Our VP of Partnerships Zak Pines recently sat down with Tony Mann, a Consultant at AFDigital, as part of our ongoing Partner Interview Series. Zak and Tony had a far-ranging conversation that touched on what’s unique about AFDigital’s approach with customers; how to breed ops unicorns; how Tony thinks about forms products; and how a love for rugby sparked Tony’s career as a Salesforce power user. Here’s an abridged transcript of the chat.
Zak: Can you start by telling us about AFDigital?
Tony: AFDigital is a cross-cloud implementation partner covering Salesforce Sales, Service, Community, and Marketing Clouds. We focus on improving the 1:1 marketing journey for our clients with their customers. Our competency with the Marketing Cloud dates back to the ExactTarget days, so we have deep knowledge of the product and have evolved with it to where it is today.
Zak: So it sounds like you are at the intersection of CRM data and how it gets applied for marketing purposes?
Tony: Yes, exactly. We help customers ensure their CRM data can be fed into clever and improved Marketing Cloud journeys. Most customers have a demographic foundation to their CRM, and we help overlay the behavior aspects to how they target and engage their database. A good example is abandoned cart journeys; we want our customers to stay relevant throughout the customer journey life cycles.
Zak: Do you have a particular focus by vertical or industry?
Tony: We don’t. We see these needs as universal, especially because B2B and B2C have so many similarities. No matter what your industry, there’s a person on the other side receiving that email. There’s an opportunity for companies to be smarter about how they touch people, no matter who they are.
We have seen success in specific verticals like retail, ecommerce, travel and transportation, and not-for-profit. You have to be asking the question, “How can you get the most out of the relationships you have with people?”
It’s about empathy—communicating and resonating with people, driving a purpose, and making sure you have a reason behind it. You don’t get a lot of opportunities to interact with people these days, so you need to make a mark when you do. And combine that with the power of your data to make sure you maximize your impact.
Zak: What departments or roles do you tend to work with as customers?
Tony: We typically work with the digital and marketing teams, but dependant on the capabilities of our clients, it often expands to IT as well.
Zak: Being based in Australia, what is your geographic focus?
Tony: It’s primarily APAC as a region. We are Australia-based, with a global delivery center in the Philippines. We have a team of 50 people there. We work with customers in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the Philippines. That’s our focus at the moment, but the world is our oyster.
Zak: How is AFDigital organized?
Tony: Our customer advisory resources are on shore in Australia. The offshore team is doing a lot of execution work, and that allows us to drive return on investment for customers. The offshore model allows us to provide the most value for clients, while operating as one holistic team with consulting capabilities across CRM and marketing.
Zak: What is your role specifically?
Tony: I’m the Managed Service Lead. We offer a service for our clients to supplement their existing teams and enhance their core capabilities by adding specialized expertise. We have different packages that we offer to our clients, including Support, Admin, and Marketing and Technical Operations across Salesforce.
Rugby Sparks a Salesforce Career
Zak: How did your career get started in the Salesforce space?
Tony: At university, I got a masters in sports management. Afterwards, I got a role with the National Rugby League, and interestingly, one of our major projects was implementing Salesforce. We were implementing it for 12 of the 16 clubs. It covered growing membership and tickets, corporate and hospitality sales, and integrating with a ticketing website.
Zak: So there you are, thrilled to be tied to rugby as part of your job, and suddenly you’re deep in the world of Salesforce.
Tony: Exactly. I’m a big rugby fan, so I was thrilled to work as part of the rugby league. I knew nothing about Salesforce prior, so I had to learn it all on the fly. Luckily, that is possible with Salesforce. Little did I know, it turned into my career.
So much of the world revolves around Salesforce. It really can help you make your career around it and drive your own course.
Zak: So—spoiler alert—you went with the Salesforce angle more so than the rugby angle to develop your career.
Tony: That’s right. From there, I moved to the Australia Securities Exchange. I was an admin for several years. Then, down the road, I moved over to the consulting side. I spent time at a customer experience firm, and then IBM Bluewolf, and now at AFDigital.
I’m excited about AFDigital with the growth in the Marketing Cloud space. It’s the real world. It’s dynamic. It’s shaping the way people do things, which is what AFDigital is all about.
Zak: What have been some of the changes for you moving from a Salesforce admin role in a business to a Salesforce consulting role?
Tony: Working client side, you are able to work on a single project and see it through beyond completion to implementation, and you get the benefits of seeing the business utilize even the smallest change. With consulting, it is more dynamic as you are working on multiple projects at the same time, and once a project is completed, you don’t get to completely feel the real impact it has on a business.
Breeding Marketing Operations Unicorns
Zak: Earlier you mentioned that you are heading up the managed services offering for your business. What’s the TL;DR for that?
Tony: Oftentimes, our customers don’t have full-time Salesforce admins with the necessary expertise to drive their platform forward. We help fill those gaps through our managed services offering. We call those people unicorns.
Traditional marketers have great marketing minds, but they usually don’t have the software skillset to drive a marketing automation tool and understand the data flows. The unicorn is that combination of the marketing skills and the data and operations skills to set up the data-driven marketing automation.
Zak: Unicorns, wow. So how do you find these unicorns?
Tony: Well, that’s the thing—unicorns are a myth. We create the unicorn by working with our customers. We have the skillset around the marketing automation, and they bring the know-how around their business and industry to drive the strategy. Together, we build that unicorn.
Zak: Very cool way to think about it.
Data Collection for Salesforce
Zak: I’m new into the partner team at Formstack. When did you start working with Formstack for Salesforce forms?
Tony: Forms are a huge need for customers. We have a lot of customers who like to collect information as part of their buyer journeys. It could be from a simple contact form, to a short survey, to a conditional set of questions. We went out to the market and found Formstack as one of the products in-market to do this without having to deal with custom development.
Zak: As you or customers are evaluating options in this area, how do you think about it or advise a customer to think about the requirements?
Tony: We advise to look at what your overall needs may be around collecting data for Salesforce. Will you need forms? Will you need surveys? Do you have requirements to prefill data from Salesforce as part of your use cases? Where does the data need to end up—the CRM, the Marketing Cloud, or both?
Zak: Are you seeing any other additional themes or common patterns around why customers would adopt a forms product alongside Salesforce?
Tony: It’s about giving power back to the client. We could have a developer build a web form with lots of custom code and logic. But we want to drive the ability for clients to not have to come to us to build a form. We’d rather be there working on bigger initiatives for them.
So we look for tools to enable customers. This way, they can own it themselves, and they can adapt and evolve as they have new requirements as well.
Zak: OK, time to wrap up with the lightning round. You mentioned rugby earlier. What is your favorite sport?
Tony: My favorite sport is football, aka soccer. I’m a big Manchester United fan. But I spent a semester in college in the US at Penn State and have a huge affinity for America sports, so also American Football.
Zak: When are the games on for you?
Tony: Oftentimes, they’re on in our morning in Australia, so I’m having breakfast with football games.
Zak: What is your favorite productivity tip?
Tony: I’m all about to-do lists. I live and breath by them. I use an app called Wunderlist to take notes, and I use Quip in meetings.
Zak: What’s your favorite TV show?
Tony: It changes, but two recent ones are “Peaky Blinders” and “Sons of Anarchy.” And of course, “Game of Thrones.”
Zak: What is your go-to lunch during the workday?
Tony: I try to keep it light and healthy, so it’s usually a salad and a sandwich. Simple and easy.
Zak: And to wrap up, the question we end with each time with all of our guests: Is a hot dog a sandwich?
Tony: That’s a tough one. Yes, it is a sandwich. It’s a piece of meat between two pieces of bread. Now a burger, is that a sandwich? That’s an interesting question too.