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And we're on. Welcome to Marketing Matters. This is the show where you get to interview some of the brightest minds in marketing.
And on today's show, I have Jon Miller.
Jon's a true innovator in the world of marketing technology. In his role, he's currently the CMO of Demandbase.
However, most people know him better as being one of the founders for Engagio and from Marketo.
He focuses on B2B marketing platforms and at Demandbase, they empower revenue teams to combine the best of lead and account-based marketing to win business and drive account growth.
And like I said before that, he was one of the founders of Marketo, which is one of the big staples within the marketing automation space and eventually sold that off to Adobe.
So welcome to the show, Jon. It's great to have you here. It's great to be here.
Love talking to marketers about marketing. Exactly. And there's a lot of that.
I remember I was joking. I do this separate podcast, The Rick and Rick Show. And Rick and I often kind of joke about how Twitter is almost an echo chamber where it's almost all marketers talking to marketers.
So it's actually one of my favorite things to do.
So one of the things I'd like to start the show off with is kind of frame this up.
This last week, the Snyder Cut of Justice League came out. So superheroes are on the mind.
But every comic book character, hero, whatever has a backstory, a story that kind of flushes them out and helps people understand why they are the way they are.
What's your backstory? What's the history of how you got to where you are today?
Yeah, thanks for asking the question. It's a little indulgent to kind of get to go back into the origin, if you will.
Because growing up, there was nobody who worked in business in my family.
My dad was an attorney.
My mom was a teacher. And I just didn't have any connections to sort of people who had like office jobs and things like that.
And so I actually grew up thinking I was going to go into academia myself.
And I studied physics in my undergrad and actually spent my summers doing fusion research at the Lawrence Livermore National Labs.
And applied and got into a PhD program because I just thought that was sort of what one did, if you will.
But my senior year, I mean, there are all these people interviewing for business jobs, management consulting firms and banks.
And a little bit like, gosh, I don't even know that world. Maybe I should at least check it out before I kind of commit to this life in academia.
MIT was kind enough to let me defer my acceptance for a year.
And I ended up getting a job at a management consulting firm.
And what I found was because of my physics background, I kept being put on the really quantitative analytical projects.
And fast forward a little bit, the consulting firm where I was working realized that we were making these recommendations to clients that they couldn't implement without technology to support it.
And so the principal, the head of this firm, made this participation.
And they went and acquired this older mainframe marketing technology company and kind of funded rebuilding it.
So that company eventually spun out and IPO-ed and became known as Exchange, which was sort of the leading marketing technology of the mid-90s.
So I left consulting to go get my MBA.
And when I was graduating from my MBA in 1999, I mean, that's when, again, I guess I just follow the crowds here, everybody was going into tech.
And so I was like, well, gosh, I thought I might go into consulting, but I should maybe try this tech world out.
And managed to get a job at this company called Epiphany, which was a hot company at the time that I wasn't qualified to get the job for because I had no tech experience at all.
But they were building a marketing technology product that was going to compete with Exchange.
And the fact that I even had some association with that other thing, I kind of lucked into getting the job as really the first product manager at Epiphany.
And that was really my entry formally into marketing technology.
So I spent about seven years there.
And the hottest IPO of the Internet bubble crashed down the other side of the Internet bubble.
We finally sold Epiphany in 2004. And that's when Phil Fernandez and I, Phil was the president of Epiphany.
He and I started talking about kind of what we wanted to do next.
And those conversations ultimately led to Marketo. Oh, interesting.
So the interesting theme across all of these is with each new marketing technology company I've been at, I'm sort of pursuing an end state vision of the ultimate marketing technology.
Epiphany was better than Exchange.
Marketo was better than Epiphany. I ultimately believe we're going to find Engageo and Demandbase will be better than Marketo.
And so that's really the journey I've been on is just trying to build the ultimate B2B marketing stack.
Yeah. Yeah. And you brought that out in a time where there was a lot of other folks coming to market, right?
I mean, when you think about it. What's that?
Marketo or Engageo? With Marketo. When you came to market that the mid-2000s, say 2004 through 2008, that was a hot time in that space.
But you guys did a really good job at establishing kind of a cornerstone there.
And I mean, today you've got people who are extremely passionate.
I mean, we're a Marketo house, just full disclosure.
That's not why you're here today, but it's kind of why you're here today because it's an area that you're interested in.
But it's been pretty neat.
And we talked about this just before the show started. Your new company or your most recent company, Engageo, was somebody that I invested in.
We purchased the product through the last company it worked for.
And then we're bringing it on here as well, which is pretty exciting.
And so now to hear you say that you think that this combination with Demandbase is going to be even more powerful, I'm kind of interested in that.
Can you tell us a little bit more about Demandbase and what you think that's going to do and where that future is going?
Yeah. So I'll talk a little bit about bringing Demandbase and Engageo together first.
I mean, so Demandbase was the probably first company that really went all in on this concept of account-based marketing.
And a lot of other companies, including Engageo, followed suit.
But I think Demandbase should get a lot of credit for kind of being an early pioneer and innovator.
But Demandbase really focused on, I'd say, a very digital first view of AVM, which is machine learning to sort of identify the best accounts to go after, intent data to figure out which ones are in market, and then advertising to target them and engage them, and then web personalizations that when they came to your site, they'd get a unique experience for that account, which is an end-to-end, very sensible process.
When I started Engageo, I took my experiences of trying to do account-based marketing at Marketo and thought about, well, what were the challenges that I had had doing AVM?
And those were things like just knowing what was happening at the accounts, because the data was spread across multiple systems, and segmenting my accounts for different campaigns, and then measuring what was working.
So at Engageo, we built a much more kind of marketing automation-like approach to AVM.
And so fast forward a couple of years, what happened is I think Demandbase maybe, to be honest, lost a little bit of its leadership position because that digital -only approach was great, but it wasn't enough.
And what we realized was you combine Demandbase and Engageo, and it literally would be the most complete, most robust solution kind of in all aspects of AVM in some way.
So we would get kind of three years of roadmap in just a couple of months.
So I was very compelled to bring the platforms together because of that product vision, my goal of building the next great marketing platform.
And so, yeah, we combined Engageo and Demandbase back in June, and then moved like the wind, and actually got the platforms unified into what we now call Demandbase One by the end of last year.
So I'm very, very proud of that accomplishment. Yeah. And until you just said that, I hadn't really considered this, but you did that right in the middle of this pandemic, right?
I mean, that's a pretty big risk to take.
And it kind of leads me to wonder, how did that come together? And then more importantly, how did the pandemic affect you with all that?
Well, it was, I mean, I like to say we got the deal done despite the pandemic, because obviously it was a pretty crazy time.
We were literally negotiating the deal a little over a year ago, or a little less than a year ago, when everybody was trying to figure out kind of what the hell was happening in the world.
But again, it was that vision of how powerful the combination would be that drove it forward.
When it actually came together, it was a weird experience for me, honest truth.
I mean, I literally hadn't started a job in over 20 years.
Every place I'd worked had been something I'd started.
And so for me, just the experience of starting a new job was weird, let alone doing entirely remotely and virtually, and all that kind of stuff.
I think it's truly amazing, though, just how companies adapted, how people adapted.
And I think having a big, hairy, audacious goal, like we are shipping this unified platform on November 8th.
We set that date back in June. And you know what? We shipped the unified platform on November 8th.
Oh, that's awesome. And that kind of big, hairy goal, I think, helps rally companies together.
Yeah. Now, a lot of your...
And congratulations on it. That's pretty amazing. In a similar way, I'll just share this.
We came out, I think, in January with a remote access product that solved a specific use case.
But because of COVID, a bunch of other use cases came up. And so we likewise set a very aggressive goal to just completely rebuild part of it and make it fit this paradigm that was needed.
And that was something that, as somebody who's not involved in the product side, I'm marketing the solutions.
I was really impressed with how quickly we came to market.
But it's not just us. And to your point, it's companies like yourself.
Zoom changed everything that we're doing. A lot of companies really adapted to this, which is pretty impressive.
But on the flip side of that, a lot of companies have been impacted by COVID, some bad, some good.
I was talking to you earlier about, as a company, we've done pretty well because a lot of people have rushed to the Internet.
And as they have, whether digital advertising, what have you, they've encountered a lot of challenges, which we're able to help them with, which is awesome.
But not everybody's like that. A lot of people have struggled.
How's it been for your customer base? And how's it been for, as the CMO of the company, how's it been marketing during this?
Are you finding that there's more demand because everybody's rushing to digital?
Or is this one of those things where you've seen some of your customers pull back?
In Q2 of last year, we saw some conservatives.
I think every board of every private company was basically telling their people like, oh, got to be careful, kind of the sequoia, your letter and all that kind of thing.
But that wore off actually remarkably fast.
Because the reality is, the need to create pipeline didn't go away for companies.
Yeah. What did go away was events, which is what marketers often rely on for creating that pipeline.
So what we've seen is this massive shift to digital.
And I mean, that's across every industry, right? So events have gone digital.
And you've seen tools like Hopin, kind of virtual event platforms kind of really take off.
Obviously, selling has gone digital, and you already mentioned kind of all the tools that are kind of making that happen.
At Demandbase, we've seen over 100% growth year over year in our advertising business.
As companies, I think basically took what used to be their trade show dollars, realized, well, I can't do that, but I still need to build my brand.
I still need to drive demand.
So, wow, I can do that by targeting just the accounts that I really care about.
That's pretty interesting. Yeah, exactly. So, as I said, I mean, there are a lot of technology companies that have actually been kind of COVID beneficiaries.
I think Demandbase is definitely one of those. Sounds like you guys are as well.
So, I think looking forward, I think it's sort of like, okay, so what happens now?
Is it all just go back to normal?
I don't think you can put, once you've opened Pandora's box, I don't think you can put everything back in.
Yeah, I agree with that.
Just before we started, you asked me a question and we talked about discussing it here, which was basically what was it like for us?
And we're your very typical customer for you just described.
We have a strong focus on ABM. We have a strong focus on digital, although we do do some non-digital stuff.
And then we had a very strong focus on events.
Events was a key aspect for us, particularly in our mid -market targets.
But even within the enterprise and the field sales, field marketing, events were still important, usually smaller, intimate types of events.
So, this big shift that happened, and I like to refer to it as the wrath of March of 2020, it came down on us hard.
And within just a few weeks, my team had to go back and to basically reevaluate every campaign and tactic and come up with a whole new plan for 2020.
Now, we were fortunate in that we have the three major teams within my group, one of them being in Singapore, that we saw this happening pretty early, as early as January.
And so, we started making shifts within our APAC region and were able to then learn from that when this later on started to hit the European and the Americas.
And so, for us, it was just like you talked about. We took all the dollars that would have been for these big physical events and we shifted those over, then we focused instead on ABM and digital.
And so, we kind of split it evenly between the two of them, and it became a huge focus for us.
And initially, within the first couple of months, through the end of March, April, maybe even early into May, we saw amazing success.
We saw everything just work. Everything was just dialed.
We do a webinar and we get 1,500 to 3,000 people that would dial in. But then fatigue set in and then everybody else shifted.
And so, all of a sudden, there was a tremendous amount of competition, particularly in PPC and search marketing, anything that was highly programmatic.
And we saw a ton of competition within the webinar world as well.
And so, we then had to shift again in beginning of Q3 and kind of change that investment and change that profile.
It's just something that's a little more balanced.
But then at the same time, what we also found, and I'm sure you've saw this as well, is some of the folks that we did events with were amazing at doing them virtually.
And some of them were amazingly terrible.
And not the names you would expect to be terrible were terrible. And so, some of these bigger ones were a little problematic for us.
And again, we had to learn and adapt.
And in the end, we're doing a lot more ourselves now than we would have ever in the past.
Those large-scale events that you would go to like Black Hat or RSA or whatever, we're still going to do those, don't get me wrong.
But we're doing more of our own thing because we found that to be a fairly compelling way to do it, especially if we can get great speakers in there.
Well, I've always been a fan of building your own audiences and attention rather than renting other people's where you can.
But one thing that we've been challenged with when I think about the big events is, for example, what used to be called the Serious Decisions Conference, now the Forbes Conference.
That was always one of, to me, the biggest ones of the year because it's a great event for B2B marketers.
We always worked hard to apply ABM principles to that event. So even though we'd have our standard booth at the show, we'd also have a side area where we could be holding meetings and a customer luncheon and an evening reception for targeted accounts and all that kind of thing.
And that was always a really important strategy for us so that you could get the more targeted piece of the big events.
Right now, though, we're realizing I don't think that works in the virtual world.
I'm not always going to spend a whole day watching online conference.
I think the last thing you then want to do is get on another Zoom at the end of the day, even if you send them a bottle of wine to do it.
So as I said, I think just constantly experimenting and kind of figuring out what works.
And I think you're right.
It's like being agile and willing to change because what worked last quarter may not work this quarter anymore.
A hundred percent. Especially, and I think you are, when you're a growth company, when you're going through a stage of rapid expansion, you already can't do what you did last quarter and hit the same goals because your goals just went up dramatically.
But in a time like this, even the tactics, they shift all over the place.
Yep. What got you here won't get you there.
It's the truth, isn't it? So what has been working for you and your team?
I was talking about how we kind of shifted to our own hosted stuff. Is that what you're doing as well?
Is it more drinking from the Kool-Aid and doing more of your ABM programs?
What advice do you have for marketers out there? Where should they be looking?
Yeah. So I've been talking a lot recently about this concept that I'm calling account-based experience or ABX as kind of the next generation or the evolution of account-based marketing.
And in some ways, it's built on the principle that as powerful as account -based marketing or ABM is being able to target accounts, it didn't take into account the account experience.
And we sort of would reach out to companies regardless of whether they were actually interested in hearing from us.
And it was sort of back to the days of, in some cases, kind of cold calling and spamming people in the spirit of being targeted and more relevant.
And so what's really I'm finding working the best today is aligning what we do with the account to where that account is in its journey.
So if I have an account that, sure, I'd love to sell them.
But for everything I can observe and track, they're just not interested.
They're not reading about account-based technologies.
They're not coming to our site, et cetera, et cetera. My goal for that account should not be to get a meeting.
My goal is just to build some brand awareness and some affinity.
Now, let's say I have an account that's a little further down the funnel.
They maybe are showing some intent for our category. But again, they're not choosing us.
My goal is to get some thought leadership in front of them, help them see us as an expert.
But again, I'm not trying to go for the meeting.
And then this is where intent data becomes so exciting, is there are magic moments when accounts actually enter into a buying process or about to enter into a buying process.
They're thinking about putting together their RFP or whatever it is before they come to your site and actually fill out a contact me form.
And if you can identify those magic moments and reach out then and really put all your focus on a really high quality reach out in that magic moment, you're going to be much more likely to connect.
75% of executives say they'll actually engage with an unsolicited marketing outreach if it's relevant to their business.
The key is it actually has to be relevant, which means partly at the right time as well.
Right. And so that's really what we're doing is a lot of understanding where each account is and then making sure that we're doing the right thing for where that account is and focusing our efforts on the very small set of accounts or relatively small set of accounts that are kind of showing that kind of buying prevents.
Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. I won't use his name. We have an executive on the engineering side that works for us and he came into the marketing all hands and did a killer presentation and it wrapped up with kind of his bit on how do you get me to respond, which I thought was pretty cool because I mean, he's I mean, him and another company is our target audience.
I mean, for us. And so he basically pulled up his inbox and he said, the first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to filter on everything that didn't come from my own domain and then I'm just going to assume it's all junk.
And then every once in a while, I'm going to scan it and I'm going to see if anything pops up.
And if it's not something that I'm specifically working on right now that I care about right now, that, you know, is top of mind, then more than likely, I'm never even going to open the email.
And then when I open the email, unless it actually has enough meat to it that it gives me credibility that you know what I'm talking about, that you know what you're talking about and that you can help me, then I won't even reach out.
He said, but if you can hit all those flags, I will call you every time and I will have a meeting with you and I will learn more about your tool.
And I thought that was a pretty interesting learning from him.
And it's very consistent with, I think, what you're saying right now.
So is that where you think the industry is going to start pivoting towards?
Is this idea of account -based experiences or is that a derivative of the ABM experience?
No, I think ABM is a child to ABX in some ways, you know, because, you know, ABX brings sales into the tent and it brings customer success into the tent, right?
Whereas ABM historically is just a little bit too focused on just what the marketing team does.
So I think in many ways, you know, ABX takes the best of ABM and also brings in the best principles of customer experience for CX.
So I do think, you know, we're going to see the industry kind of evolving that way.
And that, you know, things like intent data are one of the key drivers because it sort of gives us the ability to actually know where accounts are in their journey.
And even if they're not coming to our site and take that and apply that intelligence.
Yeah, that makes sense. You know, we talked about this just briefly, but where do you think the industry at large is moving?
You know, we keep hearing about, you know, it's consolidation of technology or consolidation of marketing tools.
And certainly we've seen some of that. The big marketing automation platforms have largely been acquired by larger organizations, you know, Oracle, Salesforce, you know, et cetera, Adobe.
But do you think that consolidation is going to continue or do you feel like there's enough new stuff coming out that's really going to drive that to continue to expand for now and then, you know, consolidate at some future point?
Yeah, it's a really interesting question.
I mean, I think a couple of thoughts, you know, the first is, I actually don't think that the major consolidation that people have been talking about has actually quite started yet.
You know, put another way, people have been talking a long time, there's 8,000 of our tech companies, like, when's all the consolidation going to happen?
Right. But I do think we're right at the cusp of it starting to happen more.
So the first reason is why hasn't more happened?
Right. And the reality is, you know, there are, you know, most of those 8 ,000 companies, you know, or many of them are somewhat well-funded by institutional investors.
Right. Who aren't willing to kind of take, you know, down rounds, you know, on their valuation, which means historically, there's only literally been about two or three possible buyers, right?
It's the Salesforce's and the Adobe's and, you know, the Oracle's of the world.
Yeah. And what happened before is you, you know, kind of, you go down a level from just those big guys.
And other companies just frankly, weren't big enough to sort of be buying, these private companies weren't big enough to buy these other private companies.
Right. And so the only time that can happen on the private-to-private mergers is one, if companies are suffering so badly, they get bonked on the nose a couple of times.
Right. And then somebody can just pick them up for cheap, you know, or when you start getting more acquirers that are big enough to actually kind of move the needle.
And, you know, I think that's sort of the stage we're just starting to enter, you know, where, you know, a company like Demandbase is actually big enough to go do some consolidation and buy companies, not at, you know, bonked on the nose prices, but at reasonable prices that investors will accept, you know, and that wasn't true even a year or two ago, that there were sort of enough acquirers.
So, so that's my first point is, I think we're going to actually start seeing this consolidation accelerate, you know, underneath a couple of companies, including Demandbase.
And yet at the same time, the other part of your question, there's going to be new companies popping up all the time.
I mean, that's part of what makes marketing so awesome is always new things.
So even as companies have been around for three, five, seven years, we'll get consolidated, there'll be new ones.
And so I'm not sure the total number of companies ever goes down.
You'll just see this kind of evolution and of the market.
Yeah, I think that's fair. And I think a lot of the conversations about the consolidation was because there were so many large players developing in the space, right.
And, you know, again, Marketo being one of them, Eloqua being another, Pardot, etc.
You know, you ended up with a bunch of these that were material size.
And then you had folks that operated in that industry, like a Salesforce, that, you know, had pieces of the solution, but they were missing that marketing automation.
So I think a lot of the talk about that in the past has been around, you know, they talk about mark tech, but they're really talking about marketing automation.
I do see constant kind of change within, you know, the other solution sets and, you know, consolidation, expansion, consolidation, expansion.
And I don't see that changing anytime soon. I think that's fair. Yep. Cool.
And, you know, we're just about out of time. Folks want to, you know, follow you.
Where's the best place to do that? I'm John Miller on Twitter. I'm John Miller 2 on LinkedIn.
You know, if you actually want to message me, that's probably the best bet.
And if you want to learn more about Demandbase, check out our site.
We have demos and all sorts of good stuff. Awesome. Thanks so much for your time today.
Thank you for having me. Take care. Bye.