CMO Insights: Ken Robinson, Chief Marketing Officer, ProSites

June 13, 2017

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Ken Robinson, Chief Marketing Officer for ProSites.

In this video, Ken discusses:

  • How marketing as a department has changes dramatically to become a revenue-focused, metrics-driven part of the organization
  • The two main benchmarks he focuses on to drive this revenue mindset every day
  • Why he seeks out process driven talent and why process is critical to his marketing team.

Learn more about Ken from his LinkedIn profile and follow ProSites on Twitter.

For more great CMO interviews like this one, please check out our CMO Insights Playlist on our YouTube channel.

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Good afternoon, and welcome to Revenue Marketing Television. I’m your host, Jeff Pedowitz. This is the CMO Insights Series, and today we have as our guest Ken Robinson, Chief Marketing Officer of ProSites. Ken, welcome to the show.

Ken Robinson:

Great. Thanks so much Jeff, pleasure to be here.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Thanks. So I’ve had a chance to work with you over the years and a couple of different opportunities. Tell me, tell me a little bit about site and some of the, any challenges that you’re facing there?

Ken Robinson:

Yeah, ProSites is actually, it’s an interesting business on the surface of what we do is we develop a website designs or offer website design, and then online marketing services, you know, and our target audience is professional services and more specifically it’s people in the medical dental veterinarian, and then also in the financial services space. And so as you can imagine, it’s people that are doing your taxes or cleaning your teeth, and that’s their area of expertise, a website design and online marketing, whether it’s paid search or SEO or social media engagement, really didn’t go to school for that.

And that’s not the core of their business. And usually the people in their, in their office. That’s not their core expertise either, but as you would imagine in those industries and those businesses, they need to drive demand, need to drive awareness and retain clients with just common, you know, challenge and and concerning focus for a lot of businesses and for them, because they don’t have the expertise in house, they usually are looking to outsource those services and they want to make sure they’re maximizing their return on those investments. And and, and really delivering a great user experience from an online marketing perspective to their, to their patients or to their clients. So they turned to us to do that. Okay. So we have about 15,000 clients that we deliver those services services to, so we market the suite of services under the ProSites brand, but then we also have a parallel brand called CPA site solutions. 

So our corporate brand is ProSites, but we do business under those both of those individual brand mascots. Okay. So as you progressed through the years, how are you seeing the role of marketing change? Do you find that you’re having to run things more like a business today, and then you were saying a few years ago? Yeah. You know, I think that’s a common I guess challenge point certainly early, if he go back five, seven, maybe even as much as 10 years for marketers to really think about marketing as a critical or a key component of any business yet, I, I joke with your, with your counterparts. I mean, you know, marketing historically has always been thought about as sort of pens and mugs and shirts at trade shows and, you know, really never been thought about as a revenue generating component of any business. 

But I think the mindset today, and we certainly see this in articles that have been published and trade shows and other industry events. So we get it too, you know, marketing today is very much a revenue focused metrics driven organization. I think that really supports a focus of, you know, thinking about marketing as a business. I know for us, in my specific instance in our company, we really do think about marketing as a business in the sense that we have inputs, we have a process and then we have a series of outputs and we’re constantly looking to measure and optimize the the outputs, given a finite amount of resources that are available to us. So we are thinking about costs. We are thinking about revenue and we’re thinking about overall profitability. And that’s something that cascades down from the board to the leadership team, through every function within the organization and marketing very much. So, given the budget…

Jeff Pedowitz:

Does speaking of those things, then what are you being specifically held accountable for at your level? And then what are you holding the team accountable for?

Ken Robinson:

Yeah, for a long time, not just within this organization, I’ve always looked at benchmark marketing’s performance based on really two very simple metrics. One is pipeline growth and the second is closed business. And part of that is it’s very measurable. And probably as importantly, that type of a focus and benchmarks and just the language that’s used to talk about marketing’s contribution back to the business. And there’s two forms draws very, very tight alignment with the sales organization. Cause those are the terms that they think and how am I doing in terms of building my pipeline? How am I doing in terms of closing business? What am I doing to relieve quota and where is my focus area and where am I focusing my time and attention? So that’s the way that I, when coming into this organization looked at benchmark marketing’s performance, pipeline growth, closed one business.

And when we think about how does that cascade down through the marketing organization, that type of a lexicon or KPIs, if you will, those that’s on the tips of the tongues of everybody on my team, whether they’re in demand, gen marketing, operations, content, marketing, product marketing, they know those are the two, if you will, yard sticks that we are going to hold ourselves accountable to. And that’s where the company is going to hold marketing accountable to. We have other diagnostic KPIs to ensure that we’re moving in the right direction with those two benchmarks. And those are equally important to us as marketers, but we sort of keep that if we will, as a part of our marketing lexicon. So we talk about conversion rates, we talked about MQL funnel, velocity, things like that. Those are, you know, terms, if you will, our benchmarks that we use to determine if we’re moving in the right direction, but pipeline growth, closing my business. That’s how we’re measuring marketing’s impact on the business.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Great. so as you’re building this culture, what type of people are you hiring for now and what skills you’re looking for versus say what you might’ve needed a few years back?

Ken Robinson:

Yeah, it’s interesting. I’ve been with the organization since the 15th of October and I inherited two great people. And one was doing trade shows and events for us, and then the other person was doing kind of PR. And I guess what I would consider is more corporate marketing. So what attracted me to this position was the ability to build a team in the, the blueprint for the team buildup is actually very much aligned with what the Pedowitz group had put forward. Probably about a year ago in terms of what does a revenue driven metrics kind of focused marketing organization. What’s a contemporary revenue marketing organization look like today which I thought great details and great examples and really aligned with kind of my thinking at the time. And so that’s, if you will, a blueprint that I’ve afforded today.

And so the polices that I filled in I filled in marketing operations, it was relatively new hire for us. I’ve got demand generation that we’ve plugged in demand generation for us was the only position where it’s kinda market specific or role specific focus. And that’s largely because on the pro site side of the business, we’re focused on dental medical veterinary, that type of a, of a buyer on our CPA site solutions. It’s very much accounting or a tax preparation focus. So completely different buyer buying cycles, buyer personas, channels, and engagement. So they are aligned with this very specific in industries, everybody else on my team, whether it’s content, marketing events, marketing operations, product marketing really serves both lines of business. So I guess maybe stated a little bit more simply I have a sort of a service based layer within the marketing organization. 

And then I have some industry specific focus roles, but everybody is held accountable to very similar metrics. We just talked about pipeline growth, close one business, but we do have some specialization. And then some industry alignment on the team. What I’m really hiring for today is a one best in class in terms of background experience, or we’re certainly looking for people that can do the job that we’re asking them to do, but I’m also finding that really cultural fit and cultural alignment is in some ways almost as equally important, you know, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m fully staffed. And so, as I’m thinking about bringing new people onto the team, I’m thinking about the cultural grade point average, and are those people adding to that, or at least helping to maintain some level of neutrality around.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Team dynamics. They’re always, it’s so important, especially as you’re building your culture over time, getting people that fit.

Ken Robinson:

Yeah, it’s usually important for us cause we, we we all work remotely. We’re dual headquartered in San Diego and then also Vermont, but the totality of my team works across the United States, Chicago and San Diego and LA and Vermont and Connecticut. And so really, you know, finding the right team culture and the right cultural DNA to support that type of remote or kind of distributed team structures and hugely, hugely important. We need people that can, can work at autonomously, but yet still, you know, very much contribute to our team oriented culture.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Great. So tell me a little bit more about some of the processes that you’re working on now, as you start to get your team in place, what are you focusing on? That’s going to get you to the next level?

Ken Robinson:

Yeah, I’m, I’m very, very fortunate. One of the things that we are thinking about team culture is finding people that are kind of process driven. And I’ve been very fortunate to find people that are very much, you know, like process of process and not there they document the initial process and look to, you know, for ways to improve that. From a technology perspective, one of the ways that we we’re sort of maintaining effectiveness and efficiency from a process standpoint is we use a technology called the sauna. That’s something that team brought forward and said, you know, we’d like to be able to use this. It gives us greater visibility across the different functions and roles within marketing. And it helps us keep pace with the volume and the velocity of marketing campaigns and programs that we’re executing against a part of that is really just making sure we’ve got the right tools in place and the right level of visibility.

Now, part of that is really establishing a culture that’s based on very strong communication. Again, we are all remote. So, you know, because we do have sort of a functional delineation across the marketing team from content demand, gen and offs wanted to make sure that we weren’t creating any silos. So we wanted to make sure that information was flowing freely across the organization. We, we, we find time to connect based on video. So we’re establishing a personal connection through FaceTime. So there’s a series of meetings, whether it’s our team meetings, individual one-on-ones or sort of small group meetings amongst the team members that are really helping to facilitate that process and what we do regular kind of a monthly check in, you know and certainly a quarterly check-in what’s worked, what’s not working. Where can we find greater efficiencies for for improvement in the, the team is focused on that.

If we noticed that, for instance, with our webinar development process, it was a little clunky, there’s kind of what I call dumb in the gears, going from ideation to execution, to measurement and reporting the team, brought forward some ideas on how we can better improve that process. So it’s sort of an, it’s always in the back of our mind, we do a lot, we’ve got a, you know, a highly focused team, but it’s not a big team. So we have to very focused in terms of the efficiency and effectiveness. So the resources that we’re using to put forward, so process is always kind of threatened center for us.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. That’s great. So tell me a little bit about your market stack and what are some of the things that you’re doing to scale? Yeah,

Ken Robinson:

Yeah. It’s the marketing stack of ProSites is is sort of in in development and what I mean by that as we historically, we’re a Microsoft CRM shop and no marketing automation, right? We were using MailChimp and a couple of ad hoc communication tools with really no appreciable connection between the two platforms and, and no appreciable insights coming or data that’s coming in from the systems to help us drive action from those insights. So in August of 2016, we actually made the decision to cut over to Salesforce. Did it quite a bit of due diligence on a marketing automation platform and selected Marquetto I’m partially biased that, that a Marquetto client, I think I was one of the first 50 Marquetto clients who had a lot of stick time with that application. And we turned those two systems on in August of 16.

So the last six, maybe seven months, it’s really about operationalization and then optimization in terms of the stack. What we got connected into it so far as Citrix for the GoToMeeting and go to webinar applications. We we run quite a bit or quite a few digital events in the course of any given month or quarter. So it was important to make sure that those systems were tied together and we were getting the right data from them. The most recent ad in the last probably two and a half weeks has been an application called magic robot. So they kind of work within that same space, it’s full circle insights or burst. And really the important thing there is it’s giving us much better contact campaign opportunity attribution from a multitouch perspective and get some very interesting models, some weighting models that make sense for our business.

So that’s been snapped in there most recently and sort of the two things that are in front of us from a stock perspective, we’re looking at insights squared largely to benefit our sales leadership both in terms of, you know, pipeline management, forecasting. But there’s some interesting modules in there for demand gen. We’re going to take a look at as well. So that’s kind of in the evaluation process. And then I think just ahead of that for us is probably looking at ringleader or some other type of a DDB technology. We really want to make sure that the data that’s coming through the front door or anything that the sales team might add is it’s good, it’s clean, you know, the data itself is trustworthy. We’re not putting duplicates into the system.

You know, we’re in a very fortunate situation having cut over from Microsoft CRM to Salesforce, we started with a pretty clean data set, which I know is sort of an enviable position for a lot of sales leaders and marketing leaders. And so we want to really maintain the kind of the health and the integrity of that data set. So we’re going to make sure that what’s coming through the front door is good and clean as well. So I’ve got experience with different technologies over my lifetime. I think we’ve got a more expansive technology or MarTech roadmap in front of us, but those are a few of the applications that we’re looking at here in the near term. Okay. And then just in,

Jeff Pedowitz:

So lifecycle engagement and do you have, or have you set up programs and campaigns that go through the full customer life cycle instead of just at the top of the model? I mean, how are you guys approaching?

Ken Robinson:

Yeah, we do. You know, we, we have when I talked about pipeline growth and close one business, we were really focused on net new business or new client acquisition, but we also have some benchmarks that we just have started to put in place in terms of how does marketing measure its impact on existing business and existing clients? Cause we actually do a fair bit of marketing to our installed base, both to drive upsell and cross sell, but also just continue to education and reaffirming ProSites and CPA site solutions for thought leadership position in the industry. So we are looking we actually just recently launched a new client welcome nurtures those. So that’s one of the ways that we’re, we’re sort of capturing people at the point of engagement, welcoming them to the family, making sure that they have access to some important resources to help them get out of the gate, using our tools and our technology and engaging with our team.

And then we ongoing newsletters and in other, you know, events that are, would be meaningful and interesting to our existing clients. We’re sending that into the install base as well, leveraging the same technology stack and the same types of marketing best practices that we do to acquire new clients. And then kind of beyond that, we’re, we’re taking a look at, are we leveraging that promoter is one of our, our tools or methodologies, if you will, just to make sure we’re keeping our fingers on the pulse of the installed base and their satisfaction with our products and our services, we’re doing periodic annual surveys in terms of brand assessment and sort of industry trends, just to make sure that we are, again, keeping pace with what’s going on with with our current client base and making sure that we’re, we’re keeping those retention rates up.

So we look at them just a little bit differently, but from a best practices and a technology standpoint and treat them just like we do or existing clients. Wow. As usual, you’ve got an incredible handle on things. And so I feel like it feels like it’s, you know, there’s always something that’s sort of slipping through the cracks a little bit, but I think we’ve got a good roadmap. We’ve got a good playbook that we’re executing against in a, in a really happy to be in the position that I’m in, always headroom to do more and do it better. But I feel like we’re in a pretty good spot at the moment.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being on the show today, and we’ll talk soon.

Ken Robinson:

Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much, Jeff. Take care.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You bet. Take care.

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