MarTech Interview with Russ Somers, Chief Marketing Officer at inMotionNow

Newly appointed CMO of inMotionNow Russ Somers shares a few quick CMO-best-practices in this catch up with MarTech Series:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Russ, tell us about your marketing journey through the years, we’d love to hear about your new CMO role at inMotionNow…!

In my first couple of marketing roles at Sabre and Dell, I was the data nerd who’d do the reporting and analysis to inform pricing, strategy, and competitive decisions. That set me up nicely to lead product marketing for Dun and Bradstreet, and I moved from there into leadership roles for startups like Invodo, TrendKite, and TrustRadius, who sold to marketers and, in several cases, had successful exits. Having started in the data mines, I became fascinated by the intersection of data and creativity. The data and analytics can tell you when and how your marketing campaign is delivering great results, but the creative spark at the center of that campaign is something that can be hard to predict. So, I came from a data background, but then found myself falling in love with the human and creative elements of marketing as well.

I think I’m not the only one falling in love with those elements: 93% of marketers say that creative content is key to their organization’s goals, according to our 2021 Creative Management Report. inMotionNow has fielded this survey annually in partnership with InSource, a professional association for creatives.

That’s what attracted me to inMotionNow, and perhaps vice-versa. We’re here to help marketing and creative teams achieve better content outcomes. To do that, our software needs to help those teams do better work from the moment you start briefing a project through collaboration, review, distribution, measurement, and more. Creatives and marketers deserve tools that help them do better work and deliver better outcomes, and they deserve Boardroom-ready data to show that they’re delivering those outcomes. With our recent merger with Lytho, a digital asset management company, we’re now set up to give them all that and more – it’s a super fun time to join.

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What are some of the top factors that new incoming CMOs should keep in mind as they takeover new marketing processes and teams?

First off, show up ready. I’ve seen a lot of “first 90 days” plans that assume you’ll be largely in learning mode for the first quarter. That does the customers and the team a disservice – you’re there to contribute from day one. Well before your first day, you should have a grasp on who the customers are, have spoken with some of them, reviewed the product roadmap, and reviewed the current marketing plan and technology stack. Marketers are first and foremost paid to have a point of view (POV), so do the pre-work to have that POV on day one. 

That can pay off in fun ways. I was able to speak at inMotionNow’s customer conference, inMomentum, on my first day, moderating a panel that included an amazing design leader I had worked within a past role. 

Second, work with the team to have an ‘operating system’ to define what you say ‘yes’ to, and what you say ‘no’ to. Spend some time defining your team’s mission and North Star. That gives you a framework to discuss decisions and also enables team members to confidently make decisions as a team. Once you have that ‘operating system’, make sure you have systems in place to take in new work, define the desired outcomes, manage the process of creation, and deploy the assets to full effect.

Third, remember that there are two kinds of upside for a new marketing leader, and balance them. The first kind is the easy upside that comes from stopping to do the things that aren’t working well. That requires analytics and clarity. The second kind of upside is the harder kind of upside, which comes from defining and executing the work needed to build new processes and go-to-market approaches. To do that, you need strategy and market understanding. The first kind is easier and more fun, but budget plenty of time for both, or you’ll run out of steam after a year or two and find nothing, but the hard stuff left to do. 

What are some of the must-do everyday processes you’d share for B2B CMOs? As a CMO, how do you feel this role needs to evolve further to suit changing marketing needs?

Every CMO should be more in the details with their team. As a CMO you are potentially the biggest bottleneck in the house – whether it’s approval to reallocate ad budget or approval on email copy, you’d be astonished if you knew how much time your team members waste waiting on your response sometimes. Being super dialed into your team’s workflow on a micro-level is important, so you’re not slowing down good work. That’s my #1 question every morning – what do people need to know to keep moving forward, and how quickly can I get that taken care of? I unblock my team first, then do other things. With teams across time zones, there’s always something, so having tools and processes to stay on top of that is huge.

Any CMO – and their team – needs to be fully aware of their team’s narrative, including an honest assessment of both successes and failures. We do that through a recurring meeting to report on results, the Marketing Operations and Attainment Review (MOAR, and yes, we came up with the name as a joke based on a meme). That forces every team member to step back and assess what’s working, and what’s not, in their area of expertise. That goes for me, too. My role is constructing the go-to-market narrative for the company, so if the MOAR presentation doesn’t tie strongly to the narrative we’re building in the marketplace, I’ve fallen short. 

How does the marketing leadership role need to change? In a couple of key ways. First, we have focused for years on Sales and Marketing alignment (or, as I call it, Revenue Team alignment – we all have the same objective). The Sales team is the closest of the cross-functional sibling relationships, but close relationships with your Customer Success, Product, and Finance teams are equally important now. (In fact, CMO-CFO alignment is a powerful secret weapon). Second, as a marketing leader, I must be super comfortable leading people who know more about their areas of expertise than I ever will. That’s because Marketing has more range – from paid media to operations to content creation to design to channel strategy – than most other functions. The ability to evangelize and inspire people to do great work is more important than ever because in a real sense they can manage themselves more effectively than any marketing leader ever could.

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What are some of the core B2B marketing strategies that you’ve often relied on to drive impact? Can you share a few thoughts on the martech that has helped enable these strategies?

In marketing, nothing happens until someone creates some content. It can be as simple as a one-paragraph email or a static ad unit. It can be as targeted as content for an account-based experience or generalized as your About Us page. It can be as complex as a website, as immersive as augmented or virtual reality, as visually stunning as a Van Gogh – but it’s content. I rely a lot on content marketing, because that is where everything starts.

If it’s all about content, then a few types of martech become really important. One is anything that helps you make better content that achieves the business outcomes you want. There are plenty of project management tools out there, relatively few that are purpose-built for the needs of creative content production. There are also tons of tools, from Grammarly to SEO tools like SEMRush to A/B testing tools, that help content marketers create better content. And then there are the tools to publish and distribute, whether it’s ABM tools, marketing automation, sales outreach, or website platforms. There are a ton of options for publishing and amplifying content now, so you can reach almost any audience you want, as long as you know who your audience is, where they gather, and what message will move them to take action. 

As martech as a segment evolves further, in what ways do you feel marketing teams of the future and their structures/roles will change?

Marketing is both math and magic, quantitative and creative. On the math side, Revenue Operations – whether centralized or in the components of Marketing Ops, Sales Ops, and Customer Ops – is a driver now. Marketers are recognizing the upside potential of being excellent in Operations. For Operations, we need to think of the role as truly strategic, not as simply “who has all the logins and can stand up a landing page.” Operations is either an accelerator or a drag on velocity – as the marketing leader, you get to choose which one.

Similarly, on the magic side, creative teams are earning a seat at the strategic table, because business faces new challenges that we don’t know how to solve without them. The upcoming Cookiepocalypse – the demise of third-party cookies is one example. If your go-to-market is powered by the ability to use third-party data to reach new prospects and know what existing prospects are doing, your days are numbered. The only sustainable competitive advantage is to be remarkable. If you’re remarkable, you’ll earn attention, which translates into reach and awareness. Creativity is the key to being remarkable. Again, as a marketing leader, you get to choose to be a remarkable brand, or not.

Can you talk about a few marketing measurement myths and must-dos?

Myth: If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t matter and shouldn’t be budgeted for. Fact: when you think of how humans make decisions – as simple as buying a soft drink, as complex as spending half a million dollars on software – there are plenty of touches that can’t be measured definitively but are still part of a deal. Even small purchases are considered, not simply transactional. If that weren’t the case, all Pepsi would need to do to outsell Coke would be to put more vending machines out there. Brands matter. B2B marketers need to get back to B2BBB – Back to Being Bold Branders.

Must-Do: For things that can’t be measured and attributed to a sales cycle, establish proxy measurements and goals. Want to influence awareness, for example? Track branded search traffic as a raw number, relative to competitors, and as a percentage of total traffic, for example. Super easy to do and ensures that you focus on brand-building as well as a direct response because you need a mix of both.

Myth: The MQL is dead. Fact: it’s not dead, it’s just a leading indicator that, by itself, doesn’t mean much. Measure it if it’s part of your flow, but don’t set goals by it, because that puts marketing and sales teams at odds. 

Must-Do: Set goals based on opportunity creation, instead.

Myth: To drive your content roadmap, measure engagement, clicks, downloads, etc., and use those metrics to inform your team on how to create better content. 

Must-Do: Okay, that’s not a myth. It’s also not the whole truth. Yes, you need to measure the return from your efforts. But you also must measure investment beyond just hard costs. How much time did your team take, how many rounds of revisions, and how much time did those rounds take? That lets you measure the investment in the content. Without that, you have an incomplete assessment of the ROI that it took to achieve your content outcome. 

Some last thoughts and takeaways?

The creative economy powers everything we do in marketing, and yet we have a hard time managing, measuring, and making the most of it. It’s time for that to change. Creative teams are taking their rightful place as strategic partners and drivers of change. The marketers who fully embrace this change will win in the marketplace, build the next generation of great brands, and have tons of fun in doing so. It’s a great time to be a marketer!

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inMotionNowinMotionNow is a leading provider of workflow management solutions for marketing and creative teams.

Russ Somers is the CMO at inMotionNow

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