2020

C-Suite Strategy

Brian Finnerty

Brian Finnerty

Demandbase

Christopher Willis

Christopher Willis

Acrolinx

Profile
2020 Innovator Of The Year
Profile

Winner 3 Name

Winner 3 Company

Brian Finnerty

With more that 20 years of experience, Brian Finnerty has been a contributing member of the marketing community and has worked to grow numerous organizations over his career. He has now been with Demandbase for just over a year and is passionate about helping the company to reach the next stage of growth. Through the past six months, he’s led his growth marketing team in this dramatic pivot while also merging teams through the Engagio acquisition. Additionally, he’s set a clear vision for the team of celebrating customer use cases and growing their value through strategic customer marketing. Under his leadership, Demandbase’s marketers have invested in content marketing, social media, case studies, testimonials, refining their NPS process and CSAT scores — and beyond.

Can you share any particular achievements you are most proud of in your current role?

I’m the VP of Growth Marketing at Demandbase, where we lead the ABM industry. Prior to COVID-19, we had an established demand generation strategy in place; but then everything changed. Practically overnight, two of our most effective marketing channels (events and field marketing) became obsolete. We had to pivot dramatically in order to stay the course, let alone in growth mode. But there was one more major complication –– Demandbase was simultaneously in the middle of acquiring Engagio.

As you might imagine, undergoing an acquisition during a global pandemic while still managing to grow is quite a tall order. But despite the complexity, we’ve achieved that. To this end, what I’m most proud of this year is the way in which we’ve integrated the Demandbase and Engagio teams. We’ve combined the myriad skill sets and personalities, and emerged as truly one team. We also restructured our marketing team, and refreshed everyone’s roles and responsibilities accordingly. There’s been a lot of change, but we’ve navigated it smoothly (for the most part!) and by leaning on one another.

We’ve done all this as we’ve worked to orient our team toward what we hope will be a highly successful launch of our new Demandbase ABM platform. We’re calling it The Demandbase One Vision, One Platform: The Launch Event. It’s where account-obsessed revenue teams will come together and step into the future of B2B, with one vision and one unified platform for account-based sales and marketing. We’re well on our way to hitting our registration and sign-up goals for this event, and the team’s focus has been really invaluable.

Can you share any details about how your team, or individuals on your team, have helped drive innovation? How have you maintained your collaboration and innovation despite the current WFH reality?

Typically, our launch event for our new product would be held in-person, with plenty of opportunities for speakers, attendees and Demandbase team members to connect face-to-face. But of course this can’t happen right now. Instead, we created a virtual event that is split into two parts. The first half will be all about our vision for the B2B space and our platform, and offer a sneak peek into our user interface and functionality. We’ll also spend some time talking to customers, discussing marketing and sales unification and hearing from our keynote speaker Andrew Davis, a best-selling author, and one of the most influential marketers in the world.

The second half of the event is where we really had to innovate. Normally, we would offer a demo of our product in-person, go in-depth with attendees and answer questions live. But since this wasn’t an option this year, we created our own event called “Dine & Demo.” This is intended for a smaller group of highly qualified individuals who have shown intent for our solution. We’ll send them restaurant delivery gift cards in advance from places like GrubHub, Uber Eats or DoorDash, so they can enjoy a meal on us. Then we’ll have them join us for a one-hour demo while they eat their lunch. We emphasized engagement and the experience of this event, and focused on recreating that special VIP experience they would otherwise get to enjoy in-person.

In the midst of Covid-19, what are some lessons you’ve learned that will impact or influence the future of your work?

Our work setup during the pandemic has been changed radically, and the future looks like it’ll be changed dramatically, as well. Most notably, companies will try to strike the right balance of working from home (WFH) vs. working at the office. For Demandbase, moving forward, we’re exploring whether WFH will be the standard with going into the office being optional or a small piece of the week (perhaps one or two days). Big changes are afoot. Personally, I miss the office and like to go in and see colleagues and have in-person meetings. I also miss traveling to — and speaking at — events, but safety must remain our first priority until this pandemic is under control.

What sources for inspiration help you stay excited and invigorated in your work?

One of the areas I oversee is customer marketing, and I’m regularly blown away by our customer stories. Just today, I was told about a customer who was struggling with adoption and finding quick ABM wins. Our customer success team came in with an action plan, reinvented the customer’s marketing and sales objectives, re-architected their funnel and executed ad campaigns and marketing campaigns to create new pipeline. The customer was blown away by this pivot, saw really strong results that same quarter, and proceeded to sign a three-year deal with us. It’s transformative when our team goes in, redefines a customer’s go-to-market vision and ultimately helps them fill their pipeline at a time when so many businesses are struggling to make ends meet. Stories like these make me excited for the future — and proud.

I also derive a lot of inspiration from CMO councils and thought leadership events for marketing executives. It’s helpful to talk with peers I respect and act as sounding boards for one another on current issues and how to plan for the future. For example, last week I attended a peer discussion around setting up and executing a successful Customer Advisory Board with marketing leaders from Uberflip and Vidyard, which was incredibly insightful and valuable. I get even more energized about my own work by hearing others’ new ideas, contributing my own and iterating with other marketing leaders. Especially in an era of such constant technological and strategic advancement, this peer-to-peer support and discussion is so important.

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Christopher Willis

When Christopher Willis took the role of CMO at Acrolinx in 2017, marketing contribution to pipeline was 3%. Working with a new demand team, the contribution grew to 38% in 2018 and upward to 78% across 2019. Partnering with the front-office leadership, he brought and instituted the company’s sales methodology, as well as a detailed Value Framework that aligned teams on a set of value drivers, proof points and differentiators. The combination of these initiatives, along with the hard work of management and staff throughout the front-office team has increased the velocity of the sales funnel and helped sales leadership onboard faster and forecast more accurately. 

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2020 Innovator Of The Year

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