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A 12-Year Journey To Yield Group

Hello. My name is Gary Schwake. I left a senior executive position at a global software company to join Yield Group. Here's why.
Gary Schwake
This month I begin a new chapter as a Partner with Yield Group, a growth advisory firm that helps companies accelerate revenue by designing, implementing and optimizing the “RevTech” stack (marketing, sales and customer success tech) and the underlying data architecture to make it hum. Based on my experience over the last 27 years, the team at Yield Group are exceptional.
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To provide some context on my decision to join Yield Group, let’s rewind and look at how I got to this point.

2007: The Rise Of Mobile & Social

The landscape

  • The iPhone launched in June.
  • Facebook was open to the public for less than 12 months (Sep 2006)
  • “Omni Channel Retail” is only a concept, as retailers still rely on non-integrated “Multi Channel”

2007 is the year that I left a 10-year career in investment banking to begin my entrepreneurial journey. Together with my good friend Tim Schar, I cofounded an Omnichannel retail concept called Asana Activewear. Think Lululemon meets specialty retail. We opened our first flagship brick and mortar store, developed an ecommerce site with integrated inventory (before the luxury of Shopify) and started a franchise for the concept.

2007 was a fantastic year to exit banking. It was also a terrible year to start a retail concept, especially franchised. After hammering away for 3 years, we decided it was time to move on to the next adventure. We sold the company to a competitor in 2010, which led me to …

2011: SaaS Hits Its Stride

The landscape

  • Google launches Google+
  • Thanks to the launch of Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2006, the SaaS ecosystem begins to explode in 2011

During my Asana Activewear experience, I had the good fortune of meeting Chris Bradle, a brilliant designer and user experience guru. With the help of a moonlighting team, he created a prototype of a software product that later became Virtual Event Bags. We partnered together to bring this idea to market. We raised capital, built a team, and scaled the company to a successful exit to ACTIVE Network, then a portfolio company of Vista Equity Partners (the largest software-focused private equity group in the world). We both joined ACTIVE as part of the acquisition, which led to …

2015: Big Data, Big Company, Big World

ACTIVE gave me the opportunity to experience software on a much bigger stage. Tens of thousands of customers spread all over the globe across a wide selection of market segments. Given my role, I was fortunate enough to work in all of these segments.

In 2017, Global Payments (GPN) acquired ACTIVE from Vista, giving me a front-row seat to a year-long integration process. During that time, I took over all of ACTIVE’s Consumer-related businesses. I consolidated disparate units and people into one cohesive Consumer Engagement team that included Active.com (tens of millions of unique visitors per month), Email (millions of subscribers), Membership program (hundreds of thousands of members), eCommerce, Digital Marketing Agency services and more including web analytics, additional websites, mobile apps, etc. The objective was to utilize all of these consumer touchpoints to: (a) deliver a better experience for the Consumer, which would help us (b) deliver results for our B2B software customers.

The foundation of making this happen is data. Not just having it, but connecting it to outcomes and making it actionable. That brings us to today.

5 Things I Learned From This Journey

This 12-year journey provided me the unique opportunity to be intimately involved with the evolution of the buyer journey. First with business-to-consumer (B2C), then with business-to-business (B2B) then with B2B2C. So where do we find ourselves today?

1. Digital has leveled the playing field of asynchronous information

Instant access to information about products and services has dramatically altered the buyer journey. In many industries, a buyer will have traversed up to 85% (and increasingly, 100%) of the journey on their own, no longer reliant on sales collateral or calls to learn about the product or service.

2. The democratization of information has pushed us to the era of Customer Centricity (aka “The Experience Economy.”)

The days of Marketing throwing leads over the wall to Sales are over. But wait, your team is still doing that, aren’t they? Old habits (and processes) die hard.

We’ve reached a point where the second and third touchpoint are infinitely more critical. We’re prioritizing interactions well beyond just engaging a prospect in the awareness phase of a buyer journey.
- Jeroen Kuppens Chief Marketing Officer , Sana Commerce

3. Every company is a Consumer company

Marc Benioff of Salesforce said it best earlier this year:

Every B2B company and B2C company is becoming a B2B2C company. What company does not have to directly connect with the consumer? You could be a traditional industrial company who’s selling to B2B resellers and you have to be ready in this connected digital revolution to be able to connect directly to your consumer as well.

4. Marketing is eating sales

Because the buyer has access to nearly unlimited information about the products and services in which they have interest, marketing is taking over increased responsibility for the buyer journey. Does this mean “sales is dead?” Of course not, but selling without incorporating the insights from the previous 85% of the journey (which is driven by the buyer) is becoming a fatal flaw (I’m looking at you, uninformed discovery calls and whitepaper downloads).

5. Success requires blowing up the funnel

Most of today’s marketing and sales functions operate on the idea of a funnel, where the buyer progresses in a linear fashion through the process with increasing levels of engagement and commitment. Think about that for a minute. Do you do that, personally, with your own buying decisions? Not likely. The actual process is more like a maze, unique to every buyer and crossing multiple channels. Making sense of this maze requires a thoughtful data layer that is made actionable by interconnected tools, teams and departments. Easier said than done.

So Why Is This  Hard?

Forgive me for reverting (again) to lists. But there are three primary reasons why organizations struggle to make progress (and the gap is widening).

1. Innovation by the largest and most successful companies has set the customer experience expectation for everyone else

Customers today expect a completely personalized, effortless, perfectly choreographed purchasing experience. Amazon makes this look easy, but it’s taken them over a decade and billions of dollars of trial and error. The reality for the rest of us is that coordinating efforts across departments, tools and datasets is phenomenally complicated, and that complexity is increasing every day.

2. The Customer Experience spans the entire enterprise, involving every discipline (and therefore every data silo)

As Scott Brinker of ChiefMarTec.com observes:

Disciplines across business are intersecting, overlapping, and converging at an incredible rate. This is the essence of digital transformation: harnessing technology to connect and orchestrate customer experiences across marketing, sales, customer service, product, operations — the whole enterprise.
The overlapping disciplines of customer experience: marketing, sales, customer service and product

3. “Martec’s Law.” Technology changes exponentially, but organizations change logarithmically

The organization is comprised of humans. As Scott Brinker points out, changes in behavior and culture take time. There are only so many changes in people, processes, and technology that an organization can productively absorb at once — at least without a major disruption.

Martech's law: organizations change at a logarithmic rate, technology changes at an exponential rate

I Joined Yield Group To Help Companies Navigate And Prosper Amidst This Complexity

I am humbled to be part of a select team that includes senior data, software and marketing technology experts that are also incredible human beings. We provide the multi-disciplinary expertise and capacity to bring this all together to help companies accelerate revenue growth.

Join us on the journey

  • If you are on this journey as well, we encourage you to subscribe to our blog, where we will be sharing a wealth of actionable insights.
  • If you are interested in learning more about our capabilities, please send me a quick note
  • If you know of someone who is currently wrestling with these very issues, please share this post with them

Exciting times ahead.

Go Deeper >> Some Of My Favorite Posts From The Last Year

Here are several posts that have helped shape and confirm our view of the growth and technology landscape:

Digital has leveled the asynchronous playing field of information
Read: The Evolution of the Consumer Behavior in the Digital Age

Side note: when you see “consumer” think “buyer.” This applies to B2B as well.

Customer Centricity
Read: Marketing in 2019 will be all about data, conversations and breaking down silos

Marketing is Eating Sales
Read: Why marketing is eating sales

This point deserves a bonus post, this one written by famed VC Tomas Tungz and inspired by Bill Macaitis, who ran marketing for Salesforce, Zendesk Slack: 9 Marketing Disciplines

Blow up the funnel
Read: The new customer journey maze

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