June 1, 2023

Marketing Metrics that Move the Needle

Metrics, metrics, metrics. It’s the science of marketing that delivers budget approvals, board buy-in, and a formidable seat at the table. In this episode, we explore the B2B metrics that matter with three metrics-driven CMOs.    

Tune in to get all kinds of metrics insights, with wisdom from CMOs Kevin Sellers of Ping Identity, Deidre Hudson of Bloomfire (previously Payability), and Khalid El Khatib of Stack Overflow. 

What You’ll Learn 

  • How 3 marketers approach measurement 
  • The role marketing plays in customer retention 
  • Metrics that move the needle

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 347 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned 


  • [3:15] Kevin speaks Korean 
  • [4:39] Activity-based vs. impact-based metrics 
  • [10:16] Customer goals & metrics 
  • [13:28] Deidre’s MS in Psychology 
  • [14:28] 3 levels of metrics 
  • [16:52] Does marketing play a role in renewals? 
  • [19:12] Measuring lifetime value (LTV) 
  • [22:14] Khalid & creative writing 
  • [23:17] Cross-functional metrics 
  • [27:39] The power of swag 
  • [30:18] How CMO Huddles can help you 
  • [34:19] On attribution 
  • [38:17] Experimentation budget 
  • [40:49] Awareness metrics 
  • [43:21] And the most important metric is… 
  • [44:39] Metrics top tips 

Highlighted Quotes  

“Focus on metrics that are impact-related versus activity-related.” —Kevin Sellers @pingidentity Share on X 

“Search is the digital gold of our time.” —Kevin Sellers @pingidentity Share on X

“It really comes down to looking at the end result and working backwards.” —@_deidrehudson @bloomfire Share on X 

“Look at the metrics being used to judge the overall health of the business and bring that down to your channels.” —@_deidrehudson @bloomfire Share on X 

“Reporting out by region is especially paramount right now.” —@kmelkhat @StackOverflow Share on X

“Align all of your partners from the start when you put together your executive dashboard.” —@kmelkhat @StackOverflow Share on X

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Kevin Sellers, Deidre Hudson, & Khalid El Khatib


Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s Drew. And I’m guessing that as a podcast listener, you will also enjoy audiobooks. Well in that case, did you know the audio version of Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands, was recently ranked the number one new B2B audio book by Book Authority. Kind of cool, right? Anyway, you can find my book on Audible or your favorite audio book platform.

And speaking of audio before we get into today’s show, I do want to do a shout out to the professionals that Share Your Genius. We started working with them several months ago to make this show even better, and have been blown away by their strategic and executional prowess. If you’re thinking about starting a podcast or want to turbocharge your current show, be sure to talk to Rachel Downey at shareyourgenius.com and tell her Drew sent you.

Okay, let’s get on with today’s episode.

Narrator: Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, possibly the best weekly podcast for CMOs and everyone else looking for innovative ways to transform their brand, drive demand, and just plain cut through. Proving that B2B does not mean boring to business. Here’s your host and Chief Marketing Renegade Drew Neisser.

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers! Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite the top rated podcast for B2B CMOs and other marketing-obsessed individuals.

You’re about to listen to a recording of CMO Huddle Studio, our live show featuring the CMOS of CMO Huddles, a community that sharing caring and daring each other to greatness every day of the week.

This time we’ve got a conversation with Huddlers Kevin Sellers of Ping Identity, Khalid El Khatib of Stack Overflow, and Deidre Hudson, then the CMO of humility. We are talking metrics, so let’s dive in.

All right, I’m your host, Drew Neisser. Live from my home studio in New York City. As I rant about in my latest book, Renegade Marketing 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands, you can have the courage of a Wakanda warrior, the artfulness of Taiko YTT, the thoughtfulness of Mother Teresa, and still come up short as a CMO, unless you back it all up with science. Like my man, Ben Franklin. The marketing success that Franklin achieved with France getting their King to fund a revolution was only possible because of his scientific reputation that preceded him. Putting it more succinctly, no science for CMOs, no glory. So on this show, we’re going to explore a range of approaches to measurement, examining how various marketers develop their metrics, establish their goals, and achieve and charter achievements. With that, let’s bring on Kevin Sellars, CMO of Ping Identity, and star of episode 218 and 243 of Renegade Marketers Unite. Welcome back, Kevin.

Kevin Sellers: Thanks Drew for having me here.

Drew Neisser: It’s good to be anywhere. Now, I noticed on your bio that you minored in Korean, what drew you to that language? And are you gonna share some your first words of wisdom in Korean?

Kevin Sellers: Well, the first word I learned in Korean was “hwajangsil-i eodieyo” which is, “Where’s the bathroom?” You know, so there’s important things. There’s a hierarchy of things you have to learn. But yeah, I lived in Korea for a couple years, I learned how to speak the language—had to speak the language—came back and had a chance to minor in the language, which was amazing. So I would just say, you know, to kick us off, uliga ileon mannam-eul gajil su iss-eoseo johdaso. Basically what I said was, “Hey, I think the fact that we could get together meet like this is a pretty cool thing.” So that’s kind of what I think.

Drew Neisser: Awesome. All right. Well, for all our Korean listeners, welcome as well. That’s amazing. Thank you for sharing that. I was in Seoul in 2008. And it’s just really a great city. I don’t think people realize what a cool city it’s become.

Kevin Sellers: And I was there, it was a long time ago. And it was before the Olympics, actually. So it was 100,000 years ago. But the trends in the Olympics and other things in the modernization of Korea is stunning. Amazing.

Drew Neisser: Okay, so speaking of modernization, you been at Ping Identity for over three years now. Can you give us a sense of the overview of the metrics that matter to you, to right now, and maybe how those evolved over the last few years?

Kevin Sellers: Sure. I think a lot of us grappled with this. I know when I got here, we had a lot of the kinds of metrics where it’s easy for marketing, to fall a little bit into a trap of where we measure activity, right. And I call it activity based marketing. We did this many activities, we generated this many leads, all those things are things that we can track and we should track. But you know, flipping that from, how do I get off of activity based and into impact base, and what are the real things that drive impact. So you know, the metrics we track, I just pulled them up here that we track and report on all the time both to the company as well as to the board, we obviously look at things like pipeline—which matters—but we need to break that down and look at the sources of pipeline and the conversion of those. So, our goals are tied to the field goals around obviously revenue—the most important goal that all of us have. So I think if we had activity based metrics around just pipeline generation, or just lead generation of any kind, we can sort of win the battle and still lose the war. So tying everything back to a revenue metric allows us to think about things in ways that say, it may not be the quantity of leads, or quantity of pipeline that matters. But really, what is my conversion rate? And what’s my revenue growth rate, and am I seeing improvements across the generation but more importantly, the conversion of the pipeline. So we have a series of very impact related metrics as it ties to pipeline. But then we also get into—we break all that down into, we take the digital piece pretty seriously, we want to look very hard at our search. For example, search is the digital gold of our generation of time. And so we look at very specific terms and the progress we’re making and the ranking we’re getting, because, there’s 1000s and 10s of 1000s of searches happening just in our space every single day. So competing there and winning the volume in an ever improving fashion is super important for us. So we track a lot of our digital metrics again that way, and we can we track for trends, we track for impact, we tie that back to lead generation all the way through to revenue. So those things are really really important and then we have a number of things that we track. For example, we used to look in our communications aspect, we used to look at things like share voice. Now share voice is important. And we want to have a good share a voice, but it’s an incomplete metric. If you want to measure success in that space, we have a combined metric of quantity and quality. So we look at things like “Okay, what’s my share of voice in my category?” But then we look at message pull through, we have a defined set of core messages that we want to see get pulled through and in the marketplace. So we measure that as well to give us a better sense of is our PR and our corporate communications function, delivering impact, right. And then we do a number of things around our content engine, we look at the specific types of content and the content contribution to revenue conversion. And we measure those as well. We look at things like competitive churn and bass and upsell and cross sell renewal, and retention and those types of things as it relates to the base customer. And then we have a set of partner marketing objectives to really I think the key for us has been how do we move off of just measuring activity? And how do we get into really measuring impact and whether or not we’re driving the business forward? And certainly the top line, which is what we’re all paid to do, and I think we’ve now adjusted those to the point where we can have a very transparent and honest conversation as to whether our tactics and strategies are really delivering the types of impact we want, and not getting caught up. And yes we did things but we actually are delivering impact.

Drew Neisser: And is this an evolutionary approach? I’m imagining it took some time to get every systems in place so that you could show the impact you were having on revenue?

Kevin Sellers: Yeah, it definitely was an evolutionary thing. Like our board was super anxious to know, “Hey, are the investments we’re making are they actually delivering?” And you can take that all the way down to even things like events. And I think most people probably do this, you can really measure, is this a worthwhile investment? Are we actually getting something out of it beyond this sort of amorphous brand uplift that people want to debate that you get from being at events,  which I’m a little more skeptical on, I want to know that we’re actually creating connections that are leading to growth opportunities. So we’ve taken it down from the micro and then up to the macro. And yeah, it’s been shared all the way because now even the CFO, we have a real conversation around and he’s so willing to put more money into it, just show me impact. So we’re able to now have that type of conversation. That is something we weren’t having just a couple years ago.

Drew Neisser: So I’m wondering, one of the things that I have heard as a complaint from boards to CMOs is you share too much data. And, you could have stopped at impact based pipeline, right, full stop. Everything else is how you got there. Right. Right, in some ways, right. So I just wanted to put a point on that. It makes sure that folks, even though you have all this data, and it’s great and it leads up to it, ultimately—you described it really simply, that we have the right quality of leads in the pipeline that marketing is helping to drive, marketing is helping to nurture, and marketing is helping to close. And that the close rates is accelerating and the deal size is accelerated. Right. Okay. And that could be just enough for a board.

Kevin Sellers: Absolutely.

Drew Neisser: My bigger question is, current customers have gotta be a big part of revenue too. And when you’re looking at this, does customer marketing retention—and are there different set of metrics, because all we talked about there felt like net new.

Kevin Sellers: Yeah, and it’s true, a lot of what we do is net new, but we do have a specific motion around base. So you know, net retention, and churn reduction, and upsell cross sell. So we take specific goals on those and we measure. We don’t spend as much money, obviously, in that part of the world than we do in the net new. But we absolutely track that. Because, to be honest, it changes from time to time, but we’re probably 70% of our revenue is base, about a third, a little less than a third is net new. And that’s actually pretty healthy, we think, but we want to make sure that it doesn’t really dip below that because you can’t base expand if you’re not adding to it right. So at some point that will run its course, if you’re not careful, and you rely too heavily on the base. So yeah, I agree with that.

Drew Neisser: While you in marketing are not spending 70% of your dollars against base, it’s probably you’re not even spending 30% of your dollars against base. The organization I’m imagining somewhere is spending—it may not be in the marketing department—but it’s spending a goodly amount of revenue of cost, if you will, to maintain you know, customer success and make sure that they’re using the product and getting full advantage all those things, right. I mean, that investment is there.

Kevin Sellers: Yeah. Oh, for sure. It’s a huge part of obviously, us hitting our goals. And we break down, you know, we look at our revenue targets, and we break them down by net new, by churn reduction, by base expansion, and specifically within base expansion, upsells, and particular products or initiatives that we want to track. And then what we do in marketing is we kind of help with the play development, what’s the play? So for example, we’re in the identity space. Okay. So one of the things we’re doing with our customers that exists today is a lot of them are still using what’s referred to as straightforward single sign on and multifactor authentication capability for employees and customers to both log in and be authenticated. One of the things we’re trying to do is help them realize that passwords are kind of part of the problem. Passwords are crackable, passwords are infinitely stealable. So we create a play around how do we help our customer migrate to a passwordless authentication experience. That’s the kind of thing—we develop the play, we develop the messaging the framework, and then we work with our customer success teams or field teams or essays, we go out there, and we have a coordinated play. It doesn’t require paid media, but it requires a lot of other things that we do, and allows us to really have a focused conversation with that customer and help them on a path to something better, rather than, just knocking on the door saying “We’ve got another widget you should buy.” It’s a very different approach than just trying to sell products. It’s really journeys that we map out to help customers move to the next phase of their cloud evolution.

Drew Neisser: Got it. Okay, we’re gonna come back to you because we got to get into this brand thing and measuring that but we’ll be back on that. In the meantime, we’re going to bring on Deidre Hudson, CMO Payability, star of episode 45 of this show. Hello, Deidre. How are you?

Deidre Hudson: Good, Drew, how are you? Good to see you.

Drew Neisser: Now, I just noticed you’re working on an M.S. psychology, I’m really curious about where this path has helped your marketing career?

Deidre Hudson: Yeah, I’ve had an interest in psychology for quite a while. I love data. And I love insights that it brings, and I love to learn. And psychology kind of addresses a couple of those things for me, because on the one hand, it’s data, right? Psychology is like data of the mind. And I became very interested in it my early days, we were using demographic and behavioral based segmentation models. And I just was enamored with the fact that one row of numbers in an Excel spreadsheet could indicate an entirely different kind of person than another row. So I wanted to dig deeper into that. And then the other part of it, particularly where I am in my coursework right now is about research. So this kind of feeds into my love for A/B testing and applying, an analytical approach to marketing. So I’m slowly chipping away at it.

Drew Neisser: All right, we wish you good luck with that. Let’s talk metrics—when you look at metrics and think about those, what’s on your priority list?

Deidre Hudson: Yes, I like what we were saying before about, distinguishing between the activity metrics and impact metrics. And the way I think about metrics currently, it’s basically in three levels kind of going from, broad down to the macro to micro. So at the top is kind of what the company level metrics, right? These are unit economics that are pretty common in the SaaS business, right? It’s looking at CAC, it’s looking at LTV numbers, looking at our LTV to CAC ratios, looking at our payback periods, looking at gross margins, and then looking at some revenue metric. It can be—it’s commonly kind of ARR MRR for us, it’s kind of a RPA ARTBA (average revenue per account). So we looked at that at the company level to really understand the health of the company and how we’re doing from that level. Then the next level down, these are the funnel metrics, the pipeline metrics, these are looking at our full funnel, looked at all the conversion points throughout the funnel, looking at what those conversion numbers are. Looking at how we are comparing, from time period to time period from channel to channel. And this allows us to be very diagnostic, because if we see, for instance, a break in one part of the funnel, we can go back to that point and look before that and see what’s happening. That helped us to figure out an issue we were having in our messaging at one point, it’s helped us to figure out spend and how we should allocate budget, one of the things that helped us in that regard. And then the third level is now looking at the channel level metrics. And the channel level metrics is kind of a combination of the two because now we’re going to look at those unit economics by channel and we’re going to look at the funnel metrics by channels you have the channels performing. And then there’s the very bespoke activity metrics that come in to those channels. So the metrics that are in paid media impressions and CTRs, and things like that, versus a direct mail channel account creates an account conversions. And so yeah, so that’s how we look at it—kind of these three levels. And I made sure that I wrote down in my notes to let you know that these are for new customer acquisition, you just mentioned that they sound like the other metrics didn’t talk, they incorporated upsell and expansion. So these are definitely for customer acquisition, the renewals and upsell will definitely have a little bit slightly different metrics.

Drew Neisser: And does marketing play a role in renewals? I mean, in that part of it, the customer metrics?

Deidre Hudson: That’s more for our sales team, is really kind of driving that, because we’re marketing and sales lead organization. Marketing is very tip of the spear, very bringing in the right leads, really partnering with sales to kind of see how they’re getting through the pipeline, or looking at all those conversion touchpoints. That’s another reason why, looking at these company level and funnel metrics at the channel is so important because we really need to understand what channels are performing, and leading to the types of customers that we’re bringing in helping us to convert into closed one deals and really bringing in the kind of business that we want.

Drew Neisser: Now, unless the world has completely changed. Very few marketing decisions are so 1234 transactional, right? I mean, it’s one thing, you go on Amazon and you buy a book, right? That’s boom, you know what you’re gonna buy, boom, it’s done. But in software, it’s a more complicated, software as a service, obviously, there are multiple decisions. So when you’re looking at this metric, and all these, I’m just imagining, I mean, you listed a huge number of things that you’re looking at. And we can either look at this by funnel or by stage or by channel, how are you certain that the spending you’re doing really aligns ultimately with that end deal close?

Deidre Hudson: That’s a great question. One of the initiatives that we started to do was to look at how we were allocating our budget, and I talked with my CEO about this. I think it really comes down to looking at the end result and and working backwards, right. So looking at what our LTV to CAC ratios, were by channel, and then using that to figure out what our CPA should be by channel, right. So if we are paying X number of dollars to acquire a customer through paid media, and maybe that CPA is 3x, 2x—whatever the cost of to acquire that customer through direct mail, what does that really ultimately net out in as far as LTV is concerned? So LTV should really have a play in determining how much we pay for those customers to acquire them by channel because customers that are acquired to a paid media channel could have a totally different LTV than the customer that I acquired through direct mail. And those CPAs need to take that into consideration.

Drew Neisser: But LTV lifetime value is a lagging indicator, right? It takes a while to figure out either you’re projecting it based on averages, or you have to wait and see. So this is backwards looking at lifetime value. Sort of, oh, three years ago, we acquired a customer using this channel, and they’re still with us. So then the lifetime value is—how do you get there?

Deidre Hudson: Yeah, it’s a starting point. I mean, we use the previous year’s LTV to start this exercise. So definitely is a starting point. But I think that it’s the starting point to get us to a place that’s a bit more precise in terms of how to allocate budget right? As opposed to saying, “Okay, we spent X amount of dollars last year let’s spend 25% more of that this year or 25% more this year, let’s just divide added the way we’ve been dividing it.” I think it gets us to a place where we are able to be a little bit more diagnostic and a little bit more precise, in terms of lining up spin to results.

Drew Neisser: Do you have a data point for how many touches you need to close?

Deidre Hudson: That’s the question I love to ask. It’s like, how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop rates?

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I’m just curious. Because it’s so funny, a lot of things are going through my mind. And there’s the notion that this is actually direct marketing, and that we can spend a certain money here and we can close the deal over here. And that there might not need to be 10 or other touches. And then what happens—in my mind at least is—there’s that one piece of content that only five people read. But those five people all bought, where there’s another piece of content that 100 people read, and none of them bought it. Both of you so far have really shown a sense of linear—ness. And I’m just thinking of Brent Adamson’s buyer journey, that’s this massive spaghetti chart, but how confident are you in your understanding of, I spend in this channel, I get revenue out?

Deidre Hudson: Oh, I am not as confident as I would like to be. I think most marketers could say that if we can predict that with a high level of precision, I think we’d all be multimillionaires, so.

Drew Neisser: Okay. I that that’s what I was thinking, Oh my God, you are just right. Perfect. That’s a great place. And now we can go to Khalid El Khatib is the CMO of Stack Overflow, because he’s gonna get us right to that precise moment, right? Khalid?

Khalid El Khatib: No, no, no, no one can do that. And if they can they’re lying.

Drew Neisser: Anyway, welcome back Khalid was the star of Episode 181 and 259 of Renegade Marketers Unite. So how are you? Where are you?

Khalid El Khatib: Doing well, I’m in New York actually. I’m one day post our first ever StackOverflow customer conference and our first large scale event in person in many years.

Drew Neisser: Wow. Oh, that’s so cool. I want to come back to that.

But first, I noticed first of all that you were WashU grad, which is where my son in law went. So it’s now in the family. Did you have three majors?

Khalid El Khatib: I did, I studied political science, psychology, and creative writing. My passion was for writing, creative writing, but they only had a minor. And so I maxed out in the amount of courses I could take that related to it, but it only got me that minor.

Drew Neisser: Okay, so but there’s minors there anyway, that’s amazing. And did you have dreams of writing the great American novel?

Khalid El Khatib: I did. And still do. You know, I moved to New York thinking I’d only be here for one year, and applied for MFA programs concurrently. And then you know, one thing led to another, I put off grad school after getting in and I just never went, but I continue to write on the side, I write for a bunch of magazines, and I’ll write a book eventually, hopefully.

Drew Neisser: Awesome. While the show goes on, we will research some of those and maybe try to find some links and share them in the show notes. By the way, just for comparison, I came to New York many years ago, thinking I’d be on the two year plan. And many decades later, I’m still here, it does have a certain stickiness, and I’m just not referring to the sidewalk on a hot summer day.

Let’s dive into the topic at hand and talk about I’m assuming you have an executive dashboard, and if so what are the core KPIs on that?

Khalid El Khatib: Yeah, in the spirit of being interesting relative to what’s already been shared, because there have already been some really smart insights, I think a couple of things that I do differently—because a lot of what we talked about and share is already been discussed—is one, how cross functional it is. So for us this sort of cadence or this report, obviously, it happens in quarterly ops reviews, our board meetings. And you know, there are real time dashboards that folks have access to. But there are two ways that we really scrutinize this data. One is an weekly business review, where we bring together about 20 leaders across all go to market and include some product leaders and the full executive team. And that’s where we talked about pipeline, some of the metrics that have already been shared, CAF, most effective channels, what have you. And we do a smaller group meeting, that’s me, my head of demand generation, our CRO, our CFO, and our CEO. And that’s where we do a deep dive into any deals that are at risk, any new campaigns that are launching, any challenges—operational challenges—that we’re seeing, so if there’s like a drop off an SDR activity or what have you. And so, that, to me is interesting. And it’s something that our CEO implemented when he joined two and a half years ago, that’s just been so like a huge help in terms of cross functional collaboration and unlocking a lot of productivity. The other thing that’s interesting about this sort of metric, as we looked at them is, one, ensuring that some of the KPIs that have already been discussed—like pipeline for example, time to close, what have you—are reporting out by region. I think it’s always been important, but it’s especially paramount right now, when you’re seeing so many macroeconomic issues that impacted different regions and territories differently. And then a related point, you know, just given the strange economic environment that we’re in right now is we look really closely, and increasingly so at the percent change week over week. But you know, ideally, you see it go up the amount of pipeline being generated, there’s, of course, seasonality, there are things that happen towards the end of the quarter, but we want to obsessively focus on any trends that we’re seeing, any red flags, any leading indicators that sort of give us public forum tools, for example. At the start of the pandemic, there was a sort of catastrophic drop in form fills, and then it took back up. And you know, I think a lot of companies, including us are asking ourselves, what’s happening right now? And what data sources can we look to to ensure that we are reacting appropriately to this moment that we’re in?

Drew Neisser: So from a regional standpoint, I’m assuming places like Europe are slowing down a lot faster than what you’re seeing in the U.S.?

Khalid El Khatib: To some extent, I think a lot of companies are seeing that. We’re fortunate in that our products, which are sold to developers and technologists, continue to perform quite well, right. And I think that by looking at those sort of regional trends and trends by industry, we are being a little more sophisticated about how we target and the sources that we’re using as well.

Drew Neisser: So we spent a lot of time so far on the show talking about pipeline, go to market, and those metrics, but you mentioned at the top that you just had your first ever customer event. I’m curious, on your dashboard, do you have customer metrics?

Khalid El Khatib: We do, we need to be more sophisticated about that, like everyone, right, because this is a shared responsibility with a customer success team, which, at our company, reports into our CRO, so the revenue organization comprises sales and customer success. And this is something that we need to better report on, one, to ensure that we’re spending efficiently but also so we get credit for it. You know, the longer I work in Marketing, the more I recognize that like swag—which I say with a Midwest accent, and Iowa accent—will always be a big part of my job, regardless how big the company is, or how senior I get and like something as small as sending a box of T shirts. And again, we are fortunate to have a very beloved brand by developers, to a customer can accelerate a deal, can lead to or directly impact and upsell and saying like, okay, to what extent did $500 worth of T shirts influence this deal is something that we need to get much more scientific about.

Drew Neisser: But I just have to, for the moment, is just sort of revel in the enduring power of swag and laugh with you about it.

Khalid El Khatib: You could do a whole show about it.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, no, I can, and I should. It’s like we should just have a bring the best swag party to the table.

Khalid El Khatib: As an aside—yesterday at our customer conference, which I thought was quite clever, recommendation from our agencies, we screen printed all of our shorts on demand. So there was some optionality pick your color, pick the design that you want to screen print, and the sustainability element. So we only used as much swag as people actually wanted.

Drew Neisser: There you go. And I did do a show with the CMO of one of the services that distributes swag, and she was a big believer in unbranded because so much of branded—particularly things like bags—just get thrown away at the trade show. So that’s a really smart move of letting people pick the color, pick the size, pick the imprint. That’s brilliant, and I can’t help—I’m thinking about a conversation that we actually had in CMO Huddles, the other day, I was looking at the transcript. And one of the things that the CMO talked about was the metric that mattered with customers was how likely they were to say, “Could I live without your brand?” And I thought that was such an interesting question to ask customers, what would happen if we took it away? And you know, we think about that a couple of months of conversations that we’ve had in Huddles about recession preparedness. Well, that’s all about securing customers and loving customers. Think about living without you, you’re not going to keep them.

Khalid El Khatib: Yeah, I think you and I have talked about this also and this concept of community marketing. So we often say like, you know, Stack Overflow is a massive website that reaches 100 million developers and technologists, and then we sell a private version of it to companies of this collaboration, software and Q&A form. They know our salespeople certainly say, we don’t really sell a product, we sell a community. And I think it gets to exactly what you’re saying. If there is a cohort within your company and the valuable population of folks like developers, for example, who can’t live without your product and really evangelize your brand. Then you have stickiness that other things don’t.

Drew Neisser: So again, I’m going to bring this together. A KPI could be, how many people at your customer conference wanted a T shirt that had your brand name on it? And you know, you could quickly look at those that took it with the brand name and those that didn’t right. And figure out oh, that’s interesting, because that’s your loyalty index.

Khalid El Khatib: Yeah, right. Super smart. Everything is data.

Drew Neisser: It’s evangelists mode. Okay.

We’ve been talking about Huddles, but we’re gonna talk a little bit more about Huddles. Launched in 2020, CMO Huddles is an exclusive community of over 100 highly effective B2B CMOs who share, care, and dare each other to greatness. It is indeed a community. Everything about CMO Huddles is designed to be a force multiplier, helping you to make faster, better, and more informed decisions. Where one inspiring hour a month delivers 10 hours of perspiration saved. Since no CMO cannot work their job, CMO Huddles is here to help you outsmart it. So let’s bring Khalid, Deidre, Kevin back and what I’m interested in, and I’m fishing here for a bit, but I’m wondering if you could share a specific example of how CMO Huddles has helped you over as long as you’ve been a member. Khalid you’ve been with us, I think pre you are in the beta. So you’ve been with us the longest. I’ve just curious if there’s a moment that you would said, well, yeah, this really made a difference?

Khalid El Khatib: Yeah, I mean, I think one in particular, I find one to one, I came from a company called GLG, which does a lot of expertise and one to one consultations. And so if one to one to be extraordinarily helpful, because you can sort of pick within the 100 plus CMOs that you have, who has the company that’s most similar to yours, or like, aspirationally, what company do you want to be in 1,3,5 years. And so one conversation I had with the CMO in another SaaS company was as our product marketing team was growing, and going from like three to 10. I said, look, there are so many resources out there on how to scale product marketing, there are so many org charts that do and don’t make sense to me. Can you tell me how your team is structured? What KPIs you track, and what profile you look for when you’re building a product marketing team? And that 30 minute conversation was so much more helpful than any of the analyst reports that I can look at, or, you know, org charts are notoriously difficult to find online. So to me, that was just one sort of aha moment where it literally helped to build a team out and blueprint for a team based on one of those conversations.

Drew Neisser: Amazing. We’re gonna have to get you another one on one soon, you’ll just have to give us a topic. Okay, Kevin, you’ve been on the show, you’ve shared many wonderful thoughts, I don’t want to push you on this one. But if you had a specific example, that’d be awesome.

Kevin Sellers: Well, I think Khalid kind of took the best one, which is just connecting with people that have particular expertise. Because no CMO really is an expert in everything that we’re asked to do. So being able to connect with individuals that have a background and expertise in something that you might find needful or helpful to company, I’ve had the connection with probably a half dozen, and both sides of that, where you’ve been able to share insights and learning but also ask for help and insights that have made us better. So clearly, it’s the community effect, which I think is the most important, and the sharing of tips and things. Those are great. But I think it’s the connection and the networking. It’s not just general networking, you’re able to learn from people you really need help learning from. So that’s what I found most valuable.

Drew Neisser: And I love it. And by the way, this is real time product research, because it’s just making me think we got to build out our one on one program a little more robustly. And two, we’re starting to do one on ones in the Huddles themselves, just to create that opportunity for the conversation to continue. Okay, Deidre, I don’t want to leave you out, if you got something you want to share, please.

Deidre Hudson: I haven’t taken advantage of the one to ones quite as frequently. So now I will do so. But I think also, just the community, just having access to other people who were kind of in the same boat with you, I’ve made some good connections that started with CMO Huddles and kind of continued outside of the group. And just having the support system knowing that other people that are kind of going through the same things that you’re going through and having the same challenges. So that’s been really helpful.

Drew Neisser: Awesome. Thank you all for that. And if you’re a B2B CMO, you happen to be watching this show. And if you can share and care and dare with the best of them, check out CMOhuddles.com. Thank you for those great comments and Khalid. I’m curious.

Now we’re back. We’re talking and all four of us, let’s have all four of us on the screen. I’m curious how you’re approaching attribution. I know that, there’s Visible and I think there’s another tool out there, but I’ve never seen CMO’s say that tool is just killing it. How are you approaching that? Because we’re saying that marketing is driving pipeline. But what is that—what’s that look like right now, what is state of the art with attribution?

Khalid El Khatib: If someone else knows and they can tell me that would be super helpful. I say we’re using Visible and that’s it. You can use a visible which was our events vendor yesterday and we are are still on our marketing attribution journey. I think we’re a 14 year old business that have various lines of business, some of which have evolved over time. And so our Salesforce instance, like many other folks, is that quite messy. And our UTM parameters have changed 300 times since I’ve worked here. So there’s a lot of cleanup efforts that are underway. And the two things that we’re doing, one is continuing to educate reps on best practices around Salesforce, how we think about attribution, and how they can help us get better about it, when it comes to record keeping. The other thing that we’re doing when it comes to reporting on attribution to our CEO or CFO, etc, is saying, okay, of all of the sources that we have, this is the one where we have the highest confidence in verbal in terms of—we know that the attribution here works. So Alyce is an easy one, I was in reach desk gifting vendors for meeting booking and the equivalent. We very clearly know because we’ve educated the reps, we brought that tool on board when our marketing operations leader was here, how it’s influencing deals. Other things, you know, bigger channels like search SEM, more challenging, just being transparent is like basically our approach.

Drew Neisser: Well, I want to go back to the thing you said at the beginning of this part of the thing is messy Salesforce, and I’ve heard that a lot in Huddles that a lot of folks have that. And I think it all breaks there. And so some of the solutions, at least some of the CMOs is that, you guys in sales you can’t touch Salesforce. Only marketing ops or whatever this neutral ground can touch it. So because dirty data, bad data is bad output. And if Salesforce is what everybody is dependent on its problem. So Kevin, anything in attribution that you’re excited about?

Kevin Sellers: Yeah, it’s the tough question. We use a tool called Caliber Mind, we know we use the first touch last touch, and it’s good. It’s not great. I think, I’m wondering if great exists, we have a decent idea of of what our attribution is, but it is the question that we ask ourselves a lot. But I think we’ve gotten past the notion of sourcing to the point of chest pounding on whether marketing or sales or partner source was X or Y or Z. I think we’ve moved past that, because we’re really focused on quality of funnel, which I think is a step in the maturity curve for us, which is good. Obviously, we want to do a better job of that, because we’re measuring tactical success, like what’s working and what isn’t working, obviously. And I think we’re getting better there. But it’s the $64,000 question for all of us does a specific content play, or a specific tactic that we have in our mix, really deliver? And how do you measure the interplay across all the multiple steps that happen in a journey. It starts to touch on marketing, direct impact versus marketing influence, which is, again, that emotional conversation that CFO doesn’t want to get away from. I think you asked us a question earlier, how many steps in a buy in, ours is north of 28 sites. It’s 26. It’s a big number of steps. And it’s like, in that world, how are you just focusing on optimizing and making sure that it’s as simple and straightforward and the experience itself is as good as you can make it? It’s hard. I mean, that’s the thing we don’t have great answers to.

Drew Neisser: Okay. All right. I’m gonna I’m gonna move on from attribution just because it’s it’s a pain, a thorn in the side.

So how much room—and maybe Deidre you can speak to this—in the budget do you have for testing and experimentation where you don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know if it’s gonna pay out or not, but you’re trying it because you always have to try things?

Deidre Hudson: Yeah, that’s a good question. We’ve gone through a few different iterations of how we structure the budget. At one point, we called out a specific dollar amount that we were using just for for branding and testing kind of came under that branding umbrella. As budgets got a little bit tighter and pockets got a little less deep, then you really do need to be able to make the case for testing. And you still don’t have to have room for it. But I think that the testing takes kind of a different approach. Now, it’s maybe not as broad as it may have been before. Or it’s very specific, just to like one or two attributes, as opposed to you maybe trying to test for a few different things. So it’s gotten slimmer, we still try to incorporate testing within each of our channels where possible. So within paid media, there’s always testing there with messaging and creative within our direct mail. We’ve done some testing, but I think we have more room to be able to do a bit more testing there. So the short answer is it’s not as much.

Drew Neisser: It’s funny, because in Huddles, we talked about that 10 or 20%, that you would love to have in testing and experimentation. And as we were talking about working our way through recession planning, many folks said if I have this budget and I actually call it testing and experimentation that’s gonna go, that’s going to just be grabbed, the solutions was to just ignore it. I’m curious Khalid, Kevin, do you actually have an experimentation budget or you just experiment within the budget that you have.

Kevin Sellers: That’s how we are, we definitely experiment. But I don’t necessarily carve out a separate budget. But we definitely within that we try things all the time, for sure.

Khalid El Khatib: Yeah, same I think we’ve looked at our tech stack, do we need a tool like Optimizely or the equivalent, I think that and then just other resources is headcount, you know, like, whose job is it to run a testing? To what extent are agencies testing everything that they’re putting out there, etc, etc.

Drew Neisser: I just want to do a call back quickly. So you mentioned Alyce as your vendor for providing online swag, right? Yeah. And I that’s the CMO that I was mentioning that they talk about how so much branded swag goes to waste, just wanted to connect those dots. And we’ll link to in the show notes. I think it’s Alyce, just in case you haven’t heard of that.

Now, speaking of awareness. So all of this conversation so far, we’ve been talking for almost 44 minutes now. And we haven’t talked about a KPI or any kind of awareness measures. And we all know that a lack of awareness is a huge disadvantage, especially when your salespeople are out there speaking with prospective customers. And Kevin, I’m gonna point this to you can you and I have talked about this on other shows, talk a little bit about how you make the case, how you’re measuring awareness, if you are and how you make the case for raising it.

Kevin Sellers: Yeah, we do measure it, what we do is we’ve done an annual study, it’s important, obviously, when you do this, that you have the same methodology, because changing methodology, and your numbers get all different, potentially. But we have a formal study we’ve done every year where we look at awareness across a number of different countries. And we do it competitively and then certainly focused on our own. And the good news is we have a field team that for the most part really understands this, and they’re actually asking for it. Because you know, in B2B, especially awareness, the importance of awareness is getting you into a bid opportunity, getting you on that shortlist, low awareness really makes up very hard to do. So we tracked that we don’t have it as a KPI actually, because, but we track and report on it, we show management kind of where we’re at. And the good news is, we’ve been investing in this a bit. And we’ve seen some very nice upward movement, which is what we want to see. But it’s also a little bit of a dangerous area, because you don’t want to declare victory just because you’ve seen improved awareness, right? It’s is it translating now into a higher number of opportunities? And can you connect some of those activities to actually deals with the pipeline, and that’s one of things we’ve done is we’ve tried to say, okay, we’ve had the ability in certain deals, be able to play back and go that account consumed the content in that awareness campaign. And so that’s given us a little bit of insight as to whether or not we’ve been able to at least participate in or influence that deal cycle. And that’s been helpful as we share that with management, just say, look, and our field team, our CRO is like all over, he loves it, he wants us to be doing more. So we have the benefit of the doubt, in many ways, because they believe conceptually in the in the need for it. And so we don’t have to go beating on the door, but it always comes down to a trade off. It’s like how much do you actually devote to that? And how much do you devote to your more tactical demand capture motion, which is more near term. And that’s the big debate we have all the time, but we do measure it, and we have a formal way of measuring it. And we do think it’s important that we report on it.

Drew Neisser: Okay, so this is a quick answer. What’s one metric that you wish you had? Or if it was the only metric that you could have, what would that be? And I’ll start with you Deidre.

Deidre Hudson: We have this metric, I think that the single most important metric is just marketing generated revenue, tying that back to different channels. And this is the amount of revenue that closed one deal that were generated through these marketing channels.

Drew Neisser: Kevin, Khalid anything different there, one metric you wish you had or the metric.

Khalid El Khatib: I wish I had a better understanding of everything, their highest source of marketing one revenue is organic, conserved, and I wish that I knew everything that went into that. And like Kevin, we have 20 plus touches that go into it. So and I wish I better understood what each one was.

Kevin Sellers: And I think it’s like the golden metric, like marketing influence on closed revenue, right? That’s like, the metric is ,is what I’m doing actually leading to revenue and everything we do, tries to piece that story together. But if there was one metric, it would be, show me that we’re actually driving top line growth. And that’s, you know, you have to piece together a story versus having that single metric today.

Drew Neisser: Got it. Okay. All right.

Anyway, we’ve been talking about marketing metrics. And we have three CMOs who are going to share some tips on on how to get your metrics right, so first up, Kevin Sellars, Ping Identity. Kevin, what is your tip?

Kevin Sellers: Well, there’s so many to say, I just would say, really look at the metrics you have and focus on things that are impact related versus activity related, activity related can lead you to the wrong direction, you can feel good about the things you’ve gotten done, they may not actually deliver business impact. So start with that business impact that you’re trying to deliver, revenue growth, customer acquisition, the core things. Maybe it’s customer attention, whatever it might be, but that actually hits the P&L and has an impact on the business and work your metrics from that rather than falling into the trap of saying you did certain things. And you did them well. That’s that’s kind of old school.

Drew Neisser: A couple of key parts of that tip is you got to talk about metrics that matter to the organization not just matters to your department. And so by putting it in the context of driving revenue, you have the attention of the organization and marketing is a meaningful, important investment that the company is making. Okay, so tip number two from Deidre Hudson, Deidre, what is your tip?

Deidre Hudson: Yes. So I would say similarly to looking at metrics that matter to the organization, look at the metrics that are being used to judge the overall health of the business. And if you can bring that down to your channels so that you’re looking at not only your channel specific metrics, but you’re looking at it through the lens of the metrics that the company is measuring itself so that you can get better context full of context and the full picture.

Drew Neisser: Right, so we’ve got a pipeline metric that we know we want all of marketing to do. And then we’re looking below that a channel to see how a channel—we could call it, direct mail, we could call it paid search, we could call it events—is actually doing it. So we have some distinction. Okay. Khalid El Khatib from Stack Overflow, Khalid, what is your tip?

Khalid El Khatib: Stack Overflow, I say, “slack overflow” all the time. We’re big slack users. So I do it too. And I’m the CMO.

My point relates to what Kevin shared, which is also around cross functional alignment, and thinking org wide. And that’s just aligning all of your partners from the start when you put together your executive dashboard. There are some marketers who will lead with metrics that matter to them, or tell a really great story, and then can’t withstand the scrutiny of the CFO, for example, or the CRO will sort of disparage the efforts of marketing behind the scenes. But if you have the cross functional alignment from the start, everyone knows what your definitions are and they’re shared definitions, then it’s a much more seamless process as you go through a quarter for a year.

Drew Neisser: I’m so glad you mentioned that because it’s funny, we talked about this a lot in Huddles is you’ve got to what’s the lead? What’s a marketing qualified lead? What’s pipeline? And what are these things, and you can’t just say those words, you actually have to sit down with sales, and you have to sit down with the STRS, or whoever else, and actually define them. And the other thing we talked about is, you better have clean data to help you assess that. And so watch who’s putting data into Salesforce, for example, because if they’re not careful, your rest of your data streams will be poor. I’m curious because we have 30 seconds left and I’m about to push this one to awareness, Kevin Sellers, one tip on how capture that and make sure that it’s it’s actually a relevant metric for the organization.

Kevin Sellers: Well, it comes down to asking the marketplace. And you can do that in a number of ways we do a formal study, which I know is can be expensive, but you can do this through surveys and other things. But you have to listen to the market they’re the ones that get to tell you whether or not your brand is meaningful or not. So finding a way to measure your current state, and then being able to measure from that point going forward to see if you have real progress happening. But it has to start someplace stay consistent with your methodology and continue to measure as you go forward. That’ll give you the best source of information as to whether or not you’re actually making improvements and progress on awareness broadly.

Drew Neisser: Okay, so we got a lot of great tips there. First of all, you have to have metrics. Second of all, they have to be meaningful to the business. Third, you can look at them by channel. Fourth, don’t forget about awareness. It matters. We know what matters. Okay, so I want to thank the three of you. You’re great sports. And I want to thank the audience for staying with us.

If you’re a B2B CMO, and you want to hear more conversations like this one, find out if you qualify to join our community of sharing, caring, and daring CMOs at cmohuddles.com.

To hear more conversations like this one and submit your own questions while we’re live. Join us on the next CMO Huddles Studio. We stream to my LinkedIn profile, that’s Drew Neisser, every other week.

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 renegade.com. I’m your host, Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade thinking caps on and strong!