Sydney Sloan, SalesLoft CMO, on marketing trends and customer centricity

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Podcast Outline

[00:40] Sydney’s background

[01:00] Trends in marketing right now

[04:37] Gated versus ungated content in marketing

[05:59] How Sydney’s team makes the decision whether to gate and request demos

[10:10] How to know when to run an account-based strategy

[12:13] Essentials for Series A and Series B companies

[16:32] The role of CMO in increasing retention and how to ensure customer success

[21:18] Sydney’s plans for personal development 

[24:21] How Sydney recharges


Sydney’s Inspirations

Michele Doroshow

Don Rossmoore

Bob Lewis 

Women in Revenue


Connect with Sydney

LinkedIn

Twitter

Elias Rubel: (00:00)
So today I am super thrilled to have Sidney Sloan on the line, the CMO at SalesLoft, she has had an amazing career thus far as an advisor to Marquetto as a CMO at Alfresco, a long leadership career at Adobe Sydney. Welcome to the show.

Sydney Sloan: (00:53)
Thank you for having me. I'm very excited to be here.

Elias Rubel: (00:56)
Absolutely. So, I mean, I just want to dive straight in, like you are now being at sales loft. I'm so curious. You're kind of at the forefront of sales enablement and being the marketing leader there, you must just be seeing all sorts of new trends and the ways that that marketing is shifting, um, I'd love to jump in there and learn what, you know, what is top of mind for you in marketing right now?

Sydney Sloan: (01:19)
Yeah, it's been fantastic. I do agree that when I joined a sales tech company, I'm like, well, I'm going to become a better marketer. And it's absolutely true because I get to see all different companies at different stages in their evolution of their sales and marketing motions. And so I would say what's on the forefront. Like the most exciting thing right now is really seeing where companies sales and marketing come together on orchestrating account-based strategies specifically. Um, and you know, that, that just that partnership. And there's, I, I was just talking to a friend of mine, Peter Isaacson, who leads marketing it Demandbase, and we're like intent data plus, uh, outbound activity in time. We were actually making it an algebra for formation equals pipeline. So it's like, how now it's not just about message and target and everything. It's also about timing.

Elias Rubel: (02:16)
Oh, wow. Did you make it making it math? That's when you know, it's real, it's like, it's an equation. It's going to get the SAS vernacular and we're off to the races. Um, so I mean, you and I have had conversations in the past about, you know, ABM isn't new to the scene necessarily. And it's something that you've, you've been a champion of in the past. Are there pieces of it now that are materially different than they used to be?

Sydney Sloan: (02:42)
I think there are, first of all, there's just more people out there that are aware of what it is. So the, and, and they continue to push the bar and it's gone from pilot ideas or teams to strategies across the different companies and geography. So that's exciting to see when it spreads to global efforts. Um, I think what's interesting is the data vendors, because there's kind of the key elements of ABM. One is you have to have data in order to have the insights in order to pick your, your target accounts. Once you figured out what your AC your ICP is, you still have to have like, okay, how do I use data to help me understand who my target accounts are? And so using like technographic data to infer quality, um, uh, engagement data, now that we can look at an account level is marketing and sales tech reorient around account views versus lead views, which is huge.

Sydney Sloan: (03:36)
And, um, you know, come on Salesforce, you can, you can do it there. They're still behind where we have faith. Um, and, uh, and then the, the third part, and I think the most disruptive piece, you know, is this combination between the intent vendors and, um, how we think about outbound strategies. So that's that whole time equation. As soon as Mark marketing configure out, when people from that account are actually interested or potentially interested, how do you match that with an outbound strategy after your target personas to try and get to the opportunity first? Cause you know, whoever gets to that account first is going to be able to set the vision, the impression for which others will be evaluated by. So you don't want to wait, like now, you know, the data's out there, people are doing 60, 75% of research before they actually want to talk to a sales person. So how do you get to them first?

Elias Rubel: (04:38)
So are you, do you fall into the camp? I know right now marketing is, is somewhat segmented into people who are like, you know, it used to be all gated and now there's so much of the buying decision that's made before anyone actually ever reaches out that, you know, let's, ungate things. Where do you fall on that debate

Sydney Sloan: (04:55)
Somewhere in the middle. Um, and especially during COVID, I think, you know, the idea of just being helpful, like give them whatever they need, give them free training, give them tips and tricks, give, give people what they can use to help transition, but there's still those core pieces of, you know, really good stuff that it's okay to ask for people to fill out a form. Um, and, and, and again, as technology evolves and we can do more IP matching to figure out who they are from that account, maybe that will continue to change, but we, um, we have a, just a couple pieces of content that we gate, um, and our call to action on most things is requested demo. And so those are the leads that we, you know, we have optimized in terms of our processes, uh, to, to, you know, get to a, an inbound or an outbound orders as fast as possible. Um, uh, so I'm in the middle.

Elias Rubel: (05:54)
Okay. And so like on the tactical side of that, like bring us into your brain for a moment when you were, and your team were deciding, you know, where to draw that line and where to gate and request the demo. Um, how did you make that decision?

Sydney Sloan: (06:11)
We, uh, I think this it's a really good question. So, um, we took our top performing content pieces and kept them gated, like our top 10, uh, everything else blogs, um, are, are open. Um, and we've continued to put more and more like webinar content and things online. Um, our call to action being, uh, a demo. Um, those keeping our teams busy enough, I guess, is the right rate. But the real reason, um, you know, we call it a P one lead. It's a hot lead. And, and so that's giving us enough to work on still that we don't need to add a lot more to the equation. It's helping us scale where we're converting at a high rate and we're still investigating the other parts. I mean, I'll, I'll be totally honest. When I got to sales loft, we weren't using marketing automation. And I think as marketers come into new situations and as we continue to see the landscape change, we have to be open minded.

Sydney Sloan: (07:12)
At least that's what I, that's the approach I was taking. I'm like, wow, we don't use marketing automation crazy, but you know, it's working like every lead comes in flows and goes into a, a cadence and an outbound or is working or an inbound team is if it wasn't a named account, go to our inbound team. If it was a named account, go to our outbound team and they would run with it. And there were things that we did to make it automated. So we were getting the response times, if there was an interaction from a customer, they get an automated email from a person, a real person right away to show that we were following up. And then it would have the, the, the task for the SDR to, to make a more personalized, um, connection. And, uh, and so that was working. And so it was like, wow, maybe we don't need OT market automation, but as the company has grown, I mean, that was went back and there in the tens of millions, the teens of millions.

Sydney Sloan: (08:08)
Um, but as the company's grown, we've our, our, our outbound engine and inbound engines continue to get more sophisticated. Our lead volume continues to increase. Yeah, actually we do need marketing automation. We need, we need scoring. We need, you know, account that the values that we get out of looking at account level engagement, nurtures streams for non target personas. Um, so, so we are adding that, which is great because I know there's more that our team can add to the equation by just doing foundational marketing things in marketing automation. Um, and, uh, and so that gives us upside,

Elias Rubel: (08:47)
It's amazing to hear a story where it's almost the inverse of what you're used to hearing like that's so wild. Um, so, so I'm assuming that you were the one to bring in some of this intelligence and enrichment stuff. This is almost tying back to what we were talking about earlier, um, into sales off for the first time. Is that true?

Sydney Sloan: (09:07)
It is. So, um, in my background, I was, I've been a fan and an advisor to Marquetto, I've been a fan and advisor to Demandbase as well as follows. And I'm a huge fan of sixth sense. And, and so I, I, I was just telling my team today. I love to geek out on MarTech, um, as well as branding strategy. I mean, I love what I do. Um, but looking at, you know, how, how is marketers, can we continue to get value out of technology to make us more efficient and, um, and bring the predictability of the marketing engine to the equation. And that's what we're going for. It's like, how many programs do we need to run on a monthly basis with, you know, X number of leads in order to generate so many meetings and appointments and opportunities. And how does, how has that can continue to convert?

Sydney Sloan: (09:58)
Um, is, you know, that, that's what I'm looking to build is that that predictable engine, just like our sales teams are trying to build predictable pipeline. And, um, and what's different too. I think as companies continue to grow is, you know, sometimes account-based is the way to go. Sometimes you run a different methodology altogether. Maybe you're a freemium model. I mean, it Dropbox it's, I'm sure that's how, um, how you guys worked. And I came from an open source technology company where, you know, it was completely different. So we weren't running account-based strategies. We were looking at how do I get as my product into as many hands as possible, but then how do you know when to work in account? And one of the things that we, we learned in my, in my last company was while we were, we were still going lead by lead, we weren't looking at account, we call it a smoke report, like, you know, the, you know, the data, the TPS or the fires, and, you know, smoke over there.

Sydney Sloan: (10:55)
That's where we should go. So we started aggregating the leads at an account view. So it wasn't truly account-based in that sense, but it was still was account engagement data that we were looking at to know when enough people at the account were trying the product that made it make sense for us to, uh, connect those dots. And, and what was cool about it was we knew the names of the people. So we could send an email to a group of people and saying, wow, I noticed that you all are trying Alfresco right now together. Like, are you working on a particular project? Is there something that we can help with? And, and people were like, sometimes they didn't know other people were trying it out, so they could band together in order to make a case for buying our technology or, um, or, you know, wow. How did you know that? And so I, that was a game changer. Um, back then was, you know, again, still looking at things at an account centric level, and we know that as B2B marketers, that we're selling to a committee, we're not selling to one person if only have one lead in your opportunity, um, you're likely gonna lose

Elias Rubel: (12:00)
Yeah,

Sydney Sloan: (12:01)
Exactly a bit, but likely, you know, that they're the decision maker, the buyer, the implementers is probably not the case. And so you do need to make sure that you understand who the whole buying committee is and all the different roles.

Elias Rubel: (12:11)
Yeah, for sure. So I, I'm curious, you know, we're talking about technology and kind of the changes, um, that have occurred over the last couple of years. Some of the companies driving that, what to you, if you were jumping into a series a, or series B company with a series, a, or series B MarTech budget, what would be your, like, I'm going to fight for these because they're actual absolutely essential, um, to make up your stack. And then what would it be? You know, what is it now for you at a, at a much later stage? Um, I'm curious how those two things differ. Cause obviously the budgets differ quite a bit.

Sydney Sloan: (12:47)
That is a fantastic question. Well, the first advice I give, like the series a startups are the question that I get a lot is what should be my first hire. And I always go with a product marketer. Um, I think having somebody that in marketing understands the business strategy can, can write, copy, can work with the sales teams to get those first customers, you know, where you're, you're really gritty and you don't have any budget to do things. Is, is that role. And then you start building out your demand gen function from there, um, in the series A's, I think you can get away with a, you know, a lightweight CRM and a sales engagement tool. Honestly, I totally believe that. And I debate that with some of my friends all the time. Like if you don't need a database of 40,000 people to, you know, run marketing automation to where we're seeing the differences between specific and personalized, um, outbound activity versus mass emails that are not personalized.

Sydney Sloan: (13:42)
I mean, I, I really see that shift happening in the world today. And so, you know, I, and I know that a lot of, um, uh, of the VCs are aligning to this as well. Um, is, is CRM get your data, right? You have to have good data and then you can run, um, outbound activities on a sales engagement platform and start prospecting. Um, at the same time court, like right next to you, you have to have a decent website. And I think a lot of us marketers who are digital digital first and trying to build an inbound engine know, you have to have a strong, strong backbone to your website. You have to have a strong content strategy to your website, so you can start getting the benefits of SEO. So those would be the two things like the outbound would be the tactical. How am I getting the next couple of deals while you're building out your website and your infrastructure as that core foundation of, um, a content strategy that will drive inbound in the longterm.

Elias Rubel: (14:42)
And then what would be the next three, like strategic additions to your stack after that point from a technology perspective,

Sydney Sloan: (14:49)
I think you want to keep on building flywheel, and especially in today, you have to have a strategy for digital engagement, and that's going to be, um, uh, your webinar program, your podcast program. I think of those two things collectively, um, are where you can really start to share knowledge and information in a variety of mediums that people want to listen to or watch that you can pull snippets from. Um, and I think too, as marketers and today, we really need to start thinking, I mean, we're competing in a digital world. And so B to B marketers need to be thinking more of a cinematic approach, like how we produce things actually matters because you have to keep people engaged. So I'm thinking about that a lot right now. Um, so a webinar platform, podcasts that's super easy and, and, uh, you know, a flywheel, um, and it also helps you learn and stay on top of things.

Sydney Sloan: (15:44)
And it's a great way to engage prospects by the way, um, invite a prospect to your podcast. And then, you know, you, you've already built that connection and in a cool way. Um, the other thing, I mean, at this point, I'm probably thinking marketing automation, um, cause just the basics of lead routing and scoring and nurture streams and the things that marketing can do to help. So it's, that's somewhere in the, the BDC, the ADB, you know, re right solid in a B for sure. Um, and ad platforms, however you're doing that, uh, whatever you're using for, um, doing your, your, your ad buys and, um, that's Google or, or, or different platforms, um, you gotta have, you have to have, uh, a strategy run ads.

Elias Rubel: (16:32)
So another thing that I know that you're really passionate about and share through your presence as an LP within, um, state shoe Capitol with Mark Roberge and the team over there is this kind of new way to think about product market fit and failure rates amongst, you know, series ABC, um, so forth. How do you see your role as the head of marketing as a CMIO in that? Like, are there things that you are trying to influence that help increase retention, or maybe even just walk us through what that looks like?

Sydney Sloan: (17:09)
Yeah. So, um, I was, we just had an LP meeting a couple of weeks ago, Mark put up the slide and he's put it up before. It's like the failure rate of startups, it's series A's and mid seventies, its series B is in mid-seventies and series C. And mid-seventies like, why is that? What is it that we're missing that we're not getting better as we're progressing through these different stages? And, um, and so our investment thesis is based on retention. And what's interesting about that as I look back in my history, when I left Adobe back in about 2012, um, I was looking to go into SAS and SAS was still relatively new at that point. And what I was looking at it was like, gosh, you know, I really, I w we evangelizing this idea of customer experience, um, and, and digital at Adobe at the time. And I wanted to be a practitioner of that. And I was looking to get into a customer marketing role. And the whole idea was that now you have to work as hard to keep a customer as you do to acquire them. And we have all this data now about people using our platforms

Speaker 3: (18:14)
Have daily, you know, [inaudible],

Sydney Sloan: (18:17)
We know adoption rates, we know penetration rates, we know like, so we can see the health of a customer. And so how are we using that as a leader? I would say, um, you asked me about as a marketer, I would, I would say, you know what, I'm gonna, I'm gonna put my leader hat on first as an executive of the company, how important is retention and growth and managing churn. It's huge. You can't grow if you've got a leaky bucket. And so, um, so working hard to make sure your customers are successful Oh, by the way, because when you are, and they go to another company, they'll buy you again, or they'll tell their friends. So there's multiple benefits of building a healthy customer relationship and ensuring your customer success. Um, and they'll buy more. I have the saying that smart, happy customers buy more.

Sydney Sloan: (19:04)
So what do you do you make sure they're educated. People who charge for certification? I don't know why you do that. I mean, I know there's a cost, but if their, if their admins are certified, know how to use your product, they're going to be more successful. Like, make sure they're trained, hold the customer accountable to what, you know, the parameters are of ensuring success. I remember it at our days at jive, we knew if they didn't have a community manager that their implementation would fail well, how do you hold your customer accountable for, for making sure that they've got the right infrastructure and the right team to ensure that your product is going to be successful? When you know, those are the things that are core to customer success. It's like sending somebody out in a boat without a ship captain, and just hoping that they're going to make it across the sea.

Sydney Sloan: (19:50)
It doesn't work. You know, you gotta have the right people in place with the right knowledge and in order to ensure success. And so I think that partnership with your customer and setting expectations is important. Um, and then, you know, it's, it's training, it's enablement, it's guiding, um, uh, one of the things that, that I, I, I use case that we talk about a lot and we, we implement. And, um, we, we did this with our friends at Looker, um, was being able to automate. So if you've got Gainsight or some other technology, or way that you're measuring customer health, if you're seeing a customer go from green to yellow and whatever methodology, you can trigger an automation to create a, an automated, uh, communication with your customer saying, Hey, by the way, we're noticing your, your utilization is going down as, is there anything we can do to help, or I notice it's going down in these areas, here's three things that you might want to look at in terms of, you know, your current infrastructure, like being proactive and trying to help your customers fix the problems before they bring it to you.

Sydney Sloan: (20:53)
That's customer centricity.

Elias Rubel: (20:55)
I love how, you know, it's some of, sometimes it's the things that are more human and more, you know, just core to what make us tick as individuals and make us successful as individuals that, you know, if you can support those, that to your point is what drives good relationships and lasting relationships. Yeah. Um, so now switching gears to a more personal note, you know, you to many people, you're at the tippity top of, you know, industry, or you're leading a growth as a CMO at a, at a rocket ship. And, you know, I'm sure to you, there's, there's still so much more room to grow yourself. So I'm curious when you sit down, like at the end of last year and thought through what you wanted this year to be for you professionally, and some of the mountains that you want to climb kind of in the near future, what are those?

Sydney Sloan: (21:46)
Oh, what a great question. Um, cause it's honestly, I'm working on my personal development plan right now in two weeks, I have a schedule to meet with Kyle, um, to make sure that I'm continuing to figure out what that was like two years ago, uh, or a year ago, I would say, like, I was really focusing on leadership and, um, I wanted to be, um, uh, board ready and, and being on board seats. I've been working on that, um, through a really cool, um, group called project at Dina. Um, but when I was coming into this year, um, we were going through a transition in our team. I think that, you know, it's the only inevitable thing has changed. And as we were growing so fast, I mean the needs of the team, the talents of the team, and just continuing to assess, like, what is it that we need continue to, to grow?

Sydney Sloan: (22:36)
We were, we went through some pretty big organizational changes and I continue to learn about how to make sure that you are in those changes, um, ma helping your team go through the change curve and, and you can't pull them along. You have to meet them where they're at and help them process change. And everybody does it different. And, Oh boy, did we just go through a bunch of change? And so personally I feel like I'm continuing to learn to as a leader in my, my goal is, uh, there's this, this, um, concept called level five leadership and, and my co our co founder, Rob foreman, I believe as a level five leader. And so I continue to work with him. And it's the analogy I give is if you're a skier, like, uh, instructors, like level one, they're going to teach the babies how to fall down on skis.

Sydney Sloan: (23:30)
Um, and, and level two and level three, you start to get being able to coach, uh, more experienced gears. And then when you get to level four, or you can start teaching teachers and level five. So it's, it's this whole analogy of being able to manage, but then learning how to manage and coach managers at different levels. And so I'm, I'm fascinated with that. And, and I love coaching. I love mode mentoring. So that's a personal passion of mine that it's the journey that I believe I'm on or that I'm working on. And I'm, you know, I I'm, I love learning. Um, I dunno if that was, that was you, you caught me on a great question with not a solid answer cause I'm working on it. I'll know it two weeks now.

Elias Rubel: (24:11)
No, that's the answer. And I like the, you know, to hear, it's great to hear how people think through these things, um, at your level. So I, and then on that, you know, what do you do to unwind? Like what, what helps you relax and feel recharged? You're ready to bring, you know, your all to, to what you're doing at SalesLoft.

Sydney Sloan: (24:32)
Uh, I think that people need to, um, figure out what that is. Like, what, how do you recharge? And for some people it's taking time off for some people it's being out in nature. Um, I, you know, I have two teenage kids and, uh, um, you know, I, I enjoy pleasurable time with them sometimes it's challenge, but sometimes it's fantastic. Um, uh, my, my go tos are, um, I am, uh, a soul cycle addict and I just got the home bikes. So I'm back in my happy place. Um, and so I've been writing a lot and that I can totally tell how that makes me feel or go for walks and hikes. And we're lucky in the Bay area to have some beautiful hikes and I love being outside. I grew up on a farm and so gardening, planting, climbing up in trees pruning, like I, I like being productive well I'm, um, I can't sit still. So it gives me a lot of pleasure to, to be able to see the outcome of hard work

Elias Rubel: (25:33)
For sure. I, uh, one of the, one of the things I've really enjoyed about working from home is that I get to deadhead my roses while I'm on conference calls. It's, it's an, it's a new pleasure.

Sydney Sloan: (25:43)
It's so true and what I live. And the other part that I'm really happy about is cause I used to commute back and forth to Atlanta, which is where our sales office work headquartered. And so I was home for a week and then back for a week and my plans kept on dying. And so I'm like my tomatoes right now are looking pretty good. Very happy about that.

Elias Rubel: (26:02)
It is tomatoes. Yeah. Alright. Uh, last question before we wind it down, um, I'm curious who some of, you know, you said you're really passionate about mentorship and, and being a mentor. I'm curious who some of your mentors, uh, have been as you've moved through your career?

Sydney Sloan: (26:20)
Uh, my very first one was Michelle Dorshow. Uh, this is when I was working at Nestle right out of college. And, uh, she put me under her wing and, um, got me involved in, I was doing events. Uh, that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to run an event company, did the entrepreneur program at USC. And so I got involved in meeting professionals international and she introduced me all these people. And so my first five years of an amazing event career, where, because of Michelle and, uh, and it was so cool when I was, I don't know, four or five years in, I ended up going to my first tech company. I got to hire her to help us with an incentive trip. So it comes full circle and that was fun. Um, the other folks that, um, you know, I I've been fortunate to have a lot of fantastic coaches.

Sydney Sloan: (27:04)
Um, Don Rossmore is one of my coaches. And so I really advocate for people who are, um, aspiring to be leaders, to think about finding a coach that works for them. Like it's such an investment in you and, and if you played sports or, you know, it's the difference of, for me of going to the gym and having a trainer, just going to the gym, I'm going to work harder. I'm going to learn new things. They're going to push me. And so having a coach has been great. Now I have a, um, Bob Lewis is my coach. And then, you know, I think this network of women that's forming in leadership, the women, um, women in revenue, wr, um, is a fantastic group of, of women that are helping to, um, build this next generation of leaders. And so I'm a master mentor and I've been involved with them from the beginning and it's just a fantastic group of people. So those would be some, some shout outs of, of different thing. People that have helped me along the way.

Elias Rubel: (28:03)
Amazing. Well, Sydney really enjoyed this conversation and thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me.

Sydney Sloan: (28:08)
Thank you so much for having me.