CMO Secrets with Elle Woulfe

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 Elle Woulfe, VP of Marketing for Toronto-based martech company PathFactory, formerly LookBookHQ. Elle is a revenue-focused marketer with expertise in digital marketing and demand generation. Equal parts creative wonk and marketing nerd, she’s an expert at bringing sales and marketing teams together through shared processes, goals and KPIs.

At PathFactory, Elle is responsible for cultivating awareness and turning interest into pipeline. A veteran in the marketing technology industry, she previously held senior demand generation roles at Lattice Engines and Eloqua. Elle is a regular speaker at industry events, and a thought leader in the field of demand generation and marketing operations.

She holds rather irrelevant degrees in English Literature and Religious Studies from Northeastern University.

Tell us about PathFactory and the role marketing plays there.

PathFactory is a B2B marketing technology company based in Toronto that provides a Content Insight and Activation platform. We remove friction for the B2B buyer by enabling them to easily connect with the right information at every step of the buyer’s journey. Today’s B2B buyer has been radically consumerized. They want to self-educate and direct their own journeys but they experience considerable friction along the path to purchase that slows them down. B2B marketers have struggled to orchestrate truly personalized and responsive journeys for buyers. We help B2B marketers enable their buyers with on-demand access to hyper-relevant content in real-time. By making it faster and easier to find and consume the most relevant information required to make purchase decisions, we help our customers win more business by removing friction from the buying process and helping buyers advance faster.

Like any growth stage company, the role of marketing is really focused on revenue creation. We have built a world-class demand gen engine and we are constantly looking for ways to optimize and refine both our demand creation processes and our programs. A lot of our focus in marketing today is really on brand building and using brand as the driver for demand.

Was the rebrand from LookBookHQ an easy decision or a challenging/heavily contested one?

I don’t think rebranding is ever an easy decision. It is one that is fraught with uncertainty and let’s face it – tons of hard work. If you’re not careful, it can be a huge distraction that gets you away from the other core responsibilities of marketing. But it can also be a huge opportunity to change perception and tell your story to a wider audience. Ours wasn’t a heavily contested decision but it wasn’t something we jumped into either. We did a lot of research and planning and went into the project eyes wide open.

What was the hardest/most stressful/most annoying part of the actual rebrand?

It was the tactical execution of the rebrand that was the most stressful. The upfront process of developing the identity and picking a name was the fun part – the work of actually implementing the rebrand was an exercise in very diligent project management. It was just the sheer amount of tasks and projects that required our focus concurrently. Under normal circumstances, a marketing team is working on several campaigns or programs at once. We didn’t get a pass from doing our day jobs so we had to manage our normal workload in addition to working on a huge project that was comprised of hundreds of tasks and deliverables. It sounds cliché but it’s a lot of moving parts. There are various aspects of a rebrand that touch and impact every other department in a company  from changing our name on standard contracts, to moving to a new domain, to training our staff on how to talk about why we rebranded and that’s in addition to all the actual assets  digital and physical  that had to be rebranded. It’s like conducting a symphony orchestra while also playing all the instruments.

What’s been one of the biggest oh-no/oh-sh*t marketing moments at PathFactory?

Maybe it’s a small thing but we have always been a little scrappy and not great at asking for help. It’s something engrained in the way we approach our work. We are a company full of problem solvers and marketing nerds. We always want to find the answers or the most clever way to get the outcome we need. But that comes with baggage too. As a marketing team – we have always been very DIY. We rarely go outside for help or expertise. We always want to do it ourselves or solve the problem internally. That can have amazing results and be really fulfilling but it can also slow you down. There are certain areas where outside perspective and expertise can really help you to move faster or work smarter. We’re still pretty conservative in this area and I would never say that we “outsource” anything, but we have gotten braver about seeking outside help with certain projects when it makes sense.

What are some insights you’ve learned from ‘PathFactoring’ your own content and seeing what drives the most marketing-attributed revenue?

We’ve learned a lot about what our buyers want and what they don’t have much tolerance for. We have actually made some changes to things like video or eBook length because we can see exactly when people drop off. If we know it should take 12 minutes to read and the average reading time is more like 1.5 minutes, it tells us something important about the effectiveness of the content and we try to use that to optimize. I’m convinced that people don’t read anymore  they browse, scanning for the key insights, and the data we collect about buyer engagement really supports that idea. We try to fine tune our approach with that in mind. We’ve also learned a lot about when our buyers tend to engage. We often see 1-2 people from an account engage upfront and then there is this moment when several more people get involved and the engagement spikes toward the end of the sales cycle. It helps us know what kind of content we should create for which audience and when and how to deliver it.

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

I think we’re starting to see a new breed of offline events that will perform really well for us. There is nothing that can replicate that 1:1 interaction that happens at an event. It can shave a lot of time off a sales cycle if we can get in front of a decision maker, or better yet, a whole buying committee at an event and we can touch a lot of people with a very authentic form of advocacy through live case studies and having customers meet with prospects in our booth. But I think there are some new events that are emerging that are really vendor agnostic (i.e. not put on by a vendor) and tailor to specific content needs of different audiences. I think we’ll see some of the traditional MarTech shows cool off a little in terms of impact and some new, niche shows start to take center stage.

You’re on a desert island (with IT infrastructure, of course), and you can only bring 3 foods and 3 MarTech tools with you (besides PathFactory). What are you going with?

You didn’t say anything about drinks so I assume I can bring a bottle of bourbon. Foods are easy  pizza (really good pizza), scrambled eggs and bacon. Who needs vegetables? MarTech tools… I think you need marketing automation and CRM  they’re the foundation of so much of what we do in B2B marketing. I would also take an analytics tool. We use Full Circle Insights for response management and attribution reporting and I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to having that kind of data easily accessible.

What attitudes or beliefs in marketing need to change?

I think marketing suffers from a lack of focus on the buyer. My hunch is that most marketers believe they are truly buyer-centric but really they’re just pushing stuff out and hoping they will connect with the right person at the right time. That kind of push-based approach doesn’t do much to help a buyer who is looking for something specific right now. B2B marketing has come a long way in terms of trying to create stuff that will be relevant for buyers  on the content side, we have really advanced but if all we are doing is scattering content and information around over different channels in the hope of getting it in front of the buyer, we’re going to be successful 1% of the time if we’re lucky. Buying stuff is hard. It takes a lot of research. Buyers need to be educated so they can mitigate their risk and know they are making good choices. If marketers want to really enable their buyers, they need to do more to meet them where they are, provide the kind of real time recommendations, and on-demand experiences they’re accustomed to in their B2C lives.

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 don’t think I would be a good marketing professor. Everything I have ever learned was through experience and failure.Trying stuff that doesn’t work teaches you more than trying stuff that does in many cases and I think those real world experiences are critical. Your past experience can be such an unreliable barometer. How you approach marketing has everything to do with the company you work for  the brand you are trying to be, the stage you are at, the people you work with. I have worked in B2B marketing technology for over ten years and while there are some basic lessons I carry around with me, I can say that in every company – our marketing looked very different. So I guess that’s what I would teach  try stuff, fail fast, don’t assume your past success will spell success again and hire the best people you can find.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your marketing career?

The biggest risk I ever took was coming to LookBookHQ when it was a tiny, early stage start up. I left a really good job, joined a company in another country that no one ever heard of and took a pay cut. Most people thought I had lost my mind. It was risky for me because I had just bought a house, I had a little kid at home and my husband is self employed so my income is pretty important. It felt  at the time  like a huge leap of faith but I saw the vision and I knew we were building something that would change the way marketing works. It was among the best bets I have ever placed.

Can you think of a time when you proposed a program you felt really strongly about and it didn’t get approved or didn’t execute the way you intended?

There are too many to count. I could write a book about stuff I tried that didn’t work. We have actually done blooper reels in our QBR showcasing the bad ideas we’ve had. But as I tell my team all the time  we’re not saving lives here. It’s just marketing. As long as we’re not doing harm, experimenting and pushing the envelope should always be part of the job. I also think failure is a somewhat subjective term. There are things we have done that haven’t been wild successes in terms of demand or revenue impact but they succeeded in other ways. I guess a better way to say that is  there is more than one way to evaluate success.

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

I don’t know if this is even career advice  it feels more like life advice but I had a boss early on who told me that nothing was ever solved over email. He was right. I never get dragged into an email war.

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

Value the team and company you join more than the title or the money. Picking well early on can have far reaching implications for your career trajectory.

You say you’re on a mission to make sure B2B Marketing isn’t boring. What do you think is the most boring part of B2B marketing?

It’s a wash of safe blue tones and confusing jargon… and Powerpoint presentations with too many bulleted lists and not enough pictures. Put a different way, it’s often devoid of good storytelling.

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

You didn’t ask me anything about ABM. For that I am grateful.

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.

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

Did I say ABM? I am not trying to demonize it. ABM is great but isn’t it just being smart and focused in your marketing? I feel like ABM is just good B2B marketing these days.

What does the idea of open marketing mean to you?

It’s the ability to really customize and build things the way you envision them and not being stuck in a box that doesn’t fit. The opportunity to really architect systems according to what you need is a pretty exciting idea.

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