CMO Secrets with Jess Iandiorio

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 Jess Iandiorio, CMO at Mirakl. Jess brings with her 16+ years in sales and marketing in the Boston tech ecosystem. Prior to Mirakl, Jess ran marketing at Drift, and ran product marketing at Acquia as they grew from $30M to $100M+ by building the digital experience market and Acquia’s position in it. Jess was previously in product marketing at Endeca, and spent 5 years at Forrester Research primarily researching enterprise software trends.

First of all, congratulations on your recent promotion to CMO! Tell us about Mirakl, the role marketing plays there, and what you love about the company?

Thank you! Mirakl is a tech company that helps our clients launch their own online marketplace. Accounting for over 50% of online sales today; the marketplace model is now well known as it’s fueling the growth of companies like Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, Uber and Airbnb. It’s a highly efficient operating model that also puts customers first: Allowing our clients to offer their customers even more products and services very quickly – through an ever growing third party seller community. In terms of my role at Mirakl – my team focuses on evangelization (of Mirakl + the marketplace opportunity), and of course partnering with our sales team to grow the company. What I love about working at Mirakl is the excitement of not just giving a company a new technology or capability, but truly giving them a new business model that can help set their company up for success today and in the future. We just raised a $70M Series C led by Bain Capital Ventures. Scott Friend, our new board member and partner from Bain Capital Ventures, calls it Commerce 3.0 – and it’s very exciting to work at what I feel is the next generation of how goods and services are sold.

What is your philosophy on how a marketing team should be built up/out?

I’m a huge fan of having core leaders + a “squad” of contractors. For my core – I have amazing leaders on Communications, Brand, Content and Field Marketing who are also scrappy and roll their sleeves up to get things done. But past that – sort of like Taylor Swift’s squad of models, I have a squad of marketing agencies and contractors I rely on to make me look good 🙂 I’d really love to share the list:

And I’m looking to recruit some new squad members for field marketing support. It truly takes a village! Past that – we continue to grow the team by hiring people with a great attitude (skills are secondary) to support core functions: Customer Marketing, Partner Marketing, Digital Marketing and Field Marketing. We were a full-time team of 6 a year ago, 10 today, and we’ll be around 26 by end of 2020.

Have you experienced an a-hah or an oh-no marketing moment at Mirakl that lead to some kind of breakthrough or improvement?

Aha combined with oh-no moment: We were testing physical mail as part of our ABM program three years ago. I would read annual reports, target CEOs, write a letter and my head of demand gen would come up with a gift she felt was very relevant and personal. As you can imagine, this was low-scale, but we were hoping for high impact. After 2-3 attempts like this, we basically said “Let’s stop trying to be smart. Let’s send cupcakes.” Guess what? Much better success rate. We’ve been aggressive testing ABM strategies and now we use Terminus for targeting and have learned a lot through trial and error about getting the message right to get the most out of digital ABM, while we continue to iterate on the food concept for physical mailing. On a related note – don’t send chocolates in the summer – USPS will tell you everything will be fine, but they are lying.

If you had to place a bet right now, where do you think Mirakl will see the most marketing growth in 2019?

While we’ll continue to have events/field marketing as the highest percentage of our budget (and the #2 performing marketing channel next to Inbound), I believe paid search will start to rise significantly as an inbound contributor. We’re already seeing an uptick this summer – it’s part of the market maturing and our efforts are catalyzing that. It’ll be a huge win to see more opportunities directly sourced by paid search. Second to that, the intent data we’re getting out of Terminus is helping us be an even better partner to sales – able to alert them when we’re seeing increased engagement from target accounts. We have multiple examples where we’ve been able to accelerate sales getting a meeting by sharing the activity data. This isn’t a direct opportunity source but another source of digital influence. I’m continually focused on getting more out of digital, and the next initiative is launching Drift to get real-time chat up and running. I have high hopes for performance in late 2019/2020 for chat.

What are some of your best tactics for rallying the troops – getting the rest of the Mirakl team to totally buy-in and help you carry the message in the market?

My #1 tactic is always getting the voice of the customer represented, and sharing stories about what our customers have said. We revisited the positioning a couple years ago in a customer-fist way and developed some simple messaging for our value – Offer more. Learn more. Sell more. – It was meant to capture the essence of what an online marketplace can do for a business. It gives you the ability to quickly offer more products online, you then learn more about what your customers actually want based on what they buy (instead of having to guess what they want), and ultimately this improves your online and in-store assortment to drive higher sales volume. This was all driven by customer input on what they felt the value of Mirakl was, and it was really easy to align the Mirakl team around that message. We still have elements of that messaging today but we’ve evolved it as our use cases have expanded beyond where the company started 7 years ago.

Earlier in your career, you spent a number of years in Product Marketing roles. In your estimation, what makes a great product marketer? Also, what kinds of things can or should a product marketer do to have their work/contributions really stand out?

I love product marketing – it continues to be my passion within the marketing organization. I think great product marketers are very talented people– they’re highly analytical and curious, great communicators, relationship builders, story tellers, and influencers. The role is dynamic and to be successful you have to be all the things I just mentioned AND ok being measured on things outside your control: Pipeline, New Bookings, Win rates, and reducing sales cycle length. It’s such a great function which is often misunderstood or underutilized. When it works, it’s really the backbone of the company strategy alongside product management.

Your bio mentions how you helped lead Acquia’s growth from $30M to $100M+ by building the digital experience market and Acquia’s position in it. What do you think were the most impactful/influential decisions or ideas you drove to fuel this growth?

Two things come to mind. One of my charters running product marketing was to hire a developer marketer (which is officially an oxymoron). We had several people in this role and though I think the success can be debated, it was a critical function for a company like Acquia who was serving Drupal Developers – and we needed someone thinking and acting 100% for that audience. It wasn’t a typical product marketing role, but it was an important one and companies need to be open to hiring non-traditional profiles and giving those people non-traditional charters if it’s what your business needs. After developer marketing, I’d say one of the most strategic projects I worked on later in my tenure was to bring the broad and ever growing portfolio of products into one vision – which we called the Acquia Platform. The goal was to sell our first $1M subscription and we did it. At the time, it was a success. I moved on shortly after that transition so I’m not sure if it’s still part of the strategy today, but it was a great unifying project aligning sales and marketing at that time.

What attitudes or beliefs in marketing need to change?

Marketing measurement is never going away as a hot topic, but I do think heads of marketing need to avoid vanity metrics. I think of vanity metrics as leads, MQLs, and pipeline influenced. These things need to be measured, but should be used to set and report on goals and achievement. It doesn’t matter how many leads and MQLs come in if they don’t turn into opportunities which close. It also doesn’t matter how many opportunities and deals are influenced; let’s be honest: every deal is influenced by marketing. Someone at least came to the website, or saw a pitch created mostly by marketing. So those are interesting to monitor but shouldn’t be used for goals: Increased acceptance of marketing leads, direct sourcing of pipeline, and deals closed sourced by marketing is how marketing should be measured. Leave it to the marketing team to figure out everything underneath – which channels perform best and worst and make improvements. There’s a tendency for non-marketing execs to want to get involved in those details and all it does is slow the team down from accelerating what’s working and killing what’s not.

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

My initial boss at Acquia and long-time mentor Bryan House told me “Don’t fall in love with your ideas” about 8 years ago. I’ve thought about it a million times. I can be stubborn and my tendency is to want to bring every single idea I have to life. I’ve learned not all my ideas are great, or even good. If you can’t put your ego aside, you’ll lose humility, prevent other (better) ideas from being contributed, and ultimately be perceived as “un-collaborative.” I think I could have easily fallen into a more self-centered and therefore less successful career path, but this has kept me in check. Another Bryan House special, “Give immediate feedback.” This has helped me develop as a manager – both to focus on giving feedback, and either reward or coach very close to the moment something great or not great has happened.

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

You don’t know what you’re doing. Accept that. Every role in every company is different. You’ll learn valuable things along the way, but there isn’t a magic “playbook” you learn that you just roll out time and time again. Skills transfer and experience matters, but ultimately, your ability to question what you’re doing and consider other paths is what will make you valuable. Use your brain. Don’t run the playbook just because “it worked at X.”

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

“What’s the impact of GDPR on your marketing strategy?”

Spread the marketing love! Are there any specific marketers/teams/companies you think are doing particularly noteworthy things, feel free to give some shout-outs.

I gave my contractor squad shoutouts already, but I think my entire team is doing amazing work and should be recognized:

  • Hannah Corey joined me to work in a tiny office for a French tech company virtually unknown in the US. That takes bravery.
  • Shea Barickman then joined and has done a great job supporting Americas growth – so great she was relocated to Paris to achieve her dream of living there.
  • Christel Toriello built the EMEA marketing function from the ground up and is now running Sales Operations.
  • Hind Hilali left the security of working for Amazon in France to build our EMEA digital marketing practice, and inbound is the #1 source of pipeline in EMEA.
  • Kelly Gow is the best product marketer I’ve ever hired; and I hired her from Alliances ISV management, previously pre-sales. That’s right – never in product marketing before; best product marketer I ever hired!
  • Maya Pattison joined late last year and her nick name is “Up-level” which she has done tremendously for the Mirakl Brand, Content and Comms strategy, and analyst relations.
  • Nicole Lloyd joined us as our first dedicated Field Marketer in the US and pulled off a ton of trade shows + our first Americas Summit which was a huge success, and stressful, and I don’t know how she remained so calm.
  • In early April I received the honor of having the Americas business development team reporting into me, and I’ve been able to see Joshua Parades grow from star BDR to a very strong BDR manager in short time who’s improved everything from on-boarding to productivity per head.
  • Sara Matasci joined to focus on content and the quality of our blogs, videos, and eBooks has skyrocketed!
  • Rustin Nethercott joined what was an all-female marketing team (in another act of bravery) and has focused on digital growth – running some really successful promotional campaigns and helping us get a better handle on how we’re executing.
  • Most recently Dickel Sooriah has joined as VP of Marketing in EMEA and I already don’t know how I managed without him.

Again; it takes a village. There are other companies/teams/marketers I admire but I really wanted to thank and showcase my team here.

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

Content. I think there’s a “content for content’s sake” crisis in marketing. Everyone wants to run the HubSpot inbound playbook, and a lot of companies have no business running that playbook. It’s lead to poor quality, and ultimately made it harder for us all to do our jobs. The volume is insane, the quality bar is too low, and as a result it’s very hard to get attention when you have something meaningful to say. Blogs started it, then infographics, ebooks, etc. – it became a numbers game over a quality/necessity play. Everyone needs to take a step back, be a better partner to the sales team, understand what content really needs to exist – then do an amazing job at that (and when I say Amazing I mean words + design – make it easy and fun to consume your great content).

What does the idea of open marketing mean to you?

When I hear “Open marketing” I think ecosystem-fueled marketing. Hypothetically, we marketers can all work together to build better solutions that support our companies growth. I also think we need to be more open with one another to share our strategies – what’s working and not. We’re all figuring things out as we go and there’s no good reason to hoard insights that could prevent each other from failures or successes.

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