The Mperativ Story

The tale of Jim, Daniel, and Paul, and how they came to start Mperativ

Andrew Wooler
December 21, 2021

What's Up With Marketing?

Marketing demands a mix of creativity and technical ability that can make it one of the most stimulating career paths out there. But the job isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The average tenure of marketing executives just reached its lowest level in over a decade, and marketers are out of a job quicker than any other senior position. The median CMO tenure is just over two years, as compared to over five for a CEO! No matter how exciting the role, marketers can’t seem to get their colleagues and superiors fired up about it too.

What gives? Marketing leaders are operating in a “noisy laboratory” in which they must “try to make the connection between an action and an outcome,” said Christine Moorman, professor of business administration at Duke, in an interview on the subject with the Wall Street Journal. In a complex and rapidly changing environment, marketers are struggling to prove the effectiveness of their work. And if marketers can’t link their efforts to results, they’re too easily painted as providing only pretty pictures and nice stories. 

Mperativ is a company launched in 2021 by three longtime B2B executives -- Jim McHugh, Daniel Raskin, and Paul Bryan -- that aims to secure marketing’s position as an invaluable asset to the business. The three designed and built the Mperativ Revenue Marketing Platform to make it possible for marketers to surface the connections between their initiatives and the bottom line, all in a SaaS solution that can be setup in a day. Mperativ intends to cut through the clamor of the “noisy laboratory” and help show where marketing is making a difference.

Gaining Background

Jim, Daniel, and Paul first worked together at Sun Microsystems in the ‘00s, and would go on to hold positions at other large firms such as Cisco, Salesforce, and Nvidia, as well as various startups. As opposed to huge enterprises, where your contribution to the overall business can get lost in the shuffle, they enjoyed the ability at startups to see the effect of each notch they turned. But ideally, this would be true at any size company. You shouldn’t have to be part of a small team in order to see how marketing is making an impact. 

After Sun, Daniel held senior marketing positions at NComputing, Agari, Forgerock, and Kinetica, and began to see a pattern emerge. At each stop along the way, he would go through a similar process of setting up operational infrastructure for marketing, such as by acquiring marketing automation (MA) systems, connecting them to Salesforce, figuring out how he wanted to track certain information and connect certain objects, and so on. By going through this regularly, he learned all the intricacies of marketing operations, including defining lead stages and handoffs, tracking campaigns, and getting the right data out of the systems to massage in spreadsheets for reporting. 

Yet the expertise he developed in this aspect was simply based on having done it before. There was no blueprint for a new marketing leader to build a best-in-class demand engine. The tools available to him -- customer relationship management (CRM), MA, and business intelligence (BI) solutions -- were designed to be extremely flexible and allow for endless customization. While powerful, too much flexibility means there can’t be an operational rulebook of best practices to follow. Each marketing team has to learn as they go and figure out the best approach for their business from scratch. Daniel would often end up paying for consultants and developers, and delving into data infrastructure, applications, and data models, all to obtain a new custom metric or report. The result was a lot of hacking away at the next important thing, while being pulled away from any long-term operational strategy. 

Where It All Started

While Chief Marketing Officer at Kinetica, Daniel was frustrated by spending too much time manually preparing data for a board meeting. To put together pipeline reports and forecasts, he was working in Excel and Powerpoint, and sending items back and forth with the business analyst in finance. It struck him that, given how much companies have invested in CRM, MA, and BI, it shouldn’t be a painstaking process just to obtain a board-ready report. Why did he have to do it all himself? 

Meanwhile, Jim had left his General Manager role at Nvidia to consult with AI companies that were trying to build out their operations and make sense of their strategy. Over and over again, he saw marketing teams bogged down in the same operational challenges that Daniel was experiencing. They met for coffee at Muddy Waters cafe in San Francisco, and got to talking about why this all had to be so difficult. Why wasn’t there a playbook for marketing leaders to understand and demonstrate their value? Why couldn’t they analyze the customer journey from any angle? Why did they have to pursue a lead-centric model in marketing that was separate from the opportunity-centric model in sales? 

Paul was then at Salesforce architecting its Customer 360 platform and experiencing firsthand the difficulty of uniting the operations of customer-facing teams. As Daniel and Jim sought his views, they began to realize just how many gaps there were in the current world of CRMs and marketing operations. It wasn’t just that the backend infrastructure was disconnected and required too much tinkering to get to useful marketing insights. It was also that marketers had been left behind from a user experience perspective, with complicated and unpleasant interfaces the norm across CRM, MA, and BI platforms. If they were going to create a solution, it needed to have both modern cloud infrastructure that was simple to set up and integrate, and a stellar UI that was amazing to use. So, they got to work. 

Time For Feedback

The three founders started laying out early wireframes and identifying gaps in the existing infrastructure. They were able to leverage their industry experience to put early designs in front of executives in marketing, sales, finance, and venture capital, and use their feedback to develop an iterative prototype that was built around the real-world challenges executives were experiencing. 

Those conversations also led to their introduction to revenue operations teams, an emerging concept to unite operations across marketing, sales, and customer success, to drive better visibility and go-to-market efficiency. While revenue operations leaders had the vision, they didn’t yet have the ability to bring it about, because in the current model, there was no way to fully unite lead-centric marketing with opportunity-centric sales. 

The feedback from executives and the introduction to revenue operations led the Mperativ founders to realize that the opportunity at hand was not just to give marketers shiny new tech, but really to address a fundamental problem in current marketing strategy. Their solution needed to propose a new model for marketing, where marketing could be aligned around the same metrics as sales and the rest of the organization. By centering marketing around leads, marketing was isolating itself, fracturing the story of the customer journey, and making it difficult to identify exactly what was driving revenue. Marketers should instead be able to see the development of an opportunity all the way from initial engagement to close, and convey marketing value in revenue terms that would make more sense to the rest of the business. The founders would term their new approach Revenue Marketing and build their platform to bring it to life.  

Why Now?

Revenue Marketing clicked for the founders because they see it as the next evolution of where marketing teams and their technologies are at. When MA platforms emerged towards the later ‘00s, they were effective at making marketing more metric driven and more scientific. It was a game-changer to have measurable ways of showing individuals coming into your business and quantifiably tracking how their interest progressed. 

Account-based marketing (ABM) came along as a response to MA because marketers realized that their MA approach did center on individuals, while companies were still the buyers in B2B. ABM was a rapid attempt to spin the lead-centric approach into an account view to more accurately match how B2B buying decisions are actually made. But ABM is still based on the faulty assumption that the underlying lead-centric demand engine is the correct approach. 

The view coming about now, such as with Forrester’s 2021 B2B Revenue Waterfall, is that the technology now exists for marketing to take an opportunity-centric approach. But while some of the tools may be out there, putting them together still requires marketers to build custom infrastructure and redefine their operations to reach that opportunity-centric model. That effort is a full time job unto itself, let alone actually marketing. 

In order for Revenue Marketing to be an aid and not another complication, it would need to be implemented on top of the most cutting-edge cloud technologies available. The Mperativ founders designed the Revenue Marketing Platform with a wholly serverless architecture, including autoscaling, and the ability to create distributed SaaS, where every user has their own independent environment. But beyond just taking care of the underlying infrastructure, the platform also removes all the higher-level complexities of putting together reports, building out a data model, and customizing systems. The idea was to allow users to be just a consumer of insights, without having to put any effort into building front-end reports or back-end infrastructure.   

But Really, Why Now?

Like all of recent life, the formation of Mperativ happened with the backdrop of the pandemic. Key conversations occurred by phone or through videoconferencing, and the decisions to quit more comfortable jobs to kick off a startup were taken under more uncertainty than usual. Yet the pandemic also clarified the need to help marketers connect their contributions to value. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, nearly everyone cut back on their marketing budget, and halted major activities such as physical events. In some cases, pipeline was crushed, but in other cases it didn’t move in the way that executives might have expected. The issue was, there was little data to draw connections on how marketing activities or lack thereof were directly influencing opportunities and revenue. And now that large marketing expenditures like conferences have resumed, marketers are having to justify those investments that may have been taken for granted before.

What's Next

With the announcement of $5M in Series A funding, and the first public launch of the Revenue Marketing Platform, the Mperativ founders plan to significantly expand their data science, engineering, and sales teams, while accelerating development of the platform, and delivering the full benefits of Revenue Marketing to their customers. They hope to see Mperativ leveraged not just as a strategic platform for high-level executive decisions, but also to help inside sales, campaign managers, field marketers, and all who influence revenue, understand how their actions make an impact.

Like the article? Spread the word