Dan Rogers is the CMO at ServiceNow and was previously CMO at Symantec, VP of Marketing for EMEA at Salesforce, Global Head of Product Marketing and Demand Gen. at Amazon AWS, and Senior Director of Demand Gen. at Microsoft. Whoa.
Dan sits down with DG for this episode of the Swipe File to talk about everything from bringing brand back to B2B to how he runs his team on a daily basis.
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Dave Gerhardt: Hey, everybody. It’s DG. Man, I’m super excited about this episode, because when we were out on the West Coast for SaaStr, we took a little pit stop over at Service Now. If you don’t know Service Now, look them up. One of the fastest growing companies, most successful companies on the planet, and I got to sit down with Dan Rogers, the CMO. This guy is an absolute monster. He was a CMO at Symantec, the VP of Marketing for EMEA at Salesforce, Global Head of Product Marketing and Demand Gen at Amazon for AWS, Senior Director of Demand Gen at Microsoft. I can’t say enough how smart this guy is, and I was able to go sit down and have a conversation with him, and I’m excited to bring that to you.
Here’s Dan Rogers on this episode of the Swipe File.
Content is like a secret little hack to learning, and I’m just like, “Are you kidding me? I get to go to Service Now and interview you?”
Dan Rogers: Yeah, yeah. It’s cool, yeah.
Dan: Anthony at Gainsight, does the same. I’m actually an advisor to Anthony. They’ve got an advisory board, and I’m one of his advisors. I’m actually meeting him later today-
DG: Oh good.
Dan: … as part of that. He’s the same. He kind of figured out … He’s got his own show, you saw that thing?
DG: Yeah. I saw you guys in the big auditorium.
Dan: Yeah, it was fun, but he’s the same. He’s figured out that’s a good way for him to learn.
DG: And also, I think just there’s too many things, and so narrowing it down to like, who do I want to learn from? Who is in my industry? I know where I want to go and what I want to do, and so I just try to only learn from those people as opposed to like, you know, the CMO of some consumer company.
That’s not as important. I can learn things from her. But it’s more like, “Who’s writing the same? Who’s paving the same path?” Because it’s all the same.
Every time I have dinner with somebody or you sit around other marketers, it’s like everybody’s doing the same stuff.
Dan: I know. I can’t go to those dinners anymore cause mostly … And I’m like not patting myself on the back or anything, but mostly there’s not enough innovation. People are just trying to do the same thing. And so I see the balance of teaching versus learning is not the right one for me at those things. I don’t tend to go anymore.
DG: I totally agree with you. People that are listening to this will roll their eyes, because I say this line all the time. But I think the problem with marketers … and I am one, so I’m not preaching, but … is if you and I on this podcast today said, “The best time to send an email is two o’clock on a Tuesday.” I would say 99% of marketers would go out and then go, “Tomorrow, we got to test our email at two o’clock on a Tuesday,” whereas before we were talking about just trying to be more progressive and innovative. I want to send an email on Saturday night at nine o’clock.
And the old way would be like, “Well, nobody’s online then.” I’m like, “Just go walk outside. Everyone’s like this. Everybody’s online. Always, it’s just like … ”
And there’s a great saying, this copywriter, Roy Williams, that I’m obsessed with right now, he said, “It’s not who you reach. It’s what you say.” And that’s so true to me today because you can reach anybody. You can pay for any audience. But everybody’s getting a million messages, so how do you figure out what to say?
I was watching an interview you did this morning. It wasn’t this morning, but I was watching this morning. And it was at your conference. And so I have a couple questions. First of all, the conference was called Knowledge. So Knowledge 18. You had 18 thousand people there. How do you get 18 thousand people to that event?
Dan: I think … First of all, I don’t even think of it as an event. Really, it’s kind of a movement.
DG: Love that.
Dan: And as a movement, it’s really about peers meeting with peers. And so the answer actually is to have ServiceNow move into the background and have our customers move into the foreground. So the draw is each other. And so we’re trying to create how do we facilitate those interactions between peers learning from peers?
And as a result, 92% of the sessions are produced by customers. And so it’s not really a traditional kind of one-way communication conference. W have 480, I think, sessions. 470 of them are produced by customers, unfiltered by us. And so we’re not regular doing topics. We’re not.
And so that, I think, is part of it. It’s like people want to talk to people about their experiences, their struggles. We’re not filtering for what struggle, not to this is just rainbows and sunshine.
And I think that’s part of it, and keeping that authenticity of a conversation is really important. And then injecting, through the keynotes, really an inspiration of where the industry is headed. So then you’ve got this real combination of more heady direction and more heartfelt what’s actually happening today.
DG: I think, when I saw the interview, you said that it’s the furthest thing from a marketing conference.
DG: It’s not about Service Now. It’s not about your new product. It’s not about what you’re selling. It’s about being this platform for people who are all doing the same thing, who are all going to work every day, to come and congregate and share their stuff.
How much of that plays into your … This is a great mission for a movement. How much of that plays into your marketing? Is that the kind of [crosstalk 00:05:05] of it?
Dan: I learned pretty early on that you are talking to someone as a human. And one of my mentors said, “You’re talking to someone. You’re in a bar. They’re a friend. They’re technically competent.” So you friends are technically competent.
Dan: Now let’s go. Now let’s do the positioning, the messaging. Now let’s do the connection.
So I think the more that you forget marketing and the more you kind of lean forward on that human conversation, the better. So I think it infuses everything.
If you go to our homepage, you go to our webpages, if you’re technically competent you can read them. And you won’t find us falling into “It’s a fully comprehensive end-to-end solution that … ” Who says that? I’ve never said that to my friend-
Dan: … so why would I say it to … Exactly.
DG: We say that all the time in the one exercise that I do now is … this has been beaten into my head, and so I try to pass it on to other people on the team is like I’ll just say, “Hey, can … ” Like somebody say, “Hey, Dave. Can you proofread my email?” or whatever. “Read my thing. Read my press release.” I say, “Okay. Read that headline out loud to me. And then read it like, Drift now fully integrates with … ” And I’m like, “See?” I’m like, “That’s not how you would talk. Now explain it to me in real terms and then from there try to whittle that down.”
How do you scale that across a marketing team, though? Because I feel like it is easy to just regress back to … I’m assuming you go and get information from the product team and they tell you, “Here’s what we’re going to launch” and they use all the technical terms. How do yo close the gap and as your marketing team grows and you have however many people, how do you scale that?
Dan: One of the, let’s call it, groups is product marketing. And they are certainly an enterprise. It’s kind of like the Dark Ops of marketing where if you don’t have good product marketing, it’s very clear.
I can look at website. I can look at any enterprise company and I know. You’ve got good product marketing and you don’t have good product marketing.
And so I think it’s kind of the secret source.
DG: Which is the hardest thing about product marketing to articulate. It’s like you know it if you see it. But it’s hard to write down what exactly it is. But you know when you see it.
Dan: So our product marketers are kind of integrated into the almost like the factory of the process. They’re deeply embedded in the products, so they understand the product roadmap, understand what the customers want.
So then when we try to articulate things in our campaigns, in our outreach, it goes through product marketers who’ve got that technical-to-customer bridging going on. I have an organization that does nothing but that, lives and breathes and thinks about the tone, what we should say, how we should say it, what’s important, what’s our differentiation.
And so nothing that we put out into the world should ever be anything other than that human connection with people. After all, we make the world of work with people. They’re the police. They make sure that whole thing happens.
DG: Do they actually write the copy? The product marketing team write the copy?
DG: So if I go to your homepage, someone on the product team wrote that headline?
Dan: They will write the messaging and then we do have copy editors who sometimes add a little flare to it, etc. But the core value you just can’t escape from it. It permeates everything we do.
DG: So I’m excited to talk about all this stuff because if just looked at your background on paper, I would be like “this guy is hardcore Demand Gen.” Why do you care so much about this stuff? Copywriting, brand? If I just look Microsoft Demand Gen, you did Demand Gen Salesforce, right? Amazon. I think usually when I talk to Demand Gen people its funnel, metric, ROI, this, that, spreadsheet, whatever. I’m being dramatic. But when I talk to you or the stuff I’ve watched of you it’s very much about this human connection.
Dan: I think … well I started … I had a great experience at Microsoft. I was at Microsoft for six years. And I was in the belly of the beast at Microsoft. I was actually doing product management for Windows. So the flagship product shipping software.
Dan: So part of the job of product manager is about feature prioritization. And it turns at that a lot of feature prioritization is about the narrative of it is this product is suppose to be doing. The way you prioritize features is, you think about the scenarios and stories about how this product is going to be used. So having that experience earlier in the product development chain I think gave me a grounding in products and what products do. And why we were building them in the first place. What was the intention of that. And that I think was kind of an amazing lesson for me.
And then I took … I actually started when I was at AWS, you know I ran many different tiers. One of those, near and dear to my heart, was product marketing. At AWS we had amazing complexity, technical complexity. So the art really was in how to make all that stuff simple because the engineering pipeline was, you know, very fast.
DG: How do you get a product marketer at Amazon? Because this is the part of marketing I’ve always struggled with mentally. Which is like, you’re suppose to have this product marketing person, who is a marketer, their job is to tell a developer about this web service that you’re suppose to use. I think the BDR role can be kind of crazy sometimes. Which is like, most BDR are 22, 23, 24 years old, they’re trying to prospect into you. That BDR is never gonna know more about marketing than you do right now. That’s not a knock on them, it’s just a fact, right? How do you close that gap and actually teach the product marketing person like “hey you’re suppose to be an expert in product marketing but you need to know how to translate this. But you’re also not a developer.”?
Dan: I think maybe even I’d challenge how you define a product marketer. I think product marketer, you’re suppose to be an expert in human connection. And that means understanding and learning. So I think product marketer’s job, number one, is how does the decision maker influencer talk? What do they care about? Who are they? And spending time with them. And really no product marketing can be inside out, it all has to be outside in. You’ll find the words in the customers’ mouths. And you know, that is something I’ve learned increasingly over time.
We have an amazing ADR organization at ServiceNow. And so proud of that team. It’s an amazing team. But they singularly have a gift to express in a minute what others take 10 minutes to express. They don’t have to by their nature. And they learn what, its almost like water going down the river, it kind of figures out the way between the rocks. The ADR’s learn that very quickly. This is the way between the rocks. And if I could only say 20 words, what are the most effective 20 words I could say? And it turns out its all about understanding what’s gonna go into someone’s ears and be received well. They can figure out those patterns. They are amazing at pattern recognition. We have amazing ADRs that have this almost like athleticism to the process where it’s like “we’re gonna try it. We’re gonna try it. We’re gonna try it. And then when we figure it out we can just go.”
DG: They probably learn the most when they make 20 calls or send 20 emails and get no response. You can’t just keep doing the same thing.
Dan: Yup, by 21 you’ve got and then 22s great, 23s great, 24 … and so that’s, I think, it’s sort of like a bootcamp in listening and understanding what the costumer really wants.
DG: How do you take this and translate it to IT? Because I think marketing, this is just an opinion I have, i think marketing is harder than ever today because there is so much noise and information in the world that even if you say as a marketer “my thing is” … Because every company says this, “my thing is better, faster, easier to use. Look at all my case studies.” All that kind of stuff is table steaks. Social proof, and headlines, and noise. It’s all noise. How do you … Nobody wants to be marketed to and nobody wants to be sold to. And I feel that in my role, where we market marketers. I feel like especially with your audience at ServiceNow, how do you cut through the clutter? And how do you build a marketing strategy around that stuff? Obviously there’s stuff you can’t say without giving away your secrets sauce.
Dan: I would say at the … let’s start at the very highest level. There was an amazing piece in the Wall Street Journal, I think it was 2018, called “Software is eating the world.” It was kind of a marque article. And it’s thesis was that every industry is becoming a software company. And it kind of challenges the status quo because what about mining. Well yeah it turns out the way they figure where to mine is actually an algorithm. Okay what about agriculture? Yeah, it turns out that they are looking at the weather patterns and seed types and all that is a computational model. Okay then what about, and they go through everything you think software wouldn’t be applied to has now been applied to.
So software is eating the world and therefore the role of IT is more important than ever. Because every company is undergoing this digital transformation. And so IT is at the nexus of a transition that is gonna be happening for the next five, ten, fifteen years. Where it’s becoming the most strategic group within a company. And if you’re within IT, you’re being asked to make that transition. You’re being asked to continue what you were doing because, you know, you still have a lot of infrastructure that you need to manage and transition the whole company to be more agile, faster, responsive, have more levels of automation than ever before.
So how to communicate with IT? It’s by understanding their world and connecting into their realities of their day to day jobs. And once again, we are grounded by our purpose. Which is really about making the world work better for people. So then I need to live and breathe and think about that person’s job. And those two worlds and where they’re at in that transition. And so while someone else, you know maybe another vendor, may abstractly be talking about the feats of a solution. I’m really, very interested in that person’s life and their work life.
DG: The emotion of it …
Dan: Right. But also their day to day work lives. And the practicalness of “this is going to make this thing better that you struggled with.” And “yeah that is something that I’ve struggled with, let’s talk about that.” So I think the more you can come into the worlds of the buyer. The things they are struggle with, the battle.
DG: I have quote from when you, I think when you first joined. You said “While getting things done in our personal lives with online consumer services has never been easier, the workplace has stagnated.”
That’s the biggest disconnect to me. so we talk a lot about at Drift is like, our personal lives have basically reset expectations. I can call a car on demand right now. I can order 500 bucks worth of stuff on Amazon right now. I can get a helicopter here if you wanted to, right. But then you go to work with a business and if feels like a completely different world.
Dan: So you know, I’ll talk about just ServiceNow for a second. If you think about, let’s take Amazon as an example, it’s just the shopping experience. You might think if you had five seconds, “Why do I love Amazon? Oh because I can just swipe my finger, I put stuff in my cart and it arrives.” Okay? But if you had maybe 30 seconds to explain well why is that such a joy. You might start to say “Well it’s actually because they take care of the shipping and the logistics and the billing and the recommendation engine.” Okay well hang on so actually the reason it’s joy is because they’ve domesticated 50 tasks that I hated to do myself. So if you had a bit longer, you might be able to explain that.
And so for ServiceNow, we have that kind of mentality about work in the enterprise. That you … A. You want to have beautiful user interfaces for sure. And those are increasingly mobile, increasingly chat, they’re increasingly like service portals. Because you want that to be a joyful medium for you to communicate. But the magic happens underneath. The magic happens when you’re trying to onboard a new employee. and just once they fill in the details, swipe, and suddenly, wow that’s communicated with payroll, it’s communicated with the badging system, and that’s communicated with getting them setup in active directory, that’s communicated with the facilities to get them the office space, that’s communicated with … And that’s the joy. That’s what we mean about making work work better for people. And that really is the bulk of digital workflow.
DG: That’s it’s own episode right there. Because that’s the emotion, right? Because then if you go back to that IT person and you think of that person doing their job. They don’t care about all the layers. They want to be successful, right? You’re making that IT person feel like superhero.
DG: Because they’re using your product and they just automated 50 things, right. Like in our world, we talk about we want Drift to be in between these two things. What do sales people want to do? They want to sell. A good day for a sales rep is to sell all day. Calls all day. As a marketer what I love to do, I love to get the right people to the website. Attention. If we can figure out everything in between then life is going to be better. I’m gonna be happier. That’s a good analogy of on the service, “well I can just get stuff.” No let’s unpack all the layers.
Dan: The pixels on the screen is one thing. Understanding how humans want to work is another.
DG: I want to talk just a little bit about just how you run marketing. So without giving away secret sauce. What are some of the rituals that you have as a marketing leader? Like team meetings, your staff meetings. I just want to know some of that stuff.
Dan: I would start with goals. We are very goal orientated. I think marketing can be very squishy. In many companies they let it be squishy. And I’ve never really had that idea. I’ve always felt it could be knowable, measurable, and improvable. Therefore, what are the sets of metrics that we ought to hold ourself accountable for?
DG: So even for someone like the copy editor example that you mentioned. Does that person have a measurable goal?
Dan: Absolutely. So everyone in my organization has a goal. We all nest up to the macro goals. And we talk every year about what the goals are or ought to be given the context of what we are operating in. So we collectively decide on the system that we’re gonna hold ourself accountable for and then we hold ourself accountable for it. And then everybody knows when they’ve done a good job. I think it’s a very human think to want to know the goals. So I think that is maybe just a leadership philosophy. And it can be applied to marketing. and it turns out it gives marketing a swagger and a step. Because now they can really kind of have something they can communicate externally.
I don’t really ascribe to this idea that it’s some kind of amorphous squishy. I don’t believe that to be the case. You know, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. That idea is such a fast, evolving space. We need to improve every year. So we need to know what the baseline is that we’re trying to improve against. So I think it’s just very noble.
DG: Can the measures be different based on the role? So for the copy editor it could be, that persons goal might not be 2 percent lift and conversion, but it might be touch 100 pieces of copy on the site?
Dan: Exactly, right. So but they all have to roll up to the macro set of things we are trying to do in the organization.
DG: If what that person’s working on makes no sense to here then …
Dan: You could argue that they’re not focused on the right things.
I’ve literally done the exact test that you just talked about. Which is “oh no my thing … I can’t have a goal for my thing.” Okay let’s just talk about that. Some of them could be output related.
Dan: Some of them could be making sure the inputs are there on time, timeliness related.
DG: One thing we’ve talked about a lot with Gonzalo and the video team. How do you have a goal for the video team? It’s like we’ve tried a million different ways. Give a creative person a conversion goal, it’s never gonna work. But you could say, every month we want to create five types of these videos, 20 types of these videos.
Dan: And then you just maybe need to inject some sense of quality. And the answer, by the way, is in video team’s hands and heads. So my version of that would be, how would you know if you’ve created a great video? “Oh because I would have at least 3,000 people watching.” Okay that’s good. Let’s go with that. I’m going to create 5 videos, each of which will have 3,000 people watching. But wait, that depends upon someone promoting. Great. Let’s talk about this other person’s social team promoting these videos now. What’s …
DG: How are you going to work with them? Are you gonna have a system and a checklist of what …
Dan: And then people can create. People want to create their own goals. And its actually inside all of us. Yeah I think that’s just management philosophy.
DG: Do you have a, just from a meeting perspective, do you have a ritual? Like a weekly meeting with your direct reports?
Dan: Yes, so I have one-on-ones with my team every week, my direct reports. I have team meeting with all of them together two hours a week. And then we go offsite every quarter for two days. And we’ve got pretty known rhythms. I think most companies that you and I are talking about have big annual user conferences and they tend to have sales kick offs as well. So I have a couple of bookends of rhythms that I know we’re preparing for. And like you, we take our big show on the road. So now I’ve kind got a pretty defined calendar that is very knowable
DG: So without doing anything, you can almost lay out the whole year.
Dan: Exactly. And therefore what we need to have ready by each. These annual user conferences tend to be great forcing functions for lots of things so what is the work back on that. Sales kickoff is a great forcing function. So then you’ve a pretty set plan, I think, at that point.
DG: How have you evolved as a marketer, obviously however long ago you were once an individual contributor, and then a director, and then a VP, and then CMO. How have you continued to evolve? Because I think, go and talk to any great CMO or any Exec or leader of a company they’re constantly reinventing themselves. What has that progression been for you?
Dan: So maybe I’ll talk about as a marketer and then as a business leader.
Dan: So as a marketer, I am a student of great marketing. And there is a lot of it around in all sorts of surprising places. And you and I talked about before the camera was on, there are some companies that are pushing the edge, and I know who they are and I’m watching what they’re doing. Which means visiting websites, signing up for their newsletters, being called upon by their ADRs and that never really stops for me. I think that’s part of it as a marketer.
DG: That’s every great marketer that I’ve been able to either interview directly or just listen to or watch, they all have that same gene which is curiosity. Everything can be marketing. The headline of a news paper while your waiting in line at the grocery store even if its some piece of trash like the National Inquirer can be marketing. Just the mindset of everything … you can be curious about anything.
Dan: You know, sports event you kind of get “oh that’s interesting.”
DG: So as a marketer, specifically that piece, how has that changed? Because however long ago it was in your career as a marketer, you use to be the guy who go and do that. “Oh I’ve got this idea. I’m gonna go do that.” Now you have an idea, you get an idea on a Friday morning, “oh we should go do that.” Then what? You don’t actually do it. You have to give it somebody. And then they have to do it. Is that hard?
Dan: More often the co-creation of the idea is where it’s really a lot more fun.
Lastly, the evolution as a business leader. I think that’s probably what because I’m even more excited about growing. It’s just leading and finding the right aptitude and depth. And again it’s about people and how people want to work. And understanding people’s careers and their development. I think that’s probably the piece I have enjoyed the most. You know, when I see other people thriving. I get a kick out of seeing other people thriving then seeing my idea come to fruition. That’s not as interesting anymore. I’m really much more interested in dialing into my direct team, my full team, and what it takes to have them get to the next level. I think you just define your success a little differently as you kind of grow.
DG: We’ve got to wrap up but I have some more personal questions. Which you can decided to answer or not, which is fine.
What is your thing? Outside of ServiceNow, what is your thing? One habit. Are you a big gardener? Do you workout? Do you meditate? What is your thing?
Dan: Well, my wife works as well so between us both working we put a lot of free time into our son. Making sure he is a happy chappy. He is a big sports dude so if he’s not playing I’m running around playing soccer with him, taking him to soccer matches. So that’s kind of a big part of our focus. And then you know I do keep in shape. So try to keep myself pretty active. I do still play soccer. So I’m on a men’s soccer team. And then you, like everyone else, trying to get in as many workouts as I can in the time that I have.
DG: Which is no time.
Dan: Which is no time. Morning is my big answer on that. No one can take your mornings.
DG: What time do you get up?
Dan: About six usually. Get to the gym pretty quickly and then you know, I’m an up and out kind of person. As soon as I’m up, I’m out and then I’m hitting the gym.
DG: How do you work? I’m just curious for a week. Are you one of these time blockers? Or do you just kind of take things as they go? Do you have a rhythm for how you work?
Dan: I’d say given that set of cadences that we have around those big events, I plan back for those knowing those have an intensity to them. So those ways of working, I think, then the every day.
DG: The month leading up to an event you know you’re gonna have to put more time in then …
Dan: Exactly. But I like regularity of the some of the rhythms of things that we know we’ve got to get through every week. So you know, we’ve specific steering committees on topics that marc each week. We launch our products every six months so we do a launch every six months as well. So what are the work backs associated with that? So it almost ends up being like a machine of calendaring working up to all the things you know are going to be happening. And that is probably 30 or 40 percent of my calendar. The rest is with people just working through things.
DG: It’s nice to map it out. Okay last question, give me some books? If you were to say “hey you don’t know anything about me, you’re a marketer. I love you as a marketer, read this book.” Do you have one or two books that you would give to a marketer? Recommend?
Dan: Well you know, I’m an avit reader. And I have to admit I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, first and foremost.
DG: There’s there a good marketers that do.
Dan: The reason that it gives me pause, I think, is because most of the interesting things I have read are about just human behavior. I love Homo sapiens and I love I think “the fifth chimpanzee” by Jared Diamond. Which I think is an amazing expose into why humans do what they do. “Predictably rational” which is real fantastic. And “Nudge”. Just great examples of why people do what they do and how to deal with it.
DG: When do you … do you have to make time for reading? Or you just …
Dan: I … my guilty pleasure is reading. I probably read for about an hour and half every day.
DG: Every day? At night?
Dan: At night?
DG: In bed?
Dan: Yup, in bed.
DG: That’s awesome.
Well okay, Dan Rogers, thank you so much for doing this. There are million things we could talk about but I think this is a good place to end it. Thank you.
Dan: Thank you. Enjoyed it.
DG: Thanks man.
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