“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!

 

 

 

Persuasive Picks for the week of 04/04/11

Chrysler TweetThe 7 Worst Twitter PR Fails
The Huffington Post‘s Catharine Smith compiles an entertaining list of the top Twitter-based PR blunders to-date. Prepare to cringe and learn!

Managing elephant-sized social media blunders
Reuters small business writer Deborah Cohen shares an informative Q&A with global brand strategist Jonathan Salem Baker that contains helpful tips on managing social media blunders like this week’s “elephant hunting” video released by GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons.

Top Companies Still Bashful About Social Media Presence
Frank Reed, managing editor for the Marketing Pilgrim, starts off a new blog series with this entry that highlights a recent Ad Age report that revealed less than half of Fortune 50 companies promote their social presence on their corporate homepage.

Report: Social Media Worth the Time
There’s no doubt that executing a well thought out social media strategy takes time. However, you need to stick with it and be consistent in order to reap the rewards. Inc.com‘s contributing editor Courtney Rubin shares some interesting stats around this topic and small business.

Getting real about social media budgeting
This post from Rich Karpinski on BtoBOnline suggests that Salesforce.com‘s recently announced acquisition of Radian6 might be a turning point for marketing teams to really focus on their social spending, and he provides highlights of last year’s Altimeter survey from Jeremiah Owyang to show what an aggressive social budget looks like.

Raleigh’s Social Media and Tech Community share 2011 Predictions at TIMA Summit Party

Last Thursday night I attended the TIMA Summit Party – the only afterparty for the Third Annual Internet Summit in Raleigh, North Carolina. Quickly becoming one of the largest internet conferences on the East Coast, the Internet Summit was a near sellout this year with an estimated 1500 attendees!

Bringing together Internet executives, senior marketers, entrepreneurs and investors, this years speakers represented companies like Google, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, Go Daddy, AutoTrader.com, and more. Speakers presented on topics ranging from Social Media, to Mobile, Online Video, Cloud Computing, Real-time, Analytics, Online Advertising, and E-commerce.

The TIMA Summit Party was also a huge success! Hosted by TIMA and co-sponsored by DesignBox – who provided the awesome venue – and MediaTwo Interactive, some have said this year’s party was one of the best events tied to the Tech/Social Media community of Raleigh.

The following video offers a small taste of how great the event was and features a few of the party attendees sharing their predictions for 2011. What do you think will be the hot trends for 2011? What do you think about some of the predictions shared in this video? Share your response in the comments section below – and thanks for watching!

Persuasive Picks for the Week of 6/21/2010

Lacking a game plan when it comes to social marketing? You’re not alone. Social Marketing continues to perplex many marketers, according to eMarketer. In its article, “What Makes Up a Social Marketing Strategy,” the critical components of an effective strategy are reviewed, with some startling facts of how many marketers are still operating this element of their campaigns “without a game plan.”

Social media with a business twist. Tony Bradley of Network World writes about Salesforce.com’s unveiling of Chatter this week at Cloudforce 2010. “Chatter brings social networking to the enterprise in much the same way salesforce.com brought Web 2.0 to the enterprise–enabling the benefits of social networking to be utilized for new strategic advantages.”

Top 10 Most Tweeted Brands – if you’ve never checked out the weekly “10 Most Tweeted Brands of the Week Chart” by AdAge you might find it an interesting – or at least entertaining – bookmark. This week, Simon Dumenco outlines how the Twitterverse tells the media to “shut up” and why being a trending brand on Twitter is not necessarily a good thing, among other things.

Can you hear me now? Apple addresses iPhone 4 reception issues… or not. CBSNews Tech Talk discusses Apple’s lack of PR advice for Steve Jobs in dealing with the iPhone 4 antenna issue. “Allow me to make the official introductions: Steve Jobs, meet Apple’s PR department. Apple’s PR department, meet your boss.”

Twitter, PR and BP. TechCrunch takes a look at the lessons. TechCrunch”s post, “When Social Media Becomes The Message: The Gulf Oil Spill And @BPGlobalPR” takes a look at how BP is floundering from a PR perspective, and how social media can take over and shape your company’s message – whether you like it or not. “Someone on Twitter or elsewhere on the Web  will find ways to challenge the message, as @BPGlobalPR is doing.” The PR lesson here – credibility counts more than ever.