Many years ago, I had a mentor that suggested the first 10 years of a career should be spent moving around and collecting skills.
That’s one of the side benefits of growing up in tech PR – you are exposed to many facets of business. Those experiences will be useful later, when you may earn a leadership position.
This interview with a CMO reminded me of that suggestion. The CMO points to her early experiences at PR agency as a foundation for her current leadership role in marketing.
That role has included building the marketing team at UserIQ from scratch over the course of two years. In that time, she’s overseen “the go-to-market strategy, rebranded the company, and pivoted the organization from a purely outbound sales model to a 75%+ inbound marketing-driven model.”
She is Nicole Wojno and she is my guest on this latest edition of the Off Script series.
1) By the looks of your background, you came up through the PR ranks and wound up as CMO. Tell us how that happened?
NW: I went to school for PR and was working at a healthcare IT PR and marketing agency and was also studying to get my MBA at night for marketing. As I was doing that, the agency was rapidly growing, and they needed someone to do marketing for the agency. The president of the agency knew I wasn’t happy doing PR and asked me to take on the role of leading the agency’s internal marketing department.
After about a year in my position, we started using a marketing automation tool internally for demand generation and lead nurturing and then realized the value it could provide to clients to support their marketing initiatives. I built out a team to sell (through partnerships with marketing automation platforms) and provide marketing automation services to our clients. That really gave me a better understanding of the SaaS world and got me interested in marketing software products and that eventually led me to UserIQ.
2) How do you think that has shaped your worldview as a CMO?
NW: It’s really shaped my worldview in a few ways. I believe that there are three things you have to be obsessed with as a CMO that I learned from my PR agency days:
Your Brand: I learned how to brand (and rebrand, and rebrand) a company and message the market with each pivot and that’s something that a CMO has to be confident and willing to do when they go into a company. A brand can’t be neglected; it’s the first interaction a potential customer has with you and can determine if they move forward in the sales process. Your brand covers so many elements and it should be something that you obsess over and treat with as much love as Chief Product Officer treats the product.
Your Data: Owning the marketing automation piece of our agency’s business taught me to love data and as a CMO your world doesn’t exist without data. I didn’t love math growing up, but when you are leading marketing you have to eat, breathe and sleep data. I actually now get excited to do reporting and show how our marketing efforts are contributing to driving so much pipeline and closed won deals. Data allows you to quickly adapt to success or failures and pivot away from what’s not working. Plus, it’s much easier to ask for more money for marketing when you understand what ROI your spend is generating.
Your Relationships: At an agency, you’re always working cross-functionally on each client account and wearing many hats, and I think that’s how CMOs have to function. If you’re not willing to do whatever it takes to align with sales, product, and customer success than you’ll be destined for failure. In addition, and this is especially true at a startup, you have to be able to roll up your sleeves and do whatever it takes to get the job done. My rule is that I don’t ask anyone on my team to do something I wouldn’t do myself.
3) As a CMO for a competitive startup, what do you think are the top challenges facing marketing today?
NW: I think the challenge is that it’s very overwhelming to be a marketer right now. In the Martech landscape, there are more than 5,000 tools to choose from, with new ones coming out every day. I think that tech landscape graphic often illustrates how it feels as a marketer – chaotic!
There is an overwhelming number of channels, technologies and strategies to choose from and it’s challenging to know which one is the right fit for your organization, market and persona. It’s up to marketing leaders to weed through that and focus on what will best achieve the company’s short and long-term goals and objectives.
That said, I think one of the biggest challenges facing marketing is being able to mute the internal and external noise when needed, knowing when to seek advice versus when to trust their gut, resisting the shiny object syndrome and being confident in their data and recommendations.
4) This starts to get after what your company does a little but what would you say is the role of marketing in user adoption?
NW: It used to be that marketing’s job stopped after a lead was acquired and handed off to sales. It’s table stakes now that marketing owns the entire buyer’s journey, and it’s becoming the norm that marketing also owns a lot of the customer journey. Marketing can play a key role in user adoption by working hand-in-hand with customer success to nurture trial or onboarding users and help them reach their desired outcomes in the product.
For example, not every user will be successful with your product every time. Some users will stop logging in, miss the intended value, or otherwise slip away. That’s when it’s helpful to have an email tool or marketing automation platform connected to your product so you can reach users if you can’t reach them in the app.
Marketing can work with customer success to develop milestone-based drip campaigns rather than time-based drip campaigns for new users – like a welcome email, high-fives, trial expiration emails, and more all triggered by the specific events that take place in your customer’s journey, like logging in for the first time or successfully setting up an integration. This way you can continue engaging users who may not be fully up and running in your platform yet and keep the positive momentum going as users are going through onboarding and experience your product for the first time.
See these related interviews:
The Changing Face of PR in Government; Off Script #30: Merritt Allen of Vox Optima
Marketing has Gotten Better as a Profession; Off Script #29: Tom Pick of Webbiquity
Key Considerations in Choosing a CMS; Off Script #28: Matt Garrepy of Solodev
5) What is marketing’s role in keeping a customer once they are on-boarded?
NW: We are extremely lucky at UserIQ to have an amazing customer success team that works closely with each customer, but we still believe that customer success is an organizational-wide initiative and every department plays a role. Just as we would during the buyer’s journey, marketing works to develop content that our customers will find useful in their customer journey. There are different stages (adoption, retention, expansion and advocacy) and different resource needs at each of the stages.
In addition, marketing takes time to connect with customers, face-to-face and via phone, to learn about why they are using us, what problems we are helping solve and where we can improve. Not only does this help make their experience better, but it helps us improve our marketing efforts for future customers.
6) Briefly, tell us about your company: how does UserIQ help customers?
NW: UserIQ’s goal is to transform the way SaaS companies engage with their customers so they can guide each user to success across web and mobile platforms. We do that by empowering SaaS companies to deliver what each user needs to be successful in every moment, starting with adoption. As a result, companies we work with are able to effectively scale onboarding, increase feature usage, accelerate time-to-value, and ultimately drive more revenue throughout the customer journey.
7) Do you use your own product for marketing and how?
NW: We do! Instead of sending multiple emails to our customers each month to let them know about webinars, upcoming events, or new relevant content, we push out in-app messages about material that’s relevant to them to drive registrations and downloads. We know customers are in our product, so it makes sense to send them a message where they already are with marketing news instead of creating a separate email that may get ignored and it increases the engagement and conversion rate.
In addition, customer success deploys post-onboarding NPS surveys and quarterly NPS surveys in-app so we’re able to quickly identify who is a promoter. From there we ask them for a G2 Crowd review and will often follow up with those promoters to ask for testimonials or case studies since we know they are happy customers. It’s a great way to identify advocates that are willing to evangelize the UserIQ story!
8) Just for fun: in just a word or a phrase, fill in the blank:
- One company with marketing you admire is…MailChimp.
- One marketing tool – besides UserIQ – you can’t live without is…InsightSquared – I live in this for my data and reporting.
- One person you recommend following on Twitter is…@ThisIsSethsBlog (Seth Godin)
- One publication or blog you read regularly is…OpenView Labs – their weekly newsletter is filled with the best content.
- If you suddenly got 10% more marketing budget you’d spend it on…Making more investments in my team: it would be great to let them attend more events, conferences or take classes that they feel would be beneficial.
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You can find out more about UserIQ on the company’s website, blog, or the CrunchBase profile. Nicole is active on LinkedIn and Twitter. She’s also contributed to a couple of pieces worthy of your perusal:
- Content Park: Marketer Crush Limited Series: UserIQ
Thank you, Nicole, for such a superb interview.
Want to be part of the Off Script series?
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PR, marketing, sales and journalism.
You don’t need to be a big shot so, contact us here!
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The Evolution of Event Marketing; Off Script #27: Mark Granovsky
Photo credit: Unsplash