004 | The Power of Sales-Marketing Alignment with Kyle Lacy | Studio CMO
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The Episode in 60 Seconds
Kyle Lacy, CMO of Lessonly, joins us via Zoom from Indianapolis, Ind. to talk marketing/sales alignment, customer experience, leadership during COVID-19, and golden llamas.
Kyle brings over 12 years of experience in marketing strategy and digital operations and is obsessed with how technology influences and changes human behavior. Additionally, Kyle has written three books: Twitter Marketing for Dummies, Branding Yourself, and Social CRM for Dummies.
This interview delves into:
- The importance of storytelling in marketing and branding
- A unified approach to sales and marketing
- Differentiating your company in some way outside of your product’s features
- The power of customer experience
- Lessonly’s approach to COVID-19 challenges
- The mentality of a successful CMO
Kyle Lacy leads marketing for Lessonly, a training and enablement software company based in Indianapolis, Ind. Kyle’s team touches everything you can imagine when it comes to marketing, including demand generation, content marketing, branding, design, messaging, go-to-market development, and thought leadership. He drives growth at Lessonly using the knowledge he has gained while working at a venture capital firm, the largest software company in the world, and the fastest-growing email marketing company.
Kyle has authored three books that have been published in five languages and seven countries. The books include Twitter Marketing for Dummies, Branding Yourself, and Social CRM for Dummies.
Kyle has spent the last seven years traveling the world speaking at marketing and technology industry events and has been recognized as as one of Indiana’s Forty-under-40 by the Indianapolis Business Journal, Anderson University‘s Young Alumni of the Year, and TechPoint’s Young Professional of the Year.
Check out Lessonly CEO Max Yoder’s book Do Better Work. Lessonly sends this book to prospects throughout the entire sales cycle.
Your best stories come from your customers. They are your best salespeople.
Companies either approach the sales funnel with the power of customer experience or a feature push. Where do you stand?
A Unified Approach to Sales and Marketing
The traditional sales funnel has radically transformed over the last five years. We’ve seen this self-service sales framework begin to develop in marketing where people are doing a lot of research independent from any sales conversations.
Kyle Lacy’s marketing team transitioned from being only top of funnel to being full funnel, touching 100% of everything happening at the company.
“The team felt renewed. They were more positive. They felt challenged in a good way. And then because of that, because they had the feeling that they were accomplishing something, we started to see success.” – Kyle Lacy
As its sales and marketing teams grew, Lessonly then focused on organization and process development to adjust alignment.
The True Value of Brand Experience in B2B Tech
If you don’t differentiate in some other way outside of features, you’ll just be another demo. Try telling a story that’s a little bit different, a bit more human.
A few things Lessonly has done to humanize the sales cycle:
- Sent prospects Donors Choose gift cards to give to a classroom in need in their city, so kids can do better work, too
- Developed a 13-page coloring book to help working parents entertain their kids during quarantine
- Sent employees, prospects, and customers golden llamas (spray painted by Kyle, himself!) modeled after Lessonly’s mascot, Ollie Llama.
Lessonly receives most of its customer feedback from a weekly personal and leadership development newsletter sent by Lessonly CEO Max Yoder.
Kyle on sending prospects Golden Llamas…
“We don’t talk about Lessonly at all as a product, but it’s a first touch for us. It works extremely well because it’s different, and it has nothing to do with our product.” – Kyle Lacy
Here’s an unboxing of Lessonly’s Golden Llama by Sendoso.
Lessonly has also launched a word search, a board game called Llama Land for their software users, and a Lego Llama.
(And if you haven’t seen Ludacris freestyle the children’s book, Llama Llama Red Pajama, check it out.)
Kyle Lacy’s Mentality as A Successful CMO
What’s the essential mentality for a chief marketing officer to be successful? Timeframes.
“Marketing directors think in quarters. Chief Marketing Officers should think in years when it comes to strategy development.” – Kyle Lacy
Make your customer the hero. To achieve that, avoid a constant focus on feature development and growth.
Instead of focusing on the top of the funnel, CMOs and marketing leaders should focus on two things:
1. Owning a revenue number (and a seat at board meetings)
2. Influencing 100% of company decisions that are related to money
Lessonly’s Approach to Leadership During the COVID-19 Crisis
When attempting to make decisions on an unknown, you must over-communicate with your team and over-index on empathy.
What Kyle’s team has been doing to maintain company culture during quarantine:
- Daily stand-ups
- Spontaneous happy hours
- 24-hour zoom room
- Online games
- Individual check-ins
GREAT ARTICLES ON SALES-MARKETING ALIGNMENT
The Missing Piece of Sales-Marketing Alignment
8 Strategies for Internal Communications Alignment
How to Master Sales and Marketing Alignment
How to Align Sales and Marketing with Revenue Goals
A special message from John Farkas
Unrelated to this episode, John Farkas wanted to share this message with you:
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Mark Whitlock Hi, this is Mark Whitlock with Golden Spiral and Studio CMO. Before we dive into today’s podcast, I wanted to let you know about The Content Strategy Guide for SaaS Marketing. We put this together before the pandemic hit, but it’s relevant today. So many of you have told us you’re having to create more content right now, content for your team, content for customers, content especially for prospects. How do you compete with all the noise? How do you integrate all that you’re doing across all the platforms? How do you communicate in times like this? That’s why we put The Content Strategy Guide for SaaS Marketing together. So come grab a copy. It’s free. Come to studiocmo.com/004—that’s the show notes for our podcast with Kyle Lacy. At the top of that page, you’ll have a chance to click and download for free The Content Strategy Guide for SaaS Marketing.
Mark Whitlock Alignment matters. Think about a car. You probably want to get out on the highway, but there’s a travel ban right now, but if your car was out of alignment, it wouldn’t be very much fun to drive. But when it is aligned, boy, roll down the windows, crank up some tunes and go. Or music. Whether you’re listening to a string quartet, an eighties hair band or a 15-piece jazz orchestra, if the instruments are not tuned to the same system, if they’re not in tune with each other, it’s horrible. It’s noise. It’s dissonance. The same thing can be true for your business today on Studio CMO, we’re going to talk about alignment.
Mark WhitlockWelcome to Studio CMO. I’m Mark Whitlock in the black chairs today in the bald brotherhood to my left: John Farkas.John Farkas Hello.
Mark Whitlock Straight across from me: Angus Nelson.
Angus Nelson Hello, hello.
Mark Whitlock And to my right on the screen in Indianapolis, Indiana, the latest member of the bald brotherhood, ladies and gentlemen, Kyle Lacy. And the crowd, six feet apart from each other, now tries to clap. Angus, tell us a bit more about our guest today.
Angus Nelson He brings over 12 years of experience in marketing strategy and digital operations. He is currently CMO at Lessonly. Prior to joining Lessonly, he held senior positions at OpenView Venture Partners, Salesforce, and ExactTarget. He’s also the author of three books, Twitter Marketing for Dummies, Branding Yourself, and Social CRM for Dummies. He’s obsessed with how technology influences and ultimately changes human behavior. Please welcome to the show Kyle Lacy
Kyle Lacy Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.
John Farkas Kyle, tell us about Lessonly. What does Lessonly do?
Kyle Lacy So Lessonly, uh, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, we sell and build training software for sales teams, customer service teams, anybody from a retail sales org to a call center. Um, and everybody in between. So we’ve got 170 employees, thousand customers and we were started in 2012.
John Farkas And talk to us a little bit about your role. How did you get to the place that you are now? What’s your backdrop?
Kyle Lacy Uh, it started at ExactTarget. I was running an agency that I started and I ran it in the ground and I was lucky enough that ExactTarget was a customer of ours at the time. And when I left, I joined ExactTarget on what, what was then called the “thought leadership team,” which we were big enough where we had something called the “thought leadership team,” and ExactTarget was largest email service provider in the world. We’re sending billions of emails throughout that process. We IPOed, were bought by Salesforce, then I went to work for a venture capital firm in Boston called OpenView where I got an MBA in software. Basically, it’s pretty much the best thing you could possibly do to learn how to run a SaaS company and Lessonly was a portfolio company of OpenView. So when my wife and I were thinking about moving back to Indy, Lessonly had the marketing leadership role open and I took it. So a lot of my experiences around alignment, storytelling, I ran the content marketing team and ExactTarget. We were producing thought leadership for seven countries in five different languages. So a lot of it has to do with the top of funnel thought leadership stuff. And at Lessonly we’ve gotten into pretty much handling a lot of the funnel with the SDR team and stuff. But that’s where I began.
John Farkas Yeah, and that’s some of what we want to talk about today. You have a pretty progressive approach in how you are aligning sales and marketing. You know, we talk a lot about in the context of golden spiral, how what people see is the traditional sales funnel has radically transformed over the last really five years where we’ve seen this very self-service sales framework begin to develop in the market where people are doing a lot of research, independent of any sales conversations, figuring out who they need to talk to, what they need to do, and are well down the road before reaching out or finding some alternatives. And so that just begs for organizations to take that understanding and begin to implement a more unified approach in sales and marketing. So tell us a little bit about how you have that set up in the context of your organization, Kyle.
Kyle Lacy Well, yeah, traditionally and what it was like when I joined was a marketing control top of funnel, like inbound basically. And the sales team had SDRs, BDRs and account executives. What we did about a year and a half ago is that we moved all of the outbound sales org. So inbound SDRs, outbound BDRs across all segments into the marketing team. And so it was mostly for two reasons. One is to unify messaging at the top, right. So you have inbound leads coming in and then you have outbound cadences, right, to try to get demos and meetings. And it more sense to us that everybody that was obsessing over what we were saying to the market be on the same team. And so that has progressed into now a simplified model where the marketing or consists of an inbound team, an outbound team, and then a branding and strategic team that’s kind of like events. So we handle 75% of direct-sourced leads for the company.
John Farkas So I would love to hear how you would characterize where you were when before that, you know, organizationally, what was the picture before that move and what have you realized in that 18-month timeframe?
Kyle Lacy Before that it was, we were focused primarily on how do we get more people to find us via Google. Like we’re very lucky that we’ve had eight years of Google search. The foundation was built really early at Lessonly. So it was basically a content designers demand gen people trying to figure out how to get more people to the website. And we were a little bit misaligned with the sales team because the sales or didn’t necessarily need to rely on us for a lot. Even though we were producing a lot of meetings because they had the SDRs as well. But you know it was mostly as the company grew we had to align in a way that made more sense to an org that was just bigger. Cause when I joined it was, I had a team of nine on the marketing team and we were 50 people and now we’re the marketing team 33 and we have 170 employees. And very early on, it was mostly just us trying to figure out how to get more people to the website. Now we’ve got to figure out how do we get people to the website, but also how do we push them through the sales cycle. So we’ve transferred from being top of funnel as a marketing team to being full funnel. We should touch 100% of everything that’s happening at the company. So we also do expansion stuff, which we could get into, but helping with customer involvement, helping with net retention, things that matter to our bottom line and not just let’s produce leads.
Angus Nelson And that’s where a lot of people miss it. They think marketing’s right up on the front, but they don’t realize that the experience itself is most of the game. That’s how you’re building advocacy and that’s how you’re building retention.
Kyle Lacy The reason why CMOs and marketing leaders get fired is because they only focus on top of the funnel. There’s two things to focus on. Own a revenue number so you have a seat at the table, at the board meeting and make sure that you are influencing 100% of everything that’s happening when it comes to money. So that includes customers because net retention is very important to software companies. Right? So that’s kind of the transition that I’ve made over the past three years as a leader.
Angus Nelson You believe in that experience of a prospect versus the push of features, like that’s something that you were talking about even before we started recording. Can you expand on that too?
Kyle Lacy Yeah. I think that if you don’t differentiate in some other way outside of features you’re going to get, you are just demo, right? I mean that’s the reality. You can get a wrap on a call and, and if you look at your competitors, you know, everybody’s just touting their features set. But if you can tell a story that’s a little bit different, a little bit more human, you know, like we do a campaign where we send donorschoose.org gift cards to prospects to say, Hey, I’m not going to pay you to take a demo, but I’m going to give you 50 bucks to give a classroom in your city because we care about kids doing better work just like we do your employees. That is a completely different thing than, “Hey, we can help you increase productivity by 50%” by what everybody’s saying. So we try to take a more human approach to it. I think that’s what marketers always say. But we’ve got quite a few examples of how we do that. And then the feature set is just an add on and it’s nice. It’s a “nice to have.” And it helps it through the pushing people through the entire sales cycle.
Angus Nelson Can you talk some more about that experience? You said you have some other examples. Would love to hear, what are some of the other examples you talked about? Um, like here we are in this period where everyone is quarantine and sending your customers coloring books for their kids.
Kyle Lacy You know, everybody is sending their COVID-19 plan. We did it, we wrote a blog post about it and my team randomly, our two designers just design this 13 page coloring book and we threw it up online yesterday. And we’ve had, I think over 2000 people hit that page in the last 24 hours downloading this ebook. We don’t ask for their email or anything. And we were getting, I think we have about 15 pictures now of people sharing their kids coloring. You can’t pay for that. And are we going to get revenue from it? I have no idea. But guess what? We did something a little bit different than everybody else was. And to be fair, we stole it from Drift. Drift was doing it.
John FarkasNo shame in a good, uh, adoption of a parallel strategy.
Kyle Lacy Yeah, that’s one. The lab, the other one that we’ve done for a long time is, um, we give a quarterly award to an employee called the gold Llama. Ali Llamas, our mascot. So we, we have a lot of Llama gear, but anybody who lives the values get voted on by the company. They get a gold llama. So we thought, why don’t we send prospects and customers their own goal in Llama to give their employees, I spray painted probably 2000 of these three-inch llamas.
John Farkas Wait, wait, wait, wait. Just, just I, there’s so much I love about that. So you didn’t… You spraypainted them. You did. You did.
Kyle Lacy Initially we didn’t have any idea how to produce them. So there’s this company in Northern Michigan that we’re probably keeping afloat, thousands of these little three inch figuring lllamas. I wish I wanted to show you, but we send it in the mail and it, all it says is it has a card that says, Hey, we give a golden Llama new employee, give this gold lllama. And to an employee that’s living your values, take a picture and share it online. It has nothing to do. We don’t talk about Lessonly at all as a product, but it’s a first touch for us and it works extremely well because it’s different. It has nothing to do with our product.
Angus Nelson Have you brought in Ludicris for other Lllama Pajama action?
Kyle Lacy We’ve talked about it. We also have a, we also have a product called practice that I’ve thought about bringing Allen Iverson as well.
Angus Nelson That’s some good pop culture reference right there. If you haven’t seen it, you need to go and Google that. That’s some good stuff.
John Farkas So Kyle, has you made some of this move and bringing sales and marketing closer? Was there any resistance internally? What kinds of obstacles did you face in doing that?
Kyle Lacy Surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of resistance. I feel like I’ve, I’ve received more resistance from the out the community as a whole. The software community that marketing should not own SDRs or a CMO can’t be a CRO even though everybody thinks that it can happen the other way around, which blows my mind. So I think a lot of the resistance is basically like, “Hey marketers, you’ve never done the SDR role.” Sales leaders at some point maybe have been an a or a sales rep, so they understand the concept of the science behind sales. But in reality, marketers are built around science and process, right? Especially if you’re a digital marketer. So it’s been easier at Lessonly there wasn’t a lot of resistance because as we moved it over, it started working and the model has worked since then. What we are running into is that as, as the team gets bigger, we got to rethink the way we approach alignment because it changes constantly.
John Farkas So you saw some movement, some change, some improvement pretty quickly. Then when you implemented it, how would you characterize that?
Kyle Lacy Uh, we set meetings, more meetings. It was more focused. Um, we had a process in place. There was just a lot of, um, organization and process development that had to happen that wasn’t there for a lot of reasons. I mean, fast growth companies, so things just break all the time. Right? So the biggest thing was that the team felt renewed. There were more positive. They felt challenged in a good way. And then because of that, because they had the feeling that they were accomplishing something, we started to see success.
John Farkas What did you see happen in, in reference to the message, cause I know what a lot of companies and organizations fight. Is the story going off in 15 different directions, you know, depending on the stakeholders. How did you see that come together? What have you done to help tell a single story?
Kyle Lacy First thing was we spent a lot of time on persona development. We did a lot of interviews, build personas, and then we use Lessonly to train the SDRs on persona messaging. Before that we weren’t doing a lot of focus, targeted messaging. So industry does matter. Title does matter and where they’re at in the org matters. Right? And so cadences and messaging changed and was more focused around the individual and we became highly, highly personalized, which I think you kind of lose on the sales side, at least from what I’ve seen. So, for example, if we’re sending golden lllamas to GM, we’re buying a remote control car, putting Lessonly wrapping around it and putting a lllama in the car and mailing 10 of them. I just don’t think you get that type of creativity from a sales org as you would somebody that’s always like a team that’s always focused on how do you make the experience great.
So our SDRs are now thinking about, here’s a great example we had because everybody’s remote now. It’s a little Rocky, which is a whole other podcast. But, um, we had an SDR get in contact with somebody and she was the one who was like, Hey, I just do not have time to do this. And, and that was it. And so the SDR went and did some research and realized that she had kids. And so she went on Amazon and got her a gift card and sent it to her and said, I think you should buy a puzzle for your kids. And we got an email back from that contact and she laid out all the challenges that she was having that apply to our software. And said, I really appreciate you doing this for me. Let’s set up a meeting a month in the future because we’re all dealing with that. You’ve got to kind of talk a lot about the experience in order for people to think that way on a normal basis. Right? And I think without having marketing and sales aligned to do that, you think in campaigns and not in touchpoints. Maybe that’s the best way to say it. And that’s a great segue to where we’re going next
John Farkas Because that, that idea of that through line, that experience in, in what you’re endeavoring to create around the Lessonly brand is paramount. So talk about, uh, you know, as you look at a market, which where you are, there’s lots of alternatives and training. I mean, there’s lots of places people can go. Uh, training is by its nature and experiential endeavor, right? So experience has to be a part of what you’re bringing forward. What have you done in the context of your approach to the market to create a really interesting through line, a really interesting experience for your brand?
Kyle Lacy We actually use our mission statement as our go to market message. So do better work. Uh, our mission statement lesson is we help people do better work so they can live better lives. I as a marketer that was like, you couldn’t have written that better, right? This is just perfect. I can, you can go off 50 different ways on how you can be creative around that statement. So for us it was we’re going to market with do better work and then we just, we expounded off of that. Our CEO has a lot of um, opinions on leadership and personal development. He wrote a book, your CEO has lots of opinions. Well, good opinions, right? And we thought, okay, so our two main concerns are making sure we differentiate from everybody talking about training and making sure that we can scale a culture that we believe is, is really well for Lessonly.
And so he wrote a book and we, we send that book throughout the entire sales cycle. We send it at the first step we send it at. When we understand there’s a champion and there’s a boss involved, we send it to the boss max. Our CEO will do better workshops for leadership teams. They will pay to bring max into leadership teams before they ever become customers. You can’t, like I can never pay for that type of marketing, right? So you’re putting our CEO in a, in a room talking about do better work. Our entire methodology around our products, built around better work, do better work, do better work, do better work, do better work. And so when you’re on a demo and your competitors saying, Hey, we’ve got this feature that allows sales rep to practice more often, and we’re talking about the entire idea of how you get people to do their best work and here’s the methodology around it.
Here’s our book, here’s, here’s other customers talking about how we, we help them with their best lives. It’s just a different story and it ran. It works. So it’s through the entire process. And also I’m seeps into the customer side as well. So what kind of feedback do you get from customers around that? Like what have you heard? What kind of channels do you have set up to hear what people are saying about what they’re experiencing? So there’s a couple things. We’ve got our ask nicely, our NPS product where people can give us feedback on the product and sometimes customers will give feedback on CX reps and stuff like that. And that’s always good. We use G two crowd and trust radius quite a bit for feedback. And then max has a newsletter that he sends out almost weekly where we get the most feedback. And his newsletters are usually around personal development and leadership development and have nothing to do with the product.
John Farkas Interesting. So talk about the editorial decision around that newsletter and how you’ve shaped that. I mean, there wasn’t really an editorial decision. It was like max, you have a lot of good ideas in your head, you need to write about it. And that was it. And then we just ran with it. And he is so good at distilling down information in a way that’s consumable. He reminds me, he’s like a Jason freed from base camp. Like he really, really good at just distilling down information for the masses to understand. And the fact that he just likes to talk about people being better at life I think just plays really well into the entire concept of Lessonly and what we sell.
Angus Nelson And for you, your story, you know, coming from agency, getting into um, ExactTarget and then getting IPO and then going to Salesforce, this behemoth of a company, you worked on this massive scale with lots of resources and lots of people. Then you go into kind of the, the VC world, you’re kind of overseeing all these poor little startups and getting them back up to the, and then you decide, Hey, you know what’s going to be fun? Let me go work with a small company again and see what I can build. Like a super challenging, you know, and then be like, you gotta be scrappy again. Like did you get those scrappy legs back right away or did it take a little bit to beef up?
Kyle Lacy It took a little bit. I was lucky. That open view gave me a lot of rooms. So I spent a month just observing the team. I didn’t even work. I bet I was in the office just going to meetings, observing. So I, that gave me the ability to get back into it. I realized pretty quickly at Salesforce that I was not built for huge corporate software. For me it was getting my hands dirty again and actually applying what I learned after working with all of these startups and the open view portfolio and the community of people. I mean just asking people, what the hell are you doing? Tell me what you’re doing so that I can use that feedback as well.
John Farkas So if you were to distill like your experience so far in the context of Lessonly and knowing again in a competitive environment, you’ve got a number of people skating after the training universe, um, coming in in fairly short order and the climate that we’re in today. What are some of the, like if you could distill a charge for a marketing leader in today’s world and the SaaS land, if you were to say, you know, if you don’t do anything else, do this one thing, what would that one thing be?
Kyle Lacy Make your customers heroes. And that to be fair, I stole that from ExactTarget, but that’s what we learned. I think it was delight your customers, that exact reason. But that’s for me. That’s it. That’s the prospect. That’s a customer. If you make your customers heroes, they’re going to love you and you’re going to get feedback from them all the time and they’re going to help you sell. And they are the ones that tell the best story about you, about why they use you,
John Farkas That happens to be a core tenant of golden spiral. That’s right. Or may not hear that at the end of the show.
Kyle Lacy That’s the reality, right? I your, your best stories come from your customers. And if you treat them with respect and you give them the right support, I think a lot of times startups now over index, on product, product, product, product, product, product, sales, sales, sales, sales, and then they’re like, Oh, we’ve got to support these people now and if you can support people in the right way. And we over invested in support from the very beginning of Lessonly so you can rely on these people to tell them the best story more than you could ever. Your customers, your best salespeople.
John Farkas So you kind of said it, but let me, let me kind of loop back on it. What keeps technology companies from your experience, from what keeps them from making the customer the hero?
Kyle Lacy Constant, constant, constant focus on growth and FOMO. And that’s not across the board. There are examples like zoom is a great example of a company that does both. And they’re doing both right now. They’re very fast to be a zoom sales rep right now. Um, yeah, I think it’s just the constant focus on feature development and growth and the, the lack of understanding of what it means to have a net retention number that’s healthy when you’re a fairly sizable software company. You know, and a lot of startups don’t think about that until they try to raise a series B or C and the, the firms are like, no, you’re your church. Your net retention is horrible. Right. But I think that’s, that’s probably why.
John Farkas Okay. I’m going to pick up on something that you said earlier that I think is, uh, that is really some really great perspective and how you see your role as a CMO. If you were to describe the difference between a marketing director and a chief marketing officer, how would you categorize that? What’s the essential mentality for a chief marketing officer to be successful?
Kyle Lacy I think it’s timeframes. I think marketing directors think, and quarters, I think chief marketing officers should think in years when it comes to strategy development. Now, you know, you asked me that three weeks ago, I would have the same answer if you asked me what I’m doing right now. It’s, I’m, I’m thinking daily.
Yeah. Through all this stuff right now. But I think that’s the, that’s a massive difference between the two is that as you, as you grow into your role, moving from like a director of marketing to a CMO or VP to a CMO is that you have to shift out of this mindset that you have to be constantly in the weeds because if you’re constantly in the weeds, even if 50% of your is in the weeds, you’re not going to be able to think strategically about what the next six to 12 months look like for messaging, for strategy, for GoTo, like anything.
John Farkas So how would you classify spray painting llamas? That’s pretty weedy. So at the time I was a VP of marketing, so that means that there you go. That’s the difference right there. I can delegate. It depends on, there’s, there’s reasoning behind some of that stuff. Like getting in the weeds with your team helps a lot. Right? Like I, if, if we were in the middle of a pandemic, I was going to become an SDR for a month, um, for the month of March because I never done it. And it helped, you know, from a culture perspective it’s very powerful when you can do that as long as you’re not doing it constantly. And I didn’t want any of my teammates spread any lawn was at 9:00 PM at night in the garage.
Kyle Lacy I want to die early because especially that metallic stuff, you gotta be careful though as all metallic, every single Lowe’s, all of our local hardware stores are like sold out. I went in and bought out all the gold metallics. Perfect. Looking at things from a daily perspective, you went from looking at things from annual to now you are in a critical position that so many of our listeners right here are at. You’re trying to make decisions on an unknown. How are you processing that? You have it all figured out trying to focus more on toilet paper? Um, no, I, I think it’s just the reality of, it’s a combination of trying to over-communicate with people because everybody’s remote. And so when you over-communicate with people, you’re just talking about things more, more often. So you, you are then sucked into this like, Oh, we probably should think about messaging for Monday. And then as an exec team we’re talking about it constantly, financial models, continuity planning, like all this stuff. Um, especially right now or it’s very unknown because I don’t think we’ve quite realized what the impacts going to be. We might in the next two or three weeks, but right now it’s everybody’s just trying to figure out what the hell to do when they’re at home working. And how has that played into like the culture you’re over-indexing on communication. What are you doing in terms of the culture of the company as a whole or you know, even just the teams that you’re directly responsible for?
We’ve done, I mean we’re doing some stuff like daily stand ups. I put a spontaneous happy hour tomorrow afternoon for my team. We opened a M a Z, a 24 hours zoom room where it’s always on so people can drop in and chat. There’s people doing a gaming stuff like doing a board game or playing an online game or something. I tried to actively reach out to individuals on my team as often as possible, you know, just to chat with them. A lot of people on my team are young, but we have some people that have kids and it’s just a completely different thing for them right now. I think it’s just, I mean I, it’s over-indexing on the empathy and if you can do that, I think it maintains culture, but it’s, it’s not going to be easy when you see people every day and then you’re stuck at home.
It’s just a completely different environment. So there’s little things, but you know, we’re thinking about handwritten notes to team members, buying little gifts and sending them to their house. Like just little things that you can do to try to make up for the lost time loss. FaceTime call. You talked about putting yourself in a position as the marketing leader of, of being responsible for taking on the numbers and being involved in all those numbers. How do you see that? I mean, I’d love to hear your perspective on, I’d love for you to elaborate more on that. I’m very passionate about being able to invest in brand and I think a lot of times when marketers are fighting for that investment with CEOs, they’re saying, Hey, I want to invest in something that might not have a very tangible ROI in the short term. And a CEO is like, nah, I don’t want to do it.
I need to drive revenue. So when you own the revenue number and you’re successful at driving the revenue number, the conversation around whether you should invest some time and energy and a brand experience is secondary. So it’s much easier for revenue-owning CMOs, in my opinion, to create great experiences because people are putting a magnifying glass on the ROI question, right? Like how’s this golden llama going to going to drive revenue? Well, I’m not going to measure it because it’s an experience and if if it, if we get positive feedback from people that it’s working, that is what we need. Like this coloring book. If I had somebody saying well your team needs to spend time on revenue-generating opportunities and not the coloring book, we wouldn’t have had the positive experience that we had. So it just, it gives marketers the ability to make judgment calls on things outside of something that will drive direct revenue.
John Farkas So talk about your journey to get there and your understanding of that because that’s not just something that you woke up one morning and realized there was some evolution and thought there.
Kyle Lacy Well I, I inherited that a little bit at lessen lane. We have a very strong inbound like organic search inbound revenue model. So when I got there we were already owning a small percentage of the revenue. Like re organic’s always been something that we’ve worked towards. So I had that. I maximize that we grew it and then yeah. But I also got lucky that our CEO, max, my boss, he trusts me falling. And our board is very, uh, strong on the marketing side. It’s a different environment. I mean everybody has different environments, different situations.
John Farkas So rounding it out here, tell us a little bit about your, your relationship with Max and what’s that been like? How’s that evolved? How do you see yourself and your role in relation to him and his role in leading the company?
Kyle Lacy He has the best storyteller that I’ve ever ran into and I think our, our relationship has evolved with me being able to figure out how to pull things out of his head in a way that, um, was difficult at the beginning. And it could be a trust factor. A lot of that had to do with us convincing him to do a book and um, him, him having the trust in me to just run with these things. So like my first board meeting, one of our board members was like, we should do a user conference. And I was like, sure, let’s do it. And he trusted me to get it done and it was successful. So I think it’s a trust thing, but I also rely on him. He’s wise, I mean he’s 30 sorry max. If I butcher your age, I think he’s 31 and he is wise beyond his years and I actually go to him for life advice. So I think it’s a professional trust, but it’s also investing in the, in our personal lives, like focusing on making sure you want, you fully know somebody and he just did. He’s so good at that. I’ve had to learn that as a leader it becomes natural for him to do that. To really understand the person and to want to know about the person.
That relationship for, for marketing leaders is so essential and I think is part of the reason that the head of marketing is one of the shortest 10 years of any position on the Csuite because people don’t take the time to figure it out and, and tune it the way it needs to be tuned. But it’s so important to figure out that balance. And I love hearing how you, you’ve talked about it because a Terminus perspective, well same goes to sales leaders I think, right? I read recently sales and marketing leaders, their average tenure is 16 months right now and get your back software companies. But the reason why is because there was no empathy built from the beginning between the CEO of the board and the leader and there’s no grace. I’ve screwed up multiple times and Leslie and max has been very graceful and because of that I have learned also our entire executive team at Lessonly is first time executives. And for some reason we think about it constantly. For some reason it works. We are growing, we are successful and it’s because of max, his ability to have grace and to understand people to the point where he personally identifies with them. And that’s very powerful. I don’t think you find that very often.
Mark Whitlock And Kyle, we’re so grateful for you being on the podcast today. Thanks for connecting with us via Zoom in The Great Separation of the World.
John Farkas Absolutely Kyle, some great alignment here. Thanks for carving time and sharing your perspective with our listeners.
Angus Nelson Thanks for quarantining with us.
If you want to see pictures of Kyle spray painting llamas, you can go to studiocmo.com and search for the Kyle Lacy interview.
John Farkas A unique offer here on Studio CMO. Exactly. Nobody else ever before. Never. Never. We had spray painting all of us. That’s the first time
Mark Whitlock You know I think that’s a great name for a band: Spraypainting Llamas. Ollie is the name of the llama, the mascot for Lessonly. You can come to studiocmo.com/004 we’ll link out to the coloring book and some other resources. That Lessonly has created for little llamas.
We’ve got a link to Kyle’s books. We’ve got a link to Max Yoder’s book that Kyle spent some time talking about and we want to let you know that sales and marketing alignment is something close to our hearts at golden spiral. We’ve linked out to four articles we’ve written over the last couple of years about the essential nature of sales and marketing alignment and how to get the most out of that. How to get the most out of it related revenue goals, how to get the most out of it related to just messaging and moving a company forward. So come to studiocmo.com/004. You can click on the show notes and see all sorts of stuff there, including a link to the free content strategy guide for SaaS marketing mentioned earlier. And as foreshadowed earlier in this podcast, there are three things that we hold as core tenants here at studio CMO.
Angus Nelson Remember, understand your buyer’s problems
Mark Whitlock and lead with an empathetic understanding
John Farkas And make your buyer the hero.
Mark Whitlock We’ll see you next time on Studio CMO.