“It’s about delivering value to your customers”

September 15, 2015 Mark Emmons

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SAN FRANCISCO – The moderator of a Marketing Technology Panel cut right to the chase. What, he asked four leading CEOs, do they think about the onslaught of tools, products and solutions that are flooding the marketplace?

“My head spins half the time just trying to keep track of what’s out there,” added Joe Lucas, the director of marketing technology at InsideView.

Mark Organ, the head of the advocate marketing company Influitive, nodded his head in agreement.

“We use 36 different apps to help our business – 36!,” said Organ, who previously founded Eloqua. “And we’re not that big of a company. I know there are companies here today that probably use 50 or 60 apps. The landscape has become incredibly complicated. The question we hear all the time from potential customers is: ‘Why should we buy from you rather than buy something else?’”

There’s only one way to answer that, added Evan Liang, of LeanData:

Prove your worth.

“Ultimately, it’s about delivering value to your customers,” Liang said. “And when you’re doing that, people start paying attention and the word-of-mouth starts spreading. That’s when you begin standing out among the rest and your messaging really starts resonating. You have to make a huge difference in their business.”

Standing out is the goal for every company that has come to San Francisco this week for the annual Dreamforce cloud-computing conference. A record 160,000 customers, developers and vendors have gathered here for the four-day mega-event hosted by Salesforce – essentially taking over the city’s core.

It’s also a chance to listen as industry leaders take center stage and talk about what they are seeing today, and where they think business is heading. On Tuesday morning, not far from the main Expo halls at Moscone Center, a panel of CEOs took part in a wide-ranging and spirited discussion about marketing technology at the InsideView-sponsored Open Lounge.

“It’s not even a proliferation of technologies – it’s an explosion of innovation,” said Jon Miller, a Marketo co-founder who recently launched the startup Engagio. “There are so many marketing tools that you can use, and that’s not going to stop. There’s going to be so much more in terms of new things and ideas. It’s just a really interesting time.”

In fact, “massive explosion of innovation” might be a better way to describe it. Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape counted 1,876 vendors in the space – and that number surely has grown since the report was released in January. That figure already had nearly doubled from the previous year. And this week, strolling through the Dreamforce convention halls requires patience because it’s strictly elbow-to-elbow as attendees crowd around booths and flashy displays.

“It’s a testament to Salesforce that 160,000 people are here,” said Liang of LeanData, which helps businesses better understand their data by matching leads to target accounts. “Think of Salesforce as the iPhone and we’re the apps. We all try to do something that adds value to that iPhone.”

But to carry that analogy one step further, apps that don’t add value get deleted – quickly.

“You have to show customers results right away,” said Yaron Zakai-Or, of SalesPredict. “Unlike 10 years ago, marketers don’t have time. You need to prove your results in a matter of weeks.”

That includes being able to argue your case to what Organ called the “new breed of activist CFOs” who want to know exactly how much revenue any new technology tool is going to help generate. But Organ, Liang and Zakai-Or added that they all welcome those conversations because they have the data that backs up their claims.

“We’re all about Account-Based Marketing, and part of the beauty of that is it gets away from talking about leads, conversion rates and other things that CFOs frankly don’t understand,” Liang said. “Instead, it talks about the opportunities influenced and the revenue created. Those are things that the CFOs actually care about, and we’re able to measure that in a way they can understand.”

Miller’s company is at a different stage because Engagio just celebrated its 6-month anniversary and doesn’t yet have a product that is available. But he envisions it as a transformative Account-Based Marketing automation platform that will complement existing systems like Marketo.

“What I’m seeing is that ABM is hot, and it’s only getting hotter,” Miller said. “Companies like Engagio, LeanData and others are preaching that you have to do Account-Based Marketing. That’s resonating with a category of businesses that really want to approach targeted companies. It’s an amazing macro trend, and we’re all trying to ride it.”

In fact, everyone on the panel agreed that they only foresee a growth in the number of tech solutions for sales and marketing team – at least in the near future.

“I don’t think we’ve reached a point yet where we’re going to see a consolidation,” Liang added. “We’re just not at that phase yet.”

In other words, the technology landscape is only going to become more complicated and competitive.

“While those of us sitting here technically don’t compete with each other, we are in competition to see who can grow the fastest,” Organ added. “We’re all going after the same thing, and it’s going to be a fun watching what happens during the next few years and see who pulls it off.”

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