Journey Into Tech
You went from working on Capitol Hill to leading some of the most forward-thinking B2B Marketing technology companies. Could you walk us through your journey to leading Marketing at Button?
Sure, first of all, thank you so much for having me, and I hope you and the MarTech Series Team are all staying safe and healthy.
Especially during this time of uncertainty, I am incredibly grateful to have started my career on Capitol Hill, where the day’s news could completely change my priorities, and remaining flexible and adaptable was critical. In that role, I gained an appreciation for taking a firm and consistent position and crafting a narrative around it for all stakeholders. As mergers like AT&T and T-Mobile and Comcast and NBC Universal were announced, I got a first taste of how business decisions could impact the day-to-day lives of consumers. Lastly, working on Capitol Hill taught me how to build consensus and make trade-offs to achieve a common goal, a skill that has been essential as an executive.
Throughout my career, I’ve sought out positions where the narrative (and the role of Marketing) is a strategic lever for the business, where the vision is to change an industry, and where the team inspires me to do my best work.
After seeing Moat’s CEO and Co-Founder, Jonah Goodhart, speak at an event and being blown away by his vision for the future of brand advertising, I joined Moat and built the Global Marketing function leading up to the company’s acquisition by Oracle in 2017.
I was immediately drawn to Button’s mission to build a better way to do business on mobile. Because of that mission, the company has been laser-focused on creating better consumer experiences as a way to drive growth for brands and publishers, a focus that resonated for me as I consider how business decisions impact consumers’ lives. I joined the team to build out the Marketing function for the next phase of the company’s growth, in time to announce our Series C funding last summer, launch new corporate and product messaging, and build a top-performing team.
As a VP of Marketing at Button and an active member of the B2B Marketing leadership community, what are the challenges you face in your industry and how do you overcome these?
As the pace of change accelerates and businesses pivot to match market needs, it’s critical as a Marketing leader to be flexible and adaptable. Build a strong team so that you’re able to flex muscles across Brand Marketing, Demand Generation, Product Marketing, and Communications as needed. Consistently measure performance towards your business objectives, and be willing to pivot when a strategy or particular tactic isn’t as effective as you need it to be. I’ve also found it incredibly valuable to have a strong network and marketing community; we rely on each other to exchange ideas, share resources and offer advice.
The role of Marketing in organizations is in a constant state of evolution. Harvard Business Review cited that 46% of CMOs are focused on marketing and communications to sell a product or service, 31% of CMOs are focused on a strategy that decides on the firm’s positioning to design new products or services, and 23% of CMOs are focused on enterprise-wide P&L including innovation, sales, distribution, and pricing. Increasingly, companies with shifting business models are evolving the role of marketing to take on a more strategic or enterprise-wide responsibility. Being flexible and adaptable and having a strong team in place are critical to meet these changing business needs.
You have been part of several tech companies, in a variety of different roles. What did you learn from those roles and how do you apply experiences in your current role at Button?
Going back to my early career lessons on Capitol Hill, I believe in taking a firm position, crafting a narrative for all stakeholders, and sharing it consistently and frequently. My guiding principle is that if you’re not getting sick of telling your company’s story, you’re either not telling it consistently or not telling it often enough.
To drive change, particularly among enterprise customers, it’s critical to have a clear vision for what’s possible and offer a path to get there. While the product features you offer and marketing tactics might differ based on the audience, your vision needs to remain consistent.
Your brand is your most valuable asset—it is every touchpoint with your business. It’s the executive you see speaking on stage, the first sales pitch you hear, the story you read in the news, and the detailed follow-up email to questions you’ve raised on a contact form. Therefore, the telling of your brand story needs to be consistent and trustworthy.
At Button, one of my first initiatives was to help us more clearly communicate our vision and mission internally and externally. I’ve relentlessly evangelized the updates and applied it to every communication that our company rolls out, from the first slides of our pitch decks to product-level messaging. The goal is consistency and frequency.
Marketing Game Plan
Tell us how you work with technology. What Marketing, Revenue, and Messaging tools and apps do you use for your business?
It starts with a set of criteria to evaluate any potential technology need. There are an endless number of Marketing technology options out there, and we lead with: Does it solve a pain point? Can it automate work we’re currently doing or make a current process more effective? Is the anticipated return on investment greater than the level of effort to implement, onboard, and maintain?
For understanding and engaging with our prospects and customers, we use HubSpot, Salesforce, and LinkedIn, and we’re currently exploring several Account-Based Marketing additions. For work productivity, we project-manage through monday.com, information-share through G Suite and Dropbox Paper, and instant-message through Slack. For measurement of performance, we use Splash for event monitoring, Muck Rack for media intelligence, Salesforce for pipeline and revenue metrics, and Tableau for tracking company-wide business performance.
What is your approach to Marketing planning?
It’s easy to be distracted by cool and trendy tactics, but I’ve found it’s important to be disciplined and maintain focus on what has the biggest potential impact on your business and customers.
With the Button Brand as the foundation for everything that we do, I craft Marketing Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) each quarter that aligns with our company OKRs and work closely with my peers to ensure cross-functional efficiency and alignment. We work together as a Marketing organization to refine the objectives and ensure each team member’s objectives line up with the Marketing OKRs for the quarter.
This is all on top of the annual marketing plan prepared in Q4 for the year ahead. I view the marketing plan as a strategic roadmap for executive and team alignment rather than a detailed project plan, knowing that specific goals and tactics will evolve throughout the year.
What kind of talent and skill do you usually seek and hire for? What challenges do you meet in building an effective Marketing team?
When a startup is in its earlier stages, I tend to hire generalists who can quickly pivot with the changing needs of the business. As the company grows and the role of marketing evolves, I look for specialists who can level up the company in their areas of expertise.
At Button, we seek and hire individuals with an inherent curiosity, willingness to take on what the business needs, and drive to deliver excellence. We also have a culture of anticipatory hospitality, otherwise known as ‘omotenashi’, whereby team members predict the needs of others and provide them with what they need before they need it.
In the hiring process, I’m vetting for the expertise we need for the role, whether it’s storytelling and writing, operations and analytics, or events and logistics, as well as the values that we seek at Button. Over the years I’ve found it’s challenging to find individuals who have both deep expertise and the willingness to take on what the business needs, big or small, and remain flexible.
What are your predictions for your industry and technology markets for 2020-2024?
Here are my big three: customers, growth, and measurement. None of them are novel concepts, but they’re all pillars that we’ll have to double down on, especially in the wake of COVID-19.
With the increasing pace of change across markets and unforeseen contraction of the global economy, it’s never been more important to focus on your customers, what they need, and how you can solve their problems effectively. Growth and rebuilding will be a common theme, with a continued emphasis on ROI and profitability – certainly not new focus areas. And finally, there will continue to be a greater pursuit of marketing measurement to demonstrate impact.
This Is How I Work
One word that best describes how you work.
Focus. In high-growth technology companies, things change all the time. I maintain my focus on top priorities, for myself and my organization, and I’m relentless about achieving them and keeping others on track to do the same.
One example that comes to mind was working on refreshing the Button website, knowing that we were updating our brand and corporate messaging but would still be making substantial changes to our product messaging in the upcoming months. With the need to roll out something modern and up-to-date, I stayed focused on that goal while building in flexibility for changes on our product pages, overseeing our team’s successful delivery of the new website in a matter of weeks. Now, we continue to update the website as we release new solutions.
What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
I’m very intrigued by how modern buy-now-pay-later apps like Klarna, Affirm, and Afterpay are helping consumers and expanding opportunities for retailers, especially with our current situation in this global pandemic and its anticipated impact on the economy.
In addition, as a parent with limited time, I have a unique appreciation for on-demand apps like Instacart and Uber Eats for the convenience they offer and the time they give me back to focus on other things. With consumers spending more time on their phones and growing more comfortable ordering groceries rather than selecting them themselves, on-demand services are becoming the new normal.
I’m also keenly observing retailers, from established department stores to digital natives, who are implementing mobile strategies in unique ways to engage with their customers. For example, I was recently searching for an appropriate outfit in a leading department store’s app, where a digital assistant helped me pair pieces that matched and suited my personal style, reminiscent of how a personal stylist would in-store, but much more quickly and without having to check inventory for availability.
Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
Listening. This is the single trait that has shaped my path to leadership and shaped my relationships with customers, peers, and my team.
In B2B Marketing, your customers will tell you what they need. Listen carefully to the problems they’re describing. Instead of being quick to come up with specific solutions, intentionally carve out time to innovate and overdeliver.
As I shared earlier, Marketing is an entirely cross-functional discipline. I listen to my peers to determine how we can work most effectively together to solve business problems, such as partnering to achieve adoption and revenue goals through a strategic product launch, rather than embarking on each goal separately.
Finally, listening to my team has made me a better leader. By hiring a team of experts, encouraging them to lead with conviction, question, and challenge, and trusting them to make things happen, I see my role as a leader as one who is there to listen, remove roadblocks, and support individuals in delivering their best work for the company.
Thank you, Nicole! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Nicole Silver is the Vice President of Marketing at Button, the New York-based mobile commerce platform that enables brands and publishers to drive revenue through commerce in their mobile apps and websites. In this role, she oversees brand and communications, growth marketing, and product marketing.
Prior to joining Button, Nicole led marketing at Moat, where she established the marketing function, built the marketing team, and launched global marketing programs leading up to Moat’s acquisition by Oracle in 2017.
Nicole started her career on Capitol Hill and holds an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business and a BA from Cornell University.
Button is the mobile commerce optimization platform that enables companies to drive revenue through commerce in their mobile apps and websites. Through higher-converting technology, Button embeds commerce actions inside publisher apps so that brands can grow their mobile business, publishers can increase their mobile revenue, and consumers can enjoy a better buying experience on mobile. The intent is changing. By closing the gap between browsing and buying, Button has driven over $3 billion in spending to date. Founded in 2014, Button has raised over $64 million in venture capital and has consistently been recognized as one of the best places to work by Fortune, Inc., Entrepreneur, and Crain’s.