CMO Secrets with Jeff Whatcott

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 Jeff Whatcott. Jeff most recently served as CMO at Onshape, and is now working on his next venture. Jeff previously co-founded Outlearn, a venture-backed online learning platform which was acquired by Qwiklabs Inc. and subsequently acquired by Google. Prior to forming Outlearn, Jeff was CMO at Brightcove, and he has also held senior marketing roles at Acquia, Adobe, and Macromedia.

Jeff holds a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and Master of Business Administration degree, both from Brigham Young University. Fluent in English and Japanese, Jeff has helped grow strong businesses and form successful alliances worldwide.

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

The old desktop CAD products used by most mechanical engineers haven’t changed much in over 20 years. Onshape is modernizing CAD much like Google Apps modernized office productivity software by making it super easy to collaborate and getting rid of all the installation / update nonsense. I joined because I love the disruption narrative, and the founders are uniquely qualified to pull it off because they are the same team that drove the last disruptive wave in the CAD industry when they shipped SolidWorks back in 1995. Marketing at Onshape plays a crucial role in naming and framing the pains of old CAD technology and calming the fears that mechanical engineers have about switching to a new CAD system. We have done a lot of work to hone our messaging and positioning and then drive a content marketing operation that delivers the messages.

Like Mautic, Onshape also has a free version of the product. How did you balance your marketing priorities between your free product and your commercial product?

We don’t have to do much to drive interest in the free product. It’s gone viral among makers, students, and professionals who need CAD for their personal hobby projects. We filter through the free product signups and usage data looking for signs that there may be an opportunity to have a conversation about our paid product. We’ve gotten pretty good at it, and the free product signups are a material driver of our business. We’re a little ambivalent about being perceived as a “free CAD” product, but on balance, the free product has been successful in bringing us a lot of interest and activity that we otherwise would have had to pay for. Because we don’t allow the free product to be used for professional work – enforced by the fact that all free product data is publicly accessible. It’s not hard to get serious professionals to understand why they should pay to protect their intellectual property and access advanced features available in our paid products.

What advice do you have for B2B marketing execs re: the best way to “keep score” (or measure success) of their marketing efforts? And what are the top KPIs that you prioritize with your team?

We have a “capture everything for diagnostics but focus on a few pivotal metrics” philosophy. We have done a lot of work to make sure that all the relevant analytical data exhaust from all of our systems – CRM, marketing automation, web traffic, product usage data, etc. – all make it into a data warehouse in time series form so we can do deep analysis and machine learning to acquire important signals and make use of them. That said, we mostly monitor our efforts based on a simple set of metrics that include net new (non-repeat) web visitors, non-education new contacts acquired, algorithmic matrix scored MQLs, SALs, early stage opportunities, late stage opportunities, and closed won opportunities. Tracking these metrics on a month-to-date cumulative basis relative to goals and prior months gives us good visibility across the whole funnel, and then we can dive into additional metrics when we spot deviations from our model. We also make good use of a MQL cohort analysis that tells us a definitive story of what happens to our leads and how different cohorts of leads compare.

If you could add one more role to your marketing team today to own a different/new/experimental area of marketing, what would it be and why?

I’d like to have a growth hacker or two to test and refine all kinds of crazy outbound outreach ideas we have. There are lots of places where our prospects congregate online, and we’d like to do more to engage them directly at scale and see if we can get them into our funnel. Content marketing only takes you so far.

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

I think making it easier to get all the data exhaust in time series form in a data warehouse, encoded in a way that supports analyses you have yet dreamed up would be nice. It’s a lot of work and data massaging today. We’re good at it, but we are fighting the tools a lot of the time. It should not be this hard.

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

I have them, but I won’t share them :-). Seriously though, we are tough customers. Most of the tools we use disappoint us in many ways. Selling to marketers is hard. One tool we recently adopted that seemed to work out pretty well was ChurnZero. Another is Outreach.io.

In your experience, what traits or behaviors separate good marketers from great marketers? And how do you vet those when hiring?

I think great marketers get inside the heads of their customer. As a marketer, you can’t know too much about your customers and about your products. You have to get on a plane and go talk to customers and observe them in their environment. You have to use your own product enough to have credibility with your engineering team and with your customers. This pays huge dividends because it gives marketers the confidence to participate in strategy discussions within the company, generate marketing strategies and campaigns that connect, and make those millions of little decisions at the capillary level of a campaign that make the difference between “meh” and “awesome.”

Tag a few marketers you admire and learn from – and then a couple of up-and-comers we should all keep an eye on.

I have learned a lot from Christopher Lochhead and Jeremy Allaire (who is not a marketer per se but an unmatched communicator). Keep an eye on Steve Rotter at OutSystems and Kim Salmon at Onshape.

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

I think the use of AI and ML in marketing is going to change a lot. Hence the need to get your data house in order. The bots are coming, and they eat data.

Which marketing metric do you think is most under-appreciated/underrated? And which is overrated?

I like MQL/Opp conversion ratio since it is a metric that lives on the border between sales and marketing. If this metric is healthy, and MQLs are growing at a good pace, good things are happening on both sides of the house. I think CAC/LTV ratio is a bit overrated. It’s not useless. But you’ll know you have problems (or success) long before you run these numbers.

What’s your proudest professional accomplishment?

I think my proudest professional moments have been when I have been able to identify people with incredible but underutilized talent and get them in the right role with the right coaching. It’s just magical. And it’s a gift that keeps on giving for years and years. It’s far superior to any individual project outcome. Getting the right people in the right roles just makes everything work better. The times I have been able to make that happen have been the biggest accomplishments by far.

You say you’re an amateur photographer – what kind of photo tech do you use? And do you have a favorite photo you’ve taken that you can share?

I use a Fuji XT-2 mostly these days. This photo of the Tetons shot in predawn hours from the Idaho side is one of my favorites because it reminds me of home. I grew up in Idaho and used to work in the fields shown here during the summers, arriving before dawn most days.

At Mautic, we talk a lot about the concept of open marketing. What does open marketing mean to you?

Open marketing means being able to get your data into and out of whatever system you need it to be in. The days of siloed analytics in a single system are done.

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