CMO Secrets with Damian Roskill

Welcome back to year two of our popular blog series, CMO Secrets. Twice per 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 Damian Roskill! Most recently, Damian served as VP of Marketing for Gamalon where he was responsible for defining and growing the Gamalon brand, managing the overall go-to-market strategy and serving as the tactical leader of the company’s marketing initiatives. Prior to joining Gamalon, Damian was CMO of AppNeta, a leader in cloud monitoring solutions. Before AppNeta, he served as VP of Marketing at Applause (acquired by Vista Equity Partners), the leader in crowdsourced quality assurance. Damian has also held senior positions at a wide range of companies, including Compete, 50 Lessons, Soundbridge, RxCentric and others. During this time, his responsibilities included project management and development, product marketing, as well as general marketing. Damian earned his BS in computer science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

You led a significant rebrand from uTest to Applause. What are some things you learned from this process that you could share with other organizations considering or preparing for a rebrand themselves?

Most rebrands are done by marketing teams in isolation, and are introduced as a big reveal. They are often treated as a closely guarded secret. The results are predictable: the big reveal happens and then the knives come out. This isn’t surprising when you haven’t involved people earlier in the process to get critical feedback.

With the Applause rebrand, we publicly announced the name change months ahead of making the formal change. That made it easier for us to discuss both internally and externally with prospects and customers, and gave us time to make tweaks along the way. We also involved everyone in the company early in the process, carefully explaining the rational behind the change and how it changed our positioning in the market. That meant when we launched, our employees had a great handle on the changes, and our customers already knew about the change and understood what it meant to them. So my advice is do your rebrand in the open and involve everyone in the company from the start.

In terms of things to watch out for, the big one is SEO. If you rely on SEO for a significant amount of lead volume, you need to understand it’s going to take a hit when you make the changes and plan accordingly. Most organizations aren’t going to lower their lead or revenue targets based on a rebrand, so you need to think about how you’re going to supplement your leads while Google does it’s thing.

You’ve lived in and owned marketing ops over the course of your career. Any helpful shortcuts or “trick plays” you’ve learned to do specific tasks or programs more quickly/easily/smarter(ly)?

At the end of most programs, there’s generally a piece of content. But while marketers tend to spend a lot of time on the content itself (with good reason), they spend almost zero time focused on how that content is going to be distributed. If you create a piece of content without a distribution channel, that’s a waste of time.

I think the best shortcut I’ve found for marketing automation is just having a great set of templates for each type of program. So create templates for a standard content landing page and associated email, pre and post event campaigns, etc. If you can define a short list of common templates, you can move quickly.

From a tech, data and/or process standpoint, what do you see as the biggest barriers getting in the way of marketing teams trying to run faster, be more efficient, and most importantly, be more effective/impactful to the business’ bottom line?

The biggest barrier from a tech/data standpoint is a separation of Marketing Operations and Sales Operations. Nothing slows down teams like coordinating between these two teams where each team serves different masters and has different priorities.

Removing budget from the equation, what would the marketing ops dream team look like to you in terms of the ideal combination of roles?

I don’t have a dream Marketing Ops team, I have a dream Business Operations team that combines Marketing Automation, Sales Operations and Analytics. This is the way we ran it at AppNeta and it was such a better organization. It meant that when we wanted to launch a program, that program would be created and manage holistically. There would be the marketing programs, then the connection and corresponding campaigns in our CRM (Salesforce), and then reports on the campaign itself – all generated by one team. And because it was one team doing it, they had templates for each of the items (email template, landing page, marketing automation campaign, CRM campaign, report), so the turnaround time dropped dramatically.

What are some of your best tactics for rallying the troops – getting the whole team to totally buy-in and help carry the company/brand or product’s message in the market?

Identify people in each department in the company that can be the evangelist for whatever you’re trying to rally around, and then include them in your planning from the beginning. That means having someone from Sales, Product, etc. in the room right from the start. That takes any initiative away from being “marketing generated” to being “company generated.”

When you’re having the most fun in marketing, what are you doing? And conversely, what are the marketing projects or tasks that are the most boring to you?

Winning is fun, losing sucks. Teams that are winning are generally having fun. I’m most happy when I’m leading a great group of marketers towards a goal where they all own the goal and we’re succeeding. I take particular delight in watching people on my teams flourish and succeed, and making sure that they get the credit for their work. Marketing is also fun when you’re innovating – trying something new where you don’t know exactly how or if it’s going to work. By definition, if you just do the tactics that everyone else is doing, you’re going to be median in terms of performance. So I really enjoy coming up with new approaches that I don’t see other companies trying.

What’s boring? Disengaged people. I hate working in situations where the people don’t care about the outcome.

What attitudes or beliefs in marketing need to change?

With the rise of digital marketing, everyone is focused on demand gen/lead gen – and with good reason. What they forget is the incredible value that comes from brand awareness, but they don’t invest in it because it isn’t directly measurable. That’s a very common attitude in the startup community that I think needs to change.

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

I went to my first marketing boss, and presented him a series of possible outcomes and challenges. He took one look at me and said “Damian, I don’t solve imaginary problems.” His point was to just focus on what’s in front of you and don’t worry about things that may or may not happen. Second, don’t get involved in gossip and instead focus on the work.

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

First, deeply understand your customer. As marketers, we often give lip-service to the idea of being “customer driven” but the reality is that we generate most of our marketing language and ideas internally with little-to-no customer interaction. The result is marketing that doesn’t resonant or stick with the customer. Second, get close with Sales. Marketers often form a tight, internal clique that shuts out or becomes dismissive of Sales input. Don’t do it – they are your client. Treat them as such.

What MarTech interview question are you completely sick of and glad we didn’t ask here?

I’m completely sick of talking about Account-Based Marketing (ABM). We had a term for this in the past – it was called multi-channel marketing and it was pretty much the same thing. There are differences, of course, and ABM is a completely valid GTM approach, but sending direct mail campaigns is as old as the Pyramids in the marketing world. I’m also happy to see that “Growth Marketing,” otherwise known as “Marketing,” has also started to die off. Great example of startup speak that doesn’t really mean anything.

Are any specific marketers/teams/companies you think are doing particularly noteworthy things?

Salsify is doing some great stuff.

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

Can we all please stop the “walk and talk” videos going around? I realize that Drift did really well with them but it is just getting tired and derivative.

More seriously, many B2B companies I’ve met with have unrealistic revenue expectations that seem primarily driven by multiples expectations vs. the market. That is, they work backwards from “assume 100% year on year growth,” then, when they realize that their Sales teams can’t support that, expect Marketing to hit the ground and immediately solve that problem. The reality is that there is a ramp for all marketing – so you have build that into the plan. Expecting a marketer to join the team and solve a $10m hole in your pipeline on day one just isn’t realistic, particularly if a product has a sales cycle of, say, 6 to 9 months. That’s a setup for a punch in the face.”

What does the idea of open marketing mean to you?

Open marketing to me means freedom – the freedom to change tools to match your specific needs and to avoid vendor lock-in. It means you own your data and can easily move it from one platform to another to optimize your business processes.

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