Break Free B2B Marketing: Latane Conant of 6sense on Reinventing the CMO Role

Latane Conant

What’s in a job title? In my tenure as a marketer, I’ve met gurus who don’t live on mountaintops, ninjas who don’t know martial arts, and evangelists who don’t preach on Sunday. 

At worst, these creative job titles are pure puffery. But at best, they serve as a statement of purpose. I’m thinking of titles like Shep Hyken’s Chief Amazement Officer, or Ann Handley as Chief Content Officer: They tell us something about what the person — and their organization — values.

Latne Conant from 6sense has a subtly unusual job title: Chief Market Officer. She dropped the ‘ing’ from ‘Marketing,’ and that tiny change signals a major shift in the way she approaches her job. Instead of focusing on the verb of marketing — what tactics to deploy to reach an audience —  her job is to deeply understand the market, the people her brand is trying to reach.

For Latane, getting rid of that ‘ing’ makes all the difference in turning marketers into revenue-generating dynamos. In her Break Free B2B interview with our president and co-founder Susan Misukanis, Latane elaborated on how 6sense’s approach is unique, what technologies they use, and how they’ve achieved some truly impressive results.

“If I am engaging accounts more effectively than my competition, I will generate more pipeline, I’ll win more often, I’ll have bigger deals, and I will set my relationship off with those customers better.” #B2BMarketing @LataneConant… Click To Tweet

Break Free B2B Interview with Latane Conant

Timeline and Highlights

:58 – How can CMOs better understand customer insight in the age of the “dark funnel?”

2:52 – Changing focus from the tactics of marketing to knowing your audience

4:00 – The Chief Market Officer – losing the “ing”

6:45 – Not accepting limitations in pursuing a career

7:29 – Getting what you want is easy; knowing what you want is hard

8:30 – The Fun Factor in managing a team

9:00 V2MOM and organization

10:15 – If you’re not effing up, you’re not pushing the envelope hard enough

12:21 – Inverting the org chart — leading from the bottom

13:45 – Leads are not the primary measure of success

16:10 – Marketing is a revenue team

17:25 – Engagement is the new oil

18:45 – The new standard for marketing executives

Susan:

You were recently quoted saying that today’s CMOs need to be the masters of understanding customer insights and putting them to use. So are CMOs progressing in this area of insights, or is it just still a massive black hole, and that’s why you’re preaching? 

Latane:

Well, first of all, I hope I would never seem preachy, because we are all in this together, we’re all in the black hole together. I think the challenge that we have is only 13% of sales and marketing teams have any confidence in their data, because it’s primarily opportunity data in CRM, or it’s map data, which is basically lead-based. 

And if you think about the buying journey, most of it happens anonymously, or what we at 6sense call your “dark funnel.” So that’s where all the rich research is really happening. 

No one’s coming to your website and downloading your content anymore. It’s also a buying team. It’s not a lead or contact, and buyer journeys aren’t linear. So you think about this new modern buying journey, which is anonymous. It’s a buying team, not a leader contact, and it’s not linear. And you look at the tools that we have at our disposal as CMOs, and it’s sort of like we are a Model T trying to get to the moon. 

And so thinking about the black hole, it’s really looking for platforms that are AI and big data based. Because at the end of the day, even if you’re amazing, your data is gonna suck, and it’s okay. So I think admit that all our data sucks. Yeah, we’ve got to marry our data up with a much bigger platform and be able to understand that anonymous activity so we have a true picture of this nonlinear buying journey. Once you have that, you can start to re-imagine a better what I call prospect experience.

Susan:
How do you manage your teams and get them motivated? How do you hold the bar where you hold it?

Latane:
I would say the first thing is I’m clear that my expectations are high. And I’m very clear in the interview process, that my expectations are going to be very, very high. And you have to want that! Some people don’t want that. So the first thing is, do you want to do good work or do you want to do great work? And it is okay if this is not the gig for you. So I think that’s the first level of it.

The second level of it is, I really believe in having fun. So my old CEO, Chris Barban, taught me this: He said, eight out of 10 working days, you must be having fun. And that’s we call the fun factor. And so everyone on my team, what’s your fun factor? And if it’s not an eight, what’s going on, but it’s also up to me to bring the fun, right? To say, hey, let’s go grab a soulcycle class or let’s go for a run or let’s — you know what, we’re all strung out — let’s do something fun together. So, I think having fun and enjoying each other is allowed. We laugh a lot. We joke around a lot. 

And then the third really key thing for me is a strategic planning process that I use called V2MOM. And it originated with Salesforce. But it’s now really popular — a lot of tech companies use it and I’ve used it at two companies now, and two of the boards that I work on have adopted it, and it’s all about prioritization. 

I don’t know if I can cuss on this show, but I consulted The CMOs that I work with, from an advisory perspective, I say you have to know what you give an F about. And know what you don’t give an F about, because you can’t give an F about everything. So what V2MOM forces is everything is time-bound, and everything is prioritized. 

So I have high expectations for these things. I don’t care. Don’t wait. Like, if you’re spending one second over there — that’s not going to be an excuse for missing on this. And we all agree to those priorities every single quarter. So it’s very clear what we’re doing and we’re gonna do it right.

Latane:
I actually just changed my title to Chief Market Officer. And it’s an important distinction that a lady who was actually on our board — who’s amazing, her name is Christine Heckard, And she’s been a CMO. And now she’s the CEO. And she’s talked a lot about the role of the CMO. And we have gotten ourselves really mired down in ‘ing.’ “I did a blog, I did webinars, look at all these MQLs I pass to sales, here’s my funnel, here’s my tech stack.” That is all ing ing ing. 

Her challenge to CMOs is to redefine that. We are the seat at the table that needs to understand the market. That is customers today and customers tomorrow. That’s why this audience-first approach and understanding the market, then you can apply the ing. But it’s not a cheap financing offer sir or cheap selling officer. We sort of diminished our role by not taking that seat at the table. 

Stay tuned to the TopRank Marketing Blog and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more Break Free B2B interviews. Here are a few more highlights from this season:

Top Marketing Resources for CMOs in 2019

Marketing Resources CMO

A seat at the executive table for marketers in the form of the CMO role has not come without costs. CMOs have half the tenure of CEOs and the spotlight is on marketing leadership like never before.

While it’s undoubtedly a tough job, there’s plenty of opportunity. More than 25% of CEOs at large publicly traded companies have a marketing background. A CMO title has become the ultimate goal for many marketers and those that make the grade have to continue working hard on advancing their knowledge, skills and staying on top of industry trends.

To help CMOs and aspiring CMOs connect to strategic, useful and engaging information, here are 5 of the top resources worthy of a CMOs time.

1. CMO Moves – Nadine Dietz has created a new site and interview series that shares what she calls the human side of game-changing CMOs. CMO Moves asks CMOs at brands ranging from Ameritrade to Ford to Walmart questions like, How did they get to the top? What rules did they have to break along the way? Who do they see as their role models? How do they inspire and grow their teams to greatness?

CMO Moves was recently acquired by Adweek with 52 podcast episodes plus articles and resources. The site is a great opportunity for CMOs and fast tracking marketers alike to learn from their peers.

2. Marketing Industry Influencers of CMOs – Of course resources for marketing knowledge come in many forms and we all know that peers are far more influential than brands, including the topics tracked by CMOs. Speaking of tracking, Forbes has reported on the top influencers of CMOs citing research from Leadtail and their tracking of nearly 1,300 North American CMOs.

CMO Influencers

Here is a list of the top 10 influencers of CMOs:

  • Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar): Chief Digital Evangelist, Salesforce
  • Tamara McCleary (@TamaraMcCleary): CEO, Thulium.co
  • Scott Brinker (@ChiefMartec): VP Platform Ecosystem, HubSpot
  • Gary Vaynerchuk (@GaryVee): CEO, Vayner Media
  • Kim Whitler (@KimWhitler): Former GM / CMO, Forbes contributor
  • Evan Kirstel (@EvanKirstel): Cofounder, EviraHealth
  • Brian Solis (@BrianSolis): Principal Analyst, Altimeter Group
  • Michael Brenner (@BrennerMichael): CEO, Marketing Insider Group
  • Margaret Molloy (@MargaretMolloy): CMO, Siegel + Gale
  • Jay Baer (@JayBaer): Founder, Convince and Convert

While this list is from 2017, I have found lists of this type to be fairly consistent year after year. Hopefully Leadtail will publish an updated report in 2019 or maybe we should.

CMOs also learn from their peers. Here is a list of the top 10 most influential CMOs according to 2018 research from Forbes and Sprinklr:

  • Keith Weed (@keithweed): Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Unilever
  • Linda Boff (@lindaboff): Chief Marketing Officer, GE
  • Leslie Berland (@leslieberland): Chief Marketing Officer & Head of People, Twitter
  • Antonio Lucio (@ajlucio5): Global Chief Marketing Officer, Facebook
  • Raja Rajamannar (@RajaRajamannar): Chief Marketing & Communications Officer and President, Healthcare Business, Mastercard
  • Ann Lewnes (@alewnes): EVP & Chief Marketing Officer, Adobe
  • Phil Schiller (@pschiller): Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Apple
  • Dean Evans (@Hyundai): Chief Marketing Officer, Hyundai
  • Kristin Lemkau (@KLemkau): Chief Marketing Officer, JPMorgan Chase
  • Marc Mathieu (@marcfmath): Chief Marketing Officer, Samsung Electronics America

3. Websites – There are many marketing publications but not that many websites specifically focused on content for CMOs. Here is a list of 6 industry publications dedicated to the chief marketing officer.

4. Podcasts – When you’re as busy as a CMO is, you have to use every spare bit of time as efficiently as possible and podcasts on a commute, on a plane or similar time are just that. Here are 10 of the top podcasts recommended by CMOs via the CMO Club:

5. Special Interest Groups – Communities for senior marketing decision makers.

Of course there are many more useful resources ranging from industry conferences to executive education to special analyst reports but hopefully this post has provided you with links to information and communities that are helpful. It might take some trial and error to find the right sources for your specific needs and interests, but one thing is certain: there will alway be a need to feed a marketing executive’s brain with up to date analysis, insight and trends.

If you are a senior marketing executive, what resources would you add?

What B2B CMOs Need to Know About Successful Influencer Marketing

B2B Influencer Marketing for CMOs

65% of multinational brands will increase Influencer Marketing spending in the next 12 months reaching $10 billion over the next 5 years.

With so much at stake for marketing in our fast paced industry, senior marketers must be able to see both the forest and the trees when it comes to influencer marketing in the B2B world. Much of what the marketing industry knows about working with influencers is seen through a consumer marketing lens often with the self-anointed social celebrities publishing ads as content without real passion for the brands.

With so much of influencer marketing akin to “get rick quick” with a shiny marketing object, many B2B marketing leaders can acquire unrealistic expectations about what works and what doesn’t with influencers in the business world.

And yet, collaborating with influencers can open doors for B2B brands to connect their value messaging to an audience that is actually interested.

So what is influencer marketing when it comes to B2B? I define influencer marketing as:

Influencer Marketing activates internal and industry experts with engaged networks to co-create content of mutual value and achieve measurable business goals.

To provide some guidance around influencer marketing specific to business to business marketing executives, here are a few insights on everything from top challenges to brand failures, brand successes, best practices and the future.

Big influencer marketing challenges:

Agencies come in many flavors from specialized to full service to advertising focused to content focused. I think one thread of challenge that runs through all of them is finding the right talent to meet the needs of modern marketing – especially influencer marketing. There just aren’t that many people with years of deep B2B influencer marketing experience – except my team of course :).

For B2C brands, there are big challenges regarding influencer legitimacy and the authenticity of their networks.  Because there is so much ROI for the self-anointed and opportunistic influencers to buy fake followers, this is something B2B marketing leaders need to watch for as the behavior begins to bleed over into B2B.

Compliance enforcement challenges. As FTC guidelines get more specific and the influence of GDPR reaches across the pond to affect data privacy regulations, brands have to figure out their processes and governance.

B2B brands are running a little behind B2C in terms of influencer marketing sophistication and have not been investing as much in technology, staff or the influencers themselves. However that is starting to change and B2B brands are making great progress on engaging influencers for content across the entire customer journey to collaborating with more micro-influencers.

Influencer are challenged too, especially when it comes to ensuring their compliance and “clean” networks to earn and keep brand trust. Big name influencers are now competing against many niche influencers as brands seek to lower their costs and boost engagement levels. Those big names will need to work harder on being effective vs. just being famous.

What brands get wrong with influencer marketing campaigns:

Brands who view influencers purely as an advertising distribution channel really miss the mark on the opportunity that influencer relationships can bring. Pay to play has it’s place in both B2C and B2B influencer engagements, but when brands limit their view to a transactional engagement model only, they’re often disappointed with the results.

There’s an expression I like to use:

Pay an influencer and they’ll be your friend for the day. Help someone become more influential and they’ll be an advocate and friend for life.

More tactically, brands that use a shotgun approach to invite influencers only when they need them won’t see very high recruitment rates. The same goes for non-personalized, ego-centric messages from brands that are only concerned with what the brand wants to get out of the collaboration. For more specific examples, see this post on 50 ways to fail at influencer engagement.

Best practices when managing brand and influencer relationships:

Our focus at TopRank Marketing is B2B content marketing collaboration with influencers, so our approach is different than working with consumer focused influencers. Longer sales journeys, larger purchase decisions that are often made by committees vs. individuals make B2B a very different animal in the influencer marketing world. Also, in B2B there is less “pay to play” so the importance of values alignment with the brand and true relationships is very high.

Since B2B influencers tend to have more subject matter expertise than the media creation skills often found in B2C, the approach to recruit them often has to be based on how their collaboration with the brand will create value for their mutual audiences.

B2B influencers will be more invested in the brand when the brand invests more in an ongoing relationship with the influencer.

We’ve found that B2B influencers will be more invested in the brand when the brand invests more in an ongoing relationship with the influencer. One of the most effective ways to engage B2B influencers on an ongoing basis is through content collaboration.  That content doesn’t always need to be a blockbuster campaign, either. Twitter chats, short quotes, quick videos and social engagement are all easy and impactful ways for brands to engage with influencers on an ongoing basis.

Of course, different types of influencers have different motivations so it is important to approach them accordingly. Brandviduals play the exposure and fame game, so engaging them would be very different than engaging a cybersecurity engineer with a niche, but highly active audience.

Always-on social monitoring and engagement are essential for quality interactions with influencers on an ongoing basis and especially when you are not working with them on a campaign. Software is essential for this kind of social CRM, listening and engagement.

Practically, there are three areas of focus for best practices with B2B influencer marketing:

1. Start with topic specificity and goals

  • Identify what your brand wants to be influential about
  • Understand what’s possible when working with influencers
  • Understand what the influencers’ goals might be

2. Pick the right engagement model

  • Find relevant micro-influencers that already love your brand
  • Work with established “brandividual” influencers for compensation
  • Integrate a mix of employee, customer, industry and prospective customer influencers
  • Architect content collaboration opportunities around share interests and values

3. Measure for effectiveness: inputs, outputs and outcomes

  • Monitor influencer effectiveness: participation and content
  • Measure impact of the influencer on 1st, 2nd degree networks
  • Measure performance of influencer content against marketing goals

Opportunity for improvement in the influencer marketing industry:

More effort to validate networks is important and I think social channels are moving in the right direction. Marketplaces that collect influencers for brands to engage need to do more when it comes to ensuring authenticity of networks and compliance.

I’d like to see more improvements with influencer marketing software which tend to be very social media focused. I think there are some significant opportunities to integrate with content marketing platforms, analytics, CRM and marketing automation platforms.

What’s working well with influencer marketing:

When brands “get it right” on recruiting influencers who are authentically interested in both the product/service and are genuinely active in the communities of interest, it’s a win for everyone involved.

By developing relationships with industry influencers as well as internal subject matter experts, influential community members and clients, B2B companies can tap into resources that provide numerous benefits, especially when it comes to collaborations on content and events.

The keys to success in B2B influencer marketing, more than anything, are relevance and relationships.

I also think some of the B2B friendly influencer marketing platforms like Traackr, Onalytica and even our client GroupHigh are doing a fairly good job at innovating and creating features that help brands make the most out of identifying, managing and measuring authentic engagement opportunities.

There are many examples of successful B2B influencer marketing campaigns and I am happy to say that many of these posts on other websites feature work from TopRank Marketing clients like SAP, LinkedIn, Content Marketing Institute, DivvyHQ, Cherwell Software, and Prophix to name a few.

What’s next with B2B influencer marketing:

Everyone is influential about something and with 90% of B2B buying decisions being driven by peer recommendations, I think in the next few years we’ll see a lot more democratized marketing through brand collaborations with their customers and community as much as they do now with micro and macro influencers.

It’s possible that as AI advances, avatar influencers become more accepted and brand mascots or personas come to life to engage customers. I have a feeling those avatar influencers won’t become much more than a novelty in B2B though.

The more likely intersection of AI and influencer marketing is through big data analysis and the machine learning necessary to understand influence beyond social networks like Twitter and Instagram. Also, I think we’ll see greater sophistication with AI and its application to messaging influencers according to personas and rules based engagement models. Communications like information capture and invites to share may eventually be handled (in part) by messenger bots.

B2B Influencer Marketing Maturity

More than anything, the future of influencer marketing will involve greater sophistication: for brands, for influencers and the communities that follow them. CMOs that understand what’s possible and what’s meaningful will see the greatest returns on influencer relationships to their brands and with their customers.