Prediction Series 2019: Interview with John Steinert, CMO, TechTarget


How much did ROI dashboards and Sales Intelligence evolve in 2018?

Both a lot and too little. On one hand, dashboards are becoming easy to build and, therefore, are included as part of many vendors’ offerings. This means that users don’t have to create their own dashboards. However, the main problem remains that the dashboard itself is largely a descriptive and reactive element within the stack rather than a prescriptive, proactive one. Dashboards, as a whole, still need to evolve beyond reporting on what is happening according to the measures we’ve put in place, to provide additional support for what we might or should do that’s different.

What points of reference from your own backyard would you like to mention in this period of ‘AI for Sales’ evolution?

As users of sales tech and a vendor of products that integrate with it, we’re watching the evolution of AI-infused solutions closely. Right now, AI is delivering some automation benefits that can relieve some pressure on staff time. However, without careful monitoring, we think there will be challenges in two areas. The first is around user experience. Implementers need to commit resources to be sure that the benefits of automation — less work for the same (or better) “outcomes” — are also examined for their potential negative impacts to user experience with respect to your brand.

The second is around the connection between AI-infused tools and a changing understanding of the relative importance of more productive account coverage strategies. Specifically, teams that over index on volume processing (something that some AI reinforces) are missing signals about account interest that can provide real leverage in per-account ROI improvement.

What opportunities and challenges did you and/or TechTarget identify at the start of the 2018 and have things worked out as planned?

We’re gaining a great deal of understanding around what it takes for larger client organizations to adopt new and better ways of doing things. For example, we’ve beefed up our customer success organization to make it easier for customers to realize continuously increasing value from our behavioral data as they expand adoption across their various organizations, and as their use-case sophistication grows.

Which major events of 2018 influenced your decision-making and how?

GDPR was a major event across our global practice. While it hasn’t impacted us much given our consent-based approach, it has highlighted the importance of working with clients at all levels to deepen their understanding of what to look for from a supplier.

Do you think AI and Machine Learning can solve the problems with visualization of pipeline impacts? How do you manage these challenges at TechTarget?

The real key to success with pipeline impact measures is cultural. No amount of tech will convince a culture of something’s impact unless the culture is ready to accept new ways of understanding how their business reacts to different stimuli. Furthermore, reporting impact without a thoughtful examination of other effects can be dangerous since what looks positive today could also contribute negatively from another angle or over a different timeframe. At TechTarget, we try hard to think through effects, both positive or negative, before we implement or recommend.

Apart from AI, what do you think about other technologies relevant to the sales industry? Which technologies are you keen to learn more about?

We’re watching the rise of sales solutions like SalesLoft and Outreach closely. In some respects, these tools have the potential to repeat some of the short-term moves that have become chronic weaknesses of CRM and Marketing Automation systems.

What are your predictions on the “Role of CEOs” in 2019 and the closing gap between Sales and Marketing functions?

CEOs who have supported efforts to strengthen Marketing and Sales at their core, by focusing less on adding systems and more on understanding customer needs better and improving end-to-end processes, have reinforced the kinds of foundational capabilities that are accelerating them past their peers. The effects of this customer-centric, integrated sales and marketing approach are likely to be magnified if and when the demand side of the economy slows.

Tell us more about the role of TechTarget’s Priority Engine in helping team close the gap.

As the leading source of clear, actionable insight into enterprise tech demand behavior at companies around the world, Priority Engine is becoming core to how our clients understand their markets. It’s becoming an essential element of their go-to-market infrastructure — a piece critical to achieving outsized ROIs.

How do you train your Marketing and Sales Ops team to justify the use of automation and reporting tools? What feedback do you often get from this user-set?

We work on two areas of training. One is around understanding the levers that drive business cases. This helps ops people think more clearly about what the business is really trying to achieve. The other is around impacts across diverse stakeholders. This helps ops people better navigate around issues that requesters may be blind to.

Which leaders in the industry do you closely work with? How do they help you stay close to the business actions?

With 1,300 clients, we work with practically all the global leaders in enterprise technology, helping them maximize share in their categories and protect their position. Conversely, disrupters in any given enterprise tech company turn to us to help them break through with prospects in an existing category or define a space that they can own. Beyond our clients, we work most closely with leaders in the MarTech industry who share a similar interest in making a substantive impact on their clients’ business both in the short and longer terms.

Do you think mobile CRMs would finally take over enterprise CRM? Would it be safe to invest in mobile CRMs given the security models?

Clearly, mobile enablement can be a major benefit to CRM end users and a real value driver. It’s up to the mobile CRM vendors to make sure they have the methods in place that will support continued expansion in the mobile CRM space. I don’t really see mobile CRM evolution as a takeover of enterprise CRM. It seems more like a natural evolution of the concept.

One advice to all the CEOs and marketing leaders in your community:

Before adding systems, focus on identifying and improving high-leverage processes. For example, it does you little good to expend extra energy on companies and contacts that aren’t in the market for what you sell. Make sure you focus on where your effort is most likely to pay out in the near term. That will help deliver what you need today to continue optimizing your strategy towards a stronger tomorrow.

As CMO at TechTarget, every day I wake up thinking about how our marketing can help customers reach their business objectives. I’m a passionate believer that by connecting the information needs of IT professionals and the communications efforts of solution providers, our business platform can deliver continuously improving productivity to both sides of the industry ecosystem: buyer/users and maker/sellers alike.

Right now, when used for everything from strategy development, to customer lifecycle marketing, to sales and support optimization, our purchase intent insight and marketing services offerings drive remarkable value for our customers across hundreds of solution categories. Wherever you are in your evolution, we can help: from establishing your brand to sophisticated integration of trustworthy intent-based insight into advanced ABM approaches, we can better enable you to reach your objectives. With offices around the globe, we’re ready to partner with you immediately on improving your business performance.

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