Martech Interview with Mike Ni, Chief Marketing Officer, Openprise

Mike Ni, CMO at Openprise, talks about the top three approaches to accelerating growth for early-stage companies.

Marketing, sales, and customer success have to embrace that cross-departmental alignment and make it a priority to always work with shared data.

1. Can you tell us more about your role and how you go about building a RevOps strategy?

My role as the new CMO is to help align the company for growth. A key to that is continuing to set up for data-driven innovation around our go-to-market motion to support our business strategy.  And while I know I’m over simplifying here, an easy way to start building my RevOps strategy is to walk through the discovery and buying process as a prospect, a lead/opportunity, and then a seller. Regardless of my Ops team size, I like to get a feel for the workflow I have to go through, the data flow that supports me, and how many systems and fragmented permutations the data passes through. The walk-through gives me a sense of the organization’s operations maturity.  The RevOps strategy then becomes a joint effort across the revenue teams. Finally, we align the overall structure to support our sales model, from high velocity, product-led to full enterprise sales relationships and the priority initiatives that evolve us there.

2. What are some use cases of Openprise and how does it help in activating GTM data?

We all know the modern RevOps tech stack is comprised of a CRM, Marketing Automation Platform, Enterprise Data Warehouse and a myriad of tools across different parts of the customer lifecycle. These are technologies from different vendors that require a lot of middlewares and point solution to make them work together.

A customer said it best when he said, “ I was able to replace the 15 tools with your automation platform, and not only did it 10x what I can get done supporting the revenue teams, I’ve now found at least a hundred automations that save me time giving me the ability to automate almost any data flow or process across my RevOps stack.”

If you’ve ever worked with a bunch of different point solutions, then you know how much of a headache they can be. Openprise does the same thing those point solutions do, but it provides access to all your data, no-code flexibility to build RevOps data and process automation, and then deploys and governs it. It offers integrated automation capabilities that are usually missing from typical RevTech stacks, like deep data quality, data orchestration, and multi-source enrichment. It also automates business process tasks—from campaign attribution to, rating and routing leads and opportunities, through to territory management automation so you can quickly allocate your resources.

3. Openprise RevOps Reality Check Survey indicated that a majority of RevOps teams are not confident about alignment, data onboarding, and lead scoring. How do you tackle this issue?

First and foremost, we need to accept the fact that B2B teams can no longer work in silos with what has become a fragmented set of funnels, each managed by different teams with different metrics of success – especially when it comes to transparency in a single funnel across acquiring, converting, and growing customers. After all, our survey showed that 70% of RevOps professionals don’t trust their own data. 37% said that organizational dysfunction is caused by silos!

Marketing, sales, and customer success have to embrace that cross-departmental alignment and make it a priority to always work with shared data.

Once you understand that a unified RevOps approach is the only way to move forward, you need to find the right tools to enable teams to fully break down silos and operate as a single, well-oiled machine.

That’s why we built a RevOps solution that combines RevOps best practices and processes with a deep data automation platform.  Openprise provides a common data foundation—it provides RevOps teams with the agility to quickly respond to, load in and contextualize new data to minimize revenue data fragmentation. Itautomates hundreds of RevOps processes so they’re repeatable and transparent.  This not only creates confidence across  teams that drive alignment, but also engages and drives growth with customers throughout every stage of the buyer’s journey.

4. With the end of third-party data, how do you think it is going to change the martech space? Could you tell us more about Openprise’s GDPR compliance automation software?

The rise of first-party, and zero-party data has been well covered. What’s next:  how to better leverage data as revenue signals and how to better engage and convert your customers and prospects.  This means balancing two things:

  • How to enrich your data with validated external “first-party” data sets to augment your customer profiles and capture intent
  • How do you protect yourself with governance that spans your organization without imposing a heavy IT burden of control and risk management

Openprise supports GDPR compliance with a central control point that provides visibility and access management inside and outside your company.  With deep data automation and controls, Openprise:

  • Identifies leads and contacts that fall under GDPR, even without a valid country field value
  • Supports fine-grained data filters to ensure no PII data leaves your company and ensures no EU lead and contact data gets unintendedly processed by non-compliant third-party data providers.
  • Maintain detailed reporting on all data processing activities inside Openprise and across third parties

Learn more here.

5. What are your top three approaches to accelerating growth for early-stage companies?

Part of an early-stage company’s fun—and the challenge—is the rapid evolution of business structures as they grow.  The majority of our customers are growth-driven, so  we give this advice to them to help them accelerate growth:

  1. Focus on your innovation, not on tools and operations. Building your operational tools and scripts when so many pluggable cloud solutions exist is like building your own power plant in your backyard!
  2. Reallocate resources quickly as part of your evolving go-t0-market strategy. Revenue teams need to have end-to-end funnel visibility to the account, campaign attribution, and easy control of the data you use. Then, to have easy control of the RevTech tools to plug into chosen use cases, and the workflows for different segments without the need for waiting on traditional IT timeframes.
  3. Be ready to scale. While it’s easy to buy individual tools rather than a set that will handle all the jobs you need to do, the complexity of these tools will create friction in your growth when each tool creates data sets, workflows, and integration points. You want to simplify with a shared view of data and processes across your sales, marketing, and customer success teams if you want to grow quickly.

6. Why shouldn’t data cleaning be done on CRMs and marketing automation platforms? How is Openprise better?

The big reason comes down to focus. CRM and marketing platforms need to manage data – but that’s secondary to transactional solutions. Especially when your data resides across multiple systems, data cleansing in platforms requires custom code to things like reverse ETL, ELT, etc.  This leads to technical debt, maintenance issues, anda reluctance to change anything after the original developer leaves. All of these pitfalls are costly and usually not within marketing control. After all, IT or development teams build custom code, not marketing. At the same time, it is Ops, not IT, who understands the data, and yet lack the Enterprise-class data quality tools typically designed for IT users and broad use cases.

Then, you’re still going to see limitations with the platform. You can’t quite build what you truly require, so you end up making compromises. Soon, you believe cleansing is a limited set of actions, even as we all know that data touches almost every aspect of our revenue funnel.

But Openprise knows that cleansing is a broad set of activities that includes normalization, deduplication, junk removal, matching, attribution, segmentation, and enrichment, which have to work within our customers’ specific rules.  Data rules and approaches can differ between divisions, a recent acquisition, or perhaps a new campaign the marketing team is launching.  The big distinction between Openprise and our competitors is that they position data quality and cleansing in a narrow light to match their limited capabilities. At the same time, we see data as a foundation that ties people, processes, and systems together even when organizations have become siloed across the full revenue cycle.

7. What’s your favorite MarTech trend for this year?

My favorite trend is an oldie but a goodie.  Personalization of next best content, offers, through to even design elements – with a twist – add friction. Personalization requires bringing together revenue signals to understand the buyer context and augments digital and in-person interactions.  Data-augmented relevance and consistency build engagement with your customers. What’s interesting is for Marketing and Sales teams to leverage growing access to the right data and tools to introduce surprise elements that can drive delight at scale, even in B2B.  An example could be to slow down an order to educate the buyer on a category or to introduce an alternative to ensure the buyer feels confident in their purchase decision. Personalization is not all about reducing friction, but also about the choice of friction that defines your brand.

8. Non-linear buyer journeys are the new normal. What are your thoughts on this, and does it mean the marketing funnel is no longer relevant?

First, the funnel remains a good framework for ensuring we’re all looking through buyers’ eyes and understanding the questions they ask in their journey—and in which order. Journeys map out the moments that truly matter to the buyer and how best our teams can support their self-service or sales-guided steps.

Second, our job becomes capturing and delineating revenue signals to detect and act on a prospect’s context. In other words, to determine where they are on the set of potential journeys we’ll support. Then it becomes an operations job to ensure that for any significant step of a buyer’s journey, the revenue team can view it on a shared view of a unified funnel and can be deliberate in the experience they provide.

Non-linear is the new normal. How we use models like the marketing funnel is the thing that shifts.

9. You pursued your MBA from Harvard Business School. What was your most memorable experience at Harvard?

One of my most memorable experiences from HBS was working with Professor Clay Christensen on a digital disruption initiative with USA Today.  Even as we worked through the disruption in the news industry, the realization that we were moving into an era of operationalizing engagement struck me hard.  Beyond brand, commoditizing products and services, or even the 4P’s of marketing, engagement design would define the leading companies of the future.

What’s been fun to watch has been the rise of revenue operations over the years.  On the one hand, I have worked on the technology that drives data-driven frictionless buying from Amazon. On the other hand, I have supported piping data to the mixed-mode B2B digital buying experience at HD Supply. Across both, revenue operations are often the center to scale data automation and support the innovation in customer engagement.

10. What do you love the most about your job?

I love being part of the next evolution of customer engagement bringing together my passion for customer engagement marketing and my engineering background that wants to build systems.

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Mike is the Chief Marketing Officer at Openprise has more than 20 years of experience leading early-stage companies to bring innovations to market leading Marketing, Product, Channels, and Strategy. Most recently, he was Chief Growth Officer heading Marketing and Partnership for AI-powered relevance platform, Coveo. Mike has also been a goto market executive for both enterprise and VC/PE funded high-growth companies, including RichRelevance, Intapp, 2Checkout, Oracle, and PeopleSoft.

The Openprise RevOps Automation Platform™ fuels company growth by automating hundreds of sales and marketing processes, helping RevOps teams realize the value promised from their RevTech investments. Openprise is a single, no-code platform that can help to simplify even the most complex RevTech stack.

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