“Digital transformation is forcing the enterprise to transform into a digital-first, rapidly evolving data-driven business.”
1. Tell us about your role at FocusVision and how you got here?
My career to date has comprised over 20 years’ experience across media, public relations and marketing. But working in technology was entirely serendipitous… during my first break as an editorial assistant with McCall’s Magazine, a colleague of mine interviewed at Ziff Davis, the biggest technology publisher of the day. She knew nothing about computers and was wary of it being a ‘start-up’ so she passed up the opportunity. I thought a start-up sounded like exactly the kind of place that I could learn a lot and make an impression – within two days I had embarked on a career in tech!
In my current role as CMO at FocusVision, I have been tasked with leading the company through our transformation to a digital-first strategy. In order to do this I need to understand not just our own challenges and opportunities but those of our customers too. The consumer mindset is evolving so quickly that our customers need to be in near constant communication with their audiences to understand what attracts them and what fosters long-lasting relationships. We need to demonstrate our appreciation that every challenge faced by brands today is different and will require its own engagement model comprising data both big and small to succeed. And then, we need to be able to build those models. It’s a constant challenge but an incredibly rewarding one.
2. What is it that you found lacking in the marketing technology environment?
We could all benefit from a more measured approach to data. Marketing technology has sprinted to embrace big data – headlines are dominated by it and it has been received by the industry as the panacea for brands trying to better understand their audiences. The challenge is that audiences are made up of so much more than data points. To truly understand customers, including their emotional responses and the motivations (even subconscious ones) we need to be able to look at the small data too. A really holistic understanding of consumers has to bring together both the big data, macro trends and the bite-sized (but near-constant) pieces of information about changing expectations that small data can deliver.
3. How is the martech industry different from when you first started?
Not too long ago, MarTech was basically non-existent. Most marketing departments had a website, an email tool and were buying media from online publications. The past five years have seen a marketing revolution caused by the explosion in MarTech. Now building a marketing technology stack is essential to enable the real-time personalized experience we’ve all gotten used to and expect from every vendor we buy from. From big picture analytics down to data collected on an individual, the MarTech stack can make or break the customer experience.
The next big wave, obviously, is AI and machine learning but we are in the very early stages where most is linked to a specific item that needs to be solved. But if the past five years are any indication, AI and machine learning will continue to mature quickly and become a driving force in the MarTech stack.
4. Where do you see FocusVision fitting in the marketing analytics and AI solution ecosystem?
FocusVision brings human data back into the equation. Digital transformation is forcing the enterprise to transform into a digital-first, rapidly evolving data-driven business. This is based on big data. But customer loyalty is increasingly difficult to maintain. That’s where small data comes in. Small data is the human insights necessary to understand what your customer thinks and feels. FocusVision solutions help marketers understand the sentiment behind the words and numbers. FocusVision is the first and only company to offer a full-spectrum, scalable, flexible and comprehensive research solution to capture meaningful insights that lead to human-driven decisions and power persuasive marketing strategies.
Over the past few years, the MarTech landscape has exploded with new solutions enabling another way to track customer interactions. Yet marketers still struggle to be seen as a driver of the business. Combining big data from the marketing stack with personalized small data enabled by advanced surveys, video interviews, online focus groups and video diaries, marketing leaders can influence decision making by bringing to life people-driven insights that truly transform and scale their businesses. FocusVision provides marketers this missing piece from their marketing stack and personalization efforts.
5. How do you differentiate FocusVision from the competition?
There are a lot of companies that just do surveys or just do video interviews etc. FocusVision is the only company to offer a full spectrum of software solutions from professional-grade surveys to video interviews, to real-time video diaries and online focus groups, that capture real-time human insights and analytics, keeping the data safe and compliant with privacy laws. That last piece is really a key differentiator. New laws like GDPR and the pending California data privacy regulations make it difficult for enterprises to do the proper research and be able to use that data. FocusVision allows compliance both on the research and the way that data is stored and used.
6. How does FocusVision enhance a brand’s customer interaction and communication model?
FocusVision is focused on helping our customers understand their audience’s pain points. By doing this, they can build a digital engagement model which will help them better understand their customer and find the right solution. We do this by offering a truly holistic, digital engagement approach that comprises data both big and small. This might require a survey to understand a customer’s experience or market trends, or a more in-depth video interview or online focus groups. Our focus is to ask and learn from their customers to find insights that will inform business growth.
7. What tools would you recommend to CEOs and CMOs as a Sales Hack in 2018?
Using intent data. There’s so much talk about ABM these days. And in the traditional sense, ABM means you market to a target group of accounts defined by the executive or sales team. But a lot of times, those accounts are chosen based on what the company wants to do — e.g. sell to big logos — and not what’s happening within an account. Working with an intent data provider, you can start to understand which accounts are looking to buy so you can narrow down the list to your ideal customer profile and then target those accounts with your marketing dollars. It’s much easier to convince an account that’s already looking to solve a pain point to buy from you than to convince someone they have a pain. Currently, I’m working with The Big Willow.
8. What do you think are the new standards of tech integrations? How do you manage the data complexities that come along with tech integrations?
All marketing departments now need technical people and data scientists to be able to build an effective MarTech stack. No one vendor has a plug and play solution and no one vendor has a complete solution. A lot claim they do, but in my experience you end up having to settle for the least common denominator.
9. Which startups in the martech and adtech industries are you keenly following?
It’s a few years old now but Integrate is a company I continue to watch and admire. Full disclosure, I was an early adopter of Integrate and as such, developed a strong relationship with them. But that is not why I continue to be impressed by them. Integrate took a pain point that most B-to-B marketers were experiencing — importing “leads” from media partners into Salesforce — and created a simple solution: a platform that connects the media vendor to Salesforce. The platform normalizes the data and spits back any incomplete records or those that don’t meet the user defined specifications. It’s so simple, but saves a lot of manual labor and wasted ad dollars. They’re also, almost maniacally, focused on understanding their customer, their customer’s pain points, as well as the role of marketing as a whole so their content is valuable. It’s easy to understand why they continue to see exponential growth.
10. Elaborate on your best digital marketing campaign. How did you measure the performance among your audience?
My team built an always-on data-driven digital campaign that was built to engage buyers and customers when they were in the market looking for a solution that my company could solve — not a point in time campaign that ran off of my antiquated campaign calendar (traditional marketers are holding on tight to their campaign calendars, but I believe we should leave them back in 2010 where they belong). The reality is that business buyers buy according to their budget cycle, so our campaign was designed to be ready to engage them when they were prepared. The only way to accomplish this is with an always-on model based on a MarTech stack that is integrated and set up to respond automatically.
When we measured how digital engagement was affecting our pipeline (we hired SiriusDecisions to analyze this), we found out it was bringing in more pipeline than anything else we were doing as a company (shocking considering we know all buying starts digitally — I’m being ironic here). And when we looked at how digital engagement was affecting revenue, we saw that digitally engaged accounts closed 16% more of the time than non-digitally engaged accounts and at a 44% higher Average Selling Price (ASP).
11. What book are you currently reading?
A few actually. From a business perspective, I just re-read Play Bigger by Al Ramadan, Dave Petersen, Christopher Lochhead and Kevin Maney. I love this book. I had my whole team read it and then bought a copy for my CEO.
On a personal level, I’m reading Razzle Dazzle by Michael Reidel, which is about the history of Broadway. It’s fascinating. And I’m also reading a young adult novel called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon because my 17-year old daughter just finished reading it and passed it on to me. I like to read what she reads because it gives me insight.
12. What’s one piece of advice you always follow irrespective of circumstances?
Approach everything from a starting point of ‘what can I learn?’ Every experience is an opportunity to learn something new, and to grow as a person and a professional. Find people and experiences that will stretch you and help you develop. Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to have had so many wonderful mentors and in turn I try to mentor others through situations – both positive and negative – to help them expand their skill set. When you approach everything this way, you’ll be surprised how much you’ll get out of even the most difficult people and situations.