“Influencers Who Inspire” Our Latest Interview With Jason Miller Of Marketo

Jason Miller serves as senior manager, social media strategy at Marketo. He leads the company’s social media efforts, focusing on optimizing social for lead generation and driving revenue. He is a regular contributor to leading marketing blogs, such as Social Media Examiner, Social Media Today and Marketing Profs.

JasonMillerMarketo

Pick one: Beer, Wine, Soda, Juice, Coffee, Tea  or Water?

I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Stella.

In addition to your social media strategist position by day, you are also a rock music photographer by night. What is the one band you haven’t seen live yet that you would love to photograph?

I have been fortunate enough to photograph many of my favorites including The Cult, Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, Keane, etc. But I am missing one, and that would be Cheap Trick. Their management company has ignored my requests for some reason, but there are two shows coming up here in The Bay Area that I will be attending so I am hoping they respond accordingly this time. It’s free PR for them, so I am very surprised to see them pass up the opportunity.

What parallels in skill sets can you draw from photographer & entertainment writer to the social media magic maker you are today?

Creativity, striving for perfection and the freedom to try new things. Social media marketing is all about how creative you can get while selling to your customers and prospects without selling. There’s a great quote from marketing mastermind Gene Simmons that I always go back to: “We need the people to like what we do. The more they like us, the more they will buy.” That’s been his philosophy regarding KISS and their worldwide domination, but it also applies very well to a company’s social media strategy. The mentality of ‘always be closing,’ needs to change to ‘always be helping.’

In your recent AMA webinar on the topic of Social Media for Lead generation you spoke about “getting out there and trying things.” What ‘things’ do you recommend trying first to increase engagement?

By ‘things’ I essentially mean trial and error. Social channels are simply another touch point between you and your customers and prospects. They move in real time and what works for one business may not work for the other. The idea here is to find success stories and strategies, then make them your own by adjusting the tactics to your audience. Many of your early social campaigns will indeed fail, and that’s ok. The key here is patience and not giving up too early.

How do you keep up with all of your different social networks ? What processes or tools do you have in place to make it easier?

It is challenging, to say the least. Hootsuite is essential for managing multiple social networks, but I really love reading blogs. With the looming death of Google Reader, I have switched over to Feedly to aggregate and read the blogs that I love. Flipboard is also a great option when I want a fully-integrated social feed in a magazine-style format, the only problem there is the filtering. But they are getting much better.

You talked a bit about LinkedIn as a critical social tool for lead generation, and it has certainly improved in the recent months. What do you see as the most valuable way for a business to use LinkedIn?

The most valuable way businesses can use LinkedIn right now is for prospecting, listening and building credibility. There is a cornucopia of insights within the platform, if you know how to set up saved searched-around keywords. There is also a tremendous opportunity to engage with super relevant conversations within the newsfeed and LI groups. I am really excited to see the new products that will be coming from LinkedIn for marketers in the coming months, as I believe they are just getting started.

You also mentioned Facebook as being an important lead generation tool no matter the kind of business you are in. Can you explain why that is the case?

The bottom line here is that if your business or brand, regardless of the niche you are in, doesn’t have a presence on Facebook, you are simply missing opportunities. There are more than one billion people on Facebook; if you think your customers, prospects and decision makers are not there, you are wrong. The important thing to remember is that in the world of B2B marketing, your customers and prospects are not on social to be sold to. Entertain them, tell them a story, give them something to share, help them along the way, and when it comes time for them to purchase, your company will likely be top of mind.

Measuring success is always important to any marketing initiative and tying our work with social back to lead generation is no different. For a small business that may not be able to afford a Radian6 or Marketo right now, what metrics do you recommend looking at beyond likes, shares and follows to determine campaign success. Are there any good free tools that go beyond the average vanity measurements?

That’s a great question. For a small business or anyone just getting started, I would recommend something simple but super effective such as Sprout Social. It’s a pretty decent all-around social tool and provides a nice foundation for anyone looking for a quick snapshot of the social-sphere around their business. Once you begin to get a bit more serious around your social measurement of lead gen opportunities, then you need to start tracking social as a lead source, along with referring traffic and conversions from social. You can do that with Google Analytics. The main thing to keep in mind is that when you start seeing leads come in from social, they are almost never ready to buy. You need to have a lead nurturing process in place, and that’s where marketing automation really shines.

We work some amazing and dynamic marketers and CEOs with fantastic ideas, but sometimes best intentions for writing don’t seem to happen. What is your best tip for inspiring busy executives to crank out the blog posts?

Easy. Go to lunch with them and ask them questions. Record the conversation, then have it transcribed via TranscriptionStar or a similar service. You can extrapolate from there and possibly even have two or three posts from one conversation.

As an aspiring comedian, would you please share the funniest social media update you ever posted or remember seeing across your networks? 

I don’t know if it’s as funny as it is disturbing, but I once tweeted that I woke up one morning still unable to forgive George Lucas for introducing Jar Jar Binks to the world. Somehow it got retweeted tens of thousands of times, and I ranked as the number one influencer for Jar Jar Binks on Klout.

Interested in learning more? Please leave any questions or comments for Jason below.  You can also catch up with him on the Marketo blog or follow him on Twitter.

“Effective Executive” Series with Eliot Buchanan, Co-founder and CEO of Plastiq

Eliot BuchananThis week’s “Effective Executive” interview is with Eliot Buchanan, Co-Founder and CEO of Plastiq, an online service that allows people to use their credit cards to pay for things when they couldn’t before. We asked Eliot about his early days building the Company, the challenges he has encountered and what he is passionate about.

As you worked to build Plastiq, how long did the entire process take?

I would say the first two years at Plastiq were spent almost exclusively on building and testing the business concept, talking with customers, understanding the marketplace, and building relationships. Like many industries – though perhaps even more so in financial services – forming key relationships in the marketplace is one of the biggest assets (or, if lacking, drawbacks) of an early stage venture like ours. For us, this was true from the very beginning. We were very focused and invested heavily in building social capital with the ecosystem before even asking (and getting) that ecosystem to adopt our product.

What obstacles or challenges did you encounter in the earlier days of Plastiq?

There were many. I’ve always said that the most exciting time in an early company is the first month or so. That’s when you think you have the best idea in the world that needs no money, will scale infinitely, is without competition, and you estimate that you can sell it for a billion dollars. After the first month, reality starts to set in, and various roadblocks happen. I’m sure these feelings are comparable for other companies that are driving disruption and innovating within an industry.

I think what has allowed Plastiq to thrive, however, is that we have embraced each of these roadblocks as a challenge and this has fueled important and necessary change. Perhaps a competitor had highlighted an important aspect of the ecosystem that we missed in our early days, but which we only now learned unexpectedly. Or take the need for capital. Any entrepreneur’s toughest challenge can be raising money. But through that process of pitching and speaking to hundreds of people – each of whom was a potential customer of my product as well – I was able to learn so much about how I could describe my own business to different audiences. This allowed me to better align myself, understand various challenges, and strive to improve them.

Another aspect worth mentioning – and I suspect it’s universal to the start up process – is the true daily rollercoaster ride. I am confident that no one except the entrepreneur experiences as many ups and downs in a single day. But it is also this same process that can lead to building the grit and character required to creating something big. This has been true of Plastiq since day 1 and it absolutely remains true today.

Can you describe how your Harvard education prepared you for your role today, leading the company and being its strategic advisor/visionary?

I get this question a lot, and I generally think about my time at Harvard with some frequency. I suspect this is because I enjoyed my experience there. I think there are two aspects worth mentioning.

First, in terms of formal preparation, I would strictly say that Harvard offered no formal education that applied directly to what I am doing at Plastiq, or any business for that matter. Before you raise concerns about the Ivy League education system, let me clarify my statement a bit further. Harvard is a liberal arts college, and it focuses on teaching students to appreciate a broad range of interests and perspectives. This established a foundation that allows the thought and reflection necessary to be “creative” and innovate or go outside established boxes.

In fact, formality, in this respect, would be the exact opposite of what – in my view – would engender entrepreneurship. The academic informality at Harvard (and I’m not saying it’s perfect) encouraged me to think more as a “generalist” rather than a “specialist”, and pushed me to better understand what I wanted to do, what needed to change in the world, what could be improved, and what mattered or didn’t matter to me.

The second aspect is all about people and character. This is not unique to Harvard but more broadly any successful “college” experience. While at Harvard, I was surrounded by incredible people. Challenging people. Some people I didn’t like (that’s life). And others I didn’t understand (that’s growth). Whether it was my roommates, classmates, or teammates (I was on the varsity squash team), I found myself constantly challenged and pushed to become a leader, to get along with others, to learn from them, admire them, cherish them, and help them. Some of my hardest days as a college student were learning seemingly basic skill sets within a team setting. It’s extremely difficult for me to sit here today and imagine how I could be leading a group of talented executives without having gained a hands-on “education” about people – their strengths and flaws – as well as my own while I was in college.

Can you explain what you feel it means to be a true “entrepreneur”?

In my view, an entrepreneur is a leader of change and a motivator of trust in others to carry out that change or at least respect that it is happening without them and around them. In this respect there is no financial instrument linked to the definition of “entrepreneur” or their outcome, and we see many “entrepreneurs” in non-business pillars (presidents, activists, religious leaders, sports icons – these are all entrepreneurial in many of their aspects). Entrepreneurs in any “field” must all lead people through the toughest moments. They will always have many doubters, a lot of competition for their business or at least their attention, and they must always be “on” no matter what time of day it is–where they are, or who they are with. The world – or at least their world – is ceaselessly watching.

In terms of “serial” entrepreneurs, I don’t really appreciate the term, as it focuses too much on the “business” and a quantification of success. I think, at least in my view, one only becomes an entrepreneur after one has been through a number of ventures, and in thus the very “serial” nature of the term is really a pre-requisite to being a “true entrepreneur.”

Being part of many other ventures, do you enjoy the start up culture? Why or why not?

I’ve always been a self-starter and have consistently been drawn to solving problems, taking risks, and I’m never afraid to “try the new.” There are many things I love about being in an early stage company, but suffice it to say, I had a normal 9-5 job once and lasted only a few weeks (probably because I wasn’t qualified).

I think what I enjoy most about the environment I am currently in is the people; each day I am forced to be a better leader – even a better person – in order to move the company and our vision forward. I never thought leading and motivating could be all I do in a day while still being exhausted, satisfied, and ready to wake up the next day – eagerly – at 5am. It doesn’t quite make sense, except perhaps in the start up world. That’s a neat feeling and it’s a lot of fun.

Outside of work, what else are you passionate about? hobbies?

Being an entrepreneur, my list will be noticeably short…

I was a big squash player in my younger days as well as in university. I’m slowly getting back into the sport, which I enjoy very much. I like traveling and the outdoors – my former college roommates and I do a multiday backpacking trip each year ever since we graduated.

What is next for Plastiq for the remainder of 2013?

If I told you I’d have to kill you (kidding). One of the things I enjoy most about our company and my team is our somewhat paradoxical obsession of laying low and being patient but then ultimately going out with unprecedented scale and impact in everything we do. This doesn’t mean we wait until we get everything right (mistakes are, after all, the ingredients of success for an entrepreneur), but rather that we feel comfortable in our own skin and like being humble, before ultimately letting the world know that we’ve abruptly taken over a marketplace.

2013 is no different. For the first quarter most of my team was universally focused on a single goal, while the broader market would have probably asked, “sorry, who is Plastiq?” At the end of March, we launched our product that addressed the largest payment opportunity in Canadian history, and was the first and only provider to allow tax payments for all Canadians on any credit card of their choice.

What I will say about the remainder of 2013 is that the March launch for tax was not about “pay your taxes”, but was more about “welcome to Plastiq.” We have a lot more in store.

Persuasive Picks for week of 5/14/12

Social media breaks the mold of traditional marketing where you measured success against a balance sheet. Forbes contributor Todd Wilms explains Why Social Media is the Ultimate “Pay-it-Forward” for Marketing and provides steps to get you started.

In today’s business world, it is impossible to compete without a strong web presence to support you. Author Steve Nicholls offers 10 Essential Social Media Tips for Senior Executives in order to effectively implement social media into their businesses via IndustryWeek.

Measuring the return on investment of your social media strategy is something that still frustrates a lot of brands and marketers. Shea Bennett posts Is Social Media ROI A Reality (Or A Myth)? [INFOGRAPHIC] that takes a closer look at how we are slowly but surely getting to the ROI of social media. via AllTwitter.

Social media platforms are crucial to building customer engagement, but the vast majority of marketers haven’t incorporated that reality into their daily workflow. Marketing consultant Ernan Roman writes that Failure to Engage with Social Media Will Reduce Revenue and Increase Risk on The Huffington Post.

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.