The Most Credible Form Of Marketing Any Company Can Do – Part 2 With Marqeta's Vidya Peters
Molly: Hey everyone, Molly here from Drift's podcast team. We're back with another episode of CMO Conversations, bringing you part two of Trisha's conversation with Marqeta's CMO Vidya Peters. Today, you'll hear from Vidya on the lesson she's learned from building the Marqeta marketing team from the ground up. Plus, you'll hear why she considers this role in particular to be the most credible form of marketing that any company can do. I know I want to hear it. Let's get into the episode.
Tricia: So if we look at your background, you were in consulting, you had some experience with engineering, you've done different roles. It's just been impressive how you've grown your career. What's your perspective on marketing and where the boundaries lie for a CMO in terms of the leadership perspective? Are you familiar with Patrick Lencioni and The Advantage?
Vidya: Yeah, absolutely.
Tricia: I love his books, everything, I guess I've grown up around his work because he was a consultant for us at Adobe back in the late nineties. But I think he really talks about how, as a CMO, your first team is leadership and the business, and then you have your marketing team. And of course you have to be engaged in that, but you really do have this first level of commitment to the leadership of the company. And so I'm wondering, I think, given that you have this jungle gym background of roles, where do you think, or is there a limit in terms of, as a leader, what it is you can do to offer value within your role in the leadership of the company?
Vidya: So I'm a huge fan of Patrick Lencioni's work too and the idea of first team, and that's absolutely right. The idea of first team is put your company first, your team second and yourself last in all that you do. And when you bring that mindset, you're not just thinking inside out in terms of what marketing problems I have to solve, you're thinking about what company problems do I have to solve and what role can I and my team members play in helping us get there? And so when you wear that mindset, then you are automatically invited to solve the most pressing problems for the company. And so in my career, I've had my CEO ask me to take on different areas that you may not think are traditionally part of marketing. Hey, can you take on talent brand and drive marketing for recruiting? Can you own the developer community and building that from the ground up? Hey, we actually had our CTO leave, would you mind stepping in on an interim basis and managing a part of our engineering team. And so I love when marketers think of themselves as business problem solvers first and marketing as one of the tools to do that. What I do want to say though, is I don't want us as marketers now forgetting our job and rushing to go do something else. And I often see that tendency among people when I'm coaching my teams, my team members will sometimes say," Well, I really don't want to do that part of marketing. I want to go work on leadership." Well, you're hired to do your job and doing anything else as a privilege beyond that, right? So we should be really careful that you don't get to leave your day job behind, everything else is an addition to that.
Tricia: Sometimes I have people in my team and they talk about, because marketing is so collaborative with other teams like," Oh, there's this downfall in this other team. And I need to go help with that, blah, blah, blah." And I'm like," That's fine, but you have your job." And it's like," Is your house in order? And is your house clean?" And if so, yes, let's take on these added things, but if not, okay, we may end up having a problem or be aware that probably this is going to come back and bite you in the butt.
Vidya: That's exactly right.
Tricia: Yeah. I think it's interesting, especially that you mentioned that your CTO left and then the CEO asked you to potentially pitch in. So this is really, it's not product, which interfaces directly with marketing, let's say, but it's really how the product is built and something that maybe isn't a hundred percent your skillset, but as a leader that you have that ability to approach it in a leadership mindset and think like," Yes, I can add value and I can help for short term." What do you think are the things that you need to bring there? Are there building blocks you've learned along your career that help you lead different teams in different groups, even if that's not your deep expertise?
Vidya: That's a great question. The funny part is deep expertise almost feels like a fleeting strength because the worlds that we're operating in are changing so quickly, right Trisha? When you led demand gen, the world, even if you did that three, four years ago at Salesforce, that world was very different from what it is today. I did web marketing and in my time at Intuit, I assure you owning and managing a website today is just night and day from what it was even five years ago. So I think that in technology, in the valley, so many things that we consider our deep experience are fleeting, but the most enduring skills are, can you go into a business problem and ask logical questions, put the customer first and say," Hey, from the customer's perspective, what problem does this solve? Is this the best way to solve it? What are some of the challenges we're experiencing here? Are there ways to overcome it? What can we learn from best practices of other companies doing this? I'm sure we're not the only ones experiencing it. Do we have the right team members to go help us figure this out?" And that I feel are deep experiences because you have the muscle, you have the scars, you have the war wounds to know what questions to ask and know where the pitfalls are for most of these themes. And they tend to be pretty universal, no matter which function you are in. And so to me, that's what's been most helpful because I found that subject matter expertise is a moving target.
Tricia: Yeah. The second part that I would love to talk more about with you on this is related to hiring, and then also this approach that it's not about the deep expertise, but in order for people to be successful, I think it's really important that they keep the mindset that they hire people who know more than they know, which is very uncomfortable for a lot of people. And so can you talk a little bit about how you take this leadership perspective in terms of problem- solver, team building, et cetera, but then also look at bringing in these people who know more than you and how you work on that collectively together to build success?
Vidya: I think when people bring in domain expertise, for example, I have a fantastic senior creative director on our team and he is such a deep domain expert in creative design. And that I feel is just cherry on the top, on top of being just super smart, connecting the dots and building great teams and thinking company first, and it's wonderful, right? Because design is something you can't just acquire in a day and at that senior level, and they bring so much richness of experience to the role that we all learn from. And so there are actually functions like that, that are very specialized where the domain expertise is super valuable to have on a team.
Tricia: Yeah. I think it's interesting to think about what makes up a good team in terms of problem solvers, leaders, experts. And as you look at the stratification of the layers, as an individual contributor, your job can't just be to go lead, right? That's what you're saying. No, no, no, you actually have a job to be done. And I think having a clear definition of the job to be done is probably a very important component to that hiring mix as well.
Vidya: That's right.
Tricia: Is there anything else that you think we haven't covered in hiring and what makes for great teams and then also helps to build success for a company in marketing?
Vidya: One of the tools we've been using recently that I found very, very helpful in understanding how our team works together, over the last year at Marqeta, I've really built this marketing team almost from the ground up, we've grown from just a handful of team members to now almost 20 members on the team, within a very short period of time, you have a lot of new members coming and you're having a team storming and forming together. And one of the tools that I've really enjoyed getting to know and using is the Enneagram tool, which I don't know if you've used it, Trisha, but it's just been a super helpful framework to understand what motivates people a little bit about their interpersonal styles and how you can better engage and partner with them based on that. And for us being a new team that's come together, it's been a really, really helpful framework to do that.
Tricia: Yeah. One of the things that strikes me is that I know you've recently moved to Europe and a lot of your team is in California, but I think they're not just all in California, they're in other locations too. So I'm wondering as you think about the storming forming norming in a remote work from home environment or in the old world remote offices, because people have offices all over the world, how do you think this Enneagram approach helps with that?
Vidya: I think that one of the, as you mentioned, I'm now based in Amsterdam, we moved here for family reasons and it's really made me introspect on some of the things that we take for granted when you're working face- to- face with your teams. There is a personal energy that you share. There's an exchange that happens very naturally when you're sitting next to someone that you don't, as we all are now in a remote working environment. And there's also just little things about written communication, where tone is missing and where everyone's in a rush. And you were trying to write things very quickly and sometimes come across as short, which means that we all need to work extra hard to find moments for just more human connection, even though that's in a two by two square on a video conference program, but Enneagrams helps you understand what more, just by their personality types, what resonates with them more, what's important to them. But I think we as a team have just also learned to make more time for more interpersonal connection. And so for example, the first 30 minutes before our weekly staff meeting, we just keep for banter where we just connect with each other. And we hear about what was going on in people's personal lives, what are some of the challenges they're experiencing, where some of the funny things that happen, things that you would do when you sat next to someone or you had lunch with someone. We try to have happy hours once every couple of weeks, we also have a little Slack channel that we call the marketing support channel, where we just post pictures, maybe pictures of our family or pets, or a little vacation that we took, or just something silly that may have happened in our lives. And we found that it's been just a really nice way for us to stay connected and remember that we're all still just a really human team, even though all the communication seems to be electronic.
Tricia: Yeah. I love that. I love that you're taking that much time in your staff meeting to go through what's happening. I think we do it a little bit, but not to such an extent. And then, we weren't as productive of doing this in the beginning and then realized that we don't have a lot of this interpersonal. And so one of the things that someone on the team suggested was having a Slack channel called one thing I love today.
Vidya: Oh, that's so nice.
Tricia: Yeah and people just post one thing that's made them smile and happy today. It could be like you're walking across the street and you found a penny, or it could be you had your child smile at you and laugh, or it's cool. You go to that channel, it just makes you like smile. It helps you understand the team members a little bit more and it's been really, really a productive things. Well, so starting out and we talked about how you were a metrics driven marketer, that you love this idea of the metrics, of the problem solving. And yet we've talked mostly about leadership and hiring, which are also such core components, but I'm wondering one thing that is always difficult to measure as a marketer is customer marketing. And I know that's really a very important part of your mix and how you've approached the success of your marketing. So can we talk for a few minutes about customer marketing? What in your view is that? And then based on what you've defined it as, how are you measuring the success of customer marketing?
Vidya: I think customer marketing is the most credible form of marketing that any company can do. I can tell you a hundred things about Marqeta, but nothing would be more credible than hearing Jordache tell you that on my behalf. And so there's something about just the credibility of hearing directly from customers, but it's also the power of storytelling where I'm not telling you benefits and features, that feels so 1990s marketing, but really you're hearing the story of a customer, of a problem that they're looking to solve and how they used a technology to help address that. And so for me, customer marketing is incredibly powerful. Some of the metrics we use to measure it are the percentage of our customer base that is willing to be referenceable. And referenceable could be in a press release, it could be a quote on a website, it could be a case study. It could be a video, it could be any form of public endorsement. And then there's another metric that we look at is the percentage of our customer references that are AA plus accounts, which are truly recognizable global brands. And so not only are we interested in the quantity, the volume, but also the quality. And last but not least, of course, the level of customer marketing that they would do for us. The minimum would be, say a quote, but for example, if they're willing to do a customer video or a case study or do an interview in the press with us. That's obviously a whole new level. And so what we're interested is in deep, meaningful storytelling with them and to be able to do that at scale.
Tricia: I love that. I think is oftentimes a challenge on the marketing side where you have this collaboration that has to happen between the sales person who's closed the deal, the success team that's trying to make the customer successful. And then, the marketers who are trying to tell the story. So if you have a metric about the percentage of your customers that are willing to tell the story, how do you orchestrate that arrangement even just internally in terms of who's responsible to get to that goal?
Vidya: It's a great question. So we work and partner very closely with our customer success team and our sales team. So the idea is we'd partner with a sales team on every opportunity and ensure that we bake in as much as we can into the contract before it's signed, when both parties are most willing to drop the contractual terms. But if that doesn't happen, then we ensure that we partner closely with the customer success team, maybe after the product has gone live, or if they've actually seen some early impact and traction and are willing to speak about it. We are accountable for the metric, but we require deep partnership and support from RB and our customer success organizations. And that's always hard because they have a busy enough job as it is. And we try to make it as easy for them by also offering them help and support. So for example, we'll often join the customer meetings with customer success and support them. So for example, I recently met with a customer a couple of months ago and did a presentation on how they could turbocharge their marketing. And I looked at their program and looked at some best practices and brought in a bunch of analysis. And the customer was so grateful that we did that for them. And then customer success was super thrilled that we took that time and effort. So we ensure that we're not just asking for things from our teams, but we're also giving back where we can.
Tricia: Yeah. I love this idea of the partnership basically between you as a company and the marketing team and your customer and that how that would build a win- win. And I agree a hundred percent that if you're disrupting a market, especially having a customer tell that story is worth its weight in gold, compared to you trying to list out all the benefits and the promises that as a company you're trying to make in a world where you're asking people to take a risk by using your solution and changing.
Vidya: You do a great job of that at Drift. You've had a ton of really great customer stories. And I think the CMO podcast is a great step in that direction because you're talking to all your customers and prospects as a part of it. So you're living it right now.
Tricia: Yeah, I am a true believer. So I love when you told me that that was one of your first hires and that you've put your entire marketing, the priority around that. It's always been my dream to do that. And I have historically ended up with a proposal to the leadership that we should do this, but a demand from the sales team that they just want leads them pipeline. And so convincing people that starting with the customer marketing, because sometimes it can be hard to get that off the ground, I would say. That is definitely a challenge to get the customer marketing program started when there's this big demand for just the inbound and what's happening there and really making sure that that's happening as well. And so I think as a leader, it's hard to make that trade in terms of where you put your efforts of hiring, building out the team and putting that prioritization.
Vidya: What people don't realize is customer marketing is actually just one step behind the flywheel that gets the inbound.
Tricia: I think honestly, it's the best flywheel. If you'd had nothing else, but you had thousands of customers out telling your praises and you didn't have a sophisticated marketing nurture program or whatever else, it wouldn't matter. At the end of the day, nobody was going out saying like," Oh, Uber doesn't have enough people in marketing to catch all these systems and whatever else." Everyone's just saying they need to flag Uber. So yeah, a hundred percent. I love that. Well, we're running out of time. This has been such a great conversation and I love to close out every session with the same question. And that question is about a lesson that you've learned. Is there one important lesson that you think that you've learned along your career that you could share with listeners?
Vidya: The most important learning that I had in my career is choose people. Don't choose jobs, don't choose titles, don't choose some business model. I've always chosen people, the people that I work for, the people that I work with. And I found out that when I make the choice based on that, I end up working for really smart people. I learn from them. I'm inspired by them every day. And funnily enough, those people do amazing things. They build great businesses, great products. They'll have incredible customer success, but the opposite is often not true. You can join a company with what seems like a great brand. You may have the biggest title, but if the people aren't great, the success there is probably short lived. So that's been my biggest learning, choose people, not title, not name.
Tricia: I love that. I think for myself, I would say, I always choose my manager.
Vidya: Yeah. Exactly.
Tricia: It's a similar thing, but I think what you're saying is bigger. And I love that in terms of choosing people. I think, especially in the startup world, choosing people as in the leadership team and really looking at what makes that up is very important. And I would say is a great way to interpret what you're saying.
Vidya: Awesome. Such a pleasure chatting with you, Tricia.
Tricia: It's great to chat with you too. So now, would you prefer that if people have additional questions for you, that they reach out in LinkedIn or in Twitter, or what do you think is the best way for people to direct questions your way?
Vidya: Either is fine.
Tricia: Okay, perfect. Well, I want to thank our listeners for joining us. This has been a great conversation. And specifically, I think just to sum up a lot of what we talked about is the power of being a problem solver as marketer, and really being able to bring those skills to leadership, to hiring and really helping to build high impact teams. And so, thank you so much, Vidya, for joining CMO Conversations. I want to thank our listeners. And if you loved this episode, please give us high stars in whatever platform it is that you're using and sign up for the newsletter because we talk about all these topics in the CMO newsletter as well. So thank you so much. And I look forward to talking to you again outside of podcasts.
Vidya: Thanks, Tricia.