TechBytes with Jon Phillips, VP Product Management, Certain

TechBytes with Jon Phillips, VP Product Management, Certain
TechBytes with Jon Phillips, VP Product Management, Certain

Tell us about your role and the team/technology you handle at Certain.

As vice president of product management, my greatest responsibility is to shape Certain’s product vision and drive the business’s product development roadmap. Over the past year, this has really meant focusing on finding better ways to provide our customers with easy and seamless access to event data. And, beyond equipping marketing and sales teams with data at their fingertips, Certain’s product team has been acutely focused on understanding how we can better help our customers turn those insights into strategic next steps and actionable outcomes.

How did you make the transition from Gather Digital post-acquisition with Certain?

When Gather Digital and Certain joined forces, it brought the best of two worlds together. Certain, a leader in enterprise event automation, and Gather Digital, a mobile event application suite, together provide customers unprecedented insight into event attendees’ journeys, and allow for more personalized interaction and follow-up as a result. At the time of the acquisition, I entered in a newly created role, vice president of mobile products—to help oversee the transition from Gather Digital to what is now Certain Touchpoint, our premier mobile app. During my first nine months, I had the chance to work across Certain’s entire portfolio and gain a full appreciation for its power and promise before lobbying our CEO, Peter Micciche, for full product responsibility. Now, just over one year since the acquisition, we’re excited to look back on the momentum we’ve seen with Certain Touchpoint  in combination with the Certain Platform and Meet products, and to look forward as we release Certain Signal.

Could you tell us about Certain Signal and how the technology empowers B2B marketing teams to maximize their event ROI?

This week we launched Certain Signal, a new platform that, in a nutshell, empowers sales and marketing teams to take intelligent, real-time action on the right event data. Unlike other integration tools where data is synced one-to-one without the context required to help marketing and sales take action, Signal cuts through the noise and transforms those insights into action. Because Signal acts in real-time, event marketers can engage VIP attendees on the spot, and sales teams can be notified of prospect and customer intent signals to deliver a truly catered experience.

How is the Event Data technology influenced by the maturity of Data Science, AI, Automation and Data Visualization?

As data science and automation technology has matured over the last decade, we’ve seen a lot of opportunity for marketing practices in general to benefit. More data means more insights into what consumers want, and in a world with so many brands competing for our attention, delivering on a personalized experience is what makes today’s most successful companies stick. With events in particular, increased investment in accessing quality data and event automation supports the fact that in-person events are still a crucial component in helping companies achieve their larger marketing goals. The trick is having the right tools, ones that can help event marketers navigate the data and equip them with the right insights to continue those conversations beyond the event.

How do these components converge at Certain?

Automation is at the core of Certain’s product suite. Certain Platform – our end-to-end event automation solution – is centered on the ability to better the event experience for attendees, marketing and sales teams by creating efficiencies through data science and automation. With Certain, this could look like anything from the automatic scheduling of registration emails, session information, badges and reminders, to the immediate suggesting of content, sessions and activities relevant to attendees based on their profile information and how they are engaging within an event.

How do Event Data analytics and signals help Sales? What are the major challenges in fully leveraging Event data for Sales?

I’ll start with the challenges. Oftentimes, data is overwhelming for sales and marketing teams – there’s too much of it coming in from too many channels. At the end of the day, sales professionals are left with a disjointed view of what all that data means and what to do with it next. So the response to these challenges cannot be to deliver all the event data we capture and hope that our client’s systems can make sense of it. Certain Signal was designed to consistently process the data and to deliver the meaningful, actionable subset. Event data analytics puts meaning behind the numbers, providing one cohesive view of the customer and—in the case with Certain Signal, recommending highly informed, personalized next steps to empower sales teams to seal the deal with prospects. You can’t be blindly pursuing “more data.” You have to count on your systems to send you the most relevant data. That’s the power of Signal.

How does Certain enable Sales teams to accelerate their cycle and close more deals?

One of the big takeaways from our 2018 B2B Event Marketing report was the fact that more than half of B2B professionals reported experiencing an ineffective hand-off of leads from an event to the sales team. When leads are either lost or inappropriately assigned to sales, this prevents the sales team from closing more deals, and hinders overall event ROI. With Certain, event marketers can automate the leads to sales handoff process, create lead assignment rules, and work with sales to build a criteria for “hot” or “VIP” leads, who can then be prioritized during follow-up. And now with the integration capabilities of Signal, marketing and sales have access to real-time insights on attendees that allow them to accelerate interaction with leads, and provide near instant relevant offers to a company’s top customers and prospects.

 When can we see better adoption of Event Automation tools in the Marketing Technology stack? Or, is it just too much to ask for in 2019?

Even with a massive increase of digital channels over the last few years, we understand the value that face-to-face communication still holds – and believe B2B marketers do, too. Our 2018 State of B2B Event Marketing report revealed that nearly half of the companies we surveyed spend up to 25% of their discretionary marketing budget on events, and over one-quarter spends between 26-50% of that budget on events. As the investment in events continues on this path, marketers will look for a trusted solution to better engage with attendees before, during and after an event. Ultimately, this will allow businesses to create stronger connections with attendees and prove the value of events in today’s increasingly digital world.

What does your product roadmap for 2019 look like?

The next step for Certain Signal is to deliver data and buying signals from our Touchpoint mobile app. Within Touchpoint, attendees are responding to surveys and live polls, checking in to agenda sessions, viewing sales collateral, building their profiles, and much more. We’re hard at work to make that data available in real-time through Signal during the next few months. We are also excited to partner with our customers as they gain more proficiency with the power of Signal. We work with some of the best marketers in the world and we learn so much from them. That’s learning we build back into our products. We’ve already had some powerful new use cases and can’t wait to incorporate them into future releases of Signal.

Jon Phillips is the vice president of product management at Certain. He co-founded Gather Digital, which was acquired by Certain in December 2017. Jon has worked with interactive media since 1995 when he was the first hire at one of the most successful interactive service firms, Digitas. For several years, he focused on creating the initial and early Web presences for firms ranging from American Express, Hewlett Packard, and Adobe to Kraft Foods. Jon graduated from Harvard University and received his MBA from Harvard Business School.

certain logoCertain provides the leading enterprise event automation solution that helps both data-driven marketers and event professionals to bring events into cross-channel marketing campaigns; use rich attendee insights to improve sales & marketing results; and deliver credible event ROI.

Certain’s event automation software supports a full range of events – from small meetings and educational sessions, to large conferences and world events. Established in 2011 and headquartered in San Francisco, Certain has operations and sales offices in North America, Europe and the Pacific Rim.

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