Interview with Jon Miller
ABM Leaders Interview: Jon Miller: the vision behind the acquisition
Bob: Hi, this is Bob Samuels. I’ve had the privilege to speak with Jon Miller, a true ABM marketing pioneer and leader – one of the best in the business. Jon, it’s a pleasure to speak with you. How are you today?
Jon: I’m doing really well happy new year.
Bob: It’s a beautiful day. It’s crazy times, but it’s good overall. So, congratulations for what you’ve been doing. Actually, let me take a step back. For those of you in our audience that don’t know you already, could you give a little bit of intro about your background and everything around ABM marketing etc.?
Jon: Sure. I’m currently the Chief Marketing & Product Officer at Demandbase. I joined Demandbase back in June when the companies of Engagio and Demandbase merged together to form what we think is the most complete ABM platform. Before that, I was the CEO and co-founder of Engagio. So, I spent about the five years before that building that company. I’m probably best known out there for the role before that where I was one of the co-founders and the original CMO at Marketo. So, pretty much my entire career has been building and leading marketing technology companies so that’s kind of what I’m into.
Bob: Excellent and you’ve been doing a great job. You are one of my favorite speakers in marketing and it’s a pleasure. I’ve invited my friend and colleague David Rowe to join us. David if you want to jump in and ask some questions feel free to. Jon is a wealth of knowledge and he’s got a great way to present things. Jon, I was just watching some of your older videos and it reminded me that you’ve got an interesting background. When you were younger, you took an in interest and were paying with physics…
Jon: For a while, before marketing. My undergrad degrees was in physics and I spent my summers while I was in college doing research at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab. I spent my whole time thinking, ‘all right I’ll go get a PhD and be an academic. But my senior year I decided to defer my PhD program and just give this business world a try. And turns out I liked it so I’ve kind of moved on and at this point probably I’ve forgotten way more physics than I know. But, that quantitative training has served me well in marketing.
Bob: It seems to be all across everything you’ve done in marketing
Jon: It’s a brilliant part
Bob: I’m a numbers person too so I can appreciate what you’ve been doing. So, I’d like you to tell us a little bit about Engagio and Demandbase combining. How has that been and what does that mean for the future of the industry?
Mergers are hard. And in many ways, we did everything right on this one. It’s interesting I mean Demandbase was the first innovator in ABM. They helped to amplify the term. Historically Demandbase took a very digital first approach to ABM The emphasis was on identifying accounts that are in-market using intent data, advertising though to those accounts to bring them to your site, and personalizing the website experience when they got to you. They focused on having that kind of digital experience, if you will, for the focused on-target accounts. And, they have been very very successful at doing that. At Engagio, I had taken a very different approach to ABM – built on my marketing automation background. So, the solution we built at Engagio looked more like a marketing automation solution. Engagio was an Account-Based Marketing automation platform. So, we integrated all your first-party data. We connected to your Salesforce.com. We connected to your marketing automation. We connected to your email server -to pull down emails and calendars. And we connected to your website to pull data. And we unified that into a data platform that gave you a single view of the account and the people within those accounts. And, on top of that, we let you orchestrate campaigns or plays across channels based on those insights and then push intelligence and alerting to the sales reps so that way they could be orchestrated in how they’re talking to the account. So, even though Demandbase and Engagio were both considered ABM platforms, they are two fundamentally different solutions. And I think that’s partly why the analysts were driven so batty by trying to categorize the ABM market, right? If you look at all the check boxes the analysts have, what we realized is that together Demandbase plus Engagio not only checked every single box but it actually was sort of the best solution in each box because we had each built deep capabilities. Once I saw that and I saw the vision of how well these two platforms would come together. And the power. I knew that we had to merge these two companies together. I wasn’t looking for an exit. I wasn’t looking for a sale or anything. Engagio was fine on its own but, I’m a product guy at heart and you’ve got to build the best product
Bob: So it sounds like the Engagio was looking at data from a first party perspective and Demandbase more third party and second party?
Jon: that’s a big part of it, yes.
Bob: Does Engagio still exist as a standalone product?
Jon: No. We’ve completely unified the two platforms and we did it in a little over five months which is way faster than anybody thought we could do. The new platform is actually based on the Engagio platform. So, if you look at Demandbase One – the new product today, it’s not really a new platform. It’s actually an upgraded version of Engagio. It’s really something that’s been in the market for five years; we just made it better and made it blue for the Demandbase branding. And then, we basically took all the Demandbase functionality – the intent data, the machine learning, and the predictive analytics, the DSP for advertising, and the web personalization functionality, and we brought that into the kind of old engagement application. And again, it was how well those jigsaw puzzles fit which is what I got excited for. And that’s why we were able to do it so quickly. So now, we’re implementing every new customer on the new Demandbase One platform. And we are migrating all the Engagio and Demandbase customers onto it so basically everything you had with Engagio now you get in Demandbase One plus; so much more .
Bob: So, it sounds like Engagio acquired Demandbase 😉
Jon: Obviously, the company is Demandbase. But, the Engagio product is definitely at the core of the new solution. So, it’s a new product for the Demandbase folks. And it’s all one product – it’s a forced buy, if you will, for everybody. The way we’re doing the pricing is, we’re not charging more for it. So, all the Engagio customers now get all this awesome Demandbase functionality at no extra cost. All the Demandbase customers are now going to get all this awesome Engagio functionality at no extra cost. So, it’s a win for everybody. They get everything that they had before. Plus.
David: So, how much overlap was there between the two user bases?
Jon: Excellent question. Demandbase had a about 550 customers and Engagio had about 230 so across that total set, I believe it was between 30 and 40 ballpark joint customers. So, more than you would expect if we were directly competitors but obviously both products are not cheap so it would take a pretty motivated company to buy both
David: And how do you and Peter Isaacson divvy up the marketing responsibilities?
Jon: So, Peter’s moving on to a new role. I’m taking on (the marketing role), and he’s looking for something new now out in the market.
David: We’ve had (Peter on a couple of our ABM Leader) sessions.
Jon: (Peter) is a great ABM thought leader, so I know he’s going to land somewhere exciting. I’m excited for the whole ABM market because what we’re finally starting to get to now is a definition of what a complete platform has. There are companies, like Demandbase as well as a handful of others, that fill that out relatively well. In many ways that feels like what happened with marketing automation back in say 2009. It started with a handful of players that had complete solutions and the market started to recognize you need this and so it moved from being a nice-to-have to a must-have and it became a question not of should I buy it but which one should I buy. And that’s an exciting time for the category- for marketers and for the vendors. That’s the other reason I was psyched to take on the marketing challenge – because I saw that movie in the Marketo days. I think I know what plays to run and now we just have to make it happen.
David: What about on the intent-based side of things? You do have a couple of competitors out there like Bombora and so forth that really focus on the intent-based-marketing.
Jon: Interestingly. we actually have a great partnership with Bombora. We partner with them and we integrate with them and a matter-of-fact include a little bit of Bombora data with every one of our customers at no extra cost. And then, if they do license directly with Bombora the data flows natively and directly into the product. The way I like to think about it is more intent data is good like why wouldn’t you want more signals? It’s kind of like having more leads ;-). The reality is the way Demandbase generates our intent data is so different from Bombora or TechTarget or some of the others that you’re going to add different (complementary) pieces of information across them.
So, what we find is that the Demandbase intent data gives you really good coverage. We’ll have at least some signals for most of your accounts. It might be a weak signal it might be a strong signal but at least we have a little bit for everything. Whereas the Bombora data, because they’re focused on surging accounts, typically will reflect somewhere between two to six percent of your accounts that are surging at any point in time. So, it’s really nice to have that data. If you could afford it, more is better. That’s kind of how we think about it. We also integrate. We can import intent data from G2, TechTarget, and the other kind of third-party sources.
David: You mentioned the DSP a little earlier. It seemed like Demandbase was kind of moving away from the ad serving end of things – moving more towards the client website focused software that allowed you to personalize the experience and so forth. Is that still your plan moving forward?
Jon: Oh, I wouldn’t agreed with that. I don’t think Demandbase would have signaled that they’re moving away from ad serving. I mean, the ad portion of the business is quite significant. And, it’s also a part of the business that we saw incredible health in during 2020 as marketers found that they couldn’t do events and trade shows as much anymore. Those dollars just flew into digital because they started to create pipeline to Engagio. So, no. The advertising piece is a pretty significant part of our business. We think the magic is when you combine this best-in-class advertising with best-in-class platform. I think some advertisers felt perhaps the CPMs when they bought advertising display ads from Demandbase they were paying kind of a big premium on the display ads versus if they just bought them programmatically and applied the ABM targeting. The main reason why our CPMs are what they are is because we have a pretty narrow publisher network of high-quality sites. If you look at where our ads show up, the top sites tend to be CNN, Forbes, and places like that. If you look at the competitors, I’ve seen their ads on some pretty sketchy third-party sites. The largest software companies use us for their B2B advertising because they care about that brand safety. The other thing that’s going on that is a little bit more subtle. When you use another DSP – The Trade Desk or MediaMath that were really originally built for B2C advertising, you don’t have very good control of how your ads get distributed across the accounts. What ends up happening is the number of ads shown tend to be proportional to the number of employees at the account. You might think this makes sense, but in reality what happens, and we see this in the data for our competitors, is the vast majority of the impressions go to a small set of the largest accounts. That sucks up a ton of your budget – we call them ‘super-suckers. Because Demandbase has our own DSP, we can much more effectively spread those ad dollars – making sure that all the accounts are getting some level of coverage. The last thing I’ll say, what you get when you use our DSP is you get a really nice connection with the intent data so let’s say you want to advertise to Dell and, sure, you could pick particular titles and things like that you want to target and so on. But, we also we know that Dell is showing intent. Let’s say we’d actually know which of the specific cookies that were the ones that were reading the articles about your topics. So, we see those and we bid much higher because that’s the people who are much more likely to be interested and be likely to be on your buying committee. You can’t do that with a generic. We find that people who really care about the ROI of their advertising and the brand safety love using Demandbase. And they find the higher CPMs are definitely worth it.
David: What about the ad personalization that’s something Demandbase was one of the first companies to introduce some people find it kind of creepy. I guess to put the prospect’s name or company into the creative message where does that stand today and where do you see it moving forward?
Jon: I mean it’s certainly a capability of the platform. I’m a little different on my own so I think there’s a time and place for it. Here, I’ll give you a good use case if you’re working on an expansion campaign to existing customers. When you’re able to say, ‘hey person company x, you already use us’… then I feel they’re a customer it’s sort of less creepy to sort of be using their name. Now, I will say an interesting thing happened when Covid hit and everybody started working from home. There were a couple months there where our algorithm was still IP-based and obviously with everybody working from home you sort of don’t get a very accurate signal. We made some changes mid-late summer and we also incorporated all the Engagio first party data into the matching and we just shot up in the accuracy to best-in-class. There were a couple months over the summer where our competitors loved saying, ‘hey let’s do match tests’, because we did we did slip behind and now we fixed that.
Bob: Yes. I was wondering about the people working from home and how much that impacted things. So it sounds like you got some good correction. What about the cookies? Is Google going to get rid of cookies one of these days?
Jon: Google has talked about it. They’ve pushed it back a couple times. We are watching it really closely. I personally think what’s going to happen if they ever actually do it (and again, I’m not sure they will because there’s a lot of money to make by having those cookies). But, if they eventually do, we’re already seeing some additional new identity standards come out. One of the big ones out there is being pushed by a company called LiveRamp. We just actually recently announced a very strategic partnership with LiveRamp, so we’ll be working with them on identification as well as on additional ad targeting capabilities as well as the ability to take our audiences and push them to more third-party sites by using their cookie-matching in between.
David: So, that’s pretty exciting stuff about small business has always been a little bit of a challenge for ABM programs because oftentimes clients don’t have lists they can provide of all the small businesses they want to do business with. Are there any new developments at Demandbase that would better enable your customers to target small businesses?
Jon: Well, in some ways, I’d argue small business is the opposite of ABM. ABM to me is about putting a disproportionate focus on more valuable accounts. If I’m just making the assumption that small businesses spend less money, I’m not sure that ABM-style techniques are actually appropriate for small business. Now, of course, some personalization is always better than not being personalized; and being relevant is always better than not being relevant. I would say that it probably is closer to just targeted demand gen than kind of real ABM.
David: I guess that’s maybe where the intent could play into. If you have millions of small businesses out there but if you could identify the handful that are really in the process of buying a particular product or service that could be helpful. I guess to a marketer there’s value there in the end
Jon: You’re still going to reach out to them probably in a non-personalized way because the volumes are just kind of too high. So I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. We could debate whether that’s really ABM. that’s fair.
Bob: We just have a few more minutes and I wanted to get your take on the future where are things going. What does your crystal ball say about what ABM going to be in a year, and in five years from now.
I always described ABM as fishing with a spear and that’s about identifying valuable accounts and attempting to engage with them regardless of whether the time was right or if they were interested in hearing from you at all. That’s really not a very good customer experience, right? I mean, we live in a world of information abundance and tension scarcity and no matter how relevant you are, if the timing’s wrong, that person is not going to be all that excited to hear from you. So, I’m been thinking a lot about how do you bring the customer experience more into ABM. To rethink that account-based go-to-market rooted intense focus on where that customer is in their journey and then use intent data intelligence and insights so that we can be smarter about knowing what to say or when to reach out and what to say and so whether that’s just ABM being practiced smarter or a whole new thing we’ll have to see what people want to call it. Personally, I have a hunch that the name should evolve. We all know it’s been a misnomer. ABM without sales is you’re doing it wrong. So, that’s a little sneak-peek of where I’ve been spending my time thinking about. How do we in some ways get the engage-ability of traditional inbound with the scale and with the precision of traditional ABM.
Bob: Dave, do you have any other questions? Otherwise, this is terrific information.
Jon: It’s always fun talking about this stuff, so thanks for having me.
Bob: Jon, you will be speaking again on the 27th at the RevTech Summit.
Jon: Yes, actually that’s going to be me working with one of our customers –Steve Rotter the CMO of FourKites. Steve will be talking about how he’s using Demandbase One to find, engage, and close customers.
Bob: Excellent. Beautiful. Any other closing words of wisdom?
Jon: Be safe out there
Bob: Excellent Jon it’s a pleasure. David, thank you for your help. Thank you. Take care.