“Effective Executives” Series with Bill Piwonka, Janrain’s VP of Marketing

This week’s “Effective Executives” interview is with Janrain‘s VP of Marketing, Bill Piwonka. Bill’s background is firmly rooted in B2B marketing operations. Over the past 20 years he has led marketing teams and initiatives spanning strategy, product marketing, product management, demand generation, marketing communications and business development. Prior to joining Janrain, Bill was the vice president of marketing at EthicsPoint. He has also held marketing management positions at Centennial Software, Serena Software, MeasureCast, WebTrends, Intel and Oracle. Bill earned a Master of Business Administration from The Wharton School at the The University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts in quantitative economics from Stanford University.

We caught up with Bill and asked him about his leadership style, how marketing has adapted to the changing economy and what is next for Janrain for the remainder of 2012.

Can you tell us a little bit about Janrain and your role?

Janrain is a leader in providing User Management solutions for the Social Web.  You’ve probably encountered our technology many times without even realizing it.  You have, if you’ve ever been offered the opportunity to login or register on a website using an existing identity from a social network such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, etc. – rather than fill out an onerous registration form.  Not only does offering social login help business by increasing registration conversion rates, decreasing cart abandonment on eCommerce sites, improving data quality of the user database and reducing support costs from not having to respond to lost username/password requests, it also can significantly improve efficacy of marketing programs.  That’s because when a user logs in using a social identity, the business has the opportunity to ask for access to a rich set of profile characteristics, such as interests (e.g. music, sports, movies…), location, friends, birthdays and more.  This data can then be used to more finely segment customers and deliver richer online experiences and targeted promotions and offers.

At Janrain, I am responsible for overseeing our marketing efforts, including driving demand for our solutions, preparing our sales team for success and launching new products, services and solutions.

What kind of data do you use to make marketing decisions? Analytics apps, etc.?

We are very much a data-driven organization, even though we are still relatively small.  As an organization, we use Salesforce.com for CRM, Act-On Software for Marketing Automation, and Google Analytics for web traffic.  From these solutions, I monitor which campaigns are driving the highest quality leads, the health of our sales pipeline, our sales cycle length, average sales price, win/loss percentage, cost per lead, sales funnel conversion rates and a host of other metrics.  I encourage my team to take risks and try new things, but I want to know if those efforts succeed or fail, and have a common barometer for making those assessments.

Favorite CMO-type media outlets you follow?

I actually don’t follow CMO-specific sites as much as I do Analysts (Altimeter Group, Forrester, Gartner, etc.), industry specific news (GigaOm, News.com) and general business sites and email groups (All Things D/WSJ, McKinsey, Wharton, Harvard Business Review, Marketwatch.com, etc.).  I also try to follow interesting, insightful people on Twitter, where I get access to articles and research that they find compelling.

What do you see as your chief role? What’s your leadership style?

I see my role as setting direction and strategy and providing the tools and environment necessary for my team to succeed.  I tend to be very collaborative, seeking input from both my team and peers within the company to help guide my thinking.  I also am not a micro-manager.  I want to hire the best and the brightest people I can find – even if they don’t have direct role-specific experience – and give them the freedom to deliver outstanding results.  We set quarterly objectives that are tied to our overarching corporate goals, and identify how we will measure whether those objectives are met.  Then I’m available to review progress, suggest approaches, edit written content, and roll up my sleeves to help when needed.  But I want my team to feel empowered to do what it takes to be successful – not be afraid to take risks or make mistakes, and know that they are developing skills and experience that will help them progress in their own careers.

How has marketing changed with the economy’s twists and turns?

I don’t know that it really has.  Of course I’m held to my budget and am always looking for ways to drive costs down while improving results, but that’s always been the case.  And while technology has changed the way we can interact with our prospects and consumers, the fundamentals still hold.  You need to have a product or solution that solves a specific pain point, communicate that message simply and elegantly and be the type of organization with which customers want to do business.

How much do you weigh social media in marketing goals?

Social media provides a great way to interact with customers, communicate your company’s personality, culture and values and developer higher brand advocacy and loyalty (when done right).  All of those things are important to me; thus social media is an important part of our overall strategy.

If you had to make a pie chart of your marketing goals, how would you divide?

Ideally, it would be split into three equal wedges – Drive Demand, Enable Sales and Launch Products.

What is next for Janrain for the remainder of 2012?

The biggest challenge we have moving forward is managing our growth.  We just about tripled in size in 2011, and are on a path for similar results in 2012.  That has meant additional headcount, the implementation of appropriately scaled processes and a never ending list of deliverables to support this growth.  It’s a really challenging environment, but one that is super fun – I can’t wait to see where we take it!

 

 

 

“Influencers Who Inspire” with Sarah Evans

This week’s influencer interview is with the ever-popular Sarah Evans. Sarah Evans (@prsarahevans) is the Chief Evangelist at Tracky (www.tracky.com), an open social collaboration platform, and owner of Sevans Strategy, a new media consultancy.  It’s her personal mission—to engage and employ the use of emerging technologies in all communication—that connects her with a rapidly growing base of more than 120,000 people.

A self-described “social media freak,” Sarah initiated and moderates #journchat, the weekly live chat between PR professionals, journalists and bloggers on the microblogging platform, Twitter.

Sarah shares her social media and tech favorites on Sarah’s Faves (sarahsfav.es) as well as a daily resource for PR professionals called Commentz.

Sarah previously worked with a local crisis center to raise more than $161,000 via social media and is a team member of the Guiness Book World Record-holding team, #beatcancer.

Sarah can be seen in Vanity Fair’s America’s Tweethearts, Forbes’ 14 Power Women to Follow on Twitter and Entrepreneur’s Top 10 Hot Startups of 2010.

We caught up with this busy entrepreneur and asked her some questions about her favorite social networks, how she grew her business and what she is passionate about.

If you had to choose one social network to use which one would it be and why?

I prefer Instagram (with a direct feed to Twitter and Facebook, LOL). I’m a visual learner and also feel more connected to people through their photos. Instagram allows me a way to share photos in a fun way, let people know where I’m at (i.e. location), add a caption and share the post across other networks.

And, although, it’s not a social network, my employer Tracky (www.tracky.com) is ahead of the game in celebrating all that is good in open, social collaboration.

You have had some interesting clients. Which one has been your favorite and why?

I’ve loved working with all of our clients, most recently taking on the role as Chief Evangelist of Tracky, an open social collaboration platform. Asking a PR person to choose a “fave” is tough! I have to go with my current role. I’ve spent so much time promoting and writing about tech startups that I ended up working directly with one. In fact, I’m relocating my entire family to Las Vegas to take on this latest adventure. That’s how much I believe in the platform. In my life, I don’t do anything unless it’s 100 percent. Tracky is my favorite because co-founders David and Jennifer Gosse not only eat, breathe and sleep the platform, they are passionate about creating a better way for people to get things done (#GTD).

What blogs/newspapers/magazines do you read daily?

If I gave you the entire list, it might make your head spin. ;) I keep a blog roll over at Sarah’s Faves (http://sarahsfav.es) where people can see my favorite media outlets. Here are a few:

How do I keep up with all them you might ask? For each, I use a combination of its tasks, emails and mobile Twitter alerts. All of these outlets are set up so that I see what they post real-time from my phone.

You grew your PR consultancy pretty quickly. What was your strategy and how did you make it happen?

From the outside (or social side) it probably appeared “very fast.” However, a lot of work was put in behind-the-scenes for a few years. In fact, for at least a year I was both working a full-time day job and freelancing in the evenings and on weekends.

My strategy?

1. Build a network when I don’t need one.

2. If I couldn’t get experience I needed in my day job, hustle to get it off the clock.

3. Have at least three clients on retainer by the time I started the business.

What PR campaign in social media has been successful this year? Why and how did it become successful?

There are so very many. Is it cliché to once again say I can’t pick one? What I can do is share the attributes I believe made many successful:

  • They disrupt. Think a bit of “not playing it safe,” mixed with a different or better way of doing things. Even klouchebag.com challenged the status quo and got some good press.
  • They allow people to do these three things: personalize, participate and portable (i.e. available on mobile).
  • They have a lot of time and money behind them. The most successful integrated marketing and communications campaigns typically have either a lot of time or money (or both) backing them. Granted it takes talent to put them together, but again that means time and money.

Can you tell us a little about Sarah’s Faves?

Boy, can I. Sarah’s Faves is my latest passion project. I think my tagline sums it up, “All my geeky favorites, in one nerdtastic place.” I only write about things I really like and think others would, too. It’s a personal recommendation site.

What are you passionate about outside of work?

My family, including my husband, 10-month-old son and our two furry babies. Sleep. Fashion.

What is next for you in 2012?
A big cross country move to Las Vegas.

More speaking and interacting with others passionate about social media and technology.

A new web show called Track Stars I’ll be shooting inside the Switch SuperNAP.

A few surprises I can’t mention right now. ;)

 

 

Effective Executive: Akemi Williams, TeetheMe.com

This week’s Effective Executive interview is with Akemi Williams, a busy mother who has founded an exciting new baby products business called TeetheMe.com. TeetheMe is a monthly subscription service that delivers functional and fun baby products to parents on a monthly basis. Subscribers receive mini care packages that arrive just at the right moment and are for children ages newborn to 3-years-old.

We caught up with Akemi and asked her some questions about what inspired her to start her own business and the challenges she has faced in doing so.

What inspired you to create Teetheme?

As a busy, working mother of a 3-year-old little girl, I found myself completely overwhelmed by all of the baby products on the market today. I knew there had to be a simpler and more efficient way to find quality baby products that would grow with my child. I founded TeetheMe.com to do just that!

How long did it take to get your Company up and running after creating the concept? Did you encounter any obstacles along the way?

It took me about 6 months and I was still working my corporate publishing job while launching TeetheMe. I think everyone who starts any company encounters obstacles! But as I have learned, it really is all about the journey and I am having so much fun and absolutely love going to work every day.

How do you explain your career and your Company to your daughter?

She thinks mommy works with babies all day long! She loves learning about all of the products that mommy brings home and pretends to use some of them on her babies! It’s too cute!

What excites you most about your job?

I am so fortunate to wake up every day and do something that I am truly passionate about. I love working with other mompreneurs as well as meeting real moms and being able to relate to what they are going through as parents. TeetheMe is not just a service; it’s a community of real moms going through real life experiences. We are all, every day still trying to figure it all out and to be the best parents we can be. I am so honored to be a part of this process with thousands of moms!

You have a social community for moms launching soon. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Baby bragging without boundaries or worries! Subscribers are granted access to our exclusive user-controlled Teether Social Network where the parent-to-parent connections are priceless and no milestone is too little to share! We have created a place where parents can share every last detail about their child. Post photo albums, organize play dates or just update fellow Teethers on their little one’s sleep schedule in our safe and secure network.

The review section of our community is a place where like-minded parents rate, review and share their experiences on the latest products, giving you an invaluable buyers’ edge in today’s overstuffed market. The information provided through our community will help you make smarter, more informed and most importantly, time saving buying decisions for your little Teether.

Do you have any hobbies or passions outside of work?

I love to read (what mom isn’t reading 50 Shades of Grey right now?), a good spin class and spending time on the beach! I’m also very involved with my church and can’t live without my weekly bible study with some amazing ladies!

What is next for you in 2012?

Focusing on the growth and expansion of TeetheMe! And, continuing to have fun while I do it! Spending as much time as I can with my daughter, family and friends. Life is all about balance!

Effective Executive: David Baeza, CMO of Apperian

We are delighted to share another interview in our “Effective Executives” series. This week’s interview is with David Baeza, Chief Marketing Officer at Apperian. David is well known as the founder of several private and one public tech company. He’s the former VP of Global Demand Gen for Citrix Online, makers of GoToMeeting and GoToMyPC. He regularly blogs about marketing and social media, contributing blogger at workshifting.com, producer of online mobility conferences, and speaks on the topic of media and brand positioning. He is also the Advisor to TreeHouse and TwitterKids.

You have a very dynamic background including roles as CEO, VP, Advisor and CMO. Which role fits you best and why?

What most people don’t know is that while I was CEO of a public company, I was also officially the CMO. I have never been able to let go of marketing, so to be perfectly honest with myself, the role that fits me best is CMO. I love all aspects of marketing, but disruptive positioning, design and content creation are closest to my heart. The real role of the CMO is that of a story teller. We tell stories through content. We make promises of what could be. However, CMOs are only as good as the products and services they market. The price of entry is an amazing product. Great CMOs don’t get behind products they don’t deeply believe in. If they do, it is all but guaranteed your marketing is going to fail.

When did you spark an interest in working in the technology field?

It was less of an interest, and more of an accident. After grad school I landed at a small financial consulting firm in L.A. Our clients were in the telecom business. I joined one of our clients to manage sales. That client was a technology provider to the large telephone carriers. I never looked back. Fast forward to 1998 and I launched the first national ISP to compete with AOL. Damn that was fun! During that time, I launched a television campaign called saygoodbyetoaol.com. We figured out that people would switch from AOL if they could keep their AIM account. So that’s exactly what we advertised. Yes, we got sued. A lot. In the end, it really worked. Since then, I’ve launched a few tech companies, and had the opportunity to work at some amazing tech brands. I am certain that there is no other industry that is as sexy as technology. My job is to make it even sexier.

What do you love about your role as CMO?

It’s the only profession that you’re paid to break all the rules. At best, “best practices” in marketing are directional. For example, I was reading a survey from Sirius Decisions about marketing to the CIO. Last on the list as an effective tactic was newsletters. I thought, Wow! What an amazing opportunity to reinvent the newsletter. What if I simply blew up the standard, boring newsletter template and created an amazing digital experience ? Think Flipboard for the CIO. A completely immersive piece of content. I get excited just thinking about it! That’s the reason I love what I do.

You are a lead organizer for Twestival, benefiting Charity:Water and Concern Worldwide. Can you tell us a little bit about your role and about the event?

Twestival is a global event that takes place on a single day to benefit one charitable organization. It uses crowd sourcing and volunteers to organize in person meetups for the benefit of the charity. The founder of Twestival, Amanda Rose, has taken that formula and teamed up with Jamie Oliver to produce FoodRevolutionDay.com to educate and highlight the world’s food issues. My role at Twestival was that of a sponsor and fund raiser. I managed the Santa Barbara Twestival, both online and meetup. I think that any company of any size should always strive to have charity as part of their DNA, even if the company is not profitable. By starting early, even if it’s just donating your company’s time and resources, it builds a foundation of character and giving. That ultimately results in a broader perspective of the world. Recently, we created a living art project in Spain at Mobile World Congress for the benefit of Global Hope International Network. The impact far exceeded our expectations. An artist from Misfit flew to Spain and created a living art project – which means that she painted live during the exhibit and finished the project on the last day. People came up and were given the opportunity to paint different portions of the art. Each time someone painted, Apperian donated $50 to Global Hope. In the process, we created an amazing exhibition, had insane engagement from attendees, and raised a lot of money.

Besides technology and branding, what else are you passionate about?

Family. I know that sounds boring but I’m deeply committed and believe in family first. I’m married, and I have two little girls, 6 and 8 years old, and they are my life. I instill family first in my team. I don’t value them based on butt-in-seat time. I care about their results and I insist that they have a well rounded life. I am not impressed by people that work 10 -12 hours per day. In fact, I have the opposite reaction. I tend to think, “What’s wrong?” Are they inefficient? We have amazing tools that allow us to workshift from anywhere in the world. There is simply no excuse for not having a balanced life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s 10pm as I’m writing this from Boston, and I live in California. I do what needs to be done, but I have boundaries. My family needs my time more then they need the money I earn. I don’t let anything stand in the way of them.

How do you define “innovation”?

If a company ever declares innovation is a strategic imperative, it’s the beginning of the end. Innovation is a cultural paradigm. It starts with an intense desire to explore, challenge and break things. Yes, break things. It can’t be contained to a budget item on a spreadsheet. Innovators come in all sizes and shapes. It comes from all aspects of company, not just engineering. It comes from customer service, interns, lawyers, accountants…it’s everywhere. Great companies seek it out and wrap their arms around it. They encourage idea generation, transparency, and failure. If companies let their people fail, without fear of consequence, the speed of innovation is absolutely staggering.

What is next for you in 2012?

Since 2012 is almost halfway over, it’s about execution. We have some great products that we are about to ship. It’s about narrowing the scope of opportunity and focusing on those things that have the greatest impact. I’m also trying to figure out new extensions of content. By that I mean things like Pinterest and Instagram. I’m also thinking about new formats for video, online seminars, and more. On a personal level, I’m going to be speaking at more conferences about marketing. I love to speak, but I hate to travel. That’s like saying I love to eat, but I hate food. The two things go hand in hand. I have a personal blog I’ve been threatening to launch for a year, so I intend to get that out as well. I also love wine. I was dabbling with a wine blog but I put it on the shelf because it took too much time away from my family. I’m planning to travel to Europe in July to do some serious brand disruption and to attend my first Shakespeare play. It sounds crazy, but I think Shakespeare is going to have a significant impact on my marketing in 2013. I feel inspired by his work, and that always leads to great ideas.

 

 

 

PerkettPR Introduces our “Effective Executives” Interview Series

PerkettPR is excited to introduce another interview series, “Effective Executives,” showcasing business leaders from top companies across the globe. Our goal is to continue to share insights, tips, tricks and suggestions from those who have seen it all. How do they work? What keeps them up at night? What tough lessons have they learned? We kick off this series with John Golden, CEO of Huthwaite.

Founded on scientifically validated behavioral research, Huthwaite’s methodologies—which include the internationally renowned SPIN® Selling — guarantee sales success. Huthwaite assesses your organization’s needs and develops customized sales performance improvement and coaching programs for sales and marketing professionals that drive real business results. For more information, please visit: www.huthwaite.com.  Follow Huthwaite’s blog, Twitter stream and Facebook page.

John Golden is President and CEO of Huthwaite, the world’s leading sales performance improvement organization. Golden joined Huthwaite in 2008, where he is responsible for the company’s U.S. financial and operational performance and long-term strategy for success.

Prior to Huthwaite, Golden was the Senior Vice President of education & business development of the Mortgage Bankers Association. In this role, he was responsible for the restructuring and sustainable growth of the CampusMBA business unit. Golden created and executed new marketing strategies, established standards for operating and quality control, and implemented cost controls to maximize profit margins. Before that, Golden was Vice President of the educational services division of Learning Sciences International, a startup company providing professional development products for K-12 educators where he defined and executed the company’s go-to-market strategy. Golden also spent two and a half years at New Horizons CLC, the world’s largest independent IT training company.  As Vice President of products and programs and a member of the senior executive team, Golden managed a $32 million business unit responsible for sourcing, building and providing products and services to franchise locations in more than 50 countries.

Golden started his career in the learning industry at SmartForce (formerly CBT Systems) in Dublin, before moving to the corporate HQ in Silicon Valley, California to launch the first fully integrated online learning platform.

How is leading a business in the U.S. different from leading a company based in Ireland?

In some ways this is hard to answer, as I have never led a company in Ireland.  My leadership experience has all been in the U.S., however, I would say that while there are some obvious cultural differences, I don’t think they are so great as to change the fundamentals of good leadership – which I believe are pretty much global. In Ireland, given its size, relationships probably play a slightly greater role because the personal relationship has always been an integral part of how Irish people do business, whereas in the US, given the fact that many of those you lead or do business with are spread across the country (even the globe) – and you rarely see them face-to-face – the relationship element plays less of a role. In other words, I feel in the U.S. you can operate in a very pragmatic manner and be all about business – whereas in Ireland you may need to temper this a little with the relationship element.

What is the biggest pro of adopting sales software in an organization? Biggest con?

The biggest pro to adopting sales software is that you can provide sales people with real time tools to do their jobs better while allowing sales management to have greater visibility into opportunities and pipeline, which in turn allows them the opportunity to coach more proactively and in a more targeted fashion. It is through this lens that you need to evaluate software before deciding to deploy it with your sales organization. For example, ask yourself “Does it help organize the sales person’s approach to an opportunity; does it reinforce the right behaviors, tactics and approach and does it provide managers with insights to coach to?”

On the con side is the “shiny new toy” syndrome, where management may come across a great piece of software that will provide lots of data for management, but has no real benefit for the sales person – and thus the deployment just sucks up time, resources and money and because it doesn’t benefit the sales person. The data returned is junk.

What advice would you offer to executives looking to find the best software package and implement it successfully within their organization, in a timely manner?

In terms of choosing software, I would refer back to the questions I mentioned above – ask yourself “Does it help organize the sales person’s approach to an opportunity, does it reinforce the right behaviors, tactics and approach and does it provide managers with insights to coach to?” Using these simple questions as a first step in your evaluation process will save you a lot of time and qualify out applications that are not going to be successful.

Secondly is to take an iterative approach to implementation. Don’t try to roll out all the features of a software application at one time. Pick one or two that have the biggest benefits and are the easiest to learn and adopt. Then spend a period of months getting people to use and see the value of them and only then add some others. If you take an iterative approach, especially if sales is your audience, you save a lot of time and angst and ultimately have a more successful implementation.

You have a diverse background including business development, marketing as well as quality and cost control.  Which area are you most passionate about and why?

Running a business is what I am most passionate about because it forces me to draw on all my experiences and it requires a level of dexterity in that you need to be able to switch between the high-level strategic and the down-in-weeds tactical almost at will. At the end of the day, a successful business that is generating good profit margins is a measure of how well all the constituent parts are working together, and how customers value what you do – and this is what gives me the greatest satisfaction.

Having worked for a startup (Learning Sciences International, ) in the past, how did that experience prepare you for your current role as CEO for Huthwaite?

It helped me in so many ways because I am not sure you can ever match the experience of sitting at a cheap plastic table in a tiny office with just a laptop and trying to figure out how to deliver on the bold vision of the founders of the company. It was the first time I had to involve myself in every aspect of a business, so it provided a great foundation for working at Huthwaite. It also taught me that sometimes you have to try a number of different strategies and be prepared to quickly switch when one is not working. I also learned how much a small bunch of smart, motivated people can achieve and this has helped me in subsequent roles. Never fall into the trap of over-investing in resources when proper focus and nimbleness are all that is needed. Learning
Sciences International has gone from strength to strength, thanks to the ongoing vision of their founders – and I am proud that I played a small part in that story.

Where is next for yourself and for Huthwaite in 2012?

2012 is going to be a big year for Huthwaite, as we are releasing some major thought leadership research around sales and marketing alignment and the changes in buyer behavior. I will be deeply involved with this and with rolling out to the market on how they can meet these new challenges.