Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 309: Q & A with Cindy Knezevich @cindyknez

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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 B2B Brand (and rebranding) Best Practices.  My guest is Cindy Knezevich, Interim CMO at Salesloft.

Join in on our conversation to learn about Salesloft’s journey at rebranding and:

  • Taking inspiration from B2C marketing into B2B marketing
  • The similarities between core values and brand attributes and how this relates to company culture and identity
  • How Salesloft focused on understanding the role of each group of stakeholders in their organization
  • What Salesloft could’ve done differently if they had another chance at rebranding

Listen in now, watch the video, and/or read the transcript below.

Matt: All right. Welcome everyone to another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. My name is Matt Heinz. Very happy to have you with us here again, Thursday, 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. We’re here most weeks doing this on LinkedIn live. If you are watching this live in the middle of your workday- Hi, thanks very much for joining us. We’re happy that you’re here. Because you’re watching live you have the ability to be part of the show. If you’ve got a question for our guests today, if you’ve got a comment you want to make, we can put you into the show. We can put your comment in. I can ask your question live. If you’re watching, hanging out, feel free to do that. If you are watching or listening on demand, thank you very much for subscribing and downloading all of our episodes of Sales Pipeline Radio in audio format past, present, future, always available at salespipelineradio.com. And we’ll get right into it. Very excited today to have our guest, VP brand communications and the interim CMO for Salesloft, Cindy Knezevich. How about that?

Cindy: Just call me CK. Everybody here calls me CK. Knezevich is a bit of a mouthful.

Matt: I like CK. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. Was excited to have you on now just as a little bit of table setting, Cindy is part of our CMO group on Fridays, and she joined in December sort of a special event to do a deep dive on the rebrand of Salesloft. And I was really excited that you guys agreed to do that, because it was such, in my mind, a very successful rebrand, not just in terms of going from A to B in terms of the new visuals and the new brand itself, but also the way that you launched it, the way that you engaged different communities, the way that you didn’t just announce it, but got people engaged. There’s a lot to unpack there. We’re looking forward to having you share some of that with the group, but before we get started, maybe, CK, just introduce yourself, your role and a little bit about Salesloft.

Cindy: Well, thank you for having me, Matt, and thank you for referring to the CMO community, because it’s just been an endless source of help and guidance and belonging for me. And I’ve been thrilled to be part of it. I am like you said, the VP of branding communications at Salesloft, and I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I have been a lofter for more than three years now. And anyone out there who knows anything about Salesloft, we’re a sales engagement platform in the form of the modern revenue workspace. And it was quite a labor of love to rebrand this company that, I mean, calling it a rocket ship is very common, but also doesn’t encapsulate all the amazingness that’s happening here. But yeah, it was a labor of love, and I’m looking forward to talking about it.

Matt: Some of the ingredients that go into this that I think other people might resonate with, you’ve got a very strong, successful business, a hyper-growth business, a very special and unique culture that is clearly part of the brand as well, a co-founder that’s still CEO, as a co-founder who runs a company I understand the attachments, sometimes you have to do the things you created or things that you started, talk about the origins of this. I think some people will look and say, “Oh, our brand needs to refresh. Oh, we need a new look and feel.” There’s the process in the successful way you did it. But what are the variables that you see are most important to look and decide, yes, we need to do something.

Cindy: I think at the end of the day, the reason we knew it was the time for us to rebrand was because we looked at it and it just didn’t fit who we were anymore. There’s companies out there who have kind of “rebranded” or refreshed the logo every few years. There’s some that, look at Coca-Cola, how long has their logo been around, and that works for them still. Salesloft had the same visual identity system for about 10 years, a little under 10 years. And the company went from $0 to a very significant amount of dollars in that timeframe, from one employee to almost 700 employees, from being a startup to being a scale up, to being a unicorn frankly. The mission, the vision, the values, the culture, all of those things are foundational and they expanded and evolved certainly. But those were kind of the foundational of pieces that we were able to build on.

But when we looked at, frankly, the brand, it looked startupy, it kind of had a startup feel. It had a young feel to it. And frankly it had a blueish color scheme, which is very common, and it had a non Sans Serif font. And those two things together made it really blend in with everything else. And at the end of the day, we looked at where we were and how far we’ve come, and what we stand for, and we realized it’s time for our look to evolve the same way we did.

Matt:
There’s the why, and then there’s the how. I think that people think, okay, we’re going to rebrand, or, we’re going to change the logo. We’re going to change the color scheme. It’s a lot more than that. I think when you’re doing it right, and I think you guys definitely did it right, it is a labor intensive, time intensive and expensive effort. whether you’re in startup mode or in scale up mode, or no matter where you are, balancing this investment of time, we’re going to do in this versus boy, we could spend that money on more demand. Boy, we could spend that money on more BDRs. How do you then stack, rank and justify that investment? I’m assuming some of that may just feel like table stakes as you grow up as a business, but what’s the conversation like at the CEO level and board level to say, yes, we need to do and do this and here is the outcome we’re looking for.

Cindy: In terms of the cost and then the process, there’s the cost of actually developing your new look and feel, there’s the cost and time of doing that. There’s the cost and money and effort in doing that, then there’s the cost and effort of making everybody aware of it. That’s where we actually went to our leadership and board and said, we know this is the right move, and we want support from you for it but we also want to make sure we’re putting a lot of dollars behind it. We can say, for example, we launched our first brand campaign, the new way to sell. I mean, that is the first time Salesloft had any kind of a brand campaign.

We launched it at the same time as we launched the new visual and verbal identity. It’s expensive. It was particularly exciting because this was the first time we did it. And for a lot of people here at Salesloft in the marketing group, this was the first time we had done any kind of brand marketing, real, true brand marketing. You measure that differently than you measure demand. “Good” looks different in brand marketing versus demand marketing. You’re looking at different metrics.

It was really important that we understood all that and we understood the goal was, in other words, why would we put together this strategy and this killer execution of coming up with this beautiful new brand identity and the beautiful story around the modern revenue workspace and how we’re different, and not put any money behind making people aware of it.

Matt: Right. I think especially if this is going to be core to how you are coming across to target prospects into customers. This is a grown up business. This is more than just flinging out emails from your BDRs. We’re not talking about for a full Salesloft platform, but I love that the modern revenue workplace has a tagline, because it helps people better understand the breadth of what you can cover for them. And I think in that way, I look at a brand like this and think the way that you’ve evolved, this should have a direct impact on how your sellers are able to sell. This should have a direct impact on the way that you are being perceived by prospective customers in larger organizations that are looking for a solid partner.

Cindy: It has, it absolutely has, and it continues to since we launched in September. It’s really only been six-ish months or so, but it continues to have an impact that way. I would say that one of the pieces of advice I get asked about is what should I think about if I’m going to embark on this project? One of the things I always say is take inspiration from the consumer world, because our community, the B2B tech, B2B SaaS community, brand for a long time, I mean, I’ve been around the block a time or two, I know you have too, Matt. You probably have seen something similar, that brand tends to take a backseat to demand. It’s usually about let’s go out and find those target accounts. Let’s convert them into leads. Let’s hand them over to sales.

Yes, we have a logo. Yes, we have a tagline. Yes, we have a color scheme. And we want our documents or decks to look a certain way, but that’s not what brand is. And it’s important to look at the areas of business that do brand really well. And consumer does that really well. If I ask anybody, I could ask you who are the five brands that you think of most instantly, you hear Apple, you hear Starbucks, you hear Nike. You hear some of the consumer brands who’ve done a really good job of that.

That is something I’m particularly proud of, because if you look at, again, Salesloft stands out and our brand blended in. And that is one of the reasons we wanted to come up with the brand that we did, that’s energetic and sincere and best in class because that’s who we are. If you look around, you don’t see a lot of green or chartreuse color palettes in B2B tech, you don’t see a lot of connected fonts or Serif fonts or Serif logo types like we do. It has a very editorial, very chic kind of sophisticated consumer feel to it. And that’s something that I want to make sure that I convey as a big learning, because I think that’s part of the reason it’s landed so well, is because it’s authentic to who we are and it stands out.

Matt: I love it. We’re talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Cindy Knezevich. She is the VP of branding communication, interim CMO for Salesloft. And we’re talking about just rebrand best practices, something she’s been through with Salesloft successfully late last year, I say late last year, because that’s when most of us found out about it. But this is a long process. This doesn’t start a week before. Talk a little bit about the different constituents that you had in when it came time to say, okay, we’ve got a brand, and I’m going to ask a little more about brand attributes in a minute, but we talked about these different community groups internally and externally. Talk about how important it is to enumerate those groups and have a strategy for each of them.

Cindy: Oh definitely. And lesson one, give yourself a year. It’s going to take a year. Lesson two is exactly what you said. Think about the different stakeholder groups and how important it is to enroll and engage them in the process. In terms of those stakeholder groups, when it came time to actually go through the process of developing the new look and feel we had a cross-functional group here, every group of lofters was represented: engineering, product, finance, sales, and certainly several from the different areas of marketing. That’s the first thing I would say, is make sure that it’s not marketing going away into their ivory tower and then coming up, going, “ta-da” here’s our new brand. You really do want to have buy-in and perspective from different areas of the organization. That’s the first thing I thought about.

The second thing I thought about was, and this could be different for people in other companies, but Salesloft is known for a world class culture. I don’t even know if I have the words to convey what it’s like, I’m in my late 40s, I’ve been in a lot of companies and a lot of tech companies, I’ve never seen a culture like Salesloft’s. Very values driven, very love oriented. I knew instinctively that I needed to transition successfully the love that lofters had for the current brand to the new brand. I already knew that was a big deal. In my mind, I had two major milestones. One was the internal reveal to the lofters and then two was the external big bang launch. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my life than the day (okay, outside of my wedding day and when my son was born) that we revealed the brand internally to the lofters, it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

My advice around this is really think hard about how you reveal this to the employees internally, because they are your best strongest brand advocates. They just are. They live and breathe your company every single day, and you want them to have a love and a passion and a respect for that brand and the way to do that is to make it fun for them. Sydney, our former CMO, and I had a really good time thinking of all the ways we could tease and drop little hints, and we mailed little teaser packages and would reveal pieces of the identity as we went along, and then just really built up some anticipation for this internal launch event. That was just, like I said, one of the happiest days of my life.

Matt: I love that. I’m an unabashed huge fan of Salesloft, and I’ve known Kyle for years, and just love the way that he has put his love and attention and stamp on the company and built such an amazing culture. It seems to me, like you mentioned values, it seems to me that there are some similarities between core values and brand attributes. We think a lot about values, and I think values are not developed, they’re discovered. Values are enumerated based on who you are. And when it comes to brand attributes, you said something really interesting in the session we did with the CMO group in December, you said, be careful how much you ask the external audience about your brand, because they will reflect what it’s been, not what it will become. Can you unpack that a little bit and talk about what advice you would have for who to listen to and where to get input and advice on your brand moving forward.

Cindy: Yeah, I would be happy to. Where that came from was as we were working with our brand agency, the agency we chose, Focus Lab, by the way, I’ll drop their name because I would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone. They were an excellent partner. They had said something that struck a chord with me, which was, a lot of branded agencies spend a lot of time interviewing your customers. It’s really about who you are. The way I think of brand and product marketing and in demand on marketing is at the end of the day, your brand is who you are. Demand is what you do. The people who know who you are, are the people in the building, the people who live those values every single day, the people who are on the front lines, helping your customers, the people who go team over self. That’s one of our values, for example.

Cindy: Our customers love us and we love them, and they know us, but they know where we’ve been, they don’t know where we’re going necessarily. Now, that is something we’re doing. We’re always trying to do a good job of educating them of where we’re going, but they know what we do. The people who know who we are, are in the building. That was a light bulb moment for me too, frankly, because the kind of brand agency playbook, for example is, oh, well we’re going to interview customers for 12 weeks or prospects for 12 weeks. Some will come back with recommendations and it really rang true for us that the people that we wanted to be involved in this project are the people who live the brand every day, who live the attributes of it.

Matt: Yep. Well, we’ll just wrap up the last couple minutes here with our guests, CK, who from Salesloft talking about the rebrand. So, long process, you recommend a year, lots of moving parts that go into it, without giving away too many secrets, any highlights from the postmortem afterwards saying like, here’s things, if we could do it again, we do differently. Here’s some things that you think are best practices or cautionary tales for other marketing leaders, scale ups that are looking at this process in the near future.

Cindy: Yeah, definitely. I’ll say the biggest piece of learning I had and something I would do differently next time is figuring out the positioning before the visual and verbal identity. And by that, I mean there’s brand level positioning, which we did, and we knew, and we had the attributes and we had what we called our manifesto or our state of how we see sales and how we show up in the world. We had that, and we launched the modern revenue workspace and we had that at the two sentence level. We knew the concept. We didn’t have that fully fleshed out when we launched, we had it shortly thereafter, but that was a big piece of learning for me, is treat that as part of the foundation. Don’t do that after the fact.

The other thing, certainly the time, we originally were really naive thinking we were going to launch this in six months, and we quickly realized, no, we’re not so that is something I always think of as a cautionary tale too, because if I do this again in another company, I’ll make sure that we don’t get any whiplash from changing project timelines and things like that. We’ll just say from upfront it’s a year. But those are two of the big learnings.

I also would say, just have fun with it. This is a really fun thing to do. I mean, we put our heart and soul into what we call our manifesto, which is how we show up in the world and who we are. If you haven’t been to the Salesloft homepage, if you go to the homepage, you’ll see Prince-Ea, who’s an amazing spoken word artist in a video on our homepage and this is a piece of learning, because I never would’ve thought to do this. If we didn’t have a bunch of collective creative brains in the room, go find someone who lives your values, who has an audience in a creative way to express them. I can’t tell you how much positive feedback we’ve gotten on the Prince-Ea video. That’s another thing I learned, is don’t be afraid to take a risk like that. There’s not a lot of tech companies out there who were doing it, but this is the type of thing, maybe a consumer brand would’ve done. Don’t be afraid to take that inspiration from other areas and be creative and have fun.

Matt: Well, I think the idea of a manifesto makes a ton of sense, and I think you think about it as, okay, what’s your purpose? What is your purpose, and how would you describe that to an inside and an outside audience? And I think you can spend an awful lot of time on that, but then that becomes very foundational. You get whether it’s founders, board members, key executives, people that say, okay, what’s the why? What are we doing that is making the world a better place? And I think no matter what business you’re in to have that manifesto, to have that purpose is a huge best practice.

Hey, I know we’re running a little late on time here. Thank you so much for joining us today. Cindy Knezevich, the VP of Brand and Communications, definitely highly encouraged, go to salesloft.com, click to watch the video. You’re going to see the video she was just referencing just really great way to articulate and create motivation behind the group and I remember you had him join the rebrand launch, and he’s super interesting guy as well. Well, thank you for joining us. Thank you everyone for watching and listening to another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio, we’ll be here next week, every week, 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. My name is Matt Heinz. We’ll see you next week. Thanks for watching.

Cindy:
Thank you.

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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