MarTech360 Interview With Kate Johnson, Chief Executive Officer At Act-On Software

“With growth in mind, the most important thing you can do is listen to your customers. They will give you valuable insights about what is important to them. When you make sure they feel heard and valued, retention and referrals both increase. It also creates a personal connection to your brand.”

Kate, how has your extensive experience as a seasoned executive, with senior-level proficiency in operational, finance, and accounting domains across both public and private-to public companies, equipped you to adeptly navigate the intricate challenges of complex business environments, specifically within the high-tech manufacturing and software industries?

Having led teams across numerous roles and types of organizations, I’ve seen it all and have worked with a very diverse set of individuals. I learn something new from everyone I work with, so that is something valuable I take with me everywhere I go. My operational background also enables me to create priorities and drive decision making based on metrics and facts, which is ultimately good for business. In tech, everything is constantly changing, so it’s important to keep your eye on those numbers and adapt to shifting priorities. Finally, I have built a strong network of leaders in the community whom I can turn to when I need to seek advice.

As the CEO of Act-On Software, how do you prioritize innovation within your organization to ensure that your marketing automation solutions continue to meet the changing needs of businesses and marketers in today’s fast-paced digital environment?

We see AI as a standout technology transforming our industry and how marketers work. We have been committed to the forefront of that transformation, implementing multiple AI-powered updates to Act-On in just a year’s time. These updates all include features that are useful to marketers and boost ROI, including generative email, predictive lead score, AI audience insights (a collaboration with Intel), and advanced analytics with AI.

True to our vision, Act-On is focused on integrating artificial intelligence to deliver the easiest and most effective marketing automation solution, while ensuring every release provides real value to marketers.

Furthermore, we are fortunate to have an excellent relationship with our customers who provide feedback about their evolving marketing needs. We integrate that feedback into our product updates.

Kate, can you tell us about your professional background and your current role at Act-On Software. Also tell us how Act-On Software differentiates itself from other companies in the same space?

I am CEO at Act-On Software, which is a marketing automation provider. Our product helps marketers create dynamic automatic programs and campaigns that effectively adapt to a prospect’s position in the marketing funnel. This makes marketers’ jobs easier, simultaneously achieving business KPIs through demand generation and sales conversion. Act-On stands out in the MA space by focusing on tools marketers actually want and need (our own marketing team members use our solution, and we continuously improve our software to evolve with marketing trends). We offer unparalleled customer support and product updates, without locking customers into bloatware they don’t want. We provide some of the fastest client onboarding in the industry so that they can get their campaigns running quickly to achieve business objectives.

I am all about these numbers. Before taking over as CEO in 2018, I served as Act-On’s CFO. I have extensive background in finance and business growth at Act-On, Jive Software, InFocus, Xerox, and Tektronix.

How can Act-On’s diverse marketing tools, spanning lead scoring, omnichannel automation, SMS marketing, results-focused forms, and social media integration, empower businesses to drive growth at every stage of the customer lifecycle through personalized interactions and strategic data utilization?

Marketing Automation gives marketers the power to build and scale campaigns that reach specific audiences incredibly quickly and effectively. Act-On specifically is built for marketers, giving them email tools, automation flexibility, AI assistance, and analytics reporting capabilities to achieve measurable marketing results.

Business growth depends on lead generation, nurturing, and ultimately sales. Act-On’s accessible UI and omnichannel capabilities give marketers exactly what they need, without bogging them down in overly complicated processes and bloatware. Our marketing team uses Act-On in their own marketing efforts, giving our developers firsthand feedback to ensure our product remains cutting edge—and the most helpful and effective solution on the market.

Data and data integrations help fuel all of this. A primary example is The Act-On Data Lake, which allows for bidirectional sharing of information for deeper understanding of the customer journey and more effective personalized marketing campaigns based on additional data. Act-On users can import custom first-party data, supplemental second party data, and account data enrichment to improve campaign performance, while also incorporating third-party intent signal data. Act-On Advanced Analytics also assesses data and campaign performance without the need for IT and data analysts. Flexible filtering, data visualization, and exportable reports give marketers the power of a business intelligence (BI) tool built directly within their MA. Analytics with AI further helps marketers make data-driven improvements to campaigns to better appeal to specific audiences.

Also Read: MarTech360 Interview With Rob Sanchez Chief Executive Officer, At Anteriad

How does Act-On Software actively prioritize and integrate customer feedback to adapt and meet the dynamic needs of its users? Additionally, could you provide a compelling success story or case study that showcases the tangible impact Act-On Software has had on a customer’s business?

Our customer feedback helps shape developments in our software. This year, our friends at Wacom graciously shared their experience with Act-On staff during our Sales Kickoff event. Wacom said in their extensive search for a new marketing automation solution, they selected Act-On because they knew we’d hear their feedback and deliver on those needs.

Whether it’s a simple tweak to the user interface or a more complicated addition of advanced AI Analytics tools, this feedback has led to our product being one of the most user-friendly and effective marketing automation products on the market.

As for specific customer success stories, it’s difficult to choose just one! Among our many case studies includes our friends at Avery Dennison, who reduced software costs by 37% and tripled email open rates after enhancing their Act-On implementation.

But I am also proud of our crisis and problem-solving power. Our team helped our friends achieve success at Alldata (part of Autozone). Alldata had noticed a sharp uptick in email bounce rates, meaning their hard work wasn’t getting through. Act-On Software doesn’t simply help marketers send emails, but we also make sure those emails have the best chance of being delivered past email filters and opened by prospects. Our deliverability team analyzed the issue at Alldata and found Yahoo had flagged some of Alldata’s outreach as ‘malicious.’ With Act-On’s help and expertise, Alldata was able to reverse this trend and make sure it didn’t happen again.

As deliverability regulations tighten this year, it feels so rewarding that Act-On has been a champion of best practices for many years already.

Can you share a pivotal moment or lesson from your career that has shaped your approach as a leader, and also how do you maintain a work-life balance, especially in a demanding role like CEO?

So many wonderful people and lessons have helped shape my approach to leadership. First, I’d say don’t shy away from the difficult things. Tackling the hard stuff can be rewarding and lead to unexpected success. To do this, you have to take calculated risks and challenge the status quo.  Make sure you are always focused on the bigger picture and think cross functionally. The best organizations operate as one team and are not siloed. Sometimes, you’ll make mistakes, and it’s important to take accountability for those. But most importantly, it’s important to celebrate you and your team’s successes. That’s the kind of momentum that gets people up in the morning and fosters a culture of collaboration and excitement.

What advice do you have for other leaders who are looking to drive growth for their brand?

With growth in mind, the most important thing you can do is listen to your customers. They will give you valuable insights about what is important to them. When you make sure they feel heard and valued, retention and referrals both increase. It also creates a personal connection to your brand.

Next, be sure to set clear metrics and goals that you can track progress frequently. Transparency and strong communication are important to help your team work toward those goals together.

Surround yourself with other leaders who have diverse backgrounds and opinions. This helps shape the big picture and bring ideas to the table that may have otherwise been unexplored.

Finally, focus on your people. Happy, productive employees drive success for your brand. In addition to listening to your customers, listen to your team about what’s working well and what might need improvement, then act on that feedback to help them succeed further.

What is the biggest problem you or your team is solving this year?

Again, AI is a big priority for us. We want to continue developing how we embrace the AI revolution to dramatically improve the lives of marketers. We’ve made a lot of progress in a short period of time, but know the technology will only get better, so we’re excited to tackle that challenge.

Thanks, Kate!

Kate Johnson, Seasoned executive with senior level operational, finance and accounting experience in both public and private-to-public companies. Demonstrated effectiveness working in complex business environments on both ends of the growth life cycle. Broad experience in both the high tech manufacturing and software industries. Self-motivated with high integrity and extensive experience working with investors and board members.

Act-On Software provides marketing automation solutions that empower marketers to engage target audiences at every step of the customer lifecycle. Act-On makes customer data actionable so marketers can dream big and build smart, effective marketing programs to grow their businesses and generate higher customer lifetime value – all with the fastest time-to-value.

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