CMO Insights: Jake Sorofman, CMO of Pendo

September 4, 2018

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Jake Sorofman, CMO of Pendo.

In this video, Jake talks about:

  • How marketing has become more data driven and technology reliant
  • Talent acquisition and multi-channel attribution as the biggest challenges in a fast growing company
  • The critical need for a single person to own the MarTech stack

Learn more about Jake from his LinkedIn profile and follow Pendo on 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. Today as our guest, we have Jake Sorofman, who is the CMO at Pendo. Jake, welcome to the show.

Jake Sorofman:

Thanks, Jeff. Great to be here.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Thanks so much for joining us. So you’ve had really a fascinating career, several stances that you had marketing officer’s worked at as an analyst at Gartner, and now you’re back at the helm again. So what’s what’s been some of the biggest changes to the role of the CMO in your perspective?

Jake Sorofman:

You know, it’s it’s interesting. So I spent about five years as gardener analyst, as you mentioned, sort of tracking the evolution of the role. And I think it’s no surprise to anyone that’s become much more data driven, much more technology led. So sort of this science side of, of marketing has changed fairly profoundly, which necessitated different staffing models and different roles within the marketing organization show the rise of the marketing analyst, the rise of the chief marketing technologist or marketing engineer.

Jake Sorofman:

So that’s an interesting evolution. I think some other things are maybe less, more subtle, but equally important. And that’s that the way we tell stories has changed the expectations of audiences for something that delivers value to them. I think that there’s much less tolerance just in the age of a button. If it’s school for your audiences have a tremendous amount of choice to engage with lots of freely available content. The onus is on marketers to do even better and to tell stories that are really distinctive and differentiated and, and stories that start with what’s at stake for the buyer and, and, and consequently earn the right to the, to the buyer’s attention. Early in my career, I remember certainly in the BDB space marketing being sort of the whole, you know, better, faster, cheaper concede where even solution selling as an idea, I think has turned into a set of platitudes.

It needs to be, we need to do better. And I think that that’s the expectation, the standard that marketers are being held to today on the creative side as well. Do you think that with the push to be more running marketing, more like a business focus on technology and metrics that marketing’s lost a little bit of the art of storytelling and creating an emotional connection with the customer? Just the contrary, just the contrary and that’s it that’s exactly what, where I was, I was trying to go there is I think that it’s easy to presume that the shift to the science side of marketing has been at the expense of the art, but I think it’s actually art is under pressure as well, both because audiences expect better. They they’re, they engage content and storytelling that is distinctive, differentiated, engaging, delightful. And, and also because data tells us a whole lot that can make us do better on that side of the equation as well.

So data driven marketing isn’t about, isn’t just about targeting, and it’s also about understanding which MES semester’s do and don’t resonate and quickly iterating on creative concepts to evolve them to make them more effective. So we have unbelievably productive conversations with our creative team centered around data, looking at which ads do and don’t perform, and then building a narrative around what that data means and how that can inform the next iteration

Jeff Pedowitz:

Very well said. So tell us a little bit about Pendo and what are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing in your role there?

Jake Sorofman:

So Pendo is a venture backed software company, SAS company, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, and we have a a product experience platform. So we help digital product teams, both within SAS companies and digitally led enterprises create software experiences that users love. We do that by instrumenting the application, collecting lots of behavioral data around how users are engaging with the products to understand which features they’re using, which features they aren’t using other journeying through the product. And then we also capture user feedback, so qualitative feedback to understand user sentiment. And then finally we allow these teams to set up guides and in-app messages to drive the right behaviors in the app to help users through the process of onboarding and through the process of understanding how to adopt and get value from new features. So it’s really toward the goal of making products, sticky, making digital experiences, simple and intuitive and delightful for end users.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. And as the CMO, and now you’ve been at, I think eight months, you said, so what, what are some of the biggest challenges that you’re facing?

Jake Sorofman:

So we’re growing very, very fast. So when I joined eight months ago, marketing was a team of five today we’re rapidly approaching 20, I think we’re 18. So there’s just been a tremendous amount of growth having the right people in the right seats doing that very quickly as we stare down and bigger and bigger expectations from a revenue growth perspective. I’d say that that’s probably challenged number one. I feel like we’re doing great against that challenge. We have a fantastic team and we’ve been fortunate to be a pretty visible and, and somewhat celebrated company and in a, in a town where there isn’t a whole lot of competition for those resources, which is great.

I’d say that the other challenge that we have that is maybe common to virtually every organization is, is the multichannel attribution channel challenge and really tracing the thread to understand not just the direct impact of our marketing investments, religion perspective, but also the overall influence and the indirect impact of our investments across all the touch points on the buying journey. So we know we under report marketing impact. We still feel good about our impact. We’re able to trace the threads to tell a positive ROI story, but we know that there it’s kind of the bacon baked in assumption that we’re, we’re probably underreporting our impact.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So that’s very fast growth for your team. Tell me a little bit about what do you look for in 2018? What kind of people you’re hiring, whether the personality traits, what skills are you looking for as you build out a team, especially so quickly, because it must be a really interesting dynamic to get when you’re hiring that many people so fast, what does it do to culture? How do you get, get them working in harness together?

Jake Sorofman:

Yeah, that’s a fantastic question. I start with passion. Like people need to care really deeply care about the work and needs to be more than job, more than paycheck. Something that they care deeply about both because they get a kick out of the work. They like the people that I work with. And also because they’re driven to achieve things personally, but then their own careers. So ambition is also important. And then looking for people who are sort of, T-shaped like, we want people that have deep expertise within a specialized function, but also the breadth to be able to make the logical connections between adjacent functions. So they have breadth and contextual understanding of the whole picture. They understand the why behind what they’re doing, but they’re also deeply expert in what they’re doing from a specialized perspective. What I described sounds a little bit like a unicorn, but we’ve been pretty fortunate in finding a lot of people that fit that profile.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Now, that’s great. I’m sure a lot of marketers have, there would probably like your guidance because I know trying to find good people. It’s constantly one of the biggest issue is that not only finding them, but keeping them that’s a, that’s a big one. So as you grow so quickly, what are some of the business processes that you’re spending more time on that are helping you scale? Or are there certain areas that are higher priority than others?

Jake Sorofman:

For sure. Although I’m, you know, now that you asked that question, I, I, I’m challenged to think of which ones I’d call out as higher priority because they all seem to have relatively equivalent priority, but I’d say that it’s really around marketing operations, reporting analytics. That’s probably where I’m put this focus at the moment simply because it puts you in a position to earn the right to ask for more. And frankly, you know, we want to put more dollars to work and driving growth for the company. And it’s hard to have those conversations unless you have a pretty deep transparency around what, what isn’t, isn’t working. So I feel like it’s only responsible to build that sort of transparency before you start really doubling down on investments. So that’s probably the first point, the second area where I, where I put a lot of attention, we put a lot of attention as a team is really around customer marketing.

So Pendo as an organization has more Goodwill customer Goodwill than maybe any company I’ve ever worked for just this wellspring of passion and, and excitement around the product from customers who really not only really love the product, but also love the brand. So we’ve created a community and it feels almost like the beginning of a movement. And that’s, that’s pretty exciting to be part of I think we’ve done a reasonably good job, but could do better in activating that advocacy. So telling their stories, merchandising those stories and, and, and really sharing them out in the wild. So others can hear and learn from the passion and energy around the product.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Interesting that you say that because a lot of marketing executives I talk to, why they certainly don’t care about the customer experience. So a lot of the focus is on acquisition, top of funnel, and very, very little spent on onboarding value realization, adoption, loyalty, advocacy. It’s always been a head scratcher because all of us have whatever our business model we want to keep our customers, right. So,

Jake Sorofman:

And just the economics of that should dictate that you spend more time on retention and growth than, than just acquisition, or at least equivalent time, because it’s cheaper to retain a customer than to acquire a new customer. And there’s also the added sort of indirect benefit of that advocacy, seeing that with that means from a word of mouth perspective and really driving, you know, customer success.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yeah, very well said. So as you’re scaling this thing out, what’s your approach to technology strategically, whether, you know, whether some of the main things that you feel you have to have and what are some things right, while they’d be nice to have, but aren’t as important.

Jake Sorofman:

Sure. So the first thing you need, in my opinion, as someone who owns the stack within marketing so at Gardner, we talked a lot about this idea of a chief marketing technologist is sort of the senior most CMOs seat over CTO CIO hybrid within the marketing function. And you know, the C part is overstated. It’s not a C level executive, but it is a leader of marketing technology. Who’s responsible for defining the architecture and vendor selection and integration and operation and and just building the stack and owning it front to back.

So right now we have one marketing engineer within our team. We just hired a second. So it’s really important to have that leadership in place we’ve benefited from that real marketing technology perspective. I mean, there are key foundations we’re Marquetto shop. So we use Marketo for marketing automations or mid funnel campaigns, email nurture and then top of funnel I’d say the very top of the funnel is really centered around a content marketing strategy that that we’ve launched in the last several months based on a destination editorial site called the product craft product craft.com, which is really based on this premise.

And I think I mentioned it before that when you start with what’s at stake for your audience, you’ve earned the right to their attention. This is purely value added content. We live and die about an editorial mandate of publishing content that people want to consume videos and blog posts, and even do a weekly poll on some of the questions and topics within the, on the minds of our, our, our target buyers. And we don’t mention our product ever. So we’re not pitching products, we’re not even indirectly pitching product, but we believe that, you know, by creating that sort of almost editorial compact with our, with our, with our audience it builds a brand affinity and ultimately it’s, it builds awareness for the brand and Goodwill. And then over time we can start to cultivate that Goodwill by offering different types of content experiences that become progressively more oriented to us as a brand and what perhaps what we have to sell if, and when that makes sense, okay.

Jeff Pedowitz:

The heightened focus on content that there’s too much out there. And so you can maybe get lost in the noise.

Jake Sorofman:

I think that there’s almost a field of dreams, expectations sometimes that if you build it, they will come and they typically don’t. So we put as much attention in creating great content is creating audiences. So really spending effort in building community and audience development. We use paid media for amplification of our, of our content, as well as building a community on earned channels. So it’s really important for us to have equivalent focus on building audience and just not just assuming that they’re going to show up, we also use the content in our nurture campaigns. So it’s all fed into sort of feeds the beast. It’s woven into our multichannel communications programs to ensure that it’s reaching audiences. And, but first and foremost, you need to start with something great. And we think we were producing something something pretty great.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So one thing I wanted to go back to your time at gardener, cause I think you were probably, you were already there when Gartner made the famous prediction that by 2017 marketing would manage more technology than it. And I think in large part, that’s come to pass. What what have been some of the implications of that prediction, like both good and bad and as marketing has taken over more technology, what have you found?

Jake Sorofman:

Yeah, that’s interesting. Yeah, I was there and my colleague, Laura McClellan made the prediction and it became, as you suggested pretty famous or infamous, depending on. And then I wrote a research report based on the 2016, I believe marketing spend research that it actually had crossed over and CMOs were spending more on technology than, than CTOs. One year ahead of schedule or CIO sparred me. So it did happen. The implications of that are that marketing has had to become much smarter about technology. And, you know, that’s why I think that that CMT or marketing engineer role is so critical. You need to have someone looking after that as a strategy you know, similar to having the right analytics and reporting and in place to be responsible stewards of the marketing budget. I think to be responsible steward of the marketing technology budget, you need to have leadership that’s I feel really passionately about that.

I also think that it’s important for there to be sort of a dotted line relationship between that marketing technology leadership and corporate it to ensure that there’s coordination and collaboration and decisions are being made, not in a vacuum, but with a broader respect and understanding for you know, not only things like compliance and corporate governance, I mean, today is actually GDPR day. These are real issues that companies need to face. But, but also you know, ensuring that there isn’t duplicate duplication of of tools across, across the organization and that they’re were thinking about a reference architecture in a way that that makes sense.

Jeff Pedowitz:

We’re all set. So closing thoughts, what do you think is coming next? What’s the next big thing that as marketers, we need to be paying attention to?

Jake Sorofman:

Gee, that’s. It’s a really good question. You know, one of the things I’ve talked about a lot at, at Gardner is that, you know, Mark more than any other function within an organization, marketing was responsible for the customer experience customer experiences obviously very critical and style companies are differentiating today. The expectations are only on the rise from customers. We’re expecting a simple and delightful experience. I heard someone recently say, you know, product is the new marketing that’s I think a really interesting way of thinking about just the importance of experience in general. If you, the way I would say it is marketing does not, is not responsible the end to end customer experience because that’s broad. I mean, customer experience is sort of the Psalm of every pre and post sales moment with a customer. What I’m saying is that marketing is dependent on the customer experience being exceptional because in the absence of that, it’s like marketing against the headwind.

So and I have the good fortune at Pendo of working in a company. And I mentioned lots of Goodwill, lots of passion around the products and incredibly loyal and passionate customer base. That’s a tailwind that makes my job a pleasure. So I think what marketers are realizing is that to do their jobs effectively, they need to ensure that the company does other things really effectively. So the best marketing leaders are the ones that can influence those outcomes. Either get lucky like I have or influence those outcomes proactively across the organization, outside of their spirit control and direct responsibility.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Wow. Very well said, Jake, very easy to see why I’ve had so much success in your career. Thank you for sharing your insights with us today. Really appreciate it.

Jake Sorofman:

Thank you, Jeff. I appreciate it.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You bet. Thank you.

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