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:

Exactly.

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:

Yeah.

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:

Right!

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:

Exactly.

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.

CMO Confessions Ep. 30: IBM Europe’s Alison Orsi

Hello and welcome to CMO Confessions, our B2B podcast examining what it takes to be a leader in marketing and sales today. Everyone’s ready for the holidays, so our parting present to you is this fantastic conversation with Alison Orsi, CMO of IBM Europe. 

In this episode, Alison and I discuss how she — a natural world traveler —  came to be the CMO of IBM Europe, how IBM Europe approaches agile marking and why having a high tolerance for experimentation and failure adds up to marketing success.

This is a great episode, so I’ll leave you to get to it. 

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 how Alison approaches marketing on her Twitter feed here and follow her on LinkedIn 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 CMO Confessions. Let’s chat.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Marketing in the US vs. Europe
Transforming IBM to the next frontier of marketing
World traveler to CMO of IBM Europe
Strategic components of becoming CMO
Embrace marketing agility
The agile mindset
Use failure as a learning opportunity

TRANSCRIPT

Joe Hyland:

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO Confessions, a weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast where we explore what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Joe Hyland, CMO here at ON24 and joining me this week, all the way from West London, is Alison Orsi, vice president and CMO IBM Europe. Alison, how are you doing?

Alison Orsi:

I’m doing well. How are you? Thank you for inviting me.

MARKETING IN THE US VS. EUROPE

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, thank you. I’m doing great. And thanks for being on the show. We really appreciate it. So I think your career path is super interesting and I’d love to talk about it just for a little bit. I guess the first question I have, I think it’d be interesting for our listeners to get your perspective on the difference between marketing in the US versus marketing in Europe. You’re obviously from Europe, or Europe as of now, but spent a lot of time in the US running marketing for a division of IBM out of New York. So, what were those differences, were they that pronounced and talk about those experiences?

Alison Orsi:

Sure. I’ve spent most of my career at IBM which has meant I’ve had the privilege to work for a US company and spent most of my time working in Europe, but I’ve worked in many countries in Europe and also had the privilege to travel internationally. 

And as you alluded to, I also spent the last three years living and working in New York and just recently returned to London. So I would say that many, many things are the same. And the way that we think about how we work, the way that we think about how we work together and collaborate, the way that we really try to put the customer at the center of everything we do, all of those things are the same.

Alison Orsi:

How to do them is slightly different. I would say what makes a great event in the US might not necessarily make a great event in Europe. Obviously in Europe now we have the challenges of things like GDPR which I understand is coming, there’s more legislation coming into the US shortly. But all of those things I prefer to see not as challenges but as opportunities. 

Actually things like that and things like the differing regulations and the differing cultural expectations and cultural norms are invitations for us to show up at our best and to really think about what is it that marketing can do to add value in the relationship with the customer, add value to the person that you’re trying to connect with. And things like GDPR and privacy rules and regulations really mean that you have to make sure that you deliver something of so much value that that customer is willing to share their details with you and continue a relationship with you. 

And so that to me, I guess is the biggest thing. There’s always fun. You know, my US colleagues had great fun keeping a chart of all the strange British things that I said presented to me on a card when I left and those kinds of things. But for the most part, I think we’re actually very, very similar.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I think that’s brilliant on many fronts. I mean, you’re right, great marketing is about adding value it’s not about us or your own organization. It is about, as you said, putting your customer, or future customer, at the center of everything you do. There are some nuanced differences to the approach to how you disseminate a message and how you go about it, right. And a good point on the cultural differences. Language is amazing by the way.

You and I speak the same language, but I find myself pretty confused and perplexed half the time with British English versus American English. But you’re right at the end of the day, it is all about our audience and making sure that they are central to everything that we do. So it’s actually not that different.

TRANSFORMING IBM TO THE NEXT FRONTIER OF MARKETING

Alison Orsi:

No, it’s, not, and I think it really is part of the journey that, you know, most organizations, if I speak to a lot of my peer CMOs, we’re really starting to think about how do we transform? What’s the next frontier of marketing and where do we need to get to? The part of that transformation journey has to start with being completely customer-centric. And so, most recently now we’ve been talking about how we drive NPS. And so, the marketing transformation that we’ve been on at IBM for the last few years, started with actually, how do we get more customer-centric? How do we really embrace NPS and make IBM an NPS led organization?

The next piece then is around really making data available to everybody so we can be data-driven. So we can become the most customer-oriented, data-driven and ultimately agile to the core marketing organizations. That’s kind of the journey that we’re on. And as we start to think about how do you put the customer at the center, but then how do you deliver the best value? Those for us are the keys to how you can deliver value.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, isn’t it? it’s exciting, right? Think about how much marketing has changed in the last, well, the last five years, never mind in the last two decades. You’re right. Marketing is at the center of the strategy of the organization talking about the next frontier and the customer journey and being customer-centric.

I don’t know about you and what it was like at IBM two decades ago. But where I started my career marketing wasn’t that strategic. You know it was more on the branding side in corporate communications. But I would say marketing was more the make it look pretty department, you know, make it presentable.

Alison Orsi:

We were the brochures and events department when I started in B2B marketing and you know, we built the right relationships and then opportunities with a very, relatively small number of very large customers. So our customer base has changed, customer expectations have changed, technology has changed. The blurring between personal life and work-life has moved forward at pace, enabled by technology. Who people go to for advice where people get their information; all of that has changed completely in the last 20 to 25 years.

So, and it continues to change really, really quickly. And so one of the things that’s beholden on us as marketers and one of the reasons that I enjoyed the career in marketing all this time is that we are continually changing.

The one thing that I tell my team is that the first thing you have to learn is to be comfortable with change and to be willing to embrace change and get on the bandwagon. Be curious, continue to ask questions, because that’s the thing that will help keep you and your career moving forward and keeping pace with the opportunities that are out there.

WORLD TRAVELER TO CMO AT IBM EUROPE

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, that is fantastic advice. If you don’t mind, walk us through your career path and along the way talk about some of that change and how marketing has transformed over this time.

Alison Orsi:

Sure. I spent most of my career at IBM, as I told you. I’ve described myself many times as an accidental marketer because my degree at university was in Geography, so actually all I wanted to do was travel the world. And so I ended up at IBM as a way to earn money to go traveling.

I worked for IBM for a few months or a year. And I left and went to South America and had a fabulous time and ended up back at my old job within a week of being back in the country simply because I needed the money and I actually said, this is great I can figure out what I want to do with my life, then I will leave and get a proper job. That was 25 years ago and I think one of my colleagues at IBM was in a marketing department where we were actually really focused on our business partner channel and helping run enablement sessions. So really thinking about our ecosystem and enabling our ecosystem. The thing that attracted me to the role was, of course, was that at that time our organization was Europe, Middle East and Africa, so EMEA.

And he was flying to a different country every week to run training courses for our business partners, which of course sounded amazing to be paid to travel. So I went to my boss at the time, I was in an admin role and said, I’d like to join that team, they’re hiring. And he said, but Alison, that’s marketing. I was like, okay, but you need qualifications.

Okay. So I went and got the qualifications, was allowed to move and discovered that I was actually quite good at it. And so for the first three years of my marketing career, I was flying, you know, two-three cities a week, all over Europe, Middle East and Africa, helping our business partners understand the value propositions and differentiators and how to sell our technology and how to differentiate our technology. And that was in the PC division of IBM at the time.

So from that, I spent 10 years in that part of the organization and moved from that ecosystem enablement into product marketing. And at that time, that was high-volume, relatively low-value compared to the rest of what IBM was doing. But I didn’t really understand or appreciate how big the organization was or what else there was available to me.

And so it wasn’t until at the end of 10 years I also had the opportunity to go and live and work in Paris for three years, so our European headquarters at the time was in Paris. So that was great. And that’s where I really learned how the first lesson for my career really actually made sure that you use the opportunity to do roles from lots of different perspectives.

Alison Orsi:

As I had spent my time sitting in a Europe role or in a UK role, kind of wondering what this European team was and who were they and why were they telling me what to do I’m in a big organization? Actually to then flip and sit and work in a European role, trying to enable and help the markets or countries be as successful as they could be, gives you a completely different perspective on the market and how to lead, but also how to operate in an organization perhaps like ours.

It really was helpful to truly understand you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and that works the same for internal customers just as it does for external customers to get your point of view across, and to understand how to work the matrix in a big B2B organization like ours.

Alison Orsi:

And then when I came back to the UK, after three years in Paris as the product marketer for our desktop and laptop product, I switched completely into a new bit of the organization that really focused on our customer sets. And so I ran marketing in the UK for what would be called our small and medium business division essentially. So again, the whole breadth of IBM, so flip, so everything that we did from hardware, software, and services, but for small and medium clients.

And then from there I moved into our technology services division, our business consulting division, and ultimately became the CMO for IBM in the UK. I kind of realized at the time, but every job that I’ve had along the way was actually preparing me for a CMO role because I’d done that thing of really understanding and learning what are the things that are all the different perspectives of things that we could do. What are the different types of clients that we have? I experienced everything from, as I said, high-volume, low-value to extremely high-value, really deep customer relationships, complex deals, multi-year deals that required multiple stakeholders and buying decision-making units that we’d have to address. So, lots of different angles and aspects. And every time we changed roles, something changed in the market; new technology would be available, a new way of engaging.

Our customers, in my career, have changed from, you know, trusting the vendor and the relationship that they had with their vendor through to really trusting their peers to get even 70% of the information that they choose to make their decision online before they, even before they’ve even engaged any vendor. And so all of those things have changed and we’ve had to change our approach, our understanding of the customer, the way that we deliver value to the customer.

And of course one of the things that’s been enabling us to do that over time is the amount of data that’s available to us and the way that we can use that data, and now obviously more so now actually how we apply artificial intelligence and machine learning to get even better at doing that in a way that differentiates us.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Well, that’s fantastic. When there’s so much in there. First I’ll say it is, isn’t it amazing? And I think this is true in our personal lives and in our careers. Life is so often what happens while you’re planning everything out, while you’re planning your life, right? Like you want it to work just enough so you could travel.

Then all of a sudden, lo and behold, you ended up getting to travel because of your work and then on your career side, you’re right. I mean, cause I get asked this question a lot is, you know, what is the ideal path giving me the formula to become a head of marketing. And I don’t think that there is a formula and you know, you’re correct.

Alison Orsi:

I think I’d agree, every one of my peers at IBM as well, I think, you know, you need, every single one of us has had a career path and there’s been some serendipity involved in everyone that I know.

STRATEGIC COMPONENTS OF BECOMING CMO

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. No, that’s right. there’s a lot of luck and chance, but I had a similar career path in that I didn’t have a master plan, but I ended up in product marketing, campaign marketing, demand gen events, channel, you name it. And then lo and behold, after 15 years I realized, “Oh, I actually know a lot about the kind of all aspects of marketing.” Perhaps I’m qualified to run marketing, right? So and, you don’t know until you try it.

But, talk a little bit about the, I’m curious about this one thing that you talked about, so you mentioned your stint in product marketing, which I think is, that is evolved of course a lot in the last decade as well. But, that’s interesting in a part of marketing where marketers get to do a lot more than a traditional campaign or brand marketing where you have to really understand the market’s needs, competition, pricing.

Do you think your time in product marketing set you up for the strategic components of being a CMO or did it not play a larger role than the other roles that you had?

Alison Orsi:

I spent most of my career in what we would describe as product marketing inside IBM and I think the thing that taught me was that you truly have to understand your customer and your market. You also truly have to know how to connect with the business and really understand what it is from what the business objectives that you were trying to achieve. And over time, product marketing has evolved to then really start to think about well how do I embrace NPS? How do I get direct customer feedback? Not just it filtered through the sellers who are kind of interpreting what customers are saying. We’re getting direct quotes from customers directly in your product sometimes.

And so for me, the notion of product marketing is incredibly important. But I would say having spent three years in what we call performance marketing inside IBM, which includes all of the demand gen and campaign management and everything else that actually, that’s equally important as well. The product marketing piece helps you with the art of marketing. It helps you with the value propositions. It helps you with the things that resonate with your customers.

That helps you understand your audience. The performance marketing piece actually helps with the science. That’s where a lot of the data sets and truly understanding what are the leavers that I can pull. How do I best engage with my audience, which is the way that they want to engage with us most? And it’s not about guesswork and qualitative feedback, but quantitative direct feedback that you can use that you can see through A/B testing and you know, just which route to market actually works best in terms of cost per click or engagement rate or yield rates. And so actually it’s the combination of the two that makes us the most successful.

Alison Orsi:

So in, in my career, actually, the thing that I value the most is the three years that I spent leading performance marketing most recently in New York because that really opened my eyes to the importance of data and actually not data for data’s sake, but the art of asking the question. I think one of the things I learned was, as marketers, as product marketers and performance marketers and particularly product marketers, actually the first thing we want is all the market insights that we can get and all the market research that I can find. I want to build a plan and I want to segment my audience and day-to-day-to-day to help me make some decisions.

And where we’re moving to now I think actually is that if you, if you wait too long and you do all that analysis, the market’s moved before you’ve even caught up. And it really is about how do I was reading in an article that we’ve got our relationship with data all wrong, right, actually. And if you think about how you do scientific exploration, you can look back at data, but if you only use the data set that you’ve already got, you only can discover what’s in that data set.

Most of what happens when you’re doing scientific experiments are you’re trying something new and there’s new data and there’s usually happy accidents which are where the big breakthrough discoveries come from. You apply the same to marketing. Actually what you want to do is use your existing data as my colleague would say, to not be stupid, right? And make the best assumption that you’ve got.

EMBRACE MARKETING AGILITY

Alison Orsi:

But then the most important data you can gather is your live feedback from customers to get something into the market quickly, test your value propositions live, test your campaign journeys live, test your offerings live. And we’re getting more and more used, particularly now in the technology world, to putting out products that we then iterate on very, very quickly and improve with direct customer feedback.

So you get direct feedback on what features and functions work the best in your products or how they would like to consume your products or how they would like to interact with you. And it’s much, much better to get that feedback immediately and directly and to be able to respond as quickly as you can to that kind of data than it is looking at more traditional data sets. They’re important. Absolutely. But, but I’d encourage everyone to get into getting to market fast and really embracing this notion of agile in marketing is what I was saying,

Joe Hyland:

I’m so glad you brought this up. I read — it was like eight or ten years ago when the lean startup came out — and obviously it was about product development and very quickly bringing things to market so you can get market feedback versus sitting in a room pontificating on what the ideal product is and what people’s problems are. And I read the whole book and I thought this is about marketing. They’re talking products, but this is really about marketing and marketers need to be agile. They need to get things out as quickly as possible, and you need real market feedback and then you can adapt somewhat within a blink of an eye.

So, talk about how you guys do that. Like how do you look at agile? How does that change how you market in the last, I don’t know, five, ten years? And how quickly can you adapt?

THE AGILE MINDSET

Alison Orsi:

I think we’ve been on a journey to become the most agile to the core marketing organization globally. And I guess that journey started maybe three or four years ago. But there are many different ways and people think very differently about agile. And often when we talk about agile, we think about how you do agile. So you think about the rituals you think about that agile is all about daily stand-ups and backlogs and sprints and all this buzz, all this buzz language.

And you can do agile and pretend that you’re doing agile by going through the motions and that will probably give you some benefit. For me, agile actually is about, is a mindset shift and it’s a mindset, not a behavior and you want it to become a movement in the organization that people want to be part of. And what that means is that agile is something that you be rather than something that you do.

So we talk about being agile and that means that actually what agile for us is predicated on is a core set of values, which means that we all have trust, respect, openness and a little bit of courage to try something new. That allows us to collaborate very effectively in cross-functional teams. We are a little bit agile about how we implement agile and there’s a very prescribed way agile was designed for something very specific in terms of designing software. What we’re doing is taking the best bits and what works for us to really help us think through how it adds value in marketing.

Alison Orsi:

So we built agile squads. They are teams of individuals who have specialist skills and specialist disciplines that contribute to an outcome. You’d find product marketers, campaign marketers, digital strategists, event specialists, our agency teams, our ecosystem teams, social media coms, all working together in a team aligned to a common outcome and a common goal. When that team works together with those values, with this notion of experimentation, everybody being really clear on what is it that we’re trying to get done, everybody being clear on what the outcome is, but also then being clear on what’s the most important thing that we need to get done in the next two weeks.

When we start to have teams working in this way they have more fun, they get creative. It’s a little bit of a hard transformation, but once you get through that kind of first six to eight weeks, suddenly everyone starts having fun. The results start coming in. People get bolder. They try more wild experiments.

Alison Orsi:

I remember one of the first agile teams I worked with, probably four or five years ago now, went through that kind of early pain stage. It was a pilot. So, they set themselves a target to achieve in their first three months of work. They hit their three months target after eight weeks.

And actually by the end of three months did double what they thought they would do simply because they were working differently and thinking bolder and trying lots of new things. So I would encourage people to explore agile and embrace it because it is a very different way of working, but it unlocks so many things.

USE FAILURE AS A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY

Joe Hyland:

So many organizations and I want to talk about how you’ve set this up so that people feel they have agency and they feel empowered to fail because you talked about bold experiments and bold testing. And as a part of any tests like some experiments will work and others won’t right?

That’s how you learn; that’s the point of it. But that has to start at the top. I mean, I think a lot of organizations are worried about failure and they want to hit 100% of their goals and they don’t want to miss anything. So, how drastic of a shift was this three or four years ago when you put this in place and did you have to tell people and did it take a while for employees to understand, “Oh, it’s okay if we miss the mark on many of our experiments?”

Alison Orsi:

Yes. I mean, I think it obviously it is led from the top and it has the full support and the drive of our CMO Michelle Paluso. But it also, it is prevalent at every level of the organization. And often people think about, “Oh my God, failure,” which means that I miss my numbers. That’s not what we mean. It means that we’re trying lots of things and we fail fast. And we use failure as a learning opportunity.

So you think about the example you were just talking about A/B testing. A/B testing doesn’t mean that I’m going to pick, I’m going to do one thing or another. And the fact that I’m doing A/B testing to know which of the variance I have is going to get me to my goal better. Which of those works better?

Alison Orsi:

So we don’t think about failure as something that means I’ve missed the opportunity. We think about failure as how we learn to get better and go faster. And so you don’t think about agile as one big change.

I think about agile as lots of little things and lots of little experiments and continuous experimentation, continuous iteration and this mantra that we have inside IBM, which is always better tomorrow, right? There is always something I can learn. Where am I today and what’s the one thing I want to do differently tomorrow? And if you think about agile in that sense and you’ve got everyone working in the same way, then you will continually improve.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, isn’t it amazing when you can get everyone rowing in the same direction? And I love the quick pace too, right? This notion of things not being bolted to the ground. I remember when I started in marketing and we had our annual kickoff and everything was planned for the entire year in January.

I have to say a lot changed by June, yet we stuck to that damn plan. And it was boring, but I don’t think anyone wanted to admit that we were wrong with the original plan. So we just kept doing the same thing even though it made no sense. So I think this is brilliant and I love that it comes right from the top. It sounds like the team is structured around it.

And you’re right, marketing should be fun. And what’s more fun than coming into work every day and truly not knowing exactly what’s going to happen because you’re agile, things will change.

Alison Orsi:

Right? I mean, and I will tell you that first team that I worked with once they’d figured out what it meant and it felt freeing and they were able to experiment. I mean, other people in the office were coming over to ask me to be quiet cause they were laughing so loud and having too much fun coming up with crazy ideas. Some of the crazy ideas they even tried.

So, who knew you could set up a pop-up shop in a cheap basement in London. I mean, that’s not the kind of thing you’d expect from our brand, but we tried, we learned, we moved on and it’s become something bigger and better now. So, there are lots of little things that you can try.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I love it. I think this is just amazing advice. Well, we’re half an hour in, so I want to honor the time. Alison, thank you so much for half an hour. The accidental marketer turns CMO. I love it. And again, thank you so much.

Alison Orsi:

You’re very welcome. Thank you.

CMO Confessions Ep. 29: Aprimo’s Ed Breault

Hi folks and welcome to CMO Confessions, our B2B podcast examining what it takes to be a leader in the marketing and sales side of business today.

This week, we have Ed Breault, CMO at Aprimo. Ed started his marketing career as many of us do: graduating from college and wondering what’s next. After graduating from Bowling Green State University, Ed spent some time analyzing nuclear power plan data before moving onto a Big Four consulting firm and, eventually, his role as CMO at Aprimo.

In this episode, we discuss what makes marketing marketing today, why simply having data isn’t enough to drive results, what experiences young marketers ought to pursue to further their careers and why constantly challenging yourself and working out of your comfort zone is critical to success.

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 what Ed has to say by following him on Twitter here and checking out his LinkedIn 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 CMO Confessions. Let’s chat.

Table of Contents

What Does Ed Breault Love About Marketing Today?
What Is B2P Marketing?
Get Back to the Basic Human Elements of Exchange of Information
What Is the Objective of the Marketing Team at Aprimo?
Marketers Need to go Deep: Customer Experience and Advocacy
Marketing Longevity and Staying the Course
How to Deal With the Analytical Side of Marketing
Ed Breault’s Biggest Career Challenge

Transcript:

Joe Hyland:

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO Confessions, a weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast where we explore what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Joe Hyland, CMO here at ON24, and joining me this week from the greater Pittsburgh area is Ed Breault, CMO at Aprimo. How’s it going, Ed?

Ed Breault:

I’m doing well, how are you?

Joe Hyland:

I am doing great. Thank you for joining me on a Friday afternoon.

Ed Breault:

Thanks for having me.

WHAT DOES ED BREAULT LOVE ABOUT MARKETING TODAY?

Joe Hyland:

All right, let’s dive right into the state of the space you and I live and work in B2B marketing. I want to hear, I’ll start on a positive note. Tell me what you love about what we’re doing today in the world we live in.

Ed Breault:

Yeah. I love it because I think we’ve got out of our own way as B2B marketers. And I think we just got back, we got out of the way of all the hype and all the distractive like technologies. And I think we just got back to being helpful and realizing where we’re needed and where we’re not needed.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. That’s it. One thing I love about marketing is well a lot of changes. I mean, think of the technology we have at our disposal on our fingertips on a daily basis. You know, the basic principles and tenets of marketing have not changed in decades and in some ways in centuries.

And I see so many marketers just making it about the tactics or making it about the next click or getting someone’s attention or trying to make too much noise and actually not focusing on, well, how do I help someone solve their problem and what’s the best way to show them that I can do that.

WHAT IS B2P MARKETING?

Ed Breault:

Exactly. Yeah. I think one of the things, and whether it’s B2B or B2C, it’s just I call it B2P business to people. And that’s the constant right, that you’re talking about as we’re just, we’re people, we’re humans and when we stop being humans that’s probably one of my biggest pet peeves. I think just keep it human, keep it conversational and remember how we are pre-wired, which is, you know, through stories, through visual communication.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. We talked about this for a moment before trying to be authentic. You know, oftentimes what we’re doing is really just trying to relate to another person and another individual. It just happens that we might have to do it to thousands or millions of people, right? But, if you walk up to someone at a bar and talk to them like a robot, it probably won’t be a good conversation and if we could do that in our marketing we’ll probably be okay.

Ed Breault:

Exactly. A good framework I use is SLAP, speak like a person, you know, it’s the worst. Our area is so full of jargon and buzzwords and I think some of the best marketers don’t have to use any of that.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I had this great boss once who, back when I was in product marketing, who would just go through whatever was written and either cross out or write a question mark above, like a slang phrase like optimize business processes. He’s like, Joe, what the hell does that mean? I was like, wow, we’re going to do things better. He’s like, you say that.

Ed Breault:

Exactly. I’ve seen with my team and then in general, I mean I’m very into saying the most with the least amount of words and just looking at how sometimes copy can be just so full of wasteful information.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I couldn’t agree anymore and it’s refreshing to feel like you’re not being sold to or marketed to. Right, I mean, I think it’s easy for everyone to relate to that shitty feeling of when you’ve got a slick salesperson who’s just trying to shove something down your throat like no one likes that, right?

And we can all relate to it in our personal lives. But I think we forget that marketers kind of do the same thing and when they push a whole bunch of BS at you, that probably isn’t going to, you’re not going to get the desired results.

GET BACK TO THE BASIC HUMAN ELEMENTS OF EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION

Ed Breault:

Exactly. Yeah. I mean, one of the things that I do, I market to marketers. So that’s one of those places where you are so pushed to bring value.

And differentiate from everybody else out there who’s speaking because a marketer can pick up on that and oftentimes it’s like, “Why are you using those words? Why are you using those tactics?” You have to be genuine, you have to be authentic and get back to the basic human elements of exchange of information.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. It’s interesting to play in the marketing technology space where your audience is actually your own discipline, right, where you and I are marketing to marketers. On one hand, I would hope that what you said is true, that marketers are should be a little more savvy to marketing tech, which I think they are.

I don’t know, I see a lot of bad marketing in our space. It’s also such a crowded space. Like you just said you were at Martech, right? I mean it’s, they speak with pride about having thousands of vendors in the space. Which on one hand might be a good thing, on the other hand, it makes it so it can be a pretty loud echo chamber.

Ed Breault:

Absolutely. It’s so crowded. And what is it like 7,000 plus Martech vendors? I mean, it’s just a ridiculous amount. Some survive, some don’t. And we make it hard when we don’t differentiate in any way because it’s such a crowded space. There’s overlap, there’s convergence. And I think those that have like the staying power are the ones that continue to keep up and evolve what they’re doing.

WHAT IS THE OBJECTIVE OF THE MARKETING TEAM AT APRIMO?

Joe Hyland:

So talk to me about what, or our audience, about what you guys are doing. Like what are what’s your team look like? You know, you referenced you’re selling to marketers and what’s your goal? What’s the objective of the marketing team at Aprimo?

Ed Breault:

Absolutely. The objective of marketing at Aprimo is to be helpful, right? It’s really to, we have we sell digital asset management for customer experience and marketing resource management and we’ve got 25% of the global 100 as customers and they’ve got major pain points like.

Ed Breault:

These are the brands that have to do massive storytelling with lots of content, with a lot of appreciation for sophistication and they need really bulletproof technology. And they’re companies who have evolved over time; they went through mergers and acquisitions and now they’re at this point of simplifying their tech stack and bringing it all together.

Ed Breault:

And so what we have to do is help them make very difficult decisions. Decisions that are in the millions and billions around how they’re designing their org, designing their technology for this future. I mean, it’s 2020s right there. I can’t believe it’s here right now. So we just have to be as helpful as possible with the right information, the right content, and we have to teach along the way.

We actually used some of the Challenger Sales Methodology, marketing methodology, and so we really have to know these industries up and down, inside and out and where they’re going. And so we can bring information and content to help them through their discovery and buying process and bring empathy.

MARKETERS NEED TO GO DEEP: CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE AND ADVOCACY

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Well, I love that you said empathy there. I think that’s a great topic is marketers going deep. Meaning, if you want to be respected you better know what the hell you’re talking about.

And I see a lot of marketers, particularly earlier in their careers, who kind of shy away from knowing the product or knowing the space or the industry or the vertical you’re selling into, it’s like, I don’t need to do that. I just need to make it pretty, so to speak.

Joe Hyland:

And I think marketing has, that’s a really exciting thing about marketing, is it’s evolved so much in the last 10 years on the tech side, but also on the value side. And marketers are if we can be on the tip of the spear and on the front end of driving growth in our organizations. But to do that, you really need to know the space. You need to know the competitors. You need to know how you’re providing value to a potential customer.

So I love that. I love that you guys look at the Challenger Model. I think many salespeople adhere to that, but I think it’s really helpful for marketers to think about how they market and how you can add value to your customers versus just trying to push your message to them.

Ed Breault:

Exactly. Yeah. In their research, they look at customer advocacy and what was the key driver in that? And it was the sales process. So it’s even before they become a customer, advocacy and customer experience they really do matter. Not just at the transaction point to keep them as customers, to continue to add value. It’s this experience is the new battlefront, that’s for sure.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I love that you just said that and I think, talk about another exciting opportunity for marketers is I think marketers can own that, right? Or at least be on the bleeding edge of it. What we’re doing on a daily basis should be creating experiences.

I think it’s cool and exciting that so many marketers are stepping up and owning more of that customer experience. Cause you’re right, it could start with the first web form they fill out or like your nurture email all the way through to hopefully having them as customers for years and years.

Ed Breault:

Exactly. Yeah. The idea, I mean we were talking about it earlier, but this idea that it’s not just B2B or B2C, it’s business to people and even like direct consumer, right?

Where those disruptive direct to consumer experiences are raising the experience bar in B2B now because you’re not competing over the best experience your competition delivers. It’s you’re competing over the best experience who you’re trying to help, has ever had, whether it be Amazon, right, a company that’s built from the experience out.

And so I think we as B2B or B2C marketers if we can think about experience as one of the new differentiators that’s where really where we should be spending a lot of our time.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I love it and in a world where, you know, so many solutions are rented, not owned, that experience is so much more important. Right? It’s not like the good old days where someone would plop down $1 million and they’d own your software and you’d get a little maintenance.

Consumers have a lot of choices now and they can choose to, they’re actively choosing do I stay with you or do I go to another solution? So you’re kind of only as good as the value and experience you’re providing.

Ed Breault:

Exactly. As consumers, we’re just looking for an experiential differentiation deck. Don’t make me buy, let me try. Just like Uber, right? I don’t like to buy cars; let me use yours.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Soon enough we won’t like to drive and no one will be driving the car. So that’s probably the world we’re going. Actually they were doing a lot of their testing in and around Pittsburgh. Right?

Ed Breault:

That’s exactly right. Yeah. They have the with Carnegie Mellon and a lot of these, there’s a lot of high tech in Pittsburgh. It’s really gone through quite a bit of innovation surge and the infrastructure too. We’ve gotten really liberal with some of the testings and actually working with the local government there.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I read a good article on how the mayor was kind of leaning into, you know, trying to bring more tech companies in. I think that’s cool and exciting because so I live in the land of startups but it’s almost we’ve kind have jumped the shark so to speak. Like it’s too much out in San Francisco. It feels like everyone you bump into has kind of founded the latest tech company and most likely it’s a marketing tech company. So I like seeing it in other parts of the country. That’s cool.

Ed Breault:

There’s a lot of Fonzies jumping the shark out there in Silicon Valley.

MARKETING LONGEVITY AND STAYING THE COURSE

Joe Hyland:

It’s bad, it’s bad. Okay. It’s also exciting but it’s bad. The career path I think is really interesting to talk about and actually it’s a natural jumping-off point after I lovingly made fun of the Bay area.

And I get asked a lot about how you perfectly curate your career path and I think a lot of people think it’s natural, particularly when you’re younger in your career, to think that there was a formula for how someone went from, you know, an entry-level employee to an executive and there’s not.

What I’m seeing is a lot of employees jumping pretty quickly staying at a job for under a year. And I’d love for you to talk about your career path and how you look at longevity and kind of staying the course.

Ed Breault:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean I think it comes down to, and I felt would give one piece of advice to an emerging marketer, somebody younger in their career or emerging in their career. It’s to stay uncomfortable.

And what I mean by that is that when you’re uncomfortable, you’re growing, right? It’s you’re never done growing. And if you start to stagnate or start to feel like, hey, I’m good, I got this, it’s time to think about what’s next. You’ve got to continue to evolve in your career. But I really embraced that idea even when I went to school at Bowling Green State University, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do.

Ed Breault:

I had a double major in business administration and management information systems. So I took the accounting classes, the finance classes, the marketing, plus I did all the coding and all the technology. Just so I had options. Right?

And then I moved, I got a couple of internships. I worked for Intel Corporation and First Energy Corporation, nuclear energy. So you gotta get your experience young, really get experienced is what I’d recommend. And then from there, I got into nuclear energy of all things. I was working with a lot of data.

Joe Hyland:

Really?

Ed Breault:

Yeah. Nuclear power plants. I was pulling, well it was big data. They, these nuclear power plants have tons and tons of data that collects in these mainframes. And I was building advanced analytic models to pull all the data out and build predictive models for whenever parts in the nuclear power plant would fail. From an obsolescence standpoint because when they shut down these reactors, these companies lose millions of dollars like a minute. So they have to be extremely efficient.

So I did that and again, got comfortable and I’m like, okay, I’m out. Then I got into big four consulting and business model transformation, which was really fun. And that’s where I really first got into marketing. And I saw what was really cool about it is I could have the, be data-driven, as the science part of it, but then also the creative, the human elements. So the art and science of business are what marketing afforded me. And then from there, I was just two feet in marketing all the way and there’s no other place I want to be.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I love the left and right brain aspects of marketing, right?

Ed Breault:

Full brain.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, full brain. We do full brain work here, we work both sides.

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE ANALYTICAL SIDE OF MARKETING

Joe Hyland:

Talk more about that data component because that is one thing. It’s easy to say a lot hasn’t changed in marketing while a lot legitimately has, right? And you know, we have more and more and more data and I think a lot of marketers struggle with that right?

And I know of a few marketers who come from a nuclear background and then went into consulting. So you’re an interesting person to get a take on this how are you guys using data? How do you view the analytical side of marketing?

Ed Breault:

Yeah, I think you’re right, it’s the analytical side of marketing which it starts with asking questions. Don’t start with the data. You know, before we didn’t have a lot of data now we’ve got tons of data and now we’ve got big data. The volume, variety, velocity, the veracity of data. Is that the data even of quality? Do we have good data hygiene?

I like to call it data fitness. Cause my team, I’m like guys, we’ve got to have good data fitness. We’ve got update Salesforce. Put your, put your data in, fill out your call logs. You know, we’re only as good as our data to mine for insight. So we always start with questions. We ask a lot of questions. One answer to a question leads to three more questions.

Ed Breault:

And so I think you really have to number one really respect the data. Make sure you’ve got a good infrastructure hygiene process down. You have good data fitness meaning marketing and sales. We’re all in this together. This is how we communicate, it’s the lifeblood of our decision making.

I use those decisions to make very directional decisions for marketing, for sales, for the company to report to my senior leadership team, to my board of directors, to make investments, to make more headcount to all of that. The data is probably secondary to what you do with it. And then it’s asking the questions and then being informed and making informed decisions. Yeah. From there it’s making sure then that you’ve got a good data storytelling framework.

Joe Hyland:

I liked that you led with asking questions cause I think you’re so right. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing can cause a problem, right? So data’s a wonderful thing that we have data. But if you just kind of mindlessly go in and say, “Oh I’m going to just interpret the data and I’ll see where it leads me.”

First, you can reach false conclusions. You don’t really know your starting point, like what are you trying to accomplish? And truthfully, you’ll probably just lose yourself for years. Like yeah, I also love the phrase data fitness. And you’re right, this is a partnership between marketing and sales it’s like we have to speak a common language and there’s gotta be a common framework to determine success.

And so much of that is based on the information that we have in marketing automation and sales in your CRM. And if you don’t have good information going in, well the output will be worthless, right? You’ll just reach false conclusions.

Ed Breault:

Exactly. And that’s the problem too. If you say, “Hey, we’re going to be data-driven and we’re going to do what the data tells us,” but if your fitness was terrible you’re going to make very poor, very detrimental decisions that are going to impact your business, your reputation, right, as an executive on multiple levels.

And so when I say fitness I bring together not just the cleanliness of the data, but it takes a lot of physical, human power, right? I empathize with my sales teams and sales leaders. It’s like, fill out your call logs, listen well, be a very good listener. Put the right data in and then actually put the data in. Right? Because if you only put pieces or parts, again, it’s not the full picture.

ED BREAULT’S BIGGEST CAREER CHALLENGE

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. No, there’s a lot of good advice in there. Okay. Speaking of staying uncomfortable, which is the phrasing I wrote down when, when you were talking about you know, your career path and what you would recommend for why people stay. Talk to me about whether it’s your biggest challenge now or the biggest challenge you’ve had in your career. You pick.

Ed Breault:

Yeah. I mean, you know, my biggest challenge right now as you know, as a chief marketing officer or you know, chief markets officer, you know, the best markets. I mean there’s a lot, I mean, you’re a CMO, I’m a CMO, there’s a lot on our plate. There’s the brand, there’s demand, there’s culture, there’s experience, there’s bringing in a lot of assistance with like digital assistance for, from what’s the right technology to help with our business.

And then strategy, right? Where I think that the more we CMOs spend time in strategy, then I think we’re going to be the most valuable. And that’s definitely where the most discomfort lies because that’s the more, I want to say, you’re burning political capital sometimes. You are you’re held to a new level. You’re making decisions on what markets to get into — what’s the product-market fit, what regions, what countries, what territories — being a strategic partner to your head of sales to your CEO.

That’s where I want to say that’s where the most discomfort that I love is because I’m growing in that area right now. Definitely have moved through like content and a brand demand and all those traditional elements. But I think the more we as CMOs spend time in strategy I mean that’s the place to be.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I mean that is literally the best advice I think anyone can ever give. And that’s always changing, right? Some things get boring, right? Like, working on the same content, particularly you stay at a company, if that’s all you do, I could see that getting old or only worrying about a brand. Not that that’s a small thing. But if you’re signing up or at least at the table to influence strategy that is an evolving task that will never get dull.

And it’s pretty cool to see how marketers, you and I both work in Martech companies, but like, I think marketing is so different and light years ahead of where it was a couple of decades ago when we started, or maybe you were a nuclear engineer at that point, I was a lowly marketer right when marketing was just “What should the color be?” And can you make sure this package is shipped, it’s not that tactics aren’t important.

But if you can have a say in the strategy of the company, if you know the market, like you were talking about earlier, you understand how you can be helpful to your customers. The sky’s the limit for marketers.

Ed Breault:

I agree. Yeah. And one of the things I’m using right now in terms of market analysis is like predictive analytics and there’s the total addressable market, but then there’s a total addressable market is what I like to say. And so I think right there it’s, you know, the economics of winning and moving the guns and moving the teams and making sure that you can say, “Yeah, I’ve got proof. I’ve got the data, here’s where we should go in the market.”

Joe Hyland:

We’re going to end it there on the economics of winning. I love that Ed, talk about a phrase that wasn’t in marketing two decades ago. Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it. This was fantastic.

Ed Breault:

Awesome. Joe. Thanks for having me.

CMO Confessions Ep. 28: David Fortino of NetLine

Hi folks and welcome to another edition of CMO Confessions, our B2B podcast that examines what it takes to be a leader in the marketing and sales side of the business and the trends, technologies and fads that we all try to keep up with.

This week, we have David Fortino, Senior Vice President of Audience and Product at NetLine. David and I have been on somewhat of a speaking tour with our Scrappy Marketing webinar series, so we sat down finally discuss how he got to be where he’s at and he thinks marketing is heading.

In this episode, we discuss the dangers of Shiny Object Syndrome in marketing, why tech alone doesn’t make great marketing and why having customer advocates is so very, very important in an age that demands authenticity.

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 what David has to say by following him on Twitter here and follow him on LinkedIn 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 CMO Confessions. Let’s chat.

Table of Contents

What does David Fortino love about marketing?
What drives David nuts about marketing?
How bad marketers devalue marketing
Shiny object syndrome: too many tech toys and not enough tools
Tech doesn’t make great marketing
If you don’t believe in the product or solution, what should you change?
Walk the walk of your market, don’t just know their interests
The gold nugget of authentic marketing
David Fortino’s curated path
David looks back on 17 years of NetLine’s growth

Transcript

Joe Hyland:

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO Confessions, a B2B sales and marketing podcast where we explore what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Joe Hyland, CMO here at On24, and joining me this week from the greater Philly area is David Fortino, SVP of Audience Marketing and Product at NetLine. David, how’s it going?

David Fortino:

Great, great. Thanks for having me on, Joe. It’s good to catch up. It’s been a what a whapping few days I suppose since our last digital exchange here. So, it’s always good.

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah, that’s funny. We’re doing this on a weekly basis now.

David Fortino:        

Right, right.

WHAT DOES DAVID FORTINO LOVE ABOUT MARKETING?

Joe Hyland:        

Okay, David. So I get asked this question a lot and I think it’s really interesting to get other marketer’s perspectives on it. Talk about what you love about marketing, what are you incredibly passionate about in terms of what you guys are doing today or what you’re seeing in the space?

David Fortino:        

So, I think there’s probably a few things that I love and some of them are personal while others relate to what we do as a company. Speaking for myself, I love every aspect of digital marketing. I love the progression of the space, I love the constant innovation, the clutter and cluster blank that it creates and also the ability to then find companies that solve problems.

This gets into more of our corporate things that I love. There’s nothing better for me to hear that a client has solved a major pain point. And for us, that specifically means using content to drive lead gen success that builds pipeline and ultimately wins business. Hearing that feedback from our clients that by running campaigns, using their own content across our platform and successfully pulling in a $100,000 order, whatever it might be, that is just immediately gratifying.

And it really kind of sets us down a path where, not only our content marketing strategy is centered around customer centricity and engagement, but also it affirms our ability to innovate on a product perspective too because we are small, we are about 80 employees, every ounce of our pipeline is directly fed by direct interactions with our clients.

Being that close with customers allows us to innovate quicker than most in our industry because of the fact that we’re just that close to them and hearing their pain points, their concerns and obviously the accolades we love to hear all the time. But we’re never really stopping from an innovation perspective and I think that really stems from our CEO. Prior to founding NetLine, he was a semiconductor engineer by trade, so he brings a lot of product discipline, iterative mindsets around releases, MVPs and so on, and that’s really rolled down through the entire organization, every discipline.

WHAT DRIVES DAVID NUTS ABOUT MARKETING

Joe Hyland:

That’s super cool to hear. And I want to come back to the notion of growth marketing and being a growth marketer. So I’ll come back to that in a couple of minutes. What about things that just drive you crazy about marketing? Because you referenced being excited about and loving digital marketing and reusing your own content to drive growth. Like, there’s a lot of great things about marketing today, but there’s a lot of really shitty things and I want to hear one or one or two of them from you. What just drives you nuts?

HOW BAD MARKETERS DEVALUE MARKETING

David Fortino:        

Yeah, I think, there’s the byproduct of shitty marketing, which unfortunately does damage to all of us regardless of where you play in the landscape. It devalues what a marketer’s capability can and should be to not only their customers, their audience, readers and/or their own employer. But beyond that, it creates so much freaking confusion in the space that you’ve got, we as marketers tend to feed this, unfortunately.

There’s always this shiny object syndrome that happens and I would say ABM is probably in the epicenter of that, at least in B2B marketing space right now. AI is being thrown around as if it’s the next coming of whatever. And yet it eventually will be, but it won’t be what is promised today. And it certainly won’t be what it is today, which is in most cases, AI truly isn’t AI today. They’re nothing more than simplistic algorithms.

And so I think the biggest concern I have is that there are countless events that we go to, to either speak at, sponsor or simply attend. And you’ll look at marketers in the eye and they look back at you with the face of complete and utter confusion. They have no idea how this ABM vendor is different from that one and that one and that one and that one and that one. And so this is due to bad marketing. It’s due to probably too much VC funding going into 19 companies that directly compete against each other and so on. Part of that is that marketers simply need to have solutions and be more focused on finding vendors that can quickly, easily articulate how they solve those pain points versus there’s a ton of me too’s, I commonly say there’s just too many toys and not enough tools for marketers to legitimately know how to use.

SHINY OBJECT SYNDROME: TOO MANY TECH TOYS AND NOT ENOUGH TOOLS

David Fortino:

And speaking to that, I printed out a quote that I just saw this morning, that I thought was perfect for this, which was by Brent Adamson over at Gartner — they’re holding a summit that I’m not at, which is Gartner CSO and Sales Leadership, I believe it’s in Austin this week or conference — and, he was speaking specifically to the biggest challenges that sales teams face and this quote really stuck out. So, “It’s not customers confidence in suppliers, but customers confidence in themselves and their ability to make good buying decisions that is in critically short supply.”

And to me, that really summarizes everything about there being too many toys and not enough tools and shiny objects syndrome is that marketers, although they want to find solutions, they’re also their worst enemy because of the fact that they’re constantly attracted to what’s next. And the fear of missing out that there’s this paralysis by analysis that occurs and they’re unable to make smart decisions because they just don’t have enough time to do them because they’re evaluating 19 different vendors that all do the same thing.

I don’t know how you solve that. And it’s a very, very big hurdle where there’s no clear assumption. And I don’t hear it enough in this space where people are recognizing that, yeah, there’s too much, and you see it almost celebrated Joe, where it’s like, you see the marketing landscape every year and it’s like, oh, now there are eight thousand vendors and it’s like, shit, what? Is that good?

Joe Hyland:        

Or how about the awards for you know the most, you know, creative or complicated tech stack? I mean, you know, I think they’re called the Stackies. Yeah, I know. It’s interesting. And I live in the land that is responsible for this, right? So, I live in San Francisco, that’s where we’re headquartered. Yeah. I mean, it’s almost an epidemic, you can’t help but bump into someone in the street and if they’re a founder the odds of it being a Martech company is high and you’re right. There’s like six or 7,000 of these companies now.

It’s interesting to admit this as a technologist, but technology is not what is not going to solve all of your marketing challenges. Right? And I think the pendulum sadly is probably swung wildly too far to one direction where young marketers are pretty fickle on just chasing the next hot thing, whether it’s ABM or something else. And implementing pretty complicated tech stacks that don’t integrate with each other is not ultimately great marketing. Right?

David Fortino:

Yeah, you hear it all the time where yes, someone, we have countless clients who come to us and they’re wrapping up a yea-long install of marketing automation system Brand X. I won’t out any of them, but it’s so common that they’re spending significant time on not only the software but the team and expertise around that and yet still struggling to have a system that does everything that it was supposed to do out of the box. Again, that’s bad marketing.

TECH DOESN’T MAKE GREAT MARKETING

Joe Hyland:        

Tech isn’t great marketing, right? Like now, what’s amazing about what we know that the space we play in and what’s exciting about being a marketer today is, “look at what we can do now that we couldn’t do five or 10 years ago.” So, the technology when properly harnessed can, and properly leveraged, can lead to even better marketing. But just lining up all this tech on top of each other and assuming that this is going to lead to great customer experiences from the first interaction someone has with you on our website or you know, or an ad to all the way through to what it’s like being a customer — tech is not the only answer. It’s probably pretty low on the list.

David Fortino:

Yeah. And it’s, it’s interesting too, the accessibility to tech right now is difficult. I mean, we just got back from Content Marketing World, you guys were there obviously too. The amount of people that came over towards the end talking to us saying “What’s your minimum buy-in on our software?” And that varies dramatically. But at the core, there are companies that are just priced way above what a lot of the world can support, especially if they’re not going to risk their job on trying to engage with a vendor, specifically at certain price points.

And so we’ve used that as a way to augment how we’ve played in the market whereby we were always historically just enterprise only. And so you couldn’t really work with us if you didn’t have at least a couple of hundred thousand dollars allocated annually. And that was heavy service or [inaudible] business where we didn’t need to do a ton of amazing marketing there because it was very high touch, almost like a consultative type relationship.

We still have that. But on the flip side, we’ve now really kind of embraced the democratization of lead gen. And so literally any B2B marketer can flight a content-centric lead gen campaign in minutes. And so it comes down to, maybe making accessibility something that should be centric for a lot of these ideas. Cause it’s not just a price point thing. It’s a complexity thing. It’s the ability to, if you were building this product, could your grandmother launch it? If she’s going through that interface. A lot of the stuff that we so-called experts build and release and celebrate sometimes they’re just terrible, right? You go through the experience and you’re like, “Wow, this is really complicated.” It shouldn’t have to be that way. And so that’s, again, for the technology behind the scenes, it can be as incredibly complicated as it needs to be to support whatever that product is. But from a usability perspective that ties into marketing and positioning. Things don’t have to be that way.

IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN THE PRODUCT OR SOLUTION WHAT SHOULD YOU CHANGE?

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah. And, you know, I think an interesting company to look at, to inspire great marketing … have a great product. You’ve got to have, right, no one wants to market a shitty solution. Right? And truthfully you’re put between a rock and a hard place if that is the case. So if you’re a marketer at a company where you don’t believe in the product or solution perhaps you should look to change something whether that’s your career, and we’ll talk about that more in a second, or drive internal changes in what the product looks and feels like.

But I look at what Zoom has done. So Zoom entered an incredibly competitive space. So, the video collaboration market was not exactly ripe for disruption, right? There were a lot of players, it was a crowded market and Eric Yuan went in there, you know, from WebEx, where he was the head of engineering, so he knew a great deal about it and he just built the best product and had the best customer experience. And I think a lot of people didn’t believe in him or did not believe in their mission or the space he was trying to disrupt.

And they went public last year, their market caps around $20 billion I haven’t checked in the last month or two, wildly successful. And it was on the backs of putting customers first. I mean, he and that whole team led with customer experience. They actually had pretty loud but simple marketing. And it worked because they focused on the customer and they focused on ease of use. And I think, you know, Zoom is a product that would pass your grandmother or grandfather test, right? Like, and I think there’s a lesson learned in there for how we market because I think we have this tendency to try to make things too complicated.

David Fortino:        

And it also speaks a lot to don’t underestimate the power of what great design, clear and concise messaging can do for a product that is put up against incumbents that have been around for a decade or longer. And everyone’s telling you you’re crazy. He specifically had a ton of true knowledge about the space, understood the product’s limitations in the marketplace and thought that there could be a better way of doing this. And so with that knowledge and customer-centric transparency and accessibility of the product, yeah, it’s a recipe for a win. It’s still not a guarantee but I think that’s a beautiful outcome. That’s a good example that you brought up.

WALK THE WALK OF YOUR MARKET DON’T JUST KNOW THEIR INTERESTS

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, and I think any, you just referenced this, I think any market is prime for disruption if you look through the lens or view it through the lens of what is best for the customer, right? Like if you are customer obsessed, I think a company can do pretty well. And I think a lot of marketers have a tendency to shy away from that. And I’d love to get your perspective on this. I think a lot of marketers want to make things sound great. They want to, you know, maybe have a surface-level understanding of a product or an industry because they’re not going to write white papers, right? Like they don’t need to know everything. But I really feel like to do phenomenal marketing you need to be able to walk the walk of your addressable market more than just knowing what they’re interested in. So how do you look at that at NetLine and what are your views there?

David Fortino:

Yeah, I would completely agree. I mean, I’ve gotten to a point where I am so comfortable with what our customers can and or will say about us that it’s not uncommon like at Content Marketing World I was in a case study session, we presented with a client of ours and I specifically didn’t want to see their slides. I didn’t want to see any of their talking points.

I knew the underlying tone was positive, obviously. But aside from that, I’m very comfortable with it being a fully honest, transparent and owned message coming from our client. The authenticity bleeds through that. There’s no tone of NetLine massaging the messaging or anything becoming somewhat of a corporate tone there. Yeah. Then we can take that as a marketing team and craft different elements from there. Extract that into whether it’s a video or a webinar or afterward, perhaps it’s even just simple blog posts summing up the session.

THE GOLD NUGGET OF AUTHENTIC MARKETING

David Fortino:

But the notion of having a customer-centric content marketing strategy, but also that the DNA of the company being comfortable with that has been hugely immense and immensely helpful for us. It’s something that wasn’t always that way. I would say over the past two years we’ve gotten really good at that, but it was a cognizant decision of basically saying like look a lot of our marketing our best stuff should be really created by our clients. They just don’t know that they’re creating our marketing. But they are the seedlings for all of it. And so if we’re coming around, like you said, trying to dream up the next best and sexiest way to talk about NetLine, odds are it’s going to come out, as you know, something that’s been either done before said before in similar veins.

Joe Hyland:        

We’re all biased, right? Like, I’m paid to say great things about ON24. You’re paid to say great things about NetLine. Hopefully, we believe those things. But yeah, if it can be authentic and come from your customers or the peers of whoever you’re marketing to like that’s gold.

David Fortino:

Yeah. And even when they sprinkle in something where it’s like everything about it has been exceptional, I just wish it had this feature. Like that’s, to me, it’s never a negative. That’s a phenomenal positive. Put it out there on G2. I could care less. Let’s use that and publicly respond then and actually be accountable to customers in a transparent way that other future customers can even see before they ever engage with us.

We know that the vast majority of buyers are making their decisions before they ever talk to anybody at NetLine and the same thing would be for ON24. And so the more we can have customers’ voices, their opinions, their pros and cons out there, the more authentic of a brand we become.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I couldn’t agree more, and you said something a moment ago that I wrote down authentic experiences. Like so much of marketing, and I think this is changing, however, so much of marketing is overly scripted, overly curated, overly produced — people see through that, right? I think what everyone wants is a real authentic human experience. And marketers have just gone so far to one extreme on volume and scale, that I think they’ve lost a little bit of that human touch. So I love what you just said.

David Fortino:

Well, I think that, I mean, look at podcasts, look at the advent of video in communication. I think both of those really speak to that being an authentic communication. I mean, even just this, right? Like, we’ve not had any rehearsal to this. This is us just talking.

Joe Hyland:        

We’re winging it.

David Fortino:

Right. And so there are surely there might be an element here where one of us flubs a word, who cares? That’s fine. We’re real. And then we may have some genius statement that we don’t even know what came out of our mouth and that’s going to be fine too. But yeah, I think it’s just extremely relatable and it comes back to a lot of things. You hear a lot of our, you know, so-called thought leaders in this space, talking about emotional intelligence, bleeding through in your marketing, humanization of marketing. As much as you hear these things, it’s like at some point it’s just common sense though too. And so, there’s a lot of hype around these things, but at the core, it’s just doing right by your customers or your constituents.

Joe Hyland:        

It’s funny, I think there are some tenants in life, in business and in marketing that we can, you know, kind of, we can lose our way. And you just listed one of them, right? Like great marketing is always about your audience; it’s never about you. And if you come across in a real authentic, human way people will probably be pretty receptive to your message. It’s just we all have so many great things to say about our own company that sometimes we lose our way.

David Fortino:        

And I think it gets lost too largely to internal just bureaucracy and process regardless of how big or small your company is. Marketers are tasked with taking a lot of the stakeholders’ opinions, perspectives, things that they hate as well, and channeling that into their final message that’s released to the public. And sometimes, maybe what your CEO wants you to say may not be the right message, but you’ve got to have a relationship that allows you to challenge that and articulate why and obviously test delivering a different message to the marketplace that is more customer-centric. But yeah, not everybody’s afforded those types of things though. So it seems set and done, I assume.

Joe Hyland:        

I’m sure no one listening can relate to having their messaging being essentially crowdsourced internally, particularly by executives. Yeah, you’re right. I mean, that’s where you get a disastrous duct tape set of messaging where it goes through too many people and you know, it loses its way really quickly.

David Fortino:        

You may have some execs that are happy, but I can tell you the sales team’s not happy cause they’re like, that’s not what our clients want. We hear this every day and anyone in client services or account management is like that’s not what we talk about every day. So where did those words come from? So then ultimately that poorly reflects on marketing which then even gets to like a lot of turnover issues that are systematically associated with high ranking marketing professionals. Yeah, it’s a tough one.

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah. I think a telltale sign of a crowdsourced value prop is one that has like three or four hyphens in it. It’s like, oh, we need to get data-driven in there. We need to get customer-centric. And all of a sudden before you know it, it means nothing.

David Fortino:

Right, right. Agreed.

DAVID FORTINO’S CURATED PATH

Joe Hyland:        

Okay. So I want to hear this is another question we get a lot of career path. And you know, I think it’s common to think that there is a perfect path to become a head of marketing. You have a pretty unique path in that there’s some real longevity there. So talk to us and talk to me and our listeners on your curated path over the last 20 years.

David Fortino:        

Yeah, it is completely an anomaly up against any of my peers in the space. And so, I worked at a company called VerticalNet which was part of the dotcom era one. Typical rise and fall story. I highly encourage you to check it out. It’s highly documented, I believe it’s still taught at Wharton as a case study of what not to do.

Joe Hyland:        

Really, that bad huh?

David Fortino:        

Yeah. But it was exceptionally fun, and it taught me a lot about what not to do. And, I will forever cherish that period of my life. It introduced me to NetLine and so as I was there we were responsible for selling off of the business unit and I told our GM that once that transaction was done I was going to move on. And so I had loved NetLine from the outside looking in and that there was this little business in California and their business model was based upon getting content from marketers that are largely gated content. But I think they only had a couple of dozen pieces of content and getting that content across the web in front of professionals as they’re looking to learn and research various business and or technical problems.

So that was the client chasing value prop. The publisher facing value prop was publishers would pick up this content, inject it into their websites and get a revenue share from NetLine based upon qualified leads being delivered to those customers. And I thought that was a genius idea because at the time, and what turns out to be still pretty much today, everyone’s just focused on shoving CPM display ads down everyone’s throat. And so, as programmatic has grown tremendously and billions of dollars have gone into that space the byproduct is still the same. It’s an ad that’s a display standard governed by the IAB that yields of 0.04% click-through rate on average in the B2B space.

So all that money being spent. It’s questionable at best. I don’t get it and nor do I, will I try. So I kind of fell in love with content-centric and lead gen oriented business models and was fortunate enough to, I sent a hair-brained email to the president of NetLine and he flew me out. I said I’m not relocating. I think I can grow the business tremendously and little did we know now we’re 17 years later, I’ve got a team out here on the East Coast, we’ve grown as a business together tremendously over that period of time. But I’m really lucky to have a great management team that allowed that to happen. And that’s our president and our CEO largely responsible for that.

Joe Hyland:

You did not have, there was not a presence on the East Coast before you started working there I assume?

David Fortino:        

No, they never had even remote employees. So, yeah.

DAVID LOOKS BACK ON 17 YEARS OF NETLINE’S GROWTH

Joe Hyland:

So, what did this email say? Go back 17 years.

David Fortino:        

Oh man, I don’t even know. And I laugh at myself now. It’s like, who the hell did you think you were just being like, yeah, I can totally blow this up. And, but it turned out it was really hard and there were a lot of things that I thought about that were completely wrong. And then our president and I at the time, his name’s Werner Mansfeld shout out Werner.

Yeah, I spent a ton of time kind of unpacking what they did and then tried a million different strategies and we started getting traction. And then at that point also our CEO, Bob Alvin, is heavily involved in the business as well. And yeah, so we’ve kind of grown out from there. But it’s taken a ton of time and obviously, every side of the business is hugely important making that happen. So I like the urge to grow it and bring a publisher model to it but aside from that everybody else was partially responsible for it.

Joe Hyland:        

Well, you just mentioned a couple of cool things. One is that there’s a lot of preconceived notions that we all have that are wrong, like take risks, right? Like I don’t think anyone expects perfection or “no bad ideas.” I think the worst idea is not actually not trying new ideas. The second thing is you focus on growth and I think as marketers if we can lean into owning growth or at least being strategic and you know, fully understanding and, or trying to understand, what are the drivers for growth. Like how do we, what markets should we be in, what should our product offerings be and how do we tweak our go-to-market strategy to influence growth?

It’s easy to shy away from that because it’s scary to own or talk about things that we don’t fully, fully understand. And I think the dirty little secret is no one does, like, there’s no perfect answer for growth. And, so it’s refreshing to hear marketing leaders who sign up for these things fully knowing that not everything that comes out of their mouth will be correct or perfect.

David Fortino:

Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, looking backward, my goodness, we’ve tried all different types of things and a lot of them actually do work and then they stop working. So you think you’re on the right path and then all of a sudden it’s a dead-end and it’s like a year into that. So then, okay, well what the hell happened? Why? Learn from that and then go forward again. So I think that’s exciting about the space. It’s exciting about my role and the company itself. But yeah, I’ve been here for a long time.

I realize that’s not normal for a lot of folks in this industry. Like I was telling you before, I think to me it just comes down to two things. It’s one: am I being heard, as not only a member of the management team but anywhere in the company and am I helping to drive this business forward? And lastly, am I learning anything? Am I continuing to develop my craft? And if those two things are happening I personally don’t really care where I would be. I happen to be at NetLine and that’s why I’ve stayed. All the normal things everybody else cares about I care about too; being compensated well, having a good work/life balance, all of those things. That’s very important. But at the core, I think my two measurables are around it driving the business and learning and personal development.

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah, no, those are pretty foundational items that I hope everyone’s striving for whether you’ve been in a company for six months or 17 years.

Joe Hyland:        

So. David, this was fantastic. We’re at the bottom of the hour so I want to wrap it up. Thank you for the time, phenomenal discussion, and hopefully, everyone enjoyed listening to this.

David Fortino:        

Thanks again, Joe.

CMO Confessions Ep. 27: Sarah Kennedy of Adobe Marketo

Hello again and welcome to another edition of CMO Confessions, our B2B sales and marketing podcast that examines what real leadership looks like in marketing and sales organizations today.

This week we have Sarah Kennedy, Vice President at Adobe and former CMO of Marketo, an Adobe Company. Sarah has a fascinating story to tell about how she came to be CMO at Marketo and that her team navigated one of the biggest acquisitions in the martech world.

What do we discuss in this episode? Well, oddly enough, Jaime Foxx, the importance of keeping teams on track, why you should always, always be on finance’s good side and how teams can stay scrappy and agile even after being acquired by a large enterprise. It’s a great episode and we’re thrilled to have had Sarah on.

As always, we provide an edited transcript for you to scan below.

Check out what else Sarah has to say on her Twitter profile here and on her LinkedIn profile 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 CMO Confessions. Let’s chat.

Table of Contents:

How was the first year since Adobe acquired Marketo?
Staying dynamic, scrappy and agile in a large enterprise
Instilling incredible efficiency and financial discipline
Get more out of every dollar spent on marketing
Marketers need to get a seat at the financial table through trust
What Sarah Kennedy loves about marketing
What drives Sarah Kennedy insane about marketing
How Sarah became a young CMO
Sarah’s interview with Jamie Foxx

Transcript

Joe Hyland:        

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO Confessions, a weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast where we explore what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Joe Hyland, CMO here at ON24, and joining me this week from the Greater Denver area is Sarah Kennedy, Vice President of Global Marketing at Marketo Digital Experience, Adobe. That was a tongue twister at the end.

Sarah Kennedy:        

That’s a long title. It’s a little cleaner these days; it’s just Vice President at Adobe these days.

Joe Hyland:        

That’s cleaner. Okay. That is also some good marketing. Sarah, thank you for being here. I really appreciate it.

Sarah Kennedy:        

Sure, thanks for having me, Joe. I appreciate it.

HOW WAS THE FIRST YEAR SINCE ADOBE ACQUIRED MARKETO?

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah, of course. I think most of our listeners recognize that you were at Marketo — hence the long title that I had and you guys were acquired by Adobe. So, how is that going?

Sarah Kennedy:        

It’s great. It’s actually, oh my gosh, it’s almost been a full year.

Joe Hyland:        

Has it been that long? That’s crazy.

Sarah Kennedy:        

Not quite, but it’s about to be the year anniversary, I think it was, in November. So we are now fully a part of the team and now saying words like we instead of they, which is a good thing, but it’s been incredible.

Sarah Kennedy:        

It has actually been a very, I would call it an exciting but also lovely place to land because it’s one of those companies where, you know, there was already this passion for marketing and Marketo was clearly that and had that as part of our DNA. So joining a company that was just as much, if not more so focused on the marketer and serving them well was quite a blessing in many ways. And for my team, I know it was even more energizing. I think it was the only company in the world I could have told them was going to be acquiring Marketo and my whole marketing team was pumped. It was an upgrade. In a sense.

So that’s been, it’s been quite a journey. We’ve had a lot of learnings along the way. That’s for sure. As businesses come together. You do. But it’s been awesome. Start to finish.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, that’s super cool. And you’re right, I think Adobe’s kind of recognized for some great marketing. Not that Marketo was small, but everything’s relative. Right?

Sarah Kennedy:        

We felt big and then we got acquired by Adobe and it became very apparent that we were not very big.

STAYING DYNAMIC, SCRAPPY AND AGILE IN A LARGE ENTERPRISE

Joe Hyland:        

It’s crazy. Right. So, how have you, or talk about what it’s been like in terms of staying pretty dynamic or scrappy or agile at just such a large enterprise? Like how’s that going?

Sarah Kennedy:        

Yeah, that was part of the thing that my team got most excited about whenever we were being acquired was the openness, number one, to the team that was on the Adobe side to understanding how we work because Marketo’s marketing team — they’ve been incredibly efficient over many years and I inherited a team that was very good at what they did. And also in a world where we were owned by a private equity firm, we got a lot more efficient also while maintaining being good.

And any startup, which is still what Marketo essentially is if you compare it to Adobe I guess, or was, is going to be a lot leaner I think in scrappier at getting work done because you just over time, a larger company has more resources and you kind of build up almost this tolerance for working in a certain way and being well-resourced, which is amazing, like it’s an amazing problem to have in air quotes.

But it’s been quite awesome because the marketing team on that side, they’ve been starting to learn from our team. And just an example of that, like in creative and content production, the way that our team worked is it was by design, it had to be incredibly efficient but also producing really high-quality work in that context to support a very robust demand gen engine was a big challenge that we had to solve for at Marketo. And it’s something that Adobe has taken on and adapted a lot of what that team had done quite well to their model now. And I think that’s been great.

We’ve also learned on the flip side, a lot of the ways that Adobe has scaled actually up into the enterprise space. Like we were just in the early days of building out a demand gen engine that was sophisticated in terms of moving upmarket and also having a message resonated and even a product and portfolio that resonated end to end has been, it’s been a really cool thing. So we brought a lot of compliments to one another. And you know, you can think about Marketo’s been a bit of a scrappy beast in a good way. And I think Adobe’s been a beast at scale and a good way for, from a marketing point of view and bringing those things together is really, it’s created a very powerful dynamic and there are some really cool synergies that we’re still just now even scratching the surface of.

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah. That’s man, that must be really exciting to be a part of.

Sarah Kennedy:        

Yeah. It’s fun. It’s hard, but it is fun.

INSTILLING INCREDIBLE EFFICIENCY AND FINANCIAL DISCIPLINE

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah. Yeah, I bet. So you referenced the team you inherited at Marketo and of course, Vista had bought Marketo and obviously sold them to Adobe. And you’ve been pretty open about responsible growth and you know, kind of what you guys were able to accomplish. But at the time, you know, it wasn’t a sure thing. Many marketers are focused on doing really, really big things, maybe not doing it in a cost-effective manner. So what was that like? Cause that’s a really interesting balance to strike and I think marketers can learn a lot from it.

Sarah Kennedy:        

Yeah, it was actually eye-opening. So I came from a background, before Marketo, at a company called Sabre where, you know, it was an incredibly efficient organization just because of the financial discipline that that company had. And I learned, later on, it was kind of funny, so the CFO at Marketo actually had been the CFO at Sabre for many years, Mark Miller.

He was a man who put in so much discipline and rigor around how Sabre operated that I didn’t even realize, long after he was gone from Sabre, I was operating still kind of in this Mark Miller regime, and I like to call it that because I then went to Marketo and I got to work as his peer and his partner in a much closer way.

It was really cool to better understand how he was taking a company that had not been profitable for a few years and turning it into a profitable business. And in Silicon Valley, that’s actually quite rare. It was a cool journey to go on with him because we got to partner in making that happen. And even just teaching my team how proud they should be over their contribution to EBITDA and efficiency was a big part of our journey. And I think it’s made the Marketo marketing organization or the past Marketo marketing organization, everybody who was a part of that, I was so proud because we were proud of both doing great work as marketers and being absolutely focused on our customer as much as we possibly could and not skimping in that area but doing that through rolling up our sleeves and doing the hard work while also paying maniacal attention to exactly every dollar that was spent and the return on investment we would get out of that. And that was a discipline that both Mark brought but also Vista brought to us as well.

GET MORE OUT OF EVERY DOLLAR SPENT ON MARKETING

Sarah Kennedy:

It’s been such a healthy way for my team now to walk into Adobe because we’ve got that mindset and that foundation. So this team is always looking for both ways to, you know, do bigger, better things and scale. But also how do we get more out of every dollar we spend and every dollar you spend on marketing, no matter if it’s on brand or awareness or if it’s on like true demand gen, it’s content syndication. Like everything is part of the demand engine and every dollar actually feeds that beast in some way, shape or form.

It’s up to us as marketers to find ways to thread that together and to represent that and to track that and then to optimize based on that. It was a cool journey to go on because actually everybody who stuck around at Marketo, and those who left too actually — it’s unfair to say if it’s a lot of people were really energized by that being kind of the new flavor of challenge that we took on in our journey as a part of Vista.

And I think everybody was really proud to walk away from what we, I think played a big role in accomplishing the valuation of the business in every part is based on, somewhat is based on EBITDA in addition to growth. And I think that’s been for me, I can point back to our team and say, look at what we were able to contribute in a very positive way by being just a healthier operating marketing engine and then still driving also incredible growth at the top line for the business.

MARKETERS NEED TO GET A SEAT AT THE FINANCIAL TABLE THROUGH TRUST

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah, I think that’s brilliant. I also love that you mentioned EBITDA a few times in there just because so many marketers don’t want to even if they don’t want to get that close to the operating side of the business. They don’t want to think about — this is the creative branch, right? Like this is where brilliant thoughts come from. Like, different business leaders, the finance department can think about profitability and if marketers want to be taken seriously, they need to speak the language [Amen – Sarah] and the lingo that you just had, like you are right. Like we’re marketers are not just the make-it -pretty department, but if you act that way, you won’t have a seat at the table.

Sarah Kennedy:        

Yeah. You have to have the CFO trust you. And that’s the thing, that’s been the most, I just love we’re kind of like the moteliest crew whenever it’s the CMO and the CFO get together, but that’s actually the that was the person I spent the most time within my time at Marketo and now also actually it’s true at Adobe as well. I’m spending more time with finance than any other team and that may be wrong, but for me, it’s been really important because getting close to the numbers and getting close to the details of the business, the foundational context that I can then operate and make decisions within.

It just makes it easier for you to go back and say, “Hey, if something in a given quarter or month isn’t going perfectly or you just need more juice or you think you can get more out of doing this, X versus Y,” it just makes it so much easier for them to trust you and to activate those dollars quickly instead of meeting three or four meetings to review, review, review. I think it’s a direct correlation in terms of how much finance trusts marketing in terms of how many review meetings you have to go through to get incremental dollars approved to spend.

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah, you’re right. Time to dollars being unlocked. Well, you know, you said trust there, right? Like I think so, again this goes back to a lot of marketers I think being reluctant to kind of open up the Kimono and have full transparency because not everything works. And I’ve been in so many presentations, and I try to not be in them now cause I’m responsible for it, but so many presentations where you’re saying everything worked just great. Every campaign we ran worked, we exceeded all of our targets. And that’s not believable. That’s not credible. If you do that, it becomes a kind of a lockbox. And then finance or other organizations don’t really trust marketing and you’re in a conundrum.

Sarah Kennedy:        

And that’s just been, trust for me is big. And I do think that us building that, across every team for sure, and I think that’s actually been a learning at Adobe is there are so many more stakeholders that have a “GM like hat” on and a seat at the table that run the digital experience business for Adobe, that’s actually quite refreshing cause everyone comes to the table with that mindset. But everyone’s also focused on a narrower area of responsibility with broader impact.

It’s an interesting and different dynamic than obviously, Marketo was. It’s like we had fewer leaders with broad responsibility across many different disciplines and I think everybody at Adobe actually comes in with that same mindset. But I think having a cohesive approach to how we build trust with one another, that’s all with the same foundation and it’s with financial discipline and operating a healthy business in mind is it’s really, it’s a great way to just start from a baseline of commonality.

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah. That’s fantastic. All right, let’s switch gears a little bit and I want to hear things that you’re super passionate about. Like, what do you love about marketing today?

WHAT SARAH KENNEDY LOVES ABOUT MARKETING

Sarah Kennedy:        

Oh Gosh. It’s hard. So my job actually has evolved so going from, you know, the CMO of Marketo and then coming into Adobe, my job is, even as I just described, it’s now, it’s now broader in terms of the impact. And I’ve got a team that’s three times the size as the one I had at Marketo. But the areas of responsibility are fewer because we have an amazing corporate marketing engine, that Ann Lewnes, runs and it supports all of our creative and content and communications needs and PR and social, etc. And they do great work across the board, but it’s reduced the scope of responsibilities where I focus; I’m focused solely on just (to get air quotes), the demand gen engine which is an important thing.

Joe Hyland:        

That’s easy stuff, right?

Sarah Kennedy:        

The growth engine. Yeah. And we’ve actually, it’s been the first time Adobe, maybe not the first time actually, I’m probably misspeaking there. In the last couple of years, let’s say it’s been the first time that we brought together sales development and marketing. I’ve got both of those under my remit right now. But the one thing that hasn’t changed about what I’m passionate about is, and this is gonna sound cheesy, but I mean it sincerely and I’ll describe that. But like my customers, I get really passionate about because I’m fortunate enough to market, still at Adobe now even on a broader scale, to marketers in many respects. And certainly, now I’m serving a broader base of customers in IT with the CIO being a critical partner to the CMO. I still get so passionate about thinking about how do we unlock more value and being career catalysts for marketers is a really cool reason to get out of bed in the morning for me.

And I swear to you, like every time I get in front of our, we have what we call the Marketo champions that are now evolving to become a broader part of the advocate community for Adobe. They are our strongest supporters and the most tenured you know, well versed Marketo in a sense that could actually run circles around even all of us in my own marketing team with their knowledge of Marketo. But we hosted them actually recently at Adobe’s headquarters for the first time in a forum, and I just get emotional in a way that’s just so mom-like, and it’s like ridiculously not professional, but I just, the way that they that they pour their time, energy and effort into our business in a very altruistic way, I feel like because they’re there, they’re a part of a community that is there to help each other because somebody else before in their own career helped them. And that’s why a lot of them say they participate in this is because they’re kind of paying it forward in a sense.

And I get really nerdy and passionate when I talk about them because they’ve been the answer to every hard question I had in my first CMO gig at Marketo. I had a hard first, really three to six months and didn’t spend a lot of time with them cause I was just getting my feet under me, didn’t understand really what the community was all about and how passionate that group was.

As soon as I started spending more time with them and actually got to meet them at Marketing Nation Summit they became one of the most powerful sources of insight for me that have both fueled our team’s energy and the kind of “why we get out of bed in the morning.” But also you know, they’ve been such a great source of insight for how we answer the questions that are the hardest questions that we’re trying to solve for as marketers. Just because they’re doing the same thing in their job day to day. And so doing that for them and then figuring out how do we help accelerate their careers and then connect even with their bosses in a powerful way that can be, again, a career accelerant has been a really cool part of my journey.

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah, that’s amazing. I love that. Great marketing is always about them. It’s never about you. Many organizations get that confused, right? And you just learn so much from your customers and it also makes for easy marketing. I mean, if you have…

Sarah Kennedy:        

Yeah, it does. It makes my job easier.

Joe Hyland:        

Right? Yeah. You know, advocates are, as you guys call marketing nation that just makes marketing what you do a little bit easier, which is, you’ll take.

Sarah Kennedy:        

For sure. I will.

WHAT DRIVES SARAH KENNEDY INSANE ABOUT MARKETING?

Joe Hyland:        

Okay. all right. That was all super positive and, and I don’t think it was corny at all. So let’s flip it over though. What drives you insane? Like there’s a lot about B2B marketing today that gets under my skin and I think kind of drives a lot of people crazy. Give me one or two items for you.

Sarah Kennedy:        

So it’s probably not even specific to B2B, but it might be, and it’s actually unfair for me to even say that it’s not because I’ve really only lived in the world of B2B marketing up until joining Adobe even. I increasingly am surprised by the lack of just in some pockets of marketing, like, we touched on it earlier, like shying away from accountability — and people are well-intentioned. It actually is not, you know, because people are trying to shy away from it. I think it’s almost like there’s a lack of awareness when it’s happening that maybe people misinterpret what marketing actually is in 2019 and 2020.

So I view marketing so much more increasingly as an operational and again, it’s a growth driver and it’s an operational discipline in many respects. There is absolutely a critical need for creativity and having the art come together, but with a heavy, heavy emphasis on the science and having the balance of the two things and that they always have to do with one another. They’re never separate and independent.

I think bringing those things together, I see such a lack of that in some pockets of marketing that I’m surprised cause it’s just not an — and I don’t, by the way, I don’t suppose to be the one to know it all or assume that I have all the answers, but I just, I get, I’m surprised because I feel like why go to work every day if you don’t want to be the one who’s like leaning into raising your hand to be the one to be accountable for something. And I think that that fulfills me and my team, I know every day in our jobs is to do even more of that. I just get disappointed if I don’t see that across the board in marketing sometimes.

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah, I agree. I also think in business — that’s just so well respected and received, meaning I think other organizations, other individuals when they see someone step up and say, “I’ll own that and I’ll sign up for that, I’ll own pipeline,” you know, that’s okay, let’s put together a plan and work on it together. And if you don’t hit all your goals, that’s okay. I just think you’ve just got to be striving for progress. And yeah, I think you’re right. I think a lot of marketers, there’s probably no mal-intent, but trying to fly below the radar or shying away from it is I think, kind of missing the point.

Sarah Kennedy:        

Yeah. And I think it also reminds me of the other thing that is the biggest pet peeve. Well, there’s two more, actually. I’ll be introspective on it a little bit.

But I think just, you’ve mentioned this earlier a little bit too, but just rose-colored glasses. I cannot handle it. My team knows this, but if I ever get anything that feels like an excuse train, not understanding the why and I want to deeply and intimately be able to go through, it’s okay when the answer is not great or what we hoped for. The bigger problem is if we pretend that it is still okay or we present what is a lack of urgency around and a lack of awareness around knowing when it’s wrong and knowing when it needs to be better or needs to be different.

My own, this is like me talking about my own team and I will fall into this trap too because I have to just, we have to catch ourselves because but I always take on the ear and the eyes of my peers that I’m presenting to when I hear from my team what they’re presenting to me and I want to be, and I’m probably harder on my team than I should be in some respects here. But I do not like, I do not like the overly optimistic view of the world. Not that we shouldn’t be optimistic and positive, but marketing takes some punches and that’s part of our job. And we’ve got to be more focused on explaining the why and really deeply, intimately understanding the explanation behind how we got to X and Y so we can change it to get to Z. And that’s, that’s a big focus for my team.

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah. And being introspective. Right. Get going back to what I think other people respect is, listen, we don’t have all the answers, not every hypothesis will turn out to be correct. Just own it and say, “Hey, we had this theory. Here’s what happened here with the good things. This didn’t work. We’re analyzing why. ” Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you anymore.

And you mentioned the data as well. That’s another area. It’s like, we know platforms like Marketo very much help with this. We have so much data at our fingertips. So just saying things like, “I think that subject line should work.” It’s like, well, have you AB tested this? Or like, what kind of data do you have to show, look at, let’s look at open rates, let’s look at engagement or conversion. I don’t know.

know it’s just such an amazing time to be in marketing, but you always run the risk of becoming a little bit antiquated, right? So I think marketers have to lean into the data even if it’s not necessarily natural for them.

Sarah Kennedy:        

Absolutely. And I think that was actually my third pet peeve is when I can’t get access to data. If you asked my team what they would probably say is their pet peeve about me, it’s how much access I want to have to data and I’ve done all those like personality tests, whenever I’m under stress, apparently I move from, I’m a red personality, surprise, surprise, but I move red into green, which is super analytical.

So when things aren’t going right or whatever, I’ll nose dive to way too deep of a level into data. And when I can’t get access to it, it drives me up the wall. So I’m learning a new organization now and there’s actually, Adobe has, Marketo actually we had a ton of data in marketing and it was easy to get access to that. And so I never really had a challenge there, but in a bigger company, there’s actually more data at Adobe than I could have ever imagined. It’s just figuring out which data to dig into and probably also not do it myself. It’s my, again, my team would probably say that’s their pet peeve about me.

HOW SARAH BECAME A YOUNG CMO

Joe Hyland:        

I like this. This is a very honest assessment. Okay. You talked about Sabre earlier and I think your career growth is interesting because on the one hand, I think it would be natural to say, wow, you became a CMO so young. And I was fortunate as well. I got my first head of marketing job around 32 or 33. So similar for me. But I get the question a lot around career planning and you know, should you move jobs every 18 months to two years and that’s how you get growth. You really hunkered into one company and it seemed like did everything under the sun for marketing. Can you talk about that?

Sarah Kennedy:        

Yeah, it was a surprise to me as well. I remember, so I started actually in the ad agency world before I went back to grad school. And then in grad school, I had a professor who really encouraged me to go try. He had said to me I’ve shared before that he’d said to me that I was meant for working in a large corporation and he just wanted to see me go try. And I was like, that might be an insult, like, I don’t know and I trusted him so much, it’s Professor Hazzard at UT in Dallas and he was so great. But I trusted him and I certainly trusted his judgment and it’s how I ended up at Sabre in an internship.

And I remember thinking probably in a typical, I’m an older millennial, but I’m still a millennial and I remember typical millennial fashion, I was like, “Oh, I’ll probably be here for like two years maybe you know.” But I fell in love with Sabre during my internship because it was the pinnacle of complexity in a good way. It’s like the entire engine behind the travel industry.

So it’s like the cool behind the scenes, impossible problems behind one of the coolest industries in the world. It’s hard to not be passionate about travel. That was a really neat place for me to land and to be able to start learning B2B because it’s almost an entirely B2B business in many respects.

So I got to dive into what was a very traditional part of the business and it’s been like the cash cow of the business and learn it from the ground up and learn the whole inner workings of that industry before I was then stepping into more front-facing marketing roles. And I got, after the second year, I think it flew by so fast and the company was so diverse in terms of how many different types of audiences it served.

So one business unit was focused on aviation and other was focused on hospitality another was focused on online travel companies like Expedias of the world. And it was such a diverse set of audiences that I got to kind of dabble in all of those. And every job felt like a completely different challenge and almost like a different company just with the same culture and the same core set of values. That was a really cool place for me to be able to stretch and grow. And also when I came in the door, there weren’t a whole lot of millennials working there and it became a catalyst for, they were very open to my ideas and I was empowered because I just came in with a different point of view to start to stretch what I could bring to that business.

I was always really inspired by working there. But then I ended up in my last job as the CMO of the hospitality business unit. And that was incredible cause I got to serve all of the CMOs of some of the most discerning B2C brands in the world who were buying our technology as their underpinning to their entire guest experience and their commerce play.

That was really a cool learning ground for me because it was also a business unit that was similar in growth to what Marketo was doing. Whenever I made that jump, it made that transition a lot easier because I had a really strong foundation that I had learned at Sabre and then was able to take that and apply that in completely different business and in many different industries, which was the really neat new thing for me in that role. But I had done it and I came in confident with a very strong foundation that I had gotten there. It was like year 10 and I was still enjoying my time there. But I was like, “Oh my gosh, no one’s going to think I’m ever going to leave here if I don’t push myself out of the nest.” I spent about a year just kind of thinking through what that might look like next. And then my absolute dream job came along at Marketo and I could not say no.

Joe Hyland:        

That is so cool. And I’m noticing a trend line which is growth, right? So you, you really focused on growth at Sabre. That was the name of the game at Marketo, particularly when their PE-backed and look what you’re doing now.

Sarah Kennedy:        

Yeah. And it’s a whole new world too ’cause Adobe’s just now I feel like it’s funny because Adobe’s been in the business of enterprise software for many, many years and having an experience platform has been at the core of their strategy. But I think we all agree we’re just barely scratching the surface of what’s possible at Adobe to serve the needs of the marketer and the CIO and everybody across the spectrum that are trying to actually have an influence on their own customers’ experience in a powerful new way.

And the series of acquisitions that have come together over the years with a lot of diverse viewpoints and people who actually come from high-growth entrepreneurial backgrounds that have come together to form this business unit. And it’s a very large business unit. Now we’re all figuring out how do we help our customers scale and create these incredibly compelling experiences at the same time we’re doing that in our own business. It’s kind of this very meta, a value proposition that we have going on right now on both fronts. But it’s a really cool challenge to be a part of.

SARAH’S INTERVIEW WITH JAMIE FOXX

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah, that is so exciting. Okay. I have one final question, which is, what was it like interviewing Jamie Foxx on stage in front of 5,000 people? Cause I was there. I was there. I purposely not brought this up with you yet. That was an unbelievable interview for anyone who didn’t see it. He was, he was running across the stage at one point. He, Jamie, was stretching his hip flexors in front of Sarah. I don’t know why? You rolled with it.

Sarah Kennedy:        

And I can’t explain to you like I had a view nobody else did.

Joe Hyland:        

Yes, it’s true. That is true.

Sarah Kennedy:        

It was honestly, there were a whole lot of horrifying moments of Summit for me because I had never been in front of an audience that big. And I had so many other components of that, our whole board of directors was sitting in the front row. And the thing that scared me most was interviewing Jamie Foxx. I was completely freaked out and cause Steve and I had gone back and forth.

We actually hadn’t decided until two days before who was going to interview whom and we, I was originally to interview Lindsay Bond. And we decided at the last minute we were like, no, we’re going to flip it. And because I’m from Texas and I was like, I know Jamie Foxx. Like I actually have watched him for so many years, have been such a fan of him growing up.

And I know Steve, feels the same way about Lindsay Bond, I was like we just need to go with like where we have passion. But then, so I met him behind the stage and we were like randomly wearing almost the same thing, which was kind of funny. We were Twinkies. So that worked out well. And then when he got on stage and he started sprinting, it was, I didn’t know what to do ’cause I was so nervous and I had actually prepared for this more than my keynote, more than my opener like everything, I was prepared for that because I was so nervous at how it would go.

And of course he just, the lid comes off immediately and he is sprinting across a hundred-yard stage and singing and stretching and doing whatever. And it threw me off totally because he then just sat down in the wrong chair and I was like, “Oh my God, I’m in the wrong chair. I can’t see my monitor. I don’t know what questions I was supposed to ask.” Yes, my monitor was like, it was turned perfectly for the other chair. And I’m  trying to squint and see and I’m just going, “Oh my God.” I was like, “Thank goodness I have note cards but I don’t like looking at note cards cause then I’m not paying attention!” I got lucky ’cause he was so gracious and he was a great interviewee and it was stressful though. I will say that. But, he was so great.

Joe Hyland:        

It was epic. I thought it was a phenomenal interview. You did a great job of that whole event, it was a great Summit. But that interview for me capped the whole event. I was sitting in the audience with my wife and two minutes into the interview she turned to me and said, this is going to be interesting. It was like, how do you control such a big personality and you kept it on topic. You were incredibly flexible ’cause you had no choice but you could have been rigid and that could’ve gone very badly. So I think there’s a lot of lessons in there.

Sarah Kennedy:        

It was funny, I did for him being unpredictable and I was like, guys, what do I do with my hands? Like, where do I stand if he just decided to go do something else? I’m like, what do I, I don’t know what to do when it was it was great. My team was fantastic at preparing and we did deep, deep research on him, but he’s such a dynamic talent and he was so gracious. He was the best pick that we probably could have made just to make that a fun, fun way to cap things off. So it’s great that you were there to see it in person.

Joe Hyland:        

Life’s about experiences, right? So that was one hell of one.

Sarah Kennedy:        

That was a bucket list moment for sure.

Joe Hyland:        

So cool. Well listen, Sarah, thank you so much. This has been great. We’ve used up a perfectly good half an hour. I think people will really like this. And again, thank you for all the time.

Sarah Kennedy:        

Awesome. Thanks, Joe for having me. I appreciate it.

CMO Confessions Ep. 26: Jaime Romero of MRP

Hello again and welcome to another edition of CMO Confessions, a bi-weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast that examines what real leadership looks like in organizations today.

This week we have Jaime Romero, the Global Head of Marketing and Customer Delivery at MRP. MRP, for those of you who don’t know, is a predictive account-based marketing solution crafted for enterprise organizations.

In this episode, Jaime and I discuss, obviously, ABM and the importance of targeted marketing today. We also go over the elements of internal alignment with sales, why companies need to focus on who they ought to reach and why enterprises are in such a difficult spot today. It’s a great episode that, honestly, could’ve gone on for hours. I hope you enjoy it.

As always, we provide an edited transcript for you to scan below.

Check out what else Jaime has to say on his Twitter profile here and on his LinkedIn profile 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 CMO Confessions. Let’s chat.

Table of Contents:

Jaime Romero’s Take On What’s Cool and Unique About ABM
How To Align Sales And Marketing Around What Matters Most
Aligning Sales and Marketing On Execution
The Challenge Around Enterprise According To Jaime
Enormous Markets vs Targeted Markets
What Drives Jaime Romero Bonkers
Where Should Marketing’s Role Start and End with Experience?

Transcript

Joe Hyland:

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO Confessions, a B2B sales and marketing podcast where we explore what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Joe Hyland, CMO here at ON24 and joining me this week is Jaime Romero, a vice president of ABM and global head of marketing and delivery for MRP. Jaime, how are you doing?

Jaime Romero:

Good, how are you? Thanks for having me.

JAIME ROMERO’S TAKE ON WHAT’S COOL AND UNIQUE ABOUT ABM

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I’m psyched that you’re on today. All right, let’s dig into something that I think most marketers are fascinated by and probably also sick of hearing that this is the newest, latest, greatest thing in marketing, which is account-based marketing.

So much of this is just good marketing, right? Delivering a pretty tailored specific message to your given audience, in this case, an account. But I, I’d love to hear from you on one, how you view ABM, what’s cool about it and maybe what’s unique about your approach.

Jaime Romero:

Yeah, absolutely. So I agree with you 100%, ABM or account-based marketing is just marketing. You know, we’ve spoken to our analysts at Forrester, I’ve spoken to a dozen customers and prospects and they all say the same thing; account-based marketing is just good marketing. And you know, we think about, I talk to Kevin, our CEO often, he’s like, “MRP has been doing account-based marketing for 17 years. This is not a new thing.”

And when you think about it, you’re right we focus on our target account list or ideal customer profile and then you market against it using information that you have to align your messaging and your creative.

I think the big thing today though with account-based marketing and why it’s such a talked about topic is because of technology. And I think technology allows us to scale account-based marketing; AI and machine learning help us scale human decisions that we would make in a microcosm and really look at that at a broader scale, and make decisions faster, almost in real-time. And then I think what ABM does today, alongside the technology, is the sales and marketing alignment component of it.

I think the more advanced companies doing ABM today are going beyond just measuring MQLs and SQLs into a funnel and they’re thinking about holistically, here are the accounts that we’re looking to market to; what are the real metrics that we have to measure to measure the impact marketing and sales are having together?

HOW TO ALIGN SALES AND MARKETING AROUND WHAT MATTERS MOST

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, well, first of all, I could talk for an hour on everything you just said. One, I think focus is a beautiful thing in life, but in business and work as well. So what I love about an account-specific approach for go to market is, is it allows sales and marketing to really align around what matters most and it works particularly well if you’re selling within the enterprise. And it’s interesting, I think, so that’s the first part.

Joe Hyland:

The second part is if you don’t have like if sales and marketing aren’t looking at the same success metrics, they get in trouble and it happens so fast. And for me, this happens a lot around the MQL just because it’s a natural success metric for marketing to look at. And most heads of sales or sales reps couldn’t give two shits about an MQL.

It doesn’t mean that they’re not interested in a qualified name, they very much are. But if they’re having pipeline struggles and marketing says back to them, “Oh, we’re hitting our MQL targets,” I feel like a massive divide is about to occur and maybe you’ll never rebound from it. So how do you look at the success metrics for an ABM program? So it doesn’t become a, he said, she said, like, “I’m-doing-my-job-no-you’re-not” battle.

Jaime Romero:

So I’ll say two things to that. Firstly, if sales and marketing are aligned on the accounts, you don’t send bad leads. Right? I’ve sent leads to marketing and admittedly so and yeah, sorry, I send leads to sales and they get back to me and say, “You know, these are terrible leads.” And I look at them and I’m like, “Hey, you know, some of these aren’t really terrible leads.”

But if I had an agreement with sales and like, here’s the thousand 5,000, 10,000 accounts that we all agree on, then any lead that comes in from that account is a good lead. But that’s where your measurements go. You don’t start, you stop measuring MQL’s at that point you start saying you measure engagement and activity.

Which, on a side note, you want to be careful with because I don’t want to go to my CEO and be like, hey, look at all these website visits we got and look at all these click-through rate that we got. And he’s going to be like, okay, thanks, let me start talking to the big boys now and then call sales back in the room.

So you’ve got to be careful. And that’s why, at MRP, we’re starting to think about things like how do we measure and report on pipeline and pipeline conversion in the context of your target account list. I think that’s really important.

And then back to your original point in terms of how we roll this out into sales orgs and how you get that alignment going. I could talk to two customer examples that we’ve had. Number one, in a bad way, there was a constant battle between sales and marketing in terms of taking credit for leads coming in. Marketing would send leads and sales would basically copy those leads over into the CRM as a new lead and take credit for them.

And it’d be this black hole of marketing pouring things over a fence and it just disappears. Sales is working them and they’re getting real value, but because they structured that organization in the context of who’s driving revenue sales or marketing it was not productive.

On the other side, another one of our clients, I love this case study because we generated $9 million of revenue for them. It was “I’m marketing, I’m sales, here are the accounts that we’re focused on.” I think it was 5,000 accounts that they both agreed on. They were accounts that had stalled in the pipeline and we put together a full end-to-end program to say “Here’s the activity we’re noticing from prolitics, here’s the insight that we’re getting and here’s the marketing activity that’s going to happen based on that insight.”

Marketing and sales are both aligned and agreed on the actions that were taken — and Forrester talks about this a lot, which is the buyer journey going from sales to marketing back to sales — back to marketing. So we integrated these automated sales touchpoints as part of the journey. And man, the two outcomes were, A, they generated $9 million in real revenue, and, B, a lot of accounts that they wanted to sell into closed out and they got rid of a ton of junk that was in their pipeline. So it really cleaned up the entire sales and marketing view of their accounts.

Joe Hyland:

You said something really important there, is you added in sales touches as part of the flow, right? I see so many companies and organizations where they have these siloed approaches to ABM and to them means it hiring a whole bunch of SDRs and having them blitz away accounts and, oh, by the way, marketing is then doing something else that has absolutely nothing to do with what the SDR team is doing or the sales development team.

I’d love to get your take on how do you go about having that integrated approach. Because you’re right if you think about it from the target accounts side, if you actually walk a mile in their shoes, what a frustrating experience that is to have one part of an organization calling me up — it’s probably some 23-year-old kid who doesn’t have much experience — telling me why I need their solution. And then I’m getting all these emails from the marketing department about, probably pretty hopefully, a similar message. But it’s like, come on, get your act together, or like, what is the reason why I should listen to you guys when you can’t even align internally on how to communicate to me.

ALIGNING SALES AND MARKETING ON EXECUTION

Jaime Romero:

So, there are a few things there. In terms of the sales and marketing alignment on the execution side, that’s really difficult. I’m not sure if anybody’s really figured that out yet. But I like to believe we do a good job of it with our customers. But, it’s the personalization layer I think is key there. I am marketed to as the head of marketing for MRP, from a lot of different companies and I see companies do it really well and I see companies do it really poorly. Email is an easy one to flag to be able to subscribe link in the bottom, but some companies, even with that, some companies do a really good job of understanding what my pain points are and really focusing the messaging around that. And then bringing it back to ABM, seeing the email and seeing a bunch of advertising online that aligned to that messaging, seeing some Linkedin messaging, downloads, getting a piece of direct mail, all of that stuff together, it really pushes it.

I think the key, and I’ll give a shout out to G2 Crowd, [which] really looked at my profile, looked at the stuff I was writing about, and then sent me direct mail that was hyper-relevant to where I was at that moment. And I was blown away by it and called her right away. And I was like, hey, you know, what’s going on? Or how can we work together? So I was really impressed with that.

Joe Hyland:

Oh yeah, G2 Crowd is doing some cool things in their marketing. So it’s an  interesting shout out.

THE CHALLENGE AROUND ENTERPRISE ACCORDING TO JAIME

Jaime Romero:

Yeah, definitely shout out to G2 marketing, and their sales team, I’m really digging what they’re doing there. But, the other thing you talk about is, what we define as the challenges around the enterprise. We look at enterprise, and I don’t mean enterprise like $5 billion in revenue and above, I mean enterprise companies that have multiple product lines, that are trying to align, I mean, enterprise that you’re selling the same things. It’s a different geographies, right?

And you said it exactly right; you have these four or five different groups that are selling into the same account and it’s impossible for them to coordinate internally because they’re probably using different marketing automation platforms. They’re using different tools for everything. So there’s not a unified view of that account.

Jaime Romero:

And I think what the scale of ABM today using tools like prolitics or anything else, but the power is that you can align that research. So for that one example, I told you about earlier with the $9 million, that was a pure, we had six, seven different groups targeting the same account. We use prolitics to say everyone, “Stop, you go first because we saw signals that’s saying they’re interested in what you have to sell and not everyone else. So you go first, we’re going to do our thing there. And once that’s done, then we’re going to turn your other guys on, right?”

And then we’re work[ing] down the chain and we’ll see which ones can work concurrently or not. But that’s the key. And I think it’s really important for enterprise companies to start seriously thinking about breaking down those silos and orchestrating marketing activities that align to an account’s needs at that point.

ENORMOUS MARKETS VS TARGETED MARKETS

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I think that’s well said, to your point earlier, executing on it is where the magic happens, right? But you’ve got to have the right strategy to start.

You referenced an ideal customer profile earlier and I’d love to get your take on having an enormous total addressable market. So, having hundreds of thousands of accounts that you can sell to versus being more targeted and saying, “No, no, no, like, you want to whittle that down and you want to have, you know, a strategy to the few not the many.”

Jaime Romero:

So, I’ve come from both sides of the fence. When I was doing local marketing I worked for a software company, I ran marketing for them and they targeted small and medium-sized businesses as well as any business that has a local presence. So it was local marketing. So it’d be like Macy’s and they’d have, you know, hundreds of locations or thousands. And that was an environment where we had hundreds of thousands of total addressable market.

And then, here at MRP, our total addressable market — I don’t have a hard number — but I know it’s not hundreds of thousands. It’s larger marketing organizations using marketing automation and a more advanced view on marketing.

And I think the larger your ideal customer profile, I think the harder it is to implement an ABM strategy because especially because your sales cycles are probably a lot shorter. So you’re talking quick sales cycle length. So you’re really focused on either e-commerce or an inbound strategy that’s going to automate a lot of your sales or you have a really big sales force that’s doing this stuff locally.

Whereas in MRP side we have a smaller total addressable market than hundreds of thousands but we have a much more sophisticated sales cycle and rely heavily on content and thought leadership to educate our customers on how to roll out ABM strategies. More importantly, we work with them; we have a whole team of people who are assigned to our customers and basically talk to them, if not daily, once a week, at most.

Joe Hyland:

Got It. I think it’s interesting and those are like totally different business challenges, right? I think it’s cool when you see companies that can theoretically sell to hundreds of thousands but when on the sales and marketing side, they choose to put more wood behind select arrows and there’s something alluring about having hundreds of thousands of companies you can sell to. But as a marketer it gets a little dangerous.

Jaime Romero:

You know, it’s interesting. Sorry to interrupt there. I just read, not just read, but recently read Seth Godin’s book, “This is Marketing”, I think it was called, but he talked about smallest viable audience, minimum viable promotion or minimum viable audience. And he talked about, he had a great example about an election, where, you know, this person wanted to get elected in some town, I forget if it was mayor or congressman or something, but they started with, “Yeah, we have hundreds of thousands of residents that we need to market to, to win this election.”

But he’s like, “Well, hold on one second. You have, you know, you split that into two groups. You have the people who are never gonna vote for you and the people who already going to definitely vote for you. So take those out of the equation and then you keep whittling it down and they boil down to like, here’s 5,000 people we actually need to convince to vote for me, not the hundreds of thousands.”

And I was like, you know what, that’s a really great way to look at, you know, shift shaping your ideal customer profile or at least at least building out your target market. It was, I thought it was really relevant to what I was doing at the time.

Joe Hyland:

That’s interesting. I think that’s a great analogy too. I think a lot of a lot of marketing is, can be found through looking at kind of political messaging strategies and you look at the electoral college at least here in the U.S. and it’s like, well, unfortunately, what happens is there’s like five states that end up mattering and to your point there, right? And it’s about Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, you name it. I just think it can provide a level of clarity that can be lost when kind of anything is possible and you have an enormous addressable market. So, I like that minimal viable audience.

Jaime Romero:

Yeah. And I’m doing things now with our targeting to try and to really think about what are the signals that are driving the right customers. Even looking at stock prices or their revenue for the last three years; if their revenue as an organization for the last three years is going down, are they more likely or less likely to renew?

So, starting to pull in all of this data because now you have this ability to pull in big data analytics and say, “You know what, here’s some signals that are really pointing to a win or a loss.” And even, “What are my hypotheses around the revenue growth or percentage of spend on marketing and whether or not we went in too high on a proposal.” And just kind guide sales around those kinds of data points.

Joe Hyland:

That’s interesting too. Are there goals and challenges around revenue generation cost savings, right? So yeah, I think there’s a lot of strategies that can be deployed in a world where you’re not necessarily focusing on hundreds of thousands of people.

Jaime Romero:

Exactly.

WHAT DRIVES JAIME ROMERO BONKERS

Joe Hyland:        

I’m curious to get your take on what drives you crazy about marketing today. You and I are both in the martech world for better or worse; what drives you bonkers? Like what do you see on a day-to-day basis and you say, “That makes no sense and I wish people would stop it.”?

Jaime Romero:        

I hate bad experiences. I mean really hate bad experiences. I hate when I go on a website and they’ve got a straight chat, everything is all nice and I start chatting and nobody shows up. I was like, “Hello?” Or it’s like 10 minutes later like, “Oh, did you need that?” Hell no, I needed it … I wanted to know right now, I’m a consumer at this point.

And you get these emails that are … I think, there’s no excuse for a poorly designed email today. I mean, every email platform has beautiful templates you can use. Yet I still see bad profiles, bad personalization, lowercase first name, no name at all. Just these little things that I feel like, at least for me, marketing should have figured out and there are enough tools out there to make sure that that stuff doesn’t happen anymore.

I think also as we move into consumerization of B2B marketing where you’re starting to expect a B2C experience. Like we as B2B marketers don’t have that latitude to make mistakes as we used to, right? Like, we just got to get so much better at the little details.

Joe Hyland:

I totally agree with you. It’s interesting and if you see this explosion in martech over the last 10 years is it enables us to scale like never before, which is amazing, right? Like, it makes our jobs much easier. I think there’s tremendous gains have been made, unfortunately, it’s a bit of a quantity versus quality effect that we’ve seen. And you have things like what you just said, it’s a shitty experience for someone it just says “Hi Name, comma,” first name is lowercase because in marketing automation it’s lowercase, right?

I feel like the experience has suffered as we’ve just tried to scale like never before. And, one, that drives me crazy, but, two, I don’t know if there’s an end in sight on that. Unfortunately, I think that scale is pretty, pretty cost-effective. And it’s easy with a click of a button that you can reach millions of people and so how do marketers kind of focus a little more on experience and quality and less on scale.

Jaime Romero:

Yeah, I mean, I do think it’ll get worse before it gets better, but I also think technology today is going to help it get better. In particular, a lot of AI implementation into a lot of these tools. Email platforms should recognize a name and be like, either stop, this is a name and it’s lowercase, just FYI or just fix it, like not even worry about it. Kind of like auto-correct on an email. I mean my email, my outlook fixes it, Gmail fixes it, I’m sure any email marketing platform can fix it.

I think AI is going to help with a lot of that scaling, and decisions that marketers do. But I agree. I think the problem will get worse, but I think companies will figure out how to fix it and I think they’ll fix it pretty quickly too. Cause I think some of this stuff is — the experiences are really important. And I think when you look at just even aligning messaging on different platforms and you have an ad that says one thing, an email that says another, direct mail that says another and then you have a completely different website.

I think those experiences are going to all start bringing it together and AI is going to help you do that. Because there’s no way I’m going to create like we have a thousand prospects I’m not gonna be able to create a thousand experiences. So the technology has to be able to do that for you.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. that’s a good point by the way, in the lower case, the first letter of a name; I’ve never even thought if within marketing automation whether it’s AI or just a simple formula for if you see Jaime with a lowercase “j” switch it to upper case. I’m going to look into that, I’m just curious.

Jaime Romero:

Well, we’re going to all start emailing Pardot and Marketo and Eloqua and be like, hey guys.

WHERE SHOULD MARKETING’S ROLE START AND END WITH EXPERIENCE?

Joe Hyland:

Exactly. That was either the most brilliant idea ever or people will mock us ’cause that’s been around for a decade and we’re too up in the sky with big ideas. I think you’re onto something with the experience. I think you’re right. I’m curious to get your take on how far that should go. Meaning, so a lot of marketers say, oh yeah, absolutely Jaime, love what you said. I agree. You know, we need to own experience on the front end, right? So advertising our email communications, whatever, everything to get a prospect or a potential customer to become a customer. But once they’re a customer, we’ve got other parts of the organization and they’ll handle that — we don’t need to worry about it. Do you see marketing stepping further and further into the customer experience side where today, of course, that’s handled by either some part of the sales team or the services organization, like where should marketing’s role start and end with experience?

Jaime Romero:

Yeah. I think marketing ultimately will own all of that end-to-end. I mean, I forget the number off the top of my head, but it’s obviously significantly more cost-effective to keep a customer than to sell a new one. And I think if I had to, I think as marketing and sales get closer together, you start working towards a unified revenue goal.

You don’t see it today because I’ve got my budget and I’ve got to hit my MQL goal. But if marketing and sales are working towards the same goal, I can say, here’s my budget and you know, 30% of our revenue is going to come from these renewals, let me invest some money into that. Or even not just renewals but growth on your existing customers. Now I’m going to invest some of my money into that.

And that’s where I see frankly a lot of companies implementing these ABM pilots happening. Because we’re looking at companies coming to us and saying, “I’m going to implement ABM.” That’s a big ask if you want to restructure your entire marketing org, if you’re not set up for that. But, all right, well, where are the use cases? Right? Do you want to implement an ABM strategy around pipeline or stalled pipeline or are some reactivation campaign or existing customers?

We had a client that used us for existing customers. It was a year-long contract, big contracts too, multimillion-dollar deals and they would use our platform to monitor those accounts and see, you know, three, six months before renewal they started doing research on competitors. And that’s a signal we’re going to save that one because it’s way easier to save a million-dollar deal than it is to sell a new million dollar deal.

So I think more and more we’re going to start seeing marketers go into that and be much more involved just like we do with product, you know, years ago marketers started getting involved in product marketing and really understanding the power of selling features and getting customers on board in the right way. I think that’s just as important. I think definitely we’ll see more of that and more marketing investment in that.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I agree with you. And I think it’s an exciting part of marketing and I think [if] you look at marketing 10 years ago versus now, so many more marketers and marketing orgs own either pipeline or at least have a seat at the table when it comes to revenue and the experience of your customers having marketing either again own that or have a major say in that it just speaks to how strategic marketing has become.

We’re no longer the “chotchkies make-it-look-pretty department,” right? Like this is when done right this is a strategic driver that can help an organization grow. And ultimately very much impact valuations. We recently kind of bumped into this data around retention information for our client base as it relates to engaging with our content. So are they into something we weren’t necessarily measuring? We were looking at how happy are the customers were, how often they were using our products, the right things.

But we ran a different cut of the data which viewed it through the lens of are they coming to our webinars, are they reading our white papers, are they coming to our conferences? And the numbers were astonishing. And in hindsight, it’s kind of obvious, but what we found is an engaged customer is a customer who sticks around for a really, really, really long time and it’s not necessarily about how they’re using our product. And I think it just, it speaks to the notion that you referred to earlier on in a marketer’s owning the entire experience and having a more holistic view.

Jaime Romero:

And again, just bringing technology back into it, this is why we’re talking about ABM today — it’s that scale and we’re finding a lot of the same things because now we have all this data we can analyze. And we’re seeing the same thing you engage with certain content or certain marketing channels. The impact that has on your email click-through rates is 10x or your response rate on a direct mail program is five times higher because, you know, read this white paper. So I think those are really powerful and I guess you could have done it with excel a long time ago, but they didn’t. At the scale at least.

Joe Hyland:

Exactly. It’s kind of like finding a needle in the haystack. Okay, listen, Jaime, this was fantastic. I again, appreciate you taking the time and coming on the show and thank you for your insights.

Jaime Romero:

Absolutely, I appreciate you having me. And it’s good to connect with you in virtual person.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, we’re almost in person and we’re getting there. All right, thanks, man.

Jaime Romero:

We will. All right.

CMO Confessions Ep 25. ParkMobile’s Jeff Perkins

Hello and welcome to another edition of CMO Confessions, our weekly podcast encapsulating what it means to be a marketing and sales leader in the B2B space today. I hope everyone’s enjoying the summer as much as possible and preparing for a great Q3.

On this week’s edition of CMO Confessions, we Have Jeff Perkins, CMO of ParkMobile and all-around nice guy. Jeff has an extensive background in marketing and a lot of great experiences to share. (One of which, I have to say, is being offered an extra million in marketing budget by finance — it’s great and in this interview.)

Jeff shows us what it means to be a leader in the marketing world by focusing on the elements that build up a great marketing program while simultaneously scoring quick wins. In this interview, he provides us with a slew of leadership examples any explains why would-be CMOs need to slow down and focus if they’re going to last longer than 18 months.

I know I say this every episode, but this is a great episode that really gets into the minutiae of marketing leadership. Give it a listen or read it through below.

If you’re interested in what else Jeff has to say about marketing, you can find his Twitter profile here. If you’re interested in his extensive background you can check out his LinkedIn profile 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 CMO Confessions. Let’s chat.

Table of Contents

What Does Jeff Perkins Loathe About Marketing
The Science Behind (And the Benefits Of) An Effective Campaign
Why Marketing Leaders Need to be Transparent
Brand vs Demand Gen Engine (And How Jeff Got to Where He Is)
Why Marketing Leaders Need to be Able to Focus
Agile Velocity Marketing and Getting Shit Done
The Long and Short of Good Marketing Leaders

Transcript:

Joe Hyland:        

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO Confessions, a B2B sales and marketing podcast where we explore what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Joe Hyland, CMO here at ON24 and joining me this week from the Greater Atlanta area is Jeff Perkins, CMO of ParkMobile. Jeff, how you doing?

Jeff Perkins:

Hey Joe. Good to be with you. I’m really nervous that I’m going to confess something I’m going to regret. So I’m going to kind of be careful here, very conservative in my answers. But, it’s a very intimidating name for a podcast or a webinar series, CMO Confessions.

Joe Hyland:        

That’s right. You better have some good dirt.

Jeff Perkins:        

Right!

WHAT DOES JEFF PERKINS LOATHE ABOUT MARKETING?

Joe Hyland:

Well, okay, good. You know what? I will start us off, I’ll put you in a compromising position. People always tell me what they love about marketing. Some of it I think is true; I am generally pretty trustworthy. But what I find really interesting is what really frustrates people. So what do you loathe about marketing? What just makes you like yawn or your eyes roll in terms of B2B marketing today?

Jeff Perkins:

Probably the thing that is most frustrating about marketing, is that everybody thinks they can do it. It’s a, you know, and I’ve been working in marketing since, you know, the mid-nineties. I feel like, say it’s a craft that I have been committed to and worked at throughout my entire career. And when people come in and they just say, “Hey, I want to change, I want to change this headline on the website,” or “I didn’t really like what you did there in that video” or, you know, “Hey, how about this idea, how about that idea?” It gets frustrating, you know, because, you know, no one’s going to the CFO and saying, you know, “I don’t really like how you’re managing the balance sheet there Mister CFO.” People don’t go to the developers that don’t know development and say, “Hey, I was looking at these lines of code and I think ya got it all wrong”. But, for some reason everybody goes to the marketing guy with the, you know, cause they have the absolute best idea that’s going to just change the world.

So that can be frustrating at times and makes our job a lot more challenging than some of our peers that are more specialized in their roles. But it also, it’s kind of what makes the job fun in a way. Marketing is very accessible and it’s very easy for me to go to an all-hands meeting and to show the latest video that we produced or to show a campaign that we’re working on that’s really cool. So, while it’s very frustrating that everybody gets to be a critic and everybody has the best idea, it’s also very fun when you’re able to showcase really good work. And when people see it they totally get what they’re looking at and they get excited about what the marketing team is doing.

THE SCIENCE BEHIND (AND THE BENEFITS OF) AN EFFECTIVE CAMPAIGN

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I’d say it’s the most relatable department. Right? And it’s true, I don’t walk up to our head of engineering and start handing out my methodology or recommendations for how he runs a SCRUM meeting, right? Like I don’t give a Jack Shit about that. So I’m pretty quiet. But everyone is marketed to, right? Everyone knows marketing because they’re on the other end of it.

I find what quells that or what stops it is when you actually break down the addressable market, who you’re going after and you throw in just a little bit of data and math. I kind of love ideas from any and all corners of the company. If you actually walk them through what the mathematical model is to build pipeline and grow the business you kind of don’t get as many random ideas.

Jeff Perkins:

Yeah, that’s true. And I often find that people are surprised by the science, right? There’s a perception that “Oh, it’s just all big ideas and it’s all whiteboarding and creativity.” And there is that, it’s not incorrect, there’s a real science to developing an effective campaign. There’s a real science developing effective messaging. And that’s the stuff a lot of times you don’t see if you’re just a layman looking at marketing from the outside and saying, “Well, I like that, I don’t like that.”

So yeah, I mean that’s always an important thing for me when I think about telling the marketing story to the company is to really share the data and share those insights. And especially when you’re talking to people who are in the departments that are most disconnected oftentimes from marketing like finance.

One thing that I’ve really tried to do in my career is a be a CFO-friendly CMO. Which is challenging at times, but you know, if you think about the CFO, and their perception of marketing, it’s all about overhead, it’s all about — I always joke, every CFO generally thinks all marketing does is just throw money in the fireplace. Right? And what I found is that, with the finance people, it’s not that they’re not willing to open the purse strings and to give you the investments, but it’s on you to go back to them and explain how that money’s being used and make the business case on why the company should invest and why the company should spend. And if you don’t do that, shame on you as the marketing team lead.

You can’t complain that you’re not getting enough money from the CEO or the CFO if you’re not testing and learning, if you’re not trying out new campaigns and trying to make a business case for greater investment. And I’ll tell you, it was interesting when I was at, one of the companies I was at was called PGI. We were so good at reporting back results on our marketing spend that the financing used to come to us sometimes at the end of the quarter and say, “Hey Jeff, there’s an extra million dollars in the budget that we thought we were going to spend it rather than putting it to the bottom line. What do you think about using that money to grow our business?” That’s really unique and that’s when you know you’ve won when the finance guys are actually coming to you asking you to spend more money because they see the value and they know it’s going to drive revenue for the company.

Joe Hyland:

Literally the dream. I’ve never heard it actually so explicitly stated though. Yeah, when I first started in marketing, my boss said marketing is by definition a cost center. We’re a drag on the organization (it was kind of a depressing moment) we’re a drag on the organization, at least from a P&L and balance sheet standpoint. And, you know, we will never contribute. This was on the brand side. And we talk about a massive transformation in the last 20 years.

I also had someone in that same department say that’s not true like that we shouldn’t be viewed that way, but I think a lot of marketers felt that way and I think a lot of people in finance certainly felt that way. Yeah. and I think for most growth organizations now, there’s a reason that marketing’s getting an increasing share of wallet internally is, we’re kind of the tip of the spear for growth. And I know a lot of marketers who shy away from doing what you just said and they kind of don’t want to open up the books and attribute a dollar to revenue.

I think it’s a huge mistake if, I mean that is literally the dream what you said. If you can prove that there are green shoots in that x invested, turns into whatever the model is, two, three, four, five x, I mean that’s how marketers get more and more strategic in an organization, but it’s not easy to do.

WHY MARKETING LEADERS NEED TO BE TRANSPARENT

Jeff Perkins:

Yeah. Most executives in a company, whether you’re a CFO or CEO or a COO, they’re not going to accept trust the process, right? As a reason to get investment what they’re going to want to see are real results from what you’re doing. It’s interesting, you know, my last company was called QASymphony and I was at the company when it was just about a million ARR, so very small high-growth and we took it about 15 million and raised, you know, an ABC round, the last round being a $40 million round from Insight Venture Partners. But we were highly, highly scientific in our approach to marketing. And at the end, we were finding that for all of the closed/won deals that were coming in, about 85% were sourced by marketing programs.

And so that’s a great thing when you can go back to your executive team and say, “Hey, marketing is the driver and we know that because we track everything we do and we find that all of our best deals are coming through these three kinds of tactics and that they’re also engaging with us at other points in the funnel.”

If you set up your marketing org the right way and you set up your tech stack the right way and you’re focused on attribution, you will have a very good story to tell your executive team that should get you more investment in your marketing program over the long run.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, and I think transparency’s key there. When I was earlier in my career I was at a company called Kronos on the time management workforce management space. And one of our beliefs was that we needed to be quite careful with attribution to make sure there weren’t kind of false positives and we moved to a multitouch model, which we can talk about this topic for a while, and it’s almost like a religion, right? There are very strong beliefs and you kind of can’t have it all ways, but, because based off of what assumptions you put into the model, it can kind of skew things pretty dramatically.

Like does first touch own 50 or 60%, is it last touch? But at least it’s open and honest and clear and transparent, right? Like, so we’re trying to do the same thing here where there are no sacred cows and, I’m very, we are to a fault transparent and it starts a discussion. And, well I’m not quite at the point where you were at PGI where finances is asking to pour millions back into the business. We’ve had pretty steadily increasing budgets I think because we’ve proven that, you know, we’re very open and we’re getting good results. But I think it starts with transparency personally.

Jeff Perkins:

Yeah. And you know, attribution, to your point, can be very misleading in some cases, right? One example, when we looked at attribution was a, it showed us that, you know, search engine marketing for example, was not the most effective lead source. And when you looked at just the pure attribution, but if you actually looked at what was going on in the search engines, all the competitors were there. So if you were to say, “Hey, search engine marketing is not effective, we’re not going to invest there, you know, because it’s not driving the kind of revenue that we would expect based on the investment.”

That would be probably a bad decision because you’re surrendering the battlefield to your competitors because they’re going to stay there. And then there’s one less competitor that’s going to be bidding up terms. So they’re going to be paying less. So there are some things that you have to do in marketing that are sort of table stakes to just being competitive in the category. I don’t know anyone who works in, marketing yourselves, technology that would tell you that sponsoring Dreamforce is the best investment they make every year, but I think all of them still do it because they know that they kind of have to be there, right?

There are table stakes to competing in this very competitive category against all these other martech and sales tech vendors. So if you’re not there, you might just be missing out on that one deal that could come through from that show, or you’re just going to not be on the shortlist, for people that are planning an RFP because they didn’t see you at the show and they may assume that you’re no longer viable or you’re out of business.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think that’s a great point. For us when we, when we first built our model, and I’ll get off this topic quickly, but, we put, we heavily weighted first touch and like 50% or 60% of the score and we found that contents syndication was by far and away the most important thing we were doing. Cause we’re getting a lot of leads into the database through content syndication. Then we adjusted the model a quarter later and we realized at that time the content syndication was like kind of worst-performing channel.

So, you got to be a little careful with these models. It can, it can lead to some questionable conclusions. But what you just said about during forest, leads me to building a brand versus building a demand gen engine. Because I think it’s pretty common to think you’re doing one or the other if you, things in marketing are that black and white, right? In your example, there you could be doing both. You’ve built things from the ground up at a few organizations.

I’d love to hear your perspective on brand versus demand gen engine. and also coming from both the B2C side and the B2B side. So, I think your perspective will be unique here.

BRAND VS. DEMAND GEN ENGINE (AND HOW JEFF GOT TO WHERE HE IS)

Jeff Perkins:

Yeah. And I’ll talk a little bit about my background because I think where I came from in my career influences the way I look at these things. But I spent the first five years of my career working in advertising in New York City, at an agency called Saatchi and Saatchi, working in Procter & Gamble. So I kind of was, really schooled in classic brand management and classic brand building, very early on.

So I always look at, the brand kind of as, as being foundational to everything you do. So if you don’t have a reasonably strong brand, strong brand messaging, a strong brand proposition, strong competitive differentiation, all the lead gen programs you run, will not be nearly as effective as they could be. So that’s something I always encourage people [to do], especially as they’re starting a company.

It’s, you really have to build that foundation first. And once you have that foundation, everything you do, whether it’s your brand building or your lead gen program — all of them will accelerate if you have a strong foundation. And so, when I started at QASymphony, we were a very small company at the time, but one of the things we know is that our path to success would be competing with very big companies, very big enterprises like Hewlett Packard.

So we were going to head with Hewlett Packard and their software solution that was called Quality Center. And we, you know, if we were going to go talk to a large enterprise about enterprise software testing, we needed to have a brand that had real credibility. And so, one of the first things I did is we refine the brand message and we built a website that we felt was going to showcase us as a real enterprise brand.

And this is when we didn’t have big budgets to do this either. We felt getting the right brand position in the market as an enterprise testing tool was going to help everything we did going forward. And so we really focused on the brand probably first, before we spend a lot of time focusing on building that, that lead gen engine.

Once we had the kind of the brand foundational pieces built, then we started layering the lead gen pieces on it. And, and we found that was a very successful strategy for us and not. As I look at, companies that, that I joined, you know, one of the key things, I always look at it as, “Hey, let’s do a quick health check on the brand. Do we at least have a brand that is going to resonate in the market?”

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be. We don’t have to pay agencies a ton of money to develop messaging and design, but you need to get it to a certain point where you can compete at a high level in the market and putting your brand up against the competitive brands in the category.

And then once you do that, like I said before the lead gen programs, I think will work a lot harder for you and everything you do, it’s really hard when you don’t build the brand in the beginning to then go back after the fact and have to redo it. That’s always been an important thing because you end up spending a lot of time and energy at a time when you should be generating leads and revenue into kind of like the unplugging and rewiring all the brand stuff that you probably should have done in the first place.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Are you have to throw away what is maybe some good material but isn’t in line with the new branding that you’re going to come out with? Right. I get asked this question a lot: what’s your marketing strategy? And, I think your answer actually said it quite well. There is no one size fits all approach. Like when you’re on a smaller organization, particularly if you’re selling into the enterprise, you need to make sure that you are going to be commercially viable.

My last company was a startup that ended up being quite successful. But in the early days, the reason we weren’t getting deals, even though I thought we had a better product, as we were going against SAP and big banks. And ultimately these enterprises, we’re looking at a 50-person company saying, I don’t know if I’m going to stake my job on you guys.

WHY MARKETING LEADERS NEED TO BE ABLE TO FOCUS

Joe Hyland:

And so, we put a ton into the brand to make us look bigger than we were. The website was so important. Demand Gen was act two when I got to ON24, we had an established brand. I don’t know if I thought it was perfect, but it was established, but it was our demand gen engine that was broken.

So I said, “All right, the brand is good enough right now, but you know, there are things we need to fix.” And yeah, I mean your marketing is just problem-solving, right? Each scenario is a different a unique one and you should not have a singular approach to how you go to market. Sounds kind of obvious, but I think, I don’t think it is.

Jeff Perkins:

No, I think you’re exactly right. Probably the most important thing that you can do as a marketing leader is focus, right? Because either so many problems in the organization and so many things that you can take on and so many challenges you have to overcome. But at the end of the day, you can do anything but you can’t do everything. You have to really focus on what’s most important to the business at any given time.

I always like to do this exercise, like it’s kind of fill in the blanks exercise, “We are not growing faster because of blank. We are losing customers because of blank.” And especially early on in a business focusing on filling in those blanks. That’s 100% of what you should spend your time on. So if you are not growing revenue because you have a weak brand focus on that.

If you are not growing revenue because you don’t have the lead gen engine to produce the opportunities you focus on that. So it’s all about what those blanks are. And that’s going to be different depending on the company you’re in, depending on the stage, depending on the funding.

Like you said before, there’s not a one size fits all solution to marketing. Even though a lot of probably CEOs would like that, there’s just not every company you look at has a different challenge, a different category, so it’s going to require different marketing solutions within that company to be successful.

Joe Hyland:

I couldn’t agree anymore. I often tell our, my boss, our CEO that focuses our best friend. There are a million things we could be doing, but sometimes “no” is the most powerful word in our vernacular. Within our team — ON24 has about four to five hundred employees, we have 25 or 26 people in marketing. So mid-sized team. We develop, north stars, which are kind of the fill in the blanks for the two or three things we really want to influence. But we, we try to be agile and switch quarter to quarter — sometimes that can be a little frenetic.

My wife works at LinkedIn and when they set their — when an enterprise sets their strategy, it’s a big ship. It’s hard to move it right? So they have their annual strategy. If you’re smaller, go with it. You should be able to move quicker, be a little more dynamic. You don’t have to go through as many approval processes to get something done. and I don’t think you should be too rigid, but you gotta focus, you can’t have seven things that are the top priorities. They just won’t work.

AGILE VELOCITY MARKETING AND GETTING SHIT DONE

Jeff Perkins:

I’m a big fan of, I call it “velocity marketing,” where you’re, you know, you’re not taking too much time to do any one thing. And fortunately, I work at companies that are, where the size allows me to do that. You’re right, that when you’re at larger enterprises, a lot of times you have to be a lot more methodical and have a longer view sometimes when you’re thinking about your marketing programs.

But in the size of companies I’m working in, the biggest thing for us is that we want to drive results and we want to move the business. And, and these aren’t small moves, we want to grow the business double digits. We want to make meaningful shifts to help support business growth. So we think about what are all the things we can do to help drive that business and how can we try out as many of those things as possible.

So we had some ideas on, “Hey, let’s get more video content done.” So, in just a few months, we created like 59 videos that are now on our YouTube page and have different demos of the products. And those are the things that we did without spending a lot of money and without spending a lot of time — and we just did them very fast. Maybe they’re not the quality that you would want if you were at a bigger company.

But we really want to be fast and nimble and then get campaigns in the market and figure out what works and what doesn’t, so we can do more of what works and less than what doesn’t. So that’s kind of the approach we take here and I think is important for marketers. Early-stage companies, or companies that are on very fast growth trajectories, you have to keep figuring out what’s the next level you can pull to drive the maximum impact to the business.

Joe Hyland:

When you’re an early-stage company, it’s grow or die, right? So like you just don’t have the luxury of telling your board like, “Sorry, this is our strategy for the next two quarters and I can’t deviate.” You won’t be running things for long. But it’s interesting as you were saying that I jotted down a note and I wrote scrappy and drive results.

Big companies want to do the exact same thing. I think it’s just like BS bureaucracy that gets in the way and there’s just more stakeholders in a larger organization. But I have a lot of friends who run marketing for pretty big organizations. And if they were sitting here, they would be screaming at us saying, “I want to do the exact same thing.” Like if I identify that we have a video problem, I want to, within a couple of months or a quarter, how many videos did you say you did?

Jeff Perkins:

59.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. That’s amazing. When I got to ON24 we did not, and this is insane. And, if anyone listening goes through our website, they’ll find Jeff in one of these, we did not have any customer videos — ON24 had been around for 13 or 14 years. We had over a thousand customers. We had zero testimonial videos. None. No one, no one went on the record saying they loved ON24 and the first, like two or three quarters — we did not create 59, I’m a little embarrassed now, but it was like dozens. We went on a mission from God. You can get shit done. You just have to have a scrappier mindset. We call it 80, 20 here, like 80% sometimes needs to be good enough, that you’re going to move fast and then you test it, right? Maybe your video strategy was idiotic. Maybe it will work brilliantly well, you don’t know until you do it.

THE LONG AND SHORT OF GOOD MARKETING LEADERS

Jeff Perkins:

Exactly. And, but it’s interesting what you said about the enterprise marketers. One of the things I’ve noticed, especially in the last five to six years I’ve been at organizations where I’ve been brought in and there’ve been other marketers there alongside me and some senior-level marketers. And they haven’t lasted and they’ve kind of been in and out relatively quickly and they’ve done the classic 18-month stint and then they move on to the next thing.

What I found is interesting, with especially executive-level marketers today, is that they come in, they’re highly strategic. They know what to do and they know how to tackle some big problems, but they just take too damn long. And you know, in a lot of the stuff, it’s not bad that they’re taking a long time to do things that are really important, that require significant financial investments and that are really hard.

But then, the problem is, is that they’re not showing, wins along the way. And so what I always talk about, especially when I started job is as I have kind of like a, a quick win strategy where what I want to do is let me put some runs on the board as fast as I can. So I’m going to identify within my first hopefully week or the week of the job, here’s like five things I can do and I could probably get them done within my first month or two months at the company and I just go do them. Or, I figure out how to get them done. and what it does when people start to see you doing things, and start to see you producing output, it gives them a lot of confidence that, “Oh, we have the right marketing guy here. We hired the right person.”

Whereas if you go off in your own marketing world for six months, working on some, revamped martech stack that’s gonna reshape the way that we engage with customers over the next five years, people are gonna say, “What’s that person been doing? Like, I don’t know what that VP of marketing does here. We haven’t seen anything from him or her.” Whereas, if you’re just getting these quick wins early on, people were like “Jeff’s, just cranking out work. It’s amazing. We’re, we haven’t seen this much output from marketing in a long time. Let’s give him more stuff. Let’s give him more budget. Let’s give them more responsibility.”

And so, especially when you’re early on in your tenure at a company, I think putting runs on the board early and showing people that you can actually do things and get things done is so critical. Because when you do want to take on that really big project down the road and you want to revamp the whole customer journey and you want to invest in all this martech and hire some more people, they’ll have confidence that you can do that because you built kind of this reservoir of credibility through all these quick wins. So I think it’s something that a lot of marketers overlook is, is showing you can get stuff done quickly, to earn the respect to then do bigger things down the road.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I think that is, honestly, not that it was hogwash the first 25 minutes, but that was, that’s brilliant advice. I, I’ve got a lot of great marketers on my team who one day will lead marketing and I’ll often tell them there are two things. One, you need to have the presence in the room to get the job, but it’s a totally different skill set than to actually do the job. And I think so many, and you mentioned 18 months, which is like the average tenure is often cited, the average tenure of a CMO.

And I think a lot of that is because they come in with big bold vision, which is great. You need to have that. but it doesn’t always get realized, which is okay, things change in 18 months, right. and get some traction, prove results.

It kind of goes back to what we said at the start like focus is a beautiful thing. Cool. Have the big macro vision but then say, okay, now micro — and part of this is your peers on the executive team and your boss, the CEO — tell them the journey that you’re going to take them on and then you’re right. Six months. And if you’ve got a lot of great results, maybe your big bold vision from six months earlier was full of shit and won’t come to come to a realization. That’s okay. Cause they see all the progress. Right. They see the 59 videos you got up on the website.

You mentioned trust the process earlier and everyone listening might not get the reference, but with Sam Hanky when he came in and totally went to revamp the 76ers in the NBA and had this five or six-year, pretty arduous journey. So like he got, he got 90% there and then the rug got pulled out from him and he’s no longer the GM and the Sixers are, are good with his, with his vision. Maybe if he had some wins along the way, he’d still have it. Yeah.

Jeff Perkins:

It was a tough thing he did that took guts. I’d recommend that every marketer or read his, I don’t know if you call it a manifesto or resignation letter or whatever it was that he put together, but it really was, spectacular in that he knew what had to be done and he, he went after it and executed his plan.

Unfortunately, in that industry, in the sports industry, you get rewarded a lot of times for immediate gratification and you get punished for the longer-term thinking. But, as a Sixers fan, I’m very happy where the team is right now and I’m hoping they continue to have a good run in the playoffs.

Joe Hyland:

Oh, you’re a Sixers fan.

Jeff Perkins:

I was born outside of Philadelphia. some people call it southern New Jersey, but I always say I’m from Philly.

Joe Hyland:

Okay. Mike Trout land.

Jeff Perkins:

Yes, exactly.

Joe Hyland:

Well, listen, I think, Jeff, I think there’s a perfect way to end we bored people for the last three minutes with our sports analogies and references. I really appreciate the time. I think it was a fantastic discussion. So, thank you for being on the show.

Jeff Perkins:

All right. Thanks for having me.

CMO Confessions Ep. 24: Cherwell Software’s Scott Gainey

Hello and welcome to another edition of CMO Confessions. I hope everyone is gearing up for a great Fourth of July break, getting out of your respective homes and offices and enjoying some well deserved rest and recuperation.

For our Fourth of July edition of CMO Confessions, I sat down with Scott Gainey, CMO at Cherwell Software. Scott is a multifaceted leader with experience in the technical nature of business (how many CMOs do you know who can code in Fortan, C and C++?) and brings a holistic approach to his work.

In this episode, we sit down to discuss why marketing leaders must be able to show real progress in their work, how they can assess progress and how they can use data to make smarter marketing decisions. It’s a great episode with a lot of insight into the day-to-day of what a CMO actually does.

If you’re interested in what else Scott has to say, you can find his Twitter profile here. If you’re interested in his extensive background you can check out his LinkedIn profile 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 CMO Confessions. Let’s chat.

Table of contents:

How Scott got into marketing
What Scott thinks of marketing’s recent changes
Using data to make smarter marketing decisions
The importance of making, and sticking to, a plan
Shedding light between sales and marketing
Making Big Hairy Audacious Goals
Scott’s marketing passions
What grinds Scott’s marketing gears

Transcript

Joe Hyland:

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO Confessions, a weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast where we explore what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Joe Hyland, CMO here at ON24. And joining me this week, from the Denver area, is Scott Gainey, CMO of Cherwell. Scott, how you doing?

Scott Gainey:

I’m doing great, Joe. Thanks.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Thank you for the time. I’m excited. I’m excited for the discussion.

Scott Gainey:

Yeah, yeah, no, likewise.

How Scott got into marketing

Joe Hyland:

All right. So, I think, one thing that I get asked a lot of, and a lot of people on the show talk about this, is their path to becoming a CMO. And I think a lot of marketers, particularly younger marketers, naturally feel like there is a like a preplanned evolution that every head of marketing has for their journey. And I think that is seldom the case. So I’d love to hear about how you first got your head of marketing job or first marketing opportunity and what your path looked like.

Scott Gainey:

No, I definitely didn’t take that path. Let’s see, I was late major change. I wanted to be a sports doctor. I did a couple internships, actually did an internship with the Los Angeles Lakers, which was fun — almost a dream job if you’re heading down that path to being a sports doctor. But I actually decided I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to head down that path, so I did a last minute change.

I happened to take some programming classes in Fortran, C, C++ and Microsoft was recruiting on campus so I said, “I’m going to put my name in a hat and try and get one of these jobs that they were recruiting.” And that was kind of my quick transition and start into tech. I started out in customer support and worked. I was sort of the back line to the back line kind of that bridge between the escalation engineers and product management. And so that was kinda how I began my career in technology.

From there, I moved more down kind of an inbound path sort of stayed close to development, product management kind of along the way and picked up some experience in marketing. I think the first real foray was with a product I was working on that didn’t have any marketing support. So I had to write the initial set of collateral to go on and do the sales training and enablement. And thought, “Oh Wow, this is kind of fun. I sorta like this getting out of the office.” And then from there sort of picked up a little bit more responsibility towards marketing along the way. And I think I got…I’ll call it a break.

I got my first real break working for a company, Nuova, that was getting acquired by Cisco and we were launching a new product, an entirely new product, for Cisco. Then through the acquisition I got asked “Hey, you want to come over and be the first marketer for this new product line, UCS?” Which is this computing product line. And so I was, Marketer Number One and responsible for basically everything launching this new product, through Cisco and ended up building up a team from there.

From there I really never looked back, stayed outbound focused from that point forward. I took on another marketing head role at Cisco for their security business and then moved over to Palo Alto Networks to increasing responsibility there in the marketing group; product marketing, demand gen some of the technical marketing and then from there I was just kind of felt ready. I felt ready to step in and take a CMO role, which I did a the next company after that, took a CMO position at that point it was all on me and I had no one to blame but myself.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. The job you’ve always wanted and then you realize, oh shit, it comes along with a lot of responsibilities.

Scott Gainey:

Oh no, I have to sit in front of this board and the rest of the leaders. Yeah. So that was the path. Yeah. I started out definitely more technical and then ultimately moved into more of an outbound kind of position.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Okay. That’s very, very interesting. And I always find it fascinating when people come up through the product side. You mentioned being more technical, my sense is, the better you can understand your customer, the better you can understand your market.

Truthfully, the better you understand your product offering the more effective marketer you are is I think a lot of marketers, particularly 10 or 15 years ago, maybe that was less of a concern. I’m seeing more and more marketers take a path like yours.

Scott Gainey:

Yeah, I agree. I think there’s this old misnomer that marketing is just simply there to make things look interesting, right? I have advised a lot of people who ultimately want to move into a CMO role. And I’ve always just said, get to know your customer, get to know your market, get to know your technology and what differentiates you first and foremost. Spend time, go invest in sitting with engineering, sitting with the SEs in the field, talking to customers who will talk to you.

I think that serves as the foundation that will only benefit you down the road. As you’re writing a press release or working on a presentation where you’re going to stand in front of your sales team at SKO. There’s any number of different outlets that you’ll get involved in as a CMO and having that foundation will really serve you well.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think foundation is a great word there. Having a superficial knowledge of anything in life, I don’t, maybe you can BS your way through a few things, but ultimately you need real substance and depth and breadth and knowledge. I think the deeper you can go in any, in any space that you’re serving as a marketer, the more successful you’ll be.

Scott Gainey:

Yeah. Oh yeah. No, one hundred percent agree. One hundred percent agree.

What Scott thinks of marketing’s recent changes

Joe Hyland:

Okay. So, you referenced something that I love talking about, which is, how marketing has evolved and marketing’s role at many companies now, not all, but has really evolved over the last 15 or 20 years from the make it look pretty department to like the tip of the spear for growth. I’d love to hear how you’ve seen that evolution, assuming you agree and kind of what your day-to-day looks like in terms of driving growth.

Scott Gainey:

Yeah. I know. I mean I love where the role of CMO heads evolved in the last I’d say maybe even three to four years I think. And even as part of that evolution I think, what I’m seeing now is some acknowledgement that CMOs could actually take that step and ultimately become CEOs of their company. I think CMOs now have that seat at the table. We are there, we’re a part of the strategic planning of the company.

I sit with our board members routinely, I sit with, obviously, and work with, the executive staff regularly on just the strategic direction of the company. What are our imperatives? What do we need to do to reach our targets? Not just in this year, but in future years? And I think that being part of that conversation, being engaged in that conversation and bringing something to the table has helped in this role definitely evolve.

And I think bringing something to the table though is a critical requirement. And, and so I lean on myself and the team. We have to be experts in the segments that we want to target. We have to make those recommendations and bring that data into those strategy planning sessions. And so I really kind of evolved myself too. I’m a data mongrel. I, pour through, look at our customer base [inaudible] how is that segment, what is our historical [inaudible]…

What’s going on at a macro level with markets? Should we be focusing on in an area that we’re not today because indicators are that that could be a positive area for sure? And bringing in that information into the table. I think it just sheds a very different light on the role and what CMOs can provide as part of planning process.

Joe Hyland:

That was a great answer. There was a lot in there. I think I could talk for an hour just on the last two minutes that you just said. I think many marketing departments, as we both said, are becoming more strategic and you need your head of marketing to be leading that charge.

I was just emailing with one of our board members this morning on kind of his suggestions on some, he’s a creative guy, new markets we could serve, which is always interesting to have that discussion. But I think you’re head of marketing needs to be thinking about your go-to-market plan and kind of determining, or helping to determine at least, how you’re going to grow and how you’re going to operate as an organization.

Using data to make smarter marketing decisions

Joe Hyland:

I don’t see, kind of jokes aside, obviously your visual aesthetics, your brand, of course that’s still coming out of marketing. I’m just seeing so many marketing departments do so much more. And I love that you’re talking about data and how to use data and how to use data to make smarter decisions.

You reference living in spreadsheets, so do I. I’m not sure if I love it at all times. But I think as marketers become more and more kind of familiar and comfortable in that role they can take on more strategic positions within the organization.

Scott Gainey:

I mean it does begin with the brand. I come in, even to this company that I’m at right now, at Cherwell, we had a founding and leadership team that operated with many different taglines. There wasn’t [consistency], contrary to the message that they were delivering around the company, it’s hard to establish despite investment. It’s hard to establish a good sound brand if your executive team all uses different presentations, different messages, particularly to provide value to the company.

So you get to that continuity message, even your visual brand and identity in order to ultimately build strength into the market. And then from there as far as partnership with sales, I think a lot of CMOs tend to shy away from committee to numbers.

And I think we also live in an era where you gotta draw a line in the sand and say what marketing will contribute in terms of your business objectives. In our case, it’s all about new logo production, right? That is our sole focus is how many new logos are we going to bring in as a company thus what share can we capture year over year? And I set a challenge for myself and some of that was sort of suggested by one of our big investors.

But it made it a challenge. It made a commitment that the challenge that I got from KKR — as one of our big investors in the private equity houses — was that can marketing contribute 55% of those new logos that we want to attain this year? And there it becomes a spreadsheet exercise, right?

We follow the SiriusDecisions, waterfall process to reengineer waterfall processes. We work backwards and look at what our historic close rates are for opportunities in the funnel. Our conversion is from meeting the opportunity. What my conversion is from qualified lead, to meeting, from initial inquiry to qualified opportunity. And then that net was with the investments that we’ve made across the team and the change we made, I came back and said, “You know what? I can actually do 56%.”

Joe Hyland:

That’s crazy. I love that.

Scott Gainey:

But if you don’t live in the data, if you don’t take the time and energy to understand your historicals, your conversion rate, know where you are getting those contacts from and what investments are producing the best conversions down-funnel, then you’re going to be guessing on that, right? And the board, the leadership team, people are going to see right through that and you’re going to lose credibility instantly as a CMO.

The importance of making, and sticking to, a plan

Joe Hyland:

I love that you just walked through that process cause that’s actually something that I’ve never talked to anyone on the show about. I think it’s incredibly important for marketers to understand. Any great plan you, particularly if you’re growth oriented, needs to start at the number, the sales number. And then you work backwards and you work backwards based on historicals, conversions where you feel like you can get improvements. Then, from there that’s when you come up with your marketing programs and your creative ideas and how you’re going to see those improvements.

But yeah, if you just start there you’ll never truly be viewed as strategic. And it’s a fun exercise. It really is. It’s one of my favorite times of the year is planning for growth and then coming up with a model for how you can get there.

Scott Gainey:

I’d be happy to share this with anyone. You can always ping me over Linkedin, but I mean, I have three simple sheets. The first I get from finance that has our whole operating model, you contain it within a single sheet and including the breakdown of revenue. Next sheet is based on conversions, not just historical conversions but how we want to be better as a team. What that means is from top, middle to bottom of the funnel. And then the next sheet I’m also responsible for our BDR organization. Next sheet is okay, what are the expectations for our BDR team in terms of intercepting and converting those into meetings and ultimately qualified opportunities and that sheet everyone the whole leadership team gets? It goes into our KPIs on the year and we track it monthly as a team just to make sure we’re staying to plan.

And and it is interesting. We ended up writing it so our leadership team runs almost like a sales leadership team would run. We’re constantly looking at monitoring that data and determining from that do we make any course corrections, do we need to move money in an area? What do we stop doing? It takes honestly a lot of, I think the pressure off and tension that you might feel trying to hit some audacious goal when you’re tracking it and maintaining it that closely.

Shedding light between sales and marketing

Joe Hyland:

First of all that, that’s fantastic. That I have pretty strong opinions on this. I think that’s how every organization should be run. There’s full transparency and visibility. It sounds, from what you just described, that sounds like that would eliminate any BS that may exist between groups.

I think a lot of marketers struggle with this in terms of how to have a real productive relationship with sales because different organizations, different pressures sign up for audacious goals that mathematically make sense, eliminate the BS, have full transparency and then it’s a partnership versus what’s sales doing versus what’s marketing doing.

Scott Gainey:

Yup. Super easy. And then I display that in a very simple format. I mean, it’s a presentation. Five slides on the left; it’s key initiatives on the right. It’s KPIs tied to those key initiatives. And I think that the board and the leadership team appreciates the transparency because they know, okay, I know what you’re working on now cause I can see your key initiatives, I also know how you’re going to measure success and failure against those.

I think that’s mistakes CMOs of the past have made is not having that transparency in terms of how are we going to hold ourselves accountable to delivery? It’s very easy for engineering. Cause they do [inaudible], did you get the release out on time? Did you hit the features that you had planned ahead? Sales; it’s very easy. You’re driving to a linearity on your sales goals, customer support. A lot of organizations that across a company are held accountable to a regular set of KPIs and think marketing to have that seat at the table, yeah, you have to sign up for that too.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. No. Yeah. That is very, very, very well said. And I love when an aggressive number was suggested to you, you said, “Let me go back and run some math,” but then you signed up for a point higher. And I think that just sends the right message of like, you guys are in it, like you’re in it for to sign up for growth.

Scott Gainey:

Yeah. I mean, I don’t know that my [inaudible] team loves it, but, you see, I want a number that makes you slightly uncomfortable as a team. It has to be grounded in real data. So that you actually have more than a chance of hitting those targets. But you should be stretching yourself every step of the way.

And then you can look at upstream indicators to truthfully see trouble before it hits. So, for us by segment, I have some strong opinions and MQLs, we’re still very much tracking them of course. For us it’s a sign of, are we in good shape for pipeline in a month or two or oh shit? Are we falling a little behind? So yeah, I think a mathematical equation helps to plan and helps to realize when you’re going to be entering troubled waters before you’re actually in troubled waters.

The only thing I’ll add, too, is I think there are shared aspects of what those goals are. But then I think it’s also important to bring those KPIs down to individual teams. So everyone will mention I have responsibility for BDR, I also have technology alliances. You know your product marketing function, demand-gen and then my corporate communications and corporate events. Those are the key functions across my organization and every one of those has a set of KPIs that map to what those top level objectives are that I’m sharing with the board and the executive leadership team. Don’t be shy obviously in parsing those down and holding those sub-teams accountable for what I say are sort of the pillars right there, the legs of the stool that you need in order to hit those bigger objectives.

Joe Hyland:

I couldn’t agree anymore.

Scott Gainey:

I don’t believe in soft soft goals, right?

Making Big Hairy Audacious Goals

Joe Hyland:

So for us two things for us. We call them north stars, which is, “What are our kind of guiding principles? What are the three or four things in our department that have to happen?” And then, underneath it, between and product marketing, demand-gen, corpcom, customer marketing. What are the key areas that they absolutely own to give us a shot in hell of hitting these big numbers.

I think goals are really interesting. It’s easy to misinterpret goals as well. I think a lot of people point to what Google did with OKRs. And so a lot of organizations now have these OKRs which are actually I think somewhat misinterpreted. People sign up for really achievable goals, the whole purpose if you go back to the original OKRs were stretch goals that so like stretch your organization, you shouldn’t be hitting 100% of anything. I feel like a lot of people miss the mark on that.

Scott Gainey:

No, I definitely, I love … if you ever have the opportunity, I went to a great leadership training program at West Point through their leadership development. And so these are courses taught by basically colonel or higher from a ranking perspective. And these guys used to always talk about this notion of BHAGS, those Big Hairy Audacious Goals, right?

It’s amazing, you set a BHAG for the team, in this case, beat 56% logo contribution. And you’d be surprised, right? How creative and intense people get in hitting those targets. And I think we had a gut check, I said, “Before I send this off to the board, I want to make sure that everyone … that we’re all on the line together and so set your big hairy audacious OKR and then let your team surprise you.”

Joe Hyland:

I love that. I’m familiar with that and I haven’t heard it for a while. Yeah, I think it’s, it’s a pretty simplified way of signing up for really aggressive goals. I think that’s great. Big hairy audacious goals. I’d forgotten that.

Scott’s marketing passions

Joe Hyland:

Well, switching gears a little bit it sounds like you’re passionate about a lot of things, which is something I just love in life. what are things that you love about marketing today? And that could just be like what we’ve talked about, like signing up for these big aggressive goals or really knowing your market really well. And then afterwards I’ll ask the conversing statement of what actually frustrates you and what drives you crazy about marketing. But you can start with what you’re passionate about first.

Scott Gainey:

For me, what I really like is, I think in this role and function, you really get to work across the entire company. We touch every part of the business. I mean, obviously we work with sales every day. So that is perhaps the closest relationship. But also closely with engineering, with our customer support organization, with professional services. I like the aspect that in the role you get to touch really all the different aspects of the business. I think you get a good bird’s eye view of how companies work at the end of the day.

So I like that. I appreciate that. I appreciate the customer contact too. I something I do actually for the team, every year I hold an event for my team and invite a bunch of customers in just cause not everyone on the team gets a chance to sit there and talk to and listen to living, breathing customers. And so I love the energy and excitement they bring, the realism. To me, they are the boots on the ground, they’re who we’re trying to market to.

And so I like that — certainly, particularly if you’re in a global role capacity. It’s exciting to me to see how different business is run and performed in, let’s say China compared to Mexico. Or Canada compared to the Middle East. I like that broadness. And the ability to kind of think about, from a how do you attack a market perspective, all of these cultural nuances that need to come into play.

Joe Hyland:

I think that’s wonderful. And I think it’s, I think that is a very smart exercise you put your team through. Not everyone’s customer facing, but it’s incredibly important that everyone understands the plight of the customer. And you’ve got to do something which is pretty simple as meet and talk to them to understand that.

Scott Gainey:

Yeah. It’s fun. There’s nothing like sharing a beer with a customer. Just, the information starts pouring.

Joe Hyland:

No, it’s true. We actually, just last night, we in the month of January, ran something called our Webinerd Appreciation Month, which is, we call our customer base webinerds, we are a Webinar company. And so we had every office, in five offices around the world, on January 31, we had we had this customer meetup is really all it was.

And so we had it in San Francisco yesterday and it was really cool seeing the person who writes the case studies on my team having a beer with a customer and I just, he doesn’t get that many opportunities to actually meet with customers in person, even though he’s writing these case studies. And I think it helps to understand the persona.

Scott Gainey:        

Absolutely, yeah. I think there’s absolutely a lot of goodness. I have no regrets. I wouldn’t change a thing in terms of the career path that I’ve taken and where I’m at.

What grinds Scott’s marketing gears

Joe Hyland:

Very cool. I would be remiss if I didn’t make you list a couple of pet peeves though. So, give me a pet peeve on marketing today because there’s obviously lots of them.

Scott Gainey:

I mean it may have more to do with the function, right? And just some of the historical, I’d say, maybe job descriptions I guess, I just always bugs me and maybe this might be symptomatic of just U.S. headquartered companies. But I always struggled with, and tried to overcome this, the difference that you see and get between field marketers based in the U.S. supporting a U.S. headquartered company versus the regional marketers.

I feel it right in Europe and Asia and I think there’s, there’s some historical aspects of that. And I’m trying to evolve just the notion of that role.  I think I’ve always said  if you’re a field marketer or regional marketer you’re one in the same. You’re in essence the CMO for your region. And so you need to be thinking not just about putting together some events, but you need to think about how do I build my brand in the region that I’m in control of, right?

Engage closely with partners; obviously with sales. You have to think of the full mix, not just getting contacts, but how do I build nurture streams against those contacts? Are the BDR team prepared and ready to receive the fruits of my labor in terms of new leads? And I just I think that is something that definitely I’ve tried to overcome with the last couple of companies has really changed kind of how they see their role going forward. So, I think that’s maybe more of a self created annoyance.

Joe Hyland:

I think you’re right though.

Scott Gainey:

Yeah. I mean, I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t complain about probably two or three emails I get each day from somebody that had great appointment setting opportunity. That or some lists that I need, right…

Joe Hyland:

Two to three it’s more like 30 to 40 every day. I mean, it’s literally an epidemic among marketers.

Scott Gainey:

I mean, the beauty is that the tools that are out there today that you can utilize are amazing, right? I mean, back when I think of what we’re using in just our BDR team with things like Outreach IO for data sequencing [inaudible] alerts and phenomenal for us that data clarity that we get out of things like Dun & Bradstreet. I mean just, it’s amazing what you have at your fingertips today.

You know, I think maybe one challenge that I face is still is marketing is a line of business within the company, is a large purchaser of technology. It’s a big part of our business, it’s how we get to build, develop very efficient, qualified leads for BDR and sales organizations. And I think I still struggle with just this balance of IT wanting to have control and say over purchasing across the company.

But it’s really hard, unless you live in this business world, it’s really hard to apply a filter unless you really know and understand the role of marketing. So I think it’s a balance, right? And working with IT. So it’s not, it’s not a nuisance but it’s just added work. So if I had to complain maybe that would be it.

Joe Hyland:

That’s not a wasp. It’s a mosquito.

Joe Hyland:

Scott, listen, thank you for the time. I think a lesson to be learned by any marketer is not being afraid to sign up for big, big targets regardless of the area of the business. So go sign up for big, hairy, audacious goals everyone and Scott, listen, thank you. Thank you again for the time.

Scott Gainey:

Yeah, yeah, no, I appreciate it. Thank you for having me.

CMO Confessions Ep. 23: PayPal’s Penny Delgadillo Valencia

Hello and welcome again to CMO Confessions, our bi-weekly podcast covering the world of B2B marketing and sales.

We have Penny Delgadillo Valencia, Head of Global Partnership Marketing at PayPal, on this week’s episode of CMO Confessions. Penny has worked her way through the ranks at Microsoft and SAP before making her way to PayPal.

Along the way, she developed a few skill critical sets that are in high demand in the digital marketing arena. Chief among them is the ability to manage, work with and support channels and partners. In this episode, we go over how she does partner and channel management — as well as what she focuses on day-to-day and why taking risks is critical to anyone’s career.

Penny has some great insights when it comes to marketing at both a big-picture level and when sweating the details is key. If you’re interested in discovering what else Penny has to say, you can follow her on Twitter here. If you’re interested in her background and what she’s sharing with like-minded peers, you can check out her LinkedIn profile 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 CMO Confessions. Let’s chat.

Table of Contents

Transcript

Joe Hyland:

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO confessions, a weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast where we explore what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Joe Hyland, CMO here at On24, and joining me this week from the greater Los Angeles area is Penny Delgadillo Valencia, Head of Global Partnership Marketing at PayPal. Penny, great to have you on the show.

Penny:

Thank you, Joe. It’s great to be here, I’m very excited to be talking to our fan base.

PLANNING THE WORK AND WORKING THE PLAN

Joe Hyland:

Fantastic. So let’s, let’s dive right in. So you think about our careers now, or specifically your career now, I’d love to get your perspective on what you know now versus what you knew when you started this journey. And really, you know, what a lot of other marketers are probably challenged with or struggling with in terms of what they really should know about the B2B marketing world.

Penny:

Yeah, no, that’s a great question. And I think some of my insights probably apply to a lot of different things. Not just sort of your career path as a marketer. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some, many, many, fantastic marketers. And one of the things that struck out at me and stayed with me is this one quote that talks about planning the work and working the plan.

And so I think first and foremost, if you don’t have a plan or a vision of where you want to go, wherever that is, as a CMO or not, I think it’s going to be hard for you to work the plan. So always be mindful about planning the work and working the plan. I think the second big thing for me, and you can see this in my career trajectory and where I sort of place my bets, is that I looked at opportunities where there was a high risk, high reward.

And so a lot of the work that I did at Microsoft was all on incubation businesses where we were really trying to transform into the cloud. These businesses were not highly funded like Windows, or breaking glass every day and really believing in the long term strategy that we needed to move the company. And you really have to have the tenacity and the appetite to work on those types of businesses. And so I always encourage people to look for those not bright spots but dark spots because those are the ones that are really game changers in your career.

And then I think the last piece is, and again, I think this applies to life in general, is understanding your sixth sense, right? If things feel good, then they feel good for a reason. If things don’t feel good, they don’t feel good for a reason. And I think that third eye sort of sixth sense people ignore and it’s probably the most critical factor that’ll drive you to probably the breakthroughs in your career.

Joe Hyland:

I love that. I think that’s fantastic advice. I think a lot of particularly your second point on taking risks and really going for it. I think marketers, and not just marketers, marketing departments, companies that are bold or marketers that are bold; I think you can do really powerful things and I think it is all too easy in one’s career but also in a marketing plan to have your end goal, as you said, planning the work, to set yourself up for, sign up for things that are pretty easy to achieve because that way you’re not, you won’t miss the mark. And I think in doing so, you will miss the mark, so to speak. And I think that that’s brilliant advice. I’d love to hear more on going bigger, taking bigger risks and shooting for the stars.

TAKING BIGGER RISKS AND SHOOTING FOR THE STARS

Penny:

Yeah. I mean, the first thing is that organizations don’t really reward failure, right? They reward success. And I think one of the things we talked about at Microsoft was, hey, how do we reward failure living in a meritocracy and where we have to be a little bit more self-deprecating, right?

So I think taking risks, failing fast and learning and iterating is probably one of the biggest things that we have learned from the likes of brands like Amazon. And I think that is one of the things that rings true in the way that they drive their culture and the way that they run their business. And so I think, you know, one of the key things is to take the risk, learn how to fail and fail fast.

I feel that organizations need to look at how they could reward failure versus successes. And I think the true reward with failure is taking the leap of faith, failing fast and then iterating quickly. And I think if you look at a brand like Amazon and the culture that they have there, and the way that they drive their business, they have been able to iterate and move the needle on game-changing technology that if they didn’t have that mindset, probably would never exist. And I can’t imagine life without my Alexa.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think that’s brilliant. That’s a great example too. Yeah. I’ll be really honest, this is something that we’ve struggled with on our own marketing team because I think it’s just natural for, as you said, for businesses and companies, but also individuals to think, “Oh, I need to succeed at everything. Like I should get an A in life and I should only do things that I can actually accomplish.” And you need to take risks, right? Like, yeah, Amazon’s a great example. Microsoft’s done really cool things here too, where, yeah, you sign up for, I heard this the other day, one of my previous guests talked about, BHAGS, big hairy audacious goals, which is actually something I had not heard about before.

Penny:

That’s a good one!

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think it comes from the military. And yeah, that’s where we do great things, signing up for things that you know you can accomplish. Like, well, I’m not really sure if that’s really a good way to go through life and probably not a good way to go through one’s career. But yeah, innovative companies get ahead of that and they encourage that. Yeah, and I think anyone listening should really heed that advice because if you want to get ahead in your career you don’t want to be conservative. Do big, bold, really cool things.

WHAT A CHIEF ORCHESTRATION OFFICER IS AND WHY YOU NEED ONE

Joe Hyland:

Okay, cool. So, I’d love to hear your perspective more and more in the channel world and in partner marketing and if the challenges that we’ve been talking about and the opportunities that we’ve been talking about for just general B2B marketers, is that the same in a partner world? Is it different? What does that world view look like?

Penny:

Yeah. To me, it’s the same with a nuance. And so if you think about what B2B marketers need to know in this day and age is that marketing, whether it’s channel or direct, is really at the tip of the sphere, to lead disruption and transformation, right? That’s what we do as marketers and we need to figure out the way that we align with our customer’s needs and be that customer-first perspective for the entire organization. So, I talk about the concept of a new COO and it’s actually not what you think. It’s actually Chief Orchestration Officer.

So I think if you go into brand marketing and you run your P and l if you become a product marketer, if you become a channel marketer, you’re going to be that COO of your business and you’re going to have to orchestrate across every single discipline in your organization, whether it’s sales, marketing, digital, brick and mortar, customer success, right?

All of these touch points now are aligning to really hone in on what that end to end customer journey is. And at every moment, we need to put the customer first on that journey. And that’s one of the transformations that we’re going through at PayPal, right? Looking at how does our partner experience look like from an end to end perspective and what are our partner’s wants and needs at every touch point with PayPal. And how do we make that the best in class, most successful experience for them, whether they’re talking to us daily or whether they’re engaging with us on the web once a month.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you anymore. It is so easy for us as marketers to put ourselves first, whether it’s done purposely or accidentally, and it is a very basic point of course, but it is always about them never about you. So it’s just a different audience, right? So, you’re putting, you’re ensuring, and I love the COO concept, you’re ensuring that your partner’s needs whatever they are, that those are on the forefront of what PayPal is doing, right?

Penny:

Correct. And look, we’re all consumers, right? We’ve seen this convergence of B2B and consumer marketing coming together several years now. And as a partner, you have the same expectations as a consumer that your partner, in this case, PayPal, is going to know what you need, when you need it, how you need it, where you need it. Right? And that’s the consumerization of IT and marketing that we’ve seen happen over the last few years.

PARTNERS, CHANNELS AND HOW TO USE THEM

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. One, yeah. And you’re totally right. We need to look no further than just how you and I and everyone listening consumes content, consumes items, how we handle ourselves in a commerce situation. But what’s interesting is in my stint, my brief stint compared to yours, in the partner world and in the channel world is I find that a lot of companies have a hard time putting their partners first. And I think that that’s short-sighted, and it, but it takes a really world-class partner marketing and really partner-first mindset to ensure that you are treating your partners just like you would your customer base or your employees. They really need to be front and center.

Penny:

Absolutely. And I think both at Microsoft, at SAP and even now at PayPal, we clearly realized that partners were at the forefront center and at the leading charge of driving transformation with our customers. Right? They are the unspoken salesforce. They are the unsung influencers of the world. And in some cases, they know more about our customers than we do. And so if we’re not engaging them early with training, if we’re not engaging them early on how we’re moving the needle in the market, if we’re not engaging them in our sales operations piece of the business earlier in the buying cycle, then we’re really not leveraging the power and the strength of what a channel can do for a company.

THE THREE AREAS PENNY FOCUSES ON DAY-TO-DAY

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. That’s well said. Yeah, particularly being close to the customer, right? I mean that’s incredibly valuable insight. Okay, so I think the landscape has been set up. I’m curious to know what the biggest challenges for you? So you just described what this should look like or maybe does look like, but that being said, what are the day to day challenges that you’re facing?

Penny:

Yeah, I mean, for us at PayPal, I think it’s just the sheer scale of opportunity and we want to make sure that we do it right. Right? And we do it right and we do it right by the customer. I think it’s a staggering statistic, you know, and I was working on the Microsoft ISD business that today Microsoft has a channel of 400,000 partners and on any given day their onboarding 7,500 net new partners a day. So the sheer scale of what we need to do as we start to look at partners and customers all needing commerce solutions and PayPal being the platform to enable them to do that is probably one of my biggest challenges. And I think there are probably three areas that I’m squarely focused on. I talked about the partner experience because you have to start with a world-class partner experience in order to be able to deliver.

I think the second one is the narrative, right? What is the story that we want to tell our partners and that we want our partners to tell our customers? Because if we can’t get clear on the narrative and we can’t articulate the value that we see, then it’s going to be hard for our partners to do that and our customers to understand it.

And I think the third one is the conglomeration of martech, right? There are so many ways, tools, vehicles that we can engage our partners with. And so it’s really landing on what is that martech stack look like? What is the engagement touchpoints that we want, you know, with our customers? And then how do we get the technology to work on them. So I’m spending a lot of time on customer journey mapping, narratives and technology roadmaps.

HOW TO ENGAGE WITH THE PARTNER COMMUNITY AND BUILD TRUST

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I love talking to marketers about, not just their tech stack, but how they’re engaging with their audiences in a manner that scales because there’s nothing more engaging than what you and I are doing right now. It’s just like a great one to one discussion.

But when you have the kind of scale that you talked about at Microsoft and what you have now at PayPal, I’m guessing there were, you know, there aren’t as many one-to-one discussions as any of us would like. So how do you do that? Talk to me about, you know, how some of the ways you do engage, with the partner community?

Penny:

I mean I think there’s a couple of ways that we engage with them. Right? At the top level we have very deepened relationships with our largest partners, right? And we spend a lot of time listening and learning from them because I think, you know, they have the same challenges we do, right? They have ecosystems, they have partner programs, we’re a partner in a myriad of partner opportunities for them. So, really sharing best practices and learning and listening to what they need from us and bi-directionally I think is super important.

I think at the lower scale, right, because we have a large scale of partners where they’re digitally managed, you know, we try to look at surveys and qualitative feedback from them to help us guide us and grade us on, hey, are we on the mark? Are we off the mark? Right? And I think having those quarterly checks and balances bi-annual checks and balances and really just taking the feedback to heart is where you truly develop that trust and being a partner for life.

HOW TO INCORPORATE PARTNERSHIP FEEDBACK INTO YOUR MARKETING

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I think that’s fantastic. I’d love to dig deeper in listening and learning because there’s nothing worse than any relationship in life where you feel like you give feedback and perhaps the other person, the company, you name it doesn’t listen. And with a partnership, it by definition should involve both sides and ensuring that there is listening, there is learning and hopefully, there are adjustments if need be. So, yeah, how do you incorporate that feedback and how much of that is in your marketing versus kind of what you need to do perhaps on the product side or go to market?

Penny:

Yeah. And I think that’s a great question. I mean, I think for us, we definitely take a multipronged approach to that. Right? I think one, we have to set the tone that starts with what do we want to achieve, right? What do we want to achieve from a joint brand standpoint together? What do we want to achieve from a revenue and sales goals together?

And so getting that clear alignment on what it means to have that mutual partnership and having those quote-unquote KPIs aligned so we’re all sort of swimming towards the same ocean or island, which you know, is where it starts, right? I think the second one is the monitoring, right?

So making sure got your scorecards in place and that you’ve got that closed-loop feedback, whether it’s in a QBR or whatnot, to make sure that you are actually swimming to the island and things are going well. And then I think the last one is honesty, right? If you can’t have those honest conversations, let’s say look we failed here, but we can do better here. Or hey, this was a great success how do we capitalize on it and have those somewhat, sometimes hard conversations. It’s not that it’s assigning blame, but it’s more of, hey, how can we all do better together? And so I think if folks take that approach to any type of partnership relationship, that’s really where you build the trust.

BE AUTHENTIC WITH YOUR MARKETING

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I love that. I love where you ended there. I think a lot of great marketing is about empathy and trust. I mean, it’s easy to slip on this slippery slope, but so much of what we do in marketing is highly produced and highly curated and very well thought through and maybe you’ve got like your brand agency in the room with you when you’re constructing that go-to-market message and plan. But the best marketing is authentic and it, you know, it is just overflowing with empathy. And yeah, you’re right. I think that’s so important for partnerships. I also think it’s just great advice for marketers.

Penny:

Absolutely. I think you need to be authentic especially going back to some of the things that we talked about around the consumerization of IT and marketing, right? And as an example in our portfolio, we’ve got some very authentic brands. And I’ll give you an example of Etsy. They were just recently named the number two e-commerce site in the U.S. by Netimperatives, right? Etsy was born out of the fact that we had thousands and thousands of people that we call casual sellers that had some unique and interesting goods that they wanted to sell. Right?

And what better place to do that than online? And so if you go there they have a curated portfolio of thousands of sellers where some of these unique, brands and items would have never been found unless maybe you traveled, right? And so I think thinking about how we enable cross border trade, how we enable cross border transactions, how do we bring the uniqueness of some of these countries in a commercial fashion online is one of the things that, you know, we’re here to solve for with our platforms and really enable that any type of seller, right, can be a business and drive success.

Joe Hyland:

Wow, I love that. I mean this is really impactful work you guys are doing and pretty cool reach, right? That’s a powerful story. I love what Etsy is doing and it’s cool that you guys are powering a lot of that and partnering with them. Do you share those kinds of stories with your broader partner community or meaning do you kind of tell this like here’s what great looks like XYZ partner plus PayPal or is your communication always focused around just specific things that you can do and are doing with that individual partner?

Penny:

I think as marketers, we have the opportunity to be storytellers and I think great marketing starts with storytelling. And honestly, if I could rate ourselves, we could probably do better in that category. You know, being transparent and honest and building trust. Right? And so I think we need to, again as we look at putting the customer first, keep an eye on how do we drive a storytelling mentality? Because at the end of the day, any one partner or customer isn’t going to want to know the solution that you’re selling them. They’re going to want to know what is the business outcome that I’m going to get if I invest in your solution.

And I sincerely think that storytelling means being outcomes based, being empathetic to where the customer wants to go from a business perspective, not a technology perspective, and not really focused on the speeds and feeds off it, but how is it going to grow their business? And we’re spending a lot of time understanding the impact of how a partner with PayPal can grow their business and what are the exponential things that we can do and bring to the table for them to be that partner for life because we are enabling their growth. So it’s not just selling them technology or selling them a platform, but selling them a vision of where their company can go if they partner with us.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, you just said that so perfectly – where their company can go, right? Like, that’s not about PayPal. You can help them get there and that’s through a partnership with PayPal but I think that is focusing on what matters most. Yeah, I think for marketers, and I’m seeing a lot of good marketing today, there’s also a lot of bad marketing, I won’t call anybody out, but focusing on outcomes and results and whether that’s revenue or increasing market share or helping your partner be more successful.

Penny, I love that. I think more and more marketers, but just more and more companies in general, focusing on the actual business outcome, is what we need to be doing, but we need to be doing it in authentic real human ways. And I think you said it really well. It starts with storytelling. It starts with a customer-first mindset.

And I’ll end it with, because I just loved that you started us off this way, plan the work, work the plan. I think that’s brilliant advice and if you don’t see the whole picture, it’s really hard to march towards the end goal that you have in mind. So I highly encourage all marketers to think big, think audacious, and take that advice. So, Penny, I want to thank you again for the time. I really enjoyed the discussion.

Penny:

Thank you, Joe. Same here anytime.

Joe Hyland:

All right. Thanks so much.

Penny:

All right. Bye.