Interview with Mike Brown, CEO, FISION
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us about your role and how you got here? What inspired you to start a Digital Asset Management and Sales Enablement company?
Before starting FISION, I was the SVP of Operations at Life Time Fitness. While I was there, it was my job to create a national roll out of health and lifestyle fitness clubs. We were creating these fabulous third places – you have your home, your work, but where do you spend your time: the third place. We would spend tremendous amounts of time and energy around the brand experience to create these incredible spaces costing between $20-30M. I’d walk up to the front of this new building and someone would have this piece of paper taped to the door: “pool closed”. We’d spend all this money on the brand experience, but we’d tape white paper signs with handwriting scrawled in sharpie marker to the front door. No one had mastered the ability for a front-line employee, in a simple way, to be able to localize brand message and keep it legally compliant for whatever material they need, whenever they need it.
So I said, I’m going to build this technology, and pulled a tremendous team of experienced software executives together to build it. We wanted to create a technology so that every single user had a specific relationship with that technology so that they could create really specific content that is legally and brand compliant.
I wanted anyone who uses our technology to be able to specialize and make relevant the engagement that they have with their prospects and their customers. If FISION doesn’t allow me to create that relationship, then it’s useless. That concept then evolved into a multi-tenant, multi-tiered, system that we’ve built into FISION. We’ve received a patent for that technology recognizing that the way we move digital content between organizations and individuals while being able to establish very specific business rules at either end of that process is extremely unique. Today, we have an incredible team working on all of that, some amazing customers and partners, we’re a public company, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about where we are heading as an organization.
MTS: How do you see sales and marketing technologies converging for simplified brand distribution?
There has been a tremendous explosion in the MarTech space, from roughly 500 companies to well over 5,000 that are all taking different approaches towards a similar solution. We see customers that want to get their technologies down to a single technology provider. With that, we believe you need a content repository. Then you need tools like the ability to print, download, move, and email content etc. All that functionality needs to be in one place that is extremely simple and intuitive to use. Finally, you need intelligence: who are the people that we’re targeting and how are they responding to our messaging.
So how do I see this happening? By focusing on the user, like we do, and creating a simple platform solution where multiple capabilities are included in one instance so that things like social, print, email, etc. are no longer individual products but are pulled together
Furthermore, sales and marketing need to think like one homogenous brain, and they need to serve the customer. They need to work together to say, “Here’s our brand, here’s our message, and based on the data we’re getting, we’re able to provide our local people with very specific tools to drive home our message, and then we need to be able to measure it.” That allows the organization to think as one single-celled amoeba. My prediction is that, as we are doing at FISION through our recent acquisition of Volerro, technologies will converge, there will be acquisitions, and platform services will emerge that enable organizations to think better, react quicker, and execute more consistently around their brand messaging and engagement with customers.
MTS: How should CMOs drive consistent brand alignment using Digital Asset Management and marketing technologies?
CMOs need a single source of truth. When we, as individuals think about problems in our lives and business, we never rely on one data point. Instead, we leverage our entire brains, and thankfully our brains have multiple departments filled with a myriad of experiences: creative, emotional, logical, etc. That one brain brings that all together at one instance so that we can say: “here’s the answer, here is my decision”.
Inside of a company, CMOs need to look at sales and marketing technology as one brain that has all of these experiences, data points, and capabilities rolled up into one platform. Great Digital Asset Management empowers a CMO to pull all of that information together and to furthermore understand how their content is really being used. From there, they need marketing technologies that then allow them to quickly make decisions and deploy them globally with little to no resistance.
MTS: Would it help businesses to grow if they rely on customer lifecycle intelligence platforms to deal with Sales Enablement and Productivity management solutions?
Absolutely. Let’s use the example of a bank: a kid walks into the bank at the age of 17 to open his first checking account. If the bank knows he’s going to college soon, they can empower their salespeople to offer him a college loan. Say he goes to college and then gets married, their technology should empower their sales teams to know when and how to best reach out to him and offer him a home loan. As I mentioned before, the platforms that can help track all that data, empower sales teams to act on that data in a way that is customized for the customer will make huge strides in the MarTech spaces in the years to come. The companies that use those platforms will see dramatic growth in their businesses in comparison to those that don’t cater to their customer at the right time with the right message.
MTS: Is Performance Marketing the next frontier for all Digital Asset Management companies? How does FISION enable marketers to expedite performance marketing using DAM and distributed marketing solutions?
Some Digital Asset Management companies are not focused on marketing material, but for those that are, absolutely. With FISION, we create a single source of truth so that everything is at a sales person’s fingertips 24/7, allowing them to bring exactly what they need into their sales communication at exactly the right time. Being able to see where your customer is in your pipeline is only as good as the relevant information you can deliver, tailored to his needs, his language, his buying pattern, etc. We work with systems like Marketo that are great at bringing in leads and showing you how close they are to a sale so that a salesperson can deliver them the content that will help close business.
MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
I’m obviously really excited about Volerro, the company we just purchased that allows marketing teams to work collaboratively in real time, sharing their intelligence and material, and incorporating their product into FISION will create an incredible agile marketing suite with robust DAM capabilities.
NUVI is a social listening platform with stunning visualizations that I think is also really interesting.
Collabrio is another contact center and workforce optimization tool that optimizes customer experience, engages call center workforces, and ensure that teams are risk compliant.
MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
I don’t want to give away our own secret sauce, but I will say we are huge fans of Marketo, as our main form of marketing today is email. We are starting to do more with video, we do a lot of social, and we work to intercept social engagements and convert them into more qualified leads.
MTS: Would you tell us about your standout digital campaign? Who was your target audience and how did you measure success?
We’re engaged right now in conversations with a lot of top tier banks and financial institutions, and many of those conversations have been the result of a specific email campaign. The campaign revolved around two very specific points: asking the banks how they get their message out there and how do they ensure that it’s legally and brand compliant? Because we knew our customers, and we knew that financial institutions in particular really struggle with this problem and are not yet empowered with the technology to solve it, we immediately saw an incredible response that has led us to just recently signing a top tier financial institution, and we expect more to follow.
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
I think the key thing is to find as many ways as possible to pull in data. AI will very quickly allow us to make decisions faster and with far less energy and knowledge that was needed before, but it will be heavily reliant on the data and inputs we provide it. The best thing businesses can do to prepare for an AI-centric world is to ensure that they are capturing as much information as possible so that they can feed that brain I talked about before.
This is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
In my personal life, I can’t live without MyRadar – I’m a boater and a golfer, so within 15 minutes I can tell whether or not it’s going to be a good day on the course or the water.
I’m also engaging with our tool Volerro to stay intimately more connected with what’s going on within our teams specific to our customers. I see what our teams are talking about, and I can drop in when and where I am needed.
As a manager it enables me to get data I need in real time and to then empower my people to make better decisions.
MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
We’re big fans of the Entrepreneurial Operating System based on the book by Gene Hackman Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business. The methods and processes outlined in the book allow us to get far more accomplished with less people that we would be able to do otherwise.
MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
I read mostly good old-fashioned newspapers and online articles. My central philosophy around reading is that if you’re reading and getting all of your information from a single source, then you’re wrong. You need to blend as much information from as many sources as possible to fully understand any issue in the world or in business.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My mother told me years ago: “Brush your teeth because your hair is going to fall out.” She knew I was going to grow up with male pattern baldness…which was sadly true. But the brilliance of that quote is that we’re all given talents and weaknesses, but you must take what you have and be the best you can be with it.
MTS: Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Tom Goodmanson- President and CEO, Callabrio
MTS: Thank you Mike! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Mike is the founder of the company and Chief Enthusiasm Officer since its inception in 2010. Mike has been an accomplished corporate executive for more than 25 years while serving in various senior operations, sales and marketing positions. His extensive senior management experience includes having been Senior Vice President of Sales, Operations and Marketing at LifeTime Fitness from 1997-2008, where he successfully managed and oversaw annual revenue growth from $7 million to nearly $700 million. He was a member of the executive leadership team that navigated the company through a successful IPO in 2003. Upon his retirement from LifeTime Fitness in 2008, LifeTimes’ market cap was just under $2 Billion. In 2001, he completed the Executive MBA course at the University of St. Thomas. He has also proudly served as a US Navy Submariner and a certified US Navy Diver.
FISION’s Digital Asset Management / Sales Enablement solution solves real marketing problems at every point in the sales process. Our cloud-based SaaS enables corporate and local marketers, sales teams and vendor partners to efficiently control, distribute and measure multi-channel communications. By having all sales and marketing communications centralized, organizations are able to drastically improve efficiencies, optimize distribution channels, ensure brand integrity and increase sales.
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.