Marketing Leadership Conversations
is a virtual series designed to extend your learning and the effectiveness of your organization as it continues to transform. This episode features Alex Gobbi, CMO at Code42 and Margaret Wise, CRO at Arke.

Transcript is edited for clarity and length.
To listen to the original webinar on-demand, click here.


Margaret: Thanks so much for speaking with me today.
Tell us about how you came to join the team at Code42?

Alex: I joined as the CMO of Code42. I’ve been here about 8 months and it’s my 4th time as a CMO. I truly love leading teams and I love the creative side of marketing. I equally love the analytical side and the combination of the math of the magic to drive positioning and revenue for a company.

Margaret: It’s your 4th round of CMO because you have a great understanding of both sides of marketing: ‘brand and demand’. I know you’ve had experience now with multiple organizations to bring that mindset and transformation to marketing teams. We both use the term ‘revenue engine’ as the mechanism driving digital transformation. Revenue Engine might be a new term for some- how would you define the term?

Alex: I really like this concept as the partnership between sales and marketing. Marketing combined with efforts of a BD or SDR team and then continuing to sales enablement and throughout the sales team. That end to end collaboration and working together to drive revenue is the Revenue Engine.

When I joined Code42, there was a good alignment between sales and marketing. That helped accelerate our focus on being buyer centric throughout the entire marketing and sales journey. That includes having the right buyer personas identified and knowing the type of conversation a buyer wants to have at each stage.

“I see many organizations focus on launching a product or pushing a campaign, but it may not be the right timing for the buyer. It’s really around getting the content right and the timing right that form the foundation of demand transformation.”

I love the way you center that. Creating a CX centric culture is really about putting the buyer in the center of your business model. Everything from finance to operations to marketing and sales revolve around that buyer journey. It requires a pivot from thinking in terms of sales stages to understanding the buyer journey. Companies have to remember their quarter end is not their customer’s ‘compelling event’ (in sales speak).  When you can manage that process better, you can also avoid the quarterly hockey stick revenue line. Some businesses are seasonal but you still want to be sure you are conveying a message of a stable business offering continuous value, ready to engage when the buyer is ready.

Many companies have made progress in this direction, but there is still a lot of cultural transformation occurring for trust and alignment between marketing and sales.

Will you walk us through how you built a business case and buy in for demand transformation? We know from experience it requires a strong element of change management.

Alex: During the interview and onboarding process, I engaged with Sales and BDR leadership. I knew part of what needed to be addressed included both volume and quality of leads. I engaged a third party partner that I have worked successfully with before, Annuitas. I know you have other shared customers with them as well. We did a benchmarking exercise. We worked through a 9 month sample size to measure what end to end conversion looked like. We needed to understand from first touch top of funnel of first engagement all the way into a deal. Our conversion rate was less than .03%. Forrester and others will tell you it needs to be at least around 1% with best in class around 1.8-1.9%.

This really struck a chord with our CFO and Chief Sales Officer. Below average conversion rates means we are losing money in both marketing and further into the funnel, in sales. Those conversion rates are a foundation piece of measuring our success. It also drives our other metrics such as higher deal size and end to end velocity.

Coming back to something you said earlier… I love that you said this was also about Change Management. Many companies embark on a demand transformation thinking about having the right tools, tech, systems. One of the co-founders of Annuitas, Carlos Hidalgo (has since moved on to new ventures), really shaped my mind on realizing demand transformation is really a change management initiative.

“It’s about changing the mindset, changing the behaviors and being buyer centric and then everything else will flow through.”

As I partner with Annuitas again and as we’ve partnered in the past, it’s not just about the technology. It’s about the processes, it’s about the content, it’s about the people.

Margaret: I also really appreciate that you made a point around the benchmarking exercise. We work with a lot of our clients on a shared success concept, where we are very focused on the positive business outcomes, like an and to end funnel conversion rate vs. a vanity metric. In order to focus on showing success, you’ve really got to take the time to benchmark a baseline in order to do that.

It’s easy to have the excitement of a new initiative taper off when the hard work sets in. But pointing back to a benchmark and improvements helps show continued momentum.

Let’s follow the timeline. You created the business case, received buy-in and moved into executing your vision. I know you have key principles in your program to implement change. Will you take us through how you break those down so you can manage various areas?

Alex: Yes, I kicked off the program in early October.  The first two months were really around creating a better understanding of our buyer. This included understanding the channels, hot topics, content, etc. We did this through various interviews and setting the benchmarks. As you know from our work together before, we have six core areas:

      1. Website and content- creating a content map
      2. Marketing Automation Platform- effective progressive profiling and integrated to CRM
      3. Aligning sales and marketing around the buyer journey stages
      4. Lead scoring- focus on quality, psychographics and engagement
      5. Clarifying stage ownership
      6. Sales and marketing SLAs

Margaret: Thank you for sharing your framework. I know you’ve learned so much as you’ve done this a few times now. Can you share some lessons learned? Maybe some areas that were unanticipated investments?

Alex: Don’t underestimate the cross functional participation you’re going to need in order to be successful. Of course that extends into sales, but also I’m thinking of the partnership with IT, with our sales operations team, with our HR team and finance. All of those functions are key stakeholders in transforming the demand engine. And don’t underestimate the time to have conversations and bring them in at each stage of the journey to get their input and their buy-in. If marketing does it alone, it’s just going to be seen as a marketing initiative and it won’t be transformational. It’s probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned.

I’d say a second one is having good partners- outside partners- that we’ve used along the way, including Arke, that are absolutely critical in being part of this journey. Whether it’s supporting me in website changes or backend changes, or using outside sales trainers or others.

For a third piece, I would say don’t look at it as a one time initiative. The reality is, there is turnover in sales organizations and in marketing tools, so once you’ve built the program, document it and build content and training materials to make sure it becomes ingrained in your new hire orientation for sales and marketing. We’ve both seen how over time both sides get lax and start questioning and stop following processes. Make sure you are investing for the long term.

Margaret: That’s great advice, thank you! Given we are talking in May 2020, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you how you’ve been affected by the pandemic in your marketing. This isn’t a 4 week pause and then we go back to normal. How are you adjusting in your transformation and your planning?

Alex: You’re right. We are all having to adjust and will continue to do so. I feel so fortunate that we were in the final stages of our transformation before we sent everyone home in March. We had done a lot of our live workshops in person and were able to get a lot of that buy in already. We were able to launch without a hiccup and hats off to my entire team who were able to continue working and do this remotely. Code42 is just fantastic and has been supporting us to continue our lives and continue working remotely without any hiccups.

We have had to pivot around content. We’ve launched new conversation tracks for our buyers and content we hadn’t necessarily planned back in October. We were able to quickly create new content and campaigns at the end of March to continue to be relevant. Our product is very relevant in the context of securing a remote workforce and the team did a fantastic job.

On a more personal level, I think my team has been more productive than ever, especially without needing to spend time traveling or commuting. You wake up, grab coffee and work and work and work. So I’ve also been watching my team closely so they don’t get burned out and that they do take breaks. It can get mentally exhausting and it’s really important to take breaks. This is the new norm and we’ve also had to adjust our live events as cancelled or move to virtual events.

Margaret: That level of concern and caring is part of what makes you such a strong leader. We do have to watch for burn out for our teams and for ourselves. I think a key takeaway across all of this is how important it is to have an agile and flexible culture. We’re realizing how important it is to have flexibility across our tools and our processes.

As we wrap up, I have to ask you about a topic we both love: Data. Please tell us, how are you measuring results and KPIs you are tracking?

Alex: I’ve become a huge fan of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). We have quarterly objectives we track across the whole marketing organization. Some of they key milestones we have to achieve are around the content being produced and the training of the sales team.

“OKRs are meant to be leading indicators vs lagging indicators. It was a little bit of a lesson learned initially to not just think about number of leads. It’s really about what the leading indicators are that everyone can focus on that we have to be successful. We look at OKRs quarterly.”

Monthly, we look at overall pipeline influenced by marketing. We’ve been working at getting better at our metrics and are really starting to track them. This includes metrics like average deal size, win rate and deal velocity that were either sourced or influenced or marketing contributed. On a weekly basis, we look at net new engaged and qualified leads coming in. We look at how our content is performing and how our campaigns are performing and where we need to make adjustments.

Margaret: Thank you for sharing your experiences with us today. This conversation was full of wonderful insights and I’m going to recap a few highlights here:

  • Think about your customer from the perspective of the buyer journey, not your sales stages.
  • Take the time to create benchmarks so you can measure success and momentum.
  • Remember this is about Change Management and take the time to have cross functional participation, take the time to listen and ingrain the changes into your culture.
  • Stay agile and flexible- as we’ve learned, you never know what can happen.
  • Measure using leading indicators vs lagging indicators. Use OKRs that focus on what you need to be successful.

Alex: That’s a great recap! It’s always a pleasure to talk. I love learning from you and hope we get to have a conversation soon where I get to ask you questions.

Margaret: I’d love that. Thanks everyone for making it to the end. Stay safe and stay connected!

I’d love to connect and brainstorm on how you can build a business case and demand transformation. Contact us to schedule some time to chat or go straight to our calendar and book a spot. |

Learn more about our speakers

About Alex Gobbi: Alex is CMO at Code42, an insider risk detection and response software company based in Minneapolis. Alex is a results oriented leader with extensive experience in strategy, development, market research, brand building, messaging and communications, campaign execution and talent development in B2B tech. She has experience building and leading global teams to deliver creative solutions that have a measurable impact on the business.

About Margaret Wise: Margaret is Chief Revenue Officer at Arke, a digital marketing services consultancy that leverages data driven optimization to drive digital demand. Margaret’s experience spans to early days of CRM and marketing technology. She has helped companies transform their demand generation by rethinking the traditional sales and marketing funnel. Margaret specializes in building new business models and leading teams to deliver positive results.