About the Guest Ash is a full-stack CMO with over 20 years of experience scaling marketing organizations, driving deep alignment between sales and marketing, operationalizing digital-first demand gen, creating differentiated positioning and messaging, and driving industry leadership. At Druva, Ash is responsible for driving the company’s overall marketing strategy, demand generation, awareness, and branding. Previously, Ash worked at Informatica, where he played the role of Acting CMO. While there, he secured and maintained Informatica’s number one position across five Gartner Magic Quadrants, helped position the company as a leading cloud data management vendor, and played a pivotal role in the company’s transformation to a subscription and cloud-first business, and their second IPO Contact with Ash Parikh Key Takeaways How The pandemic has reshaped B2B and SaaS marketing. What marketing systems no longer apply in today’s market? Best practices in today’s high-tech business and marketing environment? Thoughts on ABM and why it can be highly effective. Ash shares go-to technologies and strategies. Words of wisdom for aspiring CMOs. Advice on how to lead an effective marketing team that aligns across the enterprise. Quotes “Content that engages, and lines up with every single stage of a buyer’s journey is a differentiator. And companies need to the meet customer wherever the customer needs to be met, in whichever channel.” “Self-awareness is the biggest quality that a CMO needs to have.” Highlights From the Episode How has marketing changed since Q4 of 2019? Looking toward the year ahead at the end of 2019, Ash saw nothing but a promising horizon. Of course, the pandemic upended everything overnight. “The whole funnel changed forever,” he says. Looking at the transition over the course of four weeks from in-person marketing to Zoom, the focus of attention shifted to an obligation to make time count and furnish data/content that made an impact. Particularly when he looked through the prism of B2B and SaaS models, Ash recognized that providing education and facilitating a seamless customer experience had become the paramount marketing objectives. From a marketing perspective, what no longer works in today’s world? Hundreds of millions of emails in combination with the onslaught of contacts via other communications channels have driven up the premium on engaging. Inundating customers will not persuade them to attend your webinar or virtual event. It’s essential to get inside the customer’s mindset leverage digital resources to personalize and target contacts. Going forward, there will continue to be a much more stringent, thoughtful approach to the allocation of time and commitment to travel, in-person meetings, and live engagement. Personal contact has tremendous ROI, but we now know that it doesn’t have to be the default for every sales or marketing engagement. What are some best practices for B2B high-tech marketing in this new world? To succeed in the high-tech SaaS market, you need to know the competitive landscape and your place within it. Are you aligned with a category? Is there a new category to be created? It’s important to have solid market intelligence as the foundation for your marketing strategy. With so many overlapping messages, how do you differentiate? Your website is actually your single most important sales tool. If it doesn’t represent what you’re selling and how – and if it doesn’t make it easy for the customer to buy – then you’re leaving transactions on the table. You must offer engaging content, like demos and tutorials that embody and communicate SaaS value props. Crowd-sourced references are important. Get to know – and compare – the sources! What are your views on ABM as a marketing tool? It’s not really account-based marketing. It should really be called account-based marketing AND sales. Ash believes it can be a very effective system – one with which he has had success owing to carefully targeted accounts and alignment among business ops, sales, and marketing. He stresses that executive outreach, ongoing engagement, and holistic communication are tracked with metrics. It’s ultimately all about learning. If you can target decision-makers with useful information and nurture their engagement, it’s a value-add that will pay off down the line. Patience is required, says Ash, so stick with ABM to see it yield results. Why and where are you leveraging modern technologies today? It’s valuable to take a step back, says Ash, and look at the market stack. It’s an increasingly digital world, and technology is relevant and valuable anywhere it contributes to marketing efficiency. Anything that reduces friction improves ROI on every flavor of a marketing program. What you use depends on what you already have and what makes sense based on constantly updated research and monitoring the spectrum of customer touches. Consider investing in innovative products that advance prospecting, content sharing, and whiteboarding – anything well-suited to a SaaS company. Cold calling is truly dead in Ash’s mind, especially as AI steps up with more efficient, targeted ways of prospecting. With each passing year, technological advances are most likely going to turbocharge the impact of marketing budgets, dollar for dollar, exponentially. What guidance or strategy would you offer to help a CMO succeed? Ash believes the key to CMO success is self-awareness. Whether a brand, demand gen, or product marketing is their strong suit, they are unlikely to be stellar at all three. So it’s important to know that the right resources are in place to position the company to the best advantage, differentiating from market competitors. It’s impossible to achieve with customers or internal stakeholders if you don’t have a holistic team. CMOs also need solid demand gen chops in this new world. In today’s buyer’s journey, content is king, so you need to be able to inspire your teams to create compelling messaging. Consider MQL a “false positive” that gives a sense of comfort to marketing but not to the rest of the organization. If you exceed your MQL goals and it results in zero bookings, then is that a success? Map team’s success to meetings booked and opportunities, don’t worry about sales versus marketing versus partner attribution because, to his way of thinking, the successful organization will align across all functions, and marketing will receive its share of credit in due time. The bottom line for CMOs who want to be corporate leaders is to stop thinking solely of marketing and instead focus on the customer, the buyer, and the company. How do you ensure that you have the best possible resources around you? The CMO’s role is actually seven roles rolled into field marketing, digital, partner marketing, content marketing, demand gen, corporate gen, and branding. Having a solid team is essential. No single person can do it alone. So you do your best to hire great talent but also have a system of checks and balances in place. Inspect what you’re expecting, says Ash. And integrate EQ at every turn: Lead the way you want to be led. If you want a micro-manager, then imagine someone bearing down on top of you at work. The best leaders create more leaders and not managers. Invest in each of the team members’ careers in a meaningful way, which builds goodwill and connections that ultimately circle back with dividends to the organization at large. Recommended Reading/Resources “The Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant,” by W. Chan Kim, Renee Mauborgne “Communicate to Influence: How to Inspire Your Audience to Action,” by Ben Decker, Kelly Decker. “As We Speak: How to Make Your Point and Have It Stick,” by Peter Meyers, Shann Nix. Website Content: Forbes Communications Councils Website Content: CMO Council Shout-Outs Chris White, Chief Revenue Officer at Druva Tracey Newell, former president of Informatica, a current member of five corporate boards.