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Marketing Matters

Presented by Rick Wootten, Kevin Payne
Originally aired on 

Join Rick Wootten for a conversation with marketing leaders to understand more about marketing and the people who are shaping this discipline. What advice do they have for up-and-coming brands? How do they navigate the challenges associated with an increasingly noisy world? What's their superpower?

Learn from the experts on how to build great and enduring brands, engender trust and advocacy, and drive adoption and use of new products and technologies.


Transcript (Beta)

Welcome to Marketing Matters. This is the show where we get to interview and learn from some of the brightest minds in marketing.

On today's show, I'm going to be interviewing Kevin Payne.

Kevin has led marketing teams in a number of Silicon Valley companies, including Loop Commerce, where he is today, Zest Labs, 24-7, where we originally met.

And he's an expert in communication, messaging, and demand generation.

In fact, one of the roles that I worked with him at, he was the head of demand generation.

And on top of all this, he probably knows more about Monty Python than anyone else I know, which makes him highly qualified as a marketer.

So welcome to the show, Kevin.

Thank you for inviting me. It's good to see you. Thank you. Thank you.

It's great to have you here. So one of the fun things I get to do is I get to go through some standard sets of questions that I ask everyone.

And one of the ones that I leveraged from the previous host of the show, and the second host, was about origin stories.

And Marvel and everything else has really come into focus in popular culture.

And so every superhero, every supervillain has an origin story. So I like to ask my guests to talk about theirs.

What is your origin story? How'd you get into marketing in this job?

And what keeps you here? Sure. So when I was finishing up my undergraduate degree, I was working at a winery in San Jose here.

And one of the neat things about working at a winery is the product is really amorphous.

That is to say so much of the quality of what the product is, is how people perceive it.

So I ran the tasting room. And the idea was you create an environment where people have such a good time that they become loyal fans of your wine.

Because it doesn't really necessarily taste different from any other product.

So a guy that worked for me... I know. Another story there. But a guy that worked for me as a volunteer on the weekends was working in tech.

And he said, I got a job opening for a program administrator.

And so I interviewed for it.

And he got me the job basically. And I knew nothing about computers. And if you go back, this is, let's just generously say the 90s.

Tech marketing, I used to like to say, was if you went into marketing and tech, it's because you were a programmer that wanted to travel more.

So there really wasn't a lot of marketing people with marketing backgrounds, at least in the company that I worked for at the time.

So, and I had no tech experience. So I wasn't going to bring tech skills to the table.

I was going to bring hopefully organizational skills. But what I found over time was that I was the only person really in the department that came at this from a marketing kind of B2C perspective.

And so it enabled me to... I was either like the weirdo in the room or the person coming at things from a different angle.

So it enabled me to have a different viewpoint and bring a value add to the company to say, we should think about how people feel about this.

And we should think about brand rather than just speeds and feeds.

And ultimately that got me into doing things related to branding and other types of corporate communications beyond program administration.

And I eventually started moving into Corpcom out of that.

So it's actually been fun throughout my career to always think about how you market a wine and then relate that to how you market technology and solutions.

That's pretty cool. Now, what were you studying in college?

Was it marketing or something? I was starting marketing at San Jose State. And which winery was it that you were working with?

The winery was called Mirasu.

It itself doesn't exist anymore. They were sold the brand to Gallo. So you can still go to the store and find Mirasu wines, but it's now owned by Gallo instead of the family that owned it at the time.

Got it. Yeah. I'm always surprised at the number of wineries we actually have in San Jose, or at least in the South Bay.

You would think that it's more of a Napa or Sonoma thing, but I've been to Testarossa here in Los Gatos and then Ridge and a few others.

I laugh because when I worked at MIPS, a guy named Rob Jensen was a systems engineer.

He sat two cubes over from me and I was teaching wine appreciation courses at Mirasu.

And I said, yeah, come take my course.

And he and his wife were really getting into wine and they were making some wine in their garage.

And they took the courses and they actually founded Testarossa.

So that's their winery. Oh, nice. I don't get any money from it. So in a way you taught them.

Oh, some of it. They didn't teach them the wine making, but I hopefully taught them some of the history and stuff like that.

Yeah. That's really cool.

That's pretty neat. One of the beer breweries here in the South Bay, I think it's actually called South Bay Brewing Company, was started by somebody I'd worked with at Sonicwall.

Him and a few other guys got together and they started up.

And so it's cool to kind of have those connections. And when you go into Whole Foods and see their product in the aisles and remember all the conversations you had with them beforehand, it just makes a little more special, a little more fun.

Yep. So talk to me a little bit about this. So it's always fun.

Well, we don't really do this anymore because of COVID, but it used to be that you'd be out and you'd be socializing.

You go to a work event or some whatever, maybe Christmas party with your family.

And somebody is like, well, what do you do?

What is marketing? What does a marketer do? Do you just create these ads and try and convince people to buy products they don't need?

How do you describe what you do?

How do you respond to that? To people who really don't probably actually get too much, I'll just basically say it's kind of like advertising.

So if they're old enough, I'll say, do you remember Darren Stevens on Bewitched?

That's right. It's that kind of thing. But to people who I think that are a little more in tune with it, it's basically, I mean, the textbook answer to me is I'm matching somebody's need with what our solution offers.

But ultimately to me, I view myself as a storyteller.

So what I'm trying to do is find interesting ways to tell the story about my company so that people who are in the market for what we do will make the match.

And part of that is by being in places that people are looking.

This was something I found continually has been a struggle at companies I've been at, is they don't understand that people look for things in multiple places.

And you can't just say, OK, I'm going to put an ad here because I think it's a great place to put an ad.

But if people aren't looking there, it's worthless.

And that they're looking in multiple different places. And when I was in grad school, probably the best class I took was integrated marketing communications.

And it taught me this idea of you've got to be in all these different places and how all these different programs fit together to make marketing work.

So it's not just advertising, it's podcasts, it is content on your website. It's all these different things so that people see you in all the different places they're looking.

And also matching where they're at in their buying process with materials that help us guide them through that.

So sometimes I'll tell the analogy like people will say, OK, I have a problem.

I live in San Jose, but my office is in San Francisco.

So I have to get from A to B. So what are my options for doing that?

So they say, OK, I could buy a helicopter, I could take the train, I could buy a car, I could walk, I could bicycle.

And you look at all these, you go, OK, some of these are just not valid options.

But they haven't started thinking about, oh, I want to go to Kevin's website and start looking for something.

So they may narrow it down to say, OK, I want to buy a car.

OK, so now if let's say I'm a Toyota salesman, I can say, OK, I want to invite you to look at Toyota and make that part of your possible mix of solutions.

And then you go, OK, I'm looking at Toyota, I'm looking at Honda, I'm looking at Nissan.

How do I then make it look or make it apparent to you and make it easy for you to decide that we're the best car choice?

And so I'll have material to get you into the top of the funnel, and then I'll come up with material and programs to move you through that by saying, OK, compare us to a Honda, compare us to a Nissan.

And then ultimately, I want to get to the third stage of content and marketing, which is the bottom of the funnel, which is say, OK, I've decided I want to buy a Toyota, but now I want to make sure that that's not a stupid decision.

So I'm going to look for reviews, I'm going to talk to friends, I'm going to look at Consumer's Report, Motor Trend, what have you.

And so from my marketing perspective, I want to make sure that I have content and storytelling in all of those areas so that as you move through your buying journey, when you're ready to buy, we've got the material and information available for you.

Yeah, I like that. I particularly resonate with the comment about matchmaking, and that's one that I talk about quite a bit when people ask me that question.

Our job isn't to go convince somebody who doesn't want something to buy something.

Our job is to help identify when somebody is looking for a solution that we have a good product for and making sure that they're aware of us.

Because one of the things that, at least for me, that's really frustrating is when you, let's say you're going to buy a TV, and you go and you research TVs, you look for TVs, you find the best one for your needs, right size, right technology and all that.

And then you get it home and you sit down and five minutes later, you get an ad for one that was a better fit than what you bought.

And then you get that buyer's remorse.

And so part of our job is to help with that, is to try and identify when somebody has a need to try to solve for, and maybe we're a solution that they wouldn't think of, or maybe we're a better solution than the one they were actually already looking at.

It's not to try and trick anybody or fake anybody, which I think there's a natural conspiracy feeling that a lot of people have about marketing and sales.

I think in the past, there have been companies who've done things that are above board and make people now suspicious of anybody who's in that evermore.

So anyway, it's always fun to hear how people kind of describe what they do for a living to people outside the industry.

I will tell you, when I went to throw my parents under the bus here, when I told my parents I was going to do, you know, Internet marketing, this was like, I'm not going to date myself here.

This is the, you know, mid to late 90s.

They're like, what does that even mean? You know, like, I have AOL, but what are you doing?

And it was very difficult to explain to them that, you know, well, we're trying to take things online, the advertising, and, you know, okay, so basically you're going to do the JCPenney catalog online?

It's like, yeah, let's go with that.

That's close enough. Well, you know, it's weird though, is even, it's not just explaining to external people like friends and family.

I have to do this regularly with the companies I work at.

Because especially when I, like right now, I'm at a relatively small company, they did not have marketing for like the first seven years of their existence.

So explaining why I'm doing what I'm doing is an important part of my job.

And then showing the results from what I'm doing, because it's new to them.

Yeah, you know, I think an interesting example of this is Tesla.

And, you know, Elon Musk has been very vocal of, you know, we don't have marketing here.

We don't do marketing. And it's like, oh, wait, every time you get on Twitter, every time you go, you know, place a product, every time, that's all marketing.

Like, what are you talking about?

You don't do marketing. And then they made a really, in my opinion, a crazy decision earlier this year.

And they let everybody go in their PR department. So they no longer have a PR department.

And, you know, there's a negative side to that, which is now every time there's some sort of, you know, thing that happens, you know, a malfunction in the car, or, you know, a perceived issue or whatever, there's nobody on the Tesla side to respond to that.

Which has been okay, because they have no competition.

But now all of a sudden, you've got companies who do do marketing, who do do PR, who are coming after them.

Like a good example, that's Ford.

You know, Ford's got the Mustang E-Mach, or Mach-E, and they're coming, you know, both guns blazing.

Like, you know, we have a better product, it's more reliable, we have better network, service centers, you can get repairs right in your town, and there's a Ford dealership everywhere, you know, the whole thing.

And they're pushing that really hard. And they are totally embracing, you know, the writers and the publishers and everything else out there, and giving them anything they want.

Oh, you want a test drive? No problem. We'll get a dealer nearby you, we'll get you.

And so it's going to be interesting, because I think the lead that Tesla has enjoyed, and you know, their ability to kind of shun marketing and PR, is going to be a competitive disadvantage in the in the coming years as, you know, whether it's Ford, or Audi, or I think Riven was one that's coming out with one, and Lucid Motors, I think is another one.

You know, there are these companies that are coming after them hard and fast.

And, you know, in an uncompetitive marketplace, you can ignore that stuff, but not in the competitive one.

So yeah, I don't know. No, I find it permeates the corporate DNA, too, because it's not just that there's this gap in marketing, it's that the influence of marketing and the methodologies of marketing are no longer being spread throughout the company.

So ultimately, it's just spreads, and it dominoes, I think, potentially throughout the company.

Yeah, I imagine, you know, I think we kind of got into our careers in similar time frames.

I find that, you know, through the early part of my career, a lot of it was spent doing digital transformations within organizations, and helping them, you know, kind of see the value of whether it's advertising, or online, or what have you, and helping them move to the new way of doing things.

And I mean, all the way back to the, you know, early dot com days of the early 2000s, you know, I remember working with companies, and I'll leave their names out, but it was like, you know, you need to measure what you're doing.

Oh, no, no, marketing isn't about measurement, marketing is about, you know, just, you know, getting the brand awareness and all that.

And it's like, Nope, you're, you're gonna find out, you've got to measure it.

And so there was a big push in the mid 2000s, like 2004, five, six, to really start moving towards marketing operations and all that.

And a lot of the companies that, you know, didn't do that in the early 2000s, got caught flatfooted.

And I feel like, you know, we're seeing some of that even today, I think, you know, this whole industry we're in, and marketing in general, just changes so rapidly from year to year.

Oh, very, very definitely. Well, and like, you're, you're teasing up there. First of all, you're reminding me when you've joined 24 seven, and how happy I was that you were there, because my, I tend to be on the brand ish soft marketing side.

And we were really in need of somebody to do the data analysis, because I was asking for funding for programs, but I had no data to back up, you know, what was effective and what was not effective.

And so, yes, it's I, you're absolutely right.

I'm finding that is still true today is they don't people don't necessarily understand what metrics we need for marketing.

And I think in times we kind of shied away from it, because we were afraid the data was going to show that we didn't know what we were doing, or we're making bad decisions.

And certainly, sometimes we did make a bad decision.

But with the data, you know that and then you don't make the decision anymore.

So having that ability to figure out what's what's working and what's not working is really critical.

And I remember, we, I was one of the first companies that implemented Marketo, because back in the around 2010 ish kind of time frame, there was Eloqua was the only marketing automation solution of any, you know, worth that was out in the market.

Yeah, it required programmers to do it.

And Marketo was like the first one that said, no, this is WYSIWYG, we can make it easy for a Kevin Payne type of person to use Marketo.

And trying to convince people that marketing automation was incremental, or not incremental, essential, rather, to managing your marketing operation.

I will I interviewed at a company, I will not mention which company it was and hiring VP.

I said, so what marketing automation system are you using?

She goes, well, we're using Eloqua, we're not going to use it anymore, because we don't need marketing automation.

And I said, you absolutely have to have marketing automation, because it's the foundation for everything you do.

And first thing I had to do was convince her for that, because I wasn't going to take the job if if she wasn't going to believe in that, because if you can't manage what you're doing, and you can't monitor what you're doing, you don't know what results you're getting.

And you can't justify what you're doing.

So yeah, that's, that's pretty crazy. So in the spirit of, of everything constantly changing, this last year has, has been nuts.

And, you know, I shared with you earlier, you know, I went into 2020 with an amazing marketing plan that died on the vine in March, right, because the whole world changed.

And all the assumptions changed.

And, you know, we were we were heavy on events and things like that in person events, and all that went away.

And we had to more aggressively, unfortunately, we're already into digital, like deeply into digital, but, you know, we had to change our investment portfolio and, you know, kind of recraft that, you know, what lessons learned have you seen in the last year that, you know, yourself or different companies have seen and, and then, you know, maybe talk about where you think it's going next.

This has been particularly interesting for me with, with COVID for a couple reasons, when I joined my current company, they had not done any b2b marketing.

So I was brought in to start b2b marketing.

So there was no demand gen, no email campaigns, no PR, nothing.

And so the first three months of this year was spent basically me developing the plan.

And I've I've built demand gen and corporate marketing programs before.

So it's me, it's the most fun thing you can do in marketing. So you start with a blank slate, and and build it up from there.

So to your point, we were just about to start launching into the events in March, and everything went sideways.

But what made it particularly interesting for us is loop commerce, the company I work for is a gifting solution that allows you to digitally deliver a gift to somebody, your mom, your friend, corporate partners, whatever it is, remotely contactless.

Oh, interesting. So it was actually a perfect fit for a situation where you cannot get together with somebody.

And so for example, on Mother's Day, I couldn't go visit my mom who lives three hours away.

So I sent her a gift using our gift now solution, where she gets an email, it says, Kevin and Carol bought you, I think we bought her a heavy blanket type of thing.

And I did a little video recording with me holding our dog who they love dearly.

And so she gets this email with this video says Kevin and Carol bought you this gift.

And she gets to adjust the size and shape, or whatever she wants in color.

And then she puts the shipping address she wants in.

And then the goods are shipped to her after she's selected what items she wants.

And so we looked at this, and we said, this is a perfect gift for an environment where you cannot get together with people you love or people you want to celebrate something with be it a birthday, Mother's Day, what have you.

But it was at the time we said, but we don't want to look like we're capitalizing on a bad situation.

So we basically said, okay, let's just kind of stop and try and figure out what's the right thing to do.

And after about two months, the situation had changed to the point where we now said, you know, it's okay for us to market this people need this.

And I think part of that was us coming to the realization that we really have value in the product we offer, we really believe in it.

It's part of our DNA that this whole gifting type of solution. And to your point, what I think we centered on the most that I think was the most important thing was you've got to be authentic and honest during this time.

And people tap into that.

And one of the things I've been trying to do is improve our storytelling, and add a human quality to the storytelling.

So we're not just a tech company.

We're actually a company that can help bring people together. Right.

And so if we stick to that truth, and tell our story that way, and we're sincere and honest about what we do, we find that people are responsive to it, and they're receptive to it.

And they go, you know, we talked to an analyst, and she said, this is the silver lining of this whole pandemic, is that you're enabling people to continue to share that gifting experience, that emotional connection, in a time when we're so desperate for that, and it's so difficult to do.

As far as things going forward, the other thing I'm testing out, but it's proving to be true so far, is that a lot of the programs for the most part that we were running before, events aside, still work.

People are still looking at a lot of the same places for information.

We're running LinkedIn campaigns, we're running AdWords campaigns, they still are effective.

I found webinars are still effective. The one thing I think I'm always suspicious of are these virtual trade show events.

It was kind of funny when I was at a company a couple of years before we worked together 24-7.

These third parties introduced these virtual trade show environments, you know, where it's got the virtual trade show floor, and the little stands that you can see, and so forth.

And they said, trade shows are going away, they're going to stop to exist, because everybody's going to go virtual now, you don't have to get on a plane.

And it was a complete and total failure, until COVID came along.

And then all of a sudden, it was like they resurrected these things, and in 10 years plus, they had not evolved them, to speak of.

And they're still like, you know, well, you staff your booth, and people will come and enter your virtual booth.

It's like, but they don't. So that's the one area that I think people do want to get back to, and are really appreciating how much they miss true trade shows and conferences.

Because they're realizing it was not just about collecting information, it was about building relationships and networking and things like that.

So I think that's one thing that will come back. And I think a lot of these virtual events will fade into the dust.

Yeah. Yeah, it's interesting. I'm not gonna use any names.

But on our side, we have seen some of the virtual events adapt really well.

And you know, they have created a virtual experience that has nothing to do with trade show, it is still very compelling.

And those are usually the ones that have been investing, to your point, in the last 10 years in building these platforms.

And then I saw some very big name organizations who have done physical events forever try and transition.

And, you know, it just didn't hit.

It just, you know, they didn't capture it. And so it's interesting. There's some, you know, big ones hitting right now.

I mean, I think it's going to be interesting to see what CES, we don't participate in CES, but it'll be interesting to see what CES looks like this year.

You know, that's, that's less than a month away.

And it's just, you know, how, how will those events play out? And I do think that, you know, kind of like there was a there was a stat that in the first whatever it was six weeks of, you know, COVID, you know, three years, four years worth of migration to digital happened, you know, really spent things I think that way with the virtual as well.

But I do, I do tend to agree with you. I don't think that we're going to fully move away from those physical events, particularly in the enterprise B2B, you know, that handshake and a personal relationship makes more of a difference than I, I think people give credit for.

And if you remember back, what was it called consumerization of IT movement that happened, you know, in the mid 2000s, that was one of those ones where, you know, they thought like, everybody's just gonna shop online, you're never gonna have to talk to anybody, you're just gonna, and 50 % of it was true, like, you know, they really do shop in a similar way to how we shop for a car or TV or whatever, there's a ton of research that's being done online, there's a lot of that.

But then at the end of the day, you want to talk to somebody when you're making a, you know, 50,000 $100,000 decision.

And so it never fully, fully moved to online, I think that's going to continue.

So I don't think we're to go back to exactly how it was, but I think it's going to be a hybrid, just like the consumerization of it, or how you may remember, while we were working together, we were working with CEV, Corporate Executive Board, I think.

And this was when they were really promoting their research about I think it was the time 57% of the buying decision is done before they ever contact you.

And now I think it's up to like 70% was last time I saw something like that.

And we had to adjust to that because the mentality was still like, oh, they're going to call us at the beginning of their search for a product or a solution.

It's like, no, they're not, they're going to visit your website, they're going to check third party, they're going to look in the media.

And so I think those of us in marketing got that.

But a lot of the rest of the company didn't understand why we have to invest in stuff that's out there that people where people could find us going back to what we're talking about earlier.

That otherwise, we're going to be the brought in at the end when they've already made a decision.

They're not just validating, yeah, we checked with other vendors.

And they'll go back to where they started. So I think that was really key in us, tuning our marketing there.

And for me going forward. Cool. Hey, you know, one of the because I've known you for a little bit, one of the things I know about you is that you were a huge Monty Python fan.

And I'm curious, how did that get started? Well, I have to respond by saying I didn't expect some kind of Spanish Inquisition, but how that how that got started for the three, you know, however many people out there get the reference.

Monty Python first started airing when I was in high school.

And I guess the thing that always alert I found alluring to it was you never knew what was going to happen.

And some of the sketches, you know, dead parrot sketch, cheese shop, some of the things like that is like, the path you think they're going to go on, they go over here.

And what I admire, like my favorite movie of all time, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which I've seen probably, I don't know, 75 times or whatever, has some lines in it, where you think, you know, how would they who could sit down and conceive of such a thought?

So for example, not is there's a scene where one of the characters is sitting next to a window, and his father comes in, he's talking about the land of the kingdom outside the window.

Someday, lad, all this will be yours. And the son goes, what the curtains?

It's like, who thinks of this kind of stuff? So that just always, I always found that funny.

But the other thing that you may find strange is like, when I worked at 24 seven with you, I most of my team was in Toronto, and I'm in San Jose.

So I'd go up to Toronto every two to three months. And I told my team, I said, we're gonna have a movie night.

I brought my special edition Holy Grail DVD. And I said, if you want to understand how my mind works, for better for worse, watch this movie.

Yeah. And you can leave it anytime you want. But this is the way I like to think in terms of creativity is is always trying to make them guess what's going to happen next.

And always try to be creative. Don't just have the same plotline, the same storyline.

But you know, think outside the box type of thing. So then it was great fun, you know, turning my kids on to it.

My both of my kids are huge Monty Python fans as well.

So fantastic. I only managed to convert one of them.

The other one I couldn't quite convert. So props to you. Yeah, well, it either scared the team away, or they knew what they were in for.

Oh, actually, when they talked to me 100 back, they talked very fondly of it.

They thought it was really neat that you you shared that personal aspect with them.

And you know, I don't know that they all got it, but they certainly appreciated it.

And I think, you know, Python's kind of like this weird intersection of slapstick humor, but it's also very thoughtful and, you know, intellectual, and it's kind of a weird, it just you would think that two things don't juxtapose juxtapose well together, but they actually do.

Yeah, it's interesting, too. Every once in a while, you'll you'll see interviews with comedians that I'm thinking Jerry Seinfeld was one of them, but I may be wrong on that, who Python was a huge influence on how they developed their humor, and how they tell stories.

So they definitely changed the course of things.

So that's fun. We've just got another half a minute. So when we go through some, some lightning round questions, I threw you a couple new ones.

Usually I asked Coke or Pepsi, I'll give you let you answer that one. I don't drink either one, but I drink light lemonade.

And that's a Coke product. So we'll go with Coke.

Nice. But you know, the ones I thought were fun were kind of more of a question.

So is a hot dog a sandwich, right? You got me two pieces of bread.

You know, do you think a hot dog? People are on both sides of this one? I know I'm gonna go with yes.

I have one for you. Cereal soup. Yeah, that one is like, no, to me soup has got to have some kind of broth.

But I have one for you that I thought was really funny.

Nice. If you were given an all expenses paid trip to Cleveland, would you take it?

Sure. All right, and we are clear. I know you had to run to another meeting.

So yep, company meeting. Hey, this was great fun. Thank you so much.

Thank you for joining me. I'm glad we got to catch up.