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In this episode of The Association Podcast, we welcome Jake Fabbri, Chief Marketing Officer and Board Member at Fonteva.

Mr. Fabbri shares his insight into the recent Togetherwork acquisition of Fonteva. Fonteva is a leading association management system built on Salesforce CRM. With about 350 clients in North America, EMEA, and Australia, Fonteva is a leader in AMSs built directly on Salesforce.

In this episode we cover:

  • The Togetherwork acquisition of Fonteva
  • What is Fonteva?
  • How is Fonteva positioned in the association market?
  • Fonteva’s Search for a Forever Home
  • Fonteva’s customer-centric point of view
  • The rise and staying power of hybrid live events
  • What marketers can do to leverage larger audiences attending virtual events
  • How association business models are pivoting during COVID and a vision for the future of associations

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TLDR Read Joe’s blog for a textual recap on our conversation with Jake Fabbri.

Edited Audio Transcription

INTRO 0:09
Welcome to The Association Podcast with your hosts and combined three decades in the association market. Jake Toohey and Joe Post from Adage Technologies. And Ben must clean up from Breezio.

Ben Muscolino 0:21
Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the association podcast. We are excited you’re here with us today. We’re also thrilled to have our guest Jake Fabbri, board member and Chief Marketing Officer at Fonteva. You know, we have a pretty star-studded cast of folks that have confirmed to join us here on The Association Podcast already. But we really wanted to frontline Jake now to get this information in front of you. Of course, he’s been on the media tour. But there are some really exciting things going on over at Fonteva. We’re really excited to have Jake Fabbri here with us today. Jake, thanks so much for making the time.

Jake Fabbri 0:57
Thank you, guys. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

Jake Toohey 0:59
Yeah, Jake, thanks. Thanks so much for joining us, obviously an inspiring time for Fonteva. I thought it would be great to know, for those who don’t know a ton about Fonteva, could you maybe tell us a little bit about the organization about how you position yourself how you differentiate be great to get us kicked off here?

What is Fonteva?

Jake Fabbri 1:17
Absolutely. So Fonteva was founded around 10 years ago. And its sole purpose was to bring the power of Salesforce to the important work of associations. Our founders were Salesforce experts and had worked with associations in their careers. And they really felt like this new CRM, which was growing rapidly, really needed to be implemented for more than just for-profit businesses. And so they selected the association market, along with Salesforce as a target, and they set off and building Fonteva and the product set here to be purpose-built Salesforce for associations. So that’s really where Fonteva started.

And along the way, we spun off our events product into a separate sort of package for Salesforce because they kept asking us to sell just the events portion for people who wanted to have all of their events data in the same CRM as their customer data. And so that’s a core part of our association package. And now we also have a good market where we sell that separately, but we focus 90% of our efforts on the association market. And of course, anything we do in the events, market benefits associations as well. So that’s where Fonteva started. And where we’ve grown to.

Today, we have over 350 customers worldwide, primarily in North America, the EMEA, the Europe region, the UK, and Australia. And really, we position Fonteva. And we the benefit of Fonteva is leveraging the power of Salesforce and the number one CRM in the world. Because out of the box, Salesforce is not really anything other than a Rolodex for many organizations. But when you configure and customize it for your business, and further how you run your business, and for associations, how they run their membership and drive value for their membership, it can be a potent tool to engage and keep members value.

Joe Post 3:29
I had a question for you. Just a follow-up. I’m curious, is Fonteva specific to a certain size organization, or you guys servicing associations of all different sizes?

Jake Fabbri 3:42
That’s a great question. You know, an enterprise CRM, like Salesforce, has a certain amount of overhead. And so today, Fonteva is for medium to large associations. When I say medium to large, you know, you’re probably talking a minimum of 10 to 15 staff and dedicated IT resources to effectively administer Fonteva and Salesforce for your organization. We do have several partners that are moving downmarket. And we’re making product enhancements to make it easier to administer and more self-sufficient. And over time, that will allow smaller organizations to have some services with our partners fractionally admin services. And to be able to leverage the system without full-time resources to manage it. So that’s where we play today. But, you know, some of the largest associations in the world use Fonteva. And I think our smallest association is five users.

Ben Muscolino 4:42
Which is a small market, it just goes to show, you know, if they’ve got the budget, I guess to put it in place. It’s manageable by a small staff. It’s just not the cheapest solution in the market. That’s all

Jake Fabbri 4:55
Right. You know, for associations, staff size is not always an indication of their revenue because a lot of them have, you know, go to services and required certifications, in some cases to operate your business or your profession that, you know, are very lucrative for the association from a revenue standpoint. We’ve had small associations that we didn’t really think you’re a great fit for. Come to us and say, Oh, no, no, we have the checkbook, we’re willing to, and we want this.

Ben Muscolino 5:23
Yeah, you know, I’ve been there. I’ve 17 Staff Association I’m working with right now. That’s a $20 million Association. It’s, they’re all different business models, just like the rest of us.

Jake Toohey 5:32
Yeah, and I think that’s interesting, too. You know, we work with some associations that may be considered small associations, but if they value technology, if they invest in technology, it might be a fit. You can’t really judge a book by its cover. It is one way to say it.

Jake Fabbri, I wanted to ask if you could talk a little bit about, you know, running a successful software company. What is that like? And then how does that lead into the experience that you’ve just had with the acquisition with Togetherwork?

Ben Muscolino 6:02
Yeah, I’m excited to hear about that.

Customer-Centricity at Fonteva

Jake Fabbri 6:04
Running a successful software company, I, you know, I’ve spent my career in software companies. And it’s interesting because I think, you know, Fonteva is one where Togetherwork was interested in profitable companies that are well run. And I believe Fonteva is well run. I’ve never been surrounded by more, more intelligent, or smart people at the leadership level. And I always feel like I walk into the room, sometimes I’m the, you know, the dumbest person in the room, which is a good feeling that we’re headed in the right direction. I think the key to running a successful software company is quite simple. Customer centricity and not just in expanding your customer base or business development leads to growth. By putting the customer and customer success at the center of what you do, you’re making sure that the customer you’re serving and their success is primary, your product is going to go in the right direction. Your support and your services are going to go in the right direction. Everything else takes care of itself. Word of mouth is going to help build, build the market. From a marketing standpoint, you know, I tend to let our customers tell our story because I can tell it all day long, but if they tell it, then it’s even better.

Why Sell?

And leading up to the acquisition, and this is the, you know, the first major acquisition, I’ve been on the being acquired side, I’ve been, you know, at a company that was acquiring other software companies, but I’ve never been on the acquiring side, it’s exciting, because, you know, when there were some brilliant finance people on the other end, that really did their due diligence. The process is very grueling and arduous, but it’s important to process right and ensure that every foundation is in place. This really came down to our co-founders, who have long talked about building a forever home for our customers and building a product and a company that customers can feel comfortable with for the long term. And that’s really how they approached this process as well. We didn’t intend to sell the company now. We didn’t have to certainly. But we did intend on taking a strategic investment this year. And part of that process led to, you know, as discovery went on, them coming to the table and saying, Well, you know, why don’t we make an offer for the full thing.

Our co-founders are in their 60s. And, while they may be still looking for things to do after they exit here, after the transition period of a year. It seemed like the right timing and the right field. They wanted to make sure that they found a new home, a new owner committed to having the customer at the center is always committed to our stakeholders, our employees, our partners, and our customers. They didn’t want to pass that opportunity and risk not finding one when they were ready to exit down the road. So that’s really what the process went through.

The Acquisition Process

Going through the holidays, and through everything we’ve been through during COVID, some of those meetings of grueling. Long, two, three-hour meetings over zoom and, but really, really important. I learned a lot from being on the board as well. There are some brilliant people on our board. And, you know, hopefully, it’s a good experience. But I think the key here, and all of this, is to keep the customer at the center, and everything else takes care of itself, right. If your customers are happy, your customers are successful. Then you’re going to be successful.

The CMO Role

Ben Muscolino 9:43
And your paths been exciting one. You said, being on the board, you’ve learned a lot you didn’t get hired as Chief Marketing Officer. You moved into that role, correct?

Jake Fabbri 9:53
That’s correct. I was hired as Vice President of Marketing, and I’m lucky in that Jerry, our co-founder, and CEO, knew him for about three years before joining Fonteva. He would invite me out for lunch and try to get some marketing advice for a free meal. Which I was cool with, because, you know, he’d like to go to nice restaurants. So, that worked for a while, and then he called me up one day and said, hey, let’s make this real. It was also a matter of them having the commitment to the marketing and marketing budget and a marketing level that’s going to help drive the business forward and be successful. And, and I felt that that was a good fit. And also, they knew what they knew about marketing, and they knew what they need to do, and trust me with, and so I’m very, I’m fortunate in that, to start as Vice President of Marketing here, which was a step up from where I was prior. And, you know, I felt like, this sort of catapulted my career forward, which is partly due to Salesforce as well, by the way, because I was able to run a metrics-driven marketing operation that accounted for “you give me a marketing budget, and here are the results you get.” So that’s played very well for Fonteva. And I do hope that marketing, the marketing team has helped the business development in Fonteva, but also helped our customers and be more successful with the software.

Jake Toohey 11:19
So the customer-centricity that you’ve been talking about, it’s something that we talked about. How does Fonteva differentiate by being customer-centric? I think the legacy AMS products are not great at being customer-centric. But how would you say— Joe could jump in here to kind of his domain from a user experience perspective— Suppose you could talk more about that? I’d love to hear it.

User Experience

Jake Fabbri 11:49
That’s it’s an interesting cultural question. It does help that we’re built on Salesforce. And it’s easy to use, and we don’t have to deal with UX like the design at our level. None of our competitors are going to be able to put a billion dollars plus a year in R&D as Salesforce can. And we can leverage all that R&D. So that helps on the product UX. We’ve always had a culture of running to the fire. It doesn’t matter who you are, what situation you’re in, if a customer brings up a fire, you know, we’re expected to smother it. And that means that there are times when a customer called me because my name was on a press release. So my phone number on a press release, and I had to escalate, you know, throughout the chain, that but knowing that, no matter who you talk to at the organization, they’re going to run to the fire for customers is, is a cultural thing that, I wish I knew how it was built because it’s exceptional. Still, I think it comes from Fonteva being five people and you know, a customer called there was one phone to pick up and, and everybody knew how to do everything. Right. But it’s something we retained. But I think that’s key that I mean, Joe might talk more about you know, I think the usability of the software and engagement goes a long way to customers being able to engage. But that’s just my opinion.

Ben Muscolino 13:08
Joe, as a member of the leadership team over an Adage, what do you think? Is it a staffing thing? Is it a cultural thing? Because I know that you guys use similar nomenclature right around being customer-centric. And you know, I think from a digital strategy perspective, being user-centric, right, and making sure that the strategies you guys urge have that bond?

Joe Post 13:34
I think for us, that’s one of the main things that we offer clients, as far as a different point of view. I think that for a lot of nonprofits who are so member-driven and mission-driven, that their core purpose statements are usually so clear that they can become really focused on the mission and forget about, at times, the user experience. And so, and when we consult, we’re able to kind of flip that paradigm and say, yes, the mission is really why we’re here. But let’s take a user-centered approach, and see if, looking through that lens, we can find opportunities to improve these experiences overall.

Ben Muscolino 14:12
Interestingly, this whole discussion reminds me of the Brit, the famous kind of Richard Branson quote, where he says, you know, don’t worry about your customers take care of your employees, and they’ll take good care of your customers. And it’s interesting because I spoke to somebody on TV recently, who will remain nameless, just only because I’m going to quote them right now. But they said this is cool. They said I was this one person who had been part of other acquisitions in the market as well. And so they’d seen things like the shakeout. And they said we’re very quickly moving things together between Togetherwork and Fonteva. And they said I’ve never seen a benefits package of this good in my entire life. And I laughed, and this actually years ago, I worked with this person at another organization like a lifetime ago. So I knew what they meant. And so talk to me a little bit about Togetherwork for a second. Jake from Fonteva, I read an article which quoted Jerry assaying, “I’ve been looking for a long time for that forever home,” meaning that he knew he was looking for that and whether it was going to come in five years or 10 years or 15 years, you don’t know. But he wanted to find the right place. And I think that there’s another and correct me if I’m wrong. And you probably know every ink that’s been written about this at this point, so I’ll rely on you to fact-check me here. But I think he said that the relationship or the discussion with Togetherwork started five years ago.

About Togetherwork

Jake Fabbri 15:45
Fact? Not quite five years, but I believe that we so Togetherwork has been around for five years. Okay. Their first acquisition was a fraternal, the leader in the fraternal and sorority division membership software. And, but we’ve, they’ve known Jerry for three years now, in discussions, you know, about what Togetherwork was. I think, you know, the exciting part for me about Togetherwork is, you know, getting to know, the people over there through the due diligence process was, while it was grueling, too. You have to produce all these things and to make sure everything was in order was, you know, they’re, they’re real people, and they really want to succeed. They want to take what we’ve built and, and push it forward, right, they were not buying us to consolidate us with three likes solutions, they’re not, you know, they’re buying Fonteva and the success we’ve had, and they wanted to be in the association market. Right. And so that that was exciting.

The other exciting part for me is, you know, as is any fast-growing company, software, tech or otherwise grows, you know, the benefits and the taking care of your people come at a cost. It comes at the cost of other investments in growing the business, right? Do we, you know, every employee wants that next hire, will help them on their team, but they also want better benefits, right, for them and their family. It’s always a question about how do we invest at what level to grow the business? And how do we take care of our stakeholders? And employees are the most important stakeholder we can have. You know, it takes an acquisition like this because they’re really good at running SAS software companies. They’re really good at all of that.

And it takes some of those challenges for a fast-growing company like us off the table. Our benefits immediately get better. People are saving a lot of money on their health insurance right away, right, things like that. Because you’re becoming part of a company that already has the better, better stuff. Also, and you know, our, all of the benefits and switch over for that is done March 1, right. So not even a month after this was announced, they do have a one-company strategy, which is to say they’re going to take things off of our plate that is not germane to building and supporting great software.

Acquisition Value to Fonteva Customers and Staff

So all the things like the legal, you know, somebody review contracts, the counting, and that stuff will be merged into a one company Services Division. Fonteva gets to focus on building great software for our customers supporting that software. So that that that’s exciting for me, because, you know, we don’t have to make decisions about how we scale the business, do we put money towards the product? Or do we put money towards better benefits, like, you know, everything goes towards the product, and towards making it better for the customers now, so that’s it, and frankly, it’s the first time in my career, I’ve been in a situation like that, where we’re gonna get to focus on just the product, does it feel to support, it feels great, it feels good, because I, you know, day to day, that’s I, as a marketing person, or as a business development person, all you can do is amplify what’s already out there, right? I can create impressions of our software from scratch, right? I can only amplify and reinforce it. So it just makes my job easier. But it also, you know, it’s the right thing to do.

And it means that our customers are going to get better features. They’re going to, you know, they Togetherwork also as a payments division, and they’re one of the top 20 payments processors in the country. It means a lot of savings and a lot of new features for our customers to be more efficient with their payment process and to be more secure. Often, they have to spend effort on now. Many things that’s been ever done now will be just done for them and some of the new features they’re getting in payments if they choose to go that way. And so that that’s exciting as well because in your small business like association, negotiating with a bank for credit card processing rate, versus being part of a huge bulk purchase, you know, that we basically get to set our prices on that, that that makes a difference and it makes it they’re going to get to leverage those Benefits just by being part of the fun event together with family. So that’s cool as well.

Live Events & Conferences

Jake Toohey 20:05
Jake, I’d love to get your thoughts just in general. You talked about the event platform that’s part of the Fonteva offering. This podcast is really from our webinar series, where we were explored trends that we saw in the market trends. We had, you know, a bunch of great guests to talk about those trends. But I’d be interested in hearing, what you see how, how the events, disruption in the event industry, and how that’s affected the association market? If you could talk about that. That’d be awesome.

Jake Fabbri 20:36
I mean, you know, when TV was at a unique place, last year, when COVID hit because our to go to markets are so event-centric. associations, run all the major conferences in the world, and we have an event software over here that is, and now there’s suddenly, no events happening. So, yeah, it was a little scary at that time. But yeah, I think, you know, one of the things associations have given us to the events world is the pivot and transition to figuring out how we can still engage digitally. And that’s the that was the first step, the Oh, crap step of like, you know, I’ve got a ton of programs that is revenue for my organization and programs for my members. And now they can’t happen. So how am I going to handle that? And then we kind of went into a phase where it was, okay, now, we figured out how to, you know, make those things happen. And people were happy to, you know, with a lackluster experience of the virtual event or the, you know, the Zoom meeting for the eighth time of the day. They were fine with that because it was a new experience. And we were all in the situation together. So, but then they started to look at, okay, how do we more long term do these virtual events, and then, you know, everybody popped up with a virtual event solution. On top of it, we didn’t divert our resources towards that. But everybody popped up with we’re going to, we’re going to build a virtual event, or we’re going to have a virtual event system. And so, the virtual event experiences got a little bit better. And that’s kind of where we are right now, looking forward to hybrid.

Virtual Events & Association Business Models

And I think what we’ve gotten to from a business model standpoint is decent, for associations been good. There are, of course, some associations that their shows cannot be virtual, just by the nature of the show, I mean, like, I mean, so they did do a virtual CES this year, but like, we know, part of CES is walking through that floor and seeing the robots and seeing the head, the virtual reality gear, right. So you can’t replicate that always in a virtual event. But for the ones for the vast majority of events that could be transitioned to virtual associations figured it out, they adjusted their revenue models. And in some cases, our customers are even making more off of their digital programs that were used to be live for events than before. And that’s a great step. The next phase, the hybrid, is going to be an interesting one. Because, you know, anybody who’s in the events industry, or has planned a conference can tell you, you know, there’s a lot of details that go into that. And now you’re adding on top of that, essentially a live stream of every session or live stream of every major piece, right. So it’s taking the complexities that we all learn how to do events over again, in virtual, and it’s taking the complexities and things we’re getting, you’re smashing them together with back in person. So there’s going to be there’s going to have to be a skill set, you know, pivot there for a lot of organizations and associations that are going to go hybrid, and most of them are, especially for the short term.

Evolving Business Models

And there’s also a business model transition, because, let’s be honest, I mean, you know, if, especially in the short term, if you’re social distancing, in a, in an in-person event, and you now have half the people there, that’s half the revenue, right. And I don’t even know how trade shows work without getting close to people, but you know, so there’s gonna have to be some business model adjustments. And I’ve already seen some of our customers start to figure this out, where, you know, like package pricing, like for every, every executive you send to the in-person event, you get to buy three virtual tickets at the discounted price or the, you know, type of thing. So, they will secure their revenue through that, but it will mean additional expenses in terms of doing the virtual event, which’s a hybrid in addition to the on-site.

And then, you know, hopefully, at some point soon, we can all say we’re going to go to a conference, and there’s not going to be a virtual option, because we’re all going to want to go and travel, believe it or not, I think it’s going to be a rush. I’d hate to, you know, this fall or this coming into the year. I’d hate to have to plan a vacation and think of the prices of hotels and all of that stuff or even a business conference because everybody’s gonna want to travel and get out of the home, so I think we’re gonna get back there eventually. The hybrid events coming will go to mean another, another transition in both business model and logistics and skillsets for our event planners and ourselves. So it’s going to be interesting. And as usual, the association will lead the way, and they’re going to get it done. And they’re going to show us how to do it in the rest of the business world.

Jake Toohey 25:07
Well, everybody wants to get back to in-person conferences. We know that.

Ben Muscolino 25:12
I can’t wait to go back and flex the Marriott’s muscle and get my upgrade. I’m dying for a good conference. I’m happy that I didn’t have to attend the 10 or 12. That I probably would have had to go to last year. But what I wouldn’t do for one good conference right

Ben Muscolino 25:28
I’ll tell you about a trade show. It’s you know, but don’t you think that we’ve talked a little bit about this on the Actual Disruption webinar series that we started that led into The Association Podcast? You know, I would argue, and I’ve spoken about this in a few other forums at this point where I feel like it’s actually opened up additional revenue options, right? The idea that there are five or six, you would know better than me, you’re one of the ASAE, like largest sponsors, but they have what, five or 6000 people that register for ASAE. Every year, is that relatively accurate, Jake?

Jake Fabbri 26:00
For the annual conference, I think it’s averaged five to 6000 the last few years. So they hadn’t.

Ben Muscolino 26:06
Yeah, they had 15,000 people register for the virtual this past year, give or take a little. And I think, you know, it’s interesting when you talk about hybrid Sure, the, you know, I don’t know the economics of it exactly. But there’s probably less margin, but a much higher revenue number when you’re putting it in-person conference together. But as we talk hybrid, the number of people that they’ve now captured, where they basically realize these people want to come to the conference and will attend the conference, whether it’s at no cost or some cost, we need to kind of battle with that. That’s ongoing, you know, discussion of, you know, how do you give something away for free during COVID, and then raise the price later.

Increased Conference Attendance with Virtual Events

Maybe we bring Jake from Fonteva back to talk about that later as the marketer that he is. I’m sure he’s got many opinions on that. But I think that it’s opened up a new revenue stream, a new audience, because eyeballs equal the 90s, revenues, opportunities, and I think that with the data capturing the prospecting, Jake Toohey, and Joe, and I have talked about this on some of our webinars, the amount of data that people are creating, and we’ve had other guests to come in and talk about how they’re doing that prospecting, and capitalizing on virtual events, and then what to do with some of that later. It’s created a revenue stream. To me feels like they should come out ahead in the end, right. Let’s use our reserves to get through the battle right now. In-person events are going to come back with these virtual events. And so I have to imagine for you guys and Fonteva, that’s meant, you know, Event Registration goes on, right virtual in person doesn’t matter. We need good event software, and maybe more so now than ever. What do you think about that,

Conference Revenue Models are Changing

Jake Fabbri 27:53
You hit the nail on the head, and it’s, you’re right, the revenue models may be in flux. But the fact of the matter is that one thing that we can agree on is the impact is increased. They’ve increased their impact on their mission and industry. And that’s important because associations have to start seeing their customer bases, everybody who touches their industry, and not just their members, right? Or they’ll get run over by somebody on Google who has something that is giving information out for free. So I think that one of the keys to that. And you know, it’s probably a great time to be an event producer or event software production that puts all the data in the CRM, right, that you can have it side by side because that helps. So, but I think that’s going to be key. And it’s also going to beg the question, I think, down the road with associations on revenue models in general, and you know, the Netflix model of pay one price, get everything we’ve seen some of our customers do that, and on TV has helped them from a technology standpoint and engagement standpoint, to be able to do that. And that’s going to be a fascinating thing. You know, stop not nickel and diamond people, but make sure that you’re increasing value, and your impact is going because they are mission-driven, right at the end of the day, they are mission-driven, right. So if their mission is getting out there and getting out there, then that is their goal. And so you do that, while also increasing the resources, you have to do that continually. It’s just it’s a snowball effect.

Joe Post 29:27
I did want to go back to something Ben mentioned in passing, which is, when you go from 5000 to 15,000 participants, you’re going have a much larger mailing list among other data points. So I’m curious, Jake, to get your take as a marketer. What does a marketer do with a newly ginormous list like that?

Marketing to a Newly Larger List

Jake Fabbri 29:49
I guess it depends on the marketer. But, you know, one of the key benefits and key value propositions for our events software is progressive profiling. Right? You’re going to want to learn something with every touchpoint on that, and whether they’re registering for an event, or they’re registering for a webinar, whatever, it shouldn’t matter, you should be able to tell what do I not know about this person that I need to know, to serve their interests and needs better. So that’s key. And then, you know, having the data in one place certainly helps as well.

I think that if marketers are smart, they’ll segment, though, be able to visit virtual events for that virtual event. And if you start to think about conferences and events as the catalyst to produce content, and members don’t absorb content to better their profession, or to better their, their communities, or whatever the mission of that association is, that can spread out now I, you know, I no longer maybe, you know, it’s a week off or a month of content or a year of content that happens in succession, as opposed to just I had to come on-site and see the sessions I want to see and the other ones, you know, oh, there’s this conflict, I can’t see that session, well, then the session is recorded. And now, I can absorb it at any time. Or I can go in and buy that session instead of buying the full conference, right? or subscribing to the full week or two weeks, or however long that content is being delivered.

So there are some interesting model points there that I think will be fleshed out. There are some interesting things during COVID. Just not being able to travel has born. One of our customers did a roadshow with their people, usually running the general session at their conference when on the roads, their customers, and talking to them six feet apart, right?

Joe Post 31:39
Yeah, that’s awesome.

The Netflix Model

Jake Fabbri 31:40
That didn’t become a broadcast that they did. And then that sort of burned into, okay, we’re going to do that for every track, we used to have the car. So some exciting things will happen with that, and these things will meld together. And you’re still going to have the culmination in a location where we get together, and we network, and we, and we, you know, we build community. But it’s not that I have to be there to absorb that content anymore. And that’s what it’s. I think it’s going to get interesting about how this is structuring the content and the value we get out of a conference in an event. But you do need the data, and you do need the ability to say, Joe is interested in topic x, and Jake is interested in topic y. And, you know, then you let you know, one of the I mentioned the Netflix model earlier, one of the interesting points of one of our customers who adopted that model took is that we no longer have to have to decide or guess at what people want, we’re letting data drive that, just like Netflix, Netflix drives their programming, not based on what executives think we want to see, but based on what we want actually to see. Right? They drive what they put on their platform by what people see and watch. Now. And that’s an exciting thing because then, you know, the decisions about how and what we deliver content and value to people are based on the actual people who are making those choices in aggregate. So it’s so impactful.

Ben Muscolino 33:01
It’s so funny because so many times over the last year and some of these conversations with Jake and Joe from average, Joe has gone into these personalization and persona pursuits that they have with a digital strategy with some of their customers, and what that means. And so it’s fun to hear that talked about on the commercial side because I think a lot of us do it. Except we’re more often, you know, consulting our association or nonprofit customers about how to create those journeys and path those out and create goals on those. And Joe’s spoken about it so many times. And it’s great to hear, and I’m assuming you guys use Salesforce to do all of that operationally for your organization. Right.

Jake Fabbri 33:49
That for Joe, is that for Jake?

Ben Muscolino 33:51
Jake, I’m sorry. Yeah. Jake. Jake, from Fonteva. Yeah. Our entire business. I know that you guys, do you eat your own dog food over there. But it’s exciting. We drink our own champagne.

Jake Fabbri 34:01
Yeah, of course. Right.

Ben Muscolino 34:02
Yeah. I like that. That’s much better.

Joe Post 34:05
I love that. That’s great.

Salesforce Not Spreadsheets

Jake Fabbri 34:06
But yeah, we run our entire business on Salesforce. If it’s not in Salesforce, it doesn’t exist here. Right. And I’ve seen the very nervous moments of a new executive come into our leadership meeting with a spreadsheet report and just sit back and watch what’s going to happen when everybody looks at them and be like, Yeah, but we push a button in Salesforce. We don’t do these spreadsheets.

What Are You Reading?

Joe Post 34:26
Right. Awesome. Love that. So I know we’re just about at the time for this conversation. It’s been really great to hear your thoughts and, learn from some of your ideas. I wanted to ask before we wrap it up. What are you reading right now?

Jake Fabbri 34:44
I am reading Marc Benioff, some book Trailblazer. There’s some great stuff about how he started Salesforce and some of the decisions he made at different times and why it’s really insightful because there are some really personal stories in here. Real quick story on TiVo has every year except last year, a strategic meeting at Salesforce with the higher-ups and Benioff visits that somebody from the US office always visits and talks to us. And we were getting the tour of the tower for the first time a couple of years ago, the top floor, which is reserved for nonprofits to give events by the way, but the board room is up there, and we walk into our tour. And we’re told you have to stay to the left, and we’re like, oh, what’s going on. And there’s Marc Benioff. He’s a huge man, by the way, statures. He’s over six feet tall, sitting in his aloha shirt and jeans, just kicking back talking to one of his executives. And it was kind of like a surreal moment because he’s a real person, right. And every board member that came in there, the meeting, he gave a hug to and had only met him one other time here in DC. But I’ve wanted to read this book, and I just hadn’t put it online. I don’t put a lot of professional books on my reading list. But so now I’m reading it. And it’s actually a pretty good read about, and it’s all about how he believes that businesses the best chance we have and a good platform for change in the world. Yeah, that’s what I’m reading right now.

Joe Post 36:13
Awesome. Thanks so much for sharing that.

Ben Muscolino 36:14
That’s so cool. And for those of you listening to this that can’t see us right now. Jake is well-groomed, sitting in his office with Fonteva television with the Salesforce logo behind him. And as Joe asked that question, he leaned to the right and grabbed the office desk. So he’s obviously within arm’s reach when that question was asked, so that was such a great question. And, Jake, we

Episode Wrap

Jake Toohey 36:37
I really want to thank you for joining us on the association podcast. This has been really great to hear your perspective on several different topics. I’ll ask my co-host if they have anything else to ask Jake before we let him go. We’d love to have you on. We’d love to have you on again. And thanks again for doing this. I really appreciate it.

Ben Muscolino 36:57
Big, big congrats to you and the leadership team over at Fonteva, an inspiring time for you guys. And good luck.

Jake Fabbri 37:04
Yeah, no, thank you guys for having me. Appreciate. It was a great conversation, and I look forward to coming back and talking about anything you guys want to talk about. Awesome.

Joe Post 37:12
I’m gonna read that book, and then we’ll chat about it.

Ben Muscolino 37:14
I go round two with Jake from Fonteva. Alright, we’ll look forward to it. Thanks, everybody. Thanks again, Jake.

Jake Fabbri 37:20
Thanks a lot.

Key Takeaways

Jake Toohey 37:22
So we want to thank Jake Toohey for joining us. It was a great conversation. I think one of the My Favorite Things that he talked about was the culture. And even at the beginning of fontina. There are five people, one phone number, you know, and somebody calls and they had a problem. I thought it was awesome to hear that, you know, everyone could jump in. And that’s kind of the culture that they came from. And it’s great to see. It’s super impressive to see the success they’ve had just by building from that from scratch. And see where they are today. It’s, it’s pretty cool to see.

Ben Muscolino 37:53
Yeah, my I kind of you know, it’s funny, you talk about the beginning and kind of that sentiment that he made about that. And I think all the way to the end where I mentioned to Jake, and I had a conversation about somebody else on staff over there. And they said, Gosh, the companies are merging so quickly from an operational perspective and that they mentioned that they’d never seen benefits that good. And so I think it’s funny because there’s obviously a lot of suitors for a lot of businesses in this market as we’ve seen over the last 567 years. And over the last couple of years. It looks like they’ve partnered with or folded into an organization that really seems very employee-centric. You know, just little sentiments like that on conversations you have offhand with people make it feel like they found a perfect home, not only for the customers but also for the staff they’re taking over.

Joe Post 38:50
Yeah, I thought it was really great—the discussion of being authentic and being your true self internally and how that relates to the brand. And, you know, there’s a concept I’m fond of, from some guys who did some research on what it means to be an authentic brand. And they describe a brand double vortex. And in that concept, it’s really emphasizing how corporate culture values mission vision translates to brand, and that the best brands are really authentic. They don’t promote a vision that’s different than how they actually operate. And I think that really came through in the conversation today.

Jake Toohey 39:30
And with that, we want to again thank Jake for joining us and, of course, thank my co-hosts, Ben and Joe. I want to say, hey guys, thanks for making a difference today.

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