Interview with Rani Hublou, Chief Marketing Officer, 8×8

Interview with Rani Hublou, Chief Marketing Officer, 8x8
Rani Hublou, Chief Marketing Officer, 8x8

“To keep up with the speed of customer demands, multi-channel marketing and multi-channel communications are critical.”

Tell us about your role and how you got here. What inspired you to be part of 8×8?

8×8 has the opportunity to deliver more than a world-class business communications product. We have created a new cloud business communications market that fundamentally transforms the customer experience and enables a new speed of business. It’s pretty inspirational to be part of the team that is uniquely positioned to win this new $50 billion cloud business communication market.

As a woman in a tech-heavy ecosystem, what message would you give to other women, especially in the Marketing and Sales functions?

There is only one way forward for any marketer or sales leader: growth. The path to growth acceleration is in a fact-based go-to market plan. How will your company hit the quarterly and annual growth targets? What segments will deliver the growth? What products? What routes to market? How will competition respond? What are the driving growth assumptions? What are the risks? What investment streams will be required? Who will be responsible for each investment stream? How will you track plan vs actual and ROI? It is critical to be able to answer these questions — not just one time per year in the annual planning cycle — but in an ongoing, agile way every week, every month.

How is your role at 8×8 different from the one you had at PSS? How much of that experience helps you in your current role?

Undoubtedly, every role leading to this point has evolved my ability to help 8×8 accelerate growth. At PSS, we also created a new category of SaaS that was transformative for businesses. At 8×8, we are giving our end users the ability to communicate with both customers and employees via voice, chat or video with one system of engagement. With one system of intelligence, we help businesses grow faster due to visibility into every live interaction as well as the trends.

8×8 X Series sales are growing rapidly as the proof point in this new category of business communications SaaS. Similar to the successful category creation work we completed at PSS, with 8×8 X Series, we have started our category creation with the launch of innovative new product, packaging, positioning, pricing and promotions.

How do you see the evolution of Marketing Technologies impacting the further adoption of unified communications platforms?

The speed of business demands more live interactions between businesses and their customers and prospects. To keep up with the speed of customer demands, multi-channel marketing and multi-channel communications are critical. Whether it’s text, voice, or video, the customer determines how they want to interact with businesses.

That’s a required extension of the MarTech stack. Let me give you one example: Live chat on the website helps businesses engage with a prospect in real time. That same chat can turn into a phone meeting with the right expert and video meeting with a room full of people in one click. As a prospect is doing research, live interaction options allow them to get better answers, faster.

Which leaders in the industry do you closely work with? How do they help you stay close to the business actions?

This year, I had the great pleasure of working with Geoffrey Moore. His book, “Crossing the Chasm,” remains relevant to the evolution of any market or software company. When we look at 8×8’s market opportunity, using his adoption curve framework, we can see that in the US, small businesses are the “late majority,” enterprises are in the “early adopter” phase, and the midmarket is the “tornado” phase.

This framework focuses our investments and actions according to market segment development. Moore is incredibly skilled in adapting his framework and creating precise strategies for each of these segments.

What are the biggest challenges for CMOs in working with new technologies and resources? How do you tackle these challenges?

The first challenge we face is that the architecture (or what I call “mar-tech-cture”) of our stack is increasingly complex. We have three horizons of new marketing tech that we balance onto one architecture: horizon one is this quarter, horizon two is this year, and horizon three is beyond. We have to ensure that all three horizons of tech will work synergistically.

Therefore, our master architects have a multi-year roadmap they constantly modify to ensure we accommodate the mar-tech innovations as they become available. The second biggest challenge stems from the fact that the technologies we’re adding now are at the very leading edge. What comes with some of these advanced technologies is the challenge of working with very early-stage products and companies. This requires us to partner well in co-development of products, while also closely measuring risk and reward with the portfolio of tech in our stack.

What gaps in marketing intelligence do you see that need immediate correction? Which tools are best suited to mitigate these?

One gap in marketing intelligence that comes to mind is real-time, cohort-based demand gen planning tools. Specifically, we need a tool that ties together the demand gen plan and the closed revenue plan, with analytics that show me where the investment plan needs to change in real-time. We believe that this is an opportunity for the marketing intelligence community to provide real-time full-funnel analytics specifically for a multi-segment and multi-channel demand generation portfolio.

What startups in the MarTech and SalesTech ecosystem are you watching/keen on right now?

The category we watch most closely is Machine Learning and AI. We acquired a predictive analytics marketing SaaS company, MarianaIQ, this year. With them came extensive knowledge of complementary AI startups. We continue to add capabilities in the AI/ML space in order to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our demand generation resources.

What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2018?

We now have more than 20 SaaS MarTech solutions in our stack. A few of them include Marketo (Marketing Automation Platform), Conversica (AI tool — we used as an AI sales assistant), Lattice Engines/6Sense (Predictive scoring and account enrichment), and Engagio (ABM solution). In addition, we leverage BI tools for our analytics and Workboard for marketing goal and action tracking. Our 2019 roadmap is compelling — with a lot of new additions to make the marketing team better, smarter, faster.

Would you tell us about your standout digital campaign?

CIOs top 5 agenda items include transformation of the customer experience. In July, we launched 8×8 X Series to accelerate this transformation. This new category of SaaS offers businesses a combined employee and customer system of engagement. Our digital campaign targeted an audience that was predominantly mid-market — specifically IT, support, and sales leaders.

By introducing X Series to these audiences with a content-rich, multi-touch, multi-channel campaign, we helped our highest propensity to buy CIOs understand that their communication system is determining the speed of their organizations and speed to revenue. We measured the success of the campaign based on access to the C-Suite and ultimately the revenue from the new X Series’ portfolio of products. As we stated on our earnings call, X Series revenues are ramping and the solution is successfully transforming the speed of business.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader?

Having worked in AI for more than 20 years, I have a couple pieces of best practice advice for marketers delving into AI for the first time. First, be sure to hire the right talent. Specifically, bring in the most leading-edge marketing AI data scientists that exist in the industry. The more ‘been there, done that’ the better. Second, work closely with the experts you hire to make sure the technology flows through the funnel fully integrated into the way you work. Weave the tech into your whole team’s daily demand generation activities. Once you demystify the tech, make it accessible, revenue will accelerate.

One word that best describes how you work.

Collaboratively — always working with our team to figure out how to do more, better, faster with our available resources.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Tableau for my marketing dashboards is my daily/hourly go to. And, of course, 8×8 X Series, which I use throughout the day for all my live business communications -— mobile and desktop, texts, calls, video meetings.

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

I’m a big believer in having tight dashboards and goal settings at every layer of marketing. Our team has one set of goals from top to bottom. Then, with the real-time dashboards, we all can track how we’re doing against those goals.

What are you currently reading?

I just recently reread Ben Horowitz’s book, “Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business.” The book offers insightful advice on how to drive change in organization and achieve desired business outcomes. I also just read “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink. For human interest, I recently read Jeffery Zaslow’s “The Last Lecture”  and “Sapiens” by Yuval Harari.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve received so much good advice over the years, it’s hard to pick the best. But one piece of recent advice stands out, as it was critical when I started my job at 8×8. My very first week there, I became aware of not only the magnitude of 8×8’s market opportunity, but how quickly we had to scale the organization. Dejan Deklich, my colleague, advised me to prioritize hiring the team that could scale the business over putting in place the critical initiatives to scale. I not only followed his advice but have shared it with my team over my time at 8×8. It was critical to choose my leaders wisely and help them in their efforts to scale the company.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

One of the best marketers in the industry is Deidre Paknad, CEO and Co-Founder at Workboard Inc.

Thank you, Rani! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

A B2B SaaS executive who accelerates enterprise sales.

I formulate and execute world-class go to market plans, with strong belief that go to market

  • is so much more than a page in a business plan, it is a critical business competency
  • is the way the business continuously educates the targets about the value of the products they have built and convinces buyers that it’s worth switching
  • aligns the who, the what, the where and the why of an enterprise sale
  •  ensures the product, the pricing, the packaging, the positioning, the messaging, the branding, the sales, services and support continuously reinforce the competitive strengths of the company
  • requires compelling category creation, revenue-centric solution roadmaps, differentiated positioning, high impact field enablement, and multi-channel demand generation

Expertise garnered from:

  • Leading Product and worldwide Marketing at 8×8, BEA Systems, BroadVision, Icarian, Comprehend Systems, and PSS Systems
  • G100 Consulting with McKinsey & Co and Accenture
  • Stanford University: Bachelor and Masters in Engineering
  • Non-Profits: improving educational outcomes for underprivileged children in Santa Clara County – and Rebuild LA creating jobs in South Central LA

8x8 Logo
8×8, Inc. communication solutions help businesses transform their customer and employee experience. With one system of engagement for cloud voice, video, collaboration and contact center and one system of intelligence on one cloud communications platform, businesses can now communicate faster and smarter to exceed the speed of customer expectations.

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.

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