In this episode, we speak to Robert Rothschild, the CMO of Botify about humanizing your brand.
In this episode, we speak to Robert Rothschild, the CMO of Botify about humanizing your brand.
Founded in 2012, Botify built the interface and methodology that connects the largest, most complex sites with all the major search engines to drive more traffic and revenue from organic search.
Our full-funnel methodology and unified data model ensures that we have the broadest view of your website, while our machine-learning algorithm prescribes the actions that will drive the greatest impact and automates time-consuming SEO processes.
Used by more than 500 brands, Botify is VC-backed with $82M in funding and offices in New York, Seattle, Paris, London, Singapore, Sydney, and Japan.
Learn more about Robert Rothschild
Learn more about Botify
Learn more about Plannuh
Recommend a guest for The Next CMO podcast
Kelsey: [00:00:00] Robert, thank you so much for joining the next EMO podcast. We're super excited to have you on this show today. We'd love to learn a little bit more about you and what you do for Spotify.
Robert: I am happy to be here, Kelsey. Thanks for inviting me. Yeah, my name is Robert Rothchild. I'm the CMO over at, but I've been here for a fairly short period of time so far, but my career spans many decades. And I would say if you wanna get a little background on kind of how I got to this point in my life I started my career.
Initially for a really small advertising agency actually focused in digital marketing back in Boston many years ago. That eventually became one of the largest and most successful digital marketing agencies on the planet called Digitas. So I was part of the first 200 people that were part of that family back in the day.
When we. Living in South right across from South Station and eventually moved into the Prudential Tower for those who are familiar with the Boston area. But that gave me an intro to a phenomenal group of [00:01:00] brands marque brands like Disney, General Motors, at and t. That really helped sort of lift off my career at the very beginning, at the early stages.
And then after that I transitioned into b2b. SAS and high tech technology software space. I worked for a number of the largest software company companies that exist on this planet. Spent half of my career in Silicon Valley and eventually relocated back to the East Coast. And I'm based in New York City right now, working for, as I said which is a French born Parisian born.
Organization that we're a global enterprise software company and we're really focused on enabling the most ambitious brands to leverage organic search as a high impact performance marketing channel. That's what we do as a business. But yeah, happy to go into any direction that you'd like to take at this stage.
But that's who I am and where I came from.
Peter: Thanks for the background, Robert. And like usual, there are always some really interesting connections that that we have. So of course we're a Boston based company here at [00:02:00] at Plannuh and in fact our our offices when we were physical, we've gone pretty virtual these days. Were right across the street from South Station and My on, let's see, 6 95 Atlantic, or no, we were at 7 45.
Atlantic 6 95 was my other job. I spent a while at a company called Speech Works that ended up being acquired by by Nuance and but spent a lot of time in that area. And in fact, our head of of ux is an ex digita person. So it's he was in Chicago.
Robert: world. It is a small world we live in, so
Peter: Yeah. And I'd love to dig in a little bit more to your background, Robert, because you you have had a really interesting journey. I mean, as you said, you started in this small little thing. Well, it was small. I mean, a couple, couple hundred people, of course, in, in the day became a real global force.
In digital, and and so that had to be a pretty amazing ride. But then you spent a lot of time at, like you said, [00:03:00] some of the biggest software companies on the planet. You spent time at Oracle, at PeopleSoft, at sap, like real giants. And and you really kind of cut your teeth there, it sounds like, especially in the marketing leadership area.
And then ended up doing time at at another great company called Smartly. And and now most recently you took the CMO job at, but so your second stint as the top marketing leader. But I wanted to talk to you a little, We talked really briefly before we we jumped on because you had you had a really interesting background at e which I think is indicative of the future of CMOs.
Which is this combination of operational experience. You ran global operations for marketing at sap, which had to be a fascinating job with the complexity. And you're also the chief of staff to the CMO at sap, which had to be another amazing job. So tell me about the impact of those two roles in particular on your path to the [00:04:00] cmo.
Robert: I would, So really interesting question. So the first part of that story began with the global head of marketing Operations. So I've always been a very data driven marketer. I believe in understanding exactly what. Tactics and channels and activities you are executing or producing results and then doubling down on those efforts in order to improve your overall performance.
Probably goes back to my early days at Digitas and some of the things that I learned back then. But it's always fascinated me how. There, there's a, there's this interesting blend in marketing of sort of the art and the science that goes hand in hand. And I've always been passionate about the art part.
I actually started off my career before marketing. I went to school also in Boston to be an architect for a couple of years and decided that wasn't what I wanted to do, and then eventually shifted into marketing. But, My love of architecture was really a love of design and I'm deeply passionate about the simplicity of [00:05:00] design and how it touches the emotions of individuals and helps them to to uncover things that they may not have understood either about themselves or the world in general.
And I just found that deeply moving. It's something that I'm truly passionate about and I love how. Marketing gives you a platform to leverage design to do the same thing in a very different way. At the same time, sort of the right brain side of me thinks about the analytical components and the operational components and how to optimize and improve an overall, the overall process that exists within a business in a way that benefit.
The organization and everyone at the same time. So there's this really interesting blend of the two things coming together that sort of synthesizes itself in the practice of marketing operations, right? So, it's a, sometimes it's a little bit like, hurting cats, there's a lot of different moving pieces and they don't necessarily all want to go in the right direction at the same.
But if you can master that, if you can really understand how to put the [00:06:00] wheels in motion to drive successful performance it's probably one of the fastest ways to get very good at marketing that I can think of. And I didn't start there. I mean, I started my journey be so going from the agency side to to the tech side.
My first entry into marketing was actually really in product marketing. So I started off product, a little bit of product management and product strategy when I was working at Oracle many years ago. That was actually the very dawn of the CRM world. So, I started off doing that, which eventually led me into trying to understand how to Translate technical capabilities and features into solutions that resonate with specific audiences and looking at how to develop sort of my product marketing expertise.
So I did that for a number of years did a little bit of brand work, did some demand gen activities. So my, my journey to where I am now [00:07:00] is a culmination of spending some time in. Single functional area that comprises marketing. And I think that gives me more credibility when I'm talking to peers like myself outside of my company.
But it also helps my team understand that they can learn something from me because I've actually done just about every single job that they have done that I'm asking them to do. So it's an interesting way to kind of pull it all together.
Peter: So I, I love the background, Robert, and it's probably compelling, yet disappointing to hear for some people, especially earlier in their career because they're like, Holy cow, do you mean I have to go do all those things? It
Robert: Yes you do.
Peter: me a long time. , and a couple of things I wanted to dig into, because one I find it really fascinating that you had.
This background and interest in architecture because I think they're, and people often think, I mean, real architecture, not product architecture or brand architecture. Architecture. [00:08:00] Architecture, Right?
Robert: like physical buildings and things like that? Yes.
Peter: And because it's it's this really interesting combination, which I think are skills that are critical for a CMO to have.
It's this combination of like you said design thinking combined with the amazing amount of sort of operational planning and in detail that's necessary to actually. Happen in real life, in, in the whole idea of taking something beautiful and making it functional and making it work in real life is something that is I think, really amazing.
And I also had a, an interest in architecture in my career early on and decided to go much nerdier and degrees in physics and computer science. The so the other thing that I think is. Is really important about your background that I tell a lot of people, I, I find that a lot of the strongest CMOs out there did serious time in product marketing.
Because I think having that having that lens and this ability [00:09:00] to translate technical product capability, especially if you're in a tech world into business value, into into something that is compelling and understandable for your target audience. And it really melds together the logical and the emotional in a lot of cases being a really effective product marketer.
So I, I think that's a great background. And the other thing that I suspect you had along the way, and I'm seeing this more and more as a requirement for CMOs, in fact had a great conversation with one of the leading CMO recruiters recently, and she told me that the idea of financial IQ is something that's becoming increasingly important for CMOs.
So do you see that and did you have that in your background too?
Peter: financial part. Sorry, that
Robert: Yeah, my, Yeah, no I got where you're going with that. No, absolutely. The marketing operations role that I had at sap included a responsibility for the marketing budget [00:10:00] and financial aspects of everything that we ran within the organization, and it in, and that responsibility and accountability flows through to the seat that I sit in.
So I, and I think having an understanding, a deep appreciation and an understanding for the implications and the impact of every decision that you make as a marketing leader on overall profitability and performance of the business is is a key element of success on a number of levels. In order to be a successful marketer, obviously you need to produce the results that people are expecting of you.
And some of those are short term, some of those are long term. I truly believe in the long game, over the short game, over the short game when it comes to that respect. But also when it comes to having a credible seat at the table in the C-Suite, you need to be able to understand and communicate the language of the cfo.
And the language of the coo, right? I mean there, those are two strong advocates for you [00:11:00] if you are able to successfully collaborate them with them in a way that is mutually. Beneficial, Right? I I've known far too many former CMOs who were at direct conflict with those two individuals, and it doesn't usually end up in a very good situation.
So I think it's better to embrace embrace. That nerdy technical side of you that needs to understand those things and leverage it. So, I mean, at the end of the day, we're all trying to build a successful business, right? So if I'm not cognizant of how the decisions that I and my team are making influence or impact the overall success of the business, that's not going to lead to a positive outcome for.
Peter: Yeah, and it's interesting, Robert, because the smartest CMOs that I know, and I know there are most people who've achieved that position are very smart people and very capable people. But the. And the smartest ones that I know really embrace that the idea of being able to communicate in the language of the business, not just [00:12:00] in marketing speak.
And I think this idea of your background that probably gave you your unfair advantage was this combination of sort of that operational side and that chief of staff side where my guess is most of the successful chiefs of staff. Were people who could create that glue layer in the organization and have that ability to kind of connect.
All the constituencies into the office of the cmo, which is obviously a very consequential role at a place like SAP is massively consequential. But understanding how to translate those the goals, the needs the initiatives. Into the language of the revenue organization, into the financial organization, into the product organization.
I suspect that was a piece of what you ended up having to do to reach across organizationally. And would you say that was helpful in kind of solidifying your ability to communicate in [00:13:00] more of the language of the business as a marketing?
Robert: Absolutely. What I said earlier around the idea of being in a position where each and every role and function within the marketing organization, I've personally had the ability to do that job at some point in my career lends credibility within the marketing team, in my role as chief of staff.
What was interesting there is many of the individual functions and the, and departments across the company had their own priorities. They had their own individual activities that they were running against, and it become, becomes very siloed. I mean, in an organization, I don't even remember how many, there were over 120,000 people globally working at sap.
I was part of a division within sap. But we. Thousands, tens of thousands of people within our division. And if you look at how to the [00:14:00] challenges associated with putting together a set of key strategic initiatives that may be very important to comp that, that are critical to the overall success of that business over the next three to five years, coming out of the C-suite, translating that set of initiatives into a.
Define set of activities that each organization across the company or each department across the company has to contribute to. In order for us all to be heading in the right direction is a very challenging Job to say the least. It's it definitely hones your skills at communication, collaboration and also elevating the detail level up to a more I'm not quite sure the right way to say this, but basically elevating the individual activities that teams need to focus on up to a level where each team is contributing to an overall plan that helps us all.
In the right direction. Yeah, it was an incredibly challenging place, but I will say that whole siloed [00:15:00] versus the siloed mentality, which I, which exists in a, in, has a tendency to exist in a very large organization, doesn't go away when you get to a smaller company. You still have to figure out a way to get people in different departments in different functions to work together and collaborate in a way that's effective.
So that skill. Has definitely paid off dividends over the years as I've continued on in my career.
Peter: Yeah. And I wanted to ask you about the transition from giant global organizations to more, I'd call medium size organizations. They're, you're not in a startup, right? You're in a, I think you're a series C company now in Spotify smartly with sort of in the similar scope, well funded, decent size organization, but I, I wanted one to ask one more follow up.
Which was the in, in that role that you had in, in this sort of glue layer role? I have a theory that I'd love you to opine on, which is that there's the, maybe the obvious kind of. Thing that you could understand from your [00:16:00] communication that, hey, you need to get people aligned. You need to be com, you need to be able to communicate effectively.
But what I've seen there, there are two in particular things that are, I think, important skills for for whether you're a leader in our organization or you're in this role where it's even more intensified where you're in this. It's staff supporting role where you have to make this happen. And one is truth telling and two is empathy.
And let me explain what I think they mean. So truth telling is sometimes something that is difficult for marketers. Not that they lie, but the point is they have to. Their whole career. And you as a product marketer especially, spent a lot of time positioning, How do I communicate value to this thing? But in some cases, you actually need to be a little bit more clinical and scientific about what's going on, and you actually need to assess things internally and say that, Hey, this isn't working.
So I could spend a lot of time saying, Hey, this is a great thing and I can tell you [00:17:00] why what I've done is really smart, but the reality is maybe it didn't work. And that idea of truth telling and being more scientific about it, I think is important. And the other thing is being empathic in being able to understand the perspective of the other.
The other functional groups within an organization. What does this mean to you? Because you may have, and it sounds like you like to take sort of this longer term strategic view, and that's really important in an organization. At the same time, you need to dovetail that with this sort of short term kind of quarterly impact.
If you're on a revenue team, as an example, I gotta make my number this month or this quarter. That's the most important thing. In really understanding the impact of those two. So it sounds like you are, you have a great background in those areas. Do you think they were important or am I just blowing smoke?
Robert: No, I, I would say to be honest I think what you [00:18:00] just described in terms of the tendency for most marketers to. Put a positive spin and position things in the best POS possible. Light is definitely a tendency that I, I lean into personally. That being said, I think my experience in operations and more of the data driven analytical side of me balances that out so that I look to the data to help inform whether or not.
My position is accurate and whether or not there, there may be an underlying source of of data that could. Potentially poke holes in whatever my preconceived beliefs may be. On the empathy piece I think you're spot on. There are different priorities, short, medium, and long range priorities.
And depending on who you are in an organization and what your personal goals and objectives may be. My priorities may be com. My point of view may be in complete contradiction to your point of. Understanding and at least recognizing that [00:19:00] conflict exists is like the first step in the process to.
Figure out how the two of us can work together to achieve, maybe not achieve both of our goals, but at least come to some sort of compromise that allows us both to be as successful as possible and maybe even find new solutions that neither one of us thought about. That could produce a better outcome than either one of us could have ever imagined.
So I, I think sometimes you have to take a breath step back in the moment. A lot of times people get very passionate and committed to whatever their personal point of view is and focused only on satisfying whatever need they have. I think a little bit of empathy goes a long way and understanding.
We're all people, everybody, every single one of us has our own objectives, our own perspective and our own point of view. And we also have emotions that influence the decisions that we make. So as long as we are aware of and [00:20:00] considerate of what everyone else's point of view is and take that into consideration I think ultimately it produces a better environment and a better situation for.
Kelsey: So Robert, I had a question on kind of what we had just talked about previously about the silo. Cause I think this is really something that you touched upon that's lacking or there's, It's constantly showing in the marketing world and these marketing teams is, people have different goals that don't really line up to the whole marketing goals or the company.
What do you think of someone that you know is a campaign manager? I think this is something that, us as a team at Plannuh we talk about pretty often, so wanted to get your thoughts on, what value that would bring and to help, d basically get rid of this silo type of marketing.
Robert: My first answer to your question is I don't think there's a silver bullet. I don't think there's one thing that solves this problem. If there were I think all of us would probably be sitting on a beat somewhere right now. Sipping margaritas cuz we would've found out the holy grail to marketing and there's no one thing [00:21:00] that can fix it.
That being said, I do think the idea of having. A one individual, if you're a small team or a group of individuals that are responsible for looking at program planning overall, like when I was at sap, we had a fantastic member of our team and his role was program planning. Which I guess you could call campaign planning too, and it was really around looking holistically, let's say over a predefined time period.
It could be for the next year, it could be a two year timeframe, and translating what are the overall goals and objectives or the primary strategic initiatives that the organization has. Pulled together that demonstrate where we're going to achieve the next, achieve our goals in the next three to five years.
And then translating that into a series of themes and topics. And then within those themes overall programs and the programs contain campaigns. And the campaigns have a series of tactics and activities to drive towards them. And really structuring that out almost like, [00:22:00] almost in the same manner as a project manager.
To sort of orchestrate everything. I think a professional cat Hurter is always a good person to have on your. If you're able to do that I don't know if that individual will, will have the easiest job in the world because it is their role to break down those silos. Maybe not to break them down, but at least to understand how do we leverage resources across the team to.
Get something done. I mean, if you're executing a campaign, there may be design elements that you have to work with the brand team to pull together. There may be content that you have to produce that relies on your content marketing team. At the end of the day, you'll produce ads that need to be run through your demand generation team, your digital.
Your digital marketing teams coordinating all that activity and making sure that everyone knows how they're contributing to the overall success of the campaign and what role they play in that process is very important. And I think it may not completely break down the silos, but it at least helps you [00:23:00] work more effectively as you bob and weave between the silos is probably the best way to say.
Peter: It's almost like the role of a showrunner. And actually like the analogy a little bit because it really is about sort of telling a story. And and depending on the size of the organization, sometimes the CMO is in that role of the showrunner. And sometimes they're the executive producer.
It really depends on sort of what what scale and how many of these, how many shows you're running at any given time. So I, I did wanna, while we have you on, on, on the show, Robert, because of your perspective, especially at Spotify, I did want to ask you to tell us a little bit of what you're seeing in the world of searching content marketing too, because obviously Spotify has this amazing visibility into perspective, into what's going on in this world right now and.
I think what we're seeing with all the changes going on in, in paid right now that I [00:24:00] suspect that the idea of creating engaging content in mind, making sure that it's findable and aligning it to your overall strategy has to be incredibly important for people. So gimme a sense for, what do you think?
Biggest things going on in this world of content and search right now that CMO should be aware of and focusing on?
Robert: That's a good question. Let me just give you a little more detail on what it is that we do, so that might help for context. So, So ultimately what a bot does is Spotify is a software platform. It's powered by artificial intelligence and a proprietary, unified data model. We bring data from a variety of sources to build this.
Ultimately what we do is we ensure that web and mobile sites are optimized for search. We increase the number of pages that get seen, indexed and ranked by most of the major search engines. And ultimately, as you guys know, that's the foundation of being found by consumers in today's. Dynamic digital environment.
I don't know. I [00:25:00] could ask each one of you. What was the, are you shopping for something today? And where did you go first? And my guess is you probably started in a search engine. You probably went to Google, Bing or somewhere else saying, where can I find the coolest new set of shoes or whatever it might be.
So that's kind of what we do. And we do that for some of the world's most visible brands, companies like Expedia. Creighton Barrel Carvana, New York Times, L'Oreal, et cetera. And we help them ultimately just be found by consumers. Search has always been a very important channel for marketers to reach consumers.
And if you look at search, it's often been divided into paid search versus organic search, right? Paid search is often viewed as a performing. A very strong performance marketing channel that produces the right types of results given a certain level of investment. And organic has often been viewed a little bit more as a black box, a little harder to understand how do you invest and apply resources in [00:26:00] organic search in order to produce the same type of results.
What I'm seeing and what I believe is happening even more so right now is, especially in the past, in the current environment, we are. With a privacy first era that we're moving into the luxury and the ability for for you to tap into third party data to understand who specifically you are targeting and to reach them effectively via paid channels is becoming much more expensive and it's becoming a lot less, less effective.
So, It creates the conditions that are perfect and ripe for an increased investment in organic search. Right? So, but I don't think it's an either or. It's not like, I'm not telling you stop spending and paid and spend. Everything in organic search is one channel that is complimented by both paid. And organic activities, and you have to use them together in a very coordinated fashion in order to truly reach your audience.[00:27:00]
Search is not a channel that most CMOs are. Under investing in I, I think the last Gartner CMO spend survey that I saw that came out earlier this year still shows that 20%, roughly 20% of the overall marketing budget is going into search. And that's been pretty consistent year over year.
I think it's just a matter of making sure that you're not, it's not an either or situation. You need to invest in search because that's where your consumers go to find your products and services. And if you can't be found, it doesn't matter how much you've invested in the most beautiful website on the planet if most of it is invisible to the search engines because you.
Properly address some of the underlying technical characteristics that go into building a website that can be found easily by consumers. Then it's kind of a wasted investment. So we help you improve that investment.
Peter: Oh, that's it's great and it's incredibly important, obviously the, in, in becoming, I think a more and more technical [00:28:00] problem to solve. And one of the things that I'm excited about with search is it's becoming much more Consumer friendly and useful in a lot of ways. Some of the structured content stuff as an example.
And I imagine it sounds like I think eCommerce is a big segment of your business as an example, Robert, and I'd suspect that the idea of being able to, Present a consumer with a structured content, a structured product result as an example is is something, from search, is something that is really compelling to the user because they get what they want right away.
Compelling to the. The the seller because obviously they're gonna get their thing in front of the people the right way. But there's probably a lot of technical stuff in content stuff and strategy that has to be in place to make that work. Make sure you're showing the right product to the right people in the right way etcetera.
So I suspect there, there are a lot of moving parts required to get that to.
Robert: There, There are a lot of highly technical aspects of s SEO that we probably shouldn't go into right now [00:29:00] because I think most of the audience might fall asleep, but. But suffice it to say, one of the stats that I heard when I first joined this company which really shocked me as a cmo, is if you look at some of the world's largest websites that are, and I'll preface that by saying retailers, eCommerce companies that have a very large number of products to sell, large number of skews, for example on average, Those roughly 50% of the pages on those websites are completely invisible to Google or B.
And it's because of some of these technical inefficiencies that, that a solution like Spotify can solve for. And the challenge with that is it doesn't just. Stop there. If 50% of those pages are completely invisible to the search engines, there's a smaller percentage that are even indexed.
And if they can't be in, it's a waterfall. If they're not indexed by the search engines, then they never get ranked. So if they don't get ranked, you're never gonna show up in the search results. And if you don't show up in the search results, you'll never be found and your products will [00:30:00] never be purchased.
So it's this cascading effect where at the end of the day, if you have a very large problem on the front end, by the time you get to the end of that search funnel, I mean, we love to, we love the funnel in marketing. When you get to the end of the funnel, it could be less than 1% of your website that's actually generating any revenue.
So if you can identify. Challenges are preventing you from being found. Index, strength, search, all those factors. It has a profound effect on your ability to protect and grow revenue for your business, which is really exciting. But then the other element of is we use a, we love beautiful, I love design.
I love. Architecture, I love all that sort of stuff, right? So if I think about the level of investment and effort that the typical brand puts into building an amazing website that's beautiful. Oftentimes we insert technology to help it become, to improve the overall user experience, the customer experience that that consumer may have when they hit my website.
Displaying to that consumer and use that to figure out how to index rank and everything else. If that happens then a lot of the key elements of the product, like, it happens oftentimes in, in your product detail pages on a, on an eCommerce website, for example. So a product detailed page might be, I've got I'm.
I'm a clothing manufacturer. I sell shoes, but within the shoe category, I have athletic shoes, I have dress shoes, et cetera. And then I get down to the individual product level. When I'm looking at that product page, it might have, okay, it comes in these five different colors, it comes in these six different sizes and all these other aspects that are [00:32:00] related to that product.
So I know that was a little bit of a deep dive, but but I don't want to go any deeper than that , but that's kind of the fundamental problem we're trying to solve for.
Peter: No, it's super helpful to have that illustrated with a very specific example, Robert, cuz I think it makes it really understandable that you know that if literally you can't find a page, then you're never gonna sell the product to someone who's accessing it via search. And the reality is most people start there.
So that's a huge issue. Believe it or not, we're actually at the end of our time and I have a million more questions to ask you. So, so maybe we'll follow up some other [00:33:00] time to, to do that. This has been really insightful. Appreciate your time, Robert. We do have one more question that Kelsey will ask you.
And so Kelsey, take it away.
Kelsey: Yeah, thoroughly enjoy this conversation. I think we covered a lot of bases here, but love to wrap it up. What advice would you give to those that are CMOs or aspiring to be one, Some.
Robert: I would say, first of all, it's it's been a pleasure talking with both of you today. And my advice would be to always stay humble and to continuously and constantly be in a learning mode. There is not a day that goes by that I don't learn something new about this. Crazy field that we happen to all live in.
And I think part of that is because exposing my, being exposed to other people within the organization who have a different point of view and have a different experience than I do allows me to learn from them and to continuously evolve my perspective of what truly makes a great marketer. So that's what [00:34:00] I would, that's what I, the advice I.
Kelsey: Love that. Well, thank you again so much for your time today, Robert. Make sure to follow the next Emo and Plannuh on Twitter and LinkedIn. And if you've any ideas for topics or guests, you can email us at the next CMO Plannuh dot com. Have a great day, everyone. Thanks Robert.
Robert: Thank you. Thank you.