Jeff Marcoux of Microsoft – Lead Prioritization, Predictive Lead Generation and The Rise of Customer Experience

Jeff Marcoux is the CMO Lead for Worldwide Enterprise Marketing at Microsoft. He has driven cross product and team collaboration, supported multiple product releases, bringing new products to market, innovative content strategies, channel development, and acquisition integration work. Jeff comes from the marketing automation and consulting industry where he led the service, consulting, implementation, marketing, and sales engineering teams. He believes that every touch point with a customer is a marketing experience- from marketing to sales to customer service. Jeff is a marketing growth hacker, martech expert, and brings entrepreneurial innovation to a big tech world. He attended the University of Washington where he received his MBA in Leadership, a Certificate in Technology Entrepreneurship, and was a Board Fellow for Leadership Eastside.  Jeff currently sits on the board for the Internet Marketing Association, is a professor of marketing at UC Irvine’s extension program, and has received Congressional recognition for his work in the Internet Marketing Industry.  In his spare time Jeff does lots of hiking and other fun outdoor activities.

Listen to the Podcast

In this episode Jeff talks about Customer Experience being the next big thing and:

  • Data analysis vs. Emotional Intelligence vs. Diversity
  • The components all stacks have in common
  • 3 ways to get the biggest gains from predictive
  • The blind spot of total addressable market

Read the Transcript

John J. Wall: Hello and welcome to Stack and Flow. I’m John Wall.

Sean Zinsmeister: I’m Sean Zinsmeister.

John: Today’s guest is Jeff Marcoux. He is the CMO lead at Microsoft, and he’ll be telling us about what he’s got going on with their stack and what he’s been seeing as far as predictive and AI and a whole bunch of other topics, but Sean, you had kicked off with a Harvard business review article talking about emotional intelligence as contrasting to AI, so what jumped out at you here?

Sean: So EIQ, emotional intelligence, has been something that I’ve studied over the years sort of casually, and I’ve always been interested in the topic, and of course it’s the world’s combined when it came to the rise of artificial intelligence, or how more people are adopting artificial intelligence. I really liked how they broke down the article because, while I think that there’s a lot of fear mongering around AI in terms of like job replacement, you know, they talked about things like, “3,000 truck drivers seek new employment.”

Obviously, the continued innovation around self-driving vehicles will certainly push that even further, but it sort of offers this idea around how humans start to differentiate themselves because if you think about many of the skilled jobs that machines and AI are starting to replace kind of follow the same general workflow, and they break it down where it’s like you gather data, you analyze the data, you interpret the results, determine a recommended course of action, implement the course of action.

That sort of workflow is going to be something that’s going to be easily automated, and so where do people really start to differentiate themselves and this idea of these skills like persuasion, social understanding, and empathy, they really sort of push to be, these are going to be things that artificial intelligence. Could I say that they won’t catch up? I don’t think that we’re quite in the “Ex Machina” world quite yet, but I think that the other thing, too, and this is where I wanted to rope Jeff into the conversation, is that, something that I’m really proud and both passionate of is that I got a chance to study the humanities.

I was a music composition and theory major in college. I studied it all through high school, and I kind of feel like those were a lot of skills that really set me up, obviously for what I’m doing, in marketing technology, but Jeff, I know that also that you’re a teacher at UC Irvine extension school as well and do you see, first of all, what are you seeing on the AI front, and do you see this as sort of maybe a reinvestment in the humanities, and sort of building up those types of skills?

Jeff Marcoux: First off, thanks for having me on the show today, guys. I’m really excited to be here. Jumping straight to that comment, I think it’s really interesting. I think, as with all things in the marketing tech world, and we’re always looking at what’s up-and-coming in this, but I also have the sense that I think we’re going to be a little … AI, although quickly being researched and moving forward, I think is also a little ways out in terms of us embracing it as humans, almost to an extent of where we’re seeing it pop up in certain places, right? You’ve got things like Watson and what not where it was kind of a novelty on Jeopardy, and those sorts of items, but we still have a little bit of time before we’re really going to get to that huge transformation that you’re talking about there.

One of the things, honestly, I would love to have something be far more accurate and faster that I can talk to in my role to pull those analytics, gather that data, help crunch that stuff, but at the end of the day, there’s still a need to really look at it, and there’s aspects of human psychology, that emotional side of everything that still needs to be engaged with and it’s really hard. I mean, we all know people who are really bad at that side of it, right? Those are the people that we don’t necessarily like to hang out with all the time, and you only talk to them at work when you need to, but there are also those people that you love to be around, and that they kind of bring people together, and they spark innovation and thinking. Honestly, one of my hopes for the AI revolution that’s coming is I’m hoping it’s going to give us more head space to think again.

I feel like a lot of times, we are down, stuck doing data analysis, and you get into that analysis paralysis, and it’s almost inhibited some of the innovation that we had before we got so overrun with data. So, I’m cautiously optimistic. I think we’ve got some time before it’s really going to roll in, but I think we’re going to have to start seeing some people double-down on actually how do they talk and engage with the people around them, and take that data and make it actionable.

Sean: I completely agree on that, and I think that it is going to be a tempered approach, too, because you know, when you talk about that head space, I think about this like … I don’t actually think we are going to replace patents with poets. I’m not sure that that’s more of a realistic expectation. But I do think, sort of going back to that simile around the humanities, where it’s like one of the goals I’ve always thought about a liberal arts education is you leave with more questions than you walked in with, right? I think that that’s kind of what we’re talking about here, where it’s just like, well, we’re all about AI sort of being able to automate and build productivity around some of the more redundant activities and also increase the performance around them as well. I’m thinking that as we see that evolution go to market professionals and by that, I mean sales and marketing folks, again, to sort of tap into that.

Especially being at an enterprise like Microsoft before we sort of dive into your role. Are those soft skills more valuable than the data analysis? I mean obviously that’s where the demand is right now, right? Around some of those data science skills and analytics. Are you guys seeing a balance in terms of what you look for in, let’s call it, the next generation of sales and marketing professionals?

Jeff: It’s interesting. Honestly right now we still are pushing heavy on the data and analysis and the tech side of the house to be totally honest. We’re also really investing in things. Microsoft really values diversity and inclusion so we actually have full on courses that are mandated, every employee in the company takes around those sorts of things, these unconscious biases and those sorts of items which has been really great. They’re trying to kind of push down into that world.

I think one thing that we are seeing is, especially in the sales side of the house, are the people who are adopting these soft skills, they’re more successful. We’ve seen this in the social selling world coming out of marketing is producing great content, aggregating it, and helping their sellers to be seen as subject matter experts. The sellers who come off as authentic are the ones who are genuinely interested in A, learning about the topic and B, sharing that knowledge with the world. That comes down to some of that emotions driven, those human relations that are there.

It’s funny, I have a liberal arts degree myself from my undergraduate in International Studies and Comparative Religions which, what on earth does that have to do with marketing? Actually it’s been one of the most fascinating pieces for me in giving me almost an unfair advantage of I have an understanding of a broad spectrum of cultural backgrounds around the globe from almost every religion on the planet. At least having some core understanding of that really opens up the way of when you’re thinking about cultural engagement, language, all of that different stuff, that’s something that, to some extent, a machine may not ever be able to fully tap into. Maybe one day, but I still think that’s a ways out on that front.

I think it’s going to be fun seeing that. I’m hoping that those will get some more, those kinds of degrees will get some more value. One of the things that we see right now in that space is everybody is going to where they can get a good paying job out of school. You’re going for a lot of these data heavy, tech heavy kind of focuses. I’m cautiously optimistic but we still got to bring that bridge from the liberal arts to still driving business value. I’ve talked to many, many English majors, etc, and they end up going into content writing when they didn’t ever intend to do that, right? It’s like how do we get you down that road a little earlier?

John: That makes a lot of sense. It’s also, there’s the bigger issue of everything that we’ve been using in this business, the tools are rolling over at such a rapid pace that you need to be involved with lifelong learning and a lot of liberal arts degrees set you up better for that kind of thing, of constantly studying and moving. You’ve given us a great set-up. We’ve got you now, you’ve finished your undergrad, you’re learning about world culture and religion. What got you to Microsoft? Where did that path go and what are you responsible for now?

Jeff: I’ll give you the short version. Basically came out of undergraduate and my father in law introduced me to this company. I was into geo-caching at the time. It was a, for those not familiar, it’s basically a digital treasure hunt. Think about Pokemon Go, but 15 years ago. It was right after the GPS got unscrambled and civilians could use it. Some guy out in Portland went and hid a box somewhere and posted the coordinates and people would go out and find it and write their name in a log and that was it. Now all of the sudden if you go to you probably walk by hundreds everyday and you had no idea. It’s almost like this little hidden society of people. It’s a fun way to get out with families and friends, it gives you objectives.

I went and worked at a team building company that was focused around that where we did organizational design and analysis of essentially bringing teams out, watching them interact, setting them up with goals. There, I was leading marketing at the time and doing some course facilitating with that group there. Economy turned down. I had always kind of going to football games at the University of Washington. It always seemed like the big commercials coming on and I won’t say the brand here but one of them I saw and I was like “I can do that so much better. Their story telling is awful.”

At the time, kind of pivoted and realized that I wanted to go into marketing. I went back to school, got my business degree. Interned with Slalom Consulting and helped them launch their start of their marketing practice there. Then got, as a part of that, brought in a marketing automation system. Got asked to come join that company at the time and took them through an acquisition by SilverPop who’s now owned by IBM. At that time didn’t want to move out east to their headquarters in Atlanta. Microsoft kind of came and approached me on that front.

Since then, have kind of been in Microsoft and that’s led to me teaching at UC Irvine, being on the board of the Internet Marketing Association which has all been just awesome for me personally, and kind of led me to where I am today where my role is fairly unique in that I get to be, essentially, a core evangelist for Microsoft and it’s partners who have anything that touches marketing and digital and that space, and customer experience. I kind of look over everything from Bing advertising to artificial intelligence to chat bots and all of our partner stuff built on Azure, and anything that really focuses on that B to B or B to C and putting together and understanding strategies, architectures, cohesive narratives, how does that all tie together?

I have a pretty fun job because I get to work with a bunch of big brands all the time when they come into our executive briefing center. We do co-creation and ideation sessions and kind of punching at aspects of there’s a lot that we can do, but let’s figure out what’s going to drive the most bottom line impact for you and make better customer experiences. Getting to look at all of that kind of stuff is a lot of fun. The other hat that I wear, too, is I also focus on viral growth in some of our SAS products; driving user adoption, driving finding key activation points, doing things like churn analysis and cluster analysis to find upsell/cross-sell opportunities and that. It doesn’t matter how fast you fill the top of the funnel if the bottom of your funnel is super leaky, so kind of looking at all those different processes there.

Sean: Jeff I know that, obviously, CRM has been a big topic of discussion as well. It definitely intersects with the AI piece of it. I know it’s definitely got to be an exciting discussion around Microsoft. Do you play much in the dynamics organization? Curious, actually, in general what your thoughts are on the future of CRM and what’s getting you excited over there.

Jeff: I did a stint in the dynamics organization, actually, there for a bit and still stay pretty tied into that group. It’s really, really interesting to me. I actually, I used to be an advocate of user CRM as your core data platform including for marketing. Then very quickly came to realize all the garbage that marketers want to collect data on that sales reps couldn’t care less about. Started getting into that aspect, “Oh, it is actually smart to have two separate systems.” You’re only passing through the things that deliver value to your sales reps in context of that.

One of the coolest things I think that has really come out of some of the work that we’ve been doing is really helping put process in the CRM a bit, where it’s a visual. We’ve got a step by step process of you can put in any methodology that your sales team uses, and you can see all of your accounts tied over those different pieces, but where it’s getting really interesting, you can look up this great video. It’s on Dynamics 365 customer insights. It’s some of the pieces where we’ve taken from our machine learning library, and turned it into a very easy application that people can use to really build out audience segmentation and understanding great customer insights at a much easier way. You don’t have to hire a data scientist to do that kind of stuff, so really trying to make the advanced analytics and stuff that was traditionally held off to people who could hire those big guns of data scientists, accessible to everybody.

We’ve also been making some bets here recently, we built a partnership with a company called [inaudible 00:13:45] who it’s totally free for anybody with Dynamics CRM to use. It’s basic level, predictive, list building, audience segmentation, putting together basic models. It’s a great entry point for companies that want to get a bit more advanced in their marketing strategies without going and spending 50 to several hundred thousand dollars on some of these new, bigger, predictive marketing platforms and that work.

In terms of where CRM is going, I think what we’re going to start seeing here more and more is, it’s really going to have to pivot back to versus being essentially a system of record, to actually being a real, relationship driving engine. I know it’s called Customer Relationship Management but let’s be honest, most people don’t actually use it that way. It’s simply a system of records so I can do my forecast and get my budget and get my bonus from that. As we look at it, I think it’s going to come into the pieces of looking holistically at accounts. What is the individual? What is the best next product? Best next engagement? Best next touch point I should be having with this individual?

I think we’re going to start seeing things really overlaying advanced customer journeys with things like the AI and machine learning doing a lot of the signal analysis to let my sales rep know, and my marketing team know, what should we be delivering to this particular account, based on everything that we know about them? When is the right time to have that right conversation? Right now, it’s still pretty opinionated in terms of “I got to follow up with this account this week.” Versus “No, you should follow up on Tuesday at 10 AM because that’s when you should have this piece, and right before you do that, you should deliver this piece of content or hit them with this particular ad, so that you’re top of mind.” I think we’re going to see it start to pivot more in that advanced way that’s going to hopefully drive better human connection, better human interaction.

Sean: I think that you hit the nail on the head there, too, where we look at CRM today and at it’s rawest point, we’re looking at a structured database with a GUI and then you have next to that, whatever your system of engagement is. I think that that 3rd piece is really that system of intelligence. I think one of the driving factors, and something that I know that you’ve picked up as well is this idea of the account based strategies. Looking at it, something like account based marketing, everybody’s tired of hearing of, it’s not something that’s new. Why did you become a big proponent of ABM, why now? Why not seeing that years ago, if it’s been around? What do you think is the driving force there?

Jeff: I think the honest answer is, it’s new and it’s not at the same time. I’m a big proponent and I’m not, at the same time. The reason it’s coming now is honestly, I’ll be fully transparent, I think a lot of the Martech guys were looking at, “What do we do next after marketing automation and content?” They wore out their welcome as being the next hot topic, and I think people were looking for what was next. I think that was the build out of the category. It’s not new in the way that the same thing as social selling has never been new. If you look at the way that we used to sell, we did it by territory and industry.

Why was that? That was because you knew the people in your city. You knew the people in your industry. With social and digital coming, my industry and my network is no longer isolated to a geography. It might be enhanced in that geography, but I know people all over the globe. We saw that pivot almost back to social selling of, “We want you to sell to people that you know and you have relationships with, it’s just how we define that has changed.”

Similar to account based marketing, used to say “These are the accounts I want to get into and so we’re going to build a strategy around that.” I actually feel like marketing almost moved away from that joint, and we used to get along a lot better with sales when we did that joint planning and really building out roles and strategies around that. We moved away from that because we wanted to define ourselves and all the new tech was coming out there, and that’s driven that big wedge there. The companies that are going to get this early are definitely going to have a bit of an advantage.

I was just giving a talk yesterday at the B to B marketing exchange conference on how you don’t have to start with a big, fancy product. This is where I’ll say, I’m not an advocate of some of the traditional IBM stuff that’s out there right now. You can start with some basic stuff, right? I can say, “Here are the five accounts I want to get into. Work with my account manager, build out a plan.” Guess where I can do that? It’s in the most popular Martech solution out there, it’s called Excel. You can go out there and you can plan that out, when are we going to target them? If I want to get more advanced, I can go into LinkedIn and say, “Who are the six people I should be talking to at this account that we need to convert, or that we at least need to have part of the conversation?”

If I even want to get a little bit more advanced, I can then go do a targeted ad by on LinkedIn and Facebook, targeting those six people. I can work with my seller to deliver, here’s the content you should go with, here’s what they’ve seen, et cetera. You can execute that without anything really fancy to get going down that road. Similarly, most of us with our marketing automation systems, have a reverse IP look up. Oftentimes, you might get the batch IP of Comcast or Bell, or one of those, but for the bigger companies, they’ve bought their batch IP address so we can see who they are. You can even, again, start with some of the basics of just outreaching those people before they go from unknown to known.

Where it gets interesting, this is middle ground. This is where this ABM concept comes up. I think it’s coming back to being new, because we have more analytics, more access to it, more machine learning than we’ve ever had before. This is where we’re getting into some things like predictive lead generation, predictive list prioritization based on data, intent. This is where we’re finding these new things that are coming out that make it really exciting.

The reality also is at the same time, is that the vast majority of companies who have an advanced marketing automation system today, very few of them are doing much more beyond a standard monthly email blast and maybe a single path nurture stream. They’re not doing branching, personalization, all this other stuff, yet. Part of me looks at it as there’s such potential in this category, but there’s also such need for the majority of companies to still mature in the systems that they have today, before they’re almost ready to reach out and take advantage of these super incredible items that are out there.

Sean: Again, getting folks to, everybody take a deep breath and just sift through the noise, come back to center and realize that hey, maybe all the tools that you’re looking for, maybe you should start with like you said, best marketing tool around which is an Excel Spreadsheet. I have this conversation with folks a lot who are looking for attribution tools. I’m like, “I know that you’re looking for that shiny object that is going to help answer this question, but have you actually tried plotting these things out yourself and figuring that out? Why don’t you figure out what the ceiling is, organically, before you start throwing tools at the problem?”

The other thing that is interesting to unpack there, is I have two theories around this account based mania that’s been upon us which is, one, is that I really think, we’ll see Jeff, interesting, if you agree or disagree with this kind of point, was that I think that the technology is certainly driving a disruption in what the sales and marketing roles are. You mentioned in the talk of marketing automation and how marketing professionals then had a tool at their disposal to mass communicate with their audience with ease and build those customer journeys. Now, you’re starting to see those tools in the hands of salespeople as they have their own automation at their hands.

In this, you see marketing now needing to go down the funnel where sales is, where sales is creeping up. Now, we’re starting to see that mixture. Part of me is like, is indeed, do you see technology driving that disruption there? The other one is it just a focus thing? That’s a thing I’ve always thought about the account based stuff, which is that is it optics? It’s not to say that that’s not a bad thing, but the internet has created, like you said, all of this incredible amount of rich data that we need a way to say, “Hey, let’s just focus on the things that matter.” Curious what you think about those two theories around about why the account based stuff is hot right now?

Jeff: I think you hit on a really interesting point on we as marketers, tend to have shiny object syndrome. We are always looking for that silver bullet. One thing that I’ve really come to understand in my engagements from small business to enterprise, is that if you just try to solve your problems with technology, any kind of transformation you’re trying to do, you’re going to fail. You have to look at, what’s your company culture? What are your processes? What’s the technology of what you want to do? If the culture doesn’t support it, if your sellers are not compensated in a way that compliments what the new marketing strategy you want to do, you’re going to fail. You’re going to generate all this stuff and nobody’s going to pick it up. If your processes not there you might generate a bunch of stuff, but then it doesn’t get to where it needs to go. All these different pieces of, you’ve got to have all three of those dialed in, in place, and I think that’s a mistake a lot of companies tend to make, if I’m honest on that side.

It’s interesting you bring up the aspect of sellers working upstream, kind of into the marketing world. What I’m seeing, and I use a tool even personally for this, for my own networking, on how do I become a much more effective communicator … It’s almost like marketing automation for one, where I can do it to my network and stay up to date with different people. I think we’re starting to see that come more and more, where traditionally as sales people, you had very limited tools that you could potentially use and now you’re starting to see that they can swim upstream, be more effective, track opens, clicks, know the right time to outreach, segmenting the different content types that are there.

I honestly think that’s a better experience for the customer, which is one of the reasons I’m optimistic on this category, is that if you’re truly doing real, good account based marketing, you’re also being incredibly customer centered because you’re looking at the individual account, the individual customers you’re talking with. What are their motivations, what is the content that is most valuable to them that’s going to help prove my point as I’m going through that? It’s interesting, seeing the sales team come up and almost help facilitate that change. By the same token, marketing’s got to go down and then make sure that they have the right content aligned to those different aspects and also ensure that that hand off is going on.

It’s not even so much of a handoff anymore, as at some point you bring your partner, your sales rep into the conversation, then you’re running together. Marketing should continue to support a sales process of continuing to target the person and reiterate the messages that the salesperson is seeing or if they’re blockers, targeting content that is going to help facilitate unblocking those as a part of that. It almost becomes a partnership through the sales cycle, and marketing stays in longer versus traditionally, it’s I generated my lead, hit a lead score threshold. Throw it over the wall, here go sales. That’s a big part I think that I’m hoping that we see, I think there’s some cultural stuff between those two groups that in many companies, we got to work out but again, I’m optimistic.

John: Jeff, how about as far as the actual stack, then, of tools that are put together? Are you working with a single stack that you liked and have optimized, or are you overseeing different business divisions that have their own stacks built and do you see differences as far as what’s effective in different configurations of the stack in moving, in basically tracking this whole customer experience? I can easily see how you can have a lot of improvement on that front, but how are the nuts and bolts working of it for you?

Jeff: In terms of stack, it’s really interesting just seeing the way that people are doing that. We have a stack as well that we use at Microsoft, and it’s constantly changing and stuff’s being tested and going in and out on that front. At the end of it, at the core, every group has got to have a CRM in some way, shape or form. We use Dynamics, obviously, but your big guys, let’s be honest, are Dynamics and Salesforce. You’ve got to have a marketing automation system on top of that, those are just core pieces. The most popular ones out there today, Marketo, Eloqua, we work with Marketo pretty closely on a lot of our stuff for our demand center on that side.

You probably want some sort of data enrichment aspect around that, although some of the marketing automation vendors are starting to push out into that a bit there, so … How are you going to cleanse, clean, enrich your data from that perspective? As you continue to work upstream, you start looking at things like, “Do we want to get more advanced?” You’re looking at different items like, should we be doing predictive? The big predictive guys in the space, you’ve got Infer, Everstream, Radius, Six Sense, are probably your biggest ones in this space. What I’ve been learning more and more, actually, a lot of those guys all have other data partners that they’re working with who are actually starting to try to emerge themselves as helping with some of this account based stuff and showing intent. Which has been funny, because these guys have traditionally sat in the background so I think we’re starting to see them see the opportunity and start to bubble up.

The interesting part, too, as we get into it though is really starting to look at the, even the front end stuff, of what is your website CSM system and things like that in the space here? We’ve done some work and I’m becoming more and more of a fan of, there’s a company called Get Smart Content out of Austin. What I love about them is their ability to do real time personalization from your first visit in the B to B space on your website. I can know your role, your location, and your industry from the first time you ever hit my site so you don’t get vanilla. That’s optimized after you come back again based on what you did. That’s a really interesting piece to me, because then I’m able to deliver that fully personalized experience from the get go.

On the advertising side, we’re starting to see more and more different pieces pop up of predictive, right time, right device, right message pieces come out there. We’ve run some pilots and stuff with Rocket Fuel is one of the vendor’s we’ve been doing some work with. There’s some other interesting ones coming into the space here. I think it turns into, from the stack perspective, the biggest thing is get those big rocks in place and maturing them first is my personal opinion of make sure you actually use your CRM, make sure you actually use your marketing automation system and get at least to 60% of value of those and then start to look at how you’re going to augment as you go through those different pieces there.

There’s a lot of great tech out there, it’s just looking at oftentimes, what integrates well with what you’re using? That honestly is a big deciding factor for a lot of marketing departments is, if it’s going to take a big tech team to go in and implement this, et cetera, it may not be worth it versus if somebody’s made it incredibly simple where it’s “Okay, I have my account here, I have my account here. Let me just do my login and boom, it automatically integrates and hooks up.” That’s a lot easier for me to consume as a marketer, potentially a lot faster, than having to go and talk and engage with my tech team on that site. There’s no right stack, I’ll say that as well. I think it’s finding the one that works best for you on it and making sure that you go through and identify those gaps and start to fill them in over time.

Sean: On the flow side, talking a little bit more about the data obviously, this is something we look at very heavily on the infer side but I’m curious, when you talk about predictive analytics and predictive lead generation, where are you seeing that people are starting to see the value? What are the early use cases that you’re being able to interact with first where people are getting started? I’m curious, what problems are they overcoming, using predictive?

Jeff: Honestly, one of the biggest ones is not actually a predictive scenario, it’s around data cleansing. If you start with garbage data, which most of us, our data is not particularly good, your model is going to be garbage. Cleansing and enriching your data sets is actually, usually, step one that I’ve come across with most people in that they’re using. That often is scenario number one.

Scenario number two, if marketers are smart, is doing predictive prioritization of your existing leads. Most of us have a lead scoring model, but it’s honestly pretty arbitrary of oh, a webinar is worth 50 points and a download is worth this and a click is worth that. It’s kind of arbitrary in terms of that. If I can make my sales team just a little bit more effective, they’re going to start to buy into this as a big part of it. We implemented a prioritization list and saw huge returns. We ran an A, B test on it of we gave one group the prioritized list and one group just the standard, whatever they got for CRM, and saw huge returns on that in terms of delivering value.

Even for your inbound content marketing leads, prioritizing those with data is a huge way to start getting your sales reps on board for understanding it, which then opens up as you head down that road of, everybody wants to, after you do lead prioritization, you have your choice of two routes that you can go. You can start to go down the “I want to find everybody who’s intent and then market.” I honestly think that that is still a maturing space. It also requires you to have the culture and process in place to run those down quickly, because that means that person is actively in market and that means you need to get after them ASAP.

The other model is essentially looking at predictive lead generation where you build a look alike model of accounts that you’ve closed and accounts that you’ve lost, and you put that together and then you look backwards in time and you say, essentially, what signals were they putting out? Starting to dial that in, so you’re able to identify net new companies who may not have ever been on your radar before. I think that’s actually one of the biggest ways that companies can capitalize on it is, you don’t know what you don’t know. There’s tons of companies out there and so if you can figure out which ones are the best fit for your product, that’s a great advantage. You can do ABM targeting them, you can even just do a dial down on that sort of stuff but just starting to get into that front.

The last piece actually, it’s not a predictive ABM thing but one of the things I’ve seen people use these data vendors for is finally, actually, understanding what their total addressable market is. I’m blown away by how many people don’t actually know and understand what total addressable market that they have and that gives them the idea of what all they can be doing, which then can help you understand how much it’s worth to actually invest, to acquire every lead. Those are the core scenarios that I’ve run across is the data cleanse and enrichment, lead prioritization, predictive lead generation, and then intent and then the TAM analysis.

Sean: I like that background and that’s actually something that I preach a lot to both the customers and then people who are interested in predictive analytics as well, which is start with everybody’s got garbage data and you have to be able to clean that up a little bit before you can actually, properly model it to give you something but that idea of starting with the prioritization, being like “Let’s get all this stuff in order and stack rank and then we can actually drive value.” This is something that we see as the immediate use case, especially for those companies that have those very turbulent tops to funnel.

That next piece is, “Okay, who’s not on our radar that we should know about? Who’s not in the system, that look a lot like our best customer?” I think that that’s where you’re spot on there, too, because a lot of people are like “Who’s our ideal customer profile?” That idea of ICP, but I love that idea around the TAM analysis which is, how do we understand and measure our total addressable market and get feedback on that really, really quickly?

That’s the other thing that I get really excited about when it comes to predictive analytics which is, you and I Jeff, don’t have to sit here and wait for programs to go to the end of their life cycle to figure out what the value is. We actually can get some immediate feedback right away on the level of quality and the potential revenue that is actually coming from these things. I think that you’re right, that tip of the iceberg is it’s an exciting frontier to think about where the intent piece goes, but that definitely feels like it’s the icing on the cake and I love that model.

In terms of just things that, we’ve talked about a lot of these great, different technologies, but I always like to get an idea about what you’re looking at ahead. What are the big problems that you’re thinking about these days, in terms of sales and marketing? What is exciting, from an innovation standpoint?

Jeff: What gets really interesting to me, my personal philosophy when it comes to marketing is that marketing is every touchpoint with a customer. Marketing doesn’t just stop at lead generation. It’s in how your customer experiences the sales cycle and what’s the friction in that? It’s what is the time to value once they’ve purchased it? It’s what happens if they have problems? What does that on boarding experience look like? It’s really looking end to end as you go through those different pieces there from that perspective. I think we’re going to hopefully start seeing a pivot to a lot more focus on customer experience.

There’s been some good studies out here recently, by Sirius and CMO 2020 I think was the other one, around how customer experience is actually going to become a core decision aspect for companies, even over price and features as you go forward. People don’t want to deal with garbage companies, if I’m honest. I want to have the last best experience I had anywhere becomes the expectation for the experience that I want everywhere, as I go through that. If I had a great experience with one company and then this company’s not living up to it, I’m getting frustrated and constantly building up a dissatisfaction with them.

I think a big focus, pivoting over to customer experience is just where these account based, these prioritization tools out there like Infer, et cetera, and those other guys that are out there, I think it’s really good because if we take the data and we can prioritize it, it also means that we can have a more meaningful conversation because I’m not bothering you because you’re not in market. It’s one of those and really focusing on that journey as somebody goes through. Really, the pivot to customer experience is something I’m excited about.

I’ll say, I’m expecting us to come up here soon to a marketing reckoning of companies who have just been chasing tools here for a while and they haven’t maximized the value of the ones that they have. At some point, the CEO’s going to get tired of that.

Sean: *Laughing* So is the CFO.

Jeff: Exactly. They’re going to be like, “So, what’s the ROI on this platform?” I think it’s our job as marketing leaders to turn around and say, “We might be getting a solid ROI on our investment in a particular tool, in our teams, but we should also be honest with ourselves and say we’re only using this to 40%, 60% of what we could be doing and how do we do that?” I actually think the CX and the maturing in our tool set are going to push each other, because even simple things like basic branching and basic personalization beyond just “Dear, Jeff” in an email is going to start to add value to that customer experience as you go through it there. I think we’re going to start seeing those things bubble up.

Other things I’m excited about, chat bot, I actually think there’s huge potential for those to help a lot. You have the ability to take a natural language query of a question from any customer prospect, the Chat Bot can go and search an immense knowledge database and come back with a reasonable answer, if it’s done right. There’s some that have been done really poorly, and it’s obvious, and they’re frustrating. There are others that you’re like, “Wow, that was actually a great experience, it got me the information I needed faster than even talking to somebody.” Chat bots, I’m optimistic about.

ABM as I said, I’m cautiously optimistic around it, I think there’s still some maturing that needs to happen on things like in the intent side from that perspective. I think another area that’s going to get interesting here is AR/VR, I think people are still trying to figure out exactly what that can mean in business context. I’ve seen a lot of chintzy things where somebody’s trying to do something cool with VR and “We got this VR thing.” That actually didn’t make a better experience and that didn’t help convince me to buy your product, so you just spent all this money to say you did something in VR and it actually kind of sucked.

It’s one of those, I think there’s some great potential applications of it in terms of if you’re in the industrial industry and things like that, where I need to visualize an engine. That’s got great potential on that front and so really figuring that out. It’s not going to be the right fit for all businesses but where it is, I think it could be pretty cool.

Outside of that, the biggest one I’m really excited about is I’m hoping people head towards is customer experience, and the secondary piece to that is, I want more companies to go back and find their why – Simon Sinek’s Start With Why book. It’s funny, that used to be you had to know it and everything you built was around that. That’s actually a differentiator for companies now to be authentic and to know their why and what they do. I want to see people pivot back to that, because it just makes everything better. You can be authentic in your marketing, you know the reason that you’re trying to help somebody, that your product actually makes a difference. What is your mission statement for your business all up and how does your marketing help support that? If you’re just pitching a product just to pitch a product, it kind of loses the heart and soul and I think people are starting to look for that again.

John: Jeff, that’s great. If people want to learn more about what you’ve got going on, what’s the best way to get in touch?

Jeff: Best ways to get in touch, @JeffMarcoux on Twitter, or LinkedIn look me up, Jeff Marcoux, I think it’s there. I’ll be speaking at South by Southwest here actually coming up on storytelling an 15,000 year old strategy every person needs to know, and honestly it gets into some of the science and the why behind why storytelling’s effective and why companies need to know that why. Find me at south, I would love to connect if you guys are going to be at South By. Other than that, Twitter and Linked In are great.

John: Great, and Sean how about for you? What have you got going on?

Sean: We’re already well into 2017, and so we’re just rolling along. The writing desk doesn’t stop for me, obviously a lot on AI and predictive things that I’m thinking about for sure that will be coming out quite soon. You can find all my stuff if you Google Sean Zinsmeister, you can find everything there or go over to to see my latest stuff.

John: You can find more from me at, and in fact, I’ll throw in a link to a Simon Sinek interview we’ve got, an interview about Start With Why. If you’re not familiar with that book, you can get an audio intro to it and see what that’s all about. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you in the stacks.

John Wall

John Wall

John J. Wall speaks, writes and practices at the intersection of marketing, sales, and technology. He is the producer of Marketing Over Coffee, a weekly audio program that discusses marketing and technology with his co-host Christopher S. Penn, and has been featured on iTunes.

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