Search Interviews:

Jeremy Weisz  14:36

I want to know about I know you work with a lot of CMOs and some of the questions I have but let’s take this is an example with Rapid7. And walk me through when they first start working with you, what are some of the things that you do to identify what the steps are that you need to take?

Mark Emond  15:00

Yeah, well, we really want to understand first and foremost, who are your buyers? Right? So a lot of what we do is informed by buyer journey and persona research really trying to understand who’s your ideal client profile? Who’s in the qualified buying group that you sell into? What are the roles that different personas play? And what are the content and channels that they engage with throughout the buyer journey that really forms a blueprint for engagement strategies, right, we really don’t want to create stuff that is ill-informed. That is something that I think historically, a lot of marketing organizations, absent of data had to do, which is go off assumption and gut instinct, we really want to use first-party and tertiary research and data to inform what are your key target personas engaging with and where are they going to engage with that content. And that really creates the blueprint, as it did for Rapid7. And as it does for all our clients to better understand and some organizations have that data and that buyer journey research already done, and it’s great, and we can leverage it and just work from there, and others we created for them. And where there’s a gap, we’ll go in and we’ll interview customers will be focused groups, we’ll look at data, we’ll do online surveys, and we’ll really try and understand the stages in a complex, our clients are b2b, most of them have a two to three to 12 to 24-month sales cycle, there’s a lot of touches, there’s a lot of engagement, there’s a lot of interaction, there’s a lot of content. And so we really try and identify what the sequencing of those touch points should look like through data.

Jeremy Weisz  16:48

Mark I see, I don’t know what the percentages of people like yeah, Mark, we have the buyer journey on that out to we don’t I would guess it’s 90/10. But I could be wrong. But I’m wondering, like, Mark, we have a lot of great personas, right? They come to you and like, they don’t have a specific ideal mapped out and you have to go in and actually do the research. Do you remember a time where the research may be surprised the client? They go we have these, yeah, anyone with a lot of money? Or what? I don’t know, whatever it is, you know, there’s these 10 personas? I’m not I don’t really think we have a one or two. And then you went in and dove into the actual surveys and research and talk to them. And it was pretty clear.

Mark Emond  17:35

Yeah, it’s a great question, I would say that a relatively significant portion of the research we do, does create surprises for clients. In that, they’ll work with their sales team. And they’ll get a reasonable insight from their sales team of the engagement from clients with the sales team. The challenge is what the sales team sees is a little bit like the iceberg these days, right? In the days where buyers are engaging, mostly in a very independent manner, through website, social channels, and third party websites. Sales doesn’t see much of the buyer journey. So a lot of it is a surprise. And that is the portion of the iceberg that the organization doesn’t necessarily have visibility into.

Jeremy Weisz  18:25

Talk about, I know you work at financial services companies, what’s an example there and what you did with them?

Mark Emond  18:33

Yeah, I mean, we work with a lot of financial services companies we have for longtime organizations like being why Mellon fidelity Putnam DTCC MUFG Financial Services has been a fun industry to work in, in that, not surprisingly, if we look at the organization of the industries that we work in technology has been ahead of the pack for years in terms of more innovative b2b marketing strategies in the use of technology, financial services and other more heavily governed and compliance led organizations have trailed, but financial services going back, I’d say a couple of years before the pandemic, and then certainly through the pandemic, really accelerated the pace of their digital adoption, and really realized that they needed to drive more investment in digital adoption. And also there was a dynamic we primarily work on the wealth management side of financial services. And if you think about wealth management, if you think about your own investments, the industry largely up until relatively recently was dominated by sales channels. It was typically older sales reps, working with older advisors, and they very much valued a high touch, face to face type of relationship. Probably the stereotype you would think of financial services, right? Lunches, maybe some golfing. Right. And what we’ve seen in wealth management is there’s been a huge change. First of all, digital adoption, has become much more prominent. Secondly, there’s been a real change in the demographics of the wealth management industry. So, the more established, baby boomer advisors are turning over to people who are entering wealth management as a second career. to younger people, they’re turning over their books of business to younger people, it’s becoming more female, it’s becoming more ethnically diverse as an industry. And as a result becoming much more digital. So organizations like Fidelity, like a platinum, like a BMI Mellon, have had to look at, okay, historically, the way that we’ve engaged with retirement investment advisors and brokers and dealers, has largely been through sales channels, face to face relationships, and now they’re demanding a much more digital centric relationship. So we’ve really worked with them to transform their marketing organizations to become much more digital centric, to develop much more content at scale, that engages and informs and tries to drive greater activation of the 350,000 investment advisors and brokers and dealers, to do business and sell the funds, the ETFs, the mutual funds, the variety of investment vehicles that our clients are offering.

Jeremy Weisz  21:35

How do you help these companies get content out? You could speak to it. It tends to be a highly regulated fields, and they may be combing through, you know, they can’t move as quickly maybe as some other industries? I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it seems to be how do you get them to get content out when there is maybe balancing that with the regulation stuff?

Mark Emond  22:06

Yeah, it’s just I think the timeline, and the horizon to execute just becomes longer, I’d say at the end of the day, the ability to get content out is not dramatically impacted by financial services organizations. But the timeline is, so it’s longer planning cycles, trying to balance the reality of being in a compliance driven organization with the need to be reactive to the market as well, and to be relatively agile, right? So, we try and work on business processes and the operating model for planning and balancing, breaking down some barriers, internally, that can lead to greater agility. It is more challenging, but I think, it comes back to first of all, really understanding who your buyer is. So you’ve got, you’re developing a content plan that maps to the reality of what your buyers or your investment advisors, your brokers and dealers are looking for. And so you’re hitting the mark with the type of content and that it’s just about going through the cycles internally to get sign-off on compliance.

Jeremy Weisz  23:13

What are questions? I know you work with a lot of CMOS? What are the some of the common questions they’re asking?

Mark Emond  23:19

Well, right now, it’s a really interesting time in b2b marketing for a number of reasons. One is AI, tons of questions around AI in 2023. I look at AI. And from all the work we’ve done with organizations, I look at it on two levels. Jeremy, one is tactical use of AI with an existing technology platforms and applications that marketers are using today. Applications like Salesforce like Marketo, from Adobe platforms, like six cents from an intent data perspective, there’s AI built into these technologies that many marketers are using today. I call it relatively tactical use of AI. It’s not tremendously transformative. It’s helping to create some greater efficiencies, then there’s strategic use of AI. And I think in that area, CMOs today have more questions than answers. They’re looking for insight and guidance on how can AI change our operating model? When we think about our people, our processes and our technology, what does the future look like with AI? How can it enable us to get more efficient, more productive? What does it mean in terms of the future of work? Right? What roles today might be better suited if you think about some of the future of work experts that I’ve listened to I’ve talked about really three classes of employment, if you will, one is full-time workers, right? The Roman army model that we’ve all grown up on and we’re used to the gig model, right applying that to white collar, work, and then Then the AI-driven model, which is what work is better suited by technology and AI. And so they’re really, I think, wrestling with that, and really trying to understand strategically long term how the three lay within their organization.

Jeremy Weisz  25:16

So AI is a big one, what’s another topic or questions coming up frequently, when you’re talking to CMOS?

Mark Emond  25:23

Another big one is really what I touched on earlier, the use of analytics and how that in data and how that has transformed b2b marketing. We’re now at an inflection point in that organizations like Google and others are deprecating the use of third-party cookies. And, you know, Google has pushed the end zone back in terms of the dates a couple of times, but right now, they’re stating that by the end of 2024, they’re going to deprecate 100%, use of third-party cookies on the Chrome browser. And a lot of the marketing, 15,000, marketing technology applications and platforms today rely on third-party cookies to gather data to drive personalization at scale.

Jeremy Weisz  26:03

So you lose a lot of tracking.

Mark Emond  26:06

Yeah, exactly. We lose a lot of tracking now, there’s first-party data that organizations are advocating for. There’s better content that organizations are advocating for. But historically, I think the gains we’ve made in personalization, we’re going to give back a lot of that because of privacy concerns. And a lot of it is their rightful concerns. So I think marketers need to recalibrate, what they gather information on how they approach the relationship with personalization at scale in organizations, and how they think about their content and engagement moving forward. And that’s a big question that CMOs have on their mind and something that we’re doing a fair amount of advisory on?

Jeremy Weisz  26:54

Yeah, so how do you combat that? I mean, I think about basically, people are just gonna have to drive wherever they call to action to collect their own data. I don’t know if that’s the solution. But how do you combat, okay, we can no longer track this just by them clicking on it. What do you do?

Mark Emond  27:15

I mean, ultimately, what I like about where we’re headed, is the better marketers, I think will thrive, the ones creating better content, providing more value in the market, people will still go to, right, if you create value for others, and what you say and what you do helps them I think you’ll feel it, your engagement will be just fine. Right? There are ways that you can still continue to understand people’s preferences, asking them, what type of information are you interested in, engaging with people and really understanding them through your CRM, people who are in an active buying cycle, through data that you’ve captured firsthand, you can still personalize off of so I think there’s still going to be opportunities for personalization. A lot of it, I think, will be more explicit than today, we’ll have to get better at asking and creating preferences based on truly engaging and having a dialogue with people rather than mining data. But it still comes back to, if you have really good things to say and you’re adding value through your content, then you’ll stand out in the market for good reasons.

Jeremy Weisz  28:33

I want to go back, you mentioned Mark stepping out on the ledge for a second when you started your company, because it is stepping on the ledge What was you remember the first key client that you got when you started Demand Spring?

Mark Emond  28:50

Yeah, I was fortunate in that I had taken the time to build a business plan for Demand Spring starting a year out from, I planned my exit from IBM and I knew that it was an itch that I wanted to scratch to be an entrepreneur and start something myself. And so I’ve done a fair amount of planning and I had I’d spent the year leading up to it having great coffee conversations with people or virtual coffee conversations and getting input and so when I left IBM, you know, I immediately I had two first clients one was the Geographical Information Systems Company EZRI in Redlands, California, and the second was the email marketing platform vendor Constant Contact in Boston or Waltham mass. And they were to great clients. They were indicative of how many of our clients were our first 11 years had been found which is through relationships. My accountant I remember about a year into Demand Spring Jeremy said to me, you know, when it looks like Demand Spring would be a viable entity and I can continue to feed my family and we can continue to live in our house and we’re starting to grow the company said, What you did is what many people don’t realize when they work for a company, which is the unrealized value of their network. And when you step out, and you step off the ledge, and you start something like you, did you realize the value of your network. And that’s still true to this day, many of our clients come through relationships, be it personal networks, be it clients who refer us to others, or individuals within clients who move to other organizations, and take us with them.

Jeremy Weisz  30:34

You mentioned about, I want to make sure that we kept living in our house, right? What was the family conversation that you had when you went to your family and said, okay, I’m gonna go out and do this, because, you know, you work for a big corporation, there’s a lot of great things. There’s health insurance, there’s all those things. So what was that conversation? Like, with the family?

Mark Emond  31:01

I’m super fortunate, my wife was very supportive. I think she realized that it was an important thing for me, and she was nothing but supportive, which made it so much easier. Right. And we had a plan. I think we knew financially that there was a timeline where we could just try this. And we had a plan. And I’m so lucky to have her behind me and supporting it. And I think that’s just essential for all entrepreneurs, right, is have that conversation, do the diligence to understand the impact, and then have the conversation make sure you’ve got obviously a supportive family behind you. I think my mom was more scared than anybody else. But it worked out.

Jeremy Weisz  31:45

No, I love what you said about that, which is, first of all, you spent a year planning this, it wasn’t like, oh, I think I’m gonna open my own thing, you actually had the conversation sound like you had some clients already. So even though from the outside, it may seem like, oh, he took this big leap. When he’s been in IBM and some of these other big companies, it really you had planted out, you had clients lined up, you had the business lined up? And you, again, no hedge your bets. As far as that goes? What were the initial, how do you decide on pricing? you’re launching this into the world? How do you decide on pricing?

Mark Emond  32:26

Excellent question. I think there are two answers to that. One is having been a client of like services on the other side, you know, up until the time I launched it, I had a reasonable expectation of what clients were willing to pay for services. Right? And then you balance that with obviously looking at the cost within the business and profit margin desired. Right. And then the other part, quite frankly, is trial, right? You’re also at the same time trialing the value that as much as I knew how much I paid for certain services in the market. What would people pay for my services? And what would they be willing to assign value to? So, it’s always been, I think, within our organization, a combination of markets, you know, the markets ability to recognize value with obviously reconciling that with the cost within business.

Jeremy Weisz  33:22

Talk about the evolution of the team, right? In the beginning, it’s your idea. It’s you. What is the team, the evolution of team look like overtime?

Mark Emond  33:32

Great question. So I started it on my own, align myself with third party freelancers to build a set of competencies. I knew that I didn’t have all the competencies myself to satisfy the breadth of things, from strategy to content to technology, know how that a demand focused or revenue marketing consultancy as we call ourselves now needed. So I aligned myself with freelancers, but I always knew what was really important for me was growing a team, I wanted to have a team, I wanted to celebrate wins with others, I didn’t want to be a solo consultant. I wanted to build something, build something that had value, build something that had a team around me. And so I got some really good guidance in the early days, which is hire for scarcity, right? As an example, writers are so important to what we do. But there are a lot of writers out there, right. Technologists, on the other hand, who have an aptitude and expertise in a certain marketing platform are harder to find. So those are the areas that I invested in full time employees where I could find them to begin with, right and then just grew the team from there and today, we’re a team of about 40 individuals. And, we have a combination of stuff Energy consultants, have account executives and project managers and marketing technology consultants as well as internal administrative folks who run our talent organization, our own marketing practices, our sales organization, and other parts of the finance.

Jeremy Weisz  35:16

Yeah, like what you saw there hire for scarcity. At what point do you transition? I mentioned the beginning executive chair, right. So what a lot of founders want to do is replace themselves in positions along the way, so they can oversee the business. Talk about some of the key positions that you were able to step out of and what you did to actually step out of them.

Mark Emond  35:44

Yeah, so I was CEO for our first 10 years. And last summer, so about 15 months ago, I made the decision to move into actually I made it again, about a year in advance to step up to an executive chair role and handle day to day responsibility for the organization over to Matt Roberts, who has a great background. Matt was, first of all, our client at Staples, and then at Forrester Research, and he was on our board of advisors. And then he joined us about five years ago, now, the lead our strategy, practice, very strategic individual, great with clients, great with our employees, I knew the business would be in good hands turning over day to day to mat. So I did that little bit more balance in my life, more family time, more time for coaching, basketball, and working with the young people that I do through that and really working on the business at a strategy level as well. So now I spend my time with Matt, guiding and governing the long term strategy of Demand Spring, helping in different ways, mentoring people in the business, stepping in as needed in certain areas operationally, still working with some key clients and on some big deals, but really kind of looking at stepping out of the weeds, which has been so helpful in, moving away from days of fully packed zoom meetings back to back to seeing the big picture and understanding, where the puck is going, and how we get there.

Jeremy Weisz  37:16

Can you give some, just share your experience with transitioning, it’s a big transition, right, you’re CEO, then you’re not. So talk about the transition, and how you transition Matt to set him up in the company up for success.

Mark Emond  37:33

Yeah, I mean, we built the plan a year out, and we really worked the plan, Matt increasingly took on a variety of responsibilities that I was doing. And we prepared our the rest of our leadership team about three months out for the change, and then really have stayed close to Matt, we connect once or twice a week, usually on the biggest things in the organization. I strive to stay out of the day to day as much as possible and provide him with the opportunity to be our CEO, while providing him with the support and the service, he needs to be successful. And then working and partnering with him on the long term guidance of the company. So that’s on a professional level, you know, I think it’s still I would say that, it’s the first time that I’ve made that transition. So, the learning curve was something that we went through, and still even going through, and but I think it comes down to communication, Matt is a great partner, in terms of being open and candid, and transparent and supportive of my role in the organization and vice versa. So it’s open dialogue. And then on the personal side, there’s also a transition as well when you step away, right, and how you work through that personally. And I’m fortunate in that, I didn’t step away into a lazy boy, recliner. Very, very busy with all the other aspects going on in my life. And so I feel like I’ve got the right balance and the right focus on the business, right, focus on other things that are important to me right now.

Jeremy Weisz  39:12

So Mark, what great feedback have you gotten from Matt, in this transition, because I can imagine thinking you’ve been doing this for over a decade. Yeah, it’s not so easy just to go okay. Like, I’m just gonna check in once or twice a week. Was there feedback he was giving you to help you like personally and professionally with the transition?

Mark Emond  39:34

Yeah. I think the best feedback he’s given me is just identifying where he wants my support and my help. Traditionally I haven’t been shy to be hands-on. I’ve strive to step back now, I don’t know that I’ve always succeeded in that. But Matt has been great and saying I really need a thought partner. In, you know, this area of the business right now be at talent decisions be at strategy decisions, operational decisions. So just his candor and his transparency in terms of where he’s needed me, has given me permission to step in and really be a partner to him without worrying that I’m stepping on toes or mitigating his leadership in the organization.

Jeremy Weisz  40:23

It seems like also, you’ve put a bunch of mentors and advisors in place with the company throughout the years, can you talk about some of those key roles and people that have helped?

Mark Emond  40:36

Good research on your part, we have had a board of advisors Jeremy for about seven or eight years. So, I think one of the things that has really defined Demand Spring, and we’ve used it really successfully, not only to position ourselves in sales opportunities, but I think just to make a difference in clients is that we’re not a team of lifelong consultants, we come from the client side, we’ve walked many miles in your shoes. So we understand the need for quick wins and long-term success. But the downside in that is, we have learned how to run a consulting organization as we’ve gone. And so we’ve really benefited from having advisors that have a variety of experience, we’re now on the second generation of our board of advisors, we had a great first generation comprised of former CMOs, and partner in our accounting firm, and people have run services businesses, and variety of other backgrounds. And now our second iteration, we filled in some other gaps in the organization we have now we have person who’s the Chief People Officer at QuickBase. And formerly Forrester, we’ve got sales leaders, we have CMOs again. So we’ve really crowd-sourced a great team. We’ve got founders, former CEOs, we’ve crowd-sourced a great team of people with a diversity of skills that provide us with the guidance and governance that just fills in some of our blind spots and gaps. And it’s been super valuable for us both on a big strategic level, as well as just small conversations that we’ll have we’ll reach out Matt or myself or reach out to various people, one advisor, for example, Doug Bucer, former CMO of Salesforce and CEO of lead space, former CMO of Skype as well, just a wealth of knowledge information. Carol Meyers is another one Carol was the former CMO who took about four companies public BlogMe and Rapid7, Unica and working woman, for example, David Prats and other one who ran SAPs Global Services operations organization and worked with me at IBM and Cognos Dave Laverty, former CMO of IBM Business Analytics, these people have so much experience and provide us with so much great guidance that they’ve just been invaluable to us in running the company.

Jeremy Weisz  43:11

Mark, thanks for sharing that. I’m curious. I mean, these people are super busy, right? They could be doing anything. But they’re on your board of advisors talk about the format, what are they committing to when they will, okay, Mark, if you’re like, Yeah, we have to meet every day for the year like, I’m out, right? So what’s the format that you bring to the table, when you’re like, okay, we’d like to be you to be on the board advisors. Here’s your commitment that we want.

Mark Emond  43:38

Yeah, we meet once a quarter, and we give them within that meeting, we give them an update on the business. But we really, because it’s a board of advisors, not a board of directors, we really lean on advisory. So we try to make much of it about advisory. And we’ll present one or two key issues or opportunities within the business and really get their insights on how we approach it. And so, that’s what they commit to formally and then they’ve been great with their time in terms of, you know, getting involved in, you know, either 30-minute coffee conversations on challenge or opportunity one on one. We’re even getting involved in certain projects and will compensate them for their time when they get involved certainly in those right. But they’ve helped us advisory-wise and even operational in terms of getting involved. The other thing they’ve done is many of these people with great backgrounds have become part of our advisory team for clients and they’ve helped deliver clients solutions to our clients in gotten involved, be it Carol Myers helping clients on product lead growth strategies for people who have gotten involved in sales and marketing alignment, or other types of advisory AI advisory for example. So they’ve been great not only for us, but we’ve been able to really extend them out to our clients and our clients. We’ve seen value from their involvement as well.

Jeremy Weisz  44:57

Where I could see I’m wondering again, what makes it attractive? What can someone’s thinking if I wanted to like to put together a board of advisors let’s say, let’s say someone says that, well, how did they make it attractive to these people? Because do they really need money? Right at this point? What are some of the things that you thought about or that other people can think about to make it attractive to these busy people that can be doing anything?

Mark Emond  45:26

Yeah, that’s a great question. I think speaking from our experience, first of all, the, the strength and credibility of the company is something they look for, right? Is this company that I’m going to, am I wasting my time? Or can I help grow something that I see the potential opportunity for growth? So overall liability, strength of the company strength of the leadership team, I think is certainly important thing value system needs to align as well, what’s the value? What’s the reputation of the company? What are the values and the reputation of the company? And do they align with my values? And will they enhance or potentially mitigate my, my reputation? And then I think you’ve got to look at alignment of the types of advisors as well, you know, as much as we look to say, okay, can this person help us when it comes to talent advisory or sales advisory or running a services business? These people will look and say, well, how much value can I bring to this organization? Is there a good alignment for me as well? So that I think works both ways?

Jeremy Weisz  46:34

And then is there? I don’t know, what do people typically give any equity with this type of scenario? Was it more just a pay-per-meeting?

Mark Emond  46:45

Certainly can be equity. It can be there’s all kinds of compensation strategies out there from equity to fixed rate on an annual basis, and then time and materials for additional time spent.

Jeremy Weisz  46:56

I got it. First of all, Mark, I want to thank you. I have one last question. Before I ask it. I want to point people to Demand Spring, check it out. And check out more episodes of the podcast. My last question is about basketball. Okay, talk about coaching for a second, and maybe the most memorable game that you coached? Because I’m sure it all plays back to the leadership and all the stuff you’ve been working on in business over the years.

Mark Emond  47:28

Yeah, first of all, I love the sport. More importantly, I love working with young people, I think that that’s really become a huge passion in my life is helping to grow and develop young I work with female athletes. So I coach, one of the better teams in the province of Ontario, you 16 girls got a just a great group of girls, I’m also coaching a youth 14 team this year as well. So definitely have my hands full, but seeing them come in the gym. And I think female athletics has come so far in terms of the growth and the recognition of it, seeing these young women come into the gym and play the way they can, is just amazing. It’s great to see I love it, I love to see what it does for their self-esteem for their self-confidence for the relationships, they’re building. The leadership opportunities they’re getting, what they’re learning about how to work as part of a team, and what they can take from that and for into their lives today. And in the future, what it will do for them is just amazing, right? The financial paycheck from coaching, basketball is quite small, the emotional paycheck is massive. And it truly I feel like, what I get out of that is really defining in my life, quite honestly. And what I’m giving to them is just, I like to think it’s having a really big impact and one of the biggest impacts that my life is having on others. So absolutely love it. Love being in the gym, it’s my happy place. And I love the sport and I love the strategy of the sport as well. It’s a great sport. In terms of best games. You know, I’d say there’s a couple that stand out Jeremy one is we won the provincial championship at our level and you 14. Now this was a little bit lower division was competitive basketball, but a little bit lower division. But nonetheless, when you win a provincial championship, it’s amazing. We scored the winning basket was seven seconds left. This was two years ago, for baseline out-of-bounds play. We’ve been winning the entire game. The team came back and they took the lead for the first time with about a minute 20 left in the game. And I think my hair was turning gray in real-time at this point. The level of stress in coaching is although my focus is more on development of the person, there’s a level of competitiveness that also comes out. Anyways, we went back and forth for the last minute we finally scored the winning basket with seven seconds left and it was amazing the girls just celebrated like there was no tomorrow and then I coached at the Ontario summer gains which is provincial level a couple years ago and coaching in that seeing best athletes from across the province at that age was truly amazing being part of that it was an Olympic like experience where there’s opening ceremonies athletes marching in and so seeing these, it was for you 14 Girls so seeing 13-year-old girls marching and just having an amazing experience both on and off the court living in an Olympic style village was a great experience so those would be my two highlights amazing.

Jeremy Weisz  50:39

I love it. I just want to be the first one to thank you. I want to give a shout-out to Korean Million it makes me think of this arc because she actually pairs athletes , collegiate athletes and I’m not sure maybe high school athletes to with companies for paid internships. So she kind of pairs them up with companies like Wilson and ESPN and other places. So maybe I got to connect the two of you because she does amazing work. But everyone. Thank you very much, Mark. We’ll see you next time. Thanks!

Mark Emond  51:07

Thank you so much, Jeremy.