Solving Marketing’s Work Crisis with Workfront


It feels like we say it every day: Marketing is changing. Fast. In this episode, we talk to Workfront’s CMO Heidi Melin about what the future of work entails, why we’re ill-prepared at most organizations, and what to do about it.

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Full Transcript

Jay Acunzo: Can we just admit something really quick as marketers? Marketing today has gotten really stressful. There. I said it. We’re hiding it, we’re trying to sound like we have our stuff together, but it’s super stressful. It’s chaotic. It moves way faster than ever before. And I think we survived one era of stress, and we’re moving into another era of stress. The one that we just survived was this onslaught of new marketing channels. Every quarter it seemed like we had to deal with another major social network cropping up. Remember that? Every single day we had to deal with a new tactic, a new guru who was the expert or the influencer on that channel. And at least that has settled down, question mark?

But as the advancement of those types of technologies appears to be behind us, what they call application layer technologies, we’re at the dawn of a new period of change and also stress, where more fundamental things seem to be changing. It’s not just the app, or the website, where people interact or do their work. It’s the very fabric of how work gets done. Remote work, automation, the digital transformation of everything. These are just a few of the fundamental shifts that we’re all facing in marketing today, right now. And so today, like today today, we have to talk about whether or not marketers are facing a crisis of sorts, and what we can do about it in the end.

This is Exceptions, the show about why brand matters more than ever in B2B. I’m Jay Acunzo. I’m an author, a speaker, and now the founder of an online education company for marketers who create shows, kind of meta. It’s called Anyways, I’ve partnered with the tech company, Drift, to bring you this series, because Drift is all about improving the experience of how businesses buy from other businesses. We share a similar belief, which is that brand is the approach to sustainable, defensible growth today, because the lone thing left that competitors can’t really copy … It’s not your products, not your service. It’s your people and how those people and their work make others feel.

So our exceptional brand today is Workfront. Workfront has raised over $375 million in VC. It has nearly a thousand employees, and is among Deloitte’s Technology Fast500, and Workfront’s home state of Utah’s top companies to work for. Brands like Xfinity, Sony, Fossil, and Nordstrom all use Workfront to get better work done. And the company helps enterprise companies like them remove communication barriers and stay organized when they’re managing complex projects day to day. Just like every company that we’ve profiled, and every company driven by great branding, Workfront is customer-centric. That makes sense, right? So let’s hear now from the voice of an actual customer.

Lindsay Culbreath is a senior director of marketing and design at STR in Nashville. STR, which has employees in over 15 countries, helps people in the hospitality industry, so people managing hotels for example, by providing important data like industry benchmarks and analytics reports, so they can make better, more data-informed decisions. So how do you and your team use Workfront?

Lindsay Culbreath: Absolutely. So we have been using Workfront for a little over a year. Before that, we were just in a more … a basic system. But we’ve got 16 team members that sit in three different offices around the world. So it’s really important that we are collaborating and they we’re organized. So we use Workfront really as our work management system to make sure that all of the marketing requests that come in through the organization are implemented and done so to the fullest.

Jay: From the outside looking in, I’m curious about what your perspective is about their brand. Like if you’ve never come across Workfront before, how might you describe it to someone else?

Lindsay: I would say Workfront is an organization that really cares about the success of their customers and how they use it. Just the system itself is huge in allowing us to be able to have transparency into the number of projects that we’re working on, how many hours are allocated to people. They could have more than 40 hours of work that they’re tasked with, and of course that’s not feasible. So making sure that we’ve got that transparency into what we’re doing.

And so that’s really helped to be able to showcase, “Here are the things that we’re actually doing,” and then also being able to look at it from a holistic point of view, to say, “We are doing very similar requests for different people in the organization.” We’ve got 300 plus team members in over 15 countries around the world, and we could be doing the same project for someone in our Colorado office as we are in Central and South America. So making sure that we’re looking at it from that viewpoint to see what we consolidate, and what we can really save time on.

Jay: Doing the least amount of research a podcast host can possibly do, I looked at your LinkedIn profile. And so, I saw how long you’ve been working at STR, so 13 plus years.

Lindsay: Yup.

Jay: What have you seen change about the workforce? Like Workfront talks a lot about the future of work, and I think we, as marketers, talk a lot about just the way people change based on technology in generations. What have you seen specifically change about the way your team at STR works over the years?

Lindsay: Our team has changed. We’ve obviously grown. When I started, there was just two of us, and so we can do a lot more now. But we are so much more collaborative, and I think, not just Workfront, but Workfront is one of the systems that allows us to do that. So working in all of our different offices, we’re able to collaborate on projects and work on the same project because we have our communication through Workfront. And so it’s really allowed us to be more collaborative than we were even five years ago.

Jay: Do you feel like that’s a trend? Setting aside Workfront for a moment, just the way marketing teams work today, do you feel like there’s more of a mandate to be collaborative and cross-functional for some reason?

Lindsay: I do. We even have a daily Zoom call where we start our day, at least in the Nashville office. London, it’s their afternoon. But we start our day with a video call with everyone across the team, just to really kind of set that foundation. And our marketing team really was the first team within STR that started working across offices in a really collaborative and successful way. And that’s really bled into other departments internally, with marketing kind of being the go to of who to look at, to learn from, to see what’s worked well, and then what could be improved upon.

Jay: When you’re not on the same page, and whether it’s because you have the wrong tool, or even the right tool, or you’re just not using it correctly, or communicating well through it, but when you aren’t on the same page, and you have a team of your size, and scope, and all the projects you work on, what are the kinds of things that ended up going wrong that you have to watch out for?

Lindsay: We also do a lot of just training on how to have those conversations, because that’s going to come up that people have different points of view. There’s different worldviews, especially working in an international company. Making sure that what we think is right, we really take in other viewpoints into consideration, because it could be different from someone sitting in Dubai. Their clientele is very different. So making sure that we’re really taking a step back, or assuming good intentions, we’re hearing out all the different sides, and then we’re making best decisions, whether it’s something that we can blanket to all of our customers, or if we do have to make a decision to be very specific to the audience or to the region that we’re working with.

Jay: What … Because Workfront, as a brand, I talked to their com, and she has a keynote speech on the way that she’s developing about the future of work. They have a lot of future of work branding that they do, and they have events and content, and they just seem very invested in where the workforce is going and how it’s changing in specifically marketing as well. When you’re inhouse, when you’re actually a practitioner and leader of a team like you are, how much do you think about that stuff? And if you do, what specifically are you thinking about to make sure that if there are these changes coming, that you guys are ready and adapting?

Lindsay: I think a lot of times we get so bogged down with current state and what has to be done now or the next six months, that I have not spent the time thinking about the next three to five years like we should. But I know as much as things have changed just in the past couple of years, and how not only the hotel industry and hospitality, but marketing in general, all of the different industry segments, we’re going to have to adapt to those changes. And I think from a marketing team, if we can do that and then be able to really showcase that to the rest of our organization, we’ll be in a better place.

Jay: As you heard, Lindsay and I talked a little bit about this notion of the future of work, which is something that Workfront cares a lot about. So I talked with their CMO, Heidi Melin, about what the future of work means, and what they’re doing about it at that, and also how she, as a CMO, is developing a keynote speech all about it. Pretty interesting marketing tactic, no? We don’t often talk about that publicly. So let’s learn from Heidi.

What were you doing before Workfront, and what did you learn that you thought maybe bringing it to Workfront would be something you’d be excited to try? Because obviously, you guys have a very specific bent on future of work and what you talk about publicly. So just walk me through your background and how you got to Workfront.

Heidi Melin: Absolutely. So I joined Workfront about a year ago, and I came from a company called Plex Systems, which was cloud-based ERP software for manufacturing companies. And one of the things that was so interesting about my path to Workfront is I had been a Workfront customer. So at Plex, we actually brought Workfront in. I had firsthand experience, not only with Workfront as a platform, but I actually also watched it expand within our marketing team, and even beyond the marketing team out to the broader enterprise at Plex.

And so I had a really interesting vantage point of Workfront as a product, and then I got a call from Alex Shootman, who is the CEO of Workfront and someone that I worked with at Eloqua. And it was a great opportunity for me to move to not only a company where I was familiar with the product and the power of the product, but also familiar with the CEO and others on the leadership team.

Jay: I think when you join a company as a marketing leader, and I think this is the advice I’d give to anybody if they’re getting their first marketing job, all the way up to taking the CMO’s role, but I think traditionally this idea, maybe that students have, is like you want to go work for the company that everybody knows, where everything seems perfect. And I’ve always found that while you want to appreciate something from the outside looking in before you join that company, you also want opportunity. If everything was hunky-dory, it’s sort of like, “Okay, here’s your crank. Just keep turning the crank.” And there’s no room for creativity. So I’m curious, A, what was your perception of Workfront’s brand from the outside? And B, what opportunity for evolving it did you see?

Heidi: So I think there were a couple of things that were really important to me, because having a familiarity with the brand itself, as well as with the product, was certainly important. But I also knew the challenge with the brand in moving from what had been a largely SMB, or mid-market focused go to market, focusing on the large enterprises is more challenging. And as we shift the company to focus on some of the largest brands in the world, and serving those companies, our sales cycle becomes more complicated, our go to market becomes more complicated, and our job from a marketing perspective is more complicated.

And so that in itself is a challenge that I was really interested in tackling, having been in enterprise software for a long time. And so that was really the big challenge, because I agree. No one wants to come into a job where everything works perfectly and as you said, to turn the crank. This was really an opportunity to come in and make a difference, and help the company through a transition.

Jay: When you think about the difference between SMB and enterprise, I noticed that this coincided with Workfront really getting loud, and I know you’re working on the speech, and there’s all sorts of content coming out, but really getting loud about future of work and all those subcategories around that. Do you find that enterprises, enterprise marketers in particular, think more about these large scale shifts in the market? Is that a major difference? I’m just trying to understand, why did that become such an important thing for Workfront lately?

Heidi: Well, I think when you look at large enterprises, every large enterprise is going through some sort of digital transformation. Every company is at a certain stage in transforming their organization to take advantage of digital. And so marketing teams tend to be on the forefront of that. And so when you think about how digital transformation has truly transformed the way we work, it’s transformed marketing a lot. And so I think that marketing is on the front end of the spear, if you will. And so one of the areas that we have really focused in on is on helping marketers keep up with the speed of digital today. And that’s hard.
Jay: I spend my time when I’m not making shows as a speaker. And so I’m on …

Heidi: And that’s hard.

Jay: I spend my time when I’m not making shows as a speaker and so I’m on the road a lot. I’m in conferences a lot, mostly speaking to marketers, and what I find so funny, and difficult too, is when people say, say on a stage, “There’s a lot of change. Everything is changing around us.” Everyone’s like, “Yeah”, and then you go to the cocktail hour and you talk to everybody and everybody’s change is slightly different. I don’t know if it’s because the conversation is about tactic and it’s not deep enough, or if there truly is no commonality. So you’ve been thinking about this a ton, are there through lines where almost every organization is facing a similar kind of change or is it really a different flavor everywhere you go?

Heidi: I think it’s a little bit of a different flavor and it sort of depends on where you are in that digital transformation curve. You can look at different businesses, whether they’re historical, historic brick and mortar type businesses that have had to transform every single part of their company and then you look at other companies that have started in the last few years and actually built everything from the ground up with digital in mind. So I think every company ends up being a little bit different, but the change overall and the speed at which work is happening inside organizations is just getting faster and faster. So one of the things that we’re doing at Workfront is providing tools and providing essentially a platform for our customers to have a single place for all their work.

If you think about how companies handle other tier one assets inside their enterprise, tier one assets like people, they handle with a workday system or an oracle system, for example. They handle sales with a CRM system, a sales force for example. Today there’s no place, a single place, for work and so we’re really treating work as a tier one asset in this new digital economy. That’s where our customers are getting and seeing the advantage.

Jay: I think there’s like, not a necessarily an advantage, but there’s something really fun in marketing to other marketers. It’s like, and I always like to joke marketers are really good at marketing knowledge to other marketers using their marketing content …

Heidi: Yep.

Jay: And it’s like we’re just all in it in the echo chamber. So I think what’s interesting about your role, is you can teach other marketers how to deal with this change, but you’re also dealing with it yourself at Workfront. I’m curious, if you look back a few years in your career and then you look at your Workfront team and org chart today, what’s different about the team, because I think people is something I know that you’re passionate about, but I think it’s something we tend to not discuss enough. We talk about process and technology, but I think people supersedes all of that. So when you look at your team now, what’s different in how it’s constructed, that wouldn’t have been that way even just a few years ago?

Heidi: Well, one of of the things that’s just immediate is the amount of focus on the technology and the infrastructure that helps us do our job. So that, certainly at Workfront, includes our own Workfront product, but it also includes a very complex martech stack. So if you think about what my martech stack looked like five years ago, or 10 years ago, it’s vastly different than it is today. That’s really due to all the tools that we have at our disposal. It also makes it really complicated and complex. So I have roles on my team today that look more like, maybe 10 years ago, would have been an IT or more technical role, that actually are part of the marketing team and folks are having to develop a different set of skills to understand the complexity of RMR tech environments today.

that’s especially true with B2B. It’s not any less complex with B2B than it is with B2C and, to me, that’s one of the biggest differences. Part of what makes what I do so interesting is being able to work at a technology business, a cloud based software business, that actually sells to marketers. It means that I am actually our own best customer and that’s really fun. I had the opportunity to do that at Eloqua as well for a few years and I really love that. It’s a really great opportunity here at Workfront.

Jay: So you mentioned B2B, I think we should just go right there. What this show is about B2B marketing and it specifically has this bent around why, after decades of it being either overlooked or even a dirty word, why is brand something incredibly important to B2B companies today?

So your perspectives on change or something you think about all the time. Something you speak about, like as someone who thinks about the shifting ways that marketers go to market, why is brand suddenly this thing everybody’s talking about and betting and investing on?

Heidi: Well, if you think about the way that an enterprise sales cycle works, is that a lot of the research that our customers, our perspective customers, are doing, they’re doing on their own. So having presence with the Workfront brand, in market, and being able to help to anticipate what our customers need, and some of the business problems that we’re solving for our customers, is really important content for us to serve to prospective customers and tying that to our brand and ensuring we have a level of investment that when a customer realizes that they’re challenged by something, they’re able to be led to Workfront on their own.

Today that’s something that we can do with the technology that we have, to help move a prospect through a selling cycle in providing with the right content at the right time and that is tied to brand.

In addition, I also think that the role that our customers play in helping to create and invest in our brand is really important. I’m a tremendous believer in the fact that we can tell our brand story, we can tell our technology story on our own, but without our customers, it’s much less powerful. To the extent that we can leverage our customer voice to tell our brand story, that’s when we can be really powerful in the marketplace.

Jay: As Heidi told me, we marketers are in the midst of a kind of crisis, a digital work crisis as she called it. Although my instinct when she said that was to panic a little bit maybe, I got a bit more context before bolting. What is this crisis? What caused the crisis and what is the crisis?

Heidi: So really big crisis is caused by the fact that companies are going through digital transformation and what’s happening is the speed of business is getting faster, but it’s also getting more complicated. It’s getting more global and what happens when you’re connecting all these people, all these business processes and all of this technology, it creates a digital crisis.

We all have too much email, too many spreadsheets, too much technology. When you’re looking for a certain piece of information, it’s difficult to find and so that’s what really we call the digital work crisis is, as companies go through a digital transformation process, they’re finding it challenging to keep up. Individual knowledge workers can’t keep up. I don’t know about you, but when I think about my role at Plex Systems, I was inundated with different systems that I had to go into, different places where my work was stored, and finding what I needed when I needed it, was literally a crisis every time. So that’s what we call the digital work crisis.

Jay: It’s something about digital transformation, and maybe marketing too, causes people to retreat or sprint directly to the tools. I think the tools work based on who’s using the tools and how you’re using them. It’s never the wand, it’s always the wizard. How have you seen the process of hiring, like vetting talent, hiring talent, constructing teams, how does that stuff fit into solving that digital work crisis?

Heidi: Well, I think first of all, in order to make the people successful, you have to make sure that they’re comfortable in using the technology in the environment. So that, to me, is one of the basic fundamentals about technology and certainly something that we think about a ton at Workfront because we want to make sure that our software, it works the way that people want to work. So when we think about what is our value proposition, what’s the thing that we’re trying to do? It is to help people do their best work. It’s not to help large enterprises do their best work, it’s to help people do their best work. That’s what we’re building every day.

If you think about our development teams, that’s what they think about, building products to help people do their best work. It starts with people and ensuring that the technology, whether it’s Workfront or other technologies, are designed with people in mind, that’s who’s using them. I think that tends to shift our thinking about the types of people that we hire, but also more importantly, ensuring that we keep, top of mind, the fact that we’re trying to enable people to do their best work.

Jay: Is it something where in the interview process you ask them to open up a tool and and use it? I guess how do you ensure that when you’re interviewing a candidate that they are digitally savvy enough to come onto the team and assist with this digital transformation or manage all the change and pace of change?

Heidi: I don’t think it’s necessarily testing them, but certainly you can find out the familiarity that people have and the comfort that they have with technology immediately during an interview, making sure they understand the technology landscape and it’s really different where we’re hiring people into the work force today, they’re digital natives. They don’t know anything different.

I don’t think it’s necessarily a test, it’s just comfort with using technology to help solve business problems. That’s something that I think all the people that work here at Workfront have to come in having that comfort level, but I think it’s even bigger than that. When you think about ensuring that we keep top of mind, what we’re trying to do for our customers, we’re trying to help them do their best work.

Jay: Something lights up inside me when you say helping people do their best work, what does that mean? Have someone do their best work?

Heidi: It means, you know that feeling when you’ve just completed a big project, some major initiative that you’ve been working on, whether for a short time or a long period of time, and you just feel proud of what you have done. We all know the work we feel most proud of and when we say enabling people to do their best work, we’re talking about being able to provide our customers with that opportunity to feel proud of what they’re doing.

When you break it down and you say, “Okay, what makes you feel proud of what you’re doing?” Well, if you’re well connected and you understand how your work is connected to a bigger purpose, that’s really important. So ensuring that our customers understand not only how they can move through their own individual projects, but how do those tie in to the goals of the company and being able to experience that, see that and understand the impact that they have. That’s when we feel the most proud of projects, initiatives, programs, things that we work on, and that’s what we’re really trying to capture when you think about doing your best work.

Jay: So I want to talk a little bit more overtly now on this future of work idea. I think we’ve talked about the problem a little bit and talked about your background. The future of work is so fascinating to me because I see everybody talking about it. I see Google talking about it. I see giant organizations, down to small startups, building things and also build a creating content and ideas around the future of work, and when I see that phrase I stop and I think “Is it actually the future of work? Are we preparing our companies for next year or are we really talking about what’s happening under our feet right now?”

Heidi: Yeah, well I think there is a lot of dialogue about the future of work and that’s because work is changing, the nature of work is changing. That’s really tied to this concept of a digital work crisis where everything is transforming from a tool standpoint, things are moving faster and being a knowledge worker is more complex than ever.

The idea is about better preparing knowledge workers and ensuring that they have the right information, the right content, at the right time so they can do their best work. To me, the future is right now. It’s not 20 years from now, it’s today and ensuring that we can help our customers get more out of their knowledge workers in general.
I mean, if you think about it, we do a State Of Work Survey every year where we surveyed upwards of 2000 companies to find out what’s work look like today in their organizations? One of the things we’ve heard consistently over the last five years that we’ve done this survey, is that knowledge workers are essentially spending.

We’ve done the survey is that knowledge workers are essentially spending only 40% of their time on their primary duties. When you think about that for a second, if they’re only spending 40% of their time on their primary duties, the other 60% of their time they’re spending in meetings, checking email in different productivity tools, and 60% of their time is spent essentially not doing their primary activity.

Jay: That’s mind blowing.

Heidi: It’s mind blowing. When you think about if I was a CFO of a business, I’d be like, “Well, gosh, if I could just get 5% or 10% more of my workforce spending time on their primary duties, what kind of impact does that have to the bottom line?”

Jay: Right. We’re not talking about like we have the workforce that we have, we have the team we have. Let’s get them to work 110%. We’re not even talking about that. We’re talking about let’s get 40% of the time to look more like, I don’t know, closer to 100% of the time doing the primary focus.

Heidi: Right. It went from 40 to 60. That’s a significant …

Jay: Huge gains.

Heidi: … incremental. That’s been consistent over the last five years. I think it’s a real problem and when we talk about the future of work and what does workplace look like in 10 or 20 years, I think that we also have to be thinking about, “What does workplace look like today and how can we make it better and how people get more work done?”

Jay: Right. This might be a bit of an odd question, but it speaks to the theme of the show. Clearly, workflow and technology that enables that workflow and also documentation and access of the documentation, that helps too. Whether it’s internal training or just I needed answer really quickly and I got it without having to bug someone or wait a week for them to respond.

All these things, to me, plug directly into getting that 40% number higher. It all makes so much sense. What I’m curious to know is where does this idea of brand fit in that? Clearly from the outside, it totally makes sense. I don’t want to say future proof, but a modern relevant company cares about brand for the sake of the customer experience.

I get that, but internally, are there certain things that are almost like immutable truths about the business or about the brand that if everybody is crystal clear on, that 40% number can also increase?

Heidi: Yeah. Well, if you think about how does a company roll out their company level strategy and tie that to all the work going on in their organization. If you could just do that to tie in and ensure that all the work going on in your organization ties to your company level goals, think of the impact that would have on a brand.

Today, we do that not necessary in a well-managed or in a deliberate way. Workfront is a way that companies can do that. They can actually tie their top level goals to the work going on in the organization. That, to me, can have a really important impact on ensuring that a large organization is marching in the same direction with these common goals and the same understanding of the importance of the brand.

Jay: I know one of the concepts that you speak to is this idea of future-proofing a company. I’m curious about what does that actually look like? I think if we embrace that the times are always changing and they’re changing even faster than ever you said before, if the only constant is change, it’s almost like this paradox, can you actually future proof a company?

Heidi: If you go back to the state of work survey and you think about companies citing the fact that their employees are only spending 40% of their time on their core responsibilities, if you’re able to future proof your business by reducing the number of meetings, for example, or increasing the time savings that an individual knowledge worker has during the day, you’re going to help future proof over time your business.

Focusing on things like that when I think of specific customer examples. Fender is actually a customer of ours, so guitar manufacturer. Well-known brand in the music industry. They’re reporting that they’re spending 30% to 40% less time in meetings since they started using Workfront. That’s really about future proofing. When you think about providing your knowledge workers with the right tools, the right platform to help them do their best work, that’s a really great way to future proof.

Jay: How do you begin to develop your speech, which is also part of the larger brand platform as the CMO?

Heidi: Well, if you think of the brand platform as Workfront helps people do their best work, you start there, and the best way to tell that story is actually to tell it through our customer’s voice. One of the things that I think is most powerful when constructing thought leadership programs is being able to demonstrate it through the voice of a customer.

The voice of the customer is so much more powerful than our voice as a company or as a vendor. It’s really, really a great way to be able to capture the spirit of the brand through our customers and their experience in using our software. That’s where I start. Being able to tell compelling customer stories is probably the most powerful asset that we have from a brand building and a thought leadership standpoint.

Jay: Why branch out and get out of the office and give speeches at all? There’s other ways to be at events. You could moderate a panel, you could have a booth. You could have your team there. Why is it important that you get on the stage personally?

Heidi: I think, first of all, it’s really important that from a visibility standpoint that we’re in the right places. I have a number of sort of must go to type events where they be speaking or just participating in round tables, those being visible is really important. I encourage not only do I do a lot, but I encourage people on my team to do that, and it’s career building for folks.

I think that it’s very important to be able to put the human element to the Workfront story, and I’m part of that story, and so are people on my team as well as our customers.

Jay: I go through and I do this alone. I sort of envy the fact that you have a team of very smart, creative people around you, because again, I’m doing it in an office alone. I’ll write the draft of the speech and have some maybe raw slides or just the talk track and then I rehearse it and I just do it over and over again till I feel ready.

What’s your process like? If you think you have some kind of raw version of the talk, do you have a panel of trusted teammates that are reviewing it with you? Take me inside your office I guess and walk with me like what are the various steps between we think we have a good talk for Heidi and now you’re actually flying to the event. What happens in between?

Heidi: Well, I certainly have a great team of people who can help me with pulling together the content, the appropriate content for whatever speech or keynote opportunity we’re focused on, but then it’s really about it becoming mine too. I’m a tremendous believer in certainly being well-rehearsed.

If I can’t get up and tell the story without having 1800 slides, I probably shouldn’t do it. Being able to speak from the heart, I think, is really important. I’m a well-prepared speaker, so I want to understand the outline for what I’m presenting, but I should be able to do it without 87 slides and a whole bunch of notes, because it’s my story.

To me, it’s about being familiar with the content, owning the content and being an expert. If I’m speaking about something that I’m not an expert in, someone else should probably be doing the keynote.

Jay: I think this is a conundrum facing a lot of well-meaning marketers who maybe aren’t the CMO, but they believe firmly in brand. They want to get away from this idea that brand marketing is either blanket the world in your logo, kind of the classic mass medium marketing idea or a cutesy, maybe viral culture-building video, right?

They want to say this is actually strategic, this matters, this is a differentiator in a major, major way and a crowded market where products and services are being commodified. It’s how you make people feel. It’s important and it matters. Maybe they aren’t the head of the department.

Now, they want to go to these events who give speeches, what’s the value prop? What would you encourage this marketer to tell their boss, to say it’s actually worth going to these events and having a presence and giving talks?

Heidi: Well, I think, certainly stepping back a little bit and looking at the impact that a said event, a said speech, a said keynote or an investment in a specific program or even specific activity is about stepping back and looking at how does that activity touch our buyer.

In some cases, it may touch our buyer from an awareness standpoint. Just creating awareness for Workfront. In some cases, it might lead a buyer to find out more. Understanding where it fits in that buyer’s journey, because that’s our goal here.

Heidi: We’re in business. We sell software. Understanding the importance of an investment, especially in something that is thought leadership oriented or brand building is understand where it fits in how our customers and perspective customers think about software. Being able to tie back to that, I think, is a really important rounding place.

Jay: Just so I understand it, so it’s saying this is an opportunity to reach our buyer at a crucial moment in their buyer’s journey that were not currently doing so.

Heidi: You got it.

Jay: Copy. Okay, great. Is there some kind of reaction that you want out of these things that … Again, if I’m not the CMO, I’m bringing back what business cards, qualitative feedback, what am I looking for to say this is actually worth it?

Heidi: Well, it’s about what kind of audience are you touching for example. In some cases, it might not be directly response-driven, where you’re taking someone’s card or taking a swipe or a scan, but it actually may be the opportunity to tell our story in front of people who influence a software buying decision.

That’s as important as getting a software scan. Ensuring that for us, when you think about enterprise software, we have a very specific set of target accounts that we’re going after. Does that audience have a crossover in a match with the companies that were trying to create awareness with? Being able to tie the investments back to that not just this is the new cool place that we need to be, it’s understanding why you need to be there.

Jay: It’s a simple question that we should all be asking more in B2B. Do you want to be a commodity company or your industry’s exception? Big thanks to Drift for making this show possible. Drift is the leader in conversational marketing. They’ve recently been voted number one on the crowdsource ranking platform, G2 Crowd among all technology solutions for conversational marketing.

To learn more about them, visit or check out their other podcast including their flagship show hosted by their CEO and their VP marketing, which is called Seeking Wisdom. If you’re interested in the meta level of this show like how we make it and why it matters and podcasting and show-making and show-running in general.

If you’re like me, you’re in marketing and you want to build a passionate audience, check out my other project, to explore new content all about this craft and subscribe to a monthly newsletter rounding up the best resources in the industry. That’s I’m Jay Acunzo, and I’ll talk to you on the next episode of Exceptions. See you.

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