CMO Insights: Lisa Agona, CMO of Ensono

Lisa Agona

June 19, 2018

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Lisa Agona, CMO of Ensono.

In this video, Lisa talks about:

  • Strategies for rebuilding and launching a new brand
  • Building a marketing team from the ground up through trusted contractors and agencies
  • How the marketing field has changed over time and what that means for women in the field

Learn more about Lisa from her LinkedIn profile and follow Ensono 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, the Chief Marketing Officer Insights channel. I am your host, Jeff Pedowitz, President and CEO of The Pedowitz Group. And today, we have with us Lisa Agona, who is Chief Marketing Officer of Ensono. Lisa, welcome to the show.

Lisa Agona:

Hi Jeff, thank you.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You’re absolutely welcome. Fresh back from London?

Lisa Agona:

I am one of my favorite cities in the world. I’m a new Yorker at heart, but London’s my next favorite city.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Can you do a British accent, like?

Lisa Agona:

No, haha.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Um well, thanks again for being, for being on and making the time. We know how busy you are. So I know you’ve been at Ensono a couple of years. Now tell us a little bit about the company and some of the transitions that you’re, that you’re going through.

Lisa Agona:

Ensono is a carve out of the marketing data and analytics company called Axiom, which many people know, and it was carved out of that business and bought by two Boston based private equity companies. And a whole new management team was brought in, including me to revitalize and grow this business, which was formerly more of a stodgy old mainframe outsourcing business. And we’ve been transforming it into a hybrid. It hybrid it services business, helping our clients transform their infrastructure from mainframe to cloud.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Nice. So I’m probably a lot of challenges associated with that, but what what’s been one of the bigger challenges that you’re facing

Lisa Agona:

One of the biggest challenges is when, when we carved the business out of, out of Axiom, we were left with no front end of the company. So no sales and marketing engine for the company. And one of the reasons I was brought in it was to help build that front engine.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So that’s, I would say that’s kind of a big channel

Lisa Agona:

Because even though the company’s been around for 50 years, there was a, there’s a history here. We’re actually acting more like a startup because there are many aspects of the business that needed built from the ground up, including marketing. Okay.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So when you’re faced with a situation like that, what’s, what’s your approach? How you like your strategy for kind of getting this done? Cause it seems like a pretty big task.

Lisa Agona:

Well, when I started, it was me and one other person who had been with the company for 13 years and what we did was we actually put a strategy together going forward, how we were going to carve this business out, officially launch a brand new brand and then build them a marketing, a sales and marketing front end. And one of the first things we did, knowing that we only had two people and we had to recruit from the ground is that we established a network of trusted contractors and agencies to help us get a jump start.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. So you’re kind of a situation, I guess you’re building the plane last flying sort of analogy. What in terms of, you said you only started with one person, so you’re going up this team. What do you, what do you look for and what kind of skills are you you’re not hire personalities, how you setting up your organizational structure?

Lisa Agona:

Well, I believe I see marketing B2B marketing as a growth engine, a longterm growth engine for companies and in particular I’ve always kind of been in companies that were undergoing significant change. So I don’t see it. I don’t see marketing as a drive through window. I don’t see it as a support function and therefore marketers and the marketing function has to act in a businesslike fashion. So one of the things is I do hire people with business backgrounds because I think it’s really fundamentally important that anybody that joined the team, put our clients first and understand who those clients are and how they make money so that we can actually put forward the solutions and the marketing programs that make the most sense to them.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. That makes a lot of sense. So from business process perspective, what are some of the most important things you’re doing from an infrastructure to build this new operation?

Lisa Agona:

Well, we have put process directives in place. So when we came in, there was no marketing team. There was one person, there were no processes. So in our mandate is really around building the Ensono brand, largely from scratch and launched January of 2016, representing the voice of the client. That’s understanding our markets and our clients to data and analytics and then third creating demand. And I think that you know, we’ve done a very good job with brand and even with market segmentation, understanding our clients and, and putting processes in place where we are focusing now on our top priority and where we’re actually working with the Pedowitz group is on demand generation and building out the lead management and data management processes that are going to make us fully functional. And then from there really kind of layering on those data and analytics that will make us a great marketing team.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So I’m curious, cause I’ve known you for a really long time and you know, you’re a planner, you’ve got everything laid out really well, but has there been any big surprises for you over the last two years? Just something that kind of caught you off guard that you weren’t ready for. And if so, how did you handle it?

Lisa Agona:

I’m a, I’m considered a big company person. So this was by most people’s standards at departure for me because I come from Accenture and LexisNexis and HSBC and building a marketing. So I’ve transformed marketing functions and optimize marketing functions. I’ve never built one from the ground up and I don’t know that it surprised me, but you know, some of the things that I hadn’t been actively doing on a day to day basis, I was responsible for doing here. So, you know, I had to roll up my sleeves and I forgot some stuff. So I had to kind of have a call line that rely on my network of colleagues and friends to help me as we were getting started because starting with a blank slate is different than walking into an established organization. Even if you’re going to transform that established organization,

Jeff Pedowitz:

It can be a little humbling at times.

Lisa Agona:

Yes. But that’s a good thing. That’s a definitely missing.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So how do you, from a technology perspective, you know, what’s your thinking, cause you’re, you’re kind of building this from the ground up, but you’re already a pretty big company. So from a strategic standpoint, what are some of the decisions you go about making in terms of selecting an excuse, if you were truly a store that right, you would probably make different choices than if you’re already a big company.

Lisa Agona:

I think for me, our, our challenges have been, they have been somewhat around marketing technology. I mean, when we, when we came in, we established Salesforce, Salesforce as our CRM platform. The marketing team had no marketing automation, but what was most important is establishing some fundamental processes and also understanding what we were here to achieve before making decisions on technology. We ultimately chose a marketing automation platform to Marketo. I think we have a long way to go. And I think working with the Pedowitz group as we get these lead management processes up and running, we’re going to make new and additional decisions around technologies. We need to bring into the company. But what I did want to do is start kind of bringing in new technologies before we even knew what we were trying to achieve and without getting the foundational stuff right.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Makes a lot of sense. So within your business, how much of your revenue comes from existing customers versus then? Yeah

Lisa Agona:

This is a right now we have 50 existing customers. And I would say, if you look since we’ve been here for two, about two years now, most of the revenue is coming from new logos. And one of the, what we feel that that client base of 50 marquee brand clients has been under, we have not engaged with them at the level that we need to engage with them. So we’ve actually put into place a new client engagement model, as well as from a marketing standpoint, we’re putting in client marketers in each of our regions to do nothing but work with our account executives and our client success teams with the client base.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Love that. So now two years in, what’s your boss holding you accountable for and when you holding your team accountable,

Lisa Agona:

That’s easy, we’ve done it, bang up job, building the soda brand from scratch. We have a long way to go still. It takes years to build a brand unless you have big advertising dollars, but we’ve seen success. There demand generation demand, generation demand generation. That is what I’m being held accountable for. We’ve got to get a solid demand generation engine up and running that in turn is what I’m holding my team accountable for. And that’s what our bonuses are tied to.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So when you say engine, which parts just that the engine is up and running, is it leads? Is it revenue, pipeline? All of it,

Lisa Agona:

Everything that we do is demand generation. So it’s kind of a misused term. I’m talking specifically about the ad marketing. We impact this business in many ways. We do lots of work around mergers and acquisitions that we do. We do lots of work building our own Ensono brand, but we also are responsible for creating a source of leads for in Ensono, in our sales team and then impacting leads that we actually don’t initiate, but we should be able to help bring those two wins. It’s those latter two that we are being held accountable for. And that’s where I need all hands on deck and stuff.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. so switching gears as a successful woman executive, that’s been doing this for a long time. What are some of the big changes you’ve seen as you progress throughout your career? And what advice would you give to young men and women starting out that want to be a chief marketing officer? Someday?

Lisa Agona:

When I started my career in the places that I worked, there were very few women. I do see more women and I do see more women in senior positions. Is it enough? No, it is not. There are still a quality gaps across the business world and especially in technology. So I think we have a long way to go. And in fact at is Ensono, I’m starting a women’s initiative because I think that it’s very important while many women have not experienced a deliberate discrimination, there’s unconscious bias that exists in the workplace and even outside of the workplace. And my platform has always been around raising awareness of that. So, and for young women, I would just say you know, I’m a bootstrapper. So I started, I’ve just always kind of worked very hard and never gave up. Perseverance is one of my good qualities.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Good. It’s always great advice, very important skill to have, as I say, what it says, a attitude over aptitude, that that helps a lot.

Lisa Agona:

Well, when I when I started my career after college, I, I bought a one way ticket people’s express $25, moved to New York, no job, and made it and I two cheap suits from Sears and I made a career for myself. Now I look at that and I’m like, what was I thinking?

Jeff Pedowitz:

Sometimes it is good to be young because you can’t do that stuff. So with all the changes going on in market, but in marketing and then in the market in general, is there a big trend that you think we should be paying attention to?

Lisa Agona:

Just from a marketing standpoint? I mean, I, we have to get a foundation up and running here, but the thing that makes marketing teams great is data and analytics and allows us to do more in actually generating business for a client. And I mean, I see that the future, you know, the role of sales will be quite different because the marketing team should be doing things to get a client or prospect to the point where they’re ready to talk to somebody. And I think that requires a lot more sophistication than many of us have today, but it’s the opportunity area. So I think, you know, we all see those, that data around when a sales person gets involved, 65 or 57% of the decision has already been made. You know, I think we even need to kind of take from a marketing standpoint, take the prospect further along the buyer journey

Jeff Pedowitz:

And what are some of the best ways to do that?

Lisa Agona:

Well, to me, it’s all about building data and analytics skill is about understanding your prospects and not just a firmographic, but at a behavioral level, and being able to act quickly predict behavior and model behavior.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So, great input, great advice. Always a pleasure to talk to you. Lisa, thank you so much for taking your valuable time to be on the program today.

Lisa Agona:

Thank you, Jeff.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You bet.

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