Zipcast Episode 27: Carol Meyers on Marketing, Growth and Business Success

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Ready for some real marketing inspiration? On this episode of Zipcast, we chat with Carol Meyers, Zipwhip’s newest board member, whose resume includes deep marketing and sales experience growing SaaS companies. Currently, Meyers is an advisor and board member helping software companies develop growth strategies that scale. Carol’s perspective on marketing has changed over the years, as well as her wisdom and advice on how to succeed in marketing and business today.

Featuring

Carol Meyers
Advisor and Board Member
Scott Heimes
Chief Marketing Officer

Scott Heimes:

Welcome to the Zipcast, where we talk about the latest trends in texting for business, customer communication strategies, and technology. I’m your host, Scott Heimes, chief marketing officer at Zipwhip. And thanks for tuning in. No matter what industry your company is in, marketing is critical to your success. Today, we chat with Carol Meyers for some real marketing inspiration. Carol’s resume includes deep marketing and sales experience growing SAS companies. And now she’s an advisor and board member helping software companies develop growth strategies that scale, including Zipwhip. Listen in to hear Carol’s perspective on how marketing has changed over the years, as well as her wisdom and advice on how to succeed in growth marketing today. Stay tuned.

Scott Heimes:

Welcome to the Zipcast, Carol.

Carol Meyers:

Thank you. Very glad to be here.

Scott Heimes:

I’m thrilled to have you on the show. I know that you’ve recently joined Zipwhip’s board of directors, which we’re super excited to have you. Tell us a little bit about yourself and some of the areas that you’ve worked at in the past?

Carol Meyers:

Sure. Happy to. Well, I’m sort of … I’m going to say haphazard CMO in the sense that I started my career in finance of all things and I was an auditor, but ultimately I found my way to what became my true passion for the bulk of my career, which was working in tech companies, primarily software of all different kinds, doing sales and marketing and helping to grow companies from startup phase through to IPO and beyond, you know, to several hundred million dollars. And I have been able to do that four times, which I feel pretty lucky about. That’s my work life.

Carol Meyers:

And personally, I live in Boston. I live in the heart of the city. And even though I wasn’t born in Boston, I love it here. And I consider it my home now.

Scott Heimes:

Well, such an impressive track record in lots of roles as CMO also, as you mentioned, some elements of leading sales as well. We thought it’d be fun to kind of do a deep dive on that go-to-market motion and maybe starting with a bigger picture. What are some of your key philosophies or approaches around marketing and go-to-market that might apply to most SAS software companies?

Carol Meyers:

Yeah. Well, this is my favorite topic. Everything about go-to-market market for sure. When I think about what is evergreen and stays with marketing, number one is know your customers. And I think we all say that a lot, but I would say my experience in tech marketing and in software is sometimes the marketing team can get a little disconnected from the customers because the people who are spending day in and day out with those customers are usually the sales team and the customer success team.

Carol Meyers:

Sometimes marketing can get a little too disconnected and come up with great ideas that don’t necessarily work out in reality. So I think number one is when you find that happening, you’ve got to change your schedule around, you’ve got to change the schedules around of the people in your team, and you’ve got to make sure you’re really in touch with your customers, what they care about why you do or don’t matter to them, what’s influencing them, all of those things so you can be a really good partner to your customers and to the rest of your company as well. So that’s always number one.

Carol Meyers:

Other things I would say more and more, I think, the product is your best marketing tool. I advise people join companies with good products. I think that customers are really much more discerning now when they’re choosing products, especially again in tech where I’m old enough to remember when the marketing lingo used to be bigger, better, faster versus does this really work? Is it going to make my life better? And is it going to be simple? So, great product minimize the friction and effort for people to connect to it.

Carol Meyers:

And then lastly, marketing and sales aren’t two different things. You know, they’re really part of a continuum for helping customers connect with what you’re offering. And so you’ve got to make sure that you and sales are a real team, shared goals. You’ve got to understand that marketing is responsible for driving sales and sales is ultimately also responsible for marketing and living the brand and representing the company brand to the customers the right way. Those were probably three things I would say are pretty evergreen.

Scott Heimes:

Yeah, those are really good. Can we go back to number one for a second?

Carol Meyers:

Yeah.

Scott Heimes:

Because I do think that that is one of the challenges. Being truly customer centric and understanding the pain of the customer, the jobs the customer needs to do, the challenges and roadblocks that they experience. So key to being able to craft the right kind of messaging that attracts new customers. What are some of the more practical things that you’ve done in the past to get the marketing team that deep insight of the customer? Any tricks that you’ve come across that really worked for you in the past?

Carol Meyers:

Yeah, a couple. One is modeling it, right? I will work to set up what I call buyer journey calls. And I will talk to customers who are pretty recent and try to understand everything that went into their decision to even look at acquiring a new product and then what they went through. And then I’ll share that out with the team. Listening in on sales calls, and there’s so many great tools out now like Gong and Chorus.ai where you can listen to calls, even if you can’t be on the live call. I think you learn so much from that. Making sure you’re getting out and engaging with customers as much as you can, depending on what your market is, whether it’s at events or going on calls, if your company still does stuff like that so you can get some face time with them and encouraging the team to do the same. So, showing them that you’re doing it. I’ve often … If we get too far away, I usually will put something about that in everybody’s OKRs and make sure that their leaders and managers are carving out time for them to do it so it doesn’t end up feeling like a stress for them.

Scott Heimes:

Yeah, no, that was great advice. We’ve had some really good success with building out a customer insiders community where we’ve invited customers to join, raise their hand, join the community, participate in different challenges and opportunities. It’s gotten a ton of great case studies and testimonials, but also insight into the product experience and into even marketing creative and video intros we’ve tested against this group. It’s been a really powerful source of customer insight from us. It’s a limited group, granted, but you know, reflective, I think of-

Carol Meyers:

Yeah.

Scott Heimes:

… a lot of our customer base.

Carol Meyers:

I love that. That’s great. And it kind of takes away those barriers when people say, “Well, how am I going to test this? Who am I going to ask?” Right? So, you’ve created that for them. That’s fantastic.

Scott Heimes:

Wow, marketing’s changed a lot in the last 10 or 15 years. What were some of the biggest things that come immediately to mind for you about how marketing has changed?

Carol Meyers:

Yeah. That’s a good question. You know, as you say that there’s sort of three things that jumped right at me, one was everything social, everything mobile. I think … When did the iPhone debut, maybe 2007? 2008? 2007, I think. That’s a little bit more than a decade, but hasn’t that impacted everything tremendously? Including things like texting, right?

Scott Heimes:

Yep.

Carol Meyers:

You wouldn’t be doing that as much, but everybody is on their phone all the time. And it’s really their main way of interacting with us as vendors or purveyors of products with the customers. So I think that’s been huge.

Carol Meyers:

You know, the second thing that’s really been coming up, sort of started with software, but it’s really taking off, is the rise of subscriptions, right? Subscription models are everywhere. Pret a Manger just recently announced a subscription model for their coffee, right? We’re clothing, personal care, media, retail it’s all shifting to subscription.

Carol Meyers:

I read that there’s about 7,000 subscription box companies. You can sign up to auto replenish things like your household staples, your razors, you don’t have to buy the latest fashions anymore. You can go to Rent the Runway and get a seasonal refresh on a regular basic. Nobody owns music. My daughter was moving, she finally did sell all the albums she had. She’s a young person who collected a lot of old albums, but nobody really owns music anymore. Nobody owns movies, right? You just stream the stuff and it’s all ephemeral. It’s here, it’s gone, and you do it all through subscription.

Carol Meyers:

I think subscriptions are really sort of eating the world and taking over our lives. I can’t even imagine how many subscriptions I have. A lot of them. It’s probably most of what’s on my credit card.

Scott Heimes:

I just saw a new one, a subscription service just for toilet paper.

Carol Meyers:

Yes. Oh, yeah.

Scott Heimes:

It’s now a COVID-19 thing.

Carol Meyers:

That might put you at the front of the line. Yeah, we like that. That’s a great thing.

Carol Meyers:

I think the third thing that’s really big is machine learning and AI driving into marketing. We were just talking about getting to know your customers and when you think about that at scale, and trying to learn nuances about your customers to deliver more personalized experiences, I see marketing using AI machine learning, depending on what you want to call it, and automation to do personalization at scale, and actually to drive out a lot of human cost of different kinds of activities. Whether it’s chat or phone conversations or website personalization and choosing what ads someone’s going to see, half the time we don’t know if we’re talking to a human or a bot, it can be hard to tell. So, I would say mobile, subscription, and machine learning and AI are the really big things I think that are changing the face of marketing.

Scott Heimes:

Yeah. I think those are all super relevant. I know that our self-service sign up, onboarding engagement, re-engagement, all of the conversion elements, all completely automated using a whole array of different tools between Marketo and Drift and our own technology. That’s the expectation today is to apply automation as much as you can across the customer life cycle journey.

Carol Meyers:

Absolutely.

Scott Heimes:

And be smart about segmentation, targeting, and being able to present relevant content based on use case. And that’s modern marketing today.

Carol Meyers:

Yeah. Yeah, you know, it’s funny because, and I love the way you guys are doing that, if you think about some of this when it started, like you remember the you call in on a phone number and you get through a menu and people were doing that to cut cost out. But today, yeah, it probably cuts some costs, but it’s really an expectation. Customers want to self-serve and they want you to make it easy for them to self-serve and they don’t necessarily want to call you at all. You know, demographics, my kids don’t want to call anybody. They want to text businesses and friends.

Scott Heimes:

So true. I think for me, another thing that’s really changed over the last, say, 15 years of doing marketing is the importance and need to be expert at data and analytics as a marketer.

Carol Meyers:

Yes.

Scott Heimes:

You know, I didn’t have a data analytics team 10, 15 years ago. Today, I have a very robust one. We’re enriching every customer that comes in, we’re using highly sophisticated scoring and algorithmic models to decide who to engage and how to engage them via what channel. We’re enriching everything that comes through to try and understand industry and size and segment and, you know, using data for really precise outreach and targeting around ABM campaigns and customer prospecting.

Scott Heimes:

Now we have this whole new thing around intent data based on what we can see people coming to the website and match them up with their IP addresses. Marketing’s become super data centric, right?

Carol Meyers:

100%. 100%. I mean, I will say I was in the marketing automation industry for a while and started a marketing ops team, which at the time was very nascent. Like people didn’t even have that job title and now marketing ops, revenue ops, data scientists for marketing and sales, those are hot hot jobs. You can’t find those people. And they are getting very well paid and they deserve it because we need those skills. As you pointed out, that’s a huge part of what drives marketing today.

Scott Heimes:

Yeah. Couldn’t agree more. All right. Let’s look more broadly at the marketing function and kind of leading a marketing team. You know, one of the things I think is … You’ve probably experienced as a marketing leader over the years and had so many different teams and functions that you’ve led, how do you know when you’re a marketing program your strategy, is on the right track and driving the right level of value for the organization versus, hey, I have some things to pay attention to and need to work on here. What are some of the tools and processes you’ve used to sort of understand the overall performance of the marketing function and then find areas that need attention.

Carol Meyers:

Yeah, it’s tough because as much as we say, “It’s measurable, it’s measurable.” I think you and I both know there are a few things that are little hard to connect directly to our revenue, as much as we might like to, and you don’t want to get into rat hole discussions with people around why something got spent on that isn’t directly attributable to revenue.

Carol Meyers:

But, I mean, really, for me, it’s just all about those results, right? Before doing anything, you know, anytime we set out a plan right down to the specific program or activity, there are goals, right? There’s a reason we’re doing it. And we always think about how does that ladder up to what we’re trying to do as a company? How does that ladder up to what the customers want and need? How does that support the kind of brand we’re trying to represent the way we want to interact with customers. And we look to see is it delivering those results we expected? Or is it not delivering those results we expected?

Carol Meyers:

And when things aren’t you’ve got to figure out why, because sometimes as you were saying, you know, you might be doing the right thing, but you might have the wrong message. And you don’t always know if that’s true, if you don’t diagnose the things that are working well and that aren’t.

Carol Meyers:

So for me, every single thing has to have a purpose and that purpose needs to connect back up. I remember one time I was hiring a PR firm in the UK, and PR is one of those things I would say, a little tough, at least for me, I haven’t found a way to directly say, “This is how much revenue it’s driving.” But I hired a PR firm in the UK and we sat down and I said, “Okay, we got to sit down and set our goals and how we’re going to measure the PR.” And they looked at me and they said, “Well, we don’t do that.” I said, “Oh. Well, I do. So since you’re going to be my PR firm, we’re going to have to do that.”

Carol Meyers:

So we set about our plans and how we were going to measure. And I remember the next year it was probably August or September and we hadn’t started our 2021 planning as yet. And the PR firm in the UK came to me and said, “Listen, we got to start thinking about next year. Let’s talk about what our objectives are going to be.”

Carol Meyers:

I was floored. I was like, “They’ve been a convert. And now I’ve unleashed a monster who’s pushing me for what the goals are before I’m ready.” It was fantastic. And I love to see people always thinking about how do we know if this is going to be successful and you’ve got to set those metrics and agree on them.

Scott Heimes:

Yeah. You mentioned OKRs earlier. Are you a fan of the OKR system?

Carol Meyers:

I am but I’m not religious about it or anything. I just think objectives and goals are really important. In fact, sometimes the thing I struggle with with OKRs is sometimes things that people call a key result I’m like, “Is that a result? It sounds like an activity to me.” Or an output, not an outcome. And I’m kind of an outcome driven person. As much as I like them, sometimes I get a little wrapped up in the lingo myself and can’t remember what’s a key result and what isn’t.

Scott Heimes:

Yeah. That’s an interesting debate. I’m sure over the years you’ve had some hard lessons learned that you’d be interested in sharing with the audience. Tell us about some of those things. What are some of your biggest lessons learned over the years?

Carol Meyers:

All right, Scott, you’re going to take me down pain alley? Okay.

Carol Meyers:

When we started talking, I think one of the things I said was, “Hey, you’ve got to know your customers, right? That’s number one.” Well, that’s a lesson I think I always knew, but I had to relearn it a few times. And you know, one thing I’ve learned is don’t let internal stakeholders drive major, major changes just because they don’t like something. And I think if you’re in marketing, you’re used to people saying, “I hate our website,” or all kinds of other things that are not very quantifiable nor objective, really.

Carol Meyers:

We had a community site at company that I worked at, and it wasn’t very attractive, but it was functional. And it was really easy for customers to use and the engagement on it was growing so it was good. But it was a challenge for our internal users. Part of our blog was housed in this community site. And our internal blogger said, “This thing’s a bear. It’s so hard to use and publish. I hate it. It’s terrible.” They just kept hounding at us and then they would also say, “And it’s ugly and we could do better.”

Carol Meyers:

So we said, “Okay, let’s go get something new.” And we replaced our community with something that was much more slick. And we did it on a really fast time scale. And we did not do the testing with the customer that we should have. It was beautiful. It was much easier for internal users to manage, but our customers had a revolution. They did not like the new site. And they told us loud and clear. They’re like, “It’s harder to use. You guys think it looks so slick and beautiful, but we can’t find what we’re looking for. We’re missing these features. We hate it. We hate it. We hate it.”

Carol Meyers:

Within a matter of two weeks, we had to go back with our tail between our legs, to the software provider we had kicked out who was providing our community. We had to renegotiate with them. We had to get all the old files back. And we had to reinstate the old community site.

Carol Meyers:

After that we did want a new one, but we did our homework, Scott. We decided we should pay attention to our own advice and really try to understand what would work for our customers. So, it was very painful and it was a costly lesson.

Scott Heimes:

Yeah. But a good one. We’ve all had that experience, I think, as we’ve gone through our career and now it’s got to be part of the process to get customer feedback and to validate them. That’s a lesson I think we’ve all learned along the way. That’s a good one.

Scott Heimes:

Let’s shift gears a little bit. You mentioned earlier, too, about the intersection, the interlock between sales and marketing and how that muscle needs to be strong between those two functions. What are some of the experiences that you’ve had on how to create that bond, how to create that alignment between sales and marketing, shared goals you referenced earlier, certainly that’s one of them. Anything else that comes to mind that has been successful for you in the past?

Carol Meyers:

Yeah. You know, I think a lot of it comes down to the leaders themselves and then maybe whomever they report into whether that’s a CRO or a COO or the CEO, having a really strong and clear strategy about what’s the role of marketing. What’s the role of sales? What’s the role of customer success? How does it work together?

Carol Meyers:

Because from a customer’s point of view, these are not necessarily separate things. They know the difference when they’re talking to a sales person, right? But you’re just one company to them. So, all this stuff is sort of part of a continuum for how they try to understand what products and services are going to work for them, which ones aren’t, who are you as a company? And I think sales and marketing often think about it as like a handoff, but buyers don’t buy like a relay race. They talk to sales, they go back to marketing, maybe they get on the phone with the customer success person.

Carol Meyers:

So you really need to have a strategy about how each of these work together, what’s their main focus in terms of how they’re helping customers through the buyer journey and absolutely understand aligned goals and understand that you’re all working for the same thing.

Carol Meyers:

As a VP of sales, of course, if we could find out if the VP of marketing would agree with me, but we really tried to make sure that we brought the marketing people in on things. So had them in key meetings, set goals with them together and tried to say like, “Here’s what we’re trying to do. Let’s talk about what you guys can do and how you can contribute to that.” When we even did our sales achievers club, we always brought a few marketing people with us.

Carol Meyers:

Now, you might say it got into a little bit of a popularity contest, but it was a way to let them know they were appreciated and we considered them part of the sales success. And that’s something I don’t always see sales do is really embrace marketing and say like, “No, you guys do good things for us and you are a part of our success.”

Carol Meyers:

I love it when I see that relationship where marketing feels on the hook for sales to succeed and sales has an appreciation for what the marketing team does.

Carol Meyers:

The last thing I would add is candor. You know, candor and feedback is really important. Both being able to give it and receive it and having enough of a trust in each other that you can give each other real heartfelt feedback.

Scott Heimes:

Okay. That was great advice. Here at Zipwhip, we’re focused on customer communication via the texting channel, we’re a business texting platform provider, and spend a lot of time thinking about how our customers can use the text channel to best communicate with their customers. What are some of the best practices that you’ve seen out there around customer communication strategies? Are you seeing texting on the uprise as one of those? And what are some of the other unique things that you’ve seen companies, that you’re either advising or that you’ve worked for in the past, do to increase engagement?

Carol Meyers:

Yeah. I mean, I think we’ve been talking about it probably for two decades or more. And sometimes I feel like, “Oh, I can’t believe I’m going to say it,” but using the right method of communication at the right time for each customer and that’s probably why I think people are moving to AI and automation so much because it’s always like, “Oh, what’s the right one.”

Carol Meyers:

But I do see texting playing an increasingly important role. It is definitely … There’s a new generation of buyers coming up. They are very used to using text as a form of communication. And for short form communications and trading things back and forth, I think it makes a ton of sense. And for things that might have a sense of an immediacy.

Carol Meyers:

So, what kind of things might those be? It could be for, obviously, confirmations, right? I think we’re all familiar with that, especially with everything that’s happened with COVID. Like, we get a notice about our appointments, we get a notice about when it’s okay to come in the building, we get a notice when our food is ready and it’s fabulous. You know, you used to sit around and wonder if your order was ready. Now you get a text.

Carol Meyers:

I think there’s a lot of two way possibilities as well. Like I do a lot of engagement with non-profits via text. So, now you can actually do your payments that way, which is an amazing thing. You can get some quick answers to things, you can reschedule appointments. If you have signed up for special offers and promotions and you’re on the street near the store, where there’s that special offer promotion that you’re very likely to be interested in and you’ve raised your hand for permission to send you those, you want that in a text, you’re not going to go check your email and you certainly don’t want a phone call, but you want a text. You want to know, “Hey, there’s a special offer here that you were interested in. You can go take advantage of this right now.”

Carol Meyers:

There’s a lot of possibilities, I think, for texts, not always one way either, but two way correspondence between a business and a customer.

Scott Heimes:

Well, you’re certainly preaching to the choir here. You know, I mean we obviously find that texting is easy and convenient for customers, it’s super effective, they’ll actually open it, and it’s preferred. It’s the medium they’d rather communicate with businesses. You’re 100% right there.

Scott Heimes:

Let’s close out with advice. We’ve got listeners out there that are in the sales and in the marketing arenas. They may work at small businesses or midsize, but, you know, generally in the realm around customer service success or marketing. What one or two pieces of career advice that you give people as they think about scaling a business from a sales and marketing perspective. Anything that jumps out at you or that you’d recommend to our listeners.

Carol Meyers:

Yeah. Good question. You know, one is be curious, right? Be curious and learn. Try to ask other people about their jobs within the company. What are you doing in sales? What are your challenges? What are you doing in finance? What are you guys thinking about? What are you worried about? And trying to understand your business, right? You’re thinking about your customers, put some effort into understanding your business. How does it work? How do you make money? Which may sound silly, but how do you make money? How are you doing as a business? What things impact your success?

Carol Meyers:

And then I think, you know, just being curious about other things in the world is really important because that’s where great ideas come from. Not always reading just about marketing, but reading about other things that are going to trigger creative ideas in you, whether you’re reading about science or you’re reading a book about money and investing or you’re reading about mindfulness. All of these different experiences, I think helped make us richer people who are able to contribute in ways we might not have expected even of ourselves. But I think that it’s really important, especially for young people entering the market and going into business to be curious about the businesses itself.

Carol Meyers:

Too often, I will see people who just kind of want to do just what their job is and then go home at the end of the day and they’re not that interested in how the business works. And I think it’s really important to do that because you can have more impact when you really understand how things are working in your business and what things are making it more successful.

Scott Heimes:

That’s great advice, Carol, and a great way to end the show. Thanks so much for joining us on the zip cast today.

Carol Meyers:

My pleasure. Thanks for making it easy.

Scott Heimes:

Thanks for joining us. Ever wonder how email compares to text when it comes to customer communication? We did too. So we commissioned a survey. You can check out the fascinating results at zipwhip.com/email-ebook. Make sure you subscribe to the Zipcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen so you can get the latest episodes.

Scott Heimes:

Feel free to text us with topics you’d like to hear about or other feedback for the show. Just send a text to (347) 772-3529. Until next time.

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