Monday, Dec. 7 marked the second event of our monthly Pipeline Marketing Playbooks meetup. Kevin Bobowski, of Act-On Software, was the featured guest and offered valuable advice with knowledge he’s gained throughout his career from his start in finance, to his development and rise to the top as VP of Marketing at Act-On.
Below, read some of the key takeaways from the discussion and don’t forget to join us on Jan. 11 with Liz Pearce, CEO of LiquidPlanner.
Alignment Under A Revenue Goal
If marketing hits its goals, but sales isn’t hitting theirs, then the company as a whole is lacking. This sentiment came through strong and clear from Kevin Bobowski when talking about company alignment. He says that although close rates don’t traditionally fall under the marketing umbrella, they should. Close rates are something that everyone in the company should work to improve.
“As a marketer it makes your life a lot more difficult, but it drives an incredible amount of alignment across sales and marketing,” Bobowski says.
At Act-On, marketing is responsible for a certain amount of bookings per month. They score all opportunities as A, B, C or D and work with the sales teams to identify the As and Bs so that sales is focused on the most qualified leads first.
One quarter might be more focused on metrics like opportunity creation and another on close rates, but ultimately those numbers are used as a diagnostic to figure out what’s working and what’s not, to make sure the company stays on track to hit its revenue goal.
If your marketing team is only using leads as a metric of success, you’re missing the big picture. If those leads aren’t converting to customers, then they’re just a disposable number, a vanity metric.
Ultimately, each team should have a revenue goal as a success metric.
“I think in order to really drive sales and marketing alignment you have to be organized around a common metric, and that’s bookings,” says Bobowski.
The Cilantro Issue
Cilantro is one of those foods that people either love, or they hate. There is no in between. In the same realm, a company’s SDRs are either in the marketing department or they’re not. For that reason, Kevin calls this “the cilantro issue.”
He referenced a statistic that he heard 80% of SDR and BDR functions are in sales. However, from his experience, and in looking at the experience of his peers, he believes 80% of the functions are actually in marketing. And when those functions sit within marketing, there’s an incredible amount of alignment between marketing and sales teams.
SDRs are the first point of verbal interaction with a customer and mold the customer’s introduction and perception of the company. When marketing trains them on how to talk about the product and how to create a great customer experience, SDRs can be some of the most important developers of your brand’s identity.
Building The Brand
This leads to the most touched on topic of the evening, building the company brand. According to Kevin, this is one of the biggest challenges that marketers face but also one of the most important.
To be successful at forming a good brand identity, marketers must be thinking about it from the very beginning. It’s sort of inside-out marketing. Your internal culture becomes your external brand identity.
Instead of forcing the c-suite into a room to brainstorm and define the company brand, talk to the top sales associates and see what’s working. If sales reps are saying THIS is the right messaging and it’s helping them have quality conversations with prospects, then you’re on the right track. An excited and motivated sales team is half the battle.
Although the messaging should evolve with the company, it’s important that it remains consistent across teams. Educating teams on what you’re trying to do and getting everyone to agree on a message and the reasoning behind it can be difficult. It’s a process and a journey that takes work.
“Think about your brand every single day, it may be the most important thing you’ll ever have as a company and may be the only thing that’s long term as a differentiator,” says Bobowski.
To be successful at the enterprise level, people have to know who you are and you have to make it easy for people to buy you. Which in turn, makes it easy for the sales team to sell. Brand awareness and credibility are incredible assets.
At Act-On, Kevin says they started taking money out of traditional marketing endeavors and began investing heavily in forming their brand identity by hosting their own events, webinars and sponsoring conferences.
“All that work takes time, but it really pays off because you really start to build an incredible brand.”
Checking The Box
Rising to the top in marketing is a journey, it doesn’t come without a lot of hard work and personal drive. Kevin calls this “checking the box.”
Although it’s important to have a core area of expertise that you’re building on in your career, it’s valuable to check the boxes in other areas as well. How do you gain experience in product marketing, in marketing operations, in paid advertising or in partner marketing? Take every chance you get to learn something new in an area you’re unfamiliar with.
“What I’ve learned over the last several years in a head of marketing role is it’s almost like a general manager, you might be sitting down with finance one day planning out your budgets for the next year, you might be sitting down thinking about how to message the market, or brand identity, or visual identity on the website,” says Bobowski.
“So, I think to be a successful marketer today, you need to have a collection of experiences because the role is so varied that you really need to be fluid in all of those areas.”
To be able to check the boxes, you must have great people skills. According to Kevin, everyone has a little bit of a deficiency somewhere and it’s important to identify it and work on it. Think about how you are at work, how do you interact with people that you need something from, what about your peers or your bosses? Get to work improving those relationships and you’ll be on your way to creating a successful career in marketing.