MarTech Interview with Tricia Gellman, CMO at Drift
Hi Tricia, from Salesforce to becoming a CMO- How did you plan your transition through the Dotcom era to the modern AI era?
When I started my career, the computer was just becoming a thing people had on their desks, Windows was a new thing. I had the choice to be a designer at a top firm in Boston or NYC but they weren’t using computers. I knew computers were the future, so I chose to take a job where I was able to learn from industry experts and skip forward in my knowledge and engagement with the tech community.
Whether it is transitioning from dot.com to AI or any other transition, I think the key thing is to identify what you can learn from your current role and the people around you. How much is your boss helping you grow and learn? Then assess any new opportunity around what you can learn and how this will help you grow your career. If you try to act short term but think long term you should be able to string together experiences that help you stay with or ahead of the market.
We have seen that MarTech CMOs are usually specialized in Marketing, Sales, and Engineering. You come from a very diverse background. Tell us a bit more about your ‘superpower’.
My background has helped me work cross-functionally, with Product, Sales, and more – and I think that’s essential. You can have the best launch, branding, amazing messaging and a strong growth plan, but if you don’t have a partnership with Sales and think about how you can create pipeline and deals with everything you are generating, you’re not going to be successful.
From my perspective, the more you bring groups together, the more you can achieve. Doing a great job in a silo only gets you so far; understanding the goals, nomenclature, and principles of these other groups help ensure you produce marketing that can be amplified and can be a catalyst for success across your entire company.
As a CMO of a very successful MarTech company, what particular business targets would you be focusing on, for the next 6-8 months?
It’s obviously not business as usual right now. But we’re still focused on helping our Sales team generate leads and pipeline; we just need to lead with empathy, evaluate all messages to ensure they are not tone deaf and generally be even more creative than usual.
In addition, at Drift, our customers come first. We are doubling our efforts to engage with our customers to ensure their success. This may mean using Drift to increase the engagement on their website or just helping them think through the trade-offs they have to make based on their individual business dynamics.
COVID is a global wrecker. How has it impacted your business? How do you cope with it?
As an organization that typically hosts and attends a variety of events in order to meet our pipeline and lead goals, we have had to get creative. Here are a few things we’ve done:
– Rethought events: We all know that companies’ event strategies need to be completely rethought. Everything is canceled or postponed, and those events typically bring in an enormous amount of value and leads. But instead of canceling altogether, rethink your strategy. Because more than ever people are looking to learn and be connected.
So, at Drift, we have done two things:
1. We created RevGrowth Virtual Summit — a two-day, two-track (Sales and Marketing).
2. We are replacing small dinners we had planned with topical experiences and conversations. So we’re planning invite-only events where people can learn and grow and really talk to each other. The key is to ensure these feel like a special event, not just another webinar.
– Invested more in digital and integrated campaigns. Your website is your storefront right now, so it’s time to invest in strategies that are going to get people to your site to engage in personalized, real-time conversations to drive revenue. We’re investing heavily in things like Digital Advertising, Email Marketing, SEO, and Organic Content and Content Syndication.
– Giving back and investing in our customers’ success: This time is hard for everyone. So now more than ever it’s time to be empathetic and ensure that you are giving value to your customers. We’re taking time to give our customers our time — learning about their successes and struggles and seeing how we can help. Their feedback is key to how we’re thinking about our future products.
We’re also working to help connect our customers to share their experiences, either with Drift or just with the current crisis, through our online community.
Businesses are suffering heavily due to coronavirus pandemic. Those who have a MarTech stack or Enterprise Automation on the go, may not face the brunt of the business. Do you agree?
I don’t think we quite know everything that will be affected yet. However, my experience says that economic compression makes businesses rethink how they are doing business. We founded Drift because we felt the way that businesses buy from businesses was broken. It was not human to fill out forms and wait for a response. With the coronavirus pandemic, it is very difficult to connect with people after they fill out the form so, fixing this engagement to be more human and real-time is critical.
One thing I have noticed is that people have built complex MarTech stacks to address the poor ROI of Marketing today. This may be useful but actually in some ways having data stored in all the silos of the various MarTech tools can make it hard to take action.
During the crisis and forward, Digital Marketing will play a heavier role in demand generation for businesses. We recently launched a feature called Drift Audiences that allows marketers to bring their entire MarTech data together in one place to allow marketers to engage in real-time with people to create revenue quickly. There is power in the MarTech stack but only if it helps you take action today.
Hear it from the Pro – How do you leverage Marketing tools and technologies to stay on top of your business goals? Which tools are your favorite?
I came to work at Drift because I truly believe it is a critical solution for driving strategic value within a company. Drift transforms the way that Marketing and Sales work together and the closer these two groups are aligned the better a company can address challenges like this current pandemic or other potentially less serious issues week to week and month to month.
I am also a big believer in Analytics. At Salesforce I really loved Einstein Analytics but at Drift we use Looker. It is critical to have real-time access to analytics to analyze your data at a high level and drill down to the details.
Sixth sense: The Future of A Tech CMO – Your take on the reengineering of Customer relationships models and MarOps based on your experience with AI, Business Intelligence, Smart Assistants for Sales, and numerous other tech applications!
Earlier this year, we surveyed over 100 Marketing executives on a variety of topics, to understand the trends they believe will shape the future of marketing. Over 50% said they believe AI will have the biggest impact in the next five years. People understand this, but there’s still uncertainty around how to use this technology in a meaningful way — and people are afraid that AI will replace their jobs.
However, while I believe that AI will continue to replace some workers — it will also create more jobs and make marketers more efficient. For example, we created the role of AI Conversational Designer, and the new jobs created like this one also require others — like more Marketing and Sales ops professionals.
I read a great article from Brian Solis and he noted that Humans are needed for innovation and AI for repetitive more mundane tasks. The successful marketers of the future are going to be the ones who are able to balance both the more creative and empathetic emotional side of marketing with the more scientific, analytical side, and I believe AI is going to help tremendously in that sense.
What are your thoughts and experiences with GDPR, CCPA, and other Data privacy regulations? How do consumer data privacy laws affect your business?
As the CMO of Salesforce Canada privacy was a big part of what every marketer needed to know extensively as the Canadian Law CASL, puts the liability on the individual for breach of privacy. GDPR is a bit of the precursor to CCPA, and I believe that empowering people to own their data if they want is important.
At Drift, we never sell any data collected by our customers that is stored in Drift. We created a portal for individuals to manage their own data protection. If people want to remove their data or opt-out, they are able to go through our portal — or email us, and we can remove them. Or, if someone wants their data, which is another right they have, we are able to deliver entire chat transcripts to the customer for them to deliver.
The new privacy regulations are something we have been ready for. And privacy is an asset. We believe that instead of viewing rulings like CCPA as a threat, companies should use it to their advantage. Companies that take that opportunity to show their customers that they believe and value transparency — will provide an even better customer experience.
One superwoman character you closely relate to in real life–
This is a good question. I gather you are looking at Superwoman Characteristics from Dr. Kulaga. In that case, I think the most relatable superpower for me is “A SuperWoman understands that she can do anything she wants, but she can’t do everything.” This is tough as I often want to help lots of people but you have to prioritize your own team first and ensure you keep your house in order before having powers to help others.
Tag a person in the industry whose answers you would like to read here:
Sara Varni, CMO at Twilio.
Thank you, Tricia! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Drift is the Conversational Marketing platform that combines chat, email, video, and automation to remove the friction from business buying. With Drift, you can start conversations with future customers now, on their terms — not days later. There are over 50,000 businesses that use Drift today to generate more revenue, shrink sales cycles, and make buying easy. Our mission is to use conversations to make business buying frictionless, more enjoyable, and more human.