AiThority Interview with Ritu Kapoor, CMO at Lob
Hi Ritu, please tell us a bit about Lob and your Marketing technology experience?
I started my journey in Kuwait, where I spent the first 18 years of my life. After stints in India and Kuwait throughout my early career, I landed in Texas in the early 2000s, working on various marketing projects. I also spent a few years in Singapore, but I call California my home today.
I currently serve as the CMO of Lob, a direct mail automation platform that automates the direct mail execution process for enterprises, at any scale – from creation, printing, postage, delivery, and sustainability with end-to-end analytics and campaign attribution. I lead a team to communicate and deliver automation offerings that enable success for customers, clients, and partners. As the leader in the direct mail automation space, my team and I are responsible for evangelizing the category and creating brand recognition by developing a comprehensive marketing strategy that helps drive awareness and solidifies our competitive advantage.
Prior to Lob, I worked at Automation Anywhere—the company that introduced robotic process automation (RPA) to market. There I helped build a global product marketing team and related practices to drive market awareness of the company’s product offerings, overhauled product messaging, brand differentiation, and go-to-market strategy. Before that, I built up a customer and product marketing function at Flexera for open-source licensing and compliance products.
How did you arrive at Lob and what kind of CMO insights do you usually look up to from the industry?
I’ve always loved technology. I started my career as a software engineer and eventually made my way to marketing technology. I’ve been at leading companies in tech that have transformed legacy spaces: Flexera, Automation Anywhere and now, Lob. I was blown away by the vision, customer base, and tech-forward approach of Lob.
The CMO role has evolved over the years, and in many cases, is becoming more customer focused. Today, CMOs and their teams need to be experts on consumer behavior, competitive landscape, and the market. There is no longer an option to operate without these insights. I look to customers, sales teams, various market podcasts, and my own network of marketing leaders and industry consultants for a balanced view on market direction.
How did the pandemic affect you personally and professionally? How did you leverage technology to stay ahead of the marketing demands that suddenly shifted to online engagements and conversations?
Personally, I’ll start with the positive of this massive disruption – we slowed down. The crazy involved with a Bay Area commute and lifestyle suddenly gave way to hikes, puzzles, long drives, family Rubiks cube and monopoly championships, and lazing in the pool. While we missed our friends and I missed going to work, it helped to redefine the pace. But without an office, interacting with colleagues and integrating new employees into the company took a lot of thought, and work.
Professionally, the need for automation skyrocketed among business leaders. Efficiency gains and business continuity were top of mind, and digital transformation took off in a big way. From a marketing perspective, we had to reinvent and adapt to be more customer centric. Data and insights are always key in any pivot, and we watched closely to judge the impact.
We are seeing something similar now, with companies moving down the path of efficient growth in what is being predicted as the next downturn. Brands will have to, again, adapt and reinvent themselves for this new challenge.
Could you tell us a little bit about your Martech stack and how much of it is automated?
At Lob, our marketing strategy is based on creating highly personalized experiences for our target accounts. We leverage multiple channels to drive engagement, from digital networks like social media to physical channels like direct mail.
We use 6sense as our account-based marketing tool to help identify buyers in the market. We couple that tool with Salesforce, our CRM platform. We also use Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn ads for social advertising, Marketo for our email marketing, and our proprietary technology to automate our direct mail channel. Ultimately, our goal is to find value-adding ways to introduce sales across the digital journey and leverage direct mail as a natural follow up, especially for large opportunities.
What are the various layers of the modern martech stack, and how each plays a critical role in helping organizations engage customers?
The various layers of the modern martech stack include marketing automation, workflow management & collaboration, SEO & analytics, content experience, and online advertising & social media. Each layer plays a role in helping organizations engage with customers. To start, marketing automation doesn’t just save time and increase efficiency, marketing automation solutions enable more personalized experiences for customers and can be integrated with other marketing software. This allows marketers to reach their customers across both physical and digital channels. Next, workflow management & collaboration is about streamlining processes across all teams at an organization. When implemented correctly, workflow management tools can mitigate administrative nightmares, enabling marketers to shift focus to more important areas, such as creative execution. The SEO and analytics layer is critical and helps organizations to understand customer intent and identify critical touchpoints. This layer also emphasizes the importance of taking a step back and evaluating effectiveness. The content experience layer is critical for simplifying content production, distribution, and measurement. Lastly, the online advertising & social media layer is a dedicated layer in the martech stack. Online advertising has become a primary avenue for retargeting existing customers and social media is one of the main ways brands engage customers. To enable marketers to make better, more effective decisions, these solutions need to be integrated within a larger martech stack, ultimately used to increase brand awareness and enhance customer experiences.
How do you leverage marketing analytics and data science to stay on top of your CMO goals?
Understanding customer expectations is key to staying ahead of the curve. Tech is always second. I have found customers expect connected journeys and consistent interactions across departments, hence we focus on aligning systems, so sales, marketing, and service teams share information. Customers also expect personalization. With all the data available today, customers expect companies to understand their needs. This means that email, direct mail, events, etc, all need to be personalized and relevant. Junk is out. We invested in software and integrations that helped us deliver a consistent experience across all content. Additionally, customers expect data protection. We invest in processes and controls to safeguard consumer data and privacy.
How would you define a customer journey mapping tool? How does it differ for a B2B commerce user in comparison to e-commerce customers?
A customer journey map is a visual representation of a customer’s experience with your company. It enables you to walk in the shoes of your customer as they discover your brand, interact with your products and services, and engage with you on various channels. It is a proven way to understand what motivates consumers and understand how brands can take informed actions to provide a truly differentiated experience across online and offline channels. Journey mapping tools can help present this data in a useful, actionable format for marketers to make decisions. Understanding these behaviors is crucial when companies want to move upmarket, add new industry verticals or new buyer personas.
What’s different compared to B2C is that B2B most often includes large purchasing centers buying in a structured way, with longer sales cycles, recurring orders and complex pricing and transactions. Customer journeys for B2B include sales stages like competitive analytics and negotiations, with expectations that there is always room for a discount.
However, many aspects of customer journeys for B2B vs B2C are fast converging. B2B customers today are often more than halfway down their purchase path before contacting a sales rep. Today, they expect the same seamless online journey from their experiences as B2C consumers. This means self-directed online purchasing is fast becoming the norm and B2B commerce sites have to focus on the buying journeys. B2B transactions often involve suppliers and partners, and today even these suppliers are expected to deliver content and experiences that buyers enjoy from their experiences as B2C consumers. B2B companies are moving away from thinking digital is simply another order channel – omnichannel customer experiences combining offline and online channels, salespeople and contact centers make up the end-to-end customer experience.
Why must brands have a physical connection with their customers in a digitally dominated world?
Enterprise marketers today use a variety of marketing channels to acquire, convert, and retain customers. It is becoming more complex for marketers to connect with their audiences only online, as virtual inboxes are constantly being overloaded with junk mail. Marketers must get smart about the way they do direct mail and execute intelligent mail campaigns that are seamlessly integrated with digital campaigns to create a successful omnichannel strategy, as direct mail is often thought as more trustworthy and reliable. Direct mail automation solves the connection challenge in a noisy digital world by providing marketers with a solution to create a seamless experience across both physical channels and digital touchpoints – in a personalized, connected, and measurable way. Also, when marketers use automated direct mail as part of their marketing tech stack, the effectiveness of all other channels improves.
How can companies that automate their direct mail campaigns, in tandem with digital campaigns, boost response rates and engagement?
Together, direct mail and digital channels have the potential to increase brand visibility dramatically and improve a company’s reputation and overall brand awareness. When digital and direct mail are combined, ROI also increases. Through our research at Lob, we have found that marketers saw a sixty percent increase in ROI when they executed digital and direct mail campaigns in tandem. Coordinating digital and direct mail campaigns can also boost response rates as a result of brands delivering hyper-personalized experiences consisting of multiple touchpoints based on consumers’ previous activity. Lastly, direct mail and digital campaigns that are in sync increase customer engagement and loyalty. This is a result of consumers feeling more connected to a brand, making them more likely to choose it repeatedly.
What are your predictions for the future of Martech and how it would influence CMO jobs?
I predict consumers will buy brands, not products. This means marketers will likely expand their use of martech to increase brand awareness across physical and digital channels, creating a sense of community. Building consumer trust, as opposed to product updates, will be critical to success. The cookie-less future will demand personalized content and experiences, putting a renewed emphasis on physical channels like events and direct mail. I predict marketers will look to integrate direct mail automation as another way to achieve personalization. Lastly, we are experiencing a growing demand for more inclusive marketing efforts. I predict marketers will leverage new martech capabilities to address underrepresentation and deliver better outcomes.
Any advice to every marketing technology user looking to upgrade to AI and automation dashboards?
Embrace the offline-to-online marketing model. Bridging the gap between online and offline to create a fluid experience has resulted in tremendous success and is achievable through automation. Look for ways to diversify your marketing efforts to create the right mix of physical and digital channels. Also, personalize your marketing messages. We are seeing marketers transform legacy direct mail processes with automation and technology, ushering in a new era of direct mail that is personalized, trackable, measurable, and drives bottom-line impact from customer acquisition and retention, CLTV, and revenue.
Thank you, Ritu! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
Ritu joined Lob in November 2021 as their first CMO.
Previously, she was with Automation Anywhere—the company that introduced robotics process automation (RPA) to market. As Vice President of Product Marketing, I led a team to enable our enterprise clients’ efforts to automate their business processes, transform their employee experiences and customer relationships, and maximize cost efficiencies. My leadership at the company spans product and technical marketing, business management, competitive and pricing strategies.
Lob is the only direct mail automation platform that enables businesses to transform campaign ROI and employee productivity. The Lob platform simplifies workflows by automating the entire direct mail process – from creation, printing, postage, delivery, and sustainability with end-to-end analytics and campaign attribution. Over 10,000 businesses rely on Lob to send more than 700 million pieces of mail through the platform. Founded in 2013 and based in San Francisco, Lob is venture-backed by Y Combinator, Polaris Partners, Floodgate, and First Round Capital.