Building the ultimate martech stack at VMware Cloud Solutions

VP of product marketing for Cloud Solutions details the digital marketing program that's delivering customer dividends

Gone are the days when marketing and sales was a linear progression from ‘spray and pray’ campaigning to creating leads, handing off to inside sales, then servicing a customer through support.

“That’s not happening anymore,” VMware global VP of product marketing for Cloud Solutions, Nick King, told CMO. “Service and support are engaging prospects that have never tried our products before through communities. People are engaging mid-funnel via a trial. Our sales guys are doing their own social engagement. And marketing is touching everything in multiple places.

“You really need to flip the funnel around. If you have all these different conversations, and different skillsets required in bringing your products and services to market, you have to integrate at different points in the sales process and remove the assumption there is a steel thread hand-off between each team.

“That culturally is a big shift – many people will want to hand you something, you take it and their job is done. Now the job is about one big thing known as the customer.”

Building the ultimate martech stack

This shift towards an integrated, collaborative approach is something King has worked hard to achieve when deploying new end-to-end marketing and sales technology capability for the vendor’s recently launched business unit, Cloud Solutions. King built up a multi-channel marketing stack in just four months, adopting Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Pardot, and Social Studio all integrated with Sales Cloud Lightning and Einstein Analytics.

As a well-established B2B organisation with more than 500,000 partners, VMware’s existing marketing technologies and tooling was engineered for its existing approach to market, King explained. There were also many intricacies around how it was working, making adjustment difficult.

“I realised we needed to remove the muscle memory from the system around how to go and engage with a new set of audiences,” he said.  

VMware already had a relationship with Salesforce through its Dell Group. So King built what he labelled a “dream scenario” for the Cloud Solutions team, using Google Analytics for ads, conversion and online tracking and a CMS on top of an otherwise wholly Salesforce-based platform approach.  

King’s team is responsible for the marketing technology stack, product marketing, and engagement with customers and partners in VMware’s Cloud ecosystem. The Cloud Solution team’s marketing stack is the third such stack King has built to date, having spent five years previously at Google and 10 years before that at Microsoft.

Work commenced in April, with all 17 products launched by August. “Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Pardot covered all things we needed from an inbound and outbound perspective. Sales Cloud gives us enough customisation to use as a platform as well as a CRM. It stuck together,” he said.  

With such rapid change, it was vital to figure out what needed to change from the outset.

“We knew where we had to be and set outcomes specifically,” he said. “We also figured out where we had to have change controls and what existed in the business. Also with these big organisations, a lot of change management is designed around a waterfall model. Instead, we put a governance structure in place to ensure we had monthly checkpoints for what was going on, then executed through that system. That allowed us to unify whole teams, and remove a lot of organisations that weren’t building things.

“That hardcore focus allowed us to move fast, and it also allowed teams to publish what they were building and do so much more quickly.”  

Tackling outbound versus inbound

One decision was to separate inbound lead management from outbound campaigns.

“That allowed us to separate two conversations – what does it mean to be a lead and how to converge that, and how you engage with customers,” King said. “This has seen our marketing platform deeply embedded with our product.

“As the customer comes through, we provision against a product from Pardot, it comes back with activation codes, then puts them into a trial flow, so we can track and see how they are performing.”

On the outbound side, Cloud Solutions is using Marketing Cloud to build a whole customer journey, end-to-end. “That gave more flexibility to the folks doing the campaign execution without getting too caught up in different product offerings. You also get this clean line from inbound to sales accepted lead while allowing teams to scale,” King said.  

So far, 16 Web forms have been connected with Pardot including requests for access, contacting sales teams and staying informed. Nine engagement programs for on-boarding, sales and requesting access have also been launched. Across the stack, six synchronised data sources from Sales Cloud are implemented in Marketing Cloud.

As part of the rollout, VMware brought in Salesforce’s customer service team as  a source of truth, removing potential oscillation and conflict around what to do.

“What did happen is people started recognising marketing has become just as much an engineering discipline as engineering,” King commented. “Teams have also started looking at marketing now to fill gaps in the product and way we go to market, such as automating a piece, or engaging new audiences fast.

“That put new conversations and pressures on the marketing organisation to figure out how to solve for that. But there are all these great ways of integrating marketing just beyond the stuff folks expect marketing to do.”

On top of this, VMware Cloud Solutions has used Salesforce’s Wave analytics solution to deploy a dashboard showcasing how the whole platform comes together. This unites data from Google Analytics, Salesforce technology and from owned product to give users a view of how everything is performing.

“That allowed us to also help everyone understand where we were engaging and when,” King said.  

Ignoring hierarchy

Through all of this, King has deliberately ignored organisational boundaries and told his teams to as well.

“If you have a problem, get the right people to solve it and start a thread,” he said. “If the system doesn’t fit, don’t worry about it and just ask the question. Then bias that to be output focused.”

Because everyone was execution focused and wanting to solve problems, working groups organically formed, furthering the collaboration process. “Those teams are also provided with heavy transparency, which is key for making sure everyone works together,” King said.  

Maintaining a relatively flat organisation structure is another must. “It’s easy to try and matrix everything and overthink it. The reality is you need to plan in such a way that everyone feels able to execute stuff and make calls, and make sure those rooms don’t become massive united nation meetings,” King said. “Then they self-govern when they need to make informed decisions.

“You’ve got to trust it. You provide principles on how to engage with things, you put controls in place and for the most part, people want to do the right thing. People also get more creative. That direct empowerment to create concepts really shifted the way teams thought about doing the work.”

For King, one of the benefits of automating processes is tapping more machine data that can be analysed. “More analysis means you can improve on it,” he added.

“Then people start thinking about how they innovate on top of that stuff, versus just pushing the levers and feeding the sausage factory.”

Up next: Measuring success, plus campaign iteration and next steps for VMware

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