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Q&A: Christopher Marriott, VP, agency services, StrongMail Systems

A digital marketing veteran of 17 years who has worked for shops including Acxiom, Digital Impact and Euro RSCG, Christopher Marriott joined email and social media marketing firm StrongMail Systems in mid-August. He has responsibility for the company’s New York-based agency services division, working with brands including Travelocity, InterContinental Hotels Group and Discover Financial Services.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): How did you come to be affiliated with StrongMail and what is your mission there?

Christopher Marriott (StrongMail): I was always impressed by the StrongMail technology and the people there, and the client roster. I got to know several people over the years at conferences, so there was that personal connection. As I learned more about the company, it seemed a great fit for my background. In that regard, over the last 10 years I became really focused on wrapping agency services around marketing technology, and frankly that’s the challenge I have here at StrongMail. As most people know, they bought a tremendous agency about a year and a half ago [StrongMail acquired Magnetik as well as Conversa Marketing and Edible Buzz in early 2010], so we offer agency services, a move that has proved a success for a lot of clients. What I am really here to do is accelerate that success. We have a large, blue-chip client base. If you’re going to buy a great marketing technology platform, it makes perfect sense. Who knows that platform better than the agency? The marketer gets the most out of that technology investment using StrongMail to execute, deliver and optimize those messages.

DMN: What do you see as the greatest challenges to that right now?

Marriott: I see huge opportunity at StrongMail. Clients don’t often know the best solutions as they go out into the marketplace. I’ve seen a mixed bag of technology providers they invite into their RFPs. The thing that really got me psyched for StrongMail was a greater variety of working relationship than marketers in our space. Do you want behind the firewall? We can do it. A hosted solution? We can do that. Do you want to be self-service, full-service? We can do that. There is not another ESP out there today who can offer that variety of solutions, and I see that as a tremendous. The awareness of that isn’t where should be, but we’re going to get it where should be, and you provide that variety of ways to engage with us and a world-class advertising agency services unit. That’s why I am so tremendously excited to have been given this opportunity.

DMN: Tell us about the first few weeks on the job.

Marriott: There’s a lot to get up to speed about, meeting with peers in the organization. The existing clients team is working with and sitting down with the sales organization, engaging in the selling process, and emphasizing the position of StrongMail in the marketplace and how clients can get the most out of the marketing technology from StrongMail.

DMN: How is StrongMail different from your past experience?

I’m a technology person myself, and that’s the way I engage with clients. Also, the company thinks very entrepreneurially and with an urgency that I like, with everybody pulling together to make things happen that need to happen without a lot of meetings and discussions. They’re action-oriented. I don’t mean to imply that anyplace I’ve been is not an excellent organization, but from a cultural perspective, it’s very compelling. Everyone here has tiger blood, and I have tiger blood.

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