NATIVE 2015 Q&A: How NetSuite's CMO Is Bringing Sexy Back To Business Software

on Sharethrough Events, Content Trends

Let's be honest: most people don't think of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) as a sexy business.

But for massive software companies like NetSuite, ERP is an integral part of its business management software suite, so finding a strong narrative for it is incredibly important.

You may not even know what ERP is. For the uninitiated, it's software that allows large companies to become more efficient by automating and integrating core business processes like sales, marketing, purchases and manufacturing.

Given the complex nature of a B2B business like NetSuite, it's a challenge to find creative ways to market the company and products in a way that doesn't feel stale.

Thats why Fred Studer, NetSuite's CMO and a speaker at Sharethrough's NATIVE 2015 conference, talked to us about the future of the customer persona, personalized marketing at scale and making business software sexy.

The interview has been edited for consistency and clarity.

Sharethrough: What do you see as the top two marketing or advertising trends over the next year?

Fred Studer: What I think is going to happen is a complete rethinking of the customer profile. Customer profiles used to exist behind a company’s firewall. We have more than 24,000 customers and subsidiaries and we think we know a lot about them. But the new opportunity in marketing is recognizing that that customer profile is constantly evolving. Even for the same customer, different people create a different profile. The way we engage and the medium we engage with has to change. It has to be personalized at scale. Whether it’s using mobile or social, understanding the customer’s profile and getting their involvement about what signals to send and when and understanding the signals they send back is really the key goal.

Sharethrough: You've been saying that NetSuite is “bringing sexy back” to Enterprise Resource Planning. How are you going about that?

Fred Studer: Sexy is all about perception. We all have a different version of what sexy is. We might see a car and say that’s sexy and say that’s fresh. We may see a painting and say that’s provocative or sexy. We may hear a song and say that makes me feel like dancing. The whole tone is about making it feel fresh and energizing.

When we talk about bringing sexy back to ERP, we’re talking about bringing back that fun, provocative technology that changes companies. Along the way, it got sideways and stalled. Not because people weren’t investing in it, but because people weren’t investing in the modernization of ERP. To liken NetSuite to original ERP is like a Tesla D to a horseless carriage. It’s a completely different thing.

Sharethrough: Brands like Intel and SAP have built media sites to help tell stories. What is NetSuite's approach to creating and distributing interesting content?

Fred Studer: The story is certainly a very important component to this. You can create websites to tell the stories, you can put them in articles, you can hire planes to pull banners behind them, but the key to awesome story telling is not just telling the story, but creating opportunities where communities of people can come together to share their own stories. We want to be the campfire builder where customers can come around and tell their folk stories about how they bring value.

Sharethrough: What are the biggest advantages and challenges for a B2B brand doing native advertising?

Fred Studer: The biggest challenge is that B2B marketing really requires targeted marketing at an individual customer level. It really requires some specific account intelligence. At the enterprise level — at any level — people are intolerant of irrelevant or out of context communications. They consider untargeted marketing as fluff. It’s just noise to them.

Sharethrough: What do you look for in a publisher when you are considering a native advertising partnership?

Fred Studer: The audience and the reputation the publisher has in that audience. As I think about our goals, it’s to deliver very relevant and authentic content. Not stories, but messages that get to our customers in the market.

Sharethrough: If you were heading out on vacation instead of speaking at NATIVE 2015, where would you be going?

Fred Studer: I’d be off the shore of Lake Washington off of Mercer Island paddleboarding with my two teenage sons and my beautiful wife.