Hi David, please tell us about your role and the team / technology you handle at Act-On.
As Act-On Software’s SVP of Marketing, I drive and execute across the company’s growth and marketing strategies, and also focus on ensuring our customer and brand experience stands out in the market. Our marketing team brings world-class expertise to the table to ensure we are engaging and nurturing our own prospects and customers, delivering great experiences to them every day and making sure they love using Act-On. I also lead initiatives to drive our company forward and communicate how we are ahead of the marketing industry in creating innovative products that meet our customer needs.
Act-On is a growth marketing automation platform designed to help users grow their businesses and deliver more fulfilling customer experiences at every touchpoint of the lifecycle. A lot of companies can track customer data, but we excel at using data to move customers beyond leads and inform deeply personalized brand experiences that people crave nowadays. We use Act-On internally as well as some other services that help track key metrics every marketer pays attention to, like net promoter scores.
Our Act-On suite provides a variety of services like lead segmentation, event-triggered emails, content creation, interactive reporting and beyond. We’re always keeping an ear to the ground to listen to what customers might welcome in our suite next, so we can stay on top of changing demands.
CRMs and Account-Based Marketing platforms are closely interlinked with each other. How do you see these two technologies refining the Sales and marketing relationship?
ABM platforms and CRMs are complementary to each other. ABMs are great for pinpointing and attacking leads from the high account level, whereas CRMs are good for tracking individual prospects. Marketing automation platforms, when we throw them into this mix, help track how best we should be engaging specific contacts.
All these platforms, when they work together, help create synergies between sales and marketing. Especially in B2B marketing, it’s essential to target accounts that are strategic to your business growth, but at the end of the day, buying decisions are made by people. Marketing automation platforms as well as CRMs can go a long way to deepen prospect enthusiasm for your solution before they decide to buy. The people you need to win over to close a sale need to be effectively marketed to in order to move them along in the customer lifecycle. CRMs and MAPs help track contacts and pinpoint when the right time is for sales to step in and try and convert a prospect into a customer, or to introduce a new solution to an existing customer.
ABMs also still largely functions as a lead generation tool, and the future of the marketing industry is moving more towards experience nurturing instead of just lead nurturing. Customers, in many cases, care more about the brand experience they have than products themselves. This means platforms like CRMs and MAPs hold significant value to make sure marketers are creating great experiences from the first touchpoint.
The more insights we can derive from prospects and customers, the more effective Sales team can be. Marketing, and tracking what resonates with contacts at an individual level, is a key way to drive sales and business growth.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, how much have B2B marketing and sales intelligence techniques changed?
COVID-19 has had a huge impact on B2B marketers, and all businesses quite frankly. The digital transformation was already underway, so COVID didn’t create the push to move strategies to the digital realm to keep up with customers, but it rapidly accelerated it. Along with the shift to digital came an increased need to improve multichannel strategies. Customers are no longer active in just one, or two places. They can pull information from review sites like G2 just as easily, if not more so, than visiting company websites to download ebooks or read case studies. So, companies need to make sure they are fully tapping digital channels to engage people where they are.
Also, more of the customer experience leading up to and following sales is happening digitally than before. People aren’t able to wander into storefronts and talk to salespeople before buying a product on the spot, or if they are, this is happening far less frequently where social distancing is still in place. They also can’t engage in person at events like conferences, where they might go to learn how to better tap solutions and educate themselves on marketing trends. Marketers are innovating to meet this challenge by increasingly producing webinars and virtual customer roundtables. Before, webinars were often utilized as a lead generation tactic, but more B2B brands are using them to engage customers in the middle or even late stages of customer journeys.
Lastly, more brands turning to digital means more clutter and noise. The need to understand customers and exactly what it will take to cut through all this is crucial, and brands need to get it right the first time. Consumers are quick to move on and they have no shortage of options, so marketers need to use automation to understand digital behaviors and move quickly to make value propositions clear.
How are modern customer experience management benchmarks impacting the CRM budgets?
Even though customer experience is much more important than it once was, CRMs are still an integral part of a martech stack and we haven’t been seeing companies investing less in them. However, some bulky CRMs do not provide the kind of nimble structure that lends itself to effective customer experience marketing, which requires delivering extremely personalized experiences based on behavior.
Some CRMs require purchasing enormous data sets where valuable contacts that can be effectively marketed to only comprise a small portion of the set. At Act-On, we know marketers should only pay for contacts they engage, which is why we offer active contact pricing to customers. So, CRMs are still extremely important as a marketing tool, but marketers need to seek out the right kinds of contracts and product integrations with them to derive the kind of value that drives business growth forward.
What are the harms and pitfalls of completely relying on an outdated martech system? How do you enable your customers to overcome these harms?
The biggest harm that can stem from an outdated martech stack is a lack of seamless integration. Many marketing solutions are not set up to work smoothly with other technology. This makes it very difficult for organizations to track multichannel behaviors of customers who might be engaging through several different avenues. Because customer experience is king, this “paper trail” of buyer behavior is crucial to have visibility into. Without it, marketers can’t make real-time decisions about how to best serve customers.
Customers know it when you aren’t personalizing the experiences you’re delivering, and they have less and less patience for it nowadays. There’s so much clutter from companies trying to share their brand perspectives and offerings, so if companies don’t get their marketing right from the get go, the risks of being drowned out or ignored from the beginning are very high. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a marketing email that seems spammy and like it wasn’t meant for us.
Act-On overcomes this challenge by empowering our users with insights they need to deliver highly personalized, scalable journeys that never lose that individual touch. This is what customers love and where we build trust, loyalty, and enthusiasm that contribute to retention.
Additionally, for our own customers, we invest a significant amount of time in creating avenues for them to tell us what they want to see in Act-On. We’ve hosted customer roundtables, exclusive product previews, and more. We’re constantly producing native content like webinars and ebooks that shows our customers we are the experts in marketing automation and equips them for greater success in their own companies. Customers are smart and they will choose to work with a company that wants to engage them with tempting resources, versus pitch them relentlessly, every time.
In the last one year or so, which Marketing Automation campaigns made the biggest impact on your martech outlook?
In early June, Act-On went through a comprehensive rebrand to align with a new focus on growth marketing. Although the rebrand was planned long before COVID-19 changed the world, the need to provide our customers with a more nimble, data-driven and affordable solution that helps grow business became undeniable. So far we’ve received strong customer feedback, and we’re proud to lead the charge to make growth marketing the new key strategy in the industry.
Secondly, marketing automation has proven its worth as a way to reassure audiences who are uncertain or wary during unpredictable times. Take for example our partner Simpleview, which works with nearly 1,000 destination marketing and travel organizations around the world. In order to better address the pain points of destination marketers who were confronting travel restrictions, Simpleview prioritized up-leveling its content marketing strategy to segment audiences and put relevant information in front of different audience demographics. Why? To build trust and make sure audiences had the most up-to-date information about traveling safely. It was inspiring to see an Act-On partner leverage automation to educate despite significant industry disruptions.
Particularly as the digital transformation continues across industries, and customers spend more and more time online, marketers have been tasked with managing more data than ever before. That comes with significant challenges, like aligning with data compliance standards and regulations that can vary from country to country or even province to province.
To get ahead of this, we expanded our cloud infrastructure capabilities in July. This reassured our customers and prospects that Act-On is here to help them juggle new responsibilities that emerge as marketing evolves.
In an AI-driven world, what martech tools and solutions are you keenly following to overcome stack limitations? Any real life scenario you want to share on your AI applications?
AI, as a concept, is still somewhat nebulous in the market, but companies are beginning to adopt it in innovative ways. For example, Act-On’s adaptive send feature uses AI and predictive assumptions to determine when individuals are most likely to open emails. Delivering content outside of prime hours always runs the risk it’ll sink, so our adaptive send feature references historical engagement to predict when targets will next open emails and times content delivery to match that schedule.
Let’s say a target prospect is a CEO who’s most likely to open emails at 9:30 PM. When are we delivering those emails? 9:30 PM.
If someone checks emails at 6:15 AM, our adaptive send will queue up content to hit the email inbox at that prime time. By pairing our content delivery mechanisms with AI, we are creating better customer experiences and reaching out when people most want to be engaged with.
One COVID-19 business continuity advice for every business leader / head of departments:
Go far and wide to listen to customers right now. Dig into the comments on your own company’s social channels and blogs to see what they are talking about. Host customer roundtables, AMAs and open houses to pull the curtain back and put a face to your company leadership. Create channels where they can express concerns and ask their burning questions, such as native feedback forms and forums. And don’t let all this great research go to waste — use it to guide your marketing automation campaigns.
Right now, the internet is crowded with brands shouting about how incredible they are and what sets them apart from their competitors. These exclamations might all be well and true, but they do little to move the needle. Listening, remaining empathetic to audiences, and adapting messaging based on what customers need will go a long way to maintaining strong customer relationships and business continuity.
Thank you, David! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Joined Act-On in: 2019
David Greenberg is the senior vice president of marketing at Act-On. Greenberg is a self-proclaimed brand loyalty enthusiast and brings more than 20 years of marketing leadership experience in high-growth technology organizations to the table. An early adopter of MarTech, he uniquely understands the challenges modern marketers face and strives to be an advocate and resource for growth marketers everywhere. With a firm belief that customers are more than just sales leads, Greenberg ensures all aspects of Act-On’s marketing and growth strategies are rooted a memorable brand experience.
Act-On Software is the world’s growth marketing leader, offering solutions that empower marketers to move beyond the lead and engage targets at every step of the customer lifecycle. Act-On makes customer data actionable so marketers can strategize smart, effective solutions to grow their businesses and generate higher customer lifetime value – all with the fastest time-to-value.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.