CMO Confessions Ep. 32: John Steinert on Careers, Tools of the Trade and Making Pivots Happen

Hello webinerds and welcome back to another edition of CMO Confessions, our B2B podcast featuring opinions and perspectives from the top leaders in marketing and sales today.

In this episode, Cheri Keith, Head of Strategy and Research at ON24, is joined by John Steinert, CMO of TechTarget. Cheri and John discuss John’s career path, his advice for new marketers and his perspective on the wealth of MarTech solutions combined with the lack of marketing training available to professionals.

As always, you can find the full episode of CMO Confessions on Podbean here an edited transcript of our conversation below.

You can learn more about John and his career through his LinkedIn page here and his Twitter feed here.

If you’re interested in listening to our growing podcast series, you can find all of our episodes here in Podbean. Alternatively, you can also find us on both iTunes and Google Play stores.

Welcome to another episode of CMO Confessions.

Table of Contents:

The Journey to TechTarget
Working With Tenured Colleagues
Advice for Career Pivots
Pet Peeves in B2B Marketing
How Selling a MarTech Solution is Exciting
Future Plans

Cheri Keith:

Hello, and welcome to CMO Confessions, the weekly B2B marketing and sales podcast, where I speak with amazing guests about what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Cheri Keith, Head of Strategy and Research at ON24.

In today’s episode, I’m joined by John Steinert, CMO of TechTarget, a purchase intent provider for B2B sales and marketing. John, thank you so much for coming on today.

John Steinert:

It’s good to be here. Good to talk to you again. Nice to see your face.

The Journey to TechTarget

Cheri Keith:

Yeah, of course. I’m going to start with some questions around where you are today, what it’s like working at TechTarget. And then we’re going to jump into some more questions about maybe some of your pet peeves and you know what it’s like being a marketer working at a marketing tech and services provider.

You’ve been the TechTarget CMO for just over four years now. What’s that journey been, being there so long?

John Steinert:

I don’t know if it’s “so long.” I’d say being there a very short time, one of the interesting things about our company is how long people stay. Compared to my peers in the organization, I’m a relative newbie and there continues to be a ton to learn. And then I try to add my little bit.

Cheri Keith:

All right, how long are some of these crazy tenured people there then?

John Steinert:

So, our company is 20 years old. We started in ‘99. So, going on 21. We say that we’re almost legal. We became public in 2007 now so we’ve been really transparent for quite some time.

Long-timers, including people who are many years earlier in their career than I, have been there the entire time. The leadership team, with the exception of me and a couple of other people, average about 15-plus years.

Working with Tenured Colleagues

Cheri Keith:

Wow. Are there any challenges in working in an organization where there are so many people that have been entrenched that long?

John Steinert:

I think there’s the obvious challenges: catching up to them, what they know about the company, what they know about what we do, how well they understand it, how they understand the customers. There’s a lot of embedded knowledge and we’re still a small company, relatively small compared to places I’ve been, but there’s a lot locked in people’s brains, so you have to stay cognizant of that. You have to really work with them to learn as much as you can from the people who’ve been there.

Cheri Keith:

Are there any projects that come to mind that have been particularly challenging over that tenure? Perhaps pulling on the idea that there are some people who are so knowledgeable about the customer based on their exposure at the company?

John Steinert:

Well, I think the nature of the company is that it’s sort of changed its direction or modified its path a number of times over that 20-year time span. And I think that culture and the people involved are remarkably nimble in doing that. So, they’re not particularly set in their ways. Their long careers are not built in a particular area. It’s still got this really entrepreneurial culture where people are very interested in taking their raw talent and taking on new assignments.

You could think of the history of the company as having some very distinct milestones. The company was essentially founded as a publishing company. Today it’s a major publishing company, the largest internet publisher in the enterprise tech space. So, there’s a massive volume of original content that is still created by the company.

As we all know, the media industry has evolved dramatically, and the company saw this early on. So, starting with this foundation of information products, they learned and built an infrastructure that said, “If we create these information products correctly, they will assist buyers of technology who are looking for information to support those purchases. And then if we can gain their permission, we can actually learn from the buying behaviors that are exhibited by these folks. And we can work with the sellers of technology to help them understand the buyers more directly.”

The question then became, “How do you do that? How do you serve that up in a way that the marketplace will accept it?” And the early days were simply about delivering leads. But, more and more as the infrastructure evolved, it was about what is leading up to these engagement behaviors and how can you refine the information capture, shape the content to stimulate behaviors that signal buying, and then package that for vendors so they can use that information to bring what they do to the people who are looking for solutions of those kinds.

So, we go from a media company to lead gen to data supplier, and those transitions have been really nimbly handled by this entrepreneurial and innovative culture.

Advice for Career Pivots

Cheri Keith:

That’s really interesting. I think right now, there are so many pivots happening, especially in the CMO’s world with the world being in upheaval and all live events being canceled for the very foreseeable future.

Are there any takeaways as a CMO who’s been through some pretty significant changes internally at TechTarget that you would kind of share as best practices for CMOs that are thinking about their own pivots just within their team, but also at their company level?

So many, whether they be event providers or anyone who really relied on an in-person presence to sell their product or even their product themselves, have had to make one of those changes. What would your advice be for those people?

John Steinert:

I think you’re onto something here. And I think it’s a couple of things. One is if you’re a practitioner and your bread-and-butter is doing field marketing activities, let’s hope you built your core skillset to make pivots in applying what you understand about customers and what you understand about marketing techniques, so that you’re not locked into one technique.

As a manager looking across multiple channels, I always think that it’s really useful to think in terms of the portfolio of options open to you and not to place too much emphasis on any one particular channel or technique should something happen to your ability to leverage that channel. So, if you’re overweight on something like events now, you’re going to have to rebalance. We see a lot of folks saying, “Well, this worked really well last year,” and you see people jumping on board and overweighting happening. That’s normal. What really helps is to have the skillset to pivot as quickly as you can.

Cheri Keith:

Absolutely. I definitely am hearing a lot of themes around not being locked in and making sure that you’re nimble both at the company, but also within your own career.

Do you have any times in your career where you’ve had to make a pivot that might be interesting before joining TechTarget, potentially?

John Steinert:

Yeah. I wanted to talk about this positively, but there is this trend, and it gets to my pet peeve a little bit. There is this trend in marketing that marketing pretty much reflects economic conditions because so much of marketing can be a variable spend. When the economy goes south, marketing people seem to be, or in my experience, have been disproportionately affected. And so, my marketing career has been incredibly long. And I’ve been personally affected by these dramatic shifts in variable spending. But, I will say that B2B marketing, where I’ve been for 80 – 85% of my career, is less affected. Furthermore, by constantly trying to skill myself, I’ve always recovered reasonably fast. It’s never been easy. I’m not sure that any career path is particularly easy.

So, what I’d say is this, and I think younger people are doing this naturally now that you have to manage your own career, you have to maintain and expand your skill sets. And you have to look forward, as well as doing what is right in front of you. And do that, both in good times and in bad times. In a bad time, you look beyond the bad time. In the good times, you look beyond the here and now. Then, disruption is less painful. It’s always a huge growing experience. It can be frightening, but we get through it.

Cheri Keith:

That’s really interesting. And I think you’re right, there are a lot of marketers right now who are going through some pretty tectonic career shifts. But like you said, in B2B, they tend to weather the storm more.

And I’ve seen a lot of event marketers that I’m personally friends with, jumping right in. And like you said, leveraging their knowledge about how to customize experiences for an audience so well, and being able to apply that by learning more about the digital opportunities that are out there. More about the different marketing tactics. So, I think we’ll see that new breed of marketer with more event planning experience be really helpful for the rest of the marketing organization where they’re able to land.

Pet Peeves in B2B Marketing

John Steinert:

Yeah. I agree with you. It kind of gets to my pet peeve.

Cheri Keith:

Yes. Tell me about your pet peeve.

John Steinert:

My pet peeve is, and I’ll speak to the SiriusDecisions thing in a second. My pet peeve is that we have not yet, in B2B marketing, found a way to provide enough education to our teams. The first part of it is, nobody studies B2B marketing in college. They might study B2B sales in a very specific type of business program, but they don’t study B2B marketing. And I can’t really understand why that is because it takes so long to learn. There are so many different parts to B2B marketing. It takes so long to learn them. We’re really slowing everybody down because first, they’re not trained when they come in.

And second, we don’t have structured training programs to accelerate their growth. So, contrast that to, at least our sales organization, where we train every week formally and, many times beyond that for the people who are just coming on board. So, why it is that marketing organizations, or companies as a whole, don’t structure marketing training the same way they do sales training is beyond me.

So, the SiriusDecisions thing is, I have always said, “You’ve got wonderful training materials,” but they’re not pushed hard enough. So, for some reason, I just don’t see it. Except with Summit, which is a huge training opportunity, but completely overwhelming. The track training that’s available is something I think the industry really needs. And I’d be fascinated, or I’d be excited when an organization figures out how to become the standard for training for marketers across portfolio marketing, product marketing, executional marketing and even the technical elements and marketing ops.

Cheri Keith:

That’s really interesting. I think we’ve seen some data show that CMOs have a priority on training. It always ends up in the top 10, but you’re right. No one’s really nailed it. There are whole teams dedicated to sales enablement, like you were mentioning before, but we just don’t see that on marketing enablement.

It’s been my experience that it usually just falls to the manager of those people, not even a department head to actually train people. So, if a director has a manager under them, a manager’s job to ensure that the specialist is trained. There ends up being many [inaudible] the marketers come up to speed. What do you think of that?

John Steinert:

Yeah, it’s a huge gap and when we talk about pivots you make in your career, it now is incumbent on each person to train herself. And I can’t say that loudly enough. If for some odd reason, B2B marketing has captured your attention. So, the obvious reason is that B2B marketing is a great career, right? There’s clearly a huge need for marketers. You can have a long and wonderful career. You can rise really high in an organization. But, it’s not quite as flashy. It’s harder to tell your friends about it. It’s not easy, cocktail party conversation, but it’s endlessly fascinating. So, it’s not a flashy kind of job, at least for many of the career paths. But, if you find the complexity, the rigor, the endless options fascinating, then make the effort to gain new skills.

You have to do a lot of reading. And if you do that, you grow yourself. You protect yourself and it opens doors for you. So, if your organization is not offering that in a formal way, what I’m saying is, you gotta be self-starting. You gotta look after yourself and you’ve got to pursue that on your own. And I’d say that’s probably one of the greatest ways marketers can use things like LinkedIn to develop networks and to ask questions, like, “What should I read next?” of people like me and you. Because when they do, marketers are remarkably friendly about that kind of thing. The community is not that large of B2B marketers, especially B2B tech marketers. And so, we tend to have big networks and we tend to like to help people.

How Selling a MarTech Solution is Exciting

Cheri Keith:

I think that’s a really interesting point because you’re right. There’s not necessarily always the secret sauce, because it all comes down to how you’re actually going to apply it internally. So, you can be very open and share your learnings as a marketer with another marketer. But, let’s take this positive spin on that then.

So, we’ve gone over the pet peeves, what excites you most about B2B marketing? And it’s interesting because you do work at a company that’s very cutting edge and a lot of the work they’re doing in order to help inform marketers. So, you can look at it from that perspective or also your own perspective as leading that organization.

John Steinert:

Yeah. It’s very difficult to answer the question, “What excites you most?” The thing that excites me most day to day, is how fast it’s changing and how competitive it is because we sell a solution. We’re in a very competitive space. If you read those market landscape things where there are 5,000 or 8,000 MarTech solutions, it’s just craziness. And so that makes it endlessly exciting day-to-day. Terrifying at times. Confusing at times.

You have to learn to keep focus, but at the same time, observe what’s going on because you don’t know what wonderful new sort of innovation or capability is going to prove useful. So, that’s very exciting. More specifically, we’re finally getting to the point of using data in marketing. Really hands-on use of data to improve what we do.

And so, it kind of started with the involvement of predictive modeling, but now it’s getting into the behavioral data space, which is a sort of more agile approach. If you look at what’s just happened, obviously this is a Black Swan situation that we’re in, but we were talking about if you lose one channel, how do you pivot?

If you think about a predictive model being built on historical data and the historical data is no longer valid because we’re in an unprecedented situation, you’ve got to find a way to pivot to something different and related. So, if you’re building up your data skills, you’re understanding the data you have. Now is the time to start understanding the data you don’t have and trying to be more agile as you adjust to whatever is going on week to week in the marketplace.

Cheri Keith:

That’s definitely one thing that was top of mind for me the other day, actually. I was thinking as we were upscaling our current team about how we want to be more data-driven because we as an organization need to do better at that. But, there actually aren’t a lot of training on how to use data for marketers. So, I think that’s a, maybe we should go start a company doing that and be co-CEOs. How’s that?

John Steinert:

Yeah, it’s a big thing. It really is hard. I think you’ve got the operative term there. It’s “use the data.” So, we can get stuck in just looking at the data, but then what do you do? And that really is the sticking point in becoming a data-driven organization because you have to have this action orientation.

That requires something that we can learn from sales, I think. One of the most wonderful things about salespeople and if you compare salespeople to me in particular, but maybe I can stand in as sort of a general example of marketers. They are much less risk-averse. So, they are always forward-looking, forward-moving and very much sort of like an athlete… [inaudible] goalie, if you’re scored on, you can’t dwell on having just been scored on. You can’t be distracted by that. You have to look forward because if you dwell on your mistakes, you won’t have the emotional focus to continue getting better, to get ready for the next play. And so, salespeople are really daring.

Cheri Keith:


John Steinert:

And marketers are not so daring because they’re afraid that somebody will criticize their work. It’s in public. It’s large scale. Maybe mistakes can have a big effect, but that tends to make us a little bit more conservative in things we do. So, my point is when you get the data and it’s telling you to do something, you’ve got to do it. You gotta do it. And if it’s behavioral data, you gotta do it fast because the longer you wait, the more opportunity you’re missing.

Cheri Keith:

You’re right. Salespeople definitely tend to put themselves out there more than marketers and I think acting on the data quickly is so important. But, also it takes courage sometimes to act on that data, because it could be showing you something that you did in the past was wrong or not working. And I think that’s where you often see marketers getting afraid of using the data because they view it as they were doing something wrong rather than because we have new information and we have to act on the new information.

It doesn’t mean that what you did in the past was wrong. It just means, “Now we have more information and now we are making different decisions.” I think that’s been my experience, so far. I’m not sure if that resonates with you at all, though.

John Steinert:

Yeah, absolutely. How do you get culturally to an experiment-oriented organization? How can you create a bigger percentage of your total effort that is open to experiments? It takes a huge amount of energy. It requires real creativity, and that’s hard for people. But, it’s essential to improve marketing performance.

So, getting stuck in your job, not being prepared for pivots, not being risk averse is all part of the same sort of cultural change that we want to create in marketing. We can foster it by training, but we also have to foster it as managers by celebrating efforts to try different things. Obviously, they have to be wisely chosen. It’s not simply, “We’re going to buy this new tool and we’re going to do this stuff because we’ve heard it’s cool.” There should be real rationales. It’s helpful to write these down. Anytime you document your rationale, it sort of forces you to reflect a little bit before you pull the trigger on something.

Cheri Keith:

Yeah. I think, the mis-purchases of MarTech are, maybe there’s a way to layer that on top of all these crazy landscapes that we see to be like, what percentage of these technologies are purchased in haste, and ended up being returned after a few years or not used or underutilized? I forget the exact statistic, but it came out of Gartner. It was like 58% of MarTech capabilities go unused. It just can’t be that way.

John Steinert:

Yeah. I think the reason that we buy stuff now, still, is not because it’s helping drive the business outcome that the organization is trying to get to, but that it helps us do our particular job. The odd thing is that doing our job may not be helping the business outcome very directly. And that’s a very difficult thing for an individual to grapple with. It is the job that I do. The best thing that can be done to improve business results. That is very hard to answer as an individual. This is the job I’m assigned. So, it’s the one I’m going to do. And it’s super hard because we’re doing it all manually. So, I needed a tool and I can show I’m going to save labor by buying a tool.

So, now we have the tool and then only later do we realize that this particular channel or how we were trying to engage with this audience was not effective at all with that audience. So, then we have to abandon both the tool and sort of downsize the channel. I would say it’s really helpful to try to understand what the actual impact of what you do every day is on the business. And as you plot your career, you plot your path, try to get closer and closer to things that are more directly impactful, if you can.

Cheri Keith:

One piece of advice I heard early in my career also was to always attach your star to another rising star and learn from the people who are navigating it well, because they tend to have the best advice rather than going to someone who might be not the one who’s always looking at continuous improvement and training.

John Steinert:

Yeah. I think there’s another piece to that. It is to keep your eye both on the ball, where it is, and also on where it’s going to be. So, if you’re going to connect with other people who are inspired in some way, that’s really good. Look for inspiration beyond what you do every day. Constantly ask yourself if you can get from here to there, but also really focus on delivering what you’ve been asked to do. Because that’s how you gain recognition by having done what you were asked to do and more. So, unfortunately, so many of us are asked to do tasks, enough tasks in a day that there doesn’t seem to be time for more, and I don’t have a solution for that kind of overwhelming amount of work. I’m a really bad example of how to balance work and life.

What I found is a career that I really am interested in because there’s so many different aspects of it. Now I’m mature enough so that I don’t have kids to take care of anymore and I can spend even more time on it. I’m not recommending spending as much time as I seem to spend, but I am recommending doing the job you’ve been asked to do well and innovating on top of it. So, I think it’s essential to do both those things. How you get it done is sort of a challenge. But, nobody I know who moves faster than average, who realizes some of their ambitions, has done it by having bigger priorities outside of that job. They’ve had other priorities and they’ve learned to balance those priorities, but the job actually is a priority for them.

Future Plans

Cheri Keith:

Yep. It’s always a juggling act. And as someone who has kids on the smaller side, I know it for sure. I’m just glad no one came bombing into the podcast today.

I have one more question for you before we closeout. We are heading into the summer months, but are there any projects that you are looking at over the next few months that perhaps you’re really looking forward to or ones that have been on your radar that you haven’t had a chance to tackle that you’ll be tackling?

John Steinert:

Yeah, as we always do, we have a summer release. That summer release, I think is going to be really exciting for the market. It should be terrifying for our competition and it’s all-around contact level, opt-in contact level intent data.

The way I started out this conversation was I talked about publishing and it is what we publish and how we publish that elicits real purchase intent signals. More and more we’ve found that to make these signals particularly useful to sellers, they have to be really clear at the individual level. And so, the more information you can provide that is useful to having sales conversations and to enabling a sales organization, and even a product organization, to understand and work to solve customer problems the more value you can get out of the data. And so, we’re really focused on how do you let the people who are interacting with the customers, how do you give them access to data at the granularity that is particularly actionable for them?

So, we’ve got the summer release, we’re doing all the things we can to explain and beta it right now. And then they’ll roll it outright at the end of their quarter and the market will be awed and thrilled that we’re helping them to this extent.

Cheri Keith:

Well, it sounds like you have a full plate with that and obviously wish you and the team the best of luck. We’ll all be sitting here very excited to see that come out at the end of the summer, then.

John Steinert:

Good. I’d love to come back and tell you all about it.

Cheri Keith:

Yes, of course. Well, thank you so much for your time today, John. I know I’ve enjoyed our time together and your takeaways about the need to have marketing training, nimbleness, and looking at the data. I think our audience will definitely benefit for that.

So, thank you for your time and thank you, Audience, for tuning in.

John Steinert:

Good to be here.

Sales and Marketing: Fuel for the Revenue Funnel

As marketing organizations grapple with revenue-accountability and as organizations develop their growth and investment plans, alignment between marketing and sales partners becomes vital. Numerous studies have shown the positive impact of marketing and sales alignment — from higher customer retention rates to higher sales win rates, to closing bigger deals. Aberdeen has found companies with strong marketing and sales alignment achieve a 20% annual growth rate.

Alas, only 8% of companies attest to having strong alignment between their marketing and sales organizations — proving marketing and sales alignment is easier said than done.

This article originally appeared on Shared with permission.

Despite genuine efforts to align functions, tightly communicate and coordinate processes, sales and marketing teams often find themselves at loggerheads, sometimes as rivals but mostly as convenient scapegoats for missed targets.  Why is this?

The Broken Marketing and Sales Funnel

Marketing and sales alignment has to go beyond functional divisions, communications and process coordination.  Alignment efforts need to start at the core of how the business sells. This is often reflected by the organization’s marketing and sales funnel. Pipedrive has a simple definition of a sales funnel: a visual representation of the journey from your prospect’s first contact with you until a completed purchase. A marketing and sales funnel will typically define each stage by describing actions the prospect must take in order to progress to the next stage. It is essentially a road map for marketing and sales activities and it helps management forecast sales and plan for capacity.

Unfortunately, for most companies, the revenue funnel’s chief function is to stake out territory. The top part of the funnel is marketing’s territory and sales better keep out! While the bottom of the funnel is sales’ territory and marketing has no business there. As a result, Marketing works really hard at filling their MAP with leads in order to have a better chance of nurturing them into “qualified” leads which they then throw across the chasm to sales. Sales may not be there to catch these leads because they are either too busy developing their own leads or don’t agree with the quality level of marketing leads. This philosophy can run deep and become part of a company’s culture making change very challenging.

Aligning Marketing and Sales with the Revenue Funnel

Alignment of marketing and sales starts by dismantling the traditional funnel and instead adopting a more integrated funnel. The ideal sales and marketing funnel is really a revenue funnel in which both sales and marketing teams are accountable, in varying degrees, at each stage of the funnel.

Top-Funnel Approach

At the top of the funnel, sales and marketing jointly define the ideal customer profile and work together to refine their target list. They also work closely to understand the members of the buying committee and define the buyer’s journey. By building the buyer’s journey together, there is a common understanding of the foundational elements that drive purchase behavior.

Using the buyer’s journey as the revenue road map ensures that marketing and sales tactics are aligned. Here, marketing may take the lead at developing awareness for sales outreach with offers and messaging that build context for sales. This makes the transition to sales seamless for the buyer.

Mid-Funnel Approach

In the middle of the funnel, when buyers are beginning to understand their own needs and potential solutions, strategies should be closely choreographed between marketing and sales. Marketing may employ an educational nurture strategy while sales provides more hands-on ways to engage and learn more.

Bottom-Funnel Approach

At the bottom of the funnel, sales takes the lead with marketing support. For named accounts, this could mean providing highly customized content and individual references that confirm your solution is the right solution.

It’s natural for there to be a little conflict between marketing and sales. Each team comes to the table with different skill sets and they are both trying to solve the same problem. With sales and marketing using the same revenue funnel, the processes involved are so closely linked the two departments should operate in tandem. These departments directly impact the organization’s ability to thrive. Binding them as interdependent components of a single strategy is your blueprint for growth.

Are your sales and marketing teams struggling to work together? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How closely does your current marketing and sales process reflect the buyer’s journey?
  • Are your marketing and sales processes documented?
  • When was the last time you reviewed your process documentation with the other team?
  • Do your sales and marketing teams share an overarching strategy that aligns their respective goals?

If your answers suggest a systemic conflict between the two teams, then it’s high time to rethink your approach.

New at ON24: ON24 Engagement Hub Updates, Functionality

At ON24, we are focused on tools and features that not only make designing and managing digital experiences effortless, but also ensure the audience experience is intuitive and engaging. With the latest ON24 Engagement Hub release, we focused on usability for both you and your audience as well as clean audience interfaces that improve content findability. Here’s a bit of what’s been cooking:

New ON24 Engagement Hub Hero Layout

We’ve introduced a brand new hero layout for your Engagement Hub that captures audience attention and drives increased content consumption. The hero layout offers new content design and organization flexibility and functionality. Leverage an eye-catching home page, newly styled category pages, refreshed landing pages and dedicated search to create the most immersive content experience for your audience.

Robust Search To Improve Content Findability

The new hero layout includes a dedicated search page so that your audience can find the most relevant content for their journey. They can search and filter by unique search terms, categories and custom filter groups. By making finding the right content easy, your audience will engage with more content—allowing you to understand more about their interest and your content’s impact.

Subscriptions Drive Continued Content Consumption

Audience members can easily subscribe to not only your entire Engagement Hub, but also the individual categories within your Hub, so they receive updates on the topics and content they care most about. After subscribing, audiences will receive a weekly digest email alerting them when there is new content added to your Hub.

And there are so many more enhancements! If you’d like to learn more about ON24 Engagement Hub, please contact us. If you’re an ON24 customer, contact your CSM to get started.

It’s Time to Get VIRTUALIZED

To help marketers navigate these unprecedented times, we’re putting on a little summit: VIRTUALIZED. It’s a first-of-its-kind live digital event and certification program designed to ensure professionals like you are educated and skilled-up the latest techniques and strategies that you need to succeed in a digital-first era.

Taking place today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pacific Time, VIRTUALIZED kicks off with a live keynote webinar featuring leading experts in webinar and experiential marketing. After the keynote, attendees can take a five-part on-demand webinar certification course that will provide participants with the knowledge of how to build digital experiences that engage across the entire customer journey.

Powered by the ON24 Platform, VIRTUALIZED features a line up of world-class marketers to share their insights and best practices in a post-COVID world. Jason Talbot, Managing Director of The Crocodile, will provide a keynote, “The Art of Human Connection.” ON24 VP of Content Marketing Mark Bornstein will host and also deliver a keynote.

Those keynotes will be followed by a decorated panel, whose speakers include: Ash Parikh, SVP of Marketing at Informatica, Steve Arentzoff, VP of Demand Generation, Medallia, Jack Foster, Senior Director of Demand Generation at SurveyMonkey, and Deanna Ransom, Global Head of Marketing & Marketing Services at Televerde.

Attendees can expect to learn:

    • A framework for running ongoing VIRTUALIZED campaigns
    • The set of tactics for omnichannel promotions, from email to chatbots social
    • Innovative production and presentation formats, from virtual talk shows to after-parties
    • How to supercharge live engagement and networking in virtual experiences
    • A playbook for putting engagement data to work

VIRTUALIZED comes after ON24 powered MINDSHIFT in May, a digital event assisting the fight against COVID-19 while connecting and inspiring professionals all around the world.

Want to transform your marketing in a digital-first world? Register today.

Two Webinars for Mastering Unusual Times

One way or another, the global COVID-19 pandemic affects every person. For many, the financial impact of quarantine and the economic repercussions of state-wide shutdowns are unknown and could remain that way far into the future.

Beyond personal financial situations, many small businesses are facing a stark decision: remain in business and hope things get better or close permanently.

With so much uncertainty looming, we want to share two finance-themed webinar opportunities with you: “Business Unusual, Big Ideas for Small Business” and “Master Your Money: Planning for the Future in Uncertain Times.

Business Unusual, Big Ideas for Small Business

Business Unusual, Big Ideas for Small Business is a new webinar series from AT&T Business and  Barbara Corcoran, founder of The Corcoran Group and “Shark” on ABC’s Shark Tank.

The series asks the question “Where Do We Go from Here?” and aims to share tips and recommendations from experts that businesses can act on now related to the current economy, business, finance and technology. Additional themes will be announced later in 2020.

The first webinar in the series airs on July 22 at 1 p.m. CT and is free and open to anyone! Register here. The series will also feature three additional webinars taking place each Wednesday in August. These webinars will investigate where retail, restaurants and hospitality businesses — industries hardest hit by COVID-19 — can go from here.

Each webinar in the series features notable guests like Amy Chow, CEO of AT&T Business; Matt Higgins, co-founder and CEO of RSE Ventures, vice-chairman of the Miami Dolphins and fellow “Shark” on ABC’s Shark Tank; Rachel Ray, celebrity chef, cookbook author and Food Network television host; Kim Nelson, founder of Daisy Cakes and former Shark Tank participant; and Oscar Munoz, executive chairman of United Airlines.

Master Your Money: Planning for the Future in Uncertain Times

Looking for something a little more personal? Well, Business Insider and Fidelity Investments have a webinar for you.

Entitled, “Planning for the Future in Uncertain Times,” this on-demand webinar discusses how millennials can make or adjust financial plans and achieve financial goals amidst setbacks, roadblocks, delays and uncertainty. The webinar is free and open to anyone! Register here.

The event is hosted by Tanza Loudenback, Personal Finance Insider correspondent, and features expert guests like Kelly Lannan, a member of Business Insider’s Money Council and VP of Young Investors for Personal Investing which is a segment of Fidelity Investments, and Anna N’Jie-Konte, CFP and founder of Dare to Dream financial planning.

Master Your Money is a four-part series designed to help millennials control their financial future. The four pillars of Master Your Money are Learn, Plan, Invest and Thrive, all of which provide education, advice, ideas and inspiration for millennials to achieve their financial goals. You can explore the series in more detail on Business Insider’s Master Your Money website.

Feature Friday: Getting the most out of your ON24 Target Hero Layout

Back in April, we introduced a new hero layout for creating targeted content landing pages— designed to empower our users to deliver the right content at the right time to specific audiences or accounts — to ON24 Target.

This new layout offers an eye-popping “hero image” that is above the fold and drives audience attention toward your featured content. But today, we wanted to let you in on a few tips that allow you to customize your page even more.

Featured Content: To Show or to Hide?

The hero layout can serve several purposes: grab readers’ attention and set the overall tone for the rest of the page, as well as work to complement one piece of content. This provides an opportunity to highlight a really great piece of creativity, such as a personalized video for your target audience or an upcoming webinar that you’re driving registration for.

But perhaps your big piece of hero content isn’t designed to promote a video, upcoming webinar, or point to that brand-new whitepaper. If your design (or budget) calls for a more minimalist approach, then you can simply hide the featured content thumbnail and let your image live on its own. Not all pages have the same goal or KPI, so we wanted to maximize your level of customization.

Once you’ve selected the hero layout and added your featured content, click the left-most Edit Hero Section icon and you’ll see the Featured Content section (as seen in the screenshot below). From here, you can choose to show or hide your featured content in the top panel.

What will this do exactly? Selecting Show Featured Content will display a thumbnail of your featured content on the right side of the hero section. Choosing to Hide Featured Content will keep the right side of the hero section blank with no thumbnail visible.

Check out this screenshot below from our Summer Webinar Stories series. The featured content — a webinar about Webinar Horror Stories — is visible with a custom thumbnail (S’mores!) that reinforces the theme and sets the creative direction for the rest of the Target page.

Hero layout with featured content thumbnail shown.

Additional content that reinforces the theme of the page.

This is just one use of ON24 Target, however. If you want to keep your hero content clutter-free, you can choose to hide the thumbnail of your featured content. The result might look a little something like this:

Hero layout with featured content thumbnail hidden.

You’ll notice no additional text or imagery on the right side of the hero. While this layout doesn’t have a unifying theme like our Summer Stories series, it’s still extremely clean and allows the creative to showcase a CTA and set the tone for the rest of the page.

As you can see, you have options when it comes to the hero layout in ON24 Target. We’ve shown you this one particular configurable option that allows you to tweak and customize depending on your audience or the assets at your disposal. Regardless of which design you choose, this is a great layout for grabbing attention with an eye-popping piece of creative.

Existing customers can reach out to their CSM for more information on customization in ON24 Target. If you’re interested in learning more, register for the on-demand webinar.

Four Tips for Providing Great Webinars in 2020

Because so many of us are working remotely, and with social distance orders limiting physical activities, traditional marketing methods have had to change. We need to adapt and go to where customers and clients are now spending time: online. That’s why in mid-June, Mark Bornstein, Chief Webinerd here at ON24, sat down to discuss how marketers can easily go digital in 2020 and how you can still have a full pipeline without the traditional marketing efforts that are no longer available to us.

Below are the highlights of what Mark discussed in the webinar. To watch the entire presentation, click here.

A Host with the Most

At ON24, we spend a lot of time talking about webinar best practices and tips and tricks you can employ in your own webinars. But sometimes, reading about how to run a quality webinar just isn’t the same as seeing an example — and the best way to show something off is to have a killer host on your virtual event.

A recent APAC report on marketing strategies for webinars even found the presenter is the leading element in how attendees rate the webinar engagement. An enthusiastic presenter is so essential to attendees that it outranks content and platform features in terms of importance.

Webinar After Party

Sometimes there are so many attendees — and questions — in a webinar that hosts don’t really have enough time in an hour to respond and engage with everyone. So, to make time and to extract the most engagement you can from an event, it pays to get creative. For this edition of WBPS, Mark decided to run a webinar after-party!

“After the Webinar” was designed to be a live chat where Mark answered all the questions that came in during the webinar, but he and the ON24 team also imbued the event with some fun treats with swag contests and other goodies.

If you find your webinars have more questions than you have time to answer, find a way to follow up after your event so you can answer all the questions. Questions are a great indicator of interest and engagement so don’t let them fall through the cracks if you don’t have time to answer all during your presentation. Starting conversations with potential customers is huge for sales so don’t waste the opportunity to have a solid reason for reaching out.

Abolish the Resource Center

Resources Centers are stale and ubiquitous. Your customers don’t want to spend their valuable time sifting through dozens of on-demand webinars, case studies, white papers and ebooks trying to find something relevant to them.

Instead, replace resource centers with curated content experiences specific to your customer’s industries or interests. These content hubs do not have to be limited to webinars, but can include anything relevant to that customer or industry: case studies, video clips of specific information, blog posts, etc.

Think Evergreen

Old school marketing had content that was created for one purpose and used one time. Modern marketing finds a way to reuse content. You spend a lot of time and effort to create quality, relevant, engaging content so why limit it to one use? Get more out of your work by looking for ways to recycle what you produce.

Content can be reused and remixed in any way that works for you. Move past the idea that you need to keep content whole. Webinars in particular are great for breaking down into short topic-specific videos.

Shorter videos are easier for consumers to digest and by making them about a single topic, viewers are sure to get only the information that matters to them. It’s also a great way to entice some viewers to watch the longer webinar which helps your attendance and on-demand viewership.

Busting the On-Demand Myth

Get this: on-demand webinars can be just as interactive as a live event! Mind blown? You’re not alone. Many people think on-demand webinars don’t engage, which is why they don’t use them in their webinar strategy.

This is false and those who think this way are missing an opportunity to increase webinar attendance and engage customers. ON24’s Webinar Benchmarks Report found 38% of webinar viewers attend on-demand only. Modern marketing means having content experiences that are everywhere and at any time.

When you set up a webinar that ran live or simulive and is then available on-demand, all of the elements in the webinar console are still available to on-demand viewers. If a host pushes out a poll during a live webinar, on-demand viewers can still participate in that poll and those results are tracked in the host analytics. Participants can still ask questions and use all of the widgets that were available during the live or simulive presentation.

A good webinar host even has the questions submitted during on-demand viewing routed to someone who will follow up with an answer. On-demand webinars can be just as interactive and engaging as live and simulive webinars.

As Mark said: “Content needs to be always-on. People need to be able to always find the exact content at the right time at the right moment.”

Don’t miss the opportunity to engage more than a third of potential viewers by not offering an always-on viewing option.

For more webinar tips and tricks check out other episodes of our WBPS featuring Mark here.

How to Create an Onboarding Webinar for SaaS

For any SaaS company, onboarding new users is one of the most critical parts of the customer acquisition process. All the work done to attract and convert visitors into users may end up wasted if the onboarding doesn’t properly activate them.

A successful onboarding process will reduce your churn rate and increase your customer lifetime value.

From the many options available, one of the most effective ways to onboard new users is through the use of webinars. Webinars educate new users and help them reach the famous “aha moment;” the moment your users realize the value of your software.

In this article, you will learn how to create a successful onboarding webinar for your SaaS business. But before we get to it, let’s see how your webinar fits into your overall onboarding process.

How to Use Webinar Software in Your Onboarding Process

Webinars are one of the most popular content marketing tactics SaaS companies use to nurture and activate users. But unlike webinars that focus on closing leads, the development of your onboarding webinar will depend greatly on the role it plays on your onboarding process.

First, you must understand who you are onboarding. If the person you are presenting the webinar to is the same one who signed up for your product, your webinar will be relatively simple.

But if the stakeholders that sign a contract aren’t the ones who use the product itself, then your webinar’s job will be to “sell” the product. Unlike traditional sales where you want to close a person, your webinar’s goal is to get the user to reach the “aha moment;” the moment when your users perceive the value of your offering.

Once a user reaches this “aha moment,” they are more likely to engage with your tool. This, in turn, will increase the chances they become activated.


Ruairí Galavan, Senior Manager of Product Education at Intercom, found that those customers who attended webinars were six times more likely to activate than those who didn’t.

What’s more, those who attended their webinars were more likely to activate than those who didn’t attend. For Intercom, it’s not a matter of signing up for a webinar, but attending and participating in it.

The first question you must ask yourself is not how you can educate your users with a webinar, but what’s their “aha moment” and the triggers that lead to their activation.

Research your activated users and find what actions they take regularly. Also, look for common characteristics that may explain their behavior. If possible, you could look at the actions your users took before they became activated — this may show the critical triggers that caused their activation.

Alternatively, you can also research your churned users, those who became users but didn’t activate and left. They will also show you the issues they run into and which led them to their exit.

The insights you uncover in research will guide your webinar development.

Based on this user-first approach, your webinar won’t be focused on specific features or how your users should use your product.

Your onboarding webinar will be focused on getting your user to reach their “aha moment.” This will lead to higher user engagement and lower churn rates, as Intercom found.

3 Ways to Carry Out a Successful Onboarding Webinar

Align Your Product with Your User’s Goals

The first way you can position your onboarding webinars is as a product tour. This is one of the most common approaches to webinars because guiding new users to your product will ensure a higher activation rate and shorter time-to-value ratio (TTV).

This approach is especially useful if your research found that there is a misalignment between the stakeholders and the users — which is a probable case if your sales cycle is long and complex with multiple stakeholders involved.

The webinar should make it clear how your product can help the user achieve their top goal by:

  • Walking them through key workflows
  • Highlight the features with the highest use and value perception

The ultimate goal of this product tour should be to align with the goals that your user has. It’s not a matter of explaining to them every feature and detail secondary to the user’s needs. Instead, your tour must show the way towards the core value; this will make it easier for the user to reach their “aha moment.”

Let’s use the hypothetical example of Grammarly, a writing assistant for writers and editors. The product has many features, including a plagiarism checker and a grammar corrector.

The host — that is, the marketer who runs the webinar — should not use this webinar to show all these features at once. Instead, they should align their entire presentation to the user’s primary goal, which is to find and fix grammar issues.

No matter how many bells and whistles the tool may have, all the user wants is to improve their writing. By the end of the product tour, the viewer should find themselves knowing how the tool helps them with this specific goal.

One way the host could present this onboarding webinar is by using  Grammarly in real-time while editing an incorrect document. All the other features should be ignored.

This user-focused approach will ensure the viewer will have an easier time reaching their “aha moment” thanks to their alignment with the tool’s value.

Incentivize the Right Triggers

A second way to approach onboarding webinars is by highlighting the triggers that correlate with higher activation rates.

It’s critical that your user research finds these specific triggers, so your webinar focuses on the right one. One popular example comes from Twitter, which found that those users who followed at least 30 users had higher chances of activation.

Similarly, you could focus your webinar on the specific triggers that you know will end up in faster time-to-value (TTV) and activation.

Let’s use another hypothetical example, this time from the project management tool Basecamp. The core value this company brings its users is increased productivity through efficient team collaboration.

The only way for their users to see this value is by inviting teammates. Without teammates, a user couldn’t collaborate, thus ignoring the real value of the tool. Conversely, by inviting a certain number of teammates, the user would be able to reach their “aha moment” and become activated.

We can assume that if this was the case, their onboarding webinar should emphasize the importance of inviting teammates to the product.

For instance, both at the start and the end of the webinar, the marketer could ask every viewer to invite at least three members while on the call (or whatever number they found). Their email marketing automation could also continue to push for this action to happen as long as the user continues to ignore it.

Clarify the Misunderstandings

A final way you can use your onboarding webinars is by clarifying any misunderstandings your users may have in the way your software works. To find these misunderstandings, you first need to know the frictions that arise early in a user’s life.

Once again, this problem may arise if the end-user is not aware of how your product works because they weren’t involved in the sales process. Alternatively, this problem may be caused by a poor performance from your sales and marketing teams who don’t do a good job of explaining the value of your product.

In either case, your onboarding webinar should immediately clarify your software’s capabilities.

Let’s imagine Atlassian’s issue tracking product Jira was creating an onboarding webinar. The user may not be aware that the only way they can extract the value from the tool is by having them create a project and then an issue within it.

Their onboarding webinar should highlight this key workflow, so by the end of the presentation, Jira’s value can indeed surface and activation rates improve.


Onboarding webinars are an incredibly effective way to decrease churn rates and increase activation rates at the same time. Once you understand the role they play in your onboarding process, you can truly make the most of them.

Any of these three suggestions will help you fulfill their real value as long as you leverage your user research. The insights you take from them will show you the problems you have on your onboarding process and the best option to use.

By focusing on your onboarding process first, your webinars will maximize your efforts and increase your activation rates — which it’s what your onboarding process is all about.

Author Bio: Ivan Kreimer is a freelance content writer for hire who creates educational content for SaaS businesses like Leadfeeder and Campaign Monitor. In his pastime, he likes to help people become freelance writers. Besides writing for smart people who read sites like ON24, Ivan has also written in sites like Entrepreneur, MarketingProfs, TheNextWeb, and many other influential websites.

31. Jay Gaines: How CMOs Manage Acquisitions and Big Marketing Pet Peeves

Hey Webinerds, welcome back to CMO Confessions, our B2B podcast with the top leaders in marketing and sales today. Today’s CMO Confessions features Jay Gaines, former CMO of SiriusDecisions and Forrester.

In this episode, Jay and Cheri Keith, Head of Strategy and Research at ON24, discuss their time at SiriusDecisions and Forrester together, what Jay loves about B2B marketing today and a few marketing pet peeves.

As always, you can find the full episode of CMO Confessions on Podbean here and an edited transcript of our conversation below.

You can learn more about Jay’s career and the projects he’s working on through his LinkedIn page here and his Twitter feed here.

If you’re interested in listening to our growing podcast series, you can find all of our episodes right here in Podbean. Alternatively, you can also find us on both iTunes and Google Play stores.

Without further ado, welcome to another edition of CMO Confessions.

Table of Contents:

Shifting Gears with Different Marketing Roles
The CMO Role Through an Acquisition
What’s to Love about B2B Marketing Today
Marketing Pet Peeves
Marketing Buzzwords
Future Plans

Cheri Keith:

Hello and welcome to CMO confessions, the weekly B2B marketing and sales podcast, where I speak with amazing guests about what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world.

I am Cheri Keith, Head of Strategy and Research at ON24, and on today’s episode, I am so excited to have a long-time coworker of mine, along for the ride with us, Jay Gaines. Jay and I spent time together at both SiriusDecisions and Forrester. So, Jay, thank you so much for coming on.

Jay Gaines:

Well, thanks, Cheri. It’s great to be here and it’s great to see you again.

Cheri Keith:

I know awesome times to reconnect and then also get some great content going.

Jay Gaines:


Shifting Gears with Different Marketing Roles

Cheri Keith:

So, I want to first start because when we were working together, we each held different roles within our organization at SiriusDecisions. And I think your career trajectory is pretty interesting being an analyst, advising CMOs, and then switching back to the practitioner role in being the CMOs. So, can you talk about how you were able to shift gears and what that looked like?

Jay Gaines:

Yeah, sure. So, before I got to SiriusDecisions, I had been the CMO twice. I joined Sirius because I bought into the vision. I love the idea that our founders, John Neeson and Rich Eldh, had. And as you said, I joined as an analyst, but at that time I was, I think I was the 21st employee. So, I was also doing some marketing in those early days because we’d had no marketing leader. I think we had one marketer on the team, but we kind of were all doing everything. I was selling a little bit. I was advising clients as an analyst. I was marketing a little bit. So, that’s how the role was pitched to me. Then I became a full-time analyst because I fell in love with the job and you did it for long enough to know why that is. I think you enjoyed it as well. It’s just so great to work with so many clients and the variety in the work is awesome. It’s a way to kind of earn your Ph.D. in whatever it is you’re an analyst on, because you’re learning from so many great marketing people.

So, I did that for a number of years. And as you pointed out, I spent several of those years advising chief marketing officers and that work was great. So, I think the transition at Sirius was pretty natural for me. I’d been there for a long time. I had spent a lot of time learning from our best and brightest clients, what they did and what really worked and what didn’t work. I think when John and Rich were ready for a real CMO, I was kind of the natural place to look. And you know, the other thing about it though, which made it a little bit more challenging, was by that time I was surrounded by what? Almost a hundred brilliant marketing analysts, yourself included?

So, I think part of the reason why they went with me as opposed to any one of a number of other people was because the time I had been there, I just developed great relationships, not just with people on the research side, the analysts, but really on the sales side too. And I think one of the things I was a little bit known for was spending a lot of time in the field with the sales organization. We had a younger sales team and I needed them to sell the CMOs. So, I kind of had to join them all the time. So, it builds a really strong relationship there too. I think they liked the idea of kind of a selling CMO being there.

But I’ll tell you, moving from an analyst to an actual practitioner, again, wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Because, as you know, as analysts at Sirius, we dug in with our clients. We weren’t just kind of pontificating from on high. We would really dig into what they were doing, what their tech platforms were. Kind of benchmarking what was working and what wasn’t working. So, we went deep with them. So, I never felt very far removed from the actual work of being a marketer and marketing leader as an analyst, so it was a pretty smooth transition. I knew the business pretty well at that point. And, I re-fell in love with being a CMO when I made the transition. Although I got to still be an analyst a little bit.

Cheri Keith:

Yeah. Well, that’s a good thing when you like, or the good and the bad thing. When you move within roles at a company, you never can fully leave behind what you were doing before you reached that other level. Because people will still come to you for things that quote “isn’t in your job description,” but you get that street credit internally for doing something. So, you just keep doing it. Like you don’t want to be a “no” person, but I think…

Jay Gaines:

That’s right.

Cheri Keith:

What you mentioned definitely resonates because if you think about all the transitions that marketers have to make constantly it’s ever-changing. But at the same time, you’re always thinking of new things, but you can’t leave too much of what you were doing previously behind you.

Jay Gaines:

Exactly. And it’s interesting because I kind of insisted when I was asked to take on the CMO role, I said, okay, but as long as I can still work with some of our clients. Part of that was the Sirius culture, as you know, you had no credibility unless you were client-facing on some level or another. So, I wanted to maintain that, but also I love the work so much and I knew it was a way for me to keep learning all the time. So, yeah.

The CMO Role Through an Acquisition

Cheri Keith:

Awesome. But then you also made a leap going from a CMO of a relatively smaller organization where, I will say, the hardest job at Sirius was being on the marketing team. ‘Cause you had, like you mentioned, a hundred marketing experts around you always giving you little tips and tricks that you should be doing. But then moving to a larger, publicly-traded organization was part of the acquisition. And how was that transition going from the CMO of a smaller organization to one that you navigated through a pretty significant acquisition?

Jay Gaines:

Yeah, that was harder. So yeah, as you mentioned sometime after Forrester acquired SiriusDecisions, I became the interim chief marketing officer at Forrester, and I went from a team of about 15 people that I had at Sirius to a team of over 80 people, including the Sirius 15. Actually, more than that. There were 76 on the Forrester side plus my 15 on the Sirius side. So much bigger team, much more complex business as well.

Sirius was pretty complex for the size we were, but Forrester was vastly more complex in terms of the portfolio of offerings, the target markets that they went after. We were global at Sirius, but Forrester was even more global. Right? And you know, we extended across not just B2B sales, marketing and product, but obviously into technology also working with B2C marketing. There was so much more there. So, the first thing for me was a learning curve. And luckily, I had some time to get up to speed on Forrester. So, that wasn’t too bad, but there still was a learning curve there. But then there was really, what I was tasked to do.

The CEO at Forrester gave me a handful of top priorities when I moved into that role. The first was to integrate the marketing teams. That was a big one. The second was to lead the effort to refresh the Forrester brand, to reflect “Hey, we acquired SiriusDecisions,” but also it just needed to be updated and modernized. That included not just visuals, but messaging, as well. The third was to kind of help with the rationalization of the offering portfolio with the acquisition of Sirius, the biggest acquisition in their history. So that was big stuff. And also build a foundation for a revitalized demand engine. Right? So, and then working on a kind of sales and marketing alignment was a big one, as well.

So, those were kind of big, big things. And frankly, the hardest of all of them was the integration of marketing. So, again, what I had to do is tackle a learning curve, both on the kind of the offering and business side, but then on the people side too. So, my top priority was I met with every single person in marketing on the Forrester side to really learn about them. They had been through some change themselves. I wanted to kind of reduce any uncertainty they had, as well, but I also just really wanted to learn about them, understand what they did, their scope of responsibility, what they were focused on and why, where their skills and strengths were, where there might be gaps and weaknesses.

So, moving to a team that big, all of a sudden I was like, yeah, I’ll just meet with everybody.

Cheri Keith:

We used to hug everyone at SiriusDecisions. You’re on hugging terms with every employee, but that’s not the same once you get a publicly-traded company. They’re like, “No, don’t touch me.”

Jay Gaines:

Exactly. And also, I like to be liked, so I really wanted them to like me too. So, you know the bigger picture here though, part of the challenge was at Sirius I got to build a lot of things ’cause they had been there from very early on. But at Forrester, it was about changing some things that were already in place. Not that they were doing anything really bad or anything like that, but there were new ways that things needed to be done with the integration of the teams, the new whole giant portfolio of offerings with the Sirius acquisition. And that was everything from, kind of how we go to market, to how we use existing technologies, new technologies we want to introduce, reporting and measurement.

I really wanted to take that to the next level so that I could communicate more effectively with the leadership team and the board about the contribution marketing was making. And there was a lot of change management came into play as well, both on a kind of a personal level, talking to people, across the business, kind of helping them understand the role of marketing a little bit differently and how we were going to operate, but also within marketing. Some change management there as well, which is always a lot of fun, because I love repeating myself and in change management, you gotta say things over and over and over again.

What’s to Love About B2B Marketing Today

Cheri Keith:

That’s awesome. Well, what I want to do next is actually shift gears and just talk a little bit more about the industry and kind of your view both from that analyst hat that you can wear so well, but also from the CMO hat about what do you love about B2B marketing today?

And I mean, obviously, it’s like these last three months as we were catching up on earlier have been crazy from a personal perspective, but also, it’s really just created upheaval in marketing in general. Nevermind B2B. So, what are you thinking about right now?

Jay Gaines:

Yeah, it’s a good question. So, you asked me what I love about B2B marketing today, and today is the keyword because there are really three things I think I love the most. One is the constant change and variety that appeals to me. I know it doesn’t appeal to everybody, but it is always moving. And the pace of change is really incredible. And I really got picked up on that from being an analyst working with so many CMOs across so many different companies, and GOs and industries, you really saw incredible innovation happening all the time. And I’m not just talking about the rise of new technologies and mapping available to us, but also kind of the rise of new approaches and how things were constantly shifting.

So for example, product marketing is so essential these days and for a while there, it was kind of being overlooked as people were really obsessed with, “Hey, I need kind of marketing, the operations people. I need people who are excellent using marketing automation platforms and measurements” and all that stuff and digital. And now it’s, “I need people who can tell stories.” “I need people who can build deeper audience insights.” “I need people who have a totally different skill set.”

I love those kinds of changes. So that’s one thing that I love about B2B marketing today. The second thing I love about it is that it’s kind of complicated. It’s not just as simple as executing marketing programs and campaigns and generating leads and doing product marketing, right. And all the other things that marketing does, it’s that relationship with a sales organization too, because that’s kind of the big difference between B2C and B2B and the ability to not just build strong relationships with them, but really strong operational alignment, which as is what Sirius was really fundamentally all about, is really challenging and in a lot of ways, but in a way that I found very engaging, very satisfying. And when you could, kind of, really get that engine humming where sales marketing understood each other’s roles, worked well together, especially in kind of the end to end demand work that needed to be done. It was really gratifying because that actually contributed to measurable growth and that feels really good, right?

To make that happen. And then the third thing is that B2B marketing is respected, for the most part, today. When I started in B2B marketing, it was a very different world. It was designed that pretty thing, host these events, any old sales rep could walk up to any marketer and say, “Hey, do this for me.” And they would hop-to and go and do it, right? But now more and more and more marketing is really viewed as a driver of growth and innovation for the business, a lever for increased productivity within the business and efficiency.

It’s got a seat at the table and that’s not universally true across all industries in B2B, but it is so much more true today than it was when I was first starting out. I remember just feeling beat down at the end of every workday. It’s just tough, but today it’s a respected function. And I think also kind of along with that marketing is just one of those things that if it’s done well, everybody looks at it and says, “you know, I could do that” because it’s intuitive. It kind of makes sense to them. But I think people are understanding that there’s real data. There’s a real process. There’s complexity behind what makes for good marketing. So, there isn’t this assumption that like any old layperson could step in and do it. So that adds the respect that I think the function has.

Cheri Keith:

That’s really interesting. I always joke that the worst time to be in marketing is after Thanksgiving and Christmas, where everyone (blip) who isn’t in marketing meets someone at a party or a long-lost uncle who all of a sudden has a marketing agency that you need to hire. And we just found this out and do they have to do that, that

Jay Gaines:

Or they have that random idea. Why aren’t we doing this? And I should do that, which is always nice to hear.

Cheri Keith:


Jay Gaines:

But it’s always very helpful. You know, it’s funny. I just have to tell this little side story, you pointed out that, Hey, I was CMO of a company with a hundred plus really brilliant experienced marketing analysts and consultants in it. And a lot of people would assume that would be a bad thing, but my attitude was, you know what? Any company I’ve ever been at, everybody always assumes that they can do marketing or help it improve or have that one great idea.

But I actually happened to be in a company with people who really knew marketing. So, most of their ideas were really good, so it kind of helped me along. So, it would have happened either way. I was lucky enough to have a bunch of really bright analysts making suggestions rather than a bunch of laypeople who’d never done it before.

Cheri Keith:

You were sharing an anecdote about how most people would not have liked working with a hundred marketing experts at a company.

Jay Gaines:

But I loved it because, as you were pointing out, whenever you’re a marketing leader, you’re getting tips, tricks, ideas, thoughts from everybody anyway. But I had the benefit of getting those from people who actually knew what they were talking about. So, it was super valuable to me which was nice.

Cheri Keith:

You must’ve had a sticky note to remind you, like “They have good ideas, don’t get upset with them.”

Jay Gaines:

Right? I did!

Marketing Pet Peeves

Cheri Keith:

But I think your points about the pace and changes, that’s what’s so exciting. I mean, most of my career was spent working in agencies. I’m addicted to the client’s needs and the need to have multiple people talking to and doing that on an ongoing basis, so I hear you there. And like you said, B2B isn’t easy. And that’s what I really feel like. That’s one thing that unites B2B marketers is this, everyone’s looking for that challenge. I remember my first internship was in PR and B2C PR.

So, I thought I was going to live in Manhattan, have a glamorous lifestyle, you know, Sex and the City, all of the things. I was calling stylists to find out the shoe sizes for celebrities. So, I could mail them like lug the mail out, free shoes when I couldn’t even afford my own shoes. So that celebrities could maybe get photographed wearing those. That would be a win in US Weekly, but that’s when I realized it wasn’t for me. So, now you know that I hate doing shipping and that’s a trigger for me. What are some of your pet peeves in marketing?

Jay Gaines:

Yeah, it’s a good question. So, I have a few. Right now, I think my biggest pet peeve, and it has been for a while, and this comes from my experience working with so many CMOs and, I stay in touch with a lot of the people who were my clients as CMOs. And what drives me crazy is when something like what is happening right now happens, right?

If there is a dip in the economy and there’s way more than a dip going on right now, I mean, businesses lock up in a big way. There are always these complaints from marketers in general and CMOs, especially that, “Hey, why do they always come to marketing first to cut budgets?” And that’s a pet peeve of mine, not the fact that they go to marketing first, but that there’s any complaints about it because it’s for obvious reasons — and the reasons are marketing has a large discretionary budget that is not tied to actual headcount.

So, any company that’s trying to really significantly cut costs without reducing staff are going to turn to marketing first. The second thing is that most CMOs, now there are a lot that are really great at this, but in my experience, a lot of CMOs aren’t prepared to have a good conversation when those cuts come. And by a good conversation, what I mean is, can you explain to the CFO, to the CEO, to the board of directors, the impacts of specific types of cuts and can you guide them and “Hey, here’s what we can do without right now. Here’s what we really need. And here’s why.”

What are those things that are going to affect sales, productivity, or customer acquisition costs? What are those things that are going to negatively impact customer retention, for example, and growth within existing client accounts? Being able to have that conversation when the time comes and, by the way, educating all along really relieves a lot of that stress because those cuts are going to come anyway, but at least you can have an intelligent conversation and direct to the business about where to make those cuts and where not to, and, frankly, how much those cuts should be.

So that’s one pet peeve, and that might not be exactly what you’re talking about because it’s a little bit different from hating shipping, which by the way, I hate.

Jay Gaines:

But, another pet peeve for me is this kind of notion that marketing continues to be a disrespected and misunderstood function within B2B. And we talked about this a little bit before and that’s improved quite a bit, but when I talk to B2B marketers, there’s still kind of this victim mentality that happens, not all the time, but sometimes. And when that exists, I just start asking questions that kind of puts on my analyst hat and start digging in and asking questions.

And frankly, if that’s the state of things in the business that you’re working in, right where marketing is misunderstood, kind of is the island of lost projects, nobody else will do it so marketing will do it kind of scenario. That to me is marketing’s fault ultimately, and I’m not talking about necessarily all the individual team members. People can be doing great work, but typically the leadership’s fault because they’re really not doing a great job of helping the business, understand how marketing should be focused and why they should be focused there. But even bigger than that, they’re not doing a good job of focusing the business itself.

In my experience, great CMOs, great marketing leaders are forcing focus within the business. For example, they’re saying, look, these are the audience segments that we need to double down in. And that should not just extend to marketing, but across sales as well and impact it and product development and product management and being able to have that audience insight is key. So, I always started asking questions. My job for a long time was to work with some CMOs and ultimately point out, listen to them, hear them. And I felt like a therapist a lot, but then sometimes I have to say, well, the problem here may be you. Let’s talk about why that is.

Cheri Keith:

Right! Yeah, very gently So.

Jay Gaines:

Right, exactly. And so that’s a bit of a pet peeve, this little bit of a victim complex that sometimes exists because marketing is the greatest function to work in, in my opinion. I mean the blend of the science, the operational excellence, process, creativity, the impact you can have on the business to leverage. You can create all that stuff. It’s just super exciting for me.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some company cultures where you just can’t get past it. Marketing is going to be kind of stepped on and beat down. And if you find yourself there, my typical advice would be; start looking to move on. That’s extra hard today. I’m not going to give anybody that advice if you’re in a solid spot, stay there for now, but just know that there are better places to go. And you might be able to change that culture a little bit.

Cheri Keith:

Yeah, that’s a good point. I mean, I think that the whole idea of marketing being that victim mentality also feeds behavior that doesn’t gain more respect internally. If you have the mentality that everyone is upset with you, you’re never going to do good enough. You all of a sudden become an order-taker, which isn’t your job generally?

I mean, yes. If you’re in a shared service organization, that’s one thing. But generally, if you just become a “yes” person and fulfill on things that aren’t going to drive the results you as a marketer know you should be driving, that’s not going to help your cause in any way. So it’s almost like once you have that in your head, your behaviors are only going to make it worse for yourself. Like there’s not a lot of people who think that they’re a victim of marketing who the next stage, turn it all around. Like you need a complete mind shift in order to get that done.

Jay Gaines:

That’s right. It’s true. And not to get too, kind of, lofty about the whole thing, but it is a state of mind that kind of permeates entire organizations, I’ve found. And usually, it’s a top-down issue. But if you find it, it’s gotta be addressed. And typically, there’s no reason to feel that way. And one other pet peeve that is interesting to talk about right now is the hatred sometimes for events.

Events are great, in my opinion, and all kinds of events are great. I mean, again, if you want to talk about leverage and a way to make an impact. I think marketers sometimes hate events because they’re like, “Well, we’re viewed as kind of the field events team.” Right? We’re just trying to do that. Now that’s temporarily a thing of the past, obviously. But the fact of the matter is, that there’s great power in bringing groups of people together, right? There are all kinds of things you can do in those scenarios, whether it’s digitally and online or live and in-person.

Live and in-person is on hold indefinitely. But, the point is that it’s what goes into those events, the pre-planning, the actual execution. Then what comes after it and integrating it into a broader campaign and mix is what’s key about it. But everybody loves bashing on events. And I never quite understood that one.

Cheri Keith:

Everyone that was bashing on it, but every salesperson wants to go and bill the really expensive dinners there. So, at the same time, which is it? They want to go, but they don’t want to work in the booth like, “heck no, on that one.”

Jay Gaines:

No, they do want the fancy dinners and the cocktails and all of that, but you’re right.

Cheri Keith:


Jay Gaines:

And my advice to marketers is to get out there and enjoy those things too. Be in the field, meet clients. That will earn you credibility.

Cheri Keith:

Yeah. And I mean, that’s where so many connections happen and yes, it’s all online right now. And, obviously, I work for a company that does a lot of that. So, it’s been kind of wild to see it. While ON24 is a company that does digital and provides technology to do that. So much of our marketing focus is on in-person events because that’s what marketers want. And that’s what helps our buyers’ journey is having really amazing in-person events.

So, we’ve been in this weird scenario internally where we’re like, we just had to shut off something that drove so much demand for us. But, at the same time, the market has completely shifted when it comes to coming to us now, rather than us going to them. So, it’s like, kind of, it’s very much like Inception. It’s like, “Wait, which level am I on right now?”

Jay Gaines:


Cheri Keith:

Make sure I get back to the top in time.

Jay Gaines:

Right, right. Assuming we get back to something like the old normal, it’ll be interesting to see if there’s a new wave of passion around live events just because people are going to want to connect again and get out of the house and see other humans. It’ll be interesting to see if that happens.

Cheri Keith:

Every webinar I have done in the past six weeks, I will get at least 10 questions. Like, “When are live events coming back?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” Quite honestly, I need a trip to Hawaii before I go to another trade show. So, we’ll put that on hold until we all take some time off and relax for a few minutes without homeschooling, pets, animals, all of it happening at once.

Jay Gaines:

I’m with you.

Marketing Buzzwords

Cheri Keith:

I know one thing that oftentimes gets marketers all riled up is the need to create new buzzwords. And as you sit now, are there any things that are kind of driving you crazy? Any buzzwords about marketing that… I was told to create categories and then disassemble them and create things that drive hype, but kind of outside of that, are there any things that are on your radar?

Jay Gaines:

Yeah, there are a few things. That is another kind of pet peeve of mine is kind of this shiny object syndrome, right? This kind of rabid pursuit of like whatever the new thing is, the new acronym, the new way of doing things. And it’s usually problematic as it creates whiplash and a lack of consistency over time. And sometimes it bogs people’s ability to see what really makes sense and what works, what doesn’t. This propensity to say, “things are dead” or “that’ll never come back.”

So, if, for example, it’s Sirius when we did benchmarking and there was a long period of time where, guess what? Direct mail was the most effective tactic we saw a lot of our clients using. And I remember for years, people were like, “Direct mail is dead and it’s never coming back.” And then of course it became new again. ABM is another example of that account-based marketing. I love it. It’s great. It’s fantastic.

But I had clients, CMO clients, who would come to me and say, I want to learn all about ABM. We have to start incorporating ABM into our business. And these would, some of these businesses were very transactional in nature. They had a very broad base of markets and types of customers they were going after. They didn’t have strategic accounts. And I was like, “ABM is really kind of tangential to what you want to do. I know it sounds cool and everybody’s doing it. And you want to jump on that bandwagon, but you’d be better off focusing on these other areas.”

And they get super-upset hearing that. You know, a new one right now, which I take a little bit personally, is the whole, the MQL is dead and lead generation is dead and it should have never existed. I get the point. Yes, buying groups are wonderful and we need to focus on buying groups. Also, kind of conversational marketing is really key as well. And I’m all for those things. But, the fact of the matter is that actually having a funnel or a waterfall, if you will, and leads and agreement on where those leads were and how to manage them appropriately worked really well, and continues to work really well, for a lot of companies. It made sales more productive. It was measurable. Something you could improve upon over time.

So, this readiness to dismiss things before their time, to be dismissed has actually come, annoys me. But, also the readiness to kind of jump on the next bandwagon before it’s really proven, is also a bit of a pet peeve. Now I’m all for experimentation, but kind of the whiplash effect is something that, I think most of us in B2B marketing has to be careful about.

Cheri Keith:

Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I mean, I always talk about it being very clickbaity. I’m giving to people to sound like something you would see in a banner ad. I don’t think that can be the best advice you give someone is to go over the top on something. Even if it is true and like direct mail, I think it is a (blip) like where it wasn’t true, but people were saying it was because what? You’re trying to steal budget from direct mail. So, you need to say that it’s dead.

As a vendor, it just seems like there’s usually enough place in the marketing mix for a lot of things to be supported. And especially if you think about buyer enabled and what it’s like, who knows what that means to a lot of different people.

But if we know that we’re going to have a variety of people who are going to interact with us, they probably have different tactics. You can’t all of a sudden change your entire marketing mix to one thing and expect (blip). It doesn’t stand to reason that that could be effortless. But I think direct mail must, now that people are like, we know you’re wanting swag, can we ship it to you? I say this now, of course, I’m looking outside, and I see a UPS man out front of my house. On a first-name basis.

Jay Gaines:

Getting deliveries and mail is the most exciting thing that happens for a lot of us every day.

Future Plans

Cheri Keith:

It’s like, now we understand why dogs are so happy when the mailman comes. Like, we have become the puppies. So, why shift gears one last time to talk about what you’re working on now? I think you have some exciting projects going on. Like, what’s going to keep you busy over the next few months, aside from dos I’m online shopping like me.

Jay Gaines:

Yeah. So, well, thanks for asking that there’s a number of things going on. So, as I think you know, I resigned from the CMO role at Forrester in January. And since then, I went to Sundance in late January, early February to see a film I was involved in, which got bought by Amazon Studios, which was super exciting. As exciting, but less timely, I also was part of launching a restaurant in Los Angeles in mid-February, which, not the best time to launch a restaurant, but still it was exciting.

It was like a lifelong dream of mine. I love food. I love cooking. I have always been curious about the industry. And we’re okay. We’re hibernating for as long as we have to, but other than that, I continue to stay very close to a lot of my CMO clients. I’m working on a couple of side projects looking at possibly starting a couple of new things with some people and some friends. And also, I am looking at a couple of CMO roles that I’m actively considering. I can’t really name names just yet. Because.

Cheri Keith:

No, no, of course not! We don’t want to jinx anything.

Jay Gaines:

I don’t want to jinx anything. I also have a big decision to make do I want to start a new thing, or do I want to go back to the life of the CMO? Both are really appealing, but for different reasons. So, I feel really fortunate that I have options. But I’m terrible at making decisions. So, I might just ask you once we’re done here to tell me what to do. Yeah.

Cheri Keith:

Awesome. Well, that has been amazing. Thank you so much for your time today, Jay. We appreciate it. And thank you audience for listening.

Jay Gaines:

Cheri, thanks for having me. It was a lot of fun.