An interview with Russell Glass, Former VP, Products at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions
Kwanzoo: Looking at your background, it looks like you started in Sales, moved into Marketing, wrapped yourself around Products and Data–and found time to be an entrepreneur along the way. What impact do you think your early jobs had on the way you think about B2B sales and marketing?
Glass: I saw very early in my sales career the importance of capturing and pulling together conversations as well as the value propositions and benefits that my customers cared about—which helped in setting follow-up meetings and reminders, etc. Then as a marketer, I learned the value of organizing that aggregated data. Leveraging that organized data made me a smarter marketer. I see it today with Account Based Marketing (ABM). Understanding all the customers that a group of salespeople are engaged with, understanding how those customers are moving through the lead funnel and leveraging that data to influence your targeting and campaign strategy—ensures alignment and assures that marketing is not wasting dollars on companies that just aren’t in the conversation yet.
So, if you are focused on the bottom of the funnel, you want to focus on the people that the salespeople are talking to. If you are focused on the top of the funnel, you want to focus on the people that salespeople would want to talk to. All my early jobs and experiences came together to help steer how I think about B2B sales and marketing—and how I founded Bizo.
Kwanzoo: Yes, thanks for bringing that up. You founded Bizo. What is the impact that you think that Bizo has had on the B2B marketing and sales tech landscape?
Glass: I founded Bizo after heading up marketing and products at ZoomInfo. We were doing all these innovative things with marketing automation, data and CRM back in 2005. I bought into the promise that there was a better way to reach customers than through random, non-personalized email. I believed in the “Digital Body Language” that Eloqua was introducing. We were trying to read all the signals and personalize as much as possible but at the end of the day, I was limited by the size of my email list. I was having trouble scaling the efficiency, accuracy, and customer journey for my known contacts into the anonymous world. That is how Bizo started.
What would I want as a B2B marketer to be able to solve for? Theanswer: I want to be able to reach these audiences that I don’t know yet in a highly-targeted way. I would want to understand who they are as a company, what kind of companies did they work for, etc. so that I could put more relevant content in front of them.
I think in founding Bizo we impacted the landscape in several ways. First, we proved to the market that you could build a high-quality data set in the B2B world and scale it. Second, we were one of the early players who really built the data ecosystem around the notion of programmatic advertising and the notion of web scale versus email scale. Third, we helped set the value of data when there was no price point for data. There was no concept of a rev share around data and we invented that. Today’s data is basically priced the same way that Bizo did it back in 2009.
Later in Bizo’s growth I think we played a large role in using data to help nurture customers through the buyer’s journey. We saw that there were distinct and long sales cycles in the B2B buyer’s journey. We used the concept of cross-channel lead nurturing to show leads could be nurtured in other ways such as display advertising. We used data to drive flows and determine where somebody was in that process—and based on that how do you put the right content in front of that person?
I like to think that we had an “accelerant” role. The market would have gotten here eventually but I think we helped prove to the market that you could really create a ton of value by targeting the right audiences with the right content.
Kwanzoo: Can you describe your role and time at LinkedIn? What has been your big vision during that time?
Glass: Sure. So, as the former Head of Products for the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions business, I owned all products that we built for marketers. LinkedIn is really focused on marketers who are trying to engage with business professionals. From a business standpoint, LinkedIn can be the most effective platform for marketers who want to engage with those professionals. Part of it is because LinkedIn has more than 500 million global professionals who use the platform to improve their careers, to discover information that can be useful to their jobs and to showcase their public résumés that define them in the workplace. So, LinkedIn has a great audience, great content, and now can wrap those items with great technology and capabilities to help marketers be more successful.
Frankly, a lot of my job over the last few years has been helping the business focus on what’s working best. Historically, Marketing Solutions was not a huge focus area. That changed a few years ago when LinkedIn introduced “Sponsored Content.” Here was the first, scaled, focused platform that LinkedIn thought could be a huge marketing business. LinkedIn bought Bizo and then it doubled down in Marketing Solutions. To effectively grow and scale, I needed to review and shut down products and systems that were not scalable and really rethink how we go to market and how we are going to build a business around it—and then, innovate on top of a refreshed platform.
It was a hard and exciting ride where they are now entering that innovation stage. New features such as Lead Gen Forms and Matched Audiences are surpassing expectations and ramping a lot faster than projected. These are products designed for B2B and were rolled out quickly. LinkedIn will continue to do that.
Kwanzoo: Why do you think that Account-Based Marketing (ABM) has been so hot the last two years? How does LinkedIn engage with customers around ABM?
Glass: It’s perceived as hot now but ABM in one form or another has been around forever. We never called it “Account-Based Marketing” but sales teams have always had prioritized lists of accounts that they wanted to go after in the B2B world. These lists used to be called “Named” or “Strategic Accounts.” It was Account-Based Sales. ABM is taking those named or strategic account lists and scaling up to effectively market to those accounts so that sales teams have an easier time closing them.
There are all kinds of notions associated with that. You want to make sure your analytics help you understand the accounts that you are reaching effectively and that you are moving the needle. You want to make sure your goals are set up against those key accounts. You want to make sure your sales force is setup to interact properly with your marketing team so that you can focus on the right things. It is really an efficient and intelligent play. It is also more effective because you are focused on the right set of accounts and you have alignment across the business.
But the difficulty with “ABM” in whatever form you chose has always been scale. When you get into the large world of unknowns, that activating a true ABM strategy becomes really hard. That is where LinkedIn feels it can play a huge role in the ecosystem. LinkedIn has these people – more than 500 million of them globally – well organized by titles, seniority levels, companies, industries, and more. LinkedIn wants to get to the point where you can push through your lists, create segments for targeting, and use our APIs to automatically push and update lists of accounts that you want to target. LinkedIn is growing at a rate of more than two new members per second and wants to become the “activation layer” for any ABM strategy so you don’t have to worry about reaching the right audiences any more. You need to worry about reaching the right accounts.
Kwanzoo: Drilling down, we see many B2B customers today running ABM display programs on LinkedIn alongside ABM display buys through programmatic channels (DSPs). Would LinkedIn see the two approaches as complementary?
Glass: At the end of the day, it is all about results. I would recommend that marketers do testing to see if one approach presents better results than the other or if a combination of the two like LinkedIn and Kwanzoo is the best answer. I think you get the real power and differentiation of LinkedIn through Sponsored Content and Sponsored InMail. These unique and differentiated formats are where you should be testing and where you can take advantage of our Matched Audiences feature. You can push in your email and CRM lists. You can sync with Marketo, Eloqua, LiveRamp and Acxiom. You can push in your account lists to create your segments. You can layer all of that with the LinkedIn data set to get to exactly the right people at the companies you are trying to reach.
But that is the beauty of marketing. Test it. Understand what is working for you. What is driving the right results? Make sure you know your personas—have really good definitions of who you are trying to reach. Focus your efforts on the people who matter. That will drive the best creative, the best messaging and the best targeting. Test some of your program with an ABM display advertising platform like Kwanzoo. There are other things out there that may help you scale your strategy or give you audiences that you have not been able to access in other ways.
Kwanzoo: Can you talk about Data Management Platforms (DMPs) and LinkedIn’s take on how they need to deliver value for customers?
Glass: I think DMPs play important roles for marketers mostly around giving them a central access point where they can manage their different data sets. Marketers can bring CRM, cookie and third-party data to bear and DMPs give focal points where marketers can make good decisions about how to distribute data for targeting and how to optimize efforts by tying in analytics as well. So, DMPs are important parts of data consolidation strategies for the largest customers.
At LinkedIn, we’ve exposed our APIs from a Matched Audiences perspective, we’ve done initial integrations with Marketo, Eloqua, LiveRamp and Acxiom, and we’ll be expanding that over time to make it easier for DMPs to push the right info into LinkedIn.
Kwanzoo: What is your view on the state of B2B data for B2B marketers and sales teams?
Glass: Well, I think it is as good as it has ever been. I think that there are a lot of different options today for B2B data sets that you can use within your Salesforce instance, for example. There are companies like ZoomInfo, where I was at before, that used to have some significant issues with data quality but now they have been around for 15 years and have figured out how to drive quality up. Take a look at a company like Owler. It’s developing new types of data sets that are very successful.
Or there’s LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator. The improvements in Sales Navigator over the last year are incredible. They are powered by the entire LinkedIn audience set—giving them amazing accuracy and scale. All sales teams should be looking at these improvements and seeing if they can take advantage of the access that Sales Navigator gives to the LinkedIn data set.
It is a great time to be a salesperson with all the access available now that wasn’t around even just a few years ago. The rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning driven by cheap bandwidth and processing will change this game yet again. It will make sure sales teams focus on the right accounts and conversations. They will be in a better position to select the next best action instead of just choosing something else to do.
Kwanzoo: Russ, any thoughts on how LinkedIn views the whole predictive tools category? What do you think about the concept of a universal customer ID for cross-channel purposes?
Glass: I am a big believer in predictive analytics. I wrote a book entitled “The Big Data Driven Business” and we talk a lot in there about predictive analytics and the power of using machine learning and predictive technologies to expose some facets that you wouldn’t see without some automation. These technologies help companies discover insights that lead them to focusing on the right accounts to drive lifetime value and drive up revenue. While predictive tools can give you a good idea of what accounts to focus on—it is activation that is the hard part in a lot of ways. How do you take all of this and turn it into success? That is where LinkedIn wants to play.
When it comes to the universal customer ID I see the value of it but the key consideration there is privacy. Anytime data is being collected around that unique ID then I think the person associated with that ID should know what is happening—and they should have control of what is gathered about them and can opt out of it. As long as that is the case, I think the concept of a universal customer ID is great. But we need to be very careful in creating persistent universal IDs without the user knowing what is going on.
Kwanzoo: Where do you think ABM is heading overall? What role do you expect LinkedIn to play in the coming months and years in this major area?
Glass: Again, the characteristics of ABM are not new they have just been associated by different names. It’s not a new paradigm and it is only going to get more important over time. More and more companies are going to realize that there are great ABM strategies to building marketing and sales alignment once a list of targeted accounts has been established.
I think LinkedIn will be very helpful in taking those ABM strategies and activating them—as well as providing insights and analytics back to the marketer on what effect he or she is having. I also think you will see more features coming from LinkedIn that will accelerate the alignment between marketing and sales and allow them to work more smartly together.
Kwanzoo: Where do you see opportunities arising in the sales and marketing stacks beyond what LinkedIn is specifically working on?
Glass: LinkedIn’s overall strategy is to increase openness. You are going to see them put more APIs in the market. There will be APIs to pull data around analytics and APIs to push data about the audiences that they want to market to into LinkedIn to use for targeting purposes. LinkedIn wants to become a platform that the whole ecosystem can use to be more effective. The caveat is that while they are opening more LinkedIn will always be “members first.” Their member data must always be protected.
Kwanzoo: Russ, thank you for your time and insights today.