“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!

 

 

 

Scan Me! QR codes–the Connection between Offline and Online Worlds

Quick Response codes (QR codes) are going mainstream and creating quite the buzz.  Similar to a barcode—QR codes are used by businesses to track inventory and price products at the point of sale; however, unlike one-dimensional barcodes, QR codes are two-dimensional and have the ability to hold more information, making them increasingly popular for retailers.

Home Depot and QR CodesA few weeks ago, I received a direct mail piece from Home Depot featuring a QR code. I immediately noticed it, whipped out my Blackberry and scanned away. I was directed to Home Depot’s mobile site, giving me access to product ratings, reviews, how-to guides and product-specific videos. The entire process was convenient, quick, and simply cool.  According to Tom Sweeney, Senior Director of Online Strategy at HomeDepot.com, “The main objective…is to further enhance the customer shopping experience by offering additional product and project know-how and increase customer conversion.”

A recent study called “The Naked Facts: Whiplash Edition” by Mobio Identity Systems, an international mobile payment and marketing company, shows an unbelievable 4549% increase in QR barcode scanning across the continent for the first 3 months of 2011. In terms of the type of media scanned, social media accounts for 70% of scans, TV 22%, offline four percent, online three percent, and print one percent. The report also highlights that Generation X and females continue to dominate the scanning world. And while some skeptics may think that consumers are just trying the QR code technology—the report points out that repeat scanners account for 62% of the market.

QR Code - Image from DaylifeQR codes also have the ability to become a powerful new method to reach target audiences with your public relations messaging and enhance communication strategies by offering more benefits. When executed correctly, consumers can see a QR code, scan it, and become instantly engaged in a brand’s message. Not only are QR codes a great way to understand the mobile audience, but they can be used in print media to connect a customer or prospect to additional content while offering a more interactive experience. It is apparent that this technology can be extremely powerful and an effective way to integrate media (print, web, multimedia) inside and outside a store for both consumers and businesses alike.

eBayOne company I came across that is taking QR scanning to the next level is the world’s leading e-commerce company, eBay.  In December 2010, eBay announced the integration of Milo— a localized shopping search engine that catalogs and categorizes real-time inventory at more than 50,000 stores– into its free barcode scanning app RedLaser. According to Steve Yankovich, Vice President of Mobile at eBay, Milo - Local Shopping“By including Milo shopping results in the RedLaser iPhone and Android apps, we are providing access to real-time, accurate local inventory and the power of offline and online comparison-pricing. This provides our RedLaser users even more choice and flexibility when they come to us first to comparison shop.”

This integration proves eBay’s e-commerce prowess is unshakeable—as it has resulted in new opportunities for eBay to connect with buyers and sellers globally while creating a bridge between traditional and online retail.  With over 9 million downloads, RedLaser has about 4,000 QR code scans per day. And this past month, RedLaser updated its app so that users can now create their own QR codes generated from contacts, URLs, or text.

Like most customers looking to save money and time, I am excited about the integration of Milo into RedLaser, and QR scanning. I like being in control of my shopping experience. It’s as if eBay, Milo, and RedLaser were all thinking about me when they integrated this app. While searching for a specific product, the results let me choose the best retailer for me based on price and location. I like that.

What do you think – are QR codes here to stay? Or are they overhyped marketing? When is the last time you scanned a QR code and what was was your experience like? If you haven’t tried them yet, why not? And if you’re a marketer, are you using them yet in your outreach strategies?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.