SalesTechStar Interview with Tod Nielsen, CEO at Talkwalker

Tod Nielsen, CEO at Talkwalker chats about how leading brands enhance their customer intelligence policies to drive customer-centric sales and marketing models, to create more relevance in a crowded marketplace;

Catch the complete Q&A where Tod shares a few top business and sales learnings while highlighting the importance of transparency in company culture:



Hi Tod, we’d love to hear about your journey through the years…tell us more about your new role as CEO at Talkwalker? 

I’m a tech industry veteran, who’s been very fortunate to have been part of some amazing tech companies over the last three decades. I started off at the early days of Microsoft in the 1980s, and was really able to learn and develop during my tenure there. Following that, I’ve held executive leadership roles at companies such as BEA Systems, Oracle, Borland Corporation and VMware. During my time as COO at VMware, we increased our market cap 9-fold to more than $50 billion dollars. After I left there, I became part of the Salesforce family, as the CEO of Heroku and moving to run their entire platform business. Most recently, I was the President and CEO of FinancialForce, which became the top ERP for services organizations on the Salesforce platform under my leadership. My current mission is to build upon Talkwalker’s foundation of growth for continued success. I’m determined to place Talkwalker’s impressive technology and platform at center stage in this dynamic market. I’ve been able to experience firsthand what it takes to scale and grow companies to this level and beyond, and I look forward to applying those experiences in context at Talkwalker.

How have you seen the need for deeper consumer intelligence evolve over the years, what trends do you predict for marketers? 

I’ve always been someone who is customer focused, always thinking about what they need today and what they will need tomorrow. Consumer intelligence is key to knowing your customers, inside and out. The brands that are thriving in today’s market know the importance of customer-centricity and the role consumer intelligence plays to help them better understand consumers. A trend or rather, a shift, I hope to see is for consumer intelligence to become embraced across entire enterprises. The use of insights shouldn’t end when they reach the marketing manager. Everyone across an enterprise, from product development, market research, company innovation, and consumer insights strategies, needs access to insights. Once this happens, consumer intelligence will be at the heart of everything a company does.

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Can you share light on some of the most innovative consumer intelligence platforms that serve B2B markets from around the world?

The domain of B2C is the Consumer Intelligence Platform.  Consumer Intelligence platforms deliver consumer insights from quantitative and qualitative data with knowledge from analysis. The Consumer Intelligence platform enables an enterprise to use insights from data from outside their firm (e.g., social, web, and/or consumer data) and combine it with their own data (e.g., CRM, website) to optimize the experience of the consumer. Consumer Intelligence platforms can deliver actionable insights on emerging trends, outliers, and unexpected shifts or changes in consumer behavior.

The domain of B2B is much more aligned with the Customer Data Platform or CDP.  The CDP is designed to deliver B2B customer insights from internal data that exists in silos across different lines of business within a company. The CDP focuses on insights derived from patterns and behaviors of known customers.

We’d love to hear a little about the future roadmap for Talkwalker, what can users look forward to? How is Talkwalker serving core customer intelligence needs for marketers/salespeople today? 

We have been leaders in social listening, and are expanding our portfolio to more broadly address market intelligence and consumer intelligence. Listening to the needs of our customers led the company to evolve our product offerings towards customer intelligence. Talkwalker’s open platform serves core intelligence needs across entire enterprises by allowing users to import and analyze their first party data within the tool. In June 2021, Talkwalker shared a new batch of product updates to better serve the platform’s users. We’re excited to soon share even more new updates designed with marketing and consumer intelligence in mind.

As B2B business and consumer intelligence needs evolve, what should marketers be doing to assess, track and breakdown insights for better results?

Businesses need to break down data silos within their organization, and make sure their employees have the skills needed to act on these insights if they want to be truly customer-centric. Another way for enterprises to put the customer first, is by looking at a wide range of customer data points. This entails analyzing product reviews, call center transcripts, surveys, online forums, chatbot scripts, email, and other insights, together with online conversations.

What are some of the top practices you feel new incoming CEOs of B2B tech companies should keep in mind when settling in? 

Customer Success has become an important part of any successful software company.  The idea of having a team focused on the ongoing use, success, and happiness with your product and services is critical.  Every day your company can make a positive or negative impact on your customers.  The Customer Success organization is a critical component to any organization.  A new CEO needs to make sure they are focused on building out the right customer success organization so you can provide the best customer experience every day to your customers. 

As business trends evolve during the ongoing worldwide pandemic, what are some top practices that tech CEOs should be pursuing? 

An important lesson I learned during this pandemic was the importance of transparency.  In uncertain times, employees need to trust and follow the lead of their executives.  The only way to earn that trust is to be completely transparent and open.  For example, at my previous company everyone was looking to me for answers as to what the next 30 days of the pandemic would look like.  I had no idea, I was in the same boat as they were!  Some employees thought there was a secret “CEO” club where we knew what was happening and we were not sharing with them the future.  I frequently had to reiterate that I had no idea what was going to happen, but my commitment was to our employees’ health and well being, and by being transparent about our decisions, we could work together to do the right thing.

I am a huge believer and poster child for transparency.  It is a core part of my cultural values and I will make sure that every organization I am a part of practices this daily.

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Talkwalker is a leading consumer intelligence company, helping global brands combine a broad range of social and owned data, into powerful and easy to action insights. By uniting award-winning technology, with the highest levels of customer support, our AI-powered platform connects the dots between what customers think, say, and do. We enable customer-centric companies to drive revenue, increase retention, and reduce costs. Talkwalker has offices in Luxembourg, New York, San Francisco, Frankfurt, Singapore, Paris, Tokyo, London, and Milan, and helps over 2,500 brands to make better decisions about their customers, prospects, markets, and competitors.

Tod Nielsen is the CEO at Talkwalker

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