AT&T, the Internet of Things, and the Trends That Too Many Marketers Are Ignoring

By ​Jonathan Duch

November 8, 2017

Mo Katibeh is the Chief Marketing Officer at AT&T Business—but he’s done just about every other role in the company as well.

Mo has worked for AT&T in everything from call centers, to cyber-security, to his current role in marketing on AT&T’s business side. With this breadth of experience and deep understanding of how the business works, he’s a very interesting person to talk to about marketing trends.

In a recent interview on The Marketing Executive, Mo covered how the Internet of Things can help any business, why you need to market to all decision-makers in a given company, and what the future holds for marketing technology.

Here’s a summary of the thoughts he shared with us.

Trends That Marketers Aren’t Always Aware Of, But Should Be

Right now businesses are at the most competitive point that they’ve ever been in in history.

Digital transformation and disruption are changing how business customers are thinking about the way they go to market. There are more places at the table than ever for strategic leaders in a given business, and each of them has a say in cutting out cost, creating revenue, and using digital coupled with the physical world to create new experiences for customers. As marketers, we have to understand how to speak to each of those different decision makers in the businesses we work with.

On the technology side, a major trend that Mo is seeing is the use of Internet of Things (IoT) to cut costs and drive new revenue. He sees different businesses continuously coming up with surprising new uses of IoT that demonstrate the power of what the technology can do.

In one such example, Mo was recently working with a business that’s highly distributed. They were thinking through cost transformation, and part of what they needed in order to achieve their goal was a way to get information from the gauges attached to a number of air tanks they had deployed around the country. This was an expensive proposition, due to the number of tanks distributed across rural areas of the country. Within just a few weeks, AT&T worked with them to create a solution using IoT.

Their idea was creative and resourceful: they were able to attach cell phone cameras  to the tops of the tanks with the camera view pointed at the gauge. Then, every x number of seconds, it took a picture of the gauge and sent the information out to the cloud, where the picture could be converted to text and displayed via a simple portal.

At any given point in time, this company was able to see exactly what was happening to all of their tanks, all across America--it was a simple solution, but access to that information fundamentally changed the way that they were thinking about how they could take costs out of their business.

And that’s just one example.

“IoT is a technology (and a trend) that can help transform any business across the world,” Mo said.

A 3-Layered Cyber-Security Approach

With IoT comes a lot of data, and thus a tension between leveraging and securing that data.

Cyber-security needs to be a three-layered approach.

  1. The first layer is “How are you securing your endpoints?” An endpoint can be a phone, a tablet, a laptop, or an IoT device.
  2. The second is “How are you protecting your location and network?” This is important no matter where your location is.
  3. The third is “How are you protecting your data flow and where that data is going?”

At AT&T, they have a managed cyber-security business. When they talk to customers, they emphasize this three-layered approach to determine the right solution based on the customer’slocation, industry, etc.

A lot of customers don’t even know where to begin when it comes to responding to threats that traverse any one of those layers. They need help understanding their environment.

So AT&T asks, “Do you have a cyber-security plan? How have you trained your employees? Do they know not to click on links when they may be malicious?” They always recommend bringing in third-party expertise to help you think through your layered defense.

3 Data and Technology Opportunities That More Marketers Should Take Advantage Of

There are three key opportunities for businesses that many marketers miss:

  1. Cyber-security posture - Think through what you’re doing to protect your assets, your intellectual property, and your customers’ data. Do you have the appropriate mechanisms to respond if you’re ever hacked?
  2. Internet of Things - The more time Mo spends with businesses discussing their challenges, the more he’s convinced that we haven’t even scratched the surface of IoT’s usefulness—to businesses and society in general. For example, consider the rise of “smart cities”—solutions put in place to help city planners and public safety officials in those cities. There are already IoT devices out there that are affordable and can be easily deployed, such as devices to help detect things like fires. Before someone even calls in, you can dispatch a fire engine to go address the problem. Other devices can detect gunshots, so you can know where crimes are being committed in real-time without relying on citizens to call in. These are things that can not only help society, but that can also be leveraged by businesses to help cut costs and drive new revenue.
  3. The advent of software-defined networking - Software-defined networking is spurring decision-makers to think not only about the connectivity layer, but about whether there’s a better way to manage their entire ecosystem to drive the optimal total cost of ownership.

The Future

In the interview, Mo was asked this question: “What makes you most excited in the immediate future?”

His answer was twofold:

1) In the next five to ten years, he thinks that developments like 5G machine-learning evolving into AI and the continued growth of IoT will drive a data-powered-everything society. Those advances will fundamentally change how we think about marketing, our businesses, and the world in general.

2) In the short-term, he’s really excited about what AT&T is doing to bring all the things in this article into holistic solutions versus individual products that businesses have historically purchased and consumed one at a time. They’re dramatically simplifying their product portfolio in order to provide strategic solutions to  their customers’ challenges.

This post is based on a podcast interview with Mo Katibeh from AT&T. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Marketing Executive.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.

Jonathan Duch is the Product Communication Czar for Monetate, where he oversees and directs cross-departmental product launches. Jonathan is a 10-year veteran of marketing technology software, and has pursued a career that has taken him from the US, to Europe, to Southeast Asia, and back again. He currently lives in the Washington, DC area with his wonderful wife, and can often be found running the local trails, or sailing in the Potomac River.

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