CMO Confessions Ep 11.: SAP’s Kevin Cochrane

Hi everyone and welcome to episode 11 of CMO Confessions. In this edition, I sit down and chat with Kevin Cochrane, CMO of SAP Customer Experience and C/4HANA. Kevin has an almost religious devotion to identifying customer pain points and delivering a great customer experience — and he does so in an almost unique way in today’s age: by sitting down and actually talking with customers.

Kevin’s CMO journey started when he joined Interwoven as the VP of Web Content Management. From there, he wound his way to Alfresco, Software AG and all the way to SAP.  In this episode of CMO Confessions, we dive into what Kevin thinks of today’s marketing landscape, what’s missing in our journey to become more customer-centric and it’s so critical to slow down and ask better questions.

If you’re curious about what Kevin has to say about the state of our industry, you can follow him on Twitter at @kevinc2003 and on LinkedIn here.

Finally, as usual, 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, and I want to welcome you to this week’s episode of CMO confessions the weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast that explores what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Joe Highland CMO here at ON24 and joining me this week from Miami, while I’m in San Francisco, is Kevin Cochrane, CMO of SAP Customer Experience. Kevin, how are you doing?

Kevin Cochrane:  I’m doing a great, Joe, great to speak with you today.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, thanks for doing this. I really appreciate it. Okay, Let’s dive right into digital marketing, marketing in general. What do you love about we what we do?

Kevin Cochrane: Well, there’s three things. I love about what we do. Number one, I love being able to make the human connection. At the end of the day, what we as marketers do is we uncover our customers intent; what are their hopes their dreams their aspirations, and how can we effectively engage them in order to help them understand how our companies and our products and our services can help them? So, I love making that human connection. The second thing is I love building teams of people to inspire them to, in turn, learn from customers and how to listen and how to engage.

There’s nothing so much more wonderful than actually seeing a whole team of marketers being able to speak about the customers, speak about their needs and, again, engage them in that one-to-one way so that they can best represent our brands and best deliver value to the customer. There’s nothing more exciting and much more pleasing than that.  The third thing is that intellectually speaking marketing the most fascinating place to be right now and it has been for quite a long period of time. The Innovation that’s happening around data, data science and around customer engagement fundamentally challenges each and every one of us in very unique and interesting ways each and every day. So that intellectual challenge, that intellectual rigor, you know, suddenly just makes marketing just so exciting for me personally and hopefully for everyone listening here to this podcast.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, and I love that answer because — and I’ll start with number three there — for me marketing’s about solving problems and for me that’s what makes it fun and challenging and interesting and it’s constantly changing. So yeah, the intellectual rigor for me is honestly one of the coolest things. You talk about human connections, and I love that because, as marketers, finding ways to engage with our audience — I mean that’s the Holy Grail, right? That’s what we should be fantastic at.

But I want to get your take on scale. So, scale is real, scale is very much a challenge that we all have and what I’m finding or what I’m seeing in the space, which is I think particularly interesting is. Marketers automating everything that is humanly possible, even down to the email copy that we write — could have robots write it and in many cases they are. So, I feel like we’re winning in the automation game which is which is great, don’t get me wrong. There are tremendous benefits there. But I feel like there’s a human connection that is lost with all this digital automation. I would love to get your take on that.

Kevin Cochrane: Yeah, I completely agree, and I’ll start off with, and hopefully you don’t mind me sharing our conversation that we started off even before we get began the podcast. You and I have a shared experience as we learned about — we both ran a marathon in Zermatt two months ago, and we had a great time speaking about that for 10 minutes.  We’re actually real people you’re a real person. I’m a real person. And outside the context of our work lives and this particular podcast, there are things that we share in common that our interests that can help us actually form a relationship with one another that can facilitate our professional dialogue and to facilitate growth and both of our businesses. And as marketers, we have actually to remember that.

I think we’ve got too far in the shift from brand marketing to demand marketing and we become inundated with data, we become inundated with automation, and we stop actually thinking about who was the actual end person at the end of the email — who is the actual end customer? Who are they really as a real person? And what are the unique things that make them a unique individual that are not just a segment? You know, I love the famous quote from Six Degrees of Separation, Stockard Channing, favorite of mine, of course saying, “I am not an anecdote.” Well, I’m not a segment, right? I’m actually a very unique person as are you. And I think as marketers we need to get back to understanding and relating to our real customers.  I tend to challenge people on my team in a very simple way. When was the last time you spoke with the customer? When was the last time you spoke with the customer? When we’re talking about this campaign, and we’re talking about automated, because automation is very important, you have to automate course, can you speak about it in the context of a real customer that you have met, that you have spoken to that you can envision in your mind when you’re building that next nurture program, when you’re building that next email copy? Because if you can’t envision the customer and you can’t think about a real human being then you could go awry and that’s where I like to challenge people on my own team and hopefully in the broader industry as well.  At the end of the day, we need to leverage the data. We need to leverage the science, and you need to use it to uncover each individual’s intent, and we need to automate the prescriptive delivery of content experience and services matched against that end to the best extent possible to scale. But never ever, ever should a marketer ever forget of what a real customer a real customer conversation looks like.

Joe Hyland: Yeah. Amen. I couldn’t agree with you anymore. And it’s interesting, right? That mixture of human connection with the amazing breadth and depth of data — and you’re right, automation is not a bad thing in any marketer who tries to run away from it, I think, would risk be kind of becoming yesterday’s marketer, but it’s the mixture of those two things, right? Where you can do something really special.

Kevin Cochrane: That’s the one hundred percent right? I have seen in my career too many times someone who’s an absolute wizard in the martech stack put together beautiful theoretical nurture program against beautiful theoretical segments and then you just simply ask the question, “When was the last time you’ve met a customer?” And it’s never.  As marketers remember, we’re trying to form an emotional connection with people and the reason why we want that emotional connection is because the less people have that emotional connection they’re actually literally not going to act, they’re not going to purchase. Because all of the theoretical research shows the end of the day, you can do all of your online research, and you can use as much at your rational brain as possible.

But the moment that you click the buy, the moment that you actually sign up for that webinar, the moment that you actually agree to that meeting with that sales rep , the moment that you signed on the contract, all the rational side of your brain turns out, and it’s a complete emotional response and the emotional responses based on whatever feeling that you have about that brand based on how an individual made you feel, right? The sales rep. How do they make you feel? The inside sales person? Did they make you feel special? That marketer at the event? Did they make you feel special? If you didn’t do that that emotional side of the brain doesn’t kick in and people don’t actually really truly convert to revenue, and so, as a marketer, at the end of the day, never forget like the less, you know the customer and speak to the customer you won’t know what that emotional connection you’re trying to get — even when you’re automating things. It’s so critically important, and this is why, and it will probably get to this little bit later, some of the things that we need to start doing differently and B2B marketing.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, so I love the intersection of marketing and politics. I find the movement of the why and how you inspire people and how pulling at emotional heartstrings ultimately makes people make certain decisions. You don’t need to look that much further than the last presidential election to see that. The polls were off because people enter, regardless of how you feel politically, I could talk for hours on that just alone, but I won’t, but people went in, and for whatever reason they changed their mind they had this gut feeling — and in your right, we as we as marketers can learn from that.

How many times have we been in a room where you know, there’s a beautiful model and everything lines up perfectly on a spreadsheet for how we’re going to attack a new market in gain a certain percent adoption and is dozens or hundreds of millions of dollars and no one’s asked the question of why would someone actually do this? Like, what’s in it for the end user? Which is insane. But but that happens all too often.

Kevin Cochrane: But this is also the shift from inside-out thinking to outside in thinking. This is the shift and customer centricity and marketing which is get to the core pain that the individual fields and find a means and mechanism through your campaign efforts to surface that pain and help give voice to that pain and clarify what the implications of that pain are to the person so that they say, “God, you get me. You understand me, and you’re really hitting me where it hurts right now, and you can actually speak to my pain better than I can.” And then they trust you to do something about it.  And the intersection of marketing and politics is a fascinating one.

For many, many years I’ve actually believed good B2B campaigns need to be modeled like a political campaign. Because political campaign serves as a template for how you can do proper a B2B marketing. So, yeah, I couldn’t agree with more, and we definitely are going to have to go on a long run time sometime to talk about that egg.  Because there’s a profound implication and, much like yourself, I actually watched the last election season and prior election season as well and just look at it from the perspective of the marketing tactics, the language used, the way events are choreographed absolutely brilliant absolutely fascinating. There’s lessons and models to be learned for effective conveyance of emotions to get people to act for political campaigns — couldn’t agree more.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, so let’s dive into what you alluded to a moment ago. We’ve touched on some of the things, but what needs to change. So we talked about what we what we both love. Let’s move into the what disappoints us in our in our world these days.

Kevin Cochrane: Yeah, so I mean, I think there are three things in B2B marketing that kind of needs change. Number one, is I think in the shift to digital and the shift to become more, you know B2C centric, essentially, and how we drove our B2B marketing efforts, we’ve lost the inherent qualities of what made B2B different, which is a relationship affecting the human aspect and we’ve oversteered our investment in digital channels and we’re not making effective use of in-person meetings, in-person events and tying those two broader digital efforts — specifically around online communities.

Good B2B marketing still puts at its core, and its nucleus, the one-on-one physical engagement people look eye to eye with one another and having a real conversation. And I think that we have started to forget that. And events are always this thing over here, and then your campaigns are things over here, and more money is going over here because we can analyze it and report on it and we can actually document the attribution of it much more effectively than the random influence of we can do an event. We’ve got to be careful that we’re overcorrecting we can’t overcorrect.  The second thing is we’re not really thinking about the employee experience that powers that end customer experience. There are so many people that interact with the customer and that build upon and maintain the relationship that marketing may start. And as marketers, we need to take under our wing our sales professionals, our customer success professionals, our service professionals, our support professionals and we need to train them in the art of conversation. We need to train them how the how to continue the dialogue that we begin with the customer to make certain that at every point of interaction for the salesperson, the service person the support person that they are in effect growing and nurturing that relationship.

I think as marketers, we tend to stop our jobs after we hand over to our inside sales teams for we hand over to our AES and we don’t think holistically about how does that person in the customer success organization? Are they trained on how to speak customer do they actually know the difference between an Enterprise Architect and an IT Architect? They know what differences that those two individuals may have in their mind in terms of their career aspirations their professional aspirations, you name it, and can they speak to those? We have to help them so that they, in turn, can best help the customer. So that’s another thing that we as marketers change. And then the third thing that we as marketers need to change is our organizations — and we’ve talked about this before earlier. Too many marketers just hide behind the data right now, and as marketers, we need to be front and center, we need to be leading the charge. If a marketer cannot have a customer conversation that is a bad thing because how can that marketer then in turn support and train someone in sales, support and train someone in the support organization, support and train someone in the customer service organization? As marketers, we have to be the best at the art of the conversation with the customer. You have to know them personally, and we have to leverage that personal law of personal relationship in order to help fuel the conversations and relationships of others in the organization.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, I so strongly agree. You said something really interesting in there you mentioned into this customer-centric mindset that really needs to permeate, hopefully, the entire organization, I firmly believe it should start in marketing with though there is a difference of opinions there. I’ll tell you a crazy story, which I think you’ll find alarming, but we’ll see, is a friend of mine works in customer marketing for a very large successful tech company here in here in the Bay Area and their number one metric for success that they came up with as an organization to determine how appropriately, how successfully there they’re communicating with their existing customers was number was number of touches. So how often do we touch the customer?

And so what happened is you saw an in this in this company a 500 percent increase in the number of emails they sent. So, rather than worrying about the quality, how they’re treating their customers. So, they just started blasting their own customer base. It was a horrendous customer experience, but everyone made their bonuses because they hit they hit their milestone.

Kevin Cochrane: You did you were totally right. I mean, this is the same thing that we also did in marketing as well when we shifted to taking responsibility for pipeline. We started flooding the system with MQLs. MQL this, MQL that, everything was an MQL — we got double our bonus because we double our MWL because we spent a whole bunch of money on content syndication and we gamed the system. I mean, we got to talk about quality conversations with the customer that result in a successful deployment and a happy, loyal advocate. And, you know, I do think the strategy of making certain that we regularly engage with customers is absolutely essential, and it’s a metric that should be tracked but to your point, you know, it’s how you do it that matters.

Now, I’ll give you an example from my earlier days. So, you know prior to SAP, and prior to my time in several other places, I started my career as a co-founder of a company called Interwoven, right? And was there for 10 years and one of the hallmarks Interwoven was that we literally just knew our customers by name and we would engage them at a minimum every three months like regular clockwork. So, you know, one of the things very early in the day since 1999. We established user groups all around the planet. And we made certain that every quarter we were at those user groups, and we shook everybody’s hands, and we greeted them by their first name, and we remember who they were — even when we had thousands of customers around the globe. Like, we all knew each other, it was so critically important. So yeah, the level of engagement was really important. If we didn’t see someone at a user group for like two quarters that was worrisome — that was worrisome. Like where are they? Like, what’s wrong?

Joe Hyland: Right things not right, right.

Kevin Cochrane: We want to see them like if I don’t see you eye-to-eye, but I don’t see it at the user group, or if I don’t see it the latest executive event, if I don’t see you at the user conference if I don’t shake your hand and say are you okay? How are you doing? Then maybe something’s wrong, right? So I think that we all need to pay attention to levels of engagement for customers, but to your point, let’s do it right, let’s not blood emails and try to game the system.

Joe Hyland: Yeah. Well, I mean look at your role in your team. The fact that there’s a CMO in charge of customer experience —  five or ten years ago — I was I was never aware of such a title. I think so many marketers, you’re right, our jobs ended with hey, we got the MQLs over to the inside sales team, we’re done, and what happens when someone’s a customer, sorry, we’re responsible for getting new customers.  Talk about what that’s like because I think that shift alone can lead to the right types of behaviors that we all should encompass in our own marketing.

Kevin Cochrane: Yeah, know exactly. I mean, I actually liken customer experience to the third wave of digital transformation where the first wave of digital transformation was simply putting our presence online to support convenience of access to information about our products goods and services by the online consumer. That was all an era of brand marketing, you know, we wanted to protect our brand.

But in the second age of digital transformation where we rebuilt the entire enterprise web infrastructure stack, that was all about the shift to demand marketing, from brand marketing to demand marketing. And it was really catalyzed because you know, frankly, in the financial crisis the economic outlook was turbulent at best and with poor revenue outlook and potentially flat to declining margins because people needed to lower prices in order to get consumers to spend because consumers were reluctant to spend because their 401Ks tanked, their home values tanked and, you know, maybe they lost their job, suddenly, you know, stock prices were declining. And what happens in that particular case is then people want to boost growth, and the entire digital marketing industry was based on the premise that we need to accelerate customer acquisition because it was all of that spend two thousand nine ten, eleven twelve, all of the martech investments that were funded by VCs were all predicated on the notion of we need to boost revenue by accelerating customer acquisition because it was all driven during the recovery from the financial crisis.

So we are here today because we are still in the overhang that fundamental shift to digital marketing which is all predicated on customer acquisition. But here now in this third wave, which I would argue is just starting right now, it’s we’re returning the art of marketing, we’re returning more to the side of brand marketing, and I like to refer to it as connecting communities, right?

So, from building the brand to driving demand to connecting communities, which is gathering people, right, our customers, our prospects and connecting with them in an authentic way around their personal hopes, dreams, needs, and aspirations, and helping them achieve that day in and day out in their daily lives. And this is fundamentally what’s re-inventing businesses, because suddenly, you know if you’re you know, my favorite coffee company, Starbucks, you can knock me on Starbucks, I am such an advocate — it’s crazy, I go there four times a day. They understand that what I’m looking to do every morning when I get up is I’m looking to have a great start to my day, so they make it super fast, super easy and super convenient for me to never miss a meeting, never miss my time to work because now they let me preorder on my mobile phone and simply walk in and pick up my coffee — it’s fricken fantastic. They’re reinventing their business model in new services to deliver value to me to live my daily life in a faster and more convenient way, right?  And so as marketers we’re redefining our brand promise, right? To connect with our communities and then, day in and day out as marketers, we’re basically showing how that we add more value to their lives. So, I do think that this new wave of digital transformation really puts markers at the forefront to be the ambassadors for the customers to be the voice of the customer and to help educate everyone in the organization to understand how does the brand promise improve people’s lives on a daily basis such that they want to come back again, and again, and again and again?

Joe Hyland: Yeah. I love that. There’s probably no better time, I think, I mean we have no choice were in marketing today, it is what it is, but I think there’s no better time to be to be a marketer. And you’re right, when you talked about the second wave of accelerating revenue, there were. I think beautiful things about it and the obvious slippery slopes. Well, what I thought was great is marketers really became core to growing the business in phase one where it was, I say just brand it’s not necessarily meant to be a negative thing, but you know marketers weren’t necessarily quarter driving growth in all scenarios. Phase two where you talked about, yes, I totally agree. I think it went too far, you know, the explosion of inside sales and SDR departments — a pet peeve of mine — and I’m not really sure if that’s the best customer experience have a 23-year-old just lighting up your prospective customers with ten calls in a week. But yeah, I agree, we’re now moving into this nice mix of a true art of marketing where you have the elements of branding. I think marketers are core to growth still, which is phenomenal and marketers are so strategic. But what you just said about Starbucks, back to the core tenets that you talked about at the start of the show is knowing why someone does what they what they do. I mean, knowing what inspires people — Starbucks does that better than better than most companies.

Kevin Cochrane: That’s right, exactly. As marketers, if you can’t figure out what inspires your customers at a very deep emotional level to react positively or brand — not just once but you know time and time again — go back and think harder and think harder by actually walking in the shoes of your customer and spending time with them.  And I couldn’t agree with you more, by the way, on the whole, SDR model, and, you know what, an SDR model, done correctly, you know, if you’re 23 years old, there’s nothing more fascinating than to get on the phone with the CIO and listen and learn and ask questions, you know, “What’s going on in your world?” And then just be upfront honest. If the CIO, the CMO starts telling you there are challenges, if you train the SDR properly, the SDR could say, you know, you know ma’am, sir, unfortunately, I can’t help you there. Or, potentially, they can.  Now I’ll tell you I start my career, when I was 23 years old, I was a Management Consultant before I did my Interwoven gig. I was a Management Consultant and the way I basically did financial models for mergers and acquisitions, and so, basically, I had to come up with all of the inputs on market size, market growth rates, competitive profiling and so and so forth.

Joe Hyland: That sounds fun work project.

Kevin Cochrane: Yes. Oh my God, they were crazy. They were called grenades because they would blow up in your face because they would take over your life 20 hours days. But what I did was — and these were like weird markets like centrifuges, you know industrial mixers, things that there was no research on, right? And so what you have to do is you have to build up a list of like 300 people you would need to call, like a product manager, CEOs of all the businesses and you just have to engage them. And then, you just have to ask yourself, “Well, how do you do that?” Well, you just show curiosity like, “I’m interested. Hey, I just want to know more about your business like tell me what you can, and in return, I’ll share with you all the insights I gained from my research.”  So, an SDR model done right leverages that unique curiosity as a team. Lean in with that curiosity and make sure that they can understand what the customer is saying and they can relate it to something that you can either do or not do and then train them to be up front and honest. Because, to your point, I think an SDR model done wrong is you give the SDR a script you flood ’em with MQLs, go through this script and then try to punch out as many first level meetings as possible. If they’re just trying to punch out first level meetings and they’re not trying, themselves understand listen and learn and try to relate to a customer problem and how we might solve it, then the model is broken. It doesn’t work.

Joe Hyland: Yeah. Now you are you’re totally right and it’s looking at the wrong metrics, right? Like if you’re if you’re looking if you’re so short-term focused that — and let’s face it, every business wants to grow — you got to have a long-term view and short-term metrics can kill you.

Kevin Cochrane:  That’s bingo out. Nothing more to say on that.

Joe Hyland: So we’ll end with the topic that I love, and I get asked a lot is what’s the best path? Like, how did you know? How did Joe how did you become a head of marketing Kevin? We know, how did you get here? You talked about management consulting, and then I think you had a decade-long run as an entrepreneur. You know, were you running marketing, where you were marketing report into you? How did how did you get this level of passion and knowledge? For your craft?

Kevin Cochrane:Yeah, I mean and if it’s going to sound like totally try it actually comes from deep customer knowledge and intimacy. So, in my management consulting days, basically, I wound up being the go-to person that everyone wanted to have on their team because within two to three weeks I would know the customer because I would literally call like 300 of them on the phone and interview them, right? And then when I went to Silicon Valley in 1996 like May of 1996, I didn’t know Tech at all. Like, I know nothing. The Apache web server had just been released, and two hundred engineers in a garage got some seed funding from local VC firm that wanted to invent a new category of software called web content management, and, you know, I literally just said, “Look, I don’t know anything and I have no qualifications to be a product manager, I said, but what I can do for you is you guys have this kind of goal to like, you know, help people build websites.” I said, “I’ll just go interview every single person in the Fortune 500, every single CIO, every single architect of this interview and then I’ll help write down what their requirements are and coalesce those into a document that maybe you can actually use to build a product.” And that’s what I did for 10 years is just I was always in front of a customer talking and listening and learning and then going back — that was my day job was to be out in front of the customer.

My night job was I would sit with engineers and pizza until midnight literally every single night saying here are the customer conversations I had today. And just over time what that translated into was just running … eventually, CMO is super easy because then you are just saying look, “I’m the customer advocate.” Like, you know, I just love talking to customers. I know what’s inspiring them.  So I would just encourage anyone the right path can be any one of several. You can start and pre-sales, you can start in inside sales, you can start in marketing, you can start in a customer success team. If you are the biggest champion of your customers if you are the person that has the most curiosity if you’re the person who really cares about the customer at such as deep level about you, know what emotionally ties into brand your CMO material. And it doesn’t matter where you start you can start from any place — it’s just you gotta be that customer evangelist at the end of the day.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, well, that’s a perfect way to end because you are 100 percent right. Great marketing is about knowing your end-user, knowing what keeps them up at night, what pains they have and hopefully delivering a message in the product that that will help address that. So, Kevin, this was this was fantastic. I really appreciate you doing this while you’re on the road and we’ll continue the conversation over a run.

Kevin Cochrane: Great, thank so much, Joe. It was great meeting you and thanks so much for allowing me to join the conversation today, I enjoyed it a lot.

Joe Hyland:  Awesome. Thanks.

Three Ways of Securing Marketing Interest and Consent in the GDPR World

This article was originally published on 

Even though it’s been months since the GDPR legislation went into effect, there are still no shortage of things about the regulation that are confusing. But perhaps the most perplexing aspect of the European Union’s data regulation bill is the cloud that surrounds the “legitimate interests” and the gaining consent piece of GDPR.

The exact wording goes like this:

“[Data] [p]rocessing will be lawful if it is necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by the controller or a third party, except where such interests are overridden by the interests or fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject which require protection of Personal Data, in particular where the data subject is a child.”

This passage raises more questions than it answers: After all, what does legitimate interest constitute, how can companies acquire or measure this interest, and how should they engage if they have gotten this consent?

It’s quite the minefield for marketers to navigate, and the stakes are higher than ever. A wrong turn in the past meant you irritated customers. A wrong turn in the GDPR world spells potential legal action and fines.

Like any marketing company, we at ON24 were initially concerned that GDPR could potentially cut into market-qualified leads and reduce pipeline. But once we dug deeper, we gained a better perspective: we now think of GDPR as an opportunity to better organize our data and shorten our marketing funnel, by engaging with folks who are genuinely interested in our offerings.

More than anything, we see GDPR as a shift. Previously, the burden was on consumers: Consumers who wanted to protect their data had to go to great lengths to stay off irresponsible sites, create and maintain settings that ensured privacy, and generally stay vigilant about where their data was floating around on the web. Now, the burden has shifted to companies. Businesses are required to be vigilant in correctly interpreting and adhering to GDPR, and properly gaining consent or legitimate interests before processing consumer data.

So how does a marketer do it?

Engaging Through Interactive Content

We think the answer is simpler than most realize: if you act like a human, you can gain and keep consent. If you make your content interactive, thoughtfully engage your prospects and customers throughout the funnel, you’ll not only gain consent — you’ll earn their trust and business.

For example, you might take advantage of a feature such as a chatbot. The advantages of chatbots are that they provide tailored, personalized communication with customers. The goal of many chatbots are to engage customers, learn information about them, and help move them further along the sales funnel. They’re an effective marketing tool when consumers visit a website, as they provide an immediate call to action, can help uncover why a prospect is interested in a certain offering, and help direct them to other web pages that might be useful.

But in the sense of GDPR, chatbots will be extremely useful in gauging interest or acquiring consent from consumers. Chatbots can be easily programmed to direct customers to a privacy policy, ask them if they’d like to opt-in, and empower customers to have their data forgotten or retrieved in a few quick keystrokes.

Webinars are another potential avenue. Online events can bring not only tailored and personalized to specific audiences, like bots, but they bring a more human aspect to the engagement. Individual participants, for example, can ask questions to the presenter in real-time, and responses to surveys and questions can help guide the discussion or presentation, providing a nearly limitless audience with multiple touchpoints to gain consent. They can provide an even more human touch to them – as the presenter can ask attendees for consent at the right juncture, and explain why it would be helpful for the attendees to provide this.

Develop a “Freemium” Marketing Model

There are so many businesses that have set their business model up as “freemium” – which is where a customer gets access to certain features free of charge, with the goal being that the product will be so useful that they will pay for a premium version of the product later on. It’s a model that’s helped drive the success of tech titans like Box, Spotify, Hootsuite, SurveyMonkey, Evernote, and more.

Marketers should use a similar model in their marketing approach, with the goal being not to upsell a prospect, but rather to gain their consent. For example, a marketer could offer a webinar or whitepaper that’s open to everyone. But they could also install a real-time Q&A widget — where a customer would need to provide consent in order to ask a question or to sign up for a newsletter.

The main goal should not be to gain consent right away, but just to gain it at some point. Marketers should trust that if they’re doing their job well, prospects will find their content useful and be happy to provide their consent at some point of the customer journey. But it’s all about finding the right time and natural touchpoint to make this ask.

Create Natural Places for Customer Consent

If you’re in a conversation with a friend or colleague, and you have an important question to ask – you don’t just ask them at the outset of the conversation. No, you wait for a natural place in the conversation, and once the conversation has gotten close to that topic, or there’s a segway into the question, you ask the question. It makes the conversation more comfortable as you’ve have built up to the point where the question feels organic.

GDPR has underscored the fact that a consumer’s data is personal. Think of asking for someone’s email address, data, or consent in marketing as a personal question in marketing. There is a time and place for these asks. If you have a customer who has initially downloaded a piece of gated content or signed up for a newsletter, for example, that follow up email could be a natural place to ask for consent. Or it could be after a customer has used a certain keyword with a chatbot, a keyword that indicates they’re interested in your offerings.

No matter your industry, you should work to ensure that you’re asking for consent in a way that doesn’t feel intrusive or out of left field. If you’re seeing a lot of individuals in your funnel, but not providing their consent – that could indicate you’re doing it at an odd time in the buying process.

As a marketer, you know your buying cycle better than anyone else and what touchpoints would be a natural fit to ask for consent.

Clearly, GDPR has made all of us re-evaluate how we market to customers. But rather than seeing it as a burden, marketers should embrace the opportunity to rethink how they can effectively engage. In many ways, GDPR is a forcing function for making marketers do something we should have been doing on our own a long time ago: effectively marketing and securing legitimate interest.

How Three Fortune Future 50 Winners Innovate with ON24

Every year, Fortune publishes its Fortune Future 50 list, a compendium of the top companies destined to shape our future. For us at ON24, it’s an incredible honor to play a small part in the success stories of our customers on the list, ServiceNow, NVIDIA and SalesForce. A huge congratulations to them and all our fast-moving webinerds!

After all, helping companies accelerate their growth is what ON24 is all about. We’ve built the ON24 Engagement Platform to empower marketers to move at the speed of innovation, get to market fast and accelerate pipeline through data-rich webinars and interactive content. In fact, SiriusDecisions says that webinar marketing is the best way to start deals and keep them moving.

Here’s a shout-out to celebrate just a few of the Fortune Future 50 we’re thrilled to call members of our webinerd family:


ServiceNow is an industry leader in cloud-based IT service management with an outstanding 97 percent retention rate. Its webinar program is just as successful, with its webinars hosting 3,000 to 4,000 attendees at a time. The company also takes the long-view approach to its webinars, with an expert use of ON24 Gateway for on-demand, Netflix-stye viewing.


For the B2B world, there no other company like Salesforce. Focused on delivering superior customer relationship everything, Salesforce takes a strong unified approach in both its business and its webinars. Just check out its on-demand page, where it has countless webinars to watch or check out how they craft their webinar program with our on-demand webinar, “Building Killer Webinars at Salesforce.”


NVIDIA went from creating graphics processor units for video game consoles and computers to powering the artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicle and virtual reality booms in record time. NIVIDA’s webinars, too, have had their own boom, with one dedicated person scaling its webinar marketing program to meet global demand and boost pipeline. Later this month, we’re going to sit down with NIVIDA’s webinar guru, Cassandra Clark, to see how she organizes the growing company’s webinars. Register now and save your spot.

To get the webinerd skills you need to make the list next year, please join us and these winners at our annual user conference Webinar World.

It’s a Webinerd World

Looking for great webinar guidance? Get the freshest webinar tactics and strategies at Webinar World 2019.

I am sitting on a plane from London to San Francisco, on the way home from the final Webinar World of 2018 — and what a year it’s been. This is the second year of Webinar World and the eighth event globally. There were Webinar World conferences in San Francisco, London, Sydney and Singapore. When our CMO, Joe Hyland, first had the idea for this event, we all thought he was crazy. A conference about webinars? Will anyone even come? Our inaugural event in San Francisco two years ago shocked us all. Hundreds of people showed up from all over the world. There were people from Europe, Asia and even a woman from Africa, for again, a conference about…webinars. Why?

I go to a lot of marketing conferences, some are better than others, but if there is one thing they all have in common is that they are very general in their purpose. There are conferences about inbound marketing, marketing automation, content marketing and just plain marketing-marketing. My biggest frustration about these conferences is that you never go very deep on any subject. Instead, you spend a few days hearing high-level generalities like “tell a story” or “know your customer.” Not exactly the kind of guidance that is going to take your programs to the next level.

I think that’s what made Webinar World different. It’s an event that is focused on a very specific skill set, and a critical part of most companies marketing success. Instead of lofty abstractions, people were learning best practices and practical guidance on how to create awesome webinars — and frankly awesome marketing. But what we didn’t realize was that webinars were not just an important part of these people’s jobs, webinars were also something they were really passionate about.

To capture this passion, we came up with the term “Webinerds.” At first, it was just a funny idea for some t-shirts and a hashtag, but something happened: people went crazy for the term, and soon, marketers around the globe were proudly identifying themselves as “webinerds,” sharing their own best practices and showing off their latest webinars. It took on a life of its own and became a real community.

With each Webinar World conference this year, Webinerd fever grew. It was so inspiring to hear stories from marketers proudly talking about their latest event or some new element they added to their webinars. I heard stories about new presentation formats, creative uses of video and gamification. Many companies were moving from one-off webinars to branded series with hosts and stage sets — really cool stuff. Last year, companies were mostly focused on fundamentals like driving registration and console building. This year, the focus has shifted to creating really immersive, engaging audience experiences. It’s been fun to watch this evolution.

As I think about this, I realize that Webinar World is really serving two purposes. Webinar marketing has become an incredibly valuable skill set. Anyone who is really good at it will always be desirable to their current and future employers. Companies love people who have the skills to build such impactful marketing. But there is something else…

Webinars are something you can really be proud of. Most of us got into marketing to be creative people that build cool shit. But as marketing has gone digital, a lot of the cool factor has gone away. It’s hard to get a lot of personal satisfaction from a good SEO result or an email campaign, but delivering an awesome webinar is such a great feeling. It’s something that you can be really proud of. Webinerds are increasingly becoming the rock stars of their marketing departments.

So you see, it’s a Webinerd World. A hashtag has turned into a community and a movement. And I, for one, can’t wait to see where we go from here.

I guess we will find out at Webinar World 2019.

Interested in what Webinar World has to offer? Check out Webinar World on demand here and register for Webinar World 2019

CMO Confessions Ep. 9: Jenn Steele of Madison Logic

Hi everyone and welcome to another episode of CMO Confessions. This week, we talk shop with Madison Logic’s Jenn Steele, who, in my opinion, has one of the more unique backgrounds as CMO. Jenn started her career not as a marketer in marketing, but as the head of IT at a few law firms. After getting her MBA, Jenn shifted into the martech space and started marketing career at a small company named HubSpot. The rest, I guess, is history.

Over the years, Jenn has gained some fantastic insight — and, more importantly, perspective — on the state of the martech space. It seems we’re of the same opinion on a great deal of things, including “awards,” compensating for shortcomings why a lot of martech today just really needs to get a grip.

Finally, Jenn has shared with us an excellent book to dig into called “The New Leader’s 100 Action Plan,” by George Bradt. I’m looking forward to digging into this myself.

You can find Jenn on Twitter at @Jennsteele and on follow her career on LinkedIn here.

Finally, 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, and I want to welcome everyone to this week’s episode of CMO Confessions. The idea here being this is a weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast that explores what it’s really like to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m pleased to have Jenn Steele, CMO for Madison Logic, hot off joining the company three weeks ago Jenn welcome to the show.

Jenn Steele: Thanks for having me.

Joe Hyland: Okay, so I haven’t said this thus far, and I said when we were talking earlier, I’m honest to a fault, and I read what I thought was the most brilliant line when I went on your LinkedIn page — opening line, so you now know what about to say, is, “I like big data and I cannot lie,” which one is a great reference to Sir Mix-A-Lot, I believe

Jenn Steele: Yes…

Joe Hyland: It was just fantastic. I think, too, it probably says a lot about you. Unless you’re just a really ironic person and you actually don’t like data whatsoever.

Jenn Steele: That would be wrong. Now, I’m obsessed with data. I have a degree in science and my first marketing role was at HubSpot, where what I heard literally every day was, “In God, we trust, all others bring data.” And so, for me, marketing has always been about data and I’ve even worked at a big data company, or multiple, ones actually, because you can count Bizible. So yeah, I cannot lie, I like big data.

Joe Hyland: Well, one, I find that refreshing. I talk to a lot of marketers who are forced into acting as if they love data and they don’t know what to do with data and they’re lost with data and, I don’t know, a lot of marketers didn’t come from a more of a science background and they get that that’s not necessarily core or natural to them — it’s not intuitive. And I think marketing has so wildly shifted in the last five or 10 years, which I think is really exciting and fun, to being more analytical. But have you come across other other marketers who struggle in this area?

Jenn Steele: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think anybody who started their marketing career before ten years ago — anybody who started their marketing career before about 2008-2009 — if anything, being analytical was exactly the opposite of what you needed, right? You needed to be creative or you needed to figure out how to make sales or, you know, you needed to drink scotch and be Mad Men. And that’s not usually the same personality if someone who’s like, “Oh give me Excel, I have a great relationship with Excel.”

Joe Hyland: Exactly.

Jenn Steele: But I always have the theory that you should hire to your weaknesses. So, for example, I am actually absolutely abysmal at design. I’m slightly colorblind, I’ve got a brother who’s a graphic designer who’s like, “Stay away, Jenn, just stay away.” And so I always try to make sure I’ve got somebody on my team that’s good at design or at least has an eye for it. Because, obviously, brand is a big deal. Well, okay, just like I have to hire somebody who has some visual aesthetic sense then if I’m a marketer without a big grasp of data, then I just hire for that. It’s not the end of the world.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, I agree. Since we’re speaking of weaknesses, mine is, operationally, I just I fight anytime I have to sit in a salesforce meeting or we go through flowcharts our Venn diagrams. I just get bored. I hate it. I’m not sure if I’m weak at it or I just don’t have the attention span for it. Like, I’ve never actually sat through and been patient enough to determine that.

But yeah, for me, it’s really important to have operationally-sound people around me. If I just have creative types around me, you know, everything’s a brilliant whiteboard session and then we all go and never execute on it, right?

Jenn Steele:  I can see that. Whereas, for me, I need to have ideas people around me because I am one of those just very driven people. And, okay, I will admit, I don’t love the detail, but I might kind of like flowcharts a little bit, but there are people who like detail. I’ll try to hire them when I can because I need them around me. But, if I left to my own devices, my marketing team will absolutely execute on absolutely everything and stay inside their little boxes because I need somebody who’s really an ideas person who can really push us to be wild and then it gets interesting.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, I think  people know where to fill-in based on their blind spots versus versus trying to force it. Well, if you’ve always been into data and, without looking at exactly when you started your career, I don’t think it’s been in the last five or six years, right? Talk about the shifting world, right? As you said, there’s another we didn’t really have data readily available to us. There was a lot of intuition and gut-marketing. When I started about 20 years ago, I remember my first boss said well we. I asked why we’re going to a certain trade show and I didn’t know enough to really ask the question on what kind of return did we get last year, I guess that’s what I was getting at.

But I was 22 and I had no idea that there was even such a thing as trying to measure ROI and the answer I got back was,” Well, if we don’t go to this event, people will think we’ve gone out of business.” And so that was our event strategy.

Jenn Steele:  And that’s still people’s event strategy.

Joe Hyland: It’s true, isn’t it? Isn’t it insane? I guess you’re right, I have perhaps — and a lot of this is just pervasive and it hasn’t left the space — but, I don’t know, perhaps that is the logic that some people still hold — but there’s a shitload of data out there. So I’d love to hear from your perspective as as a self-proclaimed data nerd and junkie how your world has changed in the last 20 years in terms of analyzing like the ins and outs of marketing.

Jenn Steele: So I haven’t have the most traditional career path as a CMO. In fact, I had over a decade of Information Technology experience and I used to be more in the CIO realm. I ran I.T. departments at law firms.

Joe Hyland: Okay, I did I did not know this. Do tell, this is fascinating.

Jenn Steele: So that’s what I did shortly out of college because it was that time when anybody could trip and fall and get into technology. And I ended up in my late twenties being the head of IT departments at law firms.

Joe Hyland: Seriously?

Jenn Steele: Yeah, absolutely.

Joe Hyland: Wow.

Jenn Steele: Absolutely, I used to be able to recover an exchange server.

Joe Hyland: Okay, I don’t even know what that means, so there we go.

Jenn Steele:  Email. But my first situation analyses — where you go in and you plan, etcetera — had more to do with servers and systems and Citrix than they had to do with clicks and click conversions. And I started getting really into social media.

Joe Hyland: Okay, and your singer still working in it at the time.

Jenn Steele: I was still in I.T. at the time. Actually, I picked up an MBA in there. Marketing classes were actually my worst classes.

Joe Hyland: Interesting, okay.

Jenn Steele: You call this CMO confessions, here we go.

Joe Hyland: Yeah. No, I like it. This is great.

Jenn Steele: And my MBA concentrated in leadership, specifically. I burned out of I.T. and law firms and I called up my career office and she’s like, “You got to talk to this, it’s a brand new company, it’s called HubSpot.”

Joe Hyland: Really?

Jenn Steele:  And I was employee number 90 at HubSpot and they hired me, a former head of I.T., they hired me to be an inbound marketing consultant and tell hundreds of other marketers how to do inbound marketing.

Joe Hyland:  Makes sense, makes sense given your experience at that time. Sure.

Jenn Steele: I can speak authoritatively about basically anything, it turns out.

Joe Hyland: Hey, you took a leadership class, so you were you were ready. You ready to tell someone in an authoritative tone what to do you just needed to figure out what it should be.

Jenn Steele: Absolutely. So, and obviously it was easy for me to rise into a management roles there and etcetera. But my first exposure to the data world — well, I started working at a company full of other MIT alums and that was very, very data-driven. But here we were evangelizing to SMBs. We were evangelizing the worth and value of data. So, I was talking to people who were in their 50s who had spent their entire lives in, shall I call it traditional marketing, right? You know, arts and crafts friends and brand and buzz and they were subject matter experts thing on everything. They just didn’t know this internet thing and they knew that they needed to deal with this internet thing. So my exposure to the big switch was more by being a change agent in the environment than it was by going through it myself.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, that must have been super exciting. What was it like early days at HubSpot? You’re creating a market, right? Did you even — I guess I’m asking a lot of questions and not  letting you answer — did you even have the notion of inbound marketing at the time when you joined?

Jenn Steele: So, I mean, we made up the term.

Joe Hyland:  Sure, I mean, early but you didn’t have it right at the start right?

Jenn Steele: When I started they were already using inbound marketing. It’s like shortly after I started the inbound marketing book came out. So they were using it, and nobody else had ever heard of the term, but we were certainly using it inside HubSpot. And, what was it? Get found using social media and blogs. I think that was one of the big taglines. Oh, Goole, social media and blogs that was it, right?

Joe Hyland: Yeah. I hear I think  so many companies, not just marketers, but companies, point to — and I think it’s a dangerous thing to do — but will point to HubSpot as as the quintessential example of creating a category. So, now everyone wants to do it. Right? No, no one wants to be what they actually are. Everyone’s trying to create a category.

Jenn Steele:  Seriously, and I’ve been hired at least three times to do that and I have convinced three different companies that it was dumb.

Joe Hyland: Yeah. Well, I think authenticity is so important and it’s perhaps difficult to tell when someone’s being authentic, but it’s really easy to tell when someone’s being inauthentic. Like, we can sniff out bullshit pretty quickly. And I think that’s what that’s what a lot of companies do with these category creation goals and initiatives. They try to create something that shouldn’t really exist and doesn’t exist in —  it’s just from their own perspective. So so you’ve been successful in talking CEOs or companies out of doing that?

Jenn Steele: In some cases, yes.So, martech, when I left it — so I went from HubSpot to Amazon and I’ll call that leaving martech — martech when I left it had fewer than a thousand companies in the infamous landscape, right? I came back and I’m like, “What the hell happened while I was gone?”

Joe Hyland:  It’s out of control.

Jenn Steele: It went from 500 to 5,000 and I was gone for, oh gosh, what was it? I was only gone for five or  six years. I’m like, in six years, we got 10x the number of martech companies.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, well, I mean I live in the land of where they all exist. I’m in San Francisco,  you bump into someone on the streets and the likelihood of them working for a martech company is quite high — doing things that don’t really make sense, truthfully.

Jenn Steele: So many of them are apps. They’re really, like, they’re features or they’re apps — they’re not products.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, or they’re not really meant to be standalone companies. And I’m not trying to call anyone out, but they raise money with the sole intent of being acquired within hopefully three or four years, right? That’s kind of a dangerous business model.

Jenn Steele: It is, it is although when most of the money these days is private rather than public I can almost see that as an okay exit exit strategy, but let’s just say that I’m not really attracted to that kind of company.

Joe Hyland: No, same. If you keep you can’t if you can’t explain the business model or how you make money or add value to your customers in 30 seconds, there’s probably a problem.

Jenn Steele: True, and that’s probably why half the martech companies sound exactly the same.

Joe Hyland: They do, right? They do. Well, so there’s the I mean, there’s only so many adjectives and descriptors for giving space, right? So, I mean like they’re like there’s a lot of Engagement overlap, I’ll tell you that much.

Jenn Steele:  And we’re all like Lemmings. It’s like engagements the new thing. Oh, and now we’re all revenue marketers. Let’s all run over there. And now let’s make sure we write that on our website. I mean, it’s so frustrating to try to differentiate yourself. At my last company, bizible, we knew we were the best, we also knew that our competitors said the same damn thing we would every single damn time.

Joe Hyland: Yeah. Sadly, I will look at my own website, or our own website, and I can go to 10 other companies and it’s hard to tell the difference. I don’t think we’re copying anyone but you know, again, there’s just only so many descriptors out there and, before you know, it you’re not differentiated and you’re ultimately you’re all Lemmings — you’re just saying the exact same thing. It’s it is a crowded space.

Jenn Steele: It is and now I work at one of the 400 ABM platforms in the world.

Joe Hyland: So, I said this at the start, you started three weeks ago, right? You’re wrapping up week three.

Jenn Steele: Yes, this is the last day of week three I started August 6th or something, yeah.

Joe Hyland: I said this to you when we first spoke, but starting at a new company is exciting. One of the things I love most about marketing is just problem solving, right? That’s what I ultimately think marketing is. You have a thesis, you have a market, hopefully, and there is hopefully a challenge or a problem in that marketing — what’s the best way to align those those two or three things?

So I’m, in some ways, envious of what you’re going through right now just because I think intellectually it’s just exciting. Do you have a blueprint or a philosophy for how you started a new organization or if you look at everyone like a snowflake and it’s completely different

Jenn Steele: So, I should have a blueprint. Or, well, okay, I am developing more of a blueprint philosophy as I go.

Joe Hyland: But it gets dangerous because they’re all different — sorry to interject — every company is different, right? So I’ve seen people come in with a playbook and it’s like, “Dude, that may have worked somewhere else,” like it’s a different problem and it’s a different market.

Jenn Steele: Well, I mean a playbook — there was exactly one marketing thing that was paramount in my mind when I started at Madison Logic and that was, “I have to buy Bizible.” Data I have and not just because I loved the company and I came from Bizible, but because in my time at Bizible I realized there was no way on Earth I could execute, again, data-driven marketing without what I consider to be the best data platform for attribution in the world.

Joe Hyland: Sure.

Jenn Steele: I swear I’m not saying that just because I used to work there. But what I actually did is — I so I’ve tried, actually, several different executive onboarding methodologies — I’ve on-boarded as an executive in two different industries, now in two different very careers in both I.T. and in marketing. So I’ve tried the first 90 days, and, this time, I’ve tried the first hundred days playbook. I can send you the reference later, if you’d like it, and a lot of what they had is it’s not about my marketing plan is going to be X and Y and Z, it’s about what are my milestone dates? Who do I need to talk to before I start? What do I need to do before I come in? And how am I going to execute the sponge period, right? Where I have to basically sit there and listen to people and talk to them until my eyes glaze over and I’m exhausted every night because I’m just trying to onboard all of the information all at one time?

And, of course, for me, working at a New York company and being in Seattle that meant two weeks in New York and then back to Seattle.

Joe Hyland: So, this is your first week back in Seattle since you started, okay.

Jenn Steele: Yes, so and I spent about a quarter of my time in New Yorker. I’m going to but in luckily I’m from the east coast of the snow is not going to kill me. But, fundamentally, it’s all about, “What are what are the Milestones?” So, I went and I attempted to be a sponge and then, on the plane flight back on Friday, I started building a functional organization of what I thought a successful marketing team at Madison Logic would look like. And, then, I have spent a lot of this week trying to tell people to just hang on a second — because I have made the mistake of coming on board and not taking a moment to plan, but instead actually jumping in on all the problems. And, like you, I’m a big problem solver, it’s something I’m super passionate about and it’s something I’m trained to do and you can make an immediate impact. So, I’m, right now, trying to balance. Yes, I want to get some quick wins and solve some problems, but I can get buried in that and not do the really big important stuff and lay out a roadmap and lay out a budget in order to make sure that Madison Logic succeeds.

Because I don’t want to simply solve problems and solve them and solve them and solve them and make little incremental steps.I want to say, “Okay, we’re here, I want to 10x our revenue over the next 10 years. How do I get there?” And without without taking that time to plan — and I’m not a big, “let me take time and go think of something,” I am far more of a, “let’s just get it done” person. But without actually very consciously taking the time to plan I know that we’d actually move slower and not faster.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, and now how mature is the organization, one, and, two, how mature is the marketing team?

Jenn Steele: So Madison Logics actually been around for a while — 2005, I believe. It was acquired by private equity in 2016. And so it’s not it’s not a start-up. Yeah. It’s about a hundred and twenty people but, and what I love about it, is that we’ve got major presence in the enterprise. And, unlike most other martech companies that are trying to go from mid-market to Enterprise, we actually just put out a SaSS product to take us down into mid-market.

Joe Hyland: That’s cool.

Jenn Steele: So, I think that’s a huge amount of fun, because, of course, I’ve spent the last several jobs being like “Enterprise, enterprise, enterprise — I get it, I get it, I get it. That’s why you’ve hired me, yes. I’ve done it and here I am.” Instead, I’m like, “Okay I can start here and then mid-market,” it’s scalability and it’s a little bit more interesting, at least for me, to not try and be going after the same five decision-makers every other martech CMO is going after right now.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, I know, it’s crowded.

Jenn Steele: It’s so crowded. The second part of your question was how mature is the marketing org? So, the marketing org is tiny. There’s only two people in there and really they’re just content creators. There’s three now, with me, and so I am effectively starting with the good content foundation and otherwise a blank slate. So it’s it’s fun.

Joe Hyland: It’s exciting. It’s interesting. So, I’ll compare it to when I started at my last company — it was a true startup — we had, trying to think of how many employees there were at the time,  about 25 or 30 I forget the exact number employee that I was. When you have a HubSpot-like exit you remember the exact number, when you don’t you can round to within five.

Jenn Steele: I think I’m one of about 10 to 15 people who claim employee number 90. I heard that Kipp, HubSpot’s CMO, claims 90. I’m like, I remember when Kipp started — he was not number 90.

Joe Hyland: That’s funny. I had Kipp on our podcast a couple of months ago. I wish the order had been reversed so I could have asked him that. So, I yeah, I was whatever, 25th or 30th employee. So, we had no infrastructure. We had under a million dollars in revenue. We were the definition of get shit done. We had no choice we had six months of cash by design. So there was no like, “Joe take 90 days. Let’s have a grandiose marketing plan. Let’s do you know to to five-year planning.” Fuck that, there was none of that. It was, “How do we get more? We have a hundred people to the next webinar. Do you have an idea for how we get 500 people?” And that was like my first project.

And anyway, I say that because — and while we did get shit done, I remember, I don’t know, four or six weeks — and so a couple weeks from now for you, I looked at my marketing plan and it was all tactics. And I was disappointed in myself, right? I’d it was a slippery slope that I didn’t mean to slide down but because there so much change that needs to happen right then that I didn’t have the luxury of drawing out a real plan. So, I carved out about three hours a week. It was less than half a day, I remember it like it was yesterday, to just do planning. And I would just go off by myself, there was really no team, I had one other person. And I just did long-term planning. And then the other 60 or 70 hours a week were tactics, which were important to us at the time. When I started at ON24, we had been around since 2001. We were profitable, we had over a thousand customers. So, while there were things that I wanted to change immediately, there was already existing team in place like operations were already set up. So, instead, I had much more of a traditional onboarding. Which, for me helped, because I could put in the proper structure and foundation. But you don’t always get that luxury.

It would be interesting. I don’t know if I would do it differently at a startup. I don’t know if I would actually put in the proper foundation because I didn’t know what I didn’t know — it was an industry. Had I taken the time to put in a ninety or a hundred and eighty day plan, I think I probably would have changed anyway.

Jenn Steele: Well, I mean, any plan only last for me about as long as it takes me to present it, fix it and send it back out again, but realize I’m not taking forever to plan — I’ve got a draft of it right now that just has, “Okay here are big challenges, here’s the values of the marketing team should strive for etcetera,” but also, “and here’s the tactics for my next 18 months and I budget please.” And the answer for 2018. I’m pretty sure, is going to be “no” at least they let me buy Bizible. So, and in 2019, it’s going to be “we’ll talk about it.”

But I think that most of us end up somewhere in the middle between, and I also think that our definition of strategy versus tactics gets a little weird and funky sometimes, too. We throw around the words a lot and it’s like, “Well is strategy just a bundle of tactics or is it just a problem statement you’re trying to solve or what is that again?”

You know, we’re all so fuzzy on what the word “strategy” means that I can claim to be strategic, I’m still not sure exactly what it is.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, I appreciate the honesty. I also like the fact that tactic for some reason has become a four-letter word for many marketers, right?

Jenn Steele: It’s just a tactic.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, I mean that is kind of like everything we do ultimately is a tactic, right? That’s what you and I are doing right now. “Oh we just want to be strategic,” like I don’t actually want to talk on a podcast, right? No, that’s tactical.

Jenn Steele: Yeah.

Joe Hyland: So, you started after your —first of all that’s amazing, I’ve spoken to no one who’s had such a major career shift before they turn 30.

Jenn Steele: Well, that was not before I turned 30 just so … I spent over a decade in I.T. and I did graduate from college so you can do some math there.

Joe Hyland: Okay, so you didn’t start an it when you were 14, got it. Okay, well, so you started in marketing and martech. I did not. I had about 15 years in marketing before my first job in martech and I was really excited. I thought, man, marketing to marketers will be amazing, which it is. I love that part of the job. What I…to say, I hate it would be too strong of a word… I strongly dislike this quid pro quo nature that exists amongst many, many marketers where it’s just a whole bunch of people buying each other’s technology versus actually trying to solve a problem and help accomplish something.

Jenn Steele: I mean, what do you mean, Madison Logic is ON24 customer, are you not a Madison Logic customer?

Joe Hyland: Exactly, we should work on that. Did I say I hate it? I meant I love it.

Jenn Steele: Okay. There we go. I’m with you. I’m like, do we only sell to martech companies.

Joe Hyland: Its feels yeah, it feels like a bit of an echo chamber and its really and for you with Madison Logic — I don’t think it’s as bad in New York. I mean, it’s a real problem in San Francisco where you’re really just not talking to other martech providers. I don’t actually think that’s a way to build a winning business. So, you’ve only been at Madison Logic for three weeks, and it was a long time ago that you were at HubSpot, I’d be curious to get your perspective on how B2B Marketing in the martech space has changed in the last decade there.

Jenn Steele: Remember, I did go from Bizible to Madison logic. So, I have spent the last year in martech. I think I was telling you before the podcast that I was actually really relieved to get back into martech. Like, it’s a really fun space to me — marketing to marketers.

I’m a no-bullshit person and that I love the fact that like we just have to be honest with each other because we’re probably going to hire each other for our next jobs or something like that, right? Or we’re gonna help each other get to quota or whatever that is, or I’m going to copy your wet messaging not saying that I’m actually going to do that, but somebody will someday.

I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten what question you asked me.

Joe Hyland: Yes. It’s what it’s like being in martech. So, you’re right. You and I, probably more so than most people, we try to be brutally honest — we have been in this half an hour. I don’t think marketers in martech are, I think there’s a lot of bullshit just being served up to each other.

Jenn Steele: My favorite is the list that we keep giving each other awards.

Joe Hyland: Yes.

Jenn Steele: Yes, and I haven’t managed to find my way onto any of those listed. I’m not sure whether I should be relieved or offended.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, well it means you’re not paying someone enough money.

Jenn Steele: Oh, darn, so that’s the problem.

Joe Hyland: Someone who used to work for me got on a 30-under-30 or 40-under-40 list by one of our vendors who we paid the most — it was vendor we paid a lot of money to. And it was really nice for him and I was happy for this guy, but it was like, “Man, this is so silly. Do people really see what’s happening here?”

Jenn Steele: Oh, yeah, it’s like nominations are open for this and that and next thing. It’s like the 43 people who are “blah.”  I’ll bet you a quarter it’s all 43 people who got nominated and I’ll bet at least 20 of those are prospects and the other 23 are customers.

Joe Hyland: Yeah. So, what’s exciting for me and what I love is I can get on the phone with someone like you and just geek out on marketing. I love that. In my last space we sold to procurement and treasury — and while I was capable of talking about financial arbitrage and working capital, it wasn’t exactly something I was passionate about, right? That was work for me.

We’re talking marketing, which is not. That part of it I love — I could just do without some of the veneer that exist within the space, I guess.

Jenn Steele: We do. Yeah, we believe a lot of our own BS.

Joe Hyland: Yeah. I know. I think it’s dangerous when you start reading your own press clipping, so.

Okay, cool. Well, this just felt like it was five minutes. We’re at the were bottom of the hour.

Jenn Steele: Yeah,

Joe Hyland: I know Superfast right? Well, this has been amazing. I am excited to hear what happens in week four for you at Madison Logic. So, please, please, keep us in the loop. I would love it. If you sent if you don’t mind sending me the first hundred day playbook. I’ll include it below the this recording so people can check it out and I haven’t actually seen it myself. So I’d love to see it as well.

Jenn Steele: Absolutely will do.

Joe Hyland: Awesome, Jenn. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Jenn Steele: Thanks for having me. This was fun.

Get your #webinerd on – All Hail the Rise of the Webinar!

By Paula Morris, Senior Director, Pi Marketing Solutions

This article was originally published on Syndicated with permission.

Picture the scene … on a surprisingly warm and pleasant autumnal day in central London a room full of almost 400 B2B marketers were spending the day talking about webinars! ‘Surely it isn’t possible to fill a full day just talking about webinars!’ I hear you cry but as ON24’s global #WebinarWorld event came to London last week that’s exactly what happened!

And as Mark Bornstein, ON24’s Chief Webinerd (more on #webinerd later) mentioned in the opening address it really is time that we aren’t shocked about this anymore as the rise of ‘The Webinar’ in the B2B marketing space is truly upon us.

We are all trying to grab people’s attention in a very noisy and crowded space but, if used creatively and effectively, webinars can become a critical part of your marketing outreach allowing you to drive significant engagement not only within your account-based marketing activity but also within a larger target audience or segment.

As we continue to learn and analyse our prospects and customers digital body language the more we understand that these days the buyer journey isn’t necessarily linear, and that we can’t control at what stage of the buyer journey certain types of content are consumed. And this is where webinars come in to play…..buyers now want to receive content on their terms, on their time and in any order. People want to view easy to digest material when and where they want.

During the opening session at #WebinarWorld London the audience were asked: ‘How many of you have downloaded a whitepaper in the last 6 months?’ – the result, a few half-raised hands, however we are all pre-disposed into thinking that this is the type of content that we should be producing. Yes static white papers have their place but a webinar can bring them to life by turning traditionally passive content into rich media interactive experiences. For example a quick 10 minute webinar on the ‘Top 3 Findings’ of said industry white paper is a perfect webinar for a C-level audience to consume whilst at an airport lounge, or a more in depth 3 part series could be created for those subject matter experts – the key point is that ‘the webinar’ is now an essential part of our marketing mix and a fundamental medium that should be leveraged across all marketing activity and not used as a tactic in isolation. Therefore, if done well, it really is a case of ‘build it and they will come’ – but only if relevancy and authenticity are achieved.

And so on to the notion of the #webinerd (Web-i-nerd web-e-nərd noun: a person who loves webinars so much they made an urban dictionary definition). An official rallying cry was sent out to all the attendees of WebinarWorld to join the #webinerd movement and by judging by the length of the queue for the complimentary #webinerd branded t-shirts (which incidentally were printed with your choice of colour before your very eyes leaving Joel Harrison, Editor-in-chief at B2B Marketing almost lost for words) social media was awash with pictures of attendees donning their new attire declaring that they ‘have now got their #webinerd on’ – it is safe to say that the modern #webinerd is not shy about stepping forward to declare their inner marketing geek.

With great content presented, shared and discussed in the Genius, Best Practices and Execution theatres it was more than apparent that this is an area of marketing that deserves the focus of a dedicated event. The future leaning, thought provoking and insightful content really highlighted how impactful a well-executed webinar programme can be in delivering a wealth of customer insights and actionable data.

So if you are looking at how to drive customer engagement with scale, come join the #webinerd movement……the only decision you now need to make is whether you want a blue, green, red or purple #webinerd logo on your t-shirt!

About the Author

With over 20 years B2B marketing experience Paula has a proven track record of leading successful strategic marketing campaigns in the enterprise ICT space. With a focus on delivering ROI her experience includes developing and aligning marketing strategy, full persona and solution based programme delivery, behavioural based nurture programmes and leading successful teams across a broad range of projects.

Twitter: @pmorris_99


5 Ways to Make ABM About Your Audience, Not Automation

This article was originally on  

There’s no doubt that ABM is the most buzzed-about “trend” in marketing today. Despite the hype, ABM isn’t really all that new. Sure, ABM provides better tactics and technologies to reach your named accounts, but once you get to them, you still must meaningfully engage with the people inside those accounts.

Marketers can’t rest on their laurels just because they are “doing ABM” in some way, shape or form. Instead, marketers need to consider how to take ABM’s principles of demand generation at scale, and then apply personalization and engagement strategies to really connect to the important people within target accounts.

Here are five considerations for how to put your audience at the center of your ABM campaigns:

1) Have A High-Value Offer

At the core of ABM is empathy — you must truly understand your audience. Because no matter how you reach an account, you still need a high enough value offer that connects with the people inside it.

You must also consider the content and messages you’re sending in relation to who they are going to. Do you really think they will pay off? If you have truly empathized with people — have been able to get inside their heads and effectively market and appeal to them — the answer will be yes.

In practical terms, the output cannot be creating 100 different white papers for target accounts; clearly, that’s not scalable. But you can make dynamic content that can be adapted at an industry or use-case level that will address the main pain points of your audience.

Marketers should work with subject-matter experts within their organization to understand how to make content specific to a use case or industry. By creating content that speaks to the trends that are hot in a specific space or executive buyer role, marketers can ensure the content will speak to the target audience. This approach is both scalable and effective.

2) Choose Vocabulary Carefully

The slippery slope that results in getting personalization wrong can start with not choosing language carefully. In many cases, marketers may think they are being effective at personalizing content for their target audience, when really the language they are using makes them sound generic.

In addition, the way one company in a certain industry might talk about their buying funnel could take on a completely different vocabulary to a competitor. Marketing can stick out like a sore thumb if the language used in the content you send people is misaligned with how they talk about the topic.

Language matters, and the best step marketers can take in choosing the right vocabulary is to pick the brain of the sales people who speak regularly with those target companies and have them advise you on their internal lingo.

3) Personalize Interactivity

Another mistake marketers can fall victim to is swapping a target company’s logo out on a piece of content and considering it “personalized.” Taking the logo shortcut to ABM is a very slippery slope, and one that often screams, “I don’t know you at all,” especially when nothing else on the page feels personal.

Rather than warn prospects you’re faking it with a logo, you should welcome them with a personalized message through a dynamic chatbot or interactive online poll that starts a dialogue and then gets passed to a human to handle for a genuine conversation.

Beginning a customer’s journey with an earnest attempt to understand who they are and what they need is much better than telling them you have their company IP address in your database. Any marketer can do that with the right amount of technology spend — it’s the companies who start to put engagement on their buyers’ terms through personalized, dynamic interactions that differentiate.

4) Create Feedback Loops

Once you have a high-value offer and personalized language and interactivity, the next step is to create a feedback loop on the content you send as fuel to further personalize future interactions. A feedback loop allows marketing and sales to glean actionable insights around individuals, rather than just at the account level.

High-value content allows your audience to self-identify the best individual prospects within your target accounts. From there, it becomes important to look at how these people are reacting to specific aspects of your content to determine how to improve and personalize future pieces in a format designed just for them. For example, if they spent the most time on a part of your guide that will be discussed in an upcoming webinar, a logical next step is to invite them to the upcoming session.

Be open to how people choose to define themselves, i.e., by their industry or by their role. Optimize the feedback loop by peppering content with opportunities for self-identification, such as short surveys.

5) Incorporate Quality-Driven Metrics Into Scoring

Many marketers use only quantity-driven metrics in their scoring. When you put your audience at the center of your ABM campaigns, however, you prescribe to quality. So, why would you measure quantity?

It’s time to bring in new metrics. On a webinar, for example, it’s important not to look at the number of total attendees, but how many are on your named account list. For a product page, impressions and page views are less meaningful than depth of consumption and how qualified the people viewing the page are.

Marketers should look to replace outdated KPIs such as number of net new leads with KPIs around behavioral intelligence. Key behavioral intelligence metrics include the amount of time spent on content and the score of the feedback given (because if you have a high value and relevant offer that’s personalized, people should be engaging back with you).

Today, there are too many startups and worthy competitors that will address your audience’s pain points in the right way if you don’t. Savvy marketers can’t afford to use ABM for automation only; it’s time to make ABM all about the audience.

How ON24’s Bryn Powell Balances Personalization and Scale for ABM

It’s getting to be late September, the temperature’s dropping and the technology community is abuzz. We’re getting close to Salesforce’s annual conference, Dreamforce. There are sessions, panels and a small assembly of events and gatherings taking place in association with the convention and we’ll be at a few of them.

One such event, the B2B Champions Club, running from September 25th to the 27, offers attendees the opportunity to take a closer look at what a full-fledged customer view can do for marketing efforts. Our own Bryn Powell, Senior Marketing Manager of Global Programs at ON24, will speak at the gathering on Thursday, September 27. Her topic of choice? Account-based marketing and how to balance personalization with scale. It’s a topic that’s close to our hearts as members of the ABM Leadership Alliance.

We sat down with Bryn to talk about her session. What follows is a brief Q&A edited for clarity.


What will you be speaking on at the B2B Champions Club?


I’ll be speaking on a challenge I face personally in my role, which is how to balance personalization and scale when it comes to developing an ABM strategy.


What does that entail? What are we talking about when it comes to personalization at scale?


ABM is clearly a buzzword and I think all companies are trying to implement ABM strategies into their demand-gen mix. One of the challenges I found, as a marketer, is really being able to scale ABM. I think that’s a shared challenge for marketers.

One of the biggest decisions you have to make is how personalized do you make your content so that it’s still scalable. So it’s really finding that balancing act between how personalized you get with content while still having the resourcing and bandwidth to support programs.

In my session, I’ll be digging through some of my strategies as a marketer — particularly on what I’ve found and how I’ve been able to find a balance, even though it’s always a work in progress.

I’ll be sharing examples of how I’m finding that balance with my top accounts and my strategy there through the lens of our webcasting ABM strategy. I will be covering a few of my own case studies focusing on how I use webinars to actually provide that engagement and what I do to personalize that content to make relevant and high-value offers for our prospects and customers.


How does one scale from an individual, personalized level to a larger scale?


Our view, especially at ON24, is not only making it about the account but also the audience – to really get down to that granular level. At the point where you’re doing one-to-one ABM, that is not scalable, and that’s why you have to have a true understanding of your audience, not just the account. For one-to-one, you need to understand who you’re genuinely trying to resonate with.

From there, after one-to-one, I’ll go through how we’re slightly personalizing and making relevant content for key accounts and key users. We’ll find those aspects you can personalize verses what can be scalable. Lastly, we’ll take a look at the groups, or personas, that B2B marketers are targeting and break it down into subgroups either by industry, vertical, persona, use case — we’re looking at being able to speak to the audience and providing them with a high-value offer.

So, it’s really about finding that balance between what you need to customize completely versus what you’re able to group and bucket and create relevant content for the program at a more scalable rate.


Can you walk us through the basics of creating a personalize webcast or ABM program?


Yeah. So, there are a couple key things that go into my ABM strategy. You need to have that high-value offer, but to have that high-value offer you must truly understand your audience. So you need to know what’s going to resonate with them and — oftentimes this is the challenge — understanding which content will matter most to them.

So actually, you need to use your ABM strategies as well as a feedback loop to make sure that your content is resonating — that either the account you’re going after or the persona you’re going after is engaging with your content. You will also need to work with sales to get a deeper and closer look at the account. This is often, sometimes, overlooked in marketing. We can’t be as close necessarily to all of our prospect or customer accounts. So it really pays to leverage sales insights as well in this.

The other piece that’s important when looking at personalizing is understanding the vocabulary you use. It’s not just changing a logo or changing a company name but actually using their language in your content. If you are using account-specific marketing in that one-to-one, highly personalized program, you want to make sure you’re using the buzzwords and keywords that resonate with them, whether that be the key product launches they’re going after, the key metrics that they use. We have even tailored some of our messaging knowing our accounts buyer journey and how they classify their own marketing funnel.


What about connecting at the vertical level?


When you’re getting down to vertical level, it’s important to use the jargon that the industry resonates with. If you’re looking at a financial services company, they may not speak about prospects and customers. Instead, they may speak about potential clients and existing clients. It’s small things like this, I think, that make your audience more engaged with what you’re saying and be able to actually connect with your messaging.

I also think that it helps show that you are more credible in the space. I do attempt to find that balance in my marketing efforts with company jargon, account-based jargon but then also making sure that you’re speaking to the vocabulary of an industry or a subset of personas as well.

If you are using personas, such as product marketing versus customer marketing, there’s going to be different keywords that resonate with those folks and different KPIs that they’re looking for and ultimately you’re trying to help your customers or prospects achieve their business goals. So, really speaking to that from the upfront is key.


How important is it to, and how closely should you, work with sales for ABM efforts?


I work with sales extremely close. This is definitely key in developing your initial ABM targeting and understanding which accounts are a priority. It’s a balance between what sales wants provided with really actionable data from the get-go as well as continuously kind of checking in on that data. You need to make sure that the priority accounts are still aligned and that we are seeing results from a personalized approach to these accounts. But definitely leveraging the relationships that sales has with the customer accounts or prospect accounts is critical.


Last question. Are there any trends you’re seeing or anticipating in the ABM space?


I think for the last few years the focus of ABM has really been on tools and technologies to automate a lot of ABM. And I actually foresee a shift focusing back on the audience member and not necessarily the automation that’s in place.I think as folks really ramp up and understand personalized marketing more, we’re going to see a shift kind of away from a fully automated ABM program and back to a human focus.

In my eyes, I would say marketers have been focused on identifying who our ABM targets are and how to reach our named accounts. I think a lot of the trends in the ABM space have been focused on sort of that up-front of who should we be going after and how do we get in front of them.

What hasn’t been the focus thus far is the content and what messages you’re really reaching them with. And I actually foresee that being kind of the next step in the ABM journey. Putting the focus back on how are you actually interacting with these folks rather than just understanding who they are and driving them in. It’s now going to be about how you’re actually interacting. I also think there is going to be a shift on the individuals and less spray-and-pray of full accounts. So, really, taking ABM past just the account name and really to the targeted person in your persona.

Webinerd to Watch: NASA

It’s no surprise that NASA is on the cutting edge. From exploring the far reaches of our solar system to putting men on the moon to exploring Mars’ surface, NASA’s fingerprints and footprints are literally everywhere.

But one area you might not expect them to be leading the way is in leveraging innovative marketing and technology solutions. After all, they are still a government operation, right? And most government operations aren’t exactly, ahem, synonymous with technology and innovation.

But skeptics of the organization’s technology prowess (at least here on Earth) were recently proved wrong. That’s because NASA hosted their annual Virtual Career Summit through the ON24 platform, providing insights into their range of scholarship, fellowship, and internship opportunities, and answering prospective applicants’ questions in real-time. NASA provided details on eligibility requirements, tips for the application process, and candid advice from previous awardees.

NASA did this by taking full advantage of ON24’s many unique interactive features in order to maximize the value of the career summit. The event had nearly 1,500 attendees who asked more than 1,000 questions, including via ON24’s live Q&A feature and through social media widgets that enabled questions to come from Facebook and Twitter.

While many webinar providers are simply white label templates, NASA leveraged ON24’s customizable features to create an engaging, NASA-branded audience console. NASA incorporated video content throughout, featuring subject matter experts who discussed the career options available at NASA. The webinar showcased alumni of their programs who spoke compellingly about the excitement and benefits of working for the most decorated space agency in the world, often over B-Roll footage. The webinar was also made available afterward for on-demand viewing.

All of us Earthlings could learn a thing or two from NASA’s approach. They leaned heavily on interactive features to make the webinar feel personal, even with thousands of participants. They took the time to customize an appealing interface. And they used webinars in a unique way — for a career summit. For all of us who are strictly using webinars to educate potential buyers, we should take a step back and ask ourselves the different ways we might be able to incorporate webinars into other campaigns. Clearly, in many ways, NASA webinars are out of this world.

Want to learn more about how you can make your webinars astronomical? Check out our Webinar Best Practices Series for the latest tips and tricks to maximize your marketing ROI.