As you browse through the Inc. 5000 software category, you wonder: What are marketing leaders at these companies doing that I’m not? In this interview series, I try to take some of the mystery out of that question by picking the brains of some of the smartest people working in marketing today.
Next up is Letitia Rodley, Senior Director, Demand Marketing at Five9, a San Ramon, CA-based technology company that provides a full-featured, on-demand call center software product in a SaaS model. A five-time Inc. 5000 honoree, Five9 has grown rapidly year-over-year; in the past three years alone, the company has grown 228 percent. As Senior Director, Demand Marketing, Letitia brings more than 20 years of experience to Five9, where she’s heading up an increasingly sophisticated and exciting demand generation program. Read on to find out more about her approach.
Kuno Creative: How would you describe Five9’s demand generation strategy?
Letitia Rodley: When I first joined Five9, joining Doug Sechrist, VP Demand Marketing, we immediately recognized one of the challenges Five9 was encountering was its siloed approach to marketing. The team did a lot of content syndication, trade shows and SEM, but the integrated demand strategy was not very sophisticated. Our goal was to develop a truly integrated approach, incorporating all the elements of marketing. By building on an already strong marketing ops, content, web and field marketing team, we were then able to bring to the table a strategy for a truly integrated engine.
When we launch a campaign, we ask: How will this be executed across the landscape, with all engines firing? What's the webinar series component that's going to support it? What's the search content strategy? What will the demand campaign look like? How do we message this across our Field activities—trade shows, association events, field events—all with a slightly different objective?
Kuno Creative: How do you determine what messages are going to be central to each of your campaigns?
Letitia Rodley: By working closely with Product Marketing, we take a look at what the trends are in our space. What does our technology support? What's resonating with our customer base?
A great example is at the beginning of this year, the campaign focus was BPOs—because BPO is a huge segment of our market space; that was our “tried and true”—and TCPA, which is a little bit more of a niche, but it’s an area where we tend to excel, and then solar, while a strong segment for us, a new marketing space to attack. We went with one that was tried and true, one that let us differentiate ourselves, and one that was something that we saw as up and coming. Because we had been seeing a lot of new solar customers popping up, we thought, “OK, this is something that's going to be worth investigating, digging deeper and taking a chance on it to see if there is some opportunity there.”
Through an orchestrated effort between both Product Marketing and Demand Marketing, we have been able to demonstrate successful performance across all these key verticals, validating our strategy and investments in these markets.
Kuno Creative: What has been most successful for you in terms of demand generation?
Letitia Rodley: I am a passionate student of the Sirius funnel model. I believe our success is supported by our ability to address the funnel stage with marketing tools and activities, targeted to that stage. Where we do really well is in the middle of funnel. We’re great with webinars, field events—and when I say field events, I mean Five9 organic content, not trade shows. We go out, we create a purposeful agenda. We partner with our valued alliance, SI and customer partners. We try to choose venues that would be comfortable and welcoming to a prospect and then we deliver a solid value proposition, supported by clear best practices and rich content. This model has really helped us accelerate and push the sales cycle...collapse it a little bit.
For top of funnel, you have to better understand our model. We have two distinct sides to our business. We have enterprise and we have SMB. On the SMB side, lead generation is driven by SEM/SEO—digital marketing—with almost one hundred percent of leads coming in from search content marketing to drive that business.
With the enterprise side of our business, it's more about being at the right place at the right time – omni-present. It's not always about somebody just going and doing a Google search. You've got to be accessible at the executive levels. You've got to be accessible to the guys tasked with going out and doing the due diligence around competitive research and seeing what options are out there. You've got to make sure you are in all the places they could be looking at any given time, to ensure you're not only talking to that one guy, but you're talking to four people within the organization, should they be ready to make a decision.
Kuno Creative: What KPIs do you track, and what metrics are you most interested in?
Letitia Rodley: I always like to talk about the funnel. We measure: 1) Reach (volume and targets, proper segmentation); 2) Conversion (from net new name to closed deal); 3) Velocity (how fast); 4) Value (pipeline and true quality for the business); and 5) Return (both attribution and influence.)
At the demand marketing level, I really pay attention to four metrics. I pay attention to net new leads, what we call TQLs, which stands for Total Qualified Leads (in most companies these are typically referred to as MQLs), SAOs, which stands for Sales Accepted Opportunities, and closed won deals.
I really look at three key metrics for my team, and then that last metric is a great metric, but it's not one that I necessarily own. I can contribute to its success. I can provide sales enablement tools or I can help sales understand why we may be struggling on that conversion rate, but I view my team's job as getting it in at the top of the funnel, qualifying it and then passing a qualified lead over to sales to get it converted to an opportunity.
Kuno Creative: How do you encourage alignment between sales and marketing?
Letitia Rodley: Having executive engagement at the very top levels is really, really important. I think having joint accountability for your funnel is important, as well as open, agreed-upon KPIs and agreed-upon SLAs. You come to an agreement at every single level. Let's agree on what our goals are. Let's agree on what that criteria is. Sales, if you tell me, "I only want brown dogs with short tails and no fur," that's what I'll get you, but we've got to come to an agreement that that's what we are going to go for and that's what you're going to accept, period.
Once you've got agreement on the criteria, then you've got to have agreement on the SLAs. So if I am able to get you those dogs, then you need to tell me how long it’s going to take you to turn that around. This is a whole exercise in itself, but you go through it.
I’ve also seen models such as a capacity model be successful. We said, "OK, based on existing conversion rates, time to close and the inside sales or the lead development team's ability to do outbound calling and qualifications, how many leads do we think we can process in a day?" Then we said, "What does that equal in a week, and then what does that equal in the quarter? Then this is what we'll agree to, and this is the time frame in which we will agree to the disposition of that."
There is a whole methodology around agreeing on the dispositions of a lead and it sounds so super over-complicated, but it needs to be. If you've got seven to 10 dispositions in your CRM tool, and you are not in agreement with sales on what those are, then sales can start junking everything. “This doesn't have a phone number, I’m going to junk it. This doesn't have a title, I’m going to junk it.” That doesn’t prove valuable to anyone. It costs money to get those leads into the funnel, and you would hate to lose a double digit percentage of those due to missing data, especially when there are so many tools and technologies out there today that can bridge that gap.
Once you've got all that laid out, you can have an honest conversation when you're looking at the dashboard on a weekly basis and saying, "All right guys, here is where we are at. This is what we've processed over the week. Let's look at these numbers. And since we've all contributed to this model and we've all agreed on what the criteria and everything is all the way down, are we where we want to be? Yes or no? If not, let's have an honest conversation about why we're not and how we get there."
Kuno Creative: One demand generation tactic you rely heavily on are webinars. Can you talk a little about that?
Letitia Rodley: We offer two types of webinar programs—one is the Daily Demo—that are hugely popular and are driven by our Sales organization. With the large volume of leads we get weekly, having the ability to move these interested prospects to attend one of our daily webinars provides the ability to help them sort out if this is the right solution, ask any immediate questions and save your valuable SE (Sales Engineers) resources from having to do a ton of discovery calls. All attendees are followed up 1:1 with a Sales Director for further dialog.
Our other type of webinar program is the thought leadership/best practices series. One great thing about delivering this series of webinars is that they build content for you. A great example is Liz Osborn, our VP of Product Marketing, who just delivered a webinar called “Future of the Contact Center: Seven Key Trends Driving a Massive Transformation.” From that webinar, we were able to generate a blog and a mini-white paper, which we've been able to use as an asset in our demand marketing as a follow-up. Again, it's a great example of taking one activity and proliferating it into multiple activities to help drive demand.
Kuno Creative: Do you feel the company culture at Five9 impacts your demand generation marketing in any way?
Letitia Rodley: I jokingly say I think our marketing team is like the hot trophy wife of the organization! We are advanced as a team, we have strong operations, we have a strong technology stack, we are an integrated machine—and we deliver a lot with a lean team. We are so aggressive and so excited. Call Center technology is typically a conservative industry; however, Five9 sees the value of marketing—from investing in executive leadership, to the team to the operations and technology supporting us. They trust in us, and they let us do what we need to do. I've never really been told no here—just “more”!
Kuno Creative: What do you love most about demand marketing?
Letitia Rodley: The marketing discipline has evolved a lot in general over the course of the last five or six years. I've been doing this for a long time now. My career has tracked all avenues of marketing, and it’s always been a passion of mine—however, it's only been in the last five or six years that this whole demand marketing thing has really erupted. It’s a really exciting time to be a marketer in high technology! The landscape is growing by leaps and bounds and there are new technologies daily—solving for all sorts of challenges presented to a marketer.
I must get three or four headhunter inquiries a week saying, "We have a demand marketing X open, VP, director." You didn’t even see that title six or so years ago. Everybody is hiring for that specific demand world, and marketing organizations are all of a sudden becoming so much more sophisticated than almost any other organization within the enterprise. What other organizations, aside from IT, have a growing technology stack like marketing? Sales doesn't have a stack like we do. Customer support doesn't have a stack like we do. The only other team that does is IT, and marketing teams are starting to look at questions like, "Do I need my own IT guy? Do I need a data scientist?" I think that it's quickly evolving and it's all really exciting.
Letitia shared a wealth of information with us about how she’s succeeding with demand generation at Five9. Here are five major themes from our conversation.
1. Design integrated, multi-touch campaigns. At Five9, Letitia’s team thinks through each component of a campaign before it launches, from the web component to the trade show component.
2. Give up-and-coming verticals some attention. When planning campaigns for the quarter, tap the experts in product marketing to find out where opportunities lie. Letitia’s team recently used intelligence from product marketing to design a campaign for the solar vertical—which was new to them—with great success.
3. Get executive buy-in for sales and marketing alignment. Letitia recommends a straightforward, ongoing approach to the often-tricky question of how to keep sales and marketing on the same page, marching toward the same goal. Getting buy-in from the top, along with regular cross-functional team check-ins, are crucial.
4. Use webinars to accelerate the sales cycle. With a large volume of leads coming in, Five9 relies on its ongoing webinar series to educate leads and weed out the tire-kickers. That frees up the sales team’s time to focus on more qualified leads.
5. Celebrate the strengths of your team. Letitia’s team at Five9 has a reputation for being bold, aggressive and always ahead of the game when it comes to the latest marketing technology and tactics. With high energy predominating, executive leadership has found it easy to give the team the freedom it needs to excel.
Thanks, Letitia, for taking the time to sit down with us and spill all of these fabulous secrets! Stay tuned for the next post in this series, when we’ll ask another Inc. 5000 marketing leader how she works her magic.