Nadjya Ghausi of Prezi- Adapting to Prospects, 150k Email a Day, and Pulling the Analytics Together

As Prezi’s┬áVP of Marketing, Nadjya loves building all-star teams with the power to drive global market leadership. One of the things she values most at Prezi is the ability to combine technology, data, and innovative storytelling to develop an authentic brand.

Before joining Prezi, Nadjya held leadership roles at E2open,, Agile Software, and IBM, and was a management consultant at Gemini. She holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, with an undergrad degree in Industrial Engineering (BSIE) from the University of Michigan.


Listen to the Podcast

In this episode Nadjya Explains:

  • How to adapt to a prospect’s area of interest
  • Email Marketing Automation at scale
  • Why tool ownership is critical
  • How to pull all the analytics together

Read the Transcript

Sales and Marketing Automation Tools mentioned in this episode of Stack and Flow:

Prezi, Infer, Pardot, Salesforce, Slack, Confluence, Selligent, Zoom, Influitive, ReturnPath, Optimizely, HotJar, Litmus

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

Sean Zinsmeister: And I’m Sean Zinsmeister.

John: And today’s guest is Nadjya Ghausi, she’s the VP of marketing at Prezi. She’s here to tell us about what they’ve got going on. But Sean, as we get started here you have an article from HBR, about machine intelligence. What’s going on there?

Sean: Yeah, this is actually an article that was published back in June, 2016, and it was talking about machine learning and its effect on sales, and where this balance is gonna come up. And, we talk about this topic quite a lot, where you have a lot of go-to market work flows, we call it, that are fairly templated and those types of templates are going to be easily made redundant, through things like AI.

But I think that where the line gets drawn, where the article kind of gets to the core, the sort of core thesis, is around … Well there’s the separation of the tactical and then the more strategic, where AI can help automate a lot of these redundant, more templated work flows. But when it comes to some of the strategic decision making, that’s not something necessarily that can be automated.

Nadjya I wanted to get your thoughts on this, ’cause I know that this really ties in quite neatly to what you guys look at in terms of Prezi and presentation, but when it comes to thinking about machine learning and how automated and mechanized the sales process should be, I’d be curious to get your initial thoughts on that.

Nadjya: Sure, thanks for having me on the show. And before I launch into responding on the HBR article, I thought it’d be useful just to share a little bit about Prezi as for some of your listeners who may or may not know who Prezi is.

Just as a little background we come from the world where it’s a presentation platform, and it’s a single interactive canvas, and is really built on being a dynamic non-linear experience that makes presentations more engaging, persuasive and memorable. And we have moved into the business segment and we have been around since 2009 and have over 75 million users. Plus, over that time frame, so we’re sort of considered the disrupter in the presentation space and have expanded pretty aggressively into a number of different markets on the business side.

Yeah and so our background is very much from how people communicate more effectively. So, it’s very interesting being asked to comment on something like an HBR article about why sales people need to develop machine intelligence, because there’s a lot of interesting insights in this HBR article and so I thought I’d highlight some of the things that resonated with me as a marketing VP and what we do at Prezi. And then also some things that we’re thinking about that are the strategic side that compliments where some of these technologies are going.

So, the first thing I wanna say is that it’s interesting from what I’ve read in these articles and what I’m seeing is that AI’s definitely going more mainstream. Early discovery tasks are already common in marketing, and behavioral profile’s already happening as well. So I do see AI picking up a lot more of the transactional type of capabilities in sales. And what’s kind of interesting to see, it’s even getting smart enough to know when it hits its own limits.

So there’s a particular quote I thought was really interesting in this HBR article and that’s “Machine learning and automation tools, for example, will be able to source, qualify and execute far more sales opportunities than reps can keep up with. One of the things we think about and the investments we make in technology here at Prezi is that, the efforts that marketing and sales organizations put into getting the prospect in customer contact data, and that’s via campaigns we have online events, and ensuring the data quality, adding relevant information about the profile, reaching out to the person creating the nurture cycle. This culmination of information is collected via a myriad of tools, and it’s all a critical step to know who and how you wanna engage.

Now AI can definitely play a role in this, and there’s already significant costs invested, by the time you get to the point where you’re sales people wanna take that over for marketing and have a conversation, oftentimes a presentation with that prospect or customer. We did a little back in the envelope here to quantify how big the stakes are about getting that right, and if you think about some of the B2B funnel metrics, more awareness, to interest, to evaluation, it’s a pretty narrow funnel for success. Average B2B researchers, people who are researching B2B prospects, do an average of 12 searches before they get to a brand-specific site. And then average flip-through rates for banner social Google searches and such, range from like less than 0.2 to about 34% CTR and that’s if you’re at the high end of a top search from Google.

If you get them to visit your site or read your blogs or emails, it narrows even further, 5 to 20% flip-through rate. And then you get to your valued [inaudible 00:05:19] evaluators and this is where the most promising opportunities lie. And we kinda look at that as a juncture between marketing and sales. And the opportunity, where the human touch makes a difference.

So although machines might be driving a company’s most qualified leads, the bottom of the funnel still remains what we think is kind of a blind spot between sales and marketing. This is where the human touch is needed and needs to be executed strategically. They aren’t gonna be shooting fish in a barrel anymore no matter how advanced AI is. And then there was another interesting element about the evolution of a sales person’s skills. Your HBR article is very interesting in that it talked about how sales leaders have to transform and make sure there’s clear escalations, protocols for managing the most valuable situations, and then sales reps don’t let a robot lose a big sale.

So the gaps right now, and I think this is such a fast developing field that, come back in 2 years and there’ll be many different, probably versions of the capabilities in AI, but nuance is a communication such as navigating persuasion, appropriate empathy, adaptability to what the person wants to hear about. Data informs, but the delivery is still really important and there’s a human touch element that I think has to be part of how AI is incorporated in that.

So, HBR talked about human touch that encompass judgment and shaping strategies, so whether it’s live or virtual that human touch is still a critical part of the sales process and really relevant to a skills set of what we think the next generation of successful sales people look like.

So when we think about what that gap is, the skills bridge, we think that there’s a lot that happens between the marketing qualification, or ability of the sales person to adapt to the prospect’s area of interest and be persuasive in how the information’s navigated or communicated. So this is farther down the funnel, beyond just identifying the best prospects. And it’s really important because we think that the skill sets that sales people of the future need to have, is that adaptability and flexibility, to conversationally sell or present, and that’s all about interactive engagement and being more memorable and persuasive.

So it all helps get more forward into the sales funnel and it’s pretty simple. You’re adapting to what they wanna hear when they wanna hear it. So seems to me, with all the upfront investments in AI and other tools, why not ensure that these investments deliver on the promise and potential that’s been on Earth by things like the artificial intelligence that’s been built in to figuring out who are the best targets to talk to.

Anyway I hope that … That’s kind of a longer dissertation but I think it’s interesting in that, it’s looking at it in a more holistic way beyond just point solutions of where I think the value is today. But, it’s rapidly changing.

Sean: Yeah, and I think … I mean you make some really really powerful points there, where it does worry me a little bit where we have things that are starting to emerge like conversation analytics, where we’re now starting to use natural language processing to understand the different patterns of … We’re recording lots of different phone calls and then picking up speech patterns. I mean there’s part of it where using analytics as a coaching mechanism starts to make sense, but I do think that there’s that over-mechanization, that danger of losing the human touch and everybody sounding the same, and then it just becomes spam, at that point.

And I think that, where analytics really becomes in handy, everything is looking to get an edge. We’re looking at the age of probability here, and the more information we have, the less uncertainty. And that’s the equation we’re trying to drive. Where I think the danger is is like you were talking about, to follow the stuff blindly, I think does damage the sales experience overall. And it leaves, I think, if we don’t recognize that happening in the age of innovation I do think you’re right, there’s this very probably widening skills gap that you recognize, that sales people of the future might have.

John, I wanted to add your voice to this because I know that this is something that you think about a lot and in various roles. Anything new to add to the thesis there around sales and machine learning?

John: Yeah, definitely. I mean I think one big thing to think about and consider is we already do have zero friction transactions. We have the Amazon model where somebody goes and buys what they want and there’s no human touch involved whatsoever. And so over on the B2B side though, or with any product that’s earlier cycle, that you have to have the human in there because you’re not sure if you have product market fit and then you have the educational component where you’re doing the missionary sale going in and explaining some kind of enterprise solution to somebody who doesn’t even comprehend that they have a need or how this thing works.

And so at that point is just … Can not be automated because you have no idea what kind of response, literally every person is gonna have a unique set of questions or problems that maybe are a match with your product and maybe not. And so so much of the automated intelligence is based on having a huge data set on where things go, and so much of higher ticket sales is about exploring and just figuring out what’s going on so you have nothing to work with. It’s literally everyone is unique.

And then it comes down to where the rubber meets the road is you have this unique opportunity to educate and inform, and that’s why I love the Prezi angle on this here, because it’s like the ability to become a more effective instructor or educator and to be able to sell having a really sharp tool kit that can get to points quickly and educate, that’s … We don’t have to worry about artificial intelligence stealing that job, because that’s just not gonna go away.

Sean: Right, and that’s where … One of the microcosms I think to look at, how everybody went from the bots craze to now an extremely bearish market, bots. Like I think if you look at any of these that are writing about the machine learning industry today, bots are sort of at the last thread. They’re not excited about them. And mostly because it’s the lack of sophistication, like you said. Use that as a microcosm in what we’re talking about with sales where you have this … A bot is not being able to understand. It can parrot language back and forth looking for those character patterns, but it can’t quite understand and then make that as fluid as we want.

Remember John, we used to talk about the intelligent voice recognitions over the phone, it’s like sometimes I’m just the guy that just wants to pound zero just to get to a human as fast as possible. But that does lead dicely into talking about the work that you guys are doing over at Prezi, Nadjya. I’m curious, so how are you guys … I wanna just kinda zoom out just a little bit and think about how you guys are looking at the industry. What sort of pain points are you guys looking to solve. Because there’s obviously a lot of productivity software out there, but I think that you guys have a really focus on a clever nitch and I was curious if we might be able to share some words about what you guys are kinda seeing over there.

Nadjya: Sure, and this builds off some of the conversation we just had, because when you think about what the goals are when you have that moment, and we all know getting to that moment where the prospect or customer’s so critical in the B2B side, what the goal is. Like interactive engagement a more memorable and persuasive result that kind of moves that sales funnel forward.

Prezi’s been really focused on taking the core capabilities, the visual canvas, and the ability to adapt on the fly to what people want to talk about. So it has the dynamic nature, so it’s not static, you’re able to go to the points that you want to, when you want to do that, so it’s not a static linear forced march, in a post-PowerPoint revolution, of going from 1 to 80. And so the dynamics have changed so much in the way people want to consume information. The homework they’ve already done before they even engage with you, and Prezi has put that capability, it’s visual stunning, it is the kind of thing that is very shareable, and is … We’ve done a lot of research that says it’s very memorable. I mean in a world where so many interactions are digital, how do you stand out?

And for a lot of people, they’re trying to find ways to be more memorable, be more persuasive, and be able to be more interactive in a way that’s useful to their prospects and customers. So I’m speaking specifically on the B2B side. Of course there’s a ton of visuals, stunning presentations that Prezi’s done for other industries in EDU and Hollywood, and you name it. But in this specific case, I think bringing it back to that essence is really important because this a culmination of all the investments you’ve made in technology, and why blow it at that moment when that’s the point where people get convinced, do I wanna move forward?

And I think you guys had some good comments about that whole product market fit. I mean these are all things that aren’t sometimes explained exactly by a bot or in the text, they want to talk to somebody.

John: Okay so let’s slide over to the stacking. Let’s talk about that kind of, where do the majority of prospects come from, and what are the systems you guys are using to keep track of folks and get them introduced to Prezi, and get them on board.

Nadjya: So Prezi’s kind of unique. We’re one of the top 500 websites in the world and we have huge traffic in over 75 million plus registered users. So, as such we have specific tools that service both B2B and B2C to have a seamless flow and to our funnel, and optimize across both. So we’re a little bit different than just a straight B2B play in terms of companies and the types of tools we use. So I kinda bucket it into 3 areas: intelligence, operational … Actually 4, engagement and web tech.

So for intelligence, we use Infer, for predictive analytics and scoring of our leads. And so that’s been really great because that’s helped us identify where the majority of our best leads come from, so that’s been really useful in working with sales. And then we rerun our scores every few months, as our data set of deals continues to grow, so we keep it up to date. We also work with Pardot, on engagement and nurture. And so that is an important part of our customer data and using it to nurture our inbound sales leads. And it’s also integrated to Salesforce and using the engagement studio tool to run multiple marketing automation programs.

On the operational side we use Salesforce, Slack and Confluence. So the majority of interaction, both Ad Hoc and also from a project side.

Engagement, we use Prezi business, so we use everything I’m telling you about we use already, we use it for internal meetings, all-hands trade shows on iPads and our sales force uses it integrated with Slack and also for tracking analytics. We work with Selligent as well, and if you’re not familiar with Selligent, this is the platform we use to run our mass marketing emails. We have about 65 plus product triggers in 9 supported languages to up to 75 million users. So, we send literally 150 thousand emails a day. So scale was super important to us and that tight integration with our customer database was a critical part of why we went with a large-scale email program. We use Zoom for conferences and webinars. Influitive, we’re in the early phases for customer advocacy and ReturnPath is a new product we’ve added to our stack for email data quality. So those are all engagement.

Web technologies: HotJar, Optimizely I think you’re familiar with all those. Chat on the website and in-product. And we have our internal website analytics and tracking. So that’s kind of the broader brush … And oh one other tool: Litmus. It’s a smaller company but we test email rendering across platform on that. So I can’t imagine you talked to a marketing person who doesn’t have a plethora of tools. But each one plays their role together. So I think it’s a really important … That’s why I think of them in the buckets that they are, because we have to measure their contribution on those elements. So that’s kind of a high level view.

Sean: Well in terms of, you guys have cornucopia of different tools in your stack, in terms of your team set-up, Nadjya. How does ownership of these tools to make sure you’re getting the most of … How does that accountability … What’s the team layout, how do you guys organize yourselves around the stack?

Nadjya: So that’s a good question because there’s no tool I have that doesn’t have an owner, and I think that’s really important. So, you wanna have a person who is the product owner from a business side, in terms of understanding how to use it and how it works with the other tools. And that way we can make sure that there’s always someone accountable and we can also make sure that this kinda goes into the strategies for a high-performing stack and working together, that these tools are integrated and that we collect right now, from our intelligence tools to operational execution, all the data on the lead types we track, we don’t keep information siloed. Because all of this informs to the total life cycle of the whole customer process from a point they have the first touch all the way through till the opportunity’s closed.

So, I have a demand gen team and the majority of the tool ownership probably resides within there, but we have it at each point. From early stages of awareness to acquisition all the way through to the customer marketing side, and how do you keep people engaged. And there’s some newer errors, like customer privacy, that we’re investing in where we’ll have somebody … We have somebody on board already actually, right? And we launched and we got a whole program around it, ’cause that obviously requires a programmatic spin as well as a technology and administrator role to relay the strategy around how we do that.

Sean: What about from project management angle? One of the things I always like talking to go to market leaders about is that you have all these tools and then all these different people who are owning these tools. What’s your strategies for making sure that everybody’s on the same page, do you use any agile methodologies or is there a project management software that is your central, your one source of truth as it were. How do you guys go about getting things done?

Nadjya: Boy, there’s always a lot of things in play at any point in time, I think the slack communications will have a channel for each project. We have a channel for marketing as well. We have compliments pages that track the assets and the milestones as they’re being created. Obviously we have web conferences, we have, Prezi’s kind of unique in that we have an office here, we have an office in Hungary. We have to stay on the same page with the product team. We’re very tightly tied between marketing and product. And we have our own all-hands meeting.

So we try actually more to over-communicate, rather than under-communicate. Mainly because we find that’s where you find some of the crosshatches in some of the things that are being done in parallel.

Sean: Okay, let’s pause and jump for a second though, you’d mentioned analytics. Tell us more about on that front, what are you guys doing there and where are the sign posts that you’re adjusting at and what systems are you using?

Nadjya: So we are a very very data-driven company. From a number of different areas, because the website is the funnel, that is an important part where we do a lot of tracking ourselves, we’ve built a lot of the capabilities to know about visits, to know about feature usage and things like that. And we do a lot of growth hacking, a lot of testing, testing, testing, to make sure we optimize against that. So that’s a constant part of it. We use optimizely, we use HotJar, tools like that that then tell us about website performance, as well as the design UX team doing a constant set of iterations against that.

So there’s a lot of analytics that inform around that. We have our own internal analytic systems that give us the information on everything from visitors, trial to pay, trial to subscribe, all the metrics that tell you a little bit more about the health of, the growth side of the house.

On the analytics side, on the B2B side, we have a lot of reporting that comes out of salesforce that is shared, we do a joint session with sales, and we kind of go through and see what the impact is for the campaigns, or the leads, or the results. What do they turn into? And we even do forensics looking backwards to see what were the touches so we can see more of what the customer journey is, both on the site and also through the campaigns that we do.

And at Prezi we’ve also taken that onboard because in the B2B world, since analytics are driving so much of the decision making that’s happening in terms of technology, investments and others, as well as the customer journey and behavior. Prezi has got analytics built into it as well, so for example if you share your Prezi, you’re able to have the link you can know when it was viewed, what was particularly interesting. And be able to respond more effectively and in a more relevant fashion to what your prospects or customers are looking at.

Then that also helps, by virtue of having that little life cycle where you created, you presented, and now you’re tracking your presentation, it informs back to the early stages of the design, that you can improve your presentation knowing whether people did or didn’t look at different parts of your presentation. It helps you hone in and get a better asset that you can share going forward.

So analytics are built in to a lot of what we do here.

Sean: Well one of the questions that I was thinking about is you look at the road ahead and where analytics are gonna play, what challenges are you looking at? Is there data that you’re interested in acquiring that maybe you don’t have or is it just about how do you better organize and make that data actionable. What are you guys thinking about that in terms of the go-to market roadmap around analytics?

Nadjya: In terms of our usage of analytics?

Sean: Yeah.

Nadjya: Yeah, we have a lot, a lot, a lot of data. That is not the problem. The challenge for us is relating it in a way that informs. To the data that’s resonant in other systems that we make sure that we kinda tie it all together. User Journey’s a really important part of that. That means going cross-systems and connecting lots and lots of data together to get that really cohesive view.

So I would say, it’s not the capabilities that are lacking, it is more how to make sense and how to really just synthesize the data into the most useful parts that inform back to our operations, what we can do differently or better.

Sean: Yeah. I love that use of forensics that you were talking about before. I actually think that that’s one of the most … It’s one of the most underused functions as utilities rather of analytics. I actually even look at when I talk to go to market leaders today about their use of predictive, I say it’s probably one of the best auditing tools that you can do to look for efficiencies in your business and where you might be falling down or where you might be actually able to double your efforts in places that you’re actually winning. So I absolutely love that.

John: Okay, so as we were talking this came to me, I hadn’t thought about this earlier, but when we do presentations, at so many companies it’s just the crummy PowerPoint is accepted but with Prezi you can always do presentations and make everything so compelling. Is that a problem there for you guys at work? Does everybody have to come up with a great Prezi every single time they present?

Nadjya: Well, I think using your product develops huge empathy for your users. So you know what’s great and you know the areas you wish you had different kinds of features. But with Prezi, the great thing is we have a whole bunch of embedded templates. So that’s something we’ve invested in over the last year and you’re gonna see more and more. And we have templates, we’ve created everything from strategy to sales kickoff, to it could be an HR training. Plus, all … So that’s basically the base of templates that are built into Prezi and the Prezi business tool.

So there’s a lot of fast start capability, we use a lot of those internally. And then of course we have the ability to create things from scratch as well. So when we do it very much mindful of our brand guidelines. And so we make sure everything is tailored to that but we use it internally and we use a lot of these templates and other capabilities externally as well.

We do have an evangelist team that works with some of the high end presenters as well. For example Ted is an investor in Prezi, we work with Ted and a lot of the major speakers as well. So we have a whole range from the easy to use, to get started, to make your own, to high end designers that get involved. So there’s all different levels of capability of getting started with Prezi. And we do use it for everything from internal to all-hands, to working with customers. So at the end of talking to a customer we will actually send them a Prezi with the information kinda summarized. So they get a chance to experience it and we keep bringing them back so they can understand more about how Prezi works and what it is.

Sean: That’s great. There’s so much there, I always like to ask the folks that we have on, if there are … With everything that we’ve talked about between analytics and the way the team is setup, and just what you’re looking at ahead, there’s some sort of best practices that you consider to leave the audience with, or anything that you can share from your guy’s experience?

Nadjya: Yeah, from marketing … We talk a lot about marketing tech, we started at AI and moved into the stack talking about different aspects of marketing tech, I think what’s really important is knowing what success looks like and how you plan to apply it, it’s people, it’s process, and then it’s also technology. It’s all three. So you can’t be successful with combining that view across all those pieces to make it work, you need to be connected with your sales counterparts. Know more about where they’re succeeding or struggling at different levels in the funnel and tuning your approach. And then don’t buy a product that’s searching for a problem to solve, right? Fix a known issue and build your mastery. Build what you’re really good at.

I’d say one other best practice I think is, make sure you have an owner, invest in training, communicate across your organization so that they see the value of what you’re doing and how it’s being applied and what it means to the business. Measure your base line, take short-term and a long-term view to results. All of these things combined to me will make any marketing organization more successful. If they have the right kind of alignment, right kind of communications, and right set of goals.

John: Thanks Nadjya, that’s great. That’ll do it for us for this week. Thanks for listening. If you’d like to leave us a review, check us out over on iTunes. We’d appreciate it. Sean, anything in closing before we sign off.

Sean: No, nothing you can always just follow everything that I’m doing over on Twitter @szinsmeister. You can Google Sean Zinsmeister, head over to and you can see all the latest articles. Nadjya, if people wanna learn more about you and how to get in touch, and what you guys are doing over at Prezi, what’s the best way to get in touch?

Nadjya: They’re welcome to email me, I’m happy to get any feedback.

John: That sounds great, you can find out more from me over at, 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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