What’s it like reporting to a board with Marc Andreessen and John Chambers in a board room? In this episode with Matt Singer, CMO at OpenGov, we talk about marketing GovTech, and the evolving revenue landscape post-covid.

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Episode outline

[01:09] Matt Singer’s background

[02:12] What it was like for Matt to transition to marketing to government and what makes it exciting

[04:44] How Matt responds to change and the importance of building and tracking brand awareness

[09:03] What it’s like to get to work with such prominent board members and some questions that have come up in meetings with the board

[11:10] The biggest new opportunities Matt sees for himself and his business over the next year

[14:04] The unique complexities involved in the sales cycle working with selling to governments

[18:00] Matt’s vision for his next couple of years and what success looks like for Matt at this point in his career

[20:40] What Matt likes to do outside of work

[21:46] Matt’s inspirational people


Matt’s Inspirations

Kara Wilson

Doug Dennerline

Daniel Finnigan

David Cain


Connect with Matt

LinkedIn

Website

Oh right here we go. So today, super thrilled to have Matt singer on the line. Um, Matt has a tremendous career and background as a marketing leader. Uh, Matt, I think you were a part of the leadership team that helps success factors exceed 500 million in revenue. Then you were at job by job byte as the VP of marketing.


And today you're the COO at OpenGov. And I have to be honest, the idea of marketing the government to me is just like a total black box. And I don't know how much of what we do outside of marketing and government product is, is relatable or, or even the same, like the strategies and tactics. So I'm really excited for this conversation, if, for nothing else to learn a bit about that black box world of marketing to government.


So Matt, welcome to the show. Cool. Well, thanks for having me. I'm excited to talk about B2B marketing and yeah. Th the gov tech industry new for me too. So it's been an exciting first year and I'm learning a lot about the market and I'm excited to share that as part of our time together today. So what I mean, let's just dive in right there.


Like, what was it like your background wasn't in gov tech, uh, and, and, you know, you've, you've marketed a variety of different products. So what was it like, was it a shock to the system or was it actually kind of Tran? How did the transition go? Jumping. Yeah, it was a shock to the system. I think it's, you know, it's a very different market.


I think it's kind of a, marketer's dream in a lot of ways, because you want to be part of something big and transformative and a lot of markets haven't gone, you know, I have already gone through that. And so there's very few industries left, I think, where there's a cloud transformation or a digital transformation that's still in place.


And so it's really exciting to be a marketer. In an industry where that cloud transformation is kind of just taking hold as, as I'm joining the company. It's been, you know, it's been in a way for the last, probably three to five years. And then with the advent of COVID and the need for telework. I think it's been a real wake up call for a lot of local governments in particular who got, you know, an old server locked in the high school basement.


And all of a sudden they've got to figure out, you know, how to run their, their systems that way. And so, yeah, it's been fun and I spent my life whole career in HR and recruiting. So it's also exciting and just intellectually challenging as a marketer to go after a different line of business. Um, but yeah, it's true.


I mean, a lot it's, it's probably not as bad as. Some people make it out to be, but, um, the, the ground left to cover for, um, digitizing systems in government is a, yeah, there's a, there's still a lot of work to do there. So it's exciting to get to message and market, uh, you know, in an industry like that. So you just pop open behind the cloud, reread it, you know, so it's fresh.


And then you're like, all right, no software, Marc Benioff, playbook. Just roll with it. Yeah. I mean, a lot of that old messaging, you know, older messaging still resonates. You've got people that are still. Concerned about the cloud and, you know, local governments that, that have a misconception that the local server is safer than AWS has cloud.


Right. Which is obviously untrue, but still, you know, that, but some of them, those legacy points of view still exist. And so it's fun to get to kind of change, change the minds of, of those individuals. And yeah. There's a lot of these ransomware attacks in local government where the local servers are getting hacked and they're holding governments hostage.


So it's a great time and there's lots of material to work with. And, um, yeah, like I said, it's just fun to be part of that transformation. So I'm enjoying it and it's great to get into a different, different market after selling to HR and recruiting for so long. So I'm curious. I mean, when I think about the landscape that's unfolding, especially with COVID right now, right?


As marketers B to B marketers. Content and the way that we message has changed materially, are you seeing the same thing in gov tech and how, how are you responding to that change with your marketing? Yeah, well, I mean, one of the things that I'm starting to get more and more comfortable with and it's taken me time as a.


Coming out of the demand gen school. I think a lot of times you meet kind of product marketing school or demand gen school there's exceptions, but oftentimes CMOs are coming out of one of those two camps and coming out of the demand gen school. I'm so fixated on the form. Right. And putting that. Form in front of prospects and capturing their information because that ability to track is one of those things that makes us so strategic as marketers.


And I think what led to the emergence of a CMO were systems to track marketing effectiveness. And that was sort of the end of the mad men era of just crazy ideas and taglines, and actually coming up with the way to track the spend, which CEOs loved. And then all of a sudden you've got executives in the room from marketing.


Was that all said attribution. Yeah. And then the whole attribution model, you could have a whole podcast on that, but, um, but, uh, but I think that, you know, I, I'm a big believer in the form, but I also am coming to terms as I mature as a marketer that, you know, it's just the landscapes changing. There's so much information out there.


There's such a growing reluctance to give your personal information to a marketer or a vendor. And so I think that increasing that level of comfort with trusting that they're going to find you and just really focusing on delivering quality content at the right point in the buyer's journey and not necessarily being too obsessed with the form and knowing that, you know, when the time's right.


Th th if you built that brand awareness appropriately, that they'll come and find you, that obviously comes with challenges internally and navigating kind of management and that trust on the internal side. So it's probably part of finding a culture that, you know, that has that trust, but I've been really pleased to find that at OpenGov and I think indexing more that way.


And I think the pendulum is kind of swinging back from an obsession with forms and attribution to that broad brand awareness. Um, Given sort of just the volume of information that's out there. So that's kind of, it's interesting, almost this tension in the, in the amongst marketers right now, between like on one side of things we're obsessed with, you know, like, Oh, we've got a w shaped attribution model that's weighted and you know, X, Y, and Z.


It just like so technical and this obsession with granular attribution. But then on the other side, we're moving towards what it seems like to be. You know, buyers are, self-educating like what you just said, you know, buyers more and more. We need to make it easy for buyers to get access to the information and the content that they want so that they can for themselves to raise their hand eventually.


But that means much less signal leading up to that hand raise. It's just kind of black box. And these two things seem almost at odds with one another. Yeah, it's hard. I mean, there is systems. I think a lot of the tech is catching up to this growing desire to track without being noticed. And so, you know, companies that are doing creative things with cookies and remarketing, um, And, you know, being able to track have autocompletes on forms when people have submitted that first form.


So I think there's ways to make, to minimize it where people don't necessarily feel like they're providing their email address and phone number over and over again. Um, and, and you can still capture some of it. So the systems are helping, but yeah, you're right. I mean, it's a, it's a delicate balancing act.


Cause you're still, you know, if you're in a venture backed company, you're still going to have to go in front of the board and. Show the metrics and how you performed as a team and you can't show brand awareness, unfortunately, other than big, a big brand audit with an expensive agency kind of thing. Um, but, uh, but yeah, it's a balancing act and I think it's that, you know, B to B marketers that are, that are really on top of their game, they're there.


Wrestling with it and trying to kind of do the best they can in terms of not, not over-correcting on lead volume and, and tracking, but, uh, you know, also being cognizant that it's just part of our business and we've got to track as much as we can. So, so you mentioned you're reporting to the board and I, I was weighing whether or not I was going to ask you this question, but I think I will.


What, um, so you, you report to Mark Andreessen among other folks on the amazing board, right? That he's one of the board members. I mean, I answered to him, I report to the president of the company, David Ray. So I'm sure we, we all answer to our board members. Yep. Yep. I would love to know what it is like as sitting in, as a marketer, sitting in the room with Mark and perhaps some of the questions that he's asked you just about, you know, when you're, when you're discussing the growth plans and how the company is going to scale, like, what are some questions that have come up?


Um, I mean, I think. So, yeah, I, it definitely was part of my reason to join. Uh, there's there's certainly a brand cache with. OpenGov, um, you know, not, not just, not just Mark, but having John Chambers on the board and having Joe Lonsdale on the board. So, you know, I certainly, um, was enamored with that and it was part of the reason for joining and trusting that folks like that with track records, like they have was great validation of, of OpenGov future success.


Um, So, yeah, I mean, initially it was kind of just trying not to fanboy out too hard when I'm in there with these legendary, um, board members and, you know, they're all their own personalities. Right. And I think, you know, Mark is, is a pretty quiet guy and he kind of reminds me of the way my grandpa, um, was sort of a coach where he doesn't say much, but when he does, it's just spot on and perfect.


And everyone leans in and listens. Um, And, you know, I mean, there's lots of examples, but you know, he's just a really smart, a smart investor. I think he's always kind of trying to index on growth and efficiency and really being thoughtful about, you know, we, we want to grow, but we also need to do it in an efficient way.


And, um, you know, I mean, there's, there's too many specific examples to call out, but I think in general, he's just kind of a Sage type character and very quiet. But, um, but when he says something it's spot on and everyone's, you know, all yours, so. I had to fan boy vicariously through you. So I'm curious. So, you know, when you think about the year ahead of you given all of the change that we've had and, and kind of uncertainty, what do you think the biggest opportunities are going to be?


Um, that may be new opportunities that you weren't expecting to be able to work with? Like what do you think some of those might be. Yeah. I mean, there's a few that are specific to OpenGov. We talked about it a little bit earlier and so positioning ourselves as a cloud leader and in an industry that has very little cloud first technology, we were probably early to the game and beating that cloud drum a little bit ahead of when the market was ready for it.


So some of it is just. Kind of the silver lining of the whole pandemic for the government sector is that, like I said, it's really a wake up call that they've got to get a digital strategy in place. Um, the biggest example for us has been on the, we have a suite of products that market to, um, permitting licensing and code enforcement use cases.


So that that suite of products is really designed to kind of help with community development. And so. We've got a lot of these governments where they had to close down city hall and the only way to get a permit to, you know, put a deck on your house or build a home, was to go down to city hall and wait in line with a physical paper permit.


So there's been a big scramble to come up with a way to move those, those civic services online. So that folks don't have to physically, you know, go down to city hall. So that's been a big change for us in terms of the use case. Um, I think, you know, the, the budgeting piece, obviously with impacts to sales tax and what that means for local governments, I think they're really trying to understand, you know, how, how much of a budget cut is this?


Um, COVID. Problem going to mean for them. And they have to forecast. We were all kind of guessing with regards to, you know, the vaccine and when things will start to have some return to normalcy. So a lot of need for modeling around budgeting. And just trying to guess, you know, how long is this sales tax decrease gonna get to go on?


Um, and then lastly, just the transparency and communication stuff. So it's certainly not at the level, at least on the financial side of the Oh eight. Um, Uh, financial, you know, the great recession, but. There is a resurgence in interest from local communities to understand, Hey, what's going on with the tax dollars?


What's the story with the budget? How is money being allocated? Um, so we're back to kind of that growing awareness, swinging pendulum of transparency, uh, you know, out to the community and to elected officials. So we're seeing, you know, local city councils, County commissions, and also the public really.


Yearning more so than maybe when, you know, everyone was employed and things were great. You tend to care less about that. Right? So the communications piece is probably the third area that we're seeing a lot of, um, increased demand. So I'm going to, I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess, and you can tell me if I'm totally wrong, but I would guess that.


Whereas other call it SAS platforms and B to B tech. They might have a complex sales cycle, but I'm guessing that your sales cycle in particular, especially as a marketer, the amount of support that you need to provide to getting all of the different constituents in your buying committee on board, and to kind of create momentum in that sales funnel, like it must be much more complex than most.


Software platforms. How, how do you a, is that correct? And then B if it is, you know, how do you organize your thoughts around such a large entity that you're trying to influence and educate so that sales can do their job and, and close deals in a reasonable? Yeah, I mean, it's certainly a partnership. I wouldn't put it entirely on marketing and I would say.


It's probably a little more complex than a sales cycle, uh, for, uh, an interview price software company in the private sector, selling to organizations comparable to the size governments that we're selling to. But, um, it's probably just a little bit more like larger enterprise transactions, right? When you start to get into bigger enterprise deals, there's more, um, you know, more stakeholders and, um, More individuals that you're trying to reach and kind of multithread with.


And so, um, yeah, I mean, we have that certainly. And I think because, because we've got this, the permit licensing and code enforcement piece, and that's one piece of the government, the economic development planning department, those departments, and then with budget, you've got finance people and budget people.


Um, but I'm learning that kind of the nomenclature and how it translates. You've effectively got finance directors in. Your local town or County, and they are effectively a CFO, the city manager, a County County commissioner would be like a CEO. Um, but the, the, and then the, I guess the board is the city council.


So it all kind of translates. Right. And, um, and you know, it's, it's complicated though in the same ways that, um, we had to work with in the HR recruiting space, it's just, the titles are different. And the wrinkle I think is that, you know, they're publicly. Uh, elected in some cases. And so there's a different, you know, a different motivation, right?


And so that's, that's part of what, um, has been different and new for me in terms of the complexity of the sales cycle. And then the other thing is that there's a real commitment on the implementation side with professional services, because you've got sometimes one, um, you know, One group of council members in that then leave.


And a new group of council comes in and they may have, um, A different set of initiatives, which could impact what system end up getting implemented. So, um, it's just a very different dynamic where you have to, where you have to see the whole thing through to your point. The biggest change I've noticed complexity of it is it doesn't stop.


At the closed deal where usually the project manager on the customer side really leans in and wants to implement sometimes it's that way. But sometimes we really have to kind of track down, you know, the new administration and get that wrestle to the ground. So the elected official component and the fact that you're dealing with individuals that are being paid by taxpayers, that that adds a lot of complexity to it.


And everything's public. That's the other interesting thing, right? So you can just. Everyone knows what systems are currently being used, what people pay for those systems. So it's kind of a marketer's dream in that way as well, that where you would pay vendors to go out and hunt down information. Um, It's all publicly available in government, which creates an interesting level of transparency and kind of how you market, so, huh, that's fascinating.


I'm curious on a personal level. I mean, you are, you've already had it fantastic career thus far as a marketing executive, you're surrounded by a phenomenal board and working alongside other excellent, uh, you know, executives and operators personally. What, what is your vision for yourself over the next couple of years?


I mean, what to you is. Does success look like at this stage of your career? Yeah, I mean, I think, um, the big thing for me would be. Yeah, obviously I'm loving the run and OpenGov and I intend to stick it out and see how far we can go take this thing. And it's going really well. Like I said, that the COVID thing, which at first looked like it could be very uncertain and didn't know what that it would mean for, for government has actually been, you know, in a lot of ways, a positive thing as a cloud company.


Um, we, we rolled out an ERP system, so like financial management system and a full cloud ERP. Um, and so that's the piece that I'm really excited. Yeah. And about, and, and where I want to kind of take things over the next couple years is really building brand awareness around that. Cause even though OpenGov.


Has a really great brand. Even the name name is associated with transparency and that's how the company got its start. Um, but then got into budgeting and reporting and now full cloud ERP. And so as a marketer, I use the term brand hangover. Like we have to, we have to shake off some of that brand awareness.


That was really great. When, when we were focused solely on transparency, it's like I said, the company is named after it. Um, but it's really not who we are today. And so the challenge to build that brand into the cloud, you know, the modern cloud ERP for government and getting the word out there. Um, if something I haven't done before from its inception, because I usually, you know, I I've joined either.


Like at success factors, we had gone public, I think, nine months before I joined. And then JobBite, we were, we were small, but we weren't, you know, two guys and a dog and a garage kind of thing. There, there was some brand awareness already there. Um, and with OpenGov, it's a different scenario because, um, you know, we're building a brand in some respects from scratch, at least in the ERP world.


And that's fun and challenging, you know? And I think that, you know, any company you join, you're going to be. Wrestling with a challenge. And it's kind of, which of those challenges do you view as creative problems to solve versus, you know, frustrating problems that keep you up at night? And so I'm excited about it.


I think it's an exciting problem to solve. And I'm looking forward to working with the team to try to build that, that, uh, cloud ERP brand awareness in our category over the next couple of years. So I love to ask and find out what, what. Folks do to unwind and take their mind off of work and kind of clear the slate so that you're ready to hit it hard again the next week or the next day.


What for you is a rejuvenate. Yeah. Well, I love, I love the outdoors, so, um, I have a wife and two kids now, so, you know, parenting and husbandry become their own hobbies, but, uh, when I can, yeah, I like to, um, get outside. Um, I grew up going to the beach a lot, so kind of all things, ocean, um, Diving and surfing and just spending time at the beach is always very relaxing and fun for me.


Um, but yeah, just spending time with family getting outside whenever I can, that seems to be where my best marketing ideas come is when I'm, you know, out away from people and get a chance to think and unwind. So, um, that's usually how I like to spend my free time. You're not your most creative self staring at a zoom screen, having zoom overload recently.


I think it's a common problem, but about it. Yeah. Um, all right. So lastly, as we wrap up, I always like to ask you who were some of the folks who I've been there for you along the way, whether mentors or peers who have been inspirational to you to help you get to where you are today? Yeah, there's a few. Um, I think.


Yeah. A couple come to mind. I think one of the, one of the, um, Individuals that left a big impression on me was Carol Wilson. And you should see if you can get her on the show. I think she may, I don't know if she'll come back and CMO again, but she's SEOed for Rubrik and Okta success factors. Um, fire eye, she's just got an incredible eye for successful companies and then comes in and helps build them.


And she really was the best example I had of a real polished exact level. A CMO with the respect of everyone around the C staff table and the board and learning that kind of exact Polish and business acumen. I was able to work as a chief of staff for about 18 months under her. I just learned a ton as a fly on the wall, kind of.


Watching her in action. So she, she left a huge impression. Doug Denner line, who was the president of success factors for Lars was focusing more on kind of evangelism. He is very much a numbers driven, uh, Leader. And so that was a big springboard for me and my career was to work under a president who, who was very much rooted in the data and wanted to understand kind of, you know, the waterfall and what the marketing funnel look like and grasp the metrics.


So he was another big one. Um, and then probably lastly, Dan Finnegan, the CEO of job bite. So he was the first, um, you know, the first. Boss to promote me onto the executive team. So I sort of owe him a debt of gratitude for giving me, um, you know, my, uh, my first chance to be at the exact table. And, you know, he had a choice whether to bring someone in from the outside or promote me from that, uh, demand gen leadership role into the head of marketing role.


So, um, I'm a huge group debt of gratitude for that, but he also coached me along the way, you know, once he brought me on to the, um, to the exec team. So yeah. Those are probably three big ones. Um, David Kane, another great marketer. I don't know if you've ever solicited him, but he'd be awesome for the, uh, your podcast.


And, um, I know it's gaining a lot of momentum lately, so hopefully you could, you could convince him to come on, but I think he was he's with, um, He's with Autodesk now, but he was the guy that the hired me into success factors and similar thing, just a really great mentor came out of the demand. Gen school really kept me grounded in the numbers.


Got me thinking about it. Yeah. You know how to think about the funnel, um, how to build. Quality presentations and articulate, you know, how the team's doing and, um, measurement the big on measurement. And I think that that's something that I've kept for the rest of my career. So tons of mentors along the way, but those are the handful that come to mind that I, that I, um, still stay in touch with and, and, you know, owe them all the time in terms of helping me get where I am today.