[00:00:08] Peter: The next CMO podcast explores topics that are on the minds of forward thinking marketing executives from leadership and strategy to emerging technologies. And we bring these topics to life by interviewing leading experts in their fields. The next CMO is sponsored by Plannuh Makers are the world's first AI-based marketing leadership platform, and hosted by me, Peter Mahoney, the founder and CEO of Plannuh, along with my co-host Kelsey Krapf.
Hey, Kirsten and Shannon, thank you so much for joining me on the next CMO podcast. This is a special, relatively rare event that we have two people ganging up on me talking about all things cmo, and in this case CMO and head of customer success. to get us going, Shannon, actually Kirsten, we're gonna start with you.
Kirsten, why don't you give me a little bit about your background and a little bit about the.
[00:01:15] Kirsten: Absolutely. Marken, the cm O of Keep. Thank you so much for having both of us on. we are very nice. So no, no need to worry about us getting up on you. keep is a CRM and sales and marketing automation platform for small business. one of the first in the market, formerly known as Infusionsoft.
So has been around for quite some time, but is really focused on serious small businesses who want to save time and automate their follow up, automate their businesses. Been in this game for quite some time, really educating the space and the space has gotten a lot more complicated during that time.
A lot of options, and a lot of different things that we need to do to please our customers and help them still understand what we mean by sales and marketing automation and get them going and being successful. So that's what we're here to talk about today. I have been at Keep for about 18.
I ca took a kind of different route to cmo. I would say. I do have in-house, B2B SaaS experience, as a, as an in-house marketer, but also a lot of agency experience. So that gave me, different kind of experience being a consultant, seeing into a lot of different types of businesses. And gaining experience across many different disciplines of marketing, from marketing operations, all sorts of demand, gen and acquisition brand, et cetera, as well as strategy teams, which I've built and led within agencies. I'm really excited to be here and talk from the CMO perspective. and I've been in this role, like I said, about 18 months. So still new relative to Shannon, who I will pass to now, who's more of a long-term keeper.
[00:02:37] Peter: Yeah. Shannon, great to meet you too, and thank you Kirsten, for that background. So give us a little bit of a sense of your perspective what, what brought you to keep and what you do there now?
[00:02:48] Shannon: Sure. Yeah. Thank you. And thanks for having us. So I have, I've been at Keep for almost eight years now. I was attracted to keep because of the impact that we. have in small business. it's really, a personal,a personal thing. When you're helping small businesses grow, you're also helping their families.
You're helping their economies, you're helping communities. so I found that very intriguing and powerful. so that's really what attracted me to keep, I actually came in to keep as an individual contributor. CS team, and from there developed and grew to the position that I'm in now as VP of Cs.
[00:03:24] Peter: that's amazing. it's a great story. and eight years ago people weren't talking about customer success the same way. I suspect the field has evolved significantly, and hopefully we can dig into that a little bit in the next few minutes. But tell me from your perspective, Shannon, what fundamentally has changed the most about customer success in the eight years that you've seen it evolve at Keep.
[00:03:49] Shannon: Customer success, I think in the last eight years has really become much smarter. it's not. as driven by, by people so much. But I've really seen it evolve in leveraging data, in leveraging automation, and just getting smarter in how we're helping our customers move through their customer journey no matter what the industry is, that every customer has a journey.
And, just approaching that in a much smarter way.
[00:04:18] Peter: Yeah. And obviously as a SAS business, that keep is. Customer success is critical to the health of the business overall, and in Kirsten, give me, gimme your perspective of, what you think sort of the ideal relationship is. How should the, head of marketing and the hes head of customer success be interacting?
I assume you should talk from time to time, but, gimme your perspective on that.
[00:04:40] Kirsten: Yeah, I think we should talk a lot and, and our team should talk a lot too, and that's something that we've been doing here at Keep, it really started because there's two aspects of, kind of customer success that, that marketing needed to know, and probably a lot of insight that we needed to unlock first to really understand customers and journey.
So they're a great source of information about both of those things and on the marketing team. We've started a customer, journey, customer life cycle, team that is specifically works closely with CS to understand how to improve that journey. And we can talk more about that as we go. but we do have regular interactions between Shannon and I and our teams who are.
In these kind of cross collaborative project teams that are focused on improving journey, using data, being more predictive about how we can support customers along the way and reduce churn and improve retention. But also to understand the attributes of what makes a good customer that we can use on the front end of marketing.
Doing the more traditional marketing of who do we target, what are the reasons that they're good customers, how do we find more of them? How do we speak to them even early? In that prospect and consideration phase and attract the people that we want. So really getting deep understanding of customers where they struggle, what's, what they enjoy about Keep most, and where they, what they need to learn.
So we can start that education process and we can really unlock, all the insight on the CS team because there's so much, information that they're collecting that too often sits in a silo.
[00:06:01] Peter: I love that you brought that up, Kirsten, the idea that it's more than just. Obviously a critical function of maintaining your customer relationships over time, but really understanding what makes a successful customer in understanding how that might inform the way that you target new potential customers over time.
And that's what I think of as the advanced class, in, in this kind of thinking. So I'm thrilled that you're doing that because it, it isn't common, by the way. Not enough people are thinking that way and really bringing those insights. , one of the things I wanted to know very specifically, so talk about the line, what is the line between customer success and customer marketing?
So how do you decide who does what to whom? Especially when it comes to communicating information to a customer. And may maybe I'll start with Shannon, here on this one. So Shannon, what's your view of when does CS own the customer communication and when does marketing own the customer communication in your.
[00:06:59] Shannon: that's a great question and I think it's something that is tricky to. and we've struggled with that through the years of who owns what type of communication, who's communicating product updates, rather than transactional communications. and I think it's still something that we honestly are fleshing out as we get better in how we communicate with our customers, mapping that out across their customer journey and really getting clear on who owns which piece of it, the way that we define it now.
and again, Ever evolving and changing as we learn more and grow more, is really the CS world owns those transactional pieces of the communication. there are times when we will need to reach out to a segment of our customers for a very specific thing. and that's really where the Cs. Where CS plays and lives, where it gets a little bit grayer.
And where we actually come together with marketing to join efforts is when we're both speaking to the customer, for their benefit. So for example, when we have, A webinar that we want our customers to attend. That's where we will leverage marketing to help make sure that the message is coming from cs, but we have the backing of marketing to push it out.
[00:08:19] Peter: Yeah, that, that makes a ton of sense. And I, I assume though, and Kirsten, you probably run into this a lot, there's a, there's a message coordination challenge that happens because you of course, want to market to your customers broadly. You want to create. Upsell campaigns, expansion campaigns, referrals, things like that.
So customer marketing is critically important. At the same time, you've got critical operational kind of communications that have to happen. So who, who manages that overall thing? The overall, making sure that from a customer's perspective, someone understands how many messages are they getting in?
Is it too much?
[00:09:01] Kirsten: Yeah, we actually started a team on the marketing team. and when I came into the CMO role,noticed, and Shannon was a good advocate, had been talking about these issues just around the customer journey and over-communication and lack of coordination, our messaging. So there had been a lot of work.
To understand that, improve that before I came onto the scene. And then we joined forces to talk about, as an entire executive team, how can we improve this customer experience overall. so one of the things we did was start a cust we're, we call it customer life cycle. it's on the marketing team.
We have a customer kind of experience leader. So we have two sides of that. One is the life cycle team, which is focused on those kind of, overall journeys. So they've been empowered to say, We are the keepers of that journey in terms of documenting it, understanding it, working like a SWAT team that comes in with the other types of groups that we need to interact with and fixing things that need fixing and saying yes or no to the communications.
Coordinating the calendar. we did a, email governance project to say this is what's ideal and where the boundaries are in terms of how we should communicate and who does what. And then that team also has a training arm. So our academy team, is on that team and that's a lot. The journey communications is around how do we educate and empower customers so they create that content.
And the other part of the team figures out when we surface that. And that's part of our, overall, education and then also expansion, retention efforts. So we did create a dedicated p part of the marketing team to directly coordinate with CS and understand the journey really well. and I think that's, Unique in marketing teams.
So because the company overall is so retention focused, we sell to small businesses, retention in churn is always gonna be a challenge. so we really wanted to go after that, and this is part of how marketing is contributing to that and working very closely with Shannon's team.
[00:10:41] Peter: it's amazing and, I'm not surprised of the focus just because, as you said, the audience is one that is often, I know in speaking to a lot of investors, sometimes they get a little worried when you talk about. commute selling into a small business market because small businesses go outta business a lot, so you have that extra thing on top of it.
They're changing all the time. So it, it does introduce a huge challenge and you are looking at this in a much more sophisticated way than most marketers think about it. So I think people can really learn from your experiences here. One thing would be helpful is that as you look at this sort of communication mapping and journey mapping that you're doing, What are the tools and techniques that you employ, Kirsten?
Is it a bunch of spreadsheets and whiteboards and good communication? is it something else? Is it, so how do you get your arms around that data in, in a way that you can really manage those customer touchpoints?
[00:11:38] Kirsten: that's a great question and it's not easy. That is the answer , it's messy
work. So I wouldn't say we have one tool that does what we needed to do. But we started with, our own automation and operations tools. So actually looking into each one, looking at the flows, mapping them out, capturing what's in there.
And for a company that's been around for quite a while, there was a lot of dark corners of some of those tools that are triggering things that we may or may not want to happen that had been un untended to for a long time. So that first icky piece was the. Documentation legwork, which we did have dedicated folks doing, to really capture all of those communications going into the systems.
And then the Journey team is also doing stakeholder interviews with the different teams to understand what is the, what is actually happening, what are all the systems involved, what are the messaging and then what is ideal? So the capturing the current state and then also talking about what should we be doing and where do we need to fix.
so they've been doing that kind of concurrently. We use, visual mapping tools, so Miro boards and things like that to, to do all these mapping. we use Airtable, so now we have. Actually mapped a journey in Airtable, which, I, we are lucky that I have some incredibly technically advanced folks who love to do this kind of automation work.
We're an automation company, so they're attracted to being here. so they have created this beautiful Airtable that has all of the content as well as the different things and triggers that maps it out, which I think is an interesting use for Airtable and probably off the books, but it's really interesting.
So we are trying to do. Documentation work first,and capturing it. But there's, there's screenshots, there's copy and paste. It's not always perfectly technically, advanced, but it is understanding what's actually happening. And that was the key to really fixing it, is you have to spend the time to figure out what's actually happening in the systems and be very focused on that.
[00:13:22] Peter: That's great. I assumed there wasn't some magical tool that I've never heard of, so that's great. And it's a, amazing that you've been able to work that out with and sounds like you've been able to do some good work customizing some tools like Airtable, which is a great tool for some of those workflows.
Shannon, I wanted to turn to you on a couple of points. One is that, first of all, I suspect that you must be a popular person, these days at keep. just because everybody, when you're dealing with a, some economic headwinds, everyone focuses on what are we gonna do to make sure that we save our customers?
I think the reality is that, You've been doing this for eight years. I suspect that is not a new muscle for Keep to flex, which is a good thing. But I did, to follow up on Kirsten's points about how they're operationalizing some of the things I'd love to understand from your perspective, what's the operational cadence?
What's a week in the life of customer? Managers or individuals as they interface with marketing, what are they doing? do they get in the meeting once a week? Do they slack each other? Do they do something else? Or how are they really coordinating their communication to make sure that there's a shared view of what's going on with the customer?
[00:14:36] Shannon: Yeah, we've actually established a couple feedback loops, and workflows through with marketing. We do. Weekly meetings, we wanna make sure that the people in marketing, are getting the information that they need to get directly from the front lines. So we really rely on those workflows to connect our customer success managers to the people in marketing that need that information.
So a great example of this is with our testimonials. obviously when we speak with customers that. Elated about the product and happy and wanna shout, shout it from the rooftops. That's great fodder for marketing to go and leverage, to attract new customers. and just beat that drum. So we have a workflow established with marketing.
where, CSMs will reach out to our marketing team. They have a very simple way to, get that information over in the way that marketing needs it in order to leverage it in a smart way. so a few different workflows like that where we are, we're really getting the voice of the customer in the right hands so that we can use it.
[00:15:47] Peter: Yeah, it's, that's, it's great. And I think the, you highlighted a couple of things. There's the things at the data level that you do around, and Kirsten, you mentioned these earlier around, what are the attributes in common that you see that would drive a good customer over time? So there's that data analytics view.
But there's also the hand-to-hand kind of, I was gonna say combat, but that's not really the right metaphor to use with your customers. the relationship in-person relationship thing where you can really identify as you're working one-on-one with a customer. so I, I assume there's a really good way for a c.
C S M to be able to say, Hey, this person would be a great reference. Let me just push this button, or pull the string and alarms go off and they get connected to someone in marketing. Is that kind of the way it works?
[00:16:33] Shannon: Yeah. Correct. Yeah. And I think you're absolutely right. It's, it's just a layer of richness to the data. Obviously, we need to rely on the data to point us in the right direction, but it's so important and sometimes very forgotten that you need that layer of richness in there to really tell the story and flush it out.
[00:16:53] Peter: That. That's great. so tell me, Kirsten, from your perspective, I suspect that this kind. Pretty evolved customer success mentality at Keep is probably not something that you've universally experienced at your career. I know that,in my world, there's been a fair amount of variability in the customer attention, so help the people in the audience understand what is the value to a marketer strategically in having a deep focus on customer success at a company like Keep Has.
[00:17:26] Kirsten: Yeah, I mean,mean, I think, my background is to get a little more into that is, I came up through research and voice of customer. projects and agencies. So I come predisposed to being very focused on what customers are saying to trying to bring those data and insights to light.
So I bring that focus with me wherever I go because I think marketers should be experts in customers and in the customers and in the market. And to understand customers, you have to talk to the people on the front line that are interacting with them. So there's huge value to understand where they struggle and what you can automate.
What you should focus on in your upstream communications and customer communications, how to target the right people, as well as sourcing all these incredible content topics. so CS knows what they're answering, where people, where people are struggling, what is keeping customers up at night?
How do we get in front of those things and operationalize their insight to, to drive content production, case study, production, all of our proactive outreach, and communications and the. Especially, as we get people onboarded where it's especially important. So there's huge value for marketing to understand customers really well.
and that will help you do better marketing and have better retention. All of the things. and also just represent the customer point of view and all the important places that marketers need to do that. And all the ideation and creative sessions where we're trying to think of ways to be relevant.
That is, I think, Hugely important input there. and that is what should fuel those conversations. So having a good collaborative partnership with CS unlocks more of that data that you can use for those purposes. And that's been, really important for me in my career to know how to do that, to know how to ask those questions.
But also for my marketing team, because when I started at Cape, I think there was a little bit of distance when people were confused about, who is our, who are our best customers? What do they sound like? and it's hard to be relevant and authentic if you don't have those voices in your ear all the time when you're doing marketing.
so CS and other customer facing frontline folks are the, are great places to go to really understand it
[00:19:16] Peter: that's, it's amazing. And I get the fact that you were predisposed, you came of pre-programmed to have this appreciation, which makes a lot of sense. Shannon, talk about what that change was like when you went from, and I don't. Wanna say anything negative about where, how it was before, I'm sure it was fine, but you went to a new level of appreciation from the marketing team, on the value in the collaboration.
what was that like for you as a CS leader?
[00:19:47] Shannon: Yeah, it's a great call out. I think previously, and before working with Kirsten, the marketing team there, there was a bit of a barrier in between CS and marketing where it was, we just didn't see the connection, right? we do our thing over here with the customers and marketing does their thing over there, and we didn't close that gap.
and it has really, , I would say transformative for our company in a big way to combine those two teams, those forces, and get the conversation started. because we could help inform them how they're going out to market, but they also inform us on. Best practices and ways to communicate with our customers.
So it really is, it's not a one way street. There's, there's a lot of back and forth now between CS and marketing and that has been at the, to the benefit of the whole company really.
[00:20:39] Peter: So it sounds like you probably see two, broad kinds of benefits if I try to categorize them. One is I suspect. You should be able to point to some improvement in overall retention, in net dollar retention from your customer base over time with a tight engagement with marketing. And then the second is probably a precision.
In the area of targeting your customers, and I assume that would help your, your customer acquisition cost as well as, and you combine the, one of the magic formulas in SaaS companies is your CAC payback period. Basically. how, how long does it take you to, to, to recover the cost of acquiring a customer?
and, and then the ultimate formula is the lo lifetime value. CAC to get a little nerdy here. So what's the total lifetime value of the customer divided by the cac And you improve both sides of that equation with this approach. So lifetime value, you're driving up because you have a focus on really making sure that you're communicating your customers, communicating value, et cetera.
And I assume also communicating the value of cross-selling and upselling and things like that. and then also if you do your job right, you're gonna. The customer acquisition cost because you're gonna target the right people and it's gonna be more efficient to get them. so that's a pretty good equation.
And,has that message, has that value proposition of this combination, has that elevated to the board level of keep, as an example, do you have that kind of executive sponsorship for, this kind of approach? Cuz it certainly to me seems to be pretty s.
[00:22:16] Kirsten: I, yeah, I can go first, Shannon, but I would say yes, absolutely. we have rallied the entire executive team around retention. So knowing how important that is to improve those metrics, that means that all of us have some element of retention. Metrics that Shannon's not by herself, on this island trying to save customers.
It's really a group effort, with reporting into the board and we're all strategizing together to, to figure out how to do this better. and that's because of the type of market we have. It's also just, common and SaaS pro. Companies to be focused on churn reasons and to attack them because you want that retention, to go up and that lifetime value to go up.
So from the marketing side, we actually have retention goals as well, which I think is unique and different in that we, we are, we're not only saying we're helping, we're actually measured on early retention. And so that, that. Improvement in quality, is important in terms of the lead and the funnel quality, because that will go through to customer and we have to see that pay off as in better retention as they go.
so there's a lot of, there's a lot of collaboration and focus on it across our executive team, across our teams and the company as a whole. I would say. And Jen, you can add to that.
[00:23:18] Shannon: Yeah, I would also add that. The other thing that we really got aligned on was what retention means. I think in Cs, especially in cs, it's very easy to fall into the trap of thinking, retention means less, less churn, right? And just looking at the customers falling out of the bottom. but really aligning to, the definition of retention.
Adoption plus expansion, right? And by aligning to those things, it really does bring in marketing into more the CS mindset and the CS world because we need to leverage marketing in order to increase adoption, in order to drive expansion, in order to reach out to our existing customers in the right way to get the right behavior that we.
[00:24:07] Peter: So I have to ask you a question though, Shannon. Kirsten told us that she has a metric she's focused on that is, a CS driven kind of metric. Do you have a marketing based metric that you're accountable to?
[00:24:23] Shannon: I do not. I am purely
[00:24:25] Peter: Kirsten, what do you think about that?
come up with
[00:24:27] Kirsten: I don't think that's true. I. Not true. I think she has an expansion metric, which
is really tied to marketing and we have to do customer campaigns. And that expansion metric is really, that's the one where it goes both ways. so I see it a little bit differently, but, I think, yeah, we have good two way street.
[00:24:43] Peter: So it
[00:24:43] Kirsten: There's a lot of
[00:24:45] Peter: everyone's in customer success and everyone's in marketing. if I'm hearing that, maybe I'll, rephrase that a little bit so that sounds great. I'd love to understand, cuz we only have a couple minutes left, believe it or not. but I'd love to understand, Kirsten, just at a high level, can you talk about what.
What's keeps overall marketing strategy? Like how, what's the overall strategy that you use to, to, to think about and plan your marketing at? Keep.
[00:25:09] Kirsten: Yeah, I meanthat's a big word that I could talk strategy, how high or low you want to get. But we do, we do wanna be seen as the thought leaders in. This automation for small business, so sales and marketing, automation, time efficiency. So all of our content is really focused on those things.
And we have your traditional kind of organic content programs, events, and all of our kind of web content pieces that are bringing people in as well as paid programs that are telling that story at in different ways. So I would say our strategy is to really be a beacon to serious small businesses who want to grow, and want to use automation in an interesting way.
So we have, customer focus around testimonials and stories. people love to hear about other entrepreneurs who've done what they've done. So I would say, at the high level, that's our strategy is to really attract those people because the messaging, Is talking about the things that they care most about, which is how do you do sales and marketing well?
how do you automate to save time? How do you get more value, out of the time that you spend so you can deliver, the small business, the stuff that you wanna do versus the stuff that's more administrative. and we have to really train people to be good marketers. and that is hard for small businesses because they don't speak that language necessarily.
so it's a lot of training and a lot of thought leadership.
[00:26:19] Peter: you'll have to tell them about the next CMO podcast. Maybe they'll learn a little bit about marketing from
[00:26:24] Kirsten: Yeah, I can do that, absolutely.
[00:26:26] Peter: Which is no, which is great. So I assumed that you would have a content and thought leadership focused, strategy. And it sounds like especially with the audience, it's a fantastic audience by the way.
I know that there's some investor sensitivity from time to time around the potential of churn. But, it's great to work with small growing businesses. They're exciting, smart, interesting people, and they do amazing things. And oh, by the way, You can help them grow, which is, I assume part of what you're trying to do with keep, you can grow along with them, which is in my mind, one of the best parts about being involved with this kind of, audience.
done well, I think you can be incredibly successful. So it sounds like you have the right attitudes, which is good, to, increase your likelihood of getting to that success.
[00:27:15] Kirsten: Yep. I think we're very purpose driven. Shannon alluded to it in her introduction, that helping small business, helping,just our communities in that way, seeing the value and power in that, that drives a lot of what we do here, as a company and as individuals. And I think it attracts a lot of, the community that we're drawn, that are drawn to us from customers as well.
They wanna be part of that
[00:27:34] Peter: Oh, that's fantastic. So I warned you that I was gonna ask you this question and we ask everyone at the end, about what advice would you give to current or aspiring CMOs? And maybe Shannon, I can start with you because I'd really love to hear your perspective as someone who interfaces with CMOs and CMO wannabes all the time, what advice would you give them coming from the perspective of a customer success executive?
[00:27:59] Shannon: Yeah, I think that, and this probably came out of working so closely with Kirsten, but really the thing that comes to my mind and is. At the forefront for me is really the focus on customer journey. it is so important and so crucial, and it takes. It takes so much collaboration and thought work.
it's been very powerful exercise for our company to focus on it, to dedicate resources on it. And I would say, that's really something that should be a key area and a key focus of the C M O is to really figure that out and get really good at working across the company to make sure that everything.
Is mapped out and we've got all of the right voices at the table to inform it.
[00:28:46] Peter: that's great. and Kirsten, you bring a lot of interesting perspective to the C M O role, obviously, having spent time on the agency side, on the client side, doing a lot of work and research that I always had a lot of respect for. So I'd love to hear your perspective from,from those, informed, areas, how you think about what you should be telling current or future CMOs to think.
[00:29:09] Kirsten: Yeah, I would say getting comfortable storytelling with data. So I think that ties to what we're talking about. Is really understanding data, understanding how it can fuel strategy, and then explaining that the why behind what you're doing, is really important. Getting clear on where you can capture the information, how you can use it to fuel your strategy, and also how you can tell the story of what's impactful about what you're doing to people who are non marketers.
I think a lot of people earlier in their career can talk about a lot of metrics get really caught up in it, but people who are not marketers just hear a lot of jargon and so what is the why behind. What is the impact of it? What does it all mean? Getting really comfortable with telling those stories is important because that will help you fuel your career as you move along and you're gonna be asked to do more of that, so on both the kind of efficiency and the effectiveness from a marketing perspective, but also as a personal promotion strategy, being able to explain what you're doing, why it's important, and how it affects not just the marketing, not just the top of funnel, but the business.
Understanding those metrics like ltv, cac, and sas,all those business metrics that you'll ultimately be responsible for,as a higher level executive.
[00:30:12] Peter: great. thanks so much for sharing, your perspectives, your thoughts, and it's really been amazing to hear a little bit about the keep story and about what you've done, Kirsten, and what you've done Shannon, in your careers in and before keep. so thank you all for listening to this episode of the next c I encourage you to s.
write us a nice review or, tell me personally about a bad one, but don't tell anyone else. and, make sure that you, follow us on all those social media things that we publish these things on. And if you have ideas for future episodes or guests, feel free to drop us a note, at firstname.lastname@example.org and have a great day.
Thanks again, Kirsten. Thanks Shannon.
[00:30:54] Kirsten: Thank you.
[00:30:55] Shannon: Thank you.