Pete Rawlinson has extensive experience leading marketing at a large number of enterprise B2B technology businesses on both sides of the Atlantic, including Malwarebytes, Datto, Continuity & AppSense to name a few.
Pete is now CMO at Workvivo, an employee communication platform for the modern workforce.
FINITE podcast host Alex Price sat down with Pete to explore what his role looks like now, how he is approaching building a marketing function from the ground up at Workvivo having recently raised a series A, and what he thinks the future role of the CMO looks like.
This episode covers:
- About Pete’s career in marketing
- Pete’s current role as CMO at Workvivo and the impact of recent investments
- How the role of the CMO is changing
- The importance of hiring a senior marketer at the start of growing a business
- How a CMO interacts with a Chief Revenue Officer
- The value of a Marketing Operations Manager
- Finding a balance between creative strategies and data driven strategies
- The future of marketing at Workvivo after a series A investment
Listen to the full podcast here:
& once you’re done listening, check out our other episodes here!
Hello everyone. And welcome back to another episode of the FINITE podcast. Today’s episode is with Pete Rawlinson. Pete is the CMO of a company called Workvivo, an employee communication platform for today’s modern workplace. Workvivo have recently raised a series A funding round, Pete’s leading their marketing function having spent a number of years as a CMO of all kinds of different B2B technology businesses, both on this side of the Atlantic and the other.
And I sat down with Pete to really talk about his role as CMO, the future role of a CMO, and how the CMO platform can contribute to growth and setting the direction of an exciting company such as Workvivo as well as how the CMO role is becoming more data driven and how data just genuinely is becoming a bigger part of the marketing world. So I hope you enjoy.
The FINITE community and podcast are kindly supported by 93x, the digital agency working exclusively with ambitious fast growth B2B technology companies. Visit 93x.agency to find out about how they partner with marketing team and B2B technology companies to drive digital growth.
Hi Pete, thanks for joining me today.
It’s good to be with you, Alex.
I’m looking forward to talking. I know that when I reached out, I was baffled by the list of B2B technology companies which you spent time at over the years. So, so much knowledge I’m sure we’re trying to fit into this 30, 40 minute episode or so. As we always do, should we start with a bit of background, a bit of experienced to date? I know you’ve got, as you just mentioned a slightly unique route into the world of marketing, but I’ll let you do the explaining.
Pete’s career in marketing
Yeah, yeah. Sure, sure. So yeah, B2B technology marketing guy for about 25 years now in a number of different countries across a number of different types of types of technology. And now I have been a CMO for the past 12, 14 years or so in a range of different size companies. It’ll be interesting to talk about the different roles of the CMO, depending on these types of organisations.
But yeah, we were just talking, I graduated from Sheffield University with a degree in physics, which is pretty far from B2B marketing. Actually my first job was as a nuclear physicist, but my progress up to Chief Marketing Officer really was grounded in technology and science. I came into the product management/product marketing route, you know, starting with a couple of startup companies where they had some great product offerings, but didn’t really know how to monetise them. And me being able to talk pretty legibly in the conversation of the stuff with developers and in the voice of the customer, and the product marketing bridging that, was really enjoyable to lead.
So I came through product management, through product marketing which probably represents half of my career in marketing and then an old CEO of mine a few years ago said, look, you know, you’ve got all this tremendous experience in the product and monetising the product. How about you do some lead gen for us? I had to go Google what lead gen was. And then, you know, when he got into the lead gen management side of it, from then on, it was a direction ultimately to CMO. So, yeah a strange route there Alex, but an enjoyable one.
You touched a bit on the different sizes of companies and how that role differs. But I guess, what was the starting point for you? Was that big enterprise? Was it a smaller business? We’ll talk a bit about that as we go into the future role of the CMO, but maybe the initial start from nuclear reactor into technology company, what did that look like?
Yeah, it was interesting. Actually, I was working for General Electric company actually in Leicester in UK, and this is going to date myself now, but this is in the times when I was simulating radiation attenuation through protective barriers and reactors. And for that, we needed a lot of compute power. So I would spend long evenings buying cheap time on the mainframes GC. Until one day somebody came in with a 386 PC, put it on my desk and my world changed completely. You had your own computer on your own desk.
Now we’re talking pre-internet right. We’re talking about literally inbox and outbox physical mails on physical mails on your desk. So from that point, I was kind of hooked on computers. I got into computers. I actually started to get in from a QA perspective, cause I was a lot used to testing with the radiation simulators. So I actually went to work for a startup company investor as a QA manager, but in doing QA, it was hard for me to be able to effectively test the software without really knowing how people were going to use the software.
So I did spend a lot of time talking to the customers, talking to the users, and that naturally led me to be able to bridge that… know to report bugs and how to fix them. I had to sit with the software developers and project managers, but then I’ll spend half my time talking to customers, special interest groups, music groups, et cetera. And that meeting kind of morphed from a QA role into a product management role.
So actually how it all started, that then was the path that I took to ultimately to the CMO role. But, yeah, I remember those days very well. It was inspiring, to think that you have all this compute power, which is probably in the indicator of a BMW car right now at your desk. It was, yeah. It changed my life.
Interesting. So we’ll dive a bit more into the future, I guess initially about what you’re up to at the moment and in terms of Workvivo.
Pete’s role at Workvivo
Yeah, I’m actually based in Cork in Ireland at the moment I’ve been living in the US for the past 16 years and my wife is from Ireland. We moved back a few years ago and got talking to a company called Workvivo. Really interesting three year old business that actually provides an employee communication platform for organisations and really, really interesting given the current situation, with remote working that that platform has been built around pillars of engagement, right? Not just enabling employees to communicate between themselves and the business, but to do so in a very engaging way.
So we’ve taken a lot of those things you typically see in Facebook or Instagram and brought it within the boundaries of the business. And so, you know, you can post content with activity feeds, but you can also publicly recognise someone for a job well done or collaborate in spaces. So it is really creating a something ‘bigger than me’ kind of feeling or ‘part of something bigger than me’ feeling within the psyche of the employee.
And obviously today with our people having to work remotely, we’ve seen quite a lot of activity around that at the moment. I think there’s gonna be a change in the way that people work and now it’s not going to go back to the way it was and have replacing those kind of random face to face interactions down the corridor, from a technology perspective, is what we’re trying to provide and it’s going pretty well for us.
So I reached out to you initially with the lens of seeing that you’d raised series A recently, which we’ll talk a bit more about, and that really interesting inflection point. We talk about our rounds: once series A’s raised, often the company transitions from sometimes even founder led kind of growth. But initially an outbound sales led way of growing initial fashion through to we need to fill the top of the funnel with more high volume and we need to do all kinds of marketing to do that and so often find that series A and series B is that pivot away from focusing on the product and early traction to okay we’re ready to go, ready to start scaling this.
Talk us through a little bit of the investment story so far leading up to the series A that’s taken place recently.
The investment story of Workvivo
Yeah, sure. I mean, I think as with any company we’ve just hit our three year anniversary and with any startup, your early customers tend to be people who know. So the two founders that started the business, they had a huge amount of contacts in Europe and started to build the business that way. And some of them were pretty, pretty big names.
And I must admit, I’ve never really worked for a company where the advocacy of the customers is so powerful. The customers literally love using the platform because it’s a highly enabled platform to use. So it’s all built on that referenceability/referrability we built a pretty, pretty good cache of customers.
I came on board with Workvivo about a year ago now. I really wanted to just start to build more awareness, not only for the company, but for the challenge. This is changing channels now that we engage in within organisations. It’s 70% of companies will report a blotchy disengaged workforce right now. And that’s a problem culturally, and, you know, technology can help solve it, so I was really intrigued by that.
So my first step really was to, I mean, besides all the operational things that need to get done, like the website, grading, didn’t have a marketing operations function. We were barely using HubSpot as a marketing automation tool. So it was operational things but from a funnel perspective we really needed to create more awareness for the challenge and business.
That then, that awareness then generated interest from Eric Yuan, who is CEO, founder of Zoom. Obviously everybody knows him very well right now. Ultimately Eric decided to become an investor in the business. So he put some seed ground in before the series A round. That obviously garnered a lot of attention for us, including investors.
The interesting thing is that we really did not want any more investment. And I think that actually gets investors on to really want to get to know us more. And in the end, there were a few investors that were interested in this system, we went with Global, which is a hugely successful investment house out of New York. And it was a great round and we had some great attention from it.
On that, now my next phase really is kind of bottom of funnel. We need to generate more business opportunity on the back of this awareness now. So that sets the scene for the next, for the rest of this year.
Cool and I guess it’s bad to say that that series A has come through the right initial seed investors, but with the circumstances at the moment has come a bit earlier than expected with the whole remote working, work from home situation has kind of sped a lot of this up for you probably.
It has, it has. It’s been very interesting as well that we announced the investment. The investment actually came before Covid because of the problem with disengagement organisations, policy COVID-19 sped that up. It’s very interesting that a couple of other companies in our space also then announced series investments.
So we kind of feel like we toppled a domino here and, if anything it’s great market validation, cause there are a few players in this space, that investment dollars are going into this space. Yeah, you’re right. I think it’s because of this move to remote working, which like I say post pandemic is not going to go back to where it was pre.
Yeah. And I think it’s been really interesting seeing the Facebooks and Twitters, and really the leaders of, I guess, businesses that have built cultures off the back of investing a lot of money in offices and bean bags and all the cliches like table tennis, and free food and all those things that have suddenly just basically done a 180 turn. So yeah, an interesting time for sure.
It is. It is. And I think organisations ultimately will come to a hybrid model. You know, we have a lot of conversations with our customers on this that, you know, some employees love working from home. I think about some of the younger employees living in a one bedroom flat somewhere that can’t wait to get back into the office. You know, extrovert personalities that don’t thrive very well in a remote environment. You know, we have to cater to those folks too, so ultimately I think it will be a hybrid model.
Agreed, yeah. So that’s five minutes of what we’re going to talk about which is really this kind of evolving and future role of the CMO. I mentioned before we started recording, that last episode did a recording with a founder for the first time on how they’re looking at marketing now series A’s. They’ve just raised a series A as well and use this analogy of peace time, CMO, wartime, CMO, one that’s going to be in the trenches with bare hands, getting dirty.
And one that’s just going to run a steady ship and everything’s going to be calm and steady growth that pretty focused just within the marketing field and not much else.
I think you’ve described it when we spoke before as the operational CMO, how does that fit into your perspective on how the CMO role is changing? And I guess kind of subset of that is that it very much depends on company size and where you’re at in the growth journey. And I guess in a lot of cases, someone such as yourself, wouldn’t typically be found at a business of this size at this stage in the growth journey, doing the CMO role. I think that’s fair to say.
How is the CMO role changing?
Yeah. Yeah. And I actually purposely picked a company with a profile of Workvivo, who we are 25 people right now with a marketing team of three. My prior role, I was working for a cyber security company called Malwarebytes , as a CMO with a team of about 70 people dispersed across quite a few countries. And yeah, I mean that role of the CMO was very different between both of those companies.
But one thing is true. There’s always been, I guess, the way I’ve approached this role, and I think it’s because I came through the ranks and I didn’t start off in marketing from an educational perspective, is that I needed to understand all of the facets of marketing. So I just call it this kind of marketing 360. Right?
So, you know, how do you manage your PR agency? How do you understand SEO or digital marketing really well? You know, how do you work with sales teams and BDRs SDRs, et cetera, this development, multi-tiered marketing to channel partners, et cetera. That’s formed a large part of my experience as I’ve gone through my career, but I’ve always been very cautious of disconnecting from the details.
And I’ve worked with many people who’ve been really good CMOs and really good C level people, but they kind of just become orchestrators and puppeteers. Now, wealth of experience, they’re very strategically oriented people. But if you really wanted to take into task on what your SEO strategy was, they find that hard to answer. And I can’t operate that way.
So it’s true to say that a company like Malwarebytes with a large team and a very well established brand, it wasn’t exactly fighting in the trenches, but there was always a push to exceed, exceed, exceed, but really it was like, you’ve got to keep this train on the track as opposed to someone like Workvivo, where it’s very scrappy and you need to know what’s going on everywhere. And I believe that, you know, I call this operation CMO of it.
I personally can’t stay disconnected from the details like a large company. That can be tough. And I say, if there was one complaint that my team generally would have with me throughout my career has been, get out of my way and let me do my job kind of thing, because I do want to know what’s going on.
But, I do think that there is an opportunity now for the CMO in many tech organisations to take a more leading role and use the platform of the CMO to drive direction. Especially as companies traverse this sales driven, marketing driven direction. But to do that without knowing what most dials on the dashboard do, I think limits you and it’s kind of worked for me in my career.
So I think you kind of always can live in the trenches, but in different ways, depending on the organisation and where that company is and if it’s marketed right,
I guess it’s like being a pilot where a plane, for a large part of this journey, flies in self mode but you still want the guy in the seat to know what all the buttons do and also if it stops working to be able to dive in, right?
I think that’s a good analogy, right? I mean, you know, a pilot needs to know the direction they’re going and the need to know the bigger picture about, there’s curvature of the Earth and, you know, the route they’re going to take. But they also need to know what the third switch on the left does. And, I think that’s the only way that’s certain, it’s the only way I can fly a plane.
Obviously great teams of people that genuinely know more than I do about a lot of stuff. I mean, I’m not an expert of all this stuff, but I do need to understand it. I do need to understand, especially, you know, the increasing data driven direction that marketing’s taking now, if you don’t get your hands around that, you’re flying blind.
And how would you say you’ve done that? Cause I think there’s a lot of CMOs I’ve talked to, they started more in the trenches 15, 20 years ago. And maybe at some point in the middle of that they were deep inside a Google Analytics account, but they don’t know, as you say much about the detail of an SEO strategy, or if you open up a dashboard, they wouldn’t know where to start. They can know their way around them at a top level, but has it been a challenge for you to balance that top level leadership?
You have to manage a team of 70 people I imagine a fair chunk of your time is just taken up with line management and then all reporting to you, but just talking in meetings and managing people is a massive part. But at the same time, having to stay up to date with such a fast moving world, is there things that you’ve done or methods you’ve used to stay on top of all of those kinds of things?
It’s a real challenge, right? I know this is, this has been said so many times, but you do need to surround yourself with talented people and I’ve worked with some of the best SEO people, some of the best demand generation people where I don’t need to be on top of them all the time, the management of that function, that comes to where the orchestration role of the CMO is important to make sure that they want to market for a period of time based on a key theme.
So you need to make sure that everything that you do amplifies the message of that theme to the market, but at any point to be able to sit down with the demand gen person and a marketing operations person and have an intelligent conversation with them to a detailed level is really important. Then leave that, leave that meeting and know it’s going to get done.
So, yeah, I’d say probably 50, 60% of my time is probably spent understanding maybe a lower level of what the functions of the marketing team do. And the rest of the time is then using that to sit down around the C suite, and help drive business strategy because, you know, obviously marketing is a leading indicator to a future business for many companies.
So I think, with the right team and the right grasp of knowledge, you almost can have a crystal ball to help advise that the rest of the C suite and where the company is.
You mentioned previously, it was around the role for you and a company the size is now probably much wider than it would have been in a more, a larger enterprise, a more stable business, where marketing is a clearly defined function, you were kind of involved with new business and all kinds of other things, which I imagine feeding back into the products and liaising with developers.
I imagine that you still have your QA built in. That you can’t help but report, is it fair to say you’re kind of involved in a bit of a mix of different things beyond?
Yeah. I think in a company of our size right now, I think it’s a massive team effort on all hearts. But yeah, you know, I came on board not just to be a quote ‘the marketing guy’, but with 25 years of helping businesses and most recently at the more senior, strategic level.
I saw tremendous opportunity to grow this business quickly and all this time so far has validated that. I mean, on a typical day, I could be talking to John, the CEO about, you know, what a business development strategy is, leave his office and then go and do some AB testing on the colour of the Call to Action button on the website. And I really enjoy that. Sounds strange. So yeah, I guess the breadth of experience I’ve been involved with because the role of the CMO and the marketing role in most B2B organisations I’ve worked in, it has been a pretty central role.
Do you need to know what’s going on in terms of the product and the current roadmap, what’s going on with the alliance’s efforts within the organisation? You have to interact with so many different functions of the business that naturally you just get that experience and then you can even lend it to the business.
That’s one of the reasons why I went with the company of this profile, because there’s a diverse set of experiences at all levels, and genuinely making an impact, which at this point in my career, that’s what I want to focus on.
Yeah. I’m always really interested in that perspective. You’ve mentioned why and what attracted you to the role, but from a founder, CEO perspective, a company at this kind of size, as you’ve touched on earlier, it’s probably a little bit earlier than some might have a CMO of your level of experience coming on board.
Do you think that as founders, as CEOs, are they particularly open to marketing? They see the value in it more than other founders do? Cause I think there’s no shortage of horror stories of marketers being stuck in companies where the founder thinks marketing is advertising and doesn’t need to happen for years. And they hire one person to do a little bit of everything and actually nothing happens.
I think you’re in the kind of the opposite situation overall, I guess it’s always interesting to understand why you think they were open at an earlier stage to have one on board? Obviously you’ve got a ton of experience to bring from lots of different directions, were they kind of actively looking for a senior marketer?
Hiring a senior marketer at the start
Not really, no. And going back to your comments on founders, not really understanding the value of marketing. And I understand that I put myself in that position of I am a founder and I don’t really know the function of marketing than it does seem like I’m throwing money at something and I’m not sure what I’m getting back.
That’s why I think the change now to really being data driven and genuinely understanding what is the marketing return on investment that is a combination of science, but that is really important. I focus on it all the time, I genuinely think every dollar spent in marketing, think about it as coming out of your own account. You know, you want to get something back for it, but in terms of Workvivo, I don’t think those guys were looking for a senior marketing person.
It’s a combination of, to know I’m going back to this operational CMO, to know that they have someone who can come in and help, can set the SEO strategy or help design a really good website. Those kind of operational things, we’ve set up nurture campaigns, implement HubSpot, stuff like that. Not just by myself there’s other people around me as well, but it was important.
But then to have the scale, to be able to have that same person, build a team, build a function and build a business with them that will take them into the future is something that they valued at a very early stage. I think I was employee number 15. So hats off to those guys that they saw that. And then if I fast forward to, let’s say five years time and Workvivo is 500 people and hopefully I’m there. And I will remember those days when I was designing the buttons on the website in the first few months. And that gives you a whole different context, perspective of that company. And I think that’s valuable.
So I think also just chemistry, right? I’ve known John for a while and we just gelled straight away. You know, we got on really well. That’s obviously very important too. And that’s continued through the role.
I was going to ask, and this wasn’t one that we had on the questions so I’m just going to throw at you out of the blue. But there’s, I guess a bit of a trend of arising rev ops, function, Chief Revenue Officer keeps coming up more and more, I guess it’s sometimes positioned as the umbrella over sales and marketing. But I guess my experience of coming across the role and talking to people in it is often that actually it’s just someone that’s spent a whole career in sales, but then takes over the marketing function and actually doesn’t know much about marketing. That’s going to be a recipe for disaster.
Have you come across the CRO role as such and any thoughts on whether that’s, I guess how it sits with or alongside or around the CMO role in the future?
The CRO and the CMO
I have. I probably won’t mention the name of the company, but I have definitely have had experience with a very great Head of Sales coming in, ultimately coming in as Chief Revenue Officer and when I’ve worked with CROs in the past and I’ve worked alongside CROs as the CMO. And I think that there are… look, marketing to me is about generating business for the company and generating awareness for that company. And, you know obviously the lead generation side of it is very closely related to sales. The other side of it is also related to sales, but it’s somewhat disconnected.
What I’ve seen when the whole of the marketing function gets subsumed into a CEO role. And I think you’re right Alex, certainly from my experience, that many CROs are salespeople, is that they kind of redefined marketing as lead generation. So all of a sudden now relationships with publications and PR analysts relations, all of those brand awareness, things like that that can look to be high ticket items, but actually aren’t significant in terms of generating brand awareness for the company for the long term, tend to get neglected. To the point where one of the companies I worked in, we actually bifurcated the marketing function and lead generation went under CRO and corporate marketing stayed underneath.
And there was such a close symbiotic relationship between the lead generation and awareness generation that I think that caused some problems. So, you know, I’m sure you can work in many of the other organisations. I think if you have a CRO that is willing to work with the CMOs and say, look, you know what you’re doing, just please give me leads, then it can work.
But most successful companies I’ve seen is where you have, somebody who runs all the sales, someone runs all of marketing, they both work for the CEO and they both work very closely. It’s worked for me and other companies really well, as long as sales and marketing look on themselves as the commercial team, not the sales team or the marketing team, that’s really more important now than ever. I think personally, that’s the right combination.
Yeah. I did an episode when I was out in New York at the end of last year with Do Good Marketing out there. And I think she basically summed it up as if your CEO’s too busy to not be able to have a CMO and a Head of Sales reporting to them separately, then something’s not right. If you need to replace that with the Chief Revenue Officer as a layer in between, then maybe that reflects on the CEO more than anything else.
Yeah. Good point. Again, I’ve worked with three CROs in my time and having an intelligent conversation with them or a real conversation with them about brand strategy, can’t happen. There shouldn’t be an expectation, but the CEO should be having that conversation. And if the only person they can talk to is the CRO, then you just simply can’t have it.
Let’s dive into the data side of things too. I think when we last spoke, correct me if I’m wrong in saying this, but you said, if you could hire one new person in your marketing team building one from scratch again, it would be marketing ops first?
Hiring a marketing operations person
Yes. I moved from a company of 70 people that had, I think six people in marketing ops, you know, there’s three of us in the marketing team, including myself right now. The other two, one is a marketing operations person. And the other one is actually is a creatives and a graphic designer.
I think that because the way you get attention now in a primarily digital world is through aesthetics, through imagery and creative. But the way you drive demand, I think marketing today is very much now a strong combination of creativity and data, but I think it’s more, data-driven now rather than finger in the air.
When I first came into Workvivo and I learned about the market and we were looking at selecting keywords for SEO optimisation on the science these are the keywords that we want to be searching for. And then we did an SEO analysis of what our competitors were doing and they were not the keywords at all, completely different. So what you may just think intuitively is the right thing to do.
You need to go take a look at the data because there is so much data out there right now. Use Google Analytics to look at what’s going on in a marketing automation system. We have HubSpot right now, and it gives you a wealth of knowledge about what’s going on. You use that data and sometimes it will go against your assumptions, but 9 times out of 10, the data, the data is right.
I guess you’re kind of saying that to set up a marketing function, having that kind of strong foundations of marketing operations in place is going to be the building blocks of lots of future work?
Yeah, absolutely. You need to make sure that you have the planning in place. I think that again, if the CMO of Malwarebytes, for example, you know, a larger organisation, a big team and I probably spoke to my Marketing Operations Head more than anybody else in the team. Because the plumbing, the pipe work, the foundation for everything else that you are congenitally important, and digital strategy is really important.
And if you don’t have the underlying mechanism to deliver all of that and do it in a really effective way, then, you know, and, and it really is a specialist role. And although I say I like to get involved in the details, to really get involved in the details of how Marketo works is beyond me. That’s why I have really good marketer in the past that I’ve been able to put together some really amazing automated campaigns.
So, no I do think that having someone that can do the plumbing and make sure everything flows smoothly from landing page creation to outbound campaign to nurture campaigns, help with email sequencing of the sales team, these are the things that you don’t necessarily have to have a massive amount of content to be able to garner experience.
But if you can’t get any content effectively out to your targets and touch them multiple times in order to move them to conversion, then you might as well not have the content. Right?
So that’s why I think marketing operations is really, really important and creative, but, you know, I thought twice about my second hire being a creative person and actually it’s this guy’s busy all the time and creates some amazing stuff for us. That really gets noticed, and it’s been instrumental actually in getting us, generating awareness for us.
I guess from a data perspective, I mean, as we’ve talked about, we’re in a world that’s driven heavily by data now, how do you go about the reporting timings together? Because I think depending how you look at this, obviously reporting and upwards in the businesses, eventually all about revenue and growth and however you measure that at various levels. We can get into cost per click and cost per lead acquisition and all these different things.
I think a massive challenge for modern day digital marketers of any kind is how to present the numbers in a way that different people across the business can understand. And that continues to kind of build the business case of demonstrating the ROI of marketing.
I guess, particularly through the lens of a B2B world where attribution’s always quite difficult. And especially with lengthier, more considered journeys, you might not have all those touch points that you can connect to one another. So someone that first became aware of you six months ago might be in touch later. So yeah, I mean, what are your thoughts on the analytics reporting attribution side? Because I think it’s probably the biggest challenge I come across.
Data driven strategies vs creative strategies
It is. I actually say that the reporting itself of getting the data and reporting the data, isn’t in my experience anyway, hasn’t been too difficult. It’s how to present that data in a consumable form to other people around the business who may not understand it. And I think your example of attribution is absolutely right.
You know, put a first touch, multi touch, last touch, but you can’t talk to the CEO about those kinds of things, right? Most CEOs, anyway, there are a core set of KPIs that everyone understands, right? I’m generating more conversion rates or is the time to close cohort analysis. And so there’s a lot of things you can do.
But coming back to this operational side to the role, what I have right now is a set of dashboards, which are pretty detailed. All the way down to separating the types of organic traffic and the sources of those traffic, you know, reverse IP, look upon the people visiting the site, et cetera. And then I work closely with the executive team to understand what are those KPIs that you need to know.
And again, with the marketing being the leading indicator, right? We know our sales cycles really well. We know if you generate X amount of leads, we should result in X amount of business. So right now I think that the very simple kind of waterfall set of KPIs as a starting point, still suffice pretty well across the business. But because, and this is probably particular to what we do, but most of our business does come through the website and it’s not an eCommerce website. So the opportunity to create a website activity is really, really important.
So yeah, I am reporting on the performance of our Ad Words on the direct versus indirect list, search traffic come to the site and I’ve spent time with the executive team, helping them understand the elements of that information. But still when I’m reporting to the team is typically two slides. That should be enough to communicate where we’re at at the moment. If you want to delve down into that, please let me pull up the dashboard, I’d love to walk you through it, but typically, they suffice.
And what are you typically using, I know you use HubSpot, is that where most of your dashboards are? Or are you doing anything else to kind of pull different data sources together?
I actually use, I think it’s called Outbox. We’re actually using a consolidation tool for dashboard analysis from various sources. Obviously Google, Google analytics is a big one as well. So I also use that to report on budget. So we could do that on a campaign basis, on geographic basis, et cetera, campaign basis, things like that. So, yeah, I mean, we probably have about six dashboards right now that we check in on on a daily basis, but only two of those consolidate up to something that I’d share with. I’d share it with the rest of the senior leadership team.
An area that I’m always interested in discussing is how in this data driven world, kind of balances itself with the brands. And I guess the more awareness side of marketing which is ultimately hard to measure.
But I guess, and it’s something I talk about a lot with all kinds of different people, but the marketer with the spreadsheet is always going to be the one that beats the marketers with the big, crazy idea in a boardroom environment, at least. And often this will come down to how leadership use marketing and it’s the senior leadership willing to gamble some money on a big campaign that might be hard to measure it, but could change the game in terms of wider kind of awareness and brand, or are they going to play the safer option and go with the LinkedIn campaign where they can go every cost per click and everything can be seen in the reports in a table?
Obviously that’s a bit black and white, that comparison and it’s a bit more nuanced in real life, but I guess the question is, is there a risk that this data driven world makes us all quite short sighted? And we’re only looking at the next couple of months of short term kind of campaign data through a demand gen lens versus WhatsApp net promoter score in three years, not three months and how does marketing influence the wider brand picture?
Yeah. I mean it’s not as much fun either right? I mean, you do need to do some big audacious ideas at times just to shake things up and to keep things interesting. I think that just my own experience going to either set team report with a demonstration of the depth of a measurement of success and demonstration, that you have a handle on that data, buys you a certain amount of social capital. So that then at some point you come out with, I want to spend a hundred thousand dollars on a TV commercial, which we actually did in data.
One of my other private companies we didn’t spend that much on, but we went and filmed a TV commercial and aired it on NBC in the US and it was fantastic. It was really enjoyable working with the actors and the crew and stuff like that. I think you do have to balance it right. I think you can be kind of overly scientific.
And just yet, as you say, just use targeted ads and do the social thing, but there are times where you just want to break and we’ve talked about maybe a billboard in San Francisco. I mean, not massively audacious, but different than just a LinkedIn ad, just to see what happens because some people like we know Eric at Zoom, and that was an instrumental part of how we got the Zoom businesses is advertising as you’re driving down the road and competing against Skype.
So I do think you have to balance it, but make sure you have a thorough grounding and understanding of the data first, even if it’s not directly data that comes from the activity. Cause as you say, how do you measure that? How do you measure a billboard? But knowing that you have the team and the folks that really look at it.
When they know that the person in charge really gets the data and it’s not just another one of these CMOs that just want to invest in this and sponsor this basketball team and let’s do that. It’s actually that I am grounded in data but I think we need to do these things that are a bit more creative, you tend to find that they’re happy.
I think that’s the thing I’ve learned from talking to different CMOs that have lead the stuff that looks less measurable in terms of advertising on the tube and even one that has, these are all quite niche B2B technology products, but like a cool kind of conferencing system that was advertising around the edge of Lord’s Cricket Ground and things where you’re like, how do you go back to your CEO and say this was the return on ad spend of how much that costs to advertise at Lord’s.
And I think the thing that always comes out is that there’s all this stuff that looks quite brand lead and big band, but actually it’s underpinned by lots of really focused, targeted campaigns that kind of support and slot in underneath. It’s not just that in isolation, there’s some really clever stuff going into some LinkedIn ads that are complimenting it. And targeted email campaigns and it’s tying the dots together rather than just the big creative stuff.
Yeah, very much so. Marketing is increasingly 360. So everything that we do, I try and squeeze as much value as every single thing that we do. If we create an ebook, then we have a blog series, a webinar, you know, we’ll squeeze as much as we can so even those big audacious things that, like the TV commercial I mentioned before, that got something like 500,000 hits on YouTube. And we generated leads from that. So yeah, absolutely. Leverage as much as you can.
I guess to wrap up, it’d be great to hear a little bit about what you’ve got planned coming up. I know that obviously the series A has happened. It sounds like it’s an exciting place in the market for Worvivo. I don’t want you to give away all of your trade secrets and all the stuff you’ve got up your sleeve. But I guess anything from a marketing perspective that you think is going to guide you into the next few months and beyond?
The future of Workvivo
You would think that, our series A was 16 million investment, which is a seizable chunk, you know? You would think great now let’s quadruple a marketing budget and that’s not actually happening. And that’s an agreement before the investment that I had with the exec team. We need to demonstrate our marketing ROI. We’re still in relatively, marketing has really only been effective in this company for a year. So it was still kind of experimentation mode in terms of what works and what doesn’t.
I want to hit that scene first, understand what we need is because I need to pull to make a change. When having identified that then put gas in the engine from an investment perspective and do that. So this is not saying I want a chunk of that 16 million to just start doing sponsoring formula one or something like that.
We need to still maintain pragmatism and demonstrate that we can find the Goldstein, that is going to make the company successful. At least the start of that anyway, and then double down on it. So for me, now that we’ve attained a decent amount of awareness, I’m kind of changing gears from top funnel, which is where we’ve been, to real bottom of funnel. It does require more investment on things like, and stuff like that.
But I think we have an opportunity now knowing the brand elevation that we have and the tension that we’ve had at late, that we can really start to generate a really good pipeline for the company. When I hit the pipeline goals that I’ve set for the business, then you can talk about using investment dollars for something else. But I don’t want to rush into that. So effectively it doesn’t exist for me right now. That’s a lot of work to do before I get to tap into that.
Cool. I think that was pretty clear. I guess it’s a measure of pipeline activity, is one of the major milestones that you need to hit before you can move.
Honestly, it’s conversions to the website more than anything else, right? We’re not doing physical events anymore. That was a, you know, that was a decent lead generation activity for us because it is an emotional connection that you need to make with the folks that would buy something like this. So it is traffic to the website. It is conversions and quality conversions and all the rest downstream from that.
It’s been a pleasure talking to you. There’s so much there and some really interesting insights based on a heck of a lot of experience of what the future role looks like for the CMO. And I’m going to keep a close eye on Workvivo. I’m sure there are exciting things to come, but big thank you for your time.
Thank you, Alex. It’s great talking to you and it’s nice to have a nice trip down memory lane.
Thanks Pete. Take care.
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