What it Takes to be a Great Marketer in the Revenue Era (with Box CMO and TigerConnect CMO)
Speaker: Hey, what's up everybody. We have a special episode of the pipeline podcast for you this week. We want to do a little something different, and I had a round table thanks to Matt Hines, with Wendy White, who's a CMO of TigerConnect, Chris Kohler, who's a CMO of Box, and myself, and Matt. And we spent about an hour talking about a little bit of everything, 2022 planning, what's changed in the last year and a half, how much of B2B has really shifted to digital. And we even talked about career management, managing remote teams. It was a really good discussion if you are into B2B sales and marketing, which I think you're here for. So I hope you enjoy this conversation, and we'll be back next week with more interviews. But I hope you like this format. And if you do, send me some feedback, would love to hear your comments on it. All right. Let's get into this episode. Real quick, just give our guests a chance to quickly introduce themselves. We've got an all star panel here, and very excited for this conversation. Wendy White, CMO from TigerConnect. Actually in the office today in LA, so Wendy, thanks for joining us.
Wendy White: Good morning, everybody. For those of you who don't know what TigerConnect is, I think our other two guests may have a little more well known company. We're, give us Slack for healthcare, very specific collaboration, communication platform for healthcare experiences.
Speaker: Real excited you're here, also excited. Chris Kohler is the chief marketing officer at Box. Some of you may have heard of a small company called Box, who is... You said you're in Park City now, right?
Chris Kohler: Yeah. Yeah. I took advantage of the remote work, and decided, like several Californians, to try a new place. And it is October and it is snowing. So that is a little bit of a lifestyle change, but hopefully we're going to get a strong winter here with the early snow.
Speaker: Love it. And last but not least, Dave Gerhard, chief brand officer at Drift, founder of the DGMG community. Thanks for doing this with us, Dave.
Dave Gerhard: Yeah. Nice to be here. Good to see everybody. Always happy to talk about marketing from the comfort of my own home.
Speaker: It is. And I think we were given Wendy, we didn't really plan on having bookshelves all behind us, but it is where we are. But Wendy, I think maybe we'll start with you, and we're just going to start round- robin this a little bit. Before we clicked the start webinar button, we were talking about some of the changes that we have seen for ourselves in the last year and a half, the ability to move somewhere else and still largely get the same work done. And obviously that has changed a lot of how we've operated our own marketing efforts as well, right? Where it was one thing to say, " Well, should we do our booth different this year? Or should we do a different happy hour party of the event?" Well, what happens if events go away altogether? And what happens if when they come back, people aren't as willing to go. I mean, especially relative to your digital strategy, how has your go- to- market effort changed in the last year and a half, especially around some of those adjustments that are now becoming permanent fixtures of your strategy?
Wendy White: Well, I think we've all seen the rise of these virtual events, and the relative of importance of them in our marketing mix. I started off last year working in business travel. And as you could probably imagine, that was chaotic and crazy. And when we started trying to offer educational virtual events for our market, to help them understand what was going on, we saw events that previously would've pulled maybe 100 or 200 folks, get upward of 1, 500 or 1, 700 folks attending. Now that's I think died off a little bit, as we've all gotten a little bit of a virtual event or webinar overload. The numbers have come down. And also the bar has just increased in terms of the expectation that your content is going to be incredibly compelling and rich for your audiences.
Speaker: And I think that there's what we observe and how we're changing our go- to- market efforts. And then hopefully a lot of that is based on what we see from our buyers, right? I mean, the sustainable best companies in the world aren't focused on necessarily product and service, they're focused on customers and problems. And if you follow them, then you're going somewhere. And I'm curious, Chris, how you have seen some of that shift over time. I would imagine that going remote is a bit of a boom for a business like yours, what shifts in buyer and customer behavior have you seen, and how have those led to priorities for you, from marketing perspective?
Chris Kohler: Well, I think to piggyback on what Wendy said, is the benefit of digital first is the scale and the reach, right? Where we can actually do these events and we can reach a much bigger, broader audience that might not have been able to travel in for whatever the event. We just did our large scale event, BoxWorks, a couple weeks ago. And again, it is less expensive, the reach is great, but you're missing that personal connection around that. So that's one of the things that we're trying to figure out long term is, is it hybrid? What does this look like? How do you get the best of both, where you can have small intimate gatherings with people, if they're willing to actually get on a plane. And the bar is really high, so you have to actually create these experiences. And we're all competing with each other of like, who can have the best guest speaker. And we're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, crazy now, getting there. But I do think this is one that we're going to be struggling with for the next 12 to 18 months, of how do we actually drive engagement? Because the challenge is, just because we have an event going, doesn't mean that they're fully engaged and paying attention. Or they join for the first half hour, drop off, and then don't come back. So there's really that intimate engagement that you just don't get in digital, I think we're struggling with.
Dave Gerhard: I think it's a perfect time to just rethink. I think one of the missing ingredients in marketing, ultimately your marketing channels are a reflection of where you think your customers are spending time, right? So you have to use the context of 2021 to make that assessment. So three years ago, easy to travel, no problem. Having an event was a great move as a brand. Because a lot of these bigger companies, I'm sure Chris can talk to this, but you don't do the big event just for pipeline, that is a brand event, that is an employment brand event, that is a culture event. You do it for many other things than hardcore sales revenue. So I'd actually argue that if you really want to drive revenue from an event in a B2B context, your better bet is to go small, and probably do targeted things, which people are more likely to go to. So I think you have to think about like, " Okay. What am I trying to achieve with this?" I want something that can achieve this type of reaction, this type of press, whatever. Maybe the vehicle used to be an event, but now it's something online. Or maybe you go and do a fully branded TV show, or you do something on YouTube. I think the channel is different. I think you can't just take the playbook, " Well, we've always done event in B2B, so let's keep trying to jam it in." And it's like, no, this is the perfect opportunity to press pause, readjust based on all the channels you have, and then make a new strategy moving forward.
Chris Kohler: Well, and Dave, I think that it's what does that creativity look like moving forward? And I think from an events perspective, we've been doing that for 20, 30 years, where it's the same playbook of field marketing. It's like, " Hey, we're going to go drive executive inaudible. We're going to do dinners, we're going to take them to these events, we're going to work through that." Now in this new world, one, people are dispersed, so even on this call, everyone is all over the US and all over the world. How do you do that in this new world. And maybe that playbook, like you said, just needs to be thrown out and we need to reimagine what different types of content and engagement, and what video brings and all that, that it's the next evolution of marketing, which is fun to be part of for sure.
Speaker: I think when everything shut down in March of 2020, I think there was that. I can't remember what day it was when the NBA shut down the same day we found out Tom Hanks had COVID- 19. That felt like a very monument-
Wendy White: Became really real.
Speaker: Yeah. I mean, on that day, I remember it was around that day when I heard someone say, " Oh yeah, they're not going to play. Baseball shut down, they're not going to play until the All- Star break." I'm like, " This can't possibly last that long." Here we are a year and a half later, and it's still around, right? So I thought it was going to be easier to plan for 2021 when we got the end of last year, here we are in almost November. So planning for 2022 hasn't gotten any easier. I love, Dave your comment about your go- to- market strategies and reflection of where you think your customers are. Wendy, where do you think your customers are going to be next year? Is it going to be a continuation of this, or how and when do you start to accelerate through the curve a little bit, and assume that they're going to change behavior again?
Wendy White: Well, again, working in healthcare, my customers right now are still engrossed in full hospitals, and figuring out how they're going to bring in revenue with elective surgeries potentially still being on hold, as they're dealing with full hospitals from COVID patients. So hopefully that's getting better now, and we're starting to see a change in that. But we have to be, in particular, just really eyes on what's happening with caseloads in which cities, and where can we market? Talk about being where your customer. For us, it's down to which cities are doing well, at which points? And how do we do outreach in hyper- local situations? So there's a lot of thinking about hyper- local, small events, like Dave said, really intimate customer stories, even if they're virtual events. And then also getting back to live.
Speaker: And I also want to pull back a little bit and talk, not just about go- to- market strategy and marketing leadership, but I've seen so many examples in the last year and a half of chief marketing officers and marketing leaders stepping into a broader, deeper leadership role in their company. Knowing that a lot of things are changing, employees, customers, prospects, partner ecosystems, and just really not leading as a campaign manager, as a marketing officer, but leading as a chief market officer, someone who's really defining what that market looks like. And I'm curious, Chris, how you have seen that within Box, as well as with other companies and leaders as well. Where this has been an opportunity for marketing leaders to be, and to embrace a broader, full leadership role in the company.
Chris Kohler: Yeah. I mean, if you look at my background, I'm not the traditional CMO that came up through the marketing ranks, right? I've had a lot of different roles around customer success and being in the sales organization, and being in product and all that. So I've always thought about this as a GM moving forward. So when I took over the marketing organization a couple years ago, I reoriented the team thinking about, " Hey, it's not about the funnel and pipeline, it's about that whole customer experience." We need to be as thoughtful of revenue and retention, as we do around pipeline and campaigns and everything else. So we just started out that way. And luckily we had a good rhythm before this pandemic started. And it has served us well as my chief revenue officer, my chief customer officer, we're all aligned. We're three business leaders thinking about, how are we going to grow the business together? Versus like, " Hey marketing, you go over here, run the campaigns, drive demand. We'll pick that up and we'll sell. And then CS, you go off and you adopt and renew those customers." No, we're all aligned across that entire customer journey. And that's fairly unique. I haven't seen that across a lot of organizations, but I was lucky to have two partners in crime that just had the same approach, for sure.
Wendy White: I have to echo that, Chris. For me, that's been one of the most satisfying things about my current role, is that triumvirate of the go- to- market or revenue leadership. We call it the revenue engine. We meet collectively every other week, and look through our entire data set around our pipeline, our churn, our retention. We have really good, open discussions about where we're going to use which levers, across our three teams. And now we're doing 2022 planning. We're looking at every ideal customer profile and saying, " Where do the dollars go across those? What's our strategy between the three teams?" And that's a really good place to be.
Dave Gerhard: Just think, at some point we got to accept that this is the reality of where we're at. And instead of saying, " We've been going this way for a year and a half." It's like there's before and after. And you can either decide, you have to make the decision that the things that may have worked a year and a half ago, stop hoping that they're going to work again, it's a new game that you have to figure out how to be playing. And I just think one thing that frustrates me is when we talk about digital, I think everybody just goes to like, " Okay, we got to spend on digital." And I actually don't think that the first gut reaction should be to spend, it should be to create. And to your point about the marketing being integrated into all these other functions, you need help from the product, you need a product strategy and company vision that match, how are we going to get people to discover us and interact with us in this new world? And if your field sales experience and website experience is fundamentally broken, then that's the stuff that you need to be rethinking right now. So why do you see more enterprise companies adopt a freemium type of strategy? Because they're like, " Damn it, our product is good. All the marketing in the world isn't going to be as good as getting you to use our product." So I think you have to. As the marketing leader, you have your channels, but you have to think more broadly about, my job is to help sell our product. That's the guiding principle. Okay. So then what are all the barriers? How do we actually need to do that? And It's not just about, I don't want people to hear us talk about digital today and think that means, go spend more on LinkedIn or go crank up more on AdWords. This is a fundamental shift in how people try and buy your product. Even for high six figure SaaS contracts, this is all now happening fully online. What are all the steps that you need to happen? If it is a nine month sales cycle and all these things need to happen, how can those things all now happen online? What do people need to know, like, and trust you? What do they need to move through that process? I think it requires a full rethinking of that, not just go and do things on digital.
Wendy White: I know Dave didn't say product led growth, but Matt was dying to jump in and say product led growth. I could see it, Matt. Right? And for those who have the buzzword bingo out, there you go, I said, I put it out there. But Dave, I couldn't agree more. We had a really great chat last week in the CMO group that Matt and I are both in, about product led growth, and about that experience, creating either a snack of your product online or creating an entire strategy around getting people to try it. And then more and more experiences building up that and sell them up on a platform.
Dave Gerhard: And just the product fit is so important. Do you think that the Zoom marketing team was pounding their head against the wall, wondering how they're going to build pipeline for the last two years? No, they've had more demand than they can keep up with. So that's just one example of how there are multiple ingredients that matter. Time, what's happening, your place in the market, how people use your product, all those things matter. And your job as the marketing leader is to be able to push in all those areas of the business, not just put lipstick on a pig and go shop it around and hope people are going to use it.
Chris Kohler: It's interesting. Wait, you guys. We actually run a cross- functional digital, what we call digital strategy group for Box. And we are fortunate enough to have been in this product led growth around that freemium strategy. So we've always had that as our motion of the network effect associated with people trying the product, and then bringing them in as paying customers. But we think about it under three umbrellas. One is core, from an upstream digital marketing efforts, to get and drive demand into both the product and the website and others. We have a freemium, we have a conversion team, a cross upsell team, we have a retention team. But I also partner very, very closely with our product organization, around the onboarding experience and adoption. Because again, I can go drive all of these net new users, but if they're not actually actively using the product, and who else knows how to engage with customers in a way that's going to get them to drive action that we do that. So again, it's like that entirety of the customer life cycle, I see it my responsibility. From top of funnel all the way through to renewal, marketing can help play and facilitate that journey, is how I think about my role in the organization.
Dave Gerhard: And we're in a new era now, lead gen has become table stakes. Anybody can do lead gen. Anybody can build an email list through content, that was very much 10 years ago, HubSpot, inbound marketing. That is table stakes. Now everything is digital, everything is online. So what separates the good marketers from the great ones, is actually being able to create demand. How can you create demand? And demand means, people are coming to my website, not just because they want to go to my webinar, but they're raising my hand saying like, " I need to try this product. I need to talk to the sales team." That's the stuff that you want to be able to harness, not setting up an ebook and going shopping around the 300 contacts that downloaded it to the sales team. Because sales team, they know those are not buyers. And everybody's customers are smarter today, because we're all shopping. Even if I know that I'm going to buy at Box, everybody told me that's the right solution for my company, I'm going to do... We bought a minivan a couple months ago. We knew we were going to get one particular one, but just to do our own due diligence, we went and drove the other two, right? So that's how everyone is also buying in the world that we live in today. So how are you going to compete in that world as a business? I think those are the things you have to be thinking about.
Wendy White: I might have said to the whole company, during our mid- summer strategy update to the company, I might have said that MQL's dead and I freaked out many of the marketers in my team, but I really believe it. I'm 100% with you, Dave. It's not about lead gen. It's not about put up an ebook and see who gives you their name. Free the content and focus on the experience and the demand gen. And as I've heard a few other great marketers say, inspire, entertain, engage, stop worrying about putting a gate in front of an asset.
Speaker: Chris, we were talking about this before we got started. We were talking about the difference between appointment setters as BDRs, and demand creators, right? And the fact that no matter what you are selling, no matter how complex the buying process or the buying committee is, it's not a single form filled that's going to do this. It's not the white paper download that generated the deal. There's a body of work that requires some consistency to build trust, to build credibility, to build preference, to build an understanding of a problem that someone may or may not know that they have. So I think who else, other than the chief marketing officer, that understands the customer, that understands what it takes to build authentic... I love your concept, Dave, a lead is not demand, right? Those are very different things. Chris, what are some things you're seeing that are working to help orchestrate that across departments and across a body of work?
Chris Kohler: Yeah. I mean, I think it's a mentality within the organization as well, right? Because everyone has KPIs that they're trying to optimize against. But those KPIs, ultimately at the end of the day, it should lead to revenue, right? Ultimately we're trying to grow as an organization. And some of these tactics just ends to a mean, right? That we're trying to grow the business. And I see too often departments like high fiving saying, " Hey, I did my job, I got this across the line." And then it's not actually turning into revenue. And I've seen that a lot from a marketing perspective, where we're creating all of this, Dave, as you described, opportunities to have conversations, maybe it's MQLs and others, that aren't actually converting. And we might be missing from a sales number perspective, but we're high fiving because, " Hey, we did our job." It's like, well shit, that doesn't matter. Who cares? The company doesn't grow based on how many leads or MQLs we've created, it grows when we actually when we close more business or retain more business as well. So I think it's like, change the mentality of the organization not to think about those KPIs. Think about the big KPIs, revenue, retention, are the things that ultimately matter. And then they could start to change their mindset around, what is the tactics we need to go do, that ultimately are going to help with that. So if we do some activity, the measurement isn't just pipeline. What if it's just engagement? One of the big challenges, I think, especially SaaS companies in general struggle with is, we keep putting out new innovation, new capabilities. And customers get stuck in the mindset of how they think about you. Yet the product team is delivering all this innovation and no one's actually using it. So one of the things that I'm trying to do with my team, is eliminate the phrase, I didn't know that you guys could do that, as with our existing customers. It's the thing that kills me the most, because when you get into these, are they getting value out of the services we're providing. And too often, marketers, we should be driving that awareness, and the demand of these new capabilities with existing customers, to help us grow and cross sell and retain them. So just things like that, I think it's like a mentality for sure.
Speaker: We're starting to get some good questions in from the audience, so thank you to Mimi, good to see you here. Thank you, Dave. We're going to get to some of these questions. If anyone else has a question, here's the deal, I'm going to just ask these questions of our group. Is it more a function of where the buyer is and what they need to see, and the channel just fits in the right place naturally. I'm curious how you guys are thinking about outbound versus inbound, especially as you plan for next year.
Dave Gerhard: I think outbound, to me, typically today at most modern companies is coming on the sales side, it's not really... I don't know, I'm not sure outbound marketing, I guess you could call that advertising or other channels. But I think in the simplest form, doing outbound is typically done by sales reps. And I would say most companies, and Wendy and Chris can correct me if this has been different in their expect, but sales and marketing together have a shared pipeline goal. For example, the company revenue goal is$ 10 million, therefore sales and marketing together need to add whatever, $ 30 million in pipeline this quarter. Of that$ 30 million, marketing is going to create 70% of it. Sales is going to create 30% of it. And then this is where the planning is so important. The how of that, well, how are we going to create 30% of pipeline through sales? That's going to be through BDRs, prospecting. That's the outbound motion. That's how I've seen it typically.
Speaker: And Chris, we were talking earlier about this blurred line between sales and marketing and where does the BDR sit and what is their role? And is it just a siloed appointment setting machine? That doesn't work sustainably well. And Dave was really, his question really gets down to, it's outbound selling versus inbound marketing and lead follow up, right? So I know you're pretty passionate about how this mix works, and how you integrate this. So curious to get your thoughts here.
Chris Kohler: Yeah. And it was interesting, Dave, you just mentioned that. I had to drop off our global pipeline call with North American AMIA, where together sales and marketing across pods are trying to figure out, what does that mix look like? What's working, what's not working? And drive the collaboration. And we have both an inbound and an outbound team, all under the sales organization. And we do that, partly because of just career pathing, right? So we hire early career people, they get an opportunity, tough as some of the toughest jobs, quite frankly, in the industry. They earn your stripes there. And then you hope that you promote them into, we have an SMB and a mid- market and enterprise. So they sit in sales primarily, because we want them to have career paths moving forward. But marketing obviously plays a very, very close role around what is the messaging? What are the sales plays? How are we doing this together? But right now it lives in sales, just because there's career path opportunity for them.
Speaker: How does the BDR function fit into how we think about demand gen? It's not just a post lead or post demand sales function, it's part of an integrated approach.
Wendy White: The BDR, SERL, to Chris's point, is the hardest job I think in marketing and sales, there's zero doubt about it. And you can make it easier by orchestrating it for them, give them the right tools, give them the right environment. So yes, inbound is super critical, but not inbound in the sense of somebody came and downloaded a case study, please don't send that lead to the BDR to have them work. That person is not ready. You're just going to interrupt them in their sales process. Let them show high intent. So we tend to think about the inbound, outbound part of that, of let's find people who are actually in markets, let's then decide how to surround that buying committee. We have a very complex enterprise sell, we want to know who else is in that buying committee and try to reach out to them. So our motion is like, if we see an account surging, or we see some great inbound, then let's say like, " Let's figure out the other personas that have a role in that buying committee process, and surround them with some outbound sequences, et cetera, to try to hit the right selling messages for everybody in that buying committee." And we try to do that in a very orchestrated way around that concept of somebody or an account being in market. It's way more successful than throwing up a webinar and calling every one of your webinar leads, please don't do that.
Dave Gerhard: This is where the product experience matters or whatever. This is where the buying experience for your product matters so much, because yeah, if the exercise is just follow up, " Hey, send this person." Because what does follow- up honestly mean for 90% of us out there, follow- up means BDRs send 10 emails over the next 15 days, and then they get recycled. Where if you just revisit that and say, " Well, what are we actually trying to get them to do? We're trying to get them to book the meeting." Why have they not taken a meeting? Is it because they're busy? Is because this isn't a real pain right now? Is it because they're not really buying yet, but maybe they'd see a demo? I've done this, right? I've been interested in something, book a meeting, it falls off. So there's oftentimes three or four reasons why someone is not actually taking that meeting. Or surprise, it might not be relevant or interesting content. So just you simply sending 15 emails over the course of two weeks is not going to be the thing. So this is where you have to really push and think about like, forget about the fact that we're going to send 10 follow- up emails. Is there an experience we should be driving towards? Are we trying to get them to do something? How can we meet them there and do it? This is, again, why that product led growth approach is so powerful. Here's more of a small business example, but I'm writing a book and I have a landing page, and I use ConvertKit for it, right? And this is not a plug, I have no affiliation to them. But I was free. I got 800 signups on my waiting lists on ConvertKit. And then they emailed me and they're like, " Hey Dave, enter your credit card because you're locked out of your account, because you've gone over the limit. So if you want to reach out to those people..." So damn it, guess what I did? And I gave them the quickest$ 30 a month I've ever given anyone in my life. And now I'm a customer. And that's one small example of how, did ConvertKit need to creatively follow up with me a hundred times? No. Did one of their sales rep have to send me that email like, where the file cabinet fell on me? Like those old corny memes. Your followup efforts shouldn't be a gimmick. There should be something that is baked into the DNA of the solution you're trying to get people into.
Chris Kohler: Yeah. Dave, it's a good point. And again, how quickly can you get them into an experience, to actually solve the business problem of what they were looking for before, versus, hey, it's a set of, like you said, a set of 10 emails that ask me if I have time today for a 15 minute call. And it's like, guys, these strategies just don't work any longer. We're all inundated with just so much messaging, that we just have to change that approach. And like you said, we're spending a tremendous amount of time, both on our freemium effort, but also our trial experience. Get people's hands on the product, because that's the best selling motion, versus sending them another piece of content, for sure.
Speaker: I want to pivot to our roles as leaders internally. It's been an interesting year and a half, as we've seen just people, not just working on a pivot in go- to- market motions, but also working through their own lives. Now working from home, we continue to see elements of the great resignation, as people now decide they want to go somewhere else. We have a lot of hats we wear as chief marketing officers. You've got your external marketing leadership, you've got your peer leadership on the executive team. Let's talk about your marketing teams and the things that have become higher priorities for you in building a culture of, just building the right culture for your organization to drive results, productivity, but also value for your employees. Wendy, I mean, you're fairly new at TigerConnects. I mean, you joined well after the pandemic started. Would love to hear what you found there when you started, and what things have been a priority for you to build your team.
Wendy White: I think the biggest priority has been trying to find a way to remove a little bit of the work stress that we artificially create on ourselves. And I think that is getting people to focus on the KPIs that matter, and put a lot of stuff aside. And also just the, I don't know, the culture of collaboration and support for each other. For us, that definitely played a role with talent. Prior to the pandemic, TigerConnect had a culture of being in the office. We're in LA, so a lot of commuting, allowing people to use that commute time differently now, right? Building a strategy of letting people block their calendars for work time, block their calendars for family time, block their calendars for pick up the kid time, and not scheduling meetings over that. There's a lot of things that you have to think about and do differently, around how to collaborate with a distributed team, and also how to look for talent in different places, and then onboard them during a pandemic. There's just been a lot to think about as a leader.
Speaker: Chris, I mean, you've moved as part of this. I'm curious as you manage an increasingly remote teams, same question to you.
Chris Kohler: Yeah. I mean, I think for us it's been empathy, transparency and trust around this, and being vulnerable as a leader as well, where you're like, " Hey team, I'm struggling with this work- life balance, and I'm freaking tired." And just being, I think, vulnerable that everyone's dealing with a different situation, right? And some people have kids, some people live with three roommates and they're struggling trying to figure out how to make this work. There's different restrictions based on where you live in the world, right? All of those things. So I think that's one, is just having empathy that we're all struggling with this. This isn't like, " Hey, us as leaders, we got this all dialed in and we're good." I think the other big one has been over- communication. And I think what my communication to the team is amped up, probably five to 10 fold versus pre pandemic, where everyone is distributed. I've had a lot of people in the team have left the Bay Area and moved to other places around that. So I think that's piece. And then talking about mental health, right? And taking time off and breaks. One of the things that I think, there's been a couple of things. One, video is exhausting, we all know this, but it's the default medium. I think it's innate nature of us, we want to be seen. We want to make sure that, " Hey, we're working, we're here, we're on the video. We're not doing something else." Some of the things we're trying to figure out is like, let's go back to the old school of like, I'm going to call you for a one- on- one. We're not jumping on video. I'm just going to call you and we're going to talk, and you can move around and you can get stuff done around your house or go pick up your kids or whatever it is. So again, I think it's just this, I think for the first 18 months, it was everyone sit in front of the desk. Everyone is there, they're on video. They're feeling like they're productive and work through. But moving forward, we have to do more asynchronous. We got to do less video. We just got to have more freedom around this, because this isn't sustainable. And I'm seeing the burnout for marketing, especially. So I'm trying to do my best to encourage them, to just do this differently moving forward.
Wendy White: We have what we call the no apology zone. Nobody has to apologize if they have to not be on video or miss or a scheduled team stand up, because they got to take their kid to the doctor, whatever. Creating that safe space for people to feel like it's okay for them to have the appropriate work- life balance, or deal with their own stress or anxiety. I even just tell people, like when I'm having a period where I'm feeling really anxious, I'll be the first to admit it. Because you just need to normalize that it's okay to talk about these things, and it's okay to be feeling that. The burnout is really real.
Speaker: I think Russ Somers, who is the CMO at TrustRadius and he's CMO at Lytho now, I remember him saying, when your one- on- ones, that hopefully you're having on a regular basis with folks in your team, ask them how they're doing and ask it twice. Because the first time you asked that question, like, " Oh, I'm doing pretty well." Like, " Okay. But how are you doing? How are you really doing?" Right? And ask that twice and do that on a consistent basis, and prove to people you're not just doing it as small talk. Because I think some people, they feel like, " I really am very anxious. I'm very worried about X, Y, and Z. There's other things that are clogging my brain, but I don't want to burden my boss about it." They don't want to hear I'm not doing okay, they want to hear I'm fine, so we can go on and talk about pipeline or whatever, right? Chris, I see you nodding your head. I mean, this is part of being a leader today, right? I mean, when my dad was leading this stuff wasn't talked about. To me, I mean, thank goodness it is, because this affects the whole person. The whole person comes to work, not just the employee.
Dave Gerhard: I do have one. I'm coming at this from an interesting perspective, right? I'm in a role right now where I don't have a team and I don't have direct reports, so I won't offend anybody by saying this. But having been that person in the past, I think one of the hard things though, is that you can only be so transparent and so helpful with somebody, where you have to enable your team to manage their own time and manage their own careers. Because I think so many times I've had conversations with somebody who's telling me that they're burnt out, and I'm telling them, " Take the time." And I've seen this happen so many times, where it's always the late worker, the hardest worker, they're grinding, they're grinding, they're grinding. They need to take that first vacation and come back to work and realize, " Huh, everything didn't break. Life went on." So even for me, I still have to do that, right? I wish there was a way to force people to take the time, because I do have the conversation with a lot of high performers that are like, " I know I'm stressed, but there's always something. I just got to get it through this next month. Well, so- and- so is out now, so I can't go out." You have to really push people and make them take the time off of work, off of Slack, off of email. Literally do not respond, because how many times do we all say, " Are we off?" But we're still responding. You need the full mental clarity of like a week of not thinking about your job. And you're going to come back, be a much more clear and happy person. I just wish sometimes that we could force people to do that, because that's often what it takes. You got to rip the band- aid. You have to get outside, you have to get out of the office and then realize, you know what? The company didn't fail because I took my five days of vacation.
Wendy White: Yeah. You role model it yourself when you're on vacation, turn it off, role model it yourself. And then also one of the things we do in our team is we ask, " Hey, what's everybody's plan for vacation this summer?" Or, " Hey, the holidays are coming up. What's your plan for taking time off?" Normalize it, it's a good thing to have a plan and to take the time off.
Chris Kohler: So totally agree with you on both fronts, where I have to model it as well. I'm like, " Hey, I'm going out and I'm not responding. Unless it is some crazy emergency and you're going to call me, otherwise I'm not responding." Some of our team members actually delete the apps off their phone. So it's just like, I can't be tempted just to quickly... I've got downtime and, " Let me go check my email." Or, " Let me go check Slack." Nope, just delete it. And it's amazing. But we do the same thing. But I'm also asking when I have leadership team meetings, " Great. When are people taking time off? Why haven't you scheduled something? I don't care if you don't do anything, just get off Zoom, take the break." You got to encourage them to do it, or they just don't do it. And especially when depending on their comfort level of travel and doing other things, they may not want to go do that. But in reality, just being at home for a week without being on video is as beneficial as going on a vacation and that sort of thing. So again, it has to start with the top, we've got encouraged this.
Speaker: And there's a couple of ways I think about that role modeling. One is, for sure, taking vacations yourself and disappearing, right? And if you know you're going to disappear and not check in on work, then that forces you to be prepared to leave and disappear, right? So what are the things that need to get done while you're gone? How do you either get it done or set it up so it's getting done, or just set it up so it gets done when you're back? So role modeling that. Also, I mean, nights and weekends, man. I mean, in too many companies, Sunday night is the new Monday morning. And it's fine if you say, as a leader, you want to look through things, but schedule your emails to go tomorrow, schedule your Slacks to go tomorrow. Or better yet, set up your Friday so that you can have that time for whatever you want to be doing on Sunday. So that Monday morning, maybe block out some time in the morning with your coffee to be able to get that done then.
Dave Gerhard: You can't win. People would be upset that you scheduled Monday morning emails, either way, then it will be like Monday morning is the new Tuesday. Wait, I think David put a good comment in chat that I just think we should touch on which is, leaders need to understand what's on everyone's plate, pushing people to take time off who actually have too much work as a major stressor. It's so important to help people manage their workload, especially junior team members. This is a lesson that I've been burned by. And I learned the hard way that, now I understand why my manager, before I was a marketing leader, would always be pushing me to know like, " What are you working on? Who are you working on that with? What are the deadlines?" This is a good reason. This is one of those like, you can't really understand the crazy things your parents did until you have kids. And now you're like, " Oh, I understand those things now." But it's why as a marketing leader, you need to push for clear strategy, clear goals, clear roles and responsibilities. I know exactly what Wendy's goal is and what she's working on, I know exactly what Chris's role is and what he's working on, because then we can have a real conversation like, we're a third of the way to the goal with 10 days to go, and you're going to go on vacation for 10 days, is a much different story than like, " Here's what's on my plate. Here's who's going to take this. Here are the things that I'm working on." So I think very clear goals for each role. Not just from a high level, but this is product marketing, this is what they own. This is who does what, this is how we're going to measure them, is really important to have that. It's almost like marketing attribution in a sense for the team internally. It's like it's tough to make decisions about who should do what, unless you have some black and white answers on those things.
Chris Kohler: Dave, one of the interesting questions that always comes up with crickets is, I press my leadership team, what are we going to stop doing? So we've added all kinds of things over the last 18 months of new programs, new initiatives, all that, what do we stop doing? And it's literally crickets. Everyone's like... I'm like, " Well, that's a problem." It's a problem.
Wendy White: It's always too short or non existent. There's no doubt.
Chris Kohler: And it's like, I think it's human nature to be like, well, I don't want lob something up that I've been doing, then I'm going to basically admit that it doesn't add value. But again, it's a conversation we're constantly having and saying, " Okay. How do we ruthless prioritize what matters in the business? And what do we just don't get to you?" Right?
Wendy White: People are ambitious. They have an appetite to learn and grow. And part of the not wanting to stop things is, things that we might want to stop because we haven't quite figured out how to measure the impact or it's not measurable, but your gut knows it's a good thing, those are the things that often end up on the cutting room floor, right? So combination of being inquisitive, wanting to experiment, having ambition around growing things. And then also the KPIs, those things are not always aligned. So it's hard crosstalk.
Dave Gerhard: One thing that's been helpless to publicly share, like when... This only happens in planning times, but to share the list of things that marketing is not focusing on right now can also be really helpful. Because I think any company could make a laundry list of 20 things that they could do. You have to first admit that you cannot do every idea, every suggestion from the CEO and this partner and this customer. Or the HR team needs a website page, you promised them a photo shoot and a rebrand, all that crazy stuff. You have to first accept that in this job, your job is to say, " We're going to have lots of things we could do, we can't do them all." So, " Hey, here are the five things that we're focusing on." I think when I have been most effective as a marketing leader, it's been when I have, " Hey CEO, whoever I report to, here are the three things we're focused on. Agreed on that? Agreed on that. You got it." Then we can go and create a marketing plan and team strategy, based on those three things. And then we can always audit and adjust like, " Well, which one of those goals does it serve? Well, it serves our goal of building our reputation. Then yes, it's harder to measure right now, but I think we should keep going and do this podcast every week."
Wendy White: But I think part of what you just said, Dave, is as a leader too, having that gives your team a framework to say no. And having a framework to say no is one of the most important things that you can give them. Because again, ambitious people want to experiment, et cetera, but they also are highly customer service oriented. Marketers want to help out the sales guy that asks, " Can you set up my view for me in Salesforce?" " No, I can't do that. No." Right? I might know how to do that, but I can't spend the time on that, right? People want to say yes, they want to say yes to the HR photo shoot.
Dave Gerhard: Somebody said this in chat, but you're great at naming it, right? Well, you just identified exactly what that is right there, which is you have to... I don't even know how you said it, but it was perfect.
Chris Kohler: Yeah. It's an empowerment, right? You have to empower the folks to say no. And one of the things that we do as a very strong OKR process, that I share with the entire marketing leadership team, they said, " Hey, these are my priorities for the business. Here's what I'm going to go execute on. If there's stuff that is outside of that, you all are empowered to say no, and it doesn't matter who it is. And I have your back, right?" Even if it's the CEO says, " Hey, I have a suggestion for X and it's not in our plan of record." Then I'll go have a conversation with the CEO say, " Hey, it's not in the plan of record. We're not doing it."
Wendy White: I know. I grew up inside Intel and the OKRs were super important for the contract between you and your boss, what you're going to get done. And if your boss wanted to throw something on your plate, you'd throw up your OKRs and you'd say, " Let's negotiate what comes off." Right? I think that framework to say no, or that workload or the stop, start, continue. Those are all frameworks for doing that.
Dave Gerhard: You got to handle that one like a toddler, " Oh, I know you want ice cream right now, but you know what? We've already agreed that we're going to have crackers for dessert. So that's what we're going to have."
Chris Kohler: Crackers for dessert?
Dave Gerhard: Come on, I'm making this stuff up on the fly. Cut me a break, bookshelf guy.
Speaker: Fine. And we've talked about internal impact, talked about external impact. What about you? I've heard Carilu Dietrich, who some of you know. She was a marketing leader at Lasion. She does a lot of CMO coaching and consulting now. She has a good talk track around your career as an investment portfolio. So to understand what risk are you willing to take? What's the outcome, long- term, you're thinking about. Thinking about career design as a CMO, as a marketing leader. And there is no wrong answer to this, right? You may be like, " Hey, listen, I'm happy as a CMO. I want to be a CEO. I want to eventually be a consultant." Whatever that is. But like being intentional about what that arc might look like, and the impact you can have, and the purpose behind that for you. All variables that go into that. So just curious how you guys think about your career, and what advice you might have for others to think about that as well.
Dave Gerhard: I can jump in, because I mentioned it a little bit earlier, but I don't have the traditional CMO path, where I didn't spend the majority of my career through marketing up the ranks. And to some degree, it was a bit intentional where I think of myself more of as generalist than a purebred marketer, although that's what I went to school for and MBA and everything else. I spent 10 years at Adobe focused on that persona, but I had a lot of different roles. I ran product, I was in customer success, I was in the sales organization. So I think about it is, as a longterm business leader, what are the skill sets I can grow and build upon, that ultimately... For me, I want to run a company. I would like to be a CEO, so I'm building those experiences along the way, to help me set up for that. And I left Adobe after 10 years, had a fantastic run. I was running a go-to- market and product marketing for the creative cloud enterprise business, little products like Photoshop, InDesign that some of you are familiar with. And I made a jump after 10 years to a small company called Box, that had less than 2, 000 employees to run customer success, right? And a lot of people are like, " Why the hell would you do that?" It was like, because it was new, it was different. I was going to take lessons, learn, and build and grow in the culture I loved. And ultimately gave me an opportunity to be CMO. So I think you just have to be deliberate around taking chances, get uncomfortable, and always be learning, is my motto.
Speaker: Wendy, what do you think?
Wendy White: I think always be learning is an amazing motto. And for me, it's the first thing I do in the mornings, I learned something. I go learn from my network, I go see what's experimenting, I go read what Dave's saying in his Facebook group. Dave, I do loved that. I do do that. And I also have run every functional area of marketing at one point in my career, so I consider myself a generalist too. And also think a lot about the fact that a modern marketer is way more revenue and data focused than maybe we were required to be 10 or 15 years ago. So we have the skillset now to go left and right from our position to other leadership roles on staff. I think my next job, I'm going to be a CRO. I understand-
Dave Gerhard: Oh, I love that so much. I love it. Clip that, post that. Let's post that. We need that clip. Let's post it. Let's blow that up. There's not enough talk about why is the CMO not the next CRO? I love it.
Wendy White: Yeah. But in a modern SaaS go- to- market, it's a logical place for the marketer to go next, is to own revenue. So for me, that's what I'm thinking about. And thank you, Julia. She just said I'd kill it. I appreciate that.
Dave Gerhard: I love that. No, but it's true. Everything is like, should marketing report to the... Marketing reports into CRO. You really hear the other case.
Wendy White: My role model is Helen Baptist from path factory. She's my wannabe queen right there. I want to be her. She is the COO, she owns marketing, she owns customer, she owns sales. Boom. Let's do that.
In this episode, Dave talks with Box's CMO, Chris Koehler, and TigerConnect's CMO, Wendy White, about how the Revenue Era has shifted their go-to-market strategy, how they lead their teams in a digital-first world, and why all marketers should be revenue-focused.
Some key moments:
- How go-to-market strategies have shifted in the last year and a half (2:40)
- Shifts in buyer and customer behavior over the last year and a half (4:10)
- Opportunities for leadership growth as a CMO (9:10)
- Product-led growth and product-market fit (14:10)
- How go from a good to great marketer (15:40)
- Appointment setters vs. demand creators (17:30)
- How to think about outbound vs. inbound marketing (20:15)
- Building a marketing organization that drives value for your employees (27:05)