Sharat Sharan on the Marketing Metrics That Matter

By: Sharat Sharan, CEO and Founder of ON24

This article was originally published on MarketingProfs.com 

How can you get more engagement from your webinars? Learn the tips, tricks and tactics that make webinars work at Webinar World 2019.

Over the past 20 years as CEO of ON24, we’ve pivoted several times, successfully navigated two of the worst downturns in recent memory, and become a sustainable, high-growth business.

I’m often asked what aspect contributed most to our long-term success. There are so many factors, but my answer is always the same: we became a sustainable business when we stopped looking at our marketing team as ‘nice to have’ team, but rather, as its own separate business department, one that impacts our bottomline. While I had previously thought of marketing as a softer department — one that made materials look slick — our business transformed when we transformed our marketing team from a cost-center to a revenue driver.

We did this through a range of measures, including conducting quarterly business reviews, and ensuring we hit our goals for marketing metrics that actually impact our revenue and bottomline. As we were changing the focus and goals of our marketing team, one of the struggles we found in the early going was determining what these metrics are that truly matter to our business and produce the highest ROI.

Entrepreneurs are inevitably focused on the product and sales, of course. But for CEOs looking to supercharge their growth, start measuring marketing by the metrics that will matter most to your organization’s bottom line.

Pipeline 

This one may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many marketers get this wrong. In fact, many get it wrong on purpose, in order to improve their numbers. If you’re undergoing a marketing team transformation, you should take the time to sit down with your sales team and understand which leads really are moving the needle for them and why.

With the help of your sales colleagues, you should create a more narrow description of a sales qualified lead (SQL), so your marketing team can focus on the right prospects and segments of the industry to go after. For example, if your business sells to VP-level roles primarily, and rarely closes a deal with those at the managerial level, a SQL should only include those at the VP-level or higher.

Yes, your pipeline will inevitably decline when you make this change. But if you have an honest conversation with your company about how this new description will help you engage the right prospects and produce more ROI, they’ll understand the dip and be on board with your long-term approach to pipeline.

Attribution

In the same vein of pipeline, marketers should have a firm grasp of which touchpoints are working for their business. Sure, if certain platforms like LinkedIn or Google Ads are most effective at converting customers, that’s where more of your budget should go.

But beyond that – marketers should understand what I call the ‘digital body language’ of your customers. What are the actions or touchpoints that indicate a prospect will become a customer? What indications show that you’re about to lose them? You should know the most important indicators — both good and bad – that your prospects give you. Then, you should engage accordingly based off these signals.

Of course, there may be some campaigns you need to run from a brand standpoint no matter what the attribution looks like. But you should have a clear idea of the initiatives that are driving the most dollars to your organization. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment with new marketing tactics, but those tactics should be informed and guided by past successes you’ve seen and the digital body language indicators.

Churn & Customer Lifetime Value

These are two separate metrics, but they’re so interwoven that marketers shouldn’t think of one without the other. Customer lifetime value is the net profit you can expect from acquiring a new customer – a number that increases whenever you reduce churn.

Seventy percent of companies say it’s easier to retain a customer than to acquire a new one. But many marketers aren’t necessarily thinking about marketing to existing customers, because they’re too focused on trying to acquire new ones and increase their pipeline. That’s a noble cause, but it might not be the most efficient way to see true ROI on your marketing. Read the digital body language of your existing customers, and see which ones are most likely to churn or which could be open to upselling to try to maximize your ROI.

As you transform your marketing metrics, be sure to come up with a way to measure retention and upselling. You may need to pull statistics to show your executive team how valuable retaining customers is, and why you should market not just to prospects but to existing customers as well.

Overall Engagement

Looking at impressions, website visitors, and reach is no longer enough for marketers. Heck, I don’t even care how many views you get on a video.

Smartphones and the ‘always on’ culture has changed things for marketers in several key ways: It’s easier to get clicks than ever before. But it’s also harder to keep viewers engaged. CNBC reported that ads have just 5 to 6 seconds to keep Millennials engaged. One way to combat these shrinking attention spans is to tailor your content on a personal level. McKinsey found that “personalization can deliver five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend, and can lift sales by 10% or more.” Now that’s a metric we can all get behind.

Whether it’s a personalized email campaign, recommending relevant products or solutions, or engaging through chatbots, companies need to focus on how to engage with customers in a personalized fashion. And this will only become more important as Millennials and members of Generation Z join the workforce and make more purchase decisions.

Clearly, all of these numbers help marketers stand out not just as the people who make things look pretty, but as the ones who drive tangible value to their organization — and that makes marketers indispensable to any fast-growing business.

Matt Heinz on How Marketers Can Drive Engagement and Take Action at Webinar World 2019

The expectation that marketers must do more — drive more engagement, create more interactions, push more messages — grows every day. But the resulting content and connections aren’t built on a genuine relationship. Instead, they’re built on noise.

It’s time to take a moment and reassess how quality engagements happen today. That’s why we’re inviting Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing, to Webinar World 2019.

During his keynote session, Matt will share a few tips, founded on new research, about how marketers can drive real B2B engagement in a hyper-competitive landscape. During Matt’s session, you’ll learn:

  • About ground-breaking new research on marketing today
  • An actionable framework for planning and executing marketing
  • A practical approach that crafts the relationship your prospects and customers want from — and with — you

It all takes place on at Webinar World 2019 on Wednesday, March 13 at 9:00 a.m. Click here to learn more.

6 Great Sessions at Webinar World 2019 for Demand Gen Marketers

Emails, paid, organic and making sense of it all — demand generation marketers have a lot on their plates in this day and age. To help make life easier and guide demand generation marketers to the quality leads they need, we’ve selected a few Webinar World 2019 tracks just for them.

Check it out:

Demand Generation Sessions on Tuesday, March 12

Integration Deep-dive with Oracle NetSuite: How to Operationalize Webinars for Optimal Results

Tuesday, March 11, 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.

For demand gen marketers, what happens after the webinar is just as important as promoting and holding the webinar itself. Join Oracle NetSuite’s Deniz Dondero, Director of Digital & Marketing Campaigns and Bekkah Lyman, Sr. Marketing Operations Manager, for a deep-dive into using webinars to nurture leads and convert them into opportunities. Get a glimpse into the infrastructure they built that facilitates and enables it all.

You’ll come away knowing how to:

  • Integrate ON24 with marketing automation platforms
  • Use webinars to convert leads to opportunity
  • Seamlessly operationalize the process

Process Makes Perfect: Learn from Splunk’s Journey to 3,000 Live Attendees

Tuesday, March 12, 12:05 – 12:35 p.m.

Modern marketing takes an agile mindset. Through iterative testing and constant measurement, software company Splunk completely transformed its webinar process from clunky and manual to streamlined and repeatable. Join Splunk’s Joe Paone, head of Demand Generation and Global Campaigns, to hear the company’s webinar innovation journey.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Engineer a webinar process overhaul
  • Make iterative improvements
  • Automate manual processes

From One-off to Always-on: G3’s Blueprint for Building a Binge-Worthy Webcast Series

Tuesday, March 12, 1:45 – 2:15 p.m.

When was the last time you watched just one episode of anything? We’re clearly living in the Netflix era, and B2B marketers must seize the opportunity to feed their audience’s desire for binging. That sounds daunting, but, luckily, webcast series offers an engaging and efficient way to serve up a quick fix. Join G3 Communications’ Sheri Butts, marketing manager, who will share how brands like Demand Gen Report, Retail TouchPoints and Channel Marketer Report are creating webinar series to educate attendees, generate thousands of leads for their partners and satisfy their audience’s appetite for continuous, on-demand content.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Plan and program a webinar series, from thematic messaging and branding to templates and timelines
  • Promote multiple webinars, presenters and topics across channels
  • Keep driving leads with an on-demand webinar strategy

Demand Generation Sessions on Wednesday, March 13

From Awareness to Action: Workfront’s Full-Funnel, Multichannel Marketing Campaign Strategy

Wednesday, March 13, from 11:00 – 11:30 a.m.

Webinars are more than just a single event, they are a powerful mechanism for a full-funnel marketing campaign. Join Workfront’s Marc Hansen to hear how to use webinars as a driving force for a tentpole campaign, “Transform Your Work,” that engaged prospects and customers across every stage of the lifecycle.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Attract new leads with a top-of-funnel webinar series
  • Accelerate mid-funnel pipeline with webinars featuring products and case studies
  • Close deals and upsell customers with hands-on demos

Webinar Evolution: Learn How Genesys Innovated their Online Events

Wednesday, March 13, from 11:35 – 12:05 p.m.

The time of doing talking-head, slide-only webinar formats is over. Get outside the standard webinar box and join Genesys’ Ryan Grable, VP Global Digital Demand Generation and Liz Weida, Director of Digital Demand Generation, for a behind-the-scenes look at the tech company’s re-imagination of their webinars into different formats, new series and use across the funnel.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Utilize more features within a webinar
  • Create new webinar event types and formats
  • Reshape webinar content for different audiences and channels

Wednesday, March 13, 1:15 – 2:45 p.m.

From Ad Hoc to Centralized: PTC’s Method for Creating a Webinar Center of Excellence

Webinars are an important channel in a multitouch campaign, and it’s just as important to build an infrastructure to efficiently turn that channel’s volume up or down in a turnkey way. Join PTC’s Mike Marshall, Digital Experience Optimization team for a walk-through of their centralized method for dialing up the webinars, and the leads, for hundreds of marketers worldwide.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Centralize the execution and integration of webinars
  • Support large marketing and sales teams worldwide
  • Institute global best practices for using webinars to drive demand

Webinar World 2019: David Nihill and Why Laughter Drives Engagement

Humor is a critical tool modern day communications, marketing and content creation. Why? Because a dose of humor can capture audience interest, making you (and your message) memorable and more persuasive.

David Nihill, speaker, author and stand-up comedian, will share his journey from a person terrified at the prospect of public speaking to an award-winning comedian at Webinar World 2019. During this keynote speech, David will explain why humor can make marketers shine, how it can add value to content and how it can help companies connect with customers on a level that inspires loyalty.

In this highly energetic, engaging and funny talk, you will learn:

  • The elements of funny by deconstructing the comedy process
  • Easy, actionable steps from world-leading campaigns, speeches and more
  • How to translate comedy principals to marketing tactics

Hear what David has to say about comedy and marketing at Webinar World 2019 on March 12 and check out his book, “Do You Talk Funny?” on Amazon.

At Webinar World 2019: Mika Yamamoto and Turning Engagement Into Revenue

Craft, adjust, finalize, publish. Then hope. Getting content out there is a process in and of itself, but capturing attention and driving revenue? At times, it just seems like it’s not a part of the process. Well, it’s time to set things right.

To learn how webinar practitioners can engage and drive results today, we’re sitting down to talk with Mika Yamamoto, Vice President and General Manager of Marketo at Webinar World 2019. During this keynote conversation, Mika will discuss the elements of engagement with Jim Blackie, Chief Revenue Officer at ON24, and lay out how engagement impacts the bottom line.

During this discussion, you’ll learn how engagement impacts revenue — especially as account-based marketing and other advanced targeting tactics become the norm — and how these two critically linked elements fit into your overall marketing process.

Join us at Webinar World 2019 on Tuesday, March 12, at 11 a.m. at the San Francisco Regency Hyatt to learn how engagement becomes revenue and how marketing and sales can work together to make it happen.

ON24 Master Classes: Deep Dives into Engagement

Getting the most out of your webinar programs means knowing how to drive engagement and setting up systems for success.  And the best way to learn how to do both is with a community.

That’s why at Webinar World 2019, we’re offering two pre-conference master class sessions, collectively called Mastering ON24.

The Mastering ON24 pre-conference tracks will boost your webinar abilities, program and provide you with the tools to drive real measurable results. The sessions, running from 1 – 4:30 p.m. on Monday, March 11, will cover essential webinar techniques, expert opinion on webinar strategies and the inside view on how to use webinar data — all directly from the ON24 team!

Here are the two master class sessions in store for you at Webinar World 2019:

Mastering ON24: Webinerd Deep-Dive

If you’re ready to take your webinar strategy and execution to the next level, this session is for you. You’ll have a chance to go deep into Webcast Elite and learn expert tips to optimize your webinars and maximize results by learning:

  • Tips and best practices for webinar presentations, from delivering to on-boarding to managing
  • Using your webinar data to take action and inform campaigns
  • Creating different content experiences using webinars, from on-demand to personalized

Mastering ON24: Webinewbie Introduction

Accelerate your webinerd transformation with this introductory training. Learn critical techniques for setting yourself up for webinar program success.

You’ll learn:

  • Webinar project management 101
  • Best practices for running simulive webinars
  • Deep dive into widgets that increase engagement and collaboration

Mastering ON24 classes at Webinar World 2019 require a basic familiarity with the ON24 Platform.

How SAP Concur Rocks Its SMB Webinars

Our annual Webinars That Rocked event lets the webinar community reflect on last year’s top-tier webinars and provides them with inspiration for their own programs. So far, we’ve gone through great panels, fantastic slides and the elements of delivering great webinars.

When it comes to webinars, there are those with high interactivity and those with low interactivity. Typically, webinars with high interactivity stand out and perform better. And SAP Concur’s webinar, “Tips & Triumphs from SMB All-Stars,” is a case study in why.

SAP Concur Uses Killer Targeted Opening Videos

Let’s start at the beginning. SAP Concur uses a rare, but impactful, tactic: it provides viewers with an opening video. Opening videos are an easy way to quickly share relevant information about how to interact with a webinar, recount an ongoing series or point attendees to useful resources or websites not listed. They can also give viewers an impression of who you are as a company, provide customer testimonials and much more.

And that’s precisely what SAP Concur did. Its audience, SMBs, saw a video promoting the company’s Celebrating National Small Business Week. The video was tightly aligned with its target audience and provided a great lead to the main content — an in-depth discussion with successful SMB owners.

SAP Concur Keeps Its Webinars Interactive

SAP Concur ensures its attendees have every opportunity to interact with the webinar they’re in. The team provides attendees with opportunities to ask questions, take a survey, interact with panelists over LinkedIn and email and provides a variety of resources to download.

Why the focus on interactivity and why is it so important? Because executing on interactivity well keeps audiences engaged with your content and reduces the risk of them checking emails and more — which is easy to do in today’s hyper-connected world.

Useful, Always-available Housekeeping for Attendees

Housekeeping, when it comes to webinars, means guiding audiences through webinar basics tools. It lays out what attendees can interact with  — like Q&A, Twitter chat and more — how, and, sometimes, what they can expect to see later on in the webcast. Usually, housekeeping is the first thing presented to an audience.

SAP Concur did something different. Instead of offering housekeeping upfront, and interrupting the flow of the event, it used two pop-up tools to explain how attendees can interact with the webinar. These tips were available throughout the whole broadcast and made for a remarkably user-friendly webinar for a potentially non-tech savvy audience.

Instantly Available, Relevant CTAs from SAP Concur

The resources tool is one of the most popular and most used engagement tools on our platform. Often, it’s used to provide relevant, impactful information for attendees to consume.

SAP Concur continues this pattern, but it does it better than most. Instead of simply linking attendees to its homepage as a CTA, it sends them several relevant landing pages. The company’s Celebrating National Small Business Week? Landing page. More details on how Concur Expense works for SMBs? Landing page. Customer stories relevant to SMB owners? Landing page crafted just for them.

These corresponding landing pages answer every potential question an attendee could have for SAP Concur. That’s an ingenious, targeted use of one of the most used tools on the ON24 Platform.

With its combination of great opening videos, the constant presence of interactive tools, easy to understand housekeeping and killer CTAs, SAP Concur his another great entry in the 2018 Webinars That Rocked. Hats off to the team and we look forward to what they do next year!

Keep an eye on the ON24 blog for more insights and inspiration from the Webinars That Rocked 2018. Curious to see what a great webinar can do for you? Check out Webinars That Rocked on demand.

3 Ways Valeo Rocks Its Training Webinars

Good design can break the language barrier — especially good webinar design. Don’t believe us? This webinar by Valeo, a participant in the 2018 Webinars That Rocked, proves the case.

Valeo is a multinational automotive supplier and partner to automakers. To build its brand and provide a critical service to its main audience, the company provides face-to-face training. But in-person training are limited in nature, and generally can’t reach a large audience and maintain a one-to-one presence at scale.

To address these issues, Valeo uses webinars to promote its training. And it provides some of the best training webinars we’ve ever seen. How? Well let’s take a look:

Valeo Does Mixed-Media Training Right

Valeo structured its webinar to provide attendees with the clearest understanding of its subject as possible. For the company, this meant starting with a live video recording of its experts giving the lay of the course’s land followed by a series of slides diagraming the automotive parts in questions.

To make its diagrams digestible, and to stay on track with its course, the trainers used pre-recorded audio to explain what its audience is looking at. But here’s what makes Valeo stand out from the rest: the company cut to a video demo showing attendees the actual parts in question, how they interact with automotive parts and how the parts can be broken down. Once the demo ended, it cut back to its presenters for a live Q&A session.

Simply put: they optimized the educational webinar for a technical audience. It’s brilliant.

Certification For Attendees

So what’s at the end of the rainbow for Valeo webinar attendees? Well, a valuable certificate showing they’ve completed the company’s training. For professionals needing to maintain a license or prove they’re continuing their professional education, certificates are invaluable.

For Valeo, it only offers a certificate after its attendees watch the demo for 30 minutes. But, if it needed to, it could stipulate that attendees must also ask questions, participate in polls and more to receive credit.

Makes Resources Easily Available

Last but not least, Valeo provides its attendees with downloadable resources they can use. This ranges from the company’s online catalog and service portal to a downloadable .PDF laying out how to maintain a hybrid car, what parts they’ll need and how these parts interact with automobiles in general.

All in all, Valeo assembled a fantastic training webinar that really drives home how to translate face-to-face training to a digital environment. How it structured its webinar is well thought out and amplifies its educational content to attendees.

Keep an eye on the ON24 blog for more insights and inspiration from the Webinars That Rocked 2018. Curious to see what a great webinar can do for you? Check out Webinars That Rocked on demand.

CMO Confessions Ep. 16: Gil Levonai, CMO of Zerto

How can you get more engagement from your webinars? Learn the tips, tricks and tactics that make webinars work at Webinar World 2019.

Hi folks and welcome to another episode of CMO Confessions, a weekly-ish podcast discussing all thing sales and marketing related. This week we have a special treat, a former rocket scientist turned marketer and probably one of the most insightful people I’ve met, Gil Levonai, CMO of Zerto — an IT backup and resilience organization.

Like I said, Gil has fascinating career starting in the Israeli Navy as a project manager for missile and rocket development. There, he found a love for software and making sure the right people are in the right places to get work done, an incredible skill he nurtured over his 20-year career.

Gil’s expectations for his teams should, frankly, be an industry standard. He expects customer-centricity, a close understanding of the product being marketed and a curiosity that inspires his team to achieve more.

In this episode, we go over his management style, how he got to where he is and why focusing on marketing fundamentals — a clear understanding of the audience, why you’re executing on a campaign, setting expectations — can set the foundations for scale and (I’m going to steal this term, by the way) business-to-human marketing. Plus, he’s a Patriots fan — so he’s pretty much perfect.

If you’re interested in diving into Gil’s career as a rocket scientist, you can find his LinkedIn profile here. If you’re interested in his insights and expertise, you can find his Twitter here.

I won’t hold you up anymore, but I highly recommend you give this episode a listen. 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.

Joe Hyland:    

Hello everyone, 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 to business world. I’m Joe Hyland, CMO here at ON24. And joining me this week from Boston is Gil Levonai, CMO at Zerto. Gil, how are you doing?

Gil Levonai:     

Great. Thanks for having me here.

Joe Hyland: 

Gil and I share one thing in common, which we were talking about before we started, beyond being passionate marketers we’re both New England Patriots fans. So we’re getting, we’re getting geared up for the Super Bowl.

Gil Levonai:     

Yeah. And I’m sure you’re going to air this episode after the Super Bowl, so we’ll see how that plays out.

Joe Hyland:       

That’s funny and true. Okay, so perhaps once this airs we’ll be celebrating the Pats win. We’ll see if we have to edit that out. Okay, Gil, I’d love to hear and I think our listeners would love to hear a little more about your path and the reason I bring that up is I think a lot of marketers who are pretty ambitious in their careers and wanting to lead marketing departments one day a pretty frequently will ask me what was my formula, what was my path? And I think people come from it at different from different perspectives and different angles. I’d love to hear about, about your journey and how you wound up leading such a, such a cool marketing team.

Gil Levonai: 

My path definitely didn’t start with marketing or didn’t start thinking about marketing. I actually come from Israel and in Israel, military service is a mandatory thing. I actually took a different path there, also, which is you go to school first and then you serve in the military in your profession. And I’m actually an aeronautical engineer by profession, so I actually served in the navy, building missile things, so you can call me a rocket scientist if you want. From there I served, which I think you can characterize, my work there as somewhat of product management because I was representing the Navy, against or with contractors that build weapons systems. And I think that’s important because I’ll go back to that in a second. And then after that, I actually find myself in software and I really enjoy developing software.

Gil Levonai: 

But after a while I wanted to join the whole startup scene and I joined a startup and I moved to product management and since then I’ve been many years in one startup and then I had my own consulting firm and I come back from product management to marketing but kept myself in both worlds for quite a long while. And even in Zerto, here, I actually started as kind of like a funny enough a consultant when the company only had like three people and they hired me as a consultant to build the message and start building the product management piece. And since then I actually built the both of the product management team and the marketing team and then when we grew too big and we decided, hey, we need to separate them. I kind of said, hey, I find myself marketing more challenging for me and I want to evolve with marketing and I become only marketing. So, for the last 20 years, I’m doing both product management and marketing, kind of like together in many cases or have teams that are doing both. And I think those two things are very, very tightly integrated, especially in B2B.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah. One, that’s a fascinating answer. You were definitely the first person I’ve had on who I could somewhat claim is a rocket scientist and comes from that background. So, that is definitely not a blueprint to a CMO. The other thing, a quick story from me and I tell it because of your product background, I did not originally come from the product side. Pretty early in my career, a company I was working for we had a two day offsite and in day one was all positioning and go to market and messaging. And so I participated in the whole day. Day two was just for the product team. Essentially it was, it was the actual product development. We know what we’re gonna build, et cetera. Pretty basic stuff.

Joe Hyland: 

And I planned on skipping it and I was talking to someone at the company who was in a different group and I said, “Oh, I’m not going to go tomorrow because it’s just product stuff.” And I was probably 25 at the time and this guy said to me, “It’s the biggest mistake you can make. So many marketers are just fluff and if you don’t understand the product and how it works, you’re going to miss the mark.” And for me, that forever shaped how I think about marketing because I think marketers need to go deeper. And I think many don’t.

Gil Levonai:        

I would say two things about it. I think it’s less about — I’m not necessarily expecting my marketers to be as deep in the product as you know, product people or as engineers. But I do want him to understand why the product is doing what it’s doing and what is the customer needs its solving. And I think that’s the key, that’s the common denominator between product and marketing. You need to understand the difference in both cases. And if you don’t really understand the customer, you’re not going to be a successful product person or a successful marketer. So, you see a lot of movement between product and marketing. I have in my team on my technical marketing or product marketing and have lots of people have come from sales engineering, et cetera. It’s all about understanding the product. And that’s where everything starts and ends as far as I’m concerned.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think that’s very well said. Here on our team. We often, when we’ll edit documents or have discussions on programs or content, we’re building a common phrase is “Why?” “Why?” Like what are we saying to our prospect or our customer, what are they trying to accomplish? It’s easy to be a little “you-centric” and I think that’s a slippery slope. So you’re right, if you understand your audience and you can walk many, many miles in their shoes. So you can create some pretty compelling marketing

Gil Levonai:

And product. A quick note about the path. Some of my youngest employees say, “Talk to me about the path.” I give them an example. We have our annual conferences and we always have keynote speakers — just announced today this year our keynote speaker is going to be Peyton Manning, not Tom Brady but Peyton Manning. It’s a good start. But our first one actually was a guy by the name of Story Musgrave. And you may know him you may not know him. He was an astronaut. Actually, he holds the record for spacewalks. He’s an older guy, I think he’s in his eighties now. He’s a fascinating speaker and he tells the story of his life and he keeps going back to the same point again and again and again. He says, “I never planned to be an astronaut. It was never in my even dreams. It wasn’t even an opportunity.”

Gil Levonai: 

He was a farm boy, okay? And then kind of evolved and went to the air force and then et cetera, et cetera. And he says the only thing he was always concentrating in his career, he’s doing a great job. Okay, and that’s it. Do your job the best way you can, and then you will evolve wherever you want to evolve. And I think that’s kind of like — I actually had my teenage son come to listen to him and I keep going back to him and tell him that, remember that “Do a great job, whatever you do, and you will get to whatever you want to become.”

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think you’re right. I think that’s well said. For me, what I love about people who have all walks in life who have been successful within their own careers is when they can bring incredible passion to whatever they’re doing — whether that is tending to crop in a field or putting on a marketing campaign. I just love it when people love what they’re doing. And I think you’re right. If you excel at whatever you’re doing at that moment things will probably work out pretty well for you.

Gil Levonai: 

Yeah. Passion is really easier when you come from my culture, from Israel, from the Mediterranean. We’re more passionate people than many people. And it’s contagious. I think we’re a very passionate company. People who come for our annual kick-off and, you know, we have some new execs that come from other companies and I asked one of them, “Hey, what do you see different here?” He said, “The passion. So everybody, every single person on stage or offstage was very passionate about what you guys are doing here.” And so, and I expect the same from my marketers and they get the same. They are very passionate. Passionate means just like in a family, people fighting and it’s okay, but as long as you’re passionate about the same thing, you’ll get it right. And when you do it with passion, it’s the secret sauce — that’s what you need.

Joe Hyland:

I love it. So, talk to me about how the company’s evolved. It sounds like you were on the ground-level as a consultant getting product marketing off of the ground. Things have changed a little bit since then. What’s the same, what’s different? What are the challenges you guys are facing in your go to market?

Gil Levonai:  

So I think that being a B2B enterprise software company, we’re one of the boring spaces. We call it resilience, backup, D.R., convergence — all of the above. Cloud. We’re kind of like in the back seat of all of these people that are changing the world. We’re enabling them to change the world. And we keep them up and running and available 24-seven. So, the company itself, its evolution was kind of a standard story for a startup — founders, but some unique things. The founders, the two brothers actually sold another company before and are still there. My boss, my CEO, is still the same guy that started the company. He, I’m giving him a lot of credit, because he hired me before he had one line of code because he wanted to talk to customers and understand what they need and run his idea by them to make sure he’s developing the right product.

Gil Levonai: 

And I think that’s kind of like the common for us today — we listen a lot to our customers and we have fanatical followers. Now, we’re like 750 employees, so it’s no longer kind of like that small four-person startup joint. Scaling is huge, a huge challenge. Scaling sales, scaling marketing, scaling engineering. On the marketing side, I see every day the challenges of how we are trying to do things better. You know, in your first blog with Matt Heinz, you talked a lot about alignment with sales. I think that’s crucial. If you want to progress, this whole kind of like — I love the quote, I keep using this, when he said, “You can’t buy a beer with MQL.” And so I think the challenges are a lot on how do you run a large marketing operation that is really impacting business and not only generating MQL or “Hey, we did a great event.” You need to figure it out.

Gil Levonai: 

And I can’t say there’s a simple solution. You have attribution modeling. We, tried one too [inaudible]. We’re going back and forth. Front-oriented, less front oriented, more ABM, less ABM, there’s nothing we were not doing. We’re doing a mix of all of them. And that’s a challenge because it’s not going to be easy at this scale when you’re talking to — we have more than 6,000 customers and we were planning on having many, many, many more. It’s the machine is a very complicated machine, but that’s the fun. That’s the fun because you get to try lots of things, you get to figure out what’s working, what’s not working and what’s not working? Stop doing it.

Joe Hyland: 

I think what you just said is something that marketers don’t talk enough about. And I think actually a brave thing to say I hate this notion that we, particularly you and I — heads of groups — that we need to know it all. That there is a certain playbook that we will implement because we’ve done it before and all these great things will come. This is complicated shit. Growing a company — so you were there at the start from no customers where a line of code wasn’t even written and you said you have thousands now — this is complicated. And I think what makes a common element between great marketers is testing admitting that you don’t know everything. Trying a lot of things, making sure you’re using data to determine what works and then it’s basic A/B testing and then doing less of the stuff that doesn’t and more of the things that do.

Gil Levonai:

Yeah, 100 percent. And going back to the point of the layman. We are very transparent about what you’re testing and what you know because sometimes you will push back and say “Hey, I know I’m doing the right thing here.” And many times, you actually don’t know. So, be transparent. What is that you actually know you’re doing and what it is? Hey, let’s try it together. Let’s figure it out. Maybe it will work, maybe not. And you know, we run across many things mean you and every marketer out there — hey, it worked great last year, but for some reason, it doesn’t work this year. Something changed. I don’t know, maybe some parameter changed. We don’t know why, but do you need to be aware that not necessarily everything that’s worked, we’ll keep working. And also, it’s a moving target because as a company, your messaging and your product is broadening your customers, your approach to the customer. You go to market strategy or your go to market tactics are all evolving as you grow. And you need a different tool sets, you need different ways of getting to the goal posts and it’s not necessarily the same as you did last year. So that adds to the complexity.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah. I couldn’t agree with that anymore. I get asked a lot, particularly by CEOs who want marketing advice or friends of mine who are starting companies. What’s my marketing philosophy? I, personally, don’t actually have one. And I’ll explain because I think great marketing is problem-solving and, yes, there are certain basic fundamentals like always know your market and who your customer is, of course. But the challenge that I have — there’s commonality — but I serve a different market than you do, so my marketing plan at ON24 probably wouldn’t work so well at Zerto and vice versa. So I think you’re right. We have to be pretty damn adaptive.

Gil Levonai: 

I think the other piece is that just like every other complex, large organization — or even large campaign, in a sense it can be marketing, it can be anywhere else in engineering — you need to always remember what your focus areas and focus on your focus areas. Otherwise, it can get lost if you don’t always go back up and say, “Hey, why am I doing this? Is this part of what I’m deciding I’m focusing on?” For us, it can be a certain segment of customers we want to get in. So, let’s remember our focus or it’s a pipeline influence type of metric or it’s generating specific geography from awareness. Whatever it is, each at each level you might have different focus areas but remember where they are and keep going back to them. Don’t neglect your focus areas because otherwise you will get lost. We can really do, every day, something different and we’ll just get lost. So you need to remember the north star at every point in time during the year and go back to it all the time.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I liked that you said north star, that’s what we call it on our team. It’s kind of like our guiding principles, the three things that we never take our eye off. At ON24, we work really closely with our sales team, which is I think a good thing. It’s also a little bit of a slippery slope because they’re, you know, it can at times feel like there are hundreds of priorities and if we’re not careful we just feel like we’re chasing today’s task — and before long you just are running in the wrong direction. So yeah, focus is a beautiful thing.

Gil Levonai:  

Yeah. I 100 percent agree.

Joe Hyland: 

I want to talk about the notion of being customer obsessed. So, from your background and just talking to you for half an hour, it seems like you very much want to stay close to the customer and what’s best for the persona, which is kind of great marketing. And you talked about your CEO wanting to talk to customers in the market before any code was written. But you guys have grown a lot, which is great. But sometimes that can be challenging to stay really close to the customer. How do you ensure that remains a north star, so to speak?

Gil Levonai:  

I think it’s in DNA. It’s a DNA thing in the company. Either you have it or you don’t. Yeah, we have it in our corporate values, we have “customer first.” But tons of companies have that, that’s not news. But really how accessible everybody is to the customer and how we’re pushing, really pushing, people to go interact with the customer. Don’t be shy. And we’re bringing people from all walks of the company — can be engineering, IT doesn’t matter where they are — to try and engage with customers if we’re having an event or whatever. And really taking an approach that it’s not that the customer is right, the customer is probably never right, but the customer has a voice. And just like you know, everybody in product management can tell you that you have to balance between what the customer is asking you and what you’re trying to educate them that that’s the better way to do it. Because your product is not in their mind and they don’t know that they can do things this way, so you need to educate them, but it’s, it’s a tango.

Gil Levonai:

You have to dance the tango with the customer and always listen to what they want. I think, you know, there’s this old saying that marketing is a combination of art and science. I think today’s marketers, I might be too much on the science side and forgetting about the art a little bit and the art is all about the customer. It’s the customer language, the customer and the way he thinks — we’re all customers. I keep giving my team examples from campaigns I see on tv. “Hey, this was a great campaign because why did I relate to that? Or why did I care about it? Why are these products made me think about something?” Whatever, you know, I’m stealing something which I wish I can have the right credit because I’ve forgotten — I heard it at a conference many years ago. Someone said it and then I keep using that since then, so apologies to ever said that back then — I don’t remember who said that.

Gil Levonai: 

But he said that there’s nothing B2C or B2B anymore. It’s all B2H. It’s all business-to-human. Okay. Because we all marketing just an individual at the end of the day. Someone needs to read a blog post, or needs to watch our video, or needs to make a decision on buying a product or needs to convince their boss to buy the product. It doesn’t matter. It’s a person. And that’s kind of the art of marketing that always was the marketing — and all of these — you talked about in this series about a little about the explosion of martech. All of this explosion of technologies, we shouldn’t forget that it’s only as good as what you put in it — and that is all about the customer.

Joe Hyland:

Yes. We call that people-to-people marketing like. I know it might sound a little hokey, but I couldn’t agree with you anymore. Like, you’re a person. I’m a person. There is an emotional element to even very rational business decision making, right? Who is, it? Indeed has a job search site has a really powerful advertising campaign right now. And of course they’re competing with LinkedIn and I think Monster, or Monster.com if they’re still a Massachusetts company. So, it’s a competitive space and they have this great ad on people needing to find jobs so they can be close to loved ones. There’s nothing data-oriented about it. And I watched the ad and I said that they were going to see that for the next six months because like, that’s a winner. Like I, I felt warm when I saw it. And that’s not a science — that’s art.

Gil Levonai:

Yes. And, and I think that’s kind of like what I see, when I talk to team members or colleagues, et cetera, and it’s always about — you can see who’s talking from a position of understanding their customers and who’s talking from a position like, “Oh, let’s run this campaign, et Cetera.” And anybody that is really understanding the customer more and taking the extra mile to read notes in Salesforce from the customer meetings, or whatever, or gets back to you on engagements on, “Hey, that’s how the customer talked about this or about that.” It’s, deeper, they will be more successful because of that.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you anymore. I think great marketing is — and it’s very easy to slip on this slippery slope — is always about your audience and it’s never about you. And it’s so easy to get that backwards. One of my first marketing jobs, I was working with a business development director who’s great at many things — and we were going to do an email to prospects. And long story short, it was, like, 2,000 words. I mean, it was like laughable. And I said to him, “I think this isn’t enough about our prospect.” And he said, “There’s so many great things we have to say about our product and I need this audience to understand it.” And I was like, “I think we’re missing the point. It’s not about us. What gets about their challenges?” And I think a lot of marketers miss that.

Gil Levonai:

Are you saying it’s hard? It’s hard because it’s not easy. It’s a message. It’s, you know, it’s much easier to speak about is hearing this kind of like a discussion with I’m here and then actually implementing that in the real world because you are trying to, in the market on your product, you are competing with all of these things happen. So it’s a constant thing that they need to be aware of.

Joe Hyland:   

Yeah, and it’s knowing your personas internally, right? You’re right, it’s easy for us to have this intellectual, macro discussion on great marketing. It’s, hard when the CEO comes to you and says pipelines down, like run five campaigns. You might not want to talk about the art of marketing right then. So, I even think internally there’s a skill set for marketers to make sure key constituents feel heard without necessarily letting other people run their programs for them.

Gil Levonai:

Yeah, totally agree.

Joe Hyland: 

So, we talked a lot about being customer obsessed. I’m curious to get your take on customer life cycle marketing or marketing more of the full customer experience. We of course, obviously, own the website and early stage prospecting. So the first message to a prospect or a prospective customer should be coming from marketing, but I think a lot of marketing departments, historically, once a deal was signed or someone moved from being a prospect to a customer, said, “Okay, we’re done. We’ll hand that over to the services group.” And I’m seeing more and more marketing groups and marketing leaders step up and own the customer relationship. How does that work at, at Zerto and what’s your take on marketers owning more of the customer journey?

Gil Levonai:  

So, at Zerto, we own the more traditional things with the inclusion of SDRs, we call them SDRs and ADRs, one for more targeted accounts, AMB 100 percent and the others are kind of like a mix of inbound and outbound. And we have a strong customer marketing team, which has a lot of the customer reference program and all that stuff. But we both know that’s not what you were asking about. So, we own all of that kind of demand Gen and all of that. But I think ABM is already kind of like a step towards what you’re talking about, because in ABM, especially in existing customers, you keep owning the engagement again and again with the customer. It’s basically a coordinated dance between your customer marketing people, your ADRs, in our case, and the account team because sometimes the account team is already kind of like getting some headways and they want to control the ratio or something or they are more removed and they say “Hey, you guys, go warm up the customer.”

So that’s in that sense. I think, overall, the key is going back to the partnership in this case. And also, of course, with support in this case, because we’re not a SaaS company, we’re an enterprise software company, so it’s not like the customers are — we don’t have a strong customer success team that is doing renewals and things like that when you happen to be very, very high, almost hundred percent, for us anyway. It’s more about maintaining the customer relationship and being there for the customer at the time of need, which is mostly our support and being partners with them and understanding what they need from us. But I would say, more so, with the safe is being there with the account teams understanding what do they need, what are they looking forward to educate the customer to get the customer up to the next level of usage of the product or to make the customer aware of new products or new offerings. Literally, a couple months ago we realized, as a team, both us and sales, that there’s one functionality that customers aren’t really using almost at all because they’re probably not aware of that.

Gil Levonai: 

And so, we’ve launched a campaign specifically with blog posts, et cetera and those people to raise awareness to that functionality in the product because we want them to use that. So I don’t think we own that, but I think you need to be in partnership with all the entities, which is normally customer success, support and the sales team to own that as a company. Making sure the customer gets what they need as a life cycle from everybody.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah. And that goes back to the kind of core DNA element that you had talk about where you guys do, in fact, put the customer first, right? So, sounds like a coordinated effort between groups to ensure that that actually happens.

Gil Levonai:

Yeah, definitely. There’s, everybody’s always available for the customer and we all are there for that. So I think it’s easier in Zerto than maybe in other companies. I haven’t worked in other companies, necessarily, I have worked in a few but in Zerto you need to be customer-oriented because everybody’s customer-focused.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah, I think it’s pretty easy in life to complicate pretty simple things and that’s where I want to end today. None of this exists without the customer. So, I hope Zerto is not wholly unique in that mindset. I think you’re right, though, there’s a lot of companies that are so worried about growth of their own internal metrics and it’s easy to lose sight of the reason the company exists, which is solving a problem for someone.

Gil Levonai: 

Gil, thank you so much for the time. From rocket scientist to CMO. Pretty fascinating journey and thanks for sharing it with us.

Gil Levonai:  

Thank you very much for having me and let’s make sure that when we actually air this, we already have a 6th ring on Brady’s finger.

Joe Hyland: 

Okay. I love it. All right, thanks, Gil, have a great day.

Gil Levonai:  

Thanks man.