MarTech Interview with Susan Ganeshan, Chief Marketing Officer @ Emplifi

Unified CX platform, Emplifi recently named marketing veteran Susan Ganeshan as their new CMO; Susan takes the time to chat with MarTechSeries about her three-time CMO experience and the road ahead for B2B tech marketing;

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat, Susan – take us through your marketing highlights over the years and what you’re most looking forward to as Emplifi’s new CMO?

I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing teams and mission-critical products in the technology space. Before joining Emplifi, I served as CMO for Clearwater Analytics where I had the opportunity to play a major role in the company’s IPO. We re-branded and built a new web presence in a record nine weeks. Part of this effort included restructuring the company’s approach to digital marketing which led to a 1.5 times increase in website visitors and a 2.5 times increase in inbound requests. With marketing support, the company grows at 20% y/y and uses the brand presence to continue the global expansion into EMEA and AP.

Prior to my role at Clearwater Analytics, I held three other CMO roles. First at NewBrand where we redesigned the product and established a content marketing and demand gen engine, that resulted in Sprinklr purchasing the company. This was my first foray into the world of social media marketing and analytics. Second with Clarabridge, a CX-focused company, where we rebranded, built a demand gen engine including a new business development team, improved customer retention rates, and landed leadership positions in Forrester Waves. Third, at Granicus, a government technology provider, where we grew marketing contribution to bookings to 34% of revenue by perfecting campaigns and demand generation resulting in 99% growth in marketing qualified leads and 102% growth in opportunities which led to increased bookings all while managing through 5 acquisitions.

These leadership experiences, along with several consulting engagements along the way, have enabled me to create a proven playbook that spans all functions of the marketing organization, seamlessly integrating marketing strategies with sales initiatives and CX efforts. Now, at Emplifi, I’m thrilled to bring my proven methodology to the team but more importantly to help the world’s top brands bridge the gap between their marketing, eCommerce, and customer care efforts. The most exciting aspects of Emplifi include our industry-differentiated product and our passionate team that helps brands build best-in-class social media marketing and customer engagement programs. Emplifi just rolled out a suite of AI-powered features across our Social Marketing and Social Service solutions—all aimed at helping our customers drive efficiencies and boost productivity.

One thing that has always been clear to me is how central marketing is to company success and brand growth. The opportunity to lead marketing for Emplifi is especially rewarding as we help leading, global, household-known brands improve their connection with their customers, capture and activate customer feedback, and create a sense of community that ensures ongoing customer loyalty.

Take us through some of your core observations and thoughts on the state of B2B marketing and especially, B2B lead generation and demand generation: what in your view needs an urgent overhaul in this domain? 

We are at a pivotal moment for B2B marketing teams, with high and escalating inflation, many companies are staying flat or cutting back on their marketing spend. To grow at an accelerated pace, B2B organizations need to reuse, scale, and execute seamlessly. The go-to-market engine needs to operate smoothly and importantly there can be no break between awareness, demand, opportunity, sale, and ongoing customer success.

We all know it costs more to obtain a customer than to keep one, so reliable renewals are key. Consistency across the funnel is key, and alignment between sales and marketing will make all the difference. I like to say “don’t break the chain”.

I don’t know if it’s an “urgent overhaul” or more of a massive mindset shift in how we approach lead generation and demand generation. Gone are the days where a company could afford to have the traditional battles between the CRO and CMO. I believe there is no such thing as “healthy tension” between these groups, there must be seamless alignment. Aligned teams share goals, agree on the strategy, and work in more harmonious ways to drive results. And of course, metrics that focus on both the leading and lagging indicators are critical to uncovering areas for improvement. A healthy team will manage the metrics and use an agile approach to adjust to the changing market dynamics.

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How can modern B2B tech marketers and sales teams drive better customer experiences and lead generation processes with AI-powered tools? We’d also love to hear about some of the preferred martech you’ve relied on over the years to push outcomes?

I truly believe that both marketing and sales should be diving headfirst into AI-powered tools. They promise to improve efficiency, accuracy and scale not only for B2B teams but for B2C teams as well. We’ve all learned over the years that it is easier to edit than to create. Why not work with trained AI models, ones that know your business or can learn it, to help create faster. Then our job of “editing” or perfecting becomes so much easier.  AI advancements, and specifically generative AI, makes it possible for marketing and sales teams to automate many processes so that they can focus on high-value and high-impact work. You don’t have to look any further than with our customers at Emplifi. They can use generative AI to craft their social media posts, quickly respond to customer inquiries in the brand voice and using brand guidelines, and uncover what is working for their competition or other brands they admire and want to emulate. These sorts of seismic shifts only happen in technology ever so often, and fortunately, in my career, I’ve been able to witness and manage through shifts that give me the ability to pattern-match the importance of generative AI in our space. I’m a true believer.

As far as the tools I’ve relied on, I’ve used a mix of marketing technology solutions that have helped with everything from campaign orchestration and content generation to lead scoring and analytics. Tools that focus on marketing automation, demand signaling, customer connection and community building, and contribution measurement are all critical for the teams I manage. These include products like Marketo, 6Sense, Qualified, Outreach, Highspot, and so many more. But honestly, as a data-driven marketer, I don’t know what I would do without a good ol’ spreadsheet to map out requirements by product, market, sales team, and marketing programs which enables the team to lead our efforts.

What should today’s B2B marketers and sales teams do better to align on lead handover processes while focusing on creating better end-to-end B2B buying journeys for their target audiences? 

One of the CMOs, now CROs, I admire most, Latane Conant at 6Sense, talks about the gap between creating demand and managing opportunities as a “dead zone”. This is where lead routing and prioritization take place. I couldn’t agree more. Perfecting the flow of leads, ensuring no lead is left behind, and improving the velocity of lead follow-up are all critical to sales and marketing success. I like to equate it to our personal life. Do you remember what you ate for dinner last Tuesday? Unless you are a habitual Taco Tuesday person, you likely forgot. So when we find a lead, but wait 24 or 48 hours or longer to follow up, will they even remember us? You know the answer.

So when creating better end-to-end B2B buying journeys, it’s imperative that marketing, sales and customer service team leaders have an agreed service level agreement and then hold each other accountable. Marketing teams should insist on fast and ever-improving follow-up, sales leads should insist on high and ever-improving quality, and service teams should insist on detailed information flow. Ultimately, we all need a single view of the customer. That foundation creates more happy customers.

Once your team leads are aligned on how to construct a more effective buyer’s journey and lead gen strategies, lead handover between marketing and sales becomes a more frictionless process. Marketing teams feel gratified because they’ve done their job and sales teams are inspired because of the quality leads they are receiving. They actually start to act like one team. It is a beautiful, if somewhat rare, occurrence.

Catch: Episode 73 of the SalesStar Podcast by SalesTechStar.com: Tips To Double Marketing ROI With Latane Conant, Former CMO (now CRO), 6sense

 

Can you talk about the state of modern B2B marketing and martech and what trends will dominate the space in 2024?

Results. In the end, we’re all in the game for bookings, which includes net new and cross-sell bookings. And the way to get results is by realizing that there is no silver bullet. I like to tell the teams I work with that we have to do everything right. In 2024 with high interest rates burdening finance teams and inflation burdening our customers, we have to do more with less. (How I wish this was the first time I heard this mantra in business!) So what does “everything right” mean? To me it means focusing on the ideal customer and brand awareness by ensuring that you are targeting the right people, demonstrating both the differentiation and value of your offering, and ensuring you are fostering a community of referenceable customers and highly focused on their success. Ultimately it’s the whole customer journey that matters.

Our customer Freshpet is a perfect example of this trend—their customer care team was able to reduce call volumes by 40% and saw a nearly 30% drop in wait times to speak to a live agent after fully integrating social media platforms, SMS and messaging apps, and chatbot technology into their processes.

By embracing the same channels and martech solutions as the marketing organization, customer care teams are elevating the customer experience and driving outcomes that have a positive impact on the bottom line. We’re also seeing generative AI and AI-powered tools become integral to customer support efforts, delivering extraordinary efficiencies for customer care departments. With the ability to understand context, sentiment and customer histories, AI technology is improving productivity and delivering unparalleled results.

I believe more and more businesses will lean into these strategies after seeing firsthand what they stand to gain by breaking down the silos between their marketing, eCommerce, and customer care efforts.

Tell us about the leading B2B tech brands you feel have a robust digital marketing and digital ad presence: what are the key takeaways from these picks/choices? 

Honestly, I am a bit of a stalker so I tend to follow many B2B software providers to see what I can learn and how I can borrow (or steal) ideas from their success. But if I have to call out one of my favorites in the B2B software space it would be Qualified. Honestly, I don’t admire them for just their digital marketing. I admire them because they clearly believe what I believe, that there is no silver bullet, and you have to do everything right. I’m not only a user but I’ve watched as they built out their product, while everyone and their brother were talking about AI, they waited until they had the real goods to support their claims. They put their customer front and center, they demonstrate how they help real businesses through proof of value, and partner with their customers to ensure ongoing success. When they go public

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Emplifi

Emplifi is a leading unified customer engagement platform that empowers businesses to reach and grow communities through digital- and social-first strategies. More than 20,000 brands like McDonald’s, Ford Motor Company, and Delta Air Lines rely on Emplifi to enable connected, empathetic experiences for the modern consumer across marketing, commerce, and care. Headquartered in New York, Emplifi partners with major social media networks and digital platforms, including Google, Meta, LinkedIn, X, TikTok, and Snapchat.

someday, I hope to be one of their first investors.

As a five-time CMO, Susan Ganeshan brings vast knowledge and a proven playbook spanning marketing strategy, brand building, demand generation, and metrics-based decisioning. Susan’s high-tech B2B experience traverses small to midsize companies in high growth mode and billion-dollar valuation enterprises working to expand globally. She passionately builds highly effective teams and champions customer’s success. Over her 30+ year career, Susan has proudly represented software solution providers, including Emplifi, Clearwater Analytics (NYSE: CWAN), Granicus (backed by Vista Equity), Clarabridge (now Qualtrics), NewBrand (now Sprinklr), webMethods (now IBM), and Deloitte Consulting, among others.

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