Speaker 1: Welcome to the SBI Podcast, offering CEOs sales and marketing leader’s ideas to make the number.
Greg: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening. This is Greg Alexander, CEO and co-founder of SBI, a sales and marketing consulting firm, committed to helping you make your number. This is the weekly SBI Podcast series. Today I’m very excited because we have a great guest. Claudine Bianchi is the chief marketing officer of Percussion Software. If you’re not familiar with Percussion, they are a privately held web content management software company founded in 1994. Market has used Percussion’s content management system to create, publish, and share content that looks great on any device, which drives user engagement and website traffic.
Claudine just recently became the CMO of Percussion, and prior to this role, she spent 28 years leading marketing teams inside of technology companies, mostly in emerging growth companies which is why I asked you to be in this show. I have some specific questions regarding that. Stops include Avid Technology, NaviSite, MetaCarta and several others. Claudine is a bonafide Ivy Leaguer with a degree in English from Dartmouth College. Claudine, welcome to the show.
Claudine: Thanks for having me, Greg. It’s great to be here. 28 years, that sounds a lot.
Greg: Time goes by, doesn’t it?
Claudine: Way too quickly.
Greg: Before we dive into all this serious stuff. Claudine, your LinkedIn profile tells me you are into wine making. Is that true?
Claudine: Yes. My husband, and our family, and some of our friends make about a thousand bottles a year right in our basement. We get the grapes from California. We have a whole production that goes on around September, October. The wine that we make red Zinfandel, and frankly, it’s quite good.
Greg: Well, I will tell you that my Italian grandfather Alfredo Alexander-
Claudine: There you go.
Greg: He used to make wine in his basement, and he would give it to us kids. It was basically moonshine, so I think it killed some brain cells along the way. We share that I common I guess.
Greg: All right. Well, let’s dive into it. Today’s topic is agile marketing.
Greg: Audience members might be wondering what agile marketing is. Let me give everyone a very simple definition. Agile marketing is about taking frequent marketing actions directly with a targeted audience, capturing what worked and what did not work, and then rapidly iterating the marketing strategy to constantly improve results. That’s our working definition. Claudine, do you have a similar definition? Do you agree with that, disagree with that? How would you define agile marketing?
Claudine: I agree with you about 50% of the way, because I think you have 50% in the definition right. Agile marketing certainly is the ability do a lot of A/B testing, get stuff out there as quickly, iterate on it to get more messages out that really fine tune to the persona better than your first attempt Agile marketing is also reacting at a very high rate of speed to very opportunistic things that are going on in the market place. When I look at agile marketing, it’s the ability to take something that’s happened, a new story, and leverage that story to our own personas, and develop campaigns around it.
Avid did this quite well I think a couple of years ago when Apple came out with their video editing system. It wasn’t regressive to their older system. Unless you were using the new system, you couldn’t go back. Of course, for film editors, this is a big problem. Avid leaped on that and really used social media channels to really get into there and basically re-position ourselves as really the experts in video editing and having an understanding for the person that was using stuff, that they need stuff that they’ve done 5 years ago all the way to the present.
It’s stuff like that. When you can take immediate advantage of either competitors fumble or something that’s news worth and react to it quickly, to engage your personas in a conversation, I think that’s really another way of communicating with our customers that the internet and social media allows us to have.
Greg: That’s a great addition to the definition. I have found that emerging growth companies can benefit a lot by deploying agile marketing strategy, because they have smaller budgets and smaller teams, so they can’t just can’t out muscle the bigger guys, so to speak.
Greg: Let’s talk a little bit more about that speed advantage, which is something that you added to the definition. Tell the audience why moving from a waterfall traditional based marketing strategy to an agile progressive based marketing strategy, how does that actually increase the clock speed of the marketing team?
Claudine: Sure. With the waterfall, very much like engineering. You make a lot of assumptions upfront and then you act on it and you go through it. Campaign building, either on a small or large company, you have an idea of who you think your persona is, you build all the materials and you actually push out the campaign. Agile marketing actually allows you to be much more iterative to go out and … It forces you to talk to your customers and see what’s actually working, to talk with your sales organizations and see where they’re getting the hits at real-time. I’ve always been amazed. I gave a talk a couple of months ago. I asked the marketers at the room when was the last time that they talked to their VP of sales or to a sales rep. Everyone was looking at me like I had 2 heads.
I said, “Therein lies the problem. You guys don’t even know who your VP of sales are.” You have to have that engagement with the same guys. They’re in the front lines every day, and I think by having those conversations, you can be much more in line, and lined not only with them and the messaged that they’re giving, but really what your prospects and those personas want to be hearing.
Greg: Sometimes, the marketing departments get sandwiched between the product development group and the sales group. A way to kind of bridge the gap there, because the product management team is sometimes frustrated with the sales team. They feel as if they’re not selling the latest, greatest product, et cetera. What I found is that in software companies that are using the agile product development process, implementing agile marketing, can bring marketing and product development together. At your company, the product development guys, are they an agile shop?
Claudine: Yep. We have agile product engineering is all agile. We employ agile methodologies in marketing. I had the luxury of running both marketing and product management. Having the product management under marketing makes it very … I have a great relationship with our sales organization. The ability to communicate from marketing to product to sales is really a nice triangulation that always is putting the customer up front and getting back the field information directly to the engineers, so they know what to build. That’s a tremendous advantage for us and for me in particular.
Greg: I always advocate for product management reporting into marketing, but sometimes I talk to myself. At times, people really resist that idea. What are the pros and cons of that?
Claudine: Well the cons are you might not end with someone who’s as technically astute or who knows the deeper level of technology. There are some things that for product management, you might want to have a technical, a very heavy technical degree. Things like big data, data science, analytics, hardware components and manufacturing, those big types of items. You’re probably better off with an engineering type. There are lots of software applications that are getting out to end users. I think those … The product managers that I’ve seen very successful are the ones with the closest ties to the customers that can relate those requirements to engineering, but can also relate those requirements to sales.
They can automatically see that value proposition, wrap it up nicely for the sales guys, but they can also define the requirements in such a way that engineers can actually build it. To me, that’s the optimal product manager, someone who has that wonderful ability that knows sales, knows how to sell, knows how to communicate, but is technical enough to drive an engineering process.
Greg: Okay. We’re going to take a quick break here. I want to make the audience aware of the SBI magazine. This upcoming edition, we have an article there from Greg Clark who was the CMO of Caliber Collision. He talks about how to deploy this type of methodology and improving the client experience or the customer experience. For those of you that are not familiar with the magazine or wondering how to subscribe, here’s some information for you.
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Greg: Okay. Welcome back everybody. This is Greg Alexander of SBI. Today I’m joined by Claudine Bianchi who is the chief marketing officer of Percussion software. Right before the break we were having an interesting conversation around the role that product management can play, and making sure that product development is building products that solve specific customer problems, making sure that they are feeding marketing with information that enables value propositions and ultimately makes its way to the sales force in a packaged way where they can communicate effectively with customers.
Central to all of that, Claudine, is listening to the customer, and I couldn’t help but notice you’ve mentioned that several times here. It sounds like that’s something that you’re really passionate about. Tell the audience a little bit about your voice or the customer program. How do you actually listen to the customer?
Claudine: Sure. When we actually start a process or we’re looking at new product development. First, there’s a lot of industry and analyst reports that I like because they give a good global sense of what’s going on in the market place. They see a lot of what’s going on. What’s even more important is talking to actual customers. I happen to be a big fan of using LinkedIn. I have a very large network of people from all sorts of backgrounds, whether they’re in IT, whether they’re marketers, whether they’re in sales, and I’d leverage that network, specifically for surveys 1-to-1 interviews on product concepts, and then in developing focus groups or beta testers for new products. That seems to have been a recipe for great success, because you get really deep into what’s causing people’s pain.
For example, we’re just working on a new product now around content marketing. Content marketing is a big new inbound thing that’s going on out there, but there’s really no great way for marketers to prove that what they’re writing is actually getting used and then influencing the sales process. We’re developing and analytics tool basically to help the content marketer understand which content is actually driving revenue, and really demonstrate not only to themselves what’s working and what’s not, but again, using this agile methodology. Quickly be able to change their content, change their subject matter, change their audience channels, as well as identify which types of content, what subject matters are really driving those leads into the funnel and then helping close business.
Greg: That’s a great recommendation around LinkedIn. Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones. Let me talk to you a little bit about that. It sounds like you’ve spent quite a bit of time building out your own personal network. Is that correct?
Claudine: Sure, and absolutely. Everyone I’ve met for the past 7 years is pretty much in there.
Greg: When you reach out to them to ask their opinion about this or that in pursuit of listening to the customer, are you doing that via the phone, you’re doing that through the InMail feature? What’s your approach method there?
Claudine: Sure. I usually use the InMail feature. I have tried exporting a list from LinkedIn, and then using a system like Constant Contact to get out to folks. It wasn’t as effective as writing a small personal note and sending them a message within their LinkedIn profile. I’ve used InMail, very successfully, to reach out to people where I was exploring a brand new market and had no connections into. Most people are very very responsive. Most people, if you’re not selling them something, that you’re really trying to gain expertise or understanding of their pain points or their industry, are really quite receptive to getting back in touch with you, especially through email. I’d say that’s very very effective.
Greg: The challenge with these types of programs, whether they’re done through traditional means like focus groups or surveys or what have you, or more progressive means like LinkedIn, is getting people to respond. That’s interesting. You’re not having a response problem. Are you offering something in return or is just people doing this out of the goodness of their heart?
Claudine: Mostly it’s people doing goodness out of their heart. Believe it or not, there is a lot of … People like to talk about what they’re interested in, what they have expertise in. I always return the favor. I’m always like, “If you ever need someone in the marketing industry or the high tech industry, that you need some information from them, I’m happy to return that favor.” It happens a number of times. There’s some really good strong relationships that I’ve now developed within my network.
What’s key here is you can’t just use LinkedIn sporadically or just when you need something. LinkedIn, like every other sales tool out there, is something that needs continually to be nurtured. I can’t just go out to someone randomly or after 2 years of never seeing them and ask them for something. I’m constantly updating my profile. I’m posting information that I think is interesting to my network. I congratulate people when I see they’ve gotten promoted or gone to new jobs. All that stuff is very key in keeping that network rich.
Greg: You talked about content marketing earlier, and it sounds like your company is investing in this area. That tells me that you’re a believer in it. Do you believe? What percentage of the marketing budget or marketing effort, however you want to measure it, do you think should content marketing warrant?
Claudine: Greg, let me ask you a question. When you have something to solve or you’re looking for information about a product, where do you go?
Greg: I start with Google.
Claudine: Exactly. Search results, you get search results by building content, having relevant content and then acting on that content, whether it’s clicking and going into reading a site. I’m a firm believer in content. I think today, about 30% of the marketer’s budget should be going to content, either developing it, creating, and as well as pushing it out and getting it syndicated, and then measuring it. The reason is that people generally have already made up their buying decision well in advance of actually contacting a sales person. We are dealing with a much more educated buyer that’s using the internet as their marketing channel, quite frankly. Your content has to be out there, it has to be relevant, and it has to be findable. If it isn’t, they’re going to go to your competitors.
Greg: I believe with you. I agree with you whole heartedly. We’re doing that today. We’re recording a podcast with your, and we’re going to offer that to our audience. I believe there’s that educational material directly from the source. In your case, the chief marketing officer is of tremendous value. I want to ask you about that. The reason why we’ve invested, my firm has invested in audio and video content, is because we found that text content is losing its punch. This is driven from the mobile device. When people have a mobile device in their hand, they want to listen and they want to watch more so than they want to read. Do you have an opinion on that?
Claudine: Absolutely. I think you’re right on. I think there’s so much text out there and so much content. How do you differentiate it? Most busy professionals and your target audience certainly, if they’re CMO, they’re probably going to listen to a podcast in their car in their commute over from work, more than they’re actually going to read a long white paper or article. Having the information chunked to us and given either verbally or through a video is much more easily consumed by someone than actually reading a lot of stuff.
It also helps your search engine optimization capabilities. Google likes the fact that you have video, that you have audio, that you have mix media. People like it that they can access that content on their mobile devices or iPads and take it with them, so that they can watch it, listen to it when they’re ready to, not just when you think they’re going to be ready to read it.
Greg: Okay. We’re going to take one more break. When we come back from the break, Claudine and I are going to continue to talk about this concept of agile marketing, maybe how to be agile as it relates to created content. I want to draw the audience’s attention to a podcast that we recently did with Dave Rennyson who talks about this concept, applying agile to both marketing and sales in scaling a SAS company. If you miss that one or if you want to subscribe to the podcast, here is some information on how to do that.
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Greg: Okay. Welcome back everybody. This is Greg Alexander with SBI. Today I’m joined by Claudine Bianchi who is the CMO of Percussion Software. Right before the break, I introduced the topic of applying agile marketing specific to the purpose of creating content. Claudine, my questions here are … You talked about listening to the customer, understanding their pain points, what their needs are, and turning those into information needs which drive the editorial in production calendar of your content. We were having a conversation, but we didn’t dive too deep into how to measure it.
Let’s say you put out content whether it’s a blog post, podcast, video, e-book, you name it, how do you measure the effectiveness in it, and what’s the turn? How rapidly iterating or quick are you to change your editorial schedule?
Claudine: Sure. Today, there are a couple of tools out there that do some very good awareness type of metrics. I think that those are sufficient in understanding how many views or how many people actually looked at something, but looking at something very different than engaging with something. There aren’t that man tools out there that will actually allow you to understand how much of viewed, how much of a white paper they actually scrolled through and read. Then what’s really lacking out there is how did that content or the actions of those people actually influenced or got them to buy something. Those measurements are really, really hard to get unless you have a really good tool that’s linking in your content marketing systems along with your sales forces, CRM system.
The types of things you can do today that are very easy are through Google Analytics. Certainly you can tell the views. If you’re not getting the views you anticipated, you can look at the content and see. “Have I promoted it enough? Do I need to promote it through Twitter? Do I need to change channels? Do I need to put this on Facebook? Do I need to put it on a LinkedIn group to get those views and that awareness of the content? Am I getting any comments back? If I post a blog post and I get no feedback or no comments, was I not provocative enough? Was the subject matter not appropriate for the audience at the time?” There are a lot of things that you can do within a day or 2 of the content to see if it’s being effective for what your desired business outcome is going to be.
Those desired business outcomes could be awareness. It could be engagement or it can be actual revenue. As you get closer to measuring the revenue, it gets tougher and tougher to measure that, how that content, where that piece of content is performing. That’s exactly what we’re trying to head at Percussion, really tying in a single piece of content to actually … if it caused the business outcome that we’re looking for, which is actually revenue generation.
Greg: Attribution is really hard there.
Speaker 1: Today it is. I think it really is. I try to say it, and my staff looks at me funny when I say, “Listen guys, the MQL is dead.” We could be driving a million MQLs. At the end of the day, how much revenue did you [inaudible 00:22:48]? I think that’s really where we’re heading as marketers in particular. We are no more the … I’ve been doing this for 28 years, as you kindly reminded me. We’re no longer just the people that make things look pretty. Marketing is now … We are at the table. We are driving business, business direction. We are helping sales generate that revenue. If we continue to just look at the top of the funnel and the MQLs and not throughout the entire funnel, from the middle of the funnel, bottom of the funnel, to actual close, we’re really not going to get the level of support for the rest of the business that rightfully we deserve.
We are driving the messages out there using agile marketing. We can drive them faster than ever before. We can really get to the heart of our personas and our customer’s pain points, and really help drive the revenue that’s fueling our businesses.
Greg: Let me put something out there and get your comment on this. To me, this would be utopia, but I have yet to seen it done at scale. I think today everybody has an understanding, or they should anyways, of the buyer’s journey for their particular buyer personas. They’re creating content and hopefully they’re mapping the content to different stages of the buyer’s journey. Each piece of content has a goal, which is to pull them from one phase to the buyer’s journey to the next phase, ultimately resulting in a purchase order and a collection of an invoice.
The call to action and the piece of content should be to move somebody from step 2 to step 3 or what have you. Doing that, having a funnel if you will or buyer’s journey, with content tagged at each stage with a call to action to pull them forward, to me is the purest way to measure the impact of a piece of content. If this piece of content was meant to from stage 2 to stage 3 in the buyer’s journey didn’t happen or not, and then rapidly iterating off of that. If that’s where the prospects are leaking out of the funnel, the hypothesis there is that piece of content whatever it is or that group of content, category of content I not effective, let’s get rid of it and replace it with something that is more effective. Is that doable today?
Claudine: This is my opinion. I think it’s doable, but I think it’s pretty old fashioned. The reason being, and not to be … Again, I’m trying not to be provocative here.
Greg: I want you to be.
Claudine: Okay. I don’t think people buy in a linear fashion. Marketers are using the same methodology with the sales funnel and the buyer’s journey. That’s been around since 1898. You would track, you interest, desire, and then outcome or need or whatever it is. AIDA I think is the acronym.
Greg: Got you.
Claudine: That’s over a hundred years old I’m thinking. Right? Yet we think we can linear … We can take a person and actually drive them to the funnel and things it’s going to be a very linear path and measure accordingly. That’s fine. It works in some cases, in more traditional business, but today’s consumer is not looking at things linearly. They might see something on Facebook. Then they might go to your website, download a white paper. Then 2 months later, they’ll see something on Pinterest. “Oh, that was pretty cool.” They go back to your website.” Oh look, they have a video. Now I’m going to go the video.” None of that … It’s not linear. It’s a bunch of random points that you’re being relevant to any place during the journey. No 2 people are going to take exactly the same journey. They might take similar path, but they’re all going to interact with your company and your products in a unique different way. Which is why personalization, we’re getting to a whole other topic about that, is so critical because people approach products and they approach the buying cycle very differently.
We’ve taken this MQL to SAL to SQL to opportunity, all the way through the funnel, and things that that’s the magic, that if we could just get that right, everything will be utopia. The problem is that people got in the way and people just don’t follow our lines. That’s what we had to adjust to. Your content just can’t be good as it flows through the funnel. It has to be good and out there and relevant, regardless of which channel your consumer is reading it or absorbing it.
Greg: What’s the alternative to this linear buying process?
Claudine: I think what we’re looking at is more of a … I don’t know. Now I’m going to go to having marketing science. If you’ve ever looked at a network, or neural networks, and the way neurons operate, it’s the environment all the way around it. It’s having content in all the right places that potentially a customer would go to. Eventually they’ll start following a path.
We do a lot of hiking in the summer. Getting to the water, there’s always one path that gets you down to the water faster than the rest of the path. That’s because someone figured it out, and they went down there, and other people started to follow thought. That’s how path started. The first time you walked down to the lake, before anyone else had gotten there, you had to break down some trees and you had to figure out a way, maybe made somewhat of a path. Then other people start following that path. Sooner or later, you get to put trail markers and a whole bunch of other things, and it becomes very normal that this is the way you get down to the lake.
That takes time and it takes a lot of understanding about where you want to go. Same thing is true here in marketing. We’re figuring out where our clients want to go, and we’re helping create a path that makes it easier for them to buy. At first, it might be having content all over the place. Good content that’s relevant, that’s meeting our buyer’s personas and going to the places that they need. As we find out what’s effective about that content, we can hone in on that so that there are more path to getting to the lake, which is hopefully a sale in our case.
Greg: Yeah. I agree with you. We could talk about this forever. Unfortunately, we have run out of time here. Let’s try to wrap it this up a little bit and give the audience members a call to action. I guess what I would recommend, and then Claudia, I’ll turn it over to you and ask you to recommend some actions for the audience. If you want to learn a little bit more about agile marketing strategy and the topics that we talked about today. You can Google and type that term in agile marketing strategy, a lot of stuff will come up. If you can go to our site, salesbenchmarkindex.com, simply go to the search bar and type in agile marketing, and all kinds of educational material will popup.
You’ll notice that a lot of that education material is written by our internal subject matter expert. A gentleman by the name of Vince Keylor who is super helpful in this area. Vince’s email address should be on those particular articles. Ping him if you have any questions. Claudia, if you were listening to this or if you were to speak directly to the audience and advice on what to go do from here, as it relates to the topic we spoke about today, which is this concept of agile marketing. What would be the first few things that you would have somebody do who is not doing this already?
Claudine: First and foremost, I’d have them talk to their sales organization to figure out what is working, what’s not in the sales person’s eyes. I’d have them talk to customers and understand their customers as best they can. I would put in place a content strategy that was agile, so that you can A/B test content and very quickly maneuver as much content as you can out there and measure it to see what kind of impact it’s having on your sales or your awareness or engagement metrics. Finally, I would just keep your pulse. Keep watching the pulse of what’s going on within your customer base, what’s going on with your prospect base your competitors, everything that’s going out in that market place, and really address those concerns in your content and make sure that that content is findable.
Greg: Right. Great advice. I want to thank everybody for listening to the podcast. The audience members and Claudine, on behalf of all of us out here. I want to thank you for the very generous giving of your time. I think we’re all smarter for it, so thanks a bunch for being on the show.
Claudine: Thank you so much. Great being here.
Greg: Okay. Bye bye.
Speaker 1: This has been the SBI Podcast. For more information on SBI services, case studies, the SBI team and how we work, or to subscribe to our other offerings, please visit us at salesbenchmarkindex.com.