Ask the CMO: Marketing for Growth–Suneet Bhatt, CMO, LiveIntent
This interview is part of Marketo’s “Ask the CMO: Marketing for Growth” series, which explores how marketing is helping to drive business at high-growth companies. In this session, we’ll look at an interview with Suneet Bhatt, the CMO at LiveIntent.
LiveIntent At A Glance
Year Founded: 2009
Size of Marketing Team: 15
Marketing Stack Components: Social Listening/Automation, Sales Communication Platform, Sales Automation, Marketing Automation, CRM, Publishing Platform, Analytics
Number One Reason for Choosing Marketing Automation: To keep up with the demands of salesforce automation and an increasingly hyper-efficient salesforce.
1. You’ve held marketing positions at a number of companies in various stages of growth. How has your marketing strategy at LiveIntent differed from your strategies at other start-ups or even well-established companies?
I’m obviously smarter today because of the mistakes and opportunities I’ve made in the past. So, the biggest difference is another few years of knowledge and experience as well as greater clarity personally and professionally on the person I want to be. But high-level philosophy aside, the model and framework I’ve brought with me to LiveIntent is similar to what I’ve used to build marketing teams in the past. The core principles are exactly the same:
- Marketing is a servant function to the rest of the organization. Everything we do should be in support of an internal stakeholder’s goals and should push them one step closer to their stakeholders (internally or externally.) Practically, that means helping executives tell thought leadership stories, helping People Development communicate with candidates, as well as helping sales people throughout the sales cycle and into customer advocacy.
- Marketing is a servant function to the customer experience. Everything that Marketing does should impact some aspect of the customer experience. Whether that means: improving and automating reporting so Account teams can spend less time looking for information and more time serving clients, or helping our SDR team identify tools and use templates that improve their productivity, or helping our Sales team get closer to the point of sale with more qualified leads and better content to facilitate outreach.
- There’s always more work to be done than you have people to do it. The single best thing a manager can do is to identify what needs to be done at the highest-level (including soliciting feedback from all levels of the organization) and marry that to the skills you have around you. When you have gaps between the two, you also have your hiring plan. Sure, some people will have to take on some aspects of work that no one wants to do but needs to be done, but it’s rare that people are doing such things for too long. And when empowered to do it their way, they will tend to like it.
The biggest difference for me at LiveIntent is that I walked into a highly functioning team of incredibly committed people. My biggest responsibility was simply to not screw it up, while helping the team think bigger about their roles.
2. One of the biggest problems that high-growth organizations face is the ability to scale. Within marketing, how have you kept your customer interactions effective and personal as LiveIntent has expanded?
The first thing we did was structure and hire to ensure the entire customer experience is supported. So we have sub-teams focused on: PR/Corporate Communications, Events, Demand Generation, Marketing Intelligence, Product Marketing, Customer Success, and Creative Services. By having a horizontal team, more people are closer to the decision point, and more people have both the visibility into what needs to be done and the autonomy to make the call against what needs to be done (based on a system of shared values we’ve agreed to quarter over quarter.) As a result, the teams are nimble enough to adjust to not all customer needs, but to the most pressing, the most urgent, or the most impactful.
3. Fast-growing companies reach a point at which they need tools that will not just work for “now” but will grow with them. At what point in your growth trajectory did you realize it was time to future-proof your marketing tools?
Our biggest point came last summer when we were using one very specific marketing automation system that was holding back our outbound sales efforts. We needed to make the switch. And as a result, we spent exceptional time researching (thank you to Scott Daily, Marketing Intelligence Manager on our team) and arrived at Marketo as the optimal solution. What I’ve learned is it’s important to let the business need and objective write the RFP for the appropriate technology solution without looking at a solution first. And we’ve had great success with Marketo, including making an investment in our newest team member and Marketo Expert, Alexis D’Alba.
4. Describe the marketing team’s relationship with sales. What was the biggest factor in aligning to the two areas of the business?
I have run several sales teams in the past, and have had the benefit of running several functions (including product, service, and obviously, marketing, as well as overall integrated business lines.) I lead with that because one thing I think I have learned is empathy for successful cross-functional relationships. So to answer the question, we have a highly functioning relationship across sales and service, team member by team member. Because we’ve built empathy and respect for each other, and we all are focused on the customer’s need.
5. What advice would you give to other CMOs who are thinking about strategies for growth and how to structure their teams to support that growth?
Have a model you believe in and can sell through and build support for. It will structure your thinking but it will give you a compass to guide you and refer to throughout. Start with what you need to do and who/what you have to work with so you can make progress quickly and efficiently. And use that starting point as a way to evaluate the longer-term decisions you need to make (team structure, technology solutions, partners, goals.) If done correctly, you can have enough of this work done and sized in 30-60 days.