MarTech Interview with Laura Taylor, CMO at Crayon

As both sides of the coin: marketing trends and customer expectations evolve, what should marketers set in place as base fundamentals? Laura Taylor, CMO at Crayon has a few ideas:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Laura, tell us more about yourself and your foray into marketing…we’d love to hear more about ‘being CMO’ at Crayon

Thank you for having me!

I made my foray into B2B marketing after 15 years in digital consulting, where I was focused on helping brands like Nikon, Reebok, and Staples create outstanding user experiences. In 2010, I took what I had learned about UX and design and brought it to WordStream, a SaaS company where, for a decade, I oversaw everything from content and lead gen to brand and PR.

These days, when I’m not chasing around my 2-year-old son—unless he’s asleep, there’s a very good chance he’s on the move!—I lead the rapidly growing marketing team at Crayon, which provides competitive intelligence software for mid-market and enterprise companies.

It’s funny how things come full circle. The first stretch of my career was defined, in part, by household brands. And now, as the CMO at Crayon, I have the privilege of working with a customer base that includes HubSpot, Microsoft, and Mastercard. Logos like these provide not only the validation that’s needed to defend your value prop, but also the collateral that’s needed to communicate your value prop.

Another major source of validation for Crayon’s value prop—and this is one that few CMOs are lucky enough to claim—is the fact that I actually use our software. I use it to make myself a better marketer, to empower our sales team, and to arm my fellow executives with the real-time perspective they need to keep us at the helm of this exciting new category. It sounds banal, but when you’re tasked with elucidating the value of a product, being a daily user of that product is tremendously helpful.

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How have you been observing B2B marketing shifts impact marketing structures and trends in today’s marketplace? A few thoughts on ‘’what it takes to build comprehensive marketing policies in B2B today’’?

COVID has forced businesses to be nimble. If you want to succeed in an environment as unpredictable as the one that we find ourselves in, you have to be able to make decisions and implement changes at the drop of a hat. From a CMO’s perspective, this means that we can’t be spending 6 months in campaign planning mode. What you think is relevant to your audience right now might be the furthest thing from their minds in Q3 2022. 

Does this mean that strategy is futile and everyone should spend their time executing random one-off projects? No. But it does mean that, if you want to consistently deliver value to your prospects and customers and maintain a competitive advantage, you have to be vigilant about paying attention to what’s going on outside your four walls and making adjustments as needed. You have to let go of the idea that plans can be set in stone.

And speaking of prospects and customers, another B2B trend I’ve noticed in our COVID-shaped world is the indispensability of conversation intelligence tools like Gong and Chorus. Obviously, these tools are valuable to sales teams for purposes of onboarding, training, and—you know—winning, but from a marketer’s POV, they also help to answer some incredibly important questions.

Is our messaging making it to the front lines, or do our sellers seem to be winging it? If our messaging is making it to the front lines, is it resonating with prospects and customers, or does it seem out of touch? Does the effectiveness of our messaging depend on variables like industry and business size? If so, how might we get more targeted?

Frankly, if you’re not taking these insights into consideration as you developand adjust!your go-to-market strategy, I think you’re missing a huge opportunity.

What are some of the ways in which you feel CMOs need to drive better internal marketing processes and alignment with other teams today? A few top martech tools that come to mind to help here?

I’m a big-time analytics person, and, in my eyes, alignment across internal teams is a prerequisite for calculating the ROI of your marketing campaigns. And when I say ROI, I mean true ROI—meaning you’ve taken into account the entirety of the customer lifecycle.

Campaign XYZ brought a new company into your database—great. But in what other ways did they engage with your marketing before signing on the dotted line? For how long did they sign, and how much was that contract worth? Did they renew? If so, what may have influenced them to make that decision, and by how much did the value of the contract increase?

Answering these questions goes a long way toward determining the efficacy of certain campaigns, and in order to answer them, you need input from marketing, sales, customer success, and product management—it’s a huge cross-functional effort. To be honest, I’m not aware of any single tool that streamlines this process. In my experience, although software is helpful, you’re pretty much destined to end up in Excel. But like I said, I love analytics—ending up in Excel isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you ask me.

Meanwhile, moving away from analytics to the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s also this challenge of making sure that your brand remains in tact on its way to the market. If you’ve got hundreds of sellers, account managers, and customer success specialists—each of them interacting with several customers on any given day—then, unfortunately, there’s ample opportunity for your brand to be misrepresented, whether it’s through out-dated messaging, off-putting outreach tactics, or flat-out bad service.

All of this is to say that internal alignment is a driver not only of data hygiene, but of brand safety, too. When customer-facing personnel are being on-boarded and trained, the pillars of your brand had better be crystal clear.

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As marketing trends and customer expectations both evolve side by side, in what ways do you feel marketing teams as a whole unit need to keep pace with what customer’s need and demand?

One way to keep pace is by maintaining clean data throughout the customer lifecycle and getting granular with your attribution. If a campaign performs exceptionally well, you must’ve gotten the right message to the right people, and that tells you something about your customers’ needs and demands. And of course, unsuccessful campaigns can be just as—if not more—instructive.

No matter what’s trending, quantitative and qualitative feedback directly from your customers is irreplaceable. NPS surveys are a must, and the same is true of—and I promise I’m not being paid by these companies—tools like Gong and Chorus. What pain points are coming up again and again in the conversations between your prospects and their account executives? How about in the conversations between your customers and their CSMs? The insights you’re looking for are there—you just have to be willing to listen.

For marketers still looking to strengthen their fundamentals and add significant enhancements to their overall routines and plans in 2022, what would you share with them?

You’ve got to know what a lead is worth to your business. It’s so much easier said than done, but this is as fundamental as it gets. Until you’ve nailed down the worth of a lead, you won’t be able to plan or evaluate your investments in any kind of meaningful way. It’s hard work, but the good news is that you’re not alone—because, again, this is a cross-functional effort. If you’ve got strong relationships with your colleagues in sales and finance and customer success, and everyone can work together to make sense of all the different variables that come into play, assigning value to a lead is well within your grasp.

Something I’ve been circling around throughout this conversation but not quite naming explicitly is this balance between creativity and analytics—art and science, left brain and right brain, whatever cliche you want to use. And I mentioned earlier the importance of getting the right message to the right people, and in order to do that, marketers really do need to be skilled both creatively and analytically. Just because you’re a stellar copywriter, or just because you’re a Google Ads wizard, doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful. It’s when you’ve mastered both messaging and media—or, in the case of marketing leaders, when you’ve got on your team both masters of messaging and and masters of media—that you’re truly set up for success.

In terms of enhancements, I think it’s time we get formalized with our approaches to virtual events. Back when we thought COVID and remote work might be short-lived, it was acceptable to be a little bit ad-hoc with this—why invest in establishing a process when we’re going to be back in person next year? Well, “next year” has come and gone, and COVID and remote work are clearly here to stay, so let’s start treating virtual event prep the way we used to treat in-person event prep. I don’t have all the answers here—no one will for at least a few more years—but, at a minimum, I think this means investing in the right software and figuring out what our prospects expect from a virtual booth.

Some last thoughts and marketing / martech takeaways and predictions for 2022 before we wrap up?

For better or for worse, I think we’re going to work in 2022 the exact same way we worked in 2021—remotely, that is. I’m not going to say that work is never going back to the way it was in 2019, but I’m confident that it’s not going back any time soon. I’ve got my marketing budget for the coming year, and guess what—it doesn’t include anything related to in-person events.

I know the same is true for many of my fellow marketing leaders, and for that reason, I think one thing we’ll see in 2022 is a sizable jump in the quality of virtual communications. I love a good Zoom background as much as anyone else, but from a branding perspective, we’ve got to do better than that. Why not customize Zoom and Teams at the company instance level, so that whenever a prospect joins a sales call or a virtual event, or whenever a customer joins an on-boarding call, the experience is entirely unique to your brand? I don’t know if this kind of technology exists yet, but I have to imagine it’s right around the corner.

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Crayon is a competitive intelligence platform that enables mid-market and enterprise businesses to see and seize opportunities and create sustainable advantages in their markets. Hundreds of organizations use Crayon to capture sharp insights that can be easily accessed and acted on to drive broad, measurable and meaningful impact.

Laura Taylor is the CMO at Crayon

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