By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
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This week’s show is called “The Perfect MarTech Stack? How to Customize Software to Your Business” and our guests are Subbu Vempati, CEO at Cuspera and Judy Ash, GTM Adviser and CMO.
The idea of selecting your MarTech stack and selecting the right sales and marketing tools is something most marketers are grappling with. The problem is getting worse because there are more and more tools on a regular basis. I feel like if you go and talk to each of them, if you go to every tool’s website or you see them in a trade show (eventually we’ll see them at trade shows again), you go to their website and you hear from them– everybody individually has a great story. It sounds like a good pitch. Sounds like a good opportunity, interesting, but you can’t buy 7,000 tools. So the idea of selecting which tools are important to you, which vendors are going to be best for your business and for your stack is a real challenge.
I ask Subbu to talk a little bit about why he decided to go down the route of creating a tool to help people make better technology decisions.
We also talk about the importance of knowing what are the outcomes you are trying to achieve as well as what capabilities you need and how peer feedback can really help us.
This and a lot more. Listen in and/or read the full transcript below:
Matt Heinz: All right. Well, welcome everyone to another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. So thankful to have you all with us again on a Thursday morning here on the West Coast. We are here every week, live at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. As some of you have recognized, a new format for the show. We have always been an audio show, we’re almost 250 episodes in on Sales Pipeline Radio. We are now doing this on LinkedIn Live so we can take advantage of the video capabilities so we can see the faces and people that we’re talking to on a weekly basis. So if you’re joining us live today on LinkedIn Live, thank you very much for making this a part of your work day. If you’re watching this on demand, thanks for checking us out. If you are listening to this through the podcast feed, so thankful to have you joining us and listening to our episodes.
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We are featuring each week some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing. Today is absolutely no different. Very excited to have with us Cuspera founder and CEO Subbu Vempati who is joining us, as well as Judy Ash, who is a long time CMO, a demand gen expert, and has been serving as a go to market advisor for the Cuspera team as well. Judy and Subbu, thank you so much for joining us today.
Judy Ash: Thank you.
Subbu Vempati: Matt. I’ve been in every ‘pod’ video, I feel honored that you chose to include me in your show. I’m really, really grateful.
Matt Heinz: Well, it’s a pleasure. I’m really grateful myself that Judy introduced me to you and to the business and what you guys are doing because the idea of selecting your MarTech stack and selecting the right sales and marketing tools is something that most marketers, if not all B2B marketers, are grappling with. The problem is getting worse because there are more and more tools on a regular basis. I feel like if you go and talk to each of them, if you go to every tool’s website or you see them in a trade, eventually we’ll see them at trade shows again but you go to their website and you hear from them, everybody individually has a great story. It sounds like a good pitch, sounds like a good opportunity, interesting, but you can’t buy 7,000 tools. So the idea of selecting which tools are important to you, which vendors are going to be best for your business and for your stack is a real challenge. Subbu, talk a little bit about why you decided to go down the route of creating a tool to help people make better technology decisions.
Subbu Vempati: Oh, thank you. You know, so this actually, there is an emotional connect. I’ve been a business manager. And in those days I would practice shadow IT, my CA would not allow me to buy stuff. But I needed some way of fulfilling my functions and it will now become routine courtesy cloud and SAS more and more business managers are buying and I know how tough it used to be in those days. You brought up the point, there are so much more variety out there today to select from. It is subcutaneously giving an opportunity in the sense that what are you are looking for? The possibility that high probability that something like that exists, but selecting is a problem. And there is also data available, a lot more data available about the solutions today than ever have been publicly. But trying to understand what the data means for me is a problem.
No. Why is it personal for a business manager? If you know, if the software selection is wrong, it’s carrier with their stake. If there is that as an operative, it really personal. And another example of the thing is this availability of this thing, and the complexity involved has created in the business world. Haves and have nots. You know, previously the word is used a lot more in the economy sense about individuals, but in the business, as it is creating a lot of businesses will struggle to survive. They’re trying to catch up and if they don’t succeed in taking advantage of the technology, and I think we are extremely critical that that [inaudible 00:04:07] to be bridged. So I’m emotionally very involved in this.
Matt Heinz: I love that answer and it certainly it’s created a lot of angst, a lot of stress for a lot of marketers trying to make the right decisions. It’s trying to figure out who to listen to. And Judy, you’ve been in that seat multiple times. I mean, I know you’ve been, you’ve been a CMO, you’re about to announce where you’re going next and both in the work you’ve done as well as advising companies. I have to imagine the angst of MarTech selections has come up a lot, talk about what that feels like first person and what that problem really, what really characterizes that problem.
Judy Ash: Thanks. That’s a great question. I, as a former CMO and then someone who is just really passionate about go to market, we cannot deny that marketing and sales is technology driven post COVID world, a thousand percent more. Every marketer on the planet is experiencing this. And so if our MarTech stack, and if our digital engagement isn’t distinctive, we will lose Sales Pipeline because leads won’t convert. So what Cuspera brings to this is an ability to leverage the power of the MarTech stack peer network and reviews and comments and success stories brought together in a way that accelerates our ability as a business buyer and an evaluator to build out our MarTech stack. Whether we are a small scrappy startup putting in sort of base foundation technology, what’s the best tool for my size and scale or one that is completely transforming, which was my last experience where we really literally had to rebuild the MarTech stack to get to a really, truly an engine that drives demand gen and the Cuspera tool.
What I see, and it is the power to leverage my peers in a really efficient way and their experience and their advocacy or their real life, this didn’t work so well kind of stuff that helps me as a business decision maker go faster. And I think that’s if Cuspera had been around when we were doing that, I think it would have been, we would have had a faster track to it. So it’s really been fun to partner with a Subbu to get firsthand knowledge of it as he’s put customers in place in the last year.
Matt Heinz: Yeah. We got a viewer on LinkedIn Live, just posted in a comment, a link to one of the latest MarTech Scott breakers, MarTech survey that shows like over 8,000 tools out there. The diversity of tasks that these tools tend to accomplish is diversifying the number of companies within each of those categories and subcategories and sub-sub categories.
Judy Ash: It’s truly overwhelming. The feature set is, they’re just very slices, hair slices, right. It really margin thin, and you can spend a lot of money on things that aren’t quite right for your business need, and that’s not what we want to do. That’s really not what we want to do.
Matt Heinz: So back in the day when we were trying to make technology decisions before we had a lot of the power of the web and the power of sort of the crowd online. We’d ask our buddies, like, what are you using and how do you like it? We’d ask analysts what they think and what, and how they like it. And more recently we’ve had sort of peer review sites like G2 and Trust Radius that are allowing people to get a little more insight into sort of what’s available and what people think. Talk a little bit about how Cuspera is an evolution of that. Like what additional problem, Subbu, does it solve in the marketplace?
Subbu Vempati: Yes, you answered that a minute ago. You actually planted the seed for the answer. You talked about the fact that categories, subcategories and sub-sub categories. If you think about it, there are 500 categories that are in marketing and sales that are being banded about. So now you should have an understanding of sales, of marketing, of what software we are trying to understand what are the categories. Now let’s look at the [inaudible 00:08:24] Trust Radius out somewhere else. They are different, they’re not personalized in any way. So they are at best at industry level and okay, but I don’t want to buy a CRM. I am trying to actually do a better contact list management, do I need to buy a CRM for that? It is essentially as opposed to putting yourself in the business manager and business team needs, the categories are driving their decision-making.
And that impact is there is nothing personalized about the selection in modern, that, and every business problem is unique. Business need is unique and solve the solutions with the richness that is out there. So what we thought is that it’s important to create a matching all of them here. The business news, target the categories, target the top list, target all of this, look at the functionality associated with those solutions. What is their differentiation? And then bring them together with the business needs, which are very unique. So we understand the business needs through an engagement, the match, this based on the social proof that is available widely.
Matt Heinz: I love your answer. I think it matches the way a lot of people think about solving problems, even if it isn’t how they are typically, traditionally able to buy. Someone comes to me as a consultant and someone says, “Hey, Matt, what’s the best marketing automation platform on the market.” I can answer that question based on maturity and based on set of features and based on a lot of things and say, well, pound for pound, it might be this one, but that answer might be wrong for 95% of people asking. The better question isn’t, which is the best on the market, but what best serves your needs? I think about salesforce.com, right? I mean, Judy, I don’t know about you, but whether it’s salesforce.com or Microsoft Excel, critical tools for me, but I probably use a single digit percent of their functionality. I don’t care about the other pieces as long as those I’m using are indispensable. So knowing that in your market, what problem do I need to solve? Who else is solving it where seems to be a critical way of cutting through all the noise and getting to what you really need?
Judy Ash: Right, right. Layer over that, the number of social proof sites that are available right now for MarTech, right. There are many of them. If I have to take the time to look not only at the number of solutions for the business problem I have, what I’m trying to do, I’m probably thinking about it from a perspective of a pure function. I need to have functional email. I need to have ABM tools. I need to have contact database reliability and quality. Right. Each one of those categories probably breaks down in three or four. But then if I try to go find through Capterra, TrustRadius, G2, LinkedIn, too. Right? DPM G any of those groups all have a different opinion. It is very hard for me as an individual or my team to consolidate all that information and put it in a way where I can see the good, the bad, the concerning, to help me make a decision. Right. That is, I think the power of Cuspera. That’s what gets me super excited about it.
Matt Heinz: Yeah. I mean, this isn’t something you can just trial for a period time. When you are going to` make a tool selection, you really are making an investment and need to know that that tool is going to work. You need to know that it’s going to match what you’re trying to accomplish.
Judy Ash: Right.
Subbu Vempati: It is based on the functions and based on facts, social proof. Which it could be peer groups or it could be an expert opinion. It was bringing them all together in the context of the problem. And whether it could be a industry segment vertical, or it could be geography or something else, plus functionality that the business manager is trying to address.
Judy Ash: Right. In one report in any tangible deliverable, the secret sauce is that it’s a compendium and put together in one report that I, as a business partner, business user, can send to people who are a part of my team to get the same information based. Some facts, some customer story, some provided by the vendor, some provided by review sites, but in a consolidated fashion. That saves me a lot of time.
Matt Heinz: Let me ask a contextual question around this. So we’re talking today, those of you just joining us on Sales Pipeline Radio, very excited to have with us, the founder and CEO of Cuspera, Subbu Vempati. We’ve also got Judy Ash, who’s any of you may have known from some of her past CMO roles. She’s a to go to market advisor in this category.
So I think about, and I want to bring up a specific scenario where I think this can be really useful, right? Is I think some people are like, “Hey, which marketing automation tool should I buy and why?” Increasingly I’m hearing people ask the question, “do I need a marketing automation platform?” Right? Me goes to a deeper level of not just saying which category do I select, but what are even the right categories of tools that fit the way that I think I need to go to market. Right? And so this begs the question of these deeper, what problem am I trying to solve? What are the outcomes I’m trying to achieve that going to weigh a ranking of certain tools is not going to be sufficient. Subbu, talk a little bit about that use case of trying to understand beyond just the tech selection, like what capabilities do I need and how peer feedback can really help us.
Subbu Vempati: That is brilliant question for me. It speaks to the fact that, but let me repeat one thing that we said. The tech selection in the last step, there is a few steps that come before that. That is about understanding the problem. Typically, when I begin with staying stating something, I talk to you about what is at the top of my mind. I don’t specify with me. In fact, you say, “Subbu, tell me a little more about it”, then I will start bringing it. If you ask me a clarifying question, I would say, yes, that’s true or not true.
So getting the problem right is the first step in creating a match purpose solution. So the AI, artificial intelligence, in India. What it does is it is able to engage using another social proof. It knows that, Hey, you are in banking, you are trying to solve this problem. People like you, who are with the identical contexts have also solved along with this, something else it’s like amazon.com. So you go and say about this, people about this also bought this. If I tell you that you are a good business manager, you can instantly make additions whether it is part of the requirement or not. So you are problem definition to begin with using the peer group data and expert advice. People are saying, this is where the world is headed. Then you are essentially making a reasoned problem definition. At that point of time, then create, once you know what the problem is, finding an answer is actually [inaudible 00:15:45]. So that is again the power of air.
Matt Heinz: Yep. The other challenge, I think, and this is why I think having this really detailed peer review insight is, someone brought up the question of knowing, okay, what problem I try to solve? What tool is best supported for that problem? Which of these tools am I going to be most successful at digesting is the word someone used in the comments, right? Like in terms of integrating, rolling it out and using it, part of the reason why I might not recommend the best marketing automation platform to some people is, you got to have people to run it. You have to have people that are certified on it to run it. You know, if you’re, if you say, well, Tableau is a really great reporting tool. If you don’t have Tableau certified people on staff, it’s going to be a challenge.
Matt Heinz: So some people may not know that going in, I’ve seen many people buy platforms that have lots of bells and whistles and not realize until after they sign a contract, what the cost of maintenance and the cost of execution is going to be. And that certainly goes into the ROY case. Saying, okay, which of these tools is going to give me ROY? How do I measure that ROY? And what’s it going to cost beyond the tool to get that ROY? Those are insights that in terms of the problem you’re solving, I think are also inherent in understanding how others in your position have used and benefited from a tool.
Subbu Vempati: Perfect. So I would add to this, I talked about how we understand the business problem in the same way we do the software solution. What we are doing is we are not under, we are ignoring that category. And we are also not looking at the software as a monolithic solution. It has layers of components, layers of functionality. And we try to understand each one of them as a use case and how we do the deployment and what is the return outcome and in what context, right? So because of that, our view of understanding the solution is very fine-grained. On top of that, then we start thinking about is, okay, if this is the plan action, this is how it has succeeded. So now this business man is asking, “how can I then match this?” What is important for me is that the fine grade understanding of the solution is important. The whole product around that.
You brought up another part around saying that, “Hey, what do help people to run that solution?” You know, are we going to be able to integrate it’s, they’re not part of the product, but they are the whole product. If you don’t think of support dimension, if you don’t think of training availability, any one of the things, then when you buy the software, you run into problems or maybe it doesn’t integrate. Maybe you can’t export that data in and out, you run into a problem. Our thinking is that we need to think of this from a department perspective, not just about functionality and then say, okay, in one case functionality, we’ll tell you whether it’s a match and then we’ll tell you, Oh, this one you should consider these aspects when you are deploying this solution. This support is very, very good? This is not good?
Matt Heinz: One of the things I find is really useful when I’m trying to evaluate any kind of solution is not only seeing how something has benefited someone, but also seeing what challenges people have faced along the way. If I see a hundred percent, five star reviews, I’m very dubious. Whether those are accurate because no one has a hundred percent, five star reviews. So knowing maybe not necessarily like, Hey, here’s why I don’t, here’s why I don’t like this product. Here’s what I wish I would’ve done differently. Even some cautionary tales like, Hey, if you’re going to invest in this, here’s what you need to know. Right? If you’re going to use this, if you don’t have this tool to couple with it, it’s going to be a lot harder to implement. Talk about like how you incorporate negative input as well as positive input to give people a good well-rounded perspective on what’s going on and what they should consider.
Subbu Vempati: Absolutely. If you don’t do that, that section will be flooded by definition because you are not aware of the pitfalls associated with it. So we actually talk about different kinds of warnings associated with the product well beyond sentiment and say that, Hey, it has created a problem. Summarize the problem and integrate needs a challenge with this product. Our data export is a problem when you get logged in.
Matt Heinz: Yeah. I think it’s super important. For people that are interested in this discussion, obviously we can send them to cuspera.com. What can people expect when they come to the website? What should they expect to experience and what kind of output can they get to help them make this decision?
Subbu Vempati: Oh, it’s designed to be the business managers. If they have to find a analyst to use this solution, it depends. It has to be self service and easy. Okay. That’s part one. Two, in order we produce output, it has to be antiacid credible. You should be able to explain, why did I say something is 4.5, not 4.5, because I think so, but because these are all the data points, we use to write that conclusion. Okay. Three, it needs to be something explainable, connect, chase, all the things, whatever I reference to and said to the original source. And we essentially the self service, and it produces a report, which is online report that you can share with the team, discuss it, and then come back and modify the stuff and then evolve it to the point where that people like. It is not a distraction required.
Matt Heinz: I love that. Judy, just as we have to wrap up your next couple of minutes. As in a year, it sounds like you’ve got some news of where you’re headed next and noticing where you’re going is going to require building, modifying, improving a tech stack. Talk a little bit about how a system like this is going to make your job a lot easier and your team’s job a lot more likely to be successful.
Judy Ash: My next adventure I’ll be heading up growth in digital for a asynchronous video company, which I’m pretty excited about. We are building from scratch. So everything from the marketing automation platform to the ABM platform, to building out new campaigns, driving pipeline, all of it. So this, Cuspera is going to be a really nice tool for me and my team to use, just to determine how we assemble the technology and deploy. It’s always iterative too. Thing I find is you go five steps forward, implement test, see how things drive and then add the next thing. It’s not a one and done ever because technology just evolve. So I’m, I am excited not only about my next adventure, but about applying what Subbu’s team has done to help make it easier because we have to go fast. We have to go faster then I have probably, well, I’m not going to say that, but let’s go fast.
Matt Heinz: Well, and that’s an interesting variable on this too, right? Is that I think if you without adequate information, knowing you need to make the right decision upfront, that there is no trial there isn’t, I mean, take backs are really painful. It takes a little longer to make the right decision and with the right, some of these inputs. And as Travis mentioned here in the comments, like having a site, that’s willing to give the negative reviews and give both sides of the equation. You can go sort of like eyes wide open into what’s the decision. You can do it more quickly. You could do it more quickly with confidence and a likelihood that it’s going to be successful. So we will absolutely put links to Cuspera in the show notes for this. Thank you both so much for being part of this, Subaru and Judy, thank you so much for your time. [crosstalk 00:23:23]
Judy Ash: Always, and I’ll be back.
Matt Heinz: That sounds good. Well, thank you everyone for watching and listening on behalf of our guests today. My name is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. We’ll see you next week.
I interview the best and brightest minds in sales and Marketing. If you would like to be a guest on Sales Pipeline Radio send an email to Sheena.