CMO Insights: Ben Lazar, Chief Marketing and Product Officer, Payspan

January 22, 2019

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Ben Lazar, Chief Marketing and Product Officer of Payspan.

In this video, Ben talks about:

  • Personalization at scale and how difficult it is to do right
  • Achieving higher value in your messaging by looking at how your customer engages their customer
  • The impact that AI will have on the future of marketing

Learn more about Ben from his LinkedIn profile and follow Payspan on Twitter.

For more great CMO interviews like this one, please check out our other CMO Insights Videos or our YouTube channel.

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Hi, welcome to Revenue Marketing Television Live, CMO Insights edition. I’m your host, Jeff Pedowitz, President and CEO of The Pedowitz Group. Today, we have a long-time friend and colleague, Ben Lazar who’s Chief Marketing and Product Officer at Payspan. Ben, welcome to the show.

Ben Lazar:

Thanks Jeff.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Great having you. We’re just reflecting. I think it’s coming on about 10 or 11 years now when we first met, at Arrow right?

Ben Lazar:

Yeah, Arrow Electronics.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So you were at the forefront. I think you were already one of the very first customers that’s invested in marketing automation and demand gen over the last 10, 15 years. We’ve seen a lot of change. So in your mind, what’s changed the most?

Ben Lazar:

The key is, marketing automation has really matured to the point where it’s not just outbound marketing, but it’s really a lot of the progressive organizations and solution providers have really taken a much more digital approach as the kind of marketing automation wave has matured. Most organizations are really kind of looking at their digital strategy and marketing automation has really become a component of that. So some of the solution providers out there I’m doing a much better job at integrating a broader digital approach versus just the outbound side. They’re also integrating the inbound side, the social side and the content side. So are you thinking differently about your marketing departments that in your five years ago, 10 years ago, vastly differently. So I’m kind of, if you, if you really break it down in the past, you really kind of looked at broad marketing database, kind of cleansing and managing list information to try to do outbound marketing.

Now really the focus for our strategy is, how do we identify specific target individuals based on ideal customer profiles? And then within those ideal customer profiles utilize the defined personas. And we just recently did a very large persona project to identify five very specific buyers of the solution set types that we deliver into the marketplace. And then utilizing your marketing automation engine to build campaigns a one, not just one prospect, but down to the one individual who might help you influence an opportunity and down to the one individual who might be the actual decision maker.

Jeff Pedowitz:

It’s a huge change, and everyone talks about personalization at scale, but it’s hard to do commute. So what things you’re doing from process standpoint, people standpoint, technology standpoint, cause we couldn’t even do think about it today five times.

Ben Lazar:

Yeah. Cause vastly different now because a lot of the engines and toolsets they use, and we were just talking about the proliferation of new categories enables you to feed different information from different types of sources that enable you to tell different types of binding indicators from different types of movement within an organization that may be publicly available or maybe available through some type of subscription source. So as a great example, you know, you may integrate some of your information into LinkedIn or DSCC filings lot of different sources that can drive a decision making engine. And I think that that whole decision making process is still very much in its infancy because it doesn’t really work that great yet, but it’s working better. And the whole objective is really one very simple, full per point. It’s when your rep gets on the phone or communicate to be a other methodology, social or email to an individual that they have some conversation starter, some pieces of information that will increase the rates of response by that potential prospect.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So, you know, everyone talks about Amazon being so customer focused, then there’s legends about how Jeff Besos as an empty chair in this borderland, every meeting and that’s supposed to represent the customer. So they they’re really working hard to make sure that their customer voices, including in decision, what do you guys do expansive to replicate that or do something different?

Ben Lazar:

So not the one of Jeff, but because I couldn’t, but really our focus when we discuss campaigns and markets or personas is we’re looking at our customer’s customer. So we’re looking at how they’re engaging their customer because extensively you’re hired to do a specific job to execute a specific function inside of a workflow that completes a specific task for an organization. And that task is usually designed around either an operational execution or delivery of some type of service to their customer. So when we look at what we’re providing and how we’re messaging, we focus on the customer’s customer. And an example of that is you provide some type of service and you articulate what that service is, but not what it does for the customer’s customer. Then you’re leaving yourself significantly short in what you’re delivering or articulating its value. So if you can identify what that customer’s customer is seeking to achieve from their experience from that organization, you’re likely going to get more people willing to engage with you because your message is going to be much higher value.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s fascinating. So is there anything specific that you’re doing to be able to get this information?

Ben Lazar:

So I would say we’re in the very early stages in the infancy of it, but so we just made a migration to HubSpot and there were other tools that I’m sure can, can encapsulate these types of functions, but essentially HubSpot allows us to take, I would call them today, low level inputs as the other tools. Cause we evaluate lots of tools, lower level inputs around movements of specific prospects and specific individuals inside of those prospects. So it may be job movements and maybe financial may be social posting that they’re doing and utilizing that information so that when a rep decides to go prospect to that individual, or there’s some type of inbound or outbound lead activity that the rep can actually see that in a really simple, easy to use kind of platform and then giving that rep the opportunity to pull from very specific and well curated templates that they can utilize to do their reach out, whether it’s phone, email, or some type of social outreach, as long as they have a really well-targeted message that’s crafted based on specific research, that’s tuned to response rates, you know, overall you’re going to get a better level of, of response rate than written revenue generation, how much hair you’re on racks in the organization doing social selling, I would say extremely limited.

So in our situation, we have a very tightly defined our market audience and our market audience is in the numbers of hundreds. So we don’t have thousands of prospective clients. We deal with very large entities who are enterprise organizations in the insurance market space and the medical side and selling to them as a very long cycle. And you have to really invest a lot of money in each individual lead and opportunity. So when you go after those folks, typically the social platform in an enterprise environment is we’ve found not to be the most productive environment. It’s typically, one-on-one, there’s a lot of physical event activity integrated with digital marketing, content marketing and a lot of educational phase type of marketing. This is a lot of people know, you know, if you’re in the consumer space or in you’re on a short cycle, low dollar volume sell, you can sell very quickly and you can really go right to a deal and try to get close to a closed online transaction in an enterprise environment, the amount of due diligence and integration work and presales work desk go into it, it’s vastly different.

So our selling is still both a combination of digital and physical presence selling.

Jeff Pedowitz:

It’s really interesting. So switching gears a little bit, we were talking before the interview, your oldest daughter’s getting married. Congratulations.

Ben Lazar:

Actually, my youngest. She’s 19.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Right, right, right. So I was just starting to think, what were you like at 19 and at least in early stages of your career, and then knowing what you know now, what would you go back and how would you advise yourself something differently?

Ben Lazar:

So at 19 it was about beer, beer and girls. So you know, fortunately I coming through college, I matured a little bit and was able to get into a very opportunity rich environment and had a couple people take me under their wing. And I started out actually not in the econ, I’m sorry. In the marketing world. I started out in the eCommerce world back in the early nineties, building an application in Codewell writing Coldwell code or writing, help screens and deploying an application.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Pages, pages looking for that period or anything.

Ben Lazar:

Absolutely, yeah. A simple online application to do inventory availability, checking order status, and placing orders, which back then was, was really advanced technology. And it was all dial up and modem access. But what I realized at that point was in building that application in the point it out into the marketplace and driving people away from paper to an electronic platform in the, in the early nineties that there was a re a very significant future across all digital platforms inside of lots of businesses in different industries. And I’m matured from that to grow into the marketing sales and product side, because I, while I was technical and I was writing code and I was deploying an application, I was really selling a concept which was stopping a workflow of paper and basically telephone and getting them on a computer, which back then, particularly in industry, I was in the manufacturing space, hard goods industry, you know, a lot of blue collar folks, not very computer literate or computer as well.

There were PCs, but there were, you know, really low level type of stuff. And, you know, going out and teaching people how to use a very simple, basic application. A lot of people’s the first computer application they’d ever used in their life. And then growing from there and migrating and starting to take orders over the internet in 1995 and actually going to place it and saying, you can access us via the internet and having to go through and tell people what the internet was. And then from there, it just grew into the, more into the marketing side, because it was able to sell concepts and build value propositions, which is where I’ve made, made my career.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So you’re a future marketer and waiting. Yeah, I got it. Cause I started off in engineering, which was previously known as pre-business.

Ben Lazar:

Haha.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So, the kids coming out now, I I’ve talked to a lot of different executives about different management styles. What’s been your experience. I mean, is it, is it different managing some of the younger generation?

Ben Lazar:

Yeah, it absolutely is. But I think that there are ways that if you understand and work with the younger generation in different cadences, that they are extremely productive and they’re also understand the newer platforms that their generation or evaluating solutions and buying from. So we’re in a middle of a real sea change in how the future decision makers and influencers are going to be buying and evaluating solutions. And what I’ve found is that less hierarchical and more team focused type work, a team goal setting and team activity and team kind of focused a specific goal. And I’ve see a lot of the younger generation, more goal oriented versus title and position oriented. And at the end of the day, I really think that people are still similar while a lot of the platforms are changing, that it breaks down to three very basic fundamentals, autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

The younger generation is very much tuned into autonomy. Whereas my generation, your generation strives for it, but maybe expects it less. Autonomy is a huge and important thing for the younger generation. And they don’t work in cycles of that, the way that we worked in traditional daytime and they work in very different cycles. And I find myself working in those cycles as well.

Jeff Pedowitz:

It’s almost like creative bursts of activity. It’s gonna be a bunch of banks. And then there’s these little periods and they’re doing other things.

Ben Lazar:

The slow periods are in the middle of the day and traditional work structures don’t accommodate those well. I always got missed that. So

Jeff Pedowitz:

What’s next on the horizon for people talking about AI and ABM. Is there another trend coming?

Ben Lazar:

No, I think that AI and machine learning is going to have a lot more application in the operational side of the business before it’s going to have application in the marketing side of the business effectively. So we’re going to see a lot more automated AI digital assistance. And we’re already seeing that significantly. I mean, if you go into your local grocery store most of the grocery store is self checkout or personal checkout or no checkout, excuse me. And the actual human being checkout is, is minimized. So we’re seeing that change. You know, self driving vehicles are coming very soon, probably the next three to five years. And my next car, I’m not buying a car until I can buy one that I can walk in and push a button because I trust the software better than I trust myself.

Well, one of the things I don’t know that we’ve gotten to yet, but we will, as a, as a, as humanity is how do we start to interact between emotional interactions versus just operational interactions between people and machines? So I think there’s, there’s some significant gap to be made up there. Probably in the latter part of my lifetime, but things are going to get kind of weird. So I don’t think that I’ll see that a lot. And I may have a hard time interacting with nonhuman beings at a human level, but other generations will embrace it.

Jeff Pedowitz:

It’s interesting that you say that because as I was talking about a few of my colleagues last week and a couple kind of like futurists, and one of them was given a Terminator type of prognosis that he’s thinking of in a couple of years, it’s actually going to be AI marketing to AI, so that when the last marketers, because AI is going to figure out the messaging, the campaigns, the channels will receive it yet. The AI has the screening criteria and whatever, but the customer is looking for. And then basically the two machines are going to talk to each other. What do you think about that? That really happened?

Ben Lazar:

I wouldn’t make any prognosis of that because I think the place where people are most needed is in the evaluation of strategy and the execution of strategy below that as you get more operational and you can move the machines to make those decisions because they’re, they’re functional decisions. I think it’s going to be less like that than we anticipate in the short term. And as usual, we overused always overestimated technology, short term impact and underestimate its longterm impact. But at some point I just don’t know if the people are needed at all.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s kind of scary. Yeah. Regardless of not interested really in your political affiliation, I am interested in your input as I’m worker politics, changing the channels it’s using, you know, what roles is marketing finally, how’s that shaping how candidates and politicians can.

Ben Lazar:

Okay. So it’s, it’s interesting. The whole concept of influence is really changing a lot. And that helped when you start to drive down to that campaign of one to get into the individual. That’s where I think you’ll probably start to see AI really, and machine learning impact marketing, or in this, in this environment, how a potential candidate would communicate with an actual voter. The real challenge is going to be with the vote or how they’re going to disseminate what’s reality. What’s true.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Well, especially when you have ultimate kinds of foreign bodies trying to influence that. So how do you know what’s real and what’s not?

Ben Lazar:

So what I, what I personally hope to see in the future is that people who work in government become completely apolitical and focus only on one thing. And that is to deliver services that provide an economic environment where people can grow and prosper, and that the people ultimately themselves will make the social decisions so that we can remove the politics. And it becomes solely an objective of service for elected officials and then individuals. And as we’ve become more electronic in our society, we can speed the kind of the feelings or the opinions of people. And that our opinions as a society would determine the politics.

Jeff Pedowitz:

It’s a bit of an arms race, right? Because even outside of politics, I’ve seen stories now where TripAdvisor or Amazon were not supposed to be self raising. There’s a lot of vendors that are paying people to just write, [inaudible] get their four stars or five stars, and I make get more traffics and they get more business. And there’s this constant cycle of you put something out there that’s supposed to be for the betterment of society and provide real transparency back then you always have someone trying to break the rules. And so just as like a big diverse Hispanic guy, but now I’m a new champion.

Ben Lazar:

Well, the bad guys usually figure out how to break the system sooner than the good guy has figuring out how to use it. That’s typically how it works, particularly in user based feedback and environments where individuals are inputting their opinions. So it’s great. The social environments are great because you can start to really get people’s opinions and input, but it’s getting really difficult to sift through a lot of that. That’s why I think that an environment where AI is going to be more prevalent, but I think that the human side of things, particularly in the space of technology and technology, construction and distribution of solutions, I really have a hard time seeing in the near term AI drastically impact in that element. They could unduly or duly influence people as they start to make decisions. But at the end of the day, I think peer review with peer input is going to be one of the most important things, particularly in an, in an enterprise environment. And, you know, in the consumer world, things are a lot different. It’s a lot easier to cheat the system. There’s a lot more people involved, but when you’re in an enterprise environment, you know, peer review is still the most important thing

Jeff Pedowitz:

In New Zealand with the buying center. And then they all have different opinions and viewpoints. So yeah,

Ben Lazar:

The procurement process will become much, will become mechanized. So price, price, pressure will become extremely, you know, so there will be price compression and pricing and renegotiation and contract. And you know, that that stuff can really be put through machine learning and AI, because those are things that can be evaluated in the marketplace in at least a semiotic automated way and ultimately a fully automated way. So that will keep people honest and make it a little bit more challenging as a vendor. So we as vendors will have to get a lot more efficient in what we build and distributed to the marketplace because it will become commoditized more quickly by these AI and machine learning tools,

Jeff Pedowitz:

Some big predictions there. So Ben, it’s always a pleasure talking to you. You have great insights on the industry. Really appreciate you being on today.

Ben Lazar:

Thanks, Jeff. Appreciate it.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You bet.

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