CMO Insights: Chandar Pattabhiram, CMO, Coupa Software

CMO Insights: Chandar Pattabhiram

December 4, 2018

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Chandar Pattabhiram, CMO at Coupa Software.

In this video, Chandar talks about:

  • The trickle-down aspect of company culture — it starts with the leadership
  • The importance of remembering to appeal to emotion in B2B marketing
  • The ABM perspective and the importance of building long term relationships

Learn more about Chandar from his LinkedIn profile and follow Coupa Software on Twitter.

For more great CMO interviews like this one, please check out our other CMO Insights Videos or our YouTube channel.

CMO Insights: Chandar Pattabhiram, CMO, Coupa Software

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Hi, welcome to Revenue Marketing Television, the CMO Insights Series. I’m your host, Jeff Pedowitz, President and CEO of The Pedowitz Group. Today, we have Chandar Pattabhiram, who is Chief Marketing Officer at Coupa Software. So Chandar, welcome to the show.

Chandar Pattabhiram:

Hi Jeff. It’s great to be here.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Great to have you. Last time we caught up, you were still at Marketo. Now some really exciting things in your way. So tell us a little bit about the last year.

Chandar Pattabhiram:

Yeah. The last year has been really exciting, you know, as CMO of Marketo. I left Marketo in June of last year. And then, you know, took a few months off and then I had this opportunity with Coupa Software and then I was taking a few months off. I was kind of introspecting myself as what’s the kind of company I want to join. And, you know, I wrote this piece about, you know, channeling my inner Einstein that, you know, equals MC squared. I wrote this thing about an excellent company is a combination of a mandatory category times C culture at times, see competitive advantage. And, and if I look at the tuba, it’s kind of a company in the business spend management space.

And it’s really what salesforce.com is to sales is what good place to spend managing all aspects of spin. And it’s, you know, it’s, it’s a manager category across companies of all sizes. I just got terrific culture you know, but we all to take leadership color here. Then that’s one of the reasons I joined here. And so you use, it’s got a great competitive advantage, you know, leader in space. So kind of put all these things together. The last one year has been exciting because of joined a very excellent company and buddy, very proud to be here. So I want to go back to a word that you said about the culture because Marketo certainly has been very well known for it’s called tagging.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You mentioned you selected coupon for its culture. So in your opinion, what makes a great culture and what kind of people do you work for?

Chandar Pattabhiram:

That’s a great question. You know, I go back to the kind of the old Peter Drucker line, that culture eats strategy for breakfast every day. And I’ll look up mentally organizations are about culture. Now it’s difficult to kind of define it in different aspects, but the way I look at it is one is is there a pencil or pen density in the organization top-down you know, can you have, you know, conversations at all levels in an authentic manner, regardless of rank and position and how that transparency of conversation and only when there is transparency there’s trust and you have to build that. That’s one thing. The second thing I look for is accountability. Like in addition to authenticity, is it a culture that is fostering accountability? 

So with a strong bias for action and results, and people are held accountable for good stuff, as well as the expectations. And third is, you know, does it have a sense of alignment on fond on purpose or the font across the organization and you know, their camaraderie, right? You know, great teams play for each other and just not with each other and having that sense of collective environment and collective purpose. So I going to go, so those are some of the things I look for, and I’m very proud to say that at Google we have them going.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So I’m curious. Why do you think that is so many companies are still, I don’t know if I want to say authoritarian, but, it’s top down control. I have the levels of hierarchy and don’t give employees more freedom to make mistakes and be accountable for growth and their actions?

Chandar Pattabhiram:

Because I think generally, you know, when you scale it organizations, you know, when you have a small tribe of one 50 people or below an employee size, you can do this and have that, you know, foster environment. But the danger that happens is when you grow in an organization, you start getting into layers of management and then just the system is designed in such a way that you have middle management and upper management of the executive leadership and you start instilling different processes and all these different, you know, you know, systems of engagement between these levels and that causes friction across the organization and internalize it doesn’t cost agility in the organization. So that’s been the challenge and that’s gotta be addressed kind of, you know, starting with the leadership with the mindset. In fact, one of the things we do at KUKA is our org chart is actually inverse.

You know, if you look at an org chart at Cooper, the CEO sits at the bottom kind of leadership and then, you know, the different managers and ultimately leadership, right. Their leadership, but that’s that servant leadership mentality you got to just have, you have to have the mindset of, of the seven leadership starting right from the bottom. And this is the CEO and it’s going to be promulgated throughout the organization. Otherwise you’ll start getting into all of these layers of processes and cover your back and, and, and, and, you know, a bias for process than a bias for results. And you gotta be careful not getting into that. And that’s been some of the challenges in organizations.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So you came from Marketo, right? Performance driven marketing, one of the gold standards in the business, and now you’re doing it here. So what kind of teams are you building and how are you going about getting those results?

Chandar Pattabhiram:

No, it’s a great question. I think for me, I look at marketing ultimately it’s, you know, marketing is the science of storytelling and I look at teams and both on the science side, on the storytelling side and bringing the right combination into the organization. And, you know, not every person can have the perfect combination, but collectively as a unit, we need to have the right combination. But that’s what I look for, you know, bring that you know, I say that is a Churchillian skill set of executive communication. That is a Spielberg skillset of storytelling. And there’s an Einstein skillset, all of, you know, data driven marketing and trying to get all these three collectively in the organization is what I look for in the full brain organization, as I like to call it in marketing. And that’s kind of how I look at holistically to design the organization, but from a function perspective, you know, I look at, you know, the three big pillars of marketing design.

As you know, we have leadership of product and segment marketing. And again, a product marketing is typically getting products to market. Segment marketing is making different business segments, successful, aligning to different, you know, sales leaders. And then there is the demand gen and operations aspects of marketing. And then there’s all the air cover in terms of Brown in terms of corporate marketing, in terms of customer marketing in terms of our even corporate event, marketing communications, et cetera, and obviously creative services to bring these three pillars together and ultimately kind of drive the engine together. And from a success perspective, it’s very, very important for us, for all the three pillars to have the same set of metrics for success. You can start getting into issues when it comes to designing product marketing for different success and S you know, demand gen for different success and corporate marketing. Sometimes it’s more tough to measure. And the way we look at it at executive leadership is that pipeline win rates and brand success is being manifested for every leader in this function, as opposed to isolating it for separate leaders and the functions.

Jeff Pedowitz:

No, that makes a lot of sense because we do see that a lot where, yeah. These different departments, and in theory, they do all report up to the CML, but they’re being measured by different things. And so there’s, they’re not in alignment. You mentioned brands

Chandar Pattabhiram:

Just to make a point, is that, for example, my head ups product and separate marketing is, is, has an MBO for pipeline as not just my head, all demand generation has an MBO or wind reds as not as my head of corporate marketing, aligning to those because doing brand initiative for the sake of doing brand is pointless. So at least then you have a collective set of align objectives. Of course, they have different tactics and measurables within their respective functions, but holistically, you want to keep it consistent to drive synergies across the organization.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That makes a lot of sense. So I was thinking about your comment about brands and one of the things at least I think I’ve observed in the marketplace is all this pressure to put it in MarTech and get to be performance driven this marketers and get the left brain working on marketing. Along the way, I think we lost a little bit about the art, the stories the brand experience with the customer fulfilling on the brand promise. Do you see the same thing in Europe, your view, or is that maybe it does, that might be just me?

Chandar Pattabhiram:

No, I think definitely in B2B marketing over the last, you know, five to seven years, you’ve seen a lot of emphasis on performance marketing and it’s all concept of, can I get a seat at the table? Can I prove my value and how do I get the Aretha Franklin RSP CP and get that seat at the table, then, you know, the power of this group working with Marketa, we’ve done a lot of work in the past and that, and getting the requirements in general to different organizations, however, marketing at the end of the day is about building emotional connection at their highest level. It is not the rational mind that makes any decision on product it’s the emotive mind. And it’s obviously much more in the consumer then in consumer section, that would be to be, but still in any product that we sell, it is about building that emotional connection to win the battle for the mind.

And we should never forget that. And so ultimately, as I’ve always said, that the battle for is, you know, can I own an attribute in a buyer’s mind? So for example, when somebody makes up and think digital marketing, they want, you want them to think of our cattle. I mean, it’s something you want to see up, what wakes up and things span. Do you want them to think too, right? And if you’ll be able to get that attribute association by all the set of strategies and tactics, you do, you win because you own the own, the attribute in the mind. So all this performance marketing aside let’s keep first principles in mind, marketing is the science of emotional connections and building that emotional connection. Yeah. I think people do

Jeff Pedowitz:

Even a, B to B complex purchase when you’re thinking about selling so buying center. And of course that ABM does a lot to address people still forget, but it’s still about that. The relationship, it doesn’t, the product comes second. Meaning how many software companies have you worked with over the years when, when you first got the product to market, you didn’t have a fancy demo. You had a crappy looking PowerPoint, you know, you’re selling PayPal there half the time, but what was the customer buying you? Right. They were buying the trust in you that you’re going to take care of them. And that the company was going to be there. They knew they were taking some risks, but they’re, it’s the relationship. And I think that, you know, when you go into ABM, people forget that you’ve got to build those relationships with authenticity. You have to have the content, you have to have the data. It’s just not a matter of saying, well, here’s my 20 accounts. I’m going to come in and go after them. What, what are you guys doing around here?

Chandar Pattabhiram:

Yeah. So the point you made about relationships before I get to ABM is really a really good one, Jeff, because, you know, ultimately people don’t buy products or services. They buy that emotional connection to the brand, right? So for years, and Marketo, you know, we thought we sold marketing automation, but really what people are buying was the marketing nation. Was that emotional connection with that brand of this tribe, this community, that bfl.is that cool club that I want to learn, share, and grow with. And that was really kind of the impetus for them to be associated with the brand, as much as the products that we sold. And that’s really, really important for us. And from an ABM perspective, I know that we should not lose that side is that it’s ultimately about building relationships. And that’s why, you know, ABM is kind of back to the future because sales was all about bringing those relationships in the nineties and the eighties.

And we kind of taken that concept and now we’re democratic democratizing it. Now that we have technology at scale to go do that and drive alignment, making sales and marketing. So from our perspective on opiod, on an interesting journey in ABM, and, you know, there’s going to be three things that first of all, for us, it all started with defining the ideal customer profile and being very you know, empirical about it and using some predictive modeling to figure out which other customers, where the highest propensity to buy. And most importantly, choosing the sub the micro verticals to go after for these target accounts, because none of the mistakes companies do is I want to go out to financial services or healthcare, et cetera. That’s flying the plane at 10,000 feet. You got it blind, the fly that plane at 500 feet and say, okay, it’s micro verticals.

I can go to target specific buyers and use accounts. So that’s kind of number one, looking at ICP. Number two for us was getting rid of this. This notion of I have the traditional horseman approach of marketing sources, 50% sales sources, 30% partners source 20% and getting off that Hartman approach and getting into this concept of all bound, right, and all bound, meaning it’s not inbound, it’s not odd, but it’s all bond when marketing is core driving all pipe, as much as sales is because we’re going after the same set of target accounts from, from that perspective. Right?

So that’s kind of the second institutionalizing concept here is, is getting a, from the sourcing models into more, more of joint alignment models. And three, what we’ve done is, you know, define, you know, entitlement and styles for us to do after ABM. For example, we have, you know, our top 50 accounts, and then we have the next top a hundred accounts, another top 500 accounts, and then kind of the next set of accounts. And we have different entitlements for these different styles of accounts. So some are very high touch with, with, we’ll say, as a marketing, some are medium touch them as somewhat, a little bit more account nourishing on the lower end and driving these three different strategies of engagement for these different styles from that perspective. And we’re using technologies, but using Marketo and we’re using geo we’re using Demandbase and a couple of other technologies bringing all these together on to drive this all bound approach to ABM.

Jeff Pedowitz:

I love that all down. And so how has that also translating into omnichannel? I think it’s a Holy grail for a lot of marketers. And I think for many executives, they think that they’re executing a multichannel. It’s the same thing, but it, but it really isn’t.

Chandar Pattabhiram:

That’s a great question. So for us, it’s like, I, the analogy I talk about is if you look at a target account is, you know, if your marketing and sales is going after it, our job in marketing is to color the high school color of the sky, Cooper blue, across a set of earned on the paid channels for our income, that sales is engaging, right. And in that particular purpose, like, you know, there’s obviously the digital channels that you’ve talked about. [inaudible] Their own channels, whether it’s we have an email and stuff like that, but direct mail is coming back. You know, what an ABM, where would we see that the return of direct mail? And I see more and more engagement in direct mail with these same prospects and more high touch pieces in that. Yeah, I’m sorry?

Jeff Pedowitz:

We might even see faxing.

Chandar Pattabhiram:

Probably that one, maybe not, but definitely direct mail. I saw that, in fact, I got some airport AirPods the other day from, you know, some direct mail account and that the one of the prospect’s selling into me is in a very, you know, very, you have this and a nice note. So it was smiling on this direct mail campaign. And then I think, you know, in B2B, especially, you know, the paid channels, tying the paid channels to the own channels with, you know, dedicated advertising on LinkedIn, as well as other media is an interesting thing that we’re seeing traction on. But why did you’re able to identify this micro segment tonight, ICP in a good way? I, it can be effective. So bringing those three things together is the physical, and that’s why I call it the phygital world it’s non-physical, or this was kind of the phygital world to bring this together. It’s very important from an ABM strategy perspective.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Now I’m I saw the sentence and I think, you know, when it was tying back to our conversation with brand and the customer experience, it’s regards to the channel and the customer sees one company, one name, right. They don’t really think of us as a series of skews. And so they want to have a familiar brand experience for whatever it is that they’re pursuing at the time, regardless of the channel that they happened to be in

Chandar Pattabhiram:

That’s right. You know, regardless. And a lot of times, you know, we, we tend to design our programs inside out. We have to design outside in and from a customer’s perspective and experience is the sum total of every touch. And it’s our job to keep that touch consistent and connected and meet each part of the journey. And that’s more challenging to do, but I don’t, that’s why, you know, having this integrated Omni channel strategy and not trying to bite off a lot of stuff, but really trying to understand the channels of choice for engagement and then get into that is very important.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So what’s your take on the next few years? Is there going to be another big trend in marketing that we should all pay attention to?

Chandar Pattabhiram:

Well, it’s an interesting question. I think there’s two aspects of it, right? I think there is AI and then there’s AI, let me talk about both, right. There is AI from an artificial intelligence perspective that definitely we’re seeing, and then I’m gonna be careful here is it’s really most of the AI and machine learning. Now under the great jeopardy model was honored Jeffrey Moore, and he had a great way of describing machine learning was this artificial intelligence. And he talked about AI being, trying to emulate human intelligence, but as machine learning is trying to simulate human intelligence with mathematical force. And a lot of the use cases and marketing we’re seeing is on the ladder, which is like, how do I use brute mathematical force to simulate human intelligence, whether it’s real predictive lead scoring or predictive modeling, or whether it’s, you know, offers or even stuff in social, et cetera.

So you will definitely see the continued and emergence of these micro use cases in marketing using that AI machine learning thing in marketing, for sure. No, the other AI to me, that’s important is the authentic interactions, right? While you have AI in terms of the artificial intelligence on the aspect that we’ve got and lose the fact that a brand, ultimately this is this whole concept of as a brand, how authentic do I become? That’s a very difficult word to define and, and, and, you know, kind of put it into discrete terms, but really, you know, the personality of the brand, the attention or time or capacity of the brand, and continue to have an authentic interaction is very important. So that’s why I see the confluence of AI and AI being two aspects that’s going in marketing. That’s, that’s one thing I would say. 

The second thing I would say in B2B also is that a little bit of balancing the boat in terms of marketing spend across the cycle of marketing. If you look at it, historically 85% of marketing spend has been an acquisition marketing, because it’s all about aligning leads and opportunities, et cetera, but in today’s world, you know, the true definition of success is, is lifetime value and advocacy because if a customer stays with you longer than he or she sells from the rooftop that they love you, you have arrived as a brand. And that’s the one. So that’s why you, the shift in focus just from acquisition into more like option, cross, sell an advocacy marketing, you’re going to see that more and more of as we go forward. Those are the two things I would say.

Jeff Pedowitz:

I love it. Very well said. Chandar, it’s always a pleasure. Thank you so much for being on the program.

Chandar Pattabhiram:

No, no, that’s great. Jeff, thanks for the opportunity. And I’m looking forward to staying in touch. Cheers.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. And go Cowboys!

Chandar Pattabhiram:

Go Cowboys, Go Coupa, Go!

Jeff Pedowitz:

Alright.

Chandar Pattabhiram:

Go Chandar, Cowboys, Coupa!

Jeff Pedowitz:

C3.

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