Thursday, March 31, 2016

Marketing Change Agents: The MassTLC Sales and Marketing Conference

By: Steve Robins, Principal, Solution Marketing Strategies

As much as last week's MassTLC sales and marketing conference focused on the customer journey, it also focused on the topic of "change." Of course, "change" is a core element of marketing and especially modern marketing. Marketers have always focused on changing buyer and customer behavior. But the conference covered many of the other ways that change flows through all of marketing – from exceptional leadership to killer rebranding to powerful nurture campaigns to more impactful content marketing and beyond.


The day opened with a presentation on "superbosses" by professor and author Sydney Finkelstein of Dartmouth's Tuck Business School. Finkelstein described several characteristics of superbosses: they find, teach, and motivate people (who may have unusual talents or backgrounds) to accomplish the seemingly impossible.  And they cultivate networks of former employees. 

Even more impressive is their focus on change.  Superbosses often drive change throughout their organizations, creating new opportunities and challenging their employees to change and achieve exceptional results.  Perhaps most important of all, they create organizations that are not built to stay the same, but to constantly change, evolve, and thrive over time. 

Next we heard from an impressive panel of real, live change agents that was moderated by Sheryl Schultz, President of CabinetM: Kathie Johnson, VP of Corporate Marketing at Demandware; startup advisor, angel investor and former HubSpot CMO Mike Volpe; and professor Finkelstein.  Panelists described their own superboss traits in real-life: how they may hire for capability more than experience - which forces HR to adapt, that it's OK to let employees leave to create great things elsewhere and perhaps even bring you along with them, and that hiring people smarter than you can actually enable you to move up to your next role, and much more.

Here are highlights from three of the many change-oriented breakouts that followed.

Inside a B2B Brand Revitalization
Robin Saitz, CMO at Brainshark

One of the biggest changes a company can undertake is a rebranding project like Brainshark's recently unveiled rebranding.  Over the last few years, as Brainshark had evolved from a product orientation to a focus on enterprise business value, it had outgrown its brand.  The big question: should they overhaul the company name or just change the branding and message? 

Saitz says that "The role of brand is to convey what you do and how you do it in a way that is both rational and emotional.  You want to make those connections."   Brand encompasses what you do and how you do it, what customers can expect from you, and the quality of your products and services.  Robin walked through the rebranding process from start to finish – from agency selection, intelligence gathering, content development, and launch.  She shared the opportunities, surprises, and challenges of rebranding.  A few tips from the trenches:

  • External agencies can often provide deeper intelligence (research) than would be possible with internal people
  •  Let the intelligence guide your decisions.  Saitz's initial hypothesis was that Brainshark would need to rename the company. But they learned that their existing name had a strong positive association, so they did not need to change it.  Similarly she had reservations about the color red in their new logo, but testing showed it to be a positive, especially when compared against their competitors.
  • Get internal people to buy into the change and get excited – from the C-suite to everyone on the front lines, since people often represent the brand.

Data-Driven Multi-Channel Lead Nurturing
Biju Muduli, Director of Customer Lifecycle Marketing at Carbonite

With so much talk of the buyer's journey and customer funnel, it's easy to think that one size fits all companies.  Biju's presentation showed how Carbonite uses a customer journey that works right for their business. 

Carbonite thinks of the complete customer lifecycle stages even though people may jump in at different places based on their needs and awareness of Carbonite.  Their lifecycle follows the prospect/trialer through discover, consider, and evaluate and then customer purchase, use, renewal and cross-sell/up-sell.  And they use different tools, tactics and techniques for each stage.

They have also developed several tactics that have changed customer behavior for the better:
  • In-application alerts encourage users to convert from trial to purchase.
  • Retargeting ads provide discounted offers to those who visit pages but don't buy.
  • Monthly summaries show usage and provide tips to get trial users and customers deeper into the product.
  • A mix of automated personal and corporate emails achieve scale and improve response rates.

Mapping Content Strategy to the Modern Customer Journey
Gary DeAsi, Senior Manager of Digital Marketing & Brand and Ryan Pinkham, Content Marketing Manager at SmartBear

Gary and Ryan described how they changed SmartBear's content approach from "random acts of content" to deliberate content creation and broader usage in campaigns.  They showed how each piece of content should have a purpose and an objective in order to maximize the yield from the content that they create and use.

DeAsi and Pinkham described how they had adopted a customer journey stages model encompassing prospect engagement, education, research, evaluation, justification; and customer purchase, adoption, retention, expansion, and advocacy.

Next they advised attendees on how to plan content with the customer journey in mind, by developing metrics, goals and objectives, a content audit, and finally, a content plan.  Pinkham described how he had conducted a comprehensive content audit to identify content strengths and weaknesses in each stage of the customer journey.

Next they showed attendees how to align multi-channel content distribution.  For example, some types of content can be used across different customer stages.  And they wrapped up by discussing key metrics for each part of the funnel.

The Next Can't Miss MassTLC Event

On April 27, MassTLC will debut the NewCo Boston business festival.  Started by Wired Magazine founder John Battelle, NewCo combines the best of an open studio tour and a business conference, with the excitement of a music festival.

Over 75 of Massachusetts' most innovative companies are participating in this unique event by opening their doors for a one-hour experiential session and sharing their innovation story. Participants include Wayfair,, Startup Institute, Greentown Labs, and Localytics. Sign up to attend today!


Steve Robins is the principal of Solution Marketing Strategies, a strategic marketing consultancy that helps companies to better understand and market to their customers through targeted research, segmentation, solutions, messaging, sales tools and demand generation. For the last 15 years, Steve Robins has been transforming technology firms into market-leading, customer-focused solution providers. Steve has held senior marketing roles at FirstBest Systems, EMC, Documentum, and KANA Software. An industry thought-leader, Steve started the top-rated solution marketing blog, writes a CMO-focused marketing tech column for TechTarget, helped grow ProductCamp Boston into the second largest such event in the world, and was an analyst at the Yankee Group.

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