SaaStr Podcast #193: Joe Chernov, CMO at Robin On What Makes The Truly Special CMOs

Welcome to Episode 193! Joe Chernov is the Chief Marketing Officer at Robin, the startup that simplifies scheduling, visibility and management of meeting rooms, desks and people in your workplace. To date, Robin have raised over £9m in funding from some of our dear friends in the form of BoldStart, Accomplice and FirstMark, just to name a few. As for Joe, prior to Robin he was the CMO @ InsightSquared where he led the transition from an email-driven leads model to an account-based marketing model that’s tightly coupled with sales. Before InsightSquared, Joe was Head of Content Marketing at Hubspot where he increased blog traffic by more than 1M visits/month and increased leads by 40%. Finally, pre-Hubspot, Joe held VP of Marketing roles at Kinvey and Eloqua.

In Today’s Episode We Discuss:

* How Joe made his way into the world of startups and SaaS marketing many years ago. What was Joe’s missed founding story and how does that affect his thinking today?

* Does Joe believe that ABM is a paradigm shift in the way we approach marketing or another word for high ACV target sales? How can founders determine whether they have the right business, pricing and hiring strategy that will align with an ABM strategy? Is it the right decision to focus squarely on ABM? How should it play into your overall marketing portfolio?

* Why does Joe believe we have seen a massive rise in SaaS conferences? How can a startup determine whether the conference strategy is the right strategy for them? Where does Joe see many startups going wrong when selecting this approach? Why does Joe believe you have to get comfortable with losing money in conferences? What are the determinants or leading indicators of a successful conference? What is the ideal composition in terms of attendance?

* Why does Joe believe that marketing should be held accountable to a number that is directly tied to revenue? Why does Joe believe that Head of Sales and Head of Marketing should not be separate functions? What is it that leads Joe’s thinking when saying, sales and marketing are overlapping functions?

* What are the commonalities of the truly special CMOs? When is the right time to really consider adding the CMO to your exec team? What is the ideal relationship between the CMO and the CEO? What is the one question that will largely determine the strength of a potential CMO?

Joe’s 60 Second SaaStr:

* What does Joe know now that he wishes he had known at the beginning?

* Who does Joe believe is killing it in SaaS today and why?

* Advice Joe often hears in the world of SaaS that he actively disagrees with?

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Jason Lemkin
Harry Stebbings
SaaStr
Joe Chernov

Transcript

Harry Stebbings: We are back for another week in the world of SaaStr, with me, Harry Stebbings.

If you haven’t already, it would be fantastic to see you behind the scenes here on Instagram at HStebbings1996, with two Bs. There you can both suggest questions and guests for future episodes.

But, to our episode today, and my word, this was a lot of fun and one of my favorite conversations on the show so far. So, I’m thrilled to welcome Joe Chernov, Chief Marketing Officer at Robin, the startup that simplifies scheduling, visibility, and management of meeting rooms, desks, and people in your workplace. To date, Robin have raised over $9 million in funding from some of our dear friends on the show, including the likes of BoldStart, Accomplice, and FirstMark, just to name a few.

As for Joe, prior to Robin, he was the CMO of InsightSquared, where he led the transition from an email driven leads model to an account based marketing model that’s tightly coupled with sales. Before InsightSquared, Joe was head of content marketing at Hubspot, where he increased blog traffic by more than one million visits a month, and increased leads by 40%. Finally, pre Hubspot, Joe held VP of marketing positions at both Kinvey and Eloqua.

I do also want to say a huge thank you to my partner, Fred Destin, for the intro to Joe today. I really do so appreciate that, Fred.

However, you’ve heard quite enough of these dulcet British tones, and so now I’m thrilled to hand over to Joe Chernov, CMO at Robin.

Joe, it’s such a pleasure to have you on the show. I’ve heard so many wonderful things from both Fred Destin and Fred Shilmover, so thank you so much for joining me today.

Joe Chernov: Harry, thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to it.

Harry Stebbings: Well, so am I, but I’d love to kick off today, Joe, with a little about you and how you made your entry into the world of Saas, and came to be a founder, right Joe?

Joe Chernov: Well, I haven’t founded anything, but I nearly founded something that I deeply regret not founding. So, it all is tangled up in how I came to SaaS.

I was leading communications and then subsequently marketing at a company that spawned the whole word of mouth marketing movement, a company called BzzAgent. They were sort of a precursor to social media. Along came Facebook, and it was like a rogue wave that crashed on the whole word of mouth marketing industry.

So, I was sort of picking myself up, trying to figure out what I was going to do, and I had two options. One of them, the one I took, was Eloqua. It was late 2009, I believe, and they were moving marketing headquarters to Boston. They just hired this guy, Brian Kardon, as CMO, and he asked me to come in and ultimately run content.

We were doing about 30 million in ARR, an acronym I had no idea what it was at the time. But, I liked Brian a lot, it was a good role, and there was my entry to SaaS and martech. But, what not a lot of people know is, in parallel, the offer I was considering against it was a co-founder position, and it was co-founder of Tough Mudder.

Tough Mudder has just exploded. So, it stings a little when I see Tough Mudder in my feed, because it reminds me every time of having walked away from that. I walked away from it because it was really early stage, they hadn’t done a single race yet. I had a child due in three weeks, and it felt like just too big of a risk. But, boy, that one stings a little.

Harry Stebbings: I mean, one, at least you don’t have to compete in so many Tough Mudders now.

I do have to ask, though, in terms of regret that many might feel in that case, I had Heather Fernandez from Solv, a startup in SF, on the show the other day. I asked her, “How are you so productive?” and she said, “I don’t regret anything.”

I’m interested, how do you deal with regret, and is that a thought?

Joe Chernov: I swallow it down and suppress it. No, look, I have a great career, I have a great life. I have pangs, but not regrets. Do I see it? Does it sting a little? Sure. But, would my life be materially different? Yeah, and I don’t think I would trade what I’ve got for that.

So, I’m in a good thread, I’m very happy with what I’m doing. I think I’m making a difference for some companies, and I’m happy. So, as long as you come out with that perspective, I think you’re good.

Harry Stebbings: Well, I’m personally thrilled, ’cause I wouldn’t have had you on the show otherwise. But, I do want to start today with a conversation that’s one of the hottest topics in marketing over the last few years, ABM or account based marketing. As I said, it’s what really gets me going, hence the very single status.

So, starting on some clarification, is ABM really a paradigm shift in the way marketers build relationships and acquire customers, or is this not just another word for targeted selling to high ACV leads?

Joe Chernov: Is Frankenstein dead, or is Frankenstein alive? He’s sort of both, right? Look, I hate being on panels, or listening to panels or speeches, when the answer is “both” or “it depends.”

In this case, look, academically, ABM is just targeting large accounts, but as a practical matter, there’s no technology that enables scale and systematic processes that effectively create something new. Like, I would liken it to cassette tapes and Napster. They both sort of did the same thing, right? They allowed for unlawful duplication of somebody else’s content, but one of them nobody cared about. The record companies didn’t worry about it at all. The other, Napster, they cared deeply about it because of the scale, speed, volume of that duplication.

Napster went on to become essentially a black swan, right? That movement spawned the iPad, it spawned iTunes, it spawned Spotify, it spawned Pandora. What’s the last cassette tape you’ve ever bought? So, I think there is a parallel there, that it is sort of both, but the difference now is that technology allows this to happen at such a rate that it’s fundamentally a new thing.

Harry Stebbings: Can I ask, is that rate and is that scale the reason why so many marketers are focused on ABM today? Is that a kind of inflection point?

Joe Chernov: No. I think we’re focused on it for two reasons. It’s funny. One of the reasons, people like you are responsible for, and the other reason, people like me are responsible for.

I spent a lot of time in the marketing automation industry, right? I spent years at Eloqua, years at Hubspot, and I’d get up on stages, and so did my brethren, and we told everybody in the crowd, “Inbound or content marketing, that’s the way to market. It’s the only way to market.” But, what we all did is, we left off the asterisk. The asterisk is, it’s the right way to market for certain types of companies, companies that have an enormous addressable market. We left that asterisk off on purpose, because we had an agenda. We had software to sell.

People like you are partly responsible for it because you all get impatient. Inbound takes a long time, and marketing leaders, marketing teams, don’t always have the time. We don’t always have the runway required for inbound to really create a flywheel effect. If you think of that process, you publish something, you wait for somebody to find it. Some subset of that group convert. Some subset of that group is honest in the conversion, they don’t say they’re mickeymouse@disneyland.com. Some subset of those folks look like your ideal buyer, and then some subset enter your sales funnel.

Ultimately, inbound marketing is laced with breakage. If you have an enormous addressable market, if you’re Hubspot and you don’t care if you’re selling to Mack Trucks or some guy named Mack with a truck, it makes a lot of sense because there’s not a lot of false positives. But, if you’re selling to the Fortune 50, you’re going to be filled with a lot of false positives, and that’s where inbound tends to break down.

Harry Stebbings: So, how should one then determine that their ratio towards ABM versus inbound, whether they should be squarely ABM, squarely inbound … Is it all on market size, and how should one think about that when constructing the marketing strategy?

Joe Chernov: Yeah, it’s such a good question. That’s exactly the right way to look at this. Look at it as a pyramid. At the top is, if you’re selling to the Fortune 50, Fortune 500 even, I think you can lean heavily in the direction of ABM.

My father-in-law sells software to nuclear power plants. He’s got 431 organizations he can sell to, and a third of them are in countries that America can’t do business in. So, he can run an ABM program. The last thing he needs to do is start a blog. But, if you sell to tens of thousands of companies, where pure ABM and pure inbound both have elements that are right and elements that are mismatched, then you’re in a little bit more of a pickle, and you’ve got to create this hybrid model.

I look at it as kind of like a two by two. Across one axis is propensity to buy, the other axis is deal size. Then I try to allocate time and resources and capital and focus based on what quadrant companies fall in.

Harry Stebbings: I mean, I can’t not dive in there. You mention the element of deal size. The subsequent one for me is, well, what deal size then justifies a really strong and committed ABM strategy, and then what would be maybe not such a strong indicator that ABM is the right size?

Joe Chernov: I wish I had a real answer for this. You sound like Fred Shilmover. It’s sort of a question he asks me a lot, and I never have a super compelling answer for him.

If you’re at a 50k deal size, you’re probably too small for pure ABM. Now, if you’re at a 50k deal size, and you can win 90% of the deals, then you can justify it. So, that’s the other part, is win rate is a factor in all of this as well. If you win 80% of the deals at 50k, or 40% of the deals at 100k, I imagine the math is going to work out for you. But, if you’re winning 5% of the deals at 50k, then you’re going to have to create some type of inbound motion to your marketing process.

Harry Stebbings: Yeah. No, absolutely. I love that focus on win rate there, and you’ve been CMO of many incredible scaling companies. I do have to ask, when the win rate isn’t maybe where it should be, and there’s maybe discouragement or maybe a saddening of the marketing team, how do you think about corralling that enthusiasm and excitement when the win rate isn’t where it should be?

Joe Chernov: That’s an interesting insight. It’s interesting that you bring up marketing’s impact on morale. I imagine we’ll talk more about what marketing is responsible for in a growing B2B company, but morale is one of them, and not everybody sees that. So, props to you for pointing that out.

Look, I think ABM actually fits in really nicely here. What ABM gives a marketing team is more surface area to claim success. Hopefully claim it justifiably, but claim it nevertheless. You can run ABM programs designed to increase ASP. You can run ABM programs designed to shorten sales cycles. You can run ABM programs designed to help with win rate. It’s just a matter of where you want to channel your resources. Do you want to channel your resources to the AE team and focus on open opportunities, and focus on open opportunities with a certain probability to win? You are going to be able to ramp up, dial up the win rate on those. The question is the opportunity cost of that.

If you can increase the win rate by X percent, but you have robbed Peter to pay Paul as they say, you’ve taken your focus off of pipeline creation, then have you really done the business a service? With a smaller marketing team, a challenge with ABM is that, because it’s fundamentally outbound and it fundamentally all requires force of your own creation, it’s really hard to serve multiple masters at the same time. So, what we’ve found at InsightSquared is, we would focus on helping the AEs, but we would realize we were coming up short then on pipeline, or we would focus on demand creation or demand capture, but the AE team was going hungry and ASP or win rate would suffer.

The nature of the beast, that emerging company, is you don’t have all the resources to do everything you want, and it tends to be not absolutely zero-sum, but resembles zero-sum in some ways.

Harry Stebbings: Given that lack of scalability, and maybe lack of ability to fill the pipe for the sales team, is it really a strategy that is available to maybe lean startups with limited runway, and are raising seed rounds, or raised seed rounds but don’t have the large funds available to really engage meaningfully in it?

Joe Chernov: I think a form of it is available for the type of company you described. ABM, as spoken from on high, by all of the ABM influencers available to that company? No. Because they’re not going to be able to create one-to-one content, content that’s designed for a very specific brand. They’re not going to be able to do really expensive premium direct mail, certainly not at scale. They’re not going to be able to do their research into each individual account that folks in this industry would urge them to do.

What they’re going to have to do is find lookalike account, and treat them in a way that resembles bespoke, that resembles a one-to-one communication, but is sort of one to few, or one to small group communication. They’re going to have to fake it a little. They’re going to have to publish an e-books, if you will, and have the first page be different for each recipient, but the next 10 pages be identical. They’re going to have to fake it a little.

But, I do think that, for the company you’re describing, ABM will be effective at helping them prove product market fit. Because, remember, inbound takes an unbelievably long time to generate bottom of funnel results, and they may not have the time to spend in creating a blog and waiting for that blog to grow, waiting for the audience to grow, to prove their value. So, I think that they may do a blog as an investment, as a longer term investment, but in the short term, do some ABM-ish stuff to prove they can get revenue in the door and to prove that they can create a pattern of customers who buy.

Harry Stebbings: I mean, clearly, I could chat about ABM all day with you. The final question I do have, before we move on, is you’ve worked, as I said, across numerous organizations and employeed it incredibly successfully. How have you seen the very best use ABM, and what was it about how they used it that made it so successful, do you think?

Joe Chernov: I think the best do one thing better than anyone else, and that is sales and marketing are more than aligned. They are overlapping functions. I don’t believe there should be a head of sales and marketing. I think that if we have one person that’s a head of sales and marketing, sales is going to win. But, I do think that sales and marketing need to be more than aligned. They need to share conference rooms. They need to share account lists. They need to share account definitions. They each need to have their own SLAs that are compatible. They need to essentially report to each other.

The companies that do this well … Think of somebody like Maria Pergolino, who I think is the best marketer in tech. What makes Maria special is two things. She’s got a squad of people that follow her everywhere because she’s Maria Pergolino, and she is conversant in sales. If you close your eyes and heard her talk, you could confuse her with a head of sales. She’s not, and she doesn’t aspire to be, but she’s able to be as conversant in that language as any head of sales would be.

That creates a sort of forcing function where the two groups overlap, like those two circles in that Venn diagram appear to be one, and that’s what the best of the best do. It’s not the technology. It’s not the creative. It’s not the campaigns. It’s that shared responsibility.

Harry Stebbings: I love that focus on the alignment and the merging of the two functions there. But, I do want to touch on a different craze that we’ve seen. If ABM’s one of them, another that we’ve seen is the conference craze. It seems everyone had to have a newsletter a few years ago, now everyone has to have a conference. So, talk to me, Joe. What’s behind this rise in SaaS conferences?

Joe Chernov: Yeah, I know. It’s so true, right? Everybody has their own user conference. None of them say it’s a user conference, they all say it’s an industry conference. But, wink wink, 90% of the attendees are users, so is it really an industry conference?

I think a few things are behind it. One is the power of anecdote. When I worked at Eloqua, for a while I reported to Joe Payne, the CEO. He was a spectacular CEO. I’m really graced that he continued to be a mentor. He would say, “Joe, this is Eloqua. We don’t measure by anecdote.” What he left off was the invisible asterisk, that was “unless it’s my anecdote.” So, if Joe heard something in his circles, all of a sudden it was something we all needed to pay attention to, because it was his anecdote. Well, every CEO, or even CFO, that’s gone to one of these user conferences, comes back saying to the marketing team, “We need one of those.” They all sort of Joe Payne us. I think that’s one of the things that’s behind it.

The other is folks like you. This is the blame the VC segment here. But, I met Anthony Kennada, the CMO of Gainsight, at Dreamforce once. He and I set up a time to grab some coffee. I sat down and I said, and this is going to sound very douchey, but I sat down and jokingly said, “Congratulations, Anthony. You’re the new me.” He was like, “What do you mean by that?” and I said, “When I was at Eloqua and we were doing a really good job with content, our board of directors fanned out to their other portfolio companies and said, “You guys got to see what Eloqua’s doing with content. You need to do some of that yourself.” And then the other board members in those rooms fanned out and said the same thing to their portfolio companies, and soon I had every VC and startups calling me saying, “What do you guys do? How do you manage the content process at Eloqua?””

Well, the same thing is happening with events, thanks to Gainsight’s Pulse. Like, that event is a home run. Anthony’s done an incredible job with that event. Now, through our boards of directors, throughout the SaaS industry, all of those investors are coming in saying, “Well, have you thought about events in your marketing mix?” Then there’s pressure on all of us to do it.

I also think events are a tangible thing, right? Like, the CEO, CFO, they can see, feel, touch marketing in a way that they can’t in this automated marketing world, where everything is clicks and emails and digital, and the messaging is only exposed to the right buyers; we get this sort of ruthless efficiency. So, they never see the marketing, ’cause they’re not the recipient of the marketing. When it comes to user conferences, they get to see it and touch it, and they get to see what they’re spending their money on. I think that’s also a contributing factor.

Harry Stebbings: If everyone’s being urged to do it, and everyone’s thinking about it, how should one determine whether it’s fundamentally the right strategy for them, or it just works better for someone else in a different market with a different budget? How should you know whether it’s right for you?

Joe Chernov: I think there’s a few reasons. First of all, you’ve got to have enough customers that you can have a critical mass in the room, because what an event really is about, if you really want to get down to it, what you want is half customers and half prospects, and you want to have the customers do your selling for you at the event. If you don’t have a critical mass of customers, or if you don’t have a critical mass of happy customers, get that critical mass first, ’cause you want them to do the heavy lifting for the company at the event.

You also need to think about the profile of customers that you’ve got. If you sell to heads of sales, you’re probably not going to convene enough of them at your conference for it to make sense. They just don’t go to events. They’re busy running a sales team. They’re busy trying to make a number. They’re not out trying to get educated at conferences.

I think there’s two types of groups that make sense. One is a group that convenes easily, like marketers. It’s pretty easy to get marketers to show up at an event. So, if that’s who you sell to, you sell to mid-level marketers, directors of marketing, that’s a group that you can kind of bet will convene naturally. Or, if you have a group that is really underserved, like at InsightSquared we sold to sales ops professionals. They sell to sales ops professionals. It’s historically been an underserved persona. They’re not trying to make a number. They have time to come to an event like this, it’s just not enough people offering them. So, there’s an opportunity there.

I think the third is, you have to have an appetite for losing money. I don’t know any company that makes money on their user conference, at least none that can prove solid line conference to profit. I just don’t know any. You have to have an appetite for losing money. You have to have an executive team that sees it as an investment in the brand. If you do, if you have a team that sees it that way, then there’s potential here. If you’re going to be held accountable for a revenue number that exceeds the cost of the event, fight against it, because I’ve never seen anybody that does that.

Harry Stebbings: I’m so pleased you said that, about the financial commitment upfront and the potential loss that you have to stomach.

I do want to talk about resource allocation. How should one think about resource allocation towards events, and are there any nuances?

Joe Chernov: Yeah, there’s plenty of nuances. I think you hit on one of them, actually, when you talked about the impact of marketing on morale.

I think marketing does four explicit things, marketing in a B2B company. We capture demand. I don’t believe we create demand. I believe we capture latent demand. We accelerate pipeline. We help the deals that are on the rim fall into the basket. We help keep customers longer, and we create this force multiplier that is brand and community. We have people in the greater market that are endorsing us, and that can create a flywheel effect.

If the CMO’s doing those four things, then he or she is really doing her job. Home grown event is the one investment that explicitly touches all four of these priorities. So, if you look at it across all four vectors, you might say, “Look, we are going to hold ourselves accountable for this to be a successful event, but we’re only going to attribute 25% of the cost of the event to demand generation.” If the event costs us $100,000, did we generate $25,000 in quality demand? Or if you have a 25% win rate? $100,000 in demand? Now, it starts to look much more realistic. The justification of the investment starts to look much more realistic.

And you want to look at it, again, a little bit more holistically. The metrics we have used going into an event saying, “We’re going to hold ourselves accountable, in these areas, for things like ENPS,” the employee net promoter score. Are the employees who go, or is the company at large, happier after the event? Did it have a boost in morale? Did it contribute to a boost in morale? We use it for recruiting. We have senior candidates that we have come to the event, to kind of expose them to the best of the best of the company. We look at net promoter score from attendees versus non attendees, net promoter score change. Did attendees get happier after the event? We look at leading indicators for renewal.

At InsightSquared, we pay close attention to daily active usage. Is there a change in daily active usage? Does that change sustain over time? We look at acts of advocacy. We paid for G2 Crowd to have a booth at our event. Why? Because, in their demo of G2 Crowd, they were corralling people over to review InsightSquared. That matters to us. So, if you look at it across all of these other dimensions, it’s kind of easy to justify the money.

Harry Stebbings: I do have to ask one final question though, before we move into the final segment. The question is, you mentioned there about the ability that marketing has to retain customers. I’m intrigued. Sales get paid often compensation on renewals. Should marketing not too?

Joe Chernov: Marketing should be held accountable to a metric that is directly tied to revenue. Is it the revenue number? Is it the renewal number? Is the renewal number of the cohort that marketing touches? I don’t know. I just know that there needs to be a number that has a solid line to new revenue, a number that has a solid line to renewals, that marketing is and should be accountable for.

Harry Stebbings: I’m so pleased you said that about whether it’s solely accountable to revenue.

I hear that you have a nice story. I don’t want to steal your thunder, so to speak, so what’s the story, and what’s the subsequent learning for you here, Joe?

Joe Chernov: I think Fred Destin may have pointed this out to you. I was having drinks with Fred, and I don’t know what provoked it, but I told Fred this story and he said that he’s going to tell it to Harry.

All right. Years ago, it was maybe 2012, before I ever joined Hubspot, Mike Volpe had me come over to the office. He and I were catching up. We’ve been friends for a long time. We go into the big conference room, the Benioff conference room, and I see somebody stacking up all of these chairs, all the chairs in the room. He pointed out that they were getting rid of those chairs because they were the wrong hue of orange. They weren’t the same orange as the sort of corporate ratified orange. I made a mental note. My mental note was flattering. My mental note was like, “God, these guys think of everything.”

So, a few months later, Mike and I were on a panel together, and I forget the topic. It was, you know, modern marketing topic. Mike polled the audience, and he said, “How many people in this room believe that marketing should be entirely, solely measured by revenue impact?” And maybe a quarter of the room’s hands went up. In sort of Mike fashion, he gently rebuked the audience, saying, “How can you think of it this way? All hands should be up. Everybody in this room should be measured entirely by revenue that they generated.”

Now, I get really bored of mutual admiration society panels. I like panelist on panelist crime. So, I leaned over and I said, “Hey, Mike. I was in your office not that long ago, and you were getting rid of all of the chairs that were the wrong color orange. How much revenue did you generate by the new orange chairs?” He looked at me like, “What the F are you doing this for?” But, my point was really flattering to Mike. It’s, yes, you generate revenue, but you are thinking even more broadly than that. I think that marketers, B2B marketers, often hold our nose when it comes to brand. We look at it as like arts and crafts marketing, old way of marketing.

I think if you think of brand as orange chairs, or you think of brand as the logo, then you are looking at brand in a way that’s not strategic. If you look at brand as the conversations about you that are happening when you’re not present, and how you can impact those remotely, then you’re thinking about brand as a force multiplier, thinking about brand as creating a community that does your heavy lifting, I think you’re thinking about brand the right way.

Harry Stebbings: I mean, I love that story, and I love that kind of alignment of brand to force multiplier. I could talk to you all day, Joe, but I do want to move into my favorite of any interview, being the 60 second SaaStr.

So, essentially, Joe, I say a short statement, you give me your immediate thoughts. Are you strapped in and ready to go?

Joe Chernov: I’m ready.

Harry Stebbings: What’s the biggest breakdown in the workings of an efficient funnel?

Joe Chernov: Humans. It’s bias. A sales rep can have all the data in the world right in from of them, saying what the right account is, and they think of the last good conversation that they had, and they only want to sell to companies that look like that last good conversation and they ignore all the data in front of them. It’s humans and human biases.

Harry Stebbings: Tell me a moment in your life that’s maybe changed the way you think and served as an inflection point.

Joe Chernov: I had an interview once, and the CEO said to me, “As soon as you’re non-compete expires, who’s the first person that’s going to follow you here?” And I did not have an answer. The answer was nobody. I realized at that moment that I was only doing half of my job. Half of my job is marketing. The other half of my job is creating a squad, creating a generation of marketers, and a generation of marketers that wants to work for me again. That was bone chilling conversation.

Harry Stebbings: I love that take away. Tell me, who’s killing it in SaaS marketing today, and why do you think so?

Joe Chernov: I already said Maria Pergolino, so I’ll say Maria again. I think she’s the best marketer in B2B, and it’s because she’s got a squad that follows her. She is at the forefront of every new marketing inflection, ABM, inbound, each at the optimal time. She can speak the language of the SVP in marketing, and she’s a consigliere to the CEO. I think she is the ideal B2B marketer.

Harry Stebbings: Tell me, advice in SaaS you most commonly hear given that you maybe disagree with.

Joe Chernov: Anything that confuses marketing with lead generation. Lead generation is a piece of marketing, it’s a very important piece of marketing, but often executive teams, particularly at SaaS companies, tend to co-mingle the two so that one is indistinguishable from the other. Marketing is not demand gen. Demand gen is a piece of marketing, and I think that seeing marketing as demand gen is an epidemic in SaaS.

Harry Stebbings: I absolutely love that. Tell me, what makes a truly special CMO, Joe?

Joe Chernov: You’ve got to be able to live at two altitudes. You have to be able to live at the brand altitude, you also have to be able to live at the demand altitude. You have to be the trusted advisor to the CEO. You’ve got to know which battles to fight, and you’ve got to build a squad. You have to build a team of people that are locked in with you, and you have to have the sales team’s respect. I think the marketing team needs to like you, the sales team needs to respect you.

Harry Stebbings: I love that difference. I do want to finish though, and this is one of my favorites. What do you know now that you wish you’d known in the beginning of your career in SaaS and in marketing?

Joe Chernov: An opinion, no matter how strongly held, is inferior to fact. It’s easy to confuse a strongly held opinion with fact, but they’re not the same thing.

Harry Stebbings: Joe, it’s been such a pleasure, as you can tell from my over excited tone. I could chat all day. But, seriously, I’m so excited for the times ahead for you, and I can’t thank you enough for joining me today.

Joe Chernov: Harry, I loved it. Thanks so much for having me.

Harry Stebbings: I mean, I think you’ll agree with me in saying such an incredible guest to have on the show there. Joe, I cannot thank you enough for that, and I’m so excited to see the next steps ahead for you with Robin.

If you’d like to see more from Joe, you can find him on Twitter, @JChernov. Likewise, we’d love to see you behind the scenes here on Instagram at HStebbings1996, with two Bs. It’d be fantastic to see you there.

As always, I cannot thank you enough for your support, and I cannot wait to bring you an incredible episode next Monday.

Published on September 21, 2018

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