CMO Secrets with Charlie Ungashick

Welcome to our blog series, CMO Secrets. On the first and third Wednesday of every month, we feature an exceptional Marketing leader from around the industry. Some names will be easily recognized, and others may be new to you, but every single one will have been hand picked for their experience and knowledge in the world of Startups, Technology, and Marketing. The questions are ours, but the answers are theirs – every word, shared without edit, from their fingers to your eyes.

Today, we welcome Charlie Ungashick. Charlie joined Applause in December of 2016. As Chief Marketing Officer, Charlie oversees the Marketing and Product teams. He most recently served as Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at PTC, a $1B global provider of technology platforms and solutions for the Internet of Things.

Prior to joining PTC, Charlie was CMO of Globoforce, a $300M SaaS company in the human capital management space. Charlie’s deep experience in tech spans both established enterprise software and emerging SaaS-based companies, including participation in two successful IPOs. An avid foodie and home improvement junkie, Charlie earned a bachelor of arts in political science and French from Fordham University and a degree in economics from Université Paris-Sorbonne.

Tell us about Applause – why you were excited to join them as CMO, and the role marketing plays there.

I was so lucky to have found Applause and every day feel honored to be leading the marketing team here. What we do – crowd sourced software testing – is an important thing, a critical thing for the industry and to anyone that uses apps. Which is, well, everyone basically. Software companies like Google, CNN, Uber, and Shake Shack rely on our service because they can tap into software experts around the globe who test apps on their own devices. Our approach provides feedback much more quickly and cost effectively than by other means. And our testers love it because they can earn supplemental income and work with leading edge apps and devices. Now with Vista Equity Partners behind the company, we’re growing faster than ever. It’s a great time to be at Applause. Sorry, I’ll get off my soap box now.

In Marketing, our role is squarely focused on the content and campaigns that drive brand/category awareness, pipeline, win rates and customer advocacy.

One high-profile marketing program you’ve brought to Applause is your own conference, DigitalXChange. What advice or warnings would you give to other marketers about launching your own branded event? 

Done right, an event platform can really drive excitement and advocacy for your business, not to mention pipeline. If you’re thinking about doing a conference for the first time, here’s a few suggestions. First, do a survey of your customers – find out what topics they want to hear about, and what format they like in conferences they value. Also, start with a moderate win in year one – build your budget, venue selection, content, speaker line up with a limited scope, one that you know will succeed with minimal risk. Then in subsequent years, you can expand the content, attendees, adjacent events, etc. Lastly, don’t skimp on production value or food. Cheap AV and rubber chicken reflect badly on any brand. Cramer’s Perspectives is a great destination for visionary marketers who want to deliver kick-ass events.

Have you experienced any big surprises or “ah-hah!” moments in your time at Applause? Programs you were surprised worked – and better yet – programs you were surprised didn’t work?

This answer is shamelessly promotional, but it’s 100% true. Right before we launched a new website last year, we had our community test it end-to-end. We ultimately delayed the launch for a few days because the community found a few issues we hadn’t anticipated. A week after the launch we had a board meeting and one of my board members said that he tried to find a problem – any problem – spent hours clicking around, looking for broken links or usability issues. And he couldn’t. Just then I had an “ah-hah!” in that every CMO who is launching a new site, a streaming service, a user conference app – any important digital property – should use a panel of outside testers. It’s just smart, and it will give you more confidence for that upcoming Board meeting.

You and Matt Johnston have shared a few meals together over the years. What kinds of lessons or advice have you shared with each other, from marketer to marketer?

One thing Matt and I talk a lot about is people. Marketing can be a tough profession because it’s both art and science. And ultimately, it requires collaboration with competent leaders in other functions – great product managers to create products that are easy to market, good sellers to close business, solid investors, and so on. Matt and I mostly talk about these relationships – how they can help marketing be successful, and how, as a team, we can all succeed.

If you could wave a wand and fix one area of 2018 marketing – for all marketers – what would it be?

Ha! Now, these are all solvable problems, again, with the right tools, people and mindset. On that last one – mindset – that’s what I would change. I’ve been to so many marketing conferences where the underlying theme is something along the lines of “How do I make myself relevant to sales?” or “How can marketing have a seat at the table?” To me, it’s the wrong mentality. The most successful marketers I’ve met, the ones who inspire me, drive business results. They are change agents. They can see big vision, produce results, and pay close attention to thoughtful execution. However, they don’t spend a lot of time worrying about having a seat at the table. They already do. Marketo Nation’s 2018 event theme was “Fearless Marketer.” Amen.

Any particularly special, unique, helpful, or just cool new tools or plugins that you’ve added to your marketing stack recently and would recommend to other marketers?

There are some good attribution tools out there. We implemented Full Circle Insights in the past year and it’s incredibly flexible for tracking both sourced and influenced results, and I’ve seen some amazing things about Bizable’s ability to take attribution to the next level with revenue modeling. InsideSales.com has had a huge impact on automating and optimizing lead follow up. And of course, we use Mautic for marketing to our community of 300,000 testers – the lifeblood of our business. Mautic’s openness lets it plug in and perform in some seriously challenging environments. Since it can integrate with Twilio, for example, we can run campaigns that automate how to send text messages to testers about upcoming projects. Really cool stuff.

What’s the most impactful change you think we’ll see in digital marketing in the next 5 years?

Voice and artificial intelligence are just about to take off and I believe natural language will be a common way people interact with smart home devices, their cars, even hotel rooms. Think about platforms like Alexa – how will your future buyers find and interact with your brand via voice? That’s coming. On the flip side, augmented reality will remain “neat” but inconsequential due to hardware limitations and lack of dynamic (non-gaming) content.

Your bio describes you as an avid foodie. What are a couple of your favorite restaurants around Boston? 

There are so many (new) good restaurants in Boston. A couple favorites – Franklin Cafe in the South End and Committee in the Seaport District.

What’s one true thing about you that your teammates would be surprised by or not expect?

I used to be an alternative music radio DJ.

Is there a recent marketing campaign or a ‘big idea’ you’re seeing from somewhere around the industry – outside Applause – that you love, and why?

Netsuite’s usage of radio advertising is brilliant – leveraging their customer stories to market accounting software. Last month, I was listening to satellite radio, and an ad came on. I heard the CEO of Ring.com, Jamie Siminoff say how his company revolutionized the home security market with innovative video doorbell products. I happen to know this because I saw him on Shark Tank, and I happen to be a Ring.com customer. I really enjoyed hearing about how he built his business. But then he explains that he’s only been able to succeed with NetSuite’s business software behind the scenes. He never has to worry about payroll or accounting, so he can focus on building great products customers love. The campaign elevates a great brand, and puts Netsuite in the role of “Batman’s utility belt.” To me, it’s a great idea. Check out Netsuite’s CTA page to see an example.

What does the idea of open marketing mean to you?

Think about the impact that cloud computing, crowdsourcing and open source have had on just about every tech sector over the past decade. It’s staggering. Marketing should take full advantage of these trends. Openness means freedom from lock in, mounting costs, and technology that doesn’t keep up with the times. The concept of “open” is critical to today’s marketer so we can be nimble, effective and efficient in every program and play we run.

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