Team, Tools and Transformation—How to Build a Demand Gen Program that Works: Interview with Mark Roberts

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 or email us at And now on to our podcast.
Today I am very pleased to welcome Mark Roberts the CMO of Shoretel. Mark leads marketing strategy, product marketing, demand generation, branding, and external communications. So how does describe themselves? Shoretel provides telephony and unified communication solutions. They’re one of the largest providers of cloud, premises based, and hybrid solutions in this category. Mark it’s a real pleasure to have you today.

Mark: Good morning Glenn pleased to be here.

Glenn: You and I were talking about when you first joined Shoretel, and some of the things that were going on as it related to data. In particular you shared with me that you had some data and had to make decisions on that data by extrapolation. But it caused certain decisions that weren’t always the best decisions. Tell us a little but about the journey you were going through.

Mark: Sure the early look at the data that we had, it was a very broad set of data, not exactly particularly focused on the market that we were trying to address, or the buyer’s journey that we were trying to create. And what I found was that when we started looking at the way the reports being generated previously, there was a small subsection of the data, and we were taking that and just extrapolating and inferring certain things and stating facts that weren’t necessarily real. Some were, but the reality, taken a very set of small data and extrapolating it, we were missing certain nuances of certain aspects of the buyer’s journey that we weren’t picking up on.

Glenn: Well good, tell us some of the discoveries you’ve made.

Mark: Well it really came to the kind of people that were engaging with us. And the issue being that if you took a small subsection of the data over a short period of time that audience may have been influenced by a piece of content that was out there, so you may have attracted an unusually large percentage of a type of buyer, and that caused the marketing group to make longer term decisions that were based around facts that were frankly very short-lived.

Glenn: Ah I see. Right.

Mark: We spent some time when I first got here to reorganize the putting together around a set of metrics, a set of data that we could depend on going forward and make some real decisions about, and that really involved reorganizing to a demand generation team. Physical aspects, the trade shows. And really working on personas, and what the message was that we had that would really resonate with that particular audience, not everybody.

Glenn: So you decided we needed to target more effectively is that part of what you’re saying?

Mark: Absolutely and we found some interesting things about buyers. Not necessarily earth shattering details, but no big surprise it’s predominantly male, probably about 80 percent male 20 percent female. And we took a look at the kind of things that they were interested in. For example, somebody that’s interested in unified communication seems to have a high propensity for interest in travel, business, computers and television of all things. And so that drove several decisions to where we actually placed that content and how we wrote the content, and really who that audience we were trying to reach out to. And how we brought them into the start of the buyer’s journey.

Glenn: Right so if I understand what you’re saying, you tried to understand what their world was like so that you could show up where they show up at least in the digital world.

Mark: Well it is for me the interest in part about as a company you kind of sit there, and you’re talking about being the communications platform of choice for small to medium or whatever the vision may be, but the reality nobody is searching for that. And you’ve got to start off at a vernacular that they’re familiar with, that they can engage with, and content they can understand and take them on that overall journey and develop the content that gets them to the point that you’re really trying to make.

Glenn: It’s almost like inviting them in to engage with you.

Mark: Exactly. Nobody wants to be known as a phone systems and unified communiations buiness. No one is really searching for unified communications platforms, they’re looking for phone replacements. And you’ve got to bridge that gap and you’ve got to help and put yourself in their position. But again using tools and explaining things in a way that they can digest and like it’s kind of interesting when you start looking at the different verticals and their approaches.

Glenn: Well tell us a little about how this manifested with your demand gen team, your digital marketing team, you talked about integrated marketing, what are some of the tools that you decided to use?

Mark: Very early early on we had to make a pool of the tools we would bet on. And when I first arrived I found that we had 3 different instances of for example. 4 different instances of Hubspot, many different dashboards, none of them would correlate data. Every body’s looking for the relevant, and it was just a struggle, so part of the early work that we did as a marketing group was just to simplify what we already have back to basics. Ideally one instance of an SFDC or one instance of a marketing automation platform we happen to use Hubspot. In doing that it also aligned quite timely with the overall corporate objectives, because Shoretel was still going through a transition. We refer to it in three phases, foundation, migration and acceleration. But it was really built in the foundation and choosing which tools we would bet our future on. We then had to migrate all that data. You don’t want to lease anything, starting from zero is almost as scary as starting from data you don’t 100 percent trust.

Glenn: Well tell us a little bit about the relevant metrics you refer to. Because we see that issue a lot where there is data, and there is reporting, and yet it’s hard to pull it all together in a way that helps you make decisions at your level.

Mark: I think the biggest learning for myself here, and I don’t know why I have to learn this every time I start again, was to take a look at the broader aspect of marketing, so not just your internal resources but also your external resources, how they were reporting and then how that data is then pulled together. So the agent’s integration and how close you work with your agencies was another critical building block in how we understood how we were performing. And it’s this internal external approach that we’ve been keen to break down those walls and break down those barriers. So they agencies that we work with really are the integral part of the overall team, they supply information into a master dashboard that we all look at, there’s total transparency. And so it really is quite a broad range of topics from how we’re doing in search and SEM/SEO through to how our leads are behaving, but it’s also totally to transparent to the sales guys as to how the leads are actually performing all the way through the sales funnel. Nobody is locked out of any of the data.

Glenn: Beautiful. And it’s interesting because you started and instituted many changes, and I was once asked when I was giving a presentation about marketing technology, how important is change management? And I answered it’s only the most important part of it, and I know you have some strong thoughts about that so share with us a little but about how one goes about leveraging tools for change management or an approach for change management. Because if we all understand where we want to go that doesn’t mean everybody is necessarily going to go there.

Mark: That’s absolutely true, and it’s kind of one of those big aha moments when you look around the organization and you realize that everybody doesn’t necessarily process things at the same speed, more importantly in the same way. And we used a variety of tools, Strength finder I particular like Bergman, and we put a group through that. And what this shows you is people’s propensity to approach a problem in a certain way. The Bergman profiles I find particularly interesting as they kind of take you trough different areas, the fiscal areas of solutions for a particular problem, and the design and strategy sales and marketing, and influences stage, and the concept how it really the vis-a-vis acitons these are the doers. And what I found was that you have a selection of different kinds of people that have a propensity to want to focus on how do we do things, the action oriented. It’s really the end of the idea, that’s implementing it. And the sales and marketing coming back one step, how we’re influencing everyone to get on board with the idea, and then there’s the design and the strategy, those who want to get into the tinkering of ow this would work together, and right at the beginning you kind of have the admin and the fiscal. This is the why are we doing it, the dollars that would be associated with it. So I view this as kind of a journey starting with just the original ideas, the concepts, then the design and the strategy, then how we influence everybody to be involved in it, and then how we actually execute it itself. You’re going to have people inside the group that are in different stages of that that transition and you’ve got to bring them all along together. If not you get to the end and you get a half-execute, because people have really not bought into it.

Glenn: Well it’s impressive that you have adopted a formal process and I applaud you for that. tell me a little about the results, how do you feel about the change management process and how that’s stuck.

Mark: Well I think its early results are good. We have strong alignment, we spend a lot of time making sure that people understand why we’re headed in a certain direction and what the contribution to that is. But people are not necessarily averse to change if they’re in control of that change. It’s when you have change forced upon you, and so by having a more collaborative approach introducing new ideas and concepts, we found that the adoption rate is faster. Over a period of time the buy-in and the willingness to engage and improve the idea, that passive aggressive it just isn’t there and it’s the quickest way I’ve found to get a strong team alignment all pulling in the same direction. You have to consider people’s strengths.

Glenn: Well like I said very impressive and congratulations for going through that. We talked about a completely different topic also, and because I kept pressing you on measurement, we were talking about thought leadership and you admitted that that’s a very hard area for measurement but tell us a little about what you’re doing there.

Mark: Yes it’s incredibly hard to measure, and striking that balance between thought leadership and just flat out demand generation, how people are coming through there’s definitely a linkage there. The issue that I’ve always found is trying to get that right aspect of balance, because in the digital world today with all the metrics that we have in place, we know what people are interacting with. The thought leadership that you’ve put out there typically has particularly low engagement when you’re first starting it. You’ve got to be ready to fail fast, fail early or conversely get behind an idea that seems to have some legs behind it. And historically this has been an incredibly difficult thing to do. I still think it’s difficult.

Glenn: Mark there’s another aspect to it which is it takes a long time. And marketers are impatient, especially those who are sitting inside of publicly traded companies, and its actually true that thought leadership could take six months or more to have a real impact, especially if you have a long sales cycle. And I just find it fascinating that we have to understand that and be willing to be patient.
Mark: Yeah I agree and I think that the tools that we have in place have made the problem larger, where as previously you run a piece of thought leadership, a series, a piece of content, and you’d let it run for awhile because frankly you didn’t know whether it was performing well or not. Today you can see that, and I think it’s all to easy to make a fast decision and pull something early without giving it a fair crack at the whip. I think that that the tools that we have in place are making this a bigger problem just purely because we suddenly have facts, we suddenly have data, and we’re making fast decision.

Glenn: Right and it really depends on the time frame. So like say the CMO of Lenovo told me a story about how the ability to make changes quickly is actually to their advantage, but the example he gave me was for a promotion they were running on Facebook. And they could watch as they tested different images for example, they could swap out the image that wasn’t working and use the one that was. So that makes a lot of sense to be quick in your decision making for a promotion that’s live. Whereas thought leadership is at the other end of that spectrum and you don’t really know what kind of impact you’re having when some executive actually reads your thought leadership.

Mark: Yeah and taken at macro view, thought leadership can play an important part. But you step back from it, it’s really hard to figure where the buyer’s journey started, and it’s often easy to figure out where it finishes, and quite often we focus on the aspect of where it finished, not where it started. And as an example, we’ve had a couple of buyer’s journeys and we’ve come back to them after and said OK talk me through how you started to engage Shoretel. And one of them started with thought leadership topics that they’d been reading, they’d been following, they’d been a lurker a voyeur of the kind of content we were putting in place. But they weren’t necessarily absorbing it through channels we were monitoring. They’re now on a journey that exhibited buying signals. We picked them up as a marketing team when they were exhibiting those buying signals. And we attributed the strength of that sale purely to the content on the website, not the thought leadership that started the overall journey.

Glenn: Right because of that disconnect and that difficulty of measuring that connection.

Mark: Well we love it because we can measure it, so we focus on that. Another great example: I was talking to a customer the other day as you’re probably aware, we’ve sponsored the SF Giants. And they started their journey as avid baseball fans, and they happened to be at the field and saw some of the signage. And talking about signage in today’s digital world, it just seems bizarre, it seems out of place, yet that’s where that particular opportunity started its journey.

Glenn: Well I give you credit for doing the research to find out where people actually being their journey with you. I actually haven’t heard of a company doing that, yet it now seems so obvious that we should find that out.

Mark: To be transparent, we don’t talk to every customer partly because it requires an awful lot of effort, we speak to a couple and get a broad sample. And I’m also finding that things like trade-shows etc. can often play an important part in an overall journey as well. And I’m going to go back to my earlier comment. The focus on digital marketing, while it’s important, I don’t want to downplay it’s importance, but our focus on it as a marketing industry is somewhat hurting us. And this discussion of the inbound and outbound as they’re two clearly delineated things, I’m not sure they are.

Glenn: Talk a little bit more about that. We only have a couple more minutes but I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

Mark: Yeah so, it really goes back to the story I was telling earlier about the buyer’s journey, inbound marketing, in particular because again I think that we can track it and so we get excited by the results we can see. But the reality is, I don’t buy that way not in my personal life, and not in the business life. And there are many factors that are involved in making that decision. And it’s not all in a digital world, we’re finding that more and more people actually want to speak to people, we’re actually seeing a retro step-back, for instance we were actually finding post-cards were working 6 months ago, they’ve dropped off a little bit now, but we’re trying a variety of different tactics, my point being is that it’s not all about that inbound journey. There is no inbound without outbound stimulation. And you’ve kind of got to look at it from a holistic perspective rather than focusing on one aspect.

Glenn: So one last question for you, you said something that I want to ask you about, which is they want to talk to someone you did say that right, so tell me a little bit about that because I don’t often hear that.

Mark: Yeah we’ve recently been running a series of blog entries about the death of the salesman as well which was just a headline to attract attention, but the idea of the majority of the buyer’s journey is completely for a salesperson. To me I find somewhat odd, I’m not experiencing that in the B2B world, I think it’s probably true in a B2C, in a B2B world they still want to talk through when it’s a high touch, lower volume, complex sale, you still want the comfort of being able to speak to somebody. SO that’s peers, other times it’s a salesperson that you just want to engage with and understand that little bit more. The content we create often distills the message down too far, too simple, to sound bites that we think are relevant. But they may not be the key points.

Glenn: Well that’s a relief to a lot of salespeople that really want to talk to prospects, and if marketing has softened them up and gotten them interested, then you’ve done your job at that point.

Mark: And I do see that as sales and marketing, making sure you’ve got that tight alignment between the two, because one thing I do firmly believe is that the role of marketing and sales at some point that was deemed as a handover of an opportunity. I think that line is blurred massively.
Glenn: Yeah I don’t like the term hand-off. I think that marketing is making an introduction to a relationship, and marketing shouldn’t let go of that relationship. They should let sales add on to it.

Mark: Couldn’t agree more. We operate in a highly leverage world. Sales teams far less leveraged. Our ability to provide opportunities, new relationships to explore is really what it’s about, but you’ve got to maintain that relationship with the brand all the way to closure and afterwards.

Glenn: That’s right. Mark, thank you so much, we’re out of time. I wish we could talk longer but this has been fascinating and I’ve learned a great deal so I really appreciate it.

Mark: Thanks Glenn talk to you soon. Bye.

Glenn: If you like this podcast please subscribe and rate us on iTunes and tell your friends about us. You can also go to our website,, and sign up for our free monthly newsletter featuring the very best of our marketing insights, featured Moneyball for Marketing podcasts, and one of our favorite features called, “Bad Marketing,” or email me at Thanks for listening to Moneyball for Marketing from Crimson Marketing. Have a great week and let us know if we can help you in any way.