Elizabeth Cooke: Josh, please tell us about your background.
Josh Mait: I spent most of my career working at small agencies. I started at Sullivan in New York, which did strategic marketing for B2B companies, mostly in financial services. That experience allowed me to work directly with the creative team, get involved in strategy, and understand various customer issues that sales people face. From there, I joined a San Francisco firm called Tattoo, which was a pure brand strategy firm with a focus on consumers. I ran a team responsible for performing non-traditional qualitative research, trying to get into the consumer mindset, understand how their lives were changing, and figure out how brands like CNN, Starbucks and Chanel fit into their lives.
At that point, I felt a little pigeon-holed on the agency side and wanted to experience the power of building something in an entrepreneurial environment. I went to work at Gerson Lehrman Group in New York, the premiere expert network, and ran the marketing department. I gained experience in client relations, sales enablement, brand creation, lead generation, and a global brand launch.
Relationship Science was the next logical step because, as a start-up environment, it offered me the chance to put a stamp on a company and get people interested in what we are doing. The CMO role is perfect for that.
What are you currently working on at Relationship Science?
We’ve been working on the product for about a year and a half; the company has been commercial since the beginning of this year. We’re trying to solve a direct need that a lot of professionals have, which is how to get smart about the business relationships that are most important to them. How can they access and unlock the power in their relationships in a private and proprietary way? Our tool is aimed at people who work on business development, which can include Investment Bankers, Wealth Managers, Chief Development Officers at nonprofit companies — people who spend their day thinking about how to leverage relationships among their clients, board members and high-profile donors. Our tool has profiles on over 2 million professionals who are ‘in-the-mix’, some who have reached a certain level of accomplishment, or have access to capital, or are wealthy, or possess expert knowledge, and then we map our clients relationships against that universe. It’s an intuitive, easy-to-use, web-based, mobile platform.
We’re trying to do something fundamental, which is to help people get business done, and you need relationships in place to do that. How do you institutionally get the most out of the collective power of the relationships that exist in your organization? Customer relationship management tools can do that to an extent, and social media certainly plays a role, but when you really need to get a deal done, you can’t just connect with someone on Facebook. You need a platform that’s powerful, trustworthy, and based on research. That’s the tool we have.
How has the shift to digital channels changed marketing efforts as well as the ability to connect with people?
If you spend any time in the blogosphere and social media channels, you see a lot of noise, but I don’t know how much value you see. Content marketing, especially for B2B companies, is a hot area now even though it has probably reached a saturation period over the last few years. But how do you do that in a smart way? How do you create content that is valued and not just noise?
From a B2B perspective, digital has thrown the traditional sales funnel out the window. Pushing a potential prospect, and then a lead, and then an opportunity client through a linear sales funnel doesn’t happen anymore. The experience feels more like a pinball, where the potential prospect bounces around, picking up insights about your company from a variety of sources, including word of mouth, social, mobile, and tablet devices. How does this new approach impact the sales team? How do you train a sales team to be ready at that precise moment of engagement? Does it shorten or extend the sales cycle? These are all questions that companies deal with today.
We work with a marketing automation company called Pardot that has the power to help us change the way we approach, reach, and talk to people. How do you to deliver something that’s relevant? How do you deliver it at the right time and to the right person? You’ve got to figure out how to deliver value and what that means to your audience.
How do B2B companies embrace social media?
Companies are using social for customer service. If you can achieve rapid response in a smart public environment in which you’re showing immediate value to your customer base, then that’s great. A lot of consumer companies have embraced that, as well as some B2B companies. What does social mean for B2B? I’m still figuring that out. There’s bad stuff and good stuff out there, and we want the good stuff to rise higher than the bad stuff, so we don’t engage in a lot of trolling. Prospects bounce around a lot. They’re going to bounce into social, so the key is figuring out how to deliver a mixture of education and meaningful information to them in those moments when they do.
How do you use social to really find out who the influencers are in your space? How do you engage with prospects in a productive way so you can have a good conversation and not just blast them with advertisements? If you’re triangulating, you’ll bring social engagement, PR, and traditional press into your sales effort. I’m interested in going after some markets in that way, and I think social can play a major role.
The line between business and personal has gotten very gray. How does Relationship Science’s tool address that?
At Relationship Science, we believe in showing the full person. To us, ‘full person’ includes your role as a business professional as well as the nonprofit causes you support, your political contributions, and your other interests. Knowing about these other areas is helpful for someone who is responsible for closing deals, strategic selling, or raising money. That illumination of the full person can add a lot of value.
The jury is still out as to whether the personal and professional can be merged together. We don’t know enough about that yet. Consider a company like Facebook, which could dip its toe into the professional water and does to an extent. I have some skepticism about that because of the noise it might create. For social networks, we’re still at the beginning. But more and more people are getting involved in it, and different models are merging. Look at a company like Path, which flips the Facebook model on its head. This social network allows users to only have 150 ‘friends’ who are their true connections. Look at what we’re doing. RelSci is not a social network. We offer a private, proprietary research tool that provides users with information about critical people.
With so much data coming in from so many sources, how do you take out the noise and discover what is relevant?
We use web analytics, social monitoring, and systems like Salesforce.com that conduct live tracking of how we engage our prospects and clients, as well as a business intelligence dashboard that examines the use of our actual product. You need strong analytical people who can bring all that together and find insights about which target segments we should focus on right now. How should we try to reach them? What channels are effective for us? There is a lot of talk about big data and analytics, but in my experience talking to other marketers and other companies, few companies are there yet.
Are there any new tools or avenues that B2B marketers should explore?
Everybody is a smarter consumer than they were 15 minutes ago. Society is training us to be professional consumers, whether it’s by using Pinterest or finding shopping deals online or reviewing books or movies.. That same professional consumer is also relevant in the B-to-B context. When I’m selling to a professional within an organization, that individual has to see some value in my brand; they have to want to be associated with that brand. Business professionals are looking at B2B decisions with that kind of professional consumer mindset.
I tend to look for inspiration in B2C that I can bring to B2B. At the end of the day, it’s still about talking and selling to people. B2C does so many things well. How can I bring that to B2B in a relevant way?
With the plethora of new technologies available to marketers today, are some CMOs losing sight of basic elements that they should explore to drive successful marketing strategies?
It’s easy for somebody to say that I’ve got to be in content marketing. I could very easily churn out white papers along with a couple of blog posts, but if that collateral is not interesting or relevant to my audience, I’m just creating noise. When my four-year-old asks me what I do, I say at the core I’m a storyteller. I think I have always been one; it’s probably my strongest point. You can talk about integration across channels, consistent brand experience, and uniting all of your touch points, but there has to be a good story and an idea.
A lot of companies, especially in the B2B space, forget about the why. They’re all about the functionality, but everything’s a commodity. There are five other companies doing similar work to Relationship Science. Why is somebody going to buy from us? Our functionality will be better. Period., What drives us as an organization is also crucial and will define us. As organizations become much more transparent with the people they are trying to reach, those things matter more. You’re seeing a lot of organizations embrace cause-related stuff — they associate with it and it elevates their brand. That’s going to continue. Twenty years ago, the message was that you could only stand for one thing. Now, it’s beneficial to show all your dimensions. When I look at some of the brand architecture work we’re doing at Relationship Science, I want us to feel dimensional, rich, and vibrant.
What channels should CMOs focus on?
I’m coming off a week where we had some heavy PR; most of it very good, some of it I would have tweaked. You know you can’t control that, but you see the way that it spreads and how it raises awareness, how we touch people, and how we now have a lead coming in every two minutes because of a big story that broke about us. Having smart digital strategies related to search and keywords can be very valuable. We’re looking at conferences and partnerships now. Those are effective tools that allow us to get in front of a group of targeted people. We’ve got to make smart choices because nobody has the resources to do everything.
How are the most talented CMOs tapping into all these channels?
At Relationship Science, we have to create an unbelievable client experience, and the people who are on the client support team are as much a part of our brand building as anything else. How the client support team deals with customer interactions greatly influences the way people perceive our company more than any marketing material that I could write.
I love aligning internal people with the right ideas and the right language. That’s a major opportunity. This past week, as we received tons of leads, we tried to respond to them rapidly. The head of client development and I have been writing back to people. Receiving an email from the head of client development after filling out a form on a website is a rare experience. My most important responsibility at a company like Relationship Science that is trying to grow is to create a great client experience. If I can do that and the product pays off, then the customer will share that experience with others. I need to create easy ways for our customers to share their experiences. My gut tells me that our business will accelerate the most if I can make that happen. By creating a great client experience and enabling people to share it with others, every customer becomes part of your sales team.
What exciting digital advancements are coming that CMOs should pay attention to?
A company called Contently is taking 7,500 freelance writers from some of the most reputable publications in the world and creating a network that allows brands to access these writers through a platform and become publishers themselves. That’s pretty cool technology at a very reasonable price point. If that is used and managed well, it will enable brands to become publishers. Influencer engagement on social media channels can also be very effective if done correctly. Traackr that identifies the 50 most important people socially in philanthropy. It helps people like me understand where those people are engaging and how to engage with them. That’s pretty powerful. If I can do that through social channels, that can certainly help grow our business.
Josh Mait is Chief Marketing Officer at Relationship Science LLC (RelSci). He is responsible for guiding the overall marketing strategy and its application across all communication channels for the 2013 launch of the ‘ultimate business development tool.
Prior to RelSci, Josh was Head of Marketing at Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG) where he was responsible for organizational brand strategy, sales enablement, visual and verbal identify and online and offline campaigns and communications. He led the $250 million dollar technology company through the successful rollout of a new brand strategy and architecture to over 750 employees, launched three brands and was a critical contributor to the product design and brand development of GLG’s new online platform.
Previously Josh, held the position of Chief Strategy Officer at Tattoo Brand Strategy. At Tattoo, Josh ran new business efforts and strategy development for all client relationships for brands like Cadbury, Starbucks, CNN and Chanel. Before joining Tattoo, Josh was Director of Marketing at Sullivan in New York. His responsibilities included managing client relationships and developing marketing and sales strategies for Fortune 1000 clients.
Josh has spent his career understanding and developing the consumer and client relationship. His passion is in building creatively–inspired, strategically–driven, successful businesses and brands that connect to what people want. Josh is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. He lives with his wife Kira and their two children in Brooklyn.
Elizabeth Cooke is a member of Argyle Executive Forum’s content team. Argyle Executive Forum is a professional services firm that convenes and connects business leaders from highly targeted business-to-business communities for strategic collaboration and business development. More than 25,000 executives participate in one or several of Argyle Executive Forum’s communities, with more than 200 new members joining every month.
Prior to joining Argyle Executive Forum, Elizabeth worked as a senior search consultant for a boutique executive recruiting firm covering the investment banking and private equity markets. Additionally, she was a senior sales executive at the New York Stock Exchange, calling on C-suite executives and venture capital firms. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder.