Tableau Conference – Interview with Ellie Fields: Part 1


Lee Feinberg: I’m at the Tableau Conference with Ellie Fields, Tableau Software’s Vice President of Product Marketing. We’re going to have a conversation about marketing and a little bit about the keynote that she spoke at this morning. Ellie thanks very much for being with me today.

Ellie Fields: Thanks Lee.

Lee Feinberg: I was really excited about the announcements from the keynote this morning, so of course congratulations to you and the company. I was particularly glad to see the big advances in Tableau Online. I think that’s a great platform for people to start using. How do you expect some of the competitors to respond to the new features that you announced?

Ellie Fields: Well it’s funny, Lee. We actually aren’t really worried about that. At Tableau we think a lot about, especially in the online space, where are the gaps and what are our customers doing. Of course we track the competition, but we’re not saying, “Let’s come out with this feature. We’ll kill them on that feature. They’ve got us on this feature.” We’re really trying to think more holistically about the customer.

In the online space I think it’s going to be difficult for the competitors to respond to a couple of things in particular. One thing is the ability to use cloud data and the ability to use multiple data sources. A lot of the cloud BI solutions, it’s still very difficult thing to get a new data source plugged into the cloud and to get it to refresh. I think that’s an advantage that we have in the cloud right now.

A second advantage is the basic analytical capability of Tableau Desktop. In a lot of the cloud solutions today, you get one or two nice dashboards to start and those are the one or two nice dashboards you have for a long time unless you spent a lot of money in consulting dollars on changing them. In the Tableau Online world we provide start up templates and some other things. But you’ve got all the analytical power of Tableau Desktop to go and create whatever you want and get it up on Tableau Online. I think those are two things that competitors are going to have trouble matching.

Lee Feinberg: I agree with you and I’ve always been impressed that Tableau has taken that approach. That’s really focusing on what they want to do with the product and not trying to respond to something that another competitor is doing. And I think the data sync feature that you talked about is really going to change a lot because even when we are out talking to clients about Tableau Online, most of them aren’t using Redshift or some other data source in the cloud. They are dealing with SQL server or an Excel file. So I think that’s a really interesting development that really going to promote the use of Tableau Online a lot more. So that’s pretty cool.

If we take a step back, I’ve always seen Tableau as a really innovative product and it continues to go in that direction. I’m really curious to hear how in the early days, what were some of the decisions you made about how to market this kind of a product that really made an impact on its success?

Ellie Fields: It’s a really interesting question and there are a couple of things that we did specifically. One is always try to talk in a very human voice. Every once in a while we get email it’s someone who says, “Wow, I went to your website and I could read it. Thank you.” And those are some of the best emails that we get all year because we really try to write and speak to people in ways they can understand not to use jargon, not to try and impress them with technical details, but actually to communicate in the marketing that we do and I think that’s one very important distinction.

Another that we do is to show not tell. So on our website, and in our events, and everywhere with Tableau you see a lot of demos. You see Tableau Public being used, you see data, and part of it is the history of our industry that is one of a lot of shelfware and a lot of promises. The more we can show not tell, either by using the actual product or by having customers speak about the results that they’ve got in what their doing, the more real we can be. That’s we want to be, we want to be very real with our marketing.

Lee Feinberg: That makes a lot of sense because for a product like Tableau that was geared towards business folks initially, that would be critical to stay away from technical ideas and industry speak that wouldn’t mean anything to them, and just putting it simply in the terms of, “We know you have these kinds of problems and we have software that can solve them. We understand what your problems are we’re not just trying to sell you technical features

Look for Part 2 in a couple days…