Actifio’s CMO Michael Troiano talks about his marketing campaigns and strategic approach for the engagement and development of new customer relationships.
The huge and growing number of enterprise technology vendors means companies are bombarded with information and production options. This creates opportunities, but it is a massive challenge to cut through the noise and get products into the right hands.
insightive.tv: What is fascinating about your background is you have an ad agency background – so I’m interested: what is the biggest channel management challenge you face when reaching your target audience?
Troiano: I have a deep respect for the importance of story at the centre of any marketing program. Telling a simple story about the business impact of a very complex technology is really what defines our marketing model at Actifio. Translating the bits and bytes of what we do into a very clear and compelling message about why it matters to customers and then delivering that message consistently – that’s what we try every day to improve.
insightive.tv: How many channels do you actively manage and engage with at the moment?
Troiano: I manage around 25 to 30 channels at the moment. Not just digital channels, but also some corporate events held locally. It’s really about orchestrating each of those so they are sending the same message to each – that is the tricky bit.
insightive.tv: From your perspective, which channel is currently the most productive and why?`
Troiano: There is nothing more effective for us than small scale local conversation with a business decision maker on the ground. We act as middleware connecting business applications with business cases, across parts of an organisation, different users and different infrastructures from the data to the public file. So there’s a tremendous amount of variability in terms of what Actifio’s installations looks like. In some ways, every account is a snowflake.
Our sales effort focuses on getting to the right person inside an individual account and building a solution for them that has a compelling economic value proposition. Our goal is always to find and demonstrate a tangible Return on Investment in a defined time frame, and that means getting “close and personal” with the leaders of our buying coalition inside the account. That’s why, from a demand gen standpoint, nothing is more effective than a local meeting of four or five executives and a handful of our folks bringing them together for a conversation.
We also orchestrate a series of regional events from corporate. We just finished one called “Actifio Live” where we brought larger groups of customers, partners, and prospects together in each of our 6 major regions around the world, getting 25-75 people in the room to talk about Actifio and to meet with other customers. That scale of a program was also really effective for us.
insightive.tv: Of all the other channels, if you take out those small scale channels which you say provide the most Return on Investment and we take a look at much broader social media or digital channels, are they driving sufficient inbound leads?
Troiano: I think we see a tremendous return on our inbound program. It’s interesting that you characterise it that way. I don’t think of inbound as a vertical-tactical channel. I think of it as a horizontal “fulfillment channel” where we’re harvesting leads from our other efforts. We’ll see a spike in inbound traffic around the kinds of events I have described, for example.
We’re heading out to VMWorld in San Francisco next week, and we’ll do all the normal things you’d expect. But it really comes down to: Can you schedule one on one conversations? Can you have the meetings set up in advance so that you can really activate a show like that? In the weeks after, based on those conversations, we’ll see a significant spike in inbound traffic.
insightive.tv: It sounds like these local event campaigns seem to be paramount in terms of helping you win. When was the last time you put something together that has really delivered results for you?
Troiano: The formula we found that works is that the sales representative is responsible for the successful execution of our demand gen in their patch, and all the corporate resources they need are available to be deployed in their territory to drive the business. The model that we’ve had the most success is what would be called an Account Based Marketing Model (ABM), which given the availability of data is somewhat more easily done in the States. The idea is getting traction. We began the program last year as an effort called Tribe 200, which was our internal language for working with the rep to identify the 200 best accounts in a given sales representative’s territory.
Importantly, we ask the representatives to identify those 200 accounts. No one knows the market better than a sales representative so they are a key person in terms of identifying who are these target customers. Once we’ve identified the accounts, we identify individuals within those accounts with titles that are the members of our buying coalition. We structure a program of outreach to try to elevate our visibility with them and that may be through a digital forum like Twitter, or it could be event based. Over time we want to try to raise our level of visibility with those people. We want to reach out to them. It’s through partnering channels, in some cases directly, in which we start to build a relationship. And we want to invite them to an event worthy of their attention.
Identifying some key folks, making the field sales organisation responsible for driving traffic in and out of there, and really actively engaging with them in their territory that they care about – that is the model that works.
insightive.tv: What are your target audience roles? Who are you trying to reach?
Troiano: We’re really trying to reach a coalition of people. The most important member of that coalition is typically the CIO. So, again, coming back to the nature of what we sell, we are a disruptive technology. We displace legacy backup systems and we transform the way the application development resources get access to that. We accelerate on large companies migration from their own internal server centres to service provider’s infrastructure whether that is public or private. So each of those disruptions is going to generate its own resistance inside an organisation at a certain level. And what compels customers – the reason for our success – has been that the economic justification for this disruption is so significant that it just cannot be ignored. We really want to make sure that we are engaged and the person who is the intersection between the technical architecture and the business requirements will have usually a CIO title, sometimes of VP of IT. So if I have to identify the single most important person it would be that person. But the coalition goes well beyond that.
insightive.tv: Are you seeing increased competition for the CIOs’ attention? How are you doing in terms of getting into those conversations and getting the attention at the beginning?
Troiano: Yes, we’re not the first tech company ever to figure out we need some level of attention from that individual in order to open up a new customer relationship. I’m a big believer that you end up talking to the person you sound like, and this is very challenging. Many sales executives have strong careers in technology and are very comfortable selling “feeds and speeds” in a more conventional infrastructure – it is a very typical enterprise tech sales process. I think early on we ended up turning over some very capable executives who by training and habit just couldn’t seem to move beyond the pure technology sale. It became clear we needed sales people who were as good at explaining “Why” as they were with ‘What” and “How.” Today I think we have that, but it wasn’t easy to get there.
To help we created an independent internal organisation focused 100 percent on the development of an objective business case for a customer that is way beyond the sort of typical TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) analysis. We have very capable people out there who can really quantify the impact that Actifio will have on a customer. That’s been invaluable.
insightive.tv: We’ve realised how really large companies have had a massive change because of that change of focus. From your perspective – how do you achieve that?
Troiano: We really believe that enterprise selling in 2016 is about solving business problems for the customer.
Our sales approach is focused on solving customers’ problems. We translate our technical capabilities into the language of our target subject. If we are speaking to the CFO, we open our conversation with stories on how we solve processes related to revenue and cost or how we’re going to transform the efficiency of certain operations. A CFO sees those as technical problems meaning he’d see them as problems that should be solved by his organisation, not problems he has proposed some third party vendors before.
It has been a very dramatic shift in the way the companies like ours think about the nature of selling and this more collaborative complicated problem-solving business impact focused model is absolutely fundamental to success for the kinds of customers that we’re dealing with.
insightive.tv: What types of channels produce SQL vs MQL in terms of the return on investment and the time it takes to close?
Troiano: We really don’t focus too much on MQL, not even on SQL. In a given year we might try 20 different things, some that are tried and true and many we haven’t done before. As we close business, we reach out for a conversation with the sales representative to identify where an opportunity came from. That puts us in a position at the end of the year to really understand where our deals came from, and that’s what we do to determine what we’re going to do the following year.
It’s really based on that analysis that we make investment decisions and how the share of deals that came through a marketing channel are determined. There are certain venues in which we participate just for our brand awareness, but this model drives the majority of our spend.
insightive.tv: This final question relates to the small scale events that you’ve been talking about. How do you know when the channel has become saturated?
Troiano: As I mentioned earlier, we want to talk to the CIO as early as possible The reasons CIO resist talking to us is that they’re tired of talking to technology sales people who haven’t done their homework… who don’t know their business, and who don’t listen when they try to explain it.
These days it’s remarkable how much insight you can get on an organisation if you’re just willing to do the work. In every case, there is no excuse for us not having done that legwork. By the time we’re in front of the right person, we have done everything we can on our side to understand their business problem without being presumptuous. I think people respect that, and we all, as human beings, feel some sense of obligation to someone who’s demonstrated that they’ve done some work on our behalf.
We open with very carefully orchestrated discovery efforts to identify specific areas of priority for any given customer and then we focus our whole campaign around solving the problems that are important to them.
We are genuinely focused on trying to build higher quality applications faster. We have a different story to tell and a different set of business we represent in a product and we have some customers that are using Actifio primarily to accelerate the movement towards a hybrid architecture.
insightive.tv: What do you think other organisations can learn from the journey that you’ve been on?
Troiano: I think what we’ve done well in Actifio is have humility at the corporate level. One of the philosophies we’ve always had is it’s all about how we get closer to the ground truth of what is effective and not be married to anything from a tactical or marketing standpoint. My job is to observe what is happening on the ground very closely, to try and find patterns in the dance of lots of wins and losses in a given quarter – to try, from those patterns, to define programs, resources and best practices and share them back out to the field so that we create a whirling organism across the whole goal to marketing.
We have an internal system we call the Sales Empowerment Portal. It’s actually just a social network, where sales guys and Solution Architects share stories with and ask questions of each other. I have no better source of truth, no better place for any programs and ideas out around the world than the conversations I can observe there between salespeople who are just trying to get a deal for this quarter.
I just try to keep listening hard. I think that and the quality of our execution have been the keys to our success.
Michael Troiano is a successful technology entrepreneur and award-winning marketer. Michael initiated his career as an executive at New York advertising agencies, managing top-class clients such as AT&T, Coca-Cola, and Taco Bell. Today, Michael is the Chief Marketing Officer of Actifio, provider of copy data virtualisation solution to hundreds of global enterprise customers and service provider partners in more than 30 countries. Their Virtual Data Pipeline technology decouples data from infrastructure, enabling dramatic improvements in business resiliency, agility, and access to the cloud.