Yellowfin CMO on what brought him from Silicon Valley to the Melbourne-based tech brand
Marketing speaks to Yellowfin global CMO Chris Benham about business intelligence and what attracted him to the Australian-developed brand.
Chris Benham’s early career included 18 years working in Silicon Valley. There, he worked at Symantec, where as creative director he developed the yellow Symantec identity still used today. He then worked as global head of marketing for enterprise business which saw Symantec grow from a US$150 million-per-year to a US$2 billion-per year one, and vault from seventh to first in mind-share.
After other roles at antivirus software brands in Colorado and Prague, Benham decided that after 25 years, it wasn’t sexy anymore.
He retired, and it was an invite from a friend working at Yellowfin that introduced him to the brand. Despite having more than two million users worldwide in more than 70 countries, Yellowfin, which boasts being the only platform that supports both the analyst and business user workflows, still considers itself ‘virtually unknown’.
Benham’s job is to change that.
Marketing speaks with Benham about business intelligence (BI), the decision to work at Yellowfin, and lessons learned while working at Silicon Valley.
Marketing: What prompted you to change careers and work at Yellowfin?
Chris Benham: Two things. I’m intrigued by new and interesting opportunities, and what intrigued me about Yellowfin was – first – it was in a new category. I had spent the last 25 years in security. It was getting a little long in the tooth to be honest, and wasn’t as sexy as it used to be.
Running marketing and marketing teams, I spent a lot of time dealing with my BI team. As you might imagine, the data that we saw on a daily basis was critical to us.
I became much more interested in business analytics as it related to sales and marketing. When my friend contacted me, I looked into Yellowfin. After a fairly short exercise in researching, I saw that this was a pretty heavy hitter, and a well-positioned player in what appears to be a fast-growing category.
M: What made it a player with potential?
CB: One of the first things they showed me was how if I’d been using it in the past, I would have avoided a lot of the mistakes I’d made. What really intrigued me was the collaborative nature of the platform.
We’re actually much more of a BI platform rather than a set of tools. IT organisations within companies have been pressured to give more access to all the data to the business users, who of course aren’t data analysts; they’re data users.
So, the proliferation of desktop analytics tools was democratising the data, which is a good thing. It was also separating the data from its single source, and creating confusion as people tried to marry apples and oranges and compare data sets that weren’t alike.
Yellowfin actually sits in between the data warehouses or the traditional BI systems – which don’t allow easy access for the business users – and the desktop analytics which provide great access but not necessarily great analysis.
I liked that Yellowfin provides this central platform that aggregates all the data sources and puts them in a single dashboard, so that I, as a marketing person, can also see the impact my marketing has on support calls or sales in fairly real time. I like the idea of the aggregation and consolidation of all the data into a single dashboard.
M: You’ve joined as global CMO. How will you take the brand to the world?
CB: The first step is really trying to figure out who we are and clarifying that message, the notion that we’re not competing with desktop analytics companies; we’re actually this platform that sits in the in-between.
We’ve got to figure out how to translate that into the benefit messages.
A group called Docurated just rated us the number one BI platform tool. The number one for the third time in four years, out of 58 tools. That’s the kind of information we need to share so we can get over this hurdle of not being known.
We also need to leverage the fact that we do have more than 10,000 customers in more than 70 countries. We’re actually already a very legitimate player in the space, but we’re the best-kept secret in the category.
A lot of it is figuring out what that unique message is. We’re not going to have as much marketing spend as most of our competitors. We have to get very creative about telling that story.
In small organisations, it’s about figuring out creative ways to tell the story that don’t necessarily draw attention straight to the product, but actually build the brand. We’ll be looking for creative ways to hopefully get the message out.
M: What skills and experience from your time working in Silicon Valley helped you to recognise Yellowfin as a brand with potential?
CB: When you’re in Silicon Valley night and day, you go out to dinner, you go out to lunch, you read the newspaper, everything is talking about the latest new technology. Well ahead of anybody else. The gauge is ‘is it truly disruptive, or is it simply noise?’
You can create a lot of noise. The challenge is to actually look at it in practical application. So, before I joined the company, I actually spoke to several customers, partners and analysts to find out ‘who’s using it and who’s talking about it?’
I really think that’s one of the great measures of a potentially successful product: understanding the people that are really talking about it – not just the journalists, or the forums, or customers advocating for it out of the blue. That’s what I learned while I was there, that those are the products that are going to stick and grow.