Interview with Zak Pines, VP, Marketing, Bedrock Data

Zak Pines
Zak Pines

“You need to start with the right insight around your buyers – which comes from the relentless pursuit of insights through customer interviews.”

Tell us about your role and how you got here? What galvanized you to be a part of Bedrock Data?

I run marketing at Bedrock Data. I’ve been working in and with marketing technology for the past couple of decades.

I first learned about Bedrock Data in 2012 when some folks I knew at HubSpot founded the company, and back then and today, the problems the company solves for strongly resonate with me. Customer data used by marketing, operations and IT teams are spread across too many systems, and Bedrock Data helps them use and report on their data more easily across those applications.

How does Bedrock Data fit into a modern CMO’s tech stack? How do you differentiate Bedrock from the competition?

CMOs have customer data spread across multiple applications. It’s not only multiple marketing applications, as customer data also lives in sales prospecting, CRM, customer success, support, finance systems – and more. Bedrock Data is the glue that automatically unifies data across those systems, so that CMOs can get more meaningful analytics, faster.

Bedrock Data does this by automating the building of a unified data warehouse. Unifying data across multiple databases no longer takes days, weeks or months. It’s something a CMO or Ops person can do.

Tell us about your most recent product – Fusion. How does Fusion build real-time Customer-360 Analytics? How could this benefit marketing teams?

The challenge with Customer 360 Analytics is that data is spread across multiple applications, and bringing that data together involves matching “like records” of different types – contacts, accounts, opportunities, transactions, activities – across systems.

Fusion not only connects to these applications but matches, de-duplicates, merges and transforms data into a unified warehouse – so it’s analytics-ready. That’s the key.

This makes closed loop reporting possible. You can understand marketing’s impact on business KPIs such as pipeline, revenue or successful customers while using your analytics tool of choice — Tableau, Looker, PowerBI, YellowFin, among many others. Fusion’s unified data warehouse feeds these BI tools.

How are Data Management Platforms different from when you first started? How do current analytics tools fit into modern DMPs?

Wow – first started – that’s an easy one, since when my first exposure to web analytics was back in the mid-to-late 1990s working on projects at IBM applying web analytics to IBM’s backend web log data. The big breakthrough at that time became pixel based data collection to capture true frontend user behavior.

Fast forwarding to today, DMPs have become much more real-time in allowing marketers to target their advertising based on demographics and behavior.

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

You need to start with the right insight around your buyers – which comes from the relentless pursuit of insights through customer interviews. An understanding of the buying process – and all the different shapes and forms it will take – provides the foundation for a model. This includes who’s involved, what information sources are used and what questions need to be answered.

That foundation informs content plans, campaign targeting and measurement for the interaction and communication model.

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

They aren’t startups anymore, but I’ve followed and worked with both HubSpot and Marketo closely from their early days. Marketo is interesting to follow now in that they are going through a bit of a reinvention with a new leadership team. Their fearless marketer campaign is doing a pretty good job of breaking through the noise. Speaking of leadership, HubSpot stands out because of the leadership their two co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah continue to provide after a full decade including taking the company public.

Some of my other favorites in the Boston area include Drift, Mautic and Blue Conic. The concept of open source marketing automation from Mautic caught my eye when I first heard about it several years ago, and I like what their CEO Matt Johnston and CMO Katie Slavely are doing to get traction.

Another company I’m impressed with is MarketMuse, who are applying AI to help companies with their approach to SEO and content marketing. It’s helping marketers in a smart way.

On the agency side, two companies that stand out for their content programs are Rev Engine Marketing and Impact. Rev Engine is a Marketo agency who just merged with Digital Pi, and Impact stands out for their variety of content programs including Kathleen Booth’s podcast.

What marketing and sales automation technologies do you use?

We use HubSpot as I love its combination of marketing automation and CMS. We use Drift as the interface for chat on our website, during product trials and customers – and I’m thrilled we have that consistent user experience throughout.

We also house customer data in Salesforce, HelpScout and Zuora, and use our Fusion software to bring together a unified customer data warehouse which we feed into multiple reporting and dashboard tools. I’m a big believer that breakthroughs for MarTech companies come when you “eat your own dog food” or “drink your own champagne”, as they say.

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

Integrations have become much easier over time, but the challenge is that each company has a different way of structuring their data – so you have to think ahead to how you will structure data that comes together across multiple applications. This infographic I created a couple years ago still rings true today – showing how each application uses a different name to describe the same thing. In Salesforce it’s an opportunity, in Zoho it’s potential. And that’s just the names, the data has varied fields, relationships and schema in each application.

This is the value that Fusion brings to the table. Not only is it pre-built integrations (the relatively easy part), it’s a pre-built data schema that standardizes data across all of the integrated applications, so that’s it’s ready to go for real-time analytics.

Elaborate on your best digital transformation campaign. How did you measure the performance among your audience?

As Fusion has recently launched, we’re just in the midst of that. Stay tuned as we have some really unique ways of communicating what we do coming to BedrockData.com and our digital marketing channels.

We feel there is a lot of sameness out there, both in MarTech in general and in the space of integration technologies, so we wanted to do something that was completely different – in how we tell our story and communicate what we do.

We measure performance starting with engagement metrics – “Is our target audience engaging with our content?” Then through to how that converts into business KPIs such as product trials, new customers, and successful customers.

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

AI can’t add any value for marketing leaders if your data isn’t clean and consolidated.

Any AI use case requires quality customer data to deliver insights and action against that data. So even if you are years away from considering AI, the right first move is to have a trusted customer database. That’s going to provide other advantages too, such as allowing you to report on your activities and business impact more easily.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

I think inspiration comes from success. So I look to both communicate and celebrate wins we get through a new technology. Let’s say we’ve launched a new way of targeting a customer, that proves successful. I’ll share that success out through any way I can – 1:1, in a team or company meeting, Slack, even publicly on LinkedIn or Twitter or a personal blog post – to share that success and encourage us to do more.

An example of this is when Bedrock Data rolled out Drift, I wrote about the success we had after the first week and shared out some notable moments on Twitter.

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

For years I was looking for the right type of task or project management software, and I’ve really enjoyed Trello since I started using it a couple years back. I’ve become completely addicted to Google docs – whereas it’s now the only way I create a document, spreadsheet or presentation. It’s such a great way to collaborate across teams.

Slack is very useful particularly when team members are not located in the same office. Slack video calls have become a nice addition. And I always use Twitter and LinkedIn on the go to keep up to date on the latest news.

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

Something I’ve done forever is to just keep a single document with my personal to-do list, and other highlights I want to keep at the top of mind. I’ll manage the top “must do” things I need to get done, plus items I want to follow up with colleagues. I’ll also keep brainstorm or topics I want to look into further down on the list, which I’ll periodically review.

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

Nearly all my time outside is work is spent with my young kids, so my 3-4 hours of daily commuting is my best time for consuming information.That usually means scanning social media (Twitter and LinkedIn) and listening to podcasts. I use the time for entertainment areas of interest for me such as fantasy baseball, pro wrestling and sports media. Although I must say, those topics have a lot of crossover into marketing lessons and best practices that I take away from them.

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

It wasn’t necessarily a piece of verbal advice, but my father always encouraged me to “go for it” in business which I adopted at a young age. Be bold, take risks, nothing to lose type of attitude.

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

Daniel Murphy at Drift has been a big supporter, so I owe him one.

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

I’m a Moneyball Marketer — a data-driven marketing leader closely aligned with sales and product teams to drive revenue growth. I’ve worked in MarTech & marketing leadership for two decades, working through every growth stage from $0 to $80M/ARR. Moneyball Marketing = Brand + Demand.

Bedrock Data

The explosion of SaaS systems has created data chaos. Executives lack clarity and analysts spend endless time wrangling data across multiple applications. Bedrock Data dramatically simplifies how businesses unify customer data across multiple cloud applications. Bedrock Data Fusion automates the traditionally tedious processes of data integration and preparation, creating a trusted Fused Database for customers’ dashboards and business intelligence. Our customers use Bedrock Data to accelerate analytics with tools such as Tableau, Microsoft PowerBI, Amazon QuickSight and YellowFin, eliminate manual data preparation and get a unified view of customers. For more information, please visit www.BedrockData.com.

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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