B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast
B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast

Episode 1722 · 3 months ago

Marketing as Practice, Not Function, with Eric Olson

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode, Benji talks to Eric Olson, CMO at Quickbase.

We discuss:

  1. Developing a "Win Together" culture
  2. Unifying messaging & goals across departments
  3. What it looks like to have Marketing own the pipeline

Conversations from the front lines and marketing. This is be tob growth. Today I'm joined by Eric Olsen. He's the CMO over at quick base. Eric, thanks for stopping buy BTB growth. Super excited to be on here. I'm fan of the show. Okay, so we got to give maybe our listeners just some behind the scenes real quick of what it's like to podcast, and I'm going to just give away a question that I posed last time talking to you, because you've had some time to think about and came back with some some great content here. So every person that I chat with do a pre interview with before they come on to bea be growth. I pose this question of like what's a question that you wish someone would ask you? But they have it right, like you have this internal knowledge or this stuff that's kind of been cooking inside, but no one ever is like hey, eric, what do you think about filling the blank? So I pose that at you. You said, Benji, that's a good question, give me some time to think, and now we're here and you've actually thought about it. What came to mind and what's been kind of stirn in you? Yeah, it's great. I think we're going to talk about alignment today across sales, marketing, product and the question that the people don't ask. We talked about that topic a lot, but I really wish people would ask the question more of like why does that actually matter and what does it look like? And I think we're to talk about that today. I think that's that's a really signing topic and with that they'd like the other the other thing that I that I thought of was that people also don't ask about the ugly behind the scenes work, particularly as a CMO, that you have to do to make the stuff that hits the market happen, and so I'm excited to kind of get maybe get into a little the ugly today. seriously. So I think it's a typically a how question around alignment, right, but you're going we need to focus on the lie and when you do that it brings different things to light. That's right, exactly. Interesting. Okay, well, we'll head in that direction here a little bit. But in order to do that, I know you guys are as an organization, you're centered on this this phrase that is a very, I would say, sexy way of saying we need alignment, which is win together these two words that are like yes, I mean that should be what organizations feel. We want to win together, but easier said than done. Talk a little bit about the three years, Eric, that you've spent at quick base and some of the journey you guys have been on in this need for emphasis right around this unified forward momentum and this wind together piece. Yeah, we win together as one of our core values, one of our three and I'll say along this journey that was certainly not the case when I when I joined. You know, one of their one of the first conversations that have is one one of our, is that executives. It's like, well, what do you what do you think marketing needs to do here? And and his response was need to paint the world purple. Our logo is purple at the time and it kind of kind of tells...

...you everything you need to know, maybe about like what the the perception was about sort of what marketing did at the time. Yeah, you know, maybe arts and crafts. So was but we had a real and it was interesting because one of the reasons I joined quick faces we had this really unique, interesting technology. But that's all I half the bout. All Right, great companies have unique, interesting technology that that is that stands out can do something others can't, but they also have a really compelling aligned go to market, which and they're going to talk about today. So we had very unclear positioning. Our teams were sideload. Sales and marketing were really at war with each other because they couldn't couldn't really speak the same same language. So we lacked alignement right. And so you know, it's ask the you know the the question earlier that wish you'd asked me is like, you know why it does alignment matter? And my view is there all the data says that to win today and B tob you have to win a category. Right, and to win a category you have to because eighty percent of the business goes a categorylier. To win a category you got to be did constantly designing, refining, telling a story and it has to be a really compelling and consistent story across every channel that you have. And that is really hard and that means alignment across sales, marketing, product and and most companies just aren't good at I think the differentiator today whether you can have the best product in the world if you have an aligned go to market. That's how you went. HMM. Okay, the way that I think of this a is now very informed by an analogy that you provided for me. So break this down, because I know you're not a musician, but I actually am. I love playing. I've played in bands before, so this resonates with me. But you you say that this process is actually a lot like if you were creating a band. That's right. Yeah, I did play the trombone for like a week in my wild I was like the worst ever. So can I tell you I played saxophone in middle school and I was so bad at it that I acted and pretended like I broke my arm so I could get out of my seventh grade concert. That's great. I should have found that at the time. We actually let me give you a music examples. Let's stick the music, for example. So there's like one thousand nine hundred and ninety four. I'm I'm at a consum out of fish concert. If you know, you know the band, and like all of a sudden, in the middle of this concert, like they they play like that the simpsons team, the like dude, do, do, do, do, do, and everyone goes the whole like tenzero. People are like don't. That's alignment, right, like that is like like the band stops, the whole cop, the whole crowd stops, and those exactly what to do at that specific time. Right. So how do you get there? Right? So I knew we didn't have alignment and so I thought about it as like, how do I get there? How do I create a band that plays in the unison, not just the band but the whole community feels in unison, one part of one thing. And it occurred to me that there's three steps you have to go through. Right. So, step one, you really need to design what type of band you want to be. Doing to be a jam band like fish, or do you want to be like speed metal, like Pantera? Those are very different answers, right, okay, having your band and...

...music you play, the kind of culture that you and your band your community out. Step two, you'd have to play sheet music together, right. It can't be, you know, six people playing six different songs, right, that's just no crazy noise. That wouldn't makes no sense. That, I think. That's when a lot of the BB marketers get stuck. Stay. Stage three is the fun stuff we love to talk about in these podcasts, right, like. Then you can go play Improv like you can do the twenty minute jam and everyone knows kind of where we're going, going together. That's the fun stuff to talk about. But we, you know, we had to go through those phases as we had to define what kind of band we are, had to play sheet music together and then free ourselves to do the creative stuff. We could take time and go through all three but honestly, today what we're going to do is we're just going to go with right into that phase, to the messy middle. That's where so much of the work has to be done. It's fun to go like what kind of band are we in? It's well, it's all what are you think? Right, like they're just writing down ideas. It's fun once you are all on the same page and you're, you know, playing shows. But that middle piece where it's like, okay, are we doing this in unison, like how do we actually all play the same sheet music? Do we drive? Like? That is where so much in business is one and lost. If we're creating that positive momentum. So what do you see as the most vital to address? Like the first thing in order to create that type of cohesion what? What did you guys really prioritize? Yeah, well, I mean first off you kind of can't skip phase one. So it's a little bit about that too, because it's part. It's part of it, right, because I think as great leaders we really create three things. Create clear culture, clear strategy and clear sort of interlocking operational model, right, and they all have to be super clear. And so to my point earlier about like the ugly stuff that has to happen behind the scenes, one of the first meetings we had when our new CEO came on board was we sat in a room for a day and talked about what is our culture, right, because, and to the beginning of the comment you made like that, one of our core tenets of our culture is win together. If you don't have a win together culture, you don't know who you are as a company. Then you don't know how to work together, you don't know how what behaviors you expect of each other, and so whether win together is a value or not, how we behave had to be clear right. That that was that was job number number one, John. Number two is just a focus strategy. We are coming from sort of a I've done this over and over again a companies where you come into a company that's a great sort of horizontal technology sort of strategy, but you need unified focus, right, and so we as a company, not just marketing, we as a company, needed to create focus strategy on where we do, where we want to win, what market do we want to win? And then you can get to like two operations, which is, how do we create an operating model where we set set goals that align with the markets we want to men, where we have a cadence that works alongside those, that brings our teams together. So No, we're not operating as sales marketing product. We have we have operations that...

...bring us together. So are planning together, sending goals together, celebrate. So the thing that came to my mind is you might not have had the pithy statement win together, and you were alluding to you know, there was some silo things happening, there was some competition happening, but I'd say from most organizations, most marketing leaders listening to this, they're going, okay, our team wants to be aligned, we have goals that kind of can drive. It's not like people are picking to not win together. It kind of happens because maybe it hasn't been talked about or there's you know, there's outside factors, because you haven't put a line in the sand and said, okay, we're going in this direction and we're going together. We're defining it right. But talk about some of that, like winning together, what that actually meant once you defined it, like what did it begin to change and shift? Yeah, so I'll give an example of that. So a lot of companies I've been in if had goals like we're going to go when new logos, right, like that, that's a goal. We're going to do that. Growth, very growth, or end and goals, and those are fine, like those are important to know what those are at any given time. But then it becomes okay, was marketing do to do that? What a sales to me and goes right back to the functional right, and that's that's I've been in companies where that than that look and it's it can work. But when we look at what we're doing this year, one of our top objectives is all about going and providing more value for a few of these key market segments where we do bust and for us, like what we help companies do is see, connect and control complex projects. I reshape our world, and so that puts us in industries like construction, industrial manufacturing and so what the difference is there, though? It's not just hey, go get bookings and it's in these segments. It means the product roadmap lines up to delivering to that. It means that when people are on boarded in our company, they're learning about that and why that's important and how they can contribute. So it is it starts that planning exercise of saying the plan is actually creating joint focus that's outwardly focused and pulls us together, and then it is aligning all of the other practices that we do to that. I think the way you put it before too, was like this idea that marketing is a practice, not a function. Break that down a little bit, because I think it's worth going there now it feels like it fit. That's right and for and for anyone who's who's on here that sort of think its fires to be a CMO. I think this one of the more important concepts to really internalize right is that if you want to be a marketing executive now, you have to think marketing as something that the company does not that marketing does in a function. Back to that example I was just giving, I you know, as an executive, I need to work with my fellow executives to set the course of you know, who are called like are what are our core values are? What the the plan is for the company to go? What markets do...

...we want to win and how we going to win? What's our positioning? And then that needs to because that needs to flow down through every single function, to be alligned to line back to that. And so for me as a CMO, I think I'm seld myself as an executive first and a runner, someone who runs marketing second. And so then marketing becomes something that we use a company do. And Yeah, marketing certainly the function supports. Yep, I want to touch on something you had said before, this idea that like, okay, you might have some goals and then when it comes back to this is where a lot of us are, where in organizations like this, it's like, okay, here's your mqls, here's your sqls. It starts to kind of Siphon back out into these different groups. Right. So in practice, I know it's a big deal for you guys that marketing owns pipeline, no matter where it comes from. It becomes this shift in mindset saying like we're not again, if we're going to win together, that means we're not going to like chase our number and then say hey, see, we did our deal and like wash our hands of it. Right. How what was that shift like, because it hasn't always been that way, and what does that mean inside your organization that marketing is going to own pipeline no matter where it comes from? Yeah, and this another big belief for me is that that every CMO really should should think about this. And it's not just pipeline generation. I look at his pipeline performance. Are we generating it? Are we moving it through and what that actually looks like is, you know, I'm the one who's standing up in the board talking came about pipeline performance. You know, I'm the one that's at that's running a cadence month to month, quarter to quarter with cross functional sales leadership, where we're looking at sort of what's working what's not in together kind of set in kind of the corrective, the corrected actions we want to take. And it it's important because we've all been in those marketing organizations, where you get into a meeting on pipeline and you look at, you know, that's just take metrics for a second and attribution, which I think is one of the you know it's important, but it's one of the things that trips us up the most, because you get in there and you look at sales generated and marketing generated, SDR generated, and immediately you get in this mindset of having to justify performance versus being in a mindset of learning and improving every day. And so if the CMOS coming in and saying a holistically, we I own pipeline, we own pipeline, is marketing it, immediately break starts to break down those barriers and then in practice you're bringing people together and you're looking at pipeline performance against the goals that you have and how you thought you were going to get to those goals, versus trying to look at the different functions and what they are, what they're creating separately. Okay, so if we're operating from this wind together mentality, let's talk about how that impacts our men. Are Messaging, are unified messaging, and then our goals. Let's take both of those as separate categories for a second and breakdown how it's changed your messaging specifically. Yeah, so it's so one of the things I think you need to do to win together is you need to have on score board. Right. So told...

...myself on that using sports metaphors anymore, but because a lot of I haven't found a better one for which is, you know, you need to care more about what's on the scoreboard than your personal stats. Right. It doesn't matter that my pass accuracy was ninety seven percent if we lost the game. And so what that means is like in sports, that's easy. I got a scoreboard. I know I need to beat the other team, right, but for us as a company and marketers, you have thousands of metrics you could you could look at. And so how that win together has started to change. That is that, you know, we're going out and saying we're delivering a message to a market and we're going to measure our success by, you know, how much collectively we're sort of driving and in whatever it is, wherever we are in the process, pipeline and bookings, to got to get to that, right. And so, to my example earlier, we're going to go in in this this sort of set of markets we call the built environment, and so that says across sales, marketing product our success of the initiatives tied to that is is based on how we perform in those things, and we can have metrics underneath their sales metrics and marketing metrics, but those become learning metrics versus scoreboard metrics, and so it's your point on goals like that's the that's the big change. Is that we're saying are we purse delivering a message that persuades an audience to engage, to get value from our platform? We're measuring it by a couple of kind of key indicators, though, and everything else is just helping us learn. And so to the same thing I was talking about on the sales versus marketing generate pipeline, you want to get people out of the mindset of trying to justify that they're performing based on metrics that are really about helping us learn. Hmm Okay, so imagine you know you're a member of the sales team, and how do you see it changing the way that they've thought about marketing, like how it has this wind together approach shifted their mentality because we've taken, you know, a pretty marketing centric like this is. You know, we're looking at it from that angle, but I'd love to, like look from the other side. Yeah, I think it's still we're still in the journey. To be clear, we have not. I'm not the genius who is cracked all of this. I totally don't. I don't know who is, but I'd like to meet that first. I've been worried if you thought you had it figured out. So it depends on the salesers. But I will tell you what good looks like, is that when sellers are bringing us feedback on Hey, like, I tried this message with this audience and here's what I heard. Right like and because it's helping us to get better. It's not what you get out of as some of the things will. Marketing gave us this. It did. I don't believe in it. I'm going to do this right. What you get into is together, we're committed to doing this program that's based on going after whatever persona or a market, and the interaction with sales when that works, is about here's what I'm learning, here's what I think could work better, and so we're always iterating on that. Versus kind of feeling like you know what marketing is doing, what sales is doing that and everyone try to prove that they know their ways better. All right, so let's talk...

...about some of the rhythms that you guys have created to foster this type of culture, because having some sort of like built in, whether it's just meetings or anything you guys do that you're going these are ways that we call ourselves back to this wind together. Obviously you're going to change what you're measuring, some of the goals, but also, I'm sure there's some rhythms that you've put in place that you find it to really help foster this. Yeah, and on Rhythms, I think we're probably pretty similar to other folks where it's, you know, every quarter we're taken this strategic view. We have kind of a monthly pipeline kidence. That I think is fairly unique. Rest senior sales leaders and myself were looking at at pipeline, and then we've got, you know, we've got a two week sprint in marketing where we're actually look learning together. Is kind of the point of that where we're similar to product, where it's here's what we shipped here's what we saw, here's what we learn and here is how we're going to we're going to iterate. I would say that, you know, the one thing across all of those is, as a leader, finding and continuing to reward activities that show what happens when teams come together right. And so you know, other part we have is the our marketing town hall and Company Town Hall. We have one one a month. Town halls can be pretty boring sometimes, but where we try to do is to some of the points I was making earlier, like we have key strategic themes in the company that are uniting us and every town hall we're going back and celebrating the winds on those things right, because we got I think so sometimes as marketers to we think a lot about marketing to our customers and spent a lot of time on that, rightfully, so we don't maybe some enough time think about marketing internally. Right. And so to the question on sellers, to Brant, sellers follow success right. And so you know, one thing we'll do in those cadences, whether it's the marketing sprint, Review Demo or a town hall, is highlights what good looks like with success. So we just had a deal with. They came across this week. We're we're going to hold up in that in the marketing town hall, interview the seller about what worked, how they got there, because it fully showed how marketing, sales and our community came together to make that happen. And so it is about find those examples of what worked and just keep hammering them and then use them to learn and get better. Okay, I want to go down a rabbit trailer with you just for a second before we start to wrap this thing up. But when you're talking about internal marketing, getting those stories, sharing those clearly that's key to fostering that type of a line and getting people internally on the same page excited. So is that someone's like role that you've developed over time? Is Everyone looking for those stories? WHO's owning that? It's got to be everyone. Yeah, I said so it is. There's not. That's a great idea. Like it would be cool if there was an internal marketing person. I think that'd be great. I think certainly that falls into the enablement function we created, go to market enablement function. That kind of plays plays across. But I do think everyone needs to be thinking that because it's not just the big things. It is like at every level. We want people continue to show the success right and it's it...

...couldn't be team to team. They're certain teams are further ahead than others and their confidence and belief, and so we say hey, one of our teams isn't quite there, and so we're going to bring in at a series of speakers to show them what we're doing. It's also not intern just internal. Actually did a great thing where we did a series of customer fireside chats, right because we we needed our sellers in particular to believe in these markets that were saying focus your effort here and your win, and so we had fairly skeptical sellers on the team. You know, we all know those people and get think of them in our head. Actually sit down and do an interview series is like one and month with a customer on you know why quickly. This is the unique fit for them and the projects that they have, and that was massively successful. So as a program well, I want to end this conversation where we started it and I'm going to pose the question at you that you wish someone would ask you, which is why alignment matters. And I want you to take it home, just talking to the leaders that are listening to this, to kind of leave us with a challenge around why alignment matters. Yeah, so a line of matters because to win today you need a very clear, simple story. The world's too complex, it's movement too fast, right, and you need a simple story told through every channel to do it. To do that, what a m I challenged every leader out there is to do the hard work that no one wants to do right. Go back and make sure your culture is clear, your strategy is focused on a line top the bottom. You push your executive team to make sure that that is that is truly real, and spend the time on your operations, like build the internal operations that make the external creative stuff possible. Fantastic, Eric, thanks for being here, man, thanks for breaking this down for us. I know those I wrote down quite a few notes that, to me, alignment is I don't know if it's just the nerdy side me, but that matters just so much to me that the team feels aligned, that we feel like we're all headed in the same direction, and and then externally, like the effect that that has. I don't think can be overstated, because when we know who we are internally, it flows into everything we do as far as messaging and out like everything out there. So thanks for talking about the importance there. For people that want to stay connected with you and what quick bass is doing, just tell us where we can connect and and stay uptodate. Yeah, hit me up on linkedin or email me at eels in a quick bascom and I'd love to connect. Love connecting with marketing community and enjoy talking to do all time. That fantastic. Well, for our listeners, if you've yet to follow this show on whatever your favorite podcast player is, we'd encourage you to do that so you never miss an episode. We're just trying to help you fuel your innovation, your growth, your development. So you can do that and you can talk to me over on Linkedin as well. Always interested in chatting with our listeners talking about marketing, business or life, and you can just search Benjie Block to find me on Linkedin.

So, Eric, thanks so much for stopping by B to be growth today. Man, loved it. Thank you.

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