How To Combat Marketing’s Greatest Enemy: Time

This article was originally published on MarketingLand.com. Shared with the author’s permission.

In recent days I’ve started thinking about our second half of 2019 plan and came across an old file, a 2018 planning deck. I looked through a few slides, remembering how much time my team had put into getting campaigns aligned, our calendar precisely mapped out, and priorities outlined.

We barely followed any of it. As the boxer Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

Though we’re not in a boxing ring, the sentiment applies to marketing: needs and priorities change in the blink of an eye, other trends emerge and pull you in different directions, new executives shakeup the vision for your business strategy. And none of that you can truly plan for.

Marketers like planning because it gives us a sense of control, organization and vision for how things will rollout. While we go to painstaking lengths to create these plans that detail our actions, though, the market is evolving. By the time you’ve conceived the perfect plan, it’s no longer what the market needs anymore.

Time is the magical, but a forgotten ingredient in many marketing initiatives. But our antiquated “planning” mindset hinders us in today’s always-on world. Instead, you need to foster a scrappy mindset amongst your team. At its heart, marketing at its heart is about putting out a message. Scrappy marketing is about doing that quickly and resourcefully. Don’t worry about getting things perfect,; worry about getting things done.

Here’s how you can maximize your team’s time, get scrappy and get ahead of your competitors.

Become a trusted, go-to resource

All of us have websites we visit every day and trust. These have usually been news organizations, but more than ever there are brand voices that provide valuable content and insights. From CMO.com by Adobe or Woolly Magazine by Casper, more consumers are looking to brands for their expertise and opinions.

Developing your brand into a trusted news source is therefore a double-edged sword: readers are more receptive to taking your content seriously and engaging with it. But there’s more competition and noise than before. It’s critical that you carve out a strong voice and identify the areas where you truly want to be a thought leader. It’s best to start with a narrow focus and gain credibility for your expertise than to go broad initially and not be taken seriously. You can always expand the number of topics you discuss.

Many of us trust or don’t trust certain news sources in our personal lives; and that mindset is starting to bleed into our professional lives, too, as more people view brands as news producers themselves. You want your audience to trust and rely on your company’s insights.

Distinguish from competitors by being always on

The news cycle is 24 hours a day, and can change in the time it takes to publish a single Tweet. If your marketing is not always on as well, you’re already behind. You need to have a relentless, steady stream of content that’s ready for your audience whenever they are.

How so? Have a proactive, not reactive marketing strategy. Develop avenues to get real-time feedback from customers and prospects to understand what they’re most curious or concerned about, and adapt your marketing accordingly. This feedback will help you discover where there’s white space in your industry, and what you should focus on when it comes to content creation.

Then develop the channels to get that content out – like a webinar series with weekly insights. Conductor’s 30 | 30 webinar, which recaps the last 30 days in search, social and content, is a good example. So is App Annie’s weekly Mobile Minute blogs, which provides insights into how mobile is impacting current events and consumer trends.

Whatever your channel, don’t let perfect get in the way of good. If there’s a news cycle that’s breaking and set to impact your market, do a quick video or webinar explaining what it means for your audience and what they should be watching for in the days to come. Send out an email with a couple paragraphs explaining the latest trend in simple, digestible bits of content. Re-use that email copy for blog and social posts. Share a quote from your CEO with relevant journalists who can copy and paste it into articles they are working on about this breaking story. Creating a strong voice is half the battle, but beating your competitors to the punch is also vital.

Structuring your team for success

You can’t plan for the unexpected, but you can create a flexible team. As a marketing leader, think about how your team is structured: are channels from demand gen to brand to public relations siloed? In reality, what aspects of marketing aren’t related to demand gen, brand, and your public relations? They’re all interwoven and when you’re siloed by channel, that’s the opposite of agile marketing.

Agile marketing is about an integrated scrum mindset, where all can collaborate and move things forward, together. Marketing shouldn’t be an assembly line, with team members waiting on others to finish their job to keep the ball rolling. That’s why siloed teams create execution gaps. So if you’re struggling to get your team all pulling in the same direction, you should revamp your team’s organization to be agile and react in real-time. Just remember that any moment spent waiting to publish is a moment where a prospect could be consuming your content. Through an always-on approach, scrappy, agile marketing allows you to build both visibility and engagement as your prospects enter the buying journey.

As you gear up for your second half plans for 2019, know that you’ll have to always create a general outline of priorities and initiatives. But ensure that everyone understands how much these priorities will (and should) change. If you are doing quality marketing and if you truly value your prospect’stime, then your marketing will actually be aligned with the times — and not with any rigid, outdated plan.

CMO Confessions Ep. 23: PayPal’s Penny Delgadillo Valencia

Hello and welcome again to CMO Confessions, our bi-weekly podcast covering the world of B2B marketing and sales.

We have Penny Delgadillo Valencia, Head of Global Partnership Marketing at PayPal, on this week’s episode of CMO Confessions. Penny has worked her way through the ranks at Microsoft and SAP before making her way to PayPal.

Along the way, she developed a few skill critical sets that are in high demand in the digital marketing arena. Chief among them is the ability to manage, work with and support channels and partners. In this episode, we go over how she does partner and channel management — as well as what she focuses on day-to-day and why taking risks is critical to anyone’s career.

Penny has some great insights when it comes to marketing at both a big-picture level and when sweating the details is key. If you’re interested in discovering what else Penny has to say, you can follow her on Twitter here. If you’re interested in her background and what she’s sharing with like-minded peers, you can check out her LinkedIn profile here.

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.

Table of Contents

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 from the greater Los Angeles area is Penny Delgadillo Valencia, Head of Global Partnership Marketing at PayPal. Penny, great to have you on the show.

Penny:

Thank you, Joe. It’s great to be here, I’m very excited to be talking to our fan base.

PLANNING THE WORK AND WORKING THE PLAN

Joe Hyland:

Fantastic. So let’s, let’s dive right in. So you think about our careers now, or specifically your career now, I’d love to get your perspective on what you know now versus what you knew when you started this journey. And really, you know, what a lot of other marketers are probably challenged with or struggling with in terms of what they really should know about the B2B marketing world.

Penny:

Yeah, no, that’s a great question. And I think some of my insights probably apply to a lot of different things. Not just sort of your career path as a marketer. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some, many, many, fantastic marketers. And one of the things that struck out at me and stayed with me is this one quote that talks about planning the work and working the plan.

And so I think first and foremost, if you don’t have a plan or a vision of where you want to go, wherever that is, as a CMO or not, I think it’s going to be hard for you to work the plan. So always be mindful about planning the work and working the plan. I think the second big thing for me, and you can see this in my career trajectory and where I sort of place my bets, is that I looked at opportunities where there was a high risk, high reward.

And so a lot of the work that I did at Microsoft was all on incubation businesses where we were really trying to transform into the cloud. These businesses were not highly funded like Windows, or breaking glass every day and really believing in the long term strategy that we needed to move the company. And you really have to have the tenacity and the appetite to work on those types of businesses. And so I always encourage people to look for those not bright spots but dark spots because those are the ones that are really game changers in your career.

And then I think the last piece is, and again, I think this applies to life in general, is understanding your sixth sense, right? If things feel good, then they feel good for a reason. If things don’t feel good, they don’t feel good for a reason. And I think that third eye sort of sixth sense people ignore and it’s probably the most critical factor that’ll drive you to probably the breakthroughs in your career.

Joe Hyland:

I love that. I think that’s fantastic advice. I think a lot of particularly your second point on taking risks and really going for it. I think marketers, and not just marketers, marketing departments, companies that are bold or marketers that are bold; I think you can do really powerful things and I think it is all too easy in one’s career but also in a marketing plan to have your end goal, as you said, planning the work, to set yourself up for, sign up for things that are pretty easy to achieve because that way you’re not, you won’t miss the mark. And I think in doing so, you will miss the mark, so to speak. And I think that that’s brilliant advice. I’d love to hear more on going bigger, taking bigger risks and shooting for the stars.

TAKING BIGGER RISKS AND SHOOTING FOR THE STARS

Penny:

Yeah. I mean, the first thing is that organizations don’t really reward failure, right? They reward success. And I think one of the things we talked about at Microsoft was, hey, how do we reward failure living in a meritocracy and where we have to be a little bit more self-deprecating, right?

So I think taking risks, failing fast and learning and iterating is probably one of the biggest things that we have learned from the likes of brands like Amazon. And I think that is one of the things that rings true in the way that they drive their culture and the way that they run their business. And so I think, you know, one of the key things is to take the risk, learn how to fail and fail fast.

I feel that organizations need to look at how they could reward failure versus successes. And I think the true reward with failure is taking the leap of faith, failing fast and then iterating quickly. And I think if you look at a brand like Amazon and the culture that they have there, and the way that they drive their business, they have been able to iterate and move the needle on game-changing technology that if they didn’t have that mindset, probably would never exist. And I can’t imagine life without my Alexa.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think that’s brilliant. That’s a great example too. Yeah. I’ll be really honest, this is something that we’ve struggled with on our own marketing team because I think it’s just natural for, as you said, for businesses and companies, but also individuals to think, “Oh, I need to succeed at everything. Like I should get an A in life and I should only do things that I can actually accomplish.” And you need to take risks, right? Like, yeah, Amazon’s a great example. Microsoft’s done really cool things here too, where, yeah, you sign up for, I heard this the other day, one of my previous guests talked about, BHAGS, big hairy audacious goals, which is actually something I had not heard about before.

Penny:

That’s a good one!

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think it comes from the military. And yeah, that’s where we do great things, signing up for things that you know you can accomplish. Like, well, I’m not really sure if that’s really a good way to go through life and probably not a good way to go through one’s career. But yeah, innovative companies get ahead of that and they encourage that. Yeah, and I think anyone listening should really heed that advice because if you want to get ahead in your career you don’t want to be conservative. Do big, bold, really cool things.

WHAT A CHIEF ORCHESTRATION OFFICER IS AND WHY YOU NEED ONE

Joe Hyland:

Okay, cool. So, I’d love to hear your perspective more and more in the channel world and in partner marketing and if the challenges that we’ve been talking about and the opportunities that we’ve been talking about for just general B2B marketers, is that the same in a partner world? Is it different? What does that world view look like?

Penny:

Yeah. To me, it’s the same with a nuance. And so if you think about what B2B marketers need to know in this day and age is that marketing, whether it’s channel or direct, is really at the tip of the sphere, to lead disruption and transformation, right? That’s what we do as marketers and we need to figure out the way that we align with our customer’s needs and be that customer-first perspective for the entire organization. So, I talk about the concept of a new COO and it’s actually not what you think. It’s actually Chief Orchestration Officer.

So I think if you go into brand marketing and you run your P and l if you become a product marketer, if you become a channel marketer, you’re going to be that COO of your business and you’re going to have to orchestrate across every single discipline in your organization, whether it’s sales, marketing, digital, brick and mortar, customer success, right?

All of these touch points now are aligning to really hone in on what that end to end customer journey is. And at every moment, we need to put the customer first on that journey. And that’s one of the transformations that we’re going through at PayPal, right? Looking at how does our partner experience look like from an end to end perspective and what are our partner’s wants and needs at every touch point with PayPal. And how do we make that the best in class, most successful experience for them, whether they’re talking to us daily or whether they’re engaging with us on the web once a month.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you anymore. It is so easy for us as marketers to put ourselves first, whether it’s done purposely or accidentally, and it is a very basic point of course, but it is always about them never about you. So it’s just a different audience, right? So, you’re putting, you’re ensuring, and I love the COO concept, you’re ensuring that your partner’s needs whatever they are, that those are on the forefront of what PayPal is doing, right?

Penny:

Correct. And look, we’re all consumers, right? We’ve seen this convergence of B2B and consumer marketing coming together several years now. And as a partner, you have the same expectations as a consumer that your partner, in this case, PayPal, is going to know what you need, when you need it, how you need it, where you need it. Right? And that’s the consumerization of IT and marketing that we’ve seen happen over the last few years.

PARTNERS, CHANNELS AND HOW TO USE THEM

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. One, yeah. And you’re totally right. We need to look no further than just how you and I and everyone listening consumes content, consumes items, how we handle ourselves in a commerce situation. But what’s interesting is in my stint, my brief stint compared to yours, in the partner world and in the channel world is I find that a lot of companies have a hard time putting their partners first. And I think that that’s short-sighted, and it, but it takes a really world-class partner marketing and really partner-first mindset to ensure that you are treating your partners just like you would your customer base or your employees. They really need to be front and center.

Penny:

Absolutely. And I think both at Microsoft, at SAP and even now at PayPal, we clearly realized that partners were at the forefront center and at the leading charge of driving transformation with our customers. Right? They are the unspoken salesforce. They are the unsung influencers of the world. And in some cases, they know more about our customers than we do. And so if we’re not engaging them early with training, if we’re not engaging them early on how we’re moving the needle in the market, if we’re not engaging them in our sales operations piece of the business earlier in the buying cycle, then we’re really not leveraging the power and the strength of what a channel can do for a company.

THE THREE AREAS PENNY FOCUSES ON DAY-TO-DAY

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. That’s well said. Yeah, particularly being close to the customer, right? I mean that’s incredibly valuable insight. Okay, so I think the landscape has been set up. I’m curious to know what the biggest challenges for you? So you just described what this should look like or maybe does look like, but that being said, what are the day to day challenges that you’re facing?

Penny:

Yeah, I mean, for us at PayPal, I think it’s just the sheer scale of opportunity and we want to make sure that we do it right. Right? And we do it right and we do it right by the customer. I think it’s a staggering statistic, you know, and I was working on the Microsoft ISD business that today Microsoft has a channel of 400,000 partners and on any given day their onboarding 7,500 net new partners a day. So the sheer scale of what we need to do as we start to look at partners and customers all needing commerce solutions and PayPal being the platform to enable them to do that is probably one of my biggest challenges. And I think there are probably three areas that I’m squarely focused on. I talked about the partner experience because you have to start with a world-class partner experience in order to be able to deliver.

I think the second one is the narrative, right? What is the story that we want to tell our partners and that we want our partners to tell our customers? Because if we can’t get clear on the narrative and we can’t articulate the value that we see, then it’s going to be hard for our partners to do that and our customers to understand it.

And I think the third one is the conglomeration of martech, right? There are so many ways, tools, vehicles that we can engage our partners with. And so it’s really landing on what is that martech stack look like? What is the engagement touchpoints that we want, you know, with our customers? And then how do we get the technology to work on them. So I’m spending a lot of time on customer journey mapping, narratives and technology roadmaps.

HOW TO ENGAGE WITH THE PARTNER COMMUNITY AND BUILD TRUST

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I love talking to marketers about, not just their tech stack, but how they’re engaging with their audiences in a manner that scales because there’s nothing more engaging than what you and I are doing right now. It’s just like a great one to one discussion.

But when you have the kind of scale that you talked about at Microsoft and what you have now at PayPal, I’m guessing there were, you know, there aren’t as many one-to-one discussions as any of us would like. So how do you do that? Talk to me about, you know, how some of the ways you do engage, with the partner community?

Penny:

I mean I think there’s a couple of ways that we engage with them. Right? At the top level we have very deepened relationships with our largest partners, right? And we spend a lot of time listening and learning from them because I think, you know, they have the same challenges we do, right? They have ecosystems, they have partner programs, we’re a partner in a myriad of partner opportunities for them. So, really sharing best practices and learning and listening to what they need from us and bi-directionally I think is super important.

I think at the lower scale, right, because we have a large scale of partners where they’re digitally managed, you know, we try to look at surveys and qualitative feedback from them to help us guide us and grade us on, hey, are we on the mark? Are we off the mark? Right? And I think having those quarterly checks and balances bi-annual checks and balances and really just taking the feedback to heart is where you truly develop that trust and being a partner for life.

HOW TO INCORPORATE PARTNERSHIP FEEDBACK INTO YOUR MARKETING

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I think that’s fantastic. I’d love to dig deeper in listening and learning because there’s nothing worse than any relationship in life where you feel like you give feedback and perhaps the other person, the company, you name it doesn’t listen. And with a partnership, it by definition should involve both sides and ensuring that there is listening, there is learning and hopefully, there are adjustments if need be. So, yeah, how do you incorporate that feedback and how much of that is in your marketing versus kind of what you need to do perhaps on the product side or go to market?

Penny:

Yeah. And I think that’s a great question. I mean, I think for us, we definitely take a multipronged approach to that. Right? I think one, we have to set the tone that starts with what do we want to achieve, right? What do we want to achieve from a joint brand standpoint together? What do we want to achieve from a revenue and sales goals together?

And so getting that clear alignment on what it means to have that mutual partnership and having those quote-unquote KPIs aligned so we’re all sort of swimming towards the same ocean or island, which you know, is where it starts, right? I think the second one is the monitoring, right?

So making sure got your scorecards in place and that you’ve got that closed-loop feedback, whether it’s in a QBR or whatnot, to make sure that you are actually swimming to the island and things are going well. And then I think the last one is honesty, right? If you can’t have those honest conversations, let’s say look we failed here, but we can do better here. Or hey, this was a great success how do we capitalize on it and have those somewhat, sometimes hard conversations. It’s not that it’s assigning blame, but it’s more of, hey, how can we all do better together? And so I think if folks take that approach to any type of partnership relationship, that’s really where you build the trust.

BE AUTHENTIC WITH YOUR MARKETING

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I love that. I love where you ended there. I think a lot of great marketing is about empathy and trust. I mean, it’s easy to slip on this slippery slope, but so much of what we do in marketing is highly produced and highly curated and very well thought through and maybe you’ve got like your brand agency in the room with you when you’re constructing that go-to-market message and plan. But the best marketing is authentic and it, you know, it is just overflowing with empathy. And yeah, you’re right. I think that’s so important for partnerships. I also think it’s just great advice for marketers.

Penny:

Absolutely. I think you need to be authentic especially going back to some of the things that we talked about around the consumerization of IT and marketing, right? And as an example in our portfolio, we’ve got some very authentic brands. And I’ll give you an example of Etsy. They were just recently named the number two e-commerce site in the U.S. by Netimperatives, right? Etsy was born out of the fact that we had thousands and thousands of people that we call casual sellers that had some unique and interesting goods that they wanted to sell. Right?

And what better place to do that than online? And so if you go there they have a curated portfolio of thousands of sellers where some of these unique, brands and items would have never been found unless maybe you traveled, right? And so I think thinking about how we enable cross border trade, how we enable cross border transactions, how do we bring the uniqueness of some of these countries in a commercial fashion online is one of the things that, you know, we’re here to solve for with our platforms and really enable that any type of seller, right, can be a business and drive success.

Joe Hyland:

Wow, I love that. I mean this is really impactful work you guys are doing and pretty cool reach, right? That’s a powerful story. I love what Etsy is doing and it’s cool that you guys are powering a lot of that and partnering with them. Do you share those kinds of stories with your broader partner community or meaning do you kind of tell this like here’s what great looks like XYZ partner plus PayPal or is your communication always focused around just specific things that you can do and are doing with that individual partner?

Penny:

I think as marketers, we have the opportunity to be storytellers and I think great marketing starts with storytelling. And honestly, if I could rate ourselves, we could probably do better in that category. You know, being transparent and honest and building trust. Right? And so I think we need to, again as we look at putting the customer first, keep an eye on how do we drive a storytelling mentality? Because at the end of the day, any one partner or customer isn’t going to want to know the solution that you’re selling them. They’re going to want to know what is the business outcome that I’m going to get if I invest in your solution.

And I sincerely think that storytelling means being outcomes based, being empathetic to where the customer wants to go from a business perspective, not a technology perspective, and not really focused on the speeds and feeds off it, but how is it going to grow their business? And we’re spending a lot of time understanding the impact of how a partner with PayPal can grow their business and what are the exponential things that we can do and bring to the table for them to be that partner for life because we are enabling their growth. So it’s not just selling them technology or selling them a platform, but selling them a vision of where their company can go if they partner with us.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, you just said that so perfectly – where their company can go, right? Like, that’s not about PayPal. You can help them get there and that’s through a partnership with PayPal but I think that is focusing on what matters most. Yeah, I think for marketers, and I’m seeing a lot of good marketing today, there’s also a lot of bad marketing, I won’t call anybody out, but focusing on outcomes and results and whether that’s revenue or increasing market share or helping your partner be more successful.

Penny, I love that. I think more and more marketers, but just more and more companies in general, focusing on the actual business outcome, is what we need to be doing, but we need to be doing it in authentic real human ways. And I think you said it really well. It starts with storytelling. It starts with a customer-first mindset.

And I’ll end it with, because I just loved that you started us off this way, plan the work, work the plan. I think that’s brilliant advice and if you don’t see the whole picture, it’s really hard to march towards the end goal that you have in mind. So I highly encourage all marketers to think big, think audacious, and take that advice. So, Penny, I want to thank you again for the time. I really enjoyed the discussion.

Penny:

Thank you, Joe. Same here anytime.

Joe Hyland:

All right. Thanks so much.

Penny:

All right. Bye.

CMO Confessions Ep. 22: Hired Inc.’s Katrina Wong

Hello and welcome to CMO Confessions, our weekly podcast encapsulating what it means to be a marketing and sales leader in the B2B space today.

This week on CMO Confessions we have Katrina Wong, Vice President of Marketing at Hired. Katrina is a friend of mine and we have had the good fortune to discuss all things marketing over the years.

As the head of Hired’s marketing efforts, Katrina is tasked with marketing to two significant audiences: businesses and consumers. Her solution to addressing these audiences — to bring them together into one — is an effective one, and one I hope more businesses adapt.

In this episode, Katrina and I discuss a range of topics, including her move to business-to-human marketing, how companies like Hired are reimagining in-person events and the difference between building a brand and building a high-growth engine.

If you’re interested in discovering what else Katrina has to say, you can find her Twitter profile here. If you’re interested in her background you can check out her LinkedIn profile here.

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.

Table of Contents

What is B2H Marketing?
Katrina’s Pet Peeves About Marketing Today
The Creation of a Director of Marketplace Operation
The Wow Factor: Inject Whimsy and Humor Into Your Marketing
Building a Brand Vs. Building a High-Growth Engine
Are Customer Engagement and Demand-Gen Worlds Merging?
Partner With Your Customers To Bring In New Customers
Customer Engagement to Retain Happy Customers

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. Today I’m super excited to have my friend and colleague Katrina Wong on from Hired. Katrina is the VP of marketing over at Hired. Katrina, how are you doing?

Katrina Wong:

Good, thanks Joe for having me on. I am super excited to be speaking with you.

Joe Hyland:

I feel like you and I have had this same conversation probably 20 times over a drink or over a coffee. So this is going to be super natural other than the fact that we have recording devices in our face.

Katrina Wong:

That’s right. That’s right.

Joe Hyland:

All right. Let me dive into your world and what you’re doing. And kind of throughout this discussion, I want to talk about the convergence that is occurring between B2B and B2C marketing. I think few companies have that happening within their own organization. So talk what you guys are doing at Hired and how that impacts your marketing because you guys are actually doing both B2B marketing and B2C marketing.

WHAT IS B2H MARKETING?

Katrina Wong:

That’s right. We are a two-sided marketplace and we really work on matching tech talent, primarily engineers candidates, with employers that are hiring the tech talent. So, on one end we are marketing to candidates and on the other end we’re marketing to companies. It’s been a fascinating journey. I really come from a B2B background. And one of the first things that I noticed was that you know, when I started leading the team was that we were very separate.

It was you were either a B2C marketer or a B2B marketer and you know, over time, I’ve been a huge proponent of you are just marketing to humans and it’s really not so much B2C or B2B, it’s B2H. Right. And there’s some other mega themes around that consumerization of, you know, business. We’ve been talking about it, but it’s been a great journey cause I’m witnessing this live and we now don’t have — I kind of took that away — we don’t have B2C marketers and B2B marketers we’re just marketers, one team. And we’re starting to see that the same campaigns really, really resonate with both tech talent as well as business decision makers.

Joe Hyland:

That’s interesting. So when you arrived, you’ve been at Hired for around a year, is that right?

Katrina Wong:

A year and a half.

Joe Hyland:

A year and a half. Man, time flies fast.

Katrina Wong:

It’s been about 18 months.

Joe Hyland:

Okay. So they were, in fact, separate organizations within marketing or within Hired. Did you have a like a B2C side and the B2B side?

Katrina Wong:

That’s right. They were separate organizations all within the umbrella of marketing. But really, I initially just led the B2B team and I barely even knew what we were doing on the B2C team. So a lot has changed since then and you know, we’re now fully integrated.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Okay. That’s fascinating. And to me it makes a lot of sense, but I can understand why they were separated at one point. How do you guys look, how do you view the, how do you handle the personas for each? Because at the end of the day, people are all people, but they have very different goals and objectives and even backgrounds. So you guys have these two groups under one umbrella. Do you just treat them as different personas, different use cases? You’re trying to accomplish different things, like what’s that look like?

Katrina Wong:

Definitely further into the funnel. And especially on a B2B side, we do have developed personas and it is different. But in terms of just top of the funnel, you’d be surprised. We’re starting to do campaigns that are healthy start workouts and that’s appealing to candidates as well as to prospects. And there’s no real agenda other than start your day with a dose of cardio with Hired.

And what was interesting is in kind of today’s times, and we can kind of touch on this later, in such a metrics oriented, I guess, phase of marketing in measuring ROI, we’re getting the same ROI and all of a sudden I was like, “Huh, you know, maybe going to a fun event and it’s not so hefty, not a panel is just as effective as the traditional B2B tactics where we’re doing the data-centric panels,” for example.

THE CREATION OF A DIRECTOR OF MARKETPLACE OPERATIONS

Joe Hyland:

That’s kind of interesting, isn’t it? How do you look at measuring; and I promise you I’ll get off this topic, it’s just so fascinating to me, so I’ll get off of it in a second. How do you handle measurement for these two kinds of wildly different groups you’re going after, even if they might be trying to accomplish the same thing in some settings?

Katrina Wong:

Well, you know what? We actually created a brand new role. So we have a Director of Marketplace Operations. And so if you think about the funnel, it’s almost a double funnel on one side with candidates, on the other side we have employers. And this person is in charge of understanding where we stand from a metrics perspective every step of the funnel; but guess what, in real-time. And we’re matching supply and demand also in real-time. So, think of this person as, his name’s John, as an air traffic controller. Right? And at any one time, we’re having to really adjust our marketing efforts in real-time on the B2B side because of dynamics on the marketplace. And same thing on the B2C side. So we had to create a new position. So there’s somebody dedicated full time on this every day.

Joe Hyland:

Okay. Sounds like John’s got a pretty important role.

Katrina Wong:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

KATRINA’S PET PEEVES ABOUT MARKETING TODAY

Joe Hyland:

Okay, cool. So I have my answers particularly since I am living squarely within the B2B side even though I’ve seen convergence as well between consumerization and B2B marketing. I’d love to hear your probably somewhat unique perspective on some of your pet peeves for marketing today and totally your call if you want this to span B2B and B2C or just B2B. But I’d love to hear what kind of irks you and maybe keeps you up at night.

Katrina Wong:

We can talk a little bit about both. In the B2B sphere content marketing, we know that it works. And because the sales cycles are longer, the best marketers really use that window to educate, to share knowledge, and just provide overall value, right, to the audience. So one of my biggest pet peeves is when content is just created so quickly and it’s generic and it falls flat on its promise. And coming from a demand gen background, I know that creating pipeline is hard and sometimes you really are under so much pressure to offer up content quickly and frequently. But, ideally, you really do want to deliver value each and every time.

So there’s a lot of quality information out there that’s available to buyers. The bar is really high; it’s a good thing. And part of that bar of being so high is because on the B2C side of things it is easy to create fun, engaging, whimsical content. So that really elevated the bar for B2B marketers.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think that’s a great answer. I haven’t thought about this for maybe even the last four or five months. I think you’re right. So there’s this huge move to creating kind of short form, very consumable content. That’s great. I think what I’m seeing a lot in our world is a lot of clickbait, BuzzFeed, Ask content that says nothing. And it’s frustrating, right?

I’m pretty vociferous in terms of consuming content. I love it. I think it’s one of the things that’s important when you lead a marketing team. And I can’t tell you the number of times that I click on something and what I actually read has no substance and I don’t even know why I’m reading it at all, and 30 seconds in I just throw it away. But I feel like marketers are creating more and more of that content.

Katrina Wong:

I know. And that’s where, you know, on the B2B side, even though the content should be fun and once people engage in it, it has to provide value and so when the lines are blurred, even more these days, it is that fine line and it’s sometimes it’s hard to walk that fine line.

THE WOW FACTOR: INJECT WHIMSY AND HUMOR INTO YOUR MARKETING

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Do you guys, how do you look at, you mentioned fun and whimsical a couple of times, and I have my own opinions on this, but how do you look at injecting humor into your marketing?

Katrina Wong:

One of the campaigns we did was a nice blend of that. So it was a B2B campaign, but they were a lot of B2C elements to it. So, last year we ran a campaign, we simply called it Nike Talks and we brought in customers to speak and prospects to attend. So it was your standard customer panel, but it was a VIP event at a Nike store. And then we started doing it in all the different cities.

And so the topic was it was about hiring, but the attendees got a gift card and we rounded out the evening with a dedicated shopping experience. So the fun, the whimsical, we call this the “Wow Factor.” So it’s not that common in B2B types of events where we’re combining two brands, it was power of the Hired brand plus drafting off of a larger brand, Nike. So it was the amplification of Nike on top of our brand. So that’s an example of the two spheres kind of coming together and that was kind of fun.

Joe Hyland:

That’s a fantastic idea. Is Nike a customer or did they look at this as like a little partner opportunity or was it’s more just that they were willing to lend out their stores?

Katrina Wong:

They were willing to lend out their store. But since then we’ve actually started partnering with larger brands because now we have this on video and we’re selling ourselves. So without giving too much away, we run an annual equal pay day campaign. So a staging for that, we’re going to be partnering with some larger brands.

Joe Hyland:

Wow. That is awesome. I love that. I love that campaign. That’s really creative. It makes, it makes me think of something that my wife went to a few years ago. It was, I don’t know if it was during Dreamforce, but it was during one of the big conferences. Salesforce rented out the flagship Levi’s store here in San Francisco. And it was a woman. It was pretty funny actually. It was, it was a Woman in Technology kind of event. And they held it Levi’s because, you know, they felt women love shopping. And my wife said to me, “I’m kind of offended at that. Like I don’t like that gross generalization.” But she still went and she came back and she said, “Joe was the best event I’ve ever been to.” I said, “what about the gross generalization on women and shopping?” And she said, “they gave out $200 pair of jeans, so whatever, I’ll take it.”

Katrina Wong:

Oh my God, that’s so funny. But see, right, like the appeal, the Wow Factor, right? She’s a business person, but as well as a consumer. So yeah. So anyway, it’s been, it’s been really fun. This a fun time to be a marketer.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Well I think it speaks to something else as well, which is get creative. Like, you know, I think of myself as blurring lines on what’s what’s possible in a B2B world. And I would have never thought of doing something like that. So Kudos to you and your team. But you don’t have to do, you know, a roadshow at the W every time and have it be following certain rules and protocols for how you engage with customers and prospects like in a get out of the box and do something different.

Katrina Wong:

I really credit the fact that here at this company we have both B2C marketers by training as well as B2B marketers. So it’s been so wonderful working with this team and the synergies that — because once we kind of removed that artificial line the ideas just started flowing. Just started flowing.

Joe Hyland:

And you’re right in the B2C world, of course, you naturally think of that is in fact what you’re doing, you’re marketing for or with brands. It’s really interesting. I think as consumers, you know this has happened in the last 10 years, we’re all so used to finding our own information; we all self-research, all that bs that we’ve all talked about forever. We’re also used to a certain experience, a certain intuitiveness with products starting with whether it’s using our iPhone or Android, no one’s at least I haven’t looked at a user manual in what feels like five or ten years.

And so the old school way of developing business software is changing. And I think more and more technology is intuitive in the business world. But I haven’t, I’ve thought about it less on the persona and profile of marketers. And that’s a super-interesting point that if you have marketers who have been on the consumer side and they bring that thought process and experience of consumer marketing to the business world, that’s pretty cool.

Katrina Wong:

It is. It is.

BUILDING A BRAND VS BUILDING A HIGH GROWTH ENGINE

Joe Hyland:

Okay, cool, all right. Let’s, speaking of consumerization and the consumer side where building a brand is so important and I’ll push you a little bit in the B2B direction for a moment. Talk about building a brand versus building a high-growth engine, and not that they need to be mutually exclusive, but I think traditionally they have been.

Katrina Wong:

That’s right. I think these days the other super-high bar is measurable results, period, as a marketer. And I think that in past years building a brand was perceived to not be as measurable and that building high-growth engine was almost perceived to be kind of boring and it was just about the numbers.

These days with the tech tools out there you really can do both but at the end of the day if I had to pick one or the other, like I really hang my hat on being able to drive revenue for the business and that just does require the high growth engine, the rigor, the discipline and the tracking, honestly.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I agree, I mean, you and I are cut from the same cloths and we both come from pretty strong demand-gen backgrounds, right? So, I wake up thinking about how to grow the business and that’s what I love. You’re the same way. Does that mean you then lean on other folks in the organization to have strong creative or brand leadership underneath you? Because I think one thing that I see a lot of smart leaders doing is knowing their strengths and what they naturally lean into and ensuring that you have strong people around you to kind of fill out or round out the entire sphere.

Katrina Wong:

Absolutely. I mean, you really can’t be an expert in everything. What’s worked out for this team, I mean, we don’t have someone dedicated to owning brand. And in terms of corporate marketing, just really being both mar-comm and visual design. But what’s worked well for us are just working sessions and brainstorming sessions and that’s where I bring everyone into the room. And it’s optional if you don’t want to brainstorm about a particular campaign, you don’t have to, if that’s not what you’re currently working on. And that’s kind of worked really well. So at our company, and the team’s about 25 people big it’s we’re all contributing to a brand creative brand ideas. Yeah, so it’s been another amazing part of the journey.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think that’s, I like that you just said that because I think a lot of people have a “needs to be invented by them” or by a certain group or team. We probably to a fault here at ON24 in our marketing team, we have a pretty similar size by the way, it’s about 25 people, we have these creative brainstorms. We just had our two-day offsite actually earlier this week. Yeah. It’s fantastic. We try to have this, this mindset of there’s no such thing as a bad idea and I think brilliant ideas come out through that creative brainstorming process where there might be someone on the demand-gen team who comes up with a really creative treatment for a campaign or we tend to have a really strong brand leader, so I’m lucky in that sense. But we have kind of an open source model as well in terms of coming up with creative ideas. A little similar.

Katrina Wong:

Yeah. And you know where I see the seeds just kind of growing in terms of creativity it’s certainly all over the place, right? It could be somebody on the growth side, it could be somebody on the demand-gen side, somebody super operational. It’s been interesting to really look at where the hands are being raised about an idea and we definitely don’t quite fall into the stereotypes. Some of the most creative ideas are coming out of groups that aren’t really tasked to do so.

Are Customer Engagement and Demand-Gen Worlds Merging?

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. That’s cool and that gets everyone engaged. Right? I think that’s a really smart thing to do within a team. Okay, so another area I’m curious to get your take on is we’ve talked about a lot of convergence here, so customer engagement and demand-gen and your Nike Talks event kind of makes me think of this. So I think a more traditional view of how to run a marketing team is there is a side of marketing that is doing customer engagement and kind of what happens after someone signs on as a customer, at least in the B2B world. And then there’s the demand-gen side, all they care about is prospects and bringing in new net leads and driving demand and pipeline, which is wonderful, incredibly important. Are you seeing those two worlds merge at all? And I bring this up after you talked about the Nike Talks event. Do you have events where you say, I want customers to be there and but I really want prospective customers to also come and participate or do you separate them still?

Katrina Wong:        

Oh, ours is blended because when possible, right, and you have customers there, they’re your best advocates. And when you mix customers or prospects with no prep, they naturally sell for you. Right? And I think it’s because they come to a Hired event, they’re going to get asked questions about our platform and so I’m a huge fan of mixing the two. Even on our panels, believe it or not, our whole customer panels, some of them are prospects and want deals that way.

PARTNER WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS TO BRING IN NEW CUSTOMERS

Katrina Wong:

We also have our own podcasts. And many of our podcast guests are not customers yet and we’ve certainly closed some business off of just simply talking about our craft. So it’s been amazing to me. I’m excited too.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think that’s well said. Your last point is I think it’s, I think as marketers you’re really careful to not be too aggressive and talking about their product or offering a solution when trying to convert someone from being a prospect to a paying customer. Nothing sells like knowing their space or the space that you serve; nothing sells better than that. Right? So it’s a great point. You have people on your podcast, you’re probably not talking about how they can utilize Hired’s solution, you’re talking about the space and their challenges. Right? And maybe, in the end, they think “Boy, Hired really gets me and gets what we’re doing. We really should partner with them.”

Joe Hyland:

Good for you that’s pretty creative and I think smart. So my take is pretty similar to yours on this one. We see eye to eye on a lot of this stuff. One, I think your best marketing is done by your customers. That you are going to be somewhat biased about Hired, I’m going to be somewhat biased about ON24, but a Hired customer or an ON24 customer, they’ve got no skin in the game. It comes across as very authentic. And I think customers appreciate that. Some of our, not just in this role, but in past roles, some of my greatest advocates have been happy customers because they feel like they researched a space, they made an investment, they made a selection and they want to see that company succeed. So, if you can partner with your customers, man can they help bring in future customers.

CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT TO RETAIN HAPPY CUSTOMERS

Joe Hyland:

So what about, in the example we just talked about, it’s a customer kind of speaking on your behalf, helping you sell, even if even if that’s not the only goal. What about your team, how do you guys look at customer engagement to ensure that you’re retaining customers and your customers are happy and healthy and want to be Hired customers for the long term? I assume you have a services group, which of course that’s their day-to-day responsibility, but does any of that ongoing best practices or communications sit within marketing?

Katrina Wong:

Yes. Some of the believe it or not very transactional types of triggers from within the application currently sit in marketing. So this is also a borrowed concept from the B2C world of life cycle marketing. And so we within the life cycle marketing, we have two team members and Harley for example, is he works with the candidate side to really get engagement up. And then the other team member, Tai, what he does is he will do the same thing, but for the corporate customers, for our employers. So there’s a fair amount of marketing being done just to ensure that we have engagement and hitting milestones from within our application.

Joe Hyland:

I’m seeing a lot of that in many, many, many organizations where more responsibility on the customer side and customer engagements sits with marketing. I think historically that it just really hasn’t companies would hire a whole bunch of CSMs and cross their fingers and hope for the best throw bodies at it. We have a pretty similar model that we put a lot into our customer community the last few years, but less so on the life cycle. For me that’s a really big push is to ensure that our customers are getting the most out of our offering but it’s really an engagement play.

And then the other side is we call it awareness. I try to be really careful on upselling customers too much from our vantage point so we try to make sure that customers are aware of everything that they could use from ON24 without actually giving an aggressive push. But a lot of that sits in marketing now, whereas in the past it sat in our CS organization and our sales side. So we’re trying to own more of that customer journey, which I think is an exciting, an exciting venture.

Katrina Wong:

Super. Awesome to hear. One idea that we’re almost ready to execute on is yet another B2C concept with engagement. So, in terms of the signed-on and signed-off experience, how can we delight and wow them. So without giving all that away it’s been really kind of cool to kind of work on and I’ll drop a hand, it’ll feel like ecommerce and it’s kinda nice. And we’re going to use that as a vehicle to get more engagement within the app.

Joe Hyland:

That’s cool. Well I told you this would happen in a blink of an eye. We’ve gone through our half hour or so we’re at the bottom of the hour.

Katrina Wong:

I know, time flew!

Joe Hyland:

It did. Thank you. Thank you so much to all of our listeners out there, I think the days of a chasm between B2B and B2C marketing is coming to an end. So stop thinking of them as two wildly discreet universes and get creative. I love the Nike Talks campaign, can’t wait to hear what you guys are doing next. Creative marketing doesn’t have to just live in a B2C world it very much can live in both. So Katrina, thank you so much. I really appreciate the time.

Katrina Wong:

Thank you. It’s been great speaking with you, Joe. Until next time.

CMO Confessions Ep. 21: Cradlepoint’s Todd Krautkremer

Hello and welcome again to another episode of CMO Confessions, our bi-weekly podcast exploring the real stories of leadership behind sales and marketing in B2B companies today. This week, we have Todd Krautkremer, CMO at Cradlepoint.

Cradlepoint is an industry leader in cloud-delivered 4G LTE network solutions for businesses, government organizations and more. It’s currently working to extend its lead into the 5G space as well. But we’re not here to talk about Cradlepoint specifically, we’re here to talk about how Todd got to where he is today and learn what he has to say about marketing in general.

And he has a lot to say thanks to his wealth of experience in software engineering, sales and, of course, marketing. Todd started his career as a computer software engineer building networks for AT&T. There, he watched his sales comrades succeed where he couldn’t. So, after leaving AT&T, he found himself a position in sales.

But after he joined sales, Todd realized there was a massive gap in customer-centric marketing. So, he moved into marketing. Since then, Todd has approached marketing with an engineer’s mind and an obsession with approaching marketing from the customer’s perspective.

In this episode, you’ll learn a lot about the similarities and differences between engineering and marketing, why data is now the de facto engine behind marketing today and the marketing tech stack has so drastically changed from even five years ago.

If you’re interested in discovering what Todd has to say, you can find his Twitter profile here. If you’re interested in exploring his background, you can check out his LinkedIn profile here.

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.

Table of Contents:

Cradlepoint’s Todd Krautkremer’s journey to CMO
Todd’s early marketing homing beacon
How an engineer approaches marketing
The must-have marketing skill sets and using data to the best of your ability
Handling tech stacks now vs. five or six years ago
What was once old in marketing is now new again
On getting marketing and sales to play nice

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 from the Bay Area is Todd Krautkremer, CMO of Cradlepoint. Todd, how you doing?

Todd Krautkremer:

Hey, doing great Joe. Thanks for inviting me to the show.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I love having you on. I really appreciate the time. Okay, so let’s dive right in. I get asked a lot, from younger marketers to tell them the path to becoming a CMO, and I think they, most people think there is a very deliberate, set of roles that one needs to get into this chair. You have a you have a different path, or perhaps a less common journey. And I’d love, I’d love to hear more about it.

Cradlepoint’s Todd Krautkremer’s Journey to CMO

Todd Krautkremer:

Yeah, sure. I think everybody carves their own path, but, what is consistent is really being able to have a sense of what the life of a customer is all about. So my path is a very circuitous path. I was trained as a computer software engineer, and my first job was writing software for some of the world’s largest networks. The company I was working for was at the heart of many of the world’s largest networks at the time. And that’s how I stumbled into networking. I got completely driven by understanding how this code that I’m writing actually works in the real world. I had to understand how you build networks and I took a job with AT&T at the time that was building their networks at divestiture, it gives you some idea what my age is for those that are counting. And we needed to build one of the world’s largest networks, literally overnight, by that I mean within a year and a half.

And it was a life-transforming experience because I became the IT guy or the guy in this case, the network engineer, and all the vendors were trying to sell to me and they were trying to get me to buy their technology and their solution. And it was a, it was a life-altering experience. And then from there I, I also noticed that, while I was doing all the work, the cars lined up outside of my window were a Porsche with a personalized plate and a BMW with a personalized plate and the Mercedes with a personalized plate. And I realized that in the world of sales you kind of control your own destiny.

So I decided to get into sales. I went to AT&T and I said, hey, “I want to get into sales.” And they said, “No problem Todd here is literally a seven-year road map of how you can get into sales from where you are today.” I said, “I was kind of thinking now, not seven years from now.” I took a job with Neiman’s that was building at that time, public packet switching networks for the carriers, went through product management, got into sales in about two years and then did my first startup. And I got so frustrated that the, the utter lack of marketing and was complaining all the time because I really had a feel for what customers were going through and how to talk about our value proposition, in a way that matters to customers. Finally, the CEO of the early stage company said, well, if you think you can do a better job, the role is yours. I said, I think I can. And I got into marketing and found my true calling. And it really is the ability to live the customer’s life, to relate to what’s important and to translate the value of what you’re doing into terms that the customer can resonate with and value.

Todd’s early Marketing Homing Beacon

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I love that. Said a little differently, empathy is so important for great marketers and really being able to see things from other people’s perspectives and walk a mile in their shoes, so to speak. Do you think, starting on the, on the programming and coding side and going over to sales and then kind of completing this journey over to marketing, do you think the stops in multiple different disciplines or departments helped you have a more well-rounded view of the customer’s challenges? Or was that just dumb luck and that happened to be your path?

Todd Krautkremer:

Well, gee, how do I answer this both truthfully? It was a little bit luck in that the opportunities had presented themselves. But on the other hand, I had to seize the opportunity and I was clearly moving in a path towards sales and marketing. Otherwise, I would be a CTO somewhere, right? Cause that path is also very fruitful. So I think the way I was wired, what was important to me, what interests me, what I was passionate about, even as I was a developer, remember cause I was writing this code and I wasn’t happy just developing the code, I had to really understand how customers used it. So there was always that attraction in my life that homing beacon, if you will, that I was locked onto.

But let me tell you this, what’s really funny today, and you and I see this all the time, as CMOs, right? For some reason, an engineer walks in the room and says, “I’ve examined the problem and I’ve taken this approach and I’m developing this kind of solution.”

He goes, “Wow, that guy is amazing. He’s gone through all this education and we see it at work right there. Then you go to the next conference room and you say, “Hey, I’ve got this marketing challenge”, and everybody in the room, sales, engineering, customer service, the receptionist all say, “Hey, here’s what I think you should do.”

How a Software Engineer Approaches Marketing

Todd Krautkremer:

So, I don’t know why that’s the case, but to bring it full circle marketing is very, very technical. Let me just draw a comparison here. Let me compare the life of engineering with the life of marketing today to make good on this point. So right? The product and the engineering team, they care about product market fit. We care about product customer fit. They have a DevStack, right, with all this advanced technology that helps them write code and and manage code and deliver products…

we have a martech stack, which is extremely complicated and sophisticated and we can’t do what we’re set up to do without it. They have a DevOps function; we have a marketing ops function. They do continuous integration; we do continuous campaigns. They have sustaining engineering; we have sustaining influence that’s essential to keeping our name in front of the right people, that at some point in their own journey, will decide they’re going to buy something and you’re there, you’re top of mind and you’re relevant. They do QA testing; we do A//B testing. They do user experience, that’s a real big thing to stay in the engineering side; we do persona and customer journey maps. Kind of the same thing. And now the big thing in the engineering side is everybody’s got to hire data scientists. Well, you can’t be an effective marketer today without a quant. So my story here, Joe.

Joe Hyland:

It’s true. It is true. I mean there’s just slightly different personas. Right? But you just touched on data, which I think is, I think it’s fascinating. And you’re right, I know a few marketing departments that aren’t either strongly leveraging data or having plans to do so in the immediate future, and really more the former than the latter with, with every group I’m talking to. It’s a pretty wildly different skill set that when you think about most traditional marketers in the paths they take. You came from the programming side. I think you naturally draw these lines of comparison between engineering and marketing. And I think they’re pretty damn close. Do you guys at either Cradlepoint, or you can go back to previous roles; one, are you utilizing data to the best of your ability? Do you feel good about it? And I guess the second part would be do you feel like you have the, the skill sets within marketing to best do so? Or are you hiring non-marketers to do it?

The Must-Have Marketing Skills Sets And using Data to The Best of Your Ability

Todd Krautkremer:

That’s a lot of questions within that question. But in the world of SaaS, which is the company I was previously at was really a SaaS-based approach to networking. Getting real-time telemetry data from the product was essential and it allowed me to understand the customer journey, not on the outside of the product, which, which is my job, and to the other point about data I’ll cover in a minute, you can’t do that data. Once that journey flows into the product you need that telemetry data to really understand how that customer is consuming your value and are they having success and are they solving business problems and will they churn or not at the end of that journey?

So that I think is, of course, the way you think in SaaS, but increasingly, it’s the way you have to think about all solutions. And in order to map that internal product journey where I get product telemetry data that’s easy to external, I need external telemetry data on the customers and where they’re visiting and what they’re reading and what they’re consuming and where they are in their journey. And am I serving up to them content and insights that meet them where they are in their journey or am I constantly shooting ahead of them and behind them? Which means I’m not being effective and really moving them towards us and our solutions.

So yes, data is essential. It’s what makes marketing different today than it was five years ago. And in order to really get those insights, because nobody delivers to you an exact picture, you have multiple sources. You have to have quants, you have to have people who enjoy finding insights in seemingly unrelated data that now become actionable insights. And the only way you can do that is really to have, you know, our version of data science with people with real business analytics and quantitative analytics backgrounds.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I guess, one, I agree, two, it’s interesting seeing this skill set in marketing departments. You’re right, a lot has changed in the last five years. We’ll talk about technology, you referenced it before, but there really weren’t quants, at least in the marketing departments I was working in, in marketing. They may have sat in different parts of the business, right? But, so many dollars are going into growth marketers and growth marketing. And if you’re not really, if you’re not analyzing the data and making smarter decisions off of all these signals you’re getting back you’re kind of missing the point, right? So, but yeah, it is interesting to see the difference in skill sets required because it’s pretty, pretty stark.

Todd Krautkremer:

Yeah. And kind of the, I would say, the pinnacle of executing based on data-driven decisions and doing this in real-time, which is where we all aspire to get to, right? This notion of real-time [inaudible] in marketing. I had the, the opportunity to meet with a team at IBM and literally they took me into their real-time marketing team and they had a whole bunch of quants crunching data, streaming real-time from their website, and while they were crunching data you could see there were people on the website, they were, they were doing firmographics on that individual in realtime and they were copying offers in front of that individual based on real-time data feeds. All of this in real-time. It looked like a top trading room. The level of activity was crazy. And of course I don’t have the budget and the staff to do that, but it doesn’t necessarily quell my desire to get to that kind of outcome in the not too distant future.

Handling Tech Stacks Now vs. Five or Six Years Ago

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Well, I mean, that sounds like a pretty sophisticated shop they had. But, what’s cool about marketing today is you don’t necessarily, everything is a spectrum, right? And if that’s on one end of the extreme side of the spectrum I think we’re all using data in much smarter ways and technology is making life simpler. It’s also making life a lot more complicated. I’d love to get your perspective on this. So I’m seeing tech stacks grow and grow for marketers, with many great promises of kind of solving all of the marketer’s challenges. How are, how are you handling your tech stack and without actually walking through it from a macro perspective, what’s it look like now versus, you know, five or six years ago?

Todd Krautkremer:

Yeah. You know, it’s the modern version of a gym membership. Just because you have a gym membership doesn’t mean you lose weight.

Joe Hyland:

It’s true. That’s a great idea. That is great, I’ve never heard that analogy. That’s a great one. Combining the two. Yeah, you’re right.

Todd Krautkremer:

So, you know, these amazing technologies, right? There’s whole companies that are just trying to advance the marketing capability set. But just because you buy one of those solutions, plugging in your stack doesn’t mean you’re going to get benefits. So what we’ve done here is we tie kind of, it really gets to a business objective. Let’s take ABM that’s kind of top of mind. I mean that’s a whole different way in which we drive demand through influence and have more of an account based approach, right? So it starts with that business objective.

Then you have to figure out what are the tools I need in the stack in order to execute in a measurable way, our goals of the business around account-based marketing. But then you have to get people that have a dedicated responsibility to leverage those tools to execute against that business imperative and deliver the results. And then you gotta be able to measure the results and have the programmatic elements in place that ensures that it provides basically an operating system for the technology and the people and the business objectives to follow and execute in. And if you don’t have all of those pieces, then you’re likely to have a gym membership that you may visit once a quarter and spend about five minutes on the bike and call it good and think that you’re getting the benefit. That’s just been our experience.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. So I agree with you. I’ll add one element in there is if one is not careful, you get an increasingly large toolset of technologies and if you’re not careful, they operate in silos, which point cleaning data from them is never going to happen. I love that you started with the business imperative and objective. I see too many marketers today either starting with tactics or starting with technology and ABM is a good example. ABM is not a strategy. ABM might be a means through which you can accomplish what you’re trying to achieve. But that is, you know, because of our space that I’m in, I go to a lot of marketing conferences and if I hear that one more time that the new strategy is ABM, I don’t know what I’ll do, it’s not a strategy. And also this,

What Was Once Old In Marketing Is Now New Again

Joe Hyland:

And so you referenced your age or your tenure earlier and ABM is a perfect topic for this. So many things in marketing that were once old are now new again. ABM is all the buzz right now, but it’s not as if personalized marketing and delivering a highly customized message is a new concept for marketers yet it’s talked about like this is some brand new thing that never existed before.

Todd Krautkremer:

No, that’s exactly right. In fact, you know, we’ve always used sales as kind of being that last mile transformation layer that takes our messaging, positioning, our personas and everything else and really brings that together at the point of engagement with the customer. But as we all know, customer behaviors, have radically changed. And where in the past, the salespeople was one of the primary ways they got insights and information about new technologies, what other people are doing. That’s not the case anymore.

So now they’re really on their own self-guided journey and we’re having to figure out new tactics of how do we get in front in more of a persona based in more of a spear phishing type of approach to get the right information to the right person at the right time so we can influence their direction and do that before, long before the salespeople even engage. So you’re right, it’s many of the same things that marketing’s always been about. But because the customers are forcing us to switch up when we apply these tactics in the sales cycle, it’s forcing us to look at technologies like account-based marketing to execute what was done perhaps later in the sales cycle through more face to face engagement.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I mean, it’s a cool time to be a marketer. I always strongly believed that marketing is never about you, it’s always about them, whoever them is, whoever your audience is. And you just said it well: purchasers or consumers are taking themselves on self-guided journeys that is, that started six or seven years ago and I don’t, I don’t actually think it will ever end. But marketers have more and more control now and I’m seeing marketing departments, not just leaders, but departments, becoming much more strategic to the business versus just being the chotchkies and making a pretty department.

Todd Krautkremer:

That’s exactly right. In a good, a good metric of that shift just in my own life when you think about board meetings, right? Our board is spending more time talking about the role of marketing in achieving our business objectives than ever before. So they are recognizing that it’s not just a tool for getting a company brand out there and getting heard and having people resonate. It’s a tool that can really facilitate and drive leverage and scalability in sales and the partners that do the selling on our behalf.

On Getting Marketing and Sales to Play Nice

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, similar to my experience. When we have our quarterly board meeting I present our sales pipeline, so I’m incredibly close with our sales leader, my counterpart, on the sales side. But the board feels that marketing is the key upstream indicator for pipeline. So I stand up there alone and present it. It just, I think that was rarer five or 10 years ago.

Todd Krautkremer:

Absolutely. In fact, that used to be that the sales teams and marketing teams and even boards, they kind of encouraged this tension between sales and marketing and they had to be an odds because that way truth lies somewhere between. That is a very passe view of marketing.

Todd Krautkremer:

Today, you should not be able to see the light between a sales and marketing department. There should be no gaps. They really should be an extension of each other — if you’re doing it right and if you’re really leveraging the full capabilities of marketing together with the things that sales can uniquely do. And, that’s a very different place than we were even three years ago. Certainly five years.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, completely. When I started my career almost 20 years ago, my job was to literally write letters, this is sales and marketing alignment back then, I would write letters for our sales reps, I would print them, I would sign them in the sales rep’s name and then mail them off and hope that, you know, whoever I sent them to write back. So things have changed a little bit.

Todd Krautkremer:

They’re putting more power in the hands of us to do what we’re ultimately paid to do. And that’s really transformed the shape of the business growth. Right? That’s what we’re here to do is to create an inflection through one to many activities and provide more sales leverage.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. And your experience coming through sales after your programming days, I think is an interesting breeding ground. But I think many, many, many people still struggle with the relationship with sales. We talked about empathy earlier. If you’re empathetic and you see things from other people’s perspective, life’s actually pretty simple. And you’re right, if you can, if sales and marketing have ultimately the same goals, there should be no light between the two groups. And I actually think the tension, if any existed before really should, should go away. Our marketing department’s goal for the year is our sales team’s goal. I think that’s a pretty simple way to structure it. You just, you just need to think differently about how you set up objectives.

Todd Krautkremer:        

Yeah. I mean it used to be, of course, we talk in the terms of MQLs and SQLs, and that’s just like plumbing, right? If a marketing department is talking about MQLs, there’s still a fence between sales and marketing. Our terminology is pipeline coverage and that is we’re going to guarantee we’re going to deliver this amount of pipeline to meet the number. So we’re in the trenches, we’re committing to delivering that pipeline so sales can do their job. And then helping to find where those other pipeline factors will come in because we have influence over those too. Partners are a great example. And through partner marketing and channel marketing, we can now drive pipeline contribution through our partners.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. That’s wonderful. And you’re right, an MQL doesn’t go away, you know, marketing needs to, needs some way to measure these key upstream indicators. But yeah, the, I hope…

Todd Krautkremer:

It’s the outcome, it’s just a milestone in the process to achieve an outcome.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. And so I joined our company four years ago and I said to our CEO, and we’d had some troubles with sales and marketing alignment. I said “Let’s just set the goals the same and it’s all about for us.” So our use case was demand gen, and I said, “Set the goal at pipeline. Let me worry about MQLs. Cause you don’t want me sitting in the room saying, ‘Oh, I know we’re behind our sales targets, but marketing set our MQL goals.'” Like that’s when BS starts and you never get rid of it.

Todd Krautkremer:

Exactly. Spot on.

Joe Hyland:        

All right, well Todd, listen, I told you this would go by fast or we’re at the bottom of the, of the hour. I love your passion. I love the data-driven approach. I don’t think I could ever mimic your background, but it’s fascinating hearing someone who went through it. So thank you so much for the time. I really, really appreciate it.

Todd Krautkremer:

Thanks, Joe. Let’s do this again sometime. I had a blast.

Joe Hyland:

All right. Over a beer next time.

Todd Krautkremer:

You got it. Cheers.

The Screenless Internet: Marketing In the Next Frontier

This post originally appeared on MarketingLand.com. Shared with the author’s permission.

I’ve caught myself a few times in recent weeks – sitting at my desk and flipping between looking at my computer screen and my phone in hand. Across the office, television news runs on mute. It’s hard to avoid screens in today’s age, and even harder to avoid their constant, almost gravitational pull for our attention.

On my commute home, though, I avoid screens. I throw my phone in my duffel bag and listen to podcasts and articles as a way to decompress while staying up to date on the latest news. Ironically, I recently listened to a story by New York Times writer Farhad Manjoo, titled “I Didn’t Write This Column. I Spoke It.” The column, which was originally dictated to a smartphone, details a trend that I was already taking part in but didn’t realize: we’re moving away from screens. It may still be unconscious for most of us, but it’s happening nonetheless — whether we’re asking Alexa about the weather, having Siri set us a reminder, or listening to an audiobook.

The State of Screens in Marketing

Screens are simply a part of everyday life. But I think we’ve all experienced the fatigue that comes with constantly being glued to a screen: having our eyes strained, constantly responding to the endless pings of notifications and messages, being unable to sleep at night because we’ve been on our phone. Interacting with a screen, clearly, is not always a positive digital experience. I know that’s why I relish my commutes home, with nothing but sound. And I’m not alone. Nielsen found that online radio listening has grown steadily, and that “[a]s of early 2018, 64% of Americans ages 12 and older had listened to online radio in the past month, while 57% had listened in the past week.”

When the digital revolution exploded, it revolutionized marketing. Suddenly we had unparalleled insights into our email content, whitepapers, webinars — everything. We knew how many people watched our videos and for how long. It fundamentally transformed how marketers operated in this new data-driven world. And it all unfolded on screens. For a long time, it was hard to imagine how digital marketing would ever happen off screen.

Our Screenless Future

But now we’re starting to see that the screenless internet is coming, and with it so will screenless marketing. What’s so intriguing about this, is that we’ve almost come full circle. Even though screenless marketing represents the next step in the evolution of digital marketing, ironically, it’s not really digital at all. Our screen fatigue has driven us offline: though we still want to consume content, we don’t always want to do that through our fingers on a keyboard or touchscreen.

As the screenless internet continues to grow, we marketers have to grow in parallel: audio can now be transcribed, translated, scaled and distributed largely in the same way content – from emails to whitepapers to case studies – can be. How will this reshape marketing? The implications are endless.

In a recent article, Harvard Business Review suggests that our loyalty will be less toward brands, and more toward AI assistants like Alexa, Google Home, and HomePod who we’ll converse with daily. “In fact, we predict that AI assistants will win consumers’ trust and loyalty better than any previous marketing technology. […] AI platforms will be able to predict what combination of features, price, and performance is most appealing to someone at a given moment.”

How Marketing Stands to Gain

As a result, marketers will look to optimize their position on AI platforms and partner relationships with brands. Just as marketers have jockeyed for SEO position on search engines in the past decade, marketers may look to do the same through these personal assistant devices.

It’s up to us marketers how we shape this new marketing landscape – to understand how we will effectively “screen the screenless.” But while we don’t know what shape this will take, rest assured that the same principles of good marketing will hold steady. No matter who the medium or channel, a winning marketing strategy will always prioritize the customer and their needs, deliver them valuable and personalized content and engage them with the right message at the right time. As marketers venture into this new frontier, the ones who win – as always – will be those who abide by these proven marketing truths.

CMO Confessions EP. 19: Vonage’s Rishi Dave

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of CMO Confessions, a bi-weekly podcast series that discusses the secret side of marketing and sales in the B2B arena. In this week’s episode, I talk shop with Rishi Dave, CMO of Vonage.

Vonage, for those of you who don’t know, is a software-as-a-service specializing in cloud communications for business. The company got its start with voice of internet protocol, or VoIP. It’s been on a bit of a buying spree since then, acquiring several companies over the years to transform into a business cloud communications leader.

Vonage’s marketing efforts are headed up by Rishi Dave. Rishi has an extensive background in the technology field, starting with Trilogy Software, Dell and Dunn & Bradstreet before moving to Vonage. Rishi has some fantastic insights on what’s required of a CMO today — many of which you can find on his blog, Chief Madness Officer here.

In this episode, Rishi and I discuss the dangers of relying on one-size-fits-all playbooks, how complex and difficult being a CMO can actually be and how the presumptions a lot of us marketers have about industry standards (i.e., events and analysts) can actually be damaging.

If you’re interested in diving into Rishi’s career you can find his LinkedIn profile here. You can also follow his marketing insights and quips on Twitter here.

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.

Table of Contents

How Rishi Got to Where He Is

The Dangers of One-Size-Fits-All Playbooks

How Marketers Drive Top-Line Growth

CMO Expectations and the Problem of Complexity

On Events and Analysts

What Rishi Loves About Marketing and Working as a CMO

Where Tech Marketing Is and Where It’s Headed

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 today, joining me from the East Coast is Rishi Dave, CMO of Vonage. Rishi, How you doing?

Rishi Dave:

I’m great. How are you?

Joe Hyland:

I am fantastic. Where on the East Coast are you? Are you in New York?

Rishi Dave:        

I’m in New Jersey, actually. So, we’re not too far from the city, but we’re actually headquartered in Homedale, New Jersey on the Jersey Shore.

Joe Hyland:

Okay. There you go. Squeezed in between the Jersey shore in New York City.

Rishi Dave:

Pretty much, yeah. But we have, but you know, just to get cool points, we have a pretty significant presence in San Francisco, so it’s almost like a second headquarters.

Joe Hyland:

There we go. Okay You’ve climbed off a few notches again. Okay, cool. Tell our audience what you’re doing over at Vonage and you joined somewhat recently, right? So I think people would love to hear how the ride has begun.

How Rishi Got to Where He Is

Rishi Dave:

Yeah, it’s been a blast. So I joined Vonage five months ago and Vonage is in just a hypergrowth mode. I’m in an industry that’s in hypergrowth mode, which is basically cloud-based communications and cloud and communications APIs. And so it’s been really exciting. You know, Vonage was known a while back what it was founded on, which is a residential VOIP company.

But about four years ago, we signed a major transformation through both acquisitions as well as organic growth. And now the company is very much squarely focused in a SaaS communications applications and Communication APIs. And so it’s a super exciting space that’s in hypergrowth. And so, as a CMO, being in an industry that’s still early that’s blowing pretty significantly is really exciting.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. But there’s some brand equity right in the heritage of as you just discussed, kind of were Vonage has evolved from. So how much of that heritage plays a role in your current brand strategy, if any, or if at all?

Rishi Dave:        

Oh, it definitely does. We’re thinking a lot about not just the Vonage brand itself and kind of where it was founded in how people think about it. But, well, thinking about a whole portfolio of brands with the Vonage brand. On the one hand people kind of think of it as what we used to do in residential VOIP, although that’s changing, but it also has incredible top of mind recall that’s very positive. So people kind of know the name and they have a positive association. It’s always been an innovator. And so, after we have to weigh those things also, as I mentioned, we’ve done a lot of transformation to acquisition, really very successfully. What we also have are a lot of brands that we’ve acquired. And so we’re thinking a lot about how do we bring this portfolio together, of brands, and really drive the strategy forward in terms of what we do.

The Dangers of One-Size-Fits-All Playbooks

Joe Hyland:

Okay. Very exciting. So, I’m curious to get your take on this particularly given your experience.

Rishi Dave:

Okay.

Joe Hyland:

So you were just at D&B and I think had quite a successful run there — and we come back to that in a moment — and now have shifted gears and, and are doing exciting things at Vonage. I talk to a lot of marketers who feel they have a pretty solid playbook and sometimes that’s nice to have, a recipe and a certain approach that has worked well in the past, but you need to be cautious and ensure that you don’t apply a one size fits all approach to a pretty different segment with different challenges, different competition, et cetera. How would you respond to too many marketers talking about this overly simplified, one size fits all. Like, “Here’s my approach to a market regardless of the market.” It doesn’t matter, B2B, B2C old, new, nascent, established, um, et cetera?

Rishi Dave:

It’s a great question. I think that it’s not an either or, so it’s not a black and white where I either do a playbook or I kind of create some new approach from scratch. It’s actually both. And so what I try to do when as I came into Vonage is — of course I had a perspective based on my experience on running marketing organizations are on what works and what doesn’t work and how to approach marketing issues and problems — but I almost try to erase that from my head initially and try to really understand first and foremost the customers that we’re going after and then really think about the customer journey and what the pain points are on what the pain points are.

Rishi Dave:

And then, secondly, think about what are our current marketing capabilities. What do we do well? What do we don’t do well? What can we improve? What’s holding us back? And so I’d like to do all of that initially to really, before I started to formulate a hypothesis on what my strategy in playbook would be. And, as you can guess, it’s not exactly the same playbook that I had as CMO of Dun & Bradstreet. Nor is it the same playbook I had when I was a senior marketer that Dell, but it does draw on things that worked in the past in terms of when I’m implementing. And then secondly, you can draw on that base of experience to help assess how the current state of marketing because of I that those are valuable benchmarks to pull on. And then we see things that are different than you know that they’re different and you can start to look at why they’re different.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think that’s a great answer. Perhaps my question was a little leading indicating I didn’t think there was a one size fits all approach, but there’s not, right? I mean there were, there are certain fundamentals that very much hold true from industry to industry. But they’re wildly different scenarios, right? You might follow a certain formula to assess a problem and form your solution, but your solution will be wildly different depending on the problem.

Rishi Dave: 

Yeah, we will. But also at the same time, you don’t want to not leverage your entire base of experience. So that base of experience helps you identify gaps, right? So for example, you know what you’ve done something that’s been at a previous role. You look at the current situation, you see a gap. Now that you may say that gap is a bad thing. You may say that gap is exactly what makes sense. But at least you know, there’s a gap when you identify how to address it. But you’re right. End of the day, I look back on a number of marketing rules I’ve had the actual implementation was vastly different and the initial implementation changed a whole bunch as well as the market changed and the dynamics change. So, there is no playbook. I wish it was that stable.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I wish it was that easy and that’s a great point. Even though it’s not just from company to company, even within the same role, market dynamics can shift in your initial hypothesis has to get adjusted. Right?

Rishi Dave:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

How Marketers Drive Top-Line Growth

Joe Hyland:

All right. I’m curious to get your take on marketers driving top-line growth because I think this is a wildly exciting time to be in marketing. I remember my first marketing role was basically ensuring that collateral was prepared for sales reps for trade shows and handwriting notes for sales reps and signing their names. And that was my way of impacting revenue. Many more marketing organizations are a little more strategic these days. But I’d love to hear from your perspective either your experience in driving top-line growth or your views on the role marketing should play.

Rishi Dave:        

Marketing is absolutely focused on top-line growth especially in, I can only speak to B2B, but it’s absolutely focused on top-line growth. I think that the entire purpose of marketing ultimately is to drive top-line growth both short, medium and long term. The reason why I say short, medium and long term is that as a CMO what gets a disproportionate amount of mindshare and discussion share is the brand stuff because it’s fun, it’s sexy, it’s things people don’t understand, et cetera. But you know what, that’s a minor part of the strategy that for the mid and long term it’s highly important. But if you look at the portfolio of things that a CMR focuses on, brand is a component, but there’s a whole host of other things that are really focused on driving top-line revenue of which brand is a portion of it. And so I absolutely agree and that has so many components from a component of analytics, demand gen, account-based marketing relationship with sales, measurement in analytics — I mean, there’s so many components of a driving top-line revenue that we have to think about.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I think that’s brilliant. And you touched upon this a few minutes ago when you were talking about understanding your customer, understand the pain points. Marketing is — I mean, this is such a pivotal time for marketers and we’re really at the tip of the spear, so to speak and the advice I’d give to marketers, and particularly those early in their careers know, your market inside and out, know the competition, know your customer, know your customer, know your customer — if you do those three things, you’re going to be in a position where you can help the strategy of an organization and can help drive revenue. And that’s how you become strategic.

The Politics of Marketing

Rishi Dave:

Absolutely. One thing I would add to that too is that you have to have — so you referred to marketers early in their career — the advice I also think a lot about is you have to have a lot of fortitude in grit. This podcast is called CMO Confessions, right? So, one thing that I find is, being a CMO or being in marketing — and I am biased — but it’s one of the hardest jobs in the B2B enterprise.

And the reason why is that you’re at the nexus of everything. You’re working with every organization. You don’t always get the glory, right? When things go well. But you definitely get the blame when things don’t go well. Many times. And so much of it is not just driving the numbers, driving the demand gen, driving the brand metrics, but also driving significant relationships across the company. And that’s a lot of complexity that you have to deal with. And so it’s a very complicated, difficult job. And it becomes more difficult as you move up in the ranks.

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah. That was quite well said.

Marketing is amazing, the amount of touch points you have to have within an organization to really do it well. And you’re right, it’s like being careful what you wish for. I think every marketer’s dream, particularly ambitious marketers is to have more of an impact on the organization. Well, when you get a seat at the table, the real table, you deal with the adult problems of the organization and they’re not easy to solve. And you’re right at, at bigger — and this is something, I don’t talk about much with many marketers, this is actually all size organizations — but as you rise up the ranks at larger and larger companies, it is amazing how imperative relationships are. Because you can’t get it all done yourself. You just can’t do it.

Rishi Dave:

You cannot, you cannot. Which you can at other organizations. So, if you’re a great salesperson, you can crank and you can get sales done and you can blow away your quota and you become a rockstar — if you’re a great salesperson. I mean, that’s a hard job, but that’s a different kind of job. And you know, other groups are similar — not true with marketing. I mean, you cannot succeed unless you in a highly specialized technical role, as a marketer without having a whole set of relationships within the company who you work with and who you bring along.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. And we even find that — so we don’t an enormous team. We have about 25 or 30 marketers on our team. So medium-sized marketing team. And even within our marketing team, relationships are so important because our demand gen team is pretty reliant on our content team to ensure that they have the materials they need to set up programs and campaigns and likewise through different responsibilities. And yeah, those relationships across the organization become more and more important. Right? So and we’re a 400-person organization, company-wide, not 4,000. So I think it just becomes more important the larger you get.

CMO Expectations and the Problem of Complexity

Joe Hyland:

Okay. So, speaking of CMO Confessions, let’s talk about things. Let’s go to the love-hate portion of the discussion. I want to hear about things that drive you crazy. It can be in marketing today, it can be in your role, but what just keeps you up at night or annoys the hell out of you?

Rishi Dave:

So, what annoys me or drives me crazy is the overly, like how people assume that the CMO primary job is brand, right? Yeah. And everything else is secondary. That’s what you get a disproportionate set of questions on.

I think that that’s challenging because in reality, as we talked about before, you’re driving top-line revenue, you’re driving growth and brand is one of the many tools you have in your quiver as they say to drive that result. And, and so that kind of drives me crazy because it just gets a disproportionate amount of mind share. And people interpret it all different ways and everyone has an opinion, right? That drives me crazy.

Rishi Dave:

So that of things that drives me crazy. The things that I find really difficult is complexity comes in really easily in marketing. And so you have to constantly beat down complexity and simplify. And then as soon as you simplify, complexity starts creeping in again. Because it’s just the nature of marketing, right? It’s like all the technology we have, all the campaigns we run, all the requests we get from all our partners with whom we want to have good relationships with. It comes in and it comes in extremely slowly, like a slow-moving glacier you don’t see coming. And I think that’s one of the most difficult jobs of the CMO is to keep that complexity at bay and then really simplify, simplify, simplify what we do. I think that’s the hardest thing.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I agree. I think one thing that’s interesting, what you were talking about, is there’s lots of opinions towards marketing. Like everyone out there has an opinion on advertising strategy and you’re right, it’s always on the easy thing easy. It’s always on the visible things. It’s always on the brand or their website or someone, one of our, I won’t name any names, someone recently sent me a picture of the bins at security at TSA in airports — and there was some advertising and they said we should do this. And I was like, well yes, we could do that. I’m not sure if that’s actually going to, for us, we’re very, very growth-oriented organization, I’m not really sure what the metrics would be on how that’s going to drive us forward. But everyone has an opinion whereas you and I are not walking up to a full stack engineer and having ideas on the next sprint.

Rishi Dave:        

That’s right. Another great example is, “Oh, our competitor’s doing ‘X’.” And it’s like, we have a different playbook than the competitor. If we had the same plans will be a lot harder. But you know, I can’t tell you, like I mentioned when a hyper-growth environment, we actually have, you know, strong competition. But it’s also, of course, to what you said earlier, your customer, know your competitors, know your market. And so, we know our competitors, but how many times around the company, do I hear, “This competitor did ‘X,’ we should do ‘X’. This competitor did ‘Y.” Why are we falling behind?” We’ll, we’re not falling behind or ahead — it was us choosing not to do those things. So, that also drives me crazy as well. Big time.

On Events and Analysts

Joe Hyland:

One of the first things I struggled with in marketing — this was maybe 15 years ago — the first time I heard this was on trade shows. And if we don’t go to this trade show, people will think we’ve gone out of business. All of our competitors are there. It’s like what? That is not justification for us to attend and spend 50 or $75,000.

Rishi Dave:

Well, it’s funny you say that about events. So I know we’re getting in and talking B2B, but that’s a complex issue. I find, as a CMO, because you can justify at the event. You can justify going to every event, you can also justify not going to every event. And there’s a lot of science and all that, but end of the day, a subset of apps and do an event strategy, some of it’s mathematical, some of it’s emotional, some of it is “the competition is there.” I think that’s another thing that drives me crazy is that an events strategy is one where every single person in the company has an opinion.

Sales teams want to go to every single event. You can always justify the ROI of an event. “Oh, we paid whatever, this much to go to the event. And we sold one deal and huge ROI. By the way, we probably would’ve sold them anyways.” Right? So, there’s so many reasons to go to an event and it’s hard not to go to an event. And that’s another one where complexity creeps in and you wake up one day and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, we’re going to this huge amount of events. Is that the right strategy?” And so that’s another one that I think is drives me crazy.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, an adjacent one for me in a category that you get a lot of opinions on if you should be involved where it’s pretty difficult to measure the impact and the value is analysts. I’m curious to get your take on this. Because I’ve been at companies where we have great analysts coverage and analysts really can be strategic partners that can also be a black hole. And those analyst fees can start adding up and have pretty questionable return.

Rishi Dave:

Yes. Well, we’ve had a good experience with analysts. Yeah. So, we spend a lot of time with analysts and we have good analysts, but you’re right. With analysts it’s not always measurable, but you have analysts who are — when you have analysts who are covering you and understand what you do at a kind of a visceral level and can repeat it and talk about it and can also be your partner when you have challenging problems. Sometimes you get wrapped up and your inside culture and a good analyst will kind of help you and provide you with an outside-in opinion without having to talk to thousands of customers. And those cases, but you’re right — the fundamental thing here is that they have to be a good analyst. That’s the thing: there are a lot that are not good.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. And you’re right, they can be incredibly powerful if you find yourself in a bit of an echo chamber at work where perhaps you can’t get out to talk to enough customers which is a different problem. You really need to hear some difficult truths that you’re not getting internally, right?

Rishi Dave:

You know what’s funny about what we’re talking about? So, I was just thinking about what we just talked about, which is what drives us crazy. Like you would think that we would say something like, “You know what? Data. Clean data drives me crazy. Or, like, managing a marketing technology stack.” You know, that is hard and challenging, but it doesn’t drive me crazy. But it’s hard. What drives me crazy, if you think about what we just talked about, it’s the stuff that has that human emotional irrational component to it. That’s the stuff that I think drives CMOs crazy versus just difficult problems to solve. All the things we talked about, the relationships, the events, the opinion on the brand, all that. Those are all human, emotional elements. Which marketing has a lot of it.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think that’s interesting. And it kind of, for me, gets into what I love is problem-solving. And so I think at its core that’s what we’re doing, right? You’re right, you need to take in your sets of experience and hopefully hundreds of data points on things that have worked and things that haven’t. But ultimately just because your competitors showing up doesn’t mean you should because they have a different strategy. They’re trying to solve a different problem. You’re trying to solve something pretty different at Vonage than you did at Dun and Bradstreet. And Dell was in a completely different situation. My last company was in early-stage startup and we were trying to create a new category. Now I’m at ON24 and webinars are more of a legacy category and we’re trying to make them more relevant and exciting and it was just wildly different scenarios, but ultimately it’s problem-solving.

Rishi Dave:

Absolutely. I totally agree.

What Rishi Loves About Marketing and Working as a CMO

Joe Hyland:        

Okay. Let’s dig into some of the things we went, we went through the hate or the frustrations. Let’s lean into some of the things you just love either about the current role or just the state of B2B marketing today.

Rishi Dave:        

Yeah. What I love about B2B marketing is the combination of left-brain, right-brain. So I love the fact that it’s highly technical, highly analytical, highly mathematical. You get to work with technology and determine technology strategy. At the same time, it’s extremely creative in terms of the content you create, the emotions that you elicit from the messaging, the actual creative itself. And so I love — that’s what ultimately love: marketing’s combination of that technical left brain and that creative right brain and bring it together in service of a customer. I just love that. That’s ultimately what I love about marketing. What I love about this current role is. The hypergrowth markets that we’re in. And the excitement that associates with that because we’re defining new things that don’t exist constantly every day. And that’s really fun for me. But it’s also challenging. High growth environment is also challenging, but it’s also exciting.

Joe Hyland:

Yes. Growth and scale. I love growth and scale and I tend to like things that are intellectually stimulating but are hard. Wouldn’t it just be easy, if you could flip a few buttons or turn a few dials and massively see the growth you’re looking for? It’s just not that simple, right? Scale is hard. A growing, growing at a rapid pace is not easy. If it were, more organizations would be doing so.

Rishi Dave:

Yup. Well, yeah. And the last thing I would say is you have to be in a space that excites you, right? For me it’s the space we’re in terms of the one space we’re in is communication APIs. Which is really about all these developers who are out there, who are kind of creating new applications, new mobile apps, new website experiences, new SaaS apps who need the embed communications into their apps. Are kind of leveraging our APIs. And the kind of apps we have for voice, video all that stuff. It’s just a really forward-looking, right? And really changing the nature of how companies communicate. That’s exciting for me. Because you think about the amount of apps that are being created and technologists being created, it’s just really exciting and you feel like you’re on this hypergrowth space.

Where Tech Marketing has been and Where It’s Headed

Rishi Dave:

We have a whole SaaS business, a SaaS app business around communications. The whole movement of the whole world into a SaaS model on AWS and all of that it’s super exciting. And we get to be part of that. And we don’t know what direction we’re going to go in three, four years from now. It’s really exciting. It’s exhausting, but it’s exciting. Back to kind of advice for younger marketers, it’s like you got to love the space.

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah. For everyone listening, Rishi and I first talked in 2012 and I had just taken over for a SaaS startup here in San Francisco running their marketing and Rishi was still at Dell. And what I loved about you then, Rishi and I love just now as you were talking, is the passion that you have. So when we talked back then it was on scaling digital marketing and you had some recommendations for me. And now it’s on APIs in the communications space. I mean, I just went back seven years in my mind. But I think that’s really important. To excel at something you need to love what you do because you need to immerse yourself in it. You need to throw yourself into your work. And if you don’t enjoy it, you probably won’t do that great of a job.

Rishi Dave:        

Absolutely. You know, it’s funny you talked about 2012, like, I just think about what we were talking about back then. That’s a great example of being in an exciting space. You know, if we had recorded those conversations and played them back now, we would be laughing our heads off. Because all the junk we had about B2B digital, like we will say things like, “Oh, you know, content marketing could really help us drive XYZ” and all of which are completely accepted now. But that’s, then they were like innovative and taking big risks and it’s just like, that just shows how rapidly these things change.

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah. I mean at the time I was standing up HubSpot and we were literally just turning on email automation and doing some pretty basic content. And now, seven years later, and it feels like 70 years later in terms of technology that we have at our fingertips. But, you know, it’s interesting. So from a technology standpoint, things are very different in just seven years. In terms of what we talked about at the start of the conversation, the core challenge I had back then was understanding inside and out, the challenges of the audience we were serving, the persona that we were trying to market to. And it’s a different persona that I serve today, but, ultimately, it’s that same process.

Rishi Dave:

Definitely. Yeah. It’s interesting. The fundamentals are the same. The execution is different. I mean, that’ll never change. Knowing the persona you’re targeting, knowing their pain points, knowing how to address them — that’s been happening since the 50s. It’s the execution that’s become, that changes every single day. But you’re right: the fundamentals never change.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. And it’s not that the strategy is ever easy. So I in no way want to trivialize that. It very much starts there. But the road, particularly out in the Bay Area, is littered with people who have come into organizations and made pretty bold promises and can’t deliver because it is, in fact, the details, the operations, the how you plan on getting something done that is what delivers the results. It’s not necessarily just the exciting whiteboard and then you drop the mic and walk out it, I wish it were that simple. It’s, it’s certainly is not.

Rishi Dave:

The funny thing about what you said is I agree with you and that’s why it’s important, as a CMO, when you’re giving your vision or the goals for the organization, they have to be as simple as possible. And I challenge myself on that. I’m still not good at it, but you want to lay out as simple goals as possible. Now, the execution will be incredibly hard because if it was easy, then you wouldn’t be there. But if even the goals that you set and the vision you set is complex, then it’s only getting more complex. It’s like you have to start with a simple kind of simple goals that you want to go after, that everyone understands that straight forward, that puts calm in people, and then the execution becomes complex. And so I always, I try to challenge myself to actually get to the essence of what we’re trying to do as an organization so that we’re all kind of pointed to the same thing and we all understand it and then we know how to execute against it.

Joe Hyland:        

Yeah. It’s amazing. And by the way, that’s great marketing, right? I mean, it is part of what we need to do is take a really complex subject matter and boil it down to such a simple talking point that anyone can get it. And yeah, I agree. In terms of great leadership and great communication. Regardless of political slants, look at how, how some of our political leaders are just masterminds in terms of the simplicity in which they can communicate a message. When you’re right, the underlying solution is as far from simple. So, well, listen, Rishi, this has been wonderful. Thank you. Thank you again and I really appreciate your time today.

Rishi Dave:

Thank you. Great to chat again.

When Marketing Technology Isn’t About the Technology

This article originally appeared on Martech Today. Shared with author’s permission.

Last week I had the privilege to join fellow marketers, industry leaders, and innovators at MarTech West in San Jose. There I sat in on some fascinating sessions on everything from tracking marketing attribution to highlighting the new omnichannel marketing stack to learning how to buy the right marketing automation technology. I read about a new product released at the conference that aims to “reduce lengthy sales cycles by uncovering best-fit prospects and helping reps connect with them at the right time.”

On the ride home back to San Francisco that evening, I was thinking about all the conversations I had that day. It dawned on me: we marketers, including myself, are still chasing the wrong things. There is so much technology that’s working to automate — emails, live chat, content recommendations and more. And it’s only going to increase: DemandGen Report states that 63% of marketers plan to increase their marketing automation budget in the next year.

The Automation Problem

What’s the appeal of automation? Well, 74% of marketers say automation’s greatest benefit is that it saves time. Saving time is a fine goal, but we cannot value our own time more than we value our prospects time. Quality engagement is worth the time and resources we put into it. We must continually provide value to prospects through every stage of the funnel – rather than searching for a single touchpoint that we can attribute our MQLs. It dawned on me that there’s a martech stack fallacy.

Let’s first take a step back and see a larger and simpler problem that plagues us: marketers are becoming too binary. We look at everything in the black and white. Either a certain marketing touchpoint either led to an MQL, or it didn’t. Either a video was watched or it wasn’t. We’re implementing solutions that either helps us hit our lead goals or click-thru rates or they don’t.

A Better Martech Approach

But we should take a much more holistic approach. Great marketing shouldn’t be formulaic. If it was, we marketers would no longer be needed. Great marketing means you provide value at every touchpoint, not just one. And great marketing certainly does not have a specific solution or technology that can automate pipeline. That’s precisely the marketing stack fallacy: marketers cannot just add up numerous different technology solutions and expect that the sum will be an increase in leads and revenue. Too often, we do.

Tech is being invented at breakneck speed to manage, control and stop other tech. Spam filters. Automated email responses. Those who don’t have these solutions feel left out of the latest fad. It’s become a technology arms race, but it’s a waste of time and resources to implement technology just for the sake of it. Marketers implement them nonetheless because they feel pressured to acquire these solutions – it’s better to fail with them, and cover your ass than to fail without them.

“Marketers need to ask what the purpose of the technology is – and it needs to be to serve the human experience,” Riverbed CMO Subbu Iyer said last week at the MarTech West conference. “How can we do better-evaluating technology? Think about it from a human context.”

Put Your People In Charge of Martech

This isn’t just a technology problem, though. For the solutions we do use, we have to do a better job of training people and developing the processes to maximize the technology to its fullest extent. We’re all guilty of implementing technology and expecting it to solve all of our problems. In that same breath, some solutions aren’t maximized, as only specific team members leverage them when they could provide broader value to other departments. Walker Sands found that 56% of marketers feel their sales and marketing teams are siloed; teams can become territorial about solutions as a way to justify their jobs. That not only creates resentment, but it severely limits the results you see from the relevant solutions.

Technology has evolved, no doubt, rapidly. It can be hard to keep up. But we marketers have a habit of saying that everything in marketing has changed in the past several years, and that’s different. Yes, we have technology that is more sophisticated than ever, which can track unprecedented data about prospects, and has revamped how we operate daily. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

“Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of exciting and innovative technology out there, but at the end of the day, what matters here is still the ability to have a great strategy, to understand who your customers are, and to . . . create compelling connections with people,” says Scott Brinker, VP of platform ecosystem at HubSpot and editor at chiefmartec.com. “The heart of marketing hasn’t changed, even though all the fancy technologies we have around it are new.”

One marketing leader at the MarTech West conference told me he was “all in on ABM” for 2019, and that was his strategy. But while ABM is a current buzzword, it’s not necessarily a new idea. It’s about personalized marketing that focuses on your most vital accounts. That’s not revolutionary. The fact is that marketing at its core has always been about providing tailored messaging (and value) to prospects. It’s always been about engaging in the right way at the right time and understanding what truly matters to those you are marketing to and how you can help them. And no matter how much the marketing stack changes – this marketing truth will not.

Webinar World 2019: Getting to Marketing Innovation with Cheri Keith and Joel Harrison

The rapid climb in social media spend, the advent of account-based marketing and the need to design everything for mobile — all of these changes to marketing took place within the past ten years. And while it feels like marketers are just starting to get a feel for the digital ground underneath their feet, the reality is that rapid change is going to keep coming.

Marketing’s evolution has gone into hyperdrive thanks to advances in technology, but good tech isn’t the only factor for innovation. Today’s game-changing marketers aren’t the ones adopting new technologies, but the ones who use tried and true marketing tactics to drive innovation.

To help marketers identify the elements of innovation, Joe Hyland, CMO at ON24, Cheri Keith, SiriusDecisions Senior Research Analyst and Joel Harrison, B2B Marketing Founder and Editor-in-Chief, will down together at Webinar World 2019 and discuss the differences between hype and reality and what makes for an innovative marketer.

Join us on Wednesday, March 13 at 9 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco, California to take part in this panel discussion and learn the elements of innovation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I won’t hold you up anymore, but I highly recommend you give this episode a listen. If you’re interested in listening to our growing podcast series, you can find all of our episodes right here in podbean. Alternatively, you can also find us on both iTunes and Google Play stores.

Without further ado, welcome to CMO Confessions. Let’s chat.

Joe Hyland:    

Hello everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO Confessions, a weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast where we explore what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business to business world. I’m Joe Hyland, CMO here at ON24. And joining me this week from Boston is Gil Levonai, CMO at Zerto. Gil, how are you doing?

Gil Levonai:     

Great. Thanks for having me here.

Joe Hyland: 

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

Gil Levonai:     

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

Joe Hyland:       

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

Gil Levonai: 

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

Gil Levonai: 

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

Joe Hyland: 

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

Joe Hyland: 

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

Gil Levonai:        

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Gil Levonai:

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

Gil Levonai: 

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Gil Levonai: 

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Gil Levonai:  

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

Gil Levonai: 

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

Gil Levonai: 

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

Joe Hyland: 

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

Gil Levonai:

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

Joe Hyland: 

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

Gil Levonai: 

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Gil Levonai:  

Yeah. I 100 percent agree.

Joe Hyland: 

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

Gil Levonai:  

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

Gil Levonai:

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

Gil Levonai: 

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Gil Levonai:

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

Joe Hyland: 

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

Gil Levonai:

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

Joe Hyland:   

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

Gil Levonai:

Yeah, totally agree.

Joe Hyland: 

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

Gil Levonai:  

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

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

Gil Levonai: 

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

Joe Hyland: 

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

Gil Levonai:

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

Joe Hyland: 

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

Gil Levonai: 

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

Gil Levonai:  

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

Joe Hyland: 

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

Gil Levonai:  

Thanks man.