Kristen Cardinalli, CMO at DoiT International, on Embracing the Science Side of Marketing to Build an Inbound Funnel

In this episode of Intricately's Selling in the Cloud podcast, our guest is Kristen Cardinalli, CMO at DoiT International. DoiT is a leading provider of multi-cloud expertise, proprietary cloud optimization and governance software – as well as a preferred partner of Google Cloud and AWS.

Kristen is a cloud industry veteran with deep expertise in the recurring revenue space, and has over two decades of experience building go-to-market strategies at the enterprise, mid-market, and startup levels.

In this episode, Kristen sat down with the Intricately team for a conversation on how she uses data to inform DoiT's go-to-market strategy and drive revenue, as well as her approach to disqualification and the importance of transparency and communication when working with sales. Tune in below.


Full transcript

Michael Pollack [00:00:09] Hello, everyone, and welcome to Selling in the Cloud, a podcast about the business of cloud sales and marketing, bought to you by Intricately, the authoritative source of digital product adoption, usage, and spend data for cloud sales and marketing teams. I'm Michael Pollack and I'm here with Sarah E. Brown, and we are your co-hosts.

Sarah E. Brown [00:00:39] Michael, welcome to the show.

Michael Pollack [00:00:40] Sarah, thank you for having me. It's great to be here.

Sarah E. Brown [00:00:42] In this episode, we're speaking with Kristen Cardinalli, Chief Marketing Officer at DoIT International. Shall we go talk to Kristen?

Michael Pollack [00:00:48] Let's do it.

Sarah E. Brown [00:00:49] Kristen, welcome to the show. So great to have you here with us.

Kristen Cardinalli [00:00:52] Thank you for inviting me. You know, usually, Sarah and Mike, when I see you, you've invited me with wine, so thank you for the invitation. And I'll wait for the wine later.

Sarah E. Brown [00:01:01] Totally, yes, maybe that's a fall podcast episode. For everyone listening, we're recording without that, fortunately or unfortunately, but so great to see you, Kristen. Can you give us a brief introduction, maybe share who you are and some background on how you came to be where you are today, and a bit about your company and what you're working on.

Kristen Cardinalli [00:01:17] Yes. So I have spent the last two decades in the recurring revenue space in the B2B tech space at companies starting really in the product management, product marketing area. And that has given me a passion, one, for always looking at the customer's lens. Of course, we're supposed to do that in marketing, but really, when you're training, there's enough in that product management, product marketing area and you're looking to help customers understand where their business is going and what's next. You really have that customer lens. So that's really where my career started in the marketing area. And then as marketing automation emerged, I gravitated towards those roles that were very pipeline activation related. Always great to actually be able to have a seat at the table, be able to influence the numbers and where it's going to be close to the action. Some might say a little bit of a glutton for punishment, but I can't help it, you know, just liking to be in that space. And as I developed a passion for MarTech, the ability to connect all these disparate activities, bringing those connected, personalized experiences, what you can do with technology and data gets me really excited, and I kind of geek out in that tech and that data space area. And then, you know, I had a really interesting experience in my time at Marketo prior to the Adobe acquisition as the Head of Demand Gen and Marketing Operations. And I kind of equate that to an equivalent of a Ph.D. in Marketing. It's a really, really well-run machine from a marketing standpoint. And, you know, my team built a MarTech stack using a lot of nascent technologies at that time in the conversational marketing area, intent data, building these finely tuned read models and testing mentality, because you have access to these agile systems that really allowed us to test and try new things. So I certainly embrace that, bring that to my teams today, that testing mentality and that idea of fail fast, iterate, have fun along the way. Don't be afraid, you know, if it doesn't work. That's also a good sign. It means you're trying and you're pushing the envelope. And so, you know, that's just a little bit about kind of my background in the marketing space. Definitely more on the science side of marketing and, you know, taking a creative approach to how do you have a provocative lens with the messages you're putting out there? And then, you know, you asked me, how did I come to my current role? So I'm currently at a company called DoIT International. And the last five years of my career, I've worked in companies that are privately held generally in the PE space, and those organizations are in the SaaS, Infrastructure as a Service, Platform, as a Service, and looking to build their brand and this modern inbound muscle. And it's typically a lot of change management as well, and that's just part of being in the PE space. What brought me to DoIT is we're a company that has been in existence for a decade. We are the largest reseller by volume for Google Cloud and a preferred partner for AWS. So one of my jobs is to make sure that the community that we are interested in knows who DoIT is. And being such a large stakeholder in the public cloud community, that's really important. So the company's been hugely profitable, even without a centralized marketing function. So I started in January, as the first CMO at the company and my charter is to build a marketing engine that can deliver this repeatable, scalable, you know, agile all around engine. So we look at it marketing from all angles, both direct and indirect, as well as inbound and outbound.

Michael Pollack [00:04:50] I appreciate that detailed kind of walk through and also apologize that we don't have any wine here today for this recording, but heard loud and clear on next time. I guess I'd ask you, Kristen, coming from your background, spending time at companies like Marketo really being, I'd call it almost like a product-centric marketer. As you move to a place like DoIT where you're much more reliant now on partners and alliances and these large channels that are again partnerships and probably complicated ones at that. Has that changed or, in your time, have you noticed, wow, that's a totally different thing. Or quite frankly, it's really similar. How would you characterize that? How do you think about that?

Kristen Cardinalli [00:05:29] You know, we're always selling solutions. So if it's a product, it's a service, it's a SaaS offering... we're selling solutions to customers, so, for DoIT, we actually have a large component of our business is, you know, we're a reseller, but we deliver services to our clients. A very significant part of our value proposition is the tooling that we develop to just better service our clients. And one of the areas that my team and the company is working on is this kind of shift to being a product-led growth company. So we have a cloud management platform that delivers really cool capabilities for our customers. It's just part of doing business with DoIT and it doesn't have a separate price tag. You don't license it. But we still have this product-led mentality of bringing that type of message to market. And so, you know, I think at the end of the day, whether it's the product or the service, you're selling solutions to solve a problem for a customer. Your persona makes the difference and you have to have that target in mind. But I would say, you know, it's really just a natural fit and you talk about our go-to-market motion, largely in this partner community and working through Google Cloud or through AWS or through Azure to be able to bring it to market. But that was really why we developed a marketing team is to also create an equally robust inbound engine. So our businesses have been largely successful because of our partnerships and our relationships with the cloud service providers. And now we're building a marketing engine that allows us to go out and gather new customers, customers that are currently in the cloud but are not working with DoIT.

Sarah E. Brown [00:07:17] We'd love to talk about the role that data plays in your marketing organization, and I appreciated your discussion about the emphasis on the science. For those who are listening, marketing leaders who are at cloud companies, need to think about the science behind everything they're doing. So curious to hear your advice on using data to inform your go-to-market strategy to drive revenue.

Kristen Cardinalli [00:07:35] So, you know, we have to use data to validate our decisions, but I always say a little bit of it has to be gut, too and your experience, and you have to try that, because if you try to prove your case 100 percent with data, you might miss your opportunity. But you know, I think specifically here at DoIT, one of the key areas for data is our ideal customer profiles... very well-defined, ideal customer profiles about who we're targeting in the market. And our approach at DoIT is to go deep. So whatever we're focusing on, right, we want to do that exceptionally well. You know what, I'll say we're allergic to peanut butter, right? So don't just spread it out, be very purposeful in what we're doing and do what we do well and data that helps keep us on track with our ideal customer profile, for sure, because we're focused on very specific industries, personas, and even cloud service, kind of cloud estate characteristics. Data like that Intricately provides, even, you know, going in and helping us to determine things like the magnitude of spend and the likely fit for DoIT are extremely important. So data for our deal customer profile is very, very, very important for us to fine tune limited resources, and even that marketing budget. The other area, I would say for data is proving the impact of our marketing activities. So where should we invest? And data helps inform us in that capacity as well. So right now, we're seeing a ton of success in top of funnel activity, and that's a very big focus for us because we're starting that inbound muscle and therefore building that funnel, building it from the top. And so programs like content syndication are hugely successful, like meeting our lead goals with a third of the time of the programs. But we have to track those leads to close in order to evaluate the value of those programs. That also takes a strong partnership with our BDR and our sales ops team because marketing only has control so far into the lifecycle to be able to see that effectiveness so that partnerships to assure that we're aligned on those metrics that matter feel that joint accountability program effectiveness of data. Everyone's like, Oh, we had a great webinar. So many people came to it, we were all so excited, high five. Ok, did we get any new business? Did we get a new renewal? Did we get a new commit out of that? You know, let's talk about, you know, it feels good, but is it a good use of our time and energy? And so being able to follow that entire thread throughout the lifecycle is extremely important as we're building our whole funnel activities to understand what touch points along that journey are really going to be most productive for us.

Michael Pollack [00:10:12] When you talk about data and to some extent gut, right, this kind of the art and the science of obviously selling right, it's any type of data tells you part of the picture and that kind of you need some gut or some, you know, on the ground intelligence to understand. I'm curious when you talk a little bit about your ICP for our listeners, for this audience, we spend a lot of time talking about ICP and ICP design, and what are best practices and some of those things. I would ask you, are you guys at the stage where you're constantly iterating on that ICP, you're changing it, you're putting stuff in and out of it or for you guys, it's pretty stable, actually, you feel like you have a really good grip on it. Where do you think you are? And maybe it's not a destination, but a continuum or a spectrum? I'd love to have you share some context there if you're willing to.

Kristen Cardinalli [00:10:54] Yeah, absolutely. So we definitely have a sweet spot for our ideal customer profile. Of course, there's always outliers, and some of those can be healthy for the business as well. But where marketing is going to spend a time farming and hunting and cultivating relationships is really going to be where it matches our ideal customer profile. So our sweet spot in that area, our digital native, ISV, born-in-the-cloud companies who already have an established cloud footprint. We are not generally trying to convince a company to move from on prem to the cloud. That decision has generally been made. They're in high growth mode. They're tech savvy, financially savvy, but generally wicked smart; they're technologists, like they get a thrill out of working in code, and they're seeking a partner that's equally intelligent and equally excited about the promise of what a cloud has to offer. So we know that that's a fit for us. There are companies certainly that fall into the high growth mode, but maybe they aren't tech savvy and they don't have the skills and the resources, and we are not a hands-on, you know, hands-on keyboard company. And therefore that wouldn't be a good fit, right? It doesn't align with our best use case. And so understanding what the best fit is for the company and for DoIT to make sure that we go after those is pretty solid. But I will say ,we have this industry, it's so dynamic in the cloud space, right? Changing so quickly and I go back at least twice a year to look at our install base. So if I go and look at the metrics for my install base, am I selling the product mix that I expected? Do I have the industries? Is it the personas that I expected to be buying? Are the deal sizes what I would have expected? And we certainly did that in January, took a look back like, we know what our customer looked like in 2019. At the end of 2019, did it still look the same? And then I did another snapshot of that in about the June timeframe. Are those trends still the same? So looking backwards, too, you can go in and graph against top of the funnel, bring it through the funnel. Are they closing? Is your mix changing? And I think looking at your current install base and some of those metrics around your cost of customer acquisition and lifetime value, how are those resonating and how are those trending? So we're pretty true to our ICP, and I think it has to be true that ICP easy to kind of follow a shiny penny, but don't take everyone along with you. That's a really big distraction. We have to be looking at the data, at the leading indicators or lagging indicators. Know if you're still on track and in marketing, even when you have your plan laid out, here's what we're going to go do. This is our plan for the year, this is our plan for H1, H2 and this is our plan for the quarter. We're still looking at that monthly. How is it performing? Is it performing as expected? What are the start, stops, continues? We should be thinking about things based on what the data is telling you. Maybe there's a market interest and competitors and you have to be able to respond to those and definitely make room and shift for that best situation as well.

Sarah E. Brown [00:14:06] Kristen, I love what you're sharing. Something that you mentioned is building this inbound funnel and looking at what deals are closing, what's your install base and also looking over time; what's changed and being really thoughtful about that program, I think is going to resonate with a lot of our listeners. And I'm wondering, you know, as you've built this inbound engine, what role does disqualification play? Can you talk about that.

Kristen Cardinalli [00:14:25] Yeah, absolutely. So you never want to, you know, say thank you for your interest, but you're not a fit, you know, because it's like, oh, we got a live one, reel 'em in, it doesn't matter if it's a minnow or swordfish, right, you're just so excited. But we do have that disqualification. So if they don't meet some of the key criteria, if we can weed that out up front through our progressive forms, through engagement that we're having. If we don't read it out from the marketing perspective, then it goes to our BDR team and they do have a list of questions that they're asking and similar for our sales team. When you kind of start to peel back the layers of that, actually, what are you running? What are your goals? What are you trying to do? How are you thinking that a partner will be able to support you to achieve your goals? And if it's not a fit, you just have to refer them to somewhere else because it ends up being really costly for the business to have a customer that just isn't a fit and you have misaligned expectations and you spend a lot of time trying to nurture that and repair that. And so it's actually something that we talk about consistently.

Michael Pollack [00:15:31] When you talk about that, when you unpack that and you think about translating the activity that marketing is into motion, right, that sales then has to act on. I'm curious, given your experience and a lot of experience, particularly on the tech side, what in your opinion is kind of the best way to really drive that alignment between marketing and sales, right? Obviously, there's the points where those two teams interconnect. But I'm just curious in your experience, what's been the most fruitful relationships or are there certain configurations or things you've learned or things you refused to do or things you must do when you think about that relationship with your sales partners throughout the business?

Kristen Cardinalli [00:16:07] The two keys there are the transparency and communication, and it really starts with your planning. So we're starting to talk about 2022 planning already, today. And our business is growing so quickly that we're constantly checking in on sales and marketing. And so as we're looking at the year ahead, what's the regional expansion look like? What's the headcount growth change look like for the sales team? What are special projects where we see opportunity that we have a skillset and there seems to be a gap in the market? We want to launch a particular program may be targeted at a section of the market. So understanding that sales motion, really, marketing takes their cues from that strategy and where sales is going to go. Similarly, with product, I would say, right, equally as marketing is aligned to sales, but also to your product team and the product roadmap and where the revenues should come from or where the adoption should come from, depending on your business model. So really, start with sales at the planning stage. And I think the part of transparency that's also really important is around budget. You know, marketing's budget has, let's say, 40 percent of it is directly attached to pipeline activities where sales cares about those activities, then there's a portion that you spend on analysts and you spend on brand-building and content, and they care about those things but not quite as much. But I have found that sharing the overall budget and how that's divided amongst the different programs is also really important. And the other thing we do is regular check-ins. So do what we have monthly check ins that we do with our marketing, the field marketing team, the BDR team, the sales leaders, marketing brings the top of the funnel, you know, here's what we said we were going to do, here's what we're seeing from a data perspective, here's how we're feeling about these activities. We might not know how they progressed all the way. And then the BDR and sales team is taking the rest of that conversation, and we're able to talk about the quality of what's coming through, and consider for start, stop, continues of that motion. So maybe when marketing is not just reporting out, but it's a conversation that you're having about, if we want to change prioritization because something comes up, we're just doing that jointly, together at the table. Then the other thing around that is, this might be a little bit controversial, but, I think there is diminishing returns on data. So I do not want marketers on my team spending 10 hours a week each trying to do their reporting and show that what they're doing is returning value because that's a whole lot of hours that there have been missing building our reputation and activating pipeline. And so I think having a clear idea and agreement at the board, the executive, your sales and your peer level with the sales team on what are the metrics that really matter and being really great at reporting those consistently is also what's important.

Sarah E. Brown [00:19:01] I heard you talk about leading and lagging indicators and you also talked about prioritization; making sure that your data is driving outcomes and revenue. So along those lines, any advice for cloud revenue leaders who are listening to this on how to increase the ROI of their cloud marketing programs?

Kristen Cardinalli [00:19:17] I think one is, you know, be purposeful. So we talked about the ideal customer profile. We talked about making sure that that's accurate. You have to check in on that from time to time, but be wary of kind of the shiny object. Sales is always playing a short game, marketing is playing the long game and the short game at the same time. So you have to balance that, you know, as a partner to the business. And so I think that's really one thing. And if you want to go test something, make sure you carve that out. You understand you're going to go do, and understand if that's going to work and you can maybe pursue a new vertical or new segment of the market together. That's one thing is just to be able to really optimize your arm by being consistent, be purposeful. Another thing I would say is that your MarTech stack, just know you can be full shelfware, there's always something new coming out. So being very educated on what's happening and in tune with your peers groups and companies that are much like yours on, what is that purpose-built MarTech stack? If you are ABM, and I'm not sure a markete who's not ABM at this point, but if you're ABM and you know you have a global footprint and you're focused on certain areas and your audience responds to video best. Put your dollars into your MarTech stack and your investment where it makes the most sense. And I think that just being purposeful, measuring what matters and always trying to just turn your MarTech stack to just be a little bit smarter, help you be a little bit more intelligent is the way to to see greater returns, maybe more so than your competitors on the revenue.

Sarah E. Brown [00:20:58] So enjoy having you on the show. Wish we could drink wine and talk for hours... maybe we'll have to do a follow-up if you're open to it, we'd love that, and certainly with potential libations. But for folks who are listening who are interested in learning more about you and your work, where should we direct them to?

Kristen Cardinalli [00:21:11] For me, LinkedIn is the best place to find me discussing technology. Also, DoIT if you want to find out more about what we're doing, our LinkedIn and Twitter pages are great places. We are going to have some really cool announcements coming up in Q4 of just more innovation that we're able to deliver to the market for our customers. So join us, follow us on LinkedIn and tell us what you think about what we're doing.

Sarah E. Brown [00:21:36] Wonderful. Thank you so much, Kristen. Really a pleasure having you with us.

Kristen Cardinalli [00:21:39] Thanks for having me. Appreciate the opportunity to chat with you both.

Sarah E. Brown [00:21:42] That's it for us. This episode may be over, but we can continue the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag Selling in the Cloud. On Twitter, I'm @SEBMarketing.

Michael Pollack [00:21:51] And I'm @MRPollack.

Sarah E. Brown [00:21:52] Thanks to everyone for joining us for this episode of Selling in the Cloud, brought to you by Intricately, the authoritative source of digital product adoption, usage, and spend data for cloud sales and marketing teams. If you like the show, head on over to iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts, and please give us a review. We appreciate it. Until next time.

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