MarTech360 Interview With Florian K. Engel, Director of Customer Marketing at Aiven

“By incorporating customer feedback into decision-making processes, businesses show a commitment to meeting customer needs and create a sense of partnership”

Q. Florian, can you tell us about your professional background and your current role at Aiven?

Absolutely! With over 10 years of experience in marketing, I am a customer-centric marketer with a passion for innovation. Throughout my career, I have focused on driving captivating storytelling, SaaS marketing, and developing B2B sales strategies. Prior to joining Aiven, I had the opportunity to work with industry leaders such as VMware and OpenText, where I gained valuable insights into supporting digital products and driving growth. Currently, as the Customer Marketing Director at Aiven, my role involves leading key marketing initiatives and implementing integrated customer marketing approaches to achieve remarkable growth for our organization.

Q. What sets Aiven apart from other open-source cloud database-as-a-service platforms?

The Aiven platform is home to a collection of the most popular, trusted, and reliable open source tools that can be used on all major cloud providers. It allows customers to manage and govern every aspect of their data infrastructure, from access to compliance and cost.

Aiven’s continuous growth in revenue and customer count proves that what the company does has widespread appeal and that Aiven’s technologies have a significant impact beyond direct customer use, enabling better decision-making and creating experiences for end-users. Some of our notable customers include Comcast, Priceline, Adeo, Decathlon, GoToFinancial, and Wolt. Most importantly, Aiven doesn’t just provide software, but we enable our customers to create better experiences for their end users. The Aiven data platform enables millions of meals to be delivered to individuals, better decisions to be made around energy utilization by consumers, retailers to transition from selling new items into the circular economy, and much more.

Q. How have you implemented captivating storytelling approaches in your marketing career to attract customers and drive business growth?

In my marketing career, I have implemented captivating storytelling approaches by leveraging the Cinderella storytelling technique and telling stories from different angles to address different personas. By utilizing this approach, I focus on creating narratives that highlight the jeopardy or challenge faced by individuals or businesses and how our solutions can transform their experiences.

One effective strategy is to give the story a face by providing real examples and showcasing the end-user experience. This helps make the story relatable and understandable for everyone. By humanizing the narrative, we connect with the emotions and aspirations of our target audience, capturing their attention and resonating with their needs.

By weaving these stories into our marketing campaigns, whether through engaging blog posts, case studies, videos, or social media content, we bring the benefits and value of our products or services to life. This approach allows potential customers to visualize themselves or their businesses in similar situations and see the positive impact our solutions can have on their lives or organizations.

Ultimately, implementing the Cinderella storytelling approach and incorporating real examples and end-user experiences helps attract customers, build emotional connections, and drive business growth.

Building upon the previous points, utilizing a multi-faceted storytelling approach is key to capturing the attention and interest of different personas within an organization. By telling stories from various angles, we can cater to the diverse needs, roles, and perspectives of individuals, ranging from C-Level executives to IT practitioners.

When targeting C-Level executives, it is essential to focus on the strategic value and business impact of our solutions. These decision-makers are concerned with overall organizational goals, revenue growth, market positioning, and competitive advantage. By crafting stories that demonstrate how our offerings can drive revenue growth, improve operational efficiency, or transform the customer experience, we effectively engage C-Level executives and highlight the high-level benefits our solutions can bring.

On the other hand, when addressing IT practitioners, we dive into the technical aspects and highlight how our solutions can address their specific pain points and challenges. IT practitioners are focused on factors such as scalability, security, ease of implementation, and compatibility with existing systems. By sharing stories that showcase how our solutions can streamline workflows, optimize performance, or enhance data security, we resonate with this audience and demonstrate the practical advantages our offerings provide.

By combining the business and technical impact in our storytelling, we bridge the gap between the strategic and operational perspectives within an organization. This enables us to speak directly to the concerns and interests of different stakeholders, fostering a comprehensive understanding of the value our solutions bring to the table.

Ultimately, by telling stories from different angles and catering to the needs of different personas, we create a holistic narrative that encompasses both the business and technical aspects. This approach helps build a compelling case for our offerings, aligns with the priorities of various stakeholders, and drives business growth by addressing the unique concerns of different individuals within an organization.

As the Customer Marketing Director at Aiven, my primary objective is to establish a platform that enables our customers to share their successes and allows us to showcase their achievements. It is my responsibility to identify and highlight customers who are eager to share their stories, casting a spotlight on their experiences and demonstrating the value they have derived from our services.

In my role, I focus on nurturing customer relationships, keeping them engaged, and expanding our reach in the market. I recognize the importance of understanding our customers’ needs and delivering exceptional value to them. By actively listening to their feedback and addressing their concerns, we aim to develop long-term partnerships and transform customers into passionate advocates for our brand.

Through customer advocacy initiatives, we encourage our customers to share their positive experiences, recommend our products and services, and amplify their voices in the market. This reciprocal relationship drives business growth and solidifies our position as a trusted partner in their success.

By fostering strong customer relationships, continuously improving our offerings, and actively engaging with our customer base, we can maximize revenue, enhance customer satisfaction, and establish a strong market presence. It’s a reciprocal relationship where we aim to provide exceptional value to our customers and, in return, develop them into long-term advocates for our brand.

By implementing integrated customer marketing approaches, I strive to understand the evolving needs of our customers and align our solutions with their goals. Through personalized communication, targeted campaigns, and continuous engagement, we work towards creating a positive customer experience that fosters loyalty and advocacy.

Building genuine relationships with our customers involves actively listening to their feedback, addressing their concerns, and continuously improving our offerings to meet their evolving requirements. By nurturing these relationships, we aim to transform customers into loyal advocates who not only continue to engage with our products or services but also promote them to others.

Taking a customer-centric approach is essential in building long-term relationships and driving sustainable business growth. At Aiven, we position ourselves a technology partner to our customers and focus on providing exceptional value to themand nurture their success.

By prioritizing customer satisfaction and engagement, we create an environment where our customers can thrive. We aim to understand their unique needs, challenges, and goals, and tailor our solutions to meet those requirements effectively. This customer-centric approach fosters loyalty, drives advocacy and establishes trust, as satisfied customers are more likely to become long-term partners and enthusiastic advocates for our brand.

We believe that by extending our footprint and reaching new customers, we can further expand the impact and value of our solutions. However, this growth is always rooted in delivering tangible benefits and outcomes for our customers. By continuously innovating and evolving our offerings, we ensure that our customers receive ongoing value and stay at the forefront of their industries.

Moreover, our commitment is extended to helping our customers deliver more impact to their own customers, creating a positive ripple effect throughout the ecosystem. When our customers succeed in providing exceptional experiences and value to their own clientele, it benefits everyone involved. Through Aiven, we empower our customers to excel in their domains, fostering growth and mutual success.

Through this customer-centric approach, we create a mutually beneficial relationship. Our customers receive the solutions and support they need to succeed, while we benefit from their loyalty, advocacy, and referrals. It’s a win-win situation that drives sustainable business growth, establishes us as a trusted partner, and enables a broader positive impact in the industry.

So, while generating revenue is a natural outcome of our customer-centric approach, our primary focus is on delivering value, fostering customer success, and building enduring partnerships that drive positive outcomes for all stakeholders involved.

This approach ensures that our customers receive ongoing value from our solutions while we benefit from their loyalty and advocacy, ultimately driving sustainable business growth.

Q. What are the key tools or techniques that businesses can use to build genuine relationships with customers?

To establish authentic relationships with customers, businesses can implement effective strategies and approaches. Personalized communication is key, utilizing customer data and leveraging customer relationship management (CRM) systems to deliver tailored experiences. This includes customizing interactions, messaging, recommendations, and offers based on individual preferences and behaviors, fostering meaningful connections and building trust.

Active engagement across multiple channels is vital. Businesses should actively participate in conversations, respond promptly to inquiries, and encourage feedback through social media platforms, email newsletters, online communities, and events. By demonstrating that customer opinions are valued, a sense of community is fostered, and an ongoing dialogue is established.

Collecting and listening to customer feedback is essential. This can be done through surveys, feedback forms, or interactive sessions. Acting upon the insights gained helps improve products, services, and the overall customer experience. By incorporating customer feedback into decision-making processes, businesses show a commitment to meeting customer needs and create a sense of partnership.

Exceptional customer service plays a significant role. Providing outstanding support, ensuring prompt assistance, efficient issue resolution, and proactive addressing of concerns goes beyond customer expectations. This commitment to customer satisfaction builds trust and loyalty.

Finally, creating an emotional connection is key. Understanding customer aspirations, values, and goals allows businesses to tailor marketing messages and brand experiences that resonate on an emotional level. This creates a memorable and meaningful relationship with customers. By implementing these strategies and approaches, businesses can establish authentic relationships with customers, fostering loyalty, advocacy, and long-term success.

Q. What are some of the essential variables for marketers to consider when choosing and using AI-powered marketing tools and platforms?

When selecting and utilizing AI-powered marketing tools and platforms, there are several essential variables that marketers should consider. However, in addition to these variables, customer advocacy and customer marketing play crucial roles that require a human touch.

To effectively leverage AI in marketing, marketers must first understand the customers’ use cases and their stories. This involves actively listening to customers and gaining insights into their needs, pain points, and preferences. By truly understanding the customers’ perspective, marketers can align their AI-driven strategies to deliver personalized and relevant experiences.

Customer advocacy focuses on creating and nurturing strong relationships with customers, turning them into brand advocates who actively promote and support the business. AI tools can assist by identifying potential brand advocates through the analysis of customer behavior, sentiment, and engagement patterns. By leveraging AI insights, marketers can tailor their customer advocacy efforts and develop targeted campaigns to engage and amplify the voices of these advocates.

With AI-powered tools, marketers can analyze vast amounts of customer data to identify loyal customers who consistently engage with the brand, refer others, or share positive feedback. These insights can be used to identify common characteristics and behaviors among brand advocates, enabling marketers to develop customer profiles and target similar individuals. By understanding the factors that drive customer advocacy, marketers can create strategies that foster strong customer relationships and cultivate a loyal customer base.

Customer marketing, on the other hand, revolves around creating marketing strategies and initiatives specifically aimed at existing customers. AI can play a vital role in customer marketing by analyzing customer data to identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities, personalized recommendations, and tailored messaging. By understanding customers’ preferences and behaviors through AI-driven analytics, marketers can deliver relevant offers and communications that resonate with individual customers, fostering loyalty and driving repeat business.

Through AI-powered tools, marketers can gain valuable insights into customer preferences, purchase history, and browsing behavior. These insights enable marketers to create personalized marketing campaigns that address individual customers’ needs and interests. By leveraging AI algorithms, marketers can automatically segment customers based on their behaviors and preferences, allowing for targeted messaging and tailored experiences at scale. This level of personalization enhances customer satisfaction, drives engagement, and increases the likelihood of customer advocacy.

In conjunction with these considerations, the essential variables for selecting AI-powered marketing tools and platforms remain crucial:

Accuracy and Reliability: Ensure that the AI algorithms and models used by the tools are accurate and reliable in generating insights and predictions. Robust algorithms can provide valuable data-driven recommendations for marketing strategies.

Integration and Compatibility: Evaluate the compatibility of AI tools with existing marketing systems and platforms. Seamless integration allows for streamlined data flow and holistic insights, enabling cohesive marketing campaigns.

Customization and Flexibility: Look for AI tools that offer customization options to align with specific marketing goals and strategies. Flexibility in adapting the AI algorithms to unique business needs enables tailored insights and optimized performance.

Transparency and Explainability: AI-powered tools should provide transparency in their decision-making process. Understand how the AI models generate predictions or recommendations to ensure ethical practices and regulatory compliance.

Scalability and Performance: Consider the scalability of the AI tools to accommodate growing marketing needs. The tools should be capable of handling large volumes of data efficiently and providing real-time insights for agile decision-making.

By carefully evaluating these variables and incorporating a deep understanding of customers’ use cases, stories, and their journey through customer advocacy and targeted marketing, marketers can make informed decisions when choosing AI-powered marketing tools and platforms that align with their objectives. This combination of human empathy, customer advocacy, and AI capabilities empowers marketers to create powerful and impactful marketing initiatives that prioritize customer satisfaction, drive brand advocacy, and foster long-term customer loyalty.

Q. What advice would you give to other marketing leaders which helped you personally?

The advice I would give to other marketing leaders, based on my personal experience, is to prioritize customer advocacy and customer marketing. To truly understand our customers, we need to go beyond demographics and personas and delve into their individual use cases and stories. It is crucial to listen to them and understand what matters most to them.

By taking the time to understand customers as humans, we can develop a deep understanding of their unique challenges, aspirations, and goals. This understanding allows us to tailor our marketing efforts to address their specific needs and provide relevant solutions.

Customer advocacy plays a pivotal role in driving business growth. When customers feel valued and heard, they become advocates for your brand. They share their positive experiences, recommend your products or services, and even defend your brand in challenging situations.

Investing in customer advocacy programs and fostering strong relationships with customers can lead to exponential growth through word-of-mouth and organic referrals.

Additionally, customer marketing is a powerful tool to leverage. Highlighting success stories, showcasing customer testimonials, and sharing real-world use cases can create a sense of relatability and credibility. By telling stories from different angles, focusing on the customer’s journey, and showcasing the tangible impact of your products or services, you can captivate and engage your target audience.

In summary, my advice is to always put the customer at the center of your marketing efforts. Understand their use cases, listen to their stories, and make them feel valued. Nurture customer advocacy, leverage customer marketing, and build genuine relationships. By doing so, you can foster long-term loyalty, drive business growth, and create a strong brand reputation.

Q. What is the biggest problem you or your team is solving this year?

As a customer marketing lead, we approach each day with a positive mindset, embracing the ongoing challenge of consistently prioritizing and putting our customers first. It is a core principle that drives our actions and decisions, ensuring that we always strive to deliver exceptional experiences and build strong, lasting relationships. By maintaining this customer-centric mindset, we are dedicated to continuously improving and surpassing customer expectations.

We understand that each customer is unique, with varying needs, preferences, and expectations. Our challenge is to stay attuned to these evolving customer dynamics and ensure that our marketing strategies are aligned accordingly. We strive to proactively listen to our customers, understand their stories, and adapt our approach to meet their ever-changing requirements.

In the fast-paced and competitive landscape we operate in, it’s essential to stay ahead of the curve and anticipate customer needs. We are constantly exploring innovative ways to gather customer insights and leverage data analytics to gain a deeper understanding of their behaviors and preferences. By doing so, we can develop personalized marketing initiatives that resonate with individual customers, foster engagement, and drive loyalty.

Another challenge we encounter is maintaining consistency across various touchpoints and channels. With customers interacting with our brand through multiple platforms, it is crucial to provide a cohesive and seamless experience. We strive to integrate our marketing efforts across different channels and ensure that our messaging remains consistent and tailored to the specific needs of our customers.

Moreover, building customer advocacy is an ongoing challenge. We understand that brand advocates have a significant impact on our reputation and growth. Therefore, we work tirelessly to nurture strong relationships with our customers, going the extra mile to exceed their expectations. By consistently providing exceptional value, addressing their concerns, and actively seeking feedback, we aim to turn satisfied customers into vocal advocates who champion our brand.

In facing these challenges, we rely on a customer-centric mindset and a dedication to continuous improvement. We are committed to regularly reviewing our strategies, embracing new technologies, and staying informed about emerging trends in customer marketing. By doing so, we ensure that we are agile and adaptable, always ready to address the challenges that arise in our pursuit of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

At the end of the day, it’s not about the problems we encounter; it’s about how we approach and overcome them. Our team remains steadfast in our commitment to putting our customers first, demonstrating that we are responsive, empathetic, and committed to delivering the best possible experiences.

Q. What activities or hobbies do you engage in to find relaxation and fulfillment outside of work?

I’m a proud father, and spending time with my family is incredibly important to me. When I’m not with them, I enjoy traveling and watching football. These activities bring me joy and allow me to relax and unwind.

Thanks, Florian!

I am an innovative, customer-centric Marketer with 10 years of driving captivating storytelling, SaaS marketing and developing B2B sales strategies and demand generation, supporting digital products for industry leaders (including VMware and OpenText). I excel in assessing client needs to provide unique stories while identifying, engaging, and nurturing brands. Supporting key sales and marketing initiatives, I enable integrated customer marketing approaches and effectively infuse stories to achieve pacesetting growth.

My track record demonstrates continued success in generating new business in competitive markets, managing comprehensive account prospecting lifecycles to grow territories and consistently expand client base. I’m adept in conducting consumer and industry research, utilizing insights to identify and forecast trends, needs, and opportunities and maximize profitability.

Aiven is the trusted open-source data platform for everyone. Through Aiven, developers can do what they do best: create applications. Meanwhile, Aiven does what we do best: manage cloud data infrastructure. We enable customers to drive business results from open source data technologies that trigger true transformations on a global scale. Aiven provides managed open-source data technologies, such as PostgreSQL®, Apache Kafka® and OpenSearch®, on all major clouds. Most recently, Aiven achieved a $3B valuation and has now raised $420M total funding backed by its investors Atomico, Earlybird, Eurazeo, IVP, Lifeline, Salesforce Ventures, and World Innovation Lab. Aiven is headquartered in Helsinki and has hubs in Amsterdam, Berlin, Boston, Paris, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Toronto.

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