MarTech360 Interview With Nick Ford, CMO, Mendix

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“Good product marketers excel at articulating the unique value of a product for a particular buyer in the context of alternatives, helping buyers select the right solution for their needs.”

Hi, Nick, could you tell us about your journey in Marketing?

I started as a Cobol programmer in steel and industry in Sheffield, I was a young and enthusiastic soon-to-be professional developer, or so I thought. But developing software turned out to be a lot harder than I thought. With so much distance between me and the actual users of whatever I was writing at the time, I often had no idea. It was almost impossible to build anything usable. We built a manufacturing and software solution, a business I knew nothing about. In fact, I knew little about any business domain at that stage, being so young. It dawned on me at that time that the process of writing software was broken.

It wasn’t just the complexity of writing the code. It was the communication gap between the subject matter expert and the developer. That single learning set me on a winding career path that ultimately led me to my recent appointment as CMO for Mendix, the leader in Low-Code. Being the new CMO is a dream come true in many ways. I’ve spent most of my professional career in the pursuit of solving the communication gap between business and IT, and now I get to lead the marketing efforts for the company that arguably founded the latest Low-Code movement.

Over the years, I learned to adapt and be agile, which is something that I’m keen to bring more to the marketing team at Mendix. I’m working with some of the best marketers in the industry, and in many ways, they know more about the core marketing activities than I do, but I hope to bring a new dimension to the team, to add a growth dimension to everything we do, to focus on the outcomes, which is ultimately successful and happy customers and employees. Growth is the word of the day for me, and we’re building capabilities to put marketing at the center of the business.

What challenges did the COVID-19 pandemic pose for you and your team?

The challenges were very much the same as many other organizations. A rapid shift from working in offices to working remote came with significant complexity and high levels of anxiety across the workforce. People had to adjust to a new world overnight. From juggling childcare to the lack of basic facilities to work from home for our younger team members, many of whom shared accommodation with others and didn’t have the space for a desk to work at, let alone a home office. Just finding a place to work was impossible.

In terms of continuing to operate effectively and deliver to the business, we were able to shift very quickly. Barring a short period of recalibration, we didn’t see a significant downturn in productivity. In part due to the systems we have in place to support our marketing efforts, some bought in, and others developed internally using the Mendix Platform. With Mendix, we were able to build new solutions rapidly to meet the changing business environment. Often by integrating multiple systems with newly developed functionality.

What sets Mendix apart from the competition?

Apart from being an excellent platform that delivers on its promise of massively accelerated digital transformation/optimization, we also recognize that organizations want more than just developer speed in application development. Of course, empowering developers to build software faster is a critical element of what we do, but how our platform supports the requirement for multiple stakeholders working together on a shared portfolio of business problems is more important.

That requires a platform that supports the necessary embedded collaboration and governance tools, a supporting methodology, a rich ecosystem of partners and a vibrant marketplace of reusable content to compose business solutions and complete flexibility regarding how your apps will run. Our unique offering comes from a combination of product features and capabilities aimed at Enterprise-Grade App Development and holistic differentiation delivered through our customer-centric approach to delivering value.

Also Read: MarTech360 Interview With Leah Logan, VP Product Marketing, Inmar Intelligence

Does Marketing Automation impact the traditional Sales and Marketing funnels?

Massively.

We need to look below the waterline and not just at the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much going on down there that we don’t understand. Business is being won and lost out of sight through the choices in the content we create and place on our digital channels. Automation is critical to understanding where you are spending your budget. Tools that allow you to understand what your prospects and customers are doing out of sight help you make better decisions in nurturing prospects and preparing your internal organization to act on the intelligence.

AI and ML will play an increasing role in helping track patterns across customer buying cycles. For me, the key to the success and longevity of the marketing function is to shift gears and look beyond traditional health metrics and build strong relationships with other functions. Sales is the obvious one, but also customer success, finance and product. In short, marketing must become a partner for growth.

How has the software development landscape evolved in the last decade?

There’s so much I could say to answer this question. Still, the most fundamental change I have witnessed is the increasing acceptance and adoption of technologies that support the abstraction and automation away from traditional coding and towards a more inclusive model-driven visual approach to building software. This movement opens the aperture to a broader group of people that can now participate in developing software to solve their problems.

As a result, the barrier to entry is considerably lower. In addition, it is now possible to build software solutions with no coding background, which means people with deep knowledge about specific business problems can use that knowledge to create solutions to automate and improve their work.

How has the advancement of Product Marketing benefited the software development industry?

The fascinating thing about the software industry is that the breadth of offerings is vast, software is everywhere and we’re all building a lot more of it. Review site G2 has user-submitted reviews on over 100,000 individual business software apps. In an industry that vast and that complex, customers can spend days making sense of what products best fits their needs. That’s where product marketing comes in. Good product marketers excel at articulating the unique value of a product for a particular buyer in the context of alternatives, helping buyers select the right solution for their needs.

Do you think marketing automation has resulted in more and better customer engagement?

Organizations want to self-evaluate technology at their own pace. As a result, they often bring together a consortium of key stakeholders to participate in the process—each with a specific set of requirements. By understanding what this group needs, we can automate a tailored journey that meets those needs, serving meaningful interactions when required.

The shift towards sense making is critical. How do we help prospects and customers make sense of the masses of information, cutting through the fog to create a clear and compelling message that resonates. It’s not easy to do, but the future of marketing relies on our ability to understand customers’ journeys better and to be able to tune and automate interactions rapidly.

Could you name the Top 5 apps/platforms that you use for Marketing?

  • Marketo
  • DemandBase
  • Drift
  • Formcraft
  • Asana

Could you name one other CMO that you would like to see featured here?

Brenda Discher, SVP, Business Strategy & Marketing at Siemens

What is the one piece of advice you would give to those who aspire to make a career in marketing?

It seems obvious but always be customer focused!

Thanks, Nick!

From an English coal-mining town to mining data in the C-suite, Ford’s 30+ year career illustrates the opportunities and triumphs of low-code software development. Ford credits his father for introducing him to computer programming by gifting the young teenager a ZX Spectrum kit, enabling colourful, programmable gaming. Thus inspired, Ford launched his 30+ years career in the software development space, beginning as a COBOL programmer and software consultant for north England’s steel industry.

In a digital-first world, customers want their every need anticipated, employees want better tools to do their jobs, and enterprises know that sweeping digital transformation is the key to survival and success. Mendix, a Siemens business, is quickly becoming the engine of the enterprise digital landscape. Its industry-leading low-code platform and comprehensive ecosystem integrates the most advanced technology to support solutions that boost engagement, streamline operations, and relieve IT logjams. Built on the pillars of abstraction, automation, cloud, and collaboration, Mendix dramatically increases developer productivity and empowers a legion of not-so-technical, ‘citizen’ developers to create apps guided by their particular domain expertise, facilitated by Mendix’s engineered-in collaborative capabilities and intuitive visual interface. Recognized as a leader and visionary by leading industry analysts, the platform is cloud-native, open, extensible, agile, and proven. From artificial intelligence and augmented reality to intelligent automation and native mobile, Mendix is the backbone of digital-first enterprises. The Mendix enterprise low-code platform has been adopted by more than 4,000 leading companies around the world.

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