- What to do yourself and what to outsource as a small marketing team
- How t know if your CEO “gets” marketing
- Launching a business in stealth mode, and the benefits of re-launching
- Transitioning from profit-driven to purpose-driven companies
This episode is perfect for anyone running marketing in a small environment, or debating joining a new company as the first marketer.
Nick: Hello everybody and welcome to Mind the Gap Enablix’s only podcast seeking sales and marketing alignment. I’m your host Nick Ziech-Lopez and this week I’m joined by Matt Stammers.
Matt, how’s it going?
Matt: Yeah, it’s going really well. Thank you for having me on the podcast. I’m really excited to be here.
Nick: So Matt, I think you’re our first west coast guest actually. We’ve had Europe, we’ve had the east coast, Midwest, I think your first west coast. For the people that may not be familiar with who you are and Zeno, can you give us a quick introduction?
Matt: Yeah, sure. Although I think I get to bag two things because the way I describe myself is I’m an ex-pat Brit abroad. So I did a lot of my marketing career out of Europe, primarily out of the UK first and then much more broadly in Europe.
Then my midlife crisis in 2017 wasn’t to go buy a motorbike. I’d already done that. My midlife crisis was to lift me and my family, two kids are five and seven, I went to the west coast and California in the bay area and tried out this whole kind of VC technology startup thing and see where it took us.
Nick: That’s exciting.
Does your family, do you think they would have appreciated the motorbike more or the move to San Francisco?
Matt: Well, I think it would be fair to say if you ask my wife there so I said hey, do you want to leave the UK which is kind of pretty cold and gray and often miserable, particularly in the winter time and come live in California?
Her instant answer was a yes. But when we got here actually what happened is she was thinking like Southern California. So she was thinking like boardwalks and palm trees and a bit of a warmer ocean. We rocked up in San Francisco in April, and it was about 53 degrees using the American kind of temperature. There was raining going sideways and it was not a pleasant place and she cried for three days.
Nick: Oh no. Yeah. I think we’ve all made that mistake at some point or another. Just assuming that there’s a homogenous California climate that is just always sunny.
But no, the bay area is very different. What is it that you do in the bay area?
You said that you said VC funded. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do?
Matt: Yeah. Sure.
When I first came over, I was running marketing globally for a FinTech called Talia. What they’re all about is they target the largest companies in the world and they are trying to help them optimize cash, which is a slightly techie thing.
What do they actually do? They help put more cash back on the balance sheet for those really big businesses and also critically they also help put cash back on the balance sheet of all of our suppliers as well. So really kind of driving the kind of improvement of cash across supply chains and then helping companies use that to invest back in their business.
I did that from 2017 to 2019 and then did a little bit of consultancy, helping a lot of startups really kind of understand how they should be going to market. If we think about what happened between 2019 and 2020, obviously COVID came along, a lot of humanitarian issues with that.
But from a technology company perspective, the big shift was you could no longer go do things face-to-face and the digital world became incredibly noisy. A big piece of what I did was to say to startups this is how we can help you find your voice in this really noisy world and better engage with the customers that you’re trying to reach.
The last one of those engagements was a company called Zeno technologies. I started working with them in May 2021. I was helping them again kind of really develop who are you targeting? What’s the story that you’re trying to tell, how do we actually go out and engage with this audience effectively? Get the company launched and they liked that stuff so much that they asked me to join in November 2021 as their head of marketing. I’ve been with them ever since and that’s the job that I’m doing today.
Nick: I want to start there as your head of marketing. We’ve had Will Devlin on the podcast, previously head of marketing for Message Gears, and we talked about it being all right so you’re a one person marketing team. How do you grow with sales? How do you decide what to do?
I’m interested from your perspective though something we haven’t covered yet is as the one as the marketing team, how do you decide what you do versus what you pay others to do like agencies, consultants, contractors, versus what doesn’t get done? When you kind of run through the list of all right this is what I’m going to spend my time doing versus having like others force multipliers higher versus pay. Where’s your head for a lot of those?
Matt: That’s a really big question.
In a way that ‘s actually much easier to ask than to answer and when we were getting going on this podcast, you know one of the things that I was talking about is immediately before this, I was prepping for a webinar that we are holding tomorrow.
The answer is actually you do an awful lot of things, but you are right in that you actually have to think about what do you do when you come into a very early stage startup?
So, yeah Zeno has been running since January 2020 for the first 18 months it’s very much in stealth mode. It was all about building the product out. We launched in November, the end of October 2021 and we’re still less than 20 people today. This is a really small business, very early stage and there’s only me internally doing marketing. The answer I’d give is it still has to be about strategy and execution.
I think if you look at what you know, what the best people do is they’re very clear about what the strategy is for both the business and what the marketing strategy looks like. And then how do we execute that? When you’re in an early stage startup and you’re running a marketing, you can’t do one without the other.
There’s no point in just being a great strategist and never doing any execution. You and I both know you’d get fired pretty quickly. I know on the other hand, there’s no point of just being great at execution because if you’re just doing the wrong execution, you just end up doing dumb stuff.
You do stuff that doesn’t necessarily drive the growth engine. The answer is kind of both to think really carefully about what’s the right strategy here and then also very quickly making sure that we go do it. We try stuff out. We see how well it’s working and then we’d go back around that kind of figure of eight loop again.
Nick: I find myself exactly what you said. There’ve been so many times I find myself like oh, I’m going to go update this webpage and then 90 minutes later I’m trying to figure out why the video is fitting right into the webpage and I’m mired in execution. And no, this is not worth it. This is not what I need to be doing.
I feel like it is a balance that almost never feels right, but that’s how you know if you’re either doing too much strategy or being too into execution. I won’t feel like I have planned anything.
I’ll say from my experience, it feels tenuous at all times which I think that’s just it.
Matt: Yeah. I think you’re right.
I was thinking about this for people really, when I talked to a lot of people and I spent a long time in startups, people always want to come and join a startup. They’re like oh wow, it’s amazing and it’s really exciting. And you’re growing a company really fast and everything’s really dynamic. If everything goes well, then you get options and ideally you kind of get a really successful exit.
The reality is super different. The reality is that you have to be incredibly comfortable living in the gray is the way I would describe it, where actually everything is really uncertain. Your job changes every day. You’re trying to do 20 million things often at the same time and you’re trying to keep the whole business moving forward.
For the people that I have watched come into these types of companies, the first six months kind of really dictates whether they love it and they take to it like a duck to water and they do incredibly well because they own their own role and they’re happy with the uncertainty. They can kind of drive towards outcomes or you know people come in and they’re kind of waiting to be told what to do.
And again, I’m sure you’ve seen that they can be thoroughly decent people, but the startups are no place to be waiting to be told what to do.
You really kind of got to get in and own your role and often those people kind of leave shortly after.
Nick: Yeah. You know, what you said is right.
You have to be comfortable with being a little uncomfortable. I think the security of knowing exactly what you’re going to do and exactly what that’s like, I don’t want to say it’s easy, but there’s a comfort there.
But for so many environments like this you said you have to be used to being in the gray and the uncertainty. That’s challenging and I think in many ways, that’s kind of the hardest part of just not knowing for certain what the next month or three months or six months will be, but feeling confident that what you’re doing is the right way to move ahead.
Matt: Yeah, I think you’re right. One of the things we’re gonna talk about today is, what is in kind of almost in quotation marks, what does a good CEO look like? I think when you talk about it with reference to startups, the important thing is that vision has to be really clear. You know, what’s our vision or purpose about why we are here? What are we trying to achieve?
Although day-to-day life can change quite a lot and it normally does and priorities move around, we learn things and we adjust. We should be really clear about where we are trying to get to. Then how are the things that we’re doing today and doing tomorrow and over the next six months, how are they helping us get towards that place? So that we can actually see, we can look back and see that tangible difference over time.
Nick: Let’s move to that because something, so a thing that always bugs me and I do post on LinkedIn about these kinds of things all the time. I mainly use LinkedIn as a place to complain about things, but I think that’s what most of the internet is for anyways. But the idea is that you know, I’ve seen so many people say you’ve got to work for a CEO that gets marketing. Like if you’re going to come in as a CMO or a VP of marketing, your CEO has to get marketing.
But no one could ever talk about what no one ever goes into like alright, what does that mean to get marketing? Like does that even exist? From your point of view when you were weighing, coming into what you’re doing was technologies right now, what does it mean for your boss to get marketing?
How do you know if it’s going to be a good fit?
Matt: Yeah, I thought about this, but I had you know, I was trying to come up with a one liner.
Matt: Because you know I’m a marketing person.
Matt: So you kind of want taglines, right? Think about it. There’s going to be a hole in this podcast. What’s somebody going to take away?
So I was like well, what’s my one lighter. And so my one-liner is actually what you really care about in your CEO is that they should be outcomes focused rather than inputs focus.
And I thought oh, that’s cool. I’ve got a really good one liner and then I sat back and thought about it a bit, and I went that’s just trite. It’s really easy to say what is it? What does it actually mean?
If you take a step deeper into that, I think personally it comes down to two things and I think one is personality fit. There is no such thing as a right CEO and a right kind of CMO VP marketing combo. The reality is that we all have different personalities and if you look at psychometric tools like Myers-Briggs, that tool will tell you very clearly that there are different types of personalities that you can get along with to different degrees. Some types of personalities you will just really struggle with.
My coaching note would be one you need to find that personality fit where you know, that you can talk with your CEO, that you have open discussions, that you can have active debates on things, that you can disagree constructively, but you know that you can work together. I think that’s one side of it.
The other side of it I think is also really important, I talked about that kind of triteness, it needs to be outcomes focused rather than inputs focus. Let’s dive into that. Where does that start? I think when you have very powerful relationships between CEOs and CMOs you do start with the business goals and the strategy. So why is this business here? What are we trying to achieve? Where are we trying to get the business? What do those steps look like? You should agree and be clear on who we are targeting? What do our best potential customers look like?
If you cannot get that agreement about either what they definitely look like or what do they look to look like. If we’re in a super early stage, what’s the hypothesis about who our best customers are. That actually as a marketing person, you are in real trouble because you’re going to keep moving around. You know, this week we’re targeting this type of person, this next week we kind of go into this persona, oh then we might go over here and try that. You can never build a great kind of marketing function if you keep having to be that reactive.
The other thing that I think is important and I kind of wrote this point down is there’s nothing wrong with having an open debate discussion argument with your CEO, but you should be arguing over things like, what is the right messaging? What’s the right positioning? What are the right channels that we’re going through?
We should not be arguing over hey, what’s the right copy in this blog. If you get all of those other things right, which is like, you know, we’re going after where we’re trying to take this business. These other people that we think are going to be our best fit customers. This is the story that we’re trying to tell them.
Now we kick the tires on this story. We’re really trying to say, do we think this is the best story to tell? Then we agreed that these are the channels that we’re going to go through. Then actually the rest becomes easy because it’s about tweaking it and fine tuning it and testing, not having fundamental arguments over whether I am writing the right blog copy?
If you get into that situation, things are kind of off and go off very left field at that stage.
Nick: Yeah and it’s funny because I think it would, at least from what I’ve seen, I think a lot of those disagreements happen when CEOs believe they’re very good at marketing.
They’re like oh, but I’m good here. These are the words we should be using. It’s almost like a clash at that point of like hey, I brought you in to do the marketing, but it’s also something that there’s an uneasy tension there.
I think it exists for a lot of other roles as well outside of marketing.
Matt: Yeah, I think it does.
I think it’s always good to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. When a lot of the CEOs that we work with, they will have founded the company particularly when it’s kind of very early on, so this is their baby.
We should remember that and say later, because it’s their baby, they care deeply about it. They think they know best how to raise the baby. I think they know best kind of yeah, how do we make the right decisions around it? So it’s hard to let go.
I think one of our jobs is for people who lead marketing, it’s also about how we take these people on the journey. You can’t just come in and tell them that everything that they’re doing is wrong. Actually, what you need to do is to come in and walk them through and talk to them about this is where we’re trying to get to. As well as in terms of how I understand it. Therefore, what do the steps look like?
You know, and then talk to them as well about, one of the conversations I’m having with my CEO at the moment is around budget and she’s very clear that we do not want to spend lots of money on marketing. The reason for that is because one of the companies that she was at previously, they spent a shed load of money and wasted it.
So until you’ve actually got that, if you just started with the first bit which is like hey, we’re not going to spend lots of money and then you get into an argument about, well, why should we spend lots of money? We’re just going to go head to head. Whereas actually, if you take the time to pause for a minute and say, let me ask you the question, which is why do you not think we should spend lots of money?
Then she opened up and said, well, because I was at this company and I watched them do it and they just did it really badly. Then you can think of it in conversation well, what did they do? Oftentimes, you’ll find there’s a really good answer to that. Then you can take them onto a journey and say look, if we do this and this, how does that feel to you? Then you could actually often get acceptance to that.
So whether or not it’s kind of a budget or it’s a kind of copy or it’s messaging by getting into the CEO’s shoes, seeing it from their perspective, going on a journey with them can often get you to a much better place.
Nick: Maybe that’s the title of this episode, how to get a shed load of money for your marketing from us.
Matt: Yeah, I think I might push that one back to my CEO. That might be an interesting conversation.
Nick: Oh, I mean speaking of my Myers Briggs, are you an introvert or an extrovert?
We’ll just leave it at that.
Matt: Yeah. I’ll give you a guess on that one. I think it’s fairly obvious for us on the personality for Myers Briggs.
Nick: I would love to know what percent of high level marketers fall into the same two categories of the four. But, I haven’t brushed up on my Myers-Briggs in a while. So I forget the names. I just remember the introvert extrovert.
Matt: I think touching on Myers Briggs for me I think is actually one of the interesting things for me. We talk about marketing as an art and a science.
I think it’s very true you need a left brain, right brain to be a great marketer. You need to both kind of have that kind of creativity and that ability to connect with your audience and kind of really kind of be in touch with them. But, you will be nowhere today if you can’t also be analytical about what you’re doing and prove the value of marketing and show that it’s an investment and not a cost.
There are going to be those marketers like myself, that kind of fall into more of the feelings side of the Myers-Brigg personality types. Then there will be other marketers that fall into more of the thinking. It’s the ability to kind of artificially adjust and make sure that you do both. I think that’s also really important.
Nick: I’ve found that I’ve been able to completely outsource all the right brain stuff. So all the copy, all the artists, it’s all taken care of by other people.I just look at that.
No, no, no. I want to focus on something you did which I thought was really interesting when you came to Zeno that I was not familiar with and actually was I’ll say as the impetus for having you on the podcast. Really. So if you looked at your LinkedIn profile, I think as of like four months ago or something like that, Matt Stammers worked at Stealth Mode, right? You were working at a stealth mode thing on LinkedIn and I had not seen that before.
Can you tell me about that specifically and why you did it? What did that mean?
Matt: Yeah, I think there’s a funny side to that and there’s a serious side actually.
I think about all marketing, it should always have a fun side and a serious side.
Nick: Yeah. Right brain and left brain.
Matt: I mean you can do a really really serious job but you know, I think this is something that LinkedIn popped up. I don’t know when they did it, but whenever you used to have a job at LinkedIn. So whenever you used to have a job and you would update your LinkedIn profile, you’d have to go on and say which company you would be working at and LinkedIn would go find that company because it would exist on LinkedIn and then it would show the logo.
Then all of a sudden you had this ability to say you’re working at a stealth startup and we used that. The way in which we use it is that we had spent 18 months developing the product and we wanted to launch it to the marketplace and we wanted to make noise. Because the industry that we’re in was just the oil and gas industry, they had been kind of working in a certain way for a long, long time. They use an awful lot of legacy technology tools. We are coming in with a very new approach about how you can actually understand all of the different data that’s at your fingertips? How can you synthesize that? How can you get much better insights and how can you make much smarter, much faster decisions using that data to improve the performance of your business?
What we wanted to do was to say to the industries like hey, we’re here and we want it to do that and in an impactful way. So the way that we chose to do it was that when I joined, we actually took down every single kind of public mention of the company and we hit ourselves deliberately.
So before that, we had to kind of randomly put bits of sporadic stuff live. We deliberately took all of that down. Then once we had built out the story that we wanted to tell, we launched in almost an artificial kind of big bang moment and we brought in a PR consultant to do that. We created this artificial kind of moment of news.
It worked so successfully that we got coverage not just in the trade magazines, but you know there’s literally like, oil and gas man and oil and gas woman and exploration and production kind of plus. But we also got coverage in Yahoo finance, and we got coverage in Bloomberg and we created a kind of a really decent amount of noise in the industry. We got a lot of people to sit up and take notice of us.
So it was a bet and it was a bet if we go super quiet and then if we kind of get to this point of launch and if we launch in a big way and we do it all at one time and we tell the journalists all about it at one go, is that actually we can get some really decent coverage and we can get the industry to set up and take notice and it worked.
It was really effective and it provided what was also really important and the core business reason for doing it was it gave awareness and support to our sales people who until then had been going out, having conversations saying hey, look we’ve got this really cool product, but we can’t really show you anything around it.
So all of a sudden there’s a website there. There were news articles around it. We had a new sales deck. We had supporting one pages, all of those sorts of things. It suddenly made those conversations start to move much more quickly and they could bring more of those through to a successful close.
Nick: So I’m gonna ask for a bit of free consulting advice. Should I try that with this podcast, like record 20 more episodes and take them all in?
Matt: You are really taking the annuity and running with this one. I have to say this isn’t my original idea. If you read the Airbnb story and there’s a really nice paragraph in there, and they talk about the fact that if you launch it, if it doesn’t succeed, don’t be afraid to just go launch again, lesson to heart.
I thought that’s a really good idea. I’m going to take that one.
Nick: Yeah. If at first you don’t succeed. You just launch, launch again.
Matt: Yeah. I mean everybody thinks that AirBnb was a runaway success, actually they took a good two or three gos to get off the ground.
If not more.
Nick: Well, they made their own cereal or something. I don’t know the whole story, but I know they changed quite a bit. I recently got, we’re not going to get into it, I got a bad Airbnb review on my pro, we’ll skip that, but I’m salty right now about that.
So moving forward, I wanted to get your thoughts. You’ve obviously been in the industry for a while, and you kind of shifted into VC backed new upcoming tech companies. You’ve done a couple now. I think you’re the guy to ask where do you see the future going in the next five years or so?
I’m hearing a lot about web three. I’m hearing a lot about different things and how sales and marketing are gonna work together. The podcast it’s Mine the Gap, it’s the gap between sales and marketing.
Where do you see a lot of this industry going?
Matt: So we talked about this briefly and I said I was going to come at this from the left field. It’s very easy to talk about how technology is changing, what’s happening around, how are different teams working together today, and where might they be working together in the future?
I want to talk about something that I think is much more fundamental, which is if you actually look at the way that businesses operated in the eighties and nineties. It was very much about profit maximizing.
It was profit before and almost against anything else. Actually the way in which companies operated there with their people, in the environment, the community, and in actually in terms of the broader kind of in the global environment that we’ve got. The job was not to care.
If you look at that today, and I think going forward is actually companies are going to increasingly need to operate with a purpose. They cannot be profit driven. They need to be purpose driven. I think unless you can align your business to a purpose and that purpose is to do good. You are going to struggle to engage with your customers because they are going to actually say well, why should I care. I don’t just buy products anymore.
What I buy is a way in my world, to help my business, or in the B2C world is a way to help me as a consumer. Generally do that in a way that is beneficial to the environment in which I am rather than it is detrimental.
It doesn’t just apply to your customers. It also increasingly applies to employees as well. If you look at the younger generation coming through Generation Z, it’s called, those people come and join companies because they want to do good. They want there to be a purpose. They don’t just come in and earn money anymore.
So my argument is I think going forward, in terms of where the industry is going, we need to build companies that are purpose driven. From my marketing perspective, to bring it back into our own wheelhouse, what we need to be doing is helping our companies shape that purpose so that it makes sense to our audience, and is relevant to our audience. They can see why it’s important, and they can see you either yes, this is something that I believe in and I want to be a part of or actually no, it’s not for me.
I think all great marketing should do that. It should either really hit people emotionally and they should believe in it and they should align with that and then say, yes, this is something that I aligned with and I want to be part of or they go, it’s not for me.
You know we shouldn’t be into gray marketing. I think really helping build organizations with purpose kind of really speaks to that. It’s a really powerful thing and it’s something that we should be looking at really carefully.
Nick: My first takeaway from that is I’m shocked you said Gen Z and not Gen Zed.
Matt: I’m learning I have been here 85 years now.
So you know I also say “process” and I might even say “garage” rather than “garage…”
Nick: So but more seriously I think we saw a lot of that during the summer of 2020. Where like all of a sudden Goya beans was a thing like no one had ever talked of, but suddenly this product became to stand for a thing. You saw it almost as a purpose-driven bean.
But that being said when you’re talking about from a corporate standpoint it’s almost emerging in a lot of ways of marketing and culture.
Nick: Marketing from the HR standpoint, do you see marketing driving a lot of that?
Matt: Yeah. I think it’s a really interesting observation and it’s definitely something that I believe in.
If you look at the job I’m doing today at Zeno, I run marketing. I’ve run marketing functions for 20 plus years, but I also look after people. When I first say that people kind of look at me strangely and why on earth does that make sense? But the way I think about it is it’s about trying to attract and retain customers externally, and then internally it’s about trying to attract, retain, and provide a great motivating environment for employees as well.
That really does align around what is the purpose of the organization? For those of you who kind of maybe think about thinking about maps in the oil and gas industry is not the best industry to be in terms of purpose.
Yes, that’s absolutely one lens. But you know, the reason that we’re building Zeno and the journey that we’re on is we need reliable and decently priced energy today. We also need to transition to a better place where we’re encompassing renewables and we’ve got reliable and sustainable and reasonably priced energy tomorrow as well.
Our ultimate purpose is rather than replace the industry that we’ve got today in terms of oil and gas, it’s to help them go on that journey to get to a better place. Now, when we go talk to customers about that there are customers that that’s really going to make sense for that they’ll really believe in it. They’ll just go look, I’m with you and we want to be on that journey together.
Likewise, when we go and talk to potential employers some will go yeah, I get that and I believe in it and actually I want to come join and others will go no, you’re still in oil and gas. We’ll go, that’s okay, because this is who we are, this is what we believe in, and this is what we stand for, you know?
Then you’re either part of that, or you’re not, but for the people who believe in that means that they love what we do and not just like what we do. Therefore, that connection is so much stronger.
Nick: Would you say that you are powering the oil and gas industry with love?
Matt: I have never thought about it in that perspective before. If I talk about it, which is do I want to get our customers to love us then?
Nick: I realize if I don’t see that on your website, within the next two weeks, I’m gonna be disappointed. Zenotech.com/about… No…
Yeah. But more seriously, I think that we’ve seen an expansion of what we call marketing over the past five, ten years, right? Product marketing, customer marketing, and these were functions. People did these things, but now they’re coming under marketing.
I’m going to ask a bold prediction.
Yes or no, within five years, will we see an employee marketing function at a company?
Matt: Yes. Is there a one word answer? And then the second one is I think we’ve already got it. Yeah. I think if you think about what is the definition of marketing, it’s really about how do you understand who your audience is? How do you attract them and how do you provide an offer with them that is really important to their needs?
Actually we need to think about employees in the same way, which is what we need to do as businesses. We need to give people jobs, which are not just exciting and rewarding, but help them develop as people and help them move forward. And that when they choose to leave or when we just part ways, they can look back on their time with us and they will see that what they have, has been really valuable to them.
It would have helped them build as people. If we can do that, then I think we’re in a really strong place.
Nick: I don’t see the podcasts getting any better than that right now.
Is there anything you’d like to plug or tell the people about, before we wrap up here?
Matt: Oh, that was a question I wasn’t expecting.
I know you asked this to other people, nothing to plug. I think the thing I would go back to is, as marketers, our job is not to deliver leads.
Delivering leads, pipeline, and revenue comes as an outcome. Actually, our job is to help build impactful businesses and if we do that and do that well, I think we’re doing a really good thing in the world.
Nick: Well, I like it. Somehow the podcast did get better.
Hey, listen, it’s been great talking to you. We covered so much. I really appreciate you coming on the show. It’s been a lot of fun.
Ladies and gentlemen, Matt Stammers.
Matt: Thanks very much Nick, I have enjoyed being here.
Nick: This has been Mind the Gap, a podcast about sales and marketing alignment put on by Enablix.
My name is Nick Ziech-Lopez.
Thanks for listening.