Latané Conant is the Chief Market Officer of 6sense, a RevTech leader that’s seen annual triple digit growth under Latane’s leadership and was recently valued at $5.2 billion. Prior to joining 6sense, Latané was the Global CMO and GM of Americas for Appirio, where she repositioned the company from cloud computing to customer experience, supported global expansion and helped pivot the company to verticalized selling. She has literally written the book on how to use data and insights to drive predictable revenue growth in B2B businesses, and is the founder of CMO Coffee Talk, a 2,000-person community of marketing leaders. Her background in product and services sales, combined with her unique experience in accounting, e-commerce, CRM and HR tech is not the typical CMO background. But then again, there’s nothing typical about Latané.
Why do you think marketing is such a critical function in people-based, services businesses?
Often CMOs underestimate their role in defining, developing, and maintaining a great culture. Brands build from the inside and manifest outward, which is why marketing must be very intentional about company strategy and culture. In a service based business this is EVEN more critical for differentiation and margin.
A lot of early stage companies struggle with establishing a solid GTM strategy and plan. What advice would you give to founders in this area?
First, find a category. Customers, partners, analysts, investors, and employees need to put you in context. You may not be an exact category fit, but this is where positioning comes in. Without an existing category, it’s going to be a long, expensive road. And being a category of one doesn’t help.
Second, use data to identify patterns in the market. Look at intent data to see what keywords and ecosystems are trending. Find a segment where you can differentiate and win, and then expand.
Third, before you hire a huge expensive sales team, test your hypothesis, adjust and test again. You need to understand your clear and defensible differentiators. Once you do, train the entire company (not just your sales team) on them.
Finally, don’t go it alone. Understand the extended ecosystem of what people buy around your offering. Develop meaningful and focused partnerships.
When it comes to B2B marketing strategies, you often say that in-market is the new inbound. Why do you think inbound marketing is dead, and how can companies get started with Account Based Marketing?
Demand generation and inbound marketing was born in the 1990s. For the next 20+ years, marketing produced content and interested buyers filled out a form with their email address to get it. Marketing then emailed them until they took a meeting. It worked pretty well then. Not so much now. Today there is a ton of great content available to buyers. It’s easy to get lost in the noise and if you make it too hard to get, buyers will simply go elsewhere. It’s also inefficient. You have no idea whether that “lead” is an ideal fit for what you’re selling, whether they’re ready to buy, or who else is involved in the buying process.
This is why so many companies are moving to Account Based Marketing, focusing less on leads and more on accounts and people, using the digital breadcrumbs out there to find buyers who are truly in-market. This requires an understanding of anonymous web activity (e.g. activity on your own website, research being conducted on other sites, activity on review sites like G2, etc.), which requires certain tools and skillsets. We’ve found when people move to this approach they have 2X bigger average contract values, 20% better win rates, and 30% better cycle times. If you wait for an inbound lead, it’s probably too late.
As a CMO, if you’re looking to build out a marketing organization, where would you start first? What would be your first 5 hires?
I think you simply hire the 5 best people you have ever worked with and the rest works out. A’s hire A’s…B’s hire C’s. So make sure you have A players on your team to start and build around them.
You’ve run large, growth-focused marketing organizations for both product and services firms. Is there a difference in terms of where marketing should focus and/or what kind of marketing leaders they need?
It’s a very different investment profile! Service margins are usually smaller, which means the percentage of revenue spent on sales and marketing is typically lower in a services company. This means you have to be more efficient with your spend, and sales and marketing alignment becomes more critical. Sales and marketing need to share the same world view on the overall bow tie funnel (acquisition through expansion) and jointly identify where and how to invest. Marketing dollars can take longer to generate results, but are typically more sustainable and programmatic.
Marketing directly to your channel partners also becomes more important. Software providers create categories and they invest in the top of the funnel / market education. As a services partner, your job is to reinforce how successful customers will be using the product and enable the channel sellers, which requires great sales enablement and top notch customer marketing.
While services marketing leaders may have different priorities, budgets, org structures and programs than product leaders, the role of the CMO is still the same. They are the Chief Market Officer, and they have to understand the market better than anyone else. This is why the best CMOs focus on data, market insights, customer experience, customer marketing & building communities.