Welcome to our blog series, CMO Secrets. On the first and third Wednesday of every month, we feature an exceptional Marketing leader from around the industry. Some names will be easily recognized, and others may be new to you, but every single one will have been hand picked for their experience and knowledge in the world of Startups, Technology, and Marketing. The questions are ours, but the answers are theirs – every word, shared without edit, from their fingers to your eyes.
Today, we welcome Zak Pines. Zak runs marketing at Bedrock Data where he oversees all aspects of marketing including product marketing, digital marketing, content, demand generation and PR. Zak is a Moneyball Marketer, a data-driven marketing leader closely aligned across departments around driving revenue growth, and has worked in marketing technology for over two decades. In the mid-1990s, Zak developed the first NBA analytics and data mining products for IBM. Zak also built Omnicom Group’s first marketing automation practice in the 2000s, and later formed one of Marketo’s first marketing automation services partners. He runs the blog MoneyballMarketer.com.
Tell us about Bedrock Data – why you were excited to join them as VP of Marketing, and the role marketing plays there.
Bedrock Data is about standardizing and automating what traditionally have been complex, technical data integration projects – so that functions such as sales and marketing and business operations and analysts can work more effectively with their data and systems. We first did this for syncing data back and forth across multiple applications, and then we moved into creating unified data warehouses across one or more application data sources, for BI and reporting tools.
The reason I joined Bedrock a couple years ago is I’d seen first hand the danger of attempting custom IT development projects to solve business problems – so I knew the immense value we could bring to business users by helping them better automate data processes.
At Bedrock, the marketing team is part of an integrated commercial team encompassing sales, marketing and customer success. We’re well aligned around the problems we’re solving for customers, and our differentiation in how we solve those problems. Our marketing messages feed into our sales conversations and our customer on-boarding to help customers maximize success.
Have you experienced any big surprises or “ah-hah!” moments in your time at Bedrock? Programs you were surprised worked – and better yet – programs you were surprised didn’t work?
With the launch of our new product Fusion this year, we focused on our free trial experience – ensuring users quickly get gratification and value, and ultimately turn the buying process into something much closer to an e-commerce experience. The “ah-hah” is that marketing can add value by removing as much friction as possible from a customer’s buying process.
On the “didn’t work” side, also related to free trials, this initiative reinforced that free trials in and of themselves are not a silver bullet. Just because you offer it, you’re not suddenly going to see your leads spike exponentially. Our Chief Revenue Officer, Alan DiPietro, was at LogMeIn for many years during its hockey stick growth, and he says that LogMeIn CEO, Mike Simon, would say, “It’s HARD to give away stuff for free.”
That’s even more true today, where if a professional is going to give up an hour of their time to try something, they need to be convinced as to why, ahead of time. A free trial doesn’t remove the need for education. Many buyers will still need that education before they elect to try, while some will want to be educated as they try. Different types of buyers, and different types of people, buy in different ways.
If you could add one more role to your marketing team today to own a different/new/experimental area of marketing, what would it be and why?
As a startup, we’re lean on resources. My next hire would be someone to own the website end-to-end as the center of our digital channels – a role that wakes up every day living web KPIs, optimizing traffic growth and site experience through to conversion.
On the theme of marketing and sales alignment, one of your recommendations is to be overly transparent with each other. What are 2-3 things you think marketing and sales would like each other to understand or wish they could say more often to each other?
I’ve been in sales and business development roles during my career, so I think I have a solid idea of what sales teams want to see from marketing. I think of it as a three-step progression:
#1 – Sales wants to know that marketing knows the sales goals, that marketing also has goals to help support those sales goals, and that marketing is driving hard towards hitting those goals.
#2 – Sales wants to know that marketing is listening for (and even better, proactively identifying) the top barriers for both generating more deals, and advancing deals along faster.
#3 – Marketing delivers ways to help solve these barriers – for both generating more deals, and advancing them along faster.
In terms of marketers hearing from sales, I think marketers want acknowledgement when they do quality work – that they are busting their butt too. Marketing can sometimes be a bit “thankless” – as good work may be seen as meaningless if it doesn’t translate to sales, but when it does translate to sales, marketing isn’t usually the first to get the pat on the back.
As a Moneyball Marketer, you believe in letting data drive much of your decision-making. Are there any areas where you prefer to rely on your gut/instinct/intuition?
Absolutely. Let me first clarify that I define moneyball marketing as running marketing like a business. In doing that, data play an important role, but there is a lot more than data that goes into a successful marketing organization.
The same is true in sports, the origination of moneyball. Moneyball didn’t say a sport like baseball is only about data, it introduced data as one of the underpinnings in building and managing teams. Although moneyball in baseball has a large data element to it, there also remains a significant gut element to decisions made by baseball teams, both in the players teams acquire and how they manage a game.
Marketing is the same way. Data is very useful to guide decision making and align teams and functions, but there also remains a gut element to decision making. I find I’m usually using my gut to create – you need to start somewhere – and then using data to identify what’s working, what’s not working, and continually improve.
An earlier highlight of your career was creating the first NBA analytics and data mining products for IBM. Based on the lessons you learned from that experience, what are the key things fans should look for in this year’s Boston Celtics team, and what are your predictions for this season?
I should let you know I don’t bleed green because my team growing up was the Knicks. I used to despise the Celtics, but I’ve come to respect them big time under Brad Stevens who has brought such a winning culture to the organization.
What stands out about the Celts this season is they have amazing team depth. They are adding two all-stars returning from injury to a team that went to the conference finals last season. So I think you’re going to see them play the long game this year. They’ll have the luxury of being able to rest players during the year and still field an excellent starting lineup – and I think as a result they are going to make an even deeper playoff run this year.
You enjoyed some exciting times working in and for the agency world. Any lessons from your agency life that make for good advice to B2B marketers, and vice versa?
I learned from being part of global pitches for some of the top agencies in the world like BBDO with brands such as Bank of America, Pepsi and GE. A key takeaway is there’s nothing more powerful than a single insight about your consumer or buyer – to unify a marketing strategy, program or campaign. From that insight, you then want to figure out how to best spark emotion with your buyer, as that insight is illuminated. Finally, executing marketing has to be integrated.
When I worked with these global brands, a huge amount went into integrating marketing across multiple disciplines – TV, radio, web, direct mail, PR, field marketing, events, promotions, etc. etc. Today, integration is about more than integrated marketing, it’s about being integrated across all customer touch points which encompasses marketing, sales, customer success and more.
Recently, another great marketer told us that marketing and customer success alignment is becoming the new marketing and sales alignment. What’s your reaction to this?
I’ll second that point, that marketing and customer success alignment is a huge opportunity. Here’s why.
A big part of marketing is to provide relevant insights to potential buyers to create aha moments for them. Those insights are going to be driven by what those customers experience through customer success teams. It’s also vital that marketing positions the company the right way, so that what customers come to expect from your company or brand align to what will be delivered. Are you high touch? Are you low touch? Marketing is going to set that expectation.
There’s a self-fulfilling nature to this. By customer success helping customers be successful, marketing can then interview those customers to learn from them, and share their stories. I’ve stated on my blog that customer interviews are the most important vehicle for a marketing team. There is no better source of new customers than successful customers who share their stories.
Maybe a dangerous question, but we like taking some risks. You’re obviously very familiar with the Marketing Automation space and it’s players. You are intimately familiar with Marketo, and you recently sat in on a demo of Mautic. What were your thoughts?
In addition to the demo I saw recently, my first demo of Mautic was from one of your reps after I saw you at the MarTech West show in April. I remember tweeting because I really liked the design of your “Open” sign at the show, and I scheduled a demo after.
I really like how you’ve visualized workflow management in Mautic. It’s a real strength of yours; I haven’t see any other interface that does as good a job at allowing a user to see their branches and decision trees for campaign flows.
For areas to improve, two stood out for me. I know you talk about multi-channel, and I’d like to see the capabilities of multi-channel expanded. For example, could Mautic be used to incorporate targeted ads to a specific audience as part of an integrated campaign?
And then in the reporting tools, I’d like to see more reporting that connects to sales results such as pipeline and opportunities connected back to marketing data originating in Mautic.
Any particularly special, unique, helpful, or just cool new tools or plugins that you’ve added to your marketing stack recently and would recommend to other marketers?
I’m a big fan of MarketMuse to help you take your website content to the next level of depth, and drive SEO authority and quality web traffic. You need to earn that through lots of hard work, but MarketMuse provides a structure and guidance for content teams to execute content development.
Want to spread the marketing love? If there are any specific marketers/teams/companies you think are doing particularly noteworthy things, feel free to give some shout-outs.
Lauren Mead at TimeTrade and Jessica Meher at Notarize are two always applying great creativity to their industries, and I’ve noticed recently that both are doubling down on video content. Matt Benati at LeadGnome is a master at content marketing and social media engagement. And lastly I’ll give a shout-out to Amy Spurling and Sarah Bedrick at Compt, who share an office with us and are doing excellent work at their startup.
What does the idea of open marketing mean to you?
From a system standpoint, openness is vital. Companies have more and more SaaS systems – the latest number shows even SMBs have an average of 20+ SaaS applications. It’s vital that those systems communicate with each other so that teams have consistent or unified data to work effectively.
In terms of the theme of open marketing, I really like it to reinforce the importance of marketing being transparent around plans, results and improvements as they work across functions such as sales and product. Marketers are doing so much that it’s easy to be operating “heads down,” but because marketing is so vital to how businesses grow, marketers need to use that power and give perspective to executive teams around performance – including what they’ve learned and what they are doing to improve.