Bringing Brand Back To B2B with Dan Rogers (CMO at ServiceNow)
DG: Hey everybody. It's DG. Man, I'm super excited about this episode because when we were out on the West Coast for Saster, we took a little pit stop over at ServiceNow. If you don't know ServiceNow, look them up. One of the fastest growing companies, most successful companies on the planet. And I got to sit down with Dan Rogers, the CMO. This guy is an absolute monster. He was a CMO at Symantec, the VP of marketing for media at Salesforce, global head of product marketing and demand gen at Amazon for AWS, senior director of demand gen at Microsoft. I can't say enough how smart this guy is. And I was able to go sit down and have a conversation with him, and I'm excited to bring that to you. So here's Dan Rogers on this episode of The Swipe File. Content is a secret little hack to learning when you're like," Are you kidding me? I get to go to ServiceNow and interview you?"
Dan: Yeah, it's cool. Anthony at Gainsight does the same. I'm actually an advisor to Anthony. They've got an advisory board and I'm one of his advisors. I'm actually meeting him later today as part of that, but he's the same. He kind of figured out... He's got his own show. You saw that, then?
DG: Yeah, I saw you guys in the big auditorium.
Dan: Yeah, it was fun. But he's the same. He's figured out that's a good way for him to learn.
DG: And also I think just there's too many things. And so narrowing it down to who do I want to learn from? Who is in my industry? I know where I want to go and what I want to do. And so I just try to only learn from those people as opposed to like the CMO of some consumer company. That's not as important. I can learn things from her, but it's more like who's writing the same, who's paving the same path? Because it's all the same. Every time I have dinner with somebody or you sit around other marketers, it's like everybody's doing the same stuff.
Dan: I know. I can't go to those dinners anymore because mostly, I'm not patting myself on the back or anything, but mostly there's not enough innovation, people just trying to do the same thing. And so the balance of teaching versus learning is not the right one for me at those things, so I don't tend to go.
DG: I totally agree with you. People that are listening to this will roll their eyes because I say this line all the time. But I think the problem with marketers, and I am one so I'm not preaching, but if you and I on this podcast today said the best time to send an email is two o'clock on a Tuesday, I would say 99% of marketers would go out and then go," Tomorrow we got a test our email at two o'clock on a Tuesday." Where before we were talking about trying to be more progressive and innovative, I want to send an email on Saturday night at nine o'clock. And the old way would be like," Well, nobody's online." And I'm like," Just go walk outside. Everyone's like this." Everybody's online always. It's just like... And there's a great saying, this copywriter, Roy Williams, that I'm obsessed with right now. He said," It's not who you reach, it's what you say." And that's so true to me today because you can reach anybody, you can pay for any audience, but everybody's getting a million messages, so how do you figure out what to say? I was watching an interview you did this morning. Okay. It wasn't this morning, but I was watching this morning. And it was at your conference. And so I have a couple of questions. First of all, the company's called Knowledge. Okay. So Knowledge 18, you had 18, 000 people there. How do you get 18,000 people to that event?
Dan: Yeah, I think first of all, I don't even think of it as an event. It really is kind of a movement. And as a movement, it's really about peers meeting with peers. And so the answer actually is to have ServiceNow move into the background and have our customers move into the foreground. So the draw is each other. And so we're trying to create, how do we facilitate those interactions between peers learning from peers? And as a result, 92% of the sessions are produced by customers. And so it's not really a traditional kind of one way communication conference. And we have 480, I think, sessions, 470 of them are produced by customers unfiltered by us. And so, we're not regulated in topics, and so that, I think, is part of it. It's like people want to talk to people about their experiences, their struggles. I mean, not filtering for what struggles or not, this isn't just rainbows and sunshine. And I think that's part of it and keeping that authenticity of the conversation is really important. And then injecting through the keynotes really an inspiration of where the industry's headed. So then you've got this real combination of more heady direction and more heartfelt what's actually happening today.
DG: Yeah, I think when I saw the interview, you said that it's the furthest thing from a marketing conference. It's not about ServiceNow. It's not about your new product. It's not about what you're selling. It's about being this platform for people who are doing, who are all doing the same thing, who are all going to work every day to come and congregate and share their stuff. How much of that plays into your... Because this is a great mission for a movement. How much of that plays into your marketing? Is that the kind of-
Dan: I learned pretty early on that you are talking to someone as a human, and one of my mentors said," You're talking to someone, you're in a bar. They're a friend. They're technically competent." Your friends are technically competent. Now let's go, now let's do the positioning, the messaging. Now let's do the connection. So I think the more that you forget marketing and the more you kind of lean forward on that human conversation, the better. So I think it fuses everything. If you go to our homepage, you go to our web pages, if you're technically competent, you can read them. And you won't find us falling into it's a fully comprehensive end to end solution that... Who says that? I've never said that to my friends. So exactly.
DG: We say that all the time. And one exercise that I do now is, this has been beaten into my head and so I try to pass it on to other people on the team is like, I'll just say, hey, next time I say," Hey Dave, can you read my, proofread my email or whatever. Read my thing, read my press release." I say," Okay, read that headline out loud to me." And they read it like," Drift Now fully integrates with..." And I'm like," See." I'm like," That's not how you would talk. Now explain it to me in real terms and then from there, try to whittle that down." How do you scale that across a marketing team though? Because I feel like it is easy to just regress back to... I'm assuming you go and get information from the product team and they tell you," Here's what we're going to launch," and they use all the technical terms. How do you close the gap? And as your marketing team grows and you have however many people, how do you scale that?
Dan: One of the, let's call it groups, is product marketing and they are certainly an enterprise is kind of like the dark arts of marketing, where if you don't have good product marketing, it's very clear. I can look at a website, I can look at any enterprise company and I know. You're going to be part of marketing, you go to have good product marketing. And so I think it is the kind of secret sauce.
DG: Which is the hardest thing about product marketing to articulate. It's like, you know it if you see it, but I can't, it's hard to write down what exactly it is, but you know it when you see it.
Dan: So our product marketers are kind of integrated into the, almost like the factory of the process, they're deeply embedded in the products. They understand the product roadmap, understand what the customers want. So then when we try to articulate things in our campaigns and our outreach, it goes to product marketers who've got that technical to customer bridging going on, and I have an organization that does nothing but that, lives and breathes and thinks about the tone, what we should say, how we should say it, what's important, what's our differentiation. And so nothing that we put out into the world should ever be anything other than that human connection with people. After all, we make the world of work work better for people. And they're the police, they make sure that that whole thing happens.
DG: Do they actually write the copy? Does the product team write copy? So if I go to your homepage, somebody on the product team wrote that headline?
Dan: They will write the messaging. And then we do have copy editors who sometimes add a little bit of flair to it, et cetera. But the core value prop, just can't escape from it. It permeates everything that we do.
DG: So I'm excited to talk about that stuff because if I just looked at your background on paper, I'd be like, this guy is a hardcore demand gen guy. Why do you care so much about this stuff, copywriting, brand? If I just look, Microsoft demand gen, Salesforce, Amazon. I think usually when I talked to demand gen people, it's funnel, metric, ROI, this, that, spreadsheet, whatever. I'm being dramatic. But when I talk to you or the stuff I've watched of you, it's very much about this human connection.
Dan: I think, well, I started, I had a great experience of Microsoft. I was at Microsoft for six years and I was in the belly of the beast at Microsoft. I was actually doing product management for Windows, so the flagship product, shipping software. And so part of the job of product manager is about feature prioritization. And it turns out that a lot of feature prioritization is about the narrative of what it is this product's supposed to be doing. The way you prioritize features is you think about the scenarios and the stories of how this product is ultimately going to be used. So having that experience earlier in the product development chain, I think gave me a grounding in products and what products do and why we were building them in the first place. What was the intention of that? And that I think was just kind of amazing lesson for me. And then I took that, I actually started when I was at AWS, I think, ran many different teams. One of those near and dear to my heart was product marketing At AWS, we had amazing complexity, technical complexity. So the art really was in how to make all that stuff simple because the engineering pipeline was kind of fast.
DG: How do you get a product marketer at Amazon? Because this is the part of marketing I've always struggled with mentally, which is like, you're supposed to have this product marketing person who is a marketer. Their job is to tell a developer about this web service that you're supposed to use. I think the BDR role can be kind of crazy sometimes, which is like most BDRs are 22, 23, 24 years old. They're trying to prospect into you. That BDR is never going to know more about marketing than you do right now. That's not a knock on them, it's just a fact, right? How do you close that gap and actually teach the product marketing person like," Hey, you're supposed to be an expert in marketing, but you need to know how to translate this, but you're also not a developer."
Dan: Yeah. I think maybe even I just challenge how you define a product marketer. I think product marketer, you're supposed to be an expert in human connection and that means understanding and learning. So I think product marketer's job number one is how does the decision to maker, the buyer, the influencer talk? What do they care about? Who are they? And spending time with them. And really no product marketing can be inside out. It all has to be outside in. And you'll find the words in the customer's mouths. And that's something I've increasingly learned over time. And so we have an amazing, I run the ADR organization at ServiceNow and am so proud of that team. It's an amazing team, but they singularly have a gift in being able to express in a minute what others take 10 minutes to express, but they have to by their nature. And they learn what, it's almost like the water going down the river. It kind of figures out the way between the rocks. The ADRs learn that very quickly. This is the way between the rocks. And if I only could say 20 words, what are the most effective 20 words that I could say? And it turns out that it's all about understanding what's going to go into somebody's ear and be received well and they can just figure out those patterns. So they're amazing at pattern recognition. We have amazing ADRs that have this almost like athleticism to the process where it's like," We're going to try it, we're going to try it, we're going to try it. And then we figured it out, we can just go, go."
DG: Because they probably learn the most when they send, they make 20 calls or send 20 emails and get no response. You can't just keep doing the same thing.
Dan: Yeah. By 21, you got it. And then 22 is great. 23 is great, 24. And so that's, I think, it's almost like a boot camp in listening and understanding what the customer really wants.
DG: How do you take this and translate it to IT? Because I think marketing, this is just an opinion that I have. I think marketing is harder than ever today because there's just so much noise and information in the world that even if you say as a marketer, my thing is... Because every company says this, my thing is better, faster, easier to use. Look at all my case studies. All that stuff is now kind of table stakes, social proof and headlines and noise. It's all noise. How do you... Nobody wants to be marketed to, and nobody wants to be sold to, and I feel that in my role where we market to marketers, I feel especially in with your audience at ServiceNow, how do you cut through the clutter? And how do you build a marketing strategy around that stuff? Obviously there's stuff you can't say and without giving away your secret sauce.
Dan: No, I'd say let's start at the very highest level. There's an amazing piece in the Wall Street Journal. I think it was in 2008, called Software is Eating the World. It's kind of a marquee article and its thesis was that every industry is becoming a software company, and it kind of challenges the status quo. What about mining? Well, yeah, it turns out the way they figure out where to mine is actually an algorithm. Okay. Then what about agriculture? Yep. It turns out that they're looking at the weather patterns and the seed types and all that is a computational model. Okay. Then what about... They go through everything that you think software wouldn't be applied to has been now applied to. And so software's eating the world and therefore the role of IT is more important than ever because every company is undergoing this digital transformation. And so IT is at the nexus of a transition that's going to be happening for the next five, 10, 15 years, where it's becoming the most strategic group within a company. And if you're within IT, you're being asked to make that transition, you're being asked to continue what you were doing, because you still have maybe a lot of infrastructure you need to manage, and transition the whole company to be more agile, faster, responsive, have more levels of automation than ever before. So how do we communicate with IT. It's by understanding their world and connecting into the realities of their day- to- day jobs. And once again, we're grounded by our purpose, which is really about making the world of work, work better for people. So then I need to live and breathe and think about that person's job and those two worlds and where they're at in that transition. And so while someone else, maybe another vendor, may abstractly be talking about speeds and feeds of a solution, I'm really very interested in that person's life and their work life. But also their day- to- day work lives and the practicalness of this is going to make this thing better that you've struggled with. And yeah, that is something I've struggled with. Let's talk about that. So I think the more that you can come into the worlds of the buyer and the things that they're struggling with, the better.
DG: I have a quote from when you, I think it was when you first joined. You said," While getting things done in our personal lives with online consumer services had never been easier, the workplace has stagnated." That's the biggest disconnect to me. So when we talk about a lot of drift it's like our personal lives have basically reset expectations. I can call a car on demand right now. I can order 500 bucks worth of stuff on Amazon right now. I can get a helicopter here if you want it to. But then you go to work with a business and it feels like a completely different world.
Dan: Right. So, I'll talk to you maybe just about ServiceNow for a second. So if you think about, let's take Amazon as an example. It's just the shopping experience, right? So you might think if you had five seconds, why do I love Amazon? Oh, because I can just swipe my stuff, my finger, I put stuff in my cart and it arrives. Okay. But if you had maybe 30 seconds to explain, well, why is that such a joy? You might start to say," Well, it's actually because they take care of the shipping and the logistics and the billing and the recommendation engine and the..." Okay, hang on. So actually the reason it's joy is because they've obsticated 50 tasks that I had to do myself. So if you had a bit longer, you might be able to explain that. And so for ServiceNow, we have that kind of mentality about work in the enterprise. That you... A, we want to have beautiful user interfaces for sure. And those are increasingly mobile and increasingly chat. They're increasingly things like service portals, because we want that to be a joyful way, medium for you to communicate. But the magic happens underneath. The magic happens when you're trying to onboard a new employee, and just once they fill in the details, swipe, and then suddenly, wow, that's communicated with payroll. That's communicated with the badging system. That's communicated with getting them set up an active directory. That's communicated with the facilities to get an office space, that's communicate with... And that's the joy. That's what we mean about making work work better for people, and that really is what we call digital workflow.
DG: This is why we do this. That's its own episode right there, because that's the emotion, right? Because then if you go back to that IT person and you think of that person doing their job, they don't care about all the layers. They want to be successful. You're making that IT person feel like a superhero, because they're using your product and they just automated 50 things. In our world, we talk about we want drift to be in between these two things. What do salespeople want to do? They want to sell. A good day for a sales rep is to sell all day, calls all day. And as a marketer, what I love to do is I love to get the right people to the website. Attention. If we can figure out everything else in between, then life is going to be better. I'm to be happier. That's a good analogy of on the surface, you say," Well, I can just get stuff." No, let's unpack all the layers.
Dan: The pixels on the screen is one thing. Understanding how humans want to work is another.
DG: Yeah. I want to talk about a little bit about just how you run marketing. So without giving away secret sauce, but what are some of the rituals that you have as a marketing leader, like team meetings, your staff meetings? I just want to know some of that stuff.
Dan: I'd start with goals. We are very goal orientated and that I think marketing can be very squishy and in many companies, they let it be squishy and I've never really had that idea. I've always felt that it could be knowable, measurable and improvable, and therefore, what are the sets of metrics that we ought to hold ourself accountable for?
DG: So even for somebody like the copy editor example that you mentioned, does that person have a measurable goal?
Dan: Absolutely. Yeah. So everyone in my organization has a goal. We all nest up to the macro goals, and we talk every year about what the goals are or ought to be given the context of what we're up against. So we collectively decide on the system that we're going to hold ourself accountable for, and then we hold ourself accountable for it. And then everybody knows whether they've done a good job. And I just think it's a very human thing to want to know that you beat your goals. And so I think that is maybe just a leadership philosophy and that I think can be applied to marketing. And it turns out gives marketing swagger in their step, because now they can really kind of have something they can communicate externally. And I don't really ascribe to this idea that it's some kind of amorphous squishy. I don't believe that to be the case. And if you can't measure it, you can't improve it. And that idea, it's such a fast evolving space. We need to improve every year. So we need to know what the baseline is that we're trying to improve against. So I think it's just very knowable.
DG: Can the measures be different based on the role? So for the copy editor, it could be that person's goal might not be 2% lift in conversion, but it might be touch a hundred pieces of copy on the site.
Dan: Exactly. Right. And so, but they all have to roll up to the macro set of things that we're trying to do as an organization.
DG: If what that person's working on makes no sense to here...
Dan: Then yeah. You could argue that they're not focused on the right things. But yeah, I think, I've literally done the exact test that you just talked about, which is like," Oh no, my things, I can't have a goal for my thing." Okay. Let's just talk about that. Some of them could be output related. Some of them can be making sure the inputs are there on time. Timeliness related.
DG: One thing we've talked about a lot with Gonzalo and video team is how do you have a goal for the video team? It's like, we've tried a million different ways. Give a creative person a conversion goal, it's never going to work. But you could say every month we want to create five types of these videos, 20 types of these videos.
Dan: Yeah. And then you just need to maybe inject some sense of quality. And the answer by the way is in the video team's hands and heads. My version of that would be, how would you know if you've created a great video? Oh, because I'd have at least 3, 000 people watch it. Okay, that's good. Well, let's go with that. I'm going to create five videos, each of which I've had 3, 000 people watch it. But wait, that depends upon someone promoting it. Great. Let's talk about this other person's social team promoting these videos now. Well, she'll call you-
DG: How are you going to work with them? How are you going to have a system and a checklist?
Dan: People can create, people want to create their own goals and it's actually inside all of us. And yeah, I think that's just a management philosophy.
DG: Do you have a, just from a meeting perspective, do you have a ritual weekly meeting with your direct reports and then... Yeah so, I have one- on- ones with my team every week, my direct reports. I have a team meeting with all of them together for two hours a week. And then we go offsite every quarter for two days, and we've got pretty known rhythms. And I think most companies that you and I are talking about have big annual user conferences, and they tend to have sales kickoffs as well. So I've got a couple of bookends of rhythms that I know that we're preparing for. And like you, we take our big show on the road as well. So now I've kind of got pretty defined calendar.
Dan: It's like without doing anything you can almost lay out the whole year.
DG: Exactly. And therefore what we need to have ready by each, these annual user conferences tend to be great forcing function for lots of things. So what's the work back on that. So kickoff is a great forcing function for... So then you, you got a pretty set plan, I think at that point. How have you evolved as a marketer? Obviously, however long ago you were once an individual contributor and then a director and then a VP and then CMO. How have you continued to evolve? Because I think you go and talk to any great CMO or any exec or leader or company constantly reinventing themselves. What's that progression been for you?
Dan: Maybe I'll talk about as a marketer and then maybe as a business leader. So as a marketer, I am a student of great marketing and there's a lot of it around in all sorts of surprising places. And I think you and I just talked about before the camera was on, there are some companies that are pushing the edge and I know who those are and I'm watching what they're doing. Which means visiting websites, signing up for their newsletters, being called upon by their ADRs, and that never really stops for me. And so that's part of it as a marketer.
DG: That's every great marketer that I've been able to, whether interview directly or just listen to or watch, they all have that same gene, which is curiosity. Everything can be marketing. The headline of a newspaper while you're waiting in line at the grocery store, even if it's some piece of trash, like National Inquirer, can be marketing. It just the mindset of everything is, you can be curious about everything.
Dan: And when you visit a sports' event, you kind of go," Oh, that's interesting."
DG: So as a marketer, specifically that piece, how has that changed? Because however long ago it was in your career as a marketer, you used to be the guy who could then go and do that. Oh, I got this idea. I'm going to go do that. Now you have an idea, you get an idea on a Friday morning. You're like," Oh, we should do that." Then what? You don't actually do it. You have to give it to somebody and then they have to do it. Is that hard?
Dan: It's more often the co- creation of the idea is where it's really a lot more fun. And that's really, I think, the evolution as kind of a business leader. I think the, that's probably the piece I'm even more excited about kind of growing is just leading, finding the right altitude and depth. Again, it's about people and how people want to work and understanding people's careers and their own development. And I think that is probably the piece I've enjoyed the most when I see other people thriving. So I get more kick out of seeing other people thriving, then seeing my idea come to fruition, that's not as interesting anymore. And so, I'm really much more interested in dialing into my direct team, my full team and what it takes to have them get to the next level. And that's, I think you define your success and your enjoyment a little differently as you kind of grow.
DG: We've got to wrap up, but I have some more personal questions which you can decide to answer or not, which is fine. What is your thing? Outside of ServiceNow, What is your thing? One habit. Are you a big gardener? Do you work out? Do you meditate? What is your thing?
Dan: Well, my wife works as well. So between us both working, we put a lot of our free time into our son and making sure that he's a happy chappy. And he's a big sports dude, so if he's not playing, I'm running around playing soccer with him, taking him to soccer matches. So that's kind of a big part of our focus. And I do keep in shape. So try to keep myself pretty active, still play soccer. So I'm on a men's soccer team. And then, just trying to get in, like everyone else, as many workouts as I can in the time that I have, which is no time. Mornings is my big answer on that one. It turns out that no one can take away your morning.
DG: What time do you get up?
Dan: About six, usually, get to the gym pretty quick. And then, I'm an up and out person. So as soon as I'm up, I'm out, I'm out. And then hitting the gym.
DG: How do you work? I'm just curious, for a week. Are you one of these, are you a time blocker or do you just kind of take things as they go? Do you have a kind of rhythm for how you work?
Dan: I'd say given that set of cadences that we have around those are the big events, I plan back for those knowing that there's an intensity to them. So those are different ways of working, I think, than every day.
DG: The month leading up to an event, you know you're going to have to put more time in.
Dan: Exactly. But I like regularity of some of the rhythms of things that we just know we've got to get through every week. So we've got specific steering committees on topics that we've got that March each week. And we launch our products every six months. And so we do a launch every six months as well. And so what are the work backs associated with that? So it ends up being almost like a machine of calendaring, working up to all the things you know are going to be happening. And that's probably 30 or 40% of my calendar. And then the rest is with people, we're just working through things.
DG: Yep. It's nice to map it out. Okay. Last question. Give me some books. If you were to say, I got to walk out..." Hey, you don't know anything about me. You are a marketer. I love you as a marketer. Read this book." Do you have one or two books that you'd give to a marketer? Recommend?
Dan: Well, I'm an avid reader and I have to admit, I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy first and foremost.
DG: There's a lot of good marketing there too.
Dan: The reason it gives me pause, I think most of the interesting things that I've read are actually more about just human behavior. And so I love Homo Sapiens and I love, I think it's the Fifth Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond, which I think is an amazing expose into why humans do what they do. Predictably Irrational, which is fantastic. And Nudge, another kind of great examples of kind of why people do what they do and how they do it.
DG: When do you... Do you have to make time for reading or you just...
Dan: My guilty pleasure is reading. I probably read for about an hour and a half every day.
DG: Every day.
DG: At night?
Dan: At night.
DG: In bed?
Dan: Yep, in bed.
DG: That's awesome.
DG: Well, okay. Dan Rogers, thank you so much for doing this. There's a million things we could talk about but I think this is a good place to end it. Thank you.
Dan: Thank you. Enjoyed it.
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