Mary Gilbert (Kerford), CMO at Folloze chats about a few ways for marketers to align better on priorities to help them gain more ”quick wins”:
Welcome to this MarTech Series chat, Mary, tell us about yourself and your B2B journey thus far…
In my nearly 30-year journey as a B2B marketer, I’ve had the pleasure of helping to shape the discipline, lead digital transformation, and navigate the ins and outs of a constantly changing market landscape. I’ve worked with big global brands like Microsoft, Cisco, and Intel, and also start ups and scale ups in very diverse industries going through big changes like cyber security, healthcare, and future of work technologies. One of my favorite things about B2B marketing is how close we, as marketers, can get to our customers and how critical our role is in shaping buyer experience. I’ve always thought of myself as somewhat of a revolutionary pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and creating inroads for the next wave of marketing progress.
As Folloze’s new CMO, we’d love to hear about your role and what the near-term will look like for you?
It’s a very exciting time at Folloze. The Folloze Buyer Experience platform has been very popular with ABM, and demand generation leaders who see the importance of building personal relationships at scale. We’ve seen a rapid transition in buyer behavior over the past several years. Buyers want to guide their own journeys. But marketers and sales teams have not had the right tools until just recently. Today’s marketers have to be extremely agile to navigate these dynamic markets. We’ve grown organically over the years because once marketers and revenue teams get their hands on our platform, they want to take it with them everywhere.
When I joined Folloze, we were six weeks away from launching a significant new version of the platform to make it much more flexible, brand-centric, and data-driven. We want to be seen as a strategic tool with CMOs and MOPs. Jumping into a team mid-launch is a very exciting and challenging place to start. Most of the marketing team members had been with the company for less than a year and were still learning to work together. To add to that, we are marketing to marketers so our standards have to be much higher. The brand was still in formation. We pulled together a launch very quickly to take advantage of the moment in time. It was a trial by fire for me and the team but we were able to be really, really agile because of our no-code Folloze platform. We were literally building market-facing experiences in minutes. . The launch brought us together as a whole company which drove a lot of momentum for us.
Near term, I’m focused on three things:
- Building a team that is known for being a best practice in ABM and Demand Generation. We have to live our value proposition and deliver delightfully engaging buyer experiences across the entire customer journey. That requires flexibility, and a team empowered with the right data and the ability to act in the moment when buyers signal they are ready for more.
- Meeting our numbers in a challenging market. As any start up moving into scale up mode, we’ve got numbers to deliver at a time when businesses are scaling back on non-essential investments. We have to be seen as essential. The relationship my team and I have with sales and customer success is our top priority. Our messaging has to carry a sense of urgency. We have to deliver a seamless experience to our buyers and customers. We are spending a lot of time working on empowering our sales team, learning from them, and refining an efficient and effective end-to-end GTM process powered by our own platform.
- Getting to know our customers. It’s so wonderful to step into a business with customers that just love the company. I’ve had a chance to meet many of our customers and continue to learn from them and hear what not only our platform has done for their business, but also our technology and customer success teams.
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Being a first ever CMO can be exciting and challenging, there is a lot that first time CMOs have to set in place to drive future marketing objectives, take us through a few practices you feel CMOs performing this as first-time CMOs for brands should keep in mind.
If you find yourself in the position of being a first time ever CMO, it’s most likely you’re in a scale up situation. Getting to scale up is an inflection point that only 1 in 200 companies ever achieve. It’s a special time. It’s also a time of huge transition. Most CEOs that have been through scale up say it’s the most difficult part of their journey to liquidity.
There’s proof of product / market fit, and a healthy base of top tier customer brands and a team to build on. There’s a culture that has been established and often a strong core team in place. But there are a lot of elements that need to be built to create a mature business capable of scaling well. I think of my job as a maximizer and accelerator more than anything else. I have to take what’s really working and build on it while also building new capabilities that the business didn’t need until now.
There are three key things I look for in my first 30 days to help me align the team, priorities, and quick wins:
Are the leaders aligned and leading across a connected organization with trust as their north star?
So often, scale ups lack the discipline and accountability needed for growing cross-functional teams to plan and executive together. With smaller start up teams, alignment happens more organically. As teams start to scale, lack of alignment can have a serious impact on productivity, team morale, and business results. I am deliberate about making time with my counterparts in the C-suite to ensure we are aligned on priorities, team focus, and approach. For many organizations, planning is not part of their process. I make sure we have a plan that everyone agrees to and then make sure I’m reporting on that progress continually.
Can everyone in the business tell a clear and compelling story of the brand, and are the teams able to bring it to life across products, customers, and stakeholders?
Founders are entrusting their vision for their brand, their heart and soul, to a new leader so they can focus on scaling the business. But it’s the team and customers that bring it to life. I listen not only to what people tell me, but what prospects, customers, and the competitive data is telling me. My job is to hear it all and help bring the perspectives together into a cohesive story that resonates in the market. In order to help the business scale in the right way, the entire team has to feel that I truly understand and respect all the perspectives. Then we can start to do bold things together.
Are marketing and sales working together to drive a connected experience for buyers and customers?
One of the things that attracted me to Folloze was that the platform itself is designed to empower marketing, sales, and other customer-facing teams to deliver a connected and personalized experience. I now not only have a tool that integrates my entire martech stack into a single, powerful experience engine, but I also have a set of real-time behavioral data that I’ve never had before. It’s been so helpful in helping me understand what truly matters to our top prospects and customers and keep sales and marketing aligned around priorities and actions that move the needle on revenue performance.
The right mindset is also a very important component of early success. I orient to the notion that the brand as a whole community. I’m not just the leader of the marketing team, the role of the CMO is the conduit of the brand to employees, partners, customers, and shareholders. Engaging them, seeing them, appreciating them, and being accessible is huge. I built my own personal Folloze board to share why I joined the business, and help people get to know me as a person. I’ve been reaching out to customers. Getting to know cross-functional team members, and becoming an active participant in our partner community ecosystem. In the first 4 weeks on the job, I hosted live customer interviews at B2BMX on behalf of the brand. Although I was still learning about the product, it was a really important way for me to establish rapport under pressure. Now it’s just part of what I do every day.
What does it take for B2B marketers today / marketing leaders to ensure better alignment between choice of martech stacks and martech/marketing processes?
CMOs are accountable for the growth agenda and in volatile markets, that’s a really challenging job. Marketing has to be responsible for driving a connected, personalized buyer journey. This requires a transformational approach that empowers both marketing and sales teams to see where the pipeline action is and act on it in the moment together. It requires a new way of thinking about an organization, processes, and tools. It requires us to broaden our perspective on how to scale personalization in an authentic way and be responsive to changing buyer needs and dynamics on-the-fly.
Focus on the process of decentralization first. Consider everyone across marketing and sales, ABM, Demand Gen, partner teams, as owners of a single point in a unified buyer journey. Make sure you have clearly defined metrics for each phase of the journey and a data-driven approach to determining what is going to be most impactful in the moment. Then, make sure your tech stack is completely integrated to make the process of insight-to-action seamless and empowering for frontline sales and marketing teams. About 90% of customer engagement happens outside of the website so make sure data from those touch points is integrated into the whole picture of customer journey performance.
If you see your tools as a unifier of customer experience rather than targeted to individual tasks, it makes it a lot easier to become truly buyer centric.
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How can CMOs work closely across functions and departments to drive better impact that helps improve the end to end customer lifecycle?
I own the growth agenda which means it’s my job to drive a unified end-to-end GTM process. My organization orchestrates the process. My sales, partner, and CS leaders are my primary stakeholders. Having a tool like Folloze allows us to orchestrate and simplify every aspect of our GTM playbooks and immediately see what the impact is in driving prospects and customers to the actions that bring them closer to us. It also allows me to hold the entire team accountable to their activities and commitments and spot new opportunities for growth.
Some last thoughts on the future of martech and B2B marketing?
B2B buyers have gone digital and they’re staying that way. We’re all chasing after shrinking budgets in a very competitive space so we have to be a lot more strategic about where and how we reach these buyers as they drive their own journeys. 82% of marketing leaders expect to take the lead delivering a seamless end-to-end digital buying experience.
Results show that buyers tend to purchase from companies that deliver a personalized and connected experience. Not only that, but they buy faster and they tend to buy more. But this is not an easy thing to do in the B2B world. We’re seeing a huge shift in how our customers are thinking about their organizations and tools they use to sense, and respond to buyers in highly distributed marketing and sales environments. The must-win growth strategies we’re seeing are: democratization and simplification of experience delivery for frontline marketers; orchestrating seamless journeys with data and AI, and consolidation and integration of the tech stack. Being instrumental to the success of our customers through this paradigm shift is our number one priority.
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