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VOLTAGE Content Director Heather Mierzejewski sat down for lunch and a chat with long-time marketing expert Anne Lannan. Anne served as a Vice President of Marketing Operations at the security intelligence company LogRhythm and Vice President of Client Success at the SaaS-based service company Ecosystems Services. The duo dished on what every marketer must do and common pitfalls to avoid in today’s tech-driven world.
Heather: Tell me about your background and expertise.
Anne: I have a marketing operations and sales background and have had a variety of roles in that space. I enjoy strategy and engaging with customers. I consider myself a lifelong learner. And I thrive at the intersection of sales, marketing and customer success.
What were your two last positions?
VP of customer success at Ecosystems, a value-selling and customer success platform. Then the VP of Marketing Operations at LogRhythm. I’m currently a consultant.
Tell me about how you’ve seen marketing change over your career.
I think that the two big things are that marketing is more accountable – the revenue marketing model is more accountable to drive revenue for the company – and how they justify their investments. Then it becomes about applying more data-driven measurements, metrics and analytics to truly find out, measure and tune what you’re doing in marketing to support business objectives.
Do you feel like that’s made marketers’ jobs easier or harder?
A little bit of both, because as a marketer you get more respect when you can show a return and justify expenses. You may be getting a bigger budget – but you’re going to be accountable for that to the board. So you’ve got to measure and report on what you’re doing.
Plus, you’ve got to stay on top of the technology stack and evaluate the latest technologies. But you also have to think very carefully about this and vet vendors because it’s easy to buy more technology then you can use. Getting new technology doesn’t mean you can stop understanding your stakeholders’ requirements. Focus on doing pilots and buying what you can implement and your stakeholders will use.
What do you think a marketer’s biggest pain points are today?
Data-gathering, data analytics, and using it to drive engagement and make decisions. Once you have good data, the next pain point is making it useful – finding the right tools and technologies to derive insights and drive strategy. Making it more of a data-driven science.
That’s the biggest pain point. You’re being asked to deliver targeted, high-quality leads to sales, so you’ve got to use predictive analytics. It’s all about the data-driven nature of what we’re doing, so it’s become increasingly measured, scrutinized, etc. I also think that in aligning with the buyer’s journey, marketing has to step up and be a part – the key part – of operationalizing customer success. It’s not just the acquisition of leads, it is targeted lead acquisition based on an “ideal customer profile” as demanded by ABM (Account Based Marketing) programs, for example.
I think we have focused too much on the “before” – things getting into the sales funnel. Throughout the sales funnel, marketing needs to support the sales team with relevant content and social selling support. It’s really about targeting then bringing those buyers along to increase win rates.
Then once we win a new customer, it can’t be, “whew, we’re done.” The challenge is continuing engagement programs and campaigns across the entire customer journey or customer lifecycle.
You really have to really differentiate what you’re doing for each step in that customer journey. Before it wasn’t quite as targeted to the buyer’s journey. How might you serve up different things to people in different parts of that customer journey?
Early on, I think you’re just trying to find out what people are interested in, so you’re going to bring people in by doing what you can with the different tools that are out there. Once you’ve defined your ideal or target customer, you develop strategies to go after them based on how they want to engage, by “listening” to their interests based on their response.
I have worked with clients on a Buyer’s Journey with defined stages, with relevant content and “customer verifiers” to indicate where they are in their buying process. For example, case studies or peer references from “like” industries or company size get a strong response early on, while customers want more technical information if they progress and agree to a POC.
So you’re doing a lot of research and listening during that first phase.
Research, listening, and you have to be a little bit less committal because you don’t know that person as well. Once they get in the funnel, the marketing has to be a lot more personalized, and there has to be a lot more storytelling to alleviate their fear and to talk about how other customers have been successful.
It’s very much got to be all about the customer. We can’t always be pushing our products and features. That’s a big pressure! People have been successful because they had a great technology or product, but it can’t be about us, the company.
In other words, do more questioning, more addressing concerns that customers are likely to have or talking about what they need instead of just bragging on your product.
Yes, that’s absolutely right. It’s really about shifting that perspective to be focused on the customer needs, what they care about, not “Hey do you know how fast I can run a 50-meter dash?” It’s not about me and my stats, it’s about what they’re looking for.
To continue the metaphor, is the customer looking for a distance runner or are they looking for a sprinter? Find out the concerns your customers are having.
Customer retention in a subscription economy is also a big challenge for marketing. In other words, keep focused on making the customer happy, telling them stories, really tuning that experience for them when they come on board to ensure customer relationships are healthy, listen to the customer, and measure their engagement.
And that last point is worth repeating: engage,, listen, and more engagement.
Talk more about that. What does engagement mean to you and why is that important?
Are we listening, and are we responding appropriately? We may be taking some guesses using initial data, applying analytics to say, okay, this is what I think people want to hear. Then you’re constantly listening to them and fine-tuning. And that is a lot of work. You don’t just launch your campaign, roll it out there, and you’re done. It is a constant iterative process to listen to the customers and bring them along based on where they are in their buyer’s journey..
It also puts the pressure on the marketing stack to have the right tools in place AND it makes you communicate with other departments. So you have to interpret the data and bring it to product marketing and say, “Quit talking about how great this new feature/function/whatever it is – customers want to hear about how we’re solving real problems.”
So for example, IT transformation, to move to the cloud. There’s a lot of fear. Are we talking about that fear? Instead of, “Hey! Look at our new dashboard!” We have to make sure we’re coming at things from the customer’s perspective. Tell me my peers’ experience and business outcomes from IT transformation.
Got it. So not “Why is OUR cloud cool,” but rather, “we know it’s scary to make this move, here are some benefits.”
Right, or, “Let me quantify this for you so you won’t lose your job.” We build the business case so you understand the impact this is going to have on ROI from soft and hard metrics – and I think that’s really what the difference is, that we’re listening.
That’s interesting. What’s something that every marketer has to do to succeed in today’s environment?
They have to focus on the customer. Because again, marketing is the lynchpin and needs to engage all the way across the customer journey. So before, you would find a lead, qualify it and throw it over the fence to sales. Now you’re working with sales to make sure that they have the data about the prospect to personalize and engage with the prospect.
It’s a lot more work to target and focus than it used to be. And once we convert an opportunity and win the deal, we shift into customer retention and upselling. Customize engagement based on the audience, what they care about, their problems and measuring “customer health” to keep your customers happy. We have seen focus and specialization with “Customer Success” teams, in lockstep with the sales team, for a warm handoff and smooth onboarding of new customers. Passing the baton as a team versus dropping the ball.
How do you align those sales and marketing teams – what are some techniques that you’ve used to be sure that they’re staying aligned?
I think it comes down to the planning process, and there’s something in the culture of the company that you have to engage early on in the process. I also think marketing has to work more with sales, which isn’t always a comfort zone. For example, I’ve been used to doing deal reviews and forecast calls -working with salespeople requires a fair amount of earning your stripes and the sales team’s respect. It’s not always a comfortable position for marketing, but you have to dig in there and get curious, understand the sales world and really get involved with the sales process, understand it and align with sales management. Anything marketing can do to make the sales team’s life easier.
You mean to align sales with what you’re seeing as a marketer?
Yes, the planning and process are 100 percent reliant on the sales leadership team.
For example, you could design a social selling program and say, “We did all of this content and your reps can now identify and build relationships with the 6.8 stakeholders involved with making the purchasing decision that must be get on board to win the deal.” But if the approach is not supported by sales management – they’re not walking the talk – then it won’t stick and be adopted.
Sales adoption is the key, which is always a challenge for marketing. So again, adoption and really embracing a culture of customer success saying, “We are all about the customer.”
Stay tuned for part 2, Anne and Heather talk about social selling and the role of content in today’s marketing landscape.