Haves vs. have-nots in marketing/sales alignment

Brian Kardon

I first met Brian Kardon a couple of years ago, when he was the CMO of Eloqua. He was one of the early advocates for this blog, and he provided a lot of encouragement on the emergence of this new breed of “marketing technologists” that they were seeing appear among many of their customers.

When we first met for coffee, I remember him asking me what my hobbies were. I replied that this blog was really my hobby, following the fascinating growth of the marketing technology space.

He paused for a moment and then pressed, “But what do you for fun?” Um, well, I said I also liked jazz. And that elicited a broad grin of approval as we started talking about a few of our favorite jazz greats.

It’s funny, but that conversation has stuck with me to remind me to keep things in perspective.

Brian is now the CMO of Lattice Engines, one of the rising stars of the big data movement. They’re focused on helping sales teams identify the best opportunities with prospects by applying predictive analytics to customer behavior. Here in this Q&A, Brian shares some perspective on that mission and the alignment of marketing and sales.

Share with us a little about your background and your current role as CMO of Lattice Engines?

I’ve always enjoyed working at inflection points. I love to be in industries in transition and see how I might steer the ship in a new direction.

I started my marketing career as a consultant with a global consulting firm. I was focused on marketing issues for clients like Heinz, Coca Cola and Ralph Lauren. I loved it, especially the range of marketing challenges I would see. Even twenty years ago, I could see the rise of data and technology in marketing — from supermarket scanner data to coupon redemption rates. Increasingly, marketers were becoming data-driven decision makers.

My first CMO gig was at Reed Elsevier, the international publishing company. The challenge was the shift from analog to digital: what was the path for magazines and content in an ever-increasing digital world? Clearly, this was an industry in transition with the emergence of highly disruptive technologies that produced clear winners (Apple, Amazon, Huffington Post, Facebook, Google, etc.) and losers (just about every newspaper and magazine).

I was most recently CMO at Eloqua, the marketing automation company. Now THAT was disruptive. We were the pioneers when I joined as CMO in 2008. It was called evangelism selling — no one really knew they needed to nurture and score leads, or report marketing’s influence on the pipeline, until Eloqua. It was a great four years at Eloqua.

Today, I see big data as the disruptor for marketers. I am CMO of Lattice Engines. Lattice is all about harnessing the power of big data for marketers to “predict” buyer intent.

Much has been written about how the digital world has changed marketing, perhaps more than anything a fundamental shift from push to pull. How is sales changing? Is there an equivalent transformation?

For most organizations, the sales team is the last bastion of “art” left in the company. Sales people still cold call. They still manage by anecdote. As Deming famously said, “In God we trust. All others bring data.” Well, from my experience, most sales people NEVER bring the data.

For most organizations, the sales team is the last bastion of “art” left in the company.

In a data abundant world, salespeople should be taking advantage of the vast amount of information that is knowable about their customers. I’m not talking about checking out their LinkedIn profile or recent tweets. I’m talking about using predictive analytics to actually infer intent from the richness of data about customers — purchase histories, news stories, executive changes, job postings, credit ratings, funding announcements. It’s all there for the taking.

Companies like Dell, EMC, Adobe, SunTrust Bank and Staples have embraced predictive analytics and their sales teams are killing it! It is as transformational to the sales organization as digital is to marketing.

How are the dynamics between marketing and sales changing?

It’s a tale of the haves and the have-nots.

Most organizations continue to have major friction between sales and marketing. Lack of trust. Finger pointing. These organizations lack a set of common metrics — “one view of the truth.” Those are the have-nots.

Most organizations continue to have major friction between sales and marketing. Those are the have-nots.

The haves are doing much better. They have agreed on definitions of lead stages: what’s a sales-ready lead? What’s an MQL? They know their conversion rates and their targets. They agree on marketing-sourced and influenced opportunities.

It takes a lot of work to scale this mountain. But boy, the view is beautiful. No more arguing. You can get down and just do the work.

So, what separates the have from the have-nots? I used to think it was education — people simply didn’t know how to do it. But that was before the consultants and vendors began their tsunami of e-books, webinars and research on demand generation. The information is out there. I think the real barrier is laziness. Hell, it takes a lot of time and effort to get it right. Some marketers and sales execs just don’t want to put in the work to set it all up.

Are there new roles emerging from these changes? Or new responsibilities for existing roles?

Tons of new roles have emerged on the marketing team in just the last few years: content marketer, inbound marketer, marketing operations, social media, mobile, data scientist, marketing technologist, and lots more. It’s a very exciting time to be a marketer.

Hundreds of companies have launched cool new products for marketers over the past few years. Is Lattice Engines part of a new wave of sales technology innovation? What’s the relationship between sales, marketing, and IT in managing such technology?

Almost all data that marketers use are backward looking. What if you could take all these data and actually predict what customers would do next? Of course, companies like Netflix and Amazon do that today with their recommendation engines. You can now do that in B2B. It’s called “predictive analytics” and it can actually tell you which of your prospects is most likely to buy.

Almost all data that marketers use are backward looking. What if you could … predict what customers would do next?

Let’s say your average conversion rate is 2%. Well, what if we could find a segment that had a 40% conversion rate? You can do that today. It takes LOTS of data, a predictive analytics model, and a platform to deliver it to sales and marketing in real time. Some awesome organizations are using Lattice to do just that. Companies like Microsoft, HP, Citizens Bank and Time-Warner.

The expectations around big data seem to get easily inflated. What should a company realistically expect? How much of this is a matter of new tools and how much of it is a function of other factors?

It’s turning into a game changer and you don’t want to be late. Most CEOs have “big data initiative” as a top priority. Walmart is using big data to optimize their supply chain. Merck is using it to accelerate drug discovery. Adobe is using it to sell more software.

For big data to be effective in sales and marketing, there needs to be three elements:

  1. A commitment from the top.
  2. A robust technology backbone.
  3. A platform for marketing and sales to effectively use it to drive higher levels of productivity.

If you could impart one piece of advice to fellow CMOs to thrive in today’s marketing and sales environment, what would you tell them?

Don’t go it alone. Partner up with sales, IT, and the CFO to drive company-wide change and higher levels of performance.

Thanks, Brian.

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