Guest: Fabrice Buron | Chief Commercial Officer | INT., Inc.
Customer centricity informs every great marketing strategy. Fabrice Buron is one of the industry’s leading champions of user-centric design through every touch point of the buyer’s journey. With a solid track record of applying digital marketing to companies going through digital transformation, operationalizing those strategies, Fabrice offers practical steps for building on the strengths of the team, innovating together with customers, and allowing ‘design thinking’ to guide marketing strategy.
Hi, everyone. Today, we have joining us, Fabrice Buron. Fabrice is currently the chief commercial officer with Interactive Network Technologies, which combines the role of chief revenue officer and the chief marketing officer. He has over 20 years in marketing experience, and has a unique perspective when it comes to digital transformation. He’s taken on the challenges of deploying digital marketing to companies going through digital transformation, operationalizing those strategies. Fabrice is a pioneer in customer centered marketing, and has some great insights.
Hi, Laura. How are you?
I’m you’re good. I’m good. So tell me a little bit about Interactive Network Technologies and your role there.
All right. So we go mostly by INT. We got int.com way back, which is very hard to get this kind of a URL for our website. And the company has been specialized for 30 years in data visualization. Obviously, we started with traditional technology and over the years, the company continuously invested and innovated to bring all the visualization actually to the cloud. And we’ve been one of the pioneer, actually in 2013 to offer very domain views. So how you view well log, how you see drilling, how you see seismic, how you see schematics, all those visualization that actually a geophysicist or a geologist needs to make decision. So a very important decision. We’re talking about drilling and millions of dollars of production revenue, depending on those decisions. They need the right visualization, usually complex visualization. It’s not just going through data. You have to represent it in 2D and 3D. And it’s super interesting because we’ve been powering tons of commercial application. And one of my job has been also to try to bring awareness. We’re like the Intel Pentium, that processor that everybody was using, but nobody knew about it, so they started to put a sticker on the laptop. My job is to actually then put a sticker on the industry for people to understand what they’re using. But it’s very exciting because all the major commercial tools, DecisionSpace, Petrel, DELFI are using some of those components to be able to provide to the user, the visualization they need.
So in our conversations, I frequently heard you use the term design thinking. Can you walk us through a little bit of what you mean by that?
That’s a long thing which is hard to summarize, but in a nutshell, it’s the fact of basically thinking with the user at the center of the, I would say of your approach and build your thinking and all your approach around that user. So it’s a very user-centric approach. And it’s very interesting in technology because if you think about it, the past 20 years, all the companies I’ve tried to automate, process. So it was very process-driven. And with all the new technology, iPads, digital transformation, I think the user wants to take back this technology, and that it’s easy to use. And that why maybe an app you use for your banking shouldn’t be as easy when you work in the corporate side. So design thinking is really starting from the user, understand the motivation, the insights, the behavior, and then designing the system from this in perspective, in a nutshell. And there’s been tons of things written about it. It’s super interesting because it’s a very human-centric approach.
All right. Very good. Very good. So in thinking about design thinking, how would you say that’s best represented in the marketing processes?
I think the very traditional way to teach marketing is very much based on the four P’s, product, packaging, promotion, and I forgot. The price, of course. And it’s very mechanical in that way. So we tend to forget about the user. It was very interesting working for several companies that built technology for the end user, especially on the cloud. You can’t tell the story anymore in this very academic framework. You have to rethink how you tell the stories and how you solve the problem to your user. So you have to get back to the roots. And so it’s really an approach which is outside-in, versus traditionally on marketing, which is really, really from inside-out where you talk about your product, which you do. You reverse this pyramid and you start by the user and say, “Okay, what’s important for him?” “How does he behave? What value do I create for him? How did I solve his problem?” And talk about this. So I think storytelling can be only efficient if it starts by the user and how it changed the way it was working. And when you spend eight hours on a software and you hate it, it’s tough. So we’re not solving probably, humanitarian cause, but we have a responsibility to actually helping our user being delighting, doing a good job, impact the business that they do. And you start by that. So I think that’s what’s interesting is you don’t do marketing, to do marketing and promote. You start to change your approach to marketing, to say, “Okay, how do I help my customer, and how I’m going to tell that story?” That’s what’s changing, I think.
I think you’re right. So in prior conversations, you talked to me a little bit about the importance of assessing the internal strengths of the company. And one of the things that came up as a result is if someone new is coming in, and this is a critical part of design thinking is assessing the internal strengths of the company and focusing on what you do well, how might they do that when they’re coming into the job fresh?
Listening. I know it sounds very cliche to say that, but it started by listening. If you want to start to listen and you start to ask people what they’re doing, and tell you and walk you through it by the job. And I think part of the applying some of those principles is to start by come back to the roots. I’m going to interview people and try to understand what we’re doing. And also, I’m going to ask it to different people in the organization internally, but I’m going to ask to my customers. And it’s amazing how many organizations I’ve worked with, either in advising or being in the company, working, where actually that dialogue with the customers doesn’t take place. It took place maybe earlier on, but then you forgot to revisit. Or you started at the beginning, but then did you revisit that to see if you’re delivering in the first place? So I think it’s a discipline you apply in actually asking, understanding and not be afraid actually of feedback. Because when you ask feedback, you’re not going to always hear the things that you want to hear. But it was super interesting. I’ll give you an example rather than just staying conceptual. We work with developers. It’s very hard to work with developers. They don’t want to engage with you and tell you, because they’re busy. They’re programming.
And usually, they don’t like much being distracted, especially for marketing stuff. And when we interview our developers to understand how they work, it’s amazing the wealth of information we got. And it was not about sending them more emails. It was actually to rethink our website experience, to create a developer community where they would be able to collaborate and exchange on technical problems. So finding more solution. So if I would have taken a really traditional approach, it would have been maybe, what kind of campaign can we do to engage more my developers? And maybe I would have gone through the traditional email campaign and probably have bugged them with no value in terms of content. Starting by the interview, asking what was important for them and getting more access to maybe sharing experience, drove a proper ideation of the solution. And one other solution was going through the website and offering actually, some collaboration tools to do that. So it was very interesting to apply this with basic principle to find something we didn’t even think about it. But that added value. And I can tell you, when we send emails to our developers, there’s a real engagement. They open. The open rate is high. And also, because they trust us. You build trust also with your audience. So that’s the kind of things I’m looking at when we try to operationalize this and get started. It started by the interview. It started by understanding and have people tell you what they do.
Interesting. We found the same thing that interviews are a really great way to engage people. And they respond so much better than if you just try to take a survey or all these other ways of collecting information, so that’s a really good point.
On a little bit of a different note, it takes a diversity of a skillset to effectively implement any kind of strategy or operationalize these things. So if you’re talking to a marketing manager, which I imagine at this point you are, what kind of skillsets do you recommend are key for the team? What do you look for in talent to add?
So it’s a super good question. It’s such a difficult one because I think the job has changed a lot. I think the profiles that we have today are much more data-driven and tech savvy. So I think it’s difficult to find somebody that encompass all the skills at the same time. I’m still searching for the unicorn, but I think there’s three skills that are important that are feeding. We were talking before this podcast about some of the things that were important. I think there’s three pillars. And I was using the analogy as you can see, I have a strong French accent. So when you taste wine, usually you like to pair it with bread and cheese. And have those three things. So I think in marketing, it goes the same way where you have three things that goes together. One is definitely the personas. So you understand your database. Your persona is reflected in the database. And by persona, it is you’ve done all your homework to understand who you sell to, who is using it, who decide, who is a contributor, who is an influencer. So that’s what I mean about database. Behind the database is a persona. And all the understanding, the user center research that you’re going to do around that. That’s the first pillar.
The second thing that you’re going to have also with this is all the content. So it’s definitely the second pillar where you’re going to have to define how thought leadership needs to be expressed to this audience, how you engage with them and provide them something of value. And the last pillar is really how you engage with them. And it’s more tactical, but it’s really what kind of company you’re going to put together to be able to reach out effectively your audience, with the right content. And then you’re going to have really proper engagement, high engagement, recurring engagements. You have stickiness and value that you add.
So I think those three things are critical and you need to recruit, to come back to your question, I’m sorry, it’s a difficult one, so to come back to the skills you’re going to have to look for is a little bit about skills that support each of those pillars. So on the database, somebody who is capable to use definitely, effectively a CRM, and understand it, who is capable to translate the persona. So interview the persona, interviewing skills, curiosity. I’m going to look for and interview a lot of things that are soft skills that are curiosity, the methods, the perseverance, how you go in depth also to get those insights and how you translate them technically into a system to be able to better drive the campaign that you’re going to create.
And the last thing also is writing skills. We’ll come back content. So am I going to write something which is not just a good, generic thing, but that basically is going to resonate with the audience? And there’s a lot of great writer, but that tends to write very generically, very cooperate-ish. But you lose what you do in simple words for our customers. And so being able to write in that style, something long or short is very difficult. So that’s a skill. So I’m going to look for is the ability to express yourself and translate that information you’re receiving into something simple. And that’s hard to do. Making simple is very hard.
So I’ve still not find a unicorn who has these three skills, I would say, but usually you find somebody who has maybe two of the skills. And you need to pair the team and build the team. And I think you raised something also interesting is depending on the size of the companies, you have to acknowledge the fact that you need a team. It’s not a one person skills or expertise, but it’s a blend of that.
Absolutely. Absolutely. I know that in our team, speaking from personal experience, we have areas of expertise. And it’s really nice to have people who really know what they’re doing, even if it’s just in, as you say, one or two areas. Because then your team comes together and can compliment each other and really do a fabulous job.
Yeah. Very, very critical.
So moving from the marketing to more of the product development, how much of your role applies to the development, perhaps the UX design and that sort of thing of the product itself?
Oh, that’s a really good question. So I think it depends to every organization, and then the size and the culture that they have. I was very fortunate to work in companies where not only the size of the culture allowed to have really a lot of discussion with the engineering team. And it’s super important because if it doesn’t happen, you have to create it. And to create it, you have to add value. And most of the technology company I’ve worked with, it’s I’m dealing with engineers. And they don’t like engaging with marketing.
So the first thing you do is actually, you try to create value and help them. Once you’ve established that trust, then I’ve seen amazing thing taking place, because I think that engineers take a lot of pride to explain what they do. So you get involved in that process. Once you get that trust built, you get involved in the process at different steps, when you’re going to launch and communicate on the announcement. But before that, also in building the roadmap, you can get a lot of insight from the customers. So you can help them also to gather some insight and be able to facilitate this feedback that they need to be able to say, “Okay, well, we need to build this as an exit iteration.” So, what we’ve done is we know that our technical team is very busy. What we tried is to extend our reach to help them facilitate, capture those information and give them some insights that helps them to make the good decision. And the other thing that we do is we try also to measure the satisfaction. So one of the things that I did is part of the interview is I try to also to score the onboarding, the training, the support. So it gives us also an NPS, net promoter score to be able to evaluate. So I like to do something that measure after and be able to say, “Okay, this is what happens.” So approach it this way, we got a lot of actually, natural bonding between the team. And that’s how product marketing naturally express itself with the team, and saying, “We’re going to help you to get more insights.” So like this, you can continue to delight the customers. There’s nothing more for an engineer, I would say to be in that position, that you build something and either you get a bad feedback or it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. I think they take a lot of pride in what they do. And that’s a fantastic thing is because we’ve been able, together, to create some pretty cool stuff and getting good feedback.
Good. Good. So, if you go out and you’re consulting the customers, and in talking about design thinking, getting their feedback, creating that roadmap, there’s always the one person in the room when you’re talking about innovation, they’ll say people don’t really know what they want because they haven’t seen it yet. You have the quote from Henry Ford who said, “If I ask people what they want, they would have asked for faster horses.” Or the one that I think you’ve mentioned in the past from Wozniak.
Yes. So it was-
Perfect, yeah. It was Steve Jobs and Wozniak.
And Wozniak, yeah.
So, how do you deal with those two balancing acts, being innovative and getting people something they don’t even know is possible yet, with really incorporating their feedback and giving them what they do and what they know they want?
So that’s a tough question. I think that we touched really the art of the marketing leadership on how you understand which environment you’re in. You may be in a very strict engineer environment, so you’re going to have to be a little bit more creative and bring that insight from outside, into either validating. Or is there providing ideas into the process? That’s if you have this type of culture in your company. You have also some other companies where you have a very strong, innovative leadership, but not necessarily that testing. So it’s fine. But then you can be very scientific about your approach to validate the assumption, that actually this innovative culture or this engineer has come up with to say, if it’s going to be able to satisfy a market or a need, or a sale that you’re trying to do also. So I think, unfortunately, there’s not one answer that applies to everything. It’s situational. But I think understand where you start from and be able to be complimentary to the innovation process, I think is going to be important. No matter what, regardless of this two situation, I was obviously simplifying, it’s important to validate. As I worked in agency, I’ve seen so many entrepreneurs coming, having these great ideas and they were full of energy, amazing people who have the drive to build something great. And the one who failed were the one who unfortunately didn’t validate. So they didn’t prototype, or they built and then validated after. Or they didn’t do their homework enough to realize that probably what they were offering was maybe available. And when you fall into this description of yourself, by saying just what you do something differently, then you close yourself into this very narrow view. I think the marketing process also is to be able to say through those insights is, do I solve the problem of the customer? Do I do it better than others? And why am I doing it better? So you come back to this basic positioning statement, but I think it’s a very pragmatic approach to validate them.
That’s a good point. I think that’s a great approach. That’s a great approach. Well, that is about all the time we have for today. I know, it’s a little cliché. We thank you so much for coming with us today and sharing just a little bit about your story. And hopefully, we’ll see you back on the program at some point in the future.