The Future Of Martech, Powered By Artificial Intelligence With John Turns
With the continuous evolution of technology, the future of martech (marketing technology) is truly ripe and exciting. Entrepreneurs are maximizing the digital stage to reach a huge number of people and come up with fresh, engaging marketing tactics. For John Turns, these innovations will be all for naught without one important element: human connection. Chad Burmeister interviews the Vice President of Strategy at Seisan Consulting to talk about how creative creators contribute to the growth of artificial intelligence and how its constant change will play a role in the sales industry for the years to come. John also underlines the importance of earning your target market's trust by keeping an authentic self when building an online profile.
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The Future Of Martech, Powered By Artificial Intelligence With John Turns
I've got a special guest with me. John Turns is the VP of Strategy for Seisan. John, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Chad. I appreciate it.
I’m glad to be here. Before we kick off, Seisan, what does that word mean? There must be some deep meaning to the company name.
In the early days of Google Translate post-dot-bomb after the founders sold their first company and started their second, out of that there was a heavy emphasis on, how do I know that I'm not investing in vaporware or that my dollars aren't going to vanish? They put confidence and success into the Japanese translator on Google in 2002 and Seisan is what popped out. Rough translation, Seisan means confidence and success.
We need more of that now than ever. We’re back into that fluffy market cap stage again that people must've forgotten about from several years ago. It’s interesting times. We're going to dig into the future of MarTech powered by artificial intelligence. For the readers, you're used to a lot of conversations where I talked to CEOs, data scientists on a sales side and it's rare we get an opportunity to talk about it from a marketing perspective. It feels to me that some of the lines in the sand will come together and merge. It may not be called MarTech sales tech. Maybe it's AI tech, revenue tech, for example. We'll dig into that. Before we start, John, tell us a bit about your background. I like to get the readers to get to know you. How did you end up in this role because it sounds like you had thirteen years of government contracting before this company and you've been doing this for several years? What happened there? What caused you to make the change?
There is still a place for creative marketing doers amid the talk of artificial intelligence.
Part of it was I’m fortunate enough to get in from an internship into learning the whole ecosystem of sales and operations in the government contracting sector. Unique sales cycle and approach to sales. Seisan, as a commercial-based company, working with some Fortune 100 clients, wanted some more stabilization in terms of long-term revenue, which the government contract you can provide. At least for now, the government always pays their bills. Initially, we flirted and I did a bit of side consulting for them and to evaluate whether or not they had something to offer the government market. They decided to bring me on full-time. Due to a new president in 2016 and evaluating what that new administration might look like in terms of budgeting and investments, I had to pivot away from the government sector and into commercial. That's how I got involved there, initially focused on government contracting but then it focused into commercial and building out my network. Thankfully, it's been a good run so far.
As head of strategy, it sounds like you own account management, BD and a lot of different areas within the company. From a strategy perspective, what does your day job look like? What are the things that you do on a day-to-day basis?
The biggest thing is starting off with a task list, I know a lot of executives are big on writing down goals as well as tactical accomplishments that you do now. As a sales executive, there are many fires that need to be put out quite often in terms of managing customer expectations, as well as what you need to do to move the ball forward on any prospecting and/or proposal activity. What I try to focus on initially upfront is through my cadence. We have strategic partnerships on a product side as well as software side where we are in a quasi-reseller agreement or trying to shake the trees on how we might be able to help them position themselves to enable more sales through our systems integration and custom software services.
I go through current outstanding proposals and touchpoints. I go through any outstanding prospecting activity. LinkedIn during the time of COVID has been a powerful part of my day in terms of trying to engage as much as possible. I wish there was more AI that you could engage. If anyone reading has an idea, that would be powerful. That’s it. There's the other part of the job, which is the strategic long-term stuff, the HR and the financing. When do we pull the trigger on a strategic hire? What makes the most sense? What can we outsource effectively? It goes from tactical to strategic and back depending on what is the most pressing issue of the day. I try not to have my days be blown out of the water by fires but I'm sure you know how that can get out of hand sometimes.
We should talk because I met with my marketing consultant. He's using the AI for social tool that our customers use. He taught me a few things about our own technology that I wasn't aware of. Typically, our customers do text, a sentence, a period and it looks good. What he discovered is that he's automating a real language and approach with the emojis in automation. He's going out, “I connected with your profile. I'm not a big fan of automation.” He's using automation and he's using the emojis. He's having a few typos, short, under ten words and then it goes out. What happens is they come back and maybe do an LLL or something because he's goofing personal. He was at our fire pit at the house. He recorded ten of these where he does a video greeting back to them via LinkedIn. He's got the hook in, “I'm sitting here at the fire pit, I'm looking forward to talking to you later in the week.” He does a video then his next step in the cadence is a voice greeting on LinkedIn. Who does that?
Nobody. Being a real authentic person is the number one thing that you can do in LinkedIn activity but many people especially in the time of COVID are desperate for prospecting activity. Therefore, they come across as ingenuine.
Let's pivot to marketing tech around AI because those are some of the sales tools that are, “Let's automate the email, automate the LinkedIn, let's pull data more effectively using AI with tools like Zoom and SalesIntel.” From a marketing perspective, I haven't lived there as much over the last several years. I'll be curious what are vendors selling to you? What are you buying? How are you deploying it? What technologies do you deploy either internally or externally? I'd love to dig into all that stuff.
The founder and president of the company is a huge technologist and understands the role level bits and bytes of how things work. Because of that when new things come out, he's always the first to hop on and try to break it because he views that as a business opportunity. “If I can break your stuff, that means that I know how to work it and try to potentially implement it for you when customizations or integrations need to happen in order to more effectively shore up your offerings.” With that, we've created some strong relationships and had exposure to some big not quite ready for release marketing products with companies like Verizon. In the advent and convergence of artificial intelligence, next generation network speeds as well as hardware that we're having on our person, what you're seeing is the changeover from tactical marketing on, “I have this data on this person. How do I get them to do this thing?” More of, “How do I overwhelm them with what I want them to see? How do I take them on a journey through all of their different devices, experiences and control that?”
When you take the multimodal device approach, we're not quite there yet but people are working on it especially as you do that login with Facebook, that's what Facebook is doing with all of your data. That gives them access to every other application that you're touching, buying and clicking on. It's turning to engagement and attention and that is the future of marketing. What's interesting to me is the AI being able to power these external tools in places that you wouldn't think. Augmented reality is going to be huge in the next several years because AR glasses will come out, Edge compute and 5G boxes will come out and we'll make the data transfer seamless and fast that you need some powerful AI tech to serve up opportunity for clients.
I've got the ScaleX brand playing on the fake TV behind me. A lot of people think I'm in a real office here but it's not a real office. Are you thinking in AR and VR like you watch an NHL game and the logos change, will it get to where based on who you are and where you are, it will be in the augmented reality gets served up appropriately?
The hardest part about marketing is not just the eyeballs, but creating the feeling of trust.
Most people don't even realize it, if you are a gamer or have children or know people that game, let's take Madden as a perfect example. In Madden, when you go into the stadium experiences and whatever team you're playing or versus against, before it was generic but now they have ads based on your internet connectivity tied to your profile where I could be seeing a Coca-Cola ad in one space. You could be seeing a Pepsi or another ad based on you and your gamer tag profile. Subtly through these networks, mobile gaming, another big one because they have data and they can track you a lot easier through your phone to be able to serve up dynamic marketing content based on your profile and purchase history.
All of the purchases you're making through your phone, it's great and it's encrypted. They don't know how you paid but they know you paid on your phone and they know where you paid. Taking this data and taking it to an enterprise level, it's about influence and attention. When you have the glasses on, “That person looked to the left for ten seconds.” I know that the demarcation of a sale might be eighteen seconds of engagement or attention. That's how you're going to be able to rapidly A/B test some of these things on the fly in multiple mediums, it can be a still image and video, some type of unique five-second experience. On the mobile phone, you're seeing that with a lot of even nontraditional businesses going, “Here's a quick little puzzle.” What they're doing is trying to get you engaged enough so you click the link, driving traffic somewhere externally to sell you.
You’re familiar with AdRoll I'm sure. Have you heard of RollWorks?
I don't know that I've heard of RollWorks.
RollWorks is a division of AdRoll. It was through an acquisition and you can take a list of let's say 1,000 or 5,000 or however many people you want to upload into their platform. They will optimize the digital ad spend across multiple networks, from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, LinkedIn and Facebook. Based on your IP address and email that's tied to that IP address and your mobile devices, they'll start serving you those ads on all those different networks. What's cool though is that it can be done based on the list that you've pulled from ZoomInfo or Discover.
Versus hitting and superfluously spending on non-ideal avatars. Pay-per-click is great when you're being served up to the right audience.
You've wasted sales cycles, eyeballs and costs. I've seen companies spend 5x more than they need to spend or more than that. The sales team is mad and you've got perfect marketing and sales alignment when you've got an ABM approach like that. It gets to your point, in the next several years is going to be an interesting time. Did you see The Social Experiment on Netflix?
It's been recommended to me. I, myself, as an older Millennial, have been trying to phase out of social media, in particular non-LinkedIn activity. It's tough. There are a lot of businesses and people that I work with and only exclusively because their business is based around social selling in some aspect that I can only contact them through Facebook. It will be interesting to see where that goes in terms of the collision of privacy and the next generation marketing opportunities because there's going to be a lot of push and pull. I don't know that our governing bodies are smart enough, at least now, based on their age to even understand what the ask is or to regulate.
Henry Schuck did an interview with Dave Elkington on a summit, Demand Generation 2020 and they had a couple of thousand people join as Dave Elkington often does. They had a good talk about that. It felt like one of those pivotal flags in the sand thing. He said, “What we did at DiscoverOrg and then ZoomInfo is rather than follow the guidelines of what the government says we should do, we were more proactive. We went out to every single person on our database and said this information is being used here, there and everywhere. If you're okay with that, cool. If not, go ahead and let us know and we'll change it.” It feels to me like that's where it needs to go. If you want the level of experience to where you go into a game and the exact right brand is served up to you at the moment that you know is going to buy your eyeballs for eighteen seconds instead of ten, then you better click the box and say, “On it.” They'll have to take it down to, “I'm okay with it in this gaming experience but I'm not okay with it in this other one.” The levels of interconnections of the dots are going to be interesting.
When you're talking about a personal device perspective, that is what is interesting. If you view hardware and marketing, Apple's marketing is great in terms of catchy, animations and color but their latest rollout of their devices, if you've noticed, they also offered a lot of new services. A lot of people are starting to move towards content creation and services because we are a consumption-based economy. As it relates to marketing, that's where you have to get creative, “I want that new cool thing on Amazon. How do we do that?”
Human connection is the thing that will supersede everything.
The long-term approach of competition in the marketplace is also becoming interesting between the Walmart marketplace, the Amazon marketplace and your traditional big box retailers. A lot of competition for your mid-level folks as well as Software as a Service and subscription-based models. It's all about your dynamic content creation. In terms of marketing powered by AI, you're always going to need strong creative. That is the unsung hero as we talk about the future of marketing and AI is that there's still a place for creative marketing doers. That can't be oversold enough.
We had this fire pit. Every Thursday since the start of COVID, we've had people over, it started with two of us, got to twelve. We had a video guy from New York who's my marketing guy’s main videographer. He hadn't traveled in five months. He came out and had all of us mic’d up around the fire pit for three hours. People from all different walks of life. Someone who's a trainer that's taught more than a million people how to live an extraordinary life, Rich Blakeman has worked for us and he's the head of strategy like yourself and he was the former head of Miller Heiman sales team for eight years. He's a fabulous individual and then all these people, Merit Kahn is a top NSA speaker. We all congregate and they videoed this.
We had about five different lapel recording, so we're capturing the audio from all across the room. That video will be clipped, parsed and leveraged of finely tuned, 2 to 3-minute to 30-second clips that get dripped for each person. Denny Dillard is a former LAPD officer who trained all the TSA agents on planes how to protect themselves if a terrorist boarded a plane. He's got some other aspirations in life around what's going on in the country as a former police officer. The camera went to him for a few minutes here and there, that information can now be leveraged to be dripped out to help him run his marketing and to each his own. What it feels like to me is a daytime soap opera, you see somebody or a movie like Tom Cruise is in and you feel like you know the person. People come up to me after we'd been dripping these 30 to 60-second things. They've got a level of trust with me because I've seen you many times over these 30 to 60-second clips.
That goes back to controlling someone's journey. It is content and value-driven but trust and authenticity or being genuine, that is what drives trust. You can't have a sale without trust. The hardest part about marketing is not just the eyeballs. How do I create a feeling of trust when I get approached by someone in sales? Sales and marketing and a lot of people are getting frustrated with this. I worked for an executive who said, “Marketing. That's fluffy stuff. Show me the money. Show me the revenue.” The fact is that in sales and marketing, one hand washes the other. No matter how you're managing your sales or your marketing organization, overall, it's the sales organization.
All of the thought that goes into the marketing side of the business, that is what drives your sales. It's your messaging, your appeal and the brand experience. Yes, you have a closer on the other end that gets to reap the reward of having the closing skillset but a lot of people undervalue all of the rest of it. In my personal opinion, I don't want people to get upset. You try to measure too much on marketing. There are base levels of metrics that are valuable in terms of trying to measure engagement. If someone says, “I want to know ROI,” it’s difficult in marketing.
I didn't get that until I hired Nick because we came in and my CRO said, “You've got to be specific. I've been in this game for several years. Be specific. How many MQL are going to get month 1, 2, 3 and we're going to ramp it. It's 60, 120 and 180. We got 31 in month one on a scale of 60.” I was like, “We'll kick the can we'll make month to 60.” That's fine. He was tuning the dials on the message and the market. We're doing Facebook ads. Does the person follow Elon Musk? There are many things. What are the age brackets? Things that you wouldn't even think to do, he's done for companies like Paychex with millions and millions of views so he can hone in my market, map my message.
I’m like, “What about the right title and company?” He goes, “Trust me, these people who have this mindset are likely going to be in the company that you want them to be in.” I'm like, “I'm going to trust you.” We've missed the MQL number month after month. After about 60 days, I go, “Originally we said, ‘I want you to help me with the personal branding effort because personal branding feeds ScaleX and SalesClass and me personally.’” We pivoted over to building ChadBurmeister.com. That's his secret sauce is, “Let me make you famous and show your authentic self.” We've done that and said, “Nick, don't worry about MQLs anymore.” We've doubled sales.
It pies into sales and marketing, even AI, we're leveraging technology because as one person, there's only much that you physically can do and/or manage. In these times of having to be distant and not traveling and doing in-person board presentations and everything else, people still buy from people. It doesn't matter what you're selling.
I posted this because I did this video. I'm going to share this because this is too good to pass up this moment. Check this out. This is Nick, this is me and the amplification of human touch. “I look forward 2020, 2021, 2022 and start projecting. It is the amplification of human touch without having human touch. AI, having the ability to contextualize humanity without the push or pull from a human is an interesting concept that is not going anywhere. You can follow any of the technology experts. I like following Elon because he has the most incredible mind in the way that he thinks and also the delivery pattern is slow and methodical. When I look at this at the highest level, human connection is the thing that will supersede everything. At the same time, it's like we're in the 1950s with the 2050 world as far as technology. It's the convergence of the two. It's not either or, it's both and.” That's cool. It's funny because someone like Merit teaches people how to be authentic. She was feeling the market was pulling towards technology automation. I was like, “This is going to make your training more important than it was before because you need to be able to be there and show up as a person and not as a representative of feature A, B and C, and X, Y and Z.”
That's what I've been trying to do as well for myself. Yes. I'm a representative of Seisan. Yes. I truly do and passionate about unlocking potential for people and for businesses. I do that through technology because it's a personal interest of mine and I believe in the power of technology to do those things but that's who I am. It's me, not Seisan. Seisan is the enabler to meet those ends. It’s an interesting time. I'm not saying everybody needs to be an Elon Musk, Grant Cardone or whoever else ends up flooding your LinkedIn or Facebook feed, the next Chad Burmeister in terms of being able to push out content but the fact is that it's what drives humanity and the trust experience.
Time is the most valuable commodity.
It’s amazing when I show up to a meeting where they've already gotten to know me through technology versus me showing up to a meeting and they have no idea from me from Adam. I have to work hard for that versus showing up and I've already done the work before I have to do.
How easy are those meetings?
The deal is already sold. You can start thinking the buyer journey and everything I've heard in marketing for years is like, “There's a realness to this. When you're at this buying stage, you need this piece, when you're at that buying stage, you need that piece. What's my risk if I buy from a company like ScaleX that's $2 million a year in revenue but not funded? What was my risk three years ago when we started and we weren't funded and we had no customers?” It’s a slightly different risk profile. You've got to be able to feed those pieces of information at the right stage of the buyer journey. What technologies from a marketing perspective? Is there anything that’s a must-have for you? If you were to snap the chalk, what are the 2 to 3 things or even one that's important? What are you finding out there? What do you recommend people look into?
As a small business, Seisan is not that much bigger than ScaleX in terms of revenue. For us, the biggest thing is finding either a trusted or proven ability to 10x yourself in output because at some point your messaging and branding is your first thing but then it becomes a numbers game. Those are the facts. Most people focus on the people that are at 97% sure that they're going to buy, that 3% is tough to hit. A lot of them already made their decision. What you want is how do I get the people that are 90% to 97% through their journey? That's the quickest, lowest hanging fruit because they're not quite sold yet but there is an opportunity to educate. Most people focus too much on that 3% or their messaging and everything else is being hit on the education part in the first 70% of the journey before budgets are established and before everything else. You waste a lot of cycles.
Outside of creating that, it is what outsourced tools can you use to hit that part of the lowest hanging fruit? For me, some people in industries and that's why there's no real one, ScaleX is a great tool for small sales teams because you're able to increase output. Writing all those emails is difficult. It takes up a lot of my time. How do I automate that in a genuine, authentic way? A CRM system. There are integrations with CRMs that are worth their weight in gold because you can see and more importantly your executive team can see status updates. There are plenty of them. They all offer a boatload of integrations. Figure out which one works best for you. As a team looking to grow, figure out what your budget is what tools can maximize that budget. It's more about places that I congregate for ideas that are invaluable, AppSumo, GrowthTools.com. There are a few others where that is where innovation is happening, lifetime deals or memberships were not that expensive and as a small business, how can I leverage that to maximize my ROI on my time?
There's this company that will customize the website based on the individual customer that comes in on their IP address. It's $99 a month. You would think it's something that's out of this Earth to pay for. Hyperise is the name of the company. It will do a YouTube video. You can have someone holding a piece of paper and as it moves, it can have the customer's website on the page. It will change the type of, “Chad, welcome to the site.” It doesn't require deep levels of programming is the neat thing because you would think you'd have to do “if this and that” and it would be messy. At a $99 price point, you can get these things launched within a few hours instead of weeks or months. That's where it's headed.
It's about hacking your time. As I've gone through my career and you being an entrepreneur of multiple entities and things that you have your fingers in, time is the most valuable commodity. How do you maximize your time and effort? There are tools out there. Some of them, the price point is too low for you not to give it a chance.
This has been fabulous. There are many soundbites from this discussion that we'll have a few of these clips like we had of Nick that we'll send to you. Thank you for investing the time, John. John Turns, VP of Strategy from Seisan. Check it out. We appreciate the time and it’s a fabulous conversation. I'm talking to your CEO. I look forward to that conversation too.
Thank you for having me, Chad. Take care and any time you want to talk tech, I'm more than happy to jump on.
Thank you for your time, John. We are out.