Interview with Nick Bonfiglio, CEO and Founder at Aptrinsic
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us about your role and how you got here? What inspired you to start a customer-experience company?
I think it’s true to say that my entire career in SaaS has prepared me for this experience, in that I’ve seen firsthand the struggle to prioritize new features and then to know if they are really working for users. But more than that, I really love building innovative products that move the needle on how businesses operate. I was planning to retire after Marketo, but knew I’d regret it later if I didn’t take the idea to fruition.
MTS: Given the changing dynamic of engagement with B2B customers, how do you see the audience segmentation and the behavioral analytics market evolving by 2020?
What we are building is going to fundamentally change how software (SaaS) companies take their product to market. At Aptrinsic, we have carefully curated into one platform the ability to track, monitor, engage and experiment with users — in-product. For a long time at Marketo, I believed that for software companies, a new go-to-market model was needed and was starting to manifest itself. One that was less about gated content, marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs). One that was more about leading with your product and harvesting product-qualified leads (PQLs) that are ultimately more relevant and effective.
To answer your question more directly, tracking behavior analytics will require an increase in real-time capabilities—initially fostered through rule-based segmentation—that will, after enough data points are achieved, automatically convert to AI/predictive. This notion of rule-assisted AI has a chance to become the more prevalent predictive training model. As we all know, to make AI really work well, you need lots of data, and that until that happens, the focus must be on the art of crafting the right rules and experimenting to get traction.
MTS: How should CMOs leverage a customer experience management platform to drive their omnichannel marketing campaigns with greater authority?
For the first time, marketers can really leverage their product as a primary marketing channel. They can now drive more compelling in-product experiences that showcase the value of the product through context-optimized messages. Since Aptrinsic operates inside the customer website, webapp, mobile app, and email—and since we know precisely where the customer is—we can create one campaign that will engage the customer, at the right time, in the right channel, and with the right message. Other benefits include generating better leads for sales by focusing on product-qualified prospects and helping to increase conversions by discovering which behaviors drive increased trial conversions, retention, and cross-sell opportunities.
Why is this better?
For example, at Marketo we saw people sending blanket email campaigns to their users for upsell/cross-sell, even when the customer had barely realized the initial value of the product. This causes massive fatigue in your customer base and actually just becomes noise. Instead, you need to send the right message to your customers at the right time. But when is the right time? By watching how your users are behaving while using your product, you can send the right message when they are ready for it, in-product. This will yield a much higher conversion while reducing “promotion fatigue” and associated noise levels.
MTS: What are the emerging ad formats and bidding technologies that a CMO should look out for?
One obvious change is how do we better target mobile devices with ads, without negatively affecting the entire user experience.This blog post is an excellent summary of what people are wrestling with.
I believe this will usher in several changes in formats and bidding. I also see traditional banner and related ads falling by the wayside in favor of more vertically formatted ads. In addition, we’re seeing two types of mobile ad changes. Those that are in native apps, which will become more drawer-like and full screen depending on the ad and those that target mobile web prospects, which will likely include vertical/in-line ad formats with richer media such as video, animation, and the like.
MTS: How is the definition of unified customer view evolving with newer audience analytics and personalization?
This is at the root of why Aptrinsic was started. Having a 360-degree view of your customer is typically void of two key things. First, these views lack the product behavioral and production data needed. Second, even if some customers have this data, for software (SaaS) products, they probably lack the ability to engage with prospects and customers based on this data, in real time.
So, to personalize a customer experience, you need to be able to speak to customers as individuals, know where each of them are in their individual journeys, and guide them to really know, love and use your product.
Moreover, you need to be able to treat specific cohorts of users differently. What you say to and how you guide an administrator of the product is very different from how you engage with a practitioner or executive. This combination of being able to speak to cohorts and individuals is what’s needed to really drive personalized customer experiences.
MTS: What is the influence of account-based marketing and sales on customer journeys and interactions for product personalization?
Account-based selling is nothing new and has it’s merits, however, I believe for software it’s more important to speak to individuals while they are actually using the product. Here at Aptrinsic, we see individual user-based-marketing as key, because customers buy and experience products as individuals, not accounts.
MTS: What startups in the technology innovation ecosystem are you watching/keen on right now?
We’re monitoring the marketplace and we see companies like Intercom, Drift and others address part of the solution. Understanding behavior, driving experimentation, and gaining product insights to make more informed decisions is going to be critical—we have that with the Aptrinsic platform. I love the way Expensify, Slack, Gusto and the like are embracing product-led approaches similar to what Aptrinsic powers for its customers. We are simply eliminating all the engineering and customization that make this style of go-to-market precision difficult for many software companies to achieve at scale.
MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
I think the marketing stack for software companies needs to change. In a product-led GTM strategy you must embrace a single call to action: to drive sign-ups. Therefore, most of the engagement should happen in-product. As a result, while we’ll still rely on email-cannon vendors and ad networks to generate awareness, the rest of our new marketing stack should leverage the Aptrinsic’s Product Experience Platform, which tracks website sign-ups all the way through to upsell/cross-sell opportunities.
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader?
There are two things you need to do. First, you need to make sure that you have enough clean data based on what you want to predict. And second, make sure you have run enough experiments to understand if the AI is better or worse than your own creative understanding.
Also, keep in mind that AI by itself is not a solution; it needs to be used in the context of a vertical solution. Understanding customer behavior is a use case that could be enhanced with AI; engagement experiments do benefit from AI for better engagement prediction for content. Sport team prediction analysis (gambling) is a good use of AI and probably one of the oldest in use today.
This Is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Chrome browser, Slack, email, LinkedIn, Twitter, Invision, and Myfitnesspal
MTS: What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
I block 8:30-10a.m. on my calendar every day. I try not to use that time for anything other than completing tasks, research, etc.unless I absolutely must. I wake up early and exercise 6 days a week and go to bed early to rest, unless there is an emergency. Sounds counter-intuitive, but I would be tired all the time if I didn’t.
MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
I’ve been reading all sorts of books and online material regarding GTM. I just read Red Thread Thinking, which is a good read for any product entrepreneur.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Try not to lose! (I think this is the glass-half-empty version of “be a winner”)
MTS: Thank you Nick! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Currently the CEO of Aptrinsic, Inc. Aptrinsic provides a personalized product experience platform to help companies acquire, retain, and grow customers by creating real-time, personalized engagements driven by product usage data. With Aptrinsic, companies can effectively implement a product-led go-to-market strategy to increase product adoption and customer lifetime value.
Most recently, Nick was EVP of Global Product for Marketo and responsible for engineering, product management, cloud operations and technical support, including privacy services. Nick brings over 25 years of experience in product development, information technologies and customer service.
Aptrinsic provides a personalized product experience platform to help companies acquire, retain, and grow customers by creating real-time, personalized engagements driven by product usage data. With Aptrinsic, companies can effectively implement a product-led go-to-market strategy to increase product adoption and customer lifetime value. We provide product managers and product marketers with tools to make informed decisions on what to build next, collect relevant feedback from the right customers, and guide prospects and customers to “aha!” moments.
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.