CMO Confessions Ep. 15: Rob Pinkerton of Morningstar

Hi folks and welcome to another episode of CMO Confessions, a weekly-ish podcast discussing all thing sales and marketing related. This week, we have Rob Pinkerton, CMO of Morningstar. I hope everyone had a restful holiday break and are ready to take on the new year.

Rob’s marketing career started in law as a U.S. Senate counsel. There, the technology side of policy and politics piqued Rob’s interest, and quickly moved on to a variety of technology companies (Siebel Systems, Lexis Nexis, Adobe) before moving onto a start up, HelloWallet, where he took on the role of CMO. Since then, Rob has seized the CMO title at Morningstar, a global investment research and management firm.

In this episode, Rob and I talk about the many paths one can take into B2B marketing along with what’s changed over the years and why acquiring and running technologies on the marketing side can be just so difficult.

If you’re interested in reading up on Rob’s career, you can find his LinkedIn profile here. If you’re interested in his insights and expertise, you can find his Twitter 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.

Transcript

Joe Hyland:

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO Confessions, a weekly sales and marketing podcast where we explore what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. This week, we’re fortunate to have Rob Pinkerton, CMO of Morningstar and joining from the DC area. Rob, how you doing?

Rob Pinkerton:

Great. Thanks so much for having me.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, this is fantastic. I think your background is particularly interesting because you serve both consumer and business space and we’ll talk more about that. But you came into Morningstar through an acquisition in 2014 Morningstar acquired HelloWallet, where you had the same role. I’d love to get your take on what it was like, what I assume, running marketing at a smaller, scrappier organization to then going to running marketing on a global well-established, large enterprise company.

Rob Pinkerton:

Sure. Well, you don’t really appreciate how many resources you have in a big company until you’ve gone to work for a really small company and you have almost nothing. So, I’d say the first thing is that it made me appreciate for sure you just the wealth of opportunity and resources marketers have in larger companies. But at the same time and at that point in time, which was 2014, which, some things have changed — or 2015 — some things changed a bunch since then. I mean marketing is, it’s a pretty transformational role. It’s a role that’s just had more change in the last five years than the previous 50. So it doesn’t really matter if you’re working for a company with 50 people or 5,000 people or 50,000 people. Some of the challenges are very much the same. I mean we’re required to be a much more technically fluent. We have a lot more jobs than we did before this sort of explosion of mobile marketing technologies and our obligation to represent the customer is just considerably higher. And that didn’t change, to be honest, you just ended up having more resources to go to go deal with it.

Joe Hyland:

What was that a given? Give us a sense of scale, what was the size of the team at HelloWallet and what is the size of the team now?

Rob Pinkerton:

At HelloWallet, when we got acquired, it was a little over 20, it was small, but we’d also integrated a lot of different groups into marketing because we were, we had a very strong marketing approach to strategy. So, I mean it had UX and customer support or customer success all within the team, not just your kind of traditional marketing roles. At Morningstar, it’s about 140 plus globally.

Joe Hyland:

And resources certainly help with scale, don’t they?

Rob Pinkerton:

Yeah, I mean they also come with more expectations and there’s usually a reason you have them. Right. There’s more things you have to do some for sure.

Joe Hyland:

Okay, let’s dive into, to the path. One, you have more degrees than most folks I speak with. So I’m to know if you had a master plan when you were going through school. And, I guess, how’d you, how’d you wind up in marketing?

Rob Pinkerton:

Yeah, I mean, a law degree is not something you typically find with someone in marketing. But it sometimes feels that it really comes in handy these days with the level of a level of parties you have to negotiate with and the amount of complexity that we have to sort through as marketers. But no, my master plan changed, to be honest, I had intended to go work in politics and work in and be a public servant, which was great. But along that journey, I got involved with some of the technology, right. And some of the ones was this Microsoft antitrust case where the Netscape and explorer things … in the late nineties were sort of thrown into question in terms of monopoly power. And I spent a lot of time with those companies and started to realize the real opportunity in our lifetime to I thought to change, to do big things was going to be more through technology. So I did make a career change, got some training, went back to Carnegie Mellon and went out to California, which is really what led me more into product development and marketing.

Joe Hyland:

I remember Bill Gates having to go and in front of Congress and essentially explain what, explain what the Internet was. So yeah, I remember those days

Rob Pinkerton:

If you look closely at those pictures, I’m one of those young faces sitting in the center. That’s cool.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I would like to, we’ll talk about what’s changed — because I think you’re right, in the last five years we’ve seen a massive shift in terms of marketing — but it’s interesting to go back to Bill explaining the Internet to Congress. It Didn’t feel that different than when Mark Zuckerberg was hauled in front of Congress and it felt like a different discussion, but the same level of knowledge and understanding from senators and congressmen.

Rob Pinkerton:

Yeah. It’s the pace of change of technology. And then, you know, in particular in marketing, which was more what Mark was talking about than Bill. But it’s just phenomenal if you think about just changed year on year and not everyone can keep up. It’s not easy to do.

Joe Hyland:

It’s true. And that’s probably a kind explanation of the level of understanding by many people, but that’s not their jobs. Right. So that’s okay. Okay. So, a lot’s changed in the last, as you said, in the last five years. I got into marketing coming up on 20 years ago. So, and I think somewhat similar for you. Let’s have a discussion on what it was like to be a marketer then versus now. I mean, how do you think that the role of marketing has changed in the last 20 years, said differently.

Rob Pinkerton:

I’ll say 20 years ago I wasn’t a marketer, I was building software products for sales, marketing support, right? I was working more like enterprise software development and really back when I was at Adobe, which, and you see Adobe now is a dominant player, we’d figure it out there that the CMO is sort of this next huge wave of change. We’re really, I mean, you’d seen this with the sale was sales support, CEOs, CFOs, heads of HR, they’d really been transformed with technology and we thought that one was coming for the CMO and for marketing departments would just be even at a greater scale. And so because back then what marketers cared about was especially on the B2B side, it was events, it was advertising responding to RFPs. It was content development, all those sorts of things, but it wasn’t managing an experience.

Rob Pinkerton:

Right? And so what, I mean, so back then it seems sort of more of a tactical role that had a lot of creative potentials, right? If depending on if you were in the right industry or not, to one, that evolved to sort of this immersive customer experience driver. Where marketers had to both be creative, they had to be operational, they had to be, basically, today marketers are going to be software developers, right? I mean we don’t necessarily tell them that when they’re getting recruited, but that is what they are. I mean, you have to know how to measure, manage, develop all user experiences and you have to be very close to a strategy. So, for me, it’s become just a much more strategic role. It’s become a driver of the business and enabler of customers. And that’s partially why I switched over to it because it looked like that’s where all the action was.

Joe Hyland:

So when, when did the switch occur then?

Rob Pinkerton:

Oh, when I went to the startup at HelloWallet from Adobe. I mean, from Adobe to HelloWallet, there was an opportunity so — I wanted to go be a CMO, right? That’s all we talked about at Adobe how we go empower the next generation CMO? I was like, all right, well I’ll try to be one of those, which is also then what we’ve tried to do at Morningstar and it’s what everyone listening to this podcast is trying to do also, right? You got into the role because you want to go do something that you believe is bigger than what you know, it maybe once was.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, that’s right. Something impactful. Well, there’s no better way to understand a persona than to actually take on the persona role. Right? So, good on you. I want to touch on customer experience a little later because I agree with everything you said. I think this is the future of marketing. It’s the present as well, but I mean, I think we’re only gonna lean deeper and deeper into this. I’m Morningstar is such a unique company because I think most marketers feel I’m in B2B I’m in consumer marketing, right? I’m one or the other and sometimes it’s easy to get pigeonholed, which I personally think is quite silly. But you guys serve two markets. I have my retirement account in Fidelity and my investments in Fidelity. So, I consume a lot of Morningstar research reports and make investments based off of it. But there’s also the business side where your marketing and selling, I think to financial advisors. So I’d love to hear about how you think of those two worlds and how your brain works and each of them.

Rob Pinkerton:

Yeah. And I think I would say that those two worlds are dramatically converging because of the expectations of B2B buyer. Historically B2B marketing didn’t have anything to do with using software products. Or using whatever they were buying — not just software products but whatever they’re buying, right? But now everyone’s a user. And so they’ve integrated — it used to be back in the day you just needed to get to the decision maker, procurement all the parties or go buy something and then a whole bunch of other people use it. But now everyone’s a user because of consumer marketing and consumer technology. They can do their own independent research. They want to know what the experience is like. So a lot of the discipline from B2C marketing is required in B2B marketing. But I think the bigger difference still remains the same, right? I mean consumer marketing is a volume based endeavor, but you need large scale numbers and fast throughput to reach so many different users. Whereas B2B, it’s a complex system, right? I mean it’s multi-buyer multi-product. You have to reach you have to navigate a complex system which appeals to different disciplines, and that still remains the same. But there’s a lot that folks were learning both ways because the funnel has basically blown up and people navigate the experience they want to and user experience drives everything.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, that’s an interesting topic too, in and of itself as is the traditional marketing funnel I get. There’s different views on it. It sounds like you and I might share a similar view. I believe it’s a thing of the past and people consume information when they want to consume it. It might be completely out of order. We’re more of a traditional B2B model, a product demonstration online, for example, used to be, you know, final stage. Sometimes that’s the first thing people consume, right? I don’t think you can control it and I think a lot of people still hold to it. So, there’s different views there.

Rob Pinkerton:

Well, I think the funnel is still extremely useful for internal communications with stakeholders, with business partners, with the CFO and CEO and whoever you’re working with because marketers are always at risk of just seeming so flaky because they always want to say everything’s changing. Right? Here’s our interpreting the world this week, which has a negative effect on your ability to get things done in the business. The funnel still proves true in certain regards, right? I mean, awareness. You can’t, no one can buy your product if they don’t know it exists.

Rob Pinkerton:

You know, you still have to engage for impact. People still have to engage seven to nine times before they’re going to buy something. Like regardless of what order they do it in, and then you also have to transact and you have to do so in a way that’s consistent with everything else that you’ve just done and you have to retain. Right? You can’t skip the steps. Right? How you bring on a new customer or upsell a new customer, but it’s not something you can control anymore. Right. And that’s the part that is sometimes hard to communicate how it’s internally done you just can’t control it anymore. You can’t broker the entire buying experience. The customer is in charge.

Joe Hyland:

I think that’s well said. It’s like trying to explain multitouch attribution to someone, which you have to, as a marketer, to someone who doesn’t understand attribution, to begin with. Right.

Rob Pinkerton:

It’s not fun. It’s not easy. And then once you explain it and people buy it, then you actually have to do it.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. That’s even worse. Well, okay. So it sounds like there’s a lot about today’s marketing world that you love and are passionate about, which is great. You shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing if you didn’t feel that way. What about things that are frustrating and are kind of overplayed? What bugs you about, about the role or the space of marketing in general?

Rob Pinkerton:

Well, I would say this is one where I’m going to kind of sell out my old crowd on the technology side. It’s a lot harder to run the marketing technologies, right? And, and there’s a huge emphasis on buying technology and a huge effort across the entire organization, right? Not just to marketers, I mean the marketing technology firms or they’re selling into every corner of the business with promises of wonderful outcomes and great experiences and growth. And it takes a lot of time to learn how to use these technologies. You really have to know what you’re auditing, you really have to spend the time to train people. It’s not, I mean, marketers coming up are much more technical, right? But not everyone is. You have to, you oftentimes you have to retrain staff that you’ve had for a long time.

Rob Pinkerton:

All of these technologies are just one degree of abstraction away from basic computer science. I mean, there you’re learning. You’re basically doing if-then statements and loops and concatenation and I mean it’s a totally new skill that people have to develop and the position in the market seems to be a bit more like, hey, this stuff just makes it easy in some regards it makes it harder. And so it’s a big responsibility for marketers and it’s one that I just don’t feel like people talk about enough because a lot of the — and obviously you’re a technology company and you’re hosting this — because the technology companies want to enable marketers. But I think there’s, you know, there’s a big part of this is just like, “Hey, let’s make sure we’re ready for it. We’re embracing it full on.” Which is also good for certain businesses because if you’ve thought it through, you guys will do better and it’ll help a lot.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. The explosion of Martech is interesting. I had Scott Brinker on the show a few months ago and I think when he did his first martech vendor landscape, there were under a thousand companies, well, under a thousand companies under 200 companies. The latest one had 7,200 or 7,300. It’s out of control, truthfully. And the other comment is one, I don’t think there’s a silver bullet — no technology will solve anyone’s marketing and unless you don’t have marketing automation, you have no ability to communicate with people that’s different I suppose — and I think a lot of people complicate their marketing an organization by bringing in too many pieces of technology and if these things don’t work together, you’re screwed. Change management can be significant. Yeah. So there’s no silver bullet for any piece of tech that you can put in and hope that it’s going to be your marketing strategy.

Rob Pinkerton:

Right.

Joe Hyland:

The other thing I find interesting is, speaking of the tech landscape, is five or six years ago you’d have conversations with some marketers and they list a whole bunch of tactics and kind of that together made up their marketing strategy, which I think was flawed. I’m seeing the same thing now with, with technology. So, I have conversations with peers who they’ll just start describing their tech stack is their strategy and your technology is not your strategy.

Rob Pinkerton:

No, it’s not. And it can be really distracting to that. However you’re, if you really know what your strategy is and you understand how technology can be used, it can have a step level impact. Like the application of marketing technology in the right way can have a multistep level impact. I mean, it is powerful. That’s why people are addicted to it.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. And they can help you hit an inflection point. It very, very, very much is required for scale. But yeah, you need to know what you’re doing. I’m actually scale’s an interesting one. How are you guys balancing scaling and increasing output with keeping an eye on quality and particularly with your brand? Your research is top notch. Your marketing needs to be. How do you, how do you look at those two paradigms?

Rob Pinkerton:

Yeah, I mean it’s not easy. It’s a perpetual tension because once you get something working everyone wants to do it. Right? So it takes focus and discipline to really know: do this, do this, get to a milestone and make sure it works, don’t no-scope creep before you go onto whatever the next one is. And I think the way that I’ve found, the only way to approach that as good hiring of leadership. Leadership is the number one quality I look for in marketers today because they have so many cross-functional responsibilities, so much prioritization that they have to do and they really have to be able to handle an organizational dynamic to communicate priorities, communicate what they’re not doing and to do so in a positive, progressive sort of way.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think the word no is important too, right? I think it’s equally as important to say what you’re not going to do as it is to say what you’re going to do. Focus is a beautiful thing in life. And um, I am. Marketers are central to so many parts of the organization now is a good thing. There’s a lotta, there’s a lot of inbound and you need to be careful that you’re not just trying to handle everything and, and execute on every tactic. Well you talked a lot about how marketers are changing the persona and the skill requirements are much more technical, but then you, you talked about leadership and being able to communicate and internally with many different stakeholders. The role of marketing has changed. Has the marketer itself changed in the last 10 years? Meaning, are you looking for a totally different set of skills now then perhaps you were a decade ago?

Rob Pinkerton:

I think it depends on the industry. You certainly can look across certain industries and see where marketers — I mean there are just more attractive industries for marketers. And certain industries have an adopted Martech and kind of new marketing skills, modern marketing skills more quickly. And I really think it depends on which industry you’re looking at because some don’t have — marketing is not as strong. And within those certain industries, every industry is required to make the change. So in certain parts of the investing industry marketing just hasn’t been a huge focus. And I see a lot of change in terms of skillsets. In fact, you look at the asset management industry right now and you’ll see new people and outside influences coming in. People from Pepsi or Buzzfeed or whatever are coming in to go run these big marketing operations, whereas before they just never were interested. So I think in certain industries there’s considerable change, but then in others, just more game on, right? They just more of the same and you have these sort of dynamic general manager type marketers playing multifunctional strategic roles.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Uh, and that goes back to your point on the BTC and B2B worlds kind of converging. I would say my comment would be five or 10 years ago, they were huge disparities in the quality of marketing from sector to sector and some are still ahead. Your example of asset management I think is a good one. Those laggards have caught up and you’re seeing a sophisticated marketing segment to segment. Which for me is really exciting.

Rob Pinkerton:

I think it’s good. Brings more customers in.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, it does. And it’s also — I feel like it requires marketers to just up their game, vertical to vertical.

Alright, Rob, well, listen, this was fantastic. We touched on a ton of really interesting points. I think the theme for me is really these converging worlds and think of how we act in the consumer space like ourselves and I feel like that’s changed our expectations of technology and just marketing in general. So net-net, it is an exciting time to be a marketer.

Rob Pinkerton:

Well, thanks for having me enjoyed it. Also enjoyed the product experience. It’s very user-friendly.

Joe Hyland:

Oh, cool. Thanks for saying that. This is fantastic, Rob. Thanks so much and thanks to everyone for tuning in.

CMO Confessions Ep. 8, Redback Consulting’s Sara Gonzalez

Hi everyone and welcome to yet another edition of CMO Confessions. Last week I promised you a double-whammy and I’m here to finally deliver. This week, we have someone truly special — Sara Gonzalez, CMO of Redback Consulting.

Sara took the time out of her busy schedule to speak to a few key items that I think us marketers here in the Americas need to keep in mind. First, things in the Americas aren’t all that different from things in APAC — and that’s largely due to their scrappy, agile nature to service a truly massive region. Second, that the ideas of B2B and B2C markets are largely a misnomer — people tend to buy things the same way. Finally, and this is something I could not agree with anymore, that marketing needs refocus its energies on strategy — and not to confuse it with tactics.

A few housekeeping items to take care of before we dive into it. First, if you’re interested in listening to our growing podcast series, you can find all of our episodes right here in Ppodbean. Alternatively, you can also find us on both iTunes and Google Play stores.

Second, Sara has helped pen an excellent eBook entitled, “10 Things I Hate About Marketing,” which you can find here. She and her colleague, Rob Brown also hosted a webinar on the subject, which you can listen to here. I highly recommend it.

Third, well, there’s not much for third. It’s time to get into it. Without further ado, welcome to CMO Confessions. Let’s chat.

Transcript

Joe Hyland:

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO confessions a weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast where we explore what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Joe Hyland CMO here at ON24 and joining me this week all the way from Sydney is Sara Gonzales CMO of Simple. Sarah, you doing?

Sara Gonzales:

Good morning, how are you?

Joe Hyland:

Good afternoon. All right, so just a little bit about you from my perspective Sarah and feel free to jump in and then we can dive into what we’re going to talk about today.

Sarah, you help marketers removed the complexity and becoming more efficient through the reinvention of marketing resource management software. That rolls right off the tongue. Give us a little more from your take on what that means.

Sara Gonzales:

You did pretty well. So, thank you. Similar to yourself — marketing to marketers — and one of the things that we see here at Simple, and we see it globally as well as its massive issue of complexity when it comes to marketers. So, we’ve got so many channels to market. We’ve got so many, you know, abundance of tools that we need to use as well and, you know, MarTech space is getting bigger and it’s getting more complex.

So, Simple provides software to actually manage all those tools and connect the brand the customer experience. So, think of it as your strategic up-planning tool to manage execution tools below.

Joe Hyland:

That’s fantastic and you’re doing some really cool things — I can’t wait to talk about it. One thing I’ve been asked by my team to point out was below in the description we’ll have a link to your ebook, “10 Things I Hate About Marketing,” where you discuss everyday modern marketing drags and how you combat that, fight against it and bring the joy back to your job.

So, with that do you want to start off? I’m a pretty optimistic person but I’ll start off on a pessimistic topic — let’s start with what you don’t like about marketing. What are some of the drags of marketing?

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, the big pain points I think that grind us every day. I think one thing I don’t like, especially about B2B marketing, is that we call it B2B marketing still. I find, that marketing in general we talk about it being around the customer experience, but we tend to treat customers different; their buying behaviors,  the customer journey — based on whether we’re selling B2B or B2C — and I feel like every single person buys the same way. If you’re the CEO of a company or, Joe, you’re the CMO, you know when you actually go and buy something personally or B2B it’s a very similar journey.

So, I feel like sometimes we get really bogged down in there and I think that’s impacting especially B2B marketing and the way that we go out there and the way that we market. I don’t know what your thoughts on that are, but I just feel like if we want to own the customer experience, maybe we should understand the customer a little bit more.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, these are people, I couldn’t agree with you anymore. Funny story, I won’t name the company but I worked for an electronic payments company — I was in product marketing so I did not own the brand at the time — and we came out with a new corporate template and it was pictures of buildings.

And they said, “Oh, our CEO loves this because we sell the big banks.” And I said, “Yeah, but there’s those are people we sell to, like we don’t sell to  skyscrapers.” Yeah, so this is people that people marketing, right? It’s not business-to-business marketing.

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, and I think just on that and I know the customer experience thing is massive and we’ve actually just done some research into our later study. We’ve done some research into the customer experience and how people, as marketers, actually manage or try to manage it. And one of the stats that came out of it is 59 percent of marketers actually said that their CMO or their marketing team was responsible for managing that customer experience and 87 percent said the brand consistency is really important, but it’s you know, very, very rare that they have any control over their messaging or their visual appearance or their personalities.

So, it’s sort of like we own it and we want to but we’re not really doing anything about it. So, I feel like there’s a bit of confusion for marketers which sort of gets my grind a bit. And, you know, the rest of the company has to sort of own that as well.

You need to be able to have control over those points if you want to own the customer experience in a true way. So, I think that’s something um that know I struggle with on a daily basis.

Joe Hyland:

I think that’s a fantastic point. Not that I’ve been doing this forever, but the coming up on a couple decades now — I got my haircut yesterday and there was a shocking amount of white hair on the on the ground— I saw in the last ten years, I’ve seen a real rise in the strategic nature of marketing, which is exciting. I see more and more marketers earning pipeline, which I think is really cool. But I think you were right that the next big movement, in my opinion, among marketers and marketing is going to be owning the customer experience. Because, you and I aren’t just doing our job if we get the message out and we help companies or people come and buy from us, right? Like what’s that experience? Like the entire life cycle? I think we should own that.

Sara Gonzales:

And, you know, at my previous company we had a lot of people come into our office to actually run events and a few other things and one of the things we made sure of is that we also in we also met with the customer support team on a regular basis — the frontline people. So, you could do everything as a marketer and you could create this brand and you create this, you know, there’s personality behind what you’re doing and then someone answers the phone for someone who calls the support line and they really piss someone off — there you go, that’s shut down. But you know, we started to work with our actual physical company, if you like, when people came in and our close ratio, when sales people brought people into the office actually increased because people came in and they felt this, “Oh, actually I get what your culture is like and I get them people and I want to be part of that journey.”

So, I think if you can start to own that or find ways that you can impact that then, you know, it’s a quick win almost and it’s something that’s just going to tie everything together.

Joe Hyland:

That’s a good point. That’s a more manageable way to start owning the experience, right? And then perhaps the real North Star, or utopia, is owning the digital experience. So you’re right that you got to start somewhere, right? So why not have it be the experience of when someone comes into the office?

Sara Gonzales:

Yes, absolutely.

Joe Hyland:

Okay. So, Sarah and I were in Sydney — was that four weeks ago, Sarah? It was about a month ago.

Sara Gonzales:

It’s gone really quick, yeah.

Joe Hyland:

So Sara spoke at our conference, Webinar World Sydney. I had to travel a little further than you did. We talked about some cool things. One of the things we talked about was the perception of marketers in Asia-Pacific.

First I love that, I like that those of us in the U.S. think that Asia-Pacific’s a really small region. It’s kinda big. Like a little big. No, but seriously, what is it about your market — the market, at least your region because your global — but where you live, where marketers tend to discount the sophistication of your marketing. That seems absurd to me.

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, I feel like it maybe has stemmed back before my time.

Joe Hyland:

There we go.

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, just the fact that Australians especially have been behind, or, you know, everything can come a little bit later than Americans, especially. But I feel like that now, we’re seen as being part of the APAC region now — you even got Japan in there as well. There is so many amazing things happening over here, but I don’t know if it’s the time delay or the accent or the weather.

Joe Hyland:

I think it’s the accent.

Sara Gonzales:

It has to be something…

Joe Hyland:

Here’s what’s absurd about it to me. So, you and I are both fortunate enough to run marketing for pretty cool companies. So, that’s fantastic. But we have the same challenges.

So, I don’t necessarily view that my challenges any different from yours, suddenly. They’re different companies. So, first, the challenges are the same. When I was down there — and I came down twice now in the last year — I saw really sophisticated digital marketing from you and your peers. So, I guess I don’t really see how this is grounded in reality.

Sara Gonzales:

I think, and you know what, I think it is changing now, slowly. And I think one of the reasons why people are actually looking to this region and saying, “You know what, you guys are actually getting shit done and you actually know what you’re doing,” is the fact that we are a lot smaller and we’re actually starting to take advantage of that. Because, now that we are smaller, we’ve taken a step back and said, “You know what, we can be a little bit more agile and we’re more nimble.”

That means we can increase our velocity and we can also get stuff done and we can be sort of trailblazers in certain key areas. And yeah, we don’t have the capacity a lot of companies, especially a lot of startup companies, down here. We’ve sort of you know, we’re the second round of Silicon Valley if you like. And we look to you guys over there and we’re like, “Oh.” You know, and start ups are massive over here. And we’ve got massive hubs that are invested in startups down here as well.

So, I think there’s a lot of learnings that we’ve taken from you guys over there and I brought them down here. But we’ve just sort of adapted them and we made them our own. So I think now, you know, Simple, as well, our company, we’re doing the opposite of most companies where we’re a start-up Down Under and we’re taking that to the U.S.

Obviously, there are some challenges there. But I think a lot of companies over in the U.S, —and you would know this at ON24, Joe, starting up in Australia — there are a few little differences. But, like you said, a lot of it is the same challenges, and it comes down to that fact that we’re all people. And we all you know, wake up. We all go to bed. We all do the same thing. I think the perception has to change — not necessarily around a location or what we’re doing — but the fact that it’s person-to-person marketing if you like.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, no. No, that’s right. Every individual at a company has a goal, a challenge, whether it’s personal or professional and great marketing is still mapping how you can solve those challenges, right? So, for me, that’s why it’s just a little silly. I think, joking aside, a lot of it is the time difference. I think that you’re in the middle of some pretty big oceans and it’s very far away from from the U.S.

I even see — I do this as well. I set up a call for us on Friday for the team and our team in Sydney said, “Is it okay if we don’t call in? It’s Saturday at 2:00 in the morning.” I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. So I think it’s just because it’s so far away. Very front of mind — a huge focus. But yeah, you can call in on Saturday at 2 a.m., right? That’s okay.

I have one question that I feel like Australians are quite proud of and they would in no way think that they’re behind America in which is coffee. So, the only complaint we got from our conference was “Conference was great, loved the content, speakers were phenomenal, the venue was first-class — you had absolute shit coffee.” So, talk to me about how Australians view their coffee.

Sara Gonzales:

You know, I did notice that at the conference — and I was looking for proper coffee because you guys have just the copy that you pour. Just like basic coffee…

Joe Hyland:

…You see? Just like classic Americans, right?

Sara Gonzales:

…Kettle coffee, we call it. When I was over there I remember sitting down one morning and I had a bit coffee and they came up — I was in San Jose — and she’s like, “Refill?” And I was like, “No no, no, it’s fine. Keep that away from me.” Yeah, it actually all started in Melbourne.

So, Melbourne is like the hipster place of Sydney, if you like. Marketing genius as well. Like, I couldn’t live in Melbourne because I’m not cool enough to live in Melbourne — that’s just a fact. I’d have to judge myself, what I wear every day,  “Is cool enough? Is this a few weeks ago?” You know, the trend.

Yeah, they’re very trendy and it’s all about the beards — and if your Barista who’s making your coffee doesn’t have a beard or a man bun, I think.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, that’s a non-starter. Yeah, you got to have a man bun.

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, exactly. So, let’s come over here and Sydney’s trying to be a bit like that. But, yeah, coffee is massive over here.

Joe Hyland:

Are they are they are they good marketers in Melbourne or is this just more hipster coffee scene?

Sara Gonzales:

I think just Baristas and coffee and, you know, the whole — even the coffee cups that you got us — there’s is outrage over here now because… So, I don’t know if you know this at ON24. So, simple one of our pieces of swag was a keep cup.

Joe Hyland:

I didn’t.

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, the cups where you keep and you walk around and you put your coffee in them because the actual coffee cups over here — a lot of marketers actually use them in terms of branding. So, if I was, you know, in selling something that was related to coffee I could go and give the coffee shop cups and say, “Hey can use my cups?” And, you know, people walk around with them. It’s great exposure. However, those cups are not really recyclable. And they don’t actually break down. So, now they’re actually proposing that they — over here on cigarettes, they have those warning labels with disgusting images — and proposing they do that on coffee cups now.

So, the coffee is great, but the amount of controversy that’s coming around coffee right now is whole other level.

Joe Hyland:

That would not fly over here. Do not tell Americans what to do. Do not regulate a thing. Yeah, that wouldn’t. That well, actually, it’s not true — in San Francisco that would be very popular.

Okay, we’ll get back into things. So, one of the things I love most about my job is, like, this. Like, how cool is it that part of my job is having a discussion with a peer? Like having a marketing discussion. Your role is cool and what you guys do at Simple as cool because I think at least, you’re helping marketers with their strategy.

I’ll talk to a lot of marketers and they’ll do one of two things. I’ll say, you know, “What’s your strategy, what are you trying to accomplish?” They’ll either list a whole bunch of tactics — I’m gonna do a white paper, I’m gonna do a webinar, I’m gonna do a blog — It’s like, okay, well, let’s not confuse a tactic with it a strategy. Or, and this is particularly bad here in Silicon Valley, we’ll just list a whole bunch of types of technology. “Oh well, I’m doing ABM, right? I know, I’m redoing my website.” And they list all this tech that they’re using — which is cool, but again, I don’t know if it’s grounded in a foundation of how to solve their business problem. So, you get to help marketers with their strategy, right? Like, I feel like that would be empowering and really cool.

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, so, obviously managing, having a place to manage all those channels is important. And, in essence, that’s part of what our software does, but the other part of it is taking a step back.

One of the things we’re looking to do is getting markers to remember why they even fell in love with marketing in the first place. And I think a lot of that is, you know, there’s so much data around now and you know, it started off with creativity. And one of the things people are saying to us, you know, originally why they fell in love and why they still come back to marketing is that perfect blend of art and science together.

So, we’re no longer the crayon department and we’re no longer just about pretty pictures. We’ve got data or we’ve got science and we can actually use that — not to only justify what we’re doing and prove what we’re doing — but we can also start to make that impact. When it comes to revenue, and like you said, on the sales side, managing pipelines, but one of the things that we find is the tool that we don’t have actually piece this all together is — hate to plug ourselves but something like this — so, you know briefing, right? You know, you’ve got to write a brief. You’ve got to get a campaign out and for someone like myself, and even a lot of marketers we speak to, the brief seems to be the other forgotten child almost. Let’s do a brief, a few bullet points let’s put it together. Let’s suddenly run a campaign and then, you know what, suddenly the campaign doesn’t work.

So, you look to the tool that you use, or you look to your budget, or your look to the people who ran it and you look at all these tactics and you don’t actually look back to the brief and actually align that with the goal that you had in the first place. So, we find that’s a massive disconnect over here. So, what we’re trying to do is bring intelligence into this and say, “Okay, how can we use the brief and get marketers a place where they can actually keep going back to the brief and use it as their anchor point, almost. So, then they can actually fully understand how their tools are performing, what’s actually happening, how everything comes together.”

Because otherwise, I feel like we’re just blaming it on, you know, because we’ve got MarTec there and that, so we’re going to blame it on the piece of technology or, you know, we’ve got a sales team. So they’re going to turn around and blame it on that, but we’re not actually looking at the full picture and we’ve got way too much data.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, we have too much data I could talk about all day long. I think the problem is even worse than what you just described. I think so many marketers — and there’s so much — it’s a good problem to have, marketing isn’t just the pretty colors anymore so there’s pressure on marketers to grow and there’s so much pressure that we just want to do more, and more, and more and do it quicker, and quicker, and quicker and it’s like don’t worry about analyzing it — we’ll just figure it out. We don’t have time to analyze.

I think a lot of marketers — when you talked about a poor man’s or a light brief — I question how many marketers are even putting together a brief before a program.

And are they doing a proper post-mortem? I would criticize ourselves.  A couple years ago — so I’ve been running our marketing for three years — a couple years ago we ran a campaign, we had a brief. Like, I think we put a lot of thought into it, ran a campaign; it didn’t work. That’s okay, not everything will work — and there were people on our team that didn’t want to do a post-mortem. It was like, “We don’t have time to analyze why it didn’t work. We need to move on to the next thing.” It’s like well, “Don’t you think we’re at risk of just repeating the same mistakes if we don’t actually go back and analyze it?” So, I think that is more and more common than many people realize.

Sara Gonzales:

 And you know, there’s this some look it up, if you don’t know about it, there’s this famous campaign over here in Australia called, “Dumb ways to Die,” and it’s pretty much it’s hilarious, the creative is amazing and it’s about cartoon characters showing. The whole idea was to — a lot of people actually die on train tracks over here. So, a lot of young kids so cross the train tracks, I’ll get hit by a train or they’ll be graffiti on train tracks. So, it’s actually a really big problem.

But there they actually put a spin on it and it was literally the little cartoon characters with their bodies getting chopped off. And they had this really catchy song and it was great. And the amount of views and the amount of virality it got ‚ it just went everywhere. It was really shareable, social media went off. But actually — everyone spoke about that and they won all these awards — but when they actually go back to it, and this is something they didn’t actually advertise, obviously, more people actually died on trains that year.

So, that’s an example of, you know, you’ve got something out there and we’re like we want to be more than just a creative department and we want to be more than just pretty pictures. But you’re actually measuring your success by something creative if you’re not actually measuring results.

So, to me, that’s like, well, you know we want this but do we really? Is it just easier to sort of just tick something off the box and win an award for it? So I feel like yeah massive disconnect once again.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I think that’s a super good point. I agree that great marketing is the mix of Art and Science — it’s what’s fun about marketing for me. I love the intersection of these two things.

I found a couple of things interesting here. One, I think a lot of marketers didn’t go into marketing because they’re data-driven if you will, though I don’t really love that phrase, but so I think sometimes it’s a challenge. I think, you know, it’s not necessarily a first love. And then the second point I would make is —our observation — is that there’s so much data today. Like, I find in — we use Marketo — so, if you open up a lead record in Marketo and you look under the activity history or their interesting moments — there might be hundreds of interesting moments. What am I supposed to do with that?

I find it’s hard to make sense or see trends in these seas of data.

Sara Gonzales:

And it’s funny because I feel since automation has come about — and I’m a massive Marketo fan as well — but automation has come about and we’ve got all these data but I feel like you sort of manually need to go through it. And you need to actually have this Instinct. So, there’s the instinct that comes into marketing because you’ll go through it — and there are certain things that you can’t have a robot pick up, right? — so If you do go through those hundred records, you’re going to need an inside sales person or someone to go, “Oh actually that’s interesting” and in their head tie it back to something.

So yeah, I find it really interesting as well and I think you know — on that point — the whole impact of AI and how it’s going to impact marketing and all the machine learning and everything like that. You’re still going to need people there because you’ve still got — marketers have that instinct about certain things and I think it’s probably maybe 25 percent of what I do. That feeling, it’s like, “Oh I know this is right and I’m looking at data there and I can see the patterns.” So yeah, I think that’s an interesting point.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, and the art doesn’t go away like I don’t I um, I don’t yeah, the Geeks are kind of coming into to marketing. I mean, I think that influx has occurred. But one of my one of my first bosses — I was a year out of college — and I said, “Well actually doesn’t matter what the email copy is and what the subject line is, we’ll test everything, we’ll A/B test it.” And he said, “Well, you know, any idiot or a monkey can just throw a dart board and just keep adjusting but like great marketing is knowing your audience.” And like right like there is some gut feel and there is really knowing your personas inside and out so you don’t have to A/B test everything. So, yeah, people aren’t going anywhere. Marketing departments when they get more money, they’re still hiring people, right? Like, I don’t see everything being outsourced or everything being automated.

Sara Gonzales:

Yea absolutely.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, what are your views on AI in marketing? Are you guys using any? Are you anti-AI? Do you think it’s the wave of the future? What are your thoughts?

Sara Gonzales:

Well, our new platform has been built on Microsoft. So, we’ve got massive potential to bring the intelligence into it. And we will. But I feel like for us it’s so big. And over here there’s so many conferences and every now and then — you have these run of conferences every year, Joe,  and you go to them — and there’s something really shiny people love, you know. Two months ago it was all about blockchain. It’s all about machine learning and it’s all spoken — up here.

So, as a marketer you go there and you get really excited and you go back to your desk and it’s like, “Oh, you know, this is what I learned and it’s like, well, how does it actually apply to me as a matter? How am I going to use that?”

So I think that the potential is massive and I think, like you said, I’m not scared of it — I think if anything it’s going to increase jobs within marketing because you still need that human element. But what I do think is that there’s very few organizations, especially software companies, out there telling us how it’s going to impact what we do every day, how it’s going to help us tie everything back to that customer experience. And you can have great technology, but it’s not going to solve all of our problems. And I think, as marketers, who are selling technology out there, you need to if you could go out and say, “Here’s how this is going to impact what you do every day and here’s how you’re going to be able to tie that back to your goals.” If you do that, you’re going to go into a winner.

So, I think, as a company, that’s our next challenge and how we do that. Because, like I said, we’ve got so much potential with so much technology, but not everyone needs it all.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, no, totally. Great marketing is about the “why” not the “what,” right? Like, I think if I could give advice to myself 15 or 20 years ago, it would be always focus on the strategy and the foundation first and don’t rush the tactics. I think we all sprint to the deliverables — they are tactics and they’re critical to executing on the strategy, but it, in fact, starts with the strategy.

Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you anymore. So, I have a question, which I don’t think you’ll see coming. So, when we were over in Sydney, I was…

Sara Gonzales:

It’s early for that

Joe Hyland:

It is early there, right? Yes, but I won’t stop you. This is actually easy for you. But I don’t think you think I’m gonna ask it. When I was over there, I was incredibly impressed with how sophisticated you are with your digital and webinar marketing — and we’re not going to be able to show that over a podcast, right? But, I think our listeners would benefit from hearing you talk for a minute or two on your views on digital marketing how you’re doing content and webinars,  how you look at your strategy to drive attendance, keep engagement during a live event, actually have an on-demand strategy. Like, you’re doing some really cool things and I was pretty impressed and I think people would love to hear it for 90 or 120 seconds.

Sara Gonzales:

Firstly thank you. It’s nice to hear that.  Secondly, I think and I mentioned this to you while you over here that webinars are pretty dirty over here —and they’ve got a bit of a bad reputation.

I think, for us, webinars are not just something that we have to do as a tactic. So, going back to your point, they’re part of the bigger picture. So our content — we create a lot of content because marketers love content, right? And part of our content strategy you know webinars come into that. So like I said, they’re an extension of the content that we create. So, any given month we have a key theme, and like I said, too, we’ve released its research report and this is probably a good example because I was really impressed with how this worked out two days ago.

We created this research report. We went and interviewed 300 marketers and we came up with these amazing results. So we’ve got the results, we’ve got some nice pretty graphs, but how do we actually disseminate that information actually start a conversation around it?

So ,firstly we partnered with the Australian Marketing Institute over here. As the peak body and to also give them credibility and then we did a co-webcast with them. On the webcast, though, and our webinars — I call it a webcast but this sort of interchangeable, arrive? I don’t want to get caught up in semantics.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, same yes,

Sara Gonzales:

And this is great, having a webcam, but in terms of engaging marketers and I think even, you know, understanding that webinars are an extension of your brand we have panel discussions. So, it’s almost like TV on the internet, if you like.

So, everyone who downloads the report gets invited to a discussion, but the people on this discussion is myself, who’s interviewing one of our key customers in the financial services — and she’s really big on compliance and she’s passionate about probably three key areas that we were speaking about — another one of our prospects and then also our chief product officer.

So we started having this conversation around the results. First of all, within the platform we started, people — before we went into the results, for example — one of the questions might have been what’s your biggest struggle with briefing? We actually use polls to actually ask the audience what their struggles were and then we actually showed them the results so they can actually feel like they’re part of the study.

Joe Hyland:

So you make it interactive, right? Rather than just like a talking PowerPoint for an hour, like you’re literally asking people for their feedback and then the dialogue changes based off what they say.

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, and then compare it to the actual study and then have the people talkin about the studies. So it’s much more of a conversation. Utilize the resource folder to actually then upload the report and other pieces of content that we have relating to the report. Because once people are actually on that event the more you can engage and the more sort of content you can give them is obviously going to benefit you and also the data you’re collecting. But now that we’ve got that we’re actually going to break down that panel discussion into — I think we know that down into eight different short videos that we can use and repurpose for marketing content.

So, one of the things that I said to you as well afterwards is not everyone wants to sit down and watch a 45-minute recording. And we only had 40 percent attendance on that event. But those are the 60 percent of people, they can choose to watch the 45 minutes or they can choose to watch maybe a five-minute segment or something they’re interested in. So, it’s really…

Joe Hyland:

I think that’s an important point and I’ll interrupt for one second because… So,you’re right so you got four out of 10 people who registered to show up. It’s easy to focus is easy to just say, “Okay, well, that’s my new audience. That’s all I care about.” You keep them really engaged with these polling strategies right and making it interactive but then afterwards you have a different strategy for the 60 percent.

Sara Gonzales:

Yep. Yeah, right. So I love that. Yeah, and that way we’re engaging people, you know, not just within that one day and you know our investments for that one hour then turns into a six to 12-month investment as well.

Joe Hyland:

Ah, yeah, that’s smart. Have you measured — speaking of Art and Science ‚ the impact of sending follow-up emails to the those who registered but didn’t attend —with the shorter content versus the full 45-minute discussion panel webinar — did you see different results?

Sara Gonzales:

Well, one of the things we do with our webinar marketing before during and after we’ve got sales development reps and we get those guys involved. So, first of all their text-based emails and their conversations with people, as opposed to an HTML email going out from marketing. So, it’s from a person her name’s Jenna she’s had contact with them for a while, and we actually see in terms — even the quick ratio that we get for people watching the on-demand content — it’s probably around 30 percent of the people afterwards actually go to watch those shorter videos.

Joe Hyland:

Okay, that’s great.

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, it’s something we’ve only started this year and it is a little bit more difficult with the editing process afterwards. But,  even looking back like you said to their profile in Marketo and saying, “Okay, this person has actually downloaded a lot of content that revolves around compliance. So let’s make sure that they receive the compliance video.” And in the flow, we make sure that they’re receiving using keywords to actually send them content that they’re probably more interested in as opposed to something like reporting.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Um, yeah. No, that’s fantastic. And I think it’s also really smart that you guys have your SDRs involved throughout the process. I mean, if it’s a demand generation use case, which it sounds like this is, I think having pre-sales involved from the start is smart, right?

That way doesn’t feel like a jolting experience and afterwards someone is reaching out to them.

Sara Gonzales:

Definitely.

Joe Hyland:

Okay cool. Well, we are at the top of the half hour. You and I could do this probably for the next 45 minutes and I feel like time would fly by, but I want to wrap things up.

Sarah, this was this was fantastic. I’m gonna look up Dumb Ways to Die. I was not familiar with this campaign. So I’m excited. It sounds like you guys are on a mission over at Simple to make marketers great again. That is a phrase that is …

Sara Gonzales:

You always have to throw that in, right?

Joe Hyland:

I said very similar…

Sara Gonzales:

 I’m not making that a thing, Joe. I’m not going to use it — stop trying to…

Joe Hyland:

Sorry, once I say it for the third time it sticks. You said webinars are dirty over here, so we’re gonna have to dig into that next time. But it seems like you’re cleaning things up and you’re doing a great job with it. So that…

Sara Gonzales:

I’ll take one for the team.

Joe Hyland:

You’ll take one for the team, thank you. With that, let’s wrap up Sarah. Thanks again. This was this was fantastic.

Sara Gonzales:

Thanks, Joe.

Joe Hyland:

All right by everyone.