How to Integrate Buyer Data – The 500 Billion Dollar Question : Interview with Mahau Ma

Interviewer: Today I am very pleased to welcome Mahau Ma, VP of Marketing of a company called MuleSoft which just garnered an additional fifty million dollars in venture capital financing, bringing their total to over a hundred and thirty million dollars. Congratulations Mahau.

Ma: Thanks Glenn.

Interviewer: Now MuleSoft is the number one integration platform for connecting any application, data service, or API on premises and in the cloud. So Mahau why don’t we start with telling us what that really means.

Ma: Oh yeah that’s a great question. Well if you think about sort of the, I guess I would call them the mega trends happening in IT right now, you know, the cloud and SaaS adoption, mobility, big data; everyone is talking about these things. What’s really happening with those is that it’s creating this kind of massive explosion of stuff out there right? You’ve got the data out in Salesforce, and in Marketo you’ve got customers coming in on mobile devices, but all that needs to be connected. Otherwise, it just becomes this fragmentation, and our mission really is to help companies connect them together. We did a study and realized that there’s about five hundred billion dollars spent each year on solving this problem. It’s really the largest unsolved problem out there, and our mission is to fix that problem.

Interviewer: So let’s talk about how that’s relevant for marketers, our audience.

Ma: Yeah, you know as I mentioned, I think marketing is really driving a lot of this explosion, if you will. I mean we’ve got all kinds of technology that we use in marketing – of course there’s the core marketing systems. You’ve got a website; typically you’re interacting with a sales force automation system like Salesforce. You might have a marketing automation system like Marketo. You know, those three things typically aren’t that big of a problem to connect together right? You usually get some out of the box integration between let’s say Marketo and Salesforce to sync data between those two. But, the big problem comes when marketing starts to do more clever things; if you’ve got to integrate an ecommerce engine, or payments engine, or something like that.

Interviewer: Right.

Ma: I know that we do fancier things around analytics tools, or the lead scoring type tools, or even there are things to serve dynamic content to users depending on who the users are. All of those things represent and end point if you will. And they require you to integrate them with the rest of your stuff; otherwise they’re not very useful. And that can become a problem for marketing because, after all, we’re not technology people. And so we bring these systems in hoping to get value out of them, but all of a sudden we’re faced with this nightmare, if you will, of a bunch of different tools and systems that we’ve got to manage that aren’t necessarily designed to connect that well together. So what happens is sometimes a tool gets upgraded, or an API gets changed here, or some data model gets changed there, and all of a sudden your site breaks. And you wonder what the heck is going on and some technology person has to go in and dig around and figure out what happened and fix the code.

Interviewer: Right.

Ma: It causes for a kind of a really brittle and sort of experience, and can impact the business. And again, that’s one of those things that we’re trying to solve.

Interviewer: Okay, good I get it now, and yes, it is true that there’s a huge explosion of different marketing technologies just aimed at the marketing function. And that problem alone, given your example of one vendor changing something in that ecosystem, will cause a lot of problems given the way it’s architected today, but, perhaps if you could tell us an example or two of how this plays out in a real company.

Ma: Yeah, well actually a good example is just MuleSoft ourselves. We’re a little company here based in San Francisco and were founded about eight years ago. And even over the past few years that we’ve gotten going, I think we did an audit this past year where we found that we had over a hundred SaaS applications deployed across the company that we even know of.

Interviewer: Oh wow.

Ma: It’s probably even more out there that – and as we know, part of the value of SaaS is that any business user can essentially swipe a credit card and get deployed quickly and start using the application. But it happens sort of a very sort of decentralized way. Eventually you end up with this problem. Within marketing even we just did a review. We’ve got a couple of dozen ourselves in marketing. We’ve got, as I mentioned, our website that we’ve got on Drupal. We’ve got a blog on [00:05:22 – Inaudible]; we’ve got Marketo and Salesforce. We use dynamic content engine called Insightera; customer forums, etcetera, etcetera. It’s just the list can go on and on.

Interviewer: Wonderful, good, and what about outside of MuleSoft?

Ma: We see this over and over again. All of our customers, and I think the problem gets even worse if the customer has been around for a little bit longer where they’ve got legacy systems. They might have SAP in the data center. They might have a bunch of custom applications that they’ve built, or the larger companies will be connected out to their business partners through legacy EDI type technologies, or even more modern API technologies. But, it’s one of these things that the longer you’re in existence, the larger you scale, the problem just becomes unwieldy.

Interviewer: Right, right, so when we were talking earlier one of the things we talked about was some of the issues that marketing organizations have in gaining a single view of the customer.

Ma: I think that’s right. I think that’s the thing about this [00:06:21 – Inaudible] integration, is that on its own, tying systems together and solving that pain is just kind of a small of what the puzzle is, if you will. The bigger goal that we have as marketers is to really understand who our customer is, and understand who is coming to visit us on the website; and who is coming and buying our stuff. And with all these things happening out there with social, with mobility, all of a sudden there are all kinds of different ways that customers are engaging with us across these different channels right?

Interviewer: Right.

Ma: Not to mention good old fashioned things like the phone . . .

Interviewer: Right.

Ma: . . . and coming into my brick and mortar store if I’m a retailer, things like that. Well, you know, it’s actually becoming increasingly difficult Glenn to understand who my customer is unless I can get a complete unified view across all of these different channels.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Ma: And by the way, in different industries the emphasis might be in different areas right? So in retail it’s all about Omni-channel, as I mentioned, upselling and cross-selling across these different channels. In financial services they might be calling it share a wallet, or in insurance it might be more about the customer experience making sure that when someone comes in on the phone they’ve got the same experience as when they come in on the website and so on. In fact, in some industries it’s a life or death thing right? In healthcare if my healthcare provider doesn’t have a 360° view of me as a patient they could make a really fatal mistake. So, this is really, really important stuff. It’s all about being able to connect all of the different areas where I’ve got touch points with my customer in order to get that complete view.

Interviewer: Right, so we all want to do that as marketers, and we also want to do it with our prospects as well.

Ma: That’s right, that’s exactly right, and actually I’ve got a great example. A customer that we have in the pharmaceutical industry, they’re one of the top five [00:08:11 – Inaudible] companies in the world, and what they’re really trying to do is they’ve got a digital marketing initiative where they’re really trying to understand what customers are doing even before they buy their stuff. So if you think about large pharmaceuticals they’ve got an umbrella parent company, but they’ve got thousands of different brands, or each drug, or device and they’ve websites for each one of these things. And for each one of these brands they’ve also got social channels, and sometimes even mobile apps. So this particular company has over 8,000 websites that they’re trying to manage, and they’re trying to understand what their customers are doing across these sites. And in addition to that, they’re also trying to figure out, because of course they’ve also got prescription medications that they’re trying to drive through physician channel, and so when their sales people go visit the doctors they’re trying to understand before they even visit the doctor whether that doctor has visited their drug portal, or what they’re doing on the website.

Interviewer: Sure.

Ma: And where they’re researching so then they can do a better job of sort of addressing their concerns or frankly, selling them more of their medications.

Interviewer: Right.

Ma: And so, they’ve got all kinds of systems to support this including Salesforce. They’ve maybe got, as I mentioned, these thousands of websites. They’ve got a marketing automation tool. Of course they’ve got identity management now too, because they’re trying to track these at the individual level.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Ma: And then they’ve got social marketing. So they’ve got all sorts of things that they’ve really got to tie together, and as I mentioned, it’s not just about the IT stuff on the back end, but it’s about enabling that business on the front end.

Interviewer: Right, beautiful. So let’s talk about following a customer through that buying lifecycle and what experiences you have there.

Ma: Yeah that’s a great point, because the integration problem doesn’t just stop at the marketing right? Ultimately, once the customer engages with us we need to have that experience flow all the way through to the transaction if you will. So, some people call that quote to cash. I’ve heard lead to cash. And my favorite thing actually these days kind of with social is Tweet to cash, which kind of the new-fangled thing. I’ve heard that a couple of times.

Interviewer: I like it. We’ll use it.

Ma: Yeah exactly. It’s sort of great for marketing for sure. But, again, this might take on different flavors depending on the industry. In healthcare it might be more about sort of claims. In financial services it might be more about taking errors out of a trade, if you will, like a stock trade. So they’ll automate the process to make sure that there aren’t any errors in that trade. In manufacturing and retail it might be more about the supply chain. But in the end they’re all about kind of the same thing which is from the first point that a customer touches you all the way through to when you invoice them and receive the money for that transaction how do you make sure that experience is completely seamless and that there are no errors right?

Interviewer: Um hm. And it’s interesting because if you claim that marketing should own that relationship, at least to some extent throughout the entire lifecycle, and they actually should be looking at that entire experience for the buyer.

Ma: I think that’s exactly right. This goes to sort of marketing being responsible for that sort of customer satisfaction, customer experience so that they’ll come back again right? And it’s very much a cross-functional responsibility, but marketing is the tip of the spear of course.

Interviewer: Beautiful, beautiful. Anything else you would like to share with us? Maybe some best practices about what you’re doing internally that our audience would like to hear about?

Ma: What I would say it that the world is changing right? I think as marketers, even just a few years ago we didn’t have to deal with this level of complexity and even I know that what we face every day is that the world is getting very competitive. There are lots of vendors chasing after the same customers, and so, information is power for us.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Ma: And as I mentioned, we ourselves are trying to deploy a lot of tools to help us understand what our customers are doing on our websites, how they’re interacting with us and trying to predict what their behavior is before it even happens, and then serving up content to them to really satisfy them before they even know they need it.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Ma: But all that stuff is hard to do. And I think even with our experience I would say that it’s very easy to incrementally say, okay I’ll just add this one tool and it’s not that big a deal. I’ll add this other tool it looks really interesting. And before you know it you’ve got this real complex problem on your hands.

Interviewer: Right.

Ma: And so I think one thing I would say for marketers out there is just try to think about it more strategically, and especially for larger companies, try to partner with IT if you can to develop that road map. And IT can really help you sort through and think about that in the longer term so that you avoid running into that problem.

Interviewer: Alright, fantastic, so as we wrap us Mahau are there any last thoughts you’d like to share with us?

Ma: We like to say it’s a new enterprise out there and got to be a connected company to win, and we’re here to help you do that.

Interviewer: Awesome, hey listen, thank you very much Mahau. I look forward to chatting with you soon.

Ma: Thank you Glenn.