CMO Insights: Ryan Hollenbeck, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing, Verint Systems

November 8, 2017

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Ryan Hollenbeck, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing for Verint Systems.

In this video, Ryan talks about

  • How marketing has changed and evolved as an industry and department over the past 20+ years
  • The challenges and the opportunities of working with a global sales team
  • And what he and his team are being held accountable for within the company.

Learn more about Ryan from his LinkedIn profile and follow Verint Systems 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:

Hello and welcome to Revenue Marketing Television, the CMO Insights Channel. I am your host, Jeff Pedowitz,President and CEO of The Pedowitz Group. Today, I’m really thrilled to have as our guest Ryan Hollenbeck, who is Senior Vice President of Global Marketing for Verint Systems. Ryan, welcome to the show.

Ryan Hollenbeck:

Thanks, Jeff. Great to be here. Thank you for having us.

Jeff Pedowitz:

And you know, one of the things I noticed with your profile, so your first year at witnessed and embarrassed, but you’ve been at this company combined now for about 20 years, is that correct?

Ryan Hollenbeck:

Yeah, that’s right. It’s been quite a journey. I mean, to be fair, it’s been a different set of journeys along the way. I mean, we were a very small startup when I first started at witness and we were one of the big success stories in the tech market here in Atlanta, thanks to some of the great people that we had in the, in the great leadership. And then through that, we became acquisitive and all the way into being acquired and by Varant systems in 2007, and that really continued our, it was a great sort of leaping off point for an even greater growth journey. And now Verint today is more than a billion dollar software company.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So give us a little bit of insight just maybe every five years or so from when you started to now what’s changed in your job strategically, you know, what, what were you doing in 95 versus now doing it in 2017? Yeah.

Ryan Hollenbeck:

Well, I got to say it’s changed dramatically. I mean, there’s, there’s still certain elements of marketing that are very similar. I mean, you still want your brand to be out there. That’s recognizable to the core markets and stakeholders that you’re serving and you still want to generate a sufficient pipeline to really help your sellers. And then you want to have the right kinds of productivity tools to make sure that your sellers are really effective and efficient, but you know, back then obviously things were much more analog oriented. If you will, a lot more baseline types of materials. And we were just getting going on the web and digital marketing. Wasn’t what it is today. And I would say if there’s one thing Jeff, that’s changed pretty dramatically is how data-driven we are today. I mean, we really rely a lot on analytics and tools and we have people that you would have thought of is really it professionals back in the day that are today. Now part of our integrated marketing function,

Jeff Pedowitz:

We hear that a lot in just how much marketing’s becoming David driven. Are you, are you also finding that when you’ve been an executive for awhile, but are you finding that marketing is changing? Are you, are you being expected to run it more like a business itself?

Ryan Hollenbeck:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it definitely is. I mean, we’re, we’re in the work group, if you will, Jeff, early on in the process trying to think about things like, you know, how do we figure out our growth targets by market, by region, by segment we’re involved in the work group on all of our win loss analysis and trying to figure out how can we be successful, not only in our core markets, but in the emerging markets. And then, you know, we tend to think about things both in terms of organic innovation, as well as acquisition innovation. And so, you know, we’re, we’re in the work group, both trying to figure out what are the best ways for us to go to market, you know, in both of those, both of those areas.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So tell me a little bit about how you work with sales globally, where are you strategically and tactically aligned? What are you trying to do differently going forward that maybe in the last few years to drive more revenue?

Ryan Hollenbeck:

That’s another great question. And I think we’re in a little bit of a unique position. There’s two functions really that we have as part of our organization here in marketing at Verint that aren’t really traditionally marketing functions. One of them is the customer experience program, which we can talk about separately. And then the other one is part of your question is sales enablement. And so a number of years ago, we plucked one of our top pre sales executives who ran presales both in Europe and in the Americas to come in and run a dedicated sales enablement function here at Verint. And that has kept us very close to our sellers all along because we’re really kind of thinking about them and how to make them more successful in everything we do. And think of it really is, is almost like a variant university for sellers. It’s kind of everything that you need to know, not just in terms of product rollouts and things like that. We do that, but really a whole curriculum, virtual training, onboarding a sales methodology, you know, really tightly aligned with our global sales leadership team.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. And then you mentioned cost. Do you have a customer experience group as well? Talk, talk to us a little bit about that.

Ryan Hollenbeck:

Yeah, well, I think customer experience is one of those things that oftentimes marketing executives are being asked to take on. And I think that’s part of what happened here at Fairmont. We really saw a gap in the variant has always been a customer centric, even customer obsessed company, but we found that there really wasn’t a lot of structure and process and governance around how we think about the customer experience. And so again, it’s not really a marketing function. It’s something that really runs cross-functional Geoff across the organization. And again, we plucked someone in this case, it was our VP of customer service out of one of our acquired companies. Her name is Nancy port, Kevin, strange as the earlier executive, I mentioned for sales enablement, and Nancy just does a wonderful job of setting up this customer experience program. And she, and I just like Kevin and I have been very attached at the hip on sales enablement, Nancy, and I’ve been very attached at the hip on customer experience and really taking the voice of the customer and bringing it into our executive team discussions.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Can you provide some examples on how you’re doing that?

Ryan Hollenbeck:

Yeah, I mean, it really all started for us with the governance structure and Nancy and I set that up after we did executive interviews with 30 of our top executives worldwide and ask them, what do you think about the variant customer experience? And after collecting that feedback, we then went out and actually started to survey our own customers as you would expect and marry that up with what the expectations were of our executive team set up the governance structure. And now we meet on a monthly basis with that executive steering committee to figure out cross functional activities they’re in support or product development or in our services organization. How can Verint get better and bring the voice of the customer into everything we do.

And then from there, you know, Jeff, we kind of just set up a theme for all of us to operate under. We call it developing customers for life and that customers for life mantra is something that we then set up workshops for each functional area to start to figure out what does it mean for me if I’m sat in the support organization or the services organization, or even sales or marketing to be developing customers for life every day. And then we break that down into very specific behaviors for each functional area.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s great. So what are you being measured on now? Both yourself and then what are you holding your team again?

Ryan Hollenbeck:

Well, that’s a good question. I mean, one of them is the customer experience program and how well are we improving our customer experience? And now that we have such rich data around that, we use some of our own tools like enterprise feedback surveys and analytics, speech analytics, and text analytics, but so that’s one metric and we want to make sure that we’re seeing steady improvement there, but we’re also measuring ourselves on things like numbers of sales accepted leads, how many opportunities that we’ve created for the, for our sellers and even close one business with marketing influence.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s fantastic. So tell me a little bit about your approach to technology. Cause you know, you guys have been mature adopters for awhile. I know you were one of the early adopters of marketing automation back about 10, 12 years ago. You know, what, what does your stack look like today? How are you strategically applying technology and definitely I’m interested in how you’re tying technology into the customer experience.

Ryan Hollenbeck:

Yeah, well, you’re pretty familiar that we we’ve got a pretty stellar marketing operations function here at Verint. We’re lucky it’s led by Dan Brown, who you’ve interviewed before and Dan and the team. Dan has some of those people that I referred to earlier that in some organizations back in the day would have been part of an it organization. And what Dan does is set out a vision for our roadmap. And he and I are attached at the hip and worked very closely on what kind of MarTech do we need. You’re right. We were early adopters with the likes of Eloqua and Salesforce and really kind of understanding how can we get a view to the number of qualified leads that we, that we bring in and, and how do we break it down by segment and by region and look at where they fit into our sellers and their strategy going forward.

And so we were early with that, but then we’ve also adopted a whole MarTech approach to all of our web analytics and how we start to think about search engine optimization and bringing in new ways to align the sales and marketing organization. And for us, that doesn’t just mean mature technology. You’re right. We have a lot of that that we’ve been using for 10 years plus, but it’s also making sure that we’re pushing the envelope. So, you know, one example there is where we’re working with a startup down at Georgia tech called sales team. And they’ve got some really useful technology to help us with sales and marketing alignment.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Nice. So is, it seems like you’ve got a pretty good handle on everything, but what you awake at night?

Ryan Hollenbeck:

Oh man. I, you know, I I’d like to think we have a good handle on things, but you know, in, in the tech industry, I mean it’s always changing, right. And every day there’s so much to worry about the customer part of what we do. You know, we have more than 10,000 customers now all over the world and we do a series of different types of engagement with customers digitally and in person. And that keeps me up at night, big time, just making sure that our customers believe that we’re behind them and we’re there for them. And as they think about expanding their customer engagement strategy, that, you know, they don’t think about RFPs and RFAs they think about, I have such a great relationship with Verizon. That’s where I need to go and, and expand. So, you know, that’s one of them. And then the other is, it’s just making sure that as we grow, we keep that growth going and pointed in the right direction. And because we’ve got this complex mix of organic growth and M and a growth, and that’s a big challenge for us.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So w when I talk to a lot of marketing executives about transformation, one of the biggest impediments, they mentioned a lot is change. How do they drive change and both a pragmatic and quick manner, because they’re always being driven by the board and the CEO to go faster. So what advice would you give? I mean, how, how have you been driving it at Veyron and what happens when you deal with impediments to change? How have you, how would you advise addressing that?

Ryan Hollenbeck:

Yeah, well, first you’re right about the board and the CEO driving fast. I mean, we have a dynamite CEO here at Veyron and he definitely wants to go fast. So that’s a, that’s definitely, always a challenge, but I think, you know, he’s also thoughtful as he is our board about making sure that we’re doing the right things. And, and I think as we reflect on that, that’s one of the things I always impress upon the team is think back to what we set out as our objectives to start the year, make sure that we have cascading objectives from our CEO into our different operating units, all the way down to a business unit level, and then self contained within marketing sales enablement, and our customer experience program, keep that as a litmus test. And I’m always reminding our people to make sure that we’re doing things that we agreed are the right objectives, but to your point, those objectives change. And so we’ve got both annualized, we have a three year plan, we have annualized objectives, and then let’s be honest, they change on a quarterly basis and we need to make sure that we are responsive to those changes. And again, some of it’s organic and some of it’s M&A

Jeff Pedowitz:

Tell me, tell me how you evaluate your people, whether you look for, in building out your team and whether some of the successful attributes that that would be successful in your environment today.

Ryan Hollenbeck:

Well, I’m lucky cause I have some great talent, but you’re right, that we constantly have to reevaluate talent because the, the marketing technology world, if you will, is just changing so much on a regular basis. And so we have both people who’ve been with us, Jeff for a really long time. And we have people who’ve only been here since the beginning of this year or even the quarter. And part of the reason for that I think is that we want to make sure we have that balance of, of infusing new talent. I used to work for a CEO who said that you need to think about how do you reinvent yourself every six months. And I think our best people do that.

If you’re here for a really long time, it’s probably because you’ve been able to think about and evolve yourself and your personal brand, but you’ve also been useful and evolving the Verint brand. And it’s easy to, it’s easier said than done. So for me, that means looking at people with digital talent, with talent around operations, but then also not just in core marketing people that can help our sellers and have sales experience. And then people who really understand the customer experience and have either had a customer experience role before, or they just have a passion for it.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s, that’s awesome. I feel like sometimes I’m reinventing myself every week. I use some fast, so yeah, there’s been so much talk now over the last year or two about artificial intelligence and the role, and I hear some marketers, they may worry they’re going to be out of a job. What’s your take on that? What, what role is AI gonna play in the marketing landscape in the years to come and how will that affect your team?

Ryan Hollenbeck:

Yeah, well, I mean, first that’s a great question and I definitely think it is a changing world and artificial intelligence and predictive analytics is already making a difference for us and how we go to market. And I think that’s going to continue, and there are some things that are repetitive tasks and things that, you know, you can almost have a bot do really, you don’t need a, necessarily a human for it. Those, those things probably are in danger, but I don’t think human, the human elements going away. And I think that’s true, not just in marketing, but in terms of the alignment of sales and marketing. I think there’s some really neat technology that we can use to improve the alignment of sales and marketing. And we’re already seeing that and deploying some of it today, but the core of it really is just having a good relationship, you know, across the teams. And it’s really not only sales and marketing, it’s really across the business if you’re going to operate effectively. So to answer your question directly, I don’t think it’s going away, but I do think it’s going to play a continued major role.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Great. So what do you see as coming? Is there a big disruptor or a big change coming that you think in the next couple of years we’ll have yet another big impact on sales and marketing?

Ryan Hollenbeck:

Well, you already mentioned artificial intelligence and machine learning and, and I think those, those definitely will, but I think beyond just the tech part of it and sort of automating everything and really kind of bringing a voice to the cusp of the customer into, into things. I think one of the other things that’s going to be a big change or a big driver over the coming months is kind of how we, how we think of or define the marketing function. I mean, it’s still in some circles defined in a very traditional sense and really mostly about pipeline.

How can I help generate a sufficient amount of pipeline to help us make our number and that’s going to remain critical, but the ways that we do that, and then how far marketing goes into the sales process, you know, and, you know, for example, sometimes now our marketing organization and our prospecting team are actually opening opportunities for sellers. Whereas before that would have been a function of a seller after accepting a lead. And so I think that sort of meshed organization is going to get tighter and tighter. And it’s gonna really kind of change the definition of marketing, both in terms of how they interact with sales, but also in terms of being the frontline of the customer, you know, not, not just, not just representing the customer experience, but actually bringing the customer right into the boardroom.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Wow, fantastic insights. So we were able to cover a lot of grounds in 15 minutes, easy to see why you’re such a great executive, Ryan. So thank you so much for being on the show today.

Ryan Hollenbeck:

Oh, thank you, Jeff. It’s my pleasure. I appreciate it. Thanks.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You bet. Okay.

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