14 Minutes of SaaS

14 Minutes of SaaS

E54: Mark Organ, Founder of Influitive and Eloqua. 2 of 3. Cashflow Obsessed

Mark Organ - Founder and former CEO of Influitive and Eloqua interviewed by Stephen Cummins for the 14 Minutes of SaaS podcast in SaaStock Dublin - part 2 of 3

E54: Mark Organ, Founder of Influitive and Eloqua. 2 of 3. Cashflow Obsessed

In episode 2 of this 3 part mini-series with Mark Organ, Founder and Executive Chairman of Influitive (and original founder and former CEO of Eloqua), describes to Stephen Cummins how the best ideas are born out of pain and how he manages ‘shiny new thing’ syndrome. He talks about why Eloqua was successful and said his obsession with cashflow in the early stages of the companies he founded drove him seek sales as fast as possible. Advocates can massively accelerate the sales process in B2B SaaS he feels – and that was a key method for him was to augment the voice of any happy customers they had from day 1. And this also led to him founding Influitive.

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transcript of EPISODE E57: Mark Organ, Founder of Influitive and Eloqua. 2 of 3. Cashflow Obsessed

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Mark Organ

That’s why I think to be a great entrepreneur you’ve gotta be an anthropologist. You have to spend time in the field doing what I do …  right … interviewing dozens of people. And I did the same thing at Influitive … I’ve interviewed hundreds of what I call super-advocates … to understand why they do what they do. And what environment we can create for them so that they could accomplish more … and be more of who they wanted to be.

 

Stephen Cummins

Welcome to 14 minutes of SaaS. The show where you can listen to the stories and opinions of founders of the world’s most remarkable SaaS ScaleUps.

In the 2nd episode of this three part mini series recorded with Mark Organ, founder and exec chairman in Influitive .. and original founder and former of Eloqua. He describes how the best ideas are born out of pain and how he manages shiny new thing syndrome. He talks about how why Eloqua was successful … and say his obsession with cash flow in the early stages drove him to seek sales as fast as possible. Advocates can massively accelerate the sales process in B2B SaaS he feels. That was key method for him to augment the voice of happy customers they had from day one. And this also led to him founding Influitive.

 

Stephen Cummins

How did you decide to start up Influitive? What was the thing?

Mark Organ

Yeah. I mean every business I started … this is my seventh … always comes from pain I personally experienced from my last company.
So I keep a running record. I already know what my next company is going to be. I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to build it, but I know where I’m going. I know the space I’m excited about.

Stephen Cummins

Do you suffer from the shiny new thing syndrome?

Mark Organ

Yeah … a little bit …

Stephen Cummins

How do you manage that?

Mark Organ

I know that if I do not focus then I am dead. At the the end of the day, yes, there are a lot of shiny objects that I’m excited about. But again, I’ve got employees, investors, customers … customers count on me.
So how I manage it … I write it all in a book. So I have book full of startup ideas. I give them away a lot. So I mean entrepreneurs that are looking for ideas … I say here’s 10 … that I think any one of them could be great find. Find one you’re passionate about, you know, and I think be something there. Although I do think the best ideas are born out of a pain … because building companies … it’s difficult, they are dark days.
And sometimes it’s only the fact that I know there’s a business here …  because I like … in the case of Eloqua … why I started that company … is that I interviewed dozens of sales reps who were losing their families or having a difficult time making a living. Because the internet was killing them, this is back in the late nineties. These were insurance salesmen that don’t make a lot of base (salary). And so …. I knew that I could make these people more productive if I could get them good leads –  and the best leads come from the internet. And if I could find ways of nurturing … you know ….  because I understood the lives of these sales people.

A lot of people don’t know that the insight from Eloqua actually came out of the sales space … not the marketing space. Okay. And it came from the interviews that I had done. And my co-founder as well. Done with salespeople to understand what it is that they needed to be successful. And the reason why I think Eloqua was successful is because it represented the merger of marketing and sales.

Stephen Cummins

Tell the listeners what Eloqua was …

Mark Organ

Oh, sure. Yeah. So Eloqua was a pioneering marketing automation software company. And, so you’ll recognize, I mean, if you know, Marketo or Pardot or whatnot today, basically Eloqua was that … but basically seven years before or Hubspot or Marketo.

But… but I think the reason why we did well was that the fundamental insight was that salespeople need to qualified leads and most of the leads that they talked to were a waste of their time. And so marketing … to do its job well … it needed to integrate with the sales function in order to provide the most qualified leads. And that was different from …  that insight is fundamentally different from every other marketing software company that’s out there at the time. And it was born out of my personal experience. That’s why I think to be a great entrepreneur, you’ve gotta be an anthropologist. You have to spend time in the field doing what I do …  right … interviewing dozens of people. And I did the same thing at Influitive … I’ve interviewed hundreds of what I call super-advocates … to understand why they do what they do. And what environment we can create for them so that they could accomplish more … and be more of who they wanted to be.

And it was out of that insight that I think is why Influitive is doing well. And why we’re so different from as many other companies doing influencer marketing … and we’re so different … and that’s because we’re focused on the advocate experience … and it again, it comes out of me doing, you know, dozens of hours of work speaking with these people to understand their mental model … how they think. And then how we could get them to do a lot more of that sort of activity.

 

So that’s been kind of my approach to building companies. And so why I built Influitive was also out of pain that came out of my experience in Eloqua … where because we were bootstrapped company, I was obsessed with cash – we almost went bankrupt four times. You have to have access to cash. And so I needed customers to buy much faster – and customers buy a lot faster when they’re surrounded by people they respect saying you can trust Eloqua, you can trust Mark. They’re good people. And it’s a good fit for you. And so those customers buy very rapidly – sometimes four or five days instead of four or five months.

 

Stephen Cummins

And how does Influitive work? How does it? How does it help someone who has a great product or service to get those advocates to get that message out? How does it work?

Mark Organ

So we created this environment that advocates just love. And what advocates really want is to feel like they’re part of a movement and I feel like something that part of something bigger themselves like here. Like here we are at SaaStock … it feels great. We’re part of something big… we’re part of the SaaS industry. So human beings long for that. We’re right here. People long for that.

Like here in Ireland but when you go to a football game, do people paint their faces like in the United States?

Stephen Cummins

 

Some of them do. Absolutely. Yeah. The other thing is the rugby team actually play beside where we are here. They’re the European champions. Leinster. Most of them actually come from here as well … so they’re massively passionate about it …

Mark Organ

 

Passion about it … even the fans … they may not even play rugby or they played rugby in their teenage years … but they still identify with a team out there on the field. So people long to be part of something that’s bigger themselves. Part of a movement. They want to know that their actions have an impact, they want to get social capital. They want to do better in their life because of their advocacy. So we create an environment where advocates get the feelings that they want. And what that looks like is like a VIP community, right? And so we gamify the process. People get points and badges and they meet one another – and as a result of advocating for their favourite company and product.

 

And as a result we can get them to do five or ten times as much activities than they normally would. The other thing that’s quite interesting is that a lot of companies in SaaS want a lot of referrals – and they want to generate more referrals, and it’s very valuable. You know, that same person that gives you a referral may also be willing to speak for you on stage can be willing to retweet something that’s important to you. Would be willing to give you feedback on your product. Some of our customers even invite their advocates to their headquarters to do hackathons together with our engineers.

 

In fact, the more you use them in the more varied ways, the more you use them for. They feel like they’re part of the team. Yeah, the more they feel they’re actually more part of your company than their own company, right. In their own life they may be the backup accountants … you know, somewhere … they are somewhere in the bowels of the company. And they’re not very well known. But when you’re in an advocate role, they’re superman. Yeah, they make it happen for a piece of in this case accounting software that they love. And they make it happen every day. And they’re treated like loyalty and so they feel like they’re more part of that company than they are in their own company.

Stephen Cummins

So a company I used to work for … a small little SaaS company called Salesforce. They’re masters at this.

 

Mark Organ

 

They sure are.

Stephen Cummins

 

I mean when I was with Salesforce, we didn’t have so many MVPs. These days these MVPs are kind of like rock stars with their own identity. And it’s really seeded a massive community. It’s been… it’s been probably their biggest achievement.

 

Mark Organ

I think its one of the biggest achievements. And I took a lot from that. I didn’t mentioned that, you know, part of why I started Influitive was my own experience with advocates massively accelerating the sales process. But I also learned a lot from Salesforce, who is one of our big customers today. We have several divisions that use our product to mobilize their advocates. But I remember going through these city tours … road shows. And there would be someone that I knew was struggling with Salesforce adoption – they would give that person a Glass of champagne and make them feel great and they were evangelising Salesforce better than any sales rep, that was amazing. And I was putting that together and creating the right environment for the advocate and they… and they do a lot.

The third thing that was part of my insight was, I learned to speak Chinese. I used an amazing system that was way ahead of his time – still out there – called Chinese pod. And this is amazing, you know. I spent four years trying to learn learn Italian in university – and I can’t order spaghetti in a restaurant today. I spent six months learning Chinese all by podcast. It was one of the first ever podcasts – 2004. And I was able to go to China and do business without an interpreter.

Stephen Cummins

We have too much in common. I learned a load of languages between the ages of 27 and 3o – primarily through listening. Now. I went and lived in other countries as well. But it was mostly listening on ancient apparatus. But that was the primary way.

Mark Organ

That make sense? Because when you were a child you didn’t learn grammar by reading – you learned it on your own.

Stephen Cummins

Mandarin in six months is phenomenal. Well done!

Mark Organ

Yeah. Yeah. Good. Again, good enough… good enough to have me not need an interpreter. I did have a Chinese English electronic dictionary to help me but… but still pretty… pretty amazing. I can’t read or write Chinese. But I can… I can hear it. I can understand and I can speak. So anyway, that’s awesome – really exciting. I would tell anybody who listens, you gotta check it out.

Stephen Cummins

So you’re advocating right now.

Mark Organ

I’m advocating ….even people who had no interest in speaking Chinese whatsoever … I said – you’ve got a check it out! Yeah, it’s really… it’s really amazing. But what I found was my advocacy really started to wain over time. And it’s because I wasn’t recognized for my work. I wasn’t thanked for it. There’s no feedback. I see. I didn’t feel like I was part of something you know. So all these experiences – all the sum total of it is what gave me the biggest insight for my company – which is not a blinding insight – which is – give advocates the experience they want and they will reciprocate by doing advocacy. And to this day that is an insight that …So if you look at all of our competitors, nobody’s focused on the advocate experience, they’re focused on marketers and what marketers want to buy.

And that’s important because marketers pay for us … pay for our product. But ultimately, there’s nobody out there that’s going to build a better experience for advocates than us. But at the end of the day, you know, marketers can have a great experience with your product. But if they’re not getting the advocacy that they want, that’s not going to be a great fit. And so I think, you know, the best businesses in the world are actually pretty simple when you break them down. They come down to a simple insight and often have a different lens on a problem than other people are using. And the way to acquire that other lens, you gotta travel, you gotta read, you gotta go to conferences, gotta expose yourself to different experiences.

Stephen Cummins

In the next and final episode of this three part mini-series Mark reflects on how Lego is the king of advocate marketing, an is a prime example of how B2C is always years ahead of B2B. And he waxes ever so lyrically and dare I say – proudly – about his home town of Toronto. Sure why not?

 

Stephen Cummins

You’ve been listening to 14 minutes of SaaS. Thanks to Mike Quill for his creativity and problem solving skills and to Ketsu for the music. This episode was brought to you by me, Stephen Cummins. If you enjoy the podcast, please don’t forget to share it with your network, subscribe to the series and give the show a rating.

14 Minutes of SaaS