- Demandbase is an ABM platform for mid-market and enterprise B2B companies which was founded in 2006.
- Peter Isaacson, Demandbase’s CMO, joined the company in 2014 and brought with him a decade of marketing leadership experience.
- Demandbase helped define and clarify ABM as a technology category.
- The Demandbase ABM platform helps companies identify, engage, and ultimately grow their relationships with their customers.
- In the last few years, marketing teams have begun to realize that they need to move away from indiscriminately generating leads, and work with sales teams to align with specific accounts that will have the biggest impact on the business.
- Isaacson’s seen the role of the CMO changing over the past few years, with CMO skillsets requiring technology, data, and marketing knowledge in addition to being able to champion the brand’s story.
- On martech’s future, Isaacson thinks there’s going to be a shakeout—a long-awaited, much discussed, but often delayed consolidation.
Demandbase is an ABM platform for mid-market and enterprise B2B companies. Founded in 2006 and headquartered in San Francisco, Demandbase’s clients include leading B2B brands such as Panasonic, DocuSign, and Adobe.
ClickZ recently sat down with Peter Isaacson, Demandbase’s CMO, to learn more about the company, the evolution of account-based marketing, and the changing role of the CMO in today’s B2B ecosystem.
Q) Can you give a brief insight into your professional journey and how you became the CMO of Demandbase?
I spent several years at Adobe and moved on to become head of marketing at MicroStrategy. From there, I became CMO at a healthcare IT company called Castlight Health and they were customers of Demandbase. That’s how I got to know the company and Chris Gola, Demandbase’s CEO. I loved the technology, the company, and the market opportunity. The CMO position was open and it felt like a natural transition for me to become head of marketing at Demandbase. That was six years ago.
Q) What have been the two biggest challenges for you at Demandbase and how did you deal with them?
The first and biggest challenge was also the most rewarding in terms of the payoff—creating account-based marketing (ABM) as a category. When I joined Demandbase in 2014, ABM was a term, but there wasn’t any coalescence around ABM as a technology category. We decided early on that we were going to put our focus and effort around establishing ABM as a true technology category. We were fortunate to get momentum with media and analyst interest. Enough companies jumped into the space and ABM became a full-fledged category within a couple of years.
The second challenge as CMO of a marketing technology company, one in which we are selling to other CMOs, is that my team was heavily involved in product development and direction. Participating in that process and helping guide the product in a way that not only worked for us, but was meaningful for our customers, was also a challenge.
Q) Give us a brief introduction to Demandbase? What are the core martech capabilities that you bring to a marketer? How do you stand out in an overly saturated martech space?
Demandbase is the original ABM platform. We’ve been at this the longest. We were the first company to take an ABM approach towards identifying companies and marketing to them, back when ABM wasn’t even an established term. Since then, we’ve built out our Demandbase ABM platform to help companies identify, engage, and ultimately grow their relationships with their customer.
We help our clients with account identification, selection and prioritization through sophisticated levels of intent via a delivery layer that provides account-based advertising, website personalization, and insights to the sales team. We also measure the progress from the first touch of the process all the way through the buyer’s journey to pipeline, closed revenue, and customer engagement.
Q) Can you give us a brief insight into ABM and how it can help companies achieve their business outcomes?
ABM has gotten so much traction over the past three or four years because the old way of marketing via automation was fundamentally broken. Generating thousands of leads at the very top of the funnel, then going through a qualification process to get a couple of gems to your sales team isn’t just inefficient, it’s ineffective.
Everyone recognizes how fundamentally flawed that approach is, which is why an account-based approach has gotten so much traction. Sales has always taken an account-based approach—whether it’s strategic accounts, vertical accounts, or named accounts—they’ve always been focused on accounts. It’s only in the last few years that marketing teams realized it’s not about the horizontal generation of indiscriminate leads, but that they need to work with sales teams to align with the specific accounts that will to have the biggest impact on the business.
Q) ‘Personalization’ obviously is one of those buzzwords that get mentioned a lot. What according to you is the most effective form of personalization?
I don’t know if there is a single most effective form of personalization. Personalization is all about enhancing the relevance of your message. As marketers, that’s our job. We’re trying to make our message as relevant as possible to the audience that we’re engaging. Personalization is something that when you can do it, you should do it.
I think a lot of marketers will shy away from personalization because they feel like they’ve been burned by the content requirements of marketing automation. A massive drip nurture campaign is terrific until you realize that you need to develop 100 pieces of content. But you can actually get very strong results by templatizing your personalization so you don’t need 20 pieces of creative in order to deliver against 20 different verticals.
Q) Can you give us an example that best shows how Demandbase benefits its clients?
I’ll give you an example from some work we did with Adobe on website personalization. Adobe launched a vertical campaign that leveraged the same white paper for the call-to-action and content piece. They created a landing page which swapped out the name of the vertical across about a dozen categories (e.g., retail, oil & gas, etc.). Just by doing that very simple templatized technique with the same piece of content, Adobe increased their conversion rates by 200%.
Q) Can you expand on the issue of the changing CMO role?
I work with CMOs every single day because they’re our core customer. When I think back to ten years ago, companies were very focused on getting a demand gen expert in the CMO role. As time went on, that was still important, but companies started realizing they needed a technologist and chief data officer within the skillset of the CMO to get their arms around all of the new technology and have it make sense. What’s happened, inevitably, is that companies are getting the demand gen expert or the technologist and the data expert, but what they’ve lost along the way is the ability to tell a compelling story to customers and prospects.
In response to this, there’s a trend towards moving back to brand positioning, of being able to tell the brand story and who they are in a meaningful way. What I’ve seen happen along the way is that these skills become additive. When the CMO role was focused just on pipeline generation, it was easy to check that box and CEOs would be satisfied. As we’ve gone through this boomerang effect of adding on responsibilities and areas of expertise to the CMO role, inevitably boards and CEOs are disappointed with the ability of a single human being to live up to that expectation.
Q) Can you tell us one tool you cannot do without in your martech stack?
In addition to Demandbase, we can’t live without our Salesforce instance. Thankfully, we’ve moved beyond an obsessive focus on click through rates and website visitors which are meaningless statistics. We’ve reoriented around business metrics like pipeline, close rates, funnel velocity, and closed one business. You can’t measure these things without your CRM system.
Q) What are your predictions for the martech space in 2020?
There’s going to be a shakeout—a long-awaited, much discussed, but often delayed consolidation. I think this will happen in 2020 and 2021. If you look at the economic signs, the economy is starting to slow GDP, growth is slowing, capital expenditures are starting to slow, and business confidence is faltering and this was all happening before the coronavirus.
There are a lot of companies in the $10 million ARR range that are hoping for a breakthrough that’s not coming quickly enough. They’re either not going to exist anymore or they’re going to figure out an exit strategy that gives them a semi safe landing.
Q) Looking ahead, what are your plans for Demandbase going forward?
We’re the leaders in account-based marketing and aim to stay that way. I believe the next evolution in account-based marketing and ABM platforms is the integration that we’ll have into the various technologies available.
Even with the shakeout, companies will have many different technologies in their tech stack. The tolerance for data that doesn’t go into and out of platforms and can’t be shared across applications and solutions is waning very quickly. Integration across different vendors and different technologies will become critical to our customers, so that’s going to be very aggressively where Demandbase is going.
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