Interview with Todd Owens, CEO, Azuqua

Todd Owens
Todd Owens

“Marketers have at their disposal an increasing set of tools and technologies that will help to crunch the numbers, but data is usually the bottleneck.”

Tell us about your role at Azuqua and how you got here? What made you join a martech company?

I am Azuqua’s CEO. I started earlier this year and joined a great team that had already built the most powerful cloud integration and automation platform on the market. Azuqua counts some of the world’s leading companies such as Netflix, Airbnb, Proctor & Gamble, HubSpot and Zendesk as customers and partners. There was a lot here when I joined, so my role is to help guide and empower this super talented team to make our customers successful, and to steer the business through the hypergrowth phase that we’re in.

What is the State of Customer Data and Analytics platforms in 2018?

Messy! Powerful customer data is being created at an exponential rate, but there are very real challenges in data aggregation, analysis (including AI/ML), and turning insights into action. This speaks to one of the Azuqua use cases that excites me the most. Our technology helps marketers land data from different systems and then based on insights – churn score, segment, lifecycle stage, etc – trigger an automated downstream process. The ability to deliver a personalized and real-time customer experience is the holy grail for data-driven marketing, but it is still a patchwork quilt of technologies that must be strung together.

How does Azuqua fit into a modern CMO’s martech stack?

It’s the glue that binds everything in that stack together. CMO’s command larger technology budgets than CIO’s in many organizations today and the rise of purpose-built SaaS applications has fueled this MarTech spend. But for both the buyer and the SaaS vendor themselves, keeping up with integrations between all of these different applications is an almost never-ending and unscalable challenge. That is what Azuqua solves for.

How do you build an actionable B2B customer interaction and communication model?

In our case, we want to make it as easy as possible for prospects and customers to engage with us, learn about how Azuqua can help them, and be responsive to their needs. We focus on putting the success of the customer above all else and know that this will lead to the success of our business. Many CEO’s and CMO’s would say this as well, but the implementation of the systems and processes to deliver on this commitment is a real challenge.

What are the key reporting metrics to measure Sales Fitness in B2B? What tools would recommend to CEOs and CMOs as a Sales Hack for 2018?

There are the obvious metrics around MQLs and SQLs, pipeline coverage, and unit economics like LTV and CAC, but we look at more than this. Activity is a leading indicator for sales success, both the activity of the sales team – touches, meetings, and demos – as well as the activity and engagement of the customer within the SaaS product itself. One tool that we’ve found to be a real “sales hack” is Drift. I think it’s critical to follow-up with interested prospects within five minutes. Drift has allowed us to deliver on this promise by connecting our sellers with our customers and prospects in real time and in context of where they are in their journey through our website or product.

What are the major pain points for global CEOs in transitioning from traditional non-tech models to digital?

It starts with developing a data-driven culture. Data needs to be the foundation for every decision and every process, especially those that involve the customer. B2B customers increasingly expect to be engaged in real-time and ushered through a tailored journey, the same frictionless consumer experiences they’re accustomed to in their personal lives. Then comes a commitment to evolutionary change that spans people, process, technology, all with seamless integration across these components.

What global events and conferences are you keenly following to grow your business?

SaaStr, MarTech Summits, Sirius Decisions, Dreamforce, Amazon re:Invent, Google NEXT, and Adobe Summit, just to name a few.

Which startups in martech and adtech industries are you keenly following?

There are probably too many to list, but here are a few pre-IPO companies that are critical internal tools and/or partners for us: Drift, Workfront, Hootsuite, Allocadia, Wrike, Widen, AdRoll, Snowflake, Percolate, Qualtrics, and Slack.

What marketing and sales automation technologies do you use?

Great question! We just pulled together a visual of this for the annual MarTech Today Stackie Awards:

Tell us about the new standards of tech integrations. How do you steer clear of data chaos?

We use Azuqua! But seriously, without our own tool, I don’t know where we’d be. We have data coming from product telemetry, Google Analytics and advertising platforms, social platforms, Hubspot, Drift…and dozens of other places. We land a lot of this in Snowflake as a central data warehouse for BI & Analytics and configure Azuqua FLOs to take real-time action based on the triggers in the data. That’s where the most value comes from.

Tell us about your best digital transformation campaign. How did you measure the performance among your audience?

We called it the “five-minute challenge” – our goal was to move from primarily a web form based way for customers to reach out to us (with a 24 hour response time SLA) to real-time chat on our website and in our product (with a 5 minute SLA). We measured our lead totals, conversion ratios and pipeline creation as the key metrics and are very pleased with what we’ve seen so far.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric ecosystem as a business leader?

Regardless of your readiness for AI, it is never too soon to start capturing data. Implement application telemetry, invest in your enterprise data architecture and dictionary, and define process and technology to improve both the quantity and quality of data. Marketers have at their disposal an increasing set of tools and technologies that will help to crunch the numbers, but data is usually the bottleneck. BTW, I don’t see AI replacing humans or eliminating jobs. Instead, I see it removing manual tasks and helping to mine vast amounts of data for insights in a way that is not humanly possible. What this all adds up to is a productivity increase for our creative and skilled workforce that will allow people to ultimately do their best work.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology

It’s important to lead by example. I embrace technologies as both an end-user and as a manager through my heavy use of reporting and analytics modules. By demonstrating a commitment to technology, both those we are using today and those we are considering, I can help to create a culture of innovation and digital transformation.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Slack and G-Suite for collaboration internally, Office 365 apps for external communication and corporate documents, OneNote for note-taking, LinkedIn for networking, Uber and Expedia for travel, VRBO for fun!

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

Throw away the notebook and use a note-taking app. I personally use OneNote to track all meeting notes and keep my task list in order. This has definitely worked better than using my Inbox as my task list or trying to keep up an organized paper notebook.

What are you currently reading? 

The Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge. Mark describes a very pragmatic approach to driving a scalable sales model. I typically read a handful of articles a day and consume books on airplanes or late in the evening.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I have ever received was from my dad. He said, “Don’t sweat the little things, and remember that almost everything is a little thing.” He gave me this advice when I was an emotional teenager, and it means more and more to me every day.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Jeff Bezos

Would you like us to recommend you as a Speaker at relevant technology Events & Conferences? 

Yes, sure.

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

Todd Owens has been Chief Executive Officer of Azuqua, Inc. since March 2018. Previously, Owens served as Chief Operations Officer of Sterling Infosystems, Inc. He has also served as Chief Executive Officer of Appuri, a cloud-based customer data and analytics platform, that was acquired by DocuSign in December 2017. He served as Chief Executive Officer and President at TalentWise, Inc. from May 2006 to January 2016, and served as its Chief Operating Officer. He served as General Manager of Intelius Screening Solutions, LLC.

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Just because business is more complex doesn’t mean that integration should be. In fact at Azuqua, we believe data and process integration have to be simple for business to be agile, fast, and customer-centric. That’s why we built the Azuqua platform. The Azuqua platform eliminates coding with unique no-code integration that is easily implemented by business users, yet protected, managed and secured for IT. Azuqua empowers the Responsive Enterprise by offering a cloud-native integration platform as a service (iPaaS) that supports both IT’s need for governance, security and oversight and line of business users’​ desires for self-service process optimization.

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.

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