November 3, 2023

The Long-Game: Connecting B2B Brand to B2B Revenue

Over 90% of your buyers are not in-market today. So how do you make sure that you’re at the top of their list whenever they decide it’s time to buy?

Enter brand, the powerful component of every company looking to impact long-term growth and drive revenue. In this episode, we explore how CMOs are using brand as a strategic lever in their long-term revenue generation strategies, how they get brand buy-in across the org, and how they measure brand’s impact on growth.

Learn why every brand moment is an acquisition moment in this conversation, guided by the exceptional Margaret Molloy of Siegel+Gale, our guest host, and our stellar lineup of CMOs:

What You’ll Learn

  • How 3 CMOs have evolved their brands
  • How to connect brand to revenue
  • How to get buy-in on brand

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 369 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned


  • [6:17] Kristin Russel: Category creation at symplr 
  • [8:02] Connecting brand to revenue generation 
  • [13:39] Chandar Pattabhiram: Coupa’s brand journey 
  • [16:09] Brand TO Revenue = “Brand-quisition” 
  • [18:28] Rashmi Vittal: Productiv’s rebrand 
  • [25:50] Partnering a 3rd party when rebranding (with surprise guest Michelle Herman) 
  • [26:47] On CMO Huddles 
  • [31:34] Brand is a long-term investment 
  • [34:44] Brand metrics  
  • [38:36] Getting C-Level buy-in on brand 
  • [46:50] What brand victory looks like  
  • [48:59] Aligning with Sales and CS 
  • [50:52] Activating employees with brand 
  • [53:25] Final words of wisdom: Brand 

Highlighted Quotes

“In B2B, recognizing that business-to-human moment is so critical. If you do that well, set the systems in place to set a goal, measure your goal, and then beat your goal.” -Kristin Russel, CMO of symplr

“Do not think brand building is only for getting upfront revenue. Ultimately, your best sellers are your customers who can drive deal acceleration and influence new revenue, so think of brand as a continuous 360 exercise and existing install base as much as it is about getting prospects.” -Chandar Pattabhiram

“Think of brand as the heartbeat of the company. If you embrace your market, understand it, and resonate with it internally, that synergy of bringing the external and internal together can help drive you forward.” -Rashmi Vittal

“At any point in time, 90% of your market or more is not in market to buy your product. To get the attention of that audience, you need to connect with them emotionally. Brand programs, brand messages tend to attach to people at an emotional level, such that when they’re in market to procure your services, you are top of mind.” – Margaret Molloy, CMO of Siegel+Gale

Full Transcript: Margaret Molloy in conversation with Kristin Russel, Chandar Pattabhiram, & Rashmi Vittal


Drew: I’m your host, Drew Neisser. Not live from my home studio in New York City. Yep, I’m on vacation this week. So I’ll be passing this show on to our guest host. Now more on that in a moment. In case you weren’t aware, the topic of brand is near and dear to my heart. It’s a must-have for B2B organizations. And those CMOs who build brands are in my mind, the cool cats of marketing, that’s as in they’re courageous, artful, thoughtful, and scientific. And these are the ones who are sure to drive growth. But it’s not easy to connect brand to revenue. So for this show, and this topic, it was a no-brainer to ask my good friend Margaret Molloy, CMO of Siegel+Gale, a leading branding firm, and host of the famous “How CMOs Commit” podcast to bring her branding expertise to this panel of powerful CMOs, all of whom connect brand to revenue. So now I’ll turn it over to Margaret. I hope you guys have a great show, and everybody enjoys it.

Margaret: Welcome to CMO Huddles Studio, what an honor to be the guest host here today. As Drew mentioned, I’m Margaret Molloy, the global CMO of Siegel and Gale. Today we are going to talk about one of the most misunderstood topics in B2B. One of the topics that draws so much passion from CMOs, and one of my personal favorite topics. And I’ll tell you why it’s my favorite, because, as Drew mentioned, and as I’ve observed, the CMOs who get this right, build organizations, build brands, and build careers. Today, we are talking about connecting brand to revenue. And to do so we are joined by three handpicked CMOs from Drew’s universe of CMO Huddlers, who have thought deeply about this topic, and importantly, acted decisively on it. So let’s begin. 

First up, we are welcoming Kristin Russel, the CMO of symplr, previously starred on this show, and Lauren and Melissa will put up the link to the previous episode, where she had a very good discussion around acquisition. So tell us more. Where are you joining from? Give us a tiny overview of symplr and then let’s get right into how you think about brand.

Kristin: Absolutely. Well, first of all, Margaret, it is great to be here today, I am joining from sunny California. I’m up here in northern California, I think you’re actually going to hear that trend from a couple of the guests today. Ironically, we all know each other but we’ll get into I’m sure we’ll get into that later. Let me tell you about me and symplr. I am the Chief Marketing Officer at symplr and symplr really is focused on hospitals and health systems, how we can optimize their back office technology. We do that in a way that allows the caregivers ultimately to focus on care and have more time with their patients. While we focus firmly on software solutions for everything from, you know staffing and scheduling the data that’s required to manage all of the providers, things like the credentialing of physicians, you want to make sure that the physician taking care of you actually has an MD. We help hospitals manage things like spend compliance regulations, quality and safety standards. When we do that, we actually ultimately can help our customers reduce how much time they spend managing their contracts by up to 60%. We see things like our customers reducing potential penalties by 90%. And we’ll help customers reduce the time spent being reimbursed by up to 75% percent. The other thing I’ll say about symplr is that we have over the last few years brought a number of disparate companies together under one larger, simpler umbrella as we bring all that technology together really to manage the back office, administration of hospitals. All those solutions had previously existed independently. So you can imagine that our hospital customers the CIOs, CFOs are interested in the fact that they can now work with one enterprise vendor to manage all of those different systems. In fact, we even had to create a category, rather than just referring to ourselves as a healthcare technology vendor, we created a whole category called healthcare operations for the work that we do. 

Margaret: So certainly creating a category is a big endeavor and requires a lot of internal alignment as well. So talk to us first about what was the overall perception of brand when you arrived? Where is it now? And what are the strategies important for our audience to hear that they can generalize? We’re trying to get from this the generalizable lessons for all the audience. So brand and symplr?

Kristin: Absolutely. Well, first of all, I’m biased. You know, I think the perception of symplr has always been strong. It’s just that we’ve increased visibility and the people who know about us, so we’ve invested in growing our brand recognition and our thought leadership. And so as a result of that, we’re number one in our voice of industry now, for the past five quarters running. When I started, there were a couple of challenges. And these apply, whether you’re in healthcare, telecommunications, any industry, you can improve some of these challenges. One, we had just launched a new symplr brand but because much of our growth had come through acquisition of the brands that we acquired, many of those brands were better known than symplr. So it was a huge challenge. Number two, the core brand of symplr that we were tying everything to was really well known in a category called credentialing. But we wanted that category to be much bigger, we wanted people to know us for much more than just credentialing, we were doing a lot more than just that. And finally, as I mentioned, we had to create a space or a way to talk about ourselves that would help resonate with our customers. So ultimately, that’s a category creation. So you can imagine we’re looking at a situation where you’re kind of building the plane as you’re flying it, we’re quickly building equity in symplr. So over the last two years, we needed to help our customers understand that the product or products that they owned, that were previously part of another company or another brand, were now all part of symplr. And because they were part of this one large enterprise vendor, and we were investing heavily in development, they could now start to expect standardization in terms of product usage, or even connected workflows. And of course, we had to do that all while building this category for healthcare operations. Ultimately, the plan came together, we now have actually kept it good and bad. We now have category entrants in this healthcare operations category kind of nipping at our heels. But I can tell you the brand is strong and only getting stronger.  

Margaret: And what are the tactics you employ to get there? So it sounds like you had a great foundation, meaning companies were coming together, you now had a robust solution, you identified where that solution has played and it’s relevance to your target audience. What did you do to build brand as distinct from the more classic demand generation? And kind of a footnote? Do you draw that distinction between lead gen demand programs and brand-building activities?

Kristin: That’s an excellent question. Do we draw the distinction? Yes and no. So we look at it holistically and then we also look at the individual parts. So connecting brand to performance was really, really critical for me being able to apply metrics to how we were doing kind of the John Doerr approach of, measure what matters. So we wanted to basically find a way to really understand how our brand performance was impacting revenue, we measure our overall return on our marketing investment. And when I say overall, I’m talking about everything from the program, spend, technology, and people. But we also were measuring things like our program investment. And so from a growth perspective, growth marketing, we absolutely spend a lot of time looking kind of across the board at our metrics. And we do that so we can lean into those areas that are returning value. We’ve made a myriad of investments as well that have borne fruit for symplr, and some that haven’t. Of course, the obvious link with brands and revenue marketing or growth marketing is really critical for us. We’ve invested in things like thought leadership survey, you know, where we are going out, we’re asking our customers for insights that we’re able to then share broadly, that work was picked up by the Fast Company, you know, a number of Fortune, a number of major periodicals. We’ve even taken some old-school tactics. so even as much as we’re focused on kind of the account-based approach to investing in paid social and SEM driving awareness at the top of funnel and then continuing to engage with those accounts that are showing the most interest. We’re also really doing some kind of sports marketing stuff, you know, the things that maybe we’re a little bit, I don’t know, are we still doing this but we compete with giants. So you know, remember two years ago, we were relatively unknown. So we’re competing with folks like Workday, Oracle, GE, in their healthcare divisions. So driving broad awareness was really important for us. We do that at industry events, we do it through our outreach. But like I said, we invest in sports marketing, we recently had, you know, we have a lot of our customers or hospitals, CIOs and CFOs, who enjoy golf. And like so many of the brands I just mentioned, we sponsor a golf team. And one of our teams symplr golfers just won this last weekend, the John Deere classic, those of you that don’t play golf, it’s just a really big tournament with a lot of eyeballs. So we ended up with millions of eyeballs on our brand on the t-shirt that he was wearing, which you can imagine sent just unprecedented traffic to the website. All that to say, when I think about, you know, kind of connecting brand to performance and how we do it at symplr, part of that is in my job description. So I am responsible for 30% of the pipeline. Ultimately, 30% of the opportunities that we close at symplr are direct marketing generated. So we really do have to make sure that every single thing that we’re doing is generating revenue, as well as a return on those marketing dollars.

Margaret: Got it, very interesting exploration of the tactics as well. Thanks for that, Kristen. We’ll come back to you once we’ve met the other two, you are definitely prompting a host of questions in my mind, and no doubt in the mind of our audience as well. So next up, we meet our friend Chandar Pattabhiram CMO of Coupa. So where are you today, Chandar?

Chandar: Margaret, great to speak to you again. I’m typically in the Bay Area in California but today I’m on the other side of the seven seas. I’m actually in Chennai, India, it’s about it’s about 9:45 pm here tonight. So it’s great to join you from the other side of the world.

Margaret: Certainly, well, hello from New York. I’m in New York. So already, we have lots of regional representation. So tell us a bit about Coupa, I know you’re a cloud platform solution, but perhaps spend most of your time talking about your perspective on brand and building brand. I should annotate here that my understanding is have you been perhaps six years or so at that organization? So you have, you know, quite a bit of time horizon to reflect on the learnings.

Chandar: Yeah, great, Margaret. Yes. So very quickly, you know, the Twitter headline I’ll give on Coupa, and then we’ll get into the specifics on our brand journey. You know, what does do sales is what Coupa does to spend on both sides of houses – the sales side of the house and spend side of the house like to sell. is a platform for all things revenue, CRM. Coupa is a platform for all things spend – BSM business spend management, and simply put, we help organizations maximize the value of every dollar they spend through our platform. And we’re helping organizations around the world – 3000 Plus – drive efficiency for almost $5 trillion dollars of spend. Today, if you look at GDP dollars, it’s kind of the, you know, the fourth largest, third largest economy in the world today. And that’s really the community we have built in terms of helping companies get visibility control, as well as managing all aspects of spend from sourcing to contracts, to procurement to invoicing, to expenses, to payments to all sorts of other areas. Now, to answer your question on our brand journey, it’s interesting – six years is a good time to Google Earth and reflect on the journey and we’ve been on this journey from building a great company to building a great brand. And that journey has taken us in different brand strategies, right? And if you’re on the early parts of our journey, as we have scaled and you know high growth company in the early days, the philosophy of brand building is what I call contextual brand building. It’s not billboard-centric, it’s buyer-centric, it’s how do you build brand with the core persona that influences your deed. In our particular case, it is about understanding the essence of your brand and try to build association with that. And for example, for us, the essence of a brand when you think safety and cars, you think Volvo, right? It’s not when I tell you you think Volvo will you think safety and I think safety and cars you think Volvo. Similarly when a CFO wakes up in the morning and thinks money, dollar and visibility, and control, think Coupa, so that’s the essence of one association we’re trying to build. And that’s the early part of the journey that we build, to build that essence with the target buyer persona and using educational marketing as the big tactic for us to build right. I’ll talk about that more. That’s been kind of the philosophy in the early part of the brand building. But as you’ve evolved into that, you know, almost a billion dollar ARR company, is the power of and not all here, we’ve done that and gone into more mainstream marketing also to build that kind of the next big brand and software and that approach. And that approach, we have used brand association, but in a very thoughtful way. It’s like, you know, sports marketing, we partnered with the Yankees and but done in a very thoughtful way I can talk about that more later. But really, how do you again, still sustaining the essence of your brand, whatever that is, in our case, it’s like visibility, control, dollar. And doing that in both techniques of building a brand through educational marketing, and then scaling that brand through mainstream marketing. And that’s been the journey and we can get into the details. But that’s been kind of the areas that we have gone through here.

Margaret: That’s fantastic, Chandar, and I really love that you’re beginning in the beginning, meaning calling out the need to have that essence clear. And then speaking to the activations. For a couple of moments, I’d like you please to double click on a term that in my research, I learned that you’ve coined the term is brand-quisition. And that seems to be at the intersection of this conversation, how we make brand work for us, for client acquisition. Talk a little about that, please?

Chandar: Sure. Sure. Absolutely. I think you know, the historical challenge has been in B2B, especially it’s not brand or revenue. It’s how do you say brand to revenue and brand-quisition is a way of thinking of every brand moment is an acquisition moment, and every acquisition moment can be a brand moment? And so how do they practically mean it – it sounds really good, but I use that tactic of education marketing, to build brand, and at the same time drive acquisition. So for example, if you use thought leadership, very simply, we have, you know, an article or a publication that we do with the Harvard Business Review, and the Wall Street Journal, The Economist saying the strategic CFO in a rapidly changing world, right, going after the corporate sector, right. And that’s purely educational, nothing to do with, you know, talking about Cooper and stuff like that. But when you have an asset like that, that’s got credibility, then you can go take that asset and promote it to every buyer person, in our case happens to be the CFO. So that is a brand moment for somebody to know who Cooper is but most importantly, that’s also an acquisition moment that you’re teaching the earn two, you’re teaching somebody to earn the right to engage, nobody is going to give you time in today’s world, unless you’re giving them something. And we’re trying to teach them what other CFOs think, to earn the right to engage. So that’s the idea of brand-quisition, where brand and acquisition doesn’t have to be disjointed. But when you use tactics like education marketing, BE ConnectED, Marketo built a whole brand on this idea of as a CMO there, and before me that how did we use this active education marketing to do brand-quisition. So that’s the tactic for companies in the growth journey when you where every dollar matters. That’s a tactic you can do. And you can measure that very actively. And we can talk about that later on where that acquisition is actually turning into revenue from this brand-quisition is turning into revenue.

Margaret: Chandar, let’s put a pin in that because I definitely want to get back to how you reconcile that measurement, particularly with an eye to time horizons, and how patient you are. So put a pin in that as we welcome our next Huddler Rashmi Vittal, the recent CMO Productiv, who has previously been on the show as well, as has Chandar, and the team is putting all the links to the prior episodes in the chat now. Hello, Rashmi. How are you? Where are you?

Rashmi: I’m great, great to talk with you today. Happy to be here, I’m in sunny Half Moon Bay, California. Quotes around sunny because it’s actually cloudy right now. 

Margaret: So tell us a little about Productiv. I know you’re a SaaS management platform. Keep that, keep that succinct. As we get to how you’ve built the brand efforts there. Please Rashmi.

Rashmi: Yeah, absolutely. So if you think about it, right. What’s amazing is the proliferation of investment in SaaS applications has grown tremendously – if just alone between 2021 and 2023, we’ve seen a 32% increase in organizations investing in SaaS applications – with that, that means an increase in SaaS spend, even with today’s tighter budgets and reduction in staffing. And so organizations need to be really vigilant on how they’re spending on their SaaS applications, now more than ever. And so what Productiv really does is it gives the various stakeholders from IT, finance, procurement, and business leaders – the trusted data they need, they could come to the table together to make the critical decisions on how they can optimize on their SaaS spend. So we know that in today’s world, we can’t be making these types of decisions in a vacuum and our core focus is to really bringing these teams to align them so that they know how to you know make their future SaaS investments.

Margaret: So great backdrop, busy space, very cluttered, lots of chatter in the SaaS realm. How do you build a brand, tell us what you did. I know you recently engaged a project.

Rashmi: Yeah, so we did this actually last year, and within my first six months of joining Productiv now, I have to say Productiv is on a smaller scale in terms of compared to symplr and obviously Coupa. And so a lot of times you might think as a CMO, why would you on a small size company come in and even take on this type of initiative? Shouldn’t your focus be on other areas? Well, what was really interesting to me is that when I led the strategic, it was a strategic brand initiative and what I saw was the fact that every time I was talking to an executive or somebody in the company, they wanted something different out of marketing, and they there was this urge to be able to elevate, really, what it came down to is elevating our brand, brand and in the company. And so I really felt like in order to do anything from creating a new website, to having integrated marketing campaigns to create the pitch deck for sales teams, we really had a focus on what is truly our brand, our brand story, starting with our vision mission, the corporate story and the narrative. So I actually brought on a consultant, the fabulous Michelle Herman, who’s done multiple branding initiatives in her career to help me really drive and align this this initiative across the organization.

Margaret: And we have Michelle in the studio, herself a seasoned marketer, most recently, VP of Marketing at Conviva. So Michelle, can you tell us a little bit how you thought about positioning, the need to run that strategic marketing initiative, and how you and Rashmi partnered to make sure it was attached to revenue?

Michelle: Yes. So first of all, thank you for having me. And I think Rashmi really set the stage or set the table, so to speak very accurately, from the get-go, she had a very holistic and strategic approach to what brand meant, and the drivers behind it were all about growth and the business. So it wasn’t brand for brand’s sake. And I think, oftentimes, it’s easy to get lost in the tactics, of different elements of brand – new logo and new look and feel, you know, anything related to identity or even just a key message. But with Rashmi’s approach, what we did is, first of all, went to kind of that essence of brand, looking at exploring truly what is Productiv’s mission, vision, you know, value, the things that drive and motivate and inspire. The second piece to that was fleshing out a corporate narrative. And I don’t think you can do one or the other in a vacuum, you have to have one as a core, the other informing and they have to reinforce one another. And I think the key to success with Productiv’s project, and I’ll let Rashmi respond here is that yes, brand is very external focused. But it also has to resonate internally, it has to be incredibly authentic. And this project really inspired a terrific belief or credo, and I’m going to pass it back to Rashmi to tell a little bit more about that, because that’s really what helped, I think, invigorate the internal Productiv team as well. Yeah, absolutely.

Rashmi: Yeah, absolutely. And one thing to add here is that, you know, you can’t do this in a vacuum, right, you have to have a strong partnership across your E team. And it starts with your CEO. And so as I said, here, I am joining this company having conversations with my CEO, and he immediately understood the value of running this whole project because he understood the downstream effects that it would have. So gaining CEO buy-in is very clear, not only was he bought in, but he was also a great collaborator and thought partner throughout the process. So much so that as we were working together on what is the vision mission and the brand story and narrative for the company, we came across something that you can see throughout our whole marketing initiatives, right, you know, since this initiated, it was really around this common sense that in the external market today to make decisions on your SaaS investments is truly a team sport. You have to bring procurement and IT and lines of businesses and finance and the CFO together so that you can make these types of really critical spend decisions. So that togetherness that team sports came up with the credo of when teams align great things happen. And that credo not only works so well externally, but also internally because as a company in order for you to grow and succeed, teams must be aligned. And teams must collaborate, teams must communicate, and oftentimes teams do that through not only a central vision and strategy but also through data to help them understand what moves they need to make moving forward. And so this was one of the things where, you know, I’ve never been able to see it happen, but it really did where the brand not only took off, like the brand credo and their messaging took off externally to the point where our competitors started copying us, which is always a great sign. But also internally, where starting from the CEO on every meeting, every all hands, every conversation, all of our offices are from a visual identity to the credo, everything was wrapped around this whole notion of when teams aligned great things happen.

Margaret: Okay, so thank you for that, Rashmi. Again, we’re going to park that question of how do you make sure you get the CEO alignment? In a moment, we’re going to invite all three CMOs back to get to these questions. So in the spirit of speed on that one, Michelle, I invite you just to share one lesson learned or Michelle, Michelle, please, from this because it’s evident, you had a great partnership, if you’ve ever so briefly share the lesson learned in terms of working with a third party to help with the branding efforts.

Michelle: Yes, I think always ensuring that you identify the right internal stakeholders, and not allowing each of them to participate in the decision making, but ensure that they have a voice and that they’re heard. So whether it’s creating a RACI or working very closely with the CEO, identify the additional stakeholders, engage with them, I spent time with them. Rashmi followed up with those who maybe were a little skeptical or had some hesitation in order to create alignment.

Margaret: Excellent. Thank you both. So now I’m going to call on our producers Laura, and Melissa to come back with a little CMO Huddles promo. And then I want to maximize the time we have for questions. Laura, please.

Laura: Alright. Thank you so much, Margaret. So I’m going to take a moment just to talk in the show about the community that has brought us all together. Launched in 2020, CMO Huddles is an exclusive community of over 100 highly effective B2B CMOs who can share, care, and dare each other to greatness. One CMO described Huddles as a cross between an executive workshop and a therapy session. And given how hard things are getting out there who doesn’t need a little reassurance they’re not alone. Everything about CMO Huddles is designed to be a force multiplier, helping you make faster, better, and more informed decisions. Since no CMO can outwork this crazy job, CMO Huddles is here to outsmart it. So I’m going to invite Kristin, Chandar, Rashmi back into the stage to talk about CMO Huddles, I have to ask, I talked about CMO Huddles being an executive workshop and a therapy, which side would you say you more lean to?

Rashmi: I think it depends on the day of the week.  

Chandar: It’s the power of “and” not “or” here. So I think it’s I think going back to the point none of us is as smart as all of us. And I think you know, CMO Huddles has been great to get in, especially when you go into the pandemic, right? Specifically, went through the pandemic and everybody was facing the challenges of how to engage their teams in distributed environment, in a heterogeneous work environment. There’s a lot of good creative ideas being shared, and actionable. So I think that was really valuable, from my perspective, when you’ve gone through this transition from what was pre-pandemic to this new work environment.

Kristin: I agree 100% Chandar. I’m on the side where I show up and take notes. And like, even this morning, I’m writing down brand-quisition, not brand or revenue. I couldn’t agree with you more. I love the term. I learned every time I go to this. But it’s really been. It’s been terrific. But I have to say, for me, it’s kind of on I’m a bit on that workshop side.  

Rashmi: I would say the sense of community, I mean, the fact that you have access to a bunch of CMOs that have, you know, all done various things and seen various successes and failures as well and you can learn from them. I just find that tapping into that resources is so important. Whenever I have a question or I’m in doubt or I need to bounce ideas off of someone. It’s very helpful to tap into somebody and you can do it pretty quickly.

Laura: That’s amazing. I’m wondering if any of you can share a specific example of how CMO Huddles has helped you in your role.

Kristin: I’ll start because I did it this week. CMO Huddles has a Slack channel. I’m forever on it looking up different topics. It was looking at, you know, the Gartner CMO survey and kind of trying to get some benchmarks around spend, investment, return on investment. Well, a little bit of what I was talking about earlier, but we’re always, I’m always tapping into that slack channel, it’s just a wealth of information. 

Laura: Awesome.

Rashmi: Yeah, I love the metrics that matter. I think there’s a few CMOs on the channel that are very metric driven, and especially on how to better communicate. Well just try different ideas and go to market and then translate into things you can actually measure in your funnel and so I do appreciate that type of dialogue and there’s actual models that have been shared, which are always helpful.

Chandar: Yeah, that’s something just really actionable, right? One idea that came out of it that I’ve started making actionable with my organization is when somebody new joins in a heterogeneous world today, how do you get them and everybody’s remote in now with me getting back a little bit more better hybrid things, but in that environment? So there’s this idea of 30 for 30, which is not the ESPN show, but can you engage in a way that you can get a new employee engaged with 30 people in 30 days, one a day, and really start as a manager you actually prescribe to them, here are the 30 people you need to meet in the next 30 days so that they can start feeling connected to the rest of the community, the rest of the organization in a more prescriptive way than just making it, saying, okay, fine, you’re gonna go meet these people, but measure that, track that so that they feel that at the end of this, that they’ve accomplished something, and they’ve also engaged, right, that was an idea for me, and I thought that was pretty good.

Laura: Those are all incredible. I love that. Thank you so much, Kristen, Chandar, and Rashmi, for sharing your insights. And if you’re a B2B CMO, who can share, care, and dare with the best of them, check out Back to you, Margaret.

Margaret: Thank you, Laura. And what a graceful and wonderful and very authentic promotion as a fellow Huddler, I absolutely endorse everything you’ve all said, still lots of questions, spurred by your early insights. I’m going to start with you Chandar because we touched on this idea of time, you mentioned sponsorships, and implied in that is often the notion of a long-term investment. Talk to us about where time plays into this, and how you think about attaching brand to revenue because you’ve got the time where you got to spend the money now.

Chandar: Yeah, so you have to remember that, you know, you have to look at it, first of all on different horizons as a horizon one, horizon two, right? You have to also remember that 98% of buyers are not in the market today. I think there’s a fallacy that all of our data towards performance marketing, where we think that every buyer isn’t is as important right now and isn’t the market, it’s not. 98% are not in the market today and there’s a whole adage which goes that, you know, it’s not the TV ad that made Mary go to the supermarket, it’s the empty box of cereal that did. But when Mary went to the supermarket, it was a brand recall problem saying, I really said, okay, I understand that this is a better thing for me to be associated with, right? So you have to keep that in mind that can all rotate and shift towards only short-term intent, I’m going to go look at all intent, I’m going to look at whatever they’re going to be all know the right software to use for intent and Google, go drive contextual marketing for that. So you have to keep that balance. And now different companies at different stages have that. So that’s why we look at it in horizon one versus horizon two, right? Horizon two, that mainstream brand building, it is not solving today’s revenue, it’s for solving tomorrow’s revenue. And at the same time horizon one when we do this educational, contextual marketing to the buyer persona, and this is marketing to CFOs, in our case, where there are leads and opportunities that are already in the system, so they get awareness for that that is very measurable and horizon one. So that then how do we so for example, for us, a procurement person can open the door, but ultimately when you climb up the ladder to win the deal, and as CFO has to sign off, so he or she needs to know about us. So when we know to do contextual marketing in horizon one to that buyer persona, and track that using that education marketing playbook. And then horizon two is the more mainstream marketing we’ve done with the Yankees and stuff, but that’s a longer play. But you need to keep the balance, otherwise, you’re going over, you can just play horizon until your CFO is not going to like it, because he’s not going to measure it. He or she, you can just override something because it’s myopic. And that’s what a lot of brands are shifting towards, and especially in B2B, so you have to keep the balance in my perspective.

Margaret:  What’s your sales cycle, Chandar? Because I think that can be relevant to a lot of our participants here, the length of sales cycle can influence this.

Chandar: Yeah, yeah. So if you’re a company that operates in different segments, and so an enterprise segment, or sales cycles are longer. In our corporate sales segment sales can be weeks to months, it can be slightly longer than enterprise sales segments. So we cater to both and independent also in regions, it’s different and stuff like that, right? And so I think you can go from a few weeks to months, and that’s the range in which we operate. And sometimes in larger federal deals, it’s longer as we know, right? So we have the spectrum in all the different segments that we do, and but it is that balance and but we are really able to tangibly measure a horizon one based on education marketing, Horizon two, we have Association metrics that we saw be directionally trending the right way.

Margaret: Chandar, what are the metrics you track? Very specifically, I’m going to ask the same question of others if they have others that are different but first Chandar.

Chandar: Yeah, so I think if you look at one metric in terms of horizon one, I say horizon one like this, those are in market. Are we building the brand building with the executive personas the brand? We can track specifically the amount of content that have engaged in? How many marketing touches through our brand initiatives have we done to move the deal forward and ultimately close the deal? And what was the impact of that. So there is something called Rocky return on content investment, as much as return on marketing investment. So when I have, when we spent $250,000, on an asset, with the Harvard Business Review, we can exactly know that how many in-market deals as it progressed in terms of influence and what impact it’s gotten, right? And so that is, you know, the return and contact that we measure. When it comes to the mainstream, I’ll talk more about the Yankees and what we’re trying to do and stuff like that a very different approach than traditional mainstream marketing. We track in terms of like in those particular regions, I’ll be seeing more inbound requests, I’ll be seeing more website impressions, are you seeing more, you know, social coming in from those right. So those are some of the things that we do for our more mainstream applications. And the last thing I haven’t touched on, but I would like to put on a comeback is the community aspect of it, but we can talk about that later.

Margaret: Excellent. So, Kristin, Rashmi, any different metrics are consistent. Kristen?

Kristin: Yeah, I was gonna say I think we’re pretty consistent. Although I will say the overall goals for any organization are one, there’s nuances there. So if you think about Chandar, Coupa, new company under newer solution selling into a market, we’re in a situation where we actually are already in nine out of ten hospitals. So I have to cross-sell into those markets, into those solutions. So cross-sell becomes a really important kind of go-to-market motion for us. Not only is, is that kind of a fundamental way we go to market, we also then think about our engagement. The other piece of this is we’re selling older, kind of an old school approach, if you will, like a technology that’s been around for some time, in terms of the fact that there have been solutions out there for staffing and scheduling, ours are just a little unique. The reason that’s important, as my buyer is going to be need to have a level of confidence in their decision to maybe make a change in the solution that they currently have, maybe upgrade to a new solution, maybe think about adding more solutions to their portfolio all with symplr and so really helping to provide content materials in these scenarios, where the buyers themselves are getting supported in terms of the decisions that they’re making. And if you think about it, they’ve got massive decision complexity. So there’s a lot of different news and information coming their way, we think about how do we streamline that? How do we avoid information overload? How do we help them understand really, the value of what they’re doing, kind of their outcomes that they keep listening to them What are the outcomes you all are looking for, then how do we help you achieve those outcomes? I only call that out because that’s just a sort of a nuance, I think in every business, you need to be thinking about your customers outcomes. But that’s, that’s critical, I will say return on investment and we talked about marketing investment, we also look at program investment as well, pretty heavily and so pulling into things like the events that we attend or even you know, I mentioned that sports marketing, are we receiving the return in terms of actually the number of opportunities that we’re creating, as well as the number of opportunities we’re influencing? Super, super traditional. Probably not blowing anyone’s mind. I think we’re all looking at that kind of stuff.

Margaret: Yeah, the classic metrics, appreciate that. Rashmi pivoting a moment to C-level alignment. It’s implicit in everything we’re saying here that you must have that, for our listeners and viewers. Can you earn it? Or does it have to be present when you join? In other words, can you train the C-level? Or do they have to believe in brand for this to be a tenable conversation? And to indeed make the investment?

Rashmi: Yeah, great question. You know, I really think it needs to be, I think it needs to be understood first with the CEO. Because if it isn’t going to be adopted from the person at the very top, then it’s not going to be adopted throughout the organization. So if you have tight alignment with your CEO, and you may have skepticism because you will have skepticism across your executive team, then that helps you gain buy-in and buy-in does require multiple conversations. It requires, you know, different stages of involvement, and making sure that people are feeling heard. And so we did that and actually, you know, speaking with my CEO had a very kind of clear conversation in terms of how we wanted to lay this out and how we wanted to communicate with people, not only just across the executive team, but then we also communicated and made sure that we were talking to individuals in the organization So from senior management to individual contributors, and making sure that we were getting buy-in on this because we wanted to make that, so many times you hear about brand efforts that are launched that fall flat. And because we’re a relatively small company, this is an area where we had to ensure that everybody was on board and so we did. But ultimately, at the end of the day, the decision comes down to an understanding between the CEO and the CMO, you could hear so many feedback and so many opinions but at the end of the day, it’s my call with my CEO’s alignment to make sure that we’re on the right path.

Margaret: You know, Rashmi, that’s so important. I’ve talked to so many CMOs, we work with many. And I’d like to highlight a couple of things you said because they’re quite profound. One is you have to have a great process for people to feel heard. So the outcome is predicated on the process, the buy-in is predicated on the process. So it sounds like you had that in spades. And also this idea that arguably, the CEO has to have that religion out the gate, or it’s really hard to go up against an alternative viewpoint. Chandar, can you maybe address that briefly, but also speak to the tech? Do you have tech that helps you manage the metrics? Obviously, you are of a large scale.

Chandar: Yeah, I mean, going back to the point, I mean, definitely the CEOs mindset is very critical. I think there’s a triangle of trust when it comes to brand building that we need to think about. There is the CEO, the CFO, and the CMO, right? And that’s the triangle of trust. Now, obviously, the CEO has to align and the CEO’s viewpoint on brand. And some CEOs have viewpoint that brand is, I want to put the biggest billboard out there for the biggest thing in Chicago airport, but then you have to have an obligation to dissent and say, why does it really actually build brand awareness contextually to what you’re trying to go drive revenue to, right? And so the CEO has a perceived conception of perception of what brand is, so you have to kind of align on that what does the CEO think of what brand building really means, right? And then the CFO obviously is important, because for you to get the continued support, that is this thing actually being empirically impactful is something, I think that’s why the triangle of trust, at least in my experience is important for us to go look at it from that perspective. Going back to your question on technology, I think that’s what I said, we have, you know, there’s this, there’s two things, right, I think this for, for looking at technology impact of we have the technologies in terms of our website, in terms of our customer pulse, in terms of doing analysis, loss analysis to understand how brands had an impact on it. So we have technologies on those pieces. The one other piece, I feel that companies don’t do enough, and I think you have to have a certain set of scale to do it, is to do an annual brand survey. And you can hire organizations to do that. And that really gets you aided and unaided awareness on where you are progressing the needle, because ultimately for you, you can look at in your inbound and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of who’s coming in, and then that has dissolved, you can go drive that, but really, as you know, all the efforts you’re doing in your mainstream brand building, is it actually moving the needle? So if you can establish a baseline through this, you know, brand awareness study and then go figure out like, how much is it moving the needle? Now, you don’t have to do it every year, maybe it’s once in 18 months. But I think I highly recommend that because we’ve done that and surely shows both an aided and unaided. How are we doing that? And I would say that’s different than the regular technology stuff we do for those markets.

Margaret: Yeah, such a great point. And also the storytelling around it, how you position what we’ve done to affect the brand awareness or consideration as it were. Kristin yours is a very interesting situation because it comprises symplr, a combination of various companies and it’s a context that a lot of our listeners and viewers find themselves in. Is there anything particular there that you want to highlight in terms of leadership and different entities bringing them along? And or the measurement component?

Kristin: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when you think about it, and you’re bringing all of these different brands together. It’s not just the leadership of symplr but it’s also the leadership in the customers as well, where you know, you’re building trust that you’re kind of, hey, I’m the new guy on the block, welcome. You know, getting those early pieces of communication up and out and then regular, ongoing communication with those customers is absolutely critical. I couldn’t agree more with what Chandar and Rashmi were talking about in terms of the alignment on the executive team. We actually have really kind of leaned into that from our own ELT, we think about an org, author called Lencioni, who talks about healthy, healthy conflict. And so that notion that my CFO and I, we have a relationship, he helps protect me from an investment perspective and were constantly in contact in terms of how are we and where are we investing, but at the same time, there is some healthy conflict between the sales leader, the marketing leader, the product leader, and that’s okay. But we’ve spent a lot of time working through those relationships to really make sure we have the trust with one another so we can have those conversations.

Margaret: And is the CFO also involved in the measurement in deciding what you track and in the technology and the reporting? Or does your organization do the actual reporting?

Kristin: Yeah, it’s a great question. We’ve actually, so we have a revenue operations team, we have marketing operations. And we also do have our financial team. And when we build out our metrics, and we talk and think about how and what we’re going to track, number one, that’s really led by myself and the marketing team. We also want to do it in a way that first and foremost, we’re consistent. We’re not changing on a regular basis, whatever your metric is, we’re picking it, we’re setting it and we’re sort of sticking to it so we’ve got that baseline. But I will tell you, as we build out those metrics, you bet I’ve got revenue operations and finance at the table so there’s full agreement, yep, this is the right metric to track, we agree with how you’re tracking it. It’s more of just kind of a partner that is going to weigh in rather than actually sort of saying, hey, we want you to actually track these specific metrics. I think if we weren’t tracking any metrics, they probably would, would have a pretty big point of view on that.

Margaret: Excellent. That sounds best practice for sure, Kristen. Now I want to spend a moment on brand valuation. Chandar, I’ll kick the ball to you first, we’ve talked a lot about very near-term revenue, arguably, in the branding programs and how the metrics support opportunity generation and sales. Do you ever think about brand as a driver of the business from an asset standpoint and brand valuation? I suspect you might, because you referenced the study of brand and serving your brand every year.

Chandar: Yeah, I think that is one aspect looking at it. But ultimately, to me, the success of a brand is a few things, and look at the value of the brand. If you’ve created a category, or in your category, if you establish yourself as the leader, and you’ve built a community, a call the community, a tribe, and a community that everybody wants to be part of this cool club that’s really successful. That’s really success as a brand. And that’s why to me and you think of brand building as okay, I’m really trying to give it’s not just about billboards, billboards, and advertising and stuff like that, you have to think about ultimately the game for any software company as can I get category leadership, and can I get community activation? If I can achieve that together, then that’s really the essence of victory, you know, brand like I can tell you Marketo was a brand that was built on building the marketing nation, but we did it is about right, you know, it’s about it’s not about selling marketing automation, whatever buying was marketing nation, I want to be part of this community. So that’s the success of the brand. And similar to Coupa as a brand that we have said, hey, it’s not about just, you know, spending money or getting efficiency, it’s about having this community. And our competition was talking about the network, we were talking about the community, you know, networks don’t communicate with, don’t engage, communities engage with each other, you know, so that to me that the essence of brand building is have you created category leadership, and have you created a community that’s vibrant? That’s the way to essentially measure success and all these efforts.

Margaret: Yeah. And in my experience, having been at Siegel Systems, when we created the CRM category, that was exactly it. How do you create category leadership and community activation? You expressed it so well there. Of course, there continues to be that tension. I want to make sure we address it robustly around sales revenue and timely activation manifest in making the cash registers, ring essentially. So I want to ask all of you, maybe Rashmi will jump in first, how do you ensure consistency between your brand work, the brand messaging that’s in marketing the community, and what the sales team is doing?

Rashmi: Yeah, it was paramount to our initiative and what you see today, and very much so spearheaded through marketing with tight collaboration with sales and the CS team, I think your whole go-to-market function has to be tied together on this and we did this through taking the brand, story, and narrative informed but also was integrated into all aspects sure of marketing, but also into our sales process and approach as well as our CS delivering, we did this through creating a what we call a value selling playbook, a unified messaging framework that took our core values of what we deliver to a customer and then making sure that how you present that in a sales process was tightly integrated. And then what the team is continuing to work on is, how do we make sure that value translates into verified outcomes that CS teams can consistently deliver on, as you acquire new customers as you grow existing customers and as you continue to turn them into advocates, so the advocacy part, I’d say is something that Productiv hasn’t yet fully kind of invested in, it just kind of given the stage of where it’s at but that is next on the horizon is to build more of that community and advocacy.

Margaret: You touched on advocacy and that reminds me of another stakeholder community, employees. A lot of our discussion so far has been very direct, revenue, sales, and the stakeholder vitally so the customer. Kristin, anything you would add around the value and the thoughtfulness around brand work to activate and engage employees, is it part of your remit? How do you think about it? 

Kristin: Oh, my gosh, 100%. I’m a huge fan of activating the employees, if they’re right there, they’re excited about what you’re doing like we’re sporting are simpler shirts, like, there’s no better community who, then you’re then the actual teams that you’re working with to really get excited about your brand. Of course, we’re all aligned around the customer as well. So even before I think you can really go out and activate the employees, it’s figuring out what are the big three to four kind of customer themes that are going to resonate with my customers, what are the problems I’m trying to solve for them? With that, though, here, I mean, here at symplr, we have done things like there’s actually technology that we have bought and employed, we’ve got it up on our intranet, so our employees can easily share content on their LinkedIn, on their different social channels, we’ve really taken that approach to help build an awareness of broad awareness with our 2000 employees kind of across the market. And it’s really helped. So if you think about it, you know, every day, we’re putting content out that our employees can easily share and communicate. And their network is even bigger than just little, you know, kind of our corporate network. So we really try to empower them, leverage with technology, with education, making sure they really understand kind of those core value, brand themes as well, and then activating them so they can go off and spread the word.

Margaret: Got it. There are many, many questions coming in. We will not get to all of them today. But I know that Drew and CMO Huddles Studio has many other shows planned. So please stick with us. Okay, we’re getting towards the end, I’ve been thinking about a few synthesis remarks. But before I do that, I want to honor Drew, as we all know, Drew is a big Ben Franklin fan. So I thought about this did some research and said to myself, what would Ben Franklin say to this topic of brand and revenue? And I think he would say “he that can have patience can have what he will”. Now we have three very patient CMOs, but also three very pragmatic CMOs. So I’m going to ask you very quickly, please. Final words of wisdom for our illustrious audience, starting with Chandar, please.

Chandar: I think I would say two things. One is think brand-quisition, right? Don’t think of brand as separate from acquisition, I would have said that I would do that. And number two, think lifecycle, do not think brand building is only for getting upfront revenue, think the power of community and brand building and how do you invest in community for brand building, and that can be a great asset for you because ultimately, your best sellers are your customers who can drive the acceleration and influence new revenue. So think of brand as a continuous 360 exercise and existing install base as much as it is for you getting prospects, those are the two things I would say. And, and well done is better than well said. So start doing it as Ben Franklin would say.

Margaret: That’s a Franklinism, I heard it right there. So Kristen, final words of wisdom, please. 

Kristin: Honestly, I think the biggest piece of advice I would have is that at the end of the day, we’re marketing to humans, I mean, in business to business, we can get a little bit stuck in the fact that, oh, it’s a business, we can talk really corporate, but the people that are reading our content that are associating with our brand. It’s you, It’s me, it’s kind of like so recognizing that business to human kind of moment is so critical. And then if you do that, well set the systems in place to set a goal, measure your goal, and then beat your goal.

Margaret: And someone who’s always beating her goals, Rashmi.

Rashmi: Yeah, I would say brand. Think of brand as purpose but it’s essentially the heartbeat of the company. If you embrace it, if you embrace your market, you know, you understand your market, and you can resonate with your market and you embrace it internally. It’s that synergy of bringing the external and internal together that can help drive you forward.

Margaret: So thank you, Chandar, Rashmi, and Kristen. And in listening to you I thought I might supplement with a few comments. It’s clear to all of us that over the past decade, performance marketing, demand generation, sales enablement, has dominated the conversation in B2B. And I think that’s at the expense of brand building. The prevailing view was direct marketing attached directly to revenue. Arguably a number of brands with some notable exceptions have over-rotated on that at the expense of value creation. Look, Chandar, and others touched on it. Here’s the thing, at any point in time, fewer than 90% of your market or more is not in market to buy your product at that point in time. So, therefore, to get the attention of that audience, you need to connect with them emotionally. Brand programs, brand messages tend to attach to people at an emotional level, such that when they’re in market to procure your services, you are top of mind. And as all three of you mentioned, that’s the goal, to be discoverable to have educated your market to have been visible such that when that purchase decision is timely, you are a choice provider. Studies support this would we have intuited, in fact I turned everyone’s attention to the LinkedIn Institute, Chandar touched on it, Mark Ritson, Field and Burnette, the May, June issue of the illustrious Harvard Business Review, where Jim Stengel and fellow authors talked about the importance of brand, measuring the value of brand, and the fact that it’s a false economy to neglect brand. So as you can see, I have a lot of passion for the topic. Truly an honor and great insight to hear from all of our CMO Huddlers this afternoon. I invite you all to join Drew, he’ll be back in two weeks with another show and he’s going to be talking about the first 90 days. Feel free to follow me on LinkedIn because I’m a marketer, and we gotta always have that call to action. Thank you, everyone, and have a wonderful rest of day.

Show Credits
Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me! This show is produced by Melissa Caffrey, Laura Parkyn, and our B2B podcast partners Share Your Genius. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro Voice Over is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about B2B branding, CMO Huddles, or my CMO coaching service, check out I’m your host, Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade thinking caps on and strong!