Carrina Ekvall (Verint) - Educate and Generate Interest
Speaker 1: Maybe big data has gotten too big. Whether you're a B2B marketer or a consumer brand, your data needs to be viable, relevant, and accessible so that Stirista can help you retain customers, acquire customers, and make it personal.
Vin : Welcome to the Marketing Stir Podcast by Stirista, probably the most entertaining marketing podcast you're going to put in your ear. I'm Vin, the associate producer here at Stirista. The goal of this podcast is to chat with industry leaders and get their take on the current challenges of the market and we'll have a little fun along the way. In today's episode, Ajay and Vincent chat with Carrina Ekvall, marketing director at Verint. She talks about how channels vary depending on clients and when they're ready to buy, but in- person events have been a winning success. Ajay has its first fantasy football win, and Vincent wants to know where the real Ajay is. Give it a listen. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of Stirista's The Marketing Stir. I am your host Vincent Pietrafesa, the Vice President of B2B products and partnerships at Stirista. Maybe you already knew that, but if you are listening for the first time, I'm also the interim general manager. It's an inside joke here at Stirista because Ajay was quoted, we'll get to Ajay in a second, that's, you know him. He was quoted in a magazine falsely quoted as saying" I was the interim general manager." And the joke is, the interim never gets to be the actual. So, but my title hasn't been stripped away from me. I am still the interim GM Stirista. Let's talk about Stirista for just a few seconds. That's the only time we talk about Stirista. We are a marketing technology company. We own our own business to business data, business to consumer data. We help companies utilize that data to help them get customers, new customers are great aren't they? We own our own DSP called Aster, so we can help you with connected TV, OTT, display. Email me vincent @ stirista.com. That is how confident I am that we could help. I just gave you my email address and thank you for those emails by the way, a lot of them are to tell us how great we're doing on the podcast. Some of them are generally interested in our services. Others have their own ideas for the podcast, but hey, we welcome them as well and I welcome my co- host, ladies and gentlemen, if you're watching us on YouTube, he is glistening. He's got that background is extra shiny today. He looks like the sun is shining on him. The recently fantasy football, Mr. Ajay Gupta. What's going on Ajay?
Ajay Gupta: Hey Vincent. I think this was the first weekend I ever actually followed football, so that's it.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Ever. And we dragged him in. Those of you out there who do fantasy football for fun, we did here for, at Stirista and we never were able to get our CEO involved and he is and the craziest thing, he texted me and he had an interesting football fact. He's like, wow, that running back really had a day today and I was like," Who are you? Who took... Did someone steal Ajay's phone?" They did not and he is into it. We have to make a big deal of when we play each other, Ajay. That has to be a big, big event when we play each other, but how you enjoy it so far?
Ajay Gupta: It's good. I got off to a winning start. So I think I'm trying to decide because I'm already ahead, but I still have my defense left to play Denver but I was told maybe it's best to take the defense out entirely so I don't get any negative points so I don't know.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh, I don't know. You just have to see how much you're up by. I love this new lingo by you. This is-
Ajay Gupta: Yeah.
Vincent Pietrafesa: ...it's either you've done your research or you're like a method actor. You played the part, I think I called you Daniel Day Gupta the other day, your-
Ajay Gupta: Yeah, yeah.
Vincent Pietrafesa: ...method actor.
Ajay Gupta: inaudible. You've given me many names, but that's the first.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love it. I love it. I just came up with it yesterday on the spot. Big fan of it but yeah, other, the weekend was great. Tell us about it. Just watch football for the first time in 30 something years?
Ajay Gupta: Yeah, it was a good weekend. I was mostly watching the US Open so we have a new champion, the youngest world, number one Carlos Alcaraz.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh wow.
Ajay Gupta: It's a, yeah, yeah, that's good weekend, Saturday it was dedicated to tennis. Sunday was dedicated to sleeping so can't ask for more.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love it. I love it. We had soccer. My son, he's five, as some of the listeners know, soccer started. My wife is one of the coaches and it's just hilarious to see five year olds go after a soccer ball. It's very funny and it's great but that was my weekend. The New York Giants one opening weekend so I was very happy by the time this airs, we might be one in three, who knows, but I'm happy now. I'm living it up and I'm also happy Ajay, about this next guest. I love the guests we have on here, each have their individual unique stories. I really enjoy talking to this next guest before we feature her here. But ladies and gentlemen, please, a warm marketing stir welcome to Carrina Ekvall. She's the marketing director at Verint. Ladies and gentlemen, what's going on Carrina?
Carrina Ekvall: Hey, how's it going? I'm so happy to be here.
Vincent Pietrafesa: We're happy to have you here and I commented on your background again. More people should watch us on YouTube. You get to see her. Majority of our listeners listen to us, great, we love that but look, you see Carrina's amazing background and she's not in a sauna, she's not in... She's in an interesting, beautiful wood background. I'm the only one who has a blurred background because I'm just at a random office building that is my office but yeah, it is great to see you Carrina. The Minnesota Vikings had a nice victory opening day, again, let's see how we are... In inaudible weeks.
Carrina Ekvall: Yeah, you know, at the end of the month, I might be in the same boat as you.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Exactly but we're happy now and we're happy to have you on the podcast. Great, for those of the people listening who haven't heard of Verint, please tell us about the organization. Tell us about some of your roles and responsibility as the marketing director.
Carrina Ekvall: Sure, so for those that don't know, Verint is a customer engagement technology company and basically we help brands drive better interactions, manage their workforce. Now we have humans and bots. You have to manage those, both of those areas. You have to harness data and really use that data to drive insights and action and really overall, it's about customer engagement and that customer experience so you need to have that clarity to have a best experience for your customers. Our expectations are through the roof right now for customers. I mean, we expect things now, and some, really for my role is we have AI technology here at Verint and it powers our solutions and if you look at our website, we have digital engagement. Again, those digital channels that everyone wants. We have experience management. Again, it's that customer experience that everyone's trying to achieve. We also have that data. How do you manage that data and bring it all together and get it to people that need it? And workforce management as well so how do you optimize your workforce? You have best capacity and it's not unlimited so you've got to use what you've got. And so my area is data management and workforce management are the two areas that I focus on. And again, workforce engagement is really your employees, they want flexibility, they want to be able to optimize their schedule. They, some are really focused on the quality of those interactions and you can say certain things and you can't say certain things. So you want to make sure you're in compliance if you're in certain industries. And then also, I talked about engagement across channels. You've got the human interaction and the bot. You can't have a chat bot operating on its own and then you've got the worker that's saying, well, I don't really know what's going on in that bot and what those interactions were so you've got to join those together and it all comes back down to the data. So engagement data management is another area and a lot of people have data silos and we're trying to break those down, get the data to those that need it so you can really understand those interactions and make the most of it, get that best customer experience.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, no, I love hearing that. Thank you for breaking that down for myself and the listeners there. Carrina, talk to us about, again, a little bit about the day to day, like your marketing there, but also how you got into marketing.
Carrina Ekvall: Sure.
Vincent Pietrafesa: So some roles, responsibilities, like you said, if you add to that and then also we love this question'cause it's always a unique perspective how you got into marketing.
Carrina Ekvall: Yeah. Yeah, so I've done another podcast where I really explained my full journey and so for many people, you know, you start out one way in high school and you don't really know what you want to be, but you're good at something and so for me, I went into being an executive assistant and I was really good at planning things out and managing schedules and really making sure others shined and so that's what I did. I took a two year program, got that education, I worked for a very large medical device company where I worked in international marketing and helped my leadership shine, really, make sure they're all on track and they have everything they need to function and to be effective. So I started out as that and how I got into marketing was, we have a marketing communications team there. I loved it. I was very intrigued by it, very curious about how did you guys get do these things? How do you work? And all of the different facets of their job. And so one of the individuals, she was actually doing some product design and collateral and different things and I said," Hey, I'm really interested. Could I shadow you? Could I really learn what you do day to day?" And she's," Oh, for sure." So she became my mentor and we're really great friends today and she helped me be involved in meetings and discussions and interactions with others so I could really see how she got things done. And that just got me excited. I was really excited to learn about marketing and so really at that company I said," Well, how do I get into marketing here?" And they said," Well, you need to understand fundamentals of marketing and so probably best to go back to school and learn about the theory, the foundations of marketing." So I worked full time, stayed there and then did night classes until I earned my degree. So yeah, then I went back to them and said," Hey, I've got the knowledge now." And they said," Well, you kind of need more experience." And so really that really made me make a choice. Do you stay comfortable or do you jump out and say, hey, I've got this new knowledge, let's put it into practice. So I decided to move on and I took a step back, really took an internship, making a lot less pay but I think that's what you've got to do is you got to take that leap and say, if you really want to go for something, you got to take a step back, learn the ropes and then start your journey there. So that's how I got into marketing.
Ajay Gupta: What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing.
Carrina Ekvall: Yeah.
Ajay Gupta: Tell us a little bit about your current marketing efforts. What are the channels and strategies that are working and what's not working?
Carrina Ekvall: So I think this is hard for many marketers to know what's working or not. I've always been asked like, what's the silver bullet Carrina? What really makes it or breaks it? What really drives that sales opportunity? And as we know, it's multiple channels, it's multiple interactions and what makes one person say, yes, I'm ready to buy, is different from another. So you have to try all of these different channels and for us, I think what's working though is events and webinars. Many that are committed to trying to figure out should we have Verint as part of our evaluation? Are coming to these events and webinars to really learn more. And especially in person events, I think that is really... People have really said," Hey, I'm coming to this event, I'm making this investment and I have a mission, have a strategy of who I want to meet and talk to, to learn all I can and say, these are my three vendors or five vendors that I need to get as much information as possible." So we're finding our interactions at these events much better than in the past. I think we had a quantity before of interactions and now we have these quality interactions. Again, very, very focused on what they're trying to accomplish, for example, if they, hey, I want to bring more digital channels to my business, but I want to combine my workforce and digital together, how do I do that? They're asking these very specific questions of what they're trying to solve. So events are doing very well for us.
Ajay Gupta: Oh, that's great. Yeah, it's definitely during the pandemic, we all miss the events.
Carrina Ekvall: Yeah.
Ajay Gupta: And how do you describe your ideal customer?
Carrina Ekvall: Yeah, so 85% of our customers are Fortune 100. They rely on, they're US and international businesses and primarily industries or financial services, healthcare, telecommunications, public sector and more.
Vincent Pietrafesa: And talk to us Carrina, you mentioned something about AI there. How is using AI to build successful customer interactions?
Carrina Ekvall: Yeah, well, so AI as a technology, as you have AI, it learns and works with you and really it helps our solutions, as I mentioned, those four solutions, categories in the beginning and so it really helps our interactions. So it drives intelligence, insights and automates those experiences.
Vincent Pietrafesa: And we chatted before, let's stay on some of the events there because that was something that, and I love hearing that, as Ajay mentioned, you don't really hear a lot of people saying," Oh, events are back", which I think they are. We were just at some events, we were doing some smaller events. Are you going to different conferences? What are some, are you having smaller events, locally? What's kind of some of the secrets there?
Carrina Ekvall: Yeah, so we focus on the contact center events. We have on back office individuals within those businesses so we really are very strategic about which events we go to and we really like the events that kind of match us and to really focus on those that really want to talk to us. So we've had success with that. We've got, again, within our different solutions, if you're focused on quality, we look for those types of events but again, large and small, we're kind of going through lots of different event sizes.
Vincent Pietrafesa: And I also wanted to just get an overview of some of, you've been there, you've been marketing. What are some of the changes that you've implemented at Verint that you're most proud of?
Carrina Ekvall: Yeah, for me, I'm very focused on data and intent and very targeted in my approach. I don't believe in this brand prey of marketing. I think that's okay if you're trying to get a brand message out there or it's high level thought leadership, I think that's fine but for my solution categories, we really want to make sure people are interested and focus on those individuals versus those that aren't quite ready so obviously you need to educate and generate that interest. But I'm very focused on intent in account based marketing and for me, I'm really proud of that; we're using that data, that intent information. We're being much more targeted in our approach with our, I would say, our one to few campaigns and so it's just being much more strategic in our marketing approach.
Ajay Gupta: And do you have marketing goals that you have set for yourself for the year? And what are some of the objectives and tactics you're using to measure them?
Carrina Ekvall: Well, lots of KPIs that we need to meet. And again, I mentioned we have a multi- channel approach. Really one of our key indicators, KPIs is MQLs. Those really tell us who's really interested and then we try to broaden that to say, okay, this is a contact, we have a lead here, let's really understand, is this account ready to move on and have a discussion? So we have really insightful conversations and make sure it's those quality conversations that we're having and then move them on, so yes, we look at all sorts of different data across our marketing organization. Obviously you have impressions and intent and all of these different KPIs that we're trying to meet but I think a key indicator is those MQLs so I would say MQLs aren't dead, they are definitely an indicator, but with account based marketing, you're really looking at, for different folks in our organization, am I seeing more engagement from these accounts? Is our website traffic going up? So those are just a few areas, but ultimately for every organization it should be are we getting those sales opportunities and converting to revenue?
Ajay Gupta: And a more kind of personal level, what gets you feeling inspired and motivated every day?
Carrina Ekvall: So I really value variety in my work, so it just inspires me to have a lot of different things that I can do and it really motivates me to see that we're making progress in our goals and working towards that goal. So if I see those sales opportunity numbers go up, I get very excited and motivated to keep doing things and trying to optimize my programs. So I think those are a couple areas that I just get excited about and motivated to move forward.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Carrina, you talked about account based marketing. ABM comes up every once in a while on the podcast depending on the guest and the company.
Carrina Ekvall: Yeah.
Vincent Pietrafesa: You also said one to one to few. Is that... Are there any things,'cause I know is in the past, Stirista, we've tried some out of the box methods of just reaching a few different customers. I think one time it was here's a drone. A drone and then if you want take a meeting with us and we'll have the remote to that drone or the controller if you will but have you have done anything like that? Is there anything you can share? But parts of the ABM strategy, because ABM is one of those strategies and those questions that come up to us, we get asked a lot about on The Marketing Stir so tell us a little bit about that.
Carrina Ekvall: Yeah, so I would say with account based marketing, it's a team effort. It needs to be across many different groups within the organization and marketing certainly can push things along and drive that conversation. But really you need sales and customer success and others involved to make sure we're all trying to impact these accounts and I think for me it's about those memorable moments or those touch points. We have done some mailings where we've sent out some music playlists and I think that can get some impact. We're at an event, we're doing a prize drawing, again, that's not anything new, but if you can try some different ways to interact with that audience and drive them to your booth and get them there, if you can make that memorable moment where people get excited and they'll remember you and pay attention and want to learn more so I think that's really what account based marketing is, is trying to get that exposure and get people engaged with your brand and want to learn more. So there's a couple examples.
Vincent Pietrafesa: No, I know, I appreciate it and I know I keep going back to conferences because it's such a, people are going back and they want to know when they can go back and conferences have been reaching out to us and so talk to us about the Verint engaged conference. How is that coming up? Has it already happened? What are the plans for the future as well?
Carrina Ekvall: Yeah, so we had our engaged customer conference this past June in Orlando. It was very well attended. We had 1100 customers, partners, analysts, and media there.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh nice.
Carrina Ekvall: As well as employees, it's over three to four days depending on if you decide to do some more educational components of it, lab work and such but we have keynote sessions and then we have our expert sessions where there's like 75 sessions that you can attend and it's really, again, it's from our experts, but our keynote sessions is our executives presenting each day and many of these sessions we have available on verint. com and our resource tab so if anybody's interested, check that out. But really for us it's really trying to help our attendees get the answers to some of their key areas that they're trying to solve and so we have a special area throughout the conference that they can go to and see the solutions in action, really ask questions and also we want their feedback. We want to understand what do they like about our solutions? What don't they like? Or what do they like to see improve and really impact our roadmap for the future.
Ajay Gupta: What is something exciting for the company that some news that might be coming up that you'd be able to share with us?
Carrina Ekvall: Oh, well, I mean think within our customer conference, that's exciting. I mean every June we have this and we've announced that we've got this one coming up again, it's the week of June 12th and we're going to be in Vegas, we're going to be at the Bellagio so I'm excited about that. Who doesn't want to go to Vegas in June?
Vincent Pietrafesa: We'll have to go down to that one, Ajay. We might, we always take, we always around Vegas a conference, but that might be it. June.
Carrina Ekvall: There you go. Mid June, we'll be there.
Ajay Gupta: Vincent and I have this guys' trip we do once a year in Vegas, so we might just crash your party. inaudible.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, that'll be fun.
Carrina Ekvall: Yeah, well it's an industry conference, so it's not just for customers. We definitely invite prospects to come too and so we welcome everybody to check it out. We'll have information coming out very soon on how to register and get involved.
Ajay Gupta: Vincent, I'm taking that as an invite.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That's an invite. We'll be there. We're taking The Marketing Stir on the road, ladies and gentlemen, that's what we get asked that the most. When are we going to a conference and do it? I love it. We'll be outside and we'll just start interviewing people. Anyway-
Carrina Ekvall: inaudible.
Vincent Pietrafesa: ...ahead Ajay.
Ajay Gupta: So Carrina, can you give us, a lot of our listeners are young folks or young professionals in marketing. Any advice you'd like to offer in terms of what skill sets they should work on or anything in general about getting into marketing?
Carrina Ekvall: Mm, well, this is something I'm passionate about. I really enjoy mentoring the next generation that's coming into marketing and really welcome students or others that are thinking about going into marketing. I've had many people reach out to me on LinkedIn and ask me questions and I get excited about that. For me, I was a traditional marketer. Many, many of us grew up that way and then we went all digital. So I think what what's great about marketing is now we've got this social explosion happening where everybody's going on TikTok and you always have new channels and different things we can get into, so I think for the next generation in marketing or if you're just starting out in your career is be curious. Be willing to learn. Your degree isn't the end. Learning is constant in marketing and that's what's so exciting about it too, is you constantly get pushed to learn something new or to try something new. You never know what your audience is going to be receptive to and again, many of us, you don't want to be boring in B2B, we want to be exciting, we want to have some great opportunities to delight and provide a positive experience. We want to entertain. There's lots of different ways we can engage with these customers and it doesn't have to be just plain B2B marketing, same product information all the time and so I think again it's just be curious, be willing to learn, willing to take action and jump out of your comfort zone, I think as a few areas to give advice to, the next generation.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love it. Is it me being in B2B? Yes, B2B is fun. I know. People think B2C have all the fun, but B2B it's personalized, you're dealing with people, ladies and gentlemen. So thank you for echoing what I've been saying on this podcast for years now Carrina. So what are the questions, it's a signature question, it's the question Ajay, you'd know this, now that we go to conferences or people ask us, they're like, I love this question. It is the LinkedIn question, the signature question of The Marketing Stir, Carrina. Your title marketing director, people must reach out to you all the time. What is a LinkedIn message that gets Carrina's attention and what is one that you just hate and you will not respond to? It's the LinkedIn question.
Carrina Ekvall: Yes. So I'm from Minnesota and so I will just let you know that I had a business development rep reach out to me and this is one example that I did respond and I think it's, you know, you have to take that extra step. You have to research, you have to personalize and try to build that connection and so this BDR reached out to me and just connected like normal. We're in the same industry, love to connect. Did that, did not come back the next day or the next few minutes to say," Hey, I sell blah blah blah, buy from me. Here's what great about my company." What he did is he built a relationship with me and eventually he said," Hey, I hear you're from Minnesota, you've probably big into hockey and this and that." And so he really researched things that I've posted or things about Minnesota and he actually had a little wager for me, which was really fun, you're like," Hey, if so and so beats..." I think it was our college teams or something," Hey, if our team beats your team, would you take a call from me?" So it was a fun way to connect with me and so I think that one did it. I said," Yeah, I'll definitely talk to you. I'm not interested in the wager" but'cause inaudible we have low expectations of our sports team. So I said," I'm not into the wager because I'm not that confident that we're going to win, but I do like your approach and I will talk to you and learn a little bit more." I wasn't in the market to buy, but we had a great conversation so that's one that did work for me. The ones I hate, I've already alluded to, don't just ask me to connect and then try to sell me about your company. You have no idea if I'm in the market or why I would even be interested so try to build that relationship first.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Mm- hmm. Yeah, no, I agree. I had... The ones that fool me a lot are the ones where I have 20 connections with and you're like, oh, okay, this person is, we're just looking to connect. And then it's pop, as soon as I accept it's like boom, boom, boom, three messages and it's like, I'm not trying to sell you anything. I'm like, what? What are you doing? Yeah, inaudible. I wish more people would be more personalized with me. I would be open to it and receptive but yeah, that seems to be the message and you know what's funny? A lot of managers of BDRs or VPs of sales or marketing, they tell us this, it's a good thing, I guess, this helps their SDRs or BDRs do better at approaching people. We get that feedback created from listening to the podcast. People tell us, they're like, Oh, I then train my BDRs to listen to the podcast and go after, to reach out to people in a more respectable way. So I love that answer.
Carrina Ekvall: Yes. So taking, maybe they listen to a podcast and they want to reach out to one of your guests, that's a great way to learn about that individual that you interviewed.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah.
Carrina Ekvall: So, yeah, great advice.
Vincent Pietrafesa: The other advice I have for people out there is we get reached out for people to be on our podcast. If you are a PR agency, here's a great way to get on the podcast for which we actually rarely accept. We like to go after our own guests here, but why don't you say you listen to the podcast or you love the podcast, instead of just going into your guest. There's some advice there but anyway, Carrina, personal side, you and I talked earlier and I, so I know a little bit about you, but our guest hobbies. What do you like to do for fun? What do you like? Minnesota? Lakes, right? The outdoors? Talk to me about some of your hobbies, what you like to do there.
Carrina Ekvall: Yes. Yeah, I'm from Minnesota so definitely we have the 10,000 plus lakes and to get out there, whether it's summer or winter, you know? You got to embrace the winter here if you're going to live here. So in the summertime we definitely get out and love to go camping, hiking, biking. I'm a big outdoors person and just like to enjoy the summers because they're short lived here, but also enjoy the winters as well. We have some snowmobiles, so I get out there. I'm not big into it, but I will ride one. I'm not as aggressive as others that I know in my family, but I do get out there and enjoy a nice snowmobile ride but yeah, just get outside skiing, downhill skiing. I've done some water skiing as well. Yeah, it's just overall outdoors is my thing.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome. And you are born and raised in Minnesota?
Carrina Ekvall: Born and raised.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome. That's awesome. Yeah, we have a fellow employee, Aaron Grote, oversees our digital, he's out in Minnesota as well. Yeah, he and his background looks similar to... He does a similar background, but he looks like he's actually in a log cabin when we talked to him. Everyone asked him if it's a real background and he's like," Yeah, no, this is just my basement. It's where I live." But anyway, Carrina, before we depart, some closing thoughts, just anything that you want to share? Some final thoughts with our listeners?
Carrina Ekvall: Sure. Well, as I mentioned earlier, I enjoy mentoring people who are just starting out in marketing, I love connecting with other marketers, so feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, if you're trying to sell me something, take some advice that I've mentioned earlier. And then obviously as far as Verint is concerned, Engage is coming up next year in June and so definitely once we have the information posted on that, we've got that industry conference and it's mid June, usually June 12th that week and we're in Vegas at the Bellagio so I'm excited to go there and meet customers and prospects for this industry conference.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love it. Maybe we will meet in person for the first time out there. Check out Verint, ladies and gentlemen. V- E- R- I- N- T. com. That's Carrina Ekvall, the marketing director for Verint. I'm Vincent Pietrafesa, that's Mr. Ajay Gupta, Fantasy Football King. This has been another episode of The Marketing Stir. Thanks and we'll talk to you soon.
Speaker 3: Thanks for listening to The Marketing Stir Podcast by Stirista. Please like, rate and subscribe. If you're interested in being a guest on the podcast, please email us at themarketingstir @ stirista. com and thanks for listening.
Ajay and Vincent chat with Carrina Ekvall, Marketing Director at Verint. She talks about how different channels' successes vary, depending on clients and when they are ready to buy, and how in-person events have been a winning tactic lately. Ajay has his first fantasy football win, and Vincent wants to know where the real Ajay is.