Interview with Kristen Logan Alexander, Chief Marketing Officer, Certain
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us about your role and how you got here?
I run marketing and product at Certain and I joined because I was excited about marketing to marketers and because Certain is solving a problem that I’ve experienced. I’m completely empathetic to the challenge marketers have navigating through and making sense of the endless technology options. It’s easy to geek out on new products – the question quickly becomes which set of technologies can my team effectively manage that will actually move the needle for my business? When I looked objectively at where marketers are finding success driving demand and revenue, hands down its events. And, events are often the hardest part of marketing – there are lots of moving pieces, many manual processes that aren’t scalable, legacy technologies and the complete absence of meaningful data. Ultimately, Certain stood out as an awesome opportunity to drive transformation in an area that is foundational to marketers, contributes significant revenue, and requires disruption.
MTS: Given the changing dynamic of B2B engagement, how do you see the marketing automation and audience analytics market evolving by 2020?
One thing that’s clear is that face to face engagement isn’t going away, infact it’s becoming increasingly important. What’s changing is the ability to capture more and better data signals, make sense of those signals in terms of intent, and then take action across as many channels as marketers can enable. Growth will be driven by data collection, pattern matching and then enabling marketers to take real-time action to create more engaging and relevant experiences.
MTS: What are the various touch points that marketers should keep in mind to deliver consistent audience experience at events? How do they contribute to driving greater brand value?
Every touch point is a representation of your brand and the experience you want your customers to feel when interacting with you. The experience starts at the very beginning of event marketing, and your company’s voice should come through in every interaction, including digital interactions such as emails and landing pages, and through the images, language and seamless user experience that you create. Details of the physical event experience are paramount – the venue, food, and ease of navigation through the event space also showcase the care you’ve put into ensuring a positive experience. I particularly appreciate when companies support a diversity of learning styles by presenting content through a combination of sessions, breakouts and also create opportunities for structured and unstructured networking. Finally, it’s important to ensure that post-event follow ups are contextual to how you engaged at the event and timely. If you can weave every interaction into the fabric of your brand story, you’ll be creating a consistent and virtuous cycle with your customers and prospects that builds the foundation of a strong and lasting relationship.
MTS: How should CMOs leverage event intelligence and predictive marketing tools to drive their personalized campaigns with greater authority?
Data can be used across every channel to create contextually relevant experiences and events are no exception. I like to think of the event lifecycle in three phases – pre-event, during event, and post-event – and by capturing behavioral context across each phase, marketers can start to use data in more interesting ways. For example, I can identify that prospects who express interest in a product by attending a relevant content session in conjunction with seeing a booth demo have high purchase intent. I can use this data to recommend a tailored agenda for the next day, reach out to additional prospects in the same accounts with an ABM approach, and nurture the account accordingly, following the event. In the future, much of this will be dynamically populated so that every attendee has a personalized event experience.
MTS: What startups in the MarTech ecosystem are you watching/keen on right now?
I’m a fan of DemandBase – they have a high-touch, thoughtful approach across their entire business that resonates with me. They are a great company to emulate. I like to place bets on startups and one we’re experimenting with right now is LeadUp for outsourced sales development – I’ve been impressed with the investment they’re making in their team of up and coming talent.
MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
Let’s start with the trifecta – Certain for event automation, Oracle Eloqua for marketing automation, and Salesforce for CRM. This is the core of our stack. Then I’m a fan of technologies that make my team efficient, while also delivering some additional value. BrightTalk is a good example – we use them for webinars because in addition to ease of use, they help drive top of funnel demand. Leadspace for top of funnel ABM-based demand. Asana for project management internally and with agency partners.
MTS: Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign?
We’ve seen a lot of success sharing insights from other marketers as part of our campaigns. This year we’ve fielded three research studies – an events benchmark study, a view into how events contribute to sales acceleration and a view into lead follow-up post-event. Every campaign uses an ABM approach, targeting large enterprises that run global events programs at scale. We see this kind of content as a touch in our overall engagement with an account and we measure success by engagement level, conversion to sales qualified accounts and pipeline generation.
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader?
With a balanced view. The idea that machines can replace many rote tasks and make recommendations and decisions for marketers is awesome. As a simple example, I want technology that tells me who to invite to an event based on buying cycles, intent signals like content consumed, recent event participation, related people, personal preferences even, without any manual effort on my part. That should be automatic. As a marketing leader, I’m interested in adopting technology that can do this for my team, enabling a new layer of intelligence across every function, and this is also how we think about product development at Certain. What becomes exciting is how to marry this new layer with human engagement. To advance and close deals, I still need to provide opportunities for my team to engage with our prospects on a personal level. Because for the next few years anyway, people will still be buying from people at some point in the process. So the balanced view I strive to maintain is about how technology can enable business and help stitch digital and physical interactions together.
This is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Certain of course for events. For my personal productivity, I’m hooked on Asana, Slack, Evernote, GSuite, Uberconference by Dialpad (no pin!), and Spotify. I need them all.
MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
Transcription. I record all important calls (you can do this with Uberconference), especially customer interviews, media interviews, and webinars. Then I use a service like Speechpad to transcribe audio to text and then I use the text as the outline for longform content. Huge shortcut!
MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
I love to read and I try to keep a healthy mix of business books and books for pleasure. Right now on the business side I’m enjoying Wired to Create by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire. For pleasure, I tend to prefer nonfiction. I’ve just finished Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance which is a wonderful view into growing up with adversity and common struggles in finding your way to better opportunity. I’m interested in what I can do personally and what we can do as a community to provide more and better job opportunities in America. I also read to my daughter every night I can. There are so many wonderful children’s books – particular favorites are Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and any of the Strega Nona stories by Tomie dePaola.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received — your secret sauce?
The advice that has helped me the most and has been aggregated over time is just to turn every obstacle into an opportunity. No matter who you are, you’re going to face roadblocks and setbacks. People told me I’d never make it from a big company to a startup, from consumer to enterprise, that I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a product leader. None of these things people say are true. You can do anything you set your mind to. The obstacles themselves are less important – what’s important is that you face them head on, that you get up every day and create and recreate a plan to tackle challenges, that you seek help in equal measure from people who care about you and from people with expertise you’re just getting to know and finally that you stay positive. Just this effort, again and again, builds resilience, makes every goal attainable and creates greater opportunity than you might have imagined.
MTS: Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
MTS: Thank you Kristen! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Technology marketing and product executive leading go-to-market strategy including messaging and branding, demand generation, product marketing, marketing and sales operations, public relations and customer evangelism for B2B technology companies. I have driven growth for enterprise SaaS businesses in fintech and cybersecurity as well as consumer businesses in gaming, and wireless applications and services. A leader in execution and building market leading teams within Fortune 100 companies and high growth startups. Analytical and creative, strategic and hands-on, I work side-by-side with my team to build the right engine to scale.
Certain® provides the leading enterprise event automation solution that helps both data-driven marketers and event professionals to bring events into cross-channel marketing campaigns; use rich attendee insights to improve sales & marketing results; and deliver credible event ROI. Certain’s event automation software supports a full range of events – from small meetings and educational sessions, to large conferences and world events. Established in 2011 and headquartered in San Francisco, Certain has operations and sales offices in North America, Europe and the Pacific Rim.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.