M&M Global spoke to SurveyMonkey’s new CEO Bill Veghte about growth in London, helping marketers to take risks, and taking over from his friend Dave Goldberg.
The word ‘challenge’ is overused in the business world, but it is perhaps fair in the case of new SurveyMonkey chief executive Bill Veghte.
The high profile former Microsoft and HP executive joined the online survey company as a replacement for Dave Goldberg, SurveyMonkey’s long-standing and successful boss who died in May while on vacation in Mexico.
Over a six-year period, Goldberg built SurveyMonkey into a 500-strong business with more than 20 million users, and a market valuation of around $2bn. These are big shoes to fill, beyond even the sensitive situation of Goldberg’s tragic death.
Speaking to M&M Global at the company’s new office on the fifteenth floor of London’s Heron Tower, Veghte, who left his role as executive vice president of HP Enterprise Group to join SurveyMonkey, says his friendship Goldberg has helped his introduction to the company.
“Dave was a really good friend. He had been incredibly helpful to me over the years, and hopefully vice versa. He and I started talking about SurveyMonkey and the things he was working on, the opportunities he saw, so I had a sense of it,” says Veghte.
And Veghte’s arrival coincided with a bolstering of its board, including the appointment of Goldberg’s wife and Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, as well as HP chief executive Meg Whitman.
Yet, after decades fighting against technology upstarts, the decision to join SurveyMonkey marks a step-change in Veghte’s own career. He spent around 20 years at Microsoft, seeking to maintain its market leadership, and was responsible for reforming HP’s software strategy in the face of extreme competition.
“Most of my career has been spent evolving businesses in the face of significant market disruption, and generally that disruption is a combination of technology and business model. I see a pretty special opportunity with SurveyMonkey to create a different expectation,” he says.
Veghte is keen to build SurveyMonkey’s reputation around three key pillars: its “speed”, its “quality”, and its “accessibility”, attributes which he feels are of great use to brands, agencies and media companies.
The company currently offers three primary “sales motions” for its clients, from a basic “transactional” offering to more comprehensive services for regional and global organisations.
While SurveyMonkey enjoys 80% brand awareness in the US, Veghte feels there is significant scope for growth in London as a regional and global hub. “I think we’ve just scratched the opportunity,” he says.”
Financial services and consumer packaged goods (CPG) are two of the sectors he identifies as ripe for growth, though he maintains that all businesses ought to be engaging more regularity with customers and stakeholders.
“As somebody that had a half a billion dollar marketing budget, I had very high expectations that were generally not fulfilled in terms of the speed with which I could get clarity on how a campaign was performing,” he says.
“I don’t see businesses where they don’t need a scaled conversation with the customer. It’s amazing to me how many decisions are made by instinct.
“There is huge potential [at SurveyMonkey], because we can enable businesses or all sizes and shapes to have a better conversation with their constituents, enabling them to do a lot more with a lot less.”
This gets to the nub of the challenge (yes, that word again) facing CMOs and marketing directors. As a former Microsoft marketer himself, Veghte is enthusiastic about the landscape in which brands are now operating, but acknowledges it is a more complex job today than in previous years.
He believes that brands are limited only by the “imagination” of those in the marketing team and by their “tolerance” to risk: “Marketing is an art and a science now, and there’s a lot of science. As a marketer, the number of tools that I can use has exploded, and the expectations and opportunities around data has exploded.
“Business needs and expectations are higher than ever, and, by my definition of a marketer, which is having a conversation into the marketplace around a good or service, the need and approach by which that customer expects that conversation to go is quite different to five years ago.
“It’s cool, it’s kind of exciting – it’s definitely not a boring time to be a marketer, but you can really bleep it up.”