MarTech Interview with Tim Brown, CEO at Magnolia

“Omnichannel is an inescapable requirement of a modern Digital Experience (DX). It follows that the key underlying platform requirement for our customers is an ability to seamlessly assemble content, data and transactional services across a range of applications and platforms far broader than just marketing”.”

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Hi Tim, please tell us about your current Marketing and sales goals?

We’re focused on maintaining our exciting revenue growth as we add to our existing 400+ global customer base. Of course, in the common economic climate that also means constantly looking at how we help our customers and partners mitigate the human and economic impacts of COVID-19.

We’re seeing a growing interest in Magnolia from companies who now view moving to the next stage of digital transformation as an imperative following the pandemic. Brands such as BMW China, the iconic Italian group Piaggio, the market leading Chinese firm Ping An Insurance and British Car Auctions have all recently turned to Magnolia to help them create powerful digital experiences at speed and scale.

You are competing in a very dynamic marketplace that has recently seen the entry of large-scale Marketing Clouds. How do you see the CMS space evolving in the next 8-10 months?

You’re right, the CMS & DXP markets are really exciting currently. The existing hierarchy of providers is being torn apart as the legacy approaches of the traditional marketing suites increasingly holds back genuine digital transformation. We are remaining laser-focused on the needs of our target customers: ambitious mid and large enterprises looking to best-of-breed DX platforms to drive greater speed today and more adaptability for tomorrow. Digitally savvy customers do not wish to commit the time, appetite or resources required to build from the ground-up around a vanilla Headless CMS. They instead are looking to compose a powerful, open DX platform with Magnolia at the hub. So we believe flexible CMS solutions, with solid integration strategies and focus on the user – both business and developers – will be the winners in our market segment.

How has the pandemic affected your business and customer engagement? What is your strategy to overcome COVID-19 challenges?

Magnolia’s global footprint meant we already had a well ingrained remote-working culture for many years prior to COVID-19. That, and our partner-first business model have helped us maintain the same high level of local support & services to our clients even if remote.

We try to remove any obstacles for our clients to get the most out of their Magnolia investment. That has led to increased communications and establishing more digital means of engagement. For instance, we bought forward the launch of Magnolia Academy, our on-demand learning solution to provide a way for customers to enhance their skills. We also started delivering many of our established trainer-led training courses remotely.

What is the most modern definition of Digital Experience (DX)?

A typical lifecycle for an online consumer starts with discovery, then consideration, purchase and loyalty. Throughout all these they expect relevant, slick interactions that are contextually relevant to each stage and channel and consistent across all touchpoints. So omnichannel is an inescapable requirement of a modern DX.

It follows that the key underlying platform requirement for our customers is an ability to seamlessly assemble content, data and transactional services across a range of applications and platforms far broader than just marketing, such as commerce, analytics, loyalty and the like. And at a far higher speed and scale than many current CMS platforms. In parallel they also want to enable multiple independent channel and marketing and development teams to collaborate at speed.

Speed is at the top of the DX agenda for all our clients. For example, media organisations such as the New York Times and CNN Philippines have seen this first hand, especially with recent global events and the shift to digital. Magnolia is at the heart of New York Times’ digital transformation, allowing the media giant to grow online subscriptions with campaigns that go live in minutes instead of weeks, and powerful personalisation at scale. Likewise, with Magnolia a single digital producer from CNN Philippines can publish as many as ten news stories per day, a turnaround that’s far above what they had experienced before.

How is DX for B2B different from B2C or social media? 

Whether you sell to a business, or a consumer, you have to provide a seamless, consistent experience across all digital touchpoints. In the recent years experts also talk about the ‘consumerisation’ of B2B – which makes sense if we think that in the end, you have humans behind any purchase decision. So many demands on the digital experience are converging.

Nonetheless, a key aspect of B2B is the back office typically involving technology for procurement, supply chain and logistics such as ERP or CRM. The experience layer needs to play well with such enterprise systems and extract value from legacy data. So the openness, flexibility and ease of integration of DX platforms becomes even more essential in B2B.

Could you tell us about a couple of user-case scenarios on how Magnolia Marketplace helped create better DX?

Magnolia Marketplace helps our customers customise their CMS implementation for specific needs and integrate other systems they need to build a truly bespoke platform for DX. So extensions range from business solutions for digital marketing, analytics or commerce, to apps that optimise development and operations.

For example, analytics such as Google Analytics are key to optimising DX. Analytics extensions on the Marketplace help users get dashboards of data from specialist analytics tools they use inside Magnolia, right where they work with their content. So they can see and improve performance without ever switching between tools.

What is the idea behind launching Magnolia Marketplace? How does it benefit Marketing and Business Analysts?

The Marketplace is a key to enabling our customers to compose their DX stack around the platforms and workflows essential to their digital advantage. Essentially, whatever their specific need or use case – with the Marketplace they can find and deploy robust, off-the-shelf solutions that accelerate that integration or customisation.

A key benefit of Magnolia when it comes to extensibility and connection to adjacent platforms is our unified framework approach. Users can take advantage of common microservices and a unified authoring experience across their DX stack which ensures key analytics data is available in context to enable data-driven content decisions.

Tell us more about your interaction with your CMO and the Heads of Sales and Customer Success. What unique insights did you gain in discussions in the last 3-4 months?

We see a serious and pragmatic approach to digitalisation emerging from the acronyms & terminology that currently litter the sector. Goals and projects that have been maybe stale or slow before are now accelerated, with the need to pivot fast. Customers have to deliver an increasing number of increasingly complex projects immediately. Accelerated time-to-value, ease-of-use for both marketers and developers and a low total cost of ownership are must-haves.

Hear it from the Pro: How to run a CMS business in 2020 — (operational insights, revenue and hiring would be great to hear on)

If there’s one thing the economic and human shock of COVID-19 should teach us, to my mind it is a little humility. So no grand statements to this question! I can tell you that we have tried hard to keep a long-term perspective to all operational and hiring decisions. Overall the pandemic has strengthened the desire for many businesses to digitise increasing areas of their business. The immediate financial constraints they face will pass. So we have grown net headcount through this period, albeit in a considered way, and tried to do all we can to regularly and transparently inform our amazing staff so they feel secure and confident in our future.

Tag a person from the industry whose answers you would like to see here–

Amit Shah, Chief Strategy Officer and GM USA at VTEX

Thank you, Tim! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Tim Brown is a Chief Executive Officer at Magnolia. He has served as CEO of website testing and personalization category leaders Maxymiser and Touch Clarity, both of which over a period of many years grew powerful, global market positions.


Magnolia is a leading digital experience software company. We help brands outsmart their competition through better customer experiences and faster DX projects. Get full headless flexibility and seamless workflows across best-of-breed digital experience stacks.

Global leaders such as Tesco, Avis, Generali and the New York Times all rely on Magnolia for maximum reliability, high-speed project implementation and exceptional omnichannel experiences.