CMO Insights: Debbie Umbach, VP of Marketing, BitSight Technologies

debbie

May 16, 2019

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Debbie Umbach, VP of Marketing, BitSight Technologies.

In this video, Debbie talks about:

  • Using data to measure and track success.
  • Her focus on being market-driven over being product, sales or customer driven.
  • Her past career in engineering and how it has impacted her marketing career.

Learn more about Debbie from her LinkedIn profile and follow on BitSight Technologies Twitter.

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

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. So I today as our guest, we have Debbie Umbach, who is Vice President of Marketing at BitSight technology. Debbie, welcome to the show.

Debbie Umbach:

Hi Jeff. Great to be here.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Great to have you. So you did not start off in marketing and you started off I think in engineering, right?

Debbie Umbach:

That’s right. Yeah, I got my undergraduate degree in engineering and moved on. I’m into it project management and really decided that I wanted to move into product management and really see the full strategy and work with all parts of the business. So I got my MBA quite a few years ago now and moved into product marketing eventually. And for about three and a half years I’ve been running all of marketing here at BitSight.

Jeff Pedowitz:

What kind of transition was that when you went from, cause a lot of engineers do that. They’ll go into product first and then, but then making the transition into full marketing. When you’re driving demand, you’re building brand, doing some of those other things that’s, that’s sometimes can be a little bit harder. So what was that transition like for you?

Debbie Umbach:

Yeah, I think it, I think it was interesting because as a product marketer working with, as a product manager first working with my counterparts in marketing, especially at some smaller companies, I actually got to learn a little bit through osmosis. So just sitting near them and hearing the things they were working on, being in meetings with them and really starting to learn there. When I then moved over into product marketing, we did interface with campaigns and events and I went to events and saw what worked well at events and what didn’t.

I think probably the biggest area that I needed to learn when I stepped up to run all of marketing was around the demand gen and the digital side of the business and really understanding the whole waterfall, how leads flow through the system how you partner with sales to get those things done. And it was actually really great because learning that piece of the business that’s really driving the revenue ultimately and is a really meaningful area. While it may not be viewed as strategic as some other parts of marketing, it actually can be strategic depending on how you look at it.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Oh, how did all your years of being an engineer prepare you for this role now? Do you apply any of the engineering principles to your job or any marketing?

Debbie Umbach:

Well, I think I was in systems engineering and, and for systems you actually look across. There was some computer science elements to it and I’ve been in software my whole career, a little bit hardware but mostly software. And knowing, understanding how the engineers think they’re the ones building the product is really, really helpful. Even though the only coding I ever did was for a demo system. Just understanding how it works and kind of how they think has always been really helpful. And as a product manager you have to work to partner with them and influence them to build what you want. So you really learn those influence skills, which I think are very, very in, in overall marketing as well because you really want to lead the company. Most companies these days want to be market driven versus technology driven or sales driven.

And so a lot of what you do is influencing other people and working cross functionally. But I think really having a systems view is, is important because marketing is a system when you think about it and, and go through and understanding processes. Great. I think one area that, that has been harder for me as an engineer is to really look, create a vision and, and think about outcomes and where you want to be and paint that picture for people because I tend to think of the process and how we’re going to get there. But a lot of salespeople and other people, especially executives, as you start to interface with them more they really want to understand where you’re going and then, okay, what’s the process for getting there? So that’s been a learning experience for me. I’ve, I’ve gotten a lot better over time.

Jeff Pedowitz:

And when you talk about being market driven, and I guess that could also be customer driven, how is it, how’s it different when you, when you design the systems marketing sales and the company around being market driven versus being product driven. Whether some of the differences in how you’re approaching it. Cause it is, it’s fundamentally different isn’t it? And in terms just in terms of how you would think about the touch points.

Debbie Umbach:

Absolutely. And the reason I say market driven, it’s actually broader than customer-driven because if you’re too customer driven, especially in a smaller organization, you might get swayed by one customer or another taking you in a certain direction. Market-Driven really means you’re looking across themes, you’re seeing certain market segments and then of course like the customers within them. I think really always keeping that end customer in mind is really critical. I’ve seen a lot of technology companies that kind of start out with the build it, they will come mentality and we’ve got this great new technology and we see that there’s an application for it.

And, and we, we’ve tested and we see there’s some early market demand, but it’s really about the technology and when you start to really understand your audience and the problems that they face, then you can really start to become more speaking their language and then tailor your solutions to the problems that they have and make sure that you have a great product market fit. I think companies that tend to be sales driven will tend to sometimes thrash because they’re looking at particular customers and, and salespeople oftentimes, you know, it’s the last deal that they won, the last customer they spoke to. Whereas in marketing you’re really looking at, particularly in product marketing and the market research area, you’re looking at themes, you’re talking to analysts who talked to a number of customers, really analyzing data quantitatively and qualitatively to really understand the markets that you’re going after.

Jeff Pedowitz:

What, what are you measuring? How do you know when you’ve hit and it, and you’re being successful just in terms of being market driven. I mean certainly revenue is one, but are there other things that you’re looking at to say, yeah, we’re, we’re not thrashing, we’re, we’re heading in the right direction.

Debbie Umbach:

Yeah, actually are very metrics driven company because we’re a cybersecurity ratings organization, kind of like the financial ratings. We have a common metric that security people and risk professionals can use to communicate to executives and the board. And so because our product is really so metrics driven and we talk to our customers about enabling them to have data-driven conversations, it’s kind of natural that our organization would be very data-driven as well. And so we have KPIs in all areas of the business and really measure it from a marketing perspective. We look at the source pipeline as one of our biggest focus areas. And certainly leads are like an leading indicator, but it’s the quality of those leads. It’s the conversion of lead to opportunity. What are the campaigns that are the most effective? What’s the ROI? And you know, ultimately we look at the source pipeline, but we do also look at pipeline that we influence, especially because we sell to an enterprise. We have an enterprise sales force and a commercial sales force. And so you look at things a little bit differently. We’re going to source more on the commercial side and influence more on the enterprise side. So we have a number of different things to think about.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So you, you described a lot about the acquisition side, but what about the life cycle side? So now they’re a loyal customer, they’re using your product. What other KPIs are you developing that measure whether or not the customer is a happy customer if they’re using it, they’re loyal of their advocates.

Debbie Umbach:

Absolutely. No, that’s a great question. And we’re a software as a service business. So in sassy it’s really, really critical to retain your customers and then to upsell, cross sell and so forth. So we look at, we’ve actually started measuring NPS last year, you know, so there are differing views on the value of NPS. One of the things we look at at BitSight is the trends over time. So how are you trending? Maybe the number in and of itself isn’t, isn’t that meaningful but it’s how do you respond to it? So if someone comes in and they’re a detract or well, why? And you reach out to them and you learn and you learn from that for the advocates, we have opportunities for them to give their name out there and we can give them a platform so that they can articulate kind of the value that they’re deriving, the business results that they’re seeing.

So NPS, we do surveys after every support call. I think customer support is really important. Making sure that experience is really strong and certainly we’d look at our retention rate and things like that. We are also have a, an online customer community we’re about to launch where we can start to get information and feedback where they’re learning best practices from each other. We’re learning from them. They can submit product ideas and feedback. So that’s a little bit more, and we can actually do polls in there so we can get real time feedback and certain topics.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So as you think about how you set up your marketing programs, campaigns, content, do you also follow that same approach to terms in terms of being markets you have and have you organized who are work streams that you have, the opposition side and then kind of the life cycle side?

Debbie Umbach:

Yeah, so actually we’ve been doing a lot of work recently on the buyer’s journey or the customer journey, if you will. From awareness to consideration to selection and then growth. And we really look at at how we organize the department and the activities and allocate our spend according to that journey. And over time as the company grows, we have 1500 customers now. There are a couple of dozen when I joined four and a half years, years ago. So one really great growth and as we grow, continue to grow further and we’ll be there, we’ll be spending more time in the customer area. Right now it’s, it’s really a huge market opportunity. So we’re working a lot on acquisition as well as the customer retention and growth. So that will evolve a little bit over time

Jeff Pedowitz:

And, and you guys would run a lot since I think what, you’re eight years old now.

Debbie Umbach:

Yeah. So we’ve, yep. Just about eight years.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So from, from my transformation in other areas like technology, how has that changed over the last few years in you investing in new things now that you wouldn’t have even thought about a couple of years ago?

Debbie Umbach:

I mean from like a MarTech stack perspective.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah. Interesting. How do you scale, right? So I mean, as you take on the world, right? This reaching customers at scale with you have everything that you need or are you finding that you’re going through kind of an ongoing, none of the Morphosis?

Debbie Umbach:

Yeah, no, it’s a great question. I think tools are really, really important. When a company grows too quickly, sometimes they get too many tools and don’t have a really good strategy for them. I think the best tools, you know, can, can fall flat if you don’t have a process around them. And, and kind of the end game articulated. So we have around customer success, we have tools like we leverage Gainsight, which is a fantastic tool. And Pendo on the product side on the, on the MarTech stock, certainly we have, well we have sales operations and marketing automation. One of the areas we’re actually looking into now is conversational marketing. And so I think that’s a really good example of where you need to set your goals. And we just bought that

Jeff Pedowitz:

And the office we got, we bought a case of those books. Commentaries from marketing.

Debbie Umbach:

Yes, yes. They’re actually a great company at marketing. They’re just, they’re really, really good. They know their audience really well. And I have a friend there that he actually runs the product organization. So he was kind of telling me about some of the inside inner workings, which was interesting. But I, they just think that’s an example of, that’s a tool where we, we actually think it’s gonna work really well for us. We’re going to start from a pilot, take a pilot approach first, start small and kind of go from there.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Macro center, right? I mean, well, it’s funny how things come full circle because way back thousands of years ago what we had campfires, right? And there there was another television or internet or anything. What did we do? We tell stories, it kind of [inaudible] so that format, whether it’s a book or a movie or play or marketing the better story is the one that gets everyone’s attention. I think that if it’s up, it’s a boring story and there’s no hero or like the customer can’t see themselves as the hero then kind of falls flat.

Debbie Umbach:

That’s right. That’s right. So that’s, that’s really important. I mean, from a tactical perspective, well, it’s somewhat strategic in the sense that we have a planning and budgeting tool that we use which at the size of our organization now and, and our budget, it, it just made sense. So we’re using a tool that’s enabling us to look at our spend and forecast and make sure what we estimate we’re going to spend. We actually spend, when we say we’re going to and really looking at spend by area as I mentioned the buyer’s journey earlier. So we’re able to be much more strategic and where we’re spending our money and the results that we’re getting. I think that’s actually, I’m really most excited about that tool after conversational marketing that we’ve had in place for about a year and, and it’s been working really well for us and gives me a lot more insight as the leader of the organization that we’re really doing that we’re really doing the right things and we’re, we’re being as effective as we can.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Nice. so you’re accountable for revenue, you’re investing in technology or customer driven. Tell me a little bit about your management style and the people that you hire. What do you look for?

Debbie Umbach:

Sure. I think one of the most important things that that we look for at BitSight, but that I have looked for kind of my whole career is curiosity and the willingness to learn. I think what’s really great at BitSight is that our two founders are just super, super smart. They’re from MIT. Just great guys. And you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t know it though because they’re not, they’re not overly confident, you know, they’re always asking questions. They’re always wanting to learn. I’m always growing and I think they really push everyone to be their best. And so it doesn’t matter where you are, how old you are, how long you’ve been working. If you’re interested in continuing to learn and you’re excited about the work that you do, you’re just, you’re going to do a really good job. And the people that I’ve found to have that natural curiosity tend to be the most effective and no matter what type of work that they’re doing, you know, whether they’re, if we’re talking marketing specifically, you know, whether they’re doing product marketing or customer marketing digital, you know, channel or event marketing or field marketing as we call it here.

I think I think that’s really important. I think the other, the other probably two areas are operational excellence and really committing. When you say you’re going to do something, do you actually get that done? That’s, that’s a really important piece. And then and then really trust is does you have, are you hiring someone with trust and integrity? And so those are the three things that are the most important. Certainly there are other qualities, but I find you’re able to actually learn a lot in the interview itself, but then also through references and, and back channel references, you know, talking to people that they may not necessarily have given you a list of, but you but you maybe know someone that worked with them before and you can really find out some good information. And even from the references they give you, you can learn about their style. What’s worked well and areas for improvement. And it really helps you then when you bring them on, be a better manager because you have a little bit more insight into their personality and their style.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Nice. And is there a certain way that you’re organizing the team? Do you have marketing operations, revenue operations?

Debbie Umbach:

Yeah. So we have we’ve created this market, it’s around security ratings and we continue to lead that market. So it’s really important to have a lot of thought leadership and branding. And so we have communications and that for analyst relations, public relations, a little bit of advertising. And so there’s that piece of the business. Product marketing really sets the market strategy, does the competitive analysis. And actually I have the, the leader that runs product marketing also runs content and customer marketing.

We have a field organization in North America and then I have an international leader running EMEA and APAC because 30% of our customers are outside the U S and then we’ve got marketing operations and analytics and then together or separate or ops or marketing ops and analytics separate or together, they’re together and they work very, very closely with sales ops and analytics and also the business analytics team. And so, and then channel is involved in there as well. So the team, while decentralized works very, very well together so that we can kind of have a more cohesive, a pretty cohesive go-to-market, a set of KPIs.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Nice. All Debbie, I’d say you have a really good handle on, it’s easy to see why you guys are being so successful. So yeah. Thank you so much for being on the program today. I really enjoyed speaking with you.

Debbie Umbach:

Likewise, take care.

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