Interview with Outmarket CEO You Mon Tsang

Big news in the marketing technology world was the recent spin-off of the marketing automation unit of Vocus into a new company OutMarket.  Leading this newly formed entity is CEO You Mon Tsang.  You Mon was kind enough to take a few minutes from his hectic post-launch schedule to speak with me about the launch and the OutMarket perspective on the marketing automation space.  Below is an audio recording and transcript of our conversation.  (Apologies for the quality of the audio).


Chris:              Let me just kick off by thanking you for joining me. OutMarket had a huge launch this last week spinning off from Vocus. I appreciate you taking some time to speak to me this morning. Let’s just dive in. Marketing automation is a super noisy category right now, lots of players, lots of activity, very difficult to keep up with. How do you see what you’re doing at OutMarket really differentiating from some of the other things that are happening in the space?

You Mon:       Of course, thanks for having me. Let me start by saying that while I think the marketing automation space can be noisy, the other thing I would also say is that it’s also nascent. If you think about the number of customers who could use marketing automation actually using marketing automation, that penetration is low. We hear a lot of noise because some of the early adopters are in the spaces that are noisy, whether we’re getting that from the tech space, software space. When we look at companies that are under $500 million in revenue, the penetration of marketing automation is less than 10%. The growth is all ahead of us.

When you think about it even the large players in the space, whether they’re public companies, like Marketo or Vocus was, nobody was more than $150 million dollars revenue from their automation. We are all small players. There was not a size company. There was no Oracle size company. There are no billion dollar companies out there. While it’s noisy, I would say it’s very early. What makes us different?

Specifically, we’re trying to provide integrated marketing automation for the marketing teams who don’t have the resources, whether that’s budget or technical resources to put in what I would call one of these early enterprise marketing automation systems. I think those systems can be out of reach for the vast majority of folks out there and that’s what we’re focused on.

Chris:              What do you think has been the barrier to adoption of marketing automation technology, is it a resource constraint? Is it price driven? What do you think is the reason that a lot of these folks haven’t, at the smaller end of the scale, adopted marketing automation yet?

You Mon:       You do bring up 2 major barriers and I’ll bring up a third. Now, I guess all 3. You bring up price. You bring up resources. I’ll also bring up just a lack of awareness of what it is. Let me start with the third one. I’m going to date myself. About 15 years ago I was in the business intelligence and analytic space. Back then data was sort of a back office type of activity and if you wanted to really understand how your business was doing you would talk to an analyst. You didn’t really have a lot of data.

Certainly today nobody would believe, everyone believes that they should have access to data, but back then people didn’t know they really needed to do it and they had no idea how they would do it. There was a real lack of awareness of what they were supposed to do. Marketing automation is in that same place now. You talk to a typical marketer, of course they’ve heard of marketing automation, but they’re still trying to figure out what it is and that really speaks to the sub 10% penetration rate that I was talking to.

Now the more practical matters is certainly price is an issue. Currently many of these marketing automation systems out there today can get into 6 figures and that’s certainly out of reach for many companies. Resources, if you think about the early marketing automation systems they were fairly technical. Some of them required you to drop in HTML. Some of them had to think about work flow, or possibly supporting with a dedicated programmer.

A lot of them would lead you to get into your website, dig around, and play with some HTML. Those early systems are harder for many people to use. They do not have either the technical resources or in fact the ability to hire a specialist to do that. I think those are the biggest issues. I think that you’re seeing a lot of companies, OutMarket being one, trying to solve that problem.

Chris:              A dynamic that we’ve seen is companies who get excited about marketing automation and will spend the money for a solution. Then a year later or a couple years later, come to the realization that they’ve spent a lot of money on something that they’re still primarily using the same way they used an old batch and blast email solution. Have you seen that dynamic? If so, I’m curious what you guys are planning to do at OutMarket to proactively get in front of that.

You Mon:       There’s an old term called shelfware, which is a little harder to talk about when it comes to software in the cloud, but you buy the software and you end up just putting it on the shelf and never really using it for whatever reason. We’ve certainly seen our share of that. I would say because I still think we’re early, we see more people who’ve never used marketing automation than we do people who are sort of been bitten by marketing automation. You speak the truth. If you do not have a plan to use marketing automation, you won’t get the most out of it.

How do we try to address this concept of people buying marketing automation and not doing anything with it? We’re doing a few things. One is in the software we wanted it to be very easy to implement. If you need to integrate with other systems, you just go into a wizard. If you are producing an email newsletter or a landing page, we offer you templates out of the box. It makes it easier for you to create a beautiful looking landing page. If you need to integrate with your blog or your website, we make it as easy as it would be to put Google Analytics in there. One, just make the software easy to implement and easy to use.

Also, we know that out of the chute we want our folks adopting our software. We actually have a launch team whose only job is to make sure at the end of your launch that you do have your system up and running, that you’ve sent out your first email or sent your first press release. We offer that. Or put up your first landing page, get your contacts in there, and perhaps even get a work flow going. When you see the first bit of automation working it just gets the customer excited to do more and really adopt it.

Chris:              Have you seen any particular trigger event or any kind of a common scenario that tips someone from not using an automation solution to using one?

You Mon:       The one thing we do try to focus on is helping our clients increase their lead database, or their contact list. If we can show that through a better landing page you can convert people coming to your site to sign up, to learn more about your company, having that number pick up is often the most impactful thing that we can do in the very short run for our clients. There are many ways to do that. One is increase your conversion rates, optimize a form with a better form, but also one of the other things that we focus on at OutMarket is we focus on generating leads and generating awareness.

We have, unique to us, this is from our heritage Vocus, we have access to press releases, which allows you to get your news out in a way that you may not have been able to with just a blog. We have a very strong social recommendation engine that actually tells you who’s influential in spaces so you can start connecting with them. We have Buying Signals, which is really helping you find folks in social who are interested in your product or service. Between that, as well as what you would know as more typical marketing automation, which is optimizing forms and optimizing lead conversion, we want to increase the number of people that show up in your contact list.

Chris:              Are you saying that’s a key metric that you’re seeing a lot of your clients, that’s something that’s definitely one of their KPI’s is just growing the size of their contact list?

You Mon:       Like most good marketers, their bottom line is the same as the company’s bottom line. If you’re a for profit company it’s all normally sales, revenues, or whatever you want to call it, whatever is important to you. If you’re membership driven, then it’s more members. If you’re not for profit, maybe it’s more donations.

The way you get there is just to get more people interested in what you have to offer, the product and service you have to offer. The marketer wants to see more and more people interested in what they have to offer. The idea is to convert them into a sale or into a member or into a donor.

Chris:              How would you characterize the most successful of your clients? What are those companies doing that maybe others aren’t in their use of the automation solution?

You Mon:       Our most successful clients really focus on all parts of the customer journey. Marketing automation, at least the early systems, have been focused on data fact side, which meant that I don’t know how you’re getting awareness. I don’t know how you’re generating your leads, but once you’ve done that, our marketing automation system will grind those leads, nurture them, and convert them. I would say that part goes further down the journey.

That’s of course very important because you want to convert people who actually expressed interest to people who are actually customers of yours. Our system certainly does that as well, but if you don’t focus on all parts of marketing you’re not going to be near as successful. Our most successful clients, many of them have been very successful in generating more awareness for their product and service, communicating with folks who become a prospect.

Then also work the lead, converting them, nurturing them, hoping they become a client. Those folks who really spend the time thinking about the entire journey, they tend to be happier, more successful clients.

Chris:              We see that as well when people who holistically, it’s definitely an old idea. 360 marketing, that’s not a new idea, but people who really think that way and really try to execute that way, that does still make a huge difference.

You Mon:       That’s right. It’s all bottom line. The bottom line, I’ve told this to many of my colleagues in the marketing space, is that the closer that any of our systems can, say that we generate whatever the bottom line is, sales, donations, members, the better off we are, the closer to success that we can be and the more likely we have people reaching to use the system.

Chris:              I appreciate you spending time. Just a last question for you here this morning, obviously it sounds like where you’re seeing a huge opportunity is with companies who have not yet adopted a marketing automation solution. That is clearly where you’re seeing a lot of the blue sky opportunity. What counsel would you provide to a company who has thought about it but hasn’t yet made the jump? What would you tell a company that was in that space?

You Mon:       We talk to these folks everyday, these people who have not made the jump to marketing automation. The math for marketing automation can be very simple. If you’re a marketer, you’re probably thinking about what kind of impact can my marketing department have on the business if I generate 5% more leads, more prospects. What impact can my marketing department have if my conversion rate from someone who had showed interest to someone who became a customer increases 10%?

If you can do that math and say, “Hey, well, if both those things happen, what’s my impact on the business?” Therefore, the investment that I’m making for a marketing automation system that can help me get there would be worth it. Unlike a lot of marketing tools where the ROI can feel elusive, you can make the case for marketing automation on paper. It’s a simple spreadsheet that you can then sell to yourself, sell to the CMO, or if you need to sell to your CFO. I think it can be a fairly straightforward process. I would recommend anyone who is on the verge of making the step, just think about it that way. It can be a very simple math problem.

Chris:              You Mon, thank you so much for spending some time today talking to me about this. Congratulations on the launch and we’ll be excited to see how things evolve in the space and with OutMarket over the coming weeks and months.

You Mon:       Thanks Chris, I appreciate it. It’s a very exciting stage, despite the noisiness. I think we all, even in this space, expect huge growth over the next 5 to 10 years.

Chris:              Absolutely, thanks again.

You Mon:       You’re welcome.

Content Isn’t Concrete

Scan the mass of content marketing conversations and resources and you’ll find plenty of information about how to create, curate, distribute and track content. The tone of the collective dialogue can give the sense that “content” is a generic raw material, a basic, non-descript, concrete we pour into whatever content marketing form we need in the moment. Content isn’t concrete.

When we’re in the throes of managing all the many moving parts of a content marketing program we can lose sight of how the details of each piece support the larger idea. The “brand story” your team painstakingly developed can seem like a vague and distant memory. The management of an active content marketing program can be like having a tiger by the tail, you’re putting all your effort into just hanging on. You’re not thinking about the “narrative”, or the tiger’s motivation and backstory.

How do we manage feeding the content marketing beast and making sure each piece of content we create has a clear message AND connects to a cohesive whole?

Clarify your story – It’s impossible to create content that effectively supports a fuzzy story. Spend the time to crystalize your messaging. Do it with your internal team, hire an agency or consultant or use any of the million available resources to help with this. Clear messaging is your touchstone.

Who’s it for? – Basic stuff, but really think about who your content will work for. There will be content that works reasonably well across all audiences and some will need to be focused on specific market segments or profiles. All-purpose content has a place, but like many things billed as all-purpose, you may get something that is broadly mediocre instead of narrowly effective.

Battle conditions – “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” You’ve no doubt heard some variation of this famous quote. In the heat of managing an active content marketing program your well-documented, defined plan can go right out the window. Leave capacity to respond to the ad hoc program changes, mandates from the corner office or in-the-moment opportunities.

Hit the pause button – Before you hit publish, send or post take a minute to bump your content against your true north messaging. Ideally this mapping should have happened at the onset, but do that last check and make sure things ring true. You may be inspired to frame what you publish slightly differently after reminding yourself how it fits into the big picture.

Each and every piece of content you create, or curate, has it’s own unique characteristics and should tie to the larger story. When the content in content marketing is strong, we see the full potential of medium and message working together. In the end we all love a good, well-constructed story. You’ll need a lot more than just concrete to build it.

Learn more about our vision for marketing experience designdownload our vision document

Systym and Hudson Printing – A New Era In Customer-Centric Communication

Systym has established a partnership with Hudson Printing, a company doing amazing things at the intersection of print and digital.  The work we do at Systym with personas, customer-centric messaging and content strategy is a perfect fit with the variable data digital printing services at Hudson Printing.  At Systym we believe understanding your audience and their context and delivering exactly the right message at the right time is the key to effective communication.  The message maps and other deliverables from a Systym engagement can become the foundation for a completely customized communication, or series of printed communications, created and delivered by Hudson Printing.

Hudson Printing is reinventing print, and we love that.  The days of the stodgy, old-school printer is gone, the new era of print is digital-savvy, connected and highly personalized.  Systym structures the story, Hudson Printing delivers the story.  A powerful combination.  If you print anything, Hudson Printing can make it better, wander over to their site and learn more about what they do.  Download the press release here.


HP T330 Digital Inkjet Web Press

Marketing Automation and Content Marketing Survey

Take The Survey Button

Calling all marketing automation users, we want your input.  Smart use of marketing automation has the potential to be nothing short of rocket fuel for content marketers.  The challenge is, well, it’s a challenge to truly connect the technology with the content.

We wanted to dig into how marketers are thinking about this intersection of marketing automation technology and content and share the results with the larger community.  If you currently have a marketing automation solution, from any provider, and can spare about 3 minutes to share your thoughts, we will gladly provide a full copy of the results and report in October.  We expect to collectively learn some interesting things.

So if you’re a marketing automation user, appreciate your input and of course spread the world if you know others who might be interested in participating and receiving the results.  Survey start page can be found here.  Thanks in advance for your interest and support.