How CMOs of High Growth Companies Can Achieve Rapid Scale: Interview with Heidi Melin

 
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’m very pleased to welcome Heidi Melin. She is the Chief Marketing Officer at Plex Systems. As a member of the Plex executive team Heidi plays a key role in the company’s go to market strategy and is responsible for the strategic direction of all marketing initiatives including brand, demand gen, product marketing, corporate communications, and operations. Plex is the manufacturing cloud. They deliver industry leading ERP and manufacturing automation to nearly 400 companies across industries including aerospace and defense, food and beverage, and motor vehicles. Heidi, welcome.

Heidi: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Glenn: You and I had a fascinating conversation earlier about how when you started at Plex there was almost no marketing infrastructure and I think for our listeners that’s a fantastic story about how would you look at a company with almost no marketing infrastructure and how would you start to build it? Please tell us what’s going on at Plex.

Heidi: Well, Plex is actually a growth-oriented company and so when I came in it was a terrific opportunity to really start from scratch and look at the foundation. It isn’t very often that you can walk into a role like that where you can actually build a foundation and start from the ground up and build things the way that you want them to. Oftentimes we’re always having to deal with other ways to set things up and having to do workarounds, and in this case I was able to come in and put in the infrastructure to allow us to scale as an organization.

As I said, we’re a high growth company and so we had to put in a marketing infrastructure as well as an infrastructure across the company in order to scale with that growth. The company had an existing investment, although a fairly new investment in both Salesforce.com and in Eloqua. So we rounded out and expanded the deployment of both of those solutions and changed a little bit how we set up the business process and how both the Eloqua and the Salesforce.com implementation supported our business process.

So we went through a reimplementation of both of those systems and we’re also looking at every single other part of our marketing infrastructure and building it from the ground up.

Glenn: One of the things we talk to a lot of our clients about is you want to start with process. You want to define what is it you’re trying to accomplish in marketing first, build those processes, and then look for the tools and/or modify the tools you have available to support those processes. Is that how you’re looking at it as well?

Heidi: Yeah, absolutely. There are far too many tools out there and you look at the landscape as a CMO and there are so many technologies, there are so many tools that you have to step away from the shiny object and the cool feature and you have to step away and say, “How do I want the business to work? And what’s the business process that’s going to allow me to be successful?” And then map the tools or the solution to that. If you do it the other way you end up with a whole bunch of really cool tools that don’t work together very well and don’t support what you need from a business process standpoint. So absolutely it’s a great point.

Glenn: So the availability of so many different tools is a double-edged sword, right? So yes, you can wind up with too many shiny objects, but also if you design it from the standpoint of, “I want to establish certain processes,” then you have a lot of tools to choose from and you can pick the ones that fit your business best.

Heidi: Yep, that’s exactly right and that’s one of the key areas that I think CMOs have developed new muscles in is in being able to evaluate technology. In order to be a successful CMO these days because of the value that the technology can add you have to have an understanding of how the technology works and, more importantly, how your business processes work otherwise you end up with a mess. So, that’s really where we started we said, “Gosh, what is our business process? How are we going to drive our demand generation process, for example, and how does that connect to our revenue process? So that connection between marketing and sales and defining those business processes became extremely important in how we implemented both Eloqua and Salesforce.com.

So we really started from the beginning and we’re continuing that journey in looking at our public website and rolling out mutual and new infrastructure for our website that will allow us to scale and grow. We have selected Adobe CQ as the platform that we’re going to build our website on and that’s going to allow us to grow and scale as a global organization over time and we’re re-architecting the entire site, everything from the navigation to redoing all of the content and the structure of the site so that we can do things like personalization, being able to recognize those visitors to our public website when they come back, being able to serve them up content that’s relevant to them. Those are things that we couldn’t do before and we had to really go back down to our foundation and structure our foundation so that we could support things like personalization as an example.

Glenn: That’s great. Talk more about scaling and what you’re really trying to do with—you keep talking about scaling. I’m interested in how that impacts your decisions.

Heidi: Yeah, well one of the things being a high growth the company is growing between 30 and 40 percent a year we have to be able to grow and put in systems and business process that can scale with our organization. Our field sales organization is growing dramatically over the next 12 to 18 months and we need to be able to support that field sales growth, and so that means not only do we have to drive more demand, but frankly we have to drive more demand in a way that is seamless. So we have to make sure that we’re putting in the kind of solution and business process that can go from a sales team that was now nine people a year-and-a-half ago and will be 45 by the end of next year. That’s the kind of scale that we have to be able to do as well as scaling from a geographic standpoint.

Today we’re focused 100 percent on North America. I know that we’re not going to be focused exclusively for very long and so we need to put in infrastructure that is going to allow us to roll out language and country-based sites off our public website. If we don’t put in a solution that allows us to do that then we’re going to hit a brick wall. So that’s what I mean by scale, scaling to support a growing field sales team, scaling to support multiple geographies, and additional industry focuses. Those are all things that we look at from a scale standpoint.

Glenn: Awesome. You had told me a story earlier about, I think this comes from your past and not your current situation, about having a database of millions of contacts and most companies would be very excited to have that, but how that really didn’t serve what you were trying to accomplish. Tell us a little bit about what you did there.

Heidi: Yeah, actually, it’s very interesting because when you have a database of contacts and people says there’s millions in there and it’s extremely valuable it’s only valuable if those millions of contacts are people that you want to sell to. It doesn’t matter who the contacts are if you don’t want to sell to them. So one of the things that I am passionate about is making sure that we know who we want to sell and ensuring that that’s the contact information in our database not necessarily all of the rest of the people that we really don’t care about. So whether it’s a million contacts or 50,000 very targeted contacts I would actually rather have 50,000 very targeted contacts than millions of contacts.

That’s an interesting dialogue to have with folks because there’s something about numbers that people think more is better, but it’s really about the quality, and so one of the things that we’ve been able to do here is move to a target account model where I know I’m very tightly aligned, my team is very tightly aligned with the sales organization, and I know what accounts are in the pipeline today, I know what accounts our sales team is currently working with, and I know the accounts that they want to get into. That helps me and our demand team focus our efforts in the right places. So those folks that we want to be having conversations we’re doing awareness building programs with. Those folks that are in the pipeline we’re focusing on velocity, creating more velocity in the pipeline, and so knowing who those accounts are is really important. So the value that the data has is how well is it aligned to who you want to sell to? And to me that’s something that gets lost sometimes.

Glenn: Do you have any tools that help you understand whether or not someone from a named account is coming to your website?

Heidi: Oh yeah, we’re absolutely using our marketing infrastructure to be able to identify folks that are coming in and that’s part of the move to a new platform is allowing our website to increasingly become a better targeting machine and a better place that we can pull people into a sales cycle because we know who they are. We’re also, today, we’re able to measure who’s on our website, are they prospects? Are they customers? Are they folks that are in the pipeline today? And instead of just measuring traffic on a website which is oh so very interesting I want to know who’s on our website that we want to talk to? That, to me, is much more valuable and so we’re measuring the success of our programs against that web traffic that are our customers, that are our prospects, that are our pipeline accounts, and we’re demand base to do that.

Glenn: Right. I would also imagine then you’re highly focused on conversion, right? Because it’s not so much how many people come in at the top of the funnel it’s can you move the right people through that funnel process?

Heidi: You got it because I know how to make people raise their hands and the number of responses that we can get I can make that number go up. The tricky part is how do you convert that to a marketing qualified lead, and a lead that the sales team is going to put in their pipeline? That’s about understanding who’s converting, what’s converting, and that’s about that intersection of sales and marketing, and making sure that we understand as marketers who the sales team wants to target, and who they most want to attract, and who is most likely to be interested in our solutions? And that’s the trick. Getting responses at the top of the funnel are interesting, but it certainly can’t be the only way that we measure the success of our marketing programs.

Glenn: So, Heidi, I’m going to take you in a little bit of a different direction here. We’re talking about all the technologies and yet it occurred to me that there’s a relationship issue that’s critical here and it has to do with your relationship with the VP of sales. Everything you’re talking about is, “How can I support the sales team, especially given their target account focus?” Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing to manage that relationship, not just between you and the VP of sales, but your team and the sales team.

Heidi: Part of it is just a general philosophy and my philosophy is that we don’t have a marketing process and then a sales process. We actually have a revenue process that both the marketing team and the sales team participate in.

Glenn: Ooh, I like it.

Heidi: So we have a funnel and we all contribute to that funnel and so getting away from the hand-off and measuring two sides of my process is done and so I’m handing it to the field looking to execute on. That’s not the way it works today. So understanding how marketing and sales can work together to drive revenue is really important, and so that philosophy is kind of that starting point. I also believe that driving demand generation programs requires tight engagement with the field sales team not only in understanding who they want to target.
In our case I know exactly who they want to target because we have a target account model so that makes it fairly easy, but that tight engagement in the field sales team understanding how we’re driving demand and how prospects are coming in the top of the funnel so that they can more gracefully pass those prospects into their pipeline becomes really important. It’s an amazing gift to a sales team member if they know why someone’s raised their hand, what are the things that they’ve done on our website, how have they responded to a program, what events have they attended? That’s extremely valuable information for a field sales person and in a more traditional split sales and marketing process sometimes all that data gets lost.

Glenn: Right, well, sales often doesn’t trust it.

Heidi: Right.

Glenn: Somehow you’ve created this level of trust and what you just said about that information is incredibly valuable is if the sales team believes that then you’ve closed that gap.

Heidi: Exactly, and there’s also things that the marketing team can do in order to create velocity in pipeline account, too. I worked in some organizations where sales teams have said, “Don’t touch what’s in my pipeline.”

Glenn: Right, right.

Heidi: “I’m the only one that can talk to them.” And absolutely the sales team at that point needs to control that relationship, but wow, there’s a lot of great things that we can do to help create velocity and work directly with the sales team to engage those pipeline account at a deeper level.
Glenn: So give us an example or two of things that you have found work.

Heidi: So, what a great idea we have a pipeline account that has an anticipated close date within the next two quarters. What if we were to create a communication for the sales team member to send that includes access to information or a white paper from an analyst about how to make an ARP decision? What a great tool for them to have and we can do that in an automated fashion. So being able to move a prospect, help them move through a selling cycle, or a buying cycle as I like to say, is really important and marketing can support the field in doing that. So all I need to know is what pipeline accounts do you want us to contact? Where are they? I have all that information in Salesforce today and we can put together a programmatic way to engage them and help them through their buying cycle creating velocity.

Glenn: Well, especially if you have the sales organization’s trust they’re going to take that material that you provide to them or take that content and they’re probably going to use it.

Heidi: Yeah, exactly. So it really dispels that hard and fast line between this is marketing and then I hand it off to sales and I don’t get any visibility into what happens after that.

Glenn: That’s really powerful, a revenue process. I really like that phrase. So, Heidi, as we wrap up let me ask you about your vision for the future. Think one or two years ahead and let’s go back to that marketing technology stack and think about what is it that you really want to be doing one or two years from now?

Heidi: I think I want to be leveraging the amount of data that we have about our target accounts in a way that is even more strategic than it is today. At Plex today we’re in a building phase and we do have a lot of information about our target accounts, but the more data that I’m going to have about how we convert and where we convert and the buying cycle of our target accounts is going to be extremely valuable in driving programs in the future, driving nurture programs, for example, because I know more about how our prospects and customers buy. I actually can leverage that data over time to be more effective in how I market to them and market to them at the right time in the buying cycle. For me, that’s going to be really powerful.

We’re in the early stages at this point having just built our infrastructure and we’re learning about how that cycle works in a more quantitative way. It’s been very anecdotal up to this point, and I’m going to be able to get really hard and fast data over time on what’s most effective from a conversion perspective and that’s extremely valuable to drive and inform our marketing programs going forward.

Glenn: Leveraging that [Inaudible 0:19:22] that’s going to give you all the insight you need to figure out what to do next. Well, Heidi, thank you so much. This has been very helpful and an exciting opportunity for you to start from almost scratch and build just the right systems to create revenue.

Heidi: Yeah, that’s what it’s all about.

Glenn: All right, Heidi, thank you so much. I very much enjoyed this.

Heidi: Thanks, Glenn.

Glenn: All right, talk to you soon.