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Q&A with Sprout Social's Chief Marketing Officer

September 20, 2018

This post is a part of our Marketer's Guide to Drupal 8 series. We created this guide to walk you through considerations for choosing an open source CMS, plus case studies and CMO advice to bring your site to the next level.

Jamie Gilpin is the Chief Marketing Officer for Sprout Social which help brands communicate with customers on social channels, collaborate across teams and measure the effectiveness of their efforts. 

We sat down with Jamie to hear how her team is using their CMS to achieve their overall business goals.

Mediacurrent Interview with Jamie Gilpin

Mediacurrent: What does digital transformation mean for you? 

JG: This is especially relevant for us because we are a provider of a digital marketing solutions as a company so, it's an interesting place where I sit as a CMO, not only the importance of it for our own marketing success but also as a creator of it. 

Digital transformation is absolutely pivotal to our strategy. We sit at the impetus of that being a social media software provider and understanding all the ways in which our consumers want to participate in a conversation with us in a digital landscape. We have to balance that with our human touch or sales and success and how we ultimately just drive the best experience for our customers regardless of the channel. But the digital transformation part of that is that the more savvy our tools become, the more ability we have to actually scale that human touch without losing the importance of it. And that's everything from, the first touch - turning strangers into interested parties to turning those interested parties into prospects and leads and turning those prospects and leads into customers for us; and then ultimately loyalists and fans. 

From an industry perspective, we as a company believe that digital transformation really sits squarely in social. We practice what we preach and use all of our products to really give us both the insights from our consumers want, but also how we execute that from a channel communication perspective. 

It's something that we're laser-focused on - not just as an inbound marketing engine, but also as a player in this space.

Mediacurrent: What are your top three initiatives and goals right now? 

JG: For our marketing team  - we're here to grow Sprout. That's our number one objective and we do that through three primary ways:

  1. Build the brand, which has a lot to do with the top of the funnel and just building buzz in the marketplace.
  2. Giving our salespeople the best chance to succeed and that's really about our funnel. So creating an inbound marketing engine from the top of the funnel and escorting those prospects through the buyer process and prioritizing those for sales.
  3. Giving our customers the confidence in our products and solutions. This all about growth and how we continue to demonstrate our value and promote all of our product lines and solutions.

The marketing engine's responsibility in the purest sense is how do we grow faster. We are a high growth company with about 500 employees and 50%+ growth year over year. And we anticipate sustaining that growth especially with a market so large - not only for our current products but where we're headed. It’s really marketing's function to grow that awareness and then the lead funnel to get there. So that's one side of the growth engine. 

The other side is a churn and customer retention. We have about 24,000 customers. We bring on about a thousand a month and that is awesome and exciting, but there's a lot to be done in terms of that customer experience from that first trial to the time they first give us their credit card to how we turn them into a raving fan. So I would say just really addressing growth from both sides, both from a customer acquisition but also a customer growth perspective is the holy grail. 

Mediacurrent: What are two current challenges you are trying to solve for?

JG: Probably those. Growth on both sides. We are bringing the best customers, the right customers into awareness and moving them through interest. We have a free trial model so marketers and social media managers can get 30 days with the product before they convert into a customer. That has actually provided our biggest opportunity and growth engine unlike a lot of other software providers. But on the flip side of that, you've got a ton that's coming into the top of the funnel and so how do you ensure that that's not masking or providing false positives for your strategy? 

We want to help every business - what's sort of the experience that we need to provide for those different levels of fit for us. So that's a big area of opportunity. Again, it's a good problem to have too much coming into the top of the funnel. But how do you put the right tools in place to give them a unique experience? 

It’s really a product customer experience and ensuring that we're best in class, but also delivering a unique and customized experience for each of our customers.  We have everyone from agencies managing profiles for their clients, all the way to enterprise-size organizations like GrubHub and Ticketmaster. Being able to deliver on a great product is one thing, but delivering a great experience is another. So it's a big area of focus for us. 

Mediacurrent: What is your current CMS? 

JG: We have a hodgepodge of things. Some of it we've built internally, as you would imagine as a social tool, you also have scheduling and things like that are a part of our process. We also use Wordpress, so that's the back end of our site where all of our blog articles and guides and other content is housed.  So the two of those together are probably our biggest sort of traditional CMS.  I see CMS's extending beyond just the housing of the content. Something we don't have today that I think is just a huge opportunity for our industry is how the CMS supports the entire customer journey and supports our sales process. Wordpress is great from a marketing perspective - we have all of our content there, we have ways to track it and see what's delivering on leads, and what content is our most fruitful and most effective. But we do not have any way to track what our salespeople are using. While there are different training and sales enablement tools out there, many of which I have used in the past, we actually don't use any of them today. We use JIRA or Confluence as our backend to share content and best practices across the sales and marketing teams. 

Mediacurrent: How crucial is your CMS to the success of your marketing team and go to market strategy? 

JG: As a database of all of our content, it's extremely important because as I talked about all those marketing is responsible for about 80 percent of our acquisition. Lucky me, I started in April and I walked into a pretty amazing inbound marketing engine, and it's all built on content. So a majority of our output from the marketing team and really our resource allocation is all built around just a massive SEO engine on content, from everything from the top 10 times to post on facebook to really comprehensive guides and studies around our industry and how marketers are using social to change the game. So with that, there's tons and tons of content and we're churning out more and more every single month. 

So the content management system is extremely important in two ways. 1) Housing all of that content, which seems silly but is really important. And then 2) Giving us transparency and a clear mirror into what content is driving the most growth. So whether that's top, middle, bottom, or even on the customer side.  From an SEO perspective, that becomes even more critical, especially on all the blog posts and articles and guides. We've got our metric engine - that goes from last touch all the way through to trial to customer to retention. We've got all that built out so we know what content is driving not only leads but also customers. 

The CMS is the database for all that,  then all of our reporting tools and everything is built on top of that. It's still manual in a lot of ways, but our CMS is the foundation.

Mediacurrent: How often do you consider switching your CMS? 

JG: I'll answer this in two ways. One, this is not a super big priority for me right now. You know, four months in I had to do a ton of change management, including marketing automation, team processes, and org structure. So there are other higher priorities right now. 

The hard part with this question is that it's going to change. So if you ask me this - and, btw, this is the hardest part with leading your marketing efforts with personas as well because it’s less about pain points and more about timing -- this a year from now and I've got a new marketing automation, and lead prioritization automated then our content management would be our number one issue.  So it's more of timing of prioritization. But I think for marketing leaders overall, to solve some of our biggest challenges, especially when it comes to scaling growth and scaling acquisition, content is the number one way to do that. So what's the best way or what tools and technology are you going to buy to enable your team to be most effective at that. Removing those obstacles so that they can do what they do best.

Mediacurrent: How could an organization persuade you to buy a new CMS? Is it part of your roadmap or do you only think about it when it breaks? 

JG: Right now, it's not a top priority. It's probably going to move into that 12 months from now, but if I'm looking at this from where I sit right now, it would be one of my folks - directors or managers or really any of them saying one of two things. 1. Things are breaking. So that's going to obviously bring this to a higher priority. Or 2) if they believe -- and they're good about creating business cases -- that by switching CMS's or buying this new technology, we'd be able to save x amount of productivity, we'd be able to do x amount more in lead and acquisition or growth on the customer side. Then that would become more of a priority. I'm a people leader not just by function, but also just by the way I operate as a leader.  Most of the decisions I make are really brought to me and prioritized by the folks I lead versus just me in an office figuring out what we need. 

There are other CMOs that are not that way. They’ll say, here are the key issues that we want to solve and here's the way I think that we should solve them. And people go do that. I think both models work, but that's also going to be a pretty big difference in how they buy. It's hard to have a CMO persona without knowing that next level, which is how they buy. If they buy top down, that's going to require a reach out to and sell to the CMO. For me, it's definitely bottoms up. So reaching out and getting/giving that input and buy-in from the directors to come to me is more how I work. 

Mediacurrent: What's important to you in terms of site management - SEO, mobile first, your content editing capability, all of the above? 

JG: I mean obviously we're all going to say all the above. For us, the SEO engine is our bread and butter. That's a big piece of our acquisition efforts- not just from a lead and trial quantity, but also the quality of those that actually convert. We have two primary inputs to SEO. One is our content itself, so all the blog content, the guides etc. And then the other is the SEO site infrastructure, so when prospects search social media management software or tools, that we’re showing up in search results as well. Our highest conversion into customers, especially from trial and lead is on the marketing site of SEO. So those that are looking for our actual products and services. The blogs/content is also important, just a longer sales cycle. 

Mediacurrent: Are you doing any paid search or retargeting, and if so, what tools are you using? 

JG: We do minimal paid advertising. We do a lot of ABM. We do a little bit of retargeting. The tool we use is AdRoll but our spend on paid advertising is pretty minimal.

Mediacurrent: How would a development and digital marketing agency like Mediacurrent get a sales appointment with you? 

JG: Talk to my directors. We've got a director of customer acquisition who focuses on SEO. Our director of buzz and content is responsible for all of our guides, big rock content, and PR. Then we've got a VP of operations, so he's really thinking about how all of this gets analyzed and more importantly, how we're hitting our goals and he keeps us accountable to that. 

Having those conversations, then identifying the opportunities that we're missing out on or the things that we're trying to fix, and then come together to me. The strength of the outreach is definitely important, especially if you have referrals. If there was an outreach email in particular and it had  very specific data around opportunities that we had as a company - whether that'd be traffic, some of the assets that we had -- I wouldn't answer it necessarily, but I will definitely forward it to my team and say, 'Hey, this looks interesting. Let me know if it's worth pursuing. 

Mediacurrent: Where do you go for content or articles to stay up to date with current trends? 

JG: Twitter is probably my biggest source of information. I've always been on Twitter but obviously, it becomes even more relevant now for where I sit so that's probably my number one. Reforge is a newsletter I have subscribed to  - it's a growth marketing training group. I've got a couple on content marketing that I follow as well. I've moved away from registering for a ton of newsletters and just because I'd rather have an aggregation of lots of different news sources or different content sources versus all coming from the same place. I also like making the most of my commute with Podcasts and some of my go-to’s are SaaStr, How I Built This and Masters of Scale.

Mediacurrent: What events are you attending this year or next year? 

JG: Most of the events that I attend are those that Sprout Social hosts. Usually, the way I look at conferences, similar to the other question you asked around thought leadership, it's usually when I'm trying to solve a problem. That's usually when I'm going to want to attend a conference because that's something that's really top of mind for me. 


We want to extend a big THANK YOU to Jamie for participating in this interview. In the next part of the blog series, we will dig into how to know what to choose to migrate during your switch to Drupal 8.

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