Interview with Workfront’s Chief Marketing Officer Joe Staples

Megan Headley
Megan Headley
August 20, 2015

Interview with Workfront’s Chief Marketing Officer Joe Staples

Joe staples


TrustRadius talked with Workfront’s Chief Marketing Officer Joe Staples about project management adoption among marketers, the benefits of integrating collaboration with workflow—especially at larger organizations—and the importance of optimizing work processes before automating them.


Give us an introduction to Workfront—who are you as a company, and what is your value proposition?

The value proposition is: Workfront puts organization and structure to chaotic work processes. Where people are struggling to be efficient, Workfront provides a single software tool that allows them to get their arms around all of the requests and projects, manage them, track how quickly they get done, and provide visibility to stakeholders.

Workfront was founded in 2001, so we’ll be 14 this year. The company is growing nicely. Last year we grew the top line by 49% year- over- year. In our most recent round of funding we raised $33 million, and a few weeks ago we acquired ProofHQ, adding 100 employees to our staff. We now have 670 employees and approximately 4,000 customers. We’re headquartered in Lehi, Utah.

The company started developing and selling project management software, primarily to IT teams, and we’ve grown and branched out from there. Our fastest growing segment is selling our products to marketing teams, including in-house creative and content marketing teams, as well as creative agencies. We have gone significantly upmarket over the last three or four years, selling to larger companies. Very often Workfront is purchased for a single department and then we expand from there.

Why is marketing a growing space for Workfront? Is IT tapped?

I wouldn’t categorize IT as tapped, but it is a much more crowded space. There are a lot of legacy vendors in the IT space. Most companies have already implemented some type of project management system for their IT teams, so there we’re trying to sell the value of a replacement.

Marketing is a different beast; it’s much more green field/blue ocean. The majority of opportunities aren’t using anything besides emails and spreadsheets. And, marketing teams have access to money. Most companies are opening the bank account to marketers if they can prove a decent ROI. Three years ago, we formed a small team of five employees to see what kind of traction we could get with marketing teams. At just about every door we knocked on, we found lots of interest. So we built out that team, and accelerated the marketing growth segment. It’s been hugely positive for us.

Is the same underlying technology used by your IT and marketing customers?

The exact same functionality is there for both groups to use. But there are some features certain use cases rely on more heavily. For example, resource planning and the ability to track to a fine level of detail how much time someone spends on a specific project are more important to a marketer. In marketing we’re seeing a trend towards an in-house agency model, and we also sell to external agencies. They need to be able to track resources for billing purposes.

The fact that it is a single software application is valuable because this allows Workfront to easily expand to other departments. A marketer can work with a counterpart in the operations or IT department, and they don’t have to separately license another version of the software or complete integrations between departments. It’s just a matter of adding additional users to the contract.

Who are Workfront’s main competitors?

While we compete with companies such as Clarizen and Aprimo (owned by Teradata) our primary competitor is the status quo – spreadsheets and email. These are outdated tools for sophisticated project work, but these are primarily the tools we are replacing.

How often do you expand into other departments?

It happens quite frequently, with approximately a quarter of our customers. It is an important part of our business strategy. We have sales resources and marketing programs designed to help companies see the value of leveraging their relationship with Workfront and their investment in our product in order to expand into other groups.

Who is your target customer, and what makes Workfront a good fit?

If a company has less than 100 employees, we’re not a good match for them. We target enterprise clients. Our customer list includes companies like, Cisco Systems, Comcast, iProspect, Schneider Electric, and Trek . Our average sale price is between 40-50 thousand dollars per year. The department needs to be big enough to justify the investment. The typical sweet spot is 150-400 users; a few of our customers are smaller, but others have thousands of users. To have that many users, the department is usually part of a bigger organization. This also gives us the opportunity to expand.

What was the strategy behind your recent acquisition of ProofHQ?

It’s related to the growth we are continuing to see in the marketing space. We want to build out our marketing portfolio.

We partnered with ProofHQ for a number of years. It allows proofing for any online media type, including PDFs, print ads, videos, photos, etc. That approval process is core to a creative team or an agency’s marketing operation. Strategically, we wanted to couple our workflow capabilities—request management, work distribution, reporting—with proofing, a key component of the marketing workflow. We will continue to sell ProofHQ separately, but the acquisition has really strengthened our overall offering. It allows us to enter into a prospect specifically with the proofing solution and expand to the full workflow suite later.

You recently launched a digital asset management solution. Is DAM sold separately, or is it part of the PM technology?

Both. Workfront DAM can be sold as a separate offering, or integrated with Workfront. It complements the core workflow engine perfectly; every digital asset moves through Workfront. This is the same strategy we have around proofing. We think it’s important for us to come into a team with a broad set of products instead of just solving part of their problem. And, as we land and build our customer base, our ability to go back in and sell them additional products is important to growth.

How do collaboration features fit into Workfront technology? Do collaboration-only tools like Slack affect your marketing strategy?

Collaboration is core to what we do. The distinction is that we don’t view collaboration as a stand-alone item. At any given point in the workflow, there are collaboration opportunities. For example, the person performing the work may have a question for the requester. Non-Workfront users are constantly wondering, did I get this information from email, or was it a webchat, or did we talk on the phone? Where’s the information? Our message to customers is: don’t fragment your collaboration across different media types. Allow everything to flow through Workfront, so that there is a single source of truth for the person working on the project, the manager, the requester, and the approver. Everything is tagged and attached to the project—it’s the ultimate way of collaborating.

What distinguishes a team that is successful with work management from a team with a lot of inefficiencies?

Typically the customers that succeed put together a solid plan for adoption. They make sure all users understand the value of the product, and that everyone gets trained. They make sure their processes get fixed before they automate them. We see a big failure point when someone has a bad process in place and they just try to automate it without making changes to the design. Preplanning to define processes correctly is very important to success. This happens during implementation. We have a great group of consultants who spend time up front analyzing where our customers are in a process maturity model and help them set Workfront up effectively.

To share your own user insights about Workfront, write a review on TrustRadius. For more information about use cases, pros, cons, and ROI, find and filter Workfront user reviews here.

About the Author

Megan Headley
Megan Headley
Megan leads Research at TrustRadius, whose mission is to ensure TrustRadius delivers high quality, useful and, above all, trustworthy user feedback to help prospective software buyers make more informed decisions. Before joining TrustRadius, Megan was Director of Sales and Marketing at Stratfor, where she was in charge of growing the company’s B2C revenue stream through email marketing and other channels. She enjoys traveling, reading, and hiking.

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