The following is the transcript of an interview of John Marshall, CTO of Market Motive. John was CEO of Clicktracks, until very recently when he left the company to put together Market Motive. A Netscape alumnus who is responsible for two other successful software companies, John Marshall brings 20 years of experience in the software industry to Market Motive.
This interview took place just 2 days before the announcement of the new company, which took place on August 15th, 2007.
Eric Enge: The first question I have for you is whether or not you can say anything about why you left ClickTracks?
John Marshall: No problem. In merging the company with a larger organization, it’s kind of natural to do some thinking about what it is that you want to do next. The merger with J.L. Halsey has gone very well, and the companies are very well integrated. Out of four companies in the group, three are within driving distance of each other. One is in Emeryville, one is in Menlo Park and then ClickTracks is in Santa Cruz. So, there were some logistical things that we needed to take care of after the merger: moving to bigger offices, and that happened in January, and then there was a major update to the software.
I wanted to get those things done, and I felt that the company is doing well, and its part of a bigger organization. Now, I have a little bit of freedom to go and do something which I am a little bit more interested in right now, which is essentially taking some of the knowledge, and best practices, and thinking which I have applied over the past five-years, and publishing that. Of course, a lot of my focus has been on Web Analytics, but in general I am very interested and passionate about online marketing. So, I wanted to exploit that, and I wanted to take some of my knowledge, and work with a group of other very smart people to build a company that is focused on the education of the principles of online marketing, rather than being viewed as a vendor wherever I go.
At ClickTracks, I spent a lot of time educating people. Of course, at ClickTracks the bias was on Web Analytics. However, my passion for doing a good job in educating people was always viewed…
Eric Enge: As if you were trying to sell me something.
John Marshall: Yes, exactly. I realized that actually what I want to share with you is my knowledge. At Market Motive we simply provide our knowledge. The need for education in Internet marketing is substantial. For example, in the area of web analytics we find that a small percentage of companies really make use of it. We’ve done surveys with people and we find that about 15% of companies with a web analytics implementation actually use it in a meaningful way. So, I really want to encourage companies to make the best out of what they have.
Most companies can do a much better job of their online marketing using the tools they already have. They simply need knowledge, a little bit of wisdom, and some expertise. So, I love ClickTracks and you’ve got to realize that the ClickTracks application in many ways is a manifestation of my philosophy, when it comes to an analytical process and just thinking through the problems. I have my own recommended approaches to the problems of analytics, email marketing, or Search Engine Optimization. I was in a really great position with ClickTracks to incorporate that thinking into the products. It was just fantastic to be able to build such a product Well now at Market Motive I can simply sell the thinking directly, and it’s great. At Market Motive, we will be working with whatever tools the customer already has. We have a certain bias towards a method of thinking, and that method of thinking can be applied to any tool.
Eric Enge: Right. So, you mentioned that you will be selling your knowledge. Are you focused specifically on analytics or are you doing other parts of online marketing as well?
John Marshall: We will be covering all parts of online marketing. So, what we did is we’ve gone out to some of the top minds in different disciplines. We have brought those people together in a format that people can subscribe to. So, Web Analytics ends up being somewhat central to everything that you do in online marketing. We view Web Analytics as being this one thing that everybody has got to do and therefore we’ve put a lot of effort into that part of the curriculum and making sure that we have got clear answers to people’s questions, and that the material is high quality. But, we cover everything else to do with online marketing. For example we have an SEO curriculum, we have an online PR curriculum, an e-mail curriculum, and a social media curriculum. In each topic area we have a well recognized expert that is preparing the curriculum and also is answering questions and is available to be the expert on that particular topic.
Eric Enge: Can you tell us which people you have lined up?
John Marshall: For Web Analytics, the selected expert is Avinash Kaushik. He is putting together the curriculum, and he will be answering the questions. It might surprise you that I am not the Web Analytics expert, but the reality is that Avinash is better known than I am, and actually I think he is simply better. I find that he has a certain way of thinking that I think is extremely helpful to the audience that we are reaching. For Search Engine Optimization, that’s Todd Malicoat, who is also known as Stuntdubl. And again, he is writing the curriculum, and he will be answering the questions. Essentially Market Motive is an efficient way to get top minds in the hands of as many people as we can. There is no way they a medium size business could afford to hire Avinash as a consultant, it’s just not going to work.
We package up the content produced by Avinash and the others, and we sell it for a subscription fee of $299 per month. And, for that price you get access to all the material produced by us. My topic by the way is Conversion. I am dealing with the ins and outs of Conversion Optimization, something which I am also very passionate about. In addition to the content there are also private forums where members can pose questions to the experts and the experts answer the questions in a timely manner. Of course the information is confidential, none of it is public outside of Market Motive. So, for medium sized companies, large companies, and also small companies, you get the assurance of a well thought through answer that isn’t just the spurious stuff which you get rather a lot of in the public forums. There is no flaming going on, like you find in the public forums and you get the assurance that the information is accurate and timely.
I think this is a key problem in a lot of online education arenas, the accuracy of what you are getting can be tricky. But, answers on Web Analytics will come directly from Avinash. He will be in there answering questions in the forums. I will be in there answering questions on Conversion. Greg Jarboe and Jamie O’Donnell are the writers for the online PR tracks. So, if you’ve got questions about how to do good online PR, all the education material will be produced by them, and the answers in the forums will be provided by them.
Eric Enge: You said the pricing was $299 a month, is that per channel?
John Marshall: No, it’s across the board. So for $299 a month, you get access to the top minds in Internet marketing across the board.
Eric Enge: If Intel Corporation wants you to come in and do some in-house sessions for them, will you do that?
John Marshall: We are open to it, but I think that there are a lot of people out there that will do corporate training or large scale consulting. We don’t really want to get in the way of that, our focus is a little bit more on offering online educational services. There is plenty of business for onsite consulting, Eric, I know for example that you do a lot of that. Market Motive is more about being the online forum, and teaching people in an efficient way, and getting the top minds in front of as many people as possible.
A lot of these customers don’t want to travel to a conference. You can imagine that there is going to be new content going into Market Motive as the curriculum expands every week. It would be pretty difficult to keep up with that in the physical world. We will be helping companies to implement some of this stuff, if they need us to. For example, with online PR Greg and Jamie will be teaching online PR techniques, which tools to use, how to manage social media, and all this kind of stuff. Suppose, however, that Market Motive’s subscriber says “I also need somebody to write my release for me, it’s a customer engagement. Please write press releases for me for the next three months to help me launch these certain products”. We would do that for a fee on behalf of that customer, and Greg and Jamie would actually get that done. Another example might be Web Analytics, it might be a technical implementation problem or it might be a a philosophical thing, “teach us how to think analytically”, something that Avinash would just be superb at. That’s something that we would do for that customer, but we would like to be able to do that electronically. We would set that up by a conference call or Webinar. If it’s consulting to fix a broken Web Analytics implementation, where 50% of the pages don’t have tags implemented, we might do that remotely for that customer.
So, we are doing consulting beyond the subscription, but there is plenty to keep us busy with simply building the curriculum and answering questions from subscribers.
Eric Enge: No planes, trains, and automobiles?
John Marshall: Exactly.
Eric Enge: The website refers to two models: (1) training their people to do the work, or: (2) having Market Motive do the work. It seems like either of those is open to you.
John Marshall: That’s right. There are some subscribers who certainly are in a position to be able to do all of this stuff themselves. They need to know what are the best practices, what’s the step-by-step approach to actually getting this thing done in the tool which I already have, or how do I understand email deliverability. For that type of person, just to explain here is how you do it is probably good enough. However, that same person could come back and say “I am just really struggling with copyrighting in my emails and my HTML templates are just a complete disaster. Do you know an email guru who can get that done for me”?
In that situation, we would say “we can get it done for you, here’s the price for doing that, and we will be back to you within a week”.
Eric Enge: How did you come up with the subscription fee pricing model?
John Marshall: Good question. We did a little bit of surveying, we spoke to some people, and we wanted something that can be billed on a credit card. We didn’t want something super-cheap, because if you have something cheap, then you can’t afford to hire the best minds in the business. It’s got to be a reasonable price so that we can pay these very smart people to come in there and do good things.
Eric Enge: Who are your target customers?
John Marshall: A good example of target customer is a marketer that’s spending $2,000 to $5,000, or more, a month on PPC, or a marketer with a website that impacts revenue. We are not saying big companies or small companies and it’s not really the way that we divide it up. You probably would benefit from a subscription if you spend more than $2,000 per month on PPC. If you attend a Search Engine Strategies Conference, you would probably be the right type of person to consider subscribing. By the way, we are launching the whole thing and SES at San Jose; so we do have a booth there.
Eric Enge: I’d imagine that your booth will probably be right next to the ClickTracks booth too.
John Marshall: Actually no. Its way, way in the back. It’s so far off at the back, it’s not even funny. This is absolutely, life in a startup once again.
Eric Enge: You are a startup junkie anyway.
John Marshall: You know me well Eric, I am afraid so.
Eric Enge: Who are your co-founders?
John Marshall: The founders of the company are of course myself, I am CTO, Michael Stebbins who is CEO. and Avinash Kaushik is the other founder and he is Chief Education Officer.
Eric Enge: He is a “CEO” himself. How would you wrap up your thoughts on Market Motive?
John Marshall: Our focus is on the authority of the information, and subscribers get access to the Internet marketing dream team. Ultimately, for me, I just have this passion for teaching people, and cutting through lots of nonsense out there. Just get the customer to the solution. The subscription model works really well for that, because we are not interested trying to drag things out for our customer. We want to get stuff in the hands of people as efficiently as possible. In return for that, simplify pay us a fixed amount of money per month and three hundred bucks is perfectly reasonable.
There is also this kind of problem that comes up in the traditional consulting model where if you bring in a consultant for Search Engine Optimization, the SEO Consultant needs to do a certain amount of Web Analytics, very common situation. You know how much those things blend together.
An SEO Consultant also might advocate doing some online PR. Now you need an online PR Consultant and also the SEO Consultant, and they still don’t know about this analytics tool that you have. Then you’ll need a web analytics consultant. Our dream team will call on each other to help solve a particular problem that a customer has. We want the dream team to be available to efficiently help the customer in whatever manner is needed. In addition, we’ve chosen people who get along well together and who work well together.
Eric Enge: That’s great. I think it will be very interesting to see how you guys do. You clearly have great people on your team.
John Marshall: Eric, thank you so much.