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CMO Confessions Ep. 38: Dan Frohnen of Sendoso

January 28th, 2021 Andrea Bartman

Welcome back to another episode of CMO Confessions, our B2B podcast with the top leaders in marketing and sales today. Today’s CMO Confessions features Dan Frohnen, Chief Marketing Officer at Sendoso.

In today’s episode, Dan and Cheri Keith, Head of Strategy and Research at ON24, discuss Dan’s experience being a client of Sendoso before joining the company, developing consumer empathy during the pandemic and B2C marketing trends that we might see in B2B.

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

You can learn more about Dan’s background and career path through his LinkedIn page here and Twitter feed here.

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

Welcome to another CMO Confessions podcast!

Table of Contents: 

From Music Publishing to Sendoso
The Client Perspective
The Art of Working Remotely on a Team
Data-Driven Marketing
Ideation Without Execution
The Key to Execution
B2C Trends for B2B Marketing

Transcript

Cheri Keith:

Hello and welcome to CMO Confessions, the B2B marketing and sales podcast, where I speak with amazing guests about what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Cheri Keith, Head of Strategy and Research at ON24. On today’s episode, I am really excited to have Dan Frohnen from Sendoso onboard. Dan, thanks for joining today.

Dan Frohnen:

Thanks so much for having me, Cheri. I really appreciate it.

From Music Publishing to Sendoso

Cheri Keith:

Of course. So, I like to start these interviews by asking you about your background, where you started and what led you to your CMO role?

Dan Frohnen:

It’s an interesting background. I didn’t come from the tech industry. I spent the first 10 years of my career in the music industry in music publishing and that’s where I learned a ton about just general business. I was an editor. I was in our consumer marketing department. I was in our B2B marketing department. We sold direct to consumers as well as through retailers like guitar center, Walmart and Target and online through Amazon. And then I ultimately headed up the entire marketing org.

When I was there, I developed this really deep passion for multi-channel marketing, which then became integrated marketing then omni-channel and whatever you want to call it, right? And then equally developed a passion for the technology that I was implementing for the company. And when I saw the opportunity to kind of try something new, I wanted to go work for startups.

I wanted to go work in tech. I wanted to be a part of the magic that is new technology working with teams that are just super ambitious and looking to run fast and break the mold and conquer the world. I’ve been very fortunate to work with a lot of great teams and some really cool companies. I was a customer of Sendoso at my last company and when they came knocking, I answered the call and here we are. I’ve just been having a blast doing it.

Cheri Keith:

That’s awesome. I love the commentary about the speed of startups and tech. And it’s funny because that’s something that I love as well. I just like having multiple clients though. So, I’ve always been in that service world almost. It’s funny, some people will ask if it’s like the HBO show Silicon Valley. If that’s what it’s really like. We have to kind of be like, “Well, yes, but no, but maybe sometimes. It’s not as glamorous.”

Dan Frohnen:

Exactly.

The Client Perspective

Cheri Keith:

But I wanted to actually go back to the last portion that you mentioned about being a client before joining the company. Can you talk about that transition and then the potential advice you have for people who might be in that same standpoint?

Dan Frohnen:

Yeah, it’s interesting because when you’re a client of a company, you know all the good, bad and ugly, right? You know the reason why you brought a certain technology on your stack. You know the value that it brings, but you also know what their shortcomings are. You might know where they are in terms of like preference if you had to make cuts and all that fun stuff.

I really took that vantage point and really used it when I came in to help shape our messaging and what we’re doing in the future to really position ourselves against what I saw on the other side of the coin. And the interesting thing for anyone who’s using technology and potentially evaluating joining that company is you get to really experience the product-market fit and the technology in a way that you just wouldn’t get if you were joining a company where you’ve never learned the technology. So, it gives you great advantages because you actually know the product inside and out, and you also just know everything about it from a customer’s side. It’s actually a nice little superpower to have.

Cheri Keith:

That’s awesome. I love that story. It’s funny before I joined ON24, ON24 was a client of mine and that advisory role at Forrester and SiriusDecisions. So, to come on board and know that I used to spend all day fielding questions about ON24 and its competitors. Now I get to be inside and start to build a product that addresses what I heard from both sides of the table, what they were saying before, and then what I was hearing out in the field. So, it’s kind of funny though. It’s always the questions you get the like, “Well, what did you really think before you joined?” Did you get any of those things?

Dan Frohnen:

Yeah, for sure. Even during the interview process, I was very blunt about a few things that I thought and pointed those questions right at the people that were interviewing me and looking to hire me just because I think it’s important to be super transparent and give that point of view. Even internally now, when we’re talking about any kind of product roadmap or just any kind of exec theme that involves a customer, I always put on my customer hat. The interesting thing about Sendoso and ON24 is we can and should be using our own products. So, we are like one of our closest customers because we were using it on the daily, right? So, I always try to inject that back into the business as well.

Cheri Keith:

Yeah, it’s great. It’s such a different world marketing to marketers, right? I mean, I spend a fair amount of time, not in the music publishing industry, which sounds so incredibly cool and I am sure your Spotify playlists are way cooler than mine ever will be. But I spent time doing IT security marketing, and gosh, you want to talk about trying to market like white hat software approaches to people and just that whole world is so different than getting to the chance to market to yourself as a marketer. I would say the options for creativity and how you can push the boundaries. It feels like goes even further than if you were in a general technology industry.

Dan Frohnen:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

The Art of Working Remotely on a Team

Cheri Keith:

So, question for you and obviously acknowledging that we are in the middle of a work-from-home world. Can you talk about how that transition has been for you and your team?

Dan Frohnen:

Yeah, definitely. So, for me personally, I had experience. I worked remotely for a company for about a year and a half at one of my first VP of marketing gigs. And I really kind of understood the whole aspect of over-communicating making sure that you’re highly connected checking in probably more often than you would because you’re not walking by each other in the hallways seeing each other in conference rooms. So. there was that piece that I was able to feel comfortable in myself and then be able to kind of help my teams navigate that.

Then I think just by and large, like so many companies are actually tech-enabled to be able to do this, whether that’s Slack, whether that’s ON24, whether that’s whatever meeting platforms you have internally and externally. And it was a relatively seamless transition in terms of work and being able to function.

The bigger, more nuanced pieces have really been around the empathy that you need to start developing for your team members and yourself, quite frankly. I think especially as leaders we have to stop and we have to constantly reassess and gather our thoughts and make sure that we’re in the best headspace possible so that we can help our teams be in their best headspaces.

Then equally as important is to have that empathy for your customers and your prospects, because we all got jolted and put into this world together and that’s really been kind of, my underlying approach has been highly empathetic start with how are you doing in a really genuine way and how can I help you? And then the rest is up to product-market fit. It’s up to budgets. It’s up to a lot of other things, but it’s been a good transition. It’s been a hard transition, but I think it’s made all of us a lot better for it.

Cheri Keith:

I think we’ll never go back to complaining about office coffee ever again, once we all start getting back into it. I like the bit about empathy. I think it goes a long way and especially when you’re thinking about who you’re marketing to.

I’ve seen the funny infographics. It’s like, “Here’s how to fill out your new car commercial for the pandemic.” It’s like, “In these trying times or uncertain times.” And you pick a word and you can go all the way through it, but it really does take what you were saying going beyond just those taglines to actually understanding where buyers are.

It’s like, if you’re marketing to healthcare, it’s a very different world and a very busy industry versus industries that are cutting back right now. Your point about product-market fit certainly goes, but just understanding the buyers. It’s your [inaudible] that you used to market to all of a sudden get all of this additional work or are they scrambling to justify costs right now? And it can be really hard to forget that at the end of the day.

Dan Frohnen:

Yep.

Data-Driven Marketing

Cheri Keith:

So, to shift gears, once again, I’m curious, being someone who is in B2B marketing, marketing to marketers, what do you love about marketing today? Like what excites you? And then we’ll obviously get to the flip side and what your pet peeves are.

Dan Frohnen:

Yeah. I think the thing that excites me the most about this moment in time with marketing as is how data-driven we can be. Everything is just connected, and we know we have insights, whether it’s people and what they’re doing on our platform, people and what they’re doing on our university, people and how they’re consuming our content on our website, through our email, through ON24 when we do our virtual events and webinars. There’s just no shortage of those data points so it actually makes it a lot of fun for creativity because this data framework really fuels how you can go out and segment, how you can be as relevant and timely to your audiences as possible. It just makes for really fun, interesting and efficient programs.

So, to me, that’s the most exciting part about today. I mean, a lot of marketing can and should be gut because I think you take new ideas and your past experiences, but if you can take that and match it up against the data that you know and run that approach it’s a lot of fun. It’s just an amazing time to be a marketer with all of that.

Cheri Keith:

That’s an interesting point because I feel like the pendulum swung very far in one direction, maybe five to 10 years ago, just being all about only data. And I feel like we’ve seen a return [inaudible] at some of the research, SiriusDecisions does [inaudible] it used to be by [inaudible], not that those aren’t important anymore, but like brand and customer experience, weren’t even in the top eight for several years.

And now we’re starting to see those rise up again, which requires reinvestment in that area. It’s not something you can just turn on again. But I think also with more recurring revenue business models, you need to focus on customer experience if you’re a marketing leader. I get more and more questions like, “Alright, how do I relate the customer journey back to the buyer’s journey?” And things like that. But I think it goes to your point about being data-driven is important, but using your gut feel to figure out what else you could be doing differently will go a long way as well.

Dan Frohnen:

Yup. For sure.

Ideation Without Execution

Cheri Keith:

So you dodged the question about what’s a pet peeve you have about marketing right now.

Dan Frohnen:

A pet peeve of mine, and it’s actually been that way probably since the earliest parts of my career, is really like ideation is great. I think within marketing, anyone can be a marketer because anyone can come up with ideas. Ideas without execution is my pet peeve. If all we’re doing is ideating and we’re not taking the best ideas and pulling them down and putting them into a strategy or whatever it needs to be. I’d say that that’s something that irks me.

Cheri Keith:

So that’s not just necessarily about marketing. That’s probably like a work ethic and process perspective too, right?

Dan Frohnen:

For sure. Yeah. And I think that’s kind of been my approach. The earlier question about how I got to where I am is I think the job of a CMO is to do a lot of listening and a lot of people have ideas. It’s amazing to listen to ideas. Nine times out of 10, a program I’m crafting or whatever I’m helping to put together is actually a culmination of a lot of different ideas around people that you’re talking to, whether it’s customers, whether it’s advisors, whether it’s other execs, whether it’s board members, whatever it is, right? And hearing these recurring themes and these nuggets that actually kind of come together and make a very unique program or campaign.

I think that’s how you can get some of your best work by not being locked out of thinking about other people’s perspectives and being open to it. And then not caring whose idea it is. Because at the end of the day if 10 people came up with an idea and all of them feel like it was theirs, then guess what, they’re going to be the ones to champion it and promote it and get behind it. It actually makes you a lot stronger with your efforts.

Cheri Keith:

That’s great. I think it’s oftentimes overlooked the amount of listening that has to be done because I think what it also does is while those 10 people have those ideas, they all had different perspectives that they added to it. The person who comes up with it, who might be an account-based marketer is looking at it from a different perspective than someone who’s a field marketer. It’s like if you can compile that all together, you just add more [inaudible] to what you’re actually going to be putting out into market for people to respond to.

You mentioned people following through. That is a pet peeve of mine. I am very action-oriented and also insanely organized. Spreadsheets for life, spreadsheets for work, all of the things.

The Key to Execution

Do you have any tips for people who might struggle at that execution level sometimes? Or leaders who are looking to motivate their teams to go beyond the big idea and really follow it through?

Dan Frohnen:

Yeah, it’s really got to start with I’m a firm believer in either an MBO or an OKR framework where you’re setting those high-level goals on what you’re trying to achieve from a metric standpoint and then you’re cascading it down into what those individual projects are to get to those metrics. It’s not a perfect science and I think anyone who says it needs to go out and start a company and involve all of us, right?

The key thing is the balance of the amount of work you can take on versus what you can actually get done at the level of quality you need, right? And it’s a balance. It’s the art of good enough versus everything being too perfect because you don’t ship fast enough. Then making sure that you’re aligned to just those top priorities and that you have alignment across as many teams as possible and hopefully the entire company to know what those top priorities are.

Then from an actual tactical management standpoint, I’m a huge fan of project management platforms, like the Asanas of the world, where you can actually just go in and program out these programs and who’s responsible for what and have that as an accountability mechanism to drive everyone to the same result.

Cheri Keith:

Well, that also ends up freeing up time. I find on my teams, rather than having the people who are the task [inaudible] matters take away from the jobs they need to be doing in order to [inaudible]. You do things that can be automated through the Asanas, the Monday.com, Basecamp, whatever you’re going to be using.

I think it also changes the culture. I think when you do have people who end up being in charge of always hunting people down they not necessarily get the bad rap, but you just assume you’re in trouble when you see them showing up in your queue or when they’re nagging you via Slack or anything like that. And I don’t think it’s the best work culture when you can have that coming out of a system rather than a person. I feel like that can go a long way, too.

B2C Trends for B2B Marketing

Well, we have time for a few more questions here so I want to ask a little bit more of a light-hearted question. Are there any B2C marketing trends that you either hope to see in B2B or have at least piqued your interest, perhaps?

Dan Frohnen:

Gosh, when I think of B2C marketing trends I still think of if you’re watching Hulu and a commercial comes up. It knows my wife’s email address and her name because she’s connected to that device and it’s speaking directly to her with not necessarily the advertising, but the messaging on the side and trying to compel her to action. I think that’s a huge trend for us. The more we can get down to those micro audiences and think in terms of people versus logos, I think is a huge trigger for all of us.

I think the other piece is especially with business travel events and field marketing really not happening the way that it used to in-person, there’s this whole notion of everything going digital. And I think the next step here is large virtual events versus micro-targeted events where it might be five or 10 people versus, five, six, seven, 800 people and the how’s, and why’s around that. It’s very much in line with, I think, how consumer brands have treated focus groups, how they’ve treated their top influencers in the consumer world.

Then I think the last piece, you kind of hit on it a little bit, is the creativity and the brand element. I think this world of everyone sheltering in place and everyone working from where they live has created a hyper pronounced sense of connection. Everything is connected and everything’s the same. People’s consumer lives are bleeding over into their business life even more than they did before. So, I think there’s an even bigger expectation around great consumer experiences, whether you’re researching Sendoso or whether you’re researching buying your next car.

Cheri Keith:

That’s really great. I like your point about the targeted events. If we hopped in our time machine, no one would ever question taking out a big client to a very expensive dinner and having 10 people present, but the thought of a webinar or digital experience where only 10 people showed up? We almost need to debunk that.

I’ve been trying to look into some of the data of when people started to evaluate digital experiences more closely over the summer, total attendance is only one parameter, but what were the calls to action? What was the actual engagement in those sessions? That’s where I think you actually need to be looking, but I don’t think we’re there yet, but it’s so many more [inaudible] and more of those digital experiences that are based on that experience that you would be doing in person. So I guess we’re a little bit behind getting to the [inaudible] but I guess that’s better to start [inaudible] than never.

Dan Frohnen:

Yeah. I think the other piece here too, it’s good to have bold goals like I want to go get a couple of thousand people together and do something or have an experience like that and have virtual networking. That’s all well and good. And I think as marketers, we just have to remember that people’s lives have changed a lot. They might be gone during the middle of the day because they actually have to teach their child because they’re also teachers right now.

The content becomes all that more important, right? And it’s not just the day of, but it’s also “Is this content relevant enough to survive in the wild for another three to six months?” And we should be looking at that piece as well. And how to engage audiences because at the end of the day, that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to create a relationship and engage. And it doesn’t have to be a one day, one-hour transactional thing either.

Cheri Keith:

Absolutely, you’re right. The on-demand or viewing-at-a-later-time metric isn’t a bad thing to consider. I think you’re right. I’m on the East Coast and 11:00 AM is a hard time to get something done because I know that’s the break for my kids during the school day. So, we’re all kind of navigating it out together. For sure.

Well, I want to thank you Dan, for your insights today. I think we covered a lot of great ground. I’m sure the audience will respect your perspective on the speed and fun when it comes to startups and joining a company that you were once a customer of, but also thinking about empathy and efficiency and to think about the micro experiences for audiences that we’re seeing in our consumer world. So, thank you so much for your time today, Dan.

Dan Frohnen:

Oh, my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Cheri Keith:

And thank you, CMO Confessions Audience for tuning in.