Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 124: Q&A with Chandar Pattabhiram @chandarp

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By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

Thanks for tuning in live on Thursdays for Sales Pipeline Radio at 11:30a.m. Pacific.  Hope you’re enjoying this 30 minutes long episode– fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.  Don’t worry if you miss it live, you can listen in and/or read transcription below!

We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year.  You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.

We were thrilled this last time to be able to talk to Chandar Pattabhiram, CMO at Coupa Software. This episode is entitled, “Your Marketing Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin’s B2B lessons with Chandar Pattabhiram“.

Chandar manages all aspects of marketing including, demand gen, corporate, product, and industry marketing as well as lead the company’s global marketing strategy.  Known for his mantra “marketing is about winning the battle for the mind,” Pattabhiram brings to Coupa proven strategies and tactics on how to build a brand that connects with customers emotionally. “Marketing begins with storytelling,” he said. “It takes the art of storytelling to reach the heart and to build a bond. I believe that if you reach the heart, then you’ve captured the mind.”

Matt Heinz:  So very excited to have you all here at Sales Pipeline Radio. For those of you joining us live, we have an increasing number of people that are doing that, thank you for joining us on the Funnel Media Radio Network. You can catch us live every Thursday 11:30 Pacific/2:30 Eastern. Those of you joining the podcast, thank you for finding us. Thank you for subscribing. We’re available at iTunes store, Google Play, and wherever you can find podcasts. Every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio is available past, present, and future at salespipelineradio.com. Every week are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing. Today is no different. I am very, very excited to have a friend and one of the more interesting voices and I think one of the better leaders that I’ve talked to in B2B marketing, Chandar Pattabhiram.

Chandar, before we kind of give correct introduction, I’ve known you for years. We’ve worked together a number of times. I just call you Chandar. You’re kind of each Ichiro, you’re kind of like Cher, you’re kind of like Madonna. I’m not as worried about the last name. Although I did have to confirm how to pronounce it. But, Chandar, thanks so much for joining us today.

Chandar P:  Matt, great to be with you.

Matt Heinz:  Chandar, great background in marketing. Was Chief Marketing Officer at Marketo. As it went public, he serves still on the board of directors and advisors for a number of companies and is currently the Chief Marketing Officer for Coupa Software.

Chandar, we had talked before the show about different topics we could cover. We went through a whole laundry list of things that you’re passionate about and that you’ve talked about and you’ve written about. The one that stood out to me that I want to get started on is what you learned from Led Zeppelin. So help me understand what Led Zeppelin has taught you about marketing.

Chandar P:  Great. Great start. Obviously as a rock and roll fan, classic rock fan, a Led Zeppelin fan, always looking to learn lessons from rock and roll. But it’s interesting that as I looked at marketing over the years, the Led Zeppelin analogy here is what is the stairway to heaven when it comes to customers and chance to drive a superior customer experience. The lessons from Led Zeppelin, the stairway to heaven in B2B marketing should define all the different stages of them is you go from awareness and the next step is acquisition, the next step is adoption, the next step is cross sale, and then finally sitting on top is advocacy. You want to be successful ultimately in each of these steps on the stairway to ultimately reach the customer heaven where in B2B today the two metrics that really matter is number one, are your customers becoming passion advocates of your brand, and number two, are they staying with you longer and increasing lifetime value.

So, that kind of where the stairway is and a lot of times in B2B what happens is even today that our spend in B2B happens to be in the first two or three steps of the stairway, which we’re really spending on awareness and about acquisition marketing. There’s been less focus on adoption marketing, cross sale marketing, and advocacy marketing and that’s a shift we need to do to kind of balance the spend in such a way that we are hitting every step on the stairway to ultimately get some customer heaven in this.

Matt Heinz:  So, I like the analogy. I like the idea of the stairway. I like the idea of going to a place that sounds favorable to many of us. I think curious, maybe this is where I’m taking the analogy too far, but stairways tend to be sort of bi-directional. You think about where a lot of marketers invest so much time and effort in getting the deal and getting acquisition, and you look at where budgets and resources are placed, focus on acquisition and not really focused as much on lifetime value and the full customer life cycle. Talk about how that’s been important to you at your roles and what you’re doing now at Coupa, and how do you balance acquisition and retention and full lifetime value in addition to just acquisition?

Chandar P:  That’s a great question. So, the challenge historically, there’s a study I think from Deloitte and the CMO club a couple of years ago that said more than 85% of spend today in B2B happens to be in acquisition marketing. So, you got to balance the both there in terms of spend, and for me it comes to both in people dollars and program dollars and how we kind of normalize the spend across lifecycle. So, historically we spend marketing teams on like the demand generation teams as well as product marketing teams, and then the dollars that we do predominantly on this acquisition and awareness marketing, even on the brand marketing side.

So, some of the things that I have started incorporating, even at Marketo and here at Coupa, is let’s be programmatic about first spending dollars on adoption marketing, more people and program dollars. In other words, there’s no reason for people to buy more from you if they haven’t adopted the first belief that they consumed from you. So, really educate the customers and all the capabilities that they’ve got and what they can actually use it for to drive most value, and then also spend dollars on cross sale. What’s the right time to cross sale, to do cross sale marketing to customers at the right stage of the journey? Because invariably, you can’t just cross sale something six months and 12 months at a timeline without knowing what they’ll actually using and doing that right.

Finally, where it’s really important is on the advocacy piece. Advocacy, historically, we have spent money on owned channels like we create these customer videos and customer selling stories on our website, etc. But advocacy is becoming so much important on earned channels as much as owned channels because we live in what I call the peer bond world, where more and more existing customers are influencing prospects and they’re buying positions in B2B as much as B2C and a lot of times these prospects don’t want to go hear the feedback only from your own channels because every mom thinks their baby is good looking, right? So, it’s more on these earned channels and getting more people dollars and program dollars and blood to ultimately normalize your spend across each stage of the life cycle, Matt.

Matt Heinz:  Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio is Chandar, don’t worry about his last name Paul, he’s the Reynaldo of B2B marketing. Excited to have him here he is the chief marketing officer of Coupa Software. I just made that up. You can pick another one named Chandar, if you wanna pick another analogy that you prefer…

Chandar P:  Bono’s good.

Matt Heinz:  Bono? Well, Bono, we got Reynaldo, what else have we got? Ichiro, kinda up here in Seattle. Take your pick, it’s fine. Hey, love the way you’re thinking about sort of customer lifetime value and sort of thinking about a holistic way of thinking about the customer. You know, we talked also a little bit about the increasing focus in marketing on science and the increased focus on metrics and things you can measure but I know for you have some interesting thoughts around the impact of science, but also the science of storytelling. Talk a little bit of what that means for you, and how that’s impacted the way you’ve built marketing.

Chandar P:  Yeah, it’s a great question. I think obviously in the last ten years, marketing has shifted from this soft science to programmatic science and companies like Marketo are helping marketers get that seat at the table, and really get that go from that Rodney Dangerfield effect and go right up there with Aretha Franklin R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and do it effect data and improving the impact of marketing, right? So, that’s kind of scientific aspects of marketing is obviously getting better, and obviously there’s stuff to improve, but I think we’ve come a decent way in that kind of progress there, but still if we can take a step back, all marketing at the end of the day is about building emotional connections, right? Ultimately, any brand, whether you’re B2B or B2C, you ultimately want to build that emotional connection with a buyer, and the battle happens in the mind of the buyer, the battle doesn’t happen in any physical manifestation. We buy Volvo because they own the attributes of safety in our minds, we buy BMW because they own the attributes of an ultimate driving machine, or I fly Virgin Atlantic because they own the attributes of superior customer service in my mind.

So, it is that battle through storytelling on how do you win the battle for the mind, and from my perspective it is difficult to do for B2B brands rather than B2C because B2C brands can fulfill our human needs and wants, ERP and network routers are not needs and wants that we wake up in the morning thinking about, but we have to make our brand story about building that emotional connection as much as we want to make it a science and drive revenue. The brand building starting at the top has to be this concept of building emotional connections in a way in telling stories that are relevant, that are engaging and authentic, in such a way that you’re able to own a single attribute in a buyer’s mind.

That’s kind of the philosophy that I’ve taken in storytelling, and really start with what matters to them. Talk less about the candle, talk more about the light, and the value, and what’s interesting and relevant to them.

Matt Heinz:  I love that analogy. We got just a couple more minutes before we’ve got to take a quick commercial break, but quick follow-up on that, I think I agree with you a hundred percent, and I think that building that, building trust, building credibility early in the relationship, whether or not someone’s ready to engage with you or not. I think one of the challenges we have in B2B is that we don’t have transactional sales, we’ve got long, complex buying journeys and so measuring and valuing some of that trust building can be a challenge. When you get that question from a board, or get that question from a CEO, and again we’ve got to take a break here in a couple minutes, but how do you respond to that? How do you help prioritize and budget for something that is important but harder to measure?

Chandar P:  Yeah, it’s a good question. I think ultimately this is not causality, this is correlation and you have to have some sort of correlated metrics in terms of the spending on brands, and how does that brand is ultimately grabbing more revenue from me. So, that could be in aspects of more visits to your website, in terms of more impressions for your brand. What I’ve also done is done some brand studies where you establish a baseline and saying how much is your aided and unaided awareness for the brand and then subsequently do that annual study to measure, to see how it’s moving the name more in terms of all your brands spent. So, ultimately, what gets measured gets the money, and even in brand marketing I know it’s more difficult to measure compared to some of the revenue marketing aspects such as Pipeline, and Pact and stuff like that, but we have to have some sort of correlated metrics that can ultimately answer to the CEO on why they spend 1.8 million dollars or whatever on this particular campaign.

Matt Heinz:  We got Chandar Pattabhiram, he’s the CMO of Coupa software, we’re just gonna call him Chandar from now on, he’s the Bono of B2B marketing. Gotta take a quick break, pay some bills, we’ll be right back with a lot more Chandar. This is the Sales Pipeline Radio.

*Break*

Matt Heinz:  Thanks very much again for joining us here. If you like what you’re hearing today, and want to share Chandar’s comments with your team, you can find this episode at Salespipelineradio.com in just a couple days, and we will have a summary, highlights from our conversation with Chandar from Coupa Software on Heinzmarketing.com. We got a few more minutes here. Chandar, I’m always curious as to where people’s background is and sort of how they get to their position, and I’m especially curious when people start in a very different industry. You studied mechanical engineering in college. Just kind of curious as to hear how did you make the move from mechanical engineering into B2B marketing?

Chandar P:  That’s a good question. I think any career is a thing to such enough passion and DNA, and you’ve got to be able to figure out where you have passion and DNA in the collective combination. And you’ve got to be good at both, right? I have good passion for music, the problem is my DNA, as my wife tells me, is not so good. So, I’m not going to do very well in that. When I did undergrad mechanical engineering, what I realized when I went through the process was academically I was good, but did I really have passion and DNA for that, and realized I don’t, so I immediately made a pivot right when I graduated from business school. I always, even early in my life, I did some theater and I always loved his concept of storytelling. That was kind of imbibed into my DNA and as I went through my journey of management consulting, I finally then landed into software marketing and I felt that this is it. That’s my calling, and I’ve been at it for more than eighteen years.

It was really starting to understand the intersection of passion and DNA and I was lucky enough to know early in my academic career that I knew that I didn’t have it for mechanical engineering.

Matt Heinz:  Chandar, I’ve known you for a while, and when I talk to people about you, that I’ve worked with you and for you, they always speak to some of the diversity of the things that you’re good at and you can speak to. To a man, to a woman, they also talk about you as a manager, as a leader, and talk about your people skills. Could you talk a little bit about why it’s important for marketing and sales leaders to really prioritize their people skills, and what does that mean for you as you think about sort of the aura of the future, right? For Coupa, for marketing, and just for B2B companies in general, what’s the best way to build and manage that?

Chandar P:  That is the skillset. At the end of the day, your job is– the way I’ve always looked at the job is not managing people but I’m supporting people it’s the inverted altar that we follow at Coupa and as a philosophy. I’ve always felt that, ultimately, everybody is a seed, or something. And it’s your job as a manager to make sure they have a sense of purpose, that they have the seed of brand marketing, the seed of product marketing, the seed of pricing, the seed of demand and the seed of specific content marketing, the seed of brand marketing or whatever kind their function is, they have to feel as if they have a sense of purpose through that. Your job is kind of to create that sense of purpose, your job is to eliminate the hurdles for them to be successful, and your job is to showcase this concept across the board so that they have a sense of intrinsic motivational recognition and value that’s coming in their respective conditions.

So, that’s kind of the philosophy that I’ve adopted and really make people, kind of drive it as owners of something, and you be the enabler of that ownership rather than trying to be the manager of it. So, that’s my philosophy, and that’s really important because when you scale organizations– You know, in a startup, you’re all in kind of a small speed boat of three or four people and you can kind of have this interaction very, very closely, but when you scale an organization, it’s very, very important to establish that mindset of that culture early on, so that it’s permeated and propagated throughout your set of leaders at the top of your organizations. That’s the philosophy I’ve had, and I’m very humbled and appreciative of the fact that it has led to a lot of leaders. In fact, one of the things I’m most proud of is how many people that I’ve supported that have caught on to become Bps is marketing and CMOs, I’m very proud of that accomplishment, more than my own accomplishment to be honest with you.

Matt Heinz:  Well, it’s impressive to hear you say that, and also you’re right. There’s a lot of people that have worked with you, for you, that have certainly moved on and your legacy has already been really impressive. Can you talk a little bit, just as a follow-up… I like your philosophy a lot, and I think that there probably aren’t a lot of people that would disagree with that, but sometimes the challenge is operationalizing a philosophy like that, right? If you’re a CMO by definition, if you’re in a company that is big enough to have a CMO, you’ve got a lot of responsibility, you’ve got a lot of people, you’re in a lot of meetings, you’ve got a lot of things coming at you. How do you find time, and maybe this is just a mindset, how do you prioritize the people? When you’re running between meetings and someone needs a couple minutes, how do you practice active listening at that point? How do you prioritize, on Tuesday at two o’clock, doing what you just said was important?

Chandar P:  It is something that you practice on and you work on, it’s not some natural thing you wake up one morning and do. It’s really, really important to have that time between business. There are three kinds of time I look at, right? There is boss time, there is peer time, and there’s employee time. In my mental model is I always kind of look at the pie chart and say, is that being normalized? A lot of times, if you spend too much time with your boss and not enough time with your peers or employees then obviously that boat’s not balanced. So, that’s the mental model that I use on a weekly basis to say that am I normalizing it in such a way, in fact I have less of boss time and peer time, then put the pie chart with more employee time to make sure that I have that allocation available to make them successful.

The second thing also is that the way I’ve always looked at it is for any urgent emergency situation, I’m always available 24/7. Outside of that, if there’s a common set of metrics that you and the people you support agree on, then the conversation becomes around that, okay I’m eliminating the harder, but I’m moving progress towards this common set of metrics that we’ve agreed upon for success and drive it, and that seems to work more efficiently than just having one of the random acts of conversations.

Matt Heinz:  Wrapping up here with Chandar, one name only, he is the Drake of B2B marketing. I’m trying to stay in the music scene. We’ve got Bono, we’ve got Drake, I’m not going to go Enya, or Adelle We’re going to stick with the males.

Chandar P:  Let’s go with Prince. Go with Prince.

Matt Heinz:  Prince? Oh, that’s a great one. Chandar is the Prince of B2B marketing. That could have multiple names, you’re royalty in B2B.

Chandar P:  There you go.

Matt Heinz:  I know you’re super busy, I really appreciate you taking the time to be on this show today. Talk a little bit about this idea of the full brain marketer. I was really intrigued by this when you brought this up the other day. We think a lot internally about full funnel marketing encouraging marketers to think about the entire funnel, not just the top. Real quickly before we wrap up here, what do you mean by full brain marketer? What does that mean and how do people think about that?

Chandar P:  It’s an interesting thing. If you look at the analogy, just take Boeing from our engineering brethren, there’s this concept of this full staff developer that’s kind of developed unintended over the last few years, that historically there was the back-end engineer doing back end and then there was the front end engineer focusing on the front end aspects of any technology. And now they kind of have this concept of full staff engineer who can go up and down, get all aspects of it. The back end technology as well as the front end technology, user interfaces, et cetera. Kind of boring the same analogy here, the full brained marketer, I feel that it’s not about having one skill in marketing of art, one skill in marketing of science, it’s kind of a combination of three skills.

How are you always normalizing yourself to what is building both the right and the left brain. You need to be a Spielberg to tell stories. You need to have that Einstein-Curie kind of mindset to be data driven, and then on the other hand, also you need to have the Churchill skillset to have good communication and evangelism. So, that kind of builds a full brain as opposed to just having aspects of all the science. The idea is that nobody is going to have all these things perfect, but are you developing yourself in such a way that you’re building you’re capabilities and you’re harnessing your skills in all these three areas to kind of be well rounded as opposed to just aspects of data-driven marketing or just traditional brand storytelling.

Matt Heinz:  I love it. I love it. Well, unfortunately we are out of time, we’ve got to wrap up. Chandar, thank you so much for joining us today, the Prince, the Drake, the Bono, you’re amazing. Thank you so much for joining us.

Chandar P:  Thanks, Matt. Matt is awesome! Have a great day.

Matt Heinz:  Yeah, you too. Thank you very much, everyone for joining us, listening today as well. We could have covered a lot more ground, but felt like we covered some good topics there, Paul, today on Sales Pipeline Radio. If you want to listen again, definitely check us out at salespipelineradio.com, past, present, and future episodes all available. Paul, you got something to say there?

Paul:  I just want to point out, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind everyone that outside of your sales skills, you’re also known as the Hendrix of the ukulele, and we have a little piece of you playing Stairway to Heaven here I’m just going to end that with it, so people can go to Amazon or whatever and feel free to buy your latest ukulele efforts here.

Matt Heinz:  Wow. You know what, you never know what you’re going to get here on Sales Pipeline Radio. Always surprises, always good conversations. Look forward to joining you for next week, we are here every week! 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern, Sales Pipeline Radio. Thanks for joining us for my great producer, Paul. This is Matt Heinz, we’ll see you next week. Sales Pipeline Radio.

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