Addressing the 21st Century marketing landscape: an interview with Jeanne Hopkins

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Jeanne HopkinsI recently talked with Jeanne Hopkins, Senior

Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Continuum. Jeanne has previously served as EVP and CMO at SmartBear Software, VP of Marketing at HubSpot, and in other marketing leadership roles. She has been named one of the most influential people in sales lead management by the Sales Lead Management Association.

A shorter version of this interview appears on the IDG Connect Marketers blog.

Louis: I want to talk about this idea, I call it “Innovation Overload”. Adobe did a study and they called it “Digital Distress.” I saw a blog post that you wrote for HubSpot when your “Go Mobile” book came out and you called it the “intimidation factor”. And I’m sure you’ve seen the marketing technology landscape that Scott Brinker put out with 947 marketing software companies in 43 categories.

Jeanne: Yes. And you’re not even counting all the little splinter things. All the little dashboards. All the little things that every marketer has to have.

Louis: Absolutely. And I think it’s just accelerating.

Jeanne: Gosh, yes. Proliferation. That’s true.

Louis: Because it’s just getting easier and faster and cheaper to develop something.

Jeanne: And the cool thing is that a lot of things that are coming out now are very metrics-based, because people want to be able to look at metrics and figure out is this working or is that working. You’re trying to get that one, base level understanding so that you’re comparing apples to apples to apples, not apples to bananas to giraffes. You’re trying to get that common denominator so that when the board of directors asks “What does this mean?” you want to be able to have an answer that makes sense and not “Well, if you look it like this it might be this. And then you kind of have to look at it sideways with your eyes squinty and then that’s what it’s going to look like.” They want hard data to figure out the ROI of things – are you actually doing your job. And that’s really hard for any marketers who are not quants by nature. Most marketers that I talk to are much more of the arts and crafts variety and less about the data junkies. And that becomes problematic for them when they’re trying to look at all this information, all these applications, all these types of tools and discern what makes sense for their company, for their organization.

Louis: So, if you’re the head of marketing at a company, and you’ve been the head of marketing at a number of different companies, and it’s not just the tools but you’ve also got all these issues around the search marketing channel, online advertising, social media marketing. And then you’ve got offline things: you’ve got print, and direct mail, and radio, TV, and everything. So where do you start?

Jeanne: So that is a phenomenal question. And I think you have to start with the team. Even for marketers who may have been in the business for five or ten years, they’re not accustomed to understanding how important it is to be able to evaluate a program. They’re challenged by figuring out whether it’s cost per visitor, cost per lead, cost per customer acquisition, and what is the lifetime value to the organization? A lot of marketers will spend an awful lot of time discussing with their boss or the CEO or the board and the marketers are talking about “email campaigns”, and they’re so far in the weeds and they’re talking about email campaigns and opens and click-through rates. And I can guarantee you that there is not a CEO on the planet that cares. What they want to know is “How much revenue have you brought in?”

Ultimately the question is: What is marketing contributing to revenue? How are your programs actually contributing to pipeline? And you really need to think about the sales and marketing alignment. And you may be doing all of the most wonderful marketing programs in the world. And you think you’re doing a good job, and maybe your cost per lead is great and your cost of customer acquisition. But what exactly are you doing in terms of revenue? I’m reasonably certain that about 90% of marketers don’t consider themselves to be fully aligned with the sales organization.

And, it’s interesting, because I was at an event yesterday with SiriusDecisions and there were about 25 of us CMOs sitting around the table. And Jay Gaines, who is the Vice President and Group Director, Demand, at SiriusDecisions, had just come from a sales vertical roundtable where there were about 80 sales people. And we always hear about “sales enablement”; we’re always talking about sales enablement. But what it should be is, What is sales doing for marketing? What is sales bringing back to marketing? Where’s the marketing enablement?

Because really, what’s happening now, because by the time that a B2B customer gets to the point where they’re willing to talk to a sales person in any B2B company, they’re about 65, 70 percent through their buying decision. They’re kind of in a selection process at this point. They’ve looked at your website, they’ve read your materials, maybe they’re willing to go to a trial or have a demo of your software. But they want to be talking to someone who has the technical skill set to be able to convince them to that this is the right decision to make. So are you, as a technical account manager, or a technical sales person, able to articulate the product value proposition to deal with that pain. Is it a $5,000 aspirin? Is it a $50,000 aspirin? Or a $500,000 aspirin?

So what Jay was saying, actually, is that at some point in the not too distant future, he’s giving it about five years, he’s saying that sales is going to become a channel, like television, like radio, like email. Because that direct sales component is a channel. And marketers will be responsible for that particular channel in terms of technical product knowledge in order to help the customer overcome any kind of objections that they have to buying your particular product.

Louis: That’s a very provocative idea. I’m sure that there are a few VPs of sales who will not agree with the idea that they should be working for marketing. But I understand what you’re saying. And I’ve talked with other people and have had the experience, too, of how sales and marketing have to be aligned and there has to be a responsibility both ways. Not just enabling sales, but sales has to be bringing things back to marketing, and using the things that marketing brings to them.

I’m wondering, when you go into a company, do you look at developing personas and journey maps and doing those sorts of exercises as part of developing your marketing programs?

Jeanne: That’s the holy grail. Everybody wants to be able to do that. But, of course, who are you selling to? Are you selling to Debby, or are you selling to Dan? What do they look like? What is their pain? Every company has different personas. So, you’re constantly trying to figure out who you’re selling to.

Louis: In terms of personas, you’re an advisor to BrightInfo. And there are other companies, like Evergage and others that have personalization also. And we’ve been talking about one-to-one marketing for twenty years, and now we’re talking personalization a lot. And I’m wondering if personalization eliminates or overrides the need for personas.

Jeanne: Oh, that’s a good question. So, personalization based on the IP address of who’s coming and what they actually choose?

Louis: Based on all sorts of factors. Based on their keywords, based on their actions, based on the previous interaction that you have recorded in your CRM and in your marketing automation system. Within one persona you might have many, many journeys. Amazon doesn’t have 15 personas. Amazon has millions of personalized experiences. Does personalization ultimately eliminate or override personas?

Jeanne: Wow. Oh boy – is this heresy? What are we talking about here? That’s pretty interesting. Because the concept of personalization, that’s what HubSpot is working on as well, because they’re huge admirers of Amazon and Netflix and Pandora: the ability to personalize your experience. I think what a company like BrightInfo is doing is they’re actually personalizing the content experience. So you’re not getting a personalized web page, like example, like you would with Amazon.

Louis: Right. They’re offering up some content suggestions for you.

Jeanne: But when we talk about personas, I still think that for many marketers it’s good to have a good picture in your head of what that person looks like. “The targeted marketing software customer is a marketing vice president, 46 years old, drives a Volvo station wagon or SUV, and has 2.2 children, lives in the suburbs and works 65 hours a week and tries really hard to take a vacation.” So you can really understand what that person looks like; you’re visualizing that person. It helps a lot to have a picture in your head about who you’re talking to.

Sometimes you need a visual of who you’re actually speaking to, and that’s where I think the persona development comes in. You need the shorthand also to say, “Well, this persona: this is not something that would resonate with them.” In my current company I tried to explain our average customer to one of the 28 year olds on my team and said, “When you write a blog post and you write it in such a way that you say ‘I, I, I did this, I did that, I feel this, I feel that.’ You don’t have the ability to be able to resonate with that particular persona — that person that is our customer — because you are 28 year old. You’re not 50. You’re not a guy. So how are you going to build credibility? Also, you’re putting yourself in their shoes. When you lead a blog post by saying, ‘I feel’ – trust me: they don’t care.” Trying to communicate that effectively to the marketers on my team, you have to be able to say “This customer for this business says this” and that’s why it’s important.

Louis: I think you make a great point about how personas are very valuable for the development of content. And understanding, even if it’s at a simple level, the buyer’s journey, so that you have content for different stages of the journey. I think a lot of companies have a lot of early stage content – webinars and infographics and such – and don’t have so much later stage content, for example.

So, back to this question about how to deal with the innovation overload. My question is (1) what can software companies do to make marketers more successful, and (2) how can marketers organize their efforts within their companies to evaluate and implement these programs.

Jeanne: Two separate questions. If you’re the developer, making it easier for the marketer, whatever tools you’re developing, having it easy to analyze or to have some sort of automated functionality that allows you to be able to pull a report. When was the last time – you may be different – but when was the last time that you looked at your Google Analytics. Most people don’t. You are forced to login to Google Analytics and look at that. You’re forced to go there; it’s a pull function rather than a push function. So what I’d like to see is more developers who are creating marketing apps at least giving you some visibility with reporting. Insightsquared is an example. They have a great tool that works with Salesforce.com and they send you regular daily updates. And you can get daily updates if you program Salesforce.com to get you these regular reports. So that you’re not like, “Oh my goodness, it’s six o’clock and I gotta login to my Salesforce.”So you already have it set up so you have this automated reporting function that allows you to have visibility and transparency and allows you to share that information. That’s what I’d like to see more developers think about. Because marketers don’t have the bandwidth to be constantly diving into the software. They just don’t.

And the second question?

Louis: So after you have the team that understands modern marketing. If you had three things to say to someone, what would be the three most important bullet points to focus on in developing their marketing program?

Jeanne: Become analytical. Become analytical. It’s not a matter of what color you change the logo to, or the fact that you updated the website. You have to understand the underlying metrics associated with that. How do you know that you’ve improved? How do you know what’s going on if you’re not analytical.

The second thing is to experiment. You have to try, because what fits me may not fit you. And you have to be able to figure out what levers to be able to pull. Getting back to the analytics component: have you analyzed the paid program? Have you analyzed the email program? Have you analyzed the tradeshow spend, online and offline?

So analytics, experimentation, and the third component is the ability to build a team. And whether it’s a team of one, or five, or vendors or however you have the ability to build the team.

A good marketer needs to be able to paint a picture for the future, to be able to understand what the goals are. What are your goals as an organization? Is it to achieve sales and marketing alignment? Is it to be able to grow the business? Is it to be able to acquire X number of partners? Is it to have a successful user group? No matter what size team you’re on you’re always going to have some sort of overarching goal that’s going to make you successful as a team, as an organization.

And the only way that you can do that is building the right kind of team that’s analytical and is willing to experiment. And all three of those things. You need to have a team that is willing to be analytical and isn’t all messed up about the fact that, Oh my god, somebody is counting something. But you also have to be willing to fail. We all get hung up on, What if it goes wrong? What if something goes wrong? Because we’ve all been hit upside the head. And I’m sure you have tire tracks on your back, too, from being thrown under the bus. We all do. We’ve all been thrown under the bus in one capacity or another. It’s just the way that it operates, because marketing typically draws the short straw. We have the most budget, typically, in any the organization. We have the most variable when it comes to programs. So if they’re looking for a place to cut typically people come to us, “Listen, I need two million dollars” or “I need twenty million dollars”, whatever it is. And if you have the metrics you have the ability to say, “If you take this budget from me, this is what the impact will be.” If you have the ability to back that up, from a metrics standpoint, to be able to say, “I will not be able to do this program and this program and this program, which in turn will impact revenue to this degree. Is that what you want to do, Mr. CEO? Or Mrs. CEO?” And, if you have the ability to do that, you have made yourself immensely valuable.

So, it’s being analytical, being able look at numbers and discuss them well. And the second thing is being willing to experiment, and being willing to fail, so that you know if something is going to work or not work. And it’s okay to be afraid of something like that. And the third thing is the ability to build a team: the ability to build a team that really wants to be successful. So those are three things that I would say.

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