This week I was able to sit down and speak with Bill Wagner, the CEO of StrongView to talk about the name change for StrongMail and what is coming up in the future. Below is the transcription and you can hear my full interview by clicking on the link above.
OI: Can you tell me why the name change and what does that signify for the company
Bill: StrongMail was a great name for a company that was founded 10 years ago as an email infrastructure provider, but we have evolved so much beyond that. As we announced the rebranding the question I'm getting more than "Why did you change the name?" is "why did it take you so long to change the name." And we tend to agree with that.
It is really a reflection of who we are. We have so far surpassed what StrongMail was when the company was founded that we felt the timing was right and frankly it fits our aspirations and the products that will coming out shortly.
OI: Can you Talk a little about those "aspirations".
The new name doesn't mean a new strategy. The new name is catching up with the strategy. StrongView is a reflection of not only the cross channel capabilities but more importantly the visual nature of our product. It has evolved quite a bit: there are a lot of visual elements to it. Visually depicting audience engagement across all the different possibilities of various test splits , the view of campaign performance as it is happening in real time, dashboards that really give you a view of what is happening in and across campaigns. To some extent it sets the immediate reflection of "view" within the product, but the more aspirational view has to do with what is going to be coming out that is not yet announced, so i can't give away too much detail.
But we did an announcement in February with Amazon where we are leveraging the Amazon data warehouse and our upcoming product release which will be coming out very shortly, will reflect that integration. We are going to be doing some really interesting things with data that nobody else is doing. At that point the "Visual" part of the name will be beyond "visual" aspect of the product, per se, and more visual as a reflection of insight and knowledge born out of the data. So that is the aspirational aspect of what you will see shortly.
OI: Will clients notice any difference in they currently way they function with the product?
The short answer is that current clients will not notice anything different, per se, what they will experience is an opportunity to have an expanded set of capabilities. If you are happy with the way things are, you are going to be happy with what's coming. If you want more and you want to expand to have new capabilities and do some new things, you'll have that opportunity.
OI: I don't know if you have been following any of the discussion on the Only Influencers list, but some of the comments about the name change dealt with this notion of an "Integrated" approach vs "Best of Breed" and that vendors develop integrated platforms when the company's themselves are silo'd as far as job function.
I did see that thread. The first thing I will say is that the organizational aspect of Silo'd over Integrated is still being worked out and what we are experiencing is every organization is different. I'm not seeing a clear trend yet in terms of ownership. It is a function of the size of an organization, the religious beliefs of the organization in terms of how they like to do things, right? It is really a mixed bag. It is not Integrated vs best of bread is far as an "or" function. we see more as an "and" function. And the reason we see it that way is we are, for most, focused on Enterprise accounts. Those accounts tend to be very heterogeneous, even though they might have big investments with a vendor, they do more often than not have a lot of different products, technologies, data sources and things like that. So what we try to do when we engage a brand, we look at what they have, we look at what they want to do aspirationally. If they have a CRM system or an whole campaign management system from an IBM, an Oracle and they want to retain that investment, we don't come in and say "hey rip that out", we basically show them how to amplify that investment: in those situations we'll integrate with those platforms.
But not every company has those systems and I think that is where the idea of integrating comes in to fill that gap for where those systems don't exist. The other thing I see playing out is the discussion brands are having with vendors and the criteria is very much a multi-channel criteria but not always with a clear line of sight how they are going to use that. In some ways they are sort of hedging their bets: before when they would have gone out and vetted an email service provider they are now, for that same set of requirements, vetting email service providers with a cross channel capacity, again not with necessarily a clear line of sight on how they are gong to integrate these things but more about hedging their bets wanting vendors to bring those capabilities to the table. they are still sorting it out themselves. That is what I'm seeing.
OI: Could you talk a little about the industry in general and what you see. Will a standalone email service provider even exist 5 years from now?
I think from what I'm seeing, email service providers are being forced to add additional capability, what we were referring in the Influencers thread as an integrated approach primarily because of the way the playing field is being set by other players in the market and also being set by how brands are vetting their provider. they are looking beyond email, they want to see their provider provide these different capabilities even though they haven't really sorted it out themselves.
I think in terms of how are things going to shake out, I think it is really interesting besides Salesforce's acquisition of ExactTarget, you have Adobe's acquisition of Neolane and those acquirers doing something had been long rumored. I think we are only seeing the beginning of it frankly. I think those moves are going to force other players to re-evaluate what they thought they had and see if they are really prepared in face of these new competitors. Companies like IBM and SAP and Oracle and Terradata, companies that have done these acquisitions in the past are going to have to re-evaluate and say "what does this mean now? Are we really prepared? or do we need to respond to these things." How it is going to shake out in the end, who is going to be left standing independantly and who is going to get swallowed up is really a matter of speculation. I think the level of activity is only going to increase at this point because it is a big chess game the piece are moving.
OI: Anything I missed?
Not really. The way that I couch the rebranding is that it is really just the beginning and it is a shoring up of who we already are with the name. I think what you are going to see going forward as far as partnership announcements and product are really going to reflect the new brand. So this is much more than just a name change. What you are going to see coming from us shortly is going to surprise a bunch of folks. So I look forward to surprising everybody.