April 12, 2021
20. Safe Airports, Peeking at a Post-Pandemic World w/ Bruce Milne
by Liz Pope
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Like many, Vice President/CMO of Corporate/Business Development Bruce Milne, and his team at Pivot3 never could have prepared for the unique opportunities that COVID-19 would present.
However, not even a pandemic could affect the mission-critical nature of physical security and video surveillance. In the physical security market, 60% of data captured is video, and 80% of that is video surveillance. As we get a taste of what life might be like on the other side of virtual meetings and social distancing, schools and businesses of all types will only have a greater emphasis on safety and security.
With 20 years of marketing experience under his belt, Bruce gives us a peek behind the curtain when it comes to how he and his team market Pivot3’s solutions.
We’ll also touch on:
- An unmatched level of insight that comes with building an executive team that has dabbled in every other function within the organization
- Looking at marketing through the lens of art vs. science
- The power and value of marketer’s ability to write exceptional prose, and synthesizing content based on audience (Sounds like the team over at SealedAir!)
- Building and optimizing your solutions around real-life retrospectives on successful implementations
- Naming products after the outcomes your services will provide (Smart City, Safe Casino, Safe Airport) with vertical-based messaging
Transcript of the Episode
[00:00:03] That what we do is mission critical. It’s one of those things physical security is not something you can ignore, especially in the case of a pandemic. So that’s introduced some new challenges and opportunities to the marketing team that are frankly unprecedented in this generation.
[00:00:19] You’re listening to the Marketing Behind the Curtain Podcast, where we pull back the curtain on the people, processes and technologies leading marketers are using to fuel growth within their organizations. Let’s get into the show.
[00:00:34] Welcome to Marketing Behind the Curtain. Where we take a look at all the hard work that happens by marketers to put a shiny our face on their organization. I’m your host, Devin Kelley of Method Savvy, a consultancy that helps business leaders find better ways to grow their business. Today, I’d like to welcome our guest, Bruce Milne. Bruce is, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer with an awesome organization out of Austin called Pivot3. And Bruce, you’re joining us today from a time zone or two behind. How are things going on your end?
[00:01:09] Great, Devin, thanks for having me on today, really appreciate the opportunity to talk to your audience and always excited to talk about the topic of marketing, obviously near and dear to my heart. Been a marketer for we’ll call it over 20 years, largely from the software side and most recently with Pivot3, have been engaged in taking to market solutions that include hardware as well, not only the software, but the hardware. That’s been a really refreshing, exciting new market opportunity to and challenge to take on. This has obviously been an interesting time for for everybody, both in marketing and sales, especially in the B2B world, as everybody sort of scratches their head about what comes next with the market and the pandemic and all the dynamics that go with that. I will say that one of the advantages that we have as a company is that what we do is mission-critical. It’s one of those things. It’s physical security. It’s not something you can ignore, especially in the case of a pandemic. So that’s introduced some new challenges and opportunities to the marketing team that are frankly unprecedented in this generation. Right. So it’s been a really exciting, if a little bit trepidation this time to be on the marketing side of the equation.
[00:02:25] Yes, as an agency that often works with software folks, I will say it’s kind of refreshing every once in a while when you get a chance to work with hardware or a physical product. That’s kind of refreshing when someone can walk into a room and say, we sell this actual thing.
[00:02:41] Well, when you’re you build the value of an intangible item like software bits on a CD, you know, it is a very different dialogue with your customers than differentiating between what is otherwise a commodity hardware product. And so the combination of the two, the software and the hardware is really the magic elixir that we found that addresses how customers want to buy this particular product. The product is hyper converged infrastructure software that is basically software defining all the hardware and making it configurable to the specific requirements of the software and the application use case above at that level. So the hyper converged infrastructure space is very technical. The hardware below that, of course, is largely sold on the basis of speeds and feeds and performance and IOPS and so forth. So combining the two together has given us an opportunity to address specific vertical markets, understand the carabao to those vertical markets about resilience, about reliability, about the economics of a solution, suitability to task and focus instead on those attributes as opposed to the complexity of the software or the, largely, commodity speeds and feeds attributes of the hardware. So the combination is really the magic elixir here.
[00:04:00] Yeah, I want to come back to kind of selling the outcome there versus like all the elements along the way, because I think that’s an interesting approach to market. But one of the things I noticed about you in particular here is you have both a marketing kind of on a business development title. And I like the way that the crossing the chasm there to kind of be on both sides of the fence there. So talk to us just a little about your role and how at all you think about kind of sitting in a marketing team versus sitting in a sales or business development seat. And that’s a little different in every organization. But I always think the way that kind of balances out and how the responsibilities kind of roll up and there is is always an interesting thing to get some perspective on.
[00:04:45] Yeah. So I assume you’re talking about crossing the chasm in a general sense and not in the Jeffrey Moore sense. We’ll talk about that separately, because that’s an important part of the mix, that Pivot3. But yeah, my role is an expansive one for a couple of reasons. When I first joined Pivot3, all the executives came from a background of having done many of the jobs across the entire executive suite, that is sales, business development, marketing and general management of specific go to market or divisions of entire businesses. The goal was to have a very well-rounded team that could understand each other’s requirements. So as we we built a high performance company, everybody would have a good appreciation for what the other parts of the business do. So I have spent my career not only in marketing, but running sales organizations, large alliances, strategic alliances for software companies and so forth. One of the things that that Pivot3 really values, of course, is as a smaller company, we’re competing with really large, you know, the top five global infrastructure vendors like Dell and HP and so forth. We have a very small company, was not as much brand recognition.
[00:06:01] So being able to leverage other brands and take to market our solutions through those brands is a key part of our go to market because of my background and experience. I was asked to enlist some of our major strategic partners and to get them on board being a distribution partner for us. So one of the examples is Lenovo. Lenovo, of course, is the largest manufacturer in the world. They have a massive global presence that Pivot3 couldn’t possibly emulate. But it does compete very nicely with some of our major competitors. So we’ve been able to enlist Lenovo as much as a distribution partner, as a solution, go to market partner. And these are the types of relationships that I’ve been managing. The goal, of course, is to embrace these partners, improve their infrastructure, technology with our solutions, take to market a whole product solution designed to meet specific customer outcomes, as you mentioned, and then continue to enable and facilitate that go to market to get a much bigger presence in market. What we would be able to afford ourselves just growing again.
[00:07:09] Yeah, I’m forgetting who off the top of my head, but there’s a quote out there that says, “At a certain point in your career, everybody’s in sales.” Right? And it sounds like that’s kind of what the executive team looks like there and that everybody can have relationships they could build upon or partnerships that you can build upon. And even though your main function may be marketing, there’s certainly marketing into a channel that’s partnerships within a channel and that no one should ever put down their sales have, which I think is a valuable lesson for everybody. And there’s a certain marketing set that I think is in marketing because they don’t want to be doing the sales activities and as important as ever, just the like. Exercise that sales muscle all the time.
[00:07:53] Yeah, Bruce’s corollary to that that’s saying is that there’s a specific time in the quarter, everybody’s in sales and that happens every three months. Right? And we’re a small company. Everybody does contribute to the sales effort. And your audience, I imagine, is largely marketers. One of the things that I promised myself early in my career is that I would never join a company that didn’t value marketing at a strategic level where the contribution of marketing was understood and valued. And I would argue that there’s an equal contribution from the product marketing. You know, the four P’s pricing, packaging, promotion, placement, the demand generation side, the marketing communications side, channel and partner marketing. All of these contribute in a very material way to the go to market, especially when you’ve got, in our case, a dozen people in the field who are taking your stuff directly to the customer. That’s not enough people to cover all the conversations, to move those deals through the stages of consideration, to identify new opportunities and to present the right value proposition to every customer based on the requirements. So marketing has a massive role to play in not only developing these value propositions and enabling the field, enabling the channel partners, but facilitating doing that at scale.
[00:09:09] So in our organization, marketing is very much part of the sales planning, we in many cases we initiate the go to market planning. We’re very focused on pipeline multiples and making sure that there’s enough pipeline in the pipeline right now, but also for six months out, because we understand the velocity of deals is a large enterprise, highly consultative, not very transactional right there. They’re consultative sales solution sales. And so there’s a long tail on these things. And we’re always planning ahead with the sales. Guys are focused on six inches in front of their face. We’ve got to focus on the six months out, make sure there’s adequate pipeline in place. And if there isn’t, get started now, because that’s how long it takes to develop and qualify opportunities into the pipeline. So in every organization that I want to be part of marketing is understood to be a fundamental contributor to the success of the business and not just window dressing.
[00:10:04] So talk to me a little bit about kind of the team that makes up those efforts, because I think you said a couple of interesting things there. One is the fact that for peace, like old school marketing stuff, the stuff that you actually like learning in college marketing class, I feel like our are under par. Right. Like if we just buy some more software that does more stuff, we’ll get some more leads. And you can’t overlook the basics of positioning and marketing value props and what are the elements that allow you to be competitive. And so I think that’s an interesting skill set to say, hey, this is valued within the organization and marketing is valued here for more than just hitting a legal or a pipeline goal. So just talk to me a little bit about the people that you have on your team and kind of using a, I don’t know, dealing with four P’s on an everyday basis versus like building emails or pulling analytics in what seemed to be a very different skill sets.
[00:11:08] Well, I rattled off a few divisions or groups in marketing, we have senior leaders representing each one of those groups, that is channel marketing, marketing, communications, demand generation, product marketing. Each one of those is a distinct group. They collaborate very well together. The value proposition of marketing goes well beyond. So first of all, everybody’s a marketer and everyone’s got an opinion about what would be a great marketing thing to do. And what we found is that, or at least I’ve found in my personal career, is that there’s a heavy weighting of art in marketing, but there’s also an equal weighting of science. There’s a set of techniques that we apply to achieve these outcomes in marketing that are tried and true and tested. We’re obviously having to adapt now with a new reality, with people not being able to go to their place of work. And we have to engage them in a different way because we don’t have events. But the marketing principles still apply. So each of these four groups has their role to play. I would tell you that some of the key things that I really value, of course, is execution. Demand generation is just execution, execution, execution and automation. The Martech stack you choose, it’s going to be really important because execution against a high volume, it’s a numbers game. So execution is a high number of contacts that are qualified. And the opportunity that you’re trying to develop is paramount, but just as important as the quality of the content that you put into that machine.
[00:12:40] And so I really value the folks in my organization. And every one of them has this characteristic of being able to develop really excellent prose and to be able to summarize and simplify messages. And a messaging architecture is of critical importance and staying consistent to that messaging architecture and being true to your brand. All these things my entire team understands, they all have experience and all the elements of marketing. Again, they focus on their major, but they’re well, well studied and all the miners. So everybody understands what good prose looks like. In some cases, there’s a call for long-form prose that is a white paper or a solution brief. In many cases, it’s got to be much shorter. How do I capture someone’s attention with a strong value proposition tied to the care about that specific customer in that market, understanding that person in that market? How do I attract their attention and then offer an offer asset or a call to action that engages them and gets them into the conversation with us? And that’s an art. But there’s also a science to it. Right? So we learn by AB testing, understanding which of the out bounds that we do of the flights was more engaging. We will migrate to using that technique more frequently. So. Covering a lot of ground here, but the net of it is that I have senior leaders in each of those areas, every one of them understands the importance not only of the execution, but of the content that you put into those engines.
[00:14:09] Yeah, I mean, content to differentiate, right, everybody can kind of build the machine from a demand perspective. But what you’re saying and there is really your opportunity to differentiate. I think that takes us back to one of the early things that you said, which is that you’re selling an outcome, not necessarily the steps along the way. So talk a little bit about the process of just making sure that you are building content that isn’t just about what you do, but the value that your customers receive. Right. How do you make sure you’re writing from your customer’s perspective rather than your own when you’re developing the premise that you’re talking about, especially when you get outside of maybe the marketing suite? That’s one of the places where highly technical organizations oftentimes fall down, not because they’re intentioned, but you get a subject matter expert is used to doing things every day to write about what he does every day. He writes about what he does, which may not be what your customer cares about at all. They want to they don’t understand the benefit of it. So talk to me just a little bit about that. And I think that the prose language and the idea that art rather than science is a great concept.
[00:15:21] Yeah. So first of all, let me give you a little bit of background on how we go to market, because I think that’s an important predicate for this. Our software defines a set of infrastructure components. The storage, the memory, the networking, the processing power of a bunch of servers pulls them all together into a shared pool of resources that can be assigned different ways to different use cases and technologies. Right. So software calls on these resources in the data center. And that software layer is really important for coordinating and making sure that that that application meets its service level requirements. So meeting SLAs is a key part of it. And the market that we sell into is physical security that is capturing all the video that is being recorded by video cameras. 60 percent of the world’s data that’s created this year, for instance, will be in streaming video format, and 80 percent of that will be from video security cameras, 40 percent of that will be in the People’s Republic of China alone. So the other 60 percent is a wildly underserved market and it’s very fragmented. It’s one of those places where you’ve got many parts of the ecosystem that have to play together. There’s the cameras and the video management software vendors. As the guys like us, the storage people, the guys do access controls. Right. There’s all these different players in the market. So customers are easily confused.
[00:16:47] They go for the simplest solution that’s going to meet their needs. And so a couple of things that we did early on. First thing was to look at that. We have over three thousand customers. So we did some statistical analysis of the customers and said, all right, where do we have the most success? Statistically, historically, what we found was places like airports, transit systems, you know, major metro transit systems, school campuses, smart cities, casinos and hospitality, sporting arenas and so forth. These were the areas where we had demonstrable, repeatable strength. And so we undertook to do two things. And then from a marketing standpoint, doing case studies is really important. So you might produce a case study that’s publicly facing in order to show customers themselves. Right. So they can see themselves reflected in somebody else’s success story. But we also do what we call wind reports, and there are a twist on the same notion. But it’s for our internal learning to understand what was it that appealed to this customer? How did we execute that deal and what was it that we proposed to them? That was the difference. These win reports have informed the value proposition that we create for each one of these solutions. So we don’t just propose the hardware and the software that is the under the plumbing, underneath a safe airport. We propose the entire solution that they need. We can show you how much infrastructure, how much storage you’re going to need for what types of cameras doing 360 video capture or infrared or increasingly we’re seeing a requirement for temperature sensing an airport so that people who have elevated temperatures don’t get on airplanes for obvious reasons.
[00:18:29] All these new requirements, we can add a lot of value by being a thought leader in that space, but we also have our capacity constrained. I can’t do 30 of these, so we have done six solutions and we got very, very deep on those. So we prescribe the whole product solution to the customer and deliver the outcomes. In fact, the names of the solutions would indicate the outcome, and that’s largely driven by the care abouts of people in that market. So safe airports, smart cities, safe campus, smart casino. There’s a reason for the safe in the smart people in casinos who run the security infrastructure have very different reasons. And motivations for why they would develop a system like this versus someone who runs an airport, the airport is all about making sure that passengers on airplanes get on board the travel and they disembark safely in a casino. It’s very much about reducing the exposure of the casino to liability. It’s not actually about card counting and cheating. The cameras are on the tables, but they are also widespread throughout a casino. And because casinos have deep pockets, there’s a lot of abuse of the system where people will slip and fall accidentally and want to sue.
[00:19:45] The casino has a protocol for identifying when this happens, recreating that scenario from the security cameras, giving somebody one hundred and fifty dollars or a thousand dollars or whatever, having them sign a disclosure and or a disclaimer and then get out of the casino, put their face in the facial recognition system. They are barred from the casino. It’s actually about limiting their exposure for liability. Contrast that to a campus, a school campus, higher ed, where the focus is on campus safety for the students and the faculty. So we really design the solutions to address the care about. So the individual markets and my team goes very, very deep on that. Based on the wind reports, they can be translated into case studies for market consumption. But the raw data that we pull from those wind reports informs how we build a solution that’s tuned to the outcomes that those customers are looking for. What they value, what they value is us being the center of an ecosystem, the center of gravity, for pulling together all the elements of a solution that they’re going to need to achieve that outcome. Finding a safe airport. And I have a an airside in the landside and I have a midfield terminal. How do I secure all that? And what types of technology are available today from a facial recognition or analytics, loitering detection, gunshot detection? We have to be masters of all that and bring that value to the customer as recommendations for what the solution would comprise to achieve that outcome.
[00:21:15] So my team’s gotten very good at that because we have seven, eight-month sales cycles. The sales team, come from industry. These guys are our men and women are twenty-year veterans of their vertical markets, critical infrastructure, airports, transportation, the federal government. And they bring deep expertise in what it takes to secure these environments and what their customers actually care about. It’s that combination is really powerful. If you have a highly consultative sale like ours, which is largely solution-oriented, very much about outcomes, you know, people aren’t making these decisions quickly. They compare and contrast with multiple options. We are one option. There are alternative approaches to achieving what we do. We would argue they’re less efficient. They’re not optimized for the purpose. They will let you down. And some of the critical requirements like resilience, this is evidence that you’re capturing so you can’t ever lose it. And if you ever lose it, then it’s gone forever. It’s not like it can be recreated from someplace else. So we really focus on how we differentiate based on the outcomes that they require and not sort of impressing upon them what we think should be important, but listening very acutely to what they think is important, what drives buying decisions and customers like them. Then we lather, rinse, repeat.
[00:22:35] Yeah, I think that’s an awesome example of how we as an organization called Plus One Value Propositions and that you guys have one value proposition across the board in your business, but inside each one of those verticals, how are we defining this value proposition in the kind of voice of the customer so that they understand how you address their specific concerns and how that kind of differs? And I think that if you were to build out kind of a use case on persona-based or vertical based messaging, switching from safety to security to cost management, those are all just the awesome way of delivering a similar message of value, but across numerous different buyers in that space. So that’s super interesting stuff. And again, I think kind of challenges you there to say, hey, how do we make sure we have a big tent message as an organization that’s broad enough to encompass all of those different verticals so that we’re universally brand-aligned and that all those people within those individual verticals that have a lot of experience there ultimately feel like they’re laddering up to the same kind of organizational goal, which just comes into kind of big tent brand marketing.
[00:23:51] That’s definitely the nirvana to have a single umbrella message that covers everyone and then, you know, to customize that message within the messaging architecture. What we found, of course, is that opportunistically we found great market apertures for us in markets that aren’t actually related to some of the stuff we’ve done elsewhere. So we do a lot of business in the federal market, for instance. It has a lot to do with the fact that we understand security so deeply, not so much what we’re doing, physical security. We understand the data security requirements that they have to have to embrace. So we do a lot of business and fed the message for that is distinct. Now, anybody who’s worked in the federal market knows that messaging for that market is unique. The go to market is going to be unique anyway. So that’s been an easy one to navigate. What’s more difficult is when the sales guys come to you and say, I’ve got this great idea, I think there’s a massive market in insert great idea here. How would I embrace that under a single messaging umbrella and how do I customize my value proposition to that without diluting the focus from our brand? Our brand equity means a lot to us. We have a reputation for doing the large scale deployments, really high quality solutions. So I can’t have, you know, a down market solution or something that’s not even adjacent to our current solutions. Dilute that focus. So there’s a balancing act. But generally I agree with the notion that it would be ideal to have a single umbrella message and then customize it to the needs of your specific target segments within that.
[00:25:28] Yeah. So you mentioned you mentioned before that you guys are in the business of critical infrastructure, but you also oftentimes have a very long sales cycle. And I’m interested if there is a bit of a dichotomy in process there between somebody’s thinking something is critical and therefore urgent and kind of what it takes to go through a thoughtful sales process there. And what, if anything, you guys have seen on the maybe leads falling very, very quickly, but they’re just not ready to move through what you’ve said is very consultative and maybe complex sales process.
[00:26:07] A couple of comments to that. So I wouldn’t necessarily equate urgent and mission-critical some of the federal cycles for truly mission-critical deployments. I mean, this is a field of battle type of things, you know, mission control packages and so forth that can take years of evaluation before they embrace it as a go-forward strategy. Once it does, of course, that breaks open the dam. The urgency of some customers is palpable, there’s no question. And that largely, largely exposes itself in customers urgency to make sure that these systems are constantly up to date and are proactively managed to identify potential faults with the system before they occur. That is where we see more sense of urgency. The long sale cycle, I think, is just the nature of these types of solutions that are complex. They’re expensive, they’re high value. There are to everybody covered this market because it’s big and these are large solutions. And so everybody’s got a reason why you should consider their solution. And most of our customers are pretty careful about making sure that they get a broad perspective. We find we do very well when customers dig deep and do lots of diligence. That’s great for us. The. Your organization gets involved, the physical security team gets involved, and we’re quite comfortable addressing the needs of both of those personas, but it doesn’t necessarily accelerate the deals.
[00:27:44] Now, some deals happen very quickly. That largely is based on the faith they put in you because they’ve talked to appear at another account or they had experience with you at a prior place of work and they want to bring that same experience to the new one. So maintaining the very best possible customer experience has allowed us to realize some very quick deals because it is mission-critical and they can’t fail and they can’t get this wrong and they can’t make a bad decision. But at the same time, you know, in some cases you’ve got an exposure to a new threat vector and a campus. You’ve got to solve that, a new building. It has to be secure. You can’t just let that languish. So to that degree, customers who have either experienced us first hand or second hand through an industry peer have more faith in Pivot3 solutions than they would otherwise if we were just an unknown entity. And the other place where we think we can accelerate customers consideration cycles is with the analysts. Now, largely the I.T. side of the equation leans on analysts more thanthe security people.
[00:28:58] Security people sort of look at industry associations for recommendations, but the IT folks go to Gartner or to Forrester or the like. And so maintaining we have an entire H.R. function, part of our marketing communications team that has allowed us to maintain a very high profile within our peer set in the analyst reviews. And that’s a critical component for how we help customers get a sense of confidence in Pivot3 solutions without having any personal experience with it, especially if they have a compressed consideration cycle. They have to be able to lean on places where they can trust US authorities on the subject to recommend Pivot3 or four specific cases. And so in both the analyst community and in the industry association community, we have again focused on the solutions where we’re strong. If you are looking for video solutions for airports, there’s no there is no equal in the marketplace, and that is by design. We have focused a lot of energy in making sure that those two communities understand our value proposition in those six markets at a comprehensive level at the expense of other things. Of course, we’re not a general purpose to think.
[00:30:14] Those are all some points on the credibility front. And it’s one of the things we often see in markets that are I think the distinction between mission-critical and kind of urgency is an important one. And that oftentimes when you’re in a market that maybe has some legislative requirements or there’s a new legal ruling that requires purchase be made or people come to a certain compliance level, it drives a lot of energy. And if you don’t have those either credibility elements or the ability to, you know, kind of push back from a solution perspective, that the short sale cycle, I think can very much be or the urgency of a sales-oriented prospect can be a negative as much as a positive. And somebody just trying to jump in and maybe take your solution, selling tactics a little to the heart and saying, oh, you’re going to deliver this for me, great. I’ll sign up for it tomorrow and really just ending up being an unhappy customer. So that was an interesting perspective. And now, you know, it’s great if we can close a deal quickly here, but we’re not trying to move you through the sales process faster just because we know you need this help.
[00:31:28] But you might be able to short circuit things like early-stage consideration or qualification. If people already know you and know what it is you represent, they know what your value proposition is. One of the things that’s helped us a lot is participation of our people in industry associations. In fact, some cases we lead those industry associations. So they’re examples for airports, they’re examples for campus security or just physical security in general. We have people to participate in the boards and the advisory groups for these professional associations that actually help us. Inform the consumer before they get to the conversation with three about what we do so they’re not confused about what value we’re going to add as a consequence, we can move quickly through those stages and get to solution design and deliver something to them that meets their needs.
[00:32:24] Yeah, I think that’s all, whether it be the analysts in certain industries or the individuals and others finding ways to communicate credibility and build upon those relationships, I think that takes us right back to like everybody is a sales guy at a certain point in your career and you’re not necessarily selling, but you want to represent the organization with credibility and leverage your knowledge there, and especially in a what’s a limited market, the opportunity to be kind of a thought leader and play what the role may be in the industry that you’re in and maybe a trade organization and, you know, university security versus like a digital media personality and another one. It’s all the same kind of credibility concept. Yeah.
[00:33:09] Another area this is sort of unique to our market. But you’ve got to keep in mind who your ecosystem is as well. Who do your customers look to for advice and for information and in some cases for guidance on what to do? And in our market, there’s a group called Architects and Engineers that will actually design or refit buildings, facilities, what have you. There are architects and engineers that specialize in airports. There are people who specialize in campuses or casinos. And we have maintained relationships with them over a dozen years and equip them with the information to actually spec our solutions into the outcomes that the customer is looking for. You know, I’m building a new field terminal at Dulles Airport, let’s say. And, you know, I’m going to enlist the architects and engineers that are specialized in airport design. And I want you to build this so that it’s secure and fits with the security posture of our broader facilities. They will actually specify our solutions in that because they’ve got enough information about them that they know that that’s going to meet the needs, it’s going to deliver the outcome that they’re after. So and that’s just one example of ecosystem partners, right? A lot of the partners that we deal with are unique. They’re not IT integrators. There are people with a white panel truck with a ladder on the roof. They install cameras and pull wire and that sort of thing. How do you inform that audience so that when they make a recommendation to their customers, they’re making it with enough information to know that they’re proposing the right solution? So it’s a constant challenge to make sure you’re delivering the right level of information to all parts of the ecosystem so that when you’re delivering those outcomes for customers.
[00:34:50] Yeah, awesome examples of kind of that like nonbiased persona, just because they’re not a buyer, they’re not signing the check doesn’t mean they’re not important in their process. And whether it be the architects or the individual doing the installation like that, they all have a voice. Yeah, that’s exactly right.
[00:35:06] So we do a lot of enablement for our channel partners. We focus on a very few select partners that we believe have the qualifications to deliver the customer experience we want because that customer experience speaks volumes. Maybe not an explicit peer reviews like you don’t have that kind of an Amazon review kind of model, but it’s in a in a small market that’s self-referential. Word gets around about the quality of your solutions and the quality of your people and the quality of the outcomes. So we protect that reputation very jealously.
[00:35:42] Yeah, I think an awesome example there of carrying through an entire customer lifecycle a good experience that doesn’t end when you kind of get the check sign, but we want to make sure we take care of those guys all the way through.
[00:35:53] Well, one of the measures of success there is how well do you do customer marketing and how sticky are your solutions and how frequently or how reliably to customers come back for more. What we found is our ASP for an initial deal has been growing. And that’s good. Even though in the face of Moore’s Law, you would expect to see less infrastructure placed in every new deployment. But we’re actually seeing our ASP increase. But more importantly, the lifetime value of the customer, if you measure it over the first three years of the relationship, is fully triple what the initial ASP is. That means that customers are coming back for additional use cases, additional capacity, and that’s a byproduct of one, the customer experience and to doing effective customer marketing, making sure that you keep the level of communication very high with those customers. It is infinitely less expensive to sell to an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. And so as much as we want to keep growing the family and acquiring new logos, we also focus on making sure that we maintain about sixty-five percent of our revenue from the existing customer base. Those are metrics that we pay a lot of close attention to. Those KPIs are what drives our marketing organization, very metrics driven so that we have a good sense of what’s the environment in which we’re operating, what outcomes do we want to achieve and how do we use the levers and pulleys to achieve that outcome. Again, the science versus the art. Once you determine what you want to do and you put all mechanisms in place, then the art is filling that with good content that captures the imagination of the customer, convinces them of your value proposition, and then also gives them that that assurance that they’re working with a partner that they can trust.
[00:37:37] Yeah, I think you answered my question before I could even verbalize it there, which was that everybody loves the idea of like, hey, let’s enable our partners or sell through the channel. But then how do you measure that? How do you see that come to life in a business metric? How do you know if that’s working for you? I think that was just an awesome example of how you look at what partners do for you and the fact that this doesn’t necessarily look at something that happens after a deal is closed as an expense. Right. This is an opportunity to add value and kind of move that customer experience forward in a positive way. And where do you see that come to life in something like customer lifetime value or RFM analysis your way through the customer lifetime and figure out when you have an opportunity to have somebody engage more frequently or more recently throughout that process. That adds more value. But yeah, that was exactly where I was kind of thinking on the next question there, which is it’s great to invest in those things, but I think a lot of marketers struggle with like what value does customer marketing give me? This isn’t contributing my lead goal anymore. This. What’s the next metric I see along the way? And that does require you to do about a little bit and say this is about the lifetime of the customer. And that may not be something that you see at the end of the quarter every quarter, but something that you’ve got to take a different lens of your success metrics for.
[00:39:06] Yeah, absolutely. And one of the things that we have sort of taken a pole position on in our organization is coordinating all the customer touchpoints and measuring the success of those and continually offering opportunities to improve those touchpoints, whether it’s the initial Isar making contact or a business development rep making initial contact. Right. The first qualification after a webcast or whatever, all the way through to our professional services engagement to deploy or the support organization providing after-sales service what the customer hears from that support person in terms of our value proposition, our promise to the customer, the outcome that we promised needs to be very much aligned, if not identical to what the BDM said in the first conversation, that continuity of the value proposition and the message gets more and more sophisticated the further into the value chain you go. But it needs to be consistent that customer experience needs to be exceptional no matter where they touch the organization. And so we put a lot of effort into making sure that across the board, no matter who you engage with, a Pivot3, it’s a consistent message about what we provide, a consistent focus on the success of the customer before everything else. And of course, in these sort of mission-critical, highly contentious security applications. That, of course, is extremely valuable to the customer. They cannot actually live without that. They need that level of attention from their strategic vendors or partners as they consider them. So we really focus on making sure that that entire customer experience start to finish, end to end is consistent and unparalleled. Right. It needs to be exceptional everywhere.
[00:40:53] Yeah. So we’ve talked a lot about kind of the role of individuals within the organization and how the continuity and the message carries through. You mentioned early on not to take for granted the value of a good marketing stack and kind of the role technology plays with you guys. So you mentioned technologies. What kind of game either automates or kind of provides you some structure on kind of getting to a more scalable organization. And I’ve always looked at marketing and sales at scale. This is the ability to deliver a message without the feedback of delivering a value proposition to you and seeing kind of the look on your face. Or if you understand me or not, I have to be able to deliver that message without that feedback loop that allows me to tailor that message to you. And so what does the marketing stack look like for you guys and how do you look at it, maybe leading us back to the people side to close? Where do you see kind of the end of that marketing stack? And this is no longer a marketing job. This is now a sales job to carry this message or this prospect.
[00:41:57] Ok, well, we have very explicit handoff, sort of starting with the second question. We have explicit handoffs and stage-gate criteria for the point at which it becomes the sales reps responsibility or the inside sales reps responsibility versus marketings. We have a series of stage at sales stages in Salesforce, as most do. We have exit criteria for each one of those stages. And once those criteria are met, it reaches a certain level of qualification. It’s a flavor of bad criteria and a business need. You have the authority to sign, you’ve got a budget, the timeline and all those criteria are met. Then the handoff to the sales organization have. And the visibility comes from it being included in the forecast pipeline and sales force. And so that’s where the scrutiny on making sure that deal progresses is sort of maintained. At the same time, we still feel responsible for making sure that these deals progress through the stages of consideration we have. Literally thousands of opportunities in pipeline, and we don’t have enough salespeople to spend quality time with each one of them at all times, so we marketing never feels like their role is complete in developing that customer. We are constantly nurturing. We have nurture programs for people in pipeline who are airport prospects or our campus prospects or our federal government prospects. And we are constantly offering new off our assets and delivering the news and making sure they’re up to date on the latest developments so that when a sales rep doesn’t have the skills to do outreach to these customers, the solution design stage might take three months and you wouldn’t expect the sales rep to make weekly or biweekly calls to that customer.
[00:43:46] So we fill in those gaps with nurture programs that are automated through Pardot and those types of technologies. We probably run 15 or 20 nurture programs at any given time for various segments of the market at different stages of maturity, existing customers. That’s one new prospects for airports, new prospects for work with Lenovo, new prospects for campuses and so on. Each one has their respective nurture program. We also do nurture programs for our channel partners to make sure they’re fully aware of what the new developments are and to see the latest win reports to generate new ideas about markets they could go and pursue or how to represent that value proposition to that that one municipal airport that doesn’t seem to be responding well. You know, so these nurture programs are a big way that we contribute beyond the handoff of the qualified opportunity to the field. So backing up to your first question, we have four sources of opportunities in our pipeline. And at the end of the day, where the rubber hits the road is how much pipeline can the marketing organization facilitate for the salespeople to go and execute on and their channel partners? Right.
[00:44:58] So we also share our opportunities, qualified opportunities with channel partners for execution. So the sources are deregistration registration from third parties, that is our integrators and resellers, the sales reps working their Rolodex, people they know from industry people that they’ve come in contact with through their customer contacts, referrals, friendly referrals from existing customers that they’re explicitly asking for and so on. We have our outreach programs, which might include business development reps as well. So we go after named lists that meet certain criteria and we develop ways to approach them that largely culminate with an escort making an outreach to them. And then the fourth one is demand generation writ large. That is event marketing. That is, you know, email outreach. That is special programs. You know, a lot of virtual things are happening these days because we don’t have the events to go to. And we will expect a different proportion of contribution from each of those four sources, depending on the quarter and the seasonality, depending on where we are in market and what market we’re pursuing. But we manage those four very carefully. We facilitate each one with a different set of Martek tools.
[00:46:05] So Pardot and different outreach tools that will personalize email from the Isiah’s equip those people to do their part to develop those contacts directly. We have a partner portal that facilitates self-service for our entire partner communities, they could do de-registration, they can get copyrighted materials that represent our joint value proposition. They can do research on the solutions. They can come and price things. All these things happen in an automated way in our in our partner portal that allows us to do channel marketing on a one to many to many basis in a much more efficient way than we would if we were doing hand-to-hand combat. So those are the types of Martek tools that we’ve embraced. We’d like to keep it reasonably simple. I think there are maybe eight or 10 that we use. We will engage others like a list of pending services periodically as required. They’re not a fundamental part of our value proposition is not something that we is central to our execution, but we will go and avail ourselves of those as needed. But the primary ones are Salesforce, the outreach program, which could be Eloqua or any of those, you know, basic email management tools, but the one we use as part of. The partner portal partner, resource management and then various list management servers.
[00:47:37] Also, I think despite the many levels kind of messaging or industries that you have, the fact that you’re keeping this fact from a marketing perspective so simple is kind of admirable and that it is so easy to get lost in technology there versus lost in messaging or lost in content. And it’s interesting to see that the complexity that you guys have in terms of the segments that you’re going after and the different types of approaches that must exist within those, but all being managed within the same kind of larger set of tools. And I think that goes to show a lot of you don’t need to Swiss Army knife your Martech stack to go have a different tool for every different task out there. But you get the fundamentals and the messaging right. You can go a long way without going too deep on this.
[00:48:28] I don’t dismiss the utility of some other tools and we do account-based marketing, for instance. And so we’ll do some very specific intention research on customers that fit a certain profile or a certain demographic, you know, out there in the broader ecosystem. So we avail ourselves of that, too. I don’t want to negate the value of some of these advanced tools, but, you know, it’s a nuance. But I wouldn’t characterize our go to market as complex, so much as sophisticated. And so if you can do something sophisticated like that, you got to keep track of what you’re doing and then feed that beast. And the more tools and widgets and bells and whistles you throw at it, the more complex it is to manage that. Frankly, just our matrix of content to feed into our assets and calls to action for the various nurture programs that we have. That’s a sophisticated matrix to manage. So you’re feeding all these machines. The more machines you have, the more you have to feed them with new raw content and the quality is going to go down as the volume goes up, unless you’re going to pay extraordinary amounts to have third parties generate that for you, because we generate most of our own content in its very core content, like a customer case studies and reference architectures and stuff that really helps the customers with their evaluation, then I can’t generate infinite volumes of that. So I have to keep it sophisticated and limited in scope so that we can focus on what’s really important. And that’s why the metrics matter, because we can figure out what delivers the results and what doesn’t and very quickly make the brutal decision to cut off stuff that isn’t working.
[00:50:06] Yeah, I think that’s an awesome place to leave it, that we want to strive for sophistication and complexity. There’s a lot of ways for complexity not to work, maybe less so on the sophistication.
[00:50:18] Well, and everybody, once again, I’ll go back to the balance between art and science in marketing. If your organization doesn’t have an appreciation for the science behind it and why you do things the way you do, then spend the time to educate your organization on how marketing actually accomplishes these things is not just about creative arts and coloring inside the lines on datasheets. There’s a lot of science behind it as to why you approach markets the way you do and why you message the way you do. So make sure your organization understands that and embraces it.
[00:50:50] Awesome. I appreciate your time and just talking us through kind of the way you guys have gone to market here. There’s a lot to learn here from just the value of core messaging and kind of marketing activities all the way through the way you guys are approaching this from a technology perspective. But as we wrap up here, we always like to not just talk about all things.
[00:51:28] Yeah. Go back to a seems like a lifetime ago. It was a couple of companies ago I was working for a startup, the Web Content Management in the Austin, Texas area. It’s actually the reason I moved to Austin, a company called Vignette, and we outsourced some messaging to a third-party ad agency. And this is sort of when you grow into your big boy pants, right? You get an agency involved and you delegate some of the responsibility for messaging to them. And we let them get a little bit too far ahead of our customers and perhaps a little bit too cute. And so the campaign that they came back with was effectively predicated on the notion that we would inspire new ideas about how to use the Web. But they distilled it to a point of simplicity that was almost to the ridiculous. So it culminated in a campaign that was e-business ideas that turn on your brain, and it was way too abstracted from the actual buyers in our industry. The people who made the buying decision couldn’t identify with the message that was our primary go to market campaign.
[00:52:40] And we spent a lot of money taking this to market through cross-media programs, so. I would I would advocate the lesson learned there and hopefully people would make the same mistake, but the lesson learned is stay very much involved in anything as core as messaging. And don’t underestimate the importance of the critical nature of that messaging. Not only do we lose some critical contact with the customers there and some of the credibility with the customers, it also impugned our relationship with the employees who didn’t feel that this represented the value proposition they were building. These were software engineers and they were so very proud of what they were doing. And to distill it to this notion of an e-business idea that turns on your brain a little light on the side of someone’s head, they felt that that reduced it to the ridiculous and didn’t really convey the value of what they were doing. So that was a misstep we recovered. But it’s one of those things that lesson learned. You wouldn’t do it again or at least wouldn’t do it the same way again.
[00:53:46] Awesome, awesome. Well, again, thank you for sharing with us today, I appreciate all the input here as we close out. Is there a place that folks can either keep in touch with, with you or three, four, you’re thinking or looking to connect and just keep up with what you guys are doing?
[00:54:03] Well, you can track our progress at Pivot3. Com if you have questions about how we do business or what our solutions entail, please drop us a line there. You can also follow us at Pivot3 on Twitter. We also have a presence on LinkedIn and all the social media platforms that you might avail yourself of. And I would encourage all marketers to share their best practices. And if you have questions about how we do our business and what’s been successful for us, you can reach me @BruceM67 on Twitter and excited to engage in any conversation about the art and the science of marketing. Awesome, thank you, Bruce. Thank you, Devin.
[00:54:48] You’ve been listening to Marketing Behind the Curtain. To ensure that you never miss an episode. Subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time.