CMO Secrets with Cory Munchbach

Welcome back to year two of our popular blog series, CMO Secrets. On the second and fourth 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 Cory Munchbach, SVP, Strategy at BlueConic. Cory has spent her career on the cutting edge of marketing technology and brings years working with Fortune 500 clients from various industries to BlueConic. Before joining the BlueCrew, she was an analyst at Forrester Research where she covered business and consumer technology trends and the fast-moving marketing tech landscape. A sought-after speaker and industry voice, Cory’s work has been featured in Venture Beat, Wired, AdAge, and AdWeek, as well as spoken at conferences such as FutureM, MITX, and the Association of National Advertisers. A life-long Bostonian, Cory has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Boston College and can be found alongside her husband exploring the local food scene, wandering the Blue Hills with their dog, or most likely of all, reading a good book. Follow Cory on Twitter @CorinneJames.

Tell us about BlueConic – and about the role marketing plays there.

BlueConic is the leading pure-play customer data platform; we’re all about liberating customer data so that marketers can really seize the opportunity to unify and activate first-party data. It’s a super hot space that has grown in both adoption and hype since we were bundled in with DMPs on Brinker’s supergraphic. Marketing has been critical to our growth, from being very early thought leaders developing the category as a whole, to making sure our positioning and value proposition are differentiated in today’s noisy market. Marketing plays a role in every stage of our customer life cycle – and as big users of our own product, of course!

What’s the biggest marketing risk you’ve taken?

With the clarity of hindsight it seems less risky (yay when things work out!), but deciding to invest fully in being a CDP is hands down the biggest marketing risk I’ve taken which, to be clear, was really the biggest marketing risk I’ve been part of because it wasn’t my choice alone by any means. But it’s a massive decision to assign your early-stage product and company to a category because it means you’ve introduced something out of your control to the mix of things you have to think about. It also puts some restraints on your decisions (which is both good and bad, to be clear) because now you have to not just be a product but rather set yourself up to be the leader of all the products. The waterfall effect is bigger than you can imagine at the time, presenting challenges and opening doors to this day.

What are some things you learned at Forrester that influenced your approach to marketing at BlueConic?

I draw on my Forrester experience daily, whether it’s tactics, market dynamics, pattern recognition, or just an ability to think through problems clearly and methodically. I text my mentor and first Forrester boss, David Cooperstein, at least once a month with something from Forr that is paying dividends today. A few lessons that stick out as pillars of my approach at BlueConic:

  1. Avoid meaningless platitudes at all costs. Write and speak clearly and with authority. Solve someone’s problems or get out of their way.
  2. Don’t bore analysts with your pitch; add value to their research and ask them challenging questions.
  3. Every buyer thinks their organization is unique. It’s not, but you damn well better act and treat them like it is.

I’ve also learned that the analyst perspective is just that – one perspective. One of my favorite parts about being on the ground is how much my knowledge has expanded – built on my time as an analyst, yes, but much richer and nuanced now.

If you had to place a bet right now, where do you think you’ll see the most marketing growth or impact in 2019?

Thought leadership. Being a credible voice in this market has been a cornerstone of our marketing since day one and will continue to be in 2019. The problems we are helping marketers solve are hard and they won’t be solved simply by technology. If we don’t provide useful, prescriptive input about how to think about the category and the platform, we won’t be the kind of partner we should be to help our customers succeed.

Congrats on your recent promotion to SVP, Strategy. What advice did you offer to Michele as she assumed the role of VP of Marketing?

Why, thank you! Michele is one of the most cerebral, thoughtful, capable people I’ve had the privilege of working with and it was clear the only advice that needed to be given when she joined us last year was to myself to get out of the way! We’re very much cut from the same cloth, getting started in marketing as product marketers, so we’re closely aligned when it comes to the importance of precise and deliberate positioning and intentional choices about how we convey ideas to the market and internally.

Over the course of your career, what trends have you noticed in terms of the marketing programs that consistently perform best?

At risk of sounding like a broken record, thought leadership always pays off. If you call it content marketing or something else, that’s fine, but time and again, in B2B marketing, being seen as a reliable, honest, value-adding voice in a space pays off in myriad ways. The challenge is that it’s a slow boil and you can’t always foresee when it will prove itself, which is scary, but it always does if you commit to creating content that helps prospects and customers understand how you solve for their challenges and will help them succeed in their jobs. Every other marketing tactic stems from that.

Do you think there are any attitudes or beliefs in marketing/martech that need to change? Outdated approaches or improperly applied/understood insights?

How much time do you have? In the interest of word count, one of the frustrations I have about the martech discourse is that implementing a new technology should be totally seamless, non-disruptive, painless. If it were that, it wouldn’t be worth doing. I don’t mean to say that every tool should be years of crushing project management and resources lost, but rather that technology selection, implementation, and ongoing success are inextricably linked to process, measurement, and organizational alignment. It amazes me how little attention that gets for the amount of money organizations spend to get their investments up and running. A single day of preparation can result in months of results.

If you could play professor for a semester leading a marketing class, what type of marketers would you want in the class and what would the syllabus look like?

I love this question, not least because I hope to do this at some point in my career! My dream class would be about the intersection of marketing strategy and marketing technology because both are considered in isolation when in fact they are two sides of the same coin. Assuming a weekly, 2 hour class (details matter!) the syllabus would be designed to consider a fundamental marketing objective/challenge each week, with half the class tackling it from a “strategic” point of view and the other from a technology angle and then coming together to assess how their approaches were different, strengths/weaknesses of both, and coming to a joint conclusion about how to move forward.

What’s one of your secret weapons when it comes to marketing?

Personas. Personas. Personas. Everything in marketing maps back to our personas, their pain points, and our value prop for that group of buyers. Every marketing organization, no matter how small, should have personas at the core of what you’re doing. Without that, you’re Don Quixote slaying imaginary giants.

You’ve been labeled an ice cream connoisseur. Give us some of your favorites (shops, flavors, toppings, recipes — whatever)

BEST QUESTION. I have a rule that when I travel, I have to try a new ice cream place while I’m there and I take one of two approaches: I either get flavors for which the shop is particularly well known or I get vanilla, the purest canvas of them all. Some favorite places:

  • Ron’s, which has a shop in Hyde Park (with a bowling alley) and Dedham, is my favorite local option because they have my all-time favorite flavor, peanut butter explosion.
  • Leopold’s in Savannah, Georgia has next-level ice cream flavors, including a banana flavor where they age their own bananas. Aside from being delicious, this subscribes to my philosophy (shared with my husband) that “anything worth doing is worth over-doing.”
  • Scoop Deck in Wells, Maine is exceptional and has tons of ridiculous flavors including one that I am always on the lookout for called “dinosaur crunch” which is an epic bright blue (on-brand, of course).
  • This is cheating but there’s a gelato shop in Rome called, fittingly, Gelateria La Romana that exceeds all expectations.

What’s the best career advice you ever received and who did it come from? 

This is so difficult because I have been extraordinarily lucky to be surrounded by people far smarter and more accomplished than I for as long as I can remember. The most recent, best piece of advice I got was during the retreat for the fourth cohort of Rev Boston, the Accomplice program started by Sarah Downey. Maria Cirino of .406 Ventures spoke and said that she always checks herself to make sure that any point she’s making isn’t at the expense of her ultimate goals. That resonated with me as a reminder to not lose sight of the bigger ambition even if you’re frustrated by something along the way.

What advice of your own would you like to pass on to up-and-coming marketers?

Never stop learning. Ask questions, go to conferences, join the meetings, speak with customers, read the reports. Understand how your work affects the whole business, top-to-bottom, and side-to-side.

Want to spread the marketing love? If there are any specific marketers/teams/companies you think are doing particularly noteworthy things, feel free to give some shout-outs.

So many, starting of course with our team because they’re the absolute best in the business. Veronica Armstrong at Mayflower Ventures is an absolute force. No fewer than three Jess’ make my list: Jess Jacobs at Wayfair is coolly one of the most self-assured marketers I’ve met; crossing paths with Jess Meher has been a gift; and Jess Iandiorio knows more about product marketing than maybe anyone. Fellow analyst and now Allocadia’s Sam Melnick and I can talk for hours about all things marketing. CabinetM is changing martech – just watch.

Time to Rant or Rave: What’s a marketing/business/technology topic that’s getting you fired up right now?

I love getting to end on a rant! I find myself constantly with cause to get fired up about new data/trends about women in technology/startups/venture and the hurdles we still have ahead of us. But I will also rave about the spotlight shining on the topic and the conventional wisdom-defying conclusions we’re starting to see that challenge our notions about this subject. I think marketing tech is uniquely positioned to make strides here, as women are heavily represented in marketing but so under-represented in tech. Those of us sitting right in the middle have a platform to talk about these imbalances and tensions and how to solve them.

We talk a lot about open marketing: to us, there are very real and meaningful differences between open and closed systems/platforms, as well as open vs closed approaches or philosophies to marketing and business in general. What does the idea of open marketing mean to you?

Open marketing is about not putting up artificial barriers that prevent marketers from doing the kind of work that can be transformational for their businesses.

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