We’re back with the latest Q&A with Marketing Leaders, our series designed to provide B2B marketers with the best insights and actionable tips on how to improve their marketing planning by learning from the best B2B leaders in the industry.
In this edition, we spoke with Scott Leatherman, CMO at Virtana.
Virtana (formerly Virtual Instruments) provides AI-powered software observability solutions to simplify hybrid cloud complexity and accelerate digital transformation. Founded in 2008, more than 260 Global 2000 enterprise customers such as AstraZeneca, Dell, Apple, Paypal, Geico, Costco, Nasdaq, and Boeing, have long valued Virtana as a partner in monitoring and optimizing their on-premises and cloud infrastructure.
Scott is an award-winning full-stack marketing executive, 2x CMO, with previous work experience @Interana (acquired by Twitter) and a Global Vice President of Marketing at SAP. Scott is an inspirational leader developing talent founded on diversity, collaboration, and integrity to solve complex market challenges.
What was the best advice you’ve gotten in your career?
David Hawk shared with me about 20 years ago: your job is like three levers on an equalizer: The cooler the people you work with, the more interesting the product/projects, and the higher the pay you earn, the closer you are to being an artist. When one of those levers goes down (cool people become less cool or the excitement about the product fades), the other levers need to balance it all out. You will learn as you get more experience that the “pay lever” only balances out so much.
Who were the biggest marketing inspiration/s for you?
Early in my career, Kris Couch was/is a huge inspiration. Kris is several years younger than me, but he showed me that good marketers are more than just one silo of a marketing discipline. Chris can code applications, write compelling copy, and he is one of the top UX designers. Working with Kris is humbling–I often felt like Antonio Salieri watching Beethoven create masterpieces. Kris brought the best out of me, and that’s what good leaders and marketers do. I learned what marketing swimlanes I was strong in and nurtured the others to be the best full-stack marketer I can be.
Jonathan Becher taught me how to be a leader in marketing, a leader in the company, and a leader in the community. Jonathan is also a brilliant writer, and he reminds us regularly that “words matter.“
When I worked with Steve Lucas, he was the head of Sales for SAP HANA (not in marketing.) Steve instinctively knows what inspires people to act. He leveraged that both internally and externally. Steve was always willing to be the punchline but, at the same time, deliver the punch. Working with Steve is a masterclass in creating awareness, developing an ecosystem, and driving pipeline.
“Crossing the Chasm” in 1991, by Geoffrey Moore, was foundational for me. If you are new to marketing, read the book (now in its 3rd gen) as it will help you understand the needs of your company as it matures, help you evaluate the jobs you are applying for, and help you communicate to senior leadership as the majority of “us” speak the language of “Crossing the Chasm.”
How has the role of CMO changed in the past five years?
In successful companies, the role of CMO has been democratized. Everyone in the company should feel the burden/opportunity to help build the brand, generate thought leadership, and promote it within their circles of influence.
The modern CMO should be championing, polishing, and scaling these efforts from employees. The modern CMO should be the best sales consultant in the company and be able to whiteboard net new use cases with the CTO.
The CMO should know at any given moment what persona, what message, what asset, and what channel is producing the largest deals in the shortest amount of time.
What’s the biggest mistake you see in modern B2B marketing?
Waiting to follow up and not scaling the investments you have already made. If an MQL registers for a webcast in 2 weeks — don’t wait to follow up with them until after the webcast–see if you can get them on the phone with the speaker now. When you have a successful webcast/asset–keep leveraging it while promoting new assets too.
BTW–I do not define success by how many people viewed a webcast or downloaded an asset–value is a measurement of how much it positively impacted our funnel and ultimately revenue.
Learn to work with your channel partners early in the funnel journey. I cannot stress this enough. The scale and transfer of credibility will be the secret to your success, not only for your campaigns but for your career.
Let’s dig a little bit into your marketing planning and budgeting. How do you set your marketing goals in your organization?
I like to reverse engineer sales goals to pipeline requirements by region, product, channel, and time in funnel. With little historical data, you can quickly measure pipeline to sales conversions and build that knowledge base to model your investments for success.
What role does your team have in your marketing planning?
It should be a partnership with the CRO, Sales Operations, the CFO, and Marketing. Expectations need to be set upfront, measured continually, and shared weekly. Awareness should be the outcome of a great demand generation campaign. PR and AR are critical, but businesses today need to move faster than waiting for passive programs to produce awareness.
Once you have your goals, how do you build a tactical plan to deliver those goals?
Some B2B marketing assets are foundational. More experiential marketing investments need to A/B tested, but they can be the lightning you need to ignite your demand gen and awareness. So you need to build out a plan with foundational assets (like metrics-based case studies) and then look at disruptive thought leadership as opportunistic elements of your plan to break through the marketplace noise and accelerate your market leadership.
How do you align your organization around marketing’s goals?
I will leverage the term organization for this interview to mean the entire company, not just the marketing organization. SMEs must have everyone pulling on the same red thread for scaling the message in the marketplace. The fastest way to get them involved is by showing them the impact of their work. Exposing an engineer to the fact that their demo or their blog help drive a prospect through the funnel/journey to a deal is a game-changer.
How often do you go back and review your marketing plans?
Weekly if not daily. In our weekly team sync, we discuss how we are mapping to our goals first to prioritize the discussion. If we are not on track to overachieving our goals, everything else is deprioritized as much as possible. It is the same when I have one-on-one throughout the week with individuals–everything else is tertiary to our primary goals.
What’s in your Martech stack?
I’m not the first CMO at Virtana and some of the solutions were in place prior to me joining. We had SFDC, Marketo, and BrightTALK before I joined. I prefer Hubspot over Marketo for cost and ease of use. Since joining we have implemented InfiniGrow, Metadata.io and Personas (beta).
InfiniGrow and Metadata.io have been game changers and improved not only our marketing but us as marketers (telling me you don’t need InfiniGrow or Metadata.io is like saying you don’t see the need for an engine on your airplane). GoPersonas is still early but I’m very excited about the potential to enable our regional sales teams and SDRs with market data and push content and messaging to them for their prospecting efforts.
Another emerging tech is ForecastERA. It’s more of a farming solution today but I can see how it’s impactful for cross-selling and planning–when it moves, in 2021, to be both farming and hunting with the inclusion of more campaign data and look-alike analysis it will be a rocketship. I am interested in Folloze, as I want to create on-demand micro-conferences in 2021 for our ABM strategy and their platform would afford our team the ability to create, personalize, manage, and measure the engagement.
What advice do you have for new marketing leaders about marketing planning?
Build a deep understanding of the persona’s challenge, lead with metrics in the message, identify, measure, and share your program’s ROI.
Understanding your persona’s challenges by knowing what their KPIs are in their job, being sympathetic to how hard/complex their role is, and how your solution directly impacts their success. When in doubt, market solutions empowering the end-user as the hero archetype–saving the company is always a good default.
Beyonce may run the world, but metrics run good marketing. It is mission-critical for you as a marketer to find the real impact of the solutions that you are marketing and lead with those metrics in your marketing. Your customer’s success is the most vital asset you have, and metrics make it immediately tangible for your prospects and partners.
Demand Generation is a beautiful combination of art and science, but it’s 100% measurable. Align cross-functionally your programs with a clear and expressed set of KPI’s and ROI metrics. With an established plan and metrics to measure in advance, you can A/B test and pivot as needed to over-achieve your goals. Knowing what is filling your pipeline, moving something through your pipeline faster and what the commonality of factors are across your repeatable business is the algorithm of marketing. If your CEO/CFO offers to give you more budget, you should know where to scale, and if they suggest cutting your budget, you should be able to present with the same transparency the impact on pipeline (HINT: you should be able to do both sides of the budget impact equation in the same meeting).