028 | How Your Mission and Values Can Steer Your Marketing Through Crazy Times with Andrew Hoerner of Symphony | Studio CMO
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The Episode in 60 Seconds
What happens when your industry is turned on its head? In Symphony’s case, they moved from quarterly plans to weekly ones and infused their mission and values into everything they do.
On this episode of Studio CMO, we discuss with Andrew Hoerner:
- The role culture plays in marketing and branding
- The not-so-easy pivot from in-person events to digital
- When marketing and product development overlap
- How to create refined and laser focused content
- How to attract the biggest clients in your industry
Andrew Hoerner is the Executive Vice President for Global Marketing for Symphony, considered one of the top 50 fintech firms by Forbes. Their solution allows banks and financial markets to send messages, share files, automate trade flows, and meet in real time.
Andrew has been leading marketing teams or overall marketing functions throughout his career including companies like Blue Martini, PayOne, Securify, McAfee, and Soltra. He also spent five years leading marketing for the largest cybersecurity trade organization, FS-ISAC.
Symphony hosts more than 530,000 users on their collaborative platform and has seen 300+% growth during COVID.
Fast Fail is a part of their iterative culture.
If you share a sense of mission as a team, that drives a lot of behavior that you can’t even always document or articulate. — Andrew Hoerner
These times are just almost sheer chaos in some ways, right? It’s really easy just to go to the lowest common denominator, get the basic job done, do business as usual, and make creativity the first thing to go. I’ve tried to give my team the mental headspace to be creative because creativity is critical to marketing. — Andrew Hoerner
Check out Symphony’s end-to-end, secure, encrypted meetings platform for the financial sector.
We put all the best practices from a live event into a digital event. Plus we sought out an event producer. — Andrew Hoerner
- Build in layers of redundancy
- Build an engine to run the necessary digital production
- Be aware of how your guest’s schedules and calendar maintenance have changed
- It’s still about telling an amazing story
- Keep it human (leave time for guests to “take the elevator”)
We also talk about digital events in this episode of Studio CMO:
Why are fax machines still in use?
Symphony is hosting a series of hackathons in 2020.
Andrew discusses how he is exploring the OODA Loop methodology throughout his teams. Check out this helpful guide.
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Mark Whitlock (00:01): Welcome to Studio CMO. You’re listening to the podcast where we focus in on real life conversations with B2B tech leaders about the marketing issues that matter to them the most. We love to look at biographies and we love to dig inside, go under the hood. So to speak of, of how B2B tech companies connect with their customers and win, have big successes. And today we’re going to talk to one of the biggest fintech firms we’ve ever talked to. John Farkas is the CEO and chief storyteller at Golden Spiral and the host of Studio CMO, John… welcome.
John Farkas (00:40): Welcome everybody. I’m glad to be here today.
Mark Whitlock (00:43): And me too. And Andrew Horner is our guest. He’s the executive vice president for global marketing for one of the Forbes Fintech Top 50, Symphony. And he’s going to tell us more about that here in just a second. Uh, Andrew has been leading marketing teams or overall marketing efforts throughout his career. And he’s been at companies like Blue Martini, PayOne, Securify, McAfee, and Soltra. He also spent five years leading marketing and communications for the largest cybersecurity trade organization. So Andrew really knows what he’s talking about. He’s been in this industry. He’s been steeped in what we’re going to be talking about today, and I’m excited to have him on board. Andrew, thank you so much for joining us on Studio CMO.
Andrew Hoerner (01:25): Yeah, it’s great to be here. Appreciate it on this sunny Friday afternoon. I’m sure you all have better things to do, but let’s chat.
Mark Whitlock (01:32): We’ve been looking forward to this. So this is great. Andrew, tell us about Symphony. What do you guys do?
Andrew Hoerner (01:37): So symphony is basically a secure collaboration platform for the financial services sector. We were established about six years ago. We were spun out of companies like Goldman Sachs. We actually had a consortium of, uh, financial firms that founded us, and we’ve really evolved from just collaboration and chat into a workflow platform for financial services. So we’ve got about 535,000 users today. And over the past six months, we’ve really experienced like 300% growth in usage due to COVID working from home split operations. A lot of financial firms say, Hey, we couldn’t really run our businesses without symphony right now. So very happy to be there, proud to be there. It’s been a tremendous amount of work, uh, and keeping up with it all, but, uh, good momentum happy. Great. So Andrew,
John Farkas (02:26): I know that, you know, at least in our world when the pandemic hit, when things started shutting down, um, there was a great pause as people tried to find equilibrium and tried to understand what this was and is going to mean. And then things started changing pretty quickly. What I know is that this moment is forcing a lot of people to do a lot of things differently, and it’s a huge for
John Farkas (03:00): Technology to come in and, and, uh, build the bridge between what, uh, how we need to work in this new paradigm and how we have worked for a long time. I would love for you to tell us a little bit about what you’ve seen in that world. I mean, the growth rate you just mentioned, uh, you know, I can only imagine that a lot of our listeners would just drool over, but there’s a reason for it. Not just because of demand, but some of how you’ve responded to the needs. Sure.
Andrew Hoerner (03:32): So a couple of things, I love the word bridge. That’s a good one, but I will say I will disagree with you on the pause. There was no pause for symphony. It was like holding onto the wings of a jet aircraft, uh, and, and not just holding on. Um, so first of all, symphonies are a fairly, relatively smaller company. It’s a larger FinTech, but a smaller company overall, but we have a global footprint. So we actually saw the wave coming in APAC pretty early. And we got in leading indicators of what was, what, what we thought was going to happen. So right at the beginning, there was no pause for financial services firms, really. Um, there was, you know, traders and others had to, had to do their jobs. Uh, you know, the global financial system couldn’t pause. So it had to keep going. So banks kind of scrambled, but we basically set aside our playbook very early in the pandemic and basically said to our customers, what do you need?
Andrew Hoerner (04:23): How can we help you? So for example, we gave them for usage of symphony for a period of time and basically say, just adopt what you need, take what you need a symphony use it, and we’ll talk in a few months. And we did that. So we made good on that. So basically it was setting aside any preconceived notions about sales marketing, go to market commercial terms and just doing what customers needed to make it through. The second thing is I know that there’s a temptation when there’s any sort of, kind of chaos, you know, is, is to either pause, marketing or rethink it. And certainly we have kind of torn up our traditional playbooks and done things very differently over the past few months, but there’s a couple things that kind of persist. So first of all, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in just in velocity, the need for more marketing faster.
Andrew Hoerner (05:12): Uh, for example, we, our team used to think in terms of what can we deliver, you know, in a month, in a quarter and a half, now my team I’m pushing them to say, what can we do a two week sprint on what can we even get done this week? What can we ship? Right. So that’s been a fundamental change. The other thing that hasn’t changed is testing and iterating and fast fail. So, um, that’s been something I’ve long been a big supporter of, and as smart as we think we are as marketers, as in tune and aligned with our, you know, the, the customers and personas and segments that we’re going after, we don’t always know. Right. And so we have hypothesis and we’ve got to test those. So we did a LinkedIn campaign, not that long ago, and we had eight different variants of creative.
Andrew Hoerner (05:57): It was highly targeted right down to role-based. And that creative that I thought was going to perform just didn’t and then a piece of creative that was just kind of an outlier performed amazingly well, like, like three times what we were expecting. And so we paused all the other creative and just stepped on the gas with that, but of creative. So while things have changed, there’s some fundamentals that haven’t, and I would say one of those is just the ability to rapidly iterate, fast fail test, double down on what’s working. I think that is a critical piece of things today.
John Farkas (06:30): So definitely the pace picked up COVID hit. I mean, what I heard you say is no, there was no pause. The accelerator pedal just went to the floor and we started running in that world where we’re talking about iterative opportunities, where, you know, testing and working that out. Talk about the culture that you’ve put together. How have you established that as part of your DNA in the context of symphony and marketing
Andrew Hoerner (06:56): Another great word culture? So it’s a couple of things. Culture can be organic, it can be intentional, it can be a combination. And I think the early days of, as a startup, the culture evolved organically, but as we grew and matured, we started to put some intention to it. So about a year ago, I actually partnered with our HR team to revamp the set of values that the company abides by and really think holistically about it kind of future proof, those values. And so we did that. And then what we did is we started baking those values into everything. We did performance reviews, we do objectives and key results. Okay. Ours. And so we baked it into that and that just started cascading. And again, you can’t force everything. Some of us gotta be natural and kind of organic, but you can put a framework around things for people to function within.
Andrew Hoerner (07:43): So we did that with our corporate values. The other lesson that I learned from my prior company was a sense of mission. So if you share a sense of mission as a team that drives a lot of behavior that you can’t even always document or articulate, it just is a shared sense of mission. That you’re all going the same direction for a big cause. Right? And so at my prior company, prior to symphony, the mission was truly sharing cyber threat intelligence to protect the global financial ecosystem. And we did that. We were preventing breaches and terrorist attacks and all sorts of things. And so that was a real true sense of mission. And symphony has that sense of mission to we’re enabling kind of almost a super highway of, of sharing and collaboration amongst the financial services sector. And again, I had, I had a, probably a dozen customers unbidden come to us and say, look, we could not have even begun to think about how to function in this environment, this distributed work from home environment without symphony. We can’t, we can’t imagine not having you. Right. So again, that shared sense of mission is really important to a super strong set of core values that you’re biding by and holding people accountable to that. And again, some of it’s gotta be self-driven, you know, you gotta hire the right people that are, but then putting a framework in place where they can, they can be effective and plug into that culture is really important.
John Farkas (09:02): And so are there things that you do with your team that actively foster that like conversations that you have mechanisms you have in place that are encouraging that kind of a rapid iteration that change the, the risk taking, uh, explorations?
Andrew Hoerner (09:20): Sure. So a couple of different things. So first of all, you, um, one of the things that’s so tempting during these, these times of just almost sheer chaos in some ways, right? And in terms of the external, the internal, all that, it’s really easy just to go to the lowest common denominator, get, you know, get the basic job done business as usual and what I’ve tried. Exactly. So what I’ve tried to give my team, the mental Headspace on is, is creativity because creativity is critical to marketing, but it’s the first thing to go, right? So basically I’ve set up, you know, brainstorming sessions, I’ve set up meeting free Fridays for the teams. They can just kind of think through and process and have some mental space. Um, I can’t architect, you know, all of it, but I can give them just a little bit of breathing room, you know, to, to really generate that creativity. That really is the lifeblood of, of what we’re doing at the end of the day. But again, it’s so easy to, to bypass that and you’ve got to just give people the mental space to do that.
John Farkas (10:23): I love that. I mean, I think we’ve, we’ve ended up talking about that a lot. Just coincidentally, this week, creativity is a cornerstone of marketing, but under pressure, it’s the first thing to go. That is really true. And I think, especially in the B2B space where stuff can get so dry, having something, you know, having the willingness to be creative, having the willingness to do something different, especially as loud as the market is right now is essential. And I love that underscore because, uh, you know, I think that that calling that and keeping that front and center and giving people the opportunity to do that I think is, is really critical.
Andrew Hoerner (11:01): Yeah. And if I can just give a little tip or trick on that one too, a lot of times with the creativity, then you’ve got to action it. And so we, as a team at one point months ago, we actually did a huge brainstorm. And then weren’t able to take a lot of action because everything felt so big. So what then the next time I did it, I said, I don’t want you to go big. I want you to go small. I want you to scale down and I want you to have a creative idea that we can execute now. And so the team ended up doing that. And so we came up with an internal contest to get everyone excited about something, right. So, but I said, look, it’s cool. Sometimes you go big and sometimes you just got to go small and then make it happen. And then you build off that, right. Then you can cascade off that.
Mark Whitlock (11:43): Take us into the process. I know you guys just launched a, a meetings platform within symphony, right? A video conference platform this summer.
Andrew Hoerner (11:50): Yeah. End to end encrypted secure meetings, uh, for the financial sector. Yep. We, we launched that. We’ve seen tremendous uptick, um, you know, like a multi hundred percent increase in our meetings usage over the past few months. Um, it’s, uh, it’s been phenomenal to see that just a huge hockey stick on that one.
Mark Whitlock (12:09): Fantastic. Would you take us into the fast fail and the creative iteration and the team empowerment and some of how vision your values led into all of that.
Andrew Hoerner (12:18): You got to measure it, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. So you got to put in place kind of leading indicators on, on, on how things are going and engagement rates and, you know, video view, time rates and all sorts of stuff. You can kind of measure how things are working. I would say are kind of on, on the fast fail. A lot of it is about agreeing to those early indicators with the team. So I have agreed to a set of early kind of indicators of success, both with the marketing team and with the sales team for campaigns too, because we, we plug into our marketing campaigns into larger thematic sales campaigns. And so basically we said to the sales team, look, these campaigns can take a long time to see that the end result that’s a long tail on these things, but upfront in the first two weeks in the first one week in the first 30 days, whatever, what are some of the things that we can, we can see that show us the indicators of success, so that, so that’s one of them.
Andrew Hoerner (13:11): Um, I would say the other one is that you need to be very closely aligned with the design team. So that’s something that, you know, some companies have internal design resources on that external, we are lucky enough to have very talented in, in house design team that rolls up to the same executive that marketing does. And so there’s a kind of a unified approach there, but just, you know, being able to say to the design team, look, Hey, the creative, we just pushed late last night on LinkedIn is underperforming the next morning. Can you make this tweak? Uh, so we can do some AB or multivariate testing on it. Um, it it’s that kind of partnership. And that mechanism where you’re, you’re not necessarily dictating how it’s all gonna work, but you’re putting in place a mechanism for rapid adjustment, both from a creative standpoint, from a design standpoint, from a copy standpoint, so that you can cycle through that fast fail process effectively and then measure it and check it. And in some cases we were making, you know, hourly daily changes when needed. That’s not always practical. You can’t always do that, but sometimes you can. Um, so, so we did,
John Farkas (14:16): I know one of the, um, responses, one of the agile movements you guys have put together over this last, uh, year has been some, uh, some really impactful events. And I would love for you to kind of go in, cause that’s something that a lot of people are doing event strategy online has moved into the forefront as in-person events have obviously taken a backseat. So would love for you to talk about the anatomy of that for symphony and how you’ve seen that be effective. It’s interesting
Andrew Hoerner (14:47): Because we had focused at symphony prior to COVID almost exclusively on live events. We had a very effective series of round tables, meetups hackathons. Our live event was invite only at a nice spot in New York city where we’d have hundreds of topic, sex show up invite only. So we relied heavily on that. And just, I’m probably telling a little bit inside baseball here, but we actually like what we call captive events, where it’s our event. We don’t do a lot of sponsored kind of third party or industry events. We do a few and we’re starting to look at more of those, but, uh, we, we in the past have done mostly kind of captive events. So that all shifted, right? So everything’s digital, the world’s digital. I had wanted to do a digital version of our customer event for a while, but then, you know, COVID gave us the perfect opportunity to do that.
Andrew Hoerner (15:33): So a couple of things, first of all, as everyone on the, this listening probably knows a digital event can take almost more effort than a live event because with a live event, if someone wants to make a PowerPoint change at the, at the very last minute, um, they can do that right before they walk on stage sometimes. Right. Uh, but, but with, but with a digital event, a lot of things has got to have gotta be locked down ahead. There’s just a lot more kind of pressure on that. So a couple of things we thought about, first of all, we put all the best practices from a live event into a digital event. Plus we actually went and sought out an event producer that had done massive digital events. Um, I, I don’t think I’m allowed to name names, but just, you know, household name type events.
John Farkas (16:19): Good. Yeah. Somebody really good.
Andrew Hoerner (16:20): And we basically then layered in a ton of redundancy. So like the woman that runs our events for me is exceptional. And she said, yeah, I’ve hired, you know, to post-production video folks. And I said, I want four. Right? I mean, we just, we just layered in a lot because we knew we were going to, and we ended up maxing them all out. Um, so, uh, you know, w we tried to just build a mechanism, a process, a machine, if you will structure it around, around digital.
John Farkas (16:49): So step one is not underestimating the lift. Yeah. That’s okay,
Andrew Hoerner (16:53): Good. That’s a good way to summarize it. So absolutely aligning resources early.
Andrew Hoerner (16:57): The other thing is that people’s schedules have changed as I’m sure we’re all aware, and it’s actually harder to book speakers. Now it’s harder to book executives. People are just completely maxed out on meetings because we’re not meeting in person anymore. People are making up for it by cramming their calendars, triple booking their calendars with things to try and keep engaged, right? So we needed to get on people’s calendars even earlier than ever. We needed to give them a forcing function. So build an aggressive timeline to get them, you know, either live or recorded or whatever we could do. And then, um, at the end of the day, it’s still about telling an amazing story, right? And in a very succinct way, in a digital environment, you don’t have a 45 minute slot. You have a 15 minute slot or a 20 minute slot is compressed. And so you need to get the story into that.
Andrew Hoerner (17:45): And then I would say the other thing is just the human factor, right? So when we’re in an analog environment, I always say leave time for people to take the elevator up to the 40th floor to meet with you, right. It’s the same thing in digital. So what we did is we built in coffee breaks into our digital event. We built in human breaks and, you know, we hired a, a musician and an artist to do a little bit of fun stuff in between. So, you know, make it fun. Not people don’t want all fun. They do want to be entertained a bit. They want to be educated. You can’t overdo it, but you got to have a little bit of fun sprinkle that in as well. So I’m kind of rambling a bit, but those are some of the things I was, I was thinking about as we were putting together, the event
Mark Whitlock (18:25): Talked about storytelling, a great deal. Did you have to coach the people who were presenting at your conference on how to adapt their, their talks to a shorter period and on a smaller screen,
Andrew Hoerner (18:35): We had to coach people that much, like if you’ve ever done theater, I haven’t, but I’ve had friends who’ve done it. Basically. The advice is overact, right? So basically if you overact by 50% up on stage, it’ll come across naturally by the time you get to the a hundred throw in the theater. And so we had to actually coach people similar to that, um, to kind of exaggerate your expressions a little bit kind of overact just a little bit, not too much, um, be very clear in what you’re saying. Don’t speak too fast. The visuals, you know, needed to be bigger. Uh, they couldn’t be so tiny shrunk down on a screen, cause they’re not going to be projected behind you 20 feet, tall, 25 feet tall. Right? So all these, all these types of things, um, and then honestly, like I’m a big fan of branding.
Andrew Hoerner (19:22): And for a live event, I do a ton of branding all around, but we actually got a feedback after our first digital event. We did that. It was almost too much. So we actually cleared the pallet a little bit. And so instead of cramming all our, like a logo backdrop behind speakers, we actually just left it fairly blank. And we did that across the board and we actually filmed people all over the world this time and it was all consistent. So there’s still plenty of branding in the, kind of the surround the digital surround. But, um, behind the speaker, we wanted to really focus on the speaker. So we actually kind of left a white kind of clean palette. So those are just a couple of things we had to coach on people that are used to speaking. Actually don’t like sitting down when they’re, when they’re presenting, they, they like to stand.
Andrew Hoerner (20:06): They like to gesture. So we had to kind of coach that and how to behave with that and kind of a ha you know, shoulders up shot. Um, and then I would say we also had to coach people that it was okay to just kind of try and do it in one take, we try and do live stuff, but for the things that were recorded, we want it to appear natural. We don’t want it to be over-processed. And so, um, you know, if someone wanted us messed up or like, you just keep going, just keep, you know, pretend you’re on stage, just keep going. So I think people want an authentic experience. We try very hard to provide that. Um, but there are some, some coaching things that are needed, uh, in the digital environment. Yeah.
John Farkas (20:40): And so what was the result? What happened, uh, in the context of the events and how did you leverage the outcome in moving forward?
Andrew Hoerner (20:50): We’re very grateful. We’re very grateful for those that attended and stayed. Um, you know, in the world of things like webinars, if you do like a 20 minute webinar and you get 50% attrition at the half point, you know, that’s, that’s kind of typical, right? We had almost a thousand viewers and the bulk of them stayed online for four hours. It was unbelievable. The drop off was really relatively low. There was still attrition, but the drop-off was fairly low because we kept things moving because the content was relevant because it was interesting because they were hearing from their peers and not from a vendor, we lined up a lot of customer speakers, 30 external speakers at this event. Um, so that was really important part of it that could the quality of the content. And then we kept it moving. Um, and then the work’s not done after that.
Andrew Hoerner (21:36): So, so we’re grateful for the live event. It went really well, the engagement rates, or had the questions float in the whole time, we had a whole panel of people, actively answering questions on the side. Um, we had a lot of side discussions and then of course we leveraged the symphony chat platform as well to communicate even with customers during the event. But I would say aside from that, then there’s a long tail that we want to do with that content. So we have a very aggressive plan for about 120 days after each event where we basically chop it up into bite-sized pieces and promoted across many different channels and very targeted. And then we also arm the sales team with that content to, to have discussions around it. So, but a huge investment in the event, but then we leveraged the heck out of it for a long period of time after that. Cool. Got it.
John Farkas (22:20): Yeah. It’s a great content engine. Anytime you can, you can put that much content together in one movement, the opportunity to take that parse it, repurpose it in multiple ways, certainly is a part of the playbook. So Andrew symphony for a lot of companies, a lot of people listening is in a super enviable position. I mean, you are the standard for a lot of what you do for some of the largest financial institutions in the world, not a bad position, but you can’t just sit there. There’s a horizon. And so, as you are looking at the market, as you were looking at answering a really unique set of fast evolving needs for these financial institutions who by the way, are in a point where they have to innovate, because there’s a lot of challenging going on. There’s a lot of upstart, new, new ways of doing things that are, are challenging, some of the foundations of the industry, for sure. What, what are you doing to help propel that? What are you doing to, to, uh, continue to push into those needs?
So the ways that I just capture what you said and the way I say it is that the financial services firms that we’re working with are under a tremendous amount of pressure. Um, it’s kind of a pressurized atmosphere, the way I like to describe it. And they are facing a tremendous amount of friction as well. There’s a lot of still silos, manual processes. A lot of the things that have been talked about for decades are still relevant fact, a funny statistic, and you’d have to validate this though, the market share for fax machines is growing in the financial sector. So a bunch of financial services firms bought more fax machines last year than they did a few years ago. So that just shows you that there’s a room for optimization, right? And I’m not trying to disparage because they’ve got to run those businesses, but there are better ways.
John Farkas (24:10): Come on, come on, Andrew, come on. Really?
Mark Whitlock (24:11): Have your fax talk to my fax.
John Farkas (24:17): Them there’s fighting words.
Andrew Hoerner (24:20): That’s right. That’s right. Exactly. Back in the day I used to, I used to remember fax blasts. I, I remember. Um, but anyway, uh, so we’re getting more granular, so I’ll just kind of reiterate. So, so what we’re seeing is we’ve got to align so closely with our customer’s businesses. We’ve got to speak that language just to the same degree they do. We’ve got to appeal to just very granular personas, use cases, segments. So we’re doubling down on that. So we want to be able to tell stories to the point of where we’re addressing, you know, a wealth manager in Chicago, that’s communicating with a family office on a new structured product through WhatsApp and on Friday morning, like, like we need to get down to that level of detail. And, and you’ll find that symphony is kind of evolving in that direction. Um, we were probably a layer above that from our messaging prior, but now we’re, we’re understanding that we’ve, we’ve got to get to that level of detail, but then we’ve also got to keep context, right? We’ve got to let people know what the holistic picture looks like. So I’m, I’m kind of thinking about like, what does life look like before symphony and what does life look like after symphony? And so I’m pushing my team to really deliver content that aligns with that.
That’s pulling into another really interesting area to just unpack a little bit, cause you’re talking about the overlap between marketing and product development. How are you guys navigating that road in the context of what you’re doing currently?
Andrew Hoerner (25:46): Marketing is interesting because it’s like connective tissue between product value. Prop customers go to market in many ways. And, um, I will not say symphony is a marketing led organization yet. I would love for it to be that, um, we, we were working toward that. But what I would say is that we have very valuable dialogues interactions with customers then can feed back into the product development process. And then the product process can also kind of inform what we’re doing from a marketing perspective. And I talked about velocity earlier, and for example, we launched a solution recently that integrates with WhatsApp. So we allow secure compliant, use of WhatsApp. Um, and there’s been a lot of news around that. So what I, from my understanding, like the WhatsApp, uh, kind of product and integration can change almost every few days, which is just a tremendous fast cycle. Right? And so, so we’ve got a map that from a marketing standpoint that is very unusual in enterprise B2B, right. To move that fast, but we’re, we’re getting pulled into that. And we got to move that fast
Mark Whitlock (26:52): When you go that granular with a story, is that just motivation for how to communicate or are you creating multiple stories about multiple different situations and then writing to that, how are you, how are you creating content to meet that need,
Andrew Hoerner (27:09): Think about a G sheet or something with like a hundred columns and a hundred rows across, and you’re just, you’re filling out all the details and then extracting the content from there so that yes we are. Um, it’s driving some, some different behavior for us and we want the content to not just be marketing fluff. It’s gotta be just very crisp, very relevant, very short attention spans are very short right now. And we’re also finding as many are that just the re there’s different learning styles. So we try and map to that. We know some people like to read stuff. Some people like to view a 32nd video or animation. We’re trying to align to those different learning styles as well, but it just becomes a sheer management task, right? If you have hundreds of pieces of content, so we’re looking at ways to optimize for that.
Andrew Hoerner (27:53): I haven’t solved all that problem yet, but we’re to start with it’s, it’s fairly kind of fairly manual, but I would like to see if there’s a way to optimize and streamline it, but we’re, we’re definitely in that world today. So if you think about, if you had to deliver a hundred, one-pagers each aligned to a different persona with a different use case, how would you do that? And what we’re doing is basically it’s an all hands on deck type approach at the moment where we’ve got a cross functional team that’s working on that type of content. So yeah, we’re going to do it. Yeah. There’s probably a better way to do it, but we’re going to get there. Okay.
Mark Whitlock (28:27): So with the way that you track things and, and look at your OKR hours, the fact you’ve dug into this means that you’re starting to see some early wins, right?
Andrew Hoerner (28:36): We have kind of a, we’ll call it a franchise for symphony, right? We’ve got 525,000 users. I’ve got 350 financial services firms, including like 100 of the top banks and others. And so there’s a, there’s a couple different ways to measure it. But one of the ways that we measure it is with our adoption and with our engagement. And also you mentioned innovation and innovate is the name of our conference, but we also measure, like, for example, how many organizations are using bots within the symphony ecosystem? Because that shows innovation because while we sell some bots, a lot of the bots are developed by our customers, which means they have to invest engineering resources, development, resources into developing on top of symphony. So the healthier that ecosystem is the faster that innovation happens. The more bots on symphony, the more bots that are talking about to bot that actually shows the health of the ecosystem.
Andrew Hoerner (29:27): And so from the past events we’ve had from the innovators, from the hackathons, we’ve seen a tremendous uptick, for example, in bot development and in bot to bot connectivity, that alone is a good indicator that something is working and the message is getting there. So one of the things we’ve also done is we’ve added a component to focus on developers within financial services firms, and we’re talking to them and we’re speaking their language. And again, we’re hosting things like virtual hackathons, where in real time they can solve a real business problem and then take credit and get some glory for it. You know, that’s, that’s a great win, right?
John Farkas (29:59): That is what’s true about, and you’re just touching on it 500 and how many thousand users?
Andrew Hoerner (30:04): Five 30, 5,530. 5,000. Yeah.
John Farkas (30:07): So, so you guys have to field attack here, you’re working with driving adoption and usage, uh, with users themselves, and you’re working on adoption in the context of selling into the enterprises. Right, right. Yep. How do you balance that? How do you approach that from a marketing perspective?
Andrew Hoerner (30:25): So to be clear, we have a separate team just focused on user adoption. Um, we partner with them and again, I have someone on my team that exclusively is a liaison between that team and the marketing team. So there’s a lot of kind of interplay and connectivity there, but I would say the marketing team is mostly focused on the goal of landing and expanding within our accounts, right? So that that’s a big focus for us and also finding new members of the community of the ecosystem that are valuable to the community and trying to grow that community. So that’s a focus for us. The other group really does focus on, okay, look, here’s a first time user experience. How what’s the life cycle? How do you, you know, what are all the different enablement tools that a user needs to be successful in symphony? So that’s a distinct group within symphony.
Andrew Hoerner (31:11): There’s a lot of interplay between the groups. Um, we’re actually finding that some of the marketing materials that we’re producing are so relevant that they’re getting pulled into adoption usage and vice versa. Some of the adoption materials that have really been focused on users also have credibility when you’re selling into an account and they want to see what does that look like to me? So again, there’s a lot of, uh, cross-pollination, that’s very healthy. Um, and there are some blurred lines, um, but we keep those as kind of two separate functional areas of the company.
Speaker 4 (31:40): Very interesting. So Andrew, you’re, you’re working with, you’re going after some of the major financials you’ve Oh, you’re already working with most of them, but you’ve got some big enterprises that you’re working with, would love to hear how you view, uh, finding your way into a meaningful conversation with those large organizations. What’s some of your account-based movements that you guys are employing to help, uh, help engage and, and drive interest in those conversations.
Andrew Hoerner (32:10): Sure. So, um, one of the things that we recently did was a brand awareness survey. And what we really try to do is focus on who the influencers were within the financial ecosystem. And so I would say a meaningful conversation can come from a couple different channels because collaboration, technology like ours crosses multiple boundaries. Um, you have to look at, for example, um, an it department that might be making a substantial platform decision, but you also have to look at more of what we’ll call the front office or sales and trading office, because there might be like a need from some of the top traders at an organization to, to use a certain type of technology. So these are all key influencers. And then I would say that the most common kind of influencer that we talk to is probably a digital transformation officer, chief transformation officer, or someone in that role.
Andrew Hoerner (33:01): Although we also have a lot of good healthy interactions with the CEOs of these financial services firms. Um, we do a good job in networking there, but I would say if we think about kind of, kind of getting into account, having productive, healthy conversation, it bridges multiple areas. There, there might in a big organization, there might be one full-time person just focused on meeting technology and one full-time person focused on acquiring collaboration, technology, and many more involved in deploying it. So we’ve got to reach across the aisle, you know, across multiple aisles there. Um, what I would say is that again, kind of an initiative based approach, uh, is a really good initiative based story is a really good one. So for example, um, pre COVID digital transformation officers, um, wanted to kind of establish their collaboration platforms, but they were just starting to look at workflows and automations around really critical business processes.
Andrew Hoerner (33:55): So COVID accelerated some of the collaboration, digital transformation, but put on hold some of the workflow automation projects. So, you know, you’ve got to go with the flow on the, uh, on that and adapt to that. But what I would say is I think that the financial firms we talk to are now open kind of opening up the aperture a little bit. They are looking to reinvigorate some of those projects that they had paused. And so you just part of the job of a good marketing team and, and a good sales team, frankly, is to how you have such a relationship that you can have an active discussion and dialogue about these changes and kind of navigate those and surf those. But then again, you know, somebody is not a point solution where we’re more of a platform and there’s many ways you can use symphony.
Andrew Hoerner (34:42): So we have the opportunity to actually kind of get into multiple areas. The other thing is segments within the financial firms, right? So we might focus on a specific part of the, you know, we might just focus on operations and then we might get pulled into kind of a, more of a middle office discussion. We might focus on, uh, asset management or some specific segment of financial services and really double down there. Um, there, there are a lot of different ways to kind of expand with an account when you have an, a footprint. But what I would say is, um, at the end of the day, the CEO at this point has the visibility into these types of projects. So you definitely have to sell high. Um, we do a top account based approach, and then you have to figure out what the next kind of tier below that is. And you also have to figure out what the community structure looks like. So we’re building a community, we’re building a network and we need to understand the values that community members bring and then basically approach, you know, the community members that will participate actively in the community and the network and the collaboration. So that’s another thing to take into account too.
John Farkas (35:50): So, uh, I’m a little surprised by something you just said and that the top and the CEO, that’s a big part of this decision, uh, or, or could be driving the decision, describe the anatomy of, of that process and how you are, uh, how they see you in that movement.
Andrew Hoerner (36:08):So for sure, it’s symphony is selling high and it’s, it’s really a top-down approach, both from a kind of account size, as well as an executive level. Typically the transformation officer or other senior executives are the ones that are really pushing the project ahead, but there are a number of times where the C E O C I O really need to, to agree to sign off on the project or at least buy into it. So we try and map our kind of executives to the executives of our customers. We try and map different marketing tools and materials to those levels as well. And I, I would say that you can’t always go talk to the CEO. You have to, the time there is very precious and you you’ve got to make it count. But what I would say is, again, we want a seat at the table.Andrew Hoerner (36:55): So marketing’s job is to help with that. The go to market team’s job is to help with that have a seat at the table to be that trusted advisor with your customers. And I’ll reiterate, I think something I said at the top of the conversation, and that is like, that used to be a spot reserved for like a big company, like an IBM or Microsoft, whatever. Um, now we’re finding that even kind of in the FinTech space, we have to earn that we have to earn that space. And we work really hard to earn that trusted advisor status, where we get pulled into digital transformation, holistic discussions, to see how we can help. We’re not shaping the whole strategy, but we’re a part of it. And we’re part of the discussion. And that is, you know, that’s a job well done when, when you’re able to have those discussions,
John Farkas (37:39): We’ve just lived through the craziest year that most of us have ever experienced. There’s a cliche for you, and we’re getting ready to look at the next year. And so I’m curious as you are, as you are beginning to think about and chart the course for 20, 21, what time you’re on your flagpole? What does the, uh, what are you leading into this with? What kind of ideas, sensibility guiding light are you following as you move into that into the next year?
Andrew Hoerner (38:09): Yeah. So these are really interesting question because symphony is at an inflection point as well, uh, in the midst of all this, and we’re in a growth growth mode, and we’re also maturing and getting to be a bigger company. So we’re having to overlay some processes where before we might not have had those. So I’m looking at that. I’m telling my team that I want them to set up mechanisms. I want them to set up mechanisms for success. So for example, with our innovate conference, a lot of it was, was frankly, there was a lot of behind the scenes to make it beautiful on the surface and on the surface, there was not a ripple, but behind the scenes there worked. So I’m telling my team, look, I need you to get more mechanical about this. I need you to, de-risk it. I need you to be able to scale it and repeat it.
Andrew Hoerner (38:48): So I’m pushing my team for that. The other thing is just constant, uh, agility. I mean, that’s just the name of the game at the moment because we don’t, I don’t think any of us know what the next 12 months hold. I think we can, we can plan maybe the half, but we don’t know beyond that. So there’s a process. I, I was never in the military. I have a lot of respect for those that were, but some of my military buddies had this strategy called OODA, uh, an OODA loop. So observe orient, decide and act, and the faster that you can move through that loop, the more effective you’ll be, the more competitive you’ll be. And so that’s a classic tried and true strategy. So I’m communicating that to my team. I want them to perfect that process of the OODA loop and moving through that OODA loop and acting as after they observe as fast as possible.
Andrew Hoerner (39:34): It’s that cyclical thing. So I’m focused on that. And then as I said, we’re focused on going much deeper into our customer’s businesses and aligning, aligning with that. And then the other thing is just, you know, 100% alignment with go to market team. I’ve embedded members of my team with the sales team. And so they go on sales calls, they are part of the sales weeklies or stand up meetings. They’re, they’re a integrated part. And so that’s a, that’s a really critical thing. And then I would say if we just kind of rise up a level there, a lot of it right now to me is about kind of awareness leading to engagement. So we are really focused on thinking through what kind of our awareness strategy needs to be in our kind of elevating our brand awareness. Um, so that’s a work in progress. I can’t share too many details of that, but it’s something that’s top of mind for me right now.
John Farkas (40:30): Well, Andrew, thank you for giving us a little, uh, you know, fly by of the symphony playbook here. Um, uh, it’s really helpful. I think it’s, it’s the thing I’m hearing loud is that we can’t afford to not be in an innovative agile posture right now. Right. It’s a must have to, to be living in the world of technology marketing. It has to be there. And, uh, you know, so congratulations on what’s happened with symphony over this last bit, and it certainly sounds like you guys are on a great trajectory to maintain the movement that has, uh, has brought you where you are at this point. And I do appreciate you, uh, jumping in with us and letting us get some ideas on what’s going on there.
Andrew Hoerner (41:14): Yeah. Thanks. It’s been fun. I’m grateful to a fantastic team and a talented bunch of executives that I’m fortunate to work with, but I will, I will say I just want to wish health everybody. Um, and also I know it’s easy to just be surely exhausted with everything going on. So, you know, keep your spirits up, you know, keep the faith and keep pushing Because it’s worth it. The work, the work will be worth it.
John Farkas (41:37): Awesome. That is a great word, right? It is. It is important to stay, uh, to stay with some good balance and perspective in a time when that is hard to come by. Thanks for your time. I appreciate
Mark Whitlock (41:49): Andrew Horner, the executive vice president of global marketing for symphony. One of the Forbes FinTech top 50 companies has been our guest on this edition of studio CMO. If you want more information about symphony itself or perhaps the OODA methodology that Andrew mentioned, or want to take another, listen to this, or see the show notes, come on over to studiocmo.com/028, that’s studiocmo.com/028. And you’ll find all the information and links available for you right there. And while you’re there consider doing two things, first of all, subscribe to Studio CMO, we are seeing more and more subscribers each and every week. We want you to be the first to find out about great new guests like Andrew Horner coming up in the future. Also, we’d love to hear your comments and questions. What do you think about when you listen to the show? What questions do you have at the bottom of any page on our website? You can scroll down to the bottom of any page and leave a voicemail for us right there from your computer or your smartphone. And we’ll be able to listen to that and integrate your question in our answers and to future episodes. Thanks for being a part of this episode. And please remember to always understand your buyer’s problems and lead out of an empathetic understanding of this problems and make your buyer the hero. We’ll see you next time on Studio CMO.