CMO Insights: Jeffrey Rohrs, CMO of Yext

CMO Insights: Jeffrey Rohrs

September 11, 2018

CMO Insights: Jeffrey Rohrs, CMO of Yext

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Jeffrey Rohrs, CMO of Yext.

In this video, Jeffrey talks about:

  • The key attributes needed for marketers: flexibility, initiative, teamwork, and motivation
  • A new category that Yext has created called “Digital Knowledge Management”
  • The importance of educating prospects and industry analysts on what Yext is and what it can do for them

Learn more about Jeffrey from his LinkedIn profile and follow Yext on Twitter.

You may know: 7 Key Stages For Successful Lead Management

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 Jeffrey Rohrs, who is Chief Marketing Officer of Yext. Jeffrey, welcome to the show.

Jeffrey Rohrs:

Thanks. And I’m very excited about this “all Jeff” version of the podcast today.

Jeff Pedowitz:

I am too, I think I’m gonna have a very easy time remembering your name for sure. So we’re both basketball fans, you were just telling me beforehand, you’re in Cleveland right now, getting ready for the big game tonight with the Warriors.

Jeffrey Rohrs:

Yes. As we’re taping, it’s a game three versus the warriors. I’m hoping to stop it from being a sweep. But I’m a realist and a long time Cavs fan and it’s enough to see the GOAT, LeBron James in one of these finals games, always impressive.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So if you think about it, you know, as a player, certainly, I mean, he raises the game you know, how do you compare a great player in the NBA to just, what do we have to do as marketers? And when we don’t have, let’s say a great player or this image, what’s what, what do we need to do to promote our brands, our products and services when we don’t have that cash yet?

Jeffrey Rohrs:

Well, that’s a great question. I’ve never thought of it in that context before. And I’ve certainly worked with some great marketing players. But by and large, I think marketing is a, is a team sport, certainly in, in B2B SAS. Just because there were so many key players on the court, on the field, whichever metaphor you want to use. And what I have always tried to do is get our team to play up and have kind of this rising tide.

And as you see certain individuals really achieving, make sure that folks are understanding why they’re achieving that success so that it doesn’t breed jealousy, it breeds commitment, and it breeds a desire to improve oneself and one’s team because ultimately you, you win or you lose as a team. You’re seeing that with LeBron right now, he’s putting up statistics that are unheard of in the playoffs best ever in many instances. But at the end of the day, the cabs may go down to golden state warriors because they just have better players across the board. One player alone, isn’t going to win a team game.

Jeff Pedowitz:

At great comparison. So I know I put you on the spot for that one, but I couldn’t help it.

Jeffrey Rohrs:

Oh, that’s easy! I liked that one.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Um so tell me a little bit more about, you know, cause you’ve been doing this for awhile, you’ve run a lot of different marketing organizations. So as you build a team besides being good teammates and, and, and, and working well together in 2018, what skills do you need? How do you build your structure? What’s it look like today versus say five or 10 years ago?

Jeffrey Rohrs:

Uh so I think answer to that question, I have to give context about who Yext is and what we do, because there’s some unique challenges that we have in the marketplace to establish ourselves software as a service platform that allows companies to control their brand experience and information across all of the intelligent services that consumers use today in order to drive discovery decision and action. So case in point McDonald’s would use us to make sure that all of their individual location information store hours menus, all of that information is correct. So that a consumer on a smartphone is not only going to find their local McDonald’s, but know it’s open 24 hours or know that it has this particular special item.

And we do that across all industries, a particular focus, obviously on brick and mortar industries, but as the game becomes more of a mobile one, discovery is a big part of it. And consumers have moved to this world where they’re on the phone all the time. And that phone is an extension of their brain and their navigational system. So with that, as background, we’ve carved out a space that we call digital knowledge management. It is not a space that a Forrester or Gartner has a magic quadrant or a wave around. And so it is an education sale. It is also a paradigm shift because what we’re suggesting is that you now need to actively manage this information as a company and directly inject that into intelligence services like Google, like Microsoft being any of the voice assistants, Siri, Apple maps, Yelp, et cetera. And that’s different than a crawler mentality of search engines crawling and building your website is still critically important. 

We have a pages product to help you, you know, raise up local local awareness on individual locations. But the reason I raised this in the context of your question of structure is first and foremost, you have to have a team that understands this is not paint by numbers. We are not going into a space where we have equally sized competitors spending equal amount of money to create awareness of the category and the product need. So we have to invest in really good content marketing that adds value and is educational. As to this paradigm shift. We see, we need to create a demand funnel, both on the paid and the organic side that is driving interest from terms that are the way that people talk about us now, but it might not be the way they talk about us in the future because they’re analogizing from a world.

They understand right now, like local search and local search people immediately think of a search box. They think of Google, but a lot of searches are now happening in the map function on your phone, they’re happening in apps where it’s not even search. It’s just a service they’re providing think of like an Uber. And so the team has to be one that is very flexible and attribute. That’s incredibly important. I’ve seen this in both fast growing companies that I was a part of on the, on the ride up exact target. And it yaks, you have to be adaptable and not afraid of change. And then you also gotta be pushing yourself to accomplish more each and every day and week that you come in the door. So that’s kinda what I look for generally. And if you’d like, I can kind of go into the specifics of the team or some of the key roles, but want to pause there.

Jeff Pedowitz:

All right. So I’m here on flexibility initiative, right? Good teamwork. Definitely opens up learning fast learning cause you’re in an adaptive environment, not only for your product, but just modern marketing in general, right. Is adapting very quickly. So, you know, what’s your take on that as a software company yourself, right. But what’s, what’s your take on the technology landscape? Do we have too much now? And, and how do you as a marketing executive make sense of all this?

Jeffrey Rohrs:

Sure. It’s, it’s a really interesting question because I view it both as a provider of a software as a service and as a consumer of a variety of MarTech products. And there is no question that one all, all one needs to do is look at the, the marketing LUMAscape and realize that this has gotten out of control over 5,000 or 7,000, you know, companies competing for MarTech dollars. And what’s interesting about that is that we have the wave of consolidation and continues to be a wave of consolidation around the marketing clouds. The idea was, you know, these marketing clouds would provide end to end solutions and to a degree in certain parts of the market, they do, but in others, there are still point solutions that work a lot better. So I always like to look at it from our customer’s perspective, they are clearly inundated.

They’re getting hit up by a variety of you know, BDR outreach that, that is too voluminous for anybody to handle, let alone respond to. And so you have to, as a marketer in the space, think about how do I cut through the clutter, especially if I’m not from a category that already has a line item on a budget, and that regularly goes out to RFP. And so it means that we really have to create customer success stories and promote those that show the value we provide and the problems we solve and, and position them not as here we are in the market texture of all of this stuff, but rather here is a foundational problem that we solve for and how converts into value for you immediately and, and boiling it down and making it very simple and showcasing where that value can be achieved as critical. Then you don’t have to think about the 7,000 other different solutions out there. You’re focused on, Hey, I know we’re going to deliver value immediately and within weeks or months, you’re going to see why you engage the axed.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Good answer. So as you, as you build out Yext, what do you, what are you being measured on? So what are your, what is your possible do you accountable for, and then what are you looking for from your team?

Jeffrey Rohrs:

Sure. So we have a really good partnership with our our counterparts on the revenue side both in terms of pipeline. So that’s, that’s going to be the number one thing. How are we, how are we driving that top of funnel interest? And then how is that converting down into closed one new business as with anyone in the space, you’re constantly looking to refine your measurements of that improved seller behavior and the data that you’ve got in, so that you’re properly measuring the stages through the pipe. And then also looking to optimize the front end of it, to make sure that your media and organic efforts are driving the right kind of leads. But, you know, from a from a CEO perspective our CEO Howard is looking at, okay, what is the pipeline throughout so that we know what is certainly going to close within the quarter. 

But what is in the wings and is that getting nurtured appropriately? And our optimization efforts are throughout that funnel. I think one of the, one of the areas where we want to kind of close the loop as we look forward is on the media side. So we know what it can drive, you know, the leads, but we want to look to the other end of it and say, okay, it’s great. They drive the leads, but what does the, what’s the media that’s actually driving to close? And that can be a very difficult thing to measure, of course, because in an enterprise sales cycle, that’s a long sales cycle and sometimes you’ll have staff turnover or other things from the time you run media or you drive leads through organic sources to the time something closes. And so we’re really building those processes that transcend individuals hopefully, so that we can begin to get some of those insights. But pipeline is the main thing that we’re, we’re certainly measured

Jeff Pedowitz:

Pipeline’s a good thing for everyone to be measured on, for sure . As you build this out, what would you say are some of your top challenges that you’re facing and how are you addressing them?

Jeffrey Rohrs:

Sure. So, as I mentioned, the first one was the category, a question of how do we engage analysts to create awareness about ourselves, our product, the need we serve and the category we believe we’re building. And there, that was a, that was a critical hire that I brought on board. Someone I had been pursuing for a couple of years, I’d worked with in a past life. And she came on board recently and we’ve doubled down in our outreach to analysts to have conversations and just help them understand, Hey, we’re very much a real thing. We went public last year, we’re growing at a decent clip. Consumers are seeing value. We have a great stable of brands. And what’s been fascinating about that conversation is that the analysts all get it. It’s just, it doesn’t, it doesn’t fit necessarily in their current model. 

It’s analogous. In fact, we’ve mapped. If we go back to your MarTech question, we mapped over 15 different MarTech categories that we touch upon. And yet there’s not one where it’s, it’s completely inclusive of us, but we don’t let that slow us down. But that, that rule of bringing on this individual in to really run that, to build those relationship has been a very critical investment for us because that goes to not only driving inbound interest from enterprise leads through analysts, it also goes to brand recognition and appreciation of the product value. And so that there are conversations and conversations happening outside of our earshot that are beneficial to the brand. Another key area of investment that has been in our, our marketing operations and demand team. And we did a major restructuring of that team last year to align it with new peers that were coming in on the revenue side, owning know pipeline from that revenue perspective, owning some of our go to market teams, but really in charge of thinking about it from a a revenue perspective, as opposed to a marketing perspective.

And I’m really proud of the work that team has done because it is, it has helped us improve our view into performance it’s improved performance overall. And I think it’s also improved kind of our culture because it gives us greater recognition as a marketing organization into how everybody’s contributions impact our business in terms of new business renewals, happy partners, happy customers. So, you know, those two roles on the analyst relations side and the marketing operations really key. And while it’s not a new rule the very first hot IRI made when I joined three years ago was a colleague that I worked with at exact target and Salesforce. And she had oppressed me when she was an intern six or seven years prior at exact target. And she had grown up in the field marketing ranks. She had actually gone over to the sales side for a period of time in the Salesforce area to run field marketing for many of the top accounts.

And I brought over as a VP of Revenue Marketing to do owned events, sponsored events, field events, a lot of our internal events. And she also owns much of the conversation and connectivity with the, her peers on my marketing core team, because her team is aligned so closely with revenue, talking with the regional teams on a weekly basis to understand they need. And so that role, I’m very glad that was the first hire because field marketing is critical on the enterprise side of the business to create those relationship opportunities. And I’ve said it in many interviews that I’ve done, but I firmly believe it that the B2B sale is a far more emotional sale than B to C, because your job is on the line. And in light of that, anything that gives you an opportunity to get together face to face, build a relationship, say, I can trust this person. I can trust this company creates not only the initial sale opportunity, but the longterm retention and loyalty opportunity

Jeff Pedowitz:

Well said. So last question finish this sentence: a year from now, I want Yext to be…

Jeffrey Rohrs:

Okay, that’s ah, that’s a, Oh wow. There’s so many words that I could put in there a year from now. I want Yext to be recognized as one of the most innovative and value producing MarTech providers available today.

Jeff Pedowitz:

All right. Well said, thank you so much. Good luck tonight. I hope the calves got one for ya. Either way. I’m sure I’ll ask him to bring it.

Jeffrey Rohrs:

Yeah, I hope they can do it. I mean, I think a seven game series is infinitely more exciting for everybody except I guess, Golden State fans. But we’ll see. Either way, it’s great to be back going with brands and get to see some amazing players take the court.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Well, Jeffrey, thanks again for being on the program. Really appreciate it.

Jeffrey Rohrs:

Thank you very much.

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