Impartner Software CMO Kerry Desberg talks us through her professional journey and identifying profitable markets

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Episode Outline

[02:00] Kerry’s background

[04:20] How Kerry has overcome challenges and made her company stand out

[08:05] How Kerry pivoted during the COVID-19 pandemic

[12:20] Kerry’s approach to changes in buyer behavior and identifying profitable markets

[15:10] The importance of having a marketing tech stack and what Kerry has in her marketing tech stack

[19:35] Why Kerry thinks the BDR should report to marketing instead of sales

[22:30] How Kerry unwinds


Connect with Kerry

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So today on the show we have Kerry Desberg COO at Impartner software. Um, Kerry has been a career. A comms person, a career comms, executive PR leader. And it's really fascinating, Kerry I'm, I'm really excited to talk about this because most of the folks we have on the show, if I were to kind of weave a common thread, come from management consulting background, and then they transition over to tech.


Whereas you come from this comms leadership background. So let's start there first off. Welcome to the show. Second off. Tell me about the transition from coms to. Overviewing this whole umbrella of marketing. Uh, thank you for that intro. So glad to be here. And, uh, Oh boy, you know what, as far as I'm concerned, how lucky am I?


That that's the way that I grew up in my career, because at the end of the day, communications is really about storytelling. It's it's really about, uh, what is important about us, uh, who do I need to talk to and what is the most compelling thing? Um, then I can say to make somebody do the most important job of marketing, which is just make somebody say, I want that.


And so for years, and years, and years and years, uh, you know, I was on the front lines of, uh, Uh, all sorts of different companies, BB BC, uh, really figuring out what the story was of a company and how he was going to, um, make it sick and capture people's attention, whether it was, uh, something as fun as cosmetics, uh, or as serious as a, you know, composite glass that, uh, helps strengthen wind turbines.


Uh, it really all starts with the story. And the other thing that's great about the role, um, is it's so broad. Everybody's business is your business. I, uh, you could say, Oh my God, gosh, you know, do you have a focus? And then I'm like, well, you know what? Yeah, I, I, I really like having my finger and everybody's body.


Maybe that's what it is. But you know, one day a manufacturing problem is what you're focused on and how are you going to message around that? And the next day you're launching a product and the next day you're doing a ribbon cutting on a new facility. I mean, you. You're interacting with accounting and marketing and, uh, um, finance on acquisitions.


There's really nothing that you don't touch. And so what a way to a wonderful way to, to grow up and now, uh, for me, uh, be COO and a tech company. Of a software that is a system of record that touches so many different organizations in the company. And, uh, you know, my job is to, I don't just have one person to convince, uh, we've got a whole bunch of stakeholders and I'm fairly complicated by to get on board and a career.


That's spent figuring out stories and figuring out how to climb in the heads of different kinds of professions. It's really been a wonderful. Wonderful a way to grow up and a wonderful way to approach this job. I wouldn't have it any other way. So selling a system of record or marketing a system of record, I mean, that is like, if I think of all of the challenges out there, that's, that's probably right at the top as far as trying to replace or oust, whatever exists and get the BA I mean, you're buying committee.


How many people are on your buying committee? You know, uh, it's, it's, it's generally a handful of plus or minus depending on the size of the company. Uh, and for us, uh, we make partner relationship management software. Uh, most people know a CRM. I know a Salesforce or a Microsoft dynamics, three 65 or something like that.


And that. Really manages that direct one to one relationship. Well, PRM managers are partners. So most companies don't sell to you. And I, uh, they sell through a network of partners like Xerox as a customer. They have tens of thousands of partners across the world who sells their RX products. And those partners need a lot of things.


Uh, they need to be recruited and onboarded and they need deal registration and marketing, collateral and training and all these things that they need. To sell Xerox's stuff. And, um, in that mix, you touch so many organizations. It starts with the channel leader, the person that runs those indirect sales.


Uh, but generally they've got to get their it team on board and sales ops team on board and their marketing person and their sales person. I mean, there's just a whole mix of people who cross that whole channel and you really need to, um, be able to figure out what your barriers would be. And when you're talking about something, that's.


A system of record. It means that it's really, really varied inside that network. And, um, you better be scalable and you better be reliable and you better have security protocols and, uh, you know, things that really speak to the core of those folks. Um, and you know, you really need to. You know, be able to think about, Oh wow.


You know, they probably have got a lot of pet systems that belong to other systems and they're like, Oh, you know, I don't know these guys, or, you know, I already have somebody that offers something kinda like that. Why can't we just use those? So, you know, you've, you've got a, um, help them understand that even if they have a vendor that has some things different.


Uh, or similar, why are we different and better? Um, you know, how can we really scale with them when we're a relatively small company? Um, but, uh, we managed to do that since we work with folks like, uh, Honeywell and Xerox, as I mentioned, and then, um, Just as important right now is how do you get somebody to figure out how to prioritize your system over the years, 10,000 million other systems, and that are out there right now.


Uh, there's uh, a grid that comes out every year that has every marketing technology that's out there on the planet. And it's just, it's almost a stumped grid at this point. You can't see anything. It's just a million logos and, you know, Marketers and people who are via your buyers there, they're almost paralyzed.


Why, where do they start? And what do I do? Do I start here or do I start with some point solution and start over here? And so. Uh, part of the magic is really helping them understand, look, this is a system of record and you need to start here because it feeds all those other point solutions. And if you start over there, they're going to be sub-optimized because there's nothing really feeding them.


So that's, you know, that's a key part of the decision as well as where do you start and how do we really deliver a performance that. Outperforms, all those other things that you could be doing and they make that their priority. So there are all kinds of interesting challenges and marketing and technology like this, for sure.


So it must be, I mean, you joined the company earlier in the year at a very interesting time to be joining a company. Correct. Well, actually, um, I've been with the company, uh, about five years having followed the CEO and the C M O N at the time. And, um, I was promoted in, uh, December, uh, when, uh, my former boss went off to do something really cool.


And, uh, but regardless, yeah, what an interesting any role, um, which, you know, what. Um, just like my career. I wouldn't have it any other way. It's a, I, I would almost say that, uh, uh, on some fronts, um, uh, money doesn't make you smarter and, uh, calm seas don't make good sailors. And, uh, when you face a challenge like this pandemic and figure out in this.


Marketing the hunger games S situation, what you do. Um, I think that the team would tell you that they are stronger now. Uh, than they were at the beginning of this thing. Um, I'm sitting here in Seattle, uh, the company's based in salt Lake. I usually commute there. It's only an hour and 20 minutes, not so terrible.


And haven't left since I think I've been in this room that whole time. And, you know, we really shifted and pivoted and. Um, figured out with AI and ABM and all the tools that we have in our very, very cool marketing tech stack. Uh, where was the momentum and what companies were going to be doing, uh, good to have, uh, be driven by the pandemic.


And, uh, where was that meant? Um, and just this important who is spending then a momentum, a lot of, a lot of companies in the midst of all this. Uh, could see the need, but they said, Nope, Nope, I'm staying in my, you know, basic car. I'm not going to trade up now. I'm not going to make a buying decision. Um, so finding that momentum, finding people who are spending, um, that was very powerful, full for us.


And, uh, uh, the majority of our demand during the worst. Most unknown periods of this. Now we're in some kind of strange midterm period where it's, you know, not calm, but I think we have, you know, are kind of in complete a nose dive. Right. Um, but, uh, you know, the majority of our revenue came from, um, those campaigns where we shifted.


And, um, the other thing that we did is a. We looked at all these companies who are just terrified, uh, they can't can't be on the ground. So when you make software like ours, that enables your partners, when you can't be there physically, it's ever more important to have something that lets that last mile be able to perform on the ground.


Number one, number two, not like a ton of companies are growing. The teams. A lot of teams were. Cutting their teams. And all of a sudden, all these people who, uh, who are, or putting off a digital transformation are saying, Oh my gosh, how can I possibly manage and scale and survive in this environment when I have less and less of a team without automation.


So, um, I saw a quote. Oh, I don't know. Maybe two months ago at this point, then Microsoft said that digital transformations that were taking two years of accelerated and are taking two months. And we see that in spades, the people who show up on their doorstep are like, Oh my gosh, I was dragging my feet on digital transformation.


I need to go, go, go. And so we put together this whole, uh, Channel economic stimulus package. Uh, and we bumbled together, uh, our products in a way that they could be up and running in just a few weeks and through the eye of the needle to not only survive, but also thrive in scale and prosper as ultimately come out of this.


So that's been an absolutely powerful, powerful, uh, campaign for us really, uh, taps into this seat, guys to what's happening here in our showing people a way forward and a path to follow that can help them get through this. And, uh, they've really appreciated that and appreciated that business partnership.


So let's get tactical. I mean, you said that one of the things that has been really integral to success through these times was to figure out where those folks are, who are, who are still ready to buy and who are still engaged in this kind of dialogue. Um, what steps did you take when you realized that this big shift needed to occur?


Um, realized buying behavior was changing. How did you, what steps did you take and then how did you really hone in on. This is the space that we should be focused on. These are the ways that we're going to acquire customers in today's environment. You know, um, it really was a shift in identifying, uh, which markets look like they were going to be the markets, uh, that would be really driven by this.


Uh, we have a big customer with, uh, uh, medical business, for example, who had a. 2,500 new partners sign on in 20 days and was just crazy. Right? You see those kinds of, um, examples. And so we could see what was happening with network security and telecomm and several other industries that were driven by huge changes in how all of us are working now that we're working from home, et cetera.


But the good news is, is that, uh, The key thing that helped us is our marketing tech stack. It's something that I think is a secret sauce. I think I would say that more, more definitively. I think, what are we doing? Word is a secret sauce for this company. The way our technology knee bone is connected to her thigh bone is connected to her hip bone is really magic.


Um, we, uh, Invest in heavily, uh, being able to have night vision goggles, and we're not trying to hunt with a rock in the sphere, right. We have we're bristling with AI and ABM, um, to be able to, to really look for that demand and see that demand and be able to respond to it. Uh, so, uh, you know, for folks out there who are just looking at these things, I mean, it definitely gives you a strategic, competitive advantage because when you can see, um, you know, kind of, I dunno if you think of yourself as not a very.


High tech analogy. But if, if you're up in your fire tower, looking out over the forest and you can see those whiffs of smoke before anybody else and say there and there and there and there. And I can see that because I know that this size company and this vertical doing these five things is going to be, uh, somebody who's, who I want to talk to.


Um, and so, because we already had that marketing tech stack in place, uh, and we're really able to pivot and focus that on the demand, um, that we could see happening. It's more driven by, uh, uh, you know, the. The things that were happening around COVID. I mean, that definitely definitely helped us survive. So, you know, for folks who are out there, whether you're going to a pandemic or not, if you do not have a contemporary marketing technology stack, you're going to be behind.


People are going to catch that game and have dinner before you ever get there. All right. Walk us through your tech stack. What does it look like? Let's go through the highlights. Um, you know, at a high level, um, uh, we use a Conversica, uh, they are an AI bot and it's really just amazing. I mean, it's just so human language in it.


And I want us to us to carry a lot of the heavy lifting of, um, Who it is out there, or who's responding to us and being able to respond to a thoughtful way, uh, throwing people out. And it is just, it's just, uh, too hard to get through, uh, once you're in, you know, when you're really at the high level of funnel and you're just exploring, um, we use 6 cents for our ABM tool.


Um, they're amazing. Um, Uh, that really lets us see all those behaviors and string things together and be able to see, uh, search behaviors and buying behaviors and, you know, build organizational charts. I mean, I mentioned earlier, you know, there's a big buying committee, uh, around technologies like ours.


And when you can really see. You see that whole, uh, organization, uh, and really be able to sell effectively to them and know who the stakeholders are there in decision. I mean, that's just, that's just invaluable and it just makes you so wheen, um, Hm. Uh, use, uh, from a communication standpoint, uh, we in, in our marketing team, We have all the demand gen and usually events.


Now those are more webinars and podcasts as we're doing now. Uh, but the business development team that the front end of the sales process actually is in the marketing team, which I really love because that allows us to really make sure that all of those. You know, if they're golden eggs, I was gonna say, golden egg.


Well, they're gold legs. So, you know, they're not right. Um, uh, you know, everything that comes through, uh, we call it a marketing qualified or a lead, you know, as it comes into those, um, business development reps and they really qualify them before they hand them off to sales. Uh, there, there are steps.


Within that business development team of when they're analyzing those accounts and kind of a little bit of a cascade of increasing intensity as we decided more and more serious. Uh, so we use a tool called Zandt. Um, it replaces another solution that we had, but it really automates a lot of the. Uh, um, you know, pinballing of where those leads are, uh, how hot they are, how much, how fast we want to touch them automate.


It gives us, lets us give them a lot of automated, uh, communication streams. Uh, so, uh, we, by the time that they really get to that human who's, then taking the conversation to the next level. Um, It really helps us automate a lot of that work that we just, again, we couldn't do, we'd have to double our team to be able to do that work volumetrically.


So automation is key, making sure everything is integrated, making sure that we net penny drops all the way down the phone and you really, really, really see that, that funnel. Um, and, uh, you know, you don't. You don't have any siloed solutions. And then, uh, I would say that, uh, you know, as we work with or sales teams, um, we have a whole dashboard that allows us to see, you know, who is really active and who's gone silent and who is still deciding.


And then we wrap all of our marketing plans around each one of those segments. So we continue to, uh, amplify what the sales team is doing itself, uh, and, and add another layer of contact, right. Because. What's the math, you know, 12 touch points, nine 16. I mean, there are lots of studies out there about how many touches it takes to drive an enterprise sale.


Right? So, uh, we, we really integrate with our sales team and really stayed by their side from the top of the funnel all the way down to the bottom, make sure that our tools are very, very integrated and we don't end up with silos and really automate everything that we can cancer volumetrically. We can handle what we need to make sure that we have a healthy pipeline.


So within the funnel, you mentioned something really interesting a moment ago that I want to loop back onto, um, which is that the BDR function rolls to marketing and not sales. Uh, and I know this is a hot point. Oh yeah. Marketers and sales leaders and going Ross, there's an opinion on this. Um, so I would love to know.


Was that something that you fought for yourself or advocated for, or was it already set up that way? What was the decision making process like? And. Why is it that you believe that BDRs should roll to marketing rather than sales? You know, when I worked with a colleague once who there was a big organizational change and I'm like, huh, what do you think of that?


And he said, you know what, if you have an Apple, when you slice it this way or slice it that way. Still a sliced Apple, you know, I almost kind of feel the same way about, um, about where the VDR set. It really comes down to the teams and how well you work together. I, I don't think there's definitively or right place or wrong place for them to sit.


And actually it's actually been in both places since I've been with partner. Um, as I came into the role, uh, it had been in marketing, uh, for a couple of years and, and, um, then, uh, Uh, also, um, uh, I think the reason that it came over from sales was simply because says there are so many subtleties and how a nerd, a weed was nurtured.


And, and that was about three years ago. I mean, In three years, right? It's, it's almost a geologic era and how quickly things change. Right. Um, but at that point, thinking was, well, marketing knows so much about these leads as it's being handed over to the BDRs, which at that point set in sales, do we really feel like that transfer of knowledge is really as strong as it could be.


So it was moved over and then systems got better. Um, So, you know, would it be the end of the world if they shifted back to sales? No, but do I like the fact that that storytelling is so tight, right. And all of the time, money and energy that you spend in getting those MQMS like into the hands of that frontline of sales.


Um, the fact that we are part of the same team, I have to believe that that makes us tighter. Right. Um, I, uh, so I'd keep it this way. Um, I wouldn't be, I don't think our company would think, Oh geez, let's change it. Cause they think it's something that we think works really well. Um, but I just love that unity of when one, you know, in this golden egg is hand into the next level, you really feel like it's tight and you, you don't lose the story and you keep the connectivity that you'd felt with that, that lead and turn into the next level for sales.


I think it works really well. All right. So you have, you have an amazing career. It's only continuing to gain steam and just be that much more successful. Uh, you're attached to an amazing organization. I'm curious what you do to unwind and kind of, what are some of your, the things that give you energy outside of work?


Well, uh, I do live in Seattle, which is surrounded by water. So, uh, we are voters. So on the weekends, when you're out there Puget sound, it's just absolutely spectacular. It's. So beautiful. And, uh, I'm a Midwestern, you know, corn fed farm girl. So, uh, when I am out on the water and looking at these mountains every single day, I just can never take it for granted.


It always feels exotic to me. So that's, that's my number one. Favorite thing to do. It was sail powered or with an engine. It's a trailer and it's wood, which is not my finest hour in decision-making. Uh, so there's a lot of uProxy that happens between trips, but it's all good. It's all good. Wow. So do you fish when you're out on the sound or just yes, she has.


Yes. Yes. That's fun. I miss, I miss the ocean. I miss sailing. Um, So you're very lucky to be out there. That's that's really cool for sure. Well, Carrie, I really appreciate shaped the conversation. It was so fun to learn more about some of the marketing programs and challenges that you're overcoming in the market with the way that you're.


Growing the company. So thanks so much. Thank you very much for having me. It's a great profession to be in. And, uh, all the technology right now in marketing makes it just as exciting now as it was when I started my career. And, uh, I have a great time. Thanks for having me on.aking me blush.