Interview with Charlie Tarzian

President Chief Innovation Officer at Aberdeen

Charlie Tarzian President Chief Innovation Officer at Aberdeen


Hi this is Bob Samuels founder of tech
connector I have with me Charlie tarzian

who is very sharp data and
particularly intent data marketer and I

look forward to to sharing ideas with
with Charlie so Charlie how are you

today I’m great Bob thanks so much I’m
really happy to be here with you haven’t

seen you in a little while because I
haven’t been to a conference in the last

couple of months but that’s what happens
when you get busy really looking forward

to a great conversation and hopefully
this can contribute to a larger audience

it’s my view that we are at a point
where the more we share and the more we

collaborate the quicker everybody can
get to some form of success which I

think everybody wants so it’s always
great to talk about you know how we do

things and what we believe and what
makes us excited and what are the

challenges and all that stuff so it’s
great to be here beautiful

well I carry your sentiments it’s all
about sharing wisdom and makes everybody

smarter and better so thank you for
doing that can you give us a little bit

of your your background
yes so I’ve been in the data-driven

marketing and sales base for a long time
longer than I’d like to think but it’s

time flies I started in the business in
the late 80s and never looked back and I

came from the technical side so I was
the CTO and back then really building

databases out for the large
multinational holding companies back in

the day you know people like Young &
Rubicam before they became WPP worked at

Wonderman actually rubbed elbows with
some of the great direct marketing

founders of all time Stan draft and
Lester Wunderman so on and so forth and

from there obviously you know starting
around 94 95 is when the internet

started to stick its head up and it
began to blossom I think we made our

major buy for Volvo in 1997 I think and

we never you know I never looked back
when I say we I’ve run some

substantially large agency networks
around the world all dedicated to

data-driven marketing services types of
things and then about five five and a

half years ago really started to build
out a platform that would become a

company called the big willow a big
willow is really focused on behavioral

signals and what has now been adopted as
intent data and I think that we’re at a

point now where I think we’re out of the
first or second inning and are really

making the case for why everybody needs
to use it but also really spend a lot of

time with people teaching them how to
use it so it’s really more of a let’s

teach people how to fish and let’s get
some great success out here and so

that’s in a nutshell basically what I’ve
been doing always data-driven always

interested in letting the data tell us
where to go and what direction that we

should take our clients that makes sense
so I’d like to know more about a big

will and and intent it so I hear intent
a lot what what is and it means

different things to different folks I
guess so what is yeah yeah how does that

work and there’s different levels of
different degrees of confidence and I

couldn’t agree more
I think that there’s a lot of hype there

always is but I think having done this
as long as I have I believe that it’s

been oversimplified the whole concept of
intent is to understand how people in

and we’re talking b2b but how people in
the b2b world make decisions and how do

they research things on their way to a
purchase and are they doing that at all

in other words there’s a lot of false
signals that you really want to

understand as well because you don’t
want to be giving data to a client

organization that is not as
specific and focused as anybody would

like so this oversimplification
basically has been hey there’s more

people and more volume in the way that
people are consuming content in this

category therefore there’s a higher
propensity to buy and that gets you into

a lot of trouble because that’s way
oversimplified and so really what intent

and behavioral data is supposed to do
for you is to really understand what are

the shared behaviors what are the
commonalities that companies have on

their way through a buyer journey what
does a buyer journey actually look like

and so on and so forth to get there you
really need to understand client by

client account by account how people who
are eventually either going to buy or

not behave on their way leading up to
becoming a sales opportunity going

through all of the timeframe that record
is required you know there are their

clients that sell infrastructure who
have a timeline of 18 months there are

people who sell SAS products and they
have a timeline of 3 or 5 months and so

on and so forth so every single company
selling different things are going to

have different timelines and the people
that are buying from them or that they

like to buy from them have different
behaviors and it’s really up to us to

understand what that unifying structure
in terms of the shared behavior looks

like so we could use things like machine
learning in order for us to help clients

lock down important moments where they
need to intersect with accounts where

they need to be putting their content in
front of them and so on and so forth so

we’re really at the place now where I
think there’s enough of us that have had

enough experience to take clients to the
next level as it relates to intent but

it’s more than data matter of fact the
data is useless unless you really bring

questions to it and that’s where I get
into the notion of intent performance

and not intent data intent data is
really not a good way to engage people

who have never used it or for people who
have used it in the past

that became frustrated because it was a
little bit oversimplified outstanding so

tell tell me more about intent
performance versus intent data well you

know you know this as much as anybody
that in over the last five years so much

money has been poured into platform
companies and point solutions and

everybody is really trying to solve the
problem so it’s not that people are

wrong to try to solve the problem what
we’ve done is we’ve created more

problems along the way and it all comes
down to a seamless integration and a

move away from certain assumptions that
companies make on their way no matter

how good the data is no have no matter
how good leads are no matter how good

your stack is unless you have a good
foundation everything is really going to

fall apart so it’s really important to
start with the basics and work your way

up to a place where you feel like you
are seeing the kind of result as it

relates to every step of the way and you
know if you look at the funnel right

the the traditional sales funnel a lot
of people will tell you yeah I don’t

really have problems at the top of the
funnel I have plenty of people plenty of

inquiries people on their way to being
qualified I’ve got you know so on and so

forth the amount of breakage in the
marketing sales funnel really takes

place in the middle of the funnel
because if people actually get through

to the end it’s up to sales to really
close and make sure that the

consideration and the information
required to make a decision is all there

in the middle of the funnel there’s a
lot of stuff that happens and that’s

where a lot of our attention is in terms
of helping clients really evaluate what

goes on and what goes wrong in the case
of a closed lost opportunity versus when

they actually went and obviously the
losses are always larger than the wins

and that’s just natural it’s trying to
understand so that as you begin the

process of performance based intent
you’re locking down and you’re

so it goes back to this orchestration

and this automation in incredibly
important moments in time as a company

evaluates you as a company evaluates
your competitors and as they move

through what is considered to be a buyer
journey okay so so the the sources of

your intent data I assume that is from
what people do on Aberdeen sites are you

getting other no not at all not at all
with yeah no no not at all

we we are processing two to three
billion records per night and rolling

that into a taxonomy and the taxonomy
are categories that represent the

product solutions and services that our
clients sell so that said Aberdeen site

itself really doesn’t have that anywhere
close to that volume we’re looking at

right now we monitor about a hundred and
thirty thousand b2b web sites around the

world so we have global coverage and
based on the category we’re looking at

any number of tens of thousands of tech
sites tens of thousands of b2b finance

sites tens of thousands of sites and HR
in aviation and manufacturing and so on

and so forth and so that’s where we get
our signals we’re picking them up from

the relationships we have with trade
publications in the b2b world as well as

participating in and serving a lot of
ads that allow us to see a lot of the

activity leading up to making our
decisions about whether we want to serve

ads to these people so your source of
intent data is more similar to bombora

than tech target I don’t think
it’s either I think both of those

companies are doing we’re all doing it
very differently in the case of tech

target tech target is a publisher and a
very good one

and they probably have and I’m guessing
what they have they might have 150 200

again I’m not specifically sure but they

build their own websites and their
structures so they’re categorizing but

they’re living in a very specific tech
target world Bombora I think on their

website says that they have 3,800 sites
that they monitor and so they have a

specific relationship to publishers and
that’s all really well and good and we

think that there’s probably some good
things that that are going to happen

we’re looking at it at a very different
level we’re going out and looking at a

more total totality of the web and not
just a small slice of it I think tech

target is you know from a volume
perspective very small compared to what

we see Bombora is even smaller than I I
think what we see now is anything better

than the other it really depends on how
you bring data science to that picture I

would rather have lots of volume the way
we have it then be very restricted

because you can’t control where people
go and I think that there’s a

demographic issue as you get younger
people in you know let’s say the 25 to

40 category they’re not necessarily
going to conventional or traditional

publishers at all so you want to look
for blogs you want to look for the

peer-to-peer communities you want to
look for the alternatives that are

quality but are not the traditional
forms of publishing I just think so

and there’s other companies out there
like sixsense and to go and everything

and so forth where they help companies
with look-alikes and so forth do you get

into that
well look-alikes of course and we you

have to and that’s the problem with
account based marketing right is that in

account based marketing you know no more
than six to ten percent of your targeted

account list is going to be in market at
any time so you need to find a way to

maximize the effort of your marketing
and sales because if 90% of your market

that you’ve selected is really dormant

you have to find look-alikes and that’s
what the real-time marketplace does for

you intent is supposed to deliver to you
a targeted account list of both your

targets and look-alikes so that you’re
optimizing and you’re selecting so that

the prioritization is being is is
allowing you to make really good choices

in terms of how to act around those
things if you only use your targeted

account list and you don’t look it look
likes you’re making a terrible mistake

because you would widen out your total
addressable market incredibly and that

but and that also means what when you
say look like it’s an exact look-alike

of the types of companies the number of
employees the the revenue that the

companies that you’ve already selected
you know in your targeted account list

here’s the problem I I’ve been doing
this for a while and there’s there’s not

a lot of people I’ve met that have
scientifically grown a targeted account

list so there’s been nobody that will
reject look-alikes as long as they’re in

the sweet spot of what they’re looking
for right so do your clients combine

your data with their internal data
absolutely absolutely and there’s a lot

of reasons and a lot of different use
cases for that we have a Salesforce app

we deliver data through into marketing
automation so those are really good

examples of pushing the data and
automating and creating these plays and

and the whole notion of orchestration on
the other hand you want to understand

how everything works together and so we
present data in a comprehensive way for

clients we actually put pixels on our
clients site and that gives us that 360

degree view to say while these three
people came to your site over the last

two weeks this is what they were doing
and this was the content conversation

that they and their colleagues were
having to give more insight into what’s

going on so ended up with with third

party and first party data that your
yeah which is known as second party data

but yeah we combined both that helps us
with prioritization and scoring it also

helps us with understanding and
integrating into the daily life of

people who count on that is the blood
stream of marketing and sales inside

their company

can you hear me yeah I’m not hearing you


so Charlie do you have any of you have any
samples you can share as far as clients

doing really cool things yeah I mean
there’s there’s very different use cases

so I can tell you that we have a client
that’s on record is saying that they are

getting a 40 X return on their
investment in terms of using our

approach but that’s a very sophisticated
client and they have worked really hard

to integrate everything that we do
together so that there’s nothing left on

the table for example there’s a client
that has included us on a global basis

where they were using some of the other
companies that you were naming

previously and they see our data and our
approach as being complementary and in

some cases superior to those other
companies because I think we basically

we see ourselves as data science as a
service and whereas I think a lot of

these companies are delivering data so
while the data is absolutely critical

we’re alongside our clients as an
outsourced data science group really

helping them see the forest through the
trees and I think that’s a big

difference so we we had a big win where
we are now global with with a client

that already has other intent vendors
and that was totally convinced

themselves that ours was really and they
really saw us as unique and

differentiated so that that’s another
one we have another client that and this

is a really good one really large
hardware company that gave us a metric

of $75 for what they call a high value
engagement on their site using our

intent qualified or intent targeted
advertising and we’re now down to $8 we

went so the the agencies that drive
these programs are given a number of $75

after five months we’ve got it down to
$8 you know so there was a really three

different use cases
where we’re totally integrated we’ve

become integrated into the data science
data lake on a global basis at a fortune

50 company and then this other very
large and hardware company is the other

one where we’ve had the significant
performance in terms of using intent to

drive targeted advertising and get the
numbers down for them by 81 percent Wow

so it sounds like you’re you’re you
pointed out I think the the difference

between intent data and intent performance
I think it’s not not just providing the

data but providing the and intelligence
of next steps and what to do with that

yeah and I think I think again the most
important thing I I think to tell the

audience and and many as much of the
audience probably knows this already is

that this requires a commitment and a
process you know it’s it’s not just

gonna fall out of a box you know I
always tell people you have Excel but

you don’t expect Excel to fall out of
the box and run your company it’s the

same thing here it’s we need to do the
right set up the right work the

expectations and assumptions and all
that stuff in order for this to grow

organically because then your marketing
and sales people begin to understand the

differences and they see the differences
but it really takes a commitment you

can’t just have a platform and log in to
it and expect miracles to happen and I

think that’s where a lot of people get
very disappointed is that we need to do

a better job of explaining how to do
this why it’s important and then be all

over the performance the metrics ya know
that’s what’s that that’s really well

said so so my so you’ve been around a
long time and has you seen a lot of

changes what do you see coming up what
do you what do we can be talking about

next year what are we gonna be talking
about five years from now when we talk

about talk about intent data what would
that look like yeah you know that’s a

really good question because in 1996
you probably remember

Regis McKenna wrote that seminal book
called real-time marketing and I think

we’ve been chasing that for the last you
know 30 years or it seems not 30 but 25

years where you know that the technology
has certainly caught up to where what we

want to do in other words I don’t think
any of these companies that exists and

that they’re all doing you know very
varying levels of success they couldn’t

be possible if we were not introduced to
the cloud right and and what Amazon and

Microsoft and others have done is made
this approach affordable so that we can

take a run at all of this data
understand it and then be able to come

out the other end with the
recommendations that need to be

automated right so I think what’s going
to happen is there’s I don’t know in the

next two or three years first of all I
think there’s going to be a lot of

consolidation and I look let’s put it
this way there’s two good news things

for everybody right which is if anyone
had figured this out we would have known

already and you look at people like
Salesforce who are constantly pushing

the envelope and constantly buying
companies and constantly trying to

figure it all out
I could I can tell you honestly they

haven’t figured it out yet it’s and it’s
not for lack of trying and you have to

give them a lot of credit because they
don’t just sit around they’re making

incredible bets and putting resources
and trying to figure things out so

that’s that’s one thing the second thing
is this is really about humans and

understanding human behavior right and
not necessarily artificial intelligence

and it’s going to eliminate everybody’s
jobs I think the disappointment out here

in the community of marketing operations
sales leaders sales operations is that a

lot of people expected to go to jobs and
do some incredible strategic work and

everybody’s wound up in the weeds you
know and you know so somebody like Scott

Brinker who’s wonderful and is really
one of the

leading you know the deleting people who
are driving and articulating a lot of

stuff is really fun it’s funny because I
remember seeing him in the lobby of one

of his shows and he was giving out the
poster with 65-hundred name place on it

and I told him I said I don’t think
that’s very helpful you know that I

don’t think that’s really kind of what
what we’re hoping to achieve which is

just the massiveness of these point
solutions and the confusion in the

marketplace about what I really need it
more to the point I think we need to

back off and recognize that all the
platforms are out there a lot of

commodity stuff a lot of things are on
par with each other it’s the thinking

and the strategy that’s missing and you
know what what I’ve said and and

jokingly of course because I do respect
everyone but you know I say it when I go

to these shows and you and I see each
other all the time I look around and say

there’s a lot of electricians and a lot
of plumbers but we’re the architects

right so a lot of people are trying to
sell point solutions but how do you

architect it and pull it all together
and so but but at the end of the day

getting performance out of it you know
it’s one thing to basically say when I

when I flip a switch I get electricity
and when I turn the tap I get water that

can’t be enough right those are table
stakes it has to be this is where we get

success this is where we get more for
less in terms of our spend in terms of

our resources in terms of you know all
that stuff and it’s all right in front

of us but we have to take the time to
understand the implications how it

changes your organization and the kind
of people you need to interpret the tea

leaves so to be direct I think in the
next two to three years a lot is going

to happen in terms of more automation
more discovery of behavior using

behavioral data and then I think at five
or six years we’re going to I think

we’ve already reached peak in sourcing
meaning I think that we’re going to see

a lot more outsourcing in in the next
three to five years meaning that when I

say peak in sourcing it’s everybody has
their own Marketo instance and everybody

eloquence miss and everybody has their

own sales forces and yada yada yada and
I just don’t think there are enough

people that are driving strategy to get
the result that everybody wants I think

there’s a disappointment out here that
no matter how much you train people no

matter how many people you throw at it
you still fall short of performance

because it’s at the strategic level
direct that’s going to happen and what

you feed the stack so you know I would
say taking the words from I think it was

John F Kennedy where you know ask not
your stack to think ask your stack to do

and I think that there’s still a lot of
work to be done on the thinking side I

think the doing side you know everybody
will stand up and say hey and there’s

some really really bright people out
here that are really just you know

trying to get there you know I use these
metaphors but just trying to iron their

shirts right just trying to wake up in
the morning and get through the day and

make sure everything passes through the
this monster spec but at the end of the

day we need to take a lot more time to
look at what the result is and what we

need to do to do better you know a
better result and you know even simple

stuff Bob like did it ever occur to
anybody that PPC is really not very good

for b2b
right why did I say that this is just an

example and by the way I’m not in the
PPC business so I’m not selling anything

I know I don’t do we don’t do that but
what I’m saying to clients is you know

you’re effective PPC and what you’re
spending is a lot more than you think

because a lot of people who are clicking
on your ads you can’t resolve them to an

account you don’t know where they’re
coming from they’re ghosts in the

machine but you’re paying for it
so if 70 80 % of the people clicking on

your PPC ads are not coming from
resolvable IPS to a an account that you

want to do business with then your
effective PPC goes up seven or eight

times right so all of a sudden are you
really spending your money wisely and

the answer is well not really just like
you’ve got some of these people who

think they’re in the intent business and
they’re saying you know you’re going to

pay me X amount of
dollars and when I when I tell clients

that you know these review sites that
are saying they’re in the intent

business and I say to clients but you
your filter for a client you want to go

after is 750 million dollars in revenue
or more and they’re only selling it

sending you 10 or 12 of those a month
but you’re paying them $4,000 a month so

you’re spending $400 per account to tell
you that 2 or 3 people came from that

account and that’s all they’re going to
tell you I said is it really worth that

I mean perform $2 don’t you want an
appointment so I think there there’s a

lot of that that goes on that I think
people really need to look at because at

the end of the day we’re really and I
think everybody in this business really

wants the clients to succeed and who
doesn’t we love to build things and we

love to be right about things but we
want these great clients that we work

for to succeed and I just think there’s
not enough everybody’s running around

with their hair on fire and I don’t
think there’s enough time given to

really think about the larger piece so 5
years from now hopefully we will have

bedded down a lot of the things that
could be automated that are allowing

clients to come in on a Monday and look
at the past week in the rearview mirror

and be satisfied with what they see
because right now I don’t think there’s

a lot of that good stuff charlie thank
you by the way I’m gonna be interviewing

Scott brinker this afternoon oh well Scott
Scott is brilliant and you know he’s

just one of the people that just you
know he’s like the he’s like the would

he call it the the the bunny the the the
battery funny whatever his ever

energizer bunny I mean he’s he’s helped
articulate this world he really thinks

hard about it I think what he does is he
thinks a lot about the technical and

technological repercussions of it and I
love that but we need to have an

equivalent that’s really looking at are
we performing the way that all this

technology put together should be
performing I think that’s the big

you know well said beautiful Charlie it’s

always a pleasure to speak with you
thank you for your your you’re sharing

your wisdom well thank you I first of
all I’m flattered that you think it’s

wisdom it’s my experience I don’t know
I’m old enough yet to have wisdom but

because because you know I think I’d
make the same mistake twice a couple

times but anyway I love the opportunity
to first of all can’t wait to see you

again and you know if you want to talk
to some clients let’s go offline and

I’ll make some introductions to you
because they’ll have points of view

outside of us that you want to hear as
well yeah I think that’ll be very

enlightening it’s pleasure charlie and
thanks again thanks Bob appreciate it

take care

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