Tell us about your role and journey into technology. What galvanized you to join Vendavo?
I manage the demand generation, product management, marketing, sales enablement, and sales and marketing operations functions of our company. I come from a marketing background grounded in B2C and B2B, with experience in both small and large enterprise companies. What I love most about the opportunity at Vendavo, aside from transforming the marketing function into a value generating engine, is the role we play in helping the world’s largest companies transform into profitable digital businesses.
What differentiates Vendavo from the rest in the B2B technology landscape?
Vendavo is unique as we deliver insight across the convergence of three key dimensions:
The Customer: Historically, which of your customers have engaged across what transactions and SKUs.
The Deal: Deep analysis into the volume and history of transactions across your customers and SKUs.
The Product: Trends and insights across all your SKUs in the context of deal transactions and customer accounts.
This enables Vendavo to deliver a level of advanced Machine Learning intelligence that aids you in easily developing more advanced customer segmentations, transactional deal intelligence, and delivery of commercial intelligence directly to the field to maximize profit and customer success. The ultimate payoff is, through this actionable intelligence, you maximize your profit while increasing customer success and retention.
The other area of differentiated strength is that we deliver our intelligence technology through software, and in such a way that the user can quickly adjust assumptions and other criteria to model scenarios, and avoid incurring heavy consulting expense every time they want to change the modelling parameters.
We also surround our solutions with world-class business and commercial intelligence expertise as we find ourselves often helping our customers digitally transform their business processes. This provides an opportunity for them to rethink their core processes and deploy a more digitally enabled process, which results in delivery of better customer experiences.
How do you prepare for the highly disruptive marketing technology ecosystem?
In many ways, Vendavo is participating in this ecosystem by delivering a spate of advanced commercial intelligence solutions. So right off the bat, we are aware of how insight-driven and actionable intelligence provides immediate value. This creates a culture of acceptance within our marketing and selling functions of the role that actionable intelligence can, and should play. More specifically in marketing, we look for ways that technology can scale both our marketing efficiency and effectiveness and in such a way that it helps us to compete more effectively with larger and better resourced competitors. That being said, marketing technology today can overrun your organization with new tools being added quickly and easily. We are very prudent in what technologies we have, and more importantly, how we are using them. In many marketing departments you will have a smorgasbord of different tools usually championed by one person and when that person leaves, it goes unused. In addition, many tools are often used at only a fraction of their potential. So, while we explore new tools, we focus on a few key tools and resist the temptation to add just for the sake of adding. If a tool doesn’t scale our executional capacity, then it goes out the window.
Could you further elaborate on your punch line – “Sell More. Profitably”?
“Sell More. Profitably” really speaks to the heart of what we do. Going back to our core strengths in identifying and delivering actionable commercial intelligence across the convergence of Customer-Deal-SKU, we really do help our customers sell more. We identify what customers are more likely to buy what SKUs, at what price points, and we can even deliver predictions of deal success and customer account churn. But we go a step further in that — we deliver this commercial intelligence with the goal of maximizing your profitability. So, sales people can see immediate impacts of pricing changes on margin goals coupled with the prediction of deal success all through their CRM quote workflow. We let you know what customers will accept a higher price point, and what customers will not. That’s powerful commercial intelligence that truly helps you to Sell More. Profitably.
How should CMOs better plan their B2B price optimization and management strategies? How could Vendavo help in achieving proficiency in this?
Since joining Vendavo, I have concluded that the discipline of pricing is what I call “Undiscovered Country” in most companies. Pricing is generally one of those areas that most people don’t want to be involved with. They are scared that they could do more harm than good, or at most, just look at competition and go with the lowest common denominator and call it a day. In larger companies, the pricing team comes in with mountains of excel sheets and everyone’s eyes roll back into their heads. As a result, pricing remains in the “Undiscovered Country.” That’s a shame as pricing is the most powerful business profitability lever there is. For example, a company with 65% gross margin and operating costs of 50% of sales would need to reduce cost of sales by 3% or cut operating costs by 2% just to equal the impact of a 1% increase in realized pricing.
The reality is that the majority of enterprises still do not track profitability metrics with only about 1/3 measuring profitability down to the product SKU and customer account, and less than 15% adopting pricing optimization. That is a huge competitive opportunity for aggressive companies to go after.
As most businesses shift into some form of B2B e-commerce and trade risk rapidly rising, they will need to adopt more sophisticated pricing intelligence and optimization capabilities just to remain competitive. Today, less than 25% of enterprises have adopted some form of software-driven pricing intelligence to help them price better faster.
It used to be that pricing optimization projects were complex and took a long time to realize the ROI benefits. This is where Vendavo has worked hard in making advanced pricing intelligence and optimization available to companies of all sizes. Many of our solutions can be delivered in as little as 45 days with ROI being recognized within 90-180 days. My message is that to remain competitive in today’s transparent, high-velocity, omni-channel-driven marketplace, you must achieve some level of advanced dynamic pricing capability just to remain at competitive parity.
How much have Business Operations changed since the arrival of Automation and BI/Analytics tools? How do you leverage these tools in your work?
Surprisingly, you think that it would have changed more than what it has. Research tells us that upwards of 73% of enterprises still rely on spreadsheets for their operational analysis and reporting as two-thirds say that makes their reporting even more difficult. Much of the enterprise data is still siloed and trapped in legacy systems that prevent automated intelligence gathering and identification of actionable insights. With digital business rapidly becoming the norm, we no will longer simply compete on price and product features as these are areas that can be matched very quickly in the modern realm. Businesses will shift to competing more on the “customer experience” as their real differentiating advantage. As a result, business operations must work to break down these silos of data, and bring that data together to quickly derive actionable business insights that yield a superior experience. I believe that business operation functions will become the single source truth across a holistic customer 360 metric-driven view. We’ve already brought our sales operations and marketing operations functions together under one roof. We are taking steps to develop a metric-driven view across our customer lifecycle so that we can better work in consolidating data, analyzing it, and sharing actionable insights across all of our customer engagement points.
Which marketing and sales automation tools and technologies do you currently use?
Our foundation is our marketing automation and CRM systems. As our marketing model has shifted to be more account focused, we have deployed new technologies including predictive capabilities that help to inform us what key topics our targeted accounts are searching on and if they are in a buying cycle or not. We also have deployed capabilities that help us to better identify what accounts are engaging with the brand and on what topics. We have recently deployed our own CPQ (Configure Price Quote) technology internally so our sales teams can generate faster and more accurate quotes to our customers. And we use a targeted advertising platform that enables us to target specific messages down to the department level of our targeted accounts.
How often do you measure the performance of your marketing analytics and sales reporting?
We have weekly, monthly and quarterly metrics and KPIs. Our quarterly reporting is where we spend a lot of time digging into the data and trying to discern any actionable and relevant insights. Our weekly-monthly reporting is more metric focused and works to tell us if we are ahead or behind target. As with any marketing function we want to shift more of our rearview deeper analysis into more front-facing actionable opportunities.
What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in the way businesses leverage Personal Data? How do you cope with GDPR-related disruptions?
Upwards of 70% of B2B buyers indicate they want an Amazon-like buying experience, and more and more desire a greater personalized buying experience. Meeting these expectations requires the use of what can be called personal data. We will see more and more tools that utilize buyer data, particularly in B2B, as our transactions involve a greater number of people, and more of the buying process is done digitally, thus creating a huge amount of transactional data that can be analyzed and used to create a better buying experience. As marketers, our dream has always been to deliver the right content, to the right person, at the right time, and we are knocking on the door of that vision today. In fact, the technology is there to do it today, but we are stopped one level short due to personal data privacy concerns.
Being a modern marketer, not only are we exploring how best to leverage personal data for better insights, predictive capabilities, and delivery of a better customer experience, but for many of us we are also deeply involved on the flip side in determining our corporate polices and compliance for data privacy.
My personal philosophy is to realize that we are in a world where data privacy issues are important and instead of fighting it we should embrace it, and develop a company culture in terms of safeguarding and protecting the data privacy of our customers and prospects. Taking a more proactive approach will make dealing with new compliance requirements such as GDPR easier. I didn’t look at GDPR as making things harder for us. I viewed it as requiring us to get better.
What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
Right now, we look at technologies that enable API-driven digital services, access to legacy system data, and generally, make doing work easier. We are always keen on new analytic and algorithmic advances in our space as well.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader?
The first is to discern fact from fiction. Unfortunately, we as marketers have made everything about AI in recent months — it’s the hot new buzzword. The media also loves to project a world where everything is automated, and no humans are needed. In reality, our customers are much more intelligent and view AI with a very pragmatic lens. No large company is going to turn over their business to some algorithm, that no one can understand how it works, in order to automatically run a multi-billion-dollar business. The first step in preparation is to understand that we are nowhere near a world of Artificial Intelligence. Instead, we are knocking on the door of machine-driven learning that can look at vast amounts of data and quickly identify patterns that could be predictive of a future state. This holds amazing potential for marketing especially in delivering very customized experiences to our customers, but also in making better decisions much more frequently. These new tools and services have fundamentally changed the marketer’s ability to be more proactive and effective in the last 3 years. As a marketer, in today’s age, you must be aware of the changing landscape, and adopt a rapid “plan-pilot” mentality about these new tools. Bring them in a small scale, test it out, and learn what worked and what didn’t. If you don’t do this, you will be left behind very quickly as more data is being generated every day, and the ability to turn that data into profitable insights will separate the winners form the losers.
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
We don’t have a choice. As a small team, it is technology that enables us to scale our efficiency and effectiveness and remain competitive.
One word that best describes how you work.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
My MAP (Marketing Automation Platform) and CRM systems are core along with Outlook, Excel, and PowerPoint.
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
Benchmarking how others do what you want to do. You can always find new ways to accelerate, optimize and improve upon industry best practices.
What are you currently reading?
The last book I read was Web Analytics 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik. I don’t read many books or magazines rather I have several topics and companies marked where I receive news via email that I can delve into. Likewise, I belong to several communities that are technology and business-centric that send me automated news via my social channels.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Marketing is about making the complex simple” and “strategy is about sacrifice.”
Something you do better than others — the secret of your success?
The secret to my success is my belief that I’m not successful and that others are doing it better and faster than I am.
Thank you, Stephen! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Edward Brice has more than 18 years of marketing experience in developing new markets for evolving technology in enterprise software applications, information security, consumer electronics, and intelligent transportation systems. Prior to joining Vendavo, Brice served as SVP Worldwide Marketing at Lumension Security where he established the company’s brand in the IT Security industry. Previously, he served as group Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, where he drove the global marketing demand generation programs across Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific. Throughout his career, Brice has held senior positions managing all aspects of marketing, including solution marketing, communications, demand generation, branding, partner marketing, digital and social marketing. Brice earned his Bachelor’s degree in International Marketing from Arizona State University and has continued his education with programs at Wharton, Columbia School of Business, the University of Michigan, and the University of Virginia.
Vendavo powers the shift to digital business for the world’s most demanding B2B companies, unlocking value, growing margin and accelerating revenue. With the Vendavo Commercial Excellence platform, companies develop dynamic customer insights and optimal pricing strategies that maximize margin, boost sales effectiveness and improve customer experience. With an annual margin improvement totaling more than $2.5 billion across companies in chemicals, distribution, high-tech and manufacturing, Vendavo delivers cutting-edge analytics and deep industry expertise that help companies stay one step ahead. Vendavo is headquartered in Denver, CO and has offices around the globe.
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.