How Can We Humanise the Digital Marketing Experience?

Each month, the team at ON24 puts together Insight50 – where we provide fellow Webinerds with 50 minutes of expert insight and answer the questions that are important to you.

One of our recent sessions was on humanising the digital marketing experience. With just about every marketer singing the praises of the benefits of personalisation, how can it be done at scale without losing the personal touch and putting off prospects?

The below is just a brief wrap up of insights from Joel Harrison at B2B Marketing, Leanne Chesco at Demandbase and Matt Heinz at Heinz Marketing – and of course, you the viewers! If you didn’t manage to see it, view it on-demand here.

As we move further into the world of digital, keeping marketing personal and human can prove to be difficult. While it is one thing to be able to personalise the experience for one or even a few targets, it’s another to do it at scale.

So how do marketers use the technology available to them to work at scale, keep it personal and make it human? Here are a few insights from our panel of experts.

Why is it important to be human at scale?

You could probably look in your inbox right now and find an email that was meant to be personalised, but somehow failed for any number of reasons. In fact, more than 4 in 10 (43.3%) of webinar attendees reported that on a weekly basis, they received ‘personal’ emails that were clearly automated and as a result became irritated. Another one-third (33.3%) said they receive these types of emails daily.

It’s clear that receiving emails where it is apparent that no one bothered to research who the recipient is, what their organisation does or the specific needs of the organisation are can be off-putting to the recipient and counterproductive for the sender.

For Joel, the importance of being human at scale is because as marketing continues to become more digital, it becomes more difficult to get more traction in brands and to see through what is not relevant.

“As much as we need to be digital, we need to be human. That’s what creates traction with our audience. I think it’s fair to say that B2B buyers are becoming more and more cynical so I think that, for me, that’s the importance of being human.”

At the same time, Matt Heinz warned about getting too caught up on efficiency and scale at the expense of the experience for the buyer. He reminds the audience of the importance of creating a one-on-one experience for their customers.

“I think it’s important to keep in mind that no matter what your campaign is, no matter where you’re sending it from, for the recipient, for the buyer, for your customer, it is always a one-on-one interaction. They don’t care how many other people you’re sending that message to. They are just thinking about themselves. And they’re receiving that message as one person as an individual.”

How can automation be used more effectively?

When webinar attendees were asked to describe their organisation’s approach when it comes to automation 39.3% said they did not use marketing automation and 28.6% said they use automation in a limited way.

One-fifth (21.4%) said they do use automation more than before, but it still sometimes appears stilted and unnatural. For these organisations who reported using automation but maybe not in the most effective way, Matt suggested stepping back away from working in ‘fire drill mode’ and looking at what automation can do for the organisation.

“What you’re doing in eight hours, you could do in two. What you’re doing to impact 100 customers, you could impact 10,000 customers. And yes, you’re going to have to step back and do some work to put that in place. But that investment and creating those automated systems is going to have a far-reaching, scalable, highly valuable impact on what marketing can do not only with those customers, but the impact marketing can have on sales and revenue.”

For organisations that have marketing automation in place but their sales teams are not taking advantage of it, Leanne suggests that marketers get that data into the hands of reps. Providing them information like intent data can help validate that their prospects are showing buying signals, while behavioural data from target accounts can inform salespeople that their prospects are visiting their website.

“Say a customer is coming up for renewal, you can look at things like intent data to understand actually what that company is looking at. That includes content that’s on your website, but also content that could be on your competitor’s website. That’s definitely the type of data that is great to get in the hands of your salespeople to help them validate that this account is in a good position to either engage in a sales cycle, or that the sales cycle looks healthy.”

What are the barriers to making the digital marketing experience more human?

One of the barriers to humanising the digital experience for one-quarter (25%) of the webinar attendees was a lack of time and personnel to develop processes and campaigns. Other barriers to a lesser degree included legacy technology, integration between systems and internal disagreements about the best approach to take.

However, the biggest barrier for one-third (33.3%) of attendees was a lack of quality data. Leanne recommended that organisations make sure they are targeting the right accounts and that they have a good contact acquisition strategy in place so they know they are targeting the right stakeholders.

“If you’re leveraging those different technologies or tools out there to show you that those accounts are active and showing you active buying signals, I think that’s definitely going to help with engagement and improve your quality of data.”

Hear more on our Insight50 session

The quotes above are just a small sample of what was discussed and answered on this Insight50 session. Make sure to register to watch on-demand and strengthen your topical marketing campaigns for the year ahead.

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.

Rising Above the Noise at Sirius Decisions

 

ON24 has been a sponsor at the Sirius Decisions Summit for many years. It’s a great conference and a bellwether for the latest marketing trends. Every year, there are new buzzwords, “hot takes” and an onslaught of emerging technologies that are supposed to make us better marketers.

We seem to be plunging towards a future where all of our marketing will become completely automated and powered by intelligences far greater than our own. And this new world of marketing is all about digital signals. Tiny increments of data that tell us whether a set of ones and zeros would be more likely to buy something. What has gotten lost in this futuristic story? Our prospects and customers.

Well, this year something has changed. Maybe all of the talk about personalization and ABM has marketers finally taking a more customer-centric view of the world. Or maybe marketers are realizing all of this automation is starting to turn audiences off. I actually overheard one woman at the conference say “people are really starting to hate my marketing because there is just too damn much of it.” Yikes! Regardless of its origin, this year people were thinking a LOT about their audience’s experience. It’s this mindset, that could very well save marketing from itself.

More on building better audience experiences:

I felt this shift profoundly during the two break-out sessions I gave and the many conversations I had at our booth. Usually, all marketers ever want to talk about, with regard to webinars, are topics like how to drive higher registration or how to find better leads. This year, the focus was on how to deliver a better audience experience. And it’s about time.

To rise above the noise, marketers need to start thinking about how to build experiences that their prospects and customers will WANT to opt-in for, not run away from. All of these amazing marketing tools, and all of this great automation, were made to get us to our marketing, and lately, it has become our marketing. That’s where webinars are taking on a completely new role.

At SiriusDecisions, I talked about the “modern webinar”, an engagement-driven experience where audience members are interacting with your presenters, immersed in your content and fully experiencing your brand. The modern webinar is becoming more like TV programming than the PowerPoints many of us deliver. Instead of one-off webinars, I am seeing companies creating serialized programming, with established hosts, talking about topical issues with their guests. In many cases, these webinars don’t even have slides, just great conversation — and the audience is a part of that conversation. In these webinars, audience members are responding to polls, asking questions, downloading content, clicking on CTAs, tweeting and much more. It really is an experience. And these experiences are increasingly the tip of the spear for many marketing functions, including ABM, customer marketing and programs at every stage of the buying cycle. Wherever there is marketing, there are engaging webinar experiences connecting people to brands.

The true magic of the modern webinar is that if you build this model, something extraordinary happens: all of that engagement turns into data. Real data. Actionable data. Now instead of measuring clicks and opens, you are getting actual insights into the minds of your prospects and customers. In a recent report from Sirius Decisions, they called webinars the highest rated “human touchpoint.” This is how we put human engagement into our digital marketing.

At this year’s SiriusDecisions Summit, I could see the light bulb going on. Marketers from companies everywhere are beginning to figure out that to truly rise above the noise, you have to build immersive audiences experiences. And through these experiences, we will get much better at turning those ones and zeros into happy customers.

Want to know how you can break through the noise and connect with your audience? Download our joint report, “Break Through the Digital Noise: Drive Engagement, Action, Conversion and Loyalty.”

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. 20: Arity’s Lisa Jillson

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

This week on CMO Confessions we have Lisa Jillson, Marketing Leader at Arity, join us to discuss what it’s like working for a spinoff company, why today’s experts should have the courage to take a stand and why the concept of right vs. right now is so important in marketing today.

If you’re interested in discovering what else Lisa 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:

How Arity was Built
Lisa Jillson’s Thoughts and Experience Behind Building Arity
The Evolution of Marketing Skill Sets Over The Last 20 Years
Where Can You Have Persuasive Advertising Power
Brands That Succeed Are Invested in Thought Leadership
Authenticity, Conviction and Controversy
Building the Right Brand With the Realities of Growth

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 chilly Chicago area is Lisa Jillson, a marketing leader at Arity. Lisa, how you doing?

Lisa Jillson:

Hi Joe. How are you?

Joe Hyland:

I am doing great. Thanks for being on the show.

Lisa Jillson:

Thanks. Thanks for having me.

How Arity was Built

Joe Hyland:        

All right, cool. Let’s dive into to things that you love doing in your day-to-day. So this can be what you’re doing on the team or just kind of broader marketing things. What are you, what are you passionate about and what do you love in marketing these days?

Lisa Jillson:

So I will start with what I am loving at Arity. I really have the unique opportunity with Arity to build something from the bottom up. You know, it’s kind of almost a marketer’s dream to be able to start a business and design and build all of the components of that business from the bottom up. So, little history Arity is, it’s a relatively new, we’re about two years old, data and analytics company. We were somewhat probably used the air quotes here, somewhat, spun out of Allstate, when we realized that the data and analytics that we were using around transportation data actually could be used in a lot more areas than just an insurance company. But we had nothing, so we got to really build the brand and the mission and the vision for where the company was going from the get-go.

Lisa Jillson:

So I don’t know that I would necessarily equate it to a true startup in that we certainly didn’t start off with anything. We started off with some assets in the tank, which is great, but we got the opportunity to be able to do things like really map out how we wanted marketing to contribute to the business. But nothing existed. So for me it’s really exciting to kind of be building everything from the bottom up and delivering some of the foundational marketing aspects without having to like either undo or build on top of things that maybe weren’t working ideally at the get-go.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, that’s incredibly exciting. And it’s, it’s nice to do it out of a spinout of such an established brand. I’ve started from scratch at a true startup which was wonderful, I loved starting with nothing, right? You’re not wallpapering over and over existing wallpaper. What I don’t miss is the, “are we gonna make it to payroll in two weeks and we need to do another round of funding and financing?” So you do have the luxury of not having to worry about that. What’s it at? So you’re building, in a lot of ways, correct me if I’m wrong, you’re building a brand within a brand. You’re your own entity of course, but what is that like as a spinoff of Allstate and then building out this brand from scratch?

Lisa Jillson:

That’s a great question. You know, I think while we had a good overarching vision for where we wanted this to go, there were a lot of questions that we had to dive into. You know, we are a wholly owned company within the Allstate Corporation, but we had to make some decisions on how closely we wanted to tie ourselves to the overall organization. In some aspects, especially from a sales perspective, that was a huge benefit. And in other industries, it was a huge hurdle for us. So we had to think through as we were mapping out how we wanted to go to market; how we were going to play both sides of that coin. So we had to think about, you know, gosh, for these constituents, for these potential prospects, they love the fact that we’re connected to Allstate because it says credibility and history and security and data integrity and all of that. On the flip side, in some cases, we were the dinosaur and you know, I think some would say spinouts out of established companies have a high likelihood of not having success because you’re burdened with some of the more traditional stuff. And, and frankly, we were also going to be, and we are, selling to Allstate insurance competitors. And how comfortable are they going to be buying from an entity that is actually owned by somebody that they would traditionally see as a competitor?

Joe Hyland:

So how’s it going?

Lisa Jillson:

Actually, so far better than I had anticipated. I had expected that there would be far more hurdles put in our way. And I think it helps that the senior leadership of the corporation believes in the vision. And to your point earlier, we’re not worried about keeping the lights on or making payroll in two weeks. So we’re well-funded in that respect. We’ve been actually seeing a whole lot of success given that we’ve really only been around for two years and a few months.

Lisa Jillson’s Thoughts and Experience Behind Building Arity

Joe Hyland:

Okay. That’s fantastic. So you come from the advertising and agency side. So you’ve worked with a lot of big CPGs and kind of household names. How, I’m curious how that experience has shaped how you view and your philosophy on building a brand for such an established company? Whereas now even as a spinout, you’re still in early entity and you know, you’re only a few years old, so what’s the brand vision and what are the thoughts behind what you’re building?

Lisa Jillson:

So, I believe that there’s one more component in there that we’ve had to think through. And make and keep conscious as we were building out different components of the business and the brand and that is what the markets that we play in are decidedly B2B. And you know, to your earlier point, most of my career has been on the B2C side. So frankly, when I came into this role it was a little daunting. I mean do I really have the skillset to work in a B2B setting? It’s very, it can be seen as very different. I think what I’ve learned thus far is that it’s not as different as people make it out to be. Actually, if anything, I would say in the last 10 years our society has made it with the advancement of digital and an ability to use digital to communicate and persuade people.

Lisa Jillson:

There’s much less of a difference between B2B and B2C than there used to be. And when you have companies like IBM spending millions of dollars on a brand like Watson, which is a B2B entity, it kind of changes the equation of how you think about what you need to do. So, I would say our vision continues to be, two years out is that awareness is still a big portion of what we need to build. And, and that doesn’t change whether you are selling a, I dunno, laundry detergent or soda pop or you’re selling a business that’s going to be to other businesses. If you don’t have a share of mind, you can’t build some credibility around what your brand is going to stand for, then it’s going to be hard to drive them down the funnel, whether they’re going and buying a dollar item at a convenience store or they’re spending millions of dollars on a software-as-a-service contract. Both of those require the same kind of tools.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I totally agree. I think these long-held notions of pretty rigid walls between the consumer side and the B2B side of they’re crumbling. I mean, what it’s all about the scenarios you just walked through. The most important thing is you know everything humanly possible about the person at the other end of that decision or that purchase, right? And as long as you can do that and you have true empathy and you really understand what drives them, obviously there are other different levers; there’s obviously wildly different personas. That’s okay, but that’s what, to me, that’s what great marketing is about. There’s no like one-size-fits-all marketing philosophy. You have a different business than, I have and we have here. Right? And so we, you have different challenges, but you came over here and ran marketing for a webinar company you would adjust based off of what people are looking for when they’re thinking of digital marketing and buying webinar software. Right? Like you just got to know the other person, that persona.

Lisa Jillson:

I will have to say that, you know, in the last, well it’s been about three years that I’ve been kind of functioning in this role as a head of marketing for Arity. I love the flexibility that you get and the innovation that you get in the B2B world. You just have much less opportunity to do that, I think, in the B2C world. And maybe it’s because they, there’s more at stake, but I actually think it’s just because your target is so much broader that you’ve got to use more of like blunt objects to try to get the awareness built and whatnot. Whereas on the B2B standpoint, you’re a narrower target gives you actually an ability to try so many different things to figure out what levers going to get that person to be persuaded to, you know, listen to your pitch and actually sign a contract.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I agree. I think focus is a beautiful thing, right? So, and the more narrow you can get with your audience and your user more targeted you can be in your messaging and you generally have more success. What’s interesting, what I was always jealous of, so I’ve never done B2C, so while I have opinions that really they’re not grounded in experience on the consumer side. I was always jealous of how quickly data would come back. So you ran a sale or a special and you know, really quickly you can analyze sale data and behavior data and you can determine if it worked or not. And on the B2B side, 10 years ago, you just didn’t have that, right? Like it was, it was a little more of a black box, but yeah, you just started talking about the digitalization of everything we do. I mean, it’s so cool. We just get so much information back so quickly. We really should be making pretty informed and targeted decisions. And I think that’s true in the B2B side right now.

Lisa Jillson:

Yeah, definitely. I think as we all lean more into using analytics to help make smarter decisions, again, I don’t know that it changes. To me if you’ve got the right instincts to do well in marketing, it almost doesn’t matter what you’re marketing, it matters how you lean into those instincts of understanding what’s gonna persuade that user to move in a certain direction. You have to start with what are those instincts; let’s get those nailed down. Let’s get those documented and then how are you going to measure whether or not those instincts are right? Then you can drive the analytics to actually help you make those decisions. And for as much as I would say even in my early career of getting data, yeah we’d run ads and get to see the Nielsen sales data coming back. You never were quite sure where advertising played in that. Now there’s an ability on all sides to say, [inaudible]

Lisa Jillson:

Hey, stay out. You’ve got this instinct that if you pull levers, let’s say like a webinar and an email and a banner ad, you’ve got an ability to say, we think it’s going to work this way. How do we make sure that we can get some reaction or some idea of what that data is going to tell us whether our instincts were right? And if you go in, and I’ve told this to my team, we don’t have to be right; we just have to have an opinion and we have to be able to measure whether that opinion is right. It’s worse if you say “Oh, I’ve got to be right” and so, therefore, I’m not going to measure it because I don’t want to know if I’m wrong. That’s, that’s not a good position to be in.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. No, no, I agree. Yeah, where we could, where you can move from correlation to causation and really see that the drivers and the levers that are working or to your point or not, I would rather know that something’s not working than be unsure if something is working.

Lisa Jillson:

Yes, that’s exactly right.

The Evolution of Marketing Skill Sets Over The Last 20 Years

Joe Hyland:

So this is, for me, this is always a fascinating topic is so a lot’s evolved in marketing and as marketers, it’s cool because things change pretty quickly. I’m curious to get your sense on the evolution of skill sets that we as marketers have seen over the last 20 years. Because you’re right, there’s so much — there’s a wealth of information in seas of data which can be problematic as well. But you know, understanding how to make sense of that data and make smart decisions is imperative. Yet that said, there’s, I don’t think the art of marketing is going away anytime soon, but I’d love to hear from someone who has a strong agency background.

Lisa Jillson:

Yeah. You know, what was interesting when I started off at, in, some of the more traditional ad agency types out there I struggled to explain to my parents what it was that I did. And I worked in the account service side of the business, the client service accounts service. “Are you in sales?” I’m like, yeah, not really. “Are you doing ads?” No, that’s not really what I’m doing either. “Well, are you in the media on NBC?” No, that’s not me either. I finally hit on what I was doing and what I equated my skill set was almost like being a diplomat or a translator that I could understand what the client’s product was, understand who the user was — the end user, the buyer — and then try to coordinate all of the people that would help us get the product into the hands of the user in the fastest way possible.

Lisa Jillson:

And so a lot of what my skills were is to actually try to translate that equation to be able to articulate that. And I really don’t think that’s changed. I do think certainly there’s a ton of different skills that you need now that you don’t need, that you didn’t need before. I mean I’m well enough long in years that when I started in the industry, I did not have a computer. I was given a yellow legal pad and I have pointed down the hallway and said, there’s your secretary. If you want to write a memo, you can write it on this yellow legal pad and walk it down and that person will type it for you. And I’m like, oh my golly, I actually had grown up using computers, but this agency hadn’t converted. They didn’t have anything, they had some word processing typewriters. And I couldn’t think that way.

Lisa Jillson:        You know, some of my early products suite were packaged goods, but inclusive of that was actually some liquor products, which was fun — for a short time before it wasn’t fun. And you couldn’t advertise everywhere. So we actually had to get creative about what is advertising, what is it other than a message that persuades? So where could we have that persuasive power? And I think I was lucky enough early on in my career that I never was dialed into, well, the only thing that’s going to work is a, you know, a 30-second television ad or a magazine ad or what not. That there was an ability that there were all kinds of things that could persuade and that you had to figure out as those new things came to market, what they would do to change the equation.

WHERE CAN YOU HAVE PERSUASIVE ADVERTISING POWER?

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. By the way, I’m thinking of, I have this vision of your first office as a very madmen-esque office or where most of the work was done on legal notepads as you’re sitting on a couch, you know, about to have brandy or something.

Lisa Jillson:

Pretty much that was it without the brandy because we were all too busy to do anything else. And frankly, the agency I worked for was phenomenal. It was a great training ground. I got a really good experience there. But it’s, and I still have a lot of contacts you know, in the agency world. And I don’t think it’s too much different, but I think having the right people succeed regardless of whether you’re on, you know, client side, agency side, B2B, B2C or even ad tech is having the openness to be able to see what might be coming next and how you might choose to incorporate that because there will always be something coming next. There will always be, you know when we talk about, you know, social and things like blogs or Snapchat or whatnot, you know I look at my kids and I try to think about like, what are they going to do in the next five years? I usually don’t know. I don’t know what they’re going to do in the next five minutes, but at least it keeps me open to what’s changing.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. And what I’m hearing as you’re talking about this is like it’s always about, one, never, never fight change, right. And like never, never fight evolution. And, two, the more you can understand about the behaviors and actions and habits of others — particularly if those others are going to be your audience, the stronger you’ll be with your marketing. But I want to go back to something that there was a word that you kept using over and over a few minutes ago and it was what persuades persuasion, the art of persuasion. And I’m curious to get your sense on what feels like a bit of an epidemic right now amongst content marketing, which is more of this BuzzFeed-esque, clickbait, just do anything you can to get someone to take an action, even if it’s truthfully pretty misleading and it won’t actually persuade. I see this as a huge problem, hence using the word epidemic, amongst B2B marketers we’re just so desperate for clicks or likes or some sort of action, that we seem to be losing a bit of the art for persuasion.

Brands That Succeed Are Invested in Thought Leadership

Lisa Jillson:

I completely agree with you. And I’ll give you two anecdotes where I think this is going to play out sooner rather than later. One is — again, I’ll go back to like looking at how my kids interact with different media — they are so cynical at the things that drive them in to interact with, that I think that comes back to bite you. Even from the BuzzFeed standpoint think about it … and I’ve had some interactions with BuzzFeed, you know, in some of my previous roles. They know that is going to be important that they have credibility. Otherwise, at the end of the day, they’d become a fad, not a trend, not a credible source of information. So if as a brand leader or brand owner, all you’re looking at are things that are that don’t help build your credibility, you lose. So the other piece that I would say is evidence that will go by the wayside is that the brands that do succeed are really invested in thought leadership and the ability to be able to drive some information that your organization feels passionate about. You can’t just provide information that is nice to know. You have to kind of take a stand, and I use that term that actually that was a that’s been a key component of Allstate’s marketing for several decades. But that ability to like take a stand is very impactful and I think that…[inaudible]

Lisa Jillson:

Has a lot of impacts whether you’re an end consumer trying to decide to buy a product or your a customer deciding which vendor is going, you’re going to steer a hundred thousand or a million dollar contract to. You want to feel like whatever you’re doing it is bigger than just that one action. And if as an owner of a brand, you can’t help your organization to take a stand within its ecosystem, I think you lose the power of marketing, frankly. You don’t get the ability then you’re always looking for, you know, what’s the Jack in the box? What’s the ClickBait that is going to get you to click this time? You’re always looking for some new shiny object as opposed to having a bedrock of where you’re going to really take a stand on an issue.

Authenticity, Conviction and Controversy

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, that’s brilliant. I think authenticity just cannot be commoditized. It is something that marketers should never, ever sacrifice and unfortunately, it feels like more and more of us are. Yeah. Take a stance, say something real, say something authentic. To your point earlier on, even if you have a point of view on what’s going to work on a marketing tactic or campaign and you’re wrong. Okay, you can get that information and make an informed smart decision. Same thing for your marketing and your content. There’s nothing wrong with being wrong. At least you start a dialogue. People can sniff out BS. Like kids can do it, we can do it as grown adults like and I think we need to move away from, you know, just trying to scratch the surface with content and let’s create some real meaningful stuff. I think our audiences will appreciate it. And that’s how, you’re right, that’s how you build something that, that will last. You need to be a thought leader. You need to be an expert.

Lisa Jillson:

Yeah. And, and frankly, you should push to be an expert in something that actually has some controversy to it.

Joe Hyland:

Exactly. I love it.

Lisa Jillson:

It can’t just be I love puppies or I think traffic accidents are bad because you know what, nobody is going to say that it’s that they’re going to be for the reverse side of that. It actually has to be something that you have conviction behind that may be a bit controversial. And then to think about it within the context of content marketing. If you have something like that, gosh, it becomes infinitely easier to develop 27 different avenues by which we can communicate about that one issue. If it’s vanilla or it is not really a stand, it’s going to be really, really hard to figure out how many different — it’s almost like how many different kinds of wrapping paper can you put around the same topic? It won’t feel different and it frankly won’t drive any kind of content marketing in the truest sense.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. And you know, that’s interesting, boy I could do this for hours, that’s an interesting topic for big established brands versus brands trying to make it in a new market, right? Or, or build a market. So, I think, for example, you know more about Coke’s brand than I do, but if you were the number one player, maybe you don’t take as many risks like you’re okay with the status quo. And you truthfully don’t want things to change. If you’re trying to disrupt a market, you damn better be loud. You better be controversial. Like you just need attention. Yeah, that’s how you start a dialogue. There’s nothing wrong with being controversial. You don’t want to sound like a total jerk, but get a discussion going.

Lisa Jillson:

Well, and you’ve even seen some of the big brands, let’s go back to Coke. They have taken a stand on things. They have been controversial. Some of the recent advertising that they even did on the Super Bowl pushed the envelope.

Joe Hyland:

It’s true, it’s true.

Lisa Jillson:

That have of that conversation more on a B2C standpoint. But I don’t think any brand can afford to be safe. Because of the way that users are interacting with brands, and I think that holds even from a B2B perspective, that a — if I’m expecting somebody to write a check to my company for services that we’re going to provide, it’s not just going to be about a price. It’s going to be because they believe that we bring something to the table, that we bring a lot of value and a conviction to the table. They don’t necessarily have in-house. Otherwise, why would they pay us?

Joe Hyland:

That’s true. Yeah. And to your point, they got to believe that they should believe in your vision, right? Like, no one wants to write a seven-figure check for something that you’ve done years ago. Right. Like they want to feel like they’re picking the right partner to bring them to the next chapter, whatever the chapter is going to be.

Lisa Jillson:

That’s exactly right.

Building the Right Brand With the Realities of Growth

Joe Hyland:

Well what about pressures to, what about pressures on growth? So this is a brilliant discussion so far on brand and the right way to do content. What do you say to marketers out there who would respond to us and say, “Okay, Lisa and Joe, that’s great, but like I’ve got an incredibly aggressive pipeline target like next month? Like I need to, yeah, maybe I’m getting out shitty content, but I’m doing it because you know, I got to have volume but I need to get things in the market.” How do you balance building the right brand with the realities of growth?

Lisa Jillson:

Yeah, I do think of it as a balance. I don’t know that there is one right equation for any of that. You have to calibrate it at the end of the day. As my boss, our president would like to say, you either are in sales or you work for sales. We don’t have jobs if we don’t drive growth. It’s that simple. So we can say that we want to go all in it for the bigger picture, but if we can’t also show that that will actually help us drive to growth, then you’re, you’re kind of SOL. But it is, it’s a hard balance. And I think it’s especially hard from a marketing standpoint because oftentimes I think, especially on the B2B side, it’s actually easier on the B2C side because they’re all run by, those companies are run by marketers.

Lisa Jillson:

You know, we’re a voice at the table and we know we have the experience to understand what levers will help drive forward. But you, you’re often trying to make sure that that voice has the credibility needs to have in the C-suite that you’re all kind of coming at it through the lens of your own viewpoint. And I’ve gotta be able to convince the sales team and the product team and the engineering team and the customer success team that the vision through marketing is actually going to have a net benefit and be helpful to them because it’s, if I’m a team player on this team, I’m not driving all the decisions. And you know, if there’s something that has to be done tomorrow, then it has to be done tomorrow that it, you know, that’s all there is to it. You do have to make that balance.

Joe Hyland:

First of all, I love that quote. You’re either in sales or you work for sales. I think it’s so true. And you just said that very well. As long as you’re looking through the growth lens that can, that can dictate, dictate and shape the decisions. I think where marketers get themselves in trouble is when they decide to be totally agnostic of growth at least in the B2B world. You will not be received very well on the sales side. And ultimately the CEO is held accountable for growth, right? So everyone is in sales.

Lisa Jillson:

Yeah. We, we actually even looked at our plans because a lot of what we’re still building is like the foundational components of how we’re going to do this in the future. We have two columns: the right, and the right now and we have filled both of those columns because if we just do the right. We’ll get screwed. We and if we just did right now, we will never get it right, so we actually have to have both of those columns filled.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Wel,l that’s brilliant. I think that’s a perfect, perfect place to end. Lisa, thank you. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed the time. And, thanks. Thanks again for joining us.

Lisa Jillson:

Thanks, Joe. Was a lot of fun.

CMO Confessions Ep. 15: Rob Pinkerton of Morningstar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transcript

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

Great. Thanks so much for having me.

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

So when, when did the switch occur then?

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

Right.

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

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

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

Rob Pinkerton:

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

Joe Hyland:

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

Why Dickinson Wright Turns to ON24 for webinars

Dickinson Wright is a national law firm providing businesses with the legal guidance needed to navigate international property, litigation and more than 40 other practice areas. To educate its clients and prospects on the wealth of legal expertise at its fingertips, Dickinson Wright uses ON24 webinars.

With ON24, Dickinson Wright has a powerful tool that educates its audience on a variety of issues ranging from proposed legislation to new trends in the law. The ON24 Platform also helps the firm’s 400-plus attorneys by guiding them to highly-engaged attendees interested in the service Dickinson Wright has to offer.

For Christine Kloka, Senior Manager, Business Development at Dickinson Wright, ON24 ease of use is crucial, as almost every attorney at the firm uses the platform to connect with and expand the firm’s client portfolio. With ON24, Dickinson Wright’s attorneys have the tools to both deliver a clean, informative and engaging webinar and follow up with interested prospects thanks to the ON24 Platform’s deep analytics and actionable insights.

For Christine, ON24’s “bulletproof” platform makes her job much easier and provide a powerful way to keep attendees coming back for more. The firm regularly sees repeat attendees coming back to Dickinson Wright webinars for the latest information, resources and expert opinion and the latest trends in the law.

Watch this video to learn why Dickinson Wright fell in love with the ON24 Platform. To learn how ON24 can boost your brand and thought leadership efforts, click here.

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

Why Ogletree Deakins Turns to ON24 for Webinars

Ogletree Deakins is a leading labor and employment firm supporting in-house counsel, Human Resource professionals and small to medium business owners. Its range of clientele means Ogletree Deakins must be able to talk to a variety of audiences while maintaining a personable, one-on-one style of communication.

The law firm needed a digital solution that didn’t impinge on its relationships with clients. So, Ogletree Deakins turned to the ON24 Platform. With ON24, Ogletree Deakins can produce high-quality webinars that connect with clients,  push the firm’s content into attendee’s hands and affirms Ogletree Deakins’s thought leadership perspectives with webinar participants.

Best of all, for Ogletree Deakins, ON24 runs silently and reliably in the background, making it easy for attendees to download resource materials, ask questions, post to social media, review presenter profile and more — and do it all while running live webinars.  For Ryan King, Director of Communications at Ogletree Deakins, ON24’s easy-to-integrate platform and easy-to-use interface makes its the go-to scalable solution for informing and keeping clients up to date on the latest trends in labor and employment law.

Thanks to the success of its immersive webinars, Ogletree Deakins expanded its webinar footprint to more than 50 webinars in 2018 so it can cover every topic in the labor and law landscape.

To learn more about why Ogletree Deakins trusts ON24 with its webinars, watch this video. To learn more about how you can take advantage of the powerful ON24 Platform, click here.

What can a superior webinar platform do for you? Discover how webinars can boost your content marketing efforts and get the insider tips and tricks you need to succeed at Webinar World 2019.

CMO Confessions Ep 13: SalesLoft’s Sydney Sloan

Interested in more great marketing insights? Register for Webinar World 2019, running from March 11 – 13, and learn the secrets to stepping up your marketing game.

Hi and welcome to another edition of CMO Confessions, a weekly-ish podcast covering all things marketing and sales. This week, we have Sydney Sloan, CMO at SalesLoft, on to discuss how marketing is evolving with the times — and why marketers of all stripes need to challenge the way they attribute leads.

Her secret? SalesLoft doesn’t use MQLs — and that exclusion a central part of their strategy as they shift to an account-based marketing approach. This is another great episode and I highly recommend you give it a listen as we begin entering the new year and start planning new strategies.

If you’re interested in reading up on Sydney’s career, you can find her LinkedIn profile here. If you’re interested in her musings and expertise, you can find her on Twitter here.

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

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

Transcript

Joe Hyland:

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO Confessions, a weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast where we explore what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. As always, I’m Joe Hyland, CMO here at ON24 and joining me this week from the Bay Area is Sydney Sloan, CMO of SalesLoft. Sydney, How are you doing?

Sydney Sloan:

I’m doing great, thank you.

Joe Hyland:

That is fantastic having you on, thank you so much. Alright, well I’ll dive right in with something that is always fascinating to me and I don’t mean for this to come across as any way of a cynic or any negative energy at the start. But what, what drives you crazy about our world, this B2B marketing landscape that we live in today?

Sydney Sloan:

Uh, I don’t know about drives me crazy, and I know it’s meant to be provocative, but I think we’re in such a fast-changing pace and the world that we’re in, and I think what I love is that marketing’s being held more accountable than ever on our contribution to the business. So I guess if I had to critique anyone saying it’s, you know, people who aren’t moving from marketing who are moving into the new world fast enough that still maybe use, and I don’t want to say vanity metrics, but vanity metrics, were things that marketing is doing same impressions or MQLs that don’t actually turn into business drivers. So, where there’s that mismatch between, “Hey, Rah, Rah, Marketing’s doing great,” but the business isn’t growing, so there’s something wrong here. So if I would have to say that it’s like making sure that the leaders of marketing have a seat at the table as an executive and our are fully in lockstep with their, their counterparts on growing the business and admit when stuff isn’t going well. It’s not always good to have good numbers when the other hand is not succeeding.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I mean that’s, yeah, that is the definition of a vanity metric, right? Well, let’s talk. Let’s talk about that alignment because I think this is a popular topic among B2B marketers is being aligned with sales. I think a lot of marketers still struggle with this. It’s something they love to say, but I don’t know if it’s necessarily inherent in their day to day actions. I’d love to get your take on alignment with the sales team and what does that mean?

Sydney Sloan:

Yeah, I think it’s threefold. It’s first of all and empathizing with salespeople that selling is hard — their job is hard. We have to do whatever we can to make that easier. I’m also having customer empathy and owning the entire experience of the customer. I believe that marketing has a responsibility to bring that to light. So I’ll always take a customer first mindset across all parts of the organization, but at the end of the day, I think what’s transitioned the most, I know it’s been a buzzword over the last few years, but it is really taking an account based approach for B2B marketers. And if sales and marketing are in lockstep around account based and are truly working through and leveraging data and science to identify those target accounts when we are working them together, that’s where it changes.

And I’ve, the last three companies have kind of the first dip the toe the last one was kind of a hybrid share. We’re doing account based but yet still what’s marketing doing for me? And then I took over the entire SDR function as well and it was like, you know, we didn’t really own all aspects of inbound and outbound and with SalesLoft it’s a 100 percent account-based marketing. So accounts we work closely with, sales ‚ MQL doesn’t exist in my world and I’m so, so pleased. So we look at pipeline, we look at influence and we’re just working in lockstep with our sales counterparts. I’m trying to generate business, keep our customers happy and grow the business overall.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, it sounds so simple when you say it that way and it’s actually refreshing to hear that alignment and that focus. I want to come back to MQLs not existing for you because I’m fascinated by that. But first I want to talk about you said the metric is pipeline and it sounded like a singular metric. Do you measure just overall pipeline versus giving credit to where it comes from or how does that work?

Sydney Sloan:

So there are three aspects to our pipeline which I think are good and they’re good check and balances. We track a target account pipeline. So far our target accounts, what’s that pipeline? And then we track non-target inbound just so we can see the differences between where the leads are coming from and they, they pass through different processes internally on our side. The second part of that is what percentage of target account pipeline marketing influences our goal is 80 percent. So, we track about at that level. So, given that we are SalesLoft and we use our own tools, that I don’t actually use a marketing automation platform and, and the teams truly do lean into outbound that, you know, I feel a bit a little bit spoiled, to be honest as a marketer that, you know, it’s our DNA and that’s what we do and we want to showcase that to others. So I really get to see know a true outbound based company and approach.

But the other aspect that I talked about that check and balance is we look at pipeline, pipeline influence and all the conversion metrics that are associated with that. But my sales counterpart books just at opportunities for him, the numbers game is different because just how we could change the metrics on MQL. Anybody can change what the value of an opportunity is before it closes. So he’s looking at it in a different way in terms of the number of sales qualified opportunities, set it from a pure number of account opportunities that we’re working and then we can play around with the variables between them.

Joe Hyland:

We have a similar view by the way, where we look at a total dollar value for obvious reasons. However, what, what you said, who was a lesson learned for us in terms of not that there’s a malintent but it’s pretty easy to manipulate that number, a $10,000 opportunity all of a sudden one day as a $50,000 opportunity and I hope my sales management off my back and sure enough all close at $10,000 a month from now, but I’ll deal with that then. So we moved to opportunity count both for pipeline and then also deal. So it’s just a way to kind of disaggregate the business.

Sydney Sloan:

Exactly. I think to people, and you know, where you get the model where you start selling to small and medium enterprise and almost start small to medium businesses and then start selling into the enterprise. That metric changes exponentially because of all of the sudden you’ve got people putting in six-figure deals where before it might’ve been low to figure and you’re like, wow, that’s awesome. But really the number of opportunities isn’t changing.

Joe Hyland:

Well, you also mentioned something in there that I love is, you know, what it’s like working for a true outbound company. And some of that is you guys need to have that mindset — I’m sure you’re passionate about it because it was exactly. Well, it’s interesting. And I think a love to get your take on this. I think this has happened over the last, I don’t know, five or eight years where so many marketers were enamored with an inbound strategy and in no way mean to shit on having a smart inbound mechanism within your marketing department is obviously very important.

However, I’m a firm believer in controlling one’s destiny and I think a great marketing team needs to have a great outbound strategy and I feel like outbound, it’s kind of become this four-letter word. Whereas a lot of marketers who think they know that what works yet they don’t necessarily want to talk as much about what they’re doing on an aggressive outbound strategy. But I think that’s just great. A great demand-gen strategy. And I’m curious if you see something similar or you think marketers have come back and the pendulum has swung back to marketers really believing that outbound is critical for their success.

Sydney Sloan:

So I see two things. One is from a personal experience. What I find interesting is, if we’re talking about our lead, well there’s two things. First of all, for the test of time, the complaints are “marketing never generates enough leads,” and then we say, “sales, why aren’t you falling up on my leads?” That’s true, the story hasn’t changed regardless of if there were 150 people in the tech marketing landscape or 7,000 companies, right? But it’s still the adage to the age-old adage. The issue is kind of where their responsibility lies and how we’re starting to track that. And in taking over the sales development or the business development function or responsibility as a marketer changed.

And as much as, I hate to say that just because people shifted on an org chart from one team to another that things should be different, but for me it was. Where we started thinking about them as one of the marketing channels. So we had all our different channels, webcasts or our advertising channels, what we were driving from trials, but we weren’t thinking about outbound as one of our leavers in the marketing world of things that we could do to impact. And so, once the CRM team became part of our organization, that changed and we started thinking about that as another aspect. And I got that as a piece of advice from a counterpart — a colleague one day. Now what I see being at SalesLoft and talking a lot more is a to lots of folks, about 30 percent of companies in high-tech currently have the business development function under marketing.

And, which is I believe that pendulum swings back and forth, the SDR, BDR team, you know, depending on where it sits, but at least the alignment is coming together more closely and we know that if we’re generating leads, we need to be just working as hard to convert those over to opportunities. And so, if you’re looking at your cohorts and saying, you know, what’s going on between my whatever, like I said, I don’t use MQLs anymore, but the leads that I’m generating and the, and the accounts that are being worked in the activity levels and engagement levels on the accounts holistically, marketing and sales should be looking at that view, I think.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Well, that goes back to what you said earlier on your, how you look at your pipeline. You’ve targeted accounts so you and sales, marketing and sales together, have come up with a list of your ideal customer profile or the group of accounts that you say, Hey, they’re insane if they’re not using SalesLoft. Right? And is that, is that literally how you begin your marketing and sales strategy from this, from this core group of accounts,

Sydney Sloan:

We have three tiers as every good ABM huckster should. And the question is, you know, in my previous company we had 50 companies in the top tier. At SalesLoft we have 10. So we’re hyperfocused on 10 for each of our sales teams, commercial and enterprise. So those are the ones that we really do feel that the most opportunity is gonna come from. And my advice has always that you’ve got a good blend of your existing accounts in that top 10 if you’re going to put that much resource into them. The second and third tiers, you know, we’re still using data and exploring different data points in order to get to that. What I’ve, what I’ve learned is we can use more technology triggers as kind of the roadmap for whether or not this count is more successful. Let me explain because that might have sounded confusing.

So for instance, for us we are going after companies were previously we’re going after SaaS companies that we knew had a strong inside sales and business development teams — and there is a known universe of that. But as our need to grow increases and we need to go after net new accounts, what we wanted to do is we’re saying, well, let’s think about this. If there are companies that are buying ABM technologies, they are inherently account-focused, therefore they should have outbound as part of their strategy. And so we started looking at what’s the footprint of ABM technologies in accounts and using that as part of our scoring model. I’m definitely interested in this whole idea of intent and exploring the intent score around those to help stack-rank the accounts.

So I think, you know, there’s a lot of science and data that can be applied, but at the end of the day, you’re still doing the handshake with sales and in having them select as well based on different segmentation. So I wouldn’t say we’ve got yet our tier two and three nailed in terms of the right pieces, but we’re constantly tweaking and finding new approaches to figure out what the right accounts are in that second tier. And then the third tier is kind of just keeping them warm. Right?

Joe Hyland:

I think that’s smart too because I don’t think anyone who, my opinion, anyone who tells you that there’s a specific formula and this is bolted to the ground is full of it. Like you, you need to be somewhat flexible and agile because perhaps for that top tier I could be argued into that. But other than that, I think you’ve got to be somewhat flexible in terms of the definition.

Sydney Sloan:

I used to say that I’m creative meetings where my guilty pleasure, I loved going into creative meetings and, and working with the teams on concepts and now it’s, believe it or not, tech and data meetings and just because we have so much information available to us and there is so much more science that can be applied and constant learning. There’s so much gold in there that we just need to continue to push the bar and try and figure out how to get it right and it’s constantly changing.

Joe Hyland:

Isn’t it interesting how, how marketing just constantly adapts? You’re right. I think 10 years ago it became incredibly important to be more analytical and use data to make smarter decisions, which is great. Now, marketers have to be somewhat well versed in technology, which I’m not ancient, but when I started in marketing and there really wasn’t much tech to choose from, we were in early salesforce customer and we added in Eloqua and we were pretty advanced. I mean that was our tech stack. There really wasn’t anything else other than our website, of course. Now it’s insane. Even at ON24 or not a huge company, but we have about 20 pieces of technology in our marketing tech stack and it’s not a trivial amount. So you’re right I find myself in a lot of tech stack discussions and I don’t know if I like it or not.

Sydney Sloan:

Maybe I do because it’s after filling after marketing technologist for so long and technology that I didn’t use if that makes sense now being able to say, “okay, this industry [intelligible] and then how to apply it for my own needs is interesting. I remember back, Gosh, 10 years ago when you did 10 years, I had to calculate and like 2008. What was I doing then? But that was it, right? There was the rise of the digital marketer and I was working at Adobe at the time and so it was so funny. We were teaching the sales guys, okay, well you go to Linkedin and you type in “digital marketing.” I’m like there’s someone there like “I found one!” And you know that was 10 years ago. Now, it’s like you have all this data, these contacts and we’re plugging into these systems, we’re bringing it front and forward to the sales reps to be able to do personalized prospecting on.

Sydney Sloan:

And I mean, there’s just so much there, but that has created its own unique challenges in terms of what marketing automation kind of, that way that happened and now the way that we’re in, we’re personalization matters and really helping build the connection and break through the noise. I mean it sounds and we say it all the time but it’s true. We just did a survey actually were between buyers and sellers and we were asking the question, what do you think is, is buying harder or is selling harder? And both audiences said selling is harder. So it was like 74 percent of the sales teams and sales were harder, but 70 percent of the cut the buyers said sales was hard, too. And it’s just the number, the amount of competition I’m trying to reach your contact and saying something meaningful, like don’t waste their time. Um, and those were the three kinds of pieces of why they thought it was hard.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I think they’re right. You’re 100 percent in control selling whether we like it or not. You are not like it’s not a, it’s not even a question.

Sydney Sloan:

And then the last thing I need is another 50 emails in my inbox.

Joe Hyland:

Oh, tell me about it. It’s the bane of my existence every morning, even with spam filters. I’m curious. So you referenced an intent earlier using intent data for me, the verdict somewhat out on the effectiveness of that though that said we are, we also are using intent data or trying to. We’ll see how successful we are. What do you think…are you a believer in predictive intent data to drive decisions?

Sydney Sloan:

I think they both have their use and my experience with predictive was mixed, I’ll be honest. But I do what I learned after the fact was if you are going through and have like a top of the funnel, goodness problem. Like I have so many customers in the top of my funnel, I need to figure out which ones to kind of push through the funnel. Predictive was a good model for that and, for us, it was a challenge because we were changing who we’re going after, so we didn’t want to continue to sell who we were selling to so that didn’t quite work for my previous company. With intent, I started using it last year when it started to come out and it does give you another data point, it’s just how much are you going to rely on that and in where you’re going to invest your resources.

So, it makes logical sense and how they’re thinking about that, hey, if people are going to Google and search, you know, they’re already looking forward if they’re going to G2 Crowd, those are very strong indications, but if they’re out in the open web, I’m also searching for things that might relate to you, it’s a signal. So we kind of treated as another data point. It’s not the holy grail per se, but it’s something, another data point to look at.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. So same for us. And it sounds like we’re at a pretty similar stage with it. My challenge or our challenge is, how much information or at what point does too much information become just that — overwhelming and too much. So, we’re using it pretty heavily in marketing and we’re still tweaking with what ultimately gets passed onto sales. Just because sometimes I feel like there are false positives in there and I can just be a little overwhelming.

Sydney Sloan:

Yeah, we’re currently not passing to sales either. So, I’m with ya.

Joe Hyland:

Okay, cool. You referenced the death of the MQL earlier. I’d love to go back to that because you’re right though, I mean, this is marketers have a lot of control over scoring and it’s pretty easy to manipulate MQL count and I think it — in the wrong environment can lead to finger pointing back and forth between marketing and sales — which is the antithesis of how we started this conversation on getting that alignment. You guys have done away with the MQL altogether?

Sydney Sloan:

It doesn’t exist and I can’t say that I could take credit for it. It was, it was not in place when I got there, so I didn’t have to put it in place, but it’s interesting, there still might be something there in the nurturing side, but we didn’t have the… SalesLoft was already fully into the ABM model before I got there. So I need to thank the team for being forward-thinking. Here’s kind of the part where I’m struggling with, is that there’s still, what is the indication of is there more that marketing could be doing to warm up accounts before they get passed through? So I’d like to look at as we look at target account engagement and the amount of the number of accounts we’re influencing, can we help the influence within the account level? How much?

Sydney Sloan:

One of the things that we did use to do that, I’d like to figure out, and I was talking to John Miller about this the other day. We were at an event together and we used to do these things called smoke reports where you could see, did you have engagement across multiple contexts in a single account? So I’d like to be able to bring that sort of data, but that’s where leads meet accounts and I know Engagio solves that problem. We don’t use Engagio personally right now, but that is one of the things that they do solve for. And so we had written a script in Salesforce to do that previously.

So how do I get that to work where we can try and help with the footprint inside accounts when you’re trying to get more people involved or maybe land and expand into new opportunities. So that’s the MQA score, I guess. But we just pass it right through to our SDR team and they start working it. So the question is who does the nurturing? Do sales do the nurturing through sales, often cadences? Does marketing do the nurturing through — also, we can use our cadence engine for that — or should we be using marketing automation? We have lots of customers that do that with marketing automation.

Joe Hyland:

Sure. So, you mentioned that your tier-one accounts, so they are, I would imagine, all using marketing automation in combination with you guys as you assume it’s correct —

Sydney Sloan:

For the most part, yes. And that’s where there’s still a traditional handoff between the marketing funnel and the qualification funnel.

Joe Hyland:

But as you… So, I’m just curious as you guys then go down market to smaller companies, is it common that you’ll work with marketing departments to say, “Hey, we’re not gonna use marketing automation at all and I think SalesLoft can handle the whole thing for me?”

Sydney Sloan:

We’re trying to go upmarket versus downmarket. We do have customers that just use SalesLoft and in some customers don’t even have Salesforce. So, on the very small enterprise, they can. I think there are, again, it’s depending on the size of the company and the complexity of the offerings they have and there is value in nurturing. Whichever system does that, I think that’s important and to be able to track all those interactions — however that does that — I think the difference comes between the level of effort and who’s doing the hyper-segmentation so you can still get that personalization that people actually want.

So that’s the balance in terms of how hard is that to do that in your marketing automation systems versus in your, within your sales or your sales development teams. But, also, I think, you know, at the end of the day, everybody still has to do prospecting, whether you’re an account exec or, you know, I don’t yet know of a company where the sales reps are not also on the hook for generating and their own opportunities.

Sydney Sloan:

And so when you think about being able to leverage tools to engage customers to communicate with customers, that’s better than an excel spreadsheet and your own personal email. There are many different tools out there that can help with that — I advise for a couple as well. And so I think that’s the problem we’re all trying to solve for is how do you create meaningful communication in the most personalized way yet still using some kind of tool for automation so you can get scale, whether that’s marketing automation or what, I forget what the other new category is around field marketing enablement or something like that and sales engagement all these new categories that are emerging.

Joe Hyland:

You made a good point, even a lesson I learned a few years ago when I also wasn’t in Martech before this. We have some clients who were fortune twenties, he’d say, well, of course, they have a CRM and marketing automation, but some arms don’t, right? So, there are divisions, small divisions, which have to be pretty scrappy of huge companies that don’t necessarily have all the bells and whistles for technology. So that’s a good point.

Well, you just referenced scale, which I think is something so exciting about what we do as marketers, but it’s also a slippery slope and you combine that with creating really compelling customer experiences, which I think is something that marketers should own and the question is where does that, where is the line of demarcation how deep into the relationship should marketing own the experience?

Joe Hyland:

But I feel that…

Sydney Sloan:

All the way…

Joe Hyland:

That’s how I feel as well, I think it was a long conversation, I think that is one of the most exciting areas of marketing. But I see a lot of marketers really screw that up because they say, “Hey, I know, we just got to scale and you know, we just, we got to blast out a ton of emails and we’ll worry about the experience later.” Which I think is the wrong approach, but why? Why is it that so many marketers have a hard time balancing those two?

Sydney Sloan:

Look how many MQL is I can generate that don’t get closed?

Joe Hyland:

Exactly that scale, right?

Sydney Sloan:

I think people have to have the confidence that if they’re doing the work upfront to qualify the accounts better that and work on your ICP and, and run meaningful programs that are going to target and convert the right accounts. It is scary if you’ve been, hey, look how many MQLs I’m having a now I’m going to reduce that number, but it’s going to be more meaningful because my conversions are going to go up. That’s the logic behind it and you just have to commit to it and start doing it and prove it out.

I went through that transition in my last role and it paid out and we started to see the ASPs grow and because we were going after the accounts we wanted to go after and working more closely with sales and it was, you know, it was a long, it was, you know, two and a half years of going back and forth on what it meant to have target accounts and how we are partnering together and did I pick the right accounts or did it not pick the right accounts? And am I confident in the data in order to do that? So, it’s scaling down to scale up. And I used the term to like slowing down to speed up. Sometimes you just, you gotta be smarter about what’s up front so you can make it more meaningful in the longer run. And then you start scaling by running multiple segment programs. So it’s not one for everyone. It’s you scale, like, okay, I got that model running. Now how do I add a new one while I’m continuing to manage this one?

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. And that’s great marketing, right? I think focus is such a beautiful thing when done right. And it’s, you’re right. That takes some discipline. Yeah, no, you gotta know when to say no, right? And there is such a thing as, you know, we talk about this in our group, there’s such a thing as a bad lead whether you classified as MQL or not like, yeah, you could use, it can be a waste of time for both marketing and more importantly sales. So I like that — your favorite f-word — Well, we’ve wasted another perfectly half hour.

I want to thank you for your time. I’ve really enjoyed it. This has been a wonderful discussion. Thanks so much.

Sydney Sloan:

Thank you. It was excellent to get to talk to you and look forward to watching some of the other webcasts if they’re as fun as this one. We can always be learning more from each other, so hopefully, it was useful.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, no, I love it all. Alright, thanks so much, everyone.