MarTech Interview with Leela Srinivasan, CMO at SurveyMonkey
Hi Leela, please tell us about your current role and how you arrived at SurveyMonkey.
I have been with SurveyMonkey since 2018 and am the first CMO in the history of the company. I’m responsible for all marketing functions including brand strategy, growth marketing, demand generation, product marketing, and communications.
Prior to this position, I spent time as CMO at Lever, VP of restaurant marketing at OpenTable, and I spent four and a half years in the Talent Solutions business at LinkedIn, during which the company grew from just 500 employees to over 6,500.
I previously worked in sales; that experience helped me build empathy for my go-to-market colleagues and ultimately led to my passion for B2B marketing. Before joining SurveyMonkey, my impression was that the company offered an incredibly valuable solution for marketers, but one that was sold transactionally online, and I wanted to stay close to the enterprise customer. As I learned more, I realized that SurveyMonkey has expanded far beyond the self-serve survey tool of its origins. Our CEO, Zander, tasked me with telling that full story to the world and showcasing how our enterprise products help businesses turn feedback into action across three areas: customer experience, survey feedback, and market research. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take such a beloved brand and elevate it to the next level.
How would you compare your role in Marketing today as compared to days in 2015?
Whatever function you run, 2020 has forced us all to become better, more aware and more empathetic leaders.
Compared to 2015, the company leadership responsibilities of the CMO have deepened considerably. I’ve always worked closely with the people team, but never more closely than during the last eight months.
In March, right before the onset of the global pandemic, I partnered with my CEO and chief people officer to articulate our company vision, expand our mission, and refine our values. Ever since then, my internal comms team and I have been partnering closely with our people function to help our broader organization navigate wave upon wave of uncertainty. We’ve also thought carefully about how to tell our story externally, because our customers, prospective employees and shareholders care more about who we really are as a company now than they might have five years ago. The lines between corporate brand and employer brand have dissolved, and marketing has probably never been more purpose-driven than it is today.
Recent Launch in CX Management
You recently launched the GetFeedback platform to improve your CX offering. Tell us a little more about its unique CX capabilities.
The GetFeedback platform is our new customer experience (CX) solution that allows organizations to collect, analyze, and act on customer feedback data from websites, apps, surveys, and more to deliver meaningful customer experiences. The platform combines our two CX solutions: GetFeedback and Usabilla, both of which we acquired in 2019. Together, they address customers who need value and speed—needs that legacy players in the space have largely ignored—with a more agile and price-competitive solution that taps into powerful systems of record like Salesforce.
Customer feedback has long been a top use case for SurveyMonkey users and we’re excited to double down on CX in a year when it’s so critical. Our recent research of nearly 1,800 CX professionals reveals that 87% say customer experience is more important now than it was pre-COVID, while 89% of C-level executives say they are ‘extremely invested’ in CX. I never tire of hearing how customers are using our new GetFeedback platform to supercharge their customer interactions.
Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP), the world’s leading manufacturer of powersports products including Ski-Doo Snowmobiles and Sea-Doo Watercrafts, has experienced a 95% reduction in survey costs while seeing a 94% survey completion rate. The streaming platform Pandora is using us to measure customer experience and identify key drivers behind customer satisfaction, resulting in a 14% lift in chat customer satisfaction!
And the director of product at selling app Mecari recently told us it took him hours—not days or months—to go live. Seeing these customer-wins makes the work we do so meaningful to me—especially in a challenging year that has forced many organizations to accelerate digital transformation and their consumers to adapt along with them.
How can a CMO best choose between all the options available today within the online survey and CX market?
In customer experience, timing is everything. The current compounding crises have created a constantly changing environment that requires leaders to quickly understand and address the needs of customers. As a CMO, look for solutions that allow you and your team to proactively understand CX throughout the customer journey, wherever customers are interacting with you, and respond swiftly to needed changes. Old and slow data will not keep pace with your stakeholders’ needs. Software that takes weeks or months to implement won’t cut it. Our research found that financially successful companies are nearly three times more likely to be agile (adapting quickly to changing customer needs) than those that have seen revenue decline since COVID-19.
Also, it is important for CMOs to look for a solution that integrates well with the tools they already have in place for seamless collaboration. Our open platform plays well with others, flowing survey data into enterprise tools like Salesforce and collaboration tools like Slack and Jira.
Compatible Martech Insights on Survey and Data Management
Please tell us the most unique online survey features that can help deliver better ROI from including them in Martech stacks.
I personally have used SurveyMonkey for 10 plus years throughout my marketing career.
The value of collecting and acting on feedback cannot be overstated for marketers, especially when you take advantage of our 100+ data and API integrations. We’ve integrated SurveyMonkey Enterprise with marketing automation platforms like Marketo to initiate a survey to each new lead, so we can gather secondary details like how they heard about us without creating friction during lead form submission. We’ve then piped that data into Salesforce to accelerate the sales conversation.
Using online surveys through systems like our GetFeedback platform can help give you a holistic view of customer experience, combining data from all of your most important systems of record, from your website analytics platform to Salesforce. If a customer has a poor interaction with your support team and provides that feedback via a CSAT survey, you want that ‘case closed’ data piping back into Salesforce and triggering a follow-up task so your team can make amends quickly. As a leader, I’ve even pushed post-implementation CSAT feedback into a private Slack channel so I can monitor whether we’re delighting or disappointing new customers.
Today we use our market research solutions heavily for everything from gauging market trends or customer interest to testing imagery and messaging, naming products, developing research for compelling content marketing, and so much more. Internally, we use surveys to check in with the team to support their overall wellbeing and ensure we’re developing a diverse and inclusive workplace. In today’s environment, tapping into feedback from your team is just as vital as tapping into feedback across your customer base.
The integration I can’t wait to use is our upcoming integration with Zoom, which we announced at Zoomtopia earlier this month. If you’re suffering from virtual meeting Fatigue these days, imagine a world in which you can make every meeting way more productive and engaging by embedding real-time polls and quizzes. It’s hard to quantify the ROI, but I know every employee and meeting owner will be thankful.
Which industries are deriving the maximum results from investing in a platform such as SurveyMonkey? How do you leverage your customer testimonials / case studies to improve your Martech alignment in the current COVID-19 context?
SurveyMonkey has never been more relevant because feedback has never been more important, and scores of customer stories underscore it. Our products are making a real difference across all industries throughout the pandemic. Whether we’re enabling the American Red Cross to screen potential plasma donors to save lives, empowering DHL Parcel to keep customers up-to-date on delivery services during the COVID-19 crisis, or helping the Rhode Island Department of Health to monitor symptoms among their constituents, I’m inspired to see SurveyMonkey making a difference.
Customer-centricity is key for marketing to succeed, and my priority is maintaining a healthy partnership with those we serve and are fortunate to work with. We put our customers at the center of our storytelling, but it’s not about putting them on display. It’s about showing your customers’ leadership and how you are adding the most value for them. Our customers are doing incredible things during this time and it is an honor to celebrate their successes so others can draw inspiration from them.
Forecast Trends and Learning
Martech Forecast: Tell us the most interesting trends that you foresee in the next 6 months within your industry. How are you prepping for the gig?
Over the next 6-12 months, I believe every marketing leader will be called upon to tap into their inner market researcher. As news cycles have accelerated in 2020, it’s become impossible to predict what will happen next. Today’s fun and creative campaign might sound tone deaf upon launch because of macro events and real-world considerations. The better marketers out there will move beyond simply trusting their gut to pressure test creative ads, messaging and positioning, videos and more before launch. To prepare for this, I’ve spent more time with our in-house researchers to get better at thinking through the right framing for various research initiatives we have underway, and I’ve also had our team beta-test our latest market research solutions built for this purpose. The good news is that the last 12 months have seen the rise of agile market research solutions that lighten the burden and accelerate speed to insight, so you don’t need a Ph.D. in Research to be adept at this, nor do you need a massive budget.
Tell us about the most exciting trend you have witnessed in Martech in the last 6 months:
I’m inspired by the martech industry’s sheer agility this year. Look at how the worlds of marketing and technology have come together to understand and address the flood of issues that are top of mind for humans in 2020. I say ‘humans’ because in the midst of a global pandemic, there’s a real sense of a globally shared human experience. We may contrast and compare B2B and B2C marketing, but the distinction feels less useful when we’re all ultimately focused on adding value to our fellow humans – making B2H feel more apt.
As a result of all that’s gone on, martech players have had to listen closely to what their customers need and want, and innovate with great agility. I’ve never been prouder of the extended SurveyMonkey team than when we spun up a whole set of resources to help organizations check in with employees, customers, and students during the pandemic, or help them connect with employees on the vital but complex topic of racial equity – all within a matter of days.
Equally, I was impressed when partners like Sendoso modified their operations to help us reach customers who were no longer working from the office, and when virtual events platforms found a way to continue their support amidst the crazy spike in demand. If ever there was a time for marketers to help, not sell, it’s now and we’ve seen countless examples of leadership in this particular area within tech.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to share with young marketing and sales professionals in the B2B tech industry?
I studied History and English Literature in college, then worked a variety of odd jobs at a startup before moving into sales. By the time I made it to business school, I was long on soft skills, and a little embarrassed about my lack of quantitative chops. While quantitative skills and business acumen have been vital to my growth as a leader, I could argue that the softer skills have played a bigger role in my career. Looking back now, I’d tell my younger self, and anyone else who is early on in their journey, to embrace every opportunity to grow and strive for a balance between hard and soft skills.
Which podcasts / webinars are you keenly following and why?
As I seek to understand all the turmoil in the world this year, I’ve upped my frequency of listening to The Daily from the New York Times. I’ve also been exploring more of the many marketing-oriented podcasts out there—Drew Neisser does a nice job with Renegade Thinkers, and Dave Gerhardt recently launched the B2B Marketing Leaders podcast—the episode with Bill Macaitis (formerly of Slack and Zendesk) was insightful. Lastly, ‘the Jasons’ (Jason Lemkin/ SaaStr podcast) and Jason Calacanis/ This week in startups) are engaging interviewers and host some interesting leaders on their podcasts.
Thank you, Leela! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Leela Srinivasan, CMO at SurveyMonkey; helping organizations turn feedback into action.
Leela joined SurveyMonkey in April 2018 and leads all marketing functions including brand strategy, growth marketing, product marketing, and communications. Previously, she served as Chief Marketing Officer at Lever where she was responsible for all aspects of marketing and partnered with the People team on employer branding initiatives. Prior to that, Leela served as VP of marketing at OpenTable, where she built product marketing from scratch and established the foundations of a B2B marketing team.
Additionally, Leela was Director of Marketing at LinkedIn within the Talent Solutions business, where she co-founded the Talent Connect conference. She also spent three years in management consulting at Bain & Company, and five years in sales. Leela also serves on the board of UpWork, a global freelancing website. She earned her MBA in general management from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and her MA in history and English literature from the University of Edinburgh in her native Scotland.
SurveyMonkey is a leader in agile software solutions for customer experience, market research, and survey feedback. The company’s platform empowers over 17 million active users to analyze and act on feedback from employees, customers, website and app users, and market research respondents.
SurveyMonkey’s products, enterprise solutions, and integrations enable more than 335,000 organizations to deliver better customer experiences, increase employee retention, and unlock growth and innovation. Ultimately, SurveyMonkey’s vision is to raise the bar for human experiences by amplifying individual voices.