Bringing Sales and Marketing Together (Latane Conant, Sr. VP Global Marketing of Appirio) : Interview with Latane Conant

Glenn: Hi, everyone. I’m Glenn Gow, Founder & Advisor of Crimson Marketing. Welcome to Moneyball for Marketing where we talk about the incredible changes happening in marketing organizations around big data and marketing technology. We feature marketing technology insights from the top marketers in the world. The reference to Moneyball is from the story of how the Oakland A’s baseball team were able to win and win and win because they figured out how to use data and technology to their advantage. If you’d like to learn about how to use big data and marketing technology and marketing to help you win visit us at CrimsonMarketing.com or email us at info@CrimsonMarketing.com. And now on to our podcast.
Today I am very pleased to welcome Latane Conant the Senior VP of Global Marketing for Appirio. So how does Appirio describe themselves? Appirio is a global services company that helps customers create next generation worker and customer experiences using the latest cloud technologies. Latane it’s a real pleasure to have you here.

Latane: Thanks Glenn, thanks for having me.

Glenn: You were telling me earlier a little bit about your history and how it’s a bit unusual in that you came up to run marketing to this exciting company from the sales side. And that gives you a very special relationship with the sales organization. Tell us a little bit about that journey, and how it impacts what you do in marketing.

Latane: It’s definitely special. I like to say that I’m a little bit of a fox in the henhouse. Some of my friends that are in marketing actually kind of tease me and get mad at me because I don’t have the official good housekeeping seal of marketing approval so to speak.

Glenn: I didn’t know there was one.

Latane: I think there’s probably more than what I have. I have always been very heavily on the sales revenue generating side of the business. When I came to Appirio I had a lot of opinions about marketing and I probably can say I was a little bit rogue in running programs. So when the opportunity presented itself, they actually came to me and said we’re kind of tired of you going rogue and coming to us with all these ideas. Why don’t you just get in the driver’s seat. And so it was a little bit scary, but here I am and I think what’s been nice is that because of my background, I do have a very “special relationship” with sales, and a real appreciation for what they do and what’s important to them. I also think just from being out and about in such customer facing roles historically, a really good understanding of our customers and why they buy.

Glenn: That’s huge. And you also mentioned that some would argue that you do have a little bit of sales, and you have the inside sales organization. I find that most companies have that over in the sales group, but you have that inside of marketing, tell us a little bit about how that works.

Latane: We have it in marketing not because it was some big strategic decision by any stretch of the imagination. I actually started the inside sales team with a couple other folks when I was a sales leader. And so I had already incubated and started that, so it just sort of followed me into my move to marketing. We still try to keep that organization as close as possible to the sales team. So I almost think of it as a dotted line. Actually into the sales leaders because it’s so critical that they are collaborating and that really from an account executive level they’re driving the prospecting strategy with their inside sales rep.

Glenn: There’s another thing that you mentioned to me that I found interesting. You talked about marketing being responsible for making money. And that’s very much a sales perspective, but tell us how that leads over into your marketing organization.

Latane: For those folks that know me I love fancy shoes. And you need to make a lot of money for your company to afford fancy shoes. And so I do think that marketing is responsible for making money, we’re not doing this for our health. I love to be creative, but it’s really all about driving revenue, and so really, and I’m very passionate about that so one of the first things that I did when I made the leads was really look at all the things that we measure. And we measured a lot of things. Not always consistently, but I really wanted to boil the organization down into a few common metrics that we could all get behind that I knew would create a big impact on the organization.

Glenn: And what are those?

Latane: I ended up going with two metrics. So I did a lot of benchmarking, and every metric has some hair on it from what I’ve found, there’s no perfect way. But at the end of the day, I just wanted to pick and be able to get with the team aligned, because I thought that was really important, and I’ll talk about that in a minute. The metrics that we chose were sourced bookings and influence bookings. And so when I think about source bookings, that’s kind of a marketing originated opportunity that results in a sale. So we look at everything that closed and what percentage of that did marketing originate. And then the second metric is influence which is equally important. So looking at everything that closed, what were we able to influence through the process, ideally help accelerate.

Glenn: And what are some of the systems you use to help you keep track of that?

Latane: One of the things we do is build customer experiences for people on cloud technology. But sometimes the cobbler’s kids have no shoes. But we were incubated in Salesforce as an office originally. We were on 100 percent in the cloud on cloud technologies, so we do have some great technology at our disposable with Salesforce as well as Marketo. Our CIO is pretty passionate about using Salesforce to the fullest. So I think we were already doing a nice job of getting a lot of stuff in Salesforce, its cleanliness is always debatable. But we kind of already had some tracking in place, it was really just a matter of like doing a pretty significant cleanup. And then making sure that those metrics were highly visible, and making sure that we could some historical benchmarks to baseline it. So that we could set a goal that we thought was realistic but somewhat of a stretch.

Glenn: Right so you first made sure that there was as much reasonable faith in the data as possible so that once you start to set those goals, people could feel they were achievable.

Latane: Totally. Exactly. We have a dashboard the refresh a couple times a day. I’m kind of neurotic, I’m not sure if everyone else does that. We open team meeting with taking a look at the metrics and where we are. It’s really about not just setting the objectives, but then having a steady drumbeat from a cultural perspective. And that’s taken probably a solid year. We probably still have some work to go.

Glenn: One of the other interesting things about your goals is that you shared with me they are team goals. So marketing has these goals and everybody needs to work together as a team to achieve them is that right?

Latane: Yes. The team historically had undergone a few different leadership changes, and then it had been a little bit broken up. So demand gen was different from corporate from a leadership perspective. So what I found was that while we were setting goals, everyone’s were wildly different, and I felt like we were getting a little bit of the “well this is my job and these are my roles” versus let’s not think about individually, let’s think about what we need to do as a function. And so just that itself, putting everybody under one set of common metrics and how we get paid has been really awesome. It’s been really cool to see folks working together, looking at opportunities, how they’re progressing, how can your stuff help my stuff. One of the things that we talked about when we talked yesterday was I said, marketing is not like a shot of vodka or tequila. There’s no one alcohol that can cure your pain. It really needs to be a cocktail. And so getting all these things working together to make this delicious cocktail are really what we’re trying to achieve, and I found that having everybody on a common set of metrics and then being maniacally focused on putting those forward and measuring it has really helped us.

Glenn: That’s great and so the group is focused on making a great cocktail and that means everybody needs to contribute, but it’s not clear which of those that goes into the cocktail is necessarily more important. And right now that’s not what’s important to you, it’s more getting great results.

Latane: I wouldn’t say that it’s not important to me. I would say we’re like most marketing organizations on a journey. And for me there were 3 critical things to our journey that I wanted to establish. One was that why to buy. So we really overhauled how we go to market which we didn’t talk about yesterday but we overhauled to be a lot more customer oriented. And in the language that a customer speaks. And really focused on a solution to a problem. So that was really significant for us. We had always been a cloud guy. So that was kind of first, and I think we’re getting there progressing well, I just wanted that really great alignment with sales, and understanding that’s the hardest job. It’s the hardest job out there and I think sometimes there can be eye rolling about oh god sales wants this. So getting rid of that and tapping into what makes salespeople tick.

Glenn: You have a great story there. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you’ve done as it relates to events? And how you created a little contest with the results working with sales. Because ultimately you need to prove the value of things even if sales are asking for something.

Latane: Yeah they’re asking a lot of us, and we ask a lot of them as well. And so you got to make it that two-way street. And I think what we found is we invest at Appirio a ton in our events. And we’re really known in the ecosystem for these amazing experiences that we create at our events which is great. We’ve done a great job but again coming from the sales side I wanted to look at yields and how do we optimize our spend per event.

Glenn: Right and what are we getting out of the event.

Latane: What are we getting out of these? And how o we make them and keep the experience but also make them as serious as possible so it’s really high value time with customers and prospects. So to me that was when we thought about it and we dissected what contributes to a great event. It’s really high value time in an individual meeting with the right customers and prospects and the right folds from Apirrio be it executives or things like that. So rather than just say sales team its our job to create an amazing event and it’s your job to all the pre-work and follow up work, if we know the pre-work and setting up those high value meetings, is kind of the most important part, and we know the post is probably secondary importance. And the actual event is probably third. Why aren’t we being more proactive in helping set up and make sure the people are doing the right prep.

Glenn: In other words, making sure you’re going to get meetings at these events.

Latane: Exactly. So what we did is, for our biggest event we said, first of all we set a criterion to go. Like you can’t go unless you have a certain number of meetings.

Glenn: Meaning if I’m a sales rep means I can’t go.

Latane: Right before we sort of knew who the best reps were and they got to go and there was a lot less science to it. And that was controversial, very controversial. So what we did we set a relatively low bar, but we kind of gamified it. And I joke that sales people will compete for a kit kat bar. And so what we really wanted to do was make it fun make it interactive, have little leader board with people’s faces. When we first launched it we got some moans and groans.
Glenn: What was the contest, tell us what it really was.

Latane: It was based on the number of meetings, so whoever got the most meetings.

Glenn: So if I’m a rep, I get the most meetings, I get to go to the event.

Latane: Well if you get three or more you qualify, but then we didn’t want just people qualifying, we wanted people lowing it out so what we found was this one rep who was actually relatively new and kind of middle of the pack just started crushing it. He was at the top for everything, Gene. So Gene totally became marketing’s teacher’s pet. We highlight him in every meeting, we highlight him on every meter board, if Gene wants a video we’ll do a video for him, and its kind of like this companywide joke about, he’s always at the top of the marketing leaderboard. But not only what’s been great to see is that not only is he at the top of our leaderboards, he’s now at the top of a lot of the sales leader boards. Going to sales club.

Glenn: So you create contests. Gene was relatively new, and I need 3 meetings setup to go to this. What did Gene do to make himself the winner?

Latane: I think he did 20 meetings. He crushed it. And our goal for the event was 100 meetings, and we ended up with 250 meetings. And then our goal for sourced pipe we were 200% of our goal. And this is our biggest event, so the goals were already very high, and no one thought- and this is an event that we’ve been doing forever. And so no one really thought that we could do better than what we’ve always done. So that was fun to kind of put in place a really great joint effort between sales and marketing.

Glenn: That’s a great story. Tell us a little bit about some of the other work you’re doing with inbound, and how you’re measuring your inbound efforts.

Latane: Well our first priority with inbound was create a content machine. We’ve done a great job with that. And we measure to of the funnel leads, and we measure cost per lead, and organic versus paid, try to drive down that cost per lead. And then again kind of back to this cocktail analogy, for us our cocktail for demand generation is really 3 levers. It’s inbound, outbound, which again kind of those we call them sales development reps SDRs, and then events. And so every month we get on a call, it’s called the demand gen closeout, we actually just had it today. And we go through what the activity was versus the yield, and dissect what’s working and what’s not working. It’s not where we’d like it to be in terms of our ability to measure. Right now what we do is either a lead or an opportunity. There is no in between. So getting more granular with that funnel, and then I call it the marketing to money process that we’re now embarking on. Which is being able to look for our main solutions what’s that marketing to money flow. It’s not just two stages, it needs to be more than that. And then what content, again it’s great that we’re cranking out all this amazing content, but where does that fall and where are there gaps? And I have a hunch but of course we’re proving out that hunch. But you know I think we do a great job with very high level content and then deal support. And not a lot in between. Looking at t he types of content like how dynamic is it. How interactive is it, and ideally where do we serve this up so that we can be really taking folks on a journey?

Glenn: Well I like what you’re doing it and I’m going to summarize it because we are running out of time. But I think you’ve done here is you’ve made measurement simple which is really a great place to start and is foundational and gets everybody aligned. And now you recognize because every form of measurement has some flaws to it that you need some refinement. So you’re going on that marketing to money journey to start to refine that we’re doing so you can just be smarter. I think it’s a really wise approach and I think our listeners will really benefit from following that.

Latane: I’ve found again that it’s a journey, and you talk to somebody and you ask them ten things and you get 25 answers. So for me just trying to not solve for the corner cases, but solve for the majority of what we’re doing and drive that alignment was really the first step, and now again it’s about okay let’s get to that next level of granularity. And the cool thing is that I’m not even having to drive that. My team is so fired up and have this competitive spirit and want to win that they’re the ones driving okay we need some more granularity, and what about this. To me that’s success. I’m lucky in that the people that work for me are a lot smarter than I am, and are able to really take things to the next level.

Glenn: Well like I said that’s the sign of a great manager. Thanks so much for sharing that philosophy with us. I hope everybody has learned as much as I have. Thank you.

Latane: Thanks guys, looking forward to learning from everyone else on future podcasts.

Glenn: Alright thank you it’s been fun.

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