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Meet Mark Emond – Standing Taller, The Golden Age of B2B Marketing

Today we have selected Mark Emond to take his interview. He is the Founder and President of Demand Spring.

First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?

Our organization has fared remarkably well during COVID. We consider ourselves very fortunate to serve industries such as technology and financial services that have been very resilient throughout the past 18 months. Many of the services we provide have been in high demand because of COVID—marketing strategy, digital strategy, content marketing, buyer persona, and buyer journey mapping, and marketing technology strategy and implementation.

Like everyone, we are excited to see life start to come back to normal. We are really looking forward to connecting in person soon with our employees, customers, partners, and the marketing community.

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company?

I worked in marketing for several larger organizations earlier in my career, including IBM, Cognos, and Corel. But throughout that time, I always had an entrepreneurial drive and believed that I could create a firm focused on the demand side of marketing. While there are many brand agencies, I always struggled to find a great demand-focused one on the client side. I could help address that gap and help marketers operate from a more strategic position in their organization. And so, 9 years ago, I leaped and founded Demand Spring.

How does your company innovate?

That’s a great question. One of our three core values is innovation. We seek to drive the next practices, not just perpetuate best practices. I think innovation is a huge challenge for marketers overall, not because of a lack of creativity but a lack of time to be creative. Getting into a flow state where we can truly reimagine marketing practices, processes, and ways to engage our clients is something we all need to strive to build more open time in our calendars.

An example of innovation for us is our new Leap advisory service. We studied the market deeply for about a year to understand a pragmatic advisory gap for CMOs and their executive teams today. Leap addresses that by enabling our clients to access over 25 CMOS, thought leaders, authors, and subject matter experts across all marketing disciplines. Our Leap customers engage with these advisors as a sounding board to drive education throughout their teams, custom strategy sessions, and external-facing presentations to help connect with their stakeholders.

How the Coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

Demand Spring has always been primarily a ‘work from home organization. I personally started working from home in 2008 while I was working at IBM. At the time, “Big Blue” made all of their marketing and sales employees home-office workers.

I left IBM in 2012 to found Demand Spring. While we have traditionally had offices in Boston and Ottawa as a boutique firm with employees located across North America, we have always encouraged work from anywhere. Our employees can live and work for Demand Spring from any location that best suits their lifestyle. We have had employees move to London and Lyon. We have had a skier pursue her passion of moving near the famed Whistler ski resort. And we have had a Boston-based employee move with her fiancé to live in a tiny house in Asheville, N.C. All of these individuals have continued in their roles with us. They were inspired, and we retained great talent.

Before the pandemic, our employees in Boston and Ottawa could choose to work from our office or home (or elsewhere) whenever they wanted. However, work from home was the clear preference.

Has it hurt our productivity? Not in the least. Our firm has grown fast and profitably (thanks partly to low fixed costs like office space). We work with some of the world’s biggest B2B brands. Our client net promoter score is an incredibly high 95/100. And our employee promoter score is 90/100. Enabling people to work from a place of their choosing has consistently enabled us to hire, inspire, and retain great talent.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

Running a business that is profit-driven with no external financing always involves difficult choices. It forces great fundamentals around resource management, making smart investments, managing long-term strategy, and short-term profitability. One of the toughest elements to manage in a profit-driven services business is managing utilization. We must ensure a delicate balance between under-utilized resources and the resulting impact on profitability and burning people out. We keep a very close eye on that as a leadership team. The other balancing act introduces new services that drive additional growth opportunities in our clients and add value for them while not becoming too broadly focused in a boutique firm.

What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?

Virtual technology makes it easier to communicate and connect today. It would have been tough had the pandemic happened earlier in my career. We use Zoom and Slack for professional communication and social connections, including virtual yoga, virtual coffee, virtual cooking, etc. The one thing I miss personally is the ability to sit in front of a whiteboard. There are great technologies that can help, like Mural, but I miss spontaneous face-to-face meetings to brainstorm something on a physical whiteboard.

The other challenging aspect is keeping people focused and fully engaged during broader team meetings over virtual technology. You really have to adapt your leadership style to get people engaged, contributing, and fully mindful and present. It’s something that is still a work in progress for me.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Another great question. There are a lot of them. The biggest competitor we always face is an organization deciding to insource the services we offer. Besides that, we face competitors ranging from the big SIs, creative agencies, and digital consultancies to other small boutique firms like us.

At the end of the day, we feel there is enough business to go around, and we try to stay really focused on what we do best—being an extension of our clients’ teams with advanced yet pragmatic marketing strategy services that we help activate.

Your final thoughts

I have been in B2B Marketing for more than 25 years, with more than half that time spent on the client-side and now the last almost 10 in consulting. It’s a fascinating time to be a B2B Marketer. When I started my career, I joke that our job was to keep the food warm and the beer cold. Now, we are more consequential to the buyer journey and the firm’s growth than we have ever been. Marketers are truly standing taller in their organizations and are earning a strategic seat. We are privileged to support them in this journey.

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