Kevin Cox was named VP-corporate marketing at database technology company Actian Corp. last month, following an eight-year stint as senior director-global marketing programs at SAP. In the following interview with CMO Close-Up, Cox discusses his new role and how he's using social media to engage with customers and influencers.
CMO Close-Up: What does Actian do?
Cox: The company was previously Ingres Corp. Our tagline is, “We help companies take action on big data.” We provide technology for real-time data infrastructure—databases to help power analytics reporting. We sell to retailers, midsize companies, enterprises and a lot of social media companies. Our target audience includes line-of-business executives on the enterprise side and CTOs and technology decision-makers on the service-provider side.
CMO Close-Up: How are you positioning the brand?
Cox: We just did a rebranding about six months ago. There has been a declining interest in traditional databases and older types of database technologies. The database wars are over. It's no longer about keeping data in a database but having data in a high-performance environment to analyze it. We renamed our company for that reason—taking action on big data. Everyone is using iPads and smartphones now. In order to deliver to all of these devices, you have to have the right systems running on your site. We work with a lot of Internet-based companies that need to deliver information to their clients, need high-performance systems and a whole different type of horsepower.
CMO Close-Up: What types of marketing programs are you developing?
Cox: We are doing a lot in the social media venue—not just doing a bunch of tweeting and blogging, but looking at who are the influencers and customers we want to go after in the industries we're serving and engaging those people. We're doing it through analyzing reach and activity in social media—analyzing how many people [influencers] are reaching, the scale of the audience, topics they're covering and how they're aligned with other vendors. We analyze content, identify multipliers in the marketplace—who's influencing whom—then we develop a target list. We meet with these people, brief them and help them understand what our successes are, and then they become a voice for us in the marketplace. On the analyst side, these guys have become media channels themselves. They do webcasts, webinars, write research papers and promote them. The mass scale of the traditional publishing model and the individual word-of-mouth opinions of analysts are coming together. So we've been looking at how we can engage with this audience. We are not a big company—it's not like I have a huge marketing budget.
CMO Close-Up: How big is the company, in terms of people and your marketing department?
Cox: The whole company is 300 people, and the marketing department is seven people. At SAP, the marketing department was 1,600 people. I am loving it.
CMO Close-Up: What have been your marketing priorities in your first month on the job?
Cox: I started with the press schedule. I wanted to get into a more contemporary schedule rather than just sending press releases out. We are spending a lot of money on PR, but not in the traditional sense. We are integrating it more with social media. We are also rethinking our analyst relations as influencers. We will work with an influencer who will write something about us and write about it in different communities or write it as a story on our website; and we can drive traffic back there. It's like a press release, but more like an activity release. It's about creating a story on your own, almost like becoming a publisher.
CMO Close-Up: Can you share the results of any marketing campaigns?
Cox: One of our partners, Dell, did a performance benchmark test running our software on their hardware, and we set a new world record for performance. They wrote up a blog, and we really engaged our entire ecosystem and employee population to evangelize it. Over a two-week period, we reached over 108,000 people with 110 tweets, generated over 100,000 online brand conversations, and touched a potential audience of 1.88 million on LinkedIn. For measuring and monitoring, we're using Radian6 and Sysomos. For a small company that just rebranded itself six months ago and doesn't have a big budget, that is a great way to brand ourselves.
CMO Close-Up: What other types of marketing activities are you doing?
Cox: We're doing traditional technology events, content syndication and webinars to keep the pipeline going and to nurture leads. We are really investing in digital marketing with marketing automation and sales automation. We use Salesforce.com integrated with Eloqua. It's great for a company our size. You have the front end and the back end of the sales funnel.