Roger Barnette

Interview: MessageGears CEO Roger Barnette

New CEO Roger Barnette shares his thoughts on the enterprise email industry, how to grow a company, and his plans for continuing MessageGears’ winning streak.

MessageGears has experienced tremendous growth in 2016. It added some of the world’s leading travel companies in Expedia and Orbitz.com to its list of new clients, gained a healthy infusion of capital via $2.35 million in Series A funding, was named one of the fastest-growing companies in Atlanta by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, and recently announced the addition of a new CEO.

In November, long-time Atlanta marketing technology executive Roger Barnette joined the team as CEO, while co-founder Dan Roy moved into the role of SVP of Product Development, overseeing its enterprise platform.

Barnette has extensive experience leading and growing marketing technology businesses. Prior to MessageGears, he was founder and president of IgnitionOne (formerly SearchIgnite), which he grew into one of the world’s largest digital media platforms. Before IgnitionOne, Barnette was president of Biltmore Communications and founder and CEO of eTour, an internet marketing company bought by Ask.com.

We sat down with Roger to discuss his plans for continuing MessageGears’ winning streak.

What do you find exciting about today’s email marketing space?

So many things. Technology has facilitated almost endless avenues for communication. People are connected to different devices or social platforms 24/7. Still, email is the principle way that we communicate and the most effective way that businesses can reach and market to their customers. And new technology is allowing businesses to execute email marketing campaigns with more precision and purpose than ever before.

What are some of your guiding principles for growing a company?

Put the customer first. Always be thinking about how they experience the product and what changes could improve that experience. And then supporting the team members of course. You have to build a company that people believe in. You have to be able to draw top talent.

A high-growth period is also an exciting time because precedents and expectations are still being set. You set a high standard of performance for new hires. You can be very creative in developing strategy and realizing vision. Plus, it’s important to begin to formalize processes and tie actions to results that can be measured. You need to create accountability for the work so people take ownership.

What do you think are MessageGears’ greatest strengths?

The technology, of course, is incredible. We offer a game-changing solution to how marketers leverage customer data to execute successful campaigns. It bridges a gap that has existed between the marketing department’s goals and the technology’s limits, allowing email campaigns to be highly personalized while maintaining the highest level of security. It gives marketers what they need and makes their jobs easier. Moreover, we will soon add mobile, text, and voice messaging to our platform, which will take our service to a whole new level.

Plus, we have the David and Goliath dynamic in our favor. MessageGears is still growing and relatively small and nimble, compared to many of our competitors such as IBM, Adobe, Salesforce. I’ve spent a lot of time helping smaller companies win by innovating and trying things that larger companies can’t do. There’s less red tape and bureaucracy to navigate and that opens a lot of opportunities.

What are its biggest challenges?

As in many cases, our biggest strength can also be a challenge. We are the David going up against Goliath, so the Goliaths have more resources, more connections, bigger budgets, and higher visibility. However, I’ve led many companies who were the smaller player and seen them out-innovate and perform their larger competitors.

What’s your leadership philosophy?

Being an innovative company requires a high level of passion and persistence. As the leader, you set the tone. You need to be passionate and results-oriented and you want to stoke that energy in others. I also think it’s my job to help make things happen – whether it’s bringing resources to the table, bringing teams together, setting expectations, or empowering management. And you need to develop leaders in the company by giving them the opportunities and space they need to realize their potential and take real ownership of their projects.

Will Devlin

A 14-year veteran of the email marketing industry, Will has been focused on leading marketing strategy and execution for MessageGears since 2014. He has extensive experience on both the retail customer and service side of email marketing, and he’s interested in helping businesses better understand how they can make the most of the work they put into their email campaigns.