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Cory Munchbach is the senior vice president of strategy at BlueConic, the world's simplest and most accessible customer data platform, empowering every marketer to find success with a CDP. She joined BlueConic as the director of product marketing before taking over all of marketing - inbound, outbound, westbound, and eastbound - and associated activities as we evangelize BlueConic and blow the marketing world's collective mind. Prior to joining BlueConic, Cory was an analyst on the customer insights practice at Forrester Research, covering the intersection of marketing strategy and technology and an expert in the marketing technology landscape. She is a frequent contributor to and oft-quoted in industry-leading publications such as Entrepeneur, Forbes, AdAge, MediaPost, MarketingWeek, CMSWire, and AdExchanger.

Cory’s greatest passion is for building teams and companies that motivate and inspire people to do their best work – and what makes for the most effective leaders. She’s always seeking to learn more about the latest and greatest ideas and research in this area – from academics, business leaders, scientists, and philosophers. Some of her favorite sources of inspiration are TED talks (listen to “Disruptive Leadership” from the TED Radio Hour to start), podcasts like Hidden Brain and Revisionist History, and books including Angela Duckworth’s Grit and Charles Duhigg’s Smarter, Faster, Better.

Cory is a Boston College alum and proud Boston native. Her spare time is spent reading, deepening her study as an ice cream connoisseur, and enjoying life with husband, dog, family, and friends.

You can follow her on Twitter:@corinnejames

She will be live on Sep 12 starting at 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which she will answer as many questions as possible.

  • GH

    Glen Harper

    2 months ago #

    Thank you for joining us today Cory.

    What does your typical day look like as SVP of Strategy?

    What has been your process to identify issues with your current strategy for BlueConic and then revise and adapt it?

    • CM

      Cory Munchbach

      2 months ago #

      Thank you for having me, Glen! It's a pleasure to be here :)

      My typical day is busy! Sort of by definition, I ping pong between a lot of different areas of our business and I try to make sure I spend at least some time on as many of those every day that I can. My core areas of responsibility are:
      1) BlueConic's clarity of voice, which includes things like Go-to-market (core messaging, personas, targets)
      2) "Applied knowledge" which is essentially providing expert support for sales, marketing, customer success, and product as needed
      3) Ensuring that we are aspiring toward unequivocal influence in the market, which is thought leadership, influencers, and evangelism
      4) Building a culture of success at the company, where I'm focused on internal processes, collaboration, and best practices that will allow us to scale.

      3 Share
      • GH

        Glen Harper

        2 months ago #

        Thanks you. Can you elaborate on what you do with "applied knowledge"?

      • CM

        Cory Munchbach

        2 months ago #

        Sure! I'm sort of our in-house library on things like competitive intelligence and best practices, so that helps our sales team. As a former analyst, I'm a big part of our content engine particularly with blogs and the like, so using what I know about the market to develop our thought leadership and support marketing in that capacity. I work closely with our CTO on our product roadmap and vision too, bringing in knowledge and trends from across marketing, sales, and customer success to make sure we're setting ourselves up to be the leading platform in our space.

    • CM

      Cory Munchbach

      2 months ago #

      My process for identifying issues requires me to interact with key stakeholders in our business consistently, both in 1:1s and in broader team meetings, as well as with external participants in our business like customers and partners. I ensure that I meet with every member of the management team individually at least once per week and report back any issues or needs to the broader group every week as well. I have a template for bringing up challenges and then proposing solutions to the other people involved (NEVER bring up a problem without also at least starting to craft a solution!) and managing those kinds of processes as a project manager from start to end.

      3 Share
  • JP

    John Phamvan

    2 months ago #

    Hi Cory,
    What tools are you using at BlueConic for experimentation & analytics right now? Where does your data live?
    Also, what has/have been the most recent one(s) you'll have added to your toolset - and why?

    • CM

      Cory Munchbach

      2 months ago #

      Our own platform is a key part of our stack, along with Google Analytics and the measurement modules of other tools we rely on like Salesforce and Pardot. We treat our CRM as our system of record.

      The most recent tool we've added to our overall marketing tech stack, as our experimentation and analytics tools have been pretty consistent, is Sigstr for our emails. We're trying some cool new stuff with that to try and see how email engagement can be used differently and, hopefully, better!

      2 Share
  • JD

    James Dunn

    2 months ago #

    What are the biggest challenges with growing BlueConic currently? How are you (thinking of) overcoming these?

    • CM

      Cory Munchbach

      2 months ago #

      Hey James - good question. I'd compare it to a "controlled explosion," by which I mean that we're building up a bonfire over here and need to make sure that as it catches and expands, that we don't lose our ability to manage it effectively. While the growth we're seeing is of course a good problem to have, it behooves us to anticipate it and be ahead of it as much as possible. That means making sure that we're regularly asking ourselves questions like, "What would happen if, 6-12 months from now, we are still managing MQLs this way, or we keep the customer success team structured as it is right now, or this feature is still on the roadmap and not in the product?" It's a large part of my job to make sure that as a team and company, we're not being short-sighted or missing opportunities to get ahead of challenges before they arrive.

      3 Share
  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    2 months ago #

    Hey Cory - so cool to finally have you on!

    1. Its clear that you want people to sign up for a demo but when I go to the pricing page, it seems that users can actually sign up for a free/starter plan without going through the demo flow. Is that correct?
    If yes, I'm interested in why this option is even available if a demo is the preferred path?

    2. For people that try it on their own without a demo - how do you ensure they get to their "aha moment" without the demo assist?

    • CM

      Cory Munchbach

      2 months ago #

      I'm so glad the day has finally arrived! It's like Christmas in September (except Santa Clause definitely brings better gifts than I do)

      I love this question! Thank you for asking it, as it's something that we grappled with so much when we created our freemium offering which we called "Pyxis" after the smallest constellation in our galaxy #funfact

      The Pyxis instance of BlueConic is a full fledged version of the product that anyone can try out and we encourage folks to do so, especially those that prefer to explore the tool and don't want to talk to us (though our sales and CS teams are delightful, I promise). That said, customer data platforms are a very new category of technology and so it's not necessarily everyone's first choice to try to figure this out on their own. We view our demos as an opportunity to show the platform to you in the context of use-cases that are most relevant; it's a pain point we've identified that while marketers know that unifying and activating data are things they need to do/do better, most like to get some help identifying the right place in this journey to start that makes sense for their budget, teams, and objectives.

      2 Share
    • CM

      Cory Munchbach

      2 months ago #

      Our head designer is a brilliant human being whose in-product tutorials, designed in conjunction with our VP of customer success, are there to facilitate a user's exploration of the platform and to help them get more familiar. That's a huge part of this. Additionally, all our support documentation is available publicly and we make sure the most important resources are sent to new users and, again, available in-product.

  • TN

    Tri Nguyen

    2 months ago #

    To follow on from Anuj's Q - what is BlueConic's "aha moment"?
    What specific things do you do before/after/during the demo (as appropriate) to get users to that point asap?

    • CM

      Cory Munchbach

      2 months ago #

      Some other members of the BlueCrew may debate me on this, Tri, but I'd say it's our segment discovery capabilities. Marketers are used to list-building or audience development that takes hours or days or weeks to process, so when we show them how they can build a segment with a few clicks (less than 2 minutes, I dare ya or drinks/ice cream/vice of your choice on me) and then have that segment be available immediately, I can humbly say it totally blows minds. It's also a really beautiful widget (see my earlier comment about the genius of our design team, who also created this gif to show what I'm talking about for those who care: https://www.blueconic.com/static/uploads/2017/09/create-segment-in-5-steps_product.gif) which contributes to the "aha!" reaction.

      Our demo has gone through a number of revisions over the last couple of years, largely as the market has developed so that buyers have a wider range of education on CDPs. The current iteration (s/o to our product marketing specialist, sales engineers, and product team who spent countless painstaking hours creating it) has two parts: the front end journey that an actual prospect/customer takes as they engage with a brand, and the back-end product experience that the marketer works in. That helps crystalize what the impact of a CDP can be, both for your customers and you the marketer.

      3 Share
  • MD

    Mark Anthony de Jesus

    2 months ago #

    What lessons about funding/fundraising did you learn going through the Series A?
    What do you wish you knew before being involved in that process?
    What would be the signal that you're ready for the next round?

    • CM

      Cory Munchbach

      2 months ago #

      I actually joined the team about 6 months after our Series A (though it certainly feels like I've been around since the earliest of the early days!) so I can't speak to your first two questions unfortunately. At a high level I'd say we'll know we're ready for our next round when both need more people/resources to meet current demand AND there's clear evidence of demand for expansion (ex. internationally or other new markets).

  • JF

    Javier Feldman

    2 months ago #

    Hola, Cory.
    What is the right time for a company to have a dedicated Strategy (VP or C level) position? What signals or triggers should indicate that its time to think of having this role within the organization?

    Also, if you're ready to go hire for this position, what should the company be looking for in terms of skills, experience etc to fill this role?

    • CM

      Cory Munchbach

      2 months ago #

      ¡Hola Javier! ¿Como está Ud.?

      I absolutely love this question; thank you for asking it. As you can probably see from my bio, I joined BlueConic in product marketing and then running all of marketing; the strategy role is one I'm still relatively new to, though our CEO and I started defining the role about 6 months before I officially assumed the mantle. The biggest indicator was size: our growth necessitated a cross-functional, organizing framework to ensure alignment and collaboration across teams. It's nice when you're small enough that that only two people are required to figure out how to build an outbound sales team, but once said outbound team is 10+ people, that luxury goes away. In our own view, the "why now" was that:
      *We reached a point where we had the size, trajectory, and resources to accelerate towards our goals – but needed to do so efficiently, collaboratively, and systematically
      *We saw that our market opportunity was both obvious and attainable, but required a deliberate focus on how to take advantage over the near, middle, and long term. You can't approach this kind of thing only in terms of discrete team goals; it's got to be far more encompassing than that.
      *We believe that success will be in leading the market and therefore differentiating ourselves from that market, which necessitates taking the blocks we’ve built and assembling them uniquely across all functions of BlueConic.

      2 Share
    • CM

      Cory Munchbach

      2 months ago #

      The second part of your question is much harder to answer because it's going to depend so much on your organization. But we drew some great inspiration from this research published in the Harvard Business Review which is about COOs, but is very close to my job description: https://hbr.org/2006/05/second-in-command-the-misunderstood-role-of-the-chief-operating-officer

      I was somewhat uniquely qualified to take on the role as we defined it because arguably the most important attribute I bring is the ability to communicate and build consensus across our organization. The fact that I had worked for the company for two years helped me prove that, but it may be that you're in need of a different set of skills for your company and looking outside is more important.

  • AR

    Aishwarya Raghav

    2 months ago #

    Thanks for your time, Cory. Could you please talk about how did/ would you build a marketing team from scratch? Who are the key players would you hire if on budget?

    • CM

      Cory Munchbach

      2 months ago #

      Thanks for your question, Aishwarya - and for your patience with me getting to it!

      In February 2016, we overhauled all of marketing when I took over. It just happened that we had a lot of folks transition so I was afforded the challenge/opportunity to rebuild from more or less scratch.

      My number one priority with hiring - in this instance especially - is to find people who have the following attributes: grit, intellectual curiosity, and loyalty. There's more to it, of course, but I find that if you are gritty, curious, and loyal, you'll excel at BlueConic. The members of the marketing team are ALL of that and really set the bar for that profile in my opinion. I've said before and I'll say again that my greatest accomplishment at this company has been hiring the marketing team, who are just incredible.

      The key players to hire at the beginning are the ones who can be brilliant generalists: they're going to need to wear a lot of hats, learn a lot of new stuff, and operate outside their comfort zones of experience/knowledge regularly. If you have someone who is super gifted at email marketing but that's all they're willing to do, you might think twice about specializing so early while you're still figuring out what you need and what's going to work for you.

      I hope that helps!

      3 Share
  • SK

    S Kodial

    2 months ago #

    a. What signals do you use to determine which partner integration to build next?
    b. Once you've decided on an integration, in what ways do you work with the vendor to promote the benefits of that partnership?

    • CM

      Cory Munchbach

      2 months ago #

      If we're going to help marketers unify their data, the richer our connection library - both in terms of breadth and depth - the better, so this is a hugely important area! There are two key drivers for our integration backlog: first, and probably obviously, is customer demand. What tools do customers have and which ones are most critical for their highest priority use-case? That creates one list and gives us a general mechanism for priority. But we also have to look outside of this input and survey the broader market and look for partners that:
      *Complement our product in a really wonderful way, either by filling in a gap in our offering or extending both our solutions so that our customer bases benefit
      *Do something super cool that we want to be part of and can meaningfully contribute to! I keep a close eye on VC-backed firms that are up-and-coming for this and have an ongoing list of what I've dubbed "Rockstars" as candidates
      *Disrupt existing categories of tech (like email and CRM, for instance) and will likely be in demand soon.

      2 Share
    • CM

      Cory Munchbach

      2 months ago #

      Promoting the partnership really varies to be totally honest. Some companies that shall remain nameless but are maybe more traditional software firms make you jump through so many hoops to do joint promotion that it's not even worth it. If it's going to be 3 months to get through legal to say that we have an integration that lets customers like So-and-So do cool stuff, then I've got other things to do. Sorry not sorry.

      But for partners that aren't so difficult, promotion can range from being announcements about the new integration to webinars to joint case studies. We're open to anything that celebrates a more open, collaborative approach to marketing tech.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        2 months ago #

        I think it's important to recognize this reality that not everyone will be easy to work with on promotion just because they're partnering with you.

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    2 months ago #

    Hi Cory
    What is BlueConic's North Star Metric?
    How have you/the management team been able to rally the entire organization & keep them aligned around this metric?

    • CM

      Cory Munchbach

      2 months ago #

      Hey Dani! I love the idea of a North Star Metric. Does "world domination" count? Working on it...

      In all seriousness, this metric actually morphs somewhat as our business evolves; it won't deviate dramatically, of course, but the maturity of our company and of the market will affect how we best understand the health of our business (which is also really hard to narrow down to ONE metric, btw). Sales metrics like bookings under management and revenue are important indicators of traction and growth, while customer lifetime value and churn reflect our ability to meet market and customer demands.

      What we've been good at as a company is identifying the leading metric for a defined period of time (typically a year) and making sure everyone knows that's our highest priority and explaining how the other, still very important metrics, roll up into that one. This also helps us make hard decisions when inevitably we run into scenarios where a hard choice needs to be made about how we prioritize or which direction we go in. As a management team, we revisit this consistently and build our plans accordingly.

      • CM

        Cory Munchbach

        2 months ago #

        That's actually pretty easy to measure insofar as we'd try to: every company with a marketing department has BlueConic. So 100% market penetration, in VC terms probably?

      • AL

        Adrian Lucre

        2 months ago #

        Please explain how "World Domination" would be calculated? As a VC, I do not believe that is a "metric"

  • DO

    Danielle Olivas

    2 months ago #

    With respect to the marketing technology landscape (which just seems like a mess to me tbh), how would you advise people navigate through this to find what best applies to their situation?
    Specifically, how do you spend as little time as possible trying stuff out to see what might work vs zeroing in quickly to a couple of good options and then making quicker decisions?

    Also do you have any reccomendations for martech (preferably based on stage) that you'd consider no brainers in general?

    • CM

      Cory Munchbach

      2 months ago #

      It is indeed a hot mess, Danielle 🙌🏼 And I could have spent this entire AMA waxing poetic on your questions so I'll do my best to answer as succinctly as I can and I'm happy to do a follow up! Here are a few of my own observations on this front:

      1) Many marketing departments struggle with altitude when making buying decisions; in other words, they buy too much for function and not enough in the context of a bigger picture (i.e. a coherent strategy).
      2) Observation 2: There is a reluctance to both change what works reasonably well (or is just well-accepted) or to “start where you are” when trying new things, which results in stagnation, partially completed proposals, and underutilized investments.

      My advice is to start with your business goals and be utterly ruthless in your focus on how technology rolls up into delivering results against those goals. Marketing tech investments are far too often exercises in box checking and not thinking about the broader story/context for that purchase. The main reason there's so much buyer's remorse in tech is because what the tool can do is misaligned with the what the marketing buyer needs and/or can support.

      I discourage the mentality of spending "as little time as possible" because I think that's part of the problem: rushing into a purchase only to find out it doesn't meet your needs. Technology is just too critical now for that. Instead, I agree it makes sense to put together a short list of vendors which is pretty easy to do nowadays, and spend PLENTY of time creating requirements, socializing them with other stakeholders, and insisting that vendors *show* you how they meet your requirements - both in product with a POC and via their customers who are similar to you.

      I'd be hesitant to call it a "no-brainer" list because of what I just said above, but there are certainly tools that I'd consider key to the majority of martech stacks: email/marketing automation, a CMS/WCM, analytics, a database (BROADLY defined). From there, it gets pretty unique to industry, company size, etc.

      2 Share
  • AL

    Adrian Lucre

    2 months ago #

    Also, would you be willing to share your YoY growth since 2010?

  • PD

    Porus Daruvala

    2 months ago #

    How do potential users even recognize that they need something like BlueConic?
    What would you say the top strategies/tactics/channels have been most successful for driving people from 0 to paying customer?

    • CM

      Cory Munchbach

      2 months ago #

      Talk about a question that kept/keeps me up at night as a startup! Glad you asked it, Porus.

      I'd tweak your question slightly and say that it's more about how potential users recognize that a challenge they have can be solved by something like BlueConic. Our platform wouldn't exist if marketers didn't have a challenge that needed solving, but you're absolutely right that at the beginning, people weren't googling "customer data platforms" or anything that explicit. We had to think one, two, three degrees removed from the product and translate what it does into more abstract and tangential themes and language that would resonate with our target audiences and personas. We spent months tweaking and adjusting and experimenting with messages and content. Now, we rely heavily on input during the sales process and on our customers to test messaging and make sure we're targeting the right people. "Spray and pray" marketing tactics get a really bad reputation, but when it's early and you're trying to build a category AND a brand, it's okay to spray and pray...just make sure you're deliberate and measure after to get better every time 🙏🏼

      Our outbound sales team was the tip of the spear for teaching the market about CDPs first and foremost, and BlueConic second. The BDR team takes very seriously the objective of educating rather than selling at this stage, which is a delicate but important balance to strike.

      On the marketing side, I cannot stress enough the importance of content and building up a library of resources and thought leadership. You won't see the results right away and it can be terrifying to wait months and quarters for impact, but it's absolutely critical - every tactic depends on that library showcasing your leadership.

      2 Share
  • AL

    Adrian Lucre

    2 months ago #

    The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Hubs has branded BlueConic as a niche player. How do you plan to compete on a larger scale?

  • AL

    Adrian Lucre

    2 months ago #

    How has BlueConic gotten better at addressing churn?

  • AM

    Anusha Murthy

    2 months ago #

    Hi Cory,

    I read your interview on Openview recently and my question stems from that.

    What would your advice be for companies looking to narrow down their value prop. When there are multiple decision makers involved, how would you streamline the value prop in such a way that it talks to one major persona but also appeals to others? How does one find the balance?

    Would love to hear your thoughts!

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