MarTech Interview with John Common, CEO, Intelligent Demand

MarTech Interview with John Common, CEO, Intelligent Demand
John Common, CEO, Intelligent Demand

“ABM opens up many new constructs and skills that are needed to succeed with revenue growth such as creative strategies on an account level, target account research and insights.”

What made you join Intelligent Demand?

I founded Intelligent Demand on Jan 1, 2011. I did it because I saw a real need for a full-service agency that is purpose-built from the ground up to drive B2B revenue growth in modern, measurable, integrated, strategic and creative ways. I imagined an agency filled with smart, driven, kind, passionate people who are growing in their careers and growing together with our clients: as business professionals, marketers, consultants, and as people.

Careful what you wish for! We’re working hard to be the best B2B agency in the world. Which seems ridiculously audacious when I say it out loud. But it’s true. Some days are challenging, but we like doing difficult things. Working at Intelligent Demand is the best job I could ever hope to have.

Tell us about your role and journey into ABM.

Before I started Intelligent Demand, I couldn’t shake the thought that most marketing leaders — including myself — were well-intended, smart, creative folks who worked hard but didn’t actually connect marketing activities to revenue and results directly enough. Most Sales leaders, CFOs, and CEOs clearly shared that opinion, and most still do. Around 2006, I started over on a mission to test and build modern, revenue-focused, B2B marketing.

I started to see breakthroughs and find new approaches to growing revenue and doing it predictably and repeatedly. That really excited me because I always knew marketing produced business impact, it was just hard to achieve without innovating on deeply integrated approaches. To me, ABM is just another adventure in modern revenue marketing that we will test and prove out. I still get excited about learning, testing and proving (or disproving) the always-shifting, ever-expanding list of alleged best practices in marketing and overall revenue growth.

What makes the current ABM scene so exciting?

Companies have been targeting specific accounts and segments for a long time, but ABM still feels like it’s in the early stages of development.  That’s because ABM strategy can now leverage new technologies, new sources of data, and new talent profiles to make a very big impact at scale.

Also, ABM opens up many new constructs and skills that are needed to succeed with revenue growth such as creative strategies on an account level, target account research and insights, account and persona targeting, account personalization in messaging, content, experiences and channels, stakeholder alignment and orchestration, and account-based analytics.

As compared to B2C, how does a CEO’s role differ in the B2B tech industry?

I’ve spent most of my career working within B2B industries, companies and use cases. While I haven’t spent time in a B2C role, I have noticed that a lot of companies that hire Intelligent Demand tell us that their B2C agencies haven’t been able to uniquely solve their revenue problems. There are also a lot of B2C companies that have big B2B businesses inside of them, like Home Depot for example. My observation is that those historically B2C companies and agencies tend to get B2B wrong, even when they try to learn the B2B way. I think it has to be in your blood.

What is a 360-Degree Customer View for you? How does Intelligent Demand deliver these insights to customers?

The vast majority of companies are so far away from a 360-degree view of their customers that they really shouldn’t even be talking about it that way yet. For most companies, the right place to focus is on filling in a few key blind spots. That means getting real about analytics and how you’re using them to make better decisions about the customer experience.

Intelligent Demand starts our clients out with a go-to-market approach that takes a particular view of the customer into account, and then that leads to better campaigns and programs, revenue operations and data, and then some sort of 360-degree view of what’s really going on.

What goes into creating a frictionless experience for tech buyers through automation and data analytics?

Customer insights are critical to all experiences, initially and ongoingly. You need a customer experience strategy end to end. The second critical factor is actually your company’s operating culture and your ability to collaborate and operationalize across technologies, functions, team members, data, and even resources.

Everything that touches the customer is customer experience, but that doesn’t mean that every company needs a separate customer experience function. It just means that every function in the company needs to empathize with the customer while planning and executing what their function is the best at.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

Not answering this one specifically. But I’d like to talk about tech categories I’m following and excited about:

  • Customer Data Platforms
  • Account-based applications, solutions and platforms
  • Sales Engagement Platforms
  • AI-powered… everything (in marketing and sales)

What Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

As a B2B revenue growth agency, we partner and work with most of the leading MarTech, SalesTech and AdTech platforms. Here are some of the heavy hitters:

  • MAP: Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, HubSpot
  • ABM Platforms: Demandbase, Terminus
  • CRM: Salesforce CRM, MS Dynamics
  • Sales Engagement: Salesloft, InsideSales.com, Outreach
  • Analytics Tools: Bizible, Google Data Studio
  • Data Tools: Bridgeplex, CaliberMind
  • Content Experience: PathFactory, Uberflip, Intelligent Demand-developed applications
  • Interactive Content: SnapApp, Ion, Ceros, Intelligent Demand-developed applications

Could you tell us about an outstanding digital campaign?

The integrated brand and acquisition work Intelligent Demand has been doing with a global telecommunications client of ours is something the team is really proud of. When B2B marketers think about demand generation, they often think of content, media, segmentation, and all the other nuts and bolts that go into generating a contact. What they usually forget about is the fact that awesome creative needs to be at the center of the go-to-market strategy and it’s often the most important factor in the success of all the other activities down the road.

In the case of our telecommunications client, the client’s customers and prospects love the creative, and our client loves the fact that it’s driving results and business impact. There aren’t many B2B marketing teams out there who know how to do B2B creative and tie it to revenue growth. Creative is a big part of what Intelligent Demand can do for our customers.

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

Well, I’m not sure I would describe the world as AI-centric. I think the best-executed AI disappears into the workflow and into the UI and it helps the user to become more effective without taking the center stage. The best AI can act and learn based on a set of business outcomes and inferences, but AI still isn’t very good at putting the customer at the center of the decisions that follow.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

Honestly, I don’t have to. One of the reasons people come to work at Intelligent Demand is because we’re innovating and proving out new technologies and new approaches. They want to be a part of that and they want to be leaders in their fields of expertise. And that’s not just true for the Intelligent Demand teammates who work in technology roles, it’s also true for Intelligent Demand’s creative roles, media roles, strategy roles, project management and resourcing roles, and so on. Even our people ops department is constantly coming to me with ideas for how to use a combination of technology and people to improve employee experience and internal operations.

One word that best describes how you work.

Intensely.

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

A pen and a fresh pad of paper. I’m not kidding. I love taking old fashioned, hand-written notes. Does that make me a Luddite? Don’t care. The act of writing out my ideas and notes helps me organize my thoughts, and commit them to memory. Here’s a weird secret: I am a near-religious user of AquaNotes. It’s a waterproof paper for your shower!

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

Turn off all notifications on your mobile phone and on your computer. Minimize your self-inflicted digital interruptions.

What are you currently reading?

So many books… too many, really. It’s out of control. here’s a short list of work-related things I’m reading “Harvard Business Review” — every month, every article, “Multipliers” by Liz Wiseman and “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott.

And I’m also reading/re-reading some books for fun: “Calypso” by David Sedaris, “Creative Quest “by Questlove, “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen.

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

Every business is a people business.

Something you do better than others — the secret of your success?

Well, I’ll freely admit that I’m not the smartest guy in every room. But I’m a natural systems/systemic thinker. I love bringing order, focus, strategy, and intention to chaotic situations. That, and I love doing my homework, and working very hard to be great at something I love doing.

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

Craig Rosenberg, Co-founder and Chief Analyst, TOPO

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

John Common is Intelligent Demand’s CEO and founder. He has spent more than 20 years working at the intersection of growth strategy, technology, marketing, sales and customer success in a variety of executive roles. His entire career has been focused on creating measurable revenue growth — from both inside the org chart, and as a trusted agency partner. John’s vision, leadership, and passion for helping people and teams become revenue change agents have guided Intelligent Demand to become a world-class revenue growth agency that has worked with some of the most recognizable brands in healthcare, telecommunications, SaaS, and technology.

He is most proud of Intelligent Demand’s people and culture. And that is closely followed by the enviable list of customers who we serve and the results we drive together with them: Kaiser Permanente, Trimble, Comcast, Change Healthcare, Level 3, GTT Communications, Change Healthcare, Connect For Health Colorado, DigitalGlobe, WOW!, Jenny Craig, GHX, Four Winds Interactive, ServiceSource, Welltok, OneNeck IT Solutions, and others.

Intelligent Demand Logo

Intelligent Demand is an integrated revenue growth agency that helps our clients find, keep and grow relationships with their ideal customers. Intelligent Demand (ID) is a B2B revenue growth agency. Companies trust us to help them find, keep and expand relationships with their ideal customers across the end-to-end revenue process. There aren’t too many agencies who sign up for measurable revenue impact. We emphatically do. We help B2B revenue leaders overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of faster, more effective revenue growth. We provide a proven set of revenue performance solutions and supporting services delivered by our full service team of expert specialists. The end result: revenue leaders drive measurable revenue growth with less stress and risk, careers flourish, and companies get a higher return on their marketing, sales and customer success investments.

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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