Tell us about your role and journey into technology. How did you arrive at Bombora?
My career started in magazine advertising sales with Ziff Davis, working with technology marketers and advertisers that wanted to reach business decision makers. It was a great place to be in the mid-1990s, pre-internet, because it was a cross section of advertising, sales, and technology.
My first startup was a software platform designed to digitize the publishers’ assets, specifically the buyer’s guides that a lot of B2B publishers have. The idea was to sell advertising to the publishers of these annual directories to enhance their reach. Simultaneously, I saw the bigger trend of pay per click advertising. There were a couple of companies that were auctioning clicks on major search engines charging roughly a penny a click. My theory was that if it’s a B2B site, then marketers would be willing to pay more than a penny. I launched IndustryBrains in 2002 with the thought that 25 cents was a good price, and I was wrong. After a year, the auction prices for our B2B audiences averaged more than $1.
In 2005, I sold that business and started to focus on the next big trend, which was content syndication for marketers and programmatic display advertising. One thing that we noticed at that company, Madison Logic, was that when we knew the behaviors of the targets we were sending display ads or email to, the performance was 300% to 400% better than campaigns where we didn’t have this behavioral data.
We knew intent data — as we called it — worked. Our challenge as a media company was we just didn’t have enough of it. We thought, “Why don’t we start talking to some other media companies and big publishers about pooling the data together in a cooperative business model?” While publishers liked the idea, they wouldn’t give us their data as long as we had a media company with a business model based on selling advertising. That gave us the inspiration to spin this data business out as a completely separate company, removing the friction and that conflict of interest, and building a true pure data business that was a data co-op. That’s how Bombora was established.
From the time you joined Bombora, how much has the Marketing Technology landscape evolved?
The Marketing Technology landscape has evolved in that there is wider adoption, and there are a lot of companies buying Marketing Automation and other MarTech platforms. That has changed things a lot in the last four and a half years. Early on, we thought that we could sell data to marketers and they would know what to do with it. That’s not the case. Then we thought we need to build software for them to use it, and that was not the case. What we finally did, which works really well, is focus purely on being a data business, and building integrations into the best of breed marketing tools that marketers have already purchased. The smarter play for us is to build an elegant integration into all of the platforms that sales and marketing use, putting our data right into the workflow.
As a Marketing Technology CEO, how would you identify the biggest advantages and challenges of leading a data-driven company?
It’s interesting, because we’re both a data-driven company and a company that sells data. We make all of our critical decisions based on data. Various stakeholders have a place to share their ideas and opinions, but generally, we follow the path laid out in the data.
As a company that sells data that is used by other companies to make decisions, we have several advantages. One is that by focusing 100% on being a data company, we can work with all of the technologies that sales or marketing departments have already installed. In other words, you don’t need to displace somebody. That’s a huge advantage.
As for disadvantages, there are some marketers who still want the easy way out. It’s just easier for them to buy a product that has some data but also has a little of everything. If you’re not looking for best of breed, and you don’t have a large budget and you just want to get everything from one company, and know it’s not the best at everything you need it to do, then it makes sense.
What valuable lessons did you learn from 2018’s massive mergers and acquisitions in the Marketing Cloud and Automation areas?
First, the revolution in how products are marketed and sold is far from over. We are just 25 years into the era of digital marketing and there is still a long, long way to go. The valuations and M&A activity are indications of this. While companies such as Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce have a lot of the pieces, there is no all-in-one solution, nor is there any lack of opportunity for new solutions.
Second, and perhaps in contrast to #1, is that there is so much noise, so much confusion, and so many vendors with quite good products, vying for marketers’ attention, that only the leaders — those that can demonstrate sustain value delivery and corresponding revenue growth — will be viable. So, it is a huge and growing market with lots of opportunity, but a very, very competitive one.
Tell us about your go-to strategies to support rapid growth and the lessons learned through periods of massive shift and transition.
The biggest thing that we learned was that a direct enterprise sales team takes time and is not inexpensive. The payoff takes a long time and it requires a lot of marketing support to build a brand and get the signoff for large enterprise accounts.
What’s really worked for us well, by design, is our channel partner approach. We have about 40 or so channel partners, with great programs set up where these channels introduce and represent Bombora in the market. That provides instant credibility and marketing that we couldn’t afford without them.
It also creates a bit of a juggernaut effect. When a marketer is evaluating which Marketing Automation platform to buy or which PLS system to buy, and they talk to four companies, and three of them say we have Bombora, all of a sudden, the marketers start saying “Wait, what is this Bombora company?” That’s how our brand name has resonated and grown so well.
We have also learned a lot from this approach. Managing both a channel and direct sales teams has its challenges. We are still fine-tuning and building programs so that both strategies can live in harmony and complement each other.
How do you mentor your Product Marketing and Sales teams at Bombora?
Communication is key. We have a lot of offices for a small company, with four offices and 20% of our workforce working remotely. As far as mentoring, the biggest thing for us is constant communication. Lots of conference calls, video conference calls, weekly management meetings, monthly executive meetings, and monthly all-hands meetings.
What does your technology community look like? Who do you meet at events and conferences to discuss technology?
The concept of community is crucial. We consciously take an ecosystem approach: adding value to all the different parts. That can be our channel partners, which are best of breed MarTech, Sales Tech solution, or AdTech solutions. We want to put our data into the workflow of those platforms, to improve their performance, and we don’t want to create any issues. We want to make it easier for a salesperson to use our data, a marketing person to use our data, or an ad agency to use our data. Of course, that community and ecosystem is only healthy if we are also making life better for our data cooperative partners, our direct customers and their agencies.
Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use?
We are an odd duck in that regard. As a data company with nearly 100 integrations and channel partners, we see and work with scores of tools and technologies we would like to use for our own marketing and sales efforts. But with a small team, we simply cannot. That said some of them are Salesforce, Marketo and HubSpot, Outreach.io, Uberflip, WordPress, AdRoll, Terminus, Rev.com, Ringlead, Vimeo, Google Analytics & Data Studio, Tableau, and of course, our own Company Surge® data.
What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in Marketing and Sales Technology for 2019-2020?
I don’t think we’ve seen the full brunt of privacy regulation yet. That’s the biggest thing that keeps me up at night and probably the biggest disruptor. It’s not because companies are intentionally playing the line or going into the gray area. It’s because there’s still a gray area until the case law sets the precedent in Europe, and then in California, which will be next year. That’s probably the biggest threat as a disruptor.
On the positive side of things, the biggest trend that I see is the adoption and growing maturity of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and the use of intent data. It seems like intent data is gaining traction right now. Those are good tailwinds for anyone in the space.
What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
There are so many startups it can make your head spin. But that is not really our focus as we work with more mature companies. There are a couple of partners that we have that I think are doing really interesting things, such as LiveRamp. I give them credit for divesting of Acxiom and doubling down on their LiveRamp business. That’s exciting to see. Also, some of the full-serve ABM platforms are doing a great job making ABM easy and accessible.
Other than that, I look at everybody and anybody that’s a channel partner of ours, as well as everybody and anybody who’s not a channel partner of ours and operates in the ABM or B2B space. That keeps me pretty busy. Two years ago, Bombora was the only player in the “B2B intent data” category. Today there are half a dozen companies that are now entering this market. That’s great because you can’t really have a category unless there’s more than one company.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
We’re strong believers in using AI, Machine Learning and data science techniques to clean up the marketing environment. AI is instrumental in creating what we call “sustainable marketing,” which is a more responsible way of messaging potential customers, with less noise and more relevant messages that are only sent when you’re interested in something. Hopefully, we get to a point where people actually want to hear from marketers.
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
Working with technology is an inherent value at Bombora, and is part of the interview process. Our company is built on a desire to work with technology, so we don’t have to inspire them. That is a prerequisite, and all of our people have deep technology backgrounds. We do, however, put people first, and make sure to remind ourselves to not embrace technology for technology’s sake.
One word that best describes how you work.
In one word, “persistence.” I’ve found you have to be willing to make mistakes and keep trying in order to get things right. “Fallible” might be a good way to describe how I work as well.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
Living in Miami with my family while the Bombora offices are in New York, Reno, Denver and San Francisco. When I am in the office, which is about 50-75% of the time, I can meet with people back to back. At home in Miami, I can strike a healthy work-life balance (free of snow and cold). Plus, all the time I spend on planes allows me time to focus.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” by Yuval Noah Harari. I’m back to reading print, hardcover books mostly. Lately, I’ve read mostly leadership books, like “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz and “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek, or books that fall somewhere in between history and leadership, such as “21 Lessons” and Harari’s other book, “Sapiens.”
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When I was learning to surf about 15 years ago, an instructor taught me that just getting in the water, falling, and missing waves — all the stuff that was not actually riding a wave — were important pieces of the learning process. She was saying that the majority of surfing time is not surfing, or effectively failing. And you have to appreciate and learn from those failures. This is absolutely true of business as well.
Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
I feel I’m a good listener. A lot of people have opinions, and it’s hard for them to listen to understand, as opposed to listening to answer. Another thing I feel I’m good at is making decisions based on data. As for secrets to success, I’ve never been afraid to throw something against the wall to see if it sticks and then go from there. I’m not afraid of making mistakes.
Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Reid Hoffman, Co-founder of LinkedIn.
Thank you, Erik! Hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Erik Matlick guides vision and corporate strategy at Bombora, bringing over 15 years in founding, board and executive management experience. An online performance marketing pioneer, Erik’s insights about the confluence of data analytics, media operations, ad serving technology and sales and marketing processes are the driving force behind Bombora’s unique value proposition.
Prior to founding Bombora, Erik was the founder and CEO of several advertising technology companies including Madison Logic, which he sold to Clarion Capital and remains on the board of, IndustryBrains, which he sold to Marchex, and MediaBrains.
Erik has been an investor in Fetchback (sold to GSI), Tynt (sold to 33Across), LeadSpend (sold to Experian) and in 33Across, AddShoppers, Switch and Crisp Media. He is also an advisor to Compound (FKA Metamorphic Ventures), Alpine Meridian Ventures and Syracuse University Newhouse School.
Erik began his career in ad sales at Ziff-Davis and divides his time between Miami and New York.
Bombora tells businesses which companies are researching their products and services. With this understanding, sales and marketing teams can be more relevant and consistent, improving performance across all activities.
The use of intent data revolutionizes the way businesses market and sell to one another, creating an environment in which marketing is valued for its relevance, timeliness and accuracy.
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.