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Content marketing for enterprises: Q&A with Percolate CEO Randy Wootton and VP of Marketing Greg Roth

Percolate’s content marketing platform is used by enterprise companies including Microsoft, Bosch, United Airlines, and BP. What makes Percolate unique and what is next for the company?

Percolate’s technology falls somewhere between a “content marketing platform” and a “marketing resource management tool.” Unlike some other CMPs, they focus less on the delivery of content and more on orchestrating the organization, planning, and analysis of marketing campaigns. They’re aiming to help create a new category of content marketing tool focused on enabling more sophisticated planning and orchestration.

Image source: Percolate

The company is backed by leading VCs including Sequoia Capital, GGV, and Lightspeed Ventures. Their most recent funding was a Series D round of $32 million in March 2019. 

We spoke with CEO Randy Wootton and VP of Marketing Greg Roth to learn more about their company and the work they do around enterprise content marketing.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

CZ: Briefly describe your company – what’s your elevator pitch?

Percolate: We’ve found that the challenges enterprise marketers are facing are quite acute. In today’s world, many are being held accountable to drive results and revenue. They have to manage increasingly more  complexity across product lines, brands, and functional teams. Furthermore, while they have a clear picture of their customers, they face more pressure to personalize these prospects’ and customers’ experiences. These factors also make the software they choose potentially a critical part of their marketing transformation. We believe the path to an optimal marketing organization requires developing agility in processes, systems, and technology.

In some ways, Percolate has become the operational layer for marketing teams at the world’s largest organizations. Percolate enables these marketers to deliver more orchestrated, effective, and intelligent marketing on a global scale.

Percolate was created for CMOs, marketing ops innovators, and creatives who get that before you can achieve any ambitious goal, you need a strong foundation, a plan of attack, and a way to monitor progress. At its core, Percolate is the place where the entire marketing effort coalesces. It provides a place for teams to gather, for briefs, assets, and initiatives to live, and for plans to be set into action. 

Team members can get the information they need quickly, and can collaborate across functions and geographies to drive a campaign forward. 

Most of all, it gives marketers complete visibility into every dimension of their operations, from multi-year campaign architectures to individual pieces of content. Every asset can be tracked and measured for effectiveness, giving teams granular insights they can use to optimize performance along every axis.

Today, Percolate works with over 600 brands including Bosch, Microsoft, Albertsons, UPS, VMWare, and BP, all of whom trust Percolate to give their marketers access to the right information, content, and plans as they accelerate towards digital transformation and operational excellence.

We currently sit at the intersection of Content Marketing Platform and Marketing Resource Management offerings. As we continue to see our customers’ needs converge across multiple categories, we develop industry leading capabilities that  are helping to define a new category focused on marketing planning and orchestration at the speed of business.

percolate product example of how it works
Image source: Percolate

CZ: How / why was your company founded? 

Percolate: Our founders Noah Brier and James Gross saw a core challenge in the way marketing was working. They identified that  that marketing needed a system of record to manage the entire campaign process, not just the deployment or measurement of assets. Organizations needed software and services to help them scale campaigns and content effectively across their global markets and teams. 

CZ: Who is your target customer?

Percolate: While we partner with a wide variety of companies, the customers that receive the most value out of our technology and services have the following attributes: 

  • Large enterprises with a globally distributed workforce (+3000 employees), who are required to produce campaigns in many regions, markets, and cultures.
  • Companies with significant organizational complexity in their marketing department. Specifically, when success depends on aligning across sub-teams such as brand, product marketing, demand generation, communications, public relations, visual merchandising, etc.
  • Companies with complex product offerings who need to produce marketing for multiple business units and product categories or have to produce product-specific marketing for each product line or SKU.
  • Marketing organizations that produce the majority of content in-house, and therefore need to optimize their production processes, gain visibility into their overall campaign operations, and improve coordination between content producers, management, and leadership.

We have found these attributes are particularly common in the B2B technology, manufacturing, B2B financial services, and retail industries.

CZ: What’s the biggest problem you solve for your customers?

Percolate: The rising demand for more personalized, relevant content over the past 15 years has been increasing marketing complexity and straining marketing’s capacity throughout the supply chain. The need to deliver ever more personalized content for more customer segments in B2C organizations, as well as the shift towards account-based marketing in B2B companies, has   increased the work for already strapped marketing departments.

In recent years, marketers have dealt with growing marketing complexity by procuring point technologies to address specific challenges. The majority of these systems – such as marketing automation, digital marketing hubs, and multi-channel campaign management systems – focus on the delivery of content (‘downstream’ processes) rather than the management of content planning and production (‘upstream’ processes). 

Due to under-investment in tools that address ‘upstream’ marketing supply-chain pains, many marketers come to Percolate looking to solve their core orchestration and operational challenges. Strategically, these challenges fall into three areas: 

  • Maximizing marketing impact: The increased ability to target and personalize experiences for customers across a wide proliferation of both digital and traditional channels presents tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, for marketing organizations. While marketers have strategies for driving impact – and the distribution technologies to execute them – the demands of these plans from a content quantity, quality, and coordination standpoint make fulfilling plans increasingly challenging. Marketers who fill the gap between strategy and execution will maximize the impact of their campaigns on business and revenue growth.
  • Coordinating operations: Marketing leaders and the teams that they lead will increasingly be required to react in real-time, producing and adapting content to a myriad of customer personas. The recent resurgence of formalized Marketing Operations teams and the proliferation of SaaS technology addresses these marketing-specific operational challenges. In the coming years, we believe that enterprises will focus on increasing their agility and orchestrating internal processes to match the speed of change in the wider world.
  • Data-driven marketing: Today, all marketers aspire to be more data-driven in their decision making, but there is a gap between data and actionable insights that enable marketers to learn and improve. Marketing strategies and information are unstructured data that often can’t be measured. Furthermore, marketing organizations have invested heavily in channel, team, and region-specific point solutions each with their own metrics that make it difficult to act off a holistic picture of activities. Finally, marketers lack operational data, meaning that traditional measures of the campaign and content performance and ROI only tell half of the story. There is an opportunity to consolidate tools and architect a tech stack that creates a more cohesive data language and delivers coherent insights back into the planning process.

Marketing teams come to Percolate to solve a number of upstream use cases. These involve both long-term strategic planning as well as short-term editorial planning: briefing and coordination of activities, production of content and management of marketing work, asset and content management, and reporting into marketing activities. 

Many marketers struggle to work across organizational silos and are interested in a system to increase cross-functional collaboration and visibility. Other marketers are not able to answer very simple questions about their marketing — for example, which offers are currently in the market? — without a laborious sequence of meetings, phone calls, and emails. 

Many organizations have attempted to solve these problems by optimizing processes, attempting to change company culture or to hire new agencies or staff. Forward-thinking organizations have come to understand that enterprise-ready SaaS systems like Percolate are an essential piece of the solution and enable successful process and culture changes. 

CZ: If a customer started today, how long would it take them to 1)onboard your product, and 2)start seeing results?

Percolate: All deployments are scoped and resourced according to scale. Typically, Percolate will deploy one or more core workflows — calendaring, briefing, global-to-local content management, or content marketing into a marketing organization. 

Implementation time typically averages three months, depending upon the scope and scale of the organization. The number of users also varies, typically around 10-12 users per team. Roles and responsibilities vary from the head of a channel or department (VP of marketing) down to an individual contributor (creative producer, copywriter, or strategist). 

CZ: Briefly describe the before and after of what impact your technology or solution would have if a company were to implement it tomorrow.

Percolate: The primary impacts would be:

  • Increased revenue from marketing. Organizations using Percolate saw an increase in performance of marketing assets. Due to the new content creation insights available through Percolate, one organization detected a 5% increase in open rates of emails 
  • Facilitated cross-team collaboration, resulting in new and more compelling content. By establishing a single platform for all teams to collaborate on, organizations gained insight into creative talents across departments and divisions. Organizations leveraged these newfound creative assets to create new content and enhance existing marketing efforts.
  • Improved customer satisfaction. After implementing Percolate and increasing cross-campaign visibility, marketers reported improvements in their ability to plan, develop, and show that content resonated with customers and directly contributed to their improved Net Promoter Score (NPS).

CZ: What are some examples of success stats from customers who’ve started using your product?

Percolate: We’ll share a few:

  • An average savings of three hours per week of administrative work — or a three-year savings of $2,764,136 — from reducing time spent managing marketing projects and content portfolios via spreadsheets, shared drives, and email.
  • A three-year savings of $826,878 and/or 10% savings of the annual asset creation budget. Percolate provides a single source of record for all assets, and enables teams to reuse content and reduce redundant spending, specifically where separate regions, product teams, and departments had frequently spent money creating similar assets.
  • 83% reduction of hourly production costs by moving creative work in-house. By increasing visibility across their full portfolio of assets and creative talent, organizations realize they could move production work from outside agencies to internal production teams, whose hourly rates were 83% lower, resulting in a three-year savings of $685,920.
  • A three-year savings of $590,627 from consolidating marketing team tool sets and retiring legacy systems. After deploying Percolate, customers were able to discontinue using other project management, asset management, and social posting tools.

CZ: How many competitors are in your space and how do you compare to them?

Percolate: Over a year ago, we made a strategic gamble on transforming the Classic version of our product into Next. Percolate Next was our vision of a Content Marketing Platform — infused with the core collaboration, workflow, and process features integral to managing and measuring enterprise marketing campaigns. 

Our vision of an enterprise-ready CMP included functionality inherent in Marketing Resource Management, Digital Asset Management, and Collaborative Work Management products.

Concurrently, we noticed the expansion of the CMP category and its convergence with other categories such as Marketing Resource Management (MRM), Collaborative Work Management (Project Management), Digital Asset Management, Sale Enablement Platforms, Digital Experience Platforms, and Content Management Systems. 

This resulted in an expanded competitor set. The launch of the Percolate Developer Platform will allow us to focus on our core competencies while still providing ‘best-in-class’ solutions via integration for sales enablement, marketing automation, business intelligence, and atomic content – with an eye towards building a robust network of integration partners across all relevant categories. 

CZ: Why do customers choose you over your competitors?

Percolate: Unlike our competitors, Percolate is specifically focused on enterprise marketing management. With our flexible, hierarchical teams, large enterprises are able to represent their organizational structure within our system and model permissions and approvals, directly from their real-world reporting structure. This focused approach has allowed us to address the scale challenges that marketers face and support global deployments with the world’s largest corporations.

Our platform provides marketing organizations a high-level of flexibility when it comes to modeling data for content types and representing strategic attributes as metadata. This not only enables our customers to easily map and measure their strategic and tactical requirements but also enables us to support a wide range of use cases beyond typical content marketing channels.

Many of our competitors’ professional services offerings focus on licensing, curating, and developing content for customers. We have not found this to be a need at large, enterprise companies, who already employ hundreds of in-house content creators on top of agency relationships. 

Rather, our professional services capabilities focus on aligning our technology to the transformation initiatives and business goals within their company and enabling the customer to make more effective and intelligent use of their content and content creation resources. 

Our Global Customer Success organization ensures the success of these projects from implementation and training to integration and customization and include change management and adoption services for organizations to get the most out of our technology.

CZ: What are you focusing on for the next year?

Percolate: Going into 2020, we will be improving our content modeling capabilities to handle Atomic Content and allow for content components to be dynamically composed on the fly.

Our most sophisticated B2B and B2C marketers believe this will be their biggest challenge in the future for delivering personalized content at scale. 

Additionally, we will be investing in AI-driven content and campaign insights that utilize data gathered through user input and through applications developed on our Platform to connect to other systems.

CZ: What challenges do you see in the industry and what are you doing to prepare?

Percolate: In recent years, marketers have addressed growing marketing complexity by procuring point technologies to address specific challenges. The majority of these systems – such as marketing automation, digital marketing hubs, and multi-channel campaign management systems – focus on the delivery of content (‘downstream’ processes) rather than the management of content planning and production (‘upstream’ processes). 

Due to underinvestment in tools that address ‘upstream’ marketing supply-chain pains, many marketers come to Percolate looking to solve these core operational challenges. 

Strategically, these challenges fall into three areas: 

  • The ability to deliver business results attributable to marketing activities
  • The ability to operate efficiently and adapt processes to market changes
  • The ability to learn and improve upon marketing processes and outputs over time

We believe the root-cause of these challenges is a process bottleneck at the content production stage. In the past, marketing distribution channels were limited (a few TV channels, radio stations, magazines, etc.), meaning that no matter how much time and money brands invested in creating marketing content, its impact was limited by available ad space. 

Today, there are more internet connected devices (thus, channels) than people, meaning that marketers now have a bottleneck around creating and coordinating high-quality content across all these touchpoints.

CZ: Who do you look to for example and insight?

Percolate: We’ve drawn inspiration from technology platforms that play a very active role in coordinating how multiple products work together. We have gained insight from companies that have successfully launched and mobilized their own respective developer platforms that go beyond APIs to offer capabilities to build new Applications, User Experiences and Next-Generation Integrations on a consistent data foundation. Examples include:

  • SalesForce Lightning
  • Zendesk Sunshine
  • Atlassian Connect (Jira)
  • Workday Cloud Platform
  • Box Platform
  • Service Now: Now Platform
  • Hubspot Connect
  • Intercom Platform

CZ: Any new products or features in the pipeline? Exciting news you want to share?

Percolate: We’re focused on making heavy investments into the APIs available to both customers and third-party providers. In 2019, we’ll be launching the first Developer Platform for Content Marketing which will combine our flexible data modeling layer and REST APIs with new capabilities including:

  • Subscription management for all Percolate events as Webhooks
  • UI SDK to integrate applications into the Percolate application User Interface
  • Robust application lifecycle management for customers to install and configure applications

We’ll also be launching several new integrations developed alongside our partners including Allocadia, Domo, PageProof, Adobe, Google and others in the lead up to a 3P marketplace in 2020 that third parties will be able to develop and distribute applications on.

Additionally, we’ll be launching a new automation and no-code integration system allowing customers to create workflow automations based on Percolate events and connect to over 200+ other systems with a simple drag and drop UI. This will allow our customers to connect more of their ecosystem to content and campaigns.

We believe that a diverse ecosystem of delivery systems, CRM/CDP, content intelligence tools and content creation will remain an issue for marketers to create visibility and orchestration into the entire process. We intend for Percolate to be the hub that connects a marketers tools throughout the end to end content lifecycle.

In addition to the Developer Platform, in 2019 Percolate will be continuing to invest in areas of work management including collaboration with video and creative proofing and project management functionality to complement market planning and content production to provide the tools to manage the entire content and marketing campaign lifecycle.

CZ: Can you provide a brief overview of your pricing model?

Percolate: We offer a flexible, three-tiered pricing model with a volume-based discount. The pricing model is designed to scale with the customer based on their evolving needs.

CZ: Quick facts about Percolate:

  • Year founded: 2011
  • HQ: New York
  • Other offices in: San Francisco, London, and Denver
  • Number of employees: 220
  • Number of customers: 150 unique enterprises, managing nearly 600 subsidiaries
  • Latest funding: $32 million (March 2019)
  • Customers includes: Bosch, Microsoft, United Airlines, Albertsons, UPS, VMWare, and BP 
  • Category: Content Marketing Platform (CMP), Marketing Resource Management (MRM)

The post Content marketing for enterprises: Q&A with Percolate CEO Randy Wootton and VP of Marketing Greg Roth appeared first on ClickZ.

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