What It's Like to Get Hired in a Pandemic (with FullStory's Kirsten Newbold-Knipp)

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This is a podcast episode titled, What It's Like to Get Hired in a Pandemic (with FullStory's Kirsten Newbold-Knipp). The summary for this episode is: <p>We all got used to a new way of working in 2020. But Kirsten Newbold-Knipp? She started a brand new job during the pandemic. In this episode, Kirsten walks Tricia through her path to becoming CMO at FullStory – a journey with as many Zoom meetings as you can imagine, but there was also one very unexpected meeting along the way. Now that Kirsten has been at FullStory for a few months, she shares how she's building relationships with her marketing team and driving alignment with the head of sales. </p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(20, 40, 61);">Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Tricia and Kirsten on Twitter @triciagellman @kirstenpetra @DriftPodcasts</span></p>

Tricia Gellman: Hi everyone. I'm Tricia Gellman and you are listening to CMO Conversations. If you a CMO or you have a desire to become a CMO, then you are listening to the right podcast. I started this podcast when I joined Drift, because I saw that the world of marketing was changing dramatically. Every other week, I bring on a powerhouse CMO to talk to me about the changes and the challenges that they are seeing, being a marketing leader in today's world, where marketing, sales, customer success, product, and the way that we interact as individuals with companies is changing dramatically. Today, my guest is Kirsten Newbold- Knipp, a marketing exec, who when I first met her, describe herself as a builder. We hit it off immediately because I think of myself as a builder and that gave us a lot of conversation fodder. Kirsten was an early member of HubSpot and later went on to build marketing organizations at SolarWinds, BigCommerce and Convey. She also has the experience of over three years working for Gartner. Kirsten recently joined FullStory as their CMO after doing the entire interview process remote. Everybody, except for one person, she met only online. During this episode, we'll reveal who that one person was. So stay tuned. We have a lot to cover in this episode because Kirsten has been out building companies and FullStory grew over 60% last year during a pandemic. Tons of hypergrowth and tons of new learnings to have about marketing. Kirsten, why don't you give us a little bit more of a background on your career as a marketer, FullStory as a company and what you see as your superpower in your role.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Awesome. Well first of all, Tricia, thank you so much for having me. It's always fun to be able to talk with great marketers and having listened to some of your podcasts, I know you're surrounded by a lot of them. So I'm thrilled to be here. Maybe I'll start with the backstory and what's my super power. I think it's very interesting to see where marketers' origins are. And my origin story, at least on the marketing side of things, was as a PMM after my first career. My first career was in hospitality and then I moved into technology and marketing. And starting as a PMM, and then over my career, I've led both sales and marketing organizations twice. And when you pair that with my work as an analyst, I think that I lean into two specific superpowers that come out of it. One of them is sort of this idea of depth of knowledge of your customer that I think is core to who product marketers are.

Tricia Gellman: 100% right.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Yeah. They understand their buyers, their users, what that audience is. And I would say I'm still early enough in my journey here at FullStory that I'm not yet at that superpower muscle built here yet, but it is really important. I think the second piece is empathy and firsthand experience on the sales side of things. I have done everything from prospecting to closing six figure deals, to helping my teams close six figure deals. That builds a lot of empathy for sellers who are putting their paychecks on the line, their reputation's on the line and are working very hard to build a book of business. When I think about what that does for a marketer, it really brings you both into the sense of who is my buyer that I want to engage with and then who is my partner in crime, in the organization. And those superpowers have served me well, particularly as I've grown as a marketer over time.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I think they're great superpowers together as you kind of wrapped up there in the end. But I think if you have that interest in understanding your customer, and then you're trying to build a relationship with sales who's in front of those customers every single day, it's kind of a full circle there because you can bring the knowledge that you have, it kind of helps them, they start to respect you because they see that you care about the same people they're trying to talk to. And outside of the metrics and the numbers, which I think marketers and sales have to align on as well, it's good when you can align around the customer.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Very much so. And certainly, recognizing that the situations that they get put in every day, if they have a customer who's a skeptic or who's challenging, or who is whatever, whatever that dynamic is. Maybe they're even a champion, but need help to work their way up the organization. Sellers are put in really different situations to try to empathize with their customers and having both of those perspectives, I think has helped me build credibility with them and also probably get to answers faster sometimes because I've personally felt the pain.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, I think that's great. The other thing I wonder on that is on your teams and how you manage your teams. I hear all the time about marketing teams who create marketing assets and offers and messaging, but that sales doesn't want to use it because it's too fluffy. There's just some big disconnect, right? And I don't think all marketers have this ability to speak the sales language. So how do you translate that down to your teams so the marketing that you are creating is actually used and valuable, not just for attracting brand in, but also by your sales organizations?

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Great question. I would say if I had a perfect method, I would make lots and lots of money telling people how to do it.

Tricia Gellman: Right, be a consultant instead of being CMO.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Exactly, exactly. There are a couple of things that I will do programmatically and then I think the rest goes back to actually understanding your customer and what product marketers do. Sort of like, what is the problem you're trying to solve? Maybe it even comes back to you often get the request," Can I have a one pager for that?" Perhaps the most common refrain from enterprise sellers," Oh, do we have a one- pager for that?" And it's like, well, let's step back. Why do you need a one pager? What is it for? What are you doing? What is the conversation you want to have? Instilling a little bit of the mindset of a product manager, product marketer into the dialogue with a seller is one thing that I would say we do programmatically. Even here, there was a recent situation where a seller asked for," Hey, do we have a one pager that I can send my customer about this competitive situation?" I have a philosophy that a checklist competitor matrix is never going to win you any friends or deals. That's not the way to get the answer. If you're already there, you probably didn't sell the value in the first place.

Tricia Gellman: Exactly.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: So let's step back. My head of product marketing, who is fantastic, she poked the seller and said," Hey, let's chat for five minutes. Let's just connect real quick. Help me understand where you're at in the deal. What's going on?" We talked through it and they identified that really what would be helpful is certain type of FUD, a certain type of data point and just structure it in a way that made sense. And what we agreed is that the product marketer actually helped craft an email response, that by intention, also was informal enough to say, we don't want to give so much credibility to this competitor that we're going to run and create a one- pager and do a thing, we're going to deflect in this way, but also provide really helpful, useful advice. And I think the seller both felt heard about what her situation was and it worked, which is really the true test of the outcome, but also meant that we didn't need to apply design resources to spin up a thing that was going to be a one- off use case that wasn't really going to solve the problem. It was sort of that more empathetic, let's understand what you're trying to achieve and now let's create something that others can still reuse and utilize. And we put it into our battle card templates. So I would say that's probably at a macro level thinking about it almost from a product manager's perspective in mind and who is that audience? And then from a micro level, I do things that are also programmatic, surveys. I actually surveyed, probably about seven weeks ago, I was halfway through my current four months at FullStory and surveyed the sellers just on existing content assets, like what do you use? What do you not use? What are your most common? What do you wish we had more of? What you wish we had less of? One of the questions I found to be most valuable is, what assets do you customize most and how are you customizing it? Because inevitably, you'll find some really interesting patterns in, hey, we call our promotion or our pitch deck, a strike deck. In our strike deck, if everyone's dropping slide seven, using slide 12 every time and modifying slides 14 and 16, I'm like, okay, there's gold in them hills. Let's talk more about what we're doing with that content and how do we tune this to make it either a better piece from the get- go or make it so it is customizable because that's the use case.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: So two ways that I think about it, but I think it's always soliciting both macro feedback from the whole set in a survey or a voice of customer and then also really getting situational about it.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, that's great. We just had the same conversation with sellers about the deck. We call it our first call deck, but it's not really the first call, which is also confusing for some of the younger sellers, because they think," Why am I going to go through this 50 page deck, which is meant to be customized?" And actually they may never use. It's just really more for them to learn the messaging.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: A library too. Yeah.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. So I've been going through that conversation. Let's get to the thing that I referenced in your intro, which is that you've been at FullStory for not that long, which means you were hired during the pandemic in a remote environment, and you're not even located in the city of your headquarters, although you're there right now. So let's talk about what this means in terms of how you were hired. How did the process go and what is it like to join into a company where you haven't met your team or anybody face to face?

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: The first answer is it's surreal, but it's also been really fun. I think a lot of the things that probably, Tricia, your team at Drift is experiencing just on a regular day- to- day are the things that I experienced even as part of my interview cycle. But I had a long dating experience with FullStory before I decided to put a ring on it. It comprised probably four Zoom calls with Scott, our CEO, who's fantastic, board call over Zoom. Interviews with team members over Zoom. Everything was a Zoom call with the exception of Scott was kind enough to say," Hey, I'd really like to meet you. If we're going to do this, I'd like to meet you. Can I come visit you in Austin?" And that was actually, even for me, I think him making that offer and being empathetic to," I'm not going to ask you to travel Kirsten, I'm going to put it on myself to travel to you if you're game," which I thought really spoke to one of the cultural values that we have, which is empathy and suggesting that he was willing to do this and recognize that it's good for both of us. So that was fantastic. Once I did join, everything in terms of onboarding has been virtual, but I have personally chosen to make two trips to Atlanta. One of them, I am here in our relatively empty office right now.

Tricia Gellman: It's bustling. It's such a bustling location.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: It's huge, oh my gosh. I had to have these headphones on because there's so much background noise.

Tricia Gellman: Yes.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: But making some personal investments, I told myself if it were normal times, I'd want to be out here once a month, but in non normal times, as long as I feel safe and I'm healthy and we're all observing smart social distancing behaviors, then I think once a quarter, it'd be great to be out here to build a few additional relationships. But everything's been virtual. And I think that one of the other company values that has helped in this a lot is we have a company value that we call clarity. And it really is around transparency, both from the standpoint of initial sharing of information and being very open door in general, but also down to if you disagree with someone, we debate the point, not the person, and it is encouraged to seek clarity. And I think that culture has actually been very, very helpful. We have access to a lot of information, a lot of data. Perhaps the largest challenge that I've seen, and I've been transparent in some of my wishes and aims here is it can be overwhelming, right?

Tricia Gellman: With the amount of data, you're saying.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Totally, the amount of data that you're having. And I imagine that any company of our size or sizes as large as you guys, you're getting to a place where there is a lot of existing information, there is some information that's maybe should be archived, but nobody's truly managed it in that way, it's not curated. So you can stumble around inside, in our case, we're a Google and a Slack company. I can stumble around Google Drive and find all kinds of gems, but they might be from 2014.

Tricia Gellman: Right.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: So that's been interesting. But yeah, I would say that's the starting point. That surrealness is a little interesting because the relationships I would say are still not as deep as you would have if I'd been four months somewhere face- to- face, but it is definitely investing time in making more one- on- ones, coming out here a little bit personally and trying to find ways to connect with the team.

Tricia Gellman: I really like that. I think we all have to figure out what makes sense for us and what makes sense for our teams. And we want to make sure as leaders, that we're not pushing some sort of requirement on people because it is an uncertain time and everybody has a different way that they feel comfortable, which I think has been a really big aha moment, I think for this time. Right? I love that you guys have clarity and empathy as a core tenant of the company, because I think in the past year, the amount that we've learned about being empathetic, about including empathy in our marketing, I don't know why we weren't more aware of it before, but it's a great thing. It's a great thing. And I love this idea of seeking clarity because then as a value, that does give people an open invitation to question, which I think in a remote environment is a barrier because people feel like it's an interruption every time that they put the focus on themselves and their little face comes to the front in their Zoom or whatever it might be.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: For sure. Actually, I'd be interested in your experience. One of the things that I observed, one of my colleagues has this best practice that she's observed at the end of every, maybe part of a meeting or section or what have you, right? If you have an agenda and there's four items on it, maybe partway through pausing, and she pauses," So does anyone have questions? Thoughts? Comments?" Seven seconds. The most awkward seven seconds ever, right? You're just counting to seven. Does anybody have anything? Sometimes it's a very obvious topic. Everyone's like," This was a need to know FYI. I'm good, don't have anything." Right? And then there are other cases where folks will speak up, but I am surprised that sometimes the topics actually do get people to engage, and in certain cases, people are pretty chill, pretty laid back about it. But then really they do want to talk about them in one- on- ones. So finding that right tone to where people feel confident saying something out loud in front of others and knowing that there's not a negative consequence. I don't know if you have found a really great balance or if you're also seeing that in large groups, you tend to have more quiet and people are coming to you more in the one- on- ones?

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, I think large groups is just a challenge. It's a challenge when we were in person. A lot of people wouldn't speak up in a group in person. So if you then put that into zoom, I think it's the same or worse, I would say. It's not better. But I do think one of the things that we've seen and maybe unique to the Drift culture is that in larger groups, people love to use chat in the virtual meeting. Our chat blows up. It's insane. I have a hard time keeping up with it. There's so much chat happening, but I think it's great. People who don't feel as comfortable interrupting from speaking, they add in questions, they add in support, there's a lot of high fives. So much stuff happening in our chat. And that's something, it's almost like a subtext. Like if you put little thought bubbles on people in person.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: That would be fun if you could.

Tricia Gellman: You can't really create it in an in- person environment. And so actually, it's a bonus of the digital experience, I think.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Yeah, I agree. We have a pretty active chat culture as well, and you'll see different personas or individuals use chat. We actually, I forgot to mention this in our pre chat, but I have something to offer you that the Drift culture might enjoy. Our team, and this is before my time, but we just started talking about it a little bit more openly again, we invented something that is for public domain and it's for cheering during large group meetings that are digital. And you can find it the URL bwamp. me, bwamp. me.

Tricia Gellman: Okay.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: And literally our engineers basically developed a little app that has, I think there's 10 or 12 different sounds. But it's like one kazoo or three hands clapping or the money bag that goes" cha- ching" when you win a big deal or something like that. We opened BWAMP in different meetings. And when it is, it'd be inappropriate for everyone to unmute and yell and cheer because of how the meeting's going to go. People are bwamping in the background and it is truly, it is very fun. It's very actively used at FullStory, but we sort of open- sourced it because when the pandemic began, we knew everyone would have this problem.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I want to check it out. I'm really excited to go check it out after.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: It's really cool. So I would say, one of the last takeaways that I have, especially coming into FullStory and where we're at in our evolution, finding new and different ways to celebrate while we're virtual is hard, right? We don't get to all go have a drink together, or we don't get to bring a birthday cake in for somebody's birthday or do something that would be celebratory. So finding new creative and interesting ways, whether it's BWAMP or we create emojis for the marketing maven of the month on my team right now, things like that to create a reason to celebrate when we're all separate.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I think the celebration thing it's difficult, and I think the virtual asynchronous world is really good at the after someone's done a ton of effort. And then what I find is a lot of times, you're engaging in a way and people feel like maybe they didn't want you to engage even as a senior leader. Right? They're like," Well, I didn't really want all that feedback on my thing, but it's great and now I have to do more work." And so I think balancing that with the celebration is really even more important than before and something that we're trying to improve at Drift ourselves, actually.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Yeah. I can empathize with that.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. So now you talked about how the CEO got on a plane, flew to Austin, came to meet with you outside at a coffee shop so that it was 100% safe. Now we talked in the beginning about your experience doing selling and the importance of CMOs working with sales organization. How have you built the relationship with the sales side of the house in the remote world?

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Yeah, a lot of different things. After the CEO, probably my most important relationship at the company, right? Those ties between sales and marketing need to be really, really good. And I think, in all candor coming, off of a place where maybe the relationship that I inherited wasn't as healthy as it could have been. As is the case in so many organizations.

Tricia Gellman: It's a tough thing.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: It's a really tough thing. I think probably, when I talk to any marketer, at least 50% are like," No, I have a terrible relationship." And the other 50% may be magical, but it's not persistent.

Tricia Gellman: I can't believe 50% of people actually admit that to you. They're definitely not in the middle of a podcast admitting that to you.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: No. No, no, no. Most people don't. They're like,"Oh no, it's hunky- dory. We're great. We go to lunch all the time." And I would say I'm four months in. So I think I have the early beginnings of a solid relationship, but I also wouldn't tell you we're best friends, we finish each other's sentences yet. But I'm putting yet in that because I think we could get there. Those same two watch words that we talked about before, apply here. Right? Having been in the seat, I've got so much empathy. Having sort of that clarity and transparency of communication is something really, really important. So my M. O. in general has always been this, but I've learned from some of the history of those that were here before and the feedback that I've heard is that maybe there just weren't really even open lines of communication. So bringing his team and his team leads in early, right? Not saying," Here's a plan, off we go." Rather," Here's what I'm thinking about. This is how we want to align it with your plans. Does this jibe. How do these gel? Does it make sense? Does it make sense?" Keep checking in, over communicating right? Making sure that there's never sort of a," Hey, we just threw this over the fence at you" type of situation. And also being transparent and acknowledging when there's gaps. It's not going to go right every time, all the time. We're going to test new programs. Some of them will fail.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. Hopefully they fail and you learn from them.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Exactly, you learn from them. Right. And acknowledging them. We actually had a situation maybe a week and a half ago where some leads went missing and it's one of those that-

Tricia Gellman: Never happens.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Right, never happens. Those pipes between your systems, they're perfect. They never break right?

Tricia Gellman: Nothing falls apart.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Nothing ever. And so they went missing. And I think the only real problem with what happened is how long it took us to learn that something had broken. We candidly didn't have enough alerts and reports built to alert us when something goes wrong. And that's part of inheriting some things that were brutal that were rebuilding. Great. You know what? We've learned from it, we've now set up a number of alerts and I've made it very clear. I'm like," I will promise you we'll find it faster next time. I can't promise you it won't ever happen again." You know and I know, if we're builders, if the thing that we built today is still exactly the same 12 months from now, we're probably doing it wrong because we should be growing fast enough that we have to break some of our things and rebuild and try it again, which means along the way, there's going to be some of those things that happen. But how we fix it, how we recover, how we communicate when that happens, I think is one of the most important things that both builds trust and credibility, but also means that we can come to each other when there's a real problem. So I think those are clarity and empathy, and those is really key. And then certainly probably the last two biggies are, I'm making a personal investment to fly out here, not so much in dollars, certainly the company is paying for that. But no one asked me to do it, I think it's important. I think it's valuable and had dinner with head of sales, head of product and a couple of their leaders last night, which was great, outside, socially distanced, all the things. But we've been doing that. And then we spent a lot of time, it was my first real board meeting for this company about two weeks ago. So spent a lot of time beforehand getting aligned on our metrics. So that in the talk track, if the board asked a tough question that related to Jamie or me, we both knew what the answer was and we were aligned and could back each other up, which I think was also really important.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. Coming in, did you have a mandate specifically around aligning marketing and sales or was that something that was already okay between the two teams in terms of working on metrics? One of the things we talk about on this podcast a lot is this need for marketers to move away from being focused on leads and being focused on revenue. And then that means an entirely new metrics pack and reports and a cadence between the two teams. So I'm wondering if that's something that you stepped into?

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Yeah, definitely stepped into needing to create that to some extent. What is interesting, what I would say is I think that the mentality was already here, but the muscle hadn't been built, maybe if I can put it that way. Fortunately, when I went to Convey, my CEO, great guy, when he was hiring me, he had like," You'll be measured on this, this and this." I was like," Just so you know, those are probably the wrong metrics." If you're not measuring on pipeline and revenue, whether you pick me or not, you should measure your CMO on pipeline and revenue. And that's how they should be bonused. And he's like," I've not heard of that before." I'm like," You're going to hear about it more and also let me tell you why that's better for your business." Like yes, there are other leading indicators, like did we get leads in and are they converting? But you don't actually care. If I got 10 leads that bring you$ 10 million or 100 leads that been$ 10 million, you care about the$ 10 million. How I get there is less important as long as my CAC to LTV is good. So it was sort of bringing him along. Coming here, I think that idea was already in place and pipeline was the thing to be measured on. Now, was everyone measuring pipeline the same way or all the metrics the same? No. So there's definitely more to be built in terms of getting the perfect dashboards that still need some fixing, but the mentality was in place. So the people I'm hiring onto my team, yeah, we are measuring ourselves on pipeline and ultimately revenue. That's how we think about the business. Tons of leading indicators to get there and plenty of work. And I do think that there's also some other members of the team, maybe in different roles, who haven't had to think that way before. So we're having to introduce that to them or do a little educating, but I think the conceptual alignment was there with a little work to be done, to make it more real.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I think that paving the way with a foundation is always an ideal scenario, which doesn't sound like you had in your previous role, but good they have it now. I think this conversation plays into something that was really fun when we did our pre- call where you said that you love to ask the question to people," What's a marketing topic you love to debate?" And this whole, what should marketers be measured on is definitely one of those that I think we can just debate with multiple marketers over and over. But one of the topics that you love to debate.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Yes. There is a topic I love to debate and it's a fun one and it's very apropos, it's very timely. And in fact, I will introduce it by saying I was on a walk in my neighborhood three weeks ago. And I saw one of my neighbors who is a CEO of another Austin startup. And as we were walking, we're chatting and he said," Oh, I just got out of my board meeting." And I was like," Oh yeah, what'd you all talk about?" He's like," Well, I don't know. Have you heard of that book Play Bigger?" And I said," Indeed, I have." And he's like," What do you think?" I'm like,"I have a very strong love, hate relationship with it." And he laughed and he's like," Oh my God, I don't know what to do. My founder thinks this and I think this." And so we started having the discussion and the debate, and it was really interesting to see how widespread that debate is. So it's really this topic of, I guess, category creation. Should you be doing it? Is it real? Is category creation a thing? And it is one that I love to debate. I know that you too are passionate about this topic.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. Category creation, it's funny because I don't think that I pursued category creation companies in my career. But if you look through my career, I've been involved in a lot of category creation, and or breaking down myths in terms of what matters within a company. And interestingly, I spoke to some people at other companies recently who said," You know what? I never want to do category creation. What I want to do is basically be the disruptor from the bottom." It doesn't matter to me if I'm the leader in the category. It doesn't mean if I put my foot in the sand and said," Hey, here's this new category." What matters to me is that eventually I own the category. And I thought that was really interesting. It's a different perspective in terms of how you approach what you want to do in your career and also this idea of what matters. It matters to own the category.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: It does matter to own the category, whether or not you were the creator. Right?

Tricia Gellman: Exactly.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: And to the extent too, the thing that I always debate there, I think now every VC has read Play Bigger and they're all telling their companies" Go be a category creator." And the debate that I have is I'm like probably 90% of them should not try to create a category because they're not really creating a category, right?

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Folks look at it, and I think the reason I love to debate is there is no silver bullet to any problem. Just saying you're going to go create a category isn't actually the reality or the myth. And there are very few. I think there are very few categories that are truly new and need creating, if you will. In a lot of cases, they are more of an evolution than a revolution. And unfortunately, some of what you see out there that maybe people tout as category creation, is more of a glorified marketing campaign for something, right? Versus saying," Hey, we have actually created a new way of doing something or a new way to solve a problem." There were two or three things that I really loved from the book that stick with me. Position yourself or be positioned. That is true, right? That is true. It is actually one of the four Ps from marketing of old. Right?

Tricia Gellman: Yeah.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: But it is absolutely true. If you don't define where you're going to sit within a space, someone's going to tell you where to sit. Someone's going to do it for you.

Tricia Gellman: Your brand isn't what you say your brand is.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Exactly. It is what people, how they talk about you and how you show up. Right? Again, what problem are you solving? It uses the jobs to be done framework, which I actually think is also a really, really good one and that you could be an alternative to a solution to actually find yourself," Oh my gosh, I'm creating a category." It is hard. It is very hard work. It is a huge investment. It is not a marketing exercise. Probably one of my favorite other things in the book that most people overlook is this is not a marketing exercise, this is a company exercise. This is your roadmap. This is your investments. This is your marketing. This is all of those things.

Tricia Gellman: Yep.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: And I think a lot of people walk away from Play Bigger and say," I'm going to go have a lightning strike moment, making marketing noise and now I've created a category." I'm like," Yeah, no. That's actually not what it is." So a couple of things I actually would love to debate with you, I'm curious to see if there's any immediate reactions, is that I think some of the examples that get cited are actually post- facto. This was category creation network, but it's really just what winners did. And then they're saying it's category creation. I'm not totally sure it is. While there's some others that are just great innovation in a category. So for example, I think Gainsight, I think they created a category, personally. And maybe there were some predecessors that I'm not aware of, but to me, they emerged in this idea of customer success and created practices around it when SaaS was emerging. And SaaS was new, it needed a new thing. I think Gainsight's a pretty great example versus Slack. I love Slack. They're amazing. They did an event, the Asynchronous Chat Collaboration, but man, they own that category right now. And I've heard people talk about them as though they're category creators. And I'm like, no.

Tricia Gellman: Is a perfect example of like, oh, did they create it or did they own it?

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: What do you think? I think they own it.

Tricia Gellman: Right. Look, you have Google, you had Google messaging that was happening. I worked at Salesforce, we created Chatter. A lot of the people had Slack helped to create Chatter. And it didn't go anywhere. We didn't really probably term it properly. We didn't put the investment into what is it that people are really trying to do here and why is it unique? Because we looked at it as a part of CRM and how it could play into CRM. It wasn't its own thing then. So I think that they did a really interesting thing of wrapping around why it matters, what is it, and articulating it in a different way, which after being successful kind of maybe says," Oh, well they own this category." But yeah, there's a lot of other asynchronous chat and other things happening.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: Right. HipChat, Microsoft Teams, you name it. And I'd say, I agree, they own the category, but it's not because they built it. It's because they took what was already there and said," It's not solving all the problems and needs. Let's make it significantly better and get there." So that's probably, like when I debate category creation with people, I'm like," It's real. It's a thing." Most of what you're seeing is not category creation. There are some people doing it and when they do it, well, man, like Airbnb, that's innovation in a category that did something different. You can say VRBO and HomeAway were there, but it was not remotely the same. Really interesting different examples to talk about and debate and think about when you think about those who did create a category, man, what was the level of investment that they made and is your company, if your investors are telling you to go do category creation, is your company willing to lay down that amount of investment? Which I know you guys are in the midst of right now, yourselves.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. And we did create a category. Conversational marketing, it kind of plays through everything that you just said about creating a category. We created the category of conversational marketing because we really wanted to make the point that B2B marketing was dead, it was broken. There was all these problems with lead forms and how inappropriate it was when the B2C world had moved into an entirely different way of marketing and the whole funnel, right, with e- commerce. And e- commerce explosion, I think made the way that B2B functions in a very give us your lead, we'll take five months to get back to you, whatever, just totally inappropriate, right? We give the example of going to buy a car and imagine if you went to buy a car, you showed up on the lot and somebody gave you a clipboard with a form. They took it away from you and they said," Oh, we'll call you. You should leave. You should leave our car lot right now and we'll call you to ask you when you want to drive back to come meet with us so that we could show it." No one would ever do that. Why was it acceptable five years ago to do that in B2B? But then we created this category and people came into the category and it was really about lead creation. And in evolution of marketing and the evolution of a business and the evolution of being more digital first, both from a sales and a marketing perspective, only focusing on leads, which we've already talked about, it's not the right metric, right? You want to be on pipeline and revenue. So conversational marketing, it solved a problem at the time. But what we started to see is that people who are adopting conversational marketing, they were actually transforming their entire digital go- to- market, where marketing was now aligned in the same tool with sales service and the marketing team. And so you could call it conversational marketing, but it had become something else. And so it was hard to talk through what we were doing, especially as we started to try and talk to salespeople about it. Under the umbrella of conversational marketing, it's just," I'm sorry, Mr. Sales person, I'd like to talk to you about the solution inaudible, it's called conversational marketing." And they're like, " I'm a salesperson. Why do I need conversational marketing?" Then we started to think about, what are we really doing? And to your point about what marketers and salespeople are focused on today, it's revenue. And so then we said," Oh, well, there is this category of revenue acceleration. It doesn't exist but we're going to create it so that people can look and see." And I think there are a lot of different solutions and different ways to accept and step into revenue acceleration. And I'm excited because I started to see some of the ABM players looking at what they're doing, which is not just IP ad targeting, but they're now looking at a more full stack, like what's the life cycle look like, and they're starting to talk about revenue acceleration. And so I think that's the thing about category creation is, how do you get other people there? Because if you're a category of one, there's no category.

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp: There's no category, right. It's you know success when other people are talking about it in their own language. Some might say they're a copycat. You're like," No, that's actually great. I made a thing and they believe in it."

Tricia Gellman: 100%. Hey everyone, thank you for listening to another episode of CMO Conversations. This is where we're going to end this episode today. But don't worry, we'll be back with Kirsten because she has a lot to share on a topic I know you care about, and that is mentorship.


We all got used to a new way of working in 2020. But Kirsten Newbold-Knipp? She started a brand new job during the pandemic. In this episode, Kirsten walks Tricia through her path to becoming CMO at FullStory – a journey with as many Zoom meetings as you can imagine, but there was also one very unexpected meeting along the way. Now that Kirsten has been at FullStory for a few months, she shares how she's building relationships with her marketing team and driving alignment with the head of sales.

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Tricia and Kirsten on Twitter @triciagellman @kirstenpetra @DriftPodcasts