Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 304: Q & A with Kathleen Booth @workmommywork

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If you’re not already subscribed to Sales Pipeline Radio, or listening live every Thursday at 11:30 a.m Pacific on LinkedIn (also on demand) you can find the transcription and recording here on the blog every Monday morning.  The show is less than 30 minutes, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities. You can subscribe right at Sales Pipeline Radio and/or listen to full recordings of past shows everywhere you listen to podcasts! Spotify,  iTunesBlubrry, Google Play, iHeartRADIO, Stitcher and now on Amazon music.  You can even ask Siri, Alexa and Google!

This week’s show is called “Building a High-Growth Marketing System on a Lean Budget”.  My guest is Kathleen Booth, Chief Marketing Officer at clean.io

Join us as we discuss some of the pivots we have seen this year that have become new standards, how brands make you feel, and where we see these changes from the past year going in the future.  You’ll learn:

  • How to get a cult-like following
  • Where people are going for recommendations, BEFORE they go to Google
  • What does “more hugs than handshakes” mean
  • What Harley Davidson tattoos have to do with branding and more!

Listen in now or watch the video!

Matt:     All right. Well, welcome everyone to a new episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. My name is Matt Heinz. Very happy that you are here with us. If you’re watching us live in the middle of your workday, thank you for joining us. If you happen to be live, you can be part of the show. If you’re on LinkedIn and you put it in a comment, we’ll see that, if you put it in a question, we will see that, we will bring that into the discussion if you want to share your opinion or perspective on what we’re talking about, ask a question of our guest, Kathleen Booth today. Welcome to be part of that. If you are watching on demand, we can’t do that, but we’re very glad you’re watching, listening. If you’re on LinkedIn, thanks very much for checking us out. If you’re listening to us on the podcast, thanks so much for downloading and subscribing. You can find Sales Pipeline Radio where all fine podcasts are available and every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio, 300 plus episodes over the last few years, available on salespipelineradio.com.
Each week, we’re featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing. Today, very excited to have with us, Kathleen Booth. She is the Chief Marketing Officer at Clean.io. She is an active podcaster and regular member of our Friday morning first sip club with CMOs. So, Kathleen, thanks for joining us.

Kathleen:            I am so excited to be here. Thanks for having me, Matt.

Matt:     I feel like I was just watching the Rose Bowl parade with my kids and now it’s, technically today it’s the 16th, so it is late December. I don’t know where this year went by. We’re still dealing with omicron virus, all kinds of crazy stuff, but I think we’ve learned a lot this year, we’ve learned a lot about what marketing might look like post pandemic. So, I thought we’d spent a little bit of time today just talking about what we’ve seen change this year and where we see all that going, but maybe first, just for people that don’t know you, just quick an introduction of you.

Kathleen:            Yeah, sure. So, as you said, I’m the Chief Marketing Officer at Clean.io, which is a digital engagement security company. We make solutions for brands that want to exercise greater control over the third party code that executes on their website and how that affects their brand, their revenue and their user experience. I have been an in-house head of marketing for a series of different companies, mostly in the B2B tech world, for the last several years. Before that I owned an agency for about 11 years, and so, yeah, I’m super passionate about talking about marketing and I’m really excited to chat with you today.

Matt:     So last year, 2020, there was a lot of pivots, in the midst of the beginning of the pandemic, I think a lot of pivots have become new standards and there’s a lot of things that we have just fallen into or accelerated into, some of which maybe initially weren’t welcome, but quite frankly, a lot of them have actually improved results, improved efficiency. I know for us, just even in terms of how we work and where people work and whether they’re in the car commuting every day, I mean, there’s a lot of things that may not have changed but have actually changed for the better. What are some of the things that you have seen this year that maybe qualify in that category?

Kathleen:            That changed for the better?

Matt:     Sure. I mean changed for the better or just things that you think are maybe pivots, are necessary pivots that are becoming standards for us.

Kathleen:            Yeah. Yeah. It’s been a really interesting year and I would say year and a half, even two years. You could look at the year, but to me, the significant chunk of time that I’m reflecting back on is just COVID and what happened through it. And a couple things that I’ve observed, one obviously was just this craving for more human connection, and I think we’re still feeling it, even though the world is opening back up again. And in the beginning of COVID, that manifested is just this huge move to virtual events. And in the beginning, they were all doing well because everybody was desperate to see other human faces, even if they were over Zoom.
Now, I think everybody’s gotten a little bit more discerning and we’re Zoom fatigued and there’s been this boomerang effect, where it’s getting harder to get people to show up for virtual events. And so, the question becomes with events in general, how do you create events that people will still really want to attend? Because I do think we crave human connection, but that we’re not going to look at skeptically because of our Zoom fatigue, because of our jaded approach to online events in general. And so, this is an interesting challenge for marketers.
I do think looking at hybrid events is really important, because you need to give people options, but finding ways to really keep people engaged. Because to me, what failed with so many virtual events in the last year was all of these attempts to recreate the booth experience. And I can’t tell you how many marketers I’ve spoken to who have said that they did virtual booths at events, and they were just a big fat zero. It was a waste of their sales team’s time, it was a waste of their sponsorship money, nobody showed up. And so, you can’t just expect to try to recreate that in person experience in the same way virtually, we have to get creative and find ways for people to really interact. And I think some events have done that better than others, with different speed dating opportunities, if you will, where you’re paired with people. The jury’s still out on what’s going to make that successful, but I think that was a big trend that I noticed.
And then the other thing that I think has really happened, that plays on that theme of wanting personal connection, is this explosion of online communities and the participation in them. Communities have been around for a long time, this is nothing new to COVID, but they’ve, I think evolved in a very different way in the last two years and accelerated. And the community that you’re involved in CMO Coffee Talk, I think is a really good example of this, because I got involved in it at first through a physical, in person event and then COVID hit, and we started meeting over Zoom. And it was this incredible beacon for those of us stuck at home, who were just tired of only seeing our families, and it was a very safe space, I think, in this case for marketers to connect with each other. And it wasn’t just about human interaction. And I think what you guys tapped into, that is becoming so important, is creating a place where people feel they can connect with others that they have similarities with, but in a way that is very safe. And what I mean by that is, I think the genius of CMO Coffee Talk is, it’s just heads of marketing. It’s not a marketing slack. There are a lot of those. And what happens is when you go into a general marketing slack, you can’t rant and complain the way that you might want to with people who are your peers. And you can’t do it in a community where might be people who are sitting in other roles, who either report to you or know someone who reports to you, et cetera. It has to be a place where you feel like you can be your true and authentic self.
And so I think communities have really grown up to solve for that participation in communities that do that well has exploded. And I think we’re going to see that more and more going forward, because that is not something that is only here to solve for a problem that existed during COVID. So, I’ll pause there.

Matt:     Yeah. I love all that. I mean, I think a couple things if I build on top of that. One is, there are things that we have learned, by necessity in the last year and a half, that I think have made some of those things better. To your point, CMO Coffee Talk began because we were doing in-person breakfasts. We were doing breakfast with 25-30 CMOs in various markets around the country, we’ve been doing them for years. We had a 10 city tour we were doing, in the midst of and got shut down eight cities in, in the spring of 2020. And the first Coffee Talk was sort of the, hey, let’s just do virtual one to wrap up the series. And I would never have the audacity to think that you could get hundreds of CMOs to show up every Friday for a topical discussion, but I think the crucible of the pandemic, and then you’re right, that safe space made it more possible. So, I think it certainly created the opportunity for something that I think it has become bigger and better than just doing in person breakfast. Not that we won’t go back to that, not that those aren’t good ideas, but I think it’s crazy that…The other piece that I think is really important in this, idea of community, been thinking about a lot and as we’ve grown the CMO community, have had a lot of people come and say, “Hey, can we do this for chief HR officers? Can we do it for IT community?” So, you start to think, “Okay, what are the places that make this particularly unique?” And the idea of having it just CMOs, I think is part of it, but I think also, the fact that we don’t record these sessions, the fact that you have to be a peer to be in it, the fact that we create a place and have examples of places in the group where people can be more than just the head of marketing of a company. They can be a real person, talk about what’s going on in their family.
Again, the crucible, the pandemic, I think, created something. We had people crying at the end of the week, where all the stuff they’re having to go through. And some I think comes out of my experience in EO, this entrepreneur organization, where you meet once a month in a pretty structured format with 10 other entrepreneurs, in an entirely confidential meeting, and you spend as much time talking about personal stuff in there as you do professional, because as an entrepreneur, it’s all blends together. And I think for all of us, it really all blends together. And thinking about this going into next year, things are becoming more digital, we’ve got more intelligence, more data, more digital channels coming at us, and yet I think what we’re talking about here is the need for things to become more human, the need for us to be able to find ways to better connect with other people, not just get more virtual cocktail tastings, or not to figure out how do I get higher conversion rates on an email, but how do you recognize and see the whole person and connect with them and help them connect with others in the world professionally and personally. I think there’s something there that’s going to unlock how sales and marketing really succeeds moving forward.

Kathleen:            Yeah. And it’s interesting. So, the way I think about this, heading into the next year, is it has to do with how we define brand. In the past, I’ve always thought of brand as the things that people say about you when you’re not in the room. That’s your brand. I’ve really come to change my thinking on this, and it’s the result of talking to different people and observing what’s happening in the world and doing some reading. And really, now how I think about brand is, it’s more about how the individual thinks about themself in connection with your brand, with your company, with your product. And what I mean by that is, there is so much noise out there right now, marketers have so many to, at their disposal to produce content, to reach out to audiences, we’re overwhelmed by it as buyers. And I come from a history of content marketing, and that used to be novel, and now it’s so foundational to what everyone’s doing. There’s so much content, it’s very saturated.
Standing out is really hard, and the brands that do it well are doing, in my opinion, a couple of things. And when I think of brands that are doing it well, I think of brands like Harley Davidson that has a passionate following. And I recently interviewed someone for my podcast who told me this story that Harley is the number two tattooed thing on people’s bodies after mom. So, the top brands in the tattoo world are mothers and then Harley Davidson. And then you have … and I drive a Jeep, and Jeep drivers have a secret wave that they do to each other when they pass each other on the street. And there’s tons of brands. I used to be a HubSpot partner, and partners in that world used to talk about bleeding orange or drinking the orange Kool-Aid. That’s incredibly cult like, and great if the power’s used for good. So how do you create a feeling like that amongst people? How do you create a following like HubSpot had, where people might dye their hair orange before going to the annual conference or buy orange sneakers?
How you do that is, it has to be done in a few ways. Number one, things like the community you’re creating, I think are really central to creating passionate brand followings, to having people tie their identity to the brand, having them feel like they’re within a community of people that reflect the best parts of themself. And then not just creating content, but really having a perspective and a point of view, and getting people to rally behind that, I think is a big part of it. And so, there’s a lot of dimensions to it, but for me, that’s the big thing heading into next year, as I think about what I’m going to do in marketing, it’s how do I build a cult like following for the brand that I’m promoting.

Matt:     I love that. And I think, I had to write down just the fact that others think about you as sort of a, I think that’s a pivot a lot of people use when they think about brand, but how do you think about yourself. And I think there’s just potentially a couple ways to do that. One is obviously, you want your customers to have a pretty strong feeling of how they feel about themselves and how they feel about themselves associated with you. I think also, you got to think about that compared to your employees, because your employees are going to be some of your best ambassadors of the business, of the brand. How does the brand make them feel? And especially those that are going to be in front of and interact with your customers, how do you make sure that there’s community there as well?

And how important is it, when you talk about community, you’ve got a community of peers, like a CMO group, then you’ve got a community of customers, where it is an interaction between brand and customers. But I’ve seen situations where they’re still in those environments, more hugs than handshakes, where it still very much feels you have a little bit of that cult like following, you have a little bit of that where it’s beyond just a commercial relationship. How do you go about building something like that?

Kathleen:            Yeah. I mean, I think that to me, the value in community, it can be hard to track and measure, but I look at my own experience and I look at what I was always taught. And what I was always taught was that when somebody has a problem or a challenge, they go to Google, and they go there to solve it. They ask a question and Google has the answer and that’s how you get your leads, and so you needed to create content that’s SEO optimized, and then you’ll get found and you’ll get at bats. That’s really not true anymore for most people, especially in B2B buying. What’s true now is I’m in groups like CMO Coffee Talk, like Pavilion. And if I need something as a CMO, if I need new software, I go into those groups and I say, “Hey, what are you using? What do you recommend?” And I develop my short list from my peer set. And then I go to Google and I’m doing branded searches for the three names that I got from that question, and I’m doing that to validate the recommendation somebody has made for me. And so, this is a really different way of buying than it used to be, and it has implications for marketing that are important. And the implication is that if you want to get at bats, you need to be one of the names that is mentioned in that walled garden, in that private group.
And so, while you’ve mentioned, seeing more hugs than handshakes, I agree with that very often, but I think the intangible there is that all the people that are hugging, all those CMO coffee talkers, when somebody goes to them and says, for example, “What’s a great market agency if I need ABM help?” I would bet that so many people are saying Heinz marketing, because they love your brand, they love what you’re doing, they feel a connection. You’re getting at bats because those questions are happening within these peer groups.

Matt:     Well, and that’s part of a successful brand. I think you’re not going to have a brand team on one side and a demand team on other side and say they’re separate, because the brand is going to get you in that room more often, it’s going to make you part of the consideration set. So, I think that it’s absolutely right, that you got to combine those together. It seems like we’ve been talking in different circles about all these different efforts a company has sales and marketing, marketing and product, marketing, sales, customer success, brand and demand. These all have to work in concert together Our customers expect it to be seamless. That can be a difficult thing, whether you are a young company or a large, old company, but I don’t think we have a choice. I think moving forward, despite the fact that we have a much broader, more distributed, more digital world, we have to make it smaller. And the smaller it gets, and the affinity of the relationships you have with that smaller group of people, with those brands, I think is really what those relationships and that humanization is really going to drive behavior and purchases moving forward.

Kathleen:            Yeah. And you mentioned earlier employees, and I think we’ve talked about a lot of this internal stuff. There are employees, there’s generally, there’s other teams and how teams work together. And I guess this is another thing that I personally am very focused on for the coming year, and that I’m seeing as a trend with marketing, is that internal marketing is becoming more important than ever. And as marketers, we’ve always been trained to focus externally, but we have this internal constituency that we need to collaborate with, to create a seamless customer journey. But you also mentioned it, a happy employee is a happy customer. They’re the ones that create the brand experience. Southwest Airlines, great example of that. The employees are so part of the brand that people talk about it publicly. I think as marketers, we need to recognize that building culture is a part of our job. And communicating internally and creating consensus and educating the team about these principles of how we go to market and why building community is important, all of this is such a key part of our job. Unfortunately, it’s not written in a lot of job descriptions. It should be for marketers.

Matt:     Well, I mean, even if you’ve got a company where HR is driving a lot of operationalizing the culture, the culture is very much part of the brand. The culture is going to drive performance and drive this integration of departments together against a common goal. And sometimes that common goal, isn’t just let’s hit the number. What’s the real purpose of the business? What are you even doing this for? Companies like Salesforce have done a really nice job of that saying, “Listen, we’re obviously selling CRM software, but the more we do this, the more of our time, our equity and our assets and our cash we’re going to be able to give away, to do good in the world.” And so that can very much be a broader purpose for even very much for profit publicly traded companies.
Well, we try to keep these under 20 minutes these days, Kathleen, so think we’re going to wrap up here, but thank you so much, Kathleen Booth for joining us today. And fun, wide ranging conversation on a little bit of what we’ve seen this year, what we’re going into next year. Thank you, Martha, Anson, David, the other folks that have been watching us live. Thanks for checking us out. And we got one more episode before we wrap up 2021, so we’ll see you next week at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. Till then, my name is Matt. We’ll see you next week on Sales Pipeline Radio.

Sales Pipeline Radio is produced by Heinz Marketing.

I interview the best and brightest minds in sales and Marketing.  If you would like to be a guest on Sales Pipeline Radio send an email to [email protected]. For sponsorship opportunities, contact [email protected] 

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