Pypestream’s Michael Williams Wants All-Star CX For Everyone
For industries where companies can’t control their final products, the ability to deliver an exceptional customer experience is a must. Few know that better than Michael Williams, who worked for the NFL, NHL, and Grand Prix before becoming Pypestream’s president of sports, media, and entertainment.
From his resume, you’d think Michael Williams was one of the most multitalented sportsmen around: football, hockey, race driving. The fact is, he is one of the more multitalented marketers around, having already been director of marketing and sales for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks; VP of marketing for the San Francisco 49ers; CMO of the New Jersey Devils; and CMO of Grand Prix America.
Always on the lookout for the next big thing, Williams is now president of sports, media, and entertainment at Pypestream, a new company self-described as having “one goal: to help businesses and organizations communicate more effectively with their audiences to deliver a truly enriched customer experience.”
We caught up with Williams recently to talk about what brought him to Pypestream and what the highlight plays are in digital marketing today.
CMO.com: I know a little bit about your background, Mike, but could you give us the elevator version of how you arrived at to Pypestream?
Williams: Sure. My background is a hybrid in the sense that I’ve always been involved in marketing at a high level. I’ve worked on the agency side, I’ve worked on the corporate side with Disney and Ford, and I’ve also worked within very high-profile sports and entertainment properties—the NFL, the NHL, and, most recently, Formula One. Each and every one of those demands that, as a marketer, you have to deliver an exceptional customer experience. In joining Pypestream, I’ve found that we have been able to build a platform that will deliver that experience on a much higher level, in both the B2B and B2C worlds.
CMO.com: So Pypestream basically enhances customer experience?
Williams: It’s a brand play directly at customer experience because every large corporation is looking for an opportunity to engage the customer, for an opportunity to have an ongoing dialogue with the customer, and, in turn, deliver a better experience.
CMO.com: Give me a quick explanation of how Pypestream works.
Williams: Pypestream is a secure mobile-messaging platform that is based on the idea that customers and companies want two-way, conversational dialogue. The Pypestream platform enables real-time interaction between people and brands via mobile messaging.
The thing that makes Pypestream different is the ease and convenience of customizing the communication experience from the consumer’s point of view. Ultimately, the consumer is able to get the information and content they want, when they want it. This makes for a seamless customer experience.
CMO.com: So do you see customer experience today as being something marketing handles? Or perhaps sales or some other group?
Williams: I think it’s all of them, but at the end of the day the line between marketing and sales continues to be blurred. There’s no longer just this responsibility that falls within one realm or another. I think it’s a company’s responsibility, as a whole, to make sure you deliver a great experience because, once a sale is done, it doesn’t mean the relationship with that consumer is over. In fact, in many ways it’s just beginning. Just because you’ve done a great job of marketing a brand and getting that message out to the marketplace doesn’t mean your job is over. Your brand promise should ultimately follow through end to end.
CMO.com: What is your vision of how companies today view the whole customer journey and customer experience aspect of marketing compared with, say, five or 10 years ago?
Williams: I would say that the philosophy and mindset of the people within these companies and across the marketing-scape as a whole has changed completely. Where there was a sell-first mentality, you see that now reversed to the point of sell-first, of couse, but service and retain just as much. Marketers are finding that if you deliver a great experience, people will become some of your best ambassadors carrying your brand and message.
So, in speaking with these customers, the brands—be they in sports, media, entertainment, or some other industry—the amazing thing is there are different people that ultimately are in charge of that exact responsibility, i.e., customer service. Some of it falls into marketing, some of it falls into sales, and, depending on who some of the groups are, some of it actually may fall within a technology group, which is vastly different than it was 10 years ago.
CMO.com: One of the things we’re interested in at CMO.com is that transformation from being digital marketers to marketing in a digital world. Are these new marketers seeing that? Is that what you think as well?
Williams: I totally agree. I think that’s been the biggest transformation that’s taken place. People are no longer digitally savvy. They’re digitally dependent. You’re going to find that companies have to ultimately shift how they interact, how they engage, and ultimately how they deliver content and information to consumers because the consumers are asking for it. If you don’t give it to them in that manner, they’re going to go someplace that will.
CMO.com: Which brings us to content marketing.
Williams: Of course. We believe that, at the end of the day, we all know it’s really where marketing is nowadays. It’s about personalization. It’s about timeliness. It’s about delivering that message to the right person at the right time.
CMO.com: Can you talk about how important this kind of experience is to the sports fan? I mean, that’s really where you come from.
Williams: Absolutely. Sports is one of the most difficult products to market, to sell, and to brand, and the reason for that is you don’t control the final product. You also don’t control the wins and losses. A lot of times you’re taking an instance where a fan/consumer is extremely passionate about your brand, and you’re extremely passionate at a volatile sense of up and down as to how they actually follow and support your brand. In a case where you don’t support, or actually own, the final product, you have to do everything else you can to make sure you maintain that relationship. One of the greatest things you can do in maintaining that relationship is delivering an exceptional customer experience.
At the end of the day, both parties are happy, both parties have received a better experience, and thus it’s going to help you in the sense of the cycle of that consumer to ultimately retain them, ultimately have longer value with them as a relationship. In turn, you’ll hopefully have them act as ambassadors for you to continue to carry the brand message and what it is you’re doing to make a difference.
CMO.com: Just to wrap up, coming from the background you have with teams and Grand Prix, what have you learned along the way? Clearly you’re a marketer at heart.
Williams: Look, no matter what industry or space you work in, there are certain core fundamentals you have to follow, and I think a lot of times marketers lose sight of that. You have to first make sure you understand your audience. You need to make sure you’re creating messages that speak to them, not necessarily to you, and you need to make sure you’re always, always looking for opportunities to engage with them in a meaningful and timely manner because, at that point, your message is going to be much more well-received.
The timeliness and fast pace in which sports always seems to run is something I feel very comfortable with. Landscapes where social media falls along with digital and technology—I think you’re seeing that at an even faster pace. The development, the socialization, and the adaptation of where people are ultimately using technology is moving faster than the speed of light. I think that you’re going to have to find yourself in a manner of being open to those sorts of opportunities, but, more importantly, you’re welcoming those opportunities with how you’re going to use technology to deliver a better experience for customers.
See what the Twitterverse is saying about CMO Interviews: