Act-On Software recently named Salesforce and Oracle veteran Michelle Huff as its new CMO, bringing her more than 17 years of experience in the marketing technology space to the company.
Huff came to Act-On from Salesforce's Data.com division where she was general manager after having served as the VP of marketing for that group. Before Salesforce, she was a senior director at Oracle and a senior product marketing manager at Stellent, which was acquired by Oracle.
What are B2B buyers/clients looking for today that they weren’t in the past?
I think the emergence of the marketing technology stack is definitely changing how B2B buyers are looking to solve marketing problems today vs. the past. Marketers have become a lot more tech-savvy over the years. Plus, a lot of the budget dollars for technology have shifted from IT to the marketing budget owners themselves. These departments are seeing how technology is enabling them to run their programs and organizations more efficiently, as well as reach out and engage with prospects and customers more creatively – helping them stand out in a crowd. These buyers are quickly building out their own martech stack and more proactively seeking out technology solutions to their challenges.
How is technology changing the way B2B marketers do business?
B2B marketers today have shifted a lot of their activities and engagement to online and social channels, a stark contrast to B2B marketing just six to eight years ago. Technologies, like marketing automation, have enabled marketers to be able to capitalize on the digital landscape – ultimately expanding their roles across the customer lifecycle. B2B marketers today are the stewards of the customer experience, overseeing engagement at all stages: acquisition, retention and expansion.
This is important because B2B buyers are more educated than ever and they rely on their own research and network to learn about and discover new technologies and trends; they no longer reach out to a vendor automatically, they are typically 70 percent of the way through their buying journey before doing so. Because of today's self-reliant buyers, B2B marketers have a larger, more pervasive responsibility to fill throughout the sales process. B2B marketers must be more proactive and find creative ways to influence buyers early in the buying process and stay top of mind throughout the journey, which means incorporating social, blogs, retargeting, and reviews into their outreach strategy.
What’s the biggest trend you’ve noticed in the past year?
There has been a resurgence around the concept of account-based marketing (ABM). Companies are realizing the value of having sales and marketing working together to engage and nurture accounts in a personalized, and targeted manner. While this strategy has been around for over a decade, it has become a more popular topic. Why? As organizations try to take best practices used at individual accounts and make them more applicable broadly in their go to market model – technology is really at the forefront of the ABM resurgence, making it possible for B2B companies of all sizes to orchestrate account-based, multichannel engagements at scale.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love meeting with customers. I'm an inquisitive person by nature, and I enjoy better understanding their role, their challenges, organizational structure, how they are using technology, what trends they are seeing, etc. I feel lucky that in the roles I've had, I get an opportunity to meet with them well before they are customers, while they are in the sales process, when they begin to adopt the solution and start building out a success plan, and the most rewarding is working with them to showcase their successes both internally and externally. What makes it even more fun here at Act-On, is that my customers are in marketing! So, not only do I find it interesting, but it's incredibly relevant to what I do as a CMO.
What gets you excited for the future of B2B marketing?
The idea of predictive intelligence influencing the future of B2B marketing is exciting. The opportunities for marketers will be endless – imagine a self-driving marketing engine that gets smarter over time, recommending actionable and personalized insight on who to reach out to, how best to engage, and when to do it – leading to more effective campaigns and better business outcomes. As predictive intelligence become more woven into marketing technology, marketers will be able to get back to basics: The Customer & The Creatives, two areas that marketers love solving for.
What do you do to relax in your downtime?
Hmmm. Relax? Well, I have an eight-month-old son and a daughter who's almost 5. It's been a while since I've thought about relaxing on the beach with book in hand, but I do love weekend walks with the family as we head to the park and visit the family favorite coffee shops.