Interview with Kaiser Mulla-Feroze, CMO - Totango

Media Inquiries: Contact Karen Budell, CMO

Media Inquiries: Contact Karen Budell, CMO

1. Could you tell me a little about your background and how you came to be the CMO at Totango?

After spending 12+ years at Salesforce, I was hungry to get back into an early stage startup that had a vision as disruptive as Salesforce’s back in 2000.

Totango is addressing a massive problem and opportunity that companies face today. Practically every industry – whether it is healthcare or financial services or logistics or education – is getting digitized. This has given rise to what I call a new class of customer data – tons of rich, real-time data about what your customers are doing (and not doing) inside your web and mobile apps.

What’s amazing about these data is that they tell you a lot more about your customers than the static, transactional data you enter into your CRM. It’s data that can give you true insights on your customers that you would otherwise be unaware of – who is ready to go to the next level, who needs training or a little prodding, who is not engaged and may be ready to jump ship.

Unfortunately, companies are sitting on this data goldmine but they don’t know how to tap into it to maximize customer value and, ultimately, revenue.

There is a gap between the people who hold the data and your customer-facing teams running sales, marketing, customer success, customer service.

That’s where Totango comes in. We help companies extract actionable insight from these customer data and then translate it into business processes and workflow, so that customer-facing teams can

  • engage more effectively with customers and
  • impact the metrics that they care about – such as trial conversion, product adoption, renewal revenue, upsells, etc.

Over the last year, Totango has seen tremendous uptake as we’ve made a real difference in the operations of many companies.

I personally think this is a tremendous opportunity. We’re still in the early days and I wanted to get in on the ground floor with a company that had the big vision plus the technical and leadership chops to make it happen. I found that with Totango. The company is on the cutting-edge, just as Salesforce was in transforming the enterprise software industry when I joined in 2001.

2. What is the core marketing technology capability of Totango that you bring to a marketer? Where does your product fit in vis a vis the customer life cycle?

Totango is all about connecting with customers in an authentic, relevant way based on the knowledge of what your users are actually doing and achieving inside your product or service.

This reach into your application, as the foundation of lifecycle marketing, is a core marketing technology capability of ours.  It’s something that is very unique to the way Totango thinks about marketing.

There are two areas where this capability lends itself best vis-a-vis the customer lifecycle. The first is during the purchase cycle where companies may offer a trial or freemium product from which they want users to upgrade into paying customers.  In this situation, companies use Totango to personalize communications and marketing programs to each user based on their actions and progress within the trial offering – as a way to drive more engagement and increase the likelihood of purchase.

The second area is customer marketing. Today, customer marketing is becoming more critical as companies derive an increasing portion of their revenue from existing customers by way of repeat purchases and renewals. In this case, Totango is again able to help companies drive higher levels of engagement by targeting users with very specific adoption and retention campaigns.

The cool thing about what our clients achieve with Totango is that they get to measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns based on actual actions customers take inside their product or service – not just the open and click rates of campaign emails.

This is a major transformation of how companies can think about the impact of their customer outreach.

3. From a technology perspective, what are some of the biggest challenges that your marketing team faces today?

The marketing space is seeing some amazing innovation. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of companies building products targeted to CMOs and marketing teams. One of the challenges with this is figuring out what’s real, what’s good, what’s worth trying – and also how to piece different products together. At some point, using so many discrete products takes a toll and makes it very difficult to develop a cohesive picture of overall marketing results and effectiveness.

4. How does Totango’s customer success data platform differ from its competition?

Totango is the only Customer Success platform that is architected and built as an enterprise “system of record” for customer engagement data. Based on research that shows that 90 percent of churn is preceded by poor customer engagement and product usage, Totango is the strongest player when it comes to collecting and operationalizing customer behavior and usage data.

The other major players in the Customer Success space are built as extensions of existing CRM systems, which are not architected for live data streams. This means that companies would need tedious, time-consuming, and expensive integration projects to capture customer engagement data. Totango, on the other hand, is a sensor-based system continuously monitoring and collecting usage data through simple instrumentation of your application. Think of it as a Fitbit for your customers.

Ultimately, Totango’s technology and infrastructure is a critical differentiator. This is what attracts data-driven, customer-centric digital businesses to use Totango.

5. What according to you is the best way for firms to scale their customer account management?

There are two keys to scaling customer account management. The first is knowing which customer needs your attention, so account managers can prioritize and focus their efforts on the right accounts at the right time. Traditionally, account managers have had to cycle through their accounts on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis depending on the size of their portfolios. However, this means that you’re often checking in with your customers to see how they’re doing. If account managers had the right early warning signals to tell them that Account A is at risk of churn because of XYZ reason, or Account B is a potential upsell, then they could focus their attention on the right accounts in their portfolio. We call this the Portfolio Management paradigm for account management and customer success teams. This makes account managers more proactive and productive, and allows teams to scale and handle a larger number of customers.

The second way to scale is to complement account managers with customer success programs and campaigns that are triggered automatically when an account or a user takes a certain action or reaches a particular milestone.  This requires a marketing approach and an underlying customer monitoring capability we spoke about earlier.

Without having visibility into customer behavior and actions, companies would be unable to drive meaningful programs and campaigns.

6. Could you elaborate on Totango’s Portfolio Management paradigm for Customer Success teams? Does Totango borrow elements from Account Based Marketing to scale beyond the unsustainable model of adding a CSM for every 10-20 customers?

Yes and no. Account-based marketing is an approach to marketing in which companies communicate with and market to individual customer accounts viewing them as markets of one.  So the targeting and personalization elements are similar. But Totango goes a step beyond ABM on a couple of dimensions.

One, we have a focus on the end-user, not just the account.  In B2B enterprise markets, accounts are not homogeneous entities. They comprise a large number of teams and users, each one at a different level of engagement or adoption. So understanding each user and driving user-level campaigns is critical.

The second difference is that the personalization in ABM is often based on demographic or account attributes (e.g., the nature of the company’s business, or the size of the company, etc).  For Totango, portfolio management is much more driven by customer engagement, customer behavior, and business outcomes achieved by customers – not just account attributes.

7. What is your take on the massive explosion of MarTech cos across so many categories? Do you see competition, opportunities to partner and/or integrate?

You’re right. There’s an amazing amount of innovation in MarTech right now. However, we see much of this focused on understanding prospects and their actions in the public domain, e.g. on your public website or on social networks like Twitter or Facebook. This is very different from what Totango is doing. Totango comes into the picture once you actually know who a user is and they have already initiated some relationship with you by signing up or creating a login. In that sense, our focus from a MarTech standpoint is further downstream or down the funnel.

8. How do you weigh in on the whole ‘buying into vs building a marketing cloud’ choices that marketers have to face today?

This goes to my earlier comment on the challenge facing marketing teams. I think today most companies don’t have much of a choice but to piece together their marketing cloud.

MarTech solutions span a wide range of capabilities and there is no one pre-built marketing cloud that serves all the various facets of MarTech that a company needs. That said, I do have a preference to buy as much of the marketing cloud from one vendor as possible.  But I think the reality is that we are years away from realizing this vision.

For example, we use a general purpose marketing automation tool (like Marketo, Hubspot, Pardot), but we need to complement it with different point solutions for event management, webinars, social media management, content management, content delivery and visualization, SEO monitoring and tracking, etc. The list goes on and on.

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