by Brian Sun, Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Autopilot

A Decade’s Worth of Insights From Marketo’s First Sales Hire (AKA Autopilot’s New VP of Sales)

We’re happy to announce that Scott Edmonds is Autopilot’s new VP of sales. He’s a veteran of the marketing automation space, was employee #10 at Marketo, and has advised multiple companies on their sales growth strategy.

He’s seen teams of all sizes succeed with marketing automation, from pre-revenue startups to multi-billion dollar companies. We sat down with him to glean from his marketing automation wisdom and get the goods on how the industry has changed and where it’s going.

Here’s what he had to say.

1. How long have you been in the marketing automation space and what did you know about marketing automation when you first started?

I’ve been in the marketing automation space for almost a decade.

Way before that though, in the early 2000s, I was running my own company and learned first-hand how hard it was to bring a product to market. The financial and technical marketing costs were much higher than they are today. Creating a website cost used to cost tens of thousands of dollars, email marketing was clunky and segmentation was extremely difficult whereas now you can launch a great looking website with a service like Squarespace for less than a hundred bucks.

The experience primed me for the promise of marketing automation – that you can do marketing that’s sophisticated but not have it be expensive, complicated, or difficult to implement. This promise is why I joined Marketo almost a decade ago. I believed in it wholeheartedly and wanted to help bring it to the world.

2. Tell me more about the promise of marketing automation. What is the promise? Why was the promise important?

Rewind the clock to 2003. My company had grown to about a dozen people. Everyone was smart, and had interesting, creative marketing ideas. But to test out even the simplest ideas, we had to put together a microsite, create targeted emails, and mine our database (Excel) for the right segments. This was a lot of money to shell out for the available tools at the time.

Putting together a newsletter was even hard. You needed somebody who knew HTML, and could take your content to write the newsletter. Back in the day (also known as the SaaS stone age) this was really expensive stuff. Today it’s even more complex as a small business might also have an iOS/Android app, be running paid ads on multiple platforms, engaging in a social sales strategy, and more. This requires a lot of work, and takes time, coordination, and technical ability.

The promise of marketing automation was that all of these tedious tasks of doing marketing would become a piece of cake. Marketers could focus on the strategic and creative element of running campaigns instead of spending time coding HTML, working with contractors and setting up landing pages. Life would be easier, we could focus on our goals instead of the doing.

3. How do you personally define marketing automation? Why?

I remember sitting around with the co-founders of Marketo asking “What should we call this stuff?” They landed on marketing automation because at the time it was a quasi-accepted term and not terribly confusing. Marketo quickly came to own that particular phrase.

I do think the term can be restrictive as it implies targeting prospects, but in short, it’s marketing…automated. And that marketing of course can be good or bad.

Bad marketing scales. But so does good marketing. It’s like Bill Gates says:

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

4. Autopilot has brought a new approach to marketing automation, focused on flexible, adaptive customer journeys – we call this customer journey marketing. What’s your view on this?

Autopilot brings two things to the table. First, Autopilot is built by cloud-generation entrepreneurs who think API and unstructured data first, with a vision to empower marketers to work more flexibly, collaboratively, and happily, while stitching together their favorite tools and customer data. This means Autopilot has been built to be well-integrated with best of breed apps like Slack, Salesforce, Segment, Zapier, and many more to come.

Second, at Autopilot’s core is a truly revolutionary user experience, including a visual UI that allows marketers to create customer journeys on the fly, as simply as drawing shapes on a whiteboard. It includes in-product tutorials designed to help marketers learn and get value within hours of starting, compared to paying consulting fees for months-long implementation projects. Also, the platform does not sacrifice the power to automate and personalize customer experiences for millions of contacts and activities across channels, apps, and departments.

I like to think of marketing automation like a symphony. It requires a lot of little things that need to work together in tandem – content marketing, product marketing, executive alignment, sales execution, customer success – to create a quality customer experience. Autopilot makes conducting this concert much easier and intuitive than a lot of the other options available.

5. What types of companies have you seen be the most successful with implementing marketing automation? What were the biggest barriers they had to overcome?

I’ve personally had a hand in helping everything from small pre-revenue startups to multi-billion dollar revenue companies be successful with marketing automation.

The biggest barrier across the board for companies is knowing exactly what they to achieve with it. If a company just wants to send a newsletter, they can do that today with fifty different tools out there. But if they want to send targeted messages to people at different stages of the customer lifecycle, marketing automation is the best bet.

A few more hurdles to consider are which other systems an organization wants to integrate together to create a single view of their customer. And for some it’s learning how to use the software, while for others it’s building up a library of content to work with.

6. We’ve talked about the barriers. What strategies and tactics have you seen companies try that worked?

I think things have evolved in the past decade, but here are few that come to mind:

Start with a remarkable product. Success starts with a product or service that solves a problem, and has a compelling value proposition. This is foundational before you even tackle marketing automation.

Figure out your sales cycle. Your customers will typically buy on a similar-ish schedule. Maybe it’s compressed, maybe it’s long. The general rule of thumb is that the more expensive the purchase, the longer the buying process will be. For example, in the B2B sales cycle, leads will do a mix of talking their friends, researching you online, consuming your content, and talking to your sales guy before thinking about doing a purchase.

Create helpful content marketing. Content is the wood that fuels the marketing automation fire. You need to personally focus on content, or bring a person onto your team that is excellent at tuning messages toward your target personas and putting out a consistent amount of interesting stuff. Don’t fall into the trap of just creating me-focused company content.

Tell a great story. I’ve always believed that the companies that win tell the biggest, baddest stories. Take Salesforce for example. They’ve been telling the cloud-based software story for over 15 years through their messaging, positioning, conferences and continue to dominate with an exceptional story.

Hire a marketer with vision. If done well, a marketing automation tool can make a small to medium-sized company seem like they’re everywhere. But it requires the vision and ambition of a smart marketer to be able do that. I saw this happen with Apptus. They had put marketing automation in place many years ago, and 2 years after the fact a brilliant marketer came on board, and pushed the pedal on marketing automation as one of her strategies to help grow it into the billion-dollar company it is today.

Align your marketing and sales departments. I’m far from alone in this mindset, but I think sales and marketing are the same thing. Just different stages. It’s important to define the lead handoff from marketing to sales. So get both teams together in the same room and figure out how you’re going to create a seamless experience for customers.

6. Is marketing automation just limited to email?

Nope. The best marketing goes beyond email to connecting with customers on multiple channels, including SMS, in-app messages, social messages and direct mail.

What’s important is connecting with your audience on the channels they’re on. For example, I was talking to a friend of mine recently who only checks her email a few times a week max. She only reads Slack and SMS messages. Trying to reach her on email would be a waste of time and effort. Other folks get incensed if you SMS their mobile phone. One time that stands out to me when I was working in Europe for Marketo, I negotiated and closed a deal over Twitter direct messaging. I don’t use Twitter much, but this prospect wanted to connect there and so we did.

The point is to engage people where they want to be engaged.

7. What was it like seeing Marketo’s sales org scale?

It’s iterative. There’s what sounds good in the planning room, and ultimately, what works in the field. Sometimes they’re similar but often times they’re different.

I remember early in my tenure at Marketo when a new sales leader joined our new team. The mood changed almost instantly, the intensity heightened. We constantly tinkered with our messaging, our story, the selling experience and when we found a formula that clicked, man did it resonate. We ran versions of this new playbook ruthlessly around the globe. Playbooks don’t last forever. Staff changes and competitors catch up, but it’s about finding your path and not looking over your shoulder while you’re doing it.

8. Did your team take a “top down” or “bottom up” approach to selling?

Mostly top down. The process consisted of reaching out to the decision maker, getting connected with the person who will use the software, coming to a consensus, then negotiating and winning the deal.

However, a top down and bottom up approach can play nicely together.

With the rise of self-service software, individuals and small groups are choosing the tools they need on their own to get the job done without company-wide adoption. This bottom up model is how high-velocity companies like Zendesk took off. Small groups were able to spin up a support desk in minutes while competitors were chasing down decision makers. I’ve been friends with Guy Marion for 7 years who drove the self-service initiative at Zendesk before joining Autopilot and was excited to join up with him to experience this new model. In a short period of time, we’ve been able to “land and expand” into some very large organizations by virtue of the fact that the marketing practitioner was able to buy a small instance on expenses, configure it and present it to their team for an ultimate top-level decision.

9. What do you think is the future of marketing automation?

The future of marketing automation is about being a good steward of the customer. With heaps of data at our fingertips, there’s a huge opportunity to engage our audiences thoughtfully, intelligently, and personally with a cohesive experience across every channel. Marketing won’t be just about getting more leads, but about creating a remarkable customer journey from beginning to end.

Now it’s your turn. What are your takeaways from this interview? Do you have any follow up questions for Scott? Let us know in the comments.

Author Brian Sun, Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Autopilot

  • Your journey to sky-high growth starts here.

    Subscribe to join a savvy crew of journey marketers and learn the latest trends, tactics, and tools.

    • Jan Smit

      Great interview. Good luck Scott, and thanks for the Bill Gates quote.

    More from Marketing
    6 Reasons Why People Unsubscribe From Your Emails

    6 Reasons Why People Unsubscribe From Your Emails

    An opt-in email list is a key asset for growing your business. Why? Subscribers giving you access to their box  …

    Send Postcards As Easily As Email With Autopilot

    Send Postcards As Easily As Email With Autopilot

    Thanks to an integration with our friends at Lob, we’re really excited to announce that you can now send postcards  …

    Autopilot Goes To Wine Country

    Autopilot Goes To Wine Country

    Last Friday, the customer-facing team at Autopilot went to Sonoma with one of our customers, Toby Marion from Golden Gate  …