By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
It’s another great episode of our weekly radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which is live every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific. It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.
We were thrilled this last time to talk with Shawn Herring, VP of Marketing at PandaDoc in an episode called, The Hidden Inefficiencies that are Killing Your Sales Workflow and Conversion Rates
As a new head of marketing at a startup, there’s a thousand things to focus on. I asked Shawn (among other things):
- What are the places you try to look at first when you’re joining a new company?
- What are the priorities you think are most important to drive some wins as a new head of marketing?
In early stage companies, they don’t often starve. They drown. There’s a thousand things to look at, right? As you think about the brand, you think about awareness, you think about leads, you think about supporting the sales team, you think about future opportunities. I also asked Shawn:
- As you look into the future, how do you think about those different priorities?
- And how does a startup in a marketing environment balance traditional awareness, brand goals with really driving measurable pipeline as well?
What I’ve been focused on in the first six weeks as well as leading up to joining PandaDoc is trying to understand where is all the revenue coming from? What is the ideal customer profile, like just the traditional foundational items. And I get less concerned with leads. I get less concerned with MQLs. And I really get focused on pipeline, and then pipeline to close.
This is just a taste…. listen or ready the full transcript below.
Matt: Welcome everyone to another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio, really happy that you’re here. If you’re listening to us live during your workday on the Funnel Media Radio Network, thank you for joining us. There are several of you that we hear from every week that we know join us live, so I appreciate you doing that. If you are listening to us on the podcast, thanks so much for subscribing. Our numbers continue to grow, and it’s very exciting, humbling to see. So, if you’d like to continue to receive new episodes of Sales Pipeline Radio, you can find them at salespipelineradio.com or anywhere fine podcasts are available. And every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio, past, present, future, available at salespipelineradio.com.
We’re featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing each week. Today is no different. Very excited to have with us the VP of Marketing, the reasonably new VP of Marketing at PandaDoc, Shawn Herring. And Shawn has been in the B2B industry for a very long time, and has spent quite a bit of time at ExactTarget, while it was growing and before it was bought by Salesforce.
And Shawn, I think my first question for you is actually maybe not about B2B marketing, I want to talk a little bit about Indiana basketball. Now, I’m looking at the standings in the Big Ten, and I see Paul’s alma mater Minnesota kind of in the middle. I’m used to seeing the team featured in Hoosiers a little higher in the standings. Can you give us a sense for what’s going on this year?
Shawn: Well Matt, I’ll have to say, I’m used to seeing the standings a little bit differently myself. So, unfortunately, I’ll have to leave it at no comment for this year. So let’s just pretend it’s a rebuilding year.
Matt: That’s fine. Well usually, so I went to the University of Washington as a basketball school. Nine years out of 10 we are also in said rebuilding year. So, it’s never really usually worked out. This year, my Huskies are actually doing okay. They’ve only lost one or two games in Pac-12 play, and we’ll see what happens come tournament time, but I really appreciate you joining the show today.
Excited to have you on, and full disclosure, we are not just a fan of PandaDoc. We are a happy customer of PandaDoc, as well. It has really improved just the professionalism of our proposal efforts. And, I think I want to talk about what that means in terms of not just streamlining processes, but also the combination of process and design, and how you’re thinking about that, sort of fairly new to PandaDoc. So, as a new head of marketing at a startup, there’s a thousand things to focus on. What are the places where you try to look at first when you’re joining a new company? What are the priorities that you think are mostly important to drive some wins as a new head of marketing?
Shawn: Yeah, that’s something I’ve been really focused on. I’ve been in this role for about six weeks now, and my mantra going through the interview process was I want to come in and make sure I don’t screw anything up. So, let’s find out what’s working really well, and let’s double down, and figure out how do we improve that. And then, let’s figure out what’s causing way too many issues.
And usually, those two questions polarize people pretty quickly. And, you can trim the tree pretty quick on where we should focus, where we shouldn’t focus. And, there’s a lot of stuff in the middle. But what I’ve really tried to focus on is where do we already have a strength that we could leverage, if we just had a little bit more focus?
Matt: We’re talking on Sales Pipeline Radio with Shawn Herring. He’s the new VP of Marketing at PandaDoc. And I know there’s always a real balance between, I appreciate you mentioning not coming in and necessarily changing things by default, but I also think in early stage companies, they don’t often starve. They drown. There’s a thousand things to look at, right? And so, as you think about the brand, you think about awareness, you think about leads, you think about supporting the sales team, you think about future opportunities.
So, as you look into the future, how do you think about those different priorities? And how does a startup in a marketing environment balance traditional awareness, sort of brand goals with really driving measurable pipeline as well?
Shawn: Yep, that’s a tough one. Usually, I’m separating brand to demands. Those are the two major components that I consider in the marketing mix, if you will. And what PandaDoc has done is really building a demand funnel that is pretty streamlined and pretty effective. What I’ve been focused on in the first six weeks as well as leading up to joining PandaDoc is trying to understand where is all the revenue coming from? What is the ideal customer profile, like just the traditional foundational items. And I get less concerned with leads. I get less concerned with MQLs. And I really get focused on pipeline, and then pipeline to close.
And so, I really focus on that area of where do sales pick up, where Marketing is passing over, and what works really, really well there. And then I focus backwards to what are those MQLs that are creating that pipeline? And then, where are those MQLs coming from, so it’s really kind of a diagnosis process of when we get closed deals and we get good pipeline, how are we getting that there? And then, that’s where we should really consider focusing in. And then, other areas I look at the spend, and I look at return on where we’re seeing certain spend or even the resources allocated. And I ask, what if we turn this off? Would that have a significant impact?
And just asking sometimes those extreme questions on both ends. It shakes people loose a little bit to say well, “It might not hurt as bad if we did this.” And really, it’s been all about middle of the funnel to start understanding it. And then, I jump right to the top of the funnel and start looking at what are those levers we can play with? And so with us, it’s been a lot about the website.
Matt: It’s not surprising to hear you talk about marketing as a revenue-responsible unit and really focusing on sales goals and working backwards. Talk about what that means in terms of the relationship you need to have with your counterpart in sales. What are your priorities as the new VP of Marketing in terms of building that relationship between sales and marketing, and what are some of the priorities you recommend others think about as well to improve their relationship between sales and marketing?
Shawn: Yeah, I’ve learned from some great people in my career, and I think the biggest thing is we’re in lockstep together. From sales and marketing to even our success team that deals with customers, anybody that has a customer-facing role, we have to be aligned on what’s extremely important and successful for all of us across the board. And a mantra I took early on, actually you mentioned ExactTarget, when I was there. It’s kind of like the sales number is our number. It’s just a matter of how we’re helping them hit it.
And that’s the kind of mentality that the marketing team needs to have in order to have a true partnership with sales. And it’s not a handoff scenario. I think what I’ve also noticed is a lot of teams do these very siloed handoff approaches, and what gathers respect from those that are on the front lines dealing with customers and prospects is more of a follow-through. How is marketing ensuring not just setting up a lead or not just setting up an MQL, but truly following through and making sure what is coming through is getting the most support and helping the most as it continues through the pipeline.
And the biggest thing is talking to sales and constantly, whether it’s Slack, whether it’s meetings, whether it’s initiatives that are cross-functional, constantly having the conversation that all points towards pipeline, because that’s kind of the central aggravation point where marketing and sales can agree, like this is extremely important that we get this number right. Sales is going to develop their own, but marketing on our end at PandaDoc has a large responsibility for building pipeline. So, we watch that number like a hawk, and I think that garners a lot of respect from those that have to then manage that pipeline to close.
Matt: Well, we’re talking on Sales Pipeline Radio today with Shawn Herring. He’s the VP of Marketing at PandaDoc. And PandaDoc, like I said, is a product that we use a lot of. It’s one of what, 7,000 sales and marketing technology tools out there. How do you think about competitive landscape, not only in terms of the category you’re in but just competing in the noise of all the martech tools that are trying to convince buyers that you can’t live without them? How do you think about that from a competition and from an industry-noise perspective?
Shawn: That has been a problem I’ve been trying to solve for the last, I’ll say, since I joined ExactTarget about 10 years ago. It’s the standing now, but honestly what I’ve noticed is it’s speaking down to the element of who you think you’re going to help the most, and this ideal customer profile that you develop as a company, and you start to go after. I considered it kind of a drafting technique. If you can do really well for a certain segment that you’ve identified, has a great LTV that has pretty high NPS that feels like they’re successful and you’re successful. If you do things right for them, then there’s a ripple effect, and everyone else will draft off of that because they’ll see the success.
And for us, the focal point has been by a segment, so not necessarily industry, but what we’ve had some really good success with is smaller sales teams or smaller organizations, or even those organizations that are in challenger mode, that are really pushing hard and working their way up against the bigger, they’re a David and Goliath type of scenario. And so what we’ve seen is our positioning and our targeting, we’re getting really, really, really good at targeting a specific segment of the market and doing well by them. And what happens is there’s ripple effects of maybe there’s a larger company out there that has a larger sales team that wants to be a little bit more aggressive or wants to just get out of the norm of I’ve got this. Everybody’s got this thing in their stack, and they’re playing it safe.
And so what we’ve found is that helps considerably, and the more we focus, the more that that kind of ripple effect has happened where we’ve seen a lot more interest from more enterprise-level clients, as well as even some smaller ones that are coming in that are a little bit more aggressive on their end. We’re kind of shooting for that SMB and small-mid market size, and it just seems to be that sweet spot where we get access to both if we just do right by our ideal customer profile.
Matt: And that can be a hard thing for companies to do, right? It’s one thing to sit and say, “Okay, we’ve got our personas documented. We’ve got a sense for who we want to sell to.” But then when the rubber meets the road, you start saying, “Boy, we want to hit our numbers. Should we go outside of that?” And a big customer comes by and says, “We’d like to work with you, but we need you to make these couple changes in the product.” How just culturally do you help a company stay disciplined and focused, and to do the right things when you’re out on the battlefield trying to get the job done?
Shawn: Yep, so, at PandaDoc what I’ve noticed in the short time that I’ve been here, very customer-centric, very customer-focused, and constantly wanting to have a pulse on how the customers are engaging, using, and benefiting from our software and our platform. But also, we’re building up teams that are customer-facing, not just prospect-facing, to support that longevity because we know we’re just at the starting point of our relationship with them. Because we do offer multiple options for people to engage with, they might just come to us for e-signature, and then realize that there is a whole nother side of creating, sending, and tracking proposals. And we can just start by really focusing in on that first sweet spot where they have the pains.
And when I said earlier we have a pretty good inbound funnel, we’ve done really well from an SEO perspective on the demand side where we get things pulled in. It’s a matter of us showing that we can serve your needs to the micro level, and what I’ve found very interesting on the customer centricity from the CEO, and from the co-founders all the way down, there’s a constant communication on what’s important, and we use OKRs, and we use different mechanisms and methodologies to make that happen, but in reality it’s the culture has been about learning.
And it’s okay to make a mistake if you’re doing it for the right reason. And if you’re doing it to help a customer, it’s okay to make a mistake. Apologize and move on and try to help get out of that situation, but have fun with it as well. And so, what I’ve noticed is the culture has been really good about embracing a not just customer-centric mentality, but a focused mentality of is that really going to help us move the needle, or is that just going to distract us. And you see decisions being made very quickly, because from leadership down, they’ve made it very clear they want to empower people to the fullest which are always thinking about what benefits the customer the most. If that’s your answer as to why you made a decision, then I’ve noticed here we really embrace that and figure out how to support it.
Matt: That’s great. That’s awesome. We’re going to have to take a quick break and pay some bills. We’ll be back more with proud Indiana grad and VP of Marketing at PandaDoc, Shawn Herring. I’ll be right back, Sales Pipeline Radio.
Paul: Okay, let’s pick it back up with our college basketball fans here, and before we do, I have to correct the record. I just can’t let it slide. You said that I’m an alumni of Minnesota. I actually went to Michigan. Well, Wolverines eat Gophers for lunch.
Matt: I did get that wrong. I apologize, yeah, I know-
Paul: Born in Minnesota, but went to Michigan. Yes, I know how you can confuse it here.
Matt: No, it’s terrible. I’m not a good Midwesterner if I don’t recognize the different M’s. I apologize for that.
Paul: That’s all right.
Matt: All right, well we got a lot of great guests coming up in the future episodes of Sales Pipeline Radio. If you are new to listening or just want to know what’s coming up, we’ve got some exciting stuff. Next week, we’re going to feature Derek Slayton. He is the CMO of Terminus, and we’ve just together completed some really interesting research on the state of account-based marketing. We’ve got some really interesting insights that I think you’re going to want to see.
First episode of March, we’re going to have Elay Cohen. He is the CEO of SalesHood. We’re going to be talking about his new book, and talking about what profitable, scalable sales enablement looks like. And speaking of sales and ABM, Jamie Shanks, the author of the new book SPEAR Selling, which is all about account-based sales development, will be joining the show as well.
But today, we’ve got a lot more with Shawn Herring. He’s the VP of Marketing at PandaDoc. And if you look at your experience, Shawn, I mean you’ve been running marketing at a number of organizations in your career, and it strikes me just the diversity of companies and industries you’ve worked in. I mean you’ve been everything from your sort of automobile repair to pharmaceuticals and biotech and then obviously a lot of time in marketing technology and SaaS. What are some of the things that you were able to take from some of your earlier non-tech background that has really served you well and helped differentiate your leadership and style in the martech and SaaS space?
Shawn: That’s a great one. I think that it’s a great question, because I’ve notice I’ve pulled on that the older I’m getting. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, so this path that you see, if you look at my LinkedIn profile, it’s led me into marketing, and I’ve stuck there for the last 15ish years. And what’s been interesting in that journey is I’ve been able to work for some very large companies as an employee. I’ve been able to work as an employee or founder of very small companies. And I’ve been able to work with larger organizations, as well as scale-ups as either a consultant or employee and seeing all that diversity, I’ve really started to appreciate the surroundings of marketing as much as the marketing team itself.
And I can go back to when I worked in the healthcare organization with a very large marketing organization that was very process-oriented and a lot of decision-making made by committees. And you just notice how slow things go, but how deliberate they are. And it’s not bad, it’s just different depending on what that market needs and what that company needs. And when you’re making decisions that have a impact for years to come, it makes sense to kind of take your time and think more methodically.
But then, I started to realize that I was in this bubble, and I was in this bubble of healthcare as well as in this bubble of a very large company within healthcare, and maybe I was missing out on how other people did things, and so I started looking at startups. I started looking at smaller scale-up organizations that weren’t in the billions but maybe in the hundred-million or 50-million range, but what I noticed was the intentionality was the same, but really how the marketing team fits in and plays well with others was the crucial part of a success in any org.
And it sounds simple, and it sounds like, yeah, like everybody knows that, but when you’re going from a company where marketing is super siloed and rarely talks to anybody but themselves to an organization where marketing is kind of at backbone, and I’ll use ExactTarget as great example. I met a ton of intelligent people that were very, very passionate about what they do across the entire organization, and everybody’s job in marketing, we were constantly working with other teams. And you have that full appreciation of when an org structures itself to really embrace marketing and hold it as a central part of what they’re doing, versus a siloed kind of offshoot.
I’ve really pulled that in and said, “What kind of organization do I want to work in,” so when I look at different organizations, that’s one thing I look at is how is marketing structured? What is the dependency on marketing? And what is marketing’s dependency on the org? But then I also look at what do I want a team to look like? What would I feel is successful? And what would I be proud to have as a team to point at and say, “This group of people have killed it for the last year or two years, and look at the accomplishments.”
So, those are the things that I’ve been taking throughout my career as the environment that you’re within. You add the leadership, the leadership views. If you’re a founder, everything is sales. It doesn’t matter if you want to be the head of marketing or you want to be head of support or product, like you’re in a sales position if you’re starting up a company. And if you can have that mentality as you go through a scale-up phase, I became very humbled when I worked for smaller companies in realizing how little I knew about all the other facets until I had to do them. And so now I feel like I’m at that point in my career where I can put all of those things together and have a lot of empathy for other parts of the organization, as well as can jump in and say like, “Hey, I think we can help, not just I feel where you’re at, but I think we can help with what you’re doing by having a, b, and c in place.”
So, those are bigger things that I’ve noticed that I’ve kept pulling from in my experience that I’m applying even now at PandaDoc. I’m just continuously learning and even going back to previous colleagues and saying, “Hey, how have things changed? What are you seeing now?” I’m really big on pulling from others’ experience and outside-in type of methodology.
Matt: We’ve just got a couple more minutes here with Shawn Herring. He’s the VP of Marketing at PandaDoc, and I love hearing you talk about helping to get some marketing organizations that sometimes work in silos to work together, so you’ve got the opposite opportunity. You own a lot of those organizations today, and your role at PandaDoc, demand-gen, product, brand, communication, sales development. What are some of the keys for you to making sure that those teams work in concert and in an integrated way, you know, a one plus one equals three kind of situation?
Shawn: It genuinely comes from learning from the best that I’ve been able to work with in the past. And it’s focus and communication. It’s those two things where if I can say these are the top three things we have to get done as a team, then I can say that and everybody understands the what as well as the why, and then we are communicating and iterating on that in a very specific way whether it’s meetings, or Slack, or it’s a project update. I think that’s been the biggest thing is making sure that the leaders are bought in, see the why, not just what they have to do but why they have to do it, so that they can communicate that down to their teams.
And then constantly pointing to numbers. I mean that’s been the other thing is I’ve got dashboards on a daily basis. We’re congratulating each other. We’re looking at different milestones that we’re hitting, and so everybody’s got that myopic view, very, very myopic view on what’s are pipeline look like and what’s helping it get bigger? Or what’s not helping it? And where should we focus? And so that focus part and constant communication has been one that I can’t speak high enough to, that I’m really pushing myself to continuously improve upon role after role and year after year.
Matt: Got it. Last question for you before we have to wrap up. Who are some of the people that in your career and in your professional development have been really influential? It could be authors, professors, mentors, managers. Who are, maybe one or two people that you’d like to call out that have been really influential to you that you might recommend other people check out as well?
Shawn: Oh yeah, but I could go on for another half hour about this one, because I’ve got a chance to work with some very intelligent people. Tim Kopp was the former CMO of ExactTarget, mentor as well as just amazing person all around. Kyle Lacy, they’re going to be all names that you’ve probably heard before. Kyle Lacy, I got to work with him and Jeff Rohrs at ExactTarget as well, just amazing people.
Todd Caponi, actually he was at ExactTarget and Salesforce. He has written his own book, so he is actually an author. And he’s got a book out about, The Transparency Sale, and honestly I think that’s a book for marketers as much as it is for sales. And I think I’d wrap it up with two individuals that I got to work with recently that I’m really, really impressed with is Myles Kleeger. He’s the president over at Braze, formerly Appboy. And a newly appointed CRO at Braze is Daniel Head. I just had a tremendous amount of respect for the way they focus their teams and their thought processes about how they do things. So, that’s just a small group of people that I would say have influenced me in a very positive way.
Matt: That’s a great list. Thank you for that, and it is amazing. There are certain companies that seem to have and alumni network from them as they scatter into other roles, it just becomes very clear why the company they came from was so successful. I think Eloquest stands out to me as an example of that, and ExactTarget clearly with the skillset and the legacy impact of the people that were there and continue to drive value in all the organizations they’re at next.
Well, really appreciate you joining us today on Sales Pipeline Radio. I’ve been very happy to have you joining us, and if you’d like to hear more from Shawn, the VP of Marketing at PandaDoc, you can check him out on-demand at salespipelineradio.com here in a couple of days. We’ll also have a summary of this conversation up on heinzmarketing.com here in about a week, highlighting not only highlights from this conversation but also links to some of the people and messages and documents and other materials that we talked about today.
That’s all we have time for today. We got a lot of great content coming up in the next few weeks from my great producer Paul. This is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us in another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.