share across social media, digital events. There is no magic here, just strategy and diligent execution of that strategy.
One thing that has stood out as new for us is engagement with industry analysts. Prior to August 2020, our major divisions operated with their own brands, operating in parallel across the globe. We brought them together under the Encora brand last year, and now, as a unified global brand there are certain things that we can do that wouldn’t have made sense for any of the smaller divisions. As an initial proof point for this strategy, we were recently recognized as a leader in the Zinnov Zones 2020 ratings of global digital engineering service providers across five key categories:
-Enterprise Software Engineering
-Consumer Software Engineering
-Software Platform Engineering
-Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) within the Banking and Financial Services Industry (BFSI)
This is a testament to the hard work that our teams do every day, and I think it is a sign of things to come, as we work to cultivate Encora’s reputation globally.
To the extent that we, as marketers, are advancing things we truly believe in, the easier the work becomes, the more effective we are, and the more fulfilling we find our work to be.
M7: What do you believe are the top three marketing challenges in the post COVID-19 era?
JK: One of the challenges I’ve recognized is that there has been a fundamental disruption in consumer consumption. This requires companies to pivot hard to match these new consumption patterns. And of course, in turn, it has led to disruption among the companies seeking to serve these companies adapting to the new normal of consumer demand. In the context of all this change, marketers can no longer rely on the tools and practices of the past. They need to connect with decision-makers, and they need to present a compelling logic for why their solution is making more sense than any alternatives. Where and how to do this looks fundamentally different post COVID-19 than it did prior.
COVID-19 has also made organizational wallets a lot tighter. I’m reminded of the old quote from John Wannamaker about how half of his marketing spend is wasted… he just doesn’t know which half. Justifying the ROI of marketing spend has always been a challenge for marketers. Costs are known, and for many forms of marketing spend, the upside and return are speculative. While digital channels have helped establish the trail of breadcrumbs for marketers to justify much of their digital spend, the pandemic has introduced a ton of uncertainty around consumption, and as a consequence, the already difficult job of funding campaigns becomes more difficult.
Finally, I think that many organizations emerging from the COVID-19 fog are facing fundamental questions about who they are and wish to be, with respect to their customers. For some, the competitive field may have thinned during the pandemic. For most, the target consumer will have evolved in terms of needs, preferences and primary channel utilization. Companies cannot hope to revert to pre-pandemic offerings promoted through pre-pandemic marketing. A more fundamental reckoning has taken place, and any company that wishes to be relevant—if not competitive—in the post-pandemic economy has some real soul searching to do. Marketers need to help these companies refine their understanding of the core value they provide within the market, and then adapt their marketing strategies and tactics accordingly.
M7: You are also a regular columnist at Rolling Stone. How do you manage to strike a balance between your work and such other productive commitments?
JK: There are tasks in life that will expand to fill all available capacity. I’ve found that the trick is to decide what matters, ignore or defer everything else, and time-box the important tasks according to their priority. Sounds easy and clean. I assure you, even with practice, it is messy and hard. But it also works.
For me, beyond my role at Encora, my other productive commitments include being a new dad, cooking mediocre meals, learning Korean, and practicing Qigong. I have assigned all Rolling Stone-related responsibilities to an entirely different Joshua Kanter, which alleviates the burden on me quite substantially.
M7: As a CMO, what is your marketing mantra to stand out in an overly saturated market?
JK: It’s important to realize that you can be a brilliant marketer but selling a product or service that doesn’t create value is both deceitful and unfulfilling. This the kind of marketing that gives marketers a bad name, and it can only take you so far. The way I approach my work is to believe that marketing is ultimately a service to the client, helping them connect with real sources of value for their business.
At Encora, I know firsthand how valuable the services are that we provide. I am passionate about connecting potential clients with our services. Not because it’s better for me or our shareholders—which of course, it is—but because I am motivated to help others succeed. And Encora does this better than any other company I know of in the outsourced software engineering space.
To the extent that we, as marketers, are advancing things we truly believe in, the easier the work becomes, the more effective we are, and the more fulfilling we find our work to be. It is my hope that every marketer can find a role that gives them this experience!