MarTech Interview with Michael Marcellin, CMO at Juniper Networks

How can marketers build a martech stack with strong marketing processes to not only help drive marketing revenue but also better team alignment? Michael Marcellin, CMO at Juniper Networks takes the time to chat with MarTech Series to share some insights:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Mike — to start with, tell us more about Juniper Networks and what marketing at Juniper Networks is like? 

Thanks for having me! Juniper Networks builds the infrastructure of the global internet and of corporate networks worldwide. Our mission is to Power Connections and Empower Change. Of course, the internet has been the single greatest technological revolution in our lifetimes. And as the digital demands of consumers and enterprises alike have evolved and snowballed, so too have the networking needs to support it. While the traditional goals of scale and performance remain, today our belief is the rising complexity of supporting information technologies has shifted our industry’s focus to operational simplicity through software-driven automation, assurance and, increasingly, AI. By leading here, we are transforming the experience that users have with the network and that network operators have in running it. 

Juniper Marketing has been on its own transformation journey the past five years. While the company started out focused on the largest telecom operators and then the cloud giants – who are all still very important customers – we have now broadened our focus to enterprises around the world. It used to be that we could count our priority customers in the hundreds, so the marketing impact was more limited. Now, we are targeting hundreds of thousands of customers. Therefore, Marketing can have an outsized impact on the growth of the company by helping us reach such a broad set of targets. 

Our team at Juniper is data-driven, differentiation-focused and growth-obsessed. I use my experience in leading marketing, strategy and product development teams to bring a business focus to everything we do. My passion as a leader is bringing both creativity and world-class execution to drive business growth. Marketing is both right-brained and, now more than ever, left-brained. It’s fun to use your whole brain. 

I personally love building diverse, world-class teams. Starting with the right culture – taking risks, challenging the status quo, relentlessly measuring outcomes and celebrating success – we have transformed the company’s brand, increased our marketing-delivered pipeline 5X in the past four years, delivered award-winning events and pioneered employee growth and wellness programs for the company.

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We’d love to hear your thoughts on the martech segment globally — how has it evolved over the years? Can you share a few thoughts on leading martech providers that you feel are truly changing the marketing game with innovative features? 

One of the first bets I made when I started as Juniper’s CMO was to revamp our martech stack.  We play in a land of giants – competitors who are much larger than us – who can always outspend us. So, we have to outsmart and out agile them.   

Some of the exciting new technology, in my view, is around the ability to not just gather data, but use it in meaningful ways to improve our ability to understand our prospects’ and customers’ needs and connect with them where they engage.  

A few technology areas I’m keeping an eye on are:

  • Data and data processing orchestration tools. These allow us to break down system silos and get information into the hands of our go-to-market teams to have the right conversations and standardize data across applications.

  • Emerging technologies that leverage AI to help understand and act upon account and buying group engagement. This tech moves B2B marketing beyond a person-focused view to activities that engage the larger buying team at a company.

As marketing technologies and capabilities improve, it will lead to more change in the way marketing teams function and how teams are built out. How do you think this will shape up over the years? How will teams change in marketing? 

I think back actually to Juniper’s founder, Pradeep Sindhu. He had a mantra that originally applied to engineering but is equally applicable elsewhere: centralize what you can, distribute what you must. It’s pretty profound because obviously we know the benefits of centralization – efficiency, scale and even speed of execution. But sometimes, a distributed team is needed – where there’s expertise on the ground, closer to your customer. Finding that right blend of doing as much as you can centrally and then empowering local experts (maybe by geography, vertical or technology area) to do the right customization for that last mile will ensure that our efforts land with the desired impact.  

In terms of how teams are built out, we have tried a few different structures over the years and where we’ve landed is certainly a hybrid. It’s not all one single organization, but we do have a single central team that lives and breathes demand gen and the targets that we’ve set. They are creating the global campaigns, the frameworks, they’re thinking through the personas, they’re understanding the different parts of our portfolio and even prioritizing our demand gen efforts.  

Then, we have a distributed set of folks, most notably our field marketing teams, who are deployed around the globe alongside our sellers. Even in a virtual environment over the past 15 months, these people still understand their market better than anyone. Their job is to really land those demand gen campaigns in their respective markets – they are the closest to the buyers. They understand localization, cultural differences and how we should approach demand. All of that is best done by people that are closest to those markets and closest to our sellers on the ground.  

We’ve also applied this model to data and martech, with a bit of a twist. Since we do want to democratize data, we have a central team of data scientists – the hardcore experts in building data models, breaking down and analyzing problems and in building visualizations for the business. Then, we expect each of our other teams to be data savvy and use our data and tools to run their business day to day. They can lean on our data science team for the deep dive questions, almost like an internal consultant. 

Of course, there are tools that we use to manage globally distributed teams and our workflows – from Smartsheet to Jira to Microsoft Teams. Our next frontier is getting back to a post-COVID hybrid way of working. We are already putting in some innovative approaches, so be sure to watch this space! 

How are you seeing AI powered martech influence the way marketers and brands run marketing today?  

Well, the other big bet I made when I took over as CMO was in data science. We know that data is the key to insights and allowing us to outsmart our competitors. As our internal AI guru and part-time winemaker Bob Friday likes to say: great grapes make great wine. Great data makes great AI (and you can’t have AI without it). The ability to source and integrate customer data and feed it into usable algorithms has greatly increased marketers’ efficiency and, overall, has revolutionized many different facets of the marketing industry.  

The more data that is collected, the better AI can be and the more value it can deliver. While marketing automation is essential to running a scalable marketing operation, organizations must also implement analytics solutions to unlock the insights from the data that is fed through AI. Good data that is organized in a platform setup for analytics is foundational for fostering a data-driven marketing organization and informing key business decisions. 

Juniper recently released the results of a survey, which found that marketing and sales are already considered in the top five most common business areas where organizations are currently utilizing AI. As we look to the second half of 2021 and beyond, the survey also shows that these departments are poised to continually have the greatest potential to derive benefits from implementing AI. Organizations are ready to reap the benefits of AI-enabled martech and, in doing so, can expect increased operational efficiencies, enhanced user and customer experience, while also driving revenue growth. 

How can marketing leaders work on optimizing their marketing operations costs?  

A solidified martech stack will enable organizations to drive sales up and keep costs down.

The best way to optimize marketing costs is through the implementation of marketing tools that utilize AI and automation. By doing this, marketing teams can focus on higher-level, creative tasks, while AI and automation focus on the more mundane tasks, such as analysis, segmentation, measurement of engagement and content distribution. 

At Juniper, specifically, our data science team implemented an AI-driven record matching algorithm which has performed more effectively than a leading vendor for a similar solution. It used to take hours of manual efforts to match account records and align them to engagement activity — or, charged $2,000 by a vendor for the same record matching task. Today, we run it 15-20 times per week, saving workload and budget for our teams. 

The other critical thing to remember is how important it is to align strategy with technology. I could spend every week, all week talking to different martech vendors. They all have cool solutions and a value prop that we could probably benefit from. But tech has to meet a real business need and align with our strategy. Our Marketing Operations team plays a critical leadership role in technology evaluation and then technology on-boarding to ensure we get the value out of what we invest in.   

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Can you share some key highlights from your marketing initiatives/strategies at Juniper Networks? 

Over the past couple years, Juniper has been on a roll. I believe Marketing has been an important part of the company’s growth story. We have made four acquisitions since 2019, all with the goal of transforming the experience of our customers and their customers. 

Since 2019, we have increased our pipeline contribution by 130% – we are now a very material part of the company’s revenue growth. Our awareness campaign – Let’s Get Real – juxtaposes the real results our solutions deliver with the hype that our competitors are touting. With that campaign, we have increased likelihood to consider Juniper by 28% and we have seen our awareness investments drive strong improvements in our demand gen conversion rates.   

Juniper’s focus on differentiated experiences doesn’t stop with our products and solutions.  We realize that the customer engagement experience is just as important as the products themselves. That’s why we have pioneered efforts to transform our web experience, customer advisory boards and are evolving our award-winning executive briefing program to go beyond a few physical briefing centers to meet the world where it will be post-pandemic. 

A few last thoughts and takeaways for marketing leaders and CEOs/CMOs to keep in mind through the rest of this year? 

We all know that this last year has been tough, to say the least. We’ve seen across the board that marketing budgets were some of the first to be cut when a company’s bottom line was at stake. Moving toward the rest of 2021 and beyond, I think it’s imperative that CMOs work hand in hand with the CEO and sales leadership to ensure that we’re providing as much business value as possible and mapping back to our true north as a company.  

As the world emerges from the pandemic, this is an opportunity for Marketing to shine. Just as there was no marketing playbook for navigating the pandemic, we’re on the precipice of a new world that we have the power to shape. As always, an investment in marketing is an investment in the future. So, if you see growth (or a return to growth) in 2022, I would contend that an investment in marketing now is a way to de-risk your growth targets next year.

While we will continue to focus on our core metrics that show impact to the business, we will also continue to experiment on new ways to engage and drive impact. Our agility and data-driven, real-time understanding of ROI will set us apart to get the most out of our investments and help the company continue to take market share.

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Juniper Networks is leading the revolution in networking, making it one of the most exciting technology companies in Silicon Valley today.

 

Michael Marcellin is the CMO at Juniper Networks