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PODCAST 102: How to Build Brand and Scale Marketing Organizations

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This week on the Sales Hacker podcast, we speak with Elissa Fink, Chief Marketing Officer at Tableau and advisor to our sponsor Outreach.

Elissa is best known for her work taking Tableau Software from just 5 million in annual recurring revenue to 1.1 billion through an IPO. She now works as an advisor, offering a wealth of experience and knowledge, especially within the global enterprise software business. Let’s hear more from Elissa on how to build and scale a marketing organization!

If you missed episode 101, check it out here: PODCAST 101: Ownership Is Dead: 7 Mantras for Recurring Revenue with Luigi Mallardo

What You’ll Learn

  • What marketers do well
  • How much you should focus on brand
  • Why aligning with sales helps marketers scale
  • How to stay focused on what matters while you scale up

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. Show Introduction [00:02]
  2. About Elissa Fink [02:14]
  3. Making a Marketer [06:07]
  4. The Importance of Brand [11:26]
  5. Sales and Marketing Alignment [18:02]
  6. Staying Smart as You Scale [24:41]
  7. Sam’s Corner [34:05]

Show Introduction [00:02]

Sam Jacobs: Hey, everybody, it’s Sam Jacobs. Welcome to the Sales Hacker podcast. Hope you’re staying safe and infection free out there. Today on the show we’ve got Elissa Fink, the former Chief Marketing Officer at Tableau. She’s an advisor to our sponsor Outreach. And what she really is, is just a wealth of experience and knowledge about how to build and scale a marketing organization.

She just has all the right ideas, she has enthusiasm and passion for what she does and she’s helped take a company from 5 million in recurring revenue past a billion in revenue and take a company public. It’s a great conversation.

Before we get to the interview, we want to thank our sponsor. Our sponsor is Outreach. Outreach triples the productivity of sales teams and empowers them to drive predictable and measurable revenue growth. By prioritizing the right activities and scaling customer engagement with intelligent automation, Outreach makes customer-facing teams more effective and improves visibility into what really drives results.

Now, without further ado, let’s listen to this interview with Elissa Fink.

About Elissa Fink [2:14]

Sam Jacobs: Today on the show, we are incredibly excited to have one of the leading CMOs in marketing voices. Now an advisor, but somebody that really has been a global CMO on a truly global scale in the enterprise software business, Elissa Fink.

Elissa is mainly known for her work taking Tableau Software from just 5 million in annual recurring revenue through 1.1 billion through an IPO. She left just prior to the acquisition by Salesforce, but she’s seen so much over the course of helping build what has truly been one of the iconic business intelligence companies and platforms that have emerged over the last 15 to 20 years.

She advises a number of incredible tech companies and serves on multiple boards, including our sponsor Outreach, the leading sales engagement platform. And clearly she’s doing a great job there because they are past 100 million in annual recurring revenue and on their way to global domination. So Elissa, welcome to the show.

Elissa Fink: Thanks Sam. It’s really a pleasure to be here.

Sam Jacobs: We like to start with a little bit of a baseball card. Give us a little bit of information about your current role, what you’re currently doing, so that we understand a little bit of context for your background and your expertise.

Elissa Fink: More than anything on my baseball card is the love of marketing and the love of data. And I think that’s what’s really driven my career, my entire life. Even when I was in sales for The Wall Street Journal, it was really about selling audiences, and selling those numbers.

I’ve always been a person interested in stats, interested in data and interested in how those drive stories for people. But of course the human side of that, because if I always say one thing about marketing and sales, it’s that people are not necessarily behaving rationally to the rules all the time. You’ve got to bring the science to the job, but you’ve also got to bring the art. So in terms of my baseball card, it’s really about that kind of journey of growth through those vagaries of all the different phases that you face as you’re growing.

Making a Marketer [06:07]

Sam Jacobs: You mentioned, “I’m a marketer.” And I think especially back then probably, but even so more so now I think the definition of marketing is varied. How do you define marketing and how did you train yourself to become a marketer? What does that mean for you?

Elissa Fink: When I think about what a marketer is:

  1. They should be able to do things well at scale.
  2. They should be able to open conversations.

I think what marketers are good at is doing things at scale: sending messages, having conversations, treating audiences, treating customers, choosing prospect basis at scale with the right messages at the right time for the right products and the right services and then being able to be able to open those conversations so that then in partnering with sales you can provide, you together can work on a conversation together and do the right thing.

While the sales folks are doing their relationship building and really bringing in the business, marketing continues to do the background stuff of like ‘what’s the message, what’s our brand, what’s our purpose, where people going to know us, what about the second order buyer who’s not even on the deal? What about the third order buyer, the third order influencer?’

Those are things where marketing can do a great job surrounding and supporting the individual sales, Making it easy for sales to come in and have the right conversations with the right people.

So that’s how I look at marketing. I look at it as something that is very much partnered with sales, very much about opening conversations and very much about creating conversations at scale about the right message at the right time with the right people.

The Importance of Brand [11:26]

Sam Jacobs: Everybody’s tied to the same metric and that metric is whether the cash came in the door or not, but I think there is an underemphasis on brand. What’s your belief on the importance of brand as it relates to scale? Because you joined Tableau and did a rebrand, so that was the first activity.

Elissa Fink: Brand is super important. You argue about strategy versus execution. Strategy is so important, but really strategy is probably 10 to 20% of the job. Execution is like 80 to 90% of the job, but bad strategy is going to tear down your execution ability.

It’s the same thing with brand. If you’re not clear on your brand and what you stand for and you’re not putting out a consistent message, then every demand generation touch is just a random touch.

So I’m a strong believer that, yes, you need to be clear about who you are and represent that brand at everything you do absolutely, but it doesn’t mean you’re spending half your budget on brand. It means you’re clear on who you are and what your brand is and what you stand for and how you talk and what your message is, and people are consistent with that.

You still have to get those messages to the market. That’s where the money is. That’s where the cost is. Be smart about brand, be smart about message, be smart about your product marketing and about your customers and what problems you’re solving, but that doesn’t mean it has to be 80% of what you’re doing.

A great brand has an audience that responds to it and amplifies it and carries it forward for you. But getting them to raise their hand and be interested, that’s the dollars, that’s the money and at the end of the day you as a marketer got to get the funnel working, got to get the flywheel working and so you do have to.

RELATED: Self Branding: 2 Steps to Build a Personal Sales Brand

Sales and Marketing Alignment [18:02]

Sam Jacobs: You’re a big believer in alignment. You’ve talked about how marketing needs to love sales and sales need to love marketing. And of course that’s not the case in many organizations. What are your top lesson strategies, tips, advice for how to make an aligned revenue organization truly aligned and work together?

Elissa Fink: It’s really about understanding each other, where you’re coming from and what’s going on. But I think marketing people can really take a forward step in that coming to understand sales better. It’s a hard job. Sales is a hard job, but marketing is a hard job. It’s all hard, but you’re on the line every day, you’re facing rejection directly.

And so I think it’s up to marketing. Really having empathy and understanding of where they’re coming from and what’s hard and how could you make their jobs easier. You can’t have a relationship with every sales person, you can, but you can have some extra special relationships who can give you insight into what’s happening in the sales organization.

It’s also going to allow you to make better decisions and then it’s also going to be an avenue for you to share and communicate why you’re doing what you’re doing and why it might not be what a sales person expects.

If you have a bad relationship or not a strong relationship with sales, it starts with marketing. If you’re a marketer, just get out there and start to understand sales people. Go on some sales calls, talk to some customers. Don’t undercut your sales people, but start talking to them and talking to customers and talking to salespeople and getting to understand your market at a granular level.

More than anything, don’t read research reports. Well, read your research reports, but that does not make you market informed. You’re only market informed when you’re talking to customers and you’re talking to salespeople.

RELATED: Sales and Marketing Alignment: 3 T’s for a Clear Path to Success

Staying Smart as You Scale [24:41]

Sam Jacobs: If we’ve got people listening that are running marketing organizations that are sub 20 million in ARR and they want to anticipate what’s going to be different when they cross 100 million in revenue, 200 million in revenue, et cetera. What are the main things that you think are like mileposts, signposts along the way?

Elissa Fink: When you’re small, nobody knows you so you can do a lot more… You’re fighting for every mention, you’re fighting for every bit of awareness you can get and you’ve got to treasure those victories.

You’ve got to be compelling in an interesting way. And what that does allow is being incredibly creative and inventive. You can take chances and risks that other companies, much bigger companies, can’t do. They can’t take those kinds of risks or chances. Not only because they have this existing brand that they have to live up to, but also because the media will pay attention to, not just media, but social media, every kind.

What’s hard is knowing the right things to say to the right people at the right time, taking those risks, but taking calculated risks so that you’re not just like taking crazy risks for the sake of crazy risks. You’re doing smart risks. So you have to be a little smarter, a little more savvy about the kinds of risks you’re willing to take in order to get that edge.

We want to use your best judgment about those risks. And then certainly once you go public, you’ve got a public persona and you’ve got commitments. I mean, you’ve got SEC commitments about news and information that flows out from your company that you have to be much smarter about. But again, there’s a lot of upside because people will listen to you. So I think as you market through that you have to think about what’s the receptivity of the market to my message and how useful is my message to the audiences I’m trying to find.

The one thing I would say too, as you’re going through this size journey, as you’re growing, in the early days, it’s really easy to be personal. You know you kind of know you’ve 20 customers or you’ve 100 customers, you know the best ones.

But even as you get to thousands or tens of thousands of customers, even hundreds of thousands of customers, maintaining that closeness to customers as a marketer is really important.

If you think of your customers as people, not as enterprises, it’s going to help you so much because again, it really is people in enterprises that are buying your software, not necessarily enterprises. So staying close to the customer throughout the journey is another thing that I would say is super important.

Reach out to Elissa on LinkedIn or via email at elissa@elissafink.com.

Sam’s Corner [34:05]

Sam Jacobs: Hey, folks. Sam’s Corner. Hey folks, Sam’s corner. Really, really liked that episode with Elissa. She’s got passion, she’s got expertise, she knows what she’s doing, and we talked about a number of important things.

The first is about the average tenure of a high growth executive. We’re looking for people that are curious, that are talented, and we give them opportunity to grow because if they leave the organization, they take the culture with them, they take institutional knowledge, they take years of understanding how to get things done within a company, how to treat people, how the company expects other people to treat people.

The point that Elissa makes is you don’t need to swap out executives every 17 months. What you need to do is create a culture that empowers and develops talents in people and I think that that’s a really, really important thing.

I also think that the way that she described and identified marketing’s really interesting. She said that when she was in sales, she was a great opener but not a great closer. And marketing’s job is to open which is frankly how a lot of people define the job of sales development or SDRs. So you can see why SDRs and marketing are so closely aligned.

Marketing’s job is to open with the right message at the right time. You have to understand math, you have to combine data, but it can’t just be data, you have to have some creativity, you have some nuance and appreciation for the power of brand because brand is what you say, brand is who you are, brand is your message.

What We Learned

  • What marketers do well
  • How much you should focus on brand
  • Why aligning with sales helps marketers scale
  • How to stay focused on what matters while you scale up

Don’t miss episode 103!

I hope you enjoyed the show. Before we go, let’s thank our sponsor. Our sponsor, of course, is Outreach. Outreach triples the productivity of sales teams and empowers them to predictable and measurable revenue growth by prioritizing the right activity and scaling customer engagement with intelligent automation. Outreach makes customer facing teams more effective and improves visibility into what really drives results.

If you want to reach out to me with feedback, you can reach me on LinkedIn or email me at sam@revenuecollective.com. If you haven’t rated the show, please give us 5 stars on the iTunes rating system so that we can remain in business and continue to bring you this show.

I hope you are washing your hands diligently for at least 20 seconds and I hope you’re staying safe and hope you’re treating your teams with kindness and generosity and graciousness because it’s a difficult time for the world and we all got to come together as a human race. All right. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you next time.

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