Recently, Oracle Marketing spoke with Lantané Conant, CMO of 6sense. Our conversation delved into her background, how she became a CMO, ended up at 6sense, and how they do ABM differently. She also explained the difference between a “Chief Marketing Officer” and a “Chief Market Officer.”
Q: Where did you go to school and what for?
The University of Virginia, where I received a CPA.
Q: Tell us about your first job.
I wasn’t very good at accounting because I’m dyslexic. So, I moved into consulting, which I loved. Eventually, I went into sales.
Q: Why did you want to become a CMO?
Originally, I didn’t. I was excited about becoming a rock-star saleslady! I had started running a region, then an area. It was actually a big deal being a VP of an area.
However, my CEO had been struggling with marketing and needed someone to help bring it together. One of the founders had run marketing, but had left the company and it had become this wayward function.
So, the CEO asked me to look after it until they found a “real CMO”, because I would never be one. Hearing this actually made me feel pretty bad and it left me discouraged. I’ll admit to crying. But, I also became determined to prove them wrong. In the process, I discovered that I loved the role and found where I belonged.
Q: How did you end up at 6sense?
I felt it was time for my next venture. I had tried account-based marketing (ABM) at my previous organization, but before we bought the technology to do ABM right, I wanted to do it with a spreadsheet to prove that we could. Then, we could invest in the tech.
Unfortunately, we didn’t use the right data. We went to sales with a random list of accounts with nothing to say about them. Who knew what market they were in, and if we could do a 1:1 landing page for them? So, the whole thing collapsed under its own weight.
I saw what 6sense was doing and I was impressed because they applied the right data to get deals, not just leads. They were looking to empower digital marketers with the right technology and insights so they could focus and prioritize.
The sales funnel is the Dark Funnel™ now, but we don’t have to work completely in the dark from a gut feeling. It doesn’t help focus where marketing and sales teams should focus their time. It’s unsustainable for marketers and buyers.
I told them, “Let’s do this.” That was two and a half years ago.
Q: How did you change your approach to ABM once you were at 6sense?
When I came into 6sense, they had only one other person in marketing, so I went into beast mode. We brought in some great people to help, got back to marketing basics, and worked at becoming experts at our own software.
Then we had an “aha” moment when we realized B2B marketers sometimes kind of treat prospects like dirt. Let me explain that.
When a prospect looks a business up, the business often puts up a form for them to fill out to get their contact information. The problem is, over three billion emails are sent per day. A lot of those are spam.
We didn’t want to send spam and get back questionable MQLs that when we’d pass them over to sales, they’d look at us side-eyed because we didn’t know if they were good or bad.
Instead, we decided to treat prospects better than that. We decided on no forms, no spam, and no cold calls. We filter everything we do through that lens. That doesn’t mean we won’t send out an invite to a virtual event and get someone’s email contact. But, we don’t need to gate all product and educational content.
If we send out an email, we want to make relevant. If we know the right persona and right keyword, we can send a relevant email, and that’s how marketing can get a prospect warm enough for a sales call.
Of course, we’re still working at it ourselves. We even wrote a book about it, No Forms, No Spam, No Cold Calls, since we documented what we thought was working every step of the way.
Q: What’s your biggest challenge as a CMO?
Balancing my ferocious appetite to do amazing things with the reality that we can’t do everything. We need to invest in the right people and technology first, something we might not have the budget for.
I always want to do more faster and with flair, and I need to check myself on that a little bit.
Q: Why do you feel the average tenure of a modern CMO is under two years?
I’m actually not a “Chief Marketing Officer.” I’m a “Chief Market Officer.” It’s a subtle difference.
I feel like a Chief Marketing Officer is only guaranteed a spot at the little kids table. By that I mean they talk about blogs, campaigns, and all the activities their teams do. On the other hand, the Chief Market Officer acts as a voice at the executive level, representing the market and bring marketing insights to the table. Your role should be to know and judge the potential of the market, account selection, and coordinating resources in the right places in order to help drive revenue.
Assuming a market has potential, ask yourself what’s the most efficient way to seize that potential? Really, I think, demand generation should be called demand capture, because demand already exists. You just have to know how to capture it.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to other CMOs?
Don’t presume that board members have a marketing background, will know what you do, or understand the value you bring. Don’t presume the CEO will, either.
Q: What’s one thing you wish CEOs understood about marketing?
Marketing done well boils down to three things:
Understand the marketing.
Create competitive advantage with brand and experience.
Optimize revenue generation.
You have to do it and communicate it effectively. You have to tell the board and CEO what you’re doing and how it works because otherwise, you won’t be perceived as adding value. There might as well not be a CMO. Instead, you’ll be perceived as just someone who works with demand gen and reports to sales.
Q: What do you think marketing will look like over the next few years? What adjustments do you feel marketers should be making with the COVID-19 crisis?
I think we’ll see an acceleration of trends that are already happening (at least partially due to COVID-19). You’ll have to understand the dark funnel and how to optimize the digital experience. Remember that marketing success depends upon how much sales likes you. I feel more marketing leaders should view sales as a channel and tactic to be optimized. It’s an expensive channel and tactic, but still a channel and tactic nonetheless.
Q: What job would you never want to do?
CFO sounds terrible. Numbers like that aren’t for me.
Q. What advice do you have for aspiring marketers and aspiring CMOs?
Understand how companies make money overall as well as market and category dynamics.
Catch up with other CMOs and learn insights into the world of digital marketing:
- CMO Spotlight: Melissa Sargeant, Litmus
- CMO Spotlight: Julia Stead, Allocadia
- CMO Spotlight: Randy Frisch, Uberflip
- Marketing in a Non-Marketing World: A Chat with Robert Kraut