CMO Insights: Peter Smails, CMO of Imanis Data

peter smails

March 26, 2019

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Peter Smails, then-CMO of Imanis Data, which was acquired by Cohesity in 2019.

In this video, Peter talks about:

  • Traditional data and how the cloud has changed data.
  • Creating a market and creating awareness.
  • The importance of driving awareness in the market and leveraging Marketo and Salesforce.

Learn more about Peter from his LinkedIn profile and follow Imanis Data 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 CMO Insights Series. I’m your host, Jeff Pedowitz, President and CEO of the Pedowitz Group. So today as our guest, we have Peter Smails, who is Chief Marketing Officer at Imanis Data. Peter, welcome to the show.

Peter Smails:

Thanks for having me. Looking forward to the discussion.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah, so data, we don’t hear about that at all, right? Talking about data. So what prompted the entrepreneur is at a man is to say, you know, the world needs another data company and we’re going to do it better than everybody else. Cause you’re, you guys are even a series B,  no you’re even past that point. You’re in series B. Tell us a little bit about it.

Peter Smails:

Yeah. Cool. So to your point, everybody knows about data. You know, everybody knows about storage and data and data is the new lifeblood of organizations and all this type of stuff. There are lots of vendors out in the marketplace sort of dealing with what we would call the traditional data management space. So if I sort of take a small step back, look at it overall, you know, people have essentially built their traditional it infrastructure within the four walls of a data center and they have built a tech. Typically what we would sort of like Kampala locations at Oracle, at the bottom, at Oracle in the middle, you know, Oracle at the top might’ve been SAP, you could have been Terra data, lots of different things, but the vast majority of sort of traditional legacy based applications, that’s what the world look like. What has happened is everyone knows over the last really three years, frankly, is that there’s been this rapid shift to topic unto itself, but the net of it is that the cloud has changed everything.

What organizations sort of realize is that this notion of lifting shift to the cloud isn’t solving the underlying fundamental problem of how you take advantage of hybrid cloud and how you take advantage of your data. They have realized that if they want to be agile, if they want to be able to take advantage of hybrid cloud infrastructure, they’re going to rearchitect that monolithic stack and they’re going to be much more oriented microservices based thing. So there’s much more agility and flexibility and those types of things. That has led to a proliferation of new database platforms and bio systems specifically around Hadoop and no sequel.

So to answer your question specifically, yes we’re a data management company, but our stack, our unique value is that we’re going after the blue ocean of data management for Hadoop and no sequel. And the timing is interesting now because those platforms have really kind of reached that tipping point of mainstream adoption for business critical apps. So that’s kinda the, that’s the why we’re doing what we’re doing, why it’s pretty cool marketing.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s fascinating. So as you, as you come into market, I mean I’m sure you have a lot of many challenges that start up companies have and series B. Are there some things that are unique to you within, within Amanda’s and then specifically within marketing,

Peter Smails:

Relative to the Mar? I mean, I think we, let me start with, let me start with the some of the similarities. Like yes, you mentioned we’re a series B company. And so the challenge for us, like any small company is how do you rise above the noise? How do you sort of separate yourself and have, how do you essentially we’re creating a market what’s unique I’d say about what we’re doing. So the whole notion of having your creative market is tough for any small organization. You know, that, that’s, that’s, you know, anybody who solves that challenge once abroad will be very, very wealthy. But what’s interesting for us is that it’s a new market, but it is incremental if you will. It’s N plus one. And what I mean by that is the same people that are the same organizations that have been playing in the legacy space are the ones that are rapidly moving to this new technology, number one.

And number two is the folks that are within those organizations are reasonably easy to identify. You know, it’s like, who are the folks doing Hadoop and no sequel? It’s like, well it’s really, I don’t want to say it’s reasonably easy, but it’s sort of, it’s a fun challenge to sort of track down and find all the people within large enterprises that are interested in Hadoop and no sequel. And then it becomes sort of this, you know, navigational challenge of finding out where they are in their maturity and finding out sort of, you know, are they running in production? How mature are they? How connected are they with the traditional it groups?

So there’s a lot of market timing dynamics, but I think ultimately the main challenge for us is like I said, his market is not market timing because I think the market is good. I think it is just driving awareness. It’s making sure that people understand this as a problem and that there are solutions out there. You want us just helping organizations, don’t they have a problem. That has been really interesting to watch because that was even two years ago, that was a much harder problem, is much more nuanced now. It’s you doing anything, you know, according to recent,

Jeff Pedowitz:

Given that you’re still store that relatively, given that it’s a crowded space within data and then there’s all these chat channels and things available. How do you go about doing that? How do you create a market? How do you kind of surgically cut through and create awareness? So the start driving demand for your product?

Peter Smails:

Yup. Great question. It’s two things you just triggered. One is it’s a crowded market in the traditional space. It’s actually a very blue ocean on this space. Which, which if you’d asked me that a year ago, I’d say it was a bigger challenge. What’s been great over the last really six months is that some of the legacy vendors have now come to realize that this is actually a large growth opportunity for them. So we’re finally getting some help, you know, from, from some of the larger traditional vendors, some of the large market share, traditional data management vendors. This is the Veritas of the world, the Combolt, the well, some of the names, all the names people know they’re starting to weigh in. But how we have gone about doing it has really been a couple fold. Number one is where we are our go to market as largely direct to date.

And it has largely been of our, our selling motion has been very much of a mix of we rely heavily on inside sales and sort of an inside sales, you know, to a regional sales rep model. And again, we’re small, but the surgical part comes about because I mentioned a couple minutes ago that what we’re looking for is actually we’re looking for needles in the haystack, but we know what the needles look like. So it’s essentially, we’re not calling it on the backup admins, we’re not calling on the traditional personas. So what we really cut our teeth on doing is we’re gone in DBA, we’re calling them cloud architects, we’re calling on system architects. So we’ve, we’ve defined what we call an ICP. So we’ve defined our ideal customer profile and that’s customer size. We don’t really do a whole lot of segmentation because honestly it’s a horizontal problem right now across multiple different.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So are you really going more for the influence play cause at DVA, right? It’s just an admin. It’s not budget to invest in your platform, but they can certainly say, Hey look, we should look at these guys.

Peter Smails:

That’s a great question. So, so hold that for just two sacks. It’s you find the, cause you’re, it’s a brilliant question. You find those people and they’re not, again just using your three list acquisition to do trade shows through, you know, doing very data source specific thing. So like we go to events, we don’t go to VM world, you know, we’ll go to very data source specific shows. Data has an annual event, Couchbase has an annual event, Mongo DB has an annual event. So you, you’re able to identify the places to go to find those people. So getting that list of people isn’t, you know, our ICP is not that hard to define the work that comes in with what you just said about influence. Because what has traditionally been the case to your point is that we’re calling on the technology influencer. So it has been an influence play.

What has been exciting for us to see over the last again I’ve been at this, I can come back to this, but I’ve been at this for about two and a half years to two companies. The first of which we sold. And I joined demands cause I saw the opportunity as being so significant that I want to just keep driving this stuff. We can come back to that in a few minutes, but what I was going to say was what’s been interesting to unfold, see unfold is into a whole persona discussion 18 year ago, 18 months ago, DVA system architect, cloud architect, those types of folks be pure influence play. So you could make lots of headway. Oh yes. Definitely an opportunity. And then you get stalled potentially at the, where’s the money coming from? Who’s the actual financial buyer? Who’s going to make that decision?

There’s an entire organizational evolution happening between sort of the, for lack of a better term, call them dev ops. It’s not just dev ops, but sort of that whole new bucket of personas and the evolution and sort of convergence of the new group. The other guys is we like to joke about and the traditional it teams. So what we’re now seeing is that they’ve gone from pure influencer to either a, they may have their own budget within the line of business because they don’t need core it to deploy this or B Corp. It has enough of a mandate now that they’re recognizing they need remediation. So it’s that has served us well. We’ve learned how to sell to these influencers because it’s different than selling to a backup ad now. Totally different mindset. It’s not a storage centric play, it’s not a network centric play, it’s an application centric play. It’s a data centric play and that’s a different conversation. So we’ve gotten really good at that. And now what is sort of helping with the wind at our backs is the convergence of sort of those folks having direct influence and or budget or that convergence with traditional it. Let me pause. Does that make sense?

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah, no, absolutely. So, but you know, it’s interesting because in a lot of marketing strategies, influencers bought one, right? But then you’re, you’re trying to go for that whole buying center. So, I mean, given where you’re starting it, that, that makes a lot of sense. So tell me a little bit more than how you’re, you’re bringing the strategy to the execution process-wise personnel systems, how he actually making the dream come alive so to speak.

Peter Smails:

Yeah, no, cool. We’re, again, we’re small but I’m a big believer in core systems. You know, you’ve got like garbage in, garbage out type of thing. So we spent, you know, we spent, or I’ll come back to the timing, but essentially from an infrastructure standpoint, we don’t have a ton of infrastructure but work where Salesforce house case, we’ve got Salesforce as our baseline sales tool. We’re a Marketo house. So we basically got Marketo on the back end. And again, we’ve sort of, we’ve, we’ve put a lot of time and energy into building process around sort of the we built essentially we take our ICP, you know, our ideal customer profiles, we get those leads and so forth from a systemic standpoint. Those go into the Marketo thing for de dupe, et cetera, et cetera. And then we build our database out in our ability to do mailers.

And to sort of drive, you know, drive media engagement that way. But then what we do in terms of the engagement with Salesforce is we take the leads that we’re generating, we identify them based upon lead source. Okay. And then we create what we call fuel lines. And essentially those fuel lines then provide some context. As I said, we’re very reliant upon the SDR. So we’re very big STR shopping. We’re small, we’ve got a couple of SDRs, but it’s very much, okay, we’ve gotten that first level of qualification from the ICP.

Now we’ve just got to really be aggressive in terms of dialing and getting connected with these folks, whether it’s through events that we run face to face, belly to belly, or whether it’s just driving the SDRs to get meetings for the reps to get folks on the phone. And so a lot of it is just that fundamental legwork of, of getting it in, getting the fuel lines sorted out, having the SDRs work through those fuel lines, which give them the, you know, sort of the insight or context as to the conversations that they need to have the people with the people based upon where they came from. So that’s part A, and then we’ve got a whole lead scoring system. We use them

Jeff Pedowitz:

Back to you on keeping, do you manage to the SDRs or is that over on the sales side?

Peter Smails:

Yeah, no, I, I own the SDR team. And again, we’re, because we’re a small organization, we’re, we’re super tight. So myself and the head of sales are connected at the hip. You know, we’re doing weekly, you know, weekly pipeline calls. We do them, you know, as part of the pipeline call, we do the SDR review of any meetings that were held that week. We know what were the outcome of those meetings. So everybody has context. Then what was the, what were the meetings that were scheduled for that week? You know, the new meetings that were scheduled that week, and then review the upcoming meetings for that week so that we’re small enough that, you know, we’re not having 50 meetings a week kind of thing. So we’re small enough that we can literally just go off through all those meetings. And one of the benefits of being small is you can essentially operate that way.

But that said, we’re absolutely built for scale. So what I’m, you know, what I’m happy about is our data’s clean. You know, the automation between Marketo and Salesforce is clean. You know, we use things like Marketo sales insight on the back end. So you can do some smart things around, you know, the folks that are coming to visit your site and you can intelligently sort of gain information about who’s active, you know, on your site and so forth, so you can leverage that. So that’s kind of on the Marketo and Salesforce side. From a this is partly systems, but from a Legion standpoint, we do, we take our SEO and very seriously, you know, we spend strategically around SEM. We do stuff around Google ad words, you know, an inbound lead is obviously the best lead. So you know, again, being in the blue ocean, we go pretty specifically after folks that are doing to Dubin, no sequel.

So there are only so many people doing from a vendor standpoint doing open no sequel. So our inbounds are our inbounds. Actually I won’t give you the exact percentage. We’re inbounds actually represent a material percentage of our lead gen because it’s a small enough blue enough ocean that we can reasonably cost effective. We drive a fair amount of awareness if you will, and demand. So I finish this class tonight, a year from now, my team, well a year from now when I look back and with the team. So if the team today is essentially a small team, you know, sort of a small team of SDRs, you know, a small team of myself and a couple of other folks that are doing kind of all the programs and all the underlying leg work. We obviously get a fair amount of support from comes from contractors, but it really has been get the ISP defined, get the, you know, get the SDRs rolling, drive some primarily direct based activities, you know, drive the SCO SCM type of thing.

A year from now we will be much more partner-centric. So our go to market, what’s going to evolve this year is that, you know, one of the mistakes I made in my past that I sort of learned from was I, I would argue in my last company we probably invested too soon, too much in channel. And the problem with that model is that it, you know, and I love channel partners so this is going to come out wrong, but basically they’re more laggard than leader, if you will in the sense that the channel is best when there isn’t a huge lift in terms of, well the first thing I need to do is educate you on the market we’re going after and then I need to educate you on how to sell my solution. The more sort of the market is coming to them, the more mature the market is, the more traction you’re going to get from a channel partner standpoint.

So we’re, the market has matured to the point now that just organically through our work with ourselves and some of our strategic partners you know like the Cohesity’s of the world, some of the legacy backup vendors or HCI vendors that are looking for support with a Dubin, no sequel, we’re starting to organically partner with those orcs. That brings a whole lot of infrastructure interest from the channel side. So I think a year from now my team will be heavily focused on continuing to support the direct selling model but we will also be much more heavily invested in partner both from a channel standpoint because that is becoming, you know, that that is mature.

And then the second piece will also be from a technology partner standpoint and that’s folks like AWS for example, because lots of folks run a dupe and no sequel in the cloud. They need data protection. It would be the data source vendors like the DataStax, the couch basis and so forth because they obviously need to have the enterprise data management capabilities that we provide so that our customers can be running in production. And then it’s folks like, like I said, it could be a Cohesity, it could be some of the folks that play in the backup space but don’t specifically play in the world of Hadoop and SQL. So there’s a nice synergy there.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay, good stuff. Well, I’m definitely going to be tracking you for one.

Peter Smails:

Good, good. I actually got one more. All right, cool. I’ll add you. You don’t fit our ICP, but you know that’s a up

Jeff Pedowitz:

Well, if I was a DBA back in the day, maybe that might tell it.

Peter Smails:

You may get, you may get an email or call from us.

Jeff Pedowitz:

All right. There you go. I’m going to look for that mail. Hey Peter, thanks a lot. Best of luck to you when the team over at Mannis, and thank you for being on the program today.

Peter Smails:

I really appreciate your time and look forward to continuing the conversation. Thank you.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You bet.

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