Prediction Series 2019: Interview with Elle Woulfe, VP Marketing, PathFactory

Tell us about the most challenging task you managed to fulfill in 2018.

Not surprisingly, it was the rebrand of LookBookHQ to PathFactory in May 2018. We were working on a very tight timeline of about 3-4 months to execute everything and, like most marketing departments, we didn’t have endless resources or budget. While there was no magic to pulling it off, it really came down to flawless project management, an obsessive amount of organization, and near constant communication among the team. If anyone is considering a similar initiative, this step-by-step recount of the renaming and rebranding process by our agency Velocity Partners is a good place to start.

What opportunities and challenges in Marketing Technology do you foresee in 2019?

Tech fatigue is a big challenge. Most marketers have spent the past several years building their stacks and adding that cool new thing to solve their latest problem. The challenge is, there is a lot of redundancy among many solutions and a lot of them simply haven’t provided the value marketers envisioned. So much of the “modern marketing” era has been inward-focused: marketing departments trying to plug holes, and fix the issues that plague their funnels and their process. The opportunity moving forward is to shift that mindset to focus on the buyer. How do the tools we use and the things we do in marketing really enable the buyer?

We’re going to see a lot of marketing departments clean house and try to zero in on the tools that deliver the most value to them and to their buyers. It’s an opportunity for the technology providers to show their stuff and double down on how they really enable a seamless customer experience.

What was the most disruptive moment in marketing in 2018 (i.e. the Facebook data privacy scandal)? How did that impact your business strategy?

For me, it was GDPR. More stringent rules for how we can communicate with buyers has led to shrinking audiences for many marketing departments. Combine that with oversaturated channels, such as email and social, as well as decreasing return on marketing investments, and you’ve got the perfect storm.

To overcome these challenges, we have really gotten back to basics. It’s not enough to do “good” marketing anymore. Every touch, every asset, every offer needs to be exceptional, so we’re very focused on delivering the most relevant, curated, and creative experiences for our buyers to give them reasons to engage and come back. With everything we do, we ask ourselves: how does this remove friction and really enable our buyer to buy?

We are fortunate because, philosophically, we have always believed that B2B marketing needs to be on-demand for the buyer so our approach to using content activation across every channel has allowed us to make the most of every single buyer interaction and help them to self-educate faster.

What are your predictions on the “Role of CMOs” and the closing gap between Sales and Marketing functions?

Although B2C CMOs have been walking the walk when it comes to the customer experience, B2B marketing leaders have been mostly talking the talk while still focused on customer acquisition at any cost. As a result, they have been falling farther behind on actually delivering personalized, effective experiences for buyers.

In 2019, B2B CMOs will need to make some big strides toward providing a better customer experience to catch up to their buyers, and that will start at the beginning of the relationship by enabling those buyers whenever and wherever they engage. This will extend beyond basic personalization to delivering hyper-personalized content recommendations at every stage of the journey.

Relevance is the name of the game for both buyers and marketing’s counterparts in sales. It will no longer be enough to provide sales with shallow reports of intent. Marketing will need to deliver deeper insight into where buyers are in the journey, what they’re interested in, and what their next move is to help sales know what to do and say next.

Do you think AI-as-a-Service and Experience-as-a-Service will be useful for marketers in 2019?

There are obvious benefits in terms of cost and ramp to things like AI-as-a-Service, but AI by itself isn’t a means to an end. Marketers still need to point these capabilities at relevant problems and provide enough high-quality data for them to be useful. I think we will see broader adoption of AI in marketing, as well as an increased focused on buyer enablement, but I still think best-of-breed vendors are in the best position to deliver much of this value when compared with point solutions.

At PathFactory, we believe content delivery is an obvious and important area for marketers to implement AI. A big part of what is holding marketers back from truly enabling buyers and delivering a seamless customer experience is the ability to recommend and deliver the right content to every buyer at each stage of the journey – at scale. This is an area marketers need to invest in and data about how their buyers consume content is at the heart of providing relevant, curated experiences. Marketers will look to established vendors that have developed these capabilities as a core part of their offering.

At PathFactory, how do you plan to mentor your Marketing and Product Development teams?

Mentoring my team is something I view as a distinct honor and privilege. My goal is always to provide my employees with opportunities to advance their careers and do new and exciting work. In 2018, I broke with some conventional ideas for team structure and marketing roles to align us better against goals, and to put the right skills in the right places. This also provided several people on my team with new responsibilities and the chance to expand their skill sets. I am always looking for those growth opportunities and even better if it will help us be more successful.

As a marketing leader, I am pretty hands off. I want people to use their critical thinking skills and judgment so you will rarely hear me telling people what to do. I aim to be a great coach — to provide feedback and guidance but to also allow people the space to practice their craft and make their own mistakes. I am a firm believer in goals as the most important way to set a direction for the team and to hold us all accountable for what we need to achieve.

What was the most impactful lesson you had learned in 2018? How do you plan to implement the lesson in 2019?

It’s been really interesting to learn just how much momentum can be gained by clarity. We learned this in 2018 by working really hard to develop and publish a point of view that was both incredibly clear and compelling but also differentiated. The act of working through our message and being so consistent in how we talk about our value really opened some things up in terms of market traction and momentum. Aligning with a macro trend – in our case, the on-demand economy — allowed us to reach a wider audience and talk to more people in more places. It was a quality over quantity play. Putting in the extra time and really focusing on the nuances in your message for different buyers is always worth the effort and can provide big returns.

When it comes to implementing data privacy guidelines and compliance, what role do CMOs play? What was your experience with GDPR?

I think the role of a CMO is to be an ambassador for the best and most responsible practices. GDPR is a business issue, not just a marketing issue, so it’s critical for marketing leaders to stand with their counterparts in IT and Legal to ensure compliance. It’s a difficult position at times. We have had to walk back some of the practices that helped to make our marketing effective before GDPR and that isn’t always easy to explain to the sales team; they see our reach being diminished.

But I know that I need to toe the line and do the right thing for the business and for our prospective customers. It’s also my job to work with the marketing team on developing strategies that minimize the impact of GDPR. Email is not the only channel available to us, so limiting our dependence there and leaning on things like direct mail, targeted display, and other types of ABM programs have helped to fill the gap.

Which leaders in the industry do you closely work with? How do they help you stay close to business actions?

We work very closely with analysts because they help to set the trends in our industry, to some extent. They are hearing from our buyers and have a lot of insight into what is keeping them up at night. We need to learn from that and also align our strategy to it. We are also huge believers in customer advocacy; it’s a big part of our marketing, so we rely heavily on the strength of the relationships we build with the marketing leaders we sell to. It’s all a bit meta since we market Marketing Technology to marketers, but keeping those advocates close and getting their input and insights is a critical part of our mix.

What’s one piece of advice for all the CMOs and marketing leaders in your community?

The best things we’re able to accomplish happen when we trust people. It starts with hiring great people, but once you do that, you need to trust them and empower them. I know a lot of leaders who struggle to let go of things. They spread themselves too thin and they don’t give their teams the type of autonomy they crave. I guess it’s similar to my philosophy on parenting: If we want our kids and our employees to grow into exceptional leaders themselves, we need to let them lead.

Elle Woulfe is a revenue-focused marketer with expertise in digital marketing and demand generation. Equal parts creative wonk and marketing nerd, she’s an expert at bringing sales and marketing teams together through shared processes, goals and KPIs. As the VP of Marketing for Toronto-based martech company PathFactory, Elle is responsible for cultivating awareness and turning interest into pipeline. A veteran in the marketing technology industry, she previously held senior demand generation roles at Lattice Engines and Eloqua. Elle is a regular speaker at industry events, and a thought leader in the field of demand generation and marketing operations. She holds rather irrelevant degrees in English Literature and Religious Studies from Northeastern University.

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PathFactory’s Content Insight and Activation Platform helps B2B marketers understand the role of content in the buyer’s journey and discover a new class of data to optimize the path to purchase. PathFactory uses this data and insight to optimize content delivery across every channel, connecting buyers with the most relevant information whenever and wherever they click.

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