Jessica Cross – Aligning the Stack with the Customer Lifecycle

Jessica Cross - Head of Customer Lifecycle Marketing at AdRoll

Jessica Cross the Head of Customer Lifecycle at AdRoll talks about their stack including, Marketo, ClearBit, StrikeIron, Outreach, Yesware, Hootsuite and more!

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John Wall: Welcome to Stack and Flow. I’m John Wall…

Sean Zinsmeister: And I’m Sean Zinsmeister…

Jessica Cross: And I’m Jessica Cross.

John: (laughing) 60 Minutes going on, you hit it perfectly! Today’s guest is Jessica Cross, the head of customer life cycle of AdRoll, Jessica thanks for joining us.

Jessica: Thank you so much for having me.

John: So in the news today we had, and this actually drove our conversation prior to the show, we have a link to Mitch Joel’s article about why “Marketing Automation Must Die”. Talking about some of the marketing crimes against humanity which are a hot topic, but Sean what caught your eye? Was it just the rant or was there more to it than that?

Sean: It was the rant, it was how well written that rant is which you can only expect from Mitch Joel to put it in such prose. I think that it’s definitely something that’s got to have been on a lot of people’s minds who have been working with marketing automation and a lot of these tools. I think that what really hit me is you know especially with big data becoming more and more mainstream for both B2B and B2C marketers, is how is this stuff going to change now that more things are accessible. Because you know we had these quote/unquote versions of automation tools that really have just been abused. Is this trend going to continue or is this something that you know with more data and more precision around our targeting and segmentation that we’re actually going to get to see this or are we just going to get more of the same.

John: Jessica what do you think about this, does this touch a nerve for you too?

Jessica: The article definitely touched a nerve for me because all the things he complains about are areas that I try to avoid as much as possible in my day to day operations. The one thing I will say is I don’t know if it’s necessarily marketing automation’s fault but rather list providers fault. If you think about it marketing automation tools and CRM tools when you buy them, when you get it deployed, Eloqua or Marketo are empty shells. There’s no contacts, there’s no e-mails in there. It’s up to the list providers and you know those people that promise demand generation lists that I think are more of the culprit as you can easily pour leads into those marketing automation solutions and fire e-mails off.

Sean: What’s interesting is, Jessica I wonder if you think that since the rise of also these sort of sales automation tools where John and I have talked about this in the past where you have the rise of these text where almost a lot of these frontline reps have these cadence tools, sequence tools almost a little mini marketing automation tools at their disposal. I wonder if do you think that that’s something that’s going to make this worse?

Jessica: I think it definitely makes it worse. It gives more power to more people within an organization and suddenly instead of just you know a handful of marketers being able to send through Marketo you have an entire sales team but maybe 40 to 100 reps sending out 50 to 100 emails a day with those tools.

John: For your work flow then, what’s your … obviously so you’re not just dumping them all in as soon as the list shows up. How do you normally run lists like that through?

Jessica: To me I’m all about opt in policies. I only want to be e-mailing people that have actually expressed interests in my solution and have only filled out the form and on their accord agreed to receive the emails. I’m very much against pouring raw leads into a system and hitting up with emails. It never works out. I’ve actually, I have tried it and you get about a 1% response rate and I’m not talking about a 1% close rate. I’m just talking about a sheer response on the list. So my take is to try to adhere as much as you can to real opt in policies.

Sean: And that’s interesting. Jessica, especially given your role, I’d love to ask you about your title in particular. So what is life cycle marketing really entail, customer lifecycle marketing? Can you dive into it a little bit?

Jessica: It’s broader than demand generation, and I actually think this is the first time ever maybe the best job for my skill set. I am responsible for building the scalable repeatable programs that take a prospect from you know MQL or MQC all the way through to a happy loving paying customer. So that entails you know email nurturing, that entails the SDR hand-off process, onboarding systems and then up-sale and renewal programs. I mean most of those programs actually reflect themselves in terms of email but I do have other channels to my disposal between retargeting and digital advertising. I also think that the SDR is a channel that I can use. But yes I am building basically email nurturing across all lifecycle stages.

Sean: So that’s really interesting. So you’re almost like, you’re definitely a connective tissue that sort of connects a lot of these different departments. So do you partner closely with the marketing operations sales operations or are you going to have some of that independently underneath you or is the technology stack I guess shared or is there going to be some stuff that lives right under you?

Jessica: One thing that actually really appealed to me about AdRoll is that we had a marriage of sales ops and marketing ops and they now define themselves as Rev-ops and it all rolls up into an operations head versus rolling up to either sales or marketing. Makes it more of like an independent third party because as you and I probably both know sales Ops has a lot of requests from finance, from legal even, so we have a revenue operations team that I work very, very closely with. When I need something done I submit cases, they review, they do the build if need be. But there are some things that I handle on my own but this is actually interesting like the first time in my career I no longer have to be the admin, that actually makes me very happy. I can focus on more of the strategy than the actual implementation.

John: Yeah this is a good point to step back for a little bit. Tell us what AdRoll does and the types of customers you have and who you’re selling to give us a picture of the problem you’re solving.

Jessica: AdRoll has, you probably know AdRoll best for retargeting. It’s one of the leaders in retargeting digital solution. We also have e-mail retargeting and prospecting solutions. So like to think of ourselves as a full funnel performance marketing platform for modern digital marketers. Our customers predominantly are in retail B2C, B2B, a little bit of health care, a little bit of travel and they’re all over the globe which is really fantastic.

John: Okay and could you unpack that a little bit more too. I think retargeting is well-known as far as either someone has seen one website and then they’re getting relevant chance instead of just getting random ads, they are actually getting relevant stuff. How does that roll over into email and kind of the expanded features that you are targeting?

Jessica: So we have this product, SendRoll. The concept is again if the person has opted into your e-mails, say someone is shopping for hiking shoes and they abandon the website, SendRoll can then send an email directly to their inbox with an offer to purchase those shoes for say you know 10% off or 20% off. Sometimes offer to incentivize the shopper to go ahead and make that conversion. The metrics we see out of that are fantastic, but again it’s all for the opted in shoppers.

Sean: One thing I’m interested in is because AdRoll has that unique customer set where you guys have both you know B2C and B2B businesses. Are there different use cases that you see for B2B versus B2C or is it just sort of different strategies? What are you seeing there?

Jessica: I will say some of the terminology differs which is fun for us because you know some people call a conversion point when someone hits a landing page and other peoples call the conversion point when they’re a signed up paying customer. So that creates a little bit of discrepancies between our verticals but predominantly our customers are using AdRoll to drive customers back to their website, as well as use the prospecting tool to find net new visitors and net new customers.

Sean: Now the prospecting tool, I have to ask you about that because I loved, I think it was last year they’re really talking about the intent map and this idea of intent data. You know intent data is something that so, really it just it’s a hot topic any time you get a chance to talk to sales and marketing folks. What’s your guys sort of view on intent data, because I almost feel that the retargeting guys, in particular AdRoll really have pioneered that idea. I’m curious what your sort of thoughts are?

Jessica: For intent data it all comes down to what are people doing on the web. What are they clicking, what are they showing interest in. There is honestly I think no better source of intent data than first party data, which means the actual click stream of what someone is doing across the Internet. AdRoll has that, honestly Facebook has that, Google has that, because they’re able to collect user’s behavior. With that intent data you can then build awesome things like look alike audiences, you can try your best to find them across the Internet. Do things like header bidings, you can try and capture their interest earlier than anyone else. Truly, first party data is I think the best thing a marketer can use, you’re familiar with the difference between you know first party data or third party data.

Sean: That’s something I’m familiar with but now I’d love you to give that definition.

Jessica: Sure. Think about it this way. Retargeting, the way AdRoll does it, works off of a cookie. You know you visit, puts a cookie on your browser. You continue navigating around the Internet, you go to Huffington Post, you go to a New York Times and you see an ad for those hiking boots again. That is retargeting as AdRoll, as actually you know Google can do it as well. Third Party targeting basically infers who the customer is based on maybe like a reverse IP look up or by location. Some other companies are using that type of technology to do their targeting. But what happens then is that you don’t actually know for certain that that person is who you think it is. You’re getting more of broad targeting so to speak. That doesn’t actually mean targeting doesn’t. With a reverse IP look up you can basically display ads to the entire Microsoft company, but that means you know you’re showing ads to say 30000 people when all you really want to do is show ads to maybe five.

Sean: I have to ask because any time I get a chance to talk to folks who you know not just have a deep background in marketing technology but also ad-tech you know we’re living it, IP versus sort of cookie matching is this sort of still a debate in the ad-tech world? Do you fall down on one side or the other, is it both?

Jessica: I can see the benefits of both. I just prefer to serve ads directly to the people that I want to serve ads to rather than more of a mass approach. I joke that if I were ever to write a memoir of my digital marketing experience I would entitle it “Wasted Impressions” just as I think back on you know previous jobs. How much money and impressions I’ve served up to audiences that just simply don’t matter and don’t have any interest in my solution. So why even serve the impression in the first place f it’s not the right buyer for you?

John: that’s great, this is funny because you have a tool in the space, we could go on all day just asking you about this stuff here, but I do want to steer back too to the stack and where we normally do our digging. What kind of technology stack have you built, like what’s your system of record and what are some of the primary tools that you’re working with?

Jessica: We’re pretty, I’d say mainstream in terms of our stack. We have sales force, we have Marketo, our website at this point is home coded. We’ve moved away from a CMS which I feel like a lot of people are doing lately. We use things like ClearBit and StrikeIron for email validation. Again I’m really big on using valid emails and only e-mailing people that want to hear from us. Of course AdRoll, we’re using AdRoll for our digital targeting. We’re working on integrating a direct mailing system which I’m very excited about. We’re looking at using PFL to send out direct mailers as part of more of an ABM approach. Let’s see what else, what am I missing? With outreach, and yes where the sales teams use those tools for their correspondence with prospects. I’m sure there’s a bunch other and this is probably the benefit of me actually being more on the strategic end than inside of marketing ops at this point. I might not know all the pieces in our stack.

John: How about the social stacks too, is anything over on that side?

Jessica: I don’t think we have a listening tool at this time. We’re definitely using Hootsuite.

John: Okay. Yeah that’s still the king of the hill really, you know it gets the job done.

Sean: So Jessica I mean you’ve got a great background especially having worked in build stacks in the past. I’m wondering how do you divide the pie almost when you look at your stack, are there things you’re looking at, “Okay I need this for analytics and this for engagement”, how do you sort of divide that up and then go about sort of understanding which solutions are going to fill the need?

Jessica: I take the point of view of mapping the success path for our customers. What does that success path look like and what are the touch points I want them to have along that path from being an anonymous visitor to my blog or seeing a Twitter ad even, all the way through to paying customer. I usually start at that point first to map out how I want them to move and then I’ll go through and address what technology is best to give them those touch points. Does that make sense?

Sean: No it actually makes complete sense, and then it’s kind of a natural segue into my next question which is there’s so many pieces of technology that a marketer and a sales person end up using in the course of the day, how do you go about sort of measuring success? When are the times where you sort of, what are the red flags that go up where you say, “Okay this is an under-performer it’s time to either swap that out for something else or you know…”

Jessica: Such a good question. Sometimes it can get difficult because you start encountering maybe cultural biases or sometimes if something’s been used in a company for two plus years, there’s a little bit of resistance to switching over. I mean I will attest that Marketo is not the best at doing customer emails. Marketo doesn’t do a good job of handling product usage information. So to that end we actually have a thing called Customer.IO, that sends our customer e-mails and it integrates really well with this other thing called Segment.IO that listens for different events inside of our platform. I’ve heard of horror stories from other marketers where they try to integrate product usage data into Marketo when it came to a screeching halt. Marketo could not process all the data but it’s a good point of like how do you determine when something is no longer useful, how do you move move away from it?

I don’t know if I have a strong answer as to when and how, but actually I had a running tally in my notes here of all the dead tech that I used to use and I could to rattle it off. It’s things like Smartsheet or NetProspex (now Dun & Bradstreet – Ed.) or Drupal, LeadLander, Jigsaw, which is now, MailChimp, Hoovers, Sprout Social, Jive, Rapportive, ToutApp, Basecamp. Some of these are still great companies but I’m just thinking through all the tech that I no longer use. I don’t know if I can quite discern why I don’t use it anymore other than some of them don’t even exist anymore.

Sean: So that’s, the usage and user adoption I think is always a huge challenge right because once you define the strategy it’s always the execution that’s always the tough part. Do you have best practices if you’re introducing a new technology to your organization and maybe you’re going through this at AdRoll right now, but do you have best practices to sort of introduce this to the organization and make sure that you know pick up, it goes into their workflows?

Jessica: One thing for me is I want to show a win to the sales team early so that they have belief in the system, that they have adoption of the system. So as I look to integrate PFL, I’m going to want to make sure we’d have one direct mailer that goes off without a hitch, that displays everyone that receives the mailer easily inside of sales force in a digestible view for my sales team and then report out on the potential return on investment that we see from closed one business for people that receive that direct mail. I think it’s critical to show a quick win when you first buy a solution and then potentially build the integration even deeper but you want to make sure you know buy in from the sales team that’s on the receiving end. Even management to note, so that management knows you know that $30,000 or even that $70,000 is going toward something good rather than just being shelf ware.

John: How well do you do that? Do you have champions that you kind of let use it and prove some success with or do you roll out with the whole team?

Jessica: I’m actually rolling out a new SDR (sales development representative -Ed.) follow up sequence or cadence, whatever word you want to use. And I’m actually piloting it with our Sydney office since there’s only two SDRs there and they have a smaller volume of inbound leads which is nice because then I can troubleshoot a lot quicker around pick ups in this follow up process. Once we have that perfectly smoothed out, I can then roll it out to North America and EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa -Ed.). But yes it’s good to try and pilot something with a smaller team first, make sure it works, make sure it wins, get their approval so that they can talk to their sales counterparts and then try and roll it out across the globe.

Sean: That’s really interesting you know piloting it with the Sydney team first. I’m curious now that you have you, you’re working with all these global marketing teams you know EMEA or APAC (Asia and Pacific -Ed.), is their different attitudes towards technology adoption that you’re seeing or is it sort of the same across the board? I’m curious about if there’s any nuances?

Jessica: The nuances are more about old school technology, for example voicemail really is not a thing in Europe. So if I set a task in outreach from my SDR to leave a voicemail, they just can’t. So you have to understand some of those nuances, and there’s nuances with appropriate e-mailing in Japan that you have to be aware of. Can’t just go e-mailing someone after you receive their business card. So it’s interesting, the nuances are more about deeper established historical tech than I think the team’s ability to accept new software.

Sean: No it makes a lot of sense, and I wanted to actually go back to even something that you were talking about two where you know data flow for a lot of the folks that we talked about is always so important when they’re choosing tech and this idea of sort of open architecture. Is this a trend that you’re seeing as well, is this something that you look at for and choosing new technologies and that you want to make sure that you know this data plays well with them and this is something that we obviously deal a lot with on the Infer side, but I’m curious as you’re sort of thinking about the stack, are you looking for this and then how does that play into your strategy?

Jessica: It’s interesting because I imagine people have been talking about data flow for 20, 30 years and the promise of cloud computing was that we would get away from siloed servers sitting in a back room somewhere. Yet even with cloud software we still have silos, we still have systems that can’t speak to each other. You know this API is unusable or this one is deprecated or we can’t code to this one because it’s you know only updates once a day versus you know every five minutes. So I imagine people have been talking about data flow and data silos for a long time. I will say I have found a couple of tools that help get around that. Between Segment.IO and Zapier, we are using Zapier as well I forgot to mention that earlier when my rattled off the tech, the tech stack. But that helps to listen for you know signals and say the product and then shoot bits of information into either a Salesforce or Marketo. The sad thing is that the big pieces of tech that we marketers predominantly use don’t do the best job of speaking with each other, so we have to find these additional tools to send the little packets back and forth.

John: That’s interesting. You know it’s kind of funny, Zapier is like the next PURL, the ability for people to kind of carve things and make things happen.

Jessica: It’s a great tool, it’s also it’s super, super easy to use. I was very impressed when I saw someone build just a quick flow…

John: …to make it work. So while we’re on the subject of pain points and kind of patching and fixing these things. What’s on your roadmap? Do you have other pain points that you want to address now or you know other tools that you’re considering? What are you thinking about going next?

Jessica: We’re trying to solve attribution. Attribution can be defined in so many different ways. But for us we are looking to give credit to the first click on our prospects take, when they meet us and give attribution credit to that first click. Currently our set up I think gives more credit to the last click before conversion, conversion being the form completion. So that’s one thing I’m working with on, with our digital advertising manager as well as our business intelligence person, to see how we can re-architect like the cookies and the pixels on the website and even some listening campaigns inside of Marketo so that we’re giving more credit to the first touch.

John: But you’re still looking at, I know a lot of people tend to you know throw time frame in there too whereas you know if it’s been over six months you start to disregard first touches, are you kind of trying to build out a whole model…

Jessica: We were looking at a 30 day attribution window, I got to tell you though it feels sometimes that’s completely arbitrary. Like what should the window be?

John: Yeah, no that’s a great question. You almost start crossing over into just share of mind, you know you get away from direct response type stuff and it’s more becomes kind of branding questions and awareness questions.

Jessica: So I’m to give you an anecdote that advocates for a multi-use CRM attribution model. So a couple of companies ago I work at this place called FlipTop and I did a presentation at the Marketo summit in San Francisco, I think 2014 on how to integrate predictive marketing across you know digital, across e-mail, across your sales process. In the audience was a friend of mine Steve Susina, I hope I didn’t botch his name. But he watched the presentation and he had a bunch of questions for me afterwards. I think he took pictures, he took notes and he went off and did his own research. Fast forward, FlipTop it’s acquired by LinkedIn, FlipTop is then deprecated.

I then go work for a company called EverString. At EverString, Steve pops up as a prospect and Steve talks to me. We email back and forth and he wants to dig deeper into that presentation I gave when I was at Flip Top, and Steve Close’s as a customer. Then he goes on to present at marketer marketing nation summit himself on his use case of predictive marketing. So there you have a customer that learned about it a full year before and then converted while I was at a different company. That’s a case in my opinion for attribution windows being as long as possible, but I can be swayed either way. I just thought that was it was too funny to me that he watched a presentation when I was at one company and then converted at the other.

John: No that’s you know that’s a great point and I love that, because I’m seeing this happen more and more where you do have both, and both the sales rep and the prospect even going through multiple stages in their career. You know, my big painful story with us has been everywhere I go we always talk about integrating with the major CRM provider. So I always have to set up an account and then for a month I’m getting calls and I’m like, “Hey I’m the same guy you’ve known for 8 years.”

Jessica: Exactly. Multi CRM attribution.

John: I like that, I like that a lot.

Sean: I know that looking into you, especially given your background all these trends right now I’d say the hottest ones looking at sort of the ABM mania, you know predictive, continuing to sort of catch fire. Jessica what do you sort of thoughts on these trends and where are we going to end up with some of them and what sort of the outcome going to look like especially even looking into next year…?

Jessica: You’re talking more about you know artificial intelligence and making the system smarter and making the systems more responsive?

Sean: Absolutely.

Jessica: Yeah it excites me greatly. A mantra that I have to remind myself over and over again is that we do not pay sales reps to do data entry, definitely do not. We pay sales reps to close business for us. So if your CRM is set up in a way that all your reps are doing is checking boxes and filling out forms and filling out you know, “oh this is their website and this is their industry and this is their Alexa rank”, you’ve missed the point completely, you’ve totally missed the mark. There’s so much tech now that can take care of all of those types of tasks and updates and information automatically. So I get greatly excited when I hear about things you know with, what did Salesforce buy, the Salesforce IQ?…

Sean: Einstein has been their big preview.

Jessica: Yeah, just anything that can make Salesforce smarter, I’m all for. They’re definitely not investing in their UI.

Sean: Well it’s smarter and then also you know what about hygiene too, because I know data quality continues to always be a big challenge. You know is this something that, are best practices that you’ve used in the past that have been successful, what are some advice that you are going to give us?

Jessica: Data hygiene is like the unsung third pillar of a demand generation marketer. First should be content, the second should be channel and then the third is data hygiene. You can’t be a demand generation marketer without having good data hygiene. I set up tasks, quarterly tasks to do certain dedupe projects. I like to rely on different data providers you know via the API web hooks to do automated updates to certain fields of information, things like their location or their industry or their Alexa rank. You know go to a trusted data provider for those bits of information, don’t task your SDR team to fill it out because they will invariably either not do it or fill in dummy data that ruins the entire system. So I definitely like to trust data providers for certain bits of information.

John: Jessica that’s great as we have just scratched the surface really. We’ve had a bunch of stuff that we wanted go over, but this has been great, we appreciate your time. I think we’d love to get you back on the show but thanks for joining us.

Jessica: Thank you so much. It’s been such a pleasure.

John: All right that will do it for this week. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you in the stacks.

Sean Zinsmeister

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