Brad Brooks leads DocuSign's marketing team. I talked with him about marketing in a competitive industry, rebranding from an enterprise brand to a human brand, and more.

How did you get into marketing?

I was thrust into marketing. Most of my background was very much on the product side - management, planning, development. Microsoft was going through the existential threat from Apple and basically I was tapped on the shoulder by my then-boss, and he asked me to come in and work with him on the marketing function. That pulled me out of product and put me square into marketing.

How did you approach marketing amongst competitors?

The thing that we came back with was first off, you've got to know yourself and your product. The core of all great marketers is they start with the truth. No matter how painful it is and how much you don't like it, you've got to go with it. Apple was beating us up as a brand at that time based on how their product functioned and how customers perceived it. But we knew that our customers trusted us as a brand, they were familiar with it, and it was easy for them to use. Switching to an Apple device required a switching cost, so it wasn't as easy as Apple portrayed to make the switch. And that became quite powerful - focusing on simplicity and trust. You saw that coming out in our campaigns. It was finding the fundamental truth about who we were.

In the last two years, what are some of the marketing initiatives that you've been a part of that have been really exciting for you?

When I first came in, DocuSign was very much an enterprise or a business brand. The site just had "the global standard for digital transaction management." Then you saw a Forrester block and enterprise business use-cases. How we showed up was as an enterprise IT organization. But we went back to what was true.

DocuSign has millions of users and we are very much an individual brand. One of the things we quickly started to look at was experience. Everybody has experiences with an emotional connection with DocuSign. We started to see that across our customer base whether they were using it for enterprise, personal needs, or real estate. If you go to our site today it's very much about the user experience and what DocuSign unlocks - your ability to buy that new house, get that commission check, or take your business to the next level. The emotional connection has really been part of the messaging in the past couple years.

You can still see how we can do it faster, at a lower cost, and with new features, but the other big focus for us (which you see from the aesthetic to the demos) was around personalizing it and creating that emotional connection to the brand. When you have that emotional connection, it's almost unassailable from a competitive standpoint. At the end of the day they can't come in and say your customer doesn't like you. A customer feels the way they're going to feel, and if they feel that love, you can't be attacked. It creates a unique positioning in the marketplace that's a differentiator.

How did you and the marketing team convince everyone internally that this was the new positioning?

It all starts with data, data, data. Marketing can be associated with emotions and not data. But we have tools at our disposal - qualitative like focus groups and quantitative like surveys - so you can pull this data and use it to convince others. At DocuSign we've got a great culture - we call it the Docu-family. So it's using the data, doing trials on messaging, putting together pitch decks for the sales team to use - and they come back and say wow, this really works, it's easier to implement. For product management and engineering it gives them a story to latch onto, and it's amazing the work that comes out when they have a story they believe in. For them, developing features or a roadmap to deliver on the promise of that story becomes a North Star.

What are some innovations happening in the marketing world that you're excited about?

A business that has three people can have access to the same tools as Procter & Gamble or Microsoft. Those tools are available to everybody.

You can deliver bad leads to sales and bog them down. At the end of the day what counts to me is the SQO. Then they get tracked on it, and their commitment comes much higher. That's the outcome I am focused on. And there are some tools helping us in terms of qualifying and nurturing. One of the newest ones is Uberflip - it allows us to create custom content packages for individuals. Small business and large business can get tangled up over segmentation, but it's important to deliver content in a much more personalized and familiar fashion. Another one is Leadspace - we can put the behavioral aspects of what you know is a good customer based on what they did digitally, what kind of company they work for - and it puts all that data together. It gives us a much more customizable way to look at all of our contacts. That's another tool that is really a game changer for lead management and contact management.

Being in the center of Silicon Valley, being a hot tech brand, and being one of Eloqua's largest customers in terms of contacts and data management, we get a lot of tech providers knocking on our door. Before I came in I can tell you we had over 50 different software applications that marketing had ownership over. We are now down to less than a dozen. We have a set of principles that we run by. Primarily it's less is more - looking for strategic vendors and pushing those strategic vendors to develop capabilities in their own products rather than going out to find something new. If it's a very specific use, there's an approval process that goes through me. For the most part, we have a very focused strategy as it relates to new technology.