Tim Hurley, EVP at Matter recently spoke with Evergage CMO Andy Zimmerman to discuss B2B marketing, measurement and more. Check out the video from the interview and read below for the full conversation.
Tim Hurley (TH): Andy, tell us a little about yourself and a little about Evergage.
Andy Zimmerman (AZ): I’m the CMO here at Evergage. I’ve been here about three and a half years but previously in B2B marketing at various software companies, mostly Boston-based software companies such as Brainshark, edocs and Virtusa and Kenan Systems. I joined Evergage because I was a client before coming aboard and got to know the product and the vision of the CEO well.
Evergage provides the leading real-time personalization platform. We enable marketers to deliver personalized digital experiences to their audiences, prospects and customers. All the way down to the one-to-one level. They do that by defining rules or using machine learning to provide experiences such as website experiences, in-app messages, or even personalized content within emails.
It’s all based on who the person is and what they’re doing and interpreting this information to deliver a relevant call to action, image, headline, or recommendation. By delivering these personalized experiences, customers see better engagement, retention and loyalty.
TH: As we approach 2018, what are the major marketing initiatives or campaigns that you’re prioritizing at Evergage?
AZ: The first one is around thought leadership. We put a lot of investment into our content, it’s not just veiled collateral. We really pride ourselves in delivering high-quality, educational, engaging content.
We have eBooks, whitepapers, webinars, blog posts, case studies, and customer videos. We do The Personalization Summit each year, which is geared toward high-quality content and a great experience for our guests.
We just published a book called One-to-One Personal Engaging in the Age of Machine Learning. It’s a helpful guide for marketers trying to navigate the path forward and employ machine learning and personalization.
One of the key things we’re doing with the book, and other thought leadership content, is un-gating it. Our book is available for purchase on Amazon but you can also download it for free right from our website. We don’t ask for any information, you can just download it.
One of the challenges for B2B marketers is around just standing out and getting good brand recognition and exposure. What we’ve decided is, why put up barriers? Why annoy people with forms? Our solution is all about delivering great customer experiences and we want to adhere to that same philosophy by making it easy for people to consume and share our content.
Our website is the second big marketing focus for us. We have a strong website with high traffic. We pay a lot of attention to our ranking on Google and put a lot of effort into SEO and optimizing our pages. Of course, we put a lot into personalizing the experience so when people come to our site, they get content recommendations, even a home page experience based on their industry, where they came from or what content they’ve consumed in the past.
The third area is ABM or account based marketing, which marketers have been doing for a long time but now has more technology and thinking behind how to go after target accounts. We’re relatively early with this but have seen positive results in terms of visitors from our target accounts, meetings booked and opportunities created.
It’s the traditional tactics like email and events, but also, newer tactics such as more targeted advertising and personalization. You want to show your audience the white glove treatment by providing relevant content and information.
Fourth, we invest in sponsoring and speaking at key trade shows and industry events such as the Sirius Decisions Annual Summit, Martech, and Shoptalk, which are important lead sources for us.
Lastly, email is a critical means of communicating with our prospect and customer base. We see a correlation between opportunities created and customers retained from those who are engaging with the content and the nurture emails that we continue to send out.
TH: You mentioned account based marketing. It seems like it’s coming back into vogue but with a lot of new techniques like content marketing and inbound marketing, how are those techniques playing into your approach to ABM?
AZ: As I mentioned, ABM is not really a new concept but what is new is figuring out your target market. Identifying key accounts to go after and then putting resources behind those efforts is just smart marketing. But through ABM we are seeing a close collaboration with sales which is critical. One of the great things about ABM is you’re forced to collaborate on the outreach, program, and content strategy, as well as the messaging and content.
From a content marketing perspective, we produce a lot of good content for different audiences. We’re using personalized recommendations for certain accounts when they come to our site which helps bolster the benefits and the ROI of our investments in content.
TH: Let’s talk about measurement. What KPIs are you or your executive team or your board looking at as the most important in terms of measuring the effectiveness of your program?
AZ: At the executive and board level, it’s all about ARR (annual recurring revenue) and CAC (customer acquisition costs). Recurring revenue is king, and, of course, keeping control on the costs to acquire customers which includes sales, marketing and other related items. From an ARR perspective, new bookings and retention are the key metrics we pay attention to from an executive level for the health of the business.
Dipping down a little bit more into the marketing metrics, CAC is relatively fixed. We monitor costs however we need to measure top of the funnel metrics to drive growth such as website, traffic and unique visitors. It’s conversions and conversion rates and getting people into the lead flow.
We have a scoring system for engagement, so we’re measuring people based on what they’re doing on the site or with our content in order to prioritize follow up by our BDR team. One of the most critical metrics we look at is how many of the leads are turning into an initial meeting with a sales rep which flows into the sales metrics and process.
TH: There’s a lot of talk among CMOs these days about being customer obsessed. Is Evergage a customer obsessed company?
AZ: Yes, we are. I think in any SaaS business, if you aren’t, you’re at an extreme disadvantage. The customer has the control so if they’re dissatisfied, they can shut off the service and find an alternative. Therefore, you must go above and beyond to make sure customers get the value they expect when they invest in your solution.
One of the things that we pride ourselves on is giving personalized service. It’s not just personalization through digital channels, but it’s personalized service when they call, when they’re having face-to-face meetings or during on boarding. We’re doing frequent business reviews and assessing the health of the implementation. Are you getting the results you expected? How do they match up against your goals? All that needs to be paid close attention to.
Interestingly, marketing is playing more and more of a role in that. Marketing traditionally has a lot of the skills and project management is around making sure things are happening programmatically. We want to make sure we are serving customers on a regular basis, driving customer reviews on public websites, enlisting customers to become advocates and speak at events, provide testimonials and do videos. All these activities benefit from a lot of marketing attention as well for execution.
TH: The notion of un-gating your content seems pretty unique. What prompted that at Evergage?
AZ: We drew inspiration from our own experiences on the web, where we’ve been to sites that have ungated content. Our brand promise is about delivering great customer experiences, shouldn’t we deliver a great experience to our prospects?
It’s challenging because there’s so much competition. How do you make your brand known and stand out? When people think personalization, I want them to think Evergage. We don’t want to put up barriers so our content can get out to as many people that are interested.
I want to be one step ahead which allows us to differentiate not only from a product and capabilities perspective, but also from a marketing perspective. We have a platform that helps marketers be better marketers, so we need to lead the way with innovation.
We started with the un-gated landing page for our beforementioned book. We’ve already seen the landing page become the second most popular page on our site already, after our home page. Given this success, we’ll be rolling out this process of un-gating our other content such as eBooks, whitepapers, and webinars. We want maximum reach and minimum barriers to adoption.
TH: The Martech industry segment is so dynamic, it’s changing, seemingly every day. What type of investments is Evergage making in terms of its Martech spending?
AZ: We’re investing in a variety of tools. We’ll continue to invest in marketing automation. We have Act-On which we’ll continue using for our email marketing programs. Salesforce of course, is kind of the core, as it is for a lot of B2B companies. We also invest in funnel metrics tools like FunnelWise, and Google Analytics. We use Evergage for A/B testing and analyzing personalization campaign effectiveness and other digital marketing analytics.
We also are investing in ABM tools. We’re starting to use ListenLoop to do targeted ads across social and other websites. We’ll probably also look at predictive scoring tools which goes along with our ABM program. Those are some of the tools that we’re investing in going forward.