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24 MIN READ

Marketing tips to scale your business for success with Anna Griffin

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This week on the Scaling Success podcast, Sean Cantwell is joined by Anna Griffin, Chief Marketing Officer at Commvault. Anna speaks about her marketing career journey and how it has shaped her career path in this ever-growing field. She’s spent her career honing communication strategies and delivering stories that engage and inspire customers. They discuss some of Anna’s best tips and advice for success she’s had along the way from consumer marketing through some of her agency work and B2B experience.

About Anna Griffin:

Anna is the Chief Marketing Officer at Commvault, where she leads product marketing, corporate marketing, demand generation, and growth. She has over 25 years of experience as a senior marketing executive in agency, brand, and global marketing leadership positions spanning consumer goods to enterprises. Anna focuses primarily on business transformation with a proven record in strategic positioning, go-to-market strategy, and worldwide creation and design of marketing programs. She has helped position, build, and promote campaigns for global brands such as Apple, Sony, Saturn, Lands’ End, Juniper Networks, CA Technologies, and Smartsheet. Previously, Anna was the Chief Marketing Officer for Smartsheet, where she led strategic repositioning and rebranding that helped the company grow from 200 million to 500 million in annual recurring revenue.

Full Transcript:

Sean
Hello and welcome back to Season two of Scaling Success, a podcast geared towards entrepreneurs, where we discuss a range of topics that contribute to building a valuable and long-lasting business. If you’re new to the podcast, please subscribe on Spotify and YouTube. I am very excited to welcome Anna Griffin as today’s guest. Anna is chief marketing officer at Intercom, where she leads product marketing, corporate marketing, demand generation, and growth. She has over 25 years of experience as a senior marketing executive in agency, brand, and global marketing leadership positions spanning consumer goods to enterprise. She focuses primarily on business transformation with a proven record in strategic positioning, go-to-market strategy and global creation and design of marketing programs. She has helped position, build, and promote campaigns for global brands such as Apple, Sony, Saturn, Lands’ End, Juniper Networks, CA Technologies, and Smartsheet. Previously, Anna was chief marketing officer for Smartsheet, where she led strategic repositioning and rebranding that helped the company grow from 200 million to 500 million in annual recurring revenue. She was also SVP of marketing at CA Technologies. Anna is a proud graduate of East Carolina University, Go Pirates, and has been the recipient of many notable marketing awards. Most importantly, Anna is a member of Volition Capital Strategic Advisory Board. Anna, welcome to the podcast.

Anna Griffin
But no other person I’d rather spend an afternoon with. Thank you, Sean, for having me.

Sean
All right. Terrific. Well, let’s just dive in, Anna. Given your experience in marketing, as you know, we invest in growth-stage technology companies that are constantly wrestling with the decision on when, where, and how much to invest in a variety of initiatives to improve their company’s positioning. Marketing obviously plays a key role in all of that, so we’re excited to glean some insights from you today. But maybe just to kick things off, I’d love to hear what attracted you originally to a career in marketing.

Anna Griffin
Oh, wow. So, I think I was always a curious and driven and creative human being. There’s something about marketing. I had started my career earlier in the arts because of just my passion for creativity. I realized that marketing actually was the art of business, that ability to make prospects or customers think and feel a certain way about what you do and the role you can play in their life or in their remit. So, I thought it was pretty fascinating what artists may do that in art or theatre or dance, which was a path that I was pursuing at a younger age. I realized, gosh, how much more fun is it to make to do this on a global stage through the lens of business? So, I think I’ve just always been drawn to the psychology of buying.

Sean
How have you seen marketing change over the last 25 years? Because there is absolutely an art to it, and more and more there’s a science to marketing. I’m just curious to hear your evolution as a marketing executive.

Anna Griffin
Yeah. The art never goes away. You just use the science more readily. I think the biggest change that I’ve seen is that nano media, that idea that everybody is… Gone are the days of mass media, mass publishing, mass reach vehicles that you’re doing, one to thousands to millions to,… It’s now just all one-to-one that nano media, and that expectation from the end user to be marketed to as a human being know me, I don’t have tolerance for you. If you don’t know me, you don’t know my preferences. You don’t know my life. If you spelled my name wrong, if you bombard me with a bunch of offer emails, I just think the customer’s expectations change so much that the marketeer has to meet that customer expectation. So it’s an awesome time because we’re right at this cusp where technology deployed correctly does that at spades today can make anybody feel like this one-to-one connection and know things about you and service you in a way that was really never possible.

Sean
That’s great. So, I want to zoom out a little bit. I mentioned some of your kind of career background at the outset. But I’d love to just hear you walk through for our listeners your career decisions to date and what has guided your decision-making process. Because I think you now look back over the last 20-plus years, and you have had exposure and experience to a variety of different industries and buyer types and so forth, which probably gives you a pretty well-rounded toolkit to apply in your current role at Intercom.

Anna Griffin
Yeah, yeah. So, I think these very first early decisions are, where can you get the best exposure to learn to solve hard problems. I think you must be choosy in those early decisions because that first job begets the second job, begets the… So I was lucky where some of my first jobs were working on massive brands. Like I think my very first job was working on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, which back in the ’90s, cruising was a big thing, and they were doing some of the sexiest ad work in the industry. So you got to learn from some of the best boutique agencies that you could ever learn from creative professionals. So then all of a sudden you’re doing sexy deemed work, whatever that is, and whatever field, and then you start getting calls from companies who want to be sexy or companies who want to come back to being sexy again. That led to an opportunity at Apple at the very early days. But by virtue of working at a company or working on brands at ad agencies like Saturn, which was a big deal in the ’90s, people hire teams and they go, “We want people who think like that, who think about brands in that capacity.” So that kind of landed an Apple opportunity, and I was able to launch the very first iMac, and Apple launched every product up until iPod. So again, that was… Then once you had Apple in the early 2000s under resume, then the next job, then Sony wants. Well, if you did that, could you do this for them, could you do this for us? So those are the first pieces of career advice and decision-making. But then after that, then you realize you have to diversify. So in my own personal journey, I realized creative thinking from the marketing communications side of the house was interesting, but I wanted more business strategy, exposure. Sometimes you have to bloom where you were planted. At the time I was living in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I realized I was going to need to learn B2B and B2B tech, and I ended up at Nortel Networks, which you take every opportunity you get and you try to do just bold work that produces for the company and then that begets the next, then Juniper Network calls and says, “Can you do for us what you just did there?” So it’s always a bill. So I think you’re always in, number one, the craft of learning as many functions. But then secondly, the exposure to brands and thinkers and people and leaders. I always try to toggle between to be as diverse as I can from B2C to B2B to hardware to software to enterprise SaaS. I’m sure I chose a company right now that’s deep, deep, deep AI-driven and which I think is the next place I want to get scrappy at. So yeah, you’re just always trying to round out your experiences and learn from the best.

Sean
When you step into a new role, Anna, what is your process look like to get your arms around the company, the opportunity, the customers, the buyer types in order to really kind of formulate a marketing plan?

Anna Griffin
Yeah. I think one of the first things you always do before you even take the job as you’re doing your own customer due diligence, you’re on the website, you’re setting up demo experiences or sales experience with the sales team. You’re putting them to the metal to kind of really understand what their true go-to-market story and their go-to-market maturity is as well. So I always want to know, where are we in this journey? So, I think that’s your first internal maturity. It’s one thing to have a strategy that says we’re going to hear, but I think it’s important to know where you are on the maturity and you need to see it and know it for yourself because you can be told a lot of things, but you need to experience exactly what the customer or prospect journey on the other end is going to be and where there’s friction or whatever there may be in the experience. The second thing that I like to do is immerse yourself, try to understand the corporate strategy, understand the product strategy, because that therein makes your go-to-market strategy and understand where monetization is going to come from, what are the possible growth levers that have been thought about or need to be thought about.

Anna Griffin
So I think there’s always the existing strategy that you’re running, but there’s always the formation of the next. I think being able to lock in on and understanding the growth levers between where new logos can and should come from or where is there more white space where new markets can and should exist and ultimately, new offerings to orientate towards kind of those new logo segments. So I try to get a handle there. Then lastly, you try to get a sense of just the brand and the role the brand can play as well as the demand gen required for the engine for the projected growth. There’s always that balance between brand and demand. I think you have to have a foundation for your brand story, your vision, and what is this about, and why do you exist, and why does the world need you more than anyone else? But then you also have to have those foundational engines built to make sure you’re harnessing existing demand and creating new demand accordingly to the plans along. [crosstalk] job.

Sean
I think the companies we invest in, and oftentimes there’s product-driven entrepreneurs that see a problem, they develop a product, and often they have early success, which is what’s leading them to explore an investment. Sometimes you have sales-driven entrepreneurs that are selling whatever the customer is buying, and then they figure out how to build the product. But I think it’s few and far between, at least from what we see, that you have an entrepreneur that really can tell that story that you’re describing to position the company and the brand and its value proposition in a unique light that can scale when you’re often competing against big established incumbents. I’m curious if you have any words of wisdom or advice for scrappy startups to kind of elevate their brand and perhaps punch above their weight a little bit when you’re competing in an environment where there’s heavily funded, established incumbents?

Anna Griffin
Yeah. I think one of the first things you want to think about is product-driven, product-like companies. It’s so much, particularly in the early days, it’s what you make. As you scale, and potentially, if you’re moving upmarket or wherever that journey is kind of taking, you have to be able to have that toggle between what you make possible. People are so comfortable in what we make and so comfortable in the speeds and feeds, and we’re faster and we have this capability and… and you don’t, but that’s only as good.
That’s not really a positioning because that’s only as good until they’re faster than you. Someone’s always going to be faster. You can’t build a company or a brand or a strategy on today’s current product capability because someone is always going to be better. It’s just how it’s one. So you have to be playing at this higher altitude of what do you make possible in the world? What do you make possible for the customers? What are you really solving? What kind of value are you actually creating that wouldn’t exist had you not entered the space? What kind of dead-end road would the world be going down had you not chosen to enter and to push forward it for a better way, be it a better experience, a better product, or a better service, whatever it is. So look, great products make great brands, period. But I think you always have to be pushing the metal on your contribution to the world. I know that sounds like fluffy vision stuff, but I’m telling you, you have to have strong shoulders to stand on, and a true differentiated vision is ground one, then product capability continues to grow.

Sean
I’ll give you an opportunity, Anna for a quick Intercom plug. So maybe give an example of how you would tell the story of Intercom. I’m sure many of our listeners are very familiar, and I’m sure there’s plenty of users of Intercom. But how would you take Intercom capability and then tell the story of what is possible?

Anna Griffin
Yeah. Yeah. So Intercom exists to make internet business personable, personable and to think about the rise of internet business and all the digital channels. What’s lost in the way is you’re treated digitally. You’re not treated like a human being. We’ve lost that ability to… When you walk into a store and the sales associates known you for 20 years and knows, Sean, you’re going to do this and that, and because you own those shoes, I know you’re going to love the suit, all of that disappears. Sure, you can slot somebody’s name in and say, “Hey, Sean.” But that’s not really a person-to-person communication. So what makes business personal relationships, and what creates relationships? The ability to engage deeply with someone, to have two-way conversation, and understand personal preference to have in a world of Intercom, to have first-party data, the data that’s most important to you. That’s how you build relationships. When do you build relationships, Sean? You have to build relationships all the way through the customer journey. Relationships aren’t just when it’s time for renewal. Customers see through that. Relationships aren’t just a time of transaction when you want to close a cell. True relationships where you actually feel valued as a human being start at the very second you land on a website into how you participate in a trial or your walk through the product or a demo into those early days and to customer success and then ultimately how you’re supported, proactively the company reaching out to you instead of just reaching out when it wants to transact. So you have to create ongoing engagement throughout an entire customer lifecycle, and you have to do that with first-party data. You have to do that with a two-way communication, which means you have to be in the product, in the moment, on the app, in the site. You have to be there when they’re there, and you can’t do that. Let’s pretend we go to McDonald’s.
When do you want to get French fries? Right then. Not in a Marketo email two days later saying, “Hey, thanks for coming to McDonald’s. Would you like French fries with that?” That’s the old world of communications and engagement. There’s still a role for that type of communication. But the current future world is about creating two-way dialogue, engagement and taking that and offer some really valuable back to your customers. So that’s how I think about Intercom. Now, let’s break that down to your question. So that’s what Intercom does. Number one, it had a reason it needed to exist. Digital communications have hit a place of all for bombing and in personable moments. To one bank, you could be seven different Seans because you’re one Sean to the retirement planning one Sean to consumer checking one Sean to the mortgage group. You’re seven different jobs to most companies, and consumers aren’t going to tolerate that anymore. So they want personable. Their preference change. They have zero tolerance. So in this story, the world was not living up to its fullest potential. You offer something to help it live up to its fullest potential, and then there’s a there’s an enemy or a villain that you have to take out, and that is the old world fancy. It’s either friction or the old-world style of communication in this case. Then you have to offer some really compelling benefit as such. So the compelling benefit in the name of Intercom is truly a net revenue retention, that ability to… That is going to be the number one driver of any company’s success and future success, your ability to have and retain and to do more with your existing customers. So making Internet business personal is how you’re going to get to net revenue retention, which is ultimately your business outcome. You followed with me? Those are the-

Sean
Absolutely. Yeah. No, I mean, it’s a common thread in every board meeting I walk into. It’s a lot more economically efficient to keep your customers-.

Anna Griffin
Keep the customers.

Sean
… keep them happy, hopefully sell them more of whatever you’re selling than going out to get a new one. So absolutely that resonates. I think that example kind of gives an illustration to what you’re describing. Maybe break it down to a base level. So as you know, we invest in companies that have just kind of passed that product market fit stage. Oftentimes, it’s entrepreneur driven.
They’ve made it to this stage with a lot of grit. They’ve made up for a lack of outside funding with hustle, hard work, grit, and they’ve been scraping pennies together in order to satisfy the market, and they’re often funding their growth through customer revenue, et cetera. We’ll invest in these companies, and you’re thinking about a budget, right? These are a lot of times entrepreneurs that have been capital constrained up to this point. I think they know intellectually that they need to invest in marketing, but it’s still a little bit of a black box. So if you’re talking to one of these entrepreneurs and they’re just asking you the most basic question of like, what role does marketing play in an organization’s ability to scale and how do you measure its effectiveness, what would you say to that entrepreneur?

Anna Griffin
Well, I’m going to go right back to him and go, “Well, what’s your strategy? What is your growth strategy?” And look, a lot of companies will do the easy thing like, “Okay, we’ll do 15% to 16% of sales and marketing, revenue divided into sales and marketing.” That’s fine. But it depends on, are you going for high growth? What customers do you have to acquire? Do you have an advantage to be at market first if you acquire more faster? So I’m going to bring it back to the customer. Where is the opportunity, and what does it take for you to get them? You might have a product that has high virality, and that marketing strategy and budget’s going to be different than if you have a product that is first in a market and you know that international expansion is going to require channel partners and you have a low ACV. For a channel partner to be interested, you better be giving them some leads. You better be giving them volume. So you’re going to go have to invest in volume. So just really depends on that customer growth strategy and where are the new logo’s coming from. What markets are they coming from, and do you have the greatest opportunity because you may have to go invest in markets in a different way than you invested in your home market? Then ultimately, your offering, do you have an offering that maybe could be packaged or marketed or opinionated to go hit one of those new logo kind of targets easier? I think you’re just toggling between those three. So I know that’s not what you… I’m sure you want me to give you one tried and true.
So if you want [crosstalk]-

Sean
No, that’s perfect. I think-

Anna Griffin
… it’s 15% to 16%. Butwe all look at company. I know a little a lot about just from the virtue of working at Smartsheet. Look at how much monday.com spent in marketing. That was about a new logo. They are a land expand, and they put more value on the land, and they were going to go grab those international markets first, and they were going to be the first in the category in these spaces. They spent hundreds and hundreds of millions. So it’s just every company is different.

Sean
Yeah. No, that’s absolutely true. We see that across our portfolio, no question. I think the size of the customer, the type of the customer, whether you’re going after small, medium business versus enterprise, all of those things are important variables in determining the marketing plan. I know from sitting in board meetings with a lot of high-growth SaaS businesses, the dynamic in the relationship between the sales and marketing organizations is always critical in order to scaling the business effectively. I think most sales organizations think they don’t get enough leads for marketing, but I think in all cases, it needs to be kind of an effective, productive relationship. How have you managed that relationship with sales organizations and making sure that you’re working in concert together?

Anna Griffin
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think the first is an align goal that nobody can be green if somebody’s read. Do you know what I’m saying. You’re either all red together or you’re all green together. That’s kind of the first reality because marketing can easily go and pump money on top of the funnel. But if it’s not converting, then you want to pull back, and then you have to really go like, “Why aren’t we converting? Where are we in our sales handoffs and our playbooks?” There’s a lot that goes into that. So it’s sort of like you either own this together or you don’t own it at all. I think of funnels. I think of funnels or the amoebas because they are always different things, different shapes. You may add a new segment, or you may add a new SDR motion. I mean, so much can touch conversion. You may decide that you’re going to send more potential prospects into a self-serve motion instead of a sales-led motion. That, in the long run, might be a better play for the company, but it’s going to make the funnel hurt in the first little bit. So this amoeba and the shaping and pulsing it together, testing, creating as much transparency as you possibly can to kind of understand what happens at each point of conversion and pass off and understanding why you’re not converting or where you may be losing and then how to optimize, you only get there if you guys are lockstep to together and-

Sean
Maybe just tactically, what does that look like on the ground floor? How much interaction is taking place, whether it’s you or members of your team with folks on the sales organization? Are we talking daily interaction, weekly? Yeah.

Anna Griffin
Daily. It’s going to depend on how mature your business systems are and your dashboard and all those things. But there’s not a single day that somebody at least not in a dashboard. But you’re constantly, you’re kind of looking at, “Okay, this is where we said we would needed to be this week. We’re not there. Why?” Then you’ve got to go back the next Monday with that team and optimize. At a minimum, you’ve got to be optimizing every single week like, “Okay. We thought we were going to be here. We’re not.” If you don’t start adjusting or optimizing, so then you’re going to get even potentially further behind. So it’s constant interaction. There are moments where you have more strategic interlocks, for sure, monthly, quarterly PBRs, all those kind of things. But yet those teams, sales ops, marketing ops, those guys have to be super, super, super tight.

Sean
Yeah. I mean, there’s that old adage, I’m probably going to butcher it, but you get a return on 20% of your marketing spend. You’re just not sure which 20% you’re getting return. I know that’s with the advent of digital marketing. That’s kind of gone away, and you’re able to get granular on more, if not all, of your spend. How do you manage and monitor marketing effectiveness across different channels?

Anna Griffin
Yeah. Well, I definitely look at spend and conversion by channel. But again, even that can be… That’s looking at a myopic view of your business, and sometimes you lose the force from the trees. Again, within a channel spend and a point of conversion, let’s say we’re looking at paid channels and what I’m spending on search and what it converts like, fine. But I could also not be looking at the… You’re in a swim lane, and you’re converting in your swim lane. But man, the game is the swimming pool.

Sean
Yeah, right.

Anna Griffin
You stay in your lane, and you’re just optimising channels. You do have to look at the whole pulse of the business. So I think that’s where performance marketing is amazing because you can take it down to… There’s so many other things that go into LTV/CAC and so many important both marketing and sales investments that are about standing beside the customer, side by side, the impact of your customer success function or the impact of your growth function. These are all things that really create the all-up customer experience. So if you just stay mired in the performance marketing channels, you’re going to lose the customer experience, which is inevitably going to be the thing that makes or breaks you.

Sean
Yeah. I’m almost picturing like you’re conducting an orchestra, and if you focus too much on the string, you might miss the big picture. I’m probably guilty of this, frankly, to a degree, in board meetings, right? Where I’m like focused on some of the return on investment. But there’s probably a risk of getting too granular to a degree because all of these things interact with each other.

Anna Griffin
Yeah. Look, you got to think about the impact of all of that to expansion. So if you’re just looking at what it costs to land the customer. There’s so much in that expansion play too that needs to… Then where do you optimize? Do you put more land, or do you put more expand? Where’s the business and the customer getting more value? So all things to take into consideration.

Sean
Now, Anna, as you go through your daily life, do you just see marketing everywhere? You’re walking down the street. In your normal course, are there companies that you admire from a marketing standpoint?

Anna Griffin
I do. I think I’m always looking at… I think I’m a very self-aware person. So I’m always looking at how something made me feel or how I reacted to something, or did I have a notion? Did I get fired up? Did I take an action? Did I purchase? Why did I purchase? Why did I purchase without doing any due diligence on the product? So I’m always looking at marketing all around me and driving my team absolutely nuts because I can take something right out of Instagram and send it to the team, and they’re like, Why are we doing this? That was brilliant and certainly can frustrate [crosstalk]-

Sean
I think you’re touching on something interesting, though, that I’ve even witnessed, in the last 10 to 15 years, where in B2B SaaS or technology buyers, there is more of this move towards connecting to the individual buyer and having an emotional connection. You kind of tracked your career from consumer marketing through some of your agency work to more of a B2B standpoint. I think with all these different channels, marketing channels and ways to reach consumers, there is a need to rise above the noise and make that emotional connection. Is that fair?

Anna Griffin
Totally. Maybe even more strategic, he said. You just always have to be doing something valuable for your customer. B2B customers, what they consider valuable might be different than perhaps what a consumer purchase may be. But that kind of value, you’re now talking career value. Did you help somebody elevate their stature in the company? Did you help them become a better business partner because of the technology that you provided, enabled business results? Did you keep them out of trouble, out of risk, out of out of compliance issues? I mean, that emotional connection is going to be a little different in B2B, but it usually comes back to, were you valuable in their life. Usually, that means in B2B, their career is investing your technology a career accelerator for them or not.

Sean
Yeah, it’s interesting. It all comes full circle. Are you solving a problem and delivering value to the customer? If you are, you have a pretty good story to tell. Then it’s a matter of how you deliver that story and how you reach out to those customer prospects. So really interesting to hear your career journey and some of your experiences and how that’s kind of shaped your path up to this point. I know you’re very busy, Anna, and I thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us this afternoon. I know our listeners will get a lot of value from hearing some of your advice and experience. So thank you so much for taking out some time from your schedule to spend 30 minutes or so with us.

Anna Griffin
Thank you, Sean. Reach out or any of your listeners can reach out at any time. Always happy to brainstorm and talk shop with folks.

Volition

Sean Cantwell

Managing Partner

Sean Cantwell

Managing Partner

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