Thomas Lucas-Nülle, Chief Analyst TGOA, in conversation with Michael Kugler, Managing Director Contentserv GmbH, about the Ability to Execute
Mr. Kugler is an industrial engineer and has more than ten years’ experience in various specialist and management positions, from consulting and marketing through to product management and sales. He is regarded a pioneer in the area of Product Information Management. Since the end of last year, he has been the Managing Director of Contentserv GmbH and is responsible for the DACH market. Prior to that, he led sales and partner management.
Digital transformation seems to be THE topic of the year. There was hardly any other theme at the World Economic Forum in Davos and the DLD in Munich organised by Burda at the beginning of this year. How will digitalisation affect companies and society in the coming years? How long until we drive our car but busy our hands with the next purchase at the same time?
2017 – The year in which digitalisation gained wide traction. What changes must companies make in their marketing departments this year? Do you see opportunities for companies in this context?
Connecting information is more important than ever before. With an exponentially increasing mass of information in the highly competitive market, only those that have marketing processes and communication under control and can manage these optimally and with quality assurance will be ahead. Target-group-specific messages are the key to success today. More than ever before, a company needs to send the right message to consumers, via the right channel, at the right time, in the right context; but even that will not suffice any more: marketing’s new challenge is definitely to react in real-time and to communicate with consumers on the basis of respective relevant information. A company that has not thought about digitalisation and the optimal customer approach today will find it difficult not to lose sight of its competitors.
The orchestration of communication channels is increasingly important. Talk of Customer Journey and Customer Centric is everywhere. What role is left for content in marketing?
As a result of the explosively increasing number of touchpoints, it is increasingly difficult for companies to make target-group-specific customer contact. Different communication channels and platforms must be handled in a differentiated manner. Feeding potential customers with as much input as possible will definitely not lead to success. Instead, the aim is to select specific instruments in order to reach and bind customers to the relevant channel.
To meet this challenge, two factors are crucial: speed and flexibility. Still, content remains the key factor. To manage it successfully and to make the best use of the other two factors at the same time, various systems are available to companies. With a Marketing Information Management system (MIM system), marketing processes can be completely automated, i.e. content management and control at all touchpoints. The MIM system includes a Product Information Management System (PIM) and a fully integrated Data Asset Management System (DAM). The latest-generation MIM paves the way to a successful and automated customer approach in real-time: by means of an extensive variant management of texts, images or technical attributes based on a modular principle, customer-specific compositions can be created and executed in real-time to output channels. The software thus lays the foundation for all further marketing activities. This means there is nothing left that would stand in the way of an optimal customer experience with maximum speed and flexibility.
In the past, software developers have mainly implemented their own projects, which forms an integral part of their business model for some. How did you as a software producer develop your partner programme over the years?
Contentserv software’s broad range of solutions covers multiple requirements in companies. But not every business needs or uses everything. So it makes sense to onboard implementation specialists for the various application scenarios and combination possibilities. They are real experts in their respective industries, so their specific know-how (best practices) is integrated into the project. Although our company specialises in comprehensive software development, we are not fully trained in every client’s specific field. Our partners, on the other hand, demonstrate highest professionalism through their best practices and expertise. By combining our product portfolio with the partners’ industry experience, projects can be implemented consistently and initial targets may show quickly, while the effort on the customer side can be kept very low. This project implementation by industry-focussed partners also creates significantly larger growth opportunities for companies. Scalable cluster technologies ensure smooth operations and intuitive processes. This business model benefits all those involved. We value this, as do our customers, whose satisfaction with project implementation remains the top priority. We can only achieve this goal together.
Each company has its own history, i.e. it was originally an agency, printing house or provider of Internet services such as websites and eShops. How was Contentserv’s development? What are your main priorities?
Since its establishment more than 15 years ago, we have focussed on integrated digitalisation of marketing and sales processes. Our aim is to constantly assess and improve these processes, and to incorporate this best practice into the software. High competence results from the fact that you know how companies run things and what the client and the market will require in the future. Peter Drucker said, “Marketing means seeing the world from the customer’s point of view.” Only when you understand the customer can its needs be identified and responded to. This is not just about good marketing but also convincing branding, an optimal customer journey with a lasting experience, professional content marketing and much more.
In order to further expand this competence, we place great importance on the Presales and Research division. Many contacts with clients can be used within our company to learn of various requirements of marketing departments, which then build the basis for the improvement and expansion of our software, which is reflected in our integrated portfolio with a tight interlinking of PIM and MAM and a workflow module.
As the new Managing Director, you are to lead the company into the next era. What is your personal mission, and what are your goals for the next decade?
The future ability of our company is a well-tuned cycle between development of an innovative product management that controls development, research and presales, carrying customer requirements into the company and a successful distribution. The latest release (16.0), which we launched last year, received the best feedback ever from our clients and proves that this cycle is already working very well. Here, I can contribute my experiences from over two years as a sales manager in the DACH region. My goal is to continue to make the connection between the three divisions, and thus to guarantee the best interaction possible. This is the only way to keep matching our clients’ needs in the long term, to meet our ambitious growth targets and to further expand the market share in the important German-speaking region.
You want to enable your clients to actively manage the complexity that is growing almost exponentially in marketing and not just reactively respond. What is your approach here?
As one of the few manufacturers worldwide, our company has built up both a PIM and DAM system with fully integrated marketing workflow, so we offer various systems from a single source. This results in many possibilities to use or retrofit our systems without the need for interfaces. Through our comprehensive ERP and eBusiness connectors, central connections are created that add value as they work directly together and thus increase data quality. Data can flow consistently and quickly through the connectors. This all-in-one approach is particularly interesting for companies seeking a holistic process solution without system breaks across both areas.
How long does it take a first project until the go-live of a first subproject? How much time should I as a company reserve for this trip?
At the beginning of each project is the workshop phase. Here, our consultants and/or implementation partner work with the customer to identify the exact technical requirements and detailed solution concepts within the approved project framework. The project implementation follows with data onboarding, process design and next, we are already in the middle of the go-live phase. So you see, first results and partial goals become apparent quickly. These ‘quick wins’ are also important in the ‘ability to execute’. Among other things, we reach them through numerous standard eCommerce connectors like Magento, OXID or typo3, which our partners supply and apply to our standard interfaces. What the customer ultimately does with the software depends on its requirements and goals, which we and our implementation partners develop and pursue together. A clear advantage of Contentserv is usability – it grants the client freedom of design and independence. The client neither depends on us as supplier and manufacturer nor on one of our implementation partners, since it can design and shape processes itself according to wishes and without a large training effort. Processes are thus continually developed and adapted to demands.
Your solutions have been used by customers for many years in various scenarios. Partially as departmental solutions but also overlapping in many marketing scenarios. What do you develop for your customers in the next generation? What is the next big leap in innovation?
In the future, the highly efficient marketing spending processes will be supplemented by further integrated marketing planning and, lastly, by a customer-specific approach. With regard to operational process control, we will be focussing even more on marketing automation based on quality-assured product data management. Expect even further decentralised data management processes, while specialised data distribution will deliver product data at all touchpoints in real-time.
What advice do you offer our readers, or your potential customers, on creating the right conditions for a successful project with you? In your opinion, what could cause a project to fail to take off and not be as successful as planned?
The most important thing when choosing a PIM provider is trust. People buy from people. If you do not have a good feeling, if you do not feel you are in professional hands and if doubts come up, the project has no future.
It is also important to know one’s requirements and to know where one wants to be in the future. Only if you can communicate this clearly is it possible to find the right product for your own special requirements. If a supplier and a customer share the same visions, they are on the best way to position your company in a future-oriented way.
As a manufacturer of marketing software in the field of Product Information and Digital Asset Management, Contentserv’s marketing content platform facilitates work in marketing for thousands of international users. We have been active in the market for more than 15 years and draw from the experience of many hundred projects.
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin, issue Q1 2017. Picture credit © CONTENTSERV