This is the week you change how you engage. 🤩 Learn how at ON24X on June 11-12 (NA), 12-13 (EMEA) and 13-14 (APAC). Register

Back to Blog Home

CMO Confessions Ep. 44: Elana Anderson of Veracode

July 22nd, 2021 Andrea Bartman

Hey, Webinerds! We’re back with another episode of CMO Confessions, our B2B podcast with the top leaders in marketing and sales today. Today’s CMO Confessions features Elana Anderson, CMO of Veracode.

In today’s episode, Elana and Cheri Keith, Head of Strategy and Research at ON24, discuss Elana’s career, how work life has changed with the pandemic and B2C trends that B2B can use.

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 Elana’s career and experiences through her 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 edition of CMO Confessions!

Table of Contents:

Elana’s Background
Marketing Self-Guidance
Flexibility and Empathy
Future of T&E
How Office Work Might Change
B2B Marketing Today and Hopes for the Future
B2C Trends for B2B

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 joined by Elana Anderson, CMO of Vericode, an application security company. Elana, thank you so much for coming on.

Elana Anderson:

Thank you, Cheri. I’m happy to be here.

Elana’s Background

Cheri Keith:

So, I always like to start off by just learning more about your background. What led you to your CMO roles, what were you doing before that and how it connects the totality of everything that you bring to the table today?

Elana Anderson:

Yeah, sure. So, I’ve been in the business for a while, I would say. It’s interesting that for the first significant portion of my career, I was not in marketing, so I did not have a marketing background. That said, all of the jobs I’ve had have essentially revolved around marketing. So, I started my career at Accenture and after I sort of grew up in that, I joined a services company, a consulting firm, that was focused on marketing. That marketing organization was the primary folks that I interacted with day to day. From there, I went to Forrester Research and I built the marketing practice at Forester. I started the B2B marketing area. I focused on marketing technology. After several years at Forrester, I decided the next step was that I can’t be an analyst forever.

So, I’m going to go and actually do the work. And so, I joined a MarTech company called Unica and I was Head of Products and Strategy and Product Marketing. We were ultimately acquired by IBM and I went to now really take on the marketing job as the Chief Marketing Officer at a company called Demandware, which was an e-commerce platform. We were then acquired by Salesforce. So, I’ve gone through the acquisition route a few times. And since that role at Demandware I have consistently had the CMO role at various companies. So that brought me to Vericode in 2019. So, at some point, I decided, “If you’re going to talk about marketing, you actually have to do the job.” So that’s where I am now.

Marketing Self-Guidance

Cheri Keith:

That’s awesome and certainly your background resonates with me. You can explore so much being an analyst, but then you can either go out and do the work again, or I think the fun thing is to take your own advice. Like I’ll be sitting here like, “What would I tell me? What’s the tough love I can self-guide at this moment?” Do you find yourself still doing that even after being CMO for a while?

Elana Anderson:

Yeah, probably six months into my Demandware experience. I had lunch with the former CEO of Unica and he’s like, “So now that you’re actually a marketer, what do you think about when you were a consultant advisor to marketing?” And I said, “Well, the good news is that I learned that my instincts and the advice I was giving was pretty well thought out and accurate. The hard thing though, the bad news is that it’s a lot harder when you’re actually doing it than when you’re just talking about doing it.” So, I’ve definitely learned a lot in these past years as I’ve been a CMO.

Flexibility and Empathy

Cheri Keith:

That’s great. Well, you mentioned you joined in 2019, so you had some time under your belt before the pandemic started. Can you talk about what that transition was like as you managed a team at a growing company through this craziness of both being a marketer in it, but then also being a manager and a head of a department? I know there are a few hats people wore in the past year.

Elana Anderson:

Yeah, certainly. I had the benefit of 6 months-ish before the pandemic hit. Certainly, I think it rocked all of our worlds, right? And not just the world of marketing changed, and we can talk about that, but how people cope and deal with work day-to-day has radically changed.

I guess in many ways, I’m fortunate that both of my kids are in college and they actually went to school this year. So, I didn’t have to deal with that aspect of everybody being at home. They were at home for several months, but they could largely take care of themselves. I wasn’t trying to teach them while I was working at the same time. So, I truly feel for all the parents of school-aged kids out there who have had to cope with so much.

And that’s one of the things I think that we’ve all learned, and certainly anyone who’s managing people has learned is that, you have to be flexible. Because our lives have become work and work in our personal lives have become completely blended together, right? So, everybody’s trying to do what they need to do for work, but they also have to do what they need to do for their families. And so that’s caused everything to blend together and we’ve all learned how to cope with that over the past year.

But I think the challenge, the ramification for all of us has been this idea of fatigue that we’re talking about a lot because work and life are one now. I think though there’s a lot of benefits for the future of work as well though because the future of work for most of us doesn’t mean that you have to be in the office every day. We’ve learned that we can get our jobs done and, in some cases, more efficiently than if we were in the office every day. So, I think for me, I think the future of work for my teams is certainly going to be a hybrid kind of world, which I think will be beneficial for all of us going forward.

Cheri Keith:

Yeah, I always think about when people are almost very quick to forget the lessons that we’ve learned over the past year, and I think you hit two of them on the head very well about flexibility. But I mean, I don’t know, as a working mom, I think we all got very used to having to be flexible and those around us either learned that with us or it didn’t work out in the long run.

Elana Anderson:

Moms have a real benefit, right? Because you have to be flexible as a working mom. So, I guess we had a head start on a lot of other folks.

Cheri Keith:

Right, exactly. I’m like, “Oh no, I understand that to get my work done sometimes I need to do it earlier or later to make sure that I make school pickup time.” But yeah, the flexibility, I think we need to make sure that the future of work includes that element of flexibility, whether that be for scheduling or just where people are working from. I think it’s an interesting point. I mean, gosh, if we look beyond just the manager side of it, and we think about what happened to office spaces and these corporate centers.

For the audience, Elana and I are in the general vicinity north of Boston area and traffic isn’t wonderful up here, right? And think about how the evolving nature of offices will change based on that. We learned people can be productive at home. So, whether it’s hoteling or other ways to manage that in the future, I think that will be interesting.

I think it’ll also really impact travel. A lot of people are talking about returning to physical and people are like, “Oh, my audiences want to go back to traveling.” It’s like, “Oh.” I mean, the first time I get on a plane, it will not be for work. I will tell you that. To a tropical place!

Beyond that does finance want to pay for travel and entertainment anymore? Like if we think about what has happened from a financial impact on companies, I think just because you want to do it doesn’t mean that your company wants to fund that in the future. Do you have a reaction to that?

Future of T&E

Elana Anderson:

It’s funny that you bring that up because literally an hour ago I was just on a call with my [blip] analyst talking about budget and we hit on T and E. I would say essentially in my company, Vericode, we’re expecting that travel will start to come back this year. Probably not at all in Q1. Our fiscal year just started, so our Q1 just started so for a calendar that’s Q2. So probably in the latter half of the year, we’re going to start to see travel come back.

But I think you’re right. I literally said to him, “I think the budget is conservative because I don’t expect that we’re going to be traveling the way we did pre-pandemic.” I think we have learned that we can do things remotely. I do expect that there will be some travel, but I think we will all, and I’m not saying this as a manager perspective, I’m saying it from an employee perspective, we’re all going to think twice before we hop on a plane and travel as much. Although I must say, I do miss it once in a while.

Cheri Keith:

Yeah, absolutely. Once in a while, I’m returned to those spots. I was thinking the other day, just about as it all kind of starts to unfold, you mentioned you had six months of the runway at Vericode, so people knew you in the office before this all happened. My first day on the job was in October of 2020, and I was at a field event in Texas speaking on the stuff I speak about. And then I never went anywhere after that. Like my onboarding trip to San Francisco got canceled because the state went into lockdown. And even when we were in Texas that week, we’re in that weird part of the pandemic that everyone’s forgotten where we thought that like elbow bumping was going to prevent the spread of germs. But yeah, every once in a while, I miss them. I think we all miss human engagement, but I think we’re going to be a lot more thoughtful about it in the future. And it’ll be more about going to visit customers and doing more regional-based events. [Blip] appetite for multi-thousand people gatherings right now.

Elana Anderson:

Yeah. I think that’s absolutely right. Yeah, I wonder about some of these massive industry trade shows. What will the future of those be? One other point that I do want to say on the employee side though, is what we do miss in our current working environment is the more casual interactions with everyone on our teams. So, as we look to the future of work and we think about hoteling scenario like you mentioned, or the opportunities for teams to get together, to meet more so than just to do your job in the office so I think that’s where we’re headed.

But to your point about these massive gatherings of thousands of people like trade shows, you know what? We generated more pipeline in 2020 than we did in 2019. And we spent a huge amount less on industry trade shows. So that says something.

We took the opportunity also to do some really deep dive ROI analysis on some of the major shows that we participate in. And, frankly, while you get this great, big, awesome feeling when you’re there on the floor and you have this great booth and there’s lots of energy and excitement at the event, that double-decker booth that you have costs an awful lot of money. It’s like buying a house, right? You’ve got 200 people from your company there, all traveling and staying at hotels that have jacked up prices.

So, it’s a huge expense, some of these events for companies. And frankly, the ROI isn’t there and so I think we’ve all learned a lot this past year. We can live without some of those kinds of investments in marketing. And I do expect that the mix will change. Certainly, our mix will change, and I expect that for B2B companies in general, the mix will change. And I think that the events industry is going to shift. It is going to see the most change in the coming years because I don’t expect it to come back in the way that it was historically.

Cheri Keith:

Yeah, but gosh, I don’t have the data at my fingertips right now, but we saw less money being spent on sponsorship for several years leading up to this, right? We got focused on account-based strategies. We got really focused about who our target audience was in B2B. And even though some of that FOMO about that double-decker booth, which always creeped me out, because I’m like, “Who put this together?” And then it’s like the price gouging of, “Oh, you want a coffee maker in your booth?” And it’s like that coffee maker costs the price of a Tesla all of a sudden to get it put in.

It really hurts your head, I think, at some point to think about those costs, but people had already started to move away from those big sponsorships to say, “We’re going to be at this event, but just in this re-imagined way.” So, they were doing the airport activations that we would see as we grabbed our baggage and walked through, they were hosting dinners at night and the parties all in and around the event in a better-invested way. So, I think that trend will come back and yeah, to your point, sponsorships were already going down before the pandemic. I can’t imagine it going back to where it was, and that industry will definitely need to change for sure.

Elana Anderson:

Yeah, I think so.

How Office Work Might Change

Cheri Keith:

You mentioned actually the casual interactions, and I think that’s interesting from an employee perspective because we have learned to remain productive. The harder part, I think, for employees and teams to think about how to do casual interactions, where it’s not always like a zoom happy hour. I think about like as pre-pandemic, I guess I had a leg up in a way. I’ve been a remote employee for about seven years, so I got used to juggling that. When I was in an office, I would just meet with people. I wouldn’t be on the phone. I would just use that time to be the social butterfly sprinkling around the office. But I think that being in-person will have to be that more than being just stuck at your workstation during the day. Does that sound like what you’d encourage your employees to do?

Elana Anderson:

Yeah, exactly. I think if you’re just doing your work, frankly, it doesn’t matter where you do that work, right? What I miss, and my teams miss is the workshopping, really working collaboratively on a solution. So, it’s those kinds of interactions that I expect will be in the office, in the future as well as, to your point the social butterfly aspects of it and that’s what I think our teams are missing the most is that personal connection.

B2B Marketing Today and Hopes for the Future

Cheri Keith:

Absolutely. So, I want to shift gears a little bit and just talk more because you do have this great experience of advising marketers and kind of being in and around that world. And now being in the driver’s seat of a marketing organization several times now, but what are some of the things that you love about where B2B marketing is today and what you hope may be changes for the future?

Elana Anderson:

Yeah, I think what I love about B2B marketing today, not to age myself, but I started as an analyst in 2002. When I was talking about marketing, my soapbox was all about personalized personalization. 2002 was a while ago. Personalization in those days and using analytics, data, even data science and predictive analytics was ahead of its time. So that was sort of my beat and talking about it then felt very far out, hard to achieve and hard to scale.

Now when I think about B2B marketing today, intent-based marketing ABM, all of the things that we were taught, it’s now very realistic, it’s now possible. And it’s possible to do, not in a one-off way, but in a scalable manner. And so that’s what I think is great about it.

Perhaps what I struggle with, for me, measurement the way that John Wanamaker talked about it continues to be the holy grail. We do tons of it and I’m not saying we don’t measure. We do tons of measurements and tons of analytics. I come from that analytics [blip] and we do a great job analyzing if something worked, right? But if you want to truly say, “Okay, if I gave you one other dollar, where do you put that? And how is that going to be most effective?” I covered this when I was an analyst at Forrester. I don’t think anybody has truly figured out how to answer it.

I’ve done customer acquisition cost analysis with my finance team. That makes sense, but drilling down to that to say, “Okay, well, if we take 20% off of marketing and we put it into sales or vice versa. So, we don’t hire those two sales heads and we put it into marketing. How can you really get down to the benefit?” So, if anybody’s hearing that and has really figured it out. I’d love to hear from you. Because I’ve talked to so many people, and this continues to be that elusive thing for marketing.

Cheri Keith:

Right? It’s like we’ve made so many strides. There’s almost too much data and people get overwhelmed about what measurement to look at, but then you’re talking about like, “How do I model for the future?” And that’s where there are so many outside factors about the addressable market that come into play. So, all right, if I introduce a new product or we tinker with our average sale price and all these dynamics. I think you’re right it’s like the holy grail for modeling out what the marketing and sales organization of the future would look like.

Elana Anderson:

And I know there are all kinds of models, market mix models. I mean, those have been around for a long time. I used to cover that stuff, again, when I was an analyst more than 10 years ago. I think that they can help in some aspects, but they’re not helping me in B2B marketing where I’m sitting.

B2C Trends for B2B

Cheri Keith:

That makes sense. Well, you mentioned you had college-aged children, so I’m sure there’s a lot of B2C trends that you see potentially either being passed your way or over their shoulders. So, are there any B2C trends that you are an observer of from a marketing perspective that gets you excited or gets you thinking?

Elana Anderson:

That’s a great question. One thing I’d say is the importance of brand, right? I think in B2B and certainly in mid-sized B2B so we’re $250 million sized company, where the importance of brand, I don’t think, is largely considered. Now if you talk to college-aged kids brand is pretty darn important.

For us, for example, we’re in a landscape where we have our core buyer who tends to be from the security side of the house. But then the people who use our technology are developers, right? They don’t buy the technology, but they use the technology. The last thing the developer wants is friction in their day-to-day process.

So, I bring in a brand because we have to build a brand reputation with the developer community so that they think of us as a helpful brand, an educational brand. How are we helping them do their job better? How are we helping them create code and write code that is secure and doesn’t have security vulnerabilities in it, right? So, it’s not a sale. It’s not a typical B2B selling exercise. It’s really a brand engagement exercise. And I think there are tons of lessons that we can learn from B2C companies in that regard.

Cheri Keith:

Yeah, it’s great. I think for so long in B2B marketing, we were very focused on all we could do and personalization and the data and the garden bed of brand went un-watered for some time when we were thinking about marketing automation so much. But now what I’ve seen is the pendulum is swinging back about the importance of brand, especially with more subscription-based business models and things like that, which is a good thing. I think it’s a more balanced approach, and we see some interesting perspectives that come into that where marketing has more influence on the customer journey now than ever before, too.

Elana Anderson:

Exactly. Exactly.

Cheri Keith:

Great. Well, Elana, I want to thank you for your time today. This has been wonderful. I think our audience will definitely benefit from everything you shared about the future of work, how to be flexible and empathetic in that, but also the importance of brand and how we can learn from the B2C side as we think about our B2B world. So, thank you, CMO Confessions audience, for tuning in, and thank you Elana, for your time today.

Elana Anderson:

Thank you. I enjoyed it.