MarTech Interview with Nani Shaffer, VP of Marketing at InCloudCounsel

Nani Shaffer, VP of Marketing at InCloudCounsel chats about the evolving expectations from B2B marketing teams and how marketers now have to go beyond driving typical engagement to close the loop in the online customer journey:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Nani, tell us more about yourself and your journey through the years? What inspires you in marketing today?

I’ve spent my entire professional career in marketing and have enjoyed exploring nearly every function. In four years at an educational technology startup, I started in a general role in market research, before moving into events and corporate communications. From there, I spent seven years at Demandbase, a marketing technology company, leading teams in product marketing, marketing operations, demand generation, content marketing, and account-based marketing.

For me, the most exciting and inspiring thing about marketing, particularly in B2B, is the exponential growth in the data and technology that have enabled marketers to have a real seat at the table. Marketing can now inform the strategy of the company in ways that more than a decade ago seemed impossible.

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What are some of the core B2B marketing trends that you’ve been observing, a few that you feel are set to reshape the B2B marketing industry?

There’s no avoiding it. Covid-19 has fundamentally changed the way we interact with prospects and customers. Events, most obviously, transferred to virtual environments, and teams using channels like direct mail have had to adapt to continue offering a personal touch without being able to send gifts to offices.

I believe this is adding fuel to one of the more interesting trends in marketing: B2B is starting to look more like B2C. Within our own organizations, we now have a window into our colleagues’ living rooms and kitchens, and have met their pets and children and significant others – sometimes inadvertently – via Zoom. Oddly, in a world where face-to-face interactions have been curtailed, we’re often more aware of each other’s humanity. That has extended to our prospects. While it’s not an earth-shattering revelation that we’re selling to people, we are in an environment now where it’s even more critical to do so with thoughtfulness, empathy, and a real desire to connect, even in a B2B sales cycle.

Can you share a quick overview of what marketing and martech is like at InCloudCounsel? A few everyday-marketing-best-practices you and the team follow?

Our marketing team has seen tremendous change over the past year. We’ve grown fivefold, making it critical to focus on process and prioritization. To that end, we invested not just in people, but in technology to support our ability to scale. We stood up our foundational pieces – CRM, marketing automation through Marketo, and account-based marketing through Demandbase – and we brought on tools to help with performance measurement, conversational marketing, webinars, direct mail, and more. We have been very focused on experimentation and rapid feedback in order to build a marketing engine that best supports our larger company goals.

As for best practices, the biggest one, albeit fairly simple, is to communicate, communicate, communicate. In a time when we aren’t physically with each other, it’s more critical than ever that our various functions are in lockstep with one another. We have regular intra- and inter-departmental check-ins, a set cadence of written updates, and Slack channels to cover just about every initiative we’re focused on.

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As marketing dynamics change and new data practices and consumer trends come into play; what do you feel marketing teams and CMOs of the future need to have more of (in terms of planning, skill, tools, etc) to prepare better?

While it’s always been important, flexibility is more critical than ever. With so much uncertainty and change in the world, we need to have backup plans stacked on top of backup plans. That means that planning cycles might look a little different than they once did, and our teams will be asked to dig even deeper into their creative reservoirs to come up with ways to effectively engage with prospects and customers.

Additionally, I think we’re seeing another critical skill emerge: the ability to lead with empathy. Our teams are facing unbelievably stressful situations. They’re trying to balance their work and home lives, and navigate questions with answers that seem to change every day. The best leaders will respect that stress, make room for “real life”, and keep a perspective on how our jobs and work relationships should alleviate – rather than add to – the pressure.

In the whole lead-prospect handover to sales, what are some common challenges you see marketing-sales teams struggle with? Some tips to help?

In my view, the most common challenge with the marketing-sales handover is considering it a handover. The sales cycle is very much a joint effort between the sales and marketing teams that starts from the time a given account is considered a high value prospect and extends all the way through that prospect’s transition into a long-time customer advocate.

Where I think marketing teams get into trouble is when they trigger some form of engagement – a site visit, a form fill, a registration, etc. – and then consider their job complete. 

Marketing has a role far beyond engagement, just as sales has a role far ahead of it. Be sure that you’ve mapped out your entire buyer’s journey, and have clear expectations for both teams at every stage.

Some last thoughts and takeaways?

What’s most exciting for me right now is that as our marketing team scales, we’re doing it at a pivotal moment when we have the opportunity to create a new category: Contract Automation & Intelligence.

This category really combines two complementary concepts. Contract Automation delivers a complete solution for contract workflows by marrying human intuition, creativity, and empathy with cutting edge workflow, machine learning, and analytics technology to produce better, faster results for marking up, negotiating and managing contracts. Contract Intelligence transforms your documents into structured data that ties back to the underlying language and delivers workflow and reporting tools to stay on top of your active obligations and derive insights that lead to better outcomes on future negotiations. As a combined category, Contract Automation & Intelligence enables companies to continually streamline their repetitive legal work so they can focus on their most important, most impactful projects. 

This is a career defining moment for any marketing professional and one we reached thanks to the hard work of our product, research and development, and leadership teams.

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InCloudCounsel is a legal technology company that combines highly experienced corporate attorneys with cloud-based software to offer a scalable, end-to-end solution for negotiating and managing routine legal work. Our global network of highly experienced attorneys are specialists in specific document types.

Nani Shaffer is the VP of Marketing at InCloudCounsel

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