Would CMO Kevin Ruane recommend renaming a brand during a pandemic? No, he wouldn’t; but they had to do precisely that when Syncsort acquired the data and software division of Pitney Bowes in December 2019. The company had 6 months to change the Pitney Bowes name—6 months that just so happened to coincide with all of the disruptions of 2020.
In this episode, Kevin shares how Syncsort became Precisely, a global leader in data integrity committed to its “Trust Your Data” message. Tune in for tried-and-true best practices for B2B brands undergoing a name change, like when to get employees involved (hint: early and often) and how to successfully transition old brand equity over to a new, purpose-packed brand.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- How (and why) Syncsort changed its name to Precisely
- Why brands need to involve employees early and often when rebranding
- How Precisely launched its new name and messaging
Renegade Thinkers Unite, Episode 217 on YouTube
- [0:27] So, You Have to Change Your Brand Name
- [3:34] How Syncsort Became Precisely
- [11:34] How Precisely Involved Employees in the Renaming Process
- [15:08] Launching Precisely’s New Name Internally
- [24:09] Reinforcing a New Brand Name
- [26:45] Maintaining SEO & Site Traffic When Renaming a Brand
- [30:09] Behind Precisely’s “Trust Your Data” Messaging
- [33:32] Is Data Integrity A Category?
- [38:44] Precisely’s Data Integrity Summit
- [42:16] Measuring the Impact of Renaming Precisely
- [44:38] Kevin Ruane’s Two Dos and a Don’t for Renaming
Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Kevin Ruane
[0:27] So, You Have to Change Your Brand NameThis episode with @kruane is about changing names and building a new brand, but with a little twist. #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Thinkers. I’m going to let you in on a little-known secret. For the first 22 years of my life, I was known as Andy or “little Andy” Neisser because I was a tiny person growing up. When I graduated from high school, I was 5’6”, but when I started my career in California at the famed but now deceased Wells, Rich, Greene agency, a few friends started to call me Drew.
I kind of liked it and having grown half a foot in college and, you know, now I’m six feet tall, I’m feeling a bit transformed personally and professionally. I went along with it. And when I moved to New York in 1982 I left little Andy Neisser behind and it has been Drew ever since. Except, of course, for my dad, who uses multiple versions of Andrew.
Now, to change my first name was clearly a conscious choice without much risk other than the grief I do get from high school friends and maybe a college friend or two. But in some ways, it was a commitment to be what I hope would be my best self without any real or imagined baggage or constraints from past sobriquets as they say. So why this confession and why now?
Well, it’s true, and more importantly, it’s relevant to the story at hand. Many brands end up changing their names when they feel they’ve outgrown their original. For example, did you know that Salesforce’s original name was BackRub? And Target’s original name was Goodfellow’s Dry Goods?
More recently, Appboy became Braze and daPulse became Monday. These new names provided the companies a blank slate from which they could build upon without any baggage, whether it was real or imagined.
So yes, this episode is about changing names and building a new brand, but with a little twist. Unlike the ones that I mentioned earlier, this name change was not a choice. They had to do it and they had to do it in a six-month period—a period that ended up overlapping with the start of the pandemic.
With that, you have a little bit of drama and to tell that story, please welcome Kevin Ruane, the CMO of Precisely. Kevin is a veteran B2B marketer, having started his career in PR and worked his way up the ladder and NCR, NetSuite, and via two stops at Syncsort. Hey, Kevin, how are you?
Kevin Ruane: Good, good, thanks so much for having me today.
Drew Neisser: Yes. Well, thank you. Now were you always Kevin? Did you have a nickname?
Kevin Ruane: Mostly Kevin, you know, for those who are closest to me, friends and family, occasionally I’ll get the Kev, but mostly Kevin.
Drew Neisser: Some parents are very important about having names that you can’t add a “y” to. Like our son’s name is Carl. You just can’t be Carly, it can’t happen. So, anyway, yeah, Kevy, not so much.
[3:34] How Syncsort Became Precisely“We did our branding and our renaming project in alignment with a company strategy initiative.” @kruane @PreciselyData #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: In December 2019, Syncsort, the company you’ve been working at since 2016, acquired a $700 million division of Pitney Bowes with a MacGyver countdown clause. You had six months to stop using the Pitney Bowes name. Is that right?
Kevin Ruane: That’s true. So contractually, we had six months. And on top of that, at the beginning of December, we were entering the final month of the fiscal year for both of the businesses, both roughly $300+ million/year businesses where a vast majority of the business closes at the end of the fiscal, so we had to also make sure that we weren’t disrupting the close of the year.
Drew Neisser: So, you have these two businesses that are having to close, and then you had—now, had you ever gone through a name change before?
Kevin Ruane: I had not personally been through a name change. We had done some brand refresh work, but nothing nearly of this magnitude.
Drew Neisser: How fun for you. Having gone through any number of name changes, and I have to say, naming and some listeners to the show know that from other episodes—naming is my least favorite aspect of all of marketing.
It’s not that you can’t end up in a great place, it’s just that often there are so many subjective players that say, “I don’t like that.” “Okay. Well, you’re the CEO. So that’s it.” It’s just a tricky area.
Let’s just start with what your first steps were.
Kevin Ruane: Our first steps, and fortunately for us, we did have a little bit of a head start before the closing of the acquisition at the beginning of December 2019, we had announced the definitive agreement between Syncsort at the time and Pitney Bowes to acquire their software and data division at the end of the summer, end of August.
One of the things that we anticipated was that there was going to be a bit of a time crunch to meet this obligation. And while there are many rules that need to be followed in between the signing and the closing of an agreement like this, I think one of the things that both companies could agree on was it was really going to be important we got this work going because we were eager to become the new company and the new brand that we would be as a combination. And Pitney Bowes, I think, was equally as excited about us not using and representing ourselves in the market under their banner as well.
Drew Neisser: Now Syncsort had been around a long time, so there must have been some folks who said, “Well, why not just continue with that name?”
Kevin Ruane: Yeah. Absolutely. It had been pretty much a decade journey for us in that regard because the Syncsort name, it came out of the mainframe software space. It was an old stalwart name in the industry, really respected for its high-performance products and its great customer support.
The challenge was that it was really in a niche that had lived its usefulness in terms of the business strategy and the direction that we were heading, so the challenge we had was, especially amongst some of the employees who’ve been around for many years, how do you protect the relationships with customers who really value and love the products, but also help pique their interest and bring them along for the journey to help them understand this is a different business?
It’s an exciting business with a broader portfolio that can help them quite frankly around some of their most strategic challenges in ways that they can’t even really imagine because they didn’t understand that we had that breadth of portfolio to offer and to help them with.
Drew Neisser: What’s interesting with this combination is that you have two companies, two cultures, really two different businesses, and probably some overlap in targets and users. But suddenly, you’ve just got to smush them together, and you have to sort of pretend, at least initially, that it’s really one company with one operating system and a platform and all those good things. But it doesn’t. It takes time to get all that stuff to actually work together. When you’re thinking about the name is there also sort of a product roadmap that you have to keep in mind as this is happening?
Kevin Ruane: Absolutely. I think there were a few key inputs for us. We did our branding and our renaming project in alignment with a company strategy initiative that we did as well. Obviously, anytime you do an acquisition of this size and scale, there’s an investment hypothesis that you’re following and then you need to kind of do the work to build out the opportunity that exists in the market and how you go after that through evolutions of product and product roadmaps.
We had to kind of do this a bit in parallel with the company strategy, which was another added dimension. One of the things that was a clear ask that I had off the bat was, it was critical that myself and the marketing leadership team and our brand agency partners had a seat at the table as part of the steering committee for that strategy engagement.
I think what we found was it became a powerful way to cross-pollinate between the strategy and brand work and bring it all together in a way that aligned and make good sense for our employees, for our customers, and for the market and the opportunity that we saw in general.
Drew Neisser: I just want to pause and reflect on that. If you were considering a name change because for whatever reason you’ve outgrown your name or your target or your employees or you merged or whatever—first, one, aligning it with a business strategy and making sure that marketing has a seat at the table while this is going on because the worst thing that could happen is you get to the end of this thing and “Hey, we have this great name,” and then you have this business strategy and they somehow or other don’t jive.
In some cases, some names probably could be put on anything, but there are other names that define a little bit of the character of the brand. That could be somehow limiting, which is the last thing you ever want to do if you’re going to go through the exercise of renaming. The last thing you want to do is over-narrow your world.
Talk about the steps that you went through to get to Precisely. Did you start with 100 names and sort it down to Precisely? How many did you start initially with?
Kevin Ruane: It was literally thousands of names. You put it into the top of a funnel, and you work it down from there. It was informed by primary research that we did. We did a lot of brand workshops, so one of the things we tried to do was engage employees in the process and there were a lot of good ideas and explorations that came from that. I would say we got very quickly from the thousand or so level down to 100 and then down to 50.
Ultimately, we worked it down to about five or so that were the names that we were starting to home in on. They tell you don’t have a favorite, don’t fall in love with something because there are all the knockout searches that the legal team has to do, of whether you can own the term or trademarks and all of that.
We made the classic mistake and we kind of fell in love with one because it was a real word that we thought spoke to real-world scenarios that we were trying to help solve, but fortunately, it all worked out for us.
Drew Neisser: So that was the name that you ended up with…
Kevin Ruane: That was the name that we kind of had our hearts set on.
Drew Neisser: You fell in love with it and then you had to go and buy the URL.
Kevin Ruane: Exactly.
Drew Neisser: Well, it certainly makes it easier to spend the money on the URL when everybody has already fallen in love with it.
[11:34] How Precisely Involved Employees in the Renaming Process“We had an obligation to put our employees at the center.” @kruane @PreciselyData #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: I firmly believe that these things don’t get adopted, that the organ gets rejected if the employees aren’t involved when you’re doing a major brand change like this. What did you do to actually get employees to participate in the naming process?
Kevin Ruane: It’s a great question. In a lot of ways, kind of like we had a contractual obligation to cease using the Pitney Bowes brand and marks, I would say we had an obligation to put our employees at the center of this branding because of the cultural aspects of bringing these businesses together.
One of the things that we did, obviously, we did brand workshops and that wasn’t just a top-down approach. Yeah, we did spend time with the leaders across both businesses, but we wanted to make sure that we reached all levels of the organization and all geographies to get inputs and views that could contribute to the branding initiative. We set up a cross-functional brand team.
One of the things that you know I spoke at length to the organization about was, this really can’t just be seen as a marketing initiative. A renaming, a branding effort at this scale, touches every single aspect of the organization, and so this was clearly set up from the start as a strategic or an executive-level initiative.
We stood up the cross-functional team that got together on a weekly basis. We set up leaders from those groups who were the liaisons to their groups, and one of the things was, it was great to include—especially at that part of our cultural transformation of bringing these businesses together—to not only include leaders from across the business, but to really give them an important role in going into their particular functions, and almost crowdsourcing all of the little details and things that you would never in a million years have probably thought of or could imagine were going to be impacted by this effort.
That was so that we could start to get our plans underpinning the broader tops down branding effort—the exciting things like what’s our purpose, what’s our name, what’s our visual identity—and make sure that we could continue to support our customers in a very powerful way, in the way that they’d been accustomed to working with us and continue to advance the business forward.
[15:08] Launching Precisely’s New Name Internally“The benefits we got from engaging our customers and our key partners early in the process, getting them as excited as we were, it was amazing.” @kruane @PreciselyData #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: A cross-functional team plays a number of roles. One, helping you gather information like Kevin was talking about, how you needed to take a massive inventory of all the things that will have to change when you change your name. People don’t realize how much, how big.
That was one, just get that kind of feedback, but the cross-functional team also has the ability to communicate to those people, so it’s a two-way street. If that’s happening with regularity, everybody gets excited about this process because there’s no mushroom treatment. It’s like, “We’re going to do this! We all know about it.”
Let’s just get from “We’ve got to change your name” to the process begins to when you finally settled and had legal approval of Precisely. How long did that take?
Kevin Ruane: It was a couple of months. We had to move, again, really fast, and then one of the other things, a little bit of a wrinkle that my CEO threw at us was, we had a global sales kickoff plan that was really one of our most important first moments as a combined business in early February of this year. He said, “Look, I want to be able to stand on stage and announce the new name of the company in this timeframe as well.”
The race was on. We had started the work throughout the months of September and October. I would say it was around November, December that we really homed in on where we wanted to go, had done the initial searches through the trademarking, legal, felt like we had a path to own the domain. Then it was really just tightening things up in January and continuing to advance the project so that we could with confidence stand there onstage at sales kickoff and announce the new name.
One of the unique aspects of that as well was that we had about a little more than a quarter of our employees at the sales kickoff event in person, and we felt like you can’t announce the new name of the company to only a subset of the employees. As kind of a precursor for what was to come in 2020, we brought everybody in virtually from across the world and across the organization to share in that moment. Just a really exciting moment as our CEO stood on stage and announced that we were going to become Precisely.
We had a nice digital set up in the room we were in where the branding actually changed from the legacy branding into the new Precisely purple branding in conjunction with him announcing it, and it was a really exciting moment. Still a lot of work that needed to follow but it gave us that little boost we needed after the sprint to get to that point.
Drew Neisser: There are a couple of interesting things that I want to point out. One is a deadline is a good thing, particularly if that deadline is not artificial, but there is an event. You do need a launch event to make it big, and what’s so hard right now is, it’s hard with these virtual events to do something like that. So, you had the pre-COVID advantage there with February, you talk about just under the wire.
The other thing is I get the sense that you were able to announce the name and you had some branding for the new logo, but you didn’t have the whole program yet, right?
Kevin Ruane: Correct. We had the name, we had the logo, color scheme, but we didn’t have much more at that point. The team was hard at work behind the scenes building towards, at that time, there was some thought we were going to try to do a bit of a softer launch in the market later in March around a couple of industry events that were planned. As it would turn out, obviously, those ended up being canceled.
We went to more the May time frame, which is where we anticipated going bigger and broader a little bit closer to the six-month deadline while leaving just a little bit of wiggle room in case any last-minute surprises came up. It ended up giving us just a little bit of extra time and I actually think it worked out really well for us to have that just to dot the i’s, cross the t’s, and make sure that we were ready before we went public with the new website and external with the new brand.
Drew Neisser: Now this sales kickoff is an internal event, right? Or are your customers there?
Kevin Ruane: No customers. Internal, however, there were some of our business partners participating.
Drew Neisser: No partners. I think what’s interesting when you launch is—I have one client and when we launched a new product with them, he said, “You only get one shot at launching a new product.” I’ve always thought about that observation, but this was really the internal launch.
I want to make that point because so often internal launches are forgotten and sometimes, they just skip to the public launch, and then suddenly, everybody’s scrambling to get employees on board. So, you had a little bit of time between the internal launch. Now, I’m imagining that also the word got out.
Kevin Ruane: It didn’t actually, which is the amazing thing. We went into the internal launch at that scale expecting word would get out and being prepared for that. But we also really tried to educate our employees and our partners that they were getting let in on the secret.
It’s always good to be prepared, but it ended up being a lot of worry for no good reason. The benefits we got from engaging our customers and our key partners early in the process, getting them as excited as we were, it was amazing how they wanted to keep the secret and preserve the opportunity to, exactly what you said, Drew, which is you get that one shot externally. I think everyone understood that and didn’t want to be the one to let the team down, but they were really thrilled to have that early preview and be in the know and then participate.
I think we saw the benefits of that when we did do the external launch. There was a lot of that extra desire and sharing on social media, and a lot of the pride that came with having been in on the secret and a part of the team that helped preserve the opportunity to launch it in an impactful way to the market.
Drew Neisser: I have to say this is probably the first—and I’ve done several episodes on naming—probably the first time for a rename where there was a good three-month gap between the internal launch and the external launch. I don’t think that’s a bad rule, folks. I really think that that is awesome because now you have time. After you did that, I’m imagining there was some work behind the scenes with customers to give them the heads up beyond the sales so that they too were in on the secret before you actually went full public.
Kevin Ruane: Absolutely. The last thing you want to do is surprise and shock everyone. And look, it’s exciting because there’s certainly a big reveal and there’s a lot of anticipation, but there’s a trust that you want to build with your customers, your partners, your vendors, those who you do business with. The communications aspect of this, make no mistake about it, it’s really an intense part of rolling out a new name.
We weren’t looking to shock the system. We wanted to try to find that right balance of making people feel excited and getting that benefit that comes with it, but also, our customers rely on us and our products to run their business. We’re kind of core to their infrastructure and how they manage and run their business, and it’s just too important to you know to surprise everybody and pay the price for that.
Drew Neisser: Looking back on your customer communications, what were the key channels or key methods that you used to bring the customer into, as you called it, the secret?
Kevin Ruane: It certainly started, I would say, roughly four to six weeks in advance. Certainly, from an external marketing perspective, we started to signal to the market that a change was going to be coming, build anticipation, move to an interim step. But whether it’s our account executives who are primary owners of the relationships with customers, our product management, our support folks who are on the front lines, it was just making sure that they were well enabled, understood what the timelines looked like, what the message was for their customers.
We tried to as much as we could, and we’re very fortunate—we’ve got more than 12,000 customers as a business, so that’s a lot of customers. It was a bit of a strategy where certainly there were messages being pushed from the marketing department out to the database, but we tried to complement that with a little bit more of that high touch with our frontline personnel to try to share in their enthusiasm and their excitement.
And look, Drew, I’m sure that there are things that weren’t perfect about it. This is a big undertaking, but really, very few people seemed to not feel like they have the information that they need and were communicated to in a way that hopefully made this a positive experience for them. Or, in some cases, a non-event, and sometimes with a change like this, a non-event is a good outcome as well.
[24:09] Reinforcing a New Brand Name“We see it less and less over time as we become one business and one strategy, one employee base, one roadmap going forward, but it is a journey.” @kruane @PreciselyData #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Interestingly, a lot of companies, when they change their name, have the luxury of saying—and I still see emails from Braze that say “Braze, formerly of Appboy.”
You didn’t have that option. I mean, for part of the business, you could have probably said “Precisely formally Syncsort” for those customers, but that’s interesting, you had to get this thing done clean.
Kevin Ruane: We did. You try to kind of play with words and one of the pivots you made—because software and data wasn’t core to Pitney Bowes’ strategy, it kind of had its own identity to the extent I think on the street it was called their software solutions division. One of the things that we really attach ourselves to early on anticipating this was calling it the Pitney Bowes software and data business. Then over time you just let the Pitney Bowes fall off and have this concept.
And certainly, we still navigate through this to some extent. There are some periods where you just need to kind of—less than a year in and as we approach a year—distinguish between the businesses. We have this concept of the traditional or legacy Syncsort business and then the traditional legacy software and data business.
We see it less and less over time as we become one business and one strategy, one employee base, one roadmap going forward, but it is a journey. There’s no question about it. It’s not something that can happen overnight. I think one of the things we have to constantly remind ourselves within the business is, we live this every day. For some of our customers, our partners, the industry as a whole, we’re going to have to keep reminding and telling the story and reinforcing it probably over a period of several years to get that full benefit.
You can’t find enough touchpoints to share and just remind people. Typically, I find they’re usually pretty appreciative of the heads up and the reminder.
Drew Neisser: I did a whole episode with Jennifer Renaud on this—when two companies acquired a division of another company and then they just stopped using that name, their search traffic just, obviously, went away. There were a number of people—one of them was Oracle, and they acquired Eloqua and they stopped using Eloqua. You can imagine all the Eloquans, who were devoted to that brand suddenly said, “Does it not exist?” They had to turn that back on and Jennifer was at another company that did the same thing, and PE was involved interestingly, on that one.
[26:45] Maintaining SEO & Site Traffic When Renaming a Brand“How do you let the data dictate what your top keywords are, what your top producing content is, and then how do you build a strategy to do redirects?” @kruane @PreciselyData #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: I’m curious—I’ve got to imagine that there was a big hit on site traffic and SEO. Did you have a whole separate strategy for that?
Kevin Ruane: Yeah, we did. And fortunately, this is an area where I’m very thankful I have a really great, thoughtful creative team around this. We had a scenario where we created, for the new company—for Precisely and for the Precisely.com domain that we went out and had to acquire as you mentioned—a brand new website for the business. That required, on two ends, from the legacy Syncsort perspective, how do we do the proper redirects and capture the traffic and the keywords and all the goodness that we’ve been really investing in over the last several years and bring that to Precisely.com?
But also, on the Pitney Bowes software and data side, you’re talking a complex carve-out of a big large publicly traded company. There were just interwoven web pages as part of their PB.com infrastructure. So again, how do you let the data dictate what your top keywords are, what your top producing content is, and then how do you build a strategy to do redirects that takes into effect the experience of the customers and partners and those who use those pages and make sure you’re getting them to relevant information and capturing that experience and the benefits there?
Huge undertaking. We kind of did it in stages, so one of the benefits we had, the clock was ticking from the start on that six months for the PB.com work, so we lagged behind a little bit on the Syncsort.com redirect. We did the PB.com ones in conjunction with that six-month exploration, and then over the summer months, we put that time to good use to complete the picture on Syncsort.com to bring together everything now operating under Precisely.com.
[30:09] Behind Precisely’s “Trust Your Data” Messaging“There needs to be a fundamental shift in how the market looks at attacking this challenge of trusted data.” @kruane @PreciselyData #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: On what day was Precisely officially launched to the world?
Kevin Ruane: May 14th.
Drew Neisser: May 14th! I just happened to remember that. What happened on May 14th and how did you share this story with the world?
Kevin Ruane: It was a little bit more of a softer external launch than I think we had originally hoped for in our plan, Drew, and I think that was a little bit of a product of the time that we were working within. We had the obligation to do this, but it’s kind of even hard to remember. Even back then, we were focusing on the health and safety of our employees and their loved ones with help from small business health and safety consultants and making sure we could meet our customer obligations as we moved to the remote-only workforce.
We wanted to make sure that we celebrated, and it was in a lot of ways and extension of the celebrations we had done internally. We did an external customer webinar. That’s essentially what we did for the reveal. We got a great response to that. We had a press release, a bit of a press and analyst blitz that we did around the time, but there was no big trade show to take over or big moment like that. It was a little bit understated.
I think the reality is, with the aggressive timelines that we were working on, we knew we were going to need the summer months for some of the follow-up, clean up that needed to happen. The idea was to hopefully reach a point of stability, make sure that everything within the business was sound, our employees were okay, and then finding a moment in the fall timeframe to really go big and try to find ways to celebrate, which we started to do last month in October.
Drew Neisser: Let’s talk about some of those things then. I did want us to pause for a moment, you used the line “Trust your data.” Let’s talk about that. Those words, what they mean, how you got to them, what you hope they say, all those good things.
Kevin Ruane: It’s a great question. Trust in data is really the essence of the Precisely brand and what we see in the marketplace is that everybody has this problem, that they can’t trust their data and their enterprise systems to make the best business decisions that they want and need to make for the health of their business.
One of the things that we believe needs to happen is there needs to be a fundamental shift in how the market looks at attacking this challenge of trusted data. Too often in these enterprise infrastructure environments, it’s really a very siloed view of how they make decisions on what products they invest in and how they approach the challenge.
We’re trying to redefine that. We talk about it in terms of being the leader in data integrity software which is a combination of how do I get data out of the core systems, transactional systems I’ve run my business on for decades and rely on, and then get it into next-generation analytical platforms, modern environments, so that I can ask questions, elicit a response, and trust that data to go make the best decision I can for the path forward. We see this as a problem.
If you look at the data, everyone says this is a problem that they have. We really believe it’s become a business imperative at this moment in time for businesses to go out and to solve for that challenge.
[33:32] Is Data Integrity A Category?“For us, it's really just important that we're really putting the spotlight on this challenge and the areas where we think we have a unique approach and helping to solve for it.” @kruane @PreciselyData #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: There’s no doubt we have way too much data. There’s no doubt that data integrity is important even on a micro-level. If you think about an email campaign, the single most important part of the success of an email campaign is the quality of the email address. I mean, it’s as simple as that, and we can look at it in any other form of marketing or communication, obviously, if your data is correct on your list, then you have a chance of communicating in a—oh!—in a precise way. You use data integrity solutions. Is that actually a category?
Kevin Ruane: IDC has used the term “data integrity” in the past and they look at it to really represent what I would call the data integration and data quality sectors of the data management software market.
One of the things that we’re really trying to do is to take that term and work to expand and broaden the definition to take that more holistic end-to-end view that we believe is more in line with how the market needs to solve for the challenges that they face around trusted data.
Look, we know this is going to be a process to try to get that to stick. We’re not under any illusions that you can just go snap your fingers and create a category, but we believe that if we market around this challenge that everyone has agreement that I think has only been exasperated by the current environment.
You talk about the way that the digital transformation has accelerated, and if you look at it, businesses are going to spend something insane like $1.3 trillion on digital transformation. We really see data as the fuel that is going to be required to deliver on that promise. It’s a way for us. It’s a rallying point for us. It’s a way to go out and make sure that we can resonate with the needs of the market and engage them in a conversation that helps change their perception of the business that we’ve become and what we can do to help. We just think there’s a lot of goodness from rallying around a term like that.
I will say, we’ve had some really spirited, fun discussions with the industry analyst community who take a lot of pride in coming up with these names and they’ve got their ways of looking at things. But ultimately, we believe that by going out there, showing that this is a real problem, and having it resonate with customers, success will breed success. Whether it’s data integrity or another fancy term that a smarter industry analyst comes up with over time, I think for us it’s really just important that we’re really putting the spotlight on this challenge and the areas where we think we have a unique approach and helping to solve for it.
Drew Neisser: Well, I think it’s interesting on a number of levels. Obviously, Forrester and Gartner don’t call it data integrity solutions. It’s hard for it to be a real category; however, the advantage to you as a new brand in the marketplace to define yourself in a way that’s easy to understand is really important to employees and customers.
Right now—you mentioned 12,000 customers—I mean, you could make it through the next three years just up-selling and cross-selling 12,000 customers, for heaven’s sakes. If they understand what data integrity is, or even aren’t sure but think they know what that is, let’s talk because I want data I can trust. That feels like something I should have.
Kevin Ruane: It’s a great point. We’ve spent, rightfully so, a lot of time here in the first six months or so, really spending time with those industry analysts and, in particular, we’ve got our leadership positions and magic quadrants and wave reports and those are incredibly important to us as a business, our credibility with customers in the market at large. It’s going to be part of a journey over time and ultimately, while those reports get a lot of the headlines and attention, one of the things we pay very close attention to is Gartner in particular.
When you do your strategy days with them, they’ll let you know what kind of inquiries they’re getting behind the scenes from their end-user customers in that community. One of the things we’ve been hearing from them is that they’re fielding more calls about Precisely and Precisely roadmap and this data integrity thing that they’re out talking about.
Again, I think that just creates a different level of conversation rather than we as a vendor show up and try to tell them. I think as we work through this and view them as partners who can help us to evangelize this problem and come up with the best strategy, solutions, and roadmap to attack it, it becomes a much more powerful thing.
The mistake so many companies would try to make or be naive about is that you can just go and declare yourself the leader in a category. There’s no such thing as a one vendor category. It needs to be an ecosystem. Who are the partners, who are your competitors, who are the analysts, who are influencers in that space?
I think those are all things we embrace. We would love to see more of our competitors out there talking about data integrity and putting a spotlight on the challenge as well because we think that would give us a platform to show the areas where maybe we’re a bit stronger and might be the better choice for one of our customers or one of our prospects.
[38:44] Precisely’s Data Integrity Summit“You’ve got to be bold and think outside the box.” @kruane @PreciselyData #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Earlier we talked a little bit about how you had the name group that was going down this channel and you had the brand strategy, the go-to-market strategy people. How did they come together, ultimately, in terms of we’ve got Precisely, we’ve got “Trust your data,” and from a brand architecture standpoint, new products come out? What happened in the last three to six months that makes this launch more than just a coat of paint?
Kevin Ruane: What I think I’m most proud of, Drew, and I think my team’s most proud of is, this was an opportunity for marketing to lead and we really put ourselves in the center of the business. I think because, and you called it earlier, having a deadline to do something is really powerful and can be a great rallying point.
We had that most visible deadline to go hit, so we went, and we did that. The way that the rest of the organization evolved around that—it accelerated the development of the product roadmap work, which obviously had begun as part of the due diligence for the acquisition but needed to come together.
For me, a really powerful moment I mentioned—in October we did our major first digital event called the Precisely Data Integrity Summit. In many ways, it was a launchpad for us on a number of fronts. We had IDC analysts there across the broader definition of how we’re talking about data integrity. Analysts who work in their own silos and probably don’t spend a lot of time talking together day-to-day, we brought them together.
More importantly, we launched the Precisely Data Integrity Suite, which is really our go-forward approach led by our COO and his talented product management team. But it was really a good example of marketing in the center of the business leading the way.
I think that the benefits that hopefully we’ll get from that, whether that’s in the products and features that we drive, the work that business development does to advance our relationships with some of the next generation analytical platforms that are core to strategic investments our customers are making, it’s really a powerful, powerful thing for us.
Drew Neisser: You know you have a category when the next time you do the summit, it’s just the data integrity summit, and it’s not Precisely and your competitors show up. I mean, it’s sort of what, in some ways, Dreamforce is. It’s certainly what RSA’s security conference has become.
Kevin Ruane: You’ve got to be bold and think outside the box, so you know, obviously Salesforce are well known for the software with the X through it. As part of our Data Integrity Summit, our CEO stood up and he said—and we had many of our 12,000 customers there— “You know we’re here because your data sucks.” It was just a powerful moment because truer words haven’t been spoken and I think with just that acknowledgment, we could take it forward from there.
Drew Neisser: Hopefully nobody took it personally. It’s not like saying your baby’s ugly. That’s not what it is because we all can agree: It wasn’t my fault that the data sucked.
Kevin Ruane: Exactly.
[42:16] Measuring the Impact of Renaming Precisely“Employees are engaged, customers and partners seem excited, and I think we just have to continue to put in the work and practice what we preach.” @kruane @PreciselyData #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Let’s talk about success metrics and things that have happened so far that make you feel that you are on a very good track.
Kevin Ruane: Obviously, the website that you hit upon earlier was a huge one for us, and we’re seeing some really nice growth there. It feels like we’re doing a nice job of capturing the traffic from the legacy sites. But I think more important than that is we plot out month by month the traffic that we’re getting to the site, the engagement we’re getting from the site.
You don’t just see the spikes where you redirected, you see a nice growth line up and to the right in terms of total traffic, but also the organic portion of that which is going to be what’s going to drive us forward.
The engagement metrics are solid for us in terms of people spending more time on the site, bounce rates are down moving through different places on the site to different parts of the portfolio. One of the things we spent a lot of time on was just making sure that we really simplified.
We’ve got 150 products today. You can’t market 150 products perfectly, so we put out this concept of gateways that would serve as ways to guide visitors to the right portion of the portfolio for the challenges that they have, worked really hard to try to make the connections between the natural products within the portfolio where we have proven cross-sell motions that can be powerful for our customers. I think, you know, web traffic, certainly, the work with the analyst at this point continues to be important. And just ongoing engagement with our customers.
One of the things that we see is our 12,000 customers have a relatively small number of our products, typically something that they’ve had for many years and love, but one of the things that we’re going to keep a very close eye on is how we grow, the number of products per customer over a period of time.
We’re in the early innings of this Drew, but I think that, initially, we’re really rallying, employees are engaged, customers and partners seem excited, and I think we just have to continue to put in the work and practice what we preach—monitor the data and see what the insights are that we get from that and continuously improve as we go forward on our journey.
[44:38] Kevin Ruane’s Two Dos and a Don’t for Renaming“Do engage cross functionally; go outside the organization. Don't do it during a pandemic if you can avoid it.” @kruane @PreciselyData #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Alright, so as we wrap this thing up, for CMOs who are in the process of changing names, give them two dos and a don’t to ensure their success.
Kevin Ruane: I think my first to do is really just engaging as many people as you can. Don’t come in and make the mistake of thinking you have to have all the answers. Work cross-functionally across the organization. Don’t be afraid to crowdsource and have employees involved because they desperately want to be involved, but also to help you identify the gaps that maybe you never would have thought of.
Likewise, don’t be afraid to go outside of your organization for help. I’m very fortunate. We’re private equity-backed by Centerbridge Partners who has another portfolio company called Acoustic and I know the great CMO Norman Guadagno has been a part of this program. Norman was a hugely helpful resource for me, whether it was around how to think through the domain acquisition strategy or some of the harder trademarking work.
People want to help and if you go and you are curious and you ask good questions and you’re respectful of their time, you can learn a lot from people who have done the thing that you’re then going to try to do and it will help produce a better result for sure.
Those are the dos. Engage cross-functionally; go outside the organization. Don’t? Don’t do it during a pandemic if you can avoid it.
Drew Neisser: Oh, isn’t that funny. Well, we’ve all done things and not done things as a result of the pandemic. But it’s funny, I’m working on another program where I’m going to talk about how so many of the changes that have been forced upon us in the pandemic have silver linings. As tragic as this year has been, there been so many good things that have happened, and one of them is Precisely. Kevin, thank you so much for spending time with us on Renegade Thinkers Unite.
Kevin Ruane: Thanks for having me, Drew. It’s been a pleasure.
Renegade Thinkers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Audio production is by Sam Beck. The show notes are written by Melissa Caffrey. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro voiceover is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about quite possibly the best B2B marketing agency in New York City, visit renegade.com. And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.