CMO Secrets with Erin Cresta

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 Erin Cresta, SVP of Digital Marketing at Docker. Erin is a global marketing executive with over 23 years in information technology, including business intelligence, big data, security, network, and IT management software. She is a mentor/advisor with focus on driving transformation; demand gen innovation; building high performance/highly engaged teams; creating a learning culture; and enabling the field and partners to grow business.

Welcome Erin! Tell us about your new role at Docker, the role marketing plays there, and what drew you to the opportunity.

I began a new gig at Docker in mid-March. I lead global digital marketing which includes digital and demand generation, marketing technology / operations, Web experience, and the business development functions. What drew me here – the opportunity to build and drive the transformation of digital marketing; the market opportunity – developers love & widely use our solutions; the culture – rooted in open source, focused on inclusion; and, a personable boss. I could see that the company values were closely aligned to my own, and that gave me the confidence that I could be my best here. Also not gonna lie – flexibility is up there. I split my time working “in place” and the office (SF). I never thought I could work at a San Francisco based startup because of the commute from the South Bay. It makes a big difference as a parent to have that flexibility, and I love the energy in the city.

What’s the best way to fuel your teams with energy? Do you have any tried and true tactics to keep projects exciting and rally the troops to do their best?

Create a vision. Build the transformation plan together. Practice radical honesty. I call out problems directly. I expect my team to do the same. You can’t fix things unless you do. Set goals and be clear about your expectations. Build urgency into the culture. Speed and momentum matter! A lot!! Finally, take the time to get to know each other and play together. Open up and share personal stories; talk about your goals, areas for growth, and what makes you feel your personal best; and, celebrate special moments together. This is what makes work fun. At the core, people want to be seen and known; this deepens connection and commitment to each other. When you are committed to each other, you can accomplish great things as a team. The best investment I have made as a leader is to continually practice vulnerability, even when it is hard. It improves relationships and your ability to lead and parent immensely. Huge fan of Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection, two great reads on this topic.

What themes are you seeing in terms of how the B2B tech buyer has changed in the last few years? And what changes do marketing teams need to make to keep up?

I’m not sure it’s new. But in the last few years it’s really clear that 1) people don’t want to be sold and 2) they want a phenomenal experience. There’s so much information coming at buyers. You stand out when you deeply understand the problems a potential client is facing and can advise. A first email to a prospect with a product pitch asking for a meeting right away doesn’t get read – because where’s the value?? I get 100 of these a week and dump them. The focus on the problem, the relevant use cases, helping the buyer get what happens when they don’t solve the problems, what the maturity roadmap looks like for different use cases — this is critical. It has to come through in messaging, on the Web, in campaigns, in discovery & sales prospecting and throughout the customer lifecycle. So, I see marketing taking on more accountability for sales enablement. Helping reps build digital DNA, teaching them how to leverage marketing content and research, digital signals, and account insights, how to write effectively & nurture. Modern prospecting. I also envision a significant partnership with SaaS product and customer success teams since we have the digital experience data and analytics expertise to help inform and optimize product development and the customer journey.

With more powerful and intuitive marketing tools available, how do you ensure that you’re meeting and exceeding customer expectations, versus scaring them with creepy “we’re watching everything you do” marketing?

The insights that a solution like Engagio, for example, can provide about how accounts interacting on your site, the Web pages that accounts are visiting, the content and programs they are consuming are invaluable for tailoring messaging, helping reps open new doors, and driving successful outcomes in deal pursuits. We’ve invested in teaching our reps how to use these digital signals. Our senior leadership believes in it deeply. A company can really tune its sales coverage model using engagement, predictive intent, pipeline, spend and other datapoints to assign the most profitable accounts to reps and improve conversion rates. But at the end of the day, it’s about the value you provide and how you help a prospective customer solve a problem. A few years ago when I first took on the BDR team at Hortonworks, I brought in Jim Keenan (author Gap Selling, Not Taught) to do custom discovery workshops and 1:1 coaching with our BDR team. He drilled this into me. We’re working on creating problem/use-case focused content. We teach BDRs and reps how to use content in prospecting and to uncover use cases during discovery calls. We track them when we set up meetings to know what use cases are opening doors. We use testing solutions to optimize the journey on Web, and to make decisions about the product path and the offers we serve.

Do you look to any unique metrics or other indicators to demonstrate the success of your marketing efforts?

Both marketing-sourced and marketing influenced pipeline are important. We’re also looking at target account engagement and indicators like meetings and opportunities in high-value accounts. Don’t underestimate the value of improving and measuring lead velocity; it can make a huge impact to pipeline linearity and the sales productivity model. I’d encourage marketers to align on a few lifecycle and acceleration metrics too. Can you show how marketing engagement helps increase the deal size or win rate? Use influenced pipeline to help you measure ROI and show the value of marketing engagement through the full journey.

If you had to place a bet right now, where do you think Docker will see the most marketing growth/success/impact in the next year?

Well, naturally I have to bet on myself and my team right? Gotta say digital!! We’re building a modern engine, and we’re on a journey. It’s not perfect yet, but we’re making a lot of progress everyday. We’re already seeing improvements in lead velocity and growth in BDR sourced pipeline and meetings. I expect conversion and marketing sourced pipeline to increase over time. Investing in cleaning up our data and foundational elements like a modern routing solution isn’t sexy – but it’s essential. I LOVE the testing, experimentation, and analysis my team is driving. It’s HUGE! We recently began personalizing messaging by persona on the Web using Optimizely and Segment’s Personas solution. Optimizing a headline message or even one step in the Web journey can make a big difference, especially when you have strong traffic. We are religious about looking at SEO to seize new content opportunities. Are we all the way there yet? No, but incremental progress adds up. Every quarter, we run multiple tests for digital advertising – colors, imagery, messaging, offers. Our ads on LinkedIn outperform competitors by as much as 3X and we are acquiring new leads at a much lower cost.

What does a seamless customer experience look like to you?

Docker is one of the most used & loved platforms for developers. We’re working on a more connected journey for developers and teams of enterprise developers that use our solutions. To me, a seamless experience starts at first engagement and it continues throughout the customer lifecycle. It’s easy to find what you’re looking for. Content and offers are relevant since the company’s systems are well-integrated, and they have a full picture of who you are. You can “try it on” before you buy. You can customize what/when/how you buy (choice). When you experience a problem you don’t have to search long and far for the answers, and if it’s a complex problem it gets resolved fully and quickly. Seamless also means connection to other customers / experts (community, support) for advice and best practices. Important measures are NPS and advocacy. Are folks excited to share their experience with others? I just had an experience like this in the retail world buying a new pair of leggings for my 13 year old daughter. I was in and out of the Lululemon store in 5 min. There was a large display screen in the middle of the store. I could easily see different patterned and colored leggings modeled by a young girl on the screen. A clerk took my order on her iPad so I didn’t have to stand in line to pay. They arrived at my house later that week, and I tweeted the store for a terrific experience.

Do you have any advice for creating healthy relationships between sales and marketing teams?

Talk!!! Simply. Listen when your sales team raises problems or criticisms. Try hard not to be reactive. The feedback and input will make you better. I still work on this every day, even with 20+ years in B2B marketing. We marketers have our own language (admit it, we do!!), and we love it. But it’s important to keep things simple and talk in a way that your C-suite and sales teams can understand. Get alignment on the metrics that the business values, and communicate results regularly. Show how you are helping reps be more productive. One of the ways I know the relationship is valued – here at Docker, I help our sales RVPs interview and recruit new AEs. Partner with your CFO & finance. Being able to demonstrate ROI takes time and significant effort, but there’s always more $ for strong pipeline producing programs that are generating high return.

What kinds of things can or should a marketer do to have their work/contributions really stand out?

Often when I go into a new company I find that people don’t know what marketing is doing. There could be great things going on, but marketing hasn’t communicated to all the right stakeholders, or we’re using language that folks don’t understand. Figure out what “personas” are important to build relationships with internally. Get a regular dialogue going, and nurture them! Encourage campaign and marketing managers to do regular readouts – campaign, event & content performance results, learnings from a new testing strategy. Pick a few industry conferences and share your stories and best practices. It’s a great way to build your network. What you share you’ll get back tenfold – referrals when you need to fill a new position, advice when you’re stuck, learnings and best practices from peers and other leaders.

If you were to build your marketing dream team, what fierce five positions would you start with?

First 5 hires – digital demand gen, ops ninja, analytics guru, content strategist, web experience

When you’re having the most fun in marketing, what are you doing?

I’m a builder. I love to create, innovate, fix complex problems, learn and experiment, analyze & tune. That’s why digital is such a great fit for me. I get bored when I’m not learning!

You’re stranded on an uninhabited island, and your first thought is “I’m going to fall so far behind at work!” What marketing reading materials (emails, newsletters, websites, etc.) do you wish for to help you stay plugged in?

Ohh great one! I follow many fellow industry leaders and CMOs on Twitter. Ann Handley, Drift blog. Attend several industry conferences / year – Marketo, B2B Gamechangers, Topo Summit. MarTech, ITSMA, and Sirius events in the past too. Topo is fantastic. Killer use cases from leaders in the top high growth tech companies. Craig Rosenberg curates the best content, hands down. And I love how Topo has sales and marketing leadership in the room together for their exec summit. Also a big reader of marketing and leadership books. In the last year, I dove into Conversational Marketing (David Cancel, Dave Gerhardt), Gap Selling (Jim Keenan), Disrupt Yourself and How to Create an A Team (Whitney Johnson), WOLFPACK (Abby Wambach) and Shoe Dog (Phil Knight).

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

You are accountable for your career and your own growth. Your boss or your mentor isn’t going do it for you. They can help and support, but it’s you in the driver’s seat. Always be learning; read; keep your mind healthy; and seek out people, experiences, and opportunities that excite you. Inspiration from my grandfather who was in and out of hospitals as a kid with polio. He showed me the impact that learning, reading, and a positive outlook can have on your life. And my mom reinforced the value of effort & hard work, moving up over 12 years from a receptionist to vp of sales and marketing at a public company. Whitney Johnson shared a terrific framework for how to drive personal growth in her book “Disrupt Yourself.”

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

Get digital and martech savvy. Companies want revenue-focused CMOs; these skillIs are highly valued today. If you want to be a VP of marketing, you have to get experience running different parts of the business. Earn and ask for a new piece of the business to take on with every new role. If you’ve run digital demand/campaigns, go run field marketing. Then figure out how to run marketing operations – it’s essential to being able to drive and measure demand. Keep learning and expanding your knowledge.

What are some top marketing technologies you use at Docker?

Some of my favorite tech at Docker – Engagio, Marketo & Bizible from Adobe, LeanData, Segment (Personas), Optimizely. We focused first on re-launching Engagio because of the immediate value it provides sales. With the exception of Marketo, the other apps are new implementations too. Our team has been very busy!

Are there any specific companies you think are doing particularly noteworthy things?

Gonna go B2C here. Love, love Nike’s marketing. I’m a former athlete (gymnastics, lacrosse, field hockey, swimming), and a huge believer in the life and leadership lessons you learn from playing sports. I tear up when I watch Nike commercials. Because it’s bold. Nike is inclusive. They tell powerful, digitally engaging stories that make me feel. And, they take a stance on issues I care about.

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

Psyched up about conversational marketing!! We have massive traffic on and this will be a great way for us to personalize experiences and accelerate problem-solving for high value accounts, right at the outset. Big potential with respect to creating a new lead channel that doesn’t exist yet, and improving velocity and conversion. There is also so much that marketing has learned from pairing the digital and business development teams that can help advance and evolve traditional customer marketing and support/success organizations. I want to dig into this!

What does the idea of open marketing mean to you?

I’ve worked in open source for several years, so this is a great question! When you get contributions to your software from the world’s most talented developers, something special happens in the culture. Rapid learning; experimentation; deep personal accountability; willingness to try new ideas; and the ability to fail, learn, iterate, and try again. The best marketers are learners, explorers, and scientists who can execute. Ideas can come from across the organization and from the bottom, middle, or the top. They can be inspired by customers, the community, peers, other industries, really from all over. This is open marketing.

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