Justin Norris of Perkuto – The State of B2B Advertising, ABM Making Outbound Cool Again and Extending Marketo

Justin is a marketing and sales technologist and operations expert. He is a 2x Marketo Champion. In his role as a Solutions Architect at Perkuto, he combines best-of-breed technologies and process optimization to help Marketo customers solve their toughest challenges.

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In this episode Justin’s seen a variety of different stacks using Marketo giving him a unique perspective on:

  • Sales Automation vs. Marketing Automation Dysfunction
  • API as Table Stakes for the Industry
  • Stacking Tools for Lead Routing
  • Adding New Features, Functions and UI

Read the Transcript

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

Sean Zinsmeister: I’m Sean Zinsmeister.

John: Today our guest is Justin Norris. He’s a solutions architect at Perkuto. Justin thanks for joining us.

Justin Norris: Thanks guys. Good to be here.

John: All right. In the news today, Sean, you had a couple of articles and a few things talking about B2B advertising trends. What are you watching over there?

Sean: I’ve gotten a chance to chat with a bunch of different people just from the community about what they’re seeing from B2B advertising as well as a few analysts as well. It’s tough to drive correlations or draw correlations rather between the rise in ad blocking or if people are just not engaging with it. A lot of people are starting to see very sharp diminishing returns, especially from an acquisition standpoint on just regular B2B display ads.

Now that being said, what is interesting is now more people moving over to take advantage of the custom audience tools. This is some of the stuff, John, that Chris Penn has talked about with you over on the Marketing Over Coffee show where you have Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and even Google now that will actually let you exports from a different system. Then upload a custom list of email addresses or accounts, kind of match them and use that as your sort of targeting system.

I think a lot of people are starting to use that as they dive into these ABM strategies and really want to be able to hone in on how they’re exercising their ad budget.

Justin, I’m curious, because you obviously get to touch a lot of different types of clients on things like that. Anything that you’re seeing that’s interesting on the B2B ad side? Does that seem in line with what you’re seeing, or just curious if there’s anything new there?

Justin: Well there’s two thoughts that I have about that. We mostly help our clients in terms of their marketing technology stack and their operations which are not typically managing ad spend or anything like that.

The ways in which what you’re saying makes sense to me, I think there’s two challenges that companies continue to face. One of them is a lot of companies don’t yet have a basic ability to demonstrate ROI on ad spend. I think there’s huge gaps in terms of the ability to track and store data about and model the influence of these different channels. I think that could be an obstacle to continuing to invest in them.

I think that the promised land of convergence between martech and adtech isn’t fully there yet. It’s something that we’re hearing about for some time.

To your point, Sean, about being able to export custom audiences and move them over, there’s still a lot of manual steps. Even Marketo’s integration between some ad tools in your marketing automation platform, it’s still very manual. I think the level of automation and the ability to combine insights and execution around ad spend haven’t fully crystalized for a lot of companies, and that’s something else that I could see influencing that.

Sean: I think that there’s a lot of good points there, Justin, and I think that the other thing that I’m seeing is that … Especially as we enter into a new year cycle and budgets start to be scrutinized a little bit more. I think that being able to justify to your CMO or whoever is pulling the purse strings, as it were, around your marketing spend, being able to justify an overall ‘halo effect’ I think is the feel good marketing starts to be a really tough sell to make a business case for.

Versus I think that there’s a lot of people that don’t need any more convincing that retargeting belongs as an evergreen piece in your marketing mix. I think that it’s going to be interesting to see where the budgets continue to play out for sure.

John: How about as far as rolling it across to B2C too? Do you guys see the same kind of thing, diminishing returns in generic advertising? Or is it more just that people are getting more advanced? They’re doing better retargeting? They’re doing better whitelisting of their ad spend and they just don’t have the same problems? It’s not just the spray and pray people actually doing a better job.

Justin: From my perspective, we don’t have a ton of B2C clients. I think the vast majority are in the B2B space. I don’t have a ton of comment on that.

Something that might be interesting to look at, and stop me if we’ll tackle this a little bit, but something that might be interesting to look at more to the contrary of the idea of decreasing B2B ad revenues is the whole thing of ABM and outbound being cool again. The notion of targeted display, account targeted display being like an air cover type of process for an ABM strategy.

Maybe this does get at something that you were driving at, John, it could just be that people are being a bit more targeted, a bit more smart in how they’re deploying ads rather than being so broad based because they’re more focused that is creating a more efficient spend.

Sean: I think you’re spot on with that too. I also think, John, that there’s a big difference between the performance marketer that’s looking at, say, retargeting as a tried and true tool to say, “I run an ecommerce solution, okay, or a marketplace model where certain tactics likea cart abandonment retargeting and looking at following people all the way down through a, you know, a non-touch sales process makes a lot more sense than some sort of a multi-touch ABM process, which is a little bit harder to build those types of attribution models.”

I think that there’s an evolving mindset there as well where you can’t really be looking at the same metrics as you would be, especially from a B2C side or from a performance marketer that you would need to be from an ABM B2B mindset.

Justin, zooming out a little bit, tell us a little bit more about Perkuto and the work that you’re doing for those folks over there, for those who don’t know?

Justin: Sure. Perkuto is a marketing operations consultancy. We help clients build and manage their sales and marketing tech stacks. Also manage their marketing operations in terms of building out their capabilities, campaign operations, manage services, kind of all that fun stuff.

My role as a solutions architect is really to help clients who are looking to design new functionality or new capabilities, whether that’s bringing on new technologies or rolling out new capabilities within the components of the stack that they already have.It is a very tailor made role for me. I started out in-house doing sales or marketing operations at a tech startup, and I was a marketing jack of all trades. Really was drawn towards being able to build systems and string together different technologies to do cool things. That was the thing that I was always gravitating towards even though I came from a marketing background, and not necessarily a tech background.

This is kind of a tailor made role for me because that is what I do. People bring their toughest challenges, their requirements that seem very difficult to fulfill, and we look at how we solve for that using technology. It’s a ton of fun and it is a great space to be in right now.

Sean: No, absolutely. Justin, I’m curious, when you start to look at some of the clients that you get to work with, do you think that some of the success of Perkuto can be attributed to you guys are filling a gap and a need for the expertise that they’re not able to hire internally? Or is it more that they have some best practices in place, but they just want to be able to polish and move things to the next level? Curious if there’s any sort of commonalities that you see between clients about like what leads them to work with a group like Perkuto.

Justin: I think there’s a mix, but I think it is definitely biased towards the first scenario where we are technology rich and we are expertise poor as an industry or across B2B in general. They say that marketing operations is about people process and platforms or people process and tools. I think tools has gotten the lion’s share of the attention and love, and it’s certainly more bright and shiny and interesting.

What you then have is you have all this technology, this huge overhead occurring yearly subscription spend and customers that have implemented it poorly or have implemented it insufficiently. Don’t know how to get all the value out of it that they were promised during sales cycles or that they believe can be achieved.That’s a big part of the business because particularly our agency focuses exclusively on Marketo. Marketo has experienced a ton of growth, and we also work with Salesforce where Marketo is kind of the common thing that unites all of our customers.

There’s not enough people. Every client we work with has also … Very often, most clients we work with are very often trying to find somebody in-house as well to manage their system on the inside to work with us, and they’re very difficult to find. There’s one breed of client that’s like that, and then there’s another breed where people have internal talent. They are mature. They are looking for help to either take something to the next level, so reevaluate it, move themselves to the next phase of the marketing automation maturity roadmap, or to do some interesting special project.

Like they have a particular use case, whether it’s … We could talk about this a little bit more perhaps further on, but building some custom application to extend the capabilities. Stitching together different tools in interesting ways or integrating data from products from external systems and doing something more sophisticated. I personally really enjoy working on those projects. Those are kind of the two flavors that I tend to see.

Sean: What are the main buckets where you see a lot of the stitching going together? For us in recent episodes having talked to people, we know that the sales operations stuff has really increased. There’s a lot of sales tools that are coming into the mix and a lot of integration points there. Is that on the top of the list or are there other stitching together you see that’s a lot more common?

Justin: Yeah, that’s a big part of it. This is a really interesting subject and at the root of it … You guys probably remember maybe a few years ago, it was still a subject of contention. I remember like reading posts on David Raab’s blog about will the future be like where you buy your clout and you have … Like you buy Adobe’s suite of tools or you buy Salesforce’s suite of tools? Or will it be a future of best of breed where you buy the tool that you think is the best for your requirements in a specific category, and you plug them in together?

I think I would love to hear if either of you would dispute this, but I think that best of breed feels to me has indisputably won the day in terms of the format wars of how people will build their martech stacks.Interoperability is a crucial component of that. A tool that only works in isolation; it doesn’t plug into the rest of your stack. It probably feels rather inconceivable to us right now. It’s sort of become table stakes.

Where this runs into problems, speaking to your point, John, is we have an interoperable stack, but we don’t have in many cases unified governance of that stack. There is an issue with sales ops, marketing ops buying their own tools that have overlapping, but not entirely the same functionality. The probably classic example of this is like marketing is messaging people at mile a minute out of their MAP platform.

Meanwhile sales has got their new outreach.io or their SalesLoft subscription or their Yesware subscription, and they are messaging people that way. Sales is becoming their own mini communication automation coordinators. There’s a real potential for conflict there.

We don’t … Haven’t really done as many projects about that. I think that is just an emerging area of dysfunction that needs to be addressed within a lot of enterprises. A lot of the stitching together that we’ve done is more along the data collection point of view where companies have different tools that have different outbound or customer touching capabilities. Say video marketing, content hubs, tactile marketing or postcards, letters, physical goods.

They want to be able to stitch them together and automate that process and coordinate it from one central platform, which typically is Marketo and collect the data on the results back into one central platform so that they can report on it. This is an interesting challenge in some cases, but it’s getting easier and easier to do when you have an approach and a model for how it all fits together. It’s not a future that’s very far away for companies, but it is something that they, we find, tend to need help planning a strategy for how all those pieces need to fit together.

Sean: Well, Justin, one of the things we were kicking around in the pre-show before is this idea of revenue operations, which, on the Infer side and people who are looking at predictive analytics and those types of solutions, and especially looking at data reporting, forecasting, things like that. This seems to be maybe one uniting front that I’m starting to see pop up in more organizations.

I’m curious, is revenue operations the great uniter of marketing ops and sales operations? Or does it feel more like something that’s more of a sales ops with a different name type of thing? I’m curious, what are you seeing on the revenue operations side?

Justin: It’s a concept that is gaining in its relevance and currency. I think the whole ABM craze has a lot to do with this because if we move to a world where we have common strategy for generating revenue that isn’t marketing-led and then hand off to sales, but it’s marketing and sales working together. Then you need to manage this in a more unified way.

I think it’s something that people are talking about more, and I’m sure in a few very forward looking companies, this is more of a reality. The actual market out there I don’t think has nearly caught up to that, and we see everything from real division, real dysfunction where you can’t get a new field in the CRM implemented very easily. Something that would seem to be as simple as that, but it’s a real problem because, “Oh no, we’re marketing ops, sales ops controls to CRM. We can’t go there.”

To a point where probably the next step along that maturity is more like a council model where they’re still functionally independent, but we have cross functional meetings and people getting together. Actively trying to align their operations to a place where some companies have like a federated model where it actually is the same entity. We do it that way internally here at Perkuto. We’re still relatively small, so it’s easier to do that in a smaller organization. I’ve yet to see a really big organization that’s doing it really well, but it could just be that I haven’t heard about it.

I think it is a natural place for it to go, and at the same time, I think you could say contra to that, and I’m curious what you guys have seen or think about it that there are still some very natural dividing lines like territory management or compensation operation. Stuff that sales ops just has to handle it that marketing ops doesn’t fully do. Does that still need to be split out or can it still just be managed within a unified function?

Sean: Yeah, I think that part of that has been companies who really want to establish the CRO role in terms of like what does a chief revenue officer actually own? I do think that that role to me feels more like a sales centric role. I would also argue that some of the other dividing lines that I’m starting to see as well are lines of demarcation that are being drawn on the demand gen side where demand gen is now looking more like a sales development side.

I’ve definitely seen this happen more, especially with ABM and outbound becoming more popular trends for some businesses, especially in the B2B realm. Brute force sales development tactics are just the way that they’re going to break through, and the way that they’ll have the most calculable and also predictive return, if you’re looking at it from a budgetary standpoint.

I do think that there are some things that, like you said, I think territory planning is a great example that will tend to more fall on the line of sales rather than this hybrid role. I do think there’s another interesting trend to see the CRO positions on the rise and some of these even bigger companies are starting to see it more and more. It’ll be interesting to see whether that looks like more of a CMO type of role where they’re taking on some more of those responsibilities or more of a sales role. I sort of see it as more of a chief sales role, if you will. Yeah, interesting to see where that heads in the new year in particular.

John: Justin, how about as far as tool stacks that you guys work with? Obviously, Marketo is a commonality for you across all your clients, and I imagine Salesforce is probably present the majority of times. What about other tools that are in the stack? What are the trends as far as what are the other hot things to patch in there where people have seen success?

Justin: I would say the biggest additional piece of technology that we are called upon to bring into play is something to do with attribution and reporting. We have a lot of customers that are using Marketo’s own advanced analytics module. Sometimes that’s still contained within Marketo, but in a lot of other cases, people want to do reporting out of Salesforce more in a third party tool. The native capabilities of CRM are just insufficient.

We work a lot with Bizible. They are a partner of ours. Another tool that I’m a big fan of is called Path to Scale, which is a lifecycle modeling and attribution tool that lives inside Salesforce. That would be the number one because it’s still, as I mentioned before, one of the biggest gaps for a lot of companies and something that they need. We typically generally bring in an external solution for that.

Predictive is a part of it as well. I know that we have at least one common customer using Infer and a few other customers using other platforms. Predictive is a piece. I think people are predictive curious. I still feel like a surprisingly small percentage of companies are at the level of maturity where they’re ready to invest in a tool like that, which surprises me because I would have thought we would have been a bit further along in that direction right now in terms of penetration into the market.

Then ABM is becoming another big one. Marketo launched their big ABM module in the summer, and we’ve had a lot of people talking about that. They’ve priced it to be very enterprise focused, but also tools like lean data. Engagio has really emerged. We have a few common customers there, and that is one of the tools that I’m also very excited about in terms of where I see ABM heading in a more mature direction.

Sean: What do you think, looking down, even if you had to look at a couple years … It was interesting. I was running to some Google Trends reports, and I wanted to compare the hype of inbound marketing and sort of what that looked like against ABM. It actually pales in comparison about the delta between the two about how hot inbound marketing still is. ABM certainly has sort of taken off in its own right.

I think if I had to offer an opinion, I think that ABM really finds its place into your marketing mix. By that I mean as a diversified strategy from both a technological standpoint, but it’s also a sales and marketing … a go to marketing strategy as well where you don’t … I don’t like this idea of companies throwing out a leads-based model because in many regards marketing’s job is to supply leads to fill those accounts. You also can use marketing to have that upmarket strategy as well.

I’m curious, do you see that portfolio approach coming out of the normalization as the hype dies down from some of the things? Because I don’t know that anybody is really saying anything new about ABM at the moment. I think that they are looking for frameworks to help drive these strategies, which I think is why we’ve seen the rise of some of these technologies. I’m curious about what you think the output is going to look.

Justin: I’m glad you asked that. I’ve been a bit ABM skeptical from the beginning. In essence, part of that I think is I have a bit of a contrarian streak. When I saw it taking off in such a … I’m going to call it a faddish way, my internal skepticism gets kicked off a little bit. I don’t think that’s fully warranted. I think that’s unquestionable that there’s something happening, but I think we’re also seeing part of like a pendulum of inbound marketing is everything and don’t interrupt your customers. Let them come to you when they’re searching. There’s some truth in that.

Then the other swing of the pendulum is don’t just collect all of these random points of inbound interest that may not even be relevant to you. Go and decide who you want to sell to and then go and find them, meet them where they are. Fish with spears, not with nets. There’s truths in both, and anybody that is like … Not marketing; that’s 2015, and it’s all ABM now. It’s like you can’t take such a black and white mindset I think.

I think, like anything, the tenets of what are valuable in each strategy will stick around, and the dross will fall away. I think what I would sort of predict going into next year is that 2016 was the year of ABM really gaining a lot of currency in the mainstream consciousness. People feeling like, “Wow, this is really … You know, not necessarily implementing yet, but feeling like kind of ABM guilt.” Like I should be doing ABM if it’s something that’s relevant to you as a company and looking into tools. Maybe buying some tools, but not necessarily having a coherent strategy around it or a real understanding of what it means.

The most forward thinking conceptualization of what ABM could actually be, practically speaking, what is actually real about this beyond just I’m going to target accounts rather than generate leads is something that was articulated to me at least by Glen Lipka who is over at Engagio who built a product at Marketo initially and is now helping Jon Miller to build Engagio.

There are kind of foundational metaphors, this idea of a play, which is like a football play where you’ve got a football team. You have 11 people on one team, 11 people on the other team, and then you develop a play of how you’re going to approach a situation. Similarly, the thinking is like, “All right, we’ve got a range of roles on … on the marketing or sales side on the company that’s trying to go out and get business.”

There’s a range of roles that need to be involved in an ABM strategy. There’s also a range of roles over on the customer side, the prospect side that we need to talk to. How do we orchestrate all those processes, not in a completely automated way, but in a sort of automation assisted way?

Their PlayMaker tool I feel is one of the most forward thinking ABM tools that’s there today, and represents a real path forward in terms of operationalizing ABM and something real. You could do something similar without Engagio with that concept and the way that they’ve developed to assist companies in doing it. I think is where ABM has to go if it’s not just going to be something that dies off and people are like, “Ah, there’s nothing … nothing to this.” That’s how I see it actually becoming operational.

John: How about as far as best practices then? Are there any things that you see that most of your clients are doing wrong when you show up and things that you have to get them on track so that they can just function better in the future?

Justin: I think basic data and tracking is still a real challenge for a lot of companies when it comes back to reporting and things like that. The ability to capture clear and consistent data across multiple touch points for all names that are entering your database. There’s a lack of consistency in taxonomies. I’m sure this is something you guys probably see out in your necks of the woods as well, and the impact that this makes and just prioritizing technology over process.

Having tools in place and feeling like the tools are supposed to be solving our problems, but not having internally a process for, “You know, this is how we deploy a campaign. This is the … the three or four data points that need to be present, you know, in all of our links. These are hidden fields that need to be in our forms. These are scripts that need to be running here and there.”

These processes don’t exist in a lot of companies. I think people hire us sometimes to help with tools, but a lot of what we tend to end up talking about is process. Because it’s just an area where it hasn’t matured as rapidly as people have been able to buy technology.

Sean: In terms of the flow part of the sort of Stack & Flow idea, I’m curious, another thing that we were chatting about was again this interest in rise of APIs and connections and building these stacks. Are you seeing more client interest in taking advantage of APIs, or at least demanding that there is an API option available from the technologies that they select? Is this becoming more of a must have versus a nice to have?

Justin: Yeah, unquestionably, API connectivity has become something that we would consider table stakes with a new tool. I think that there’s developed a greater comfort level for marketers who are not necessarily technical marketers, but who want to extend their reach to feel okay about dealing with an API, and like that isn’t such a scary thing anymore.

The most simple expression of this that we see in our practice is a web hook. Marketo has the capability to call web books. Basically just posting a request to an external service and having that external service do something else or get data back. One of the companies that I think has done a very good job capitalizing on this is a company like Clearbit, which, to my mind, sort of developed as an API first tool where you present a very lightweight service that is accessible by an API. There’s a big license to buy. There isn’t a big implementation to do. You just send some data over here and then you get some data back. The more you use it, it will scale and the costs will increase in a variable way.

We’re seeing lots of tools like this that work in that way. Even some friends of mine in the Marketo community recently launched a new plug-in that lets you through Webhook basically pass any arbitrary JavaScript over to their service. It will perform calculations, whatever you need, whatever JavaScript can do. Even calling other external services from within that virtual environment and then passing the results back to you.

Basically, it’s like the functionalization, if you’re going to take like a computer programming mindset. Functionalization of all these capabilities where you right now have tools in your toolkit that you can just, “All right, I’m just going to call over here. Get this tool to perform this function. Bring back some data and then I’m going to act on that.” If you think about it, tools like predictive work in a similar way. We pass our data over to them. We get back predictive insights and then we drive it through our system of execution, whether that’s passing somebody over to sales, nurturing them in a different way, sending them different communications, all of that kind of stuff. That’s number one.

Then number two is something that I’ve just personally been seeing an explosion of very recently, and this could just be an anomaly or a blip. It’s just customers like more comfortable building these custom interfaces on top of the tools that they’re using. Customers that are not content to say, “All right, this is a limitation of Marketo and so that’s just it.” Or, “I need to buy another tool,” but say, “All right, let’s … Let’s invest in building not a completely custom application, but a … Let’s build an interface that lets us through the API, tap in and, you know, do more dynamic and … and targeted and customized email marketing that Marketo could do on its own.” Or, “Let’s build a tool that lets our customers talk to our other customers or lets our user group leaders …” If you’re a company that has a user group program, lets them create their own user group programs inside our Marketo instance, but without having to give them access.

Then we see tools like one of my favorite Salesforce applications is called Skuid. I don’t know if either of you guys have heard about it, but it basically lets you create custom interfaces within Salesforce in a completely drag and drop way. No code, no official force. It’s really amazing. They just launched a new feature that basically lets you use their interface building capabilities on top of any enterprise data source. You can basically bring your different data sources together, build your own interface on top of it, create your own application to do whatever you want with very little technical knowledge and skill required.

I think that’s the future, making that more accessible to people and letting them create their own applications to do what they want to do that they don’t want to wait for a native vendor to build that one feature. They go build it themselves.

Sean: How about for the upcoming year? Are there any tools or technologies that you’re watching to come around over the next 12 months? Things even for your own stack or stuff that you are excited to roll out to clients?

Justin: I think it’s a lot of the things that we’ve covered already. I think ABM just will continue to pick up with a lot of the companies that are inclined in that direction. People that have been looking will adopt technologies. People that have adopted will be seeking to implement, re-implement them or become more mature in them. I think this will also bridge the gap between what’s currently considered like sales automation. Does this become subsumed in the ABM category or are those tools hop on board and coexist alongside marketing automation and alongside onsite ABM?

Multichannel, we’re seeing a bit more interest in SMS. It’s not always fully relevant to all B2B customers, but I think more people are getting into mobile and looking at B2B applications of mobile and what does that mean. Data remains huge. Companies have data issues, particularly with ABM that lead to account patching, surprisingly, is a huge thing in like lead routing. We’ve put together stacks would need like three to four different tools just to achieve a lead routing outcome that that customer wanted.

Tools that can help kind of deduplicate, normalize data. We work with companies like RingLead and ReachForce and LeanData, and then that can match together records and help form the concept of an account more cleanly within systems. Those are also tools that I think are going to be really important.

John: Justin, if someone wants to follow up with you or find out more about Perkuto, what’s the best way to get in touch?

Justin: Well they can go to our website, perkuto.com. That’s P-E-R-K-U-T-O dot com, and I’m always happy to get an email at justin at perkuto d0t com.

John: Sean, how about if folks want to learn more about Infer and what else have you got going on?

Sean: The best way to find me is just Google Sean Zinsmeister. You can find all the good stuff that I’ve been writing about. I think Q4 for me right now has been all about going back to the writing board and getting my thoughts out there in terms of what’s coming and things like that. You can always find my latest things there, and of course infer.com. If you always want to find me on Twitter @SZinsmeister or LinkedIn is a great way to get a hold of me.

John: All right, that’s great. You can find out more from me over at marketingovercoffee.com. We’ve got a couple of episodes on artificial intelligence that have been pretty hot, and we’ll be doing our year-end wrap up. That’ll do it for us for now. 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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