Overview: In this special episode of Digital Conversations Dave Elkington chats with Heather Zynczak about the future of growth organizational strategy. Heather gives advice on how to come out on top after Covid.
Guest: Heather Zynczak – Heather is a growth-oriented tech executive. She has spent the last 25+ years in Marketing, Product and Revenue leadership positions at some of the world’s most successful tech companies.
Heather spent 4+ years as Chief Marketing Officer of Pluralsight (NASDAQ: PS). At PS, she was responsible for all aspects of marketing and digital revenue. During her tenure at PS, the company grew B2B revenue over 50% year-over-year, growing revenue to almost half a billion. This growth enabled the company to IPO in 2018. Prior to Pluralsight, Heather was the CMO of Domo for almost 5 years (NASDAQ: DOMO). At Domo, Heather’s marketing organization fueled one of the fastest growing tech startups; launching the brand while company revenue grew from $0-100 million, achieving 100% year-over-year growth.
Dave: Hi, my name is Dave Elkington. I’m the founder of a company called Xant. I’m also an investor and board member here with a company who’s hosting the event, ChatFunnels. And I could not be more excited to introduce Heather, Zynzak, who is been a friend, a mentor, and one of the luminaries in marketing in the tech ecosystem. I think anyone who’s been in tech has some exposure and some connection to her. She’s been at some of the largest companies in the world. SAP, Oracle, some of the most successful tech startups. Domo and Pluralsight, both Utah companies.
Frankly, has been really someone who’s led the demand, marketing strategy, really, I think in the industry. So I could not be more excited to introduce Heather. And again, she’s been a friend, I’ve known her. And frankly, I’ll pick her brain anytime I get a chance. We’re lucky, we got 40 minutes with her if I’ll shut up and let’s get into it. So Heather, thanks for for joining us, we have, I think, an amazing group over 2000-3000 people watching live right now. Would love to get to know a little bit about you like, give us your background. How did you get into tech? How did you get into marketing?
Heather: Thanks Dave when you call and ask me if we could have a conversation. I always love our conversations through the years from backstage at Silicon Slopes to I always corner you and try to chat about stuff to other times. So when you call the chat, I said why not do it in front of several 1000 people, that’s awesome.
Dave: We talked a little beforehand. And I’m like, we just got to be quiet and just like actually record this thing, because this is such amazing stuff. So again, I think people as they understand your background will kind of get a sense of, in my opinion, why I think you’re such an interesting person to listen to and learn from. So you’re from Texas, how did you go from there to what you’re doing today.
Heather: I am from Texas, go horns. And I went to undergrad there and got a finance and accounting degree, but it was the early 90s. And I was like, this computer thing’s gonna be pretty big. So it may take off. I start my first job out of college as being a developer. So I worked at Andersen consulting, where they trained you for six weeks on how to code. My first job was sitting in a room about the size of a postage stamp with eight dudes coding for 80 hours a week. I loved it because I’m very analytical and mathematical. Coding is very rational and logical. I did that for a number of years.
Then wanted to be a little bit more strategic and help companies figure out what they needed to automate and why they needed technology. I went to my partner at Accenture, and you get to meet with him once a year for like 15 minutes. And I think I was between him and the cocktail hour. I said, Hey, I want to be more strategic. And he was like, I should tell you to work hard. We’ll put you on some different projects because I go back to business school. So I did.
Then when I got out, I worked in strategy consulting, and then I was in the Bay Area, living in San Francisco. In the belly of the beast of Silicon Valley, and jump back into tech full on. And you mentioned worked for some very small companies worked for some big companies. And then joined the Utah ecosystem a little over a decade ago. The rest is history. It’s just been a phenomenal and amazing ride. And I’ve learned so much along the way.
Dave: Well, it’s just crazy successes, right? I mean, I think very risky. You know, you joined some early technology startups. You went from SAP kind of a behemoth to Domo and Josh James, who’s the CEO of Domo is brilliant. It’s I mean, if you can harness some of his genius. I mean anyone who’s worked with Josh, he’s brilliant. He is going a million miles an hour. You were able to do that, and leverage that to a company that ultimately went public, and has become wildly successful. Then you did, frankly, the same thing, again, at Pluralsight, which is another tech company earliest startup, and you’d help take them public.
Tell us a little bit about some of what you did in those two organizations, especially I think that’s kind of interesting. And we’ll get to this, you’re really now in an advisory role where you sit on several boards. I think you’re, you’re adding more boards to your portfolio. You really sit in more of a strategic role. But as you were really an operator, what were some of the highlights that you were able to accomplish? First a Domo, and then you shared some of the things at Pluralsight, which are kind of crazy, like the kind of scale and growth what you did there. I haven’t heard really, very many people will be able to do what you did. So let’s get started at Domo and tell us a little bit about Pluralsight.
Heather: Sure, so wildly different companies, but both led by amazing CEOs and founders that I learned a ton from. Domo started out when I joined. It was hilarious. I can’t believe Josh took a leap of faith on me because I’ve never been a CMO before. But they had zero in revenue and they I think we’re in the process of signing their series A rounds. Some could argue, did I take a leap of faith? I think Josh took a leap of faith and me. We went to go have lunch, and I never thought I’d work at Domo. I was like, my next job was to go move to Germany. I knew exactly what my next role was at SAP. We were looking forward to doing an international assignment.
I was like, you know, I’m gonna go to lunch with this guy, because I’ve heard he’s crazy. And this will be entertaining If nothing else. He is crazy, but crazy, brilliant. And I just fell in love with what Josh was trying to accomplish, and wanted to be along for the ride. And it was crazy doors flying off. I mean, we went from zero to 100 million I think about in Billings, in the five years, I was there. Raised half a billion dollars, just 100% year over year growth. Launch the brand launched product, it was just insane. And I learned so much during that time.
One thing that solidified for me is just how much I love growth, and how much I love building Nothing is more fun than just seeing your company take off like that. Those are the really, really fun stages. Part of this, I think I learned from Josh is to dream big. He dreams big and thinks big dreams. And everybody who’s along for that ride has to feel the same way. You never tell him like, Hey, I don’t think we can do this. Because the answer is like, why not? And you know what he was right. Of course we could. And so it really helped me in further roles.
Like when I went to Pluralsight. And we were doing our first user conference. Aaron laughed at me when I was like, yeah, I’m looking through keynotes, we’re this little there was this smaller companies never had a user conference. I was like, I’m thinking Michelle Obama and I walk into the list. He looks at me like I have three heads. It’s because I came from the Josh James School of anything was possible. Sure enough, our first user event, we had Michelle Obama as our keynote. It was her first tech keynote that she’d ever done. We got her before Salesforce. Then when she showed up, she said, this is your first user conference, and she looked at her people, like, I can’t believe you booked me, but it went swimmingly.
But I think so I think when you’re in those early stages, where you’re really just trying to get off the ground, you have to dream big and don’t let obstacles get in your way. And really, everybody on the staff team has to believe everything is possible. I think moving to Pluralsight. When I started there, the company was a little over 100 million in revenue. But had we had a bit of a lull in terms of growth. They had this amazing, amazing product, but they hadn’t built out an enterprise go to market motion yet. So they hired myself and Asierra, who was a longtime industry veteran of enterprise sales.
We built a go to market engine, and we accelerated growth to over 50% year over year and b2b. And I think Morgan Stanley told us, we went public, our banker said we were the only company she knew of that we accelerated growth that high over 100 million. That one was about building, it was about looking at what you have. My favorite place to work is somewhere that had both Domo and Pluralsight check this box that has a truly amazing product that just needs to build the engine to take it to market. Whether that’s marketing it building up demand for it, helping get the sales reps trained and ramped and ready to close deals. Whether it’s the retention motion with customer success.
But the best place to be I think, for any of you that are out there in the job market are wondering what should my next company look like? Find a company that has an amazing product that’s poised for growth.
Dave: See I love the keyword use use it growth, right? The thing that allows greatness to happen is just to drive growth. And frankly, you describe some of what you did at Pluralsight. Actually have you just dig in a little bit more. Pluralsight was just kind of an amazingly but still strange ecosystem because there was a b2c side of the business and a b2b side of the business. I think it’s an enviable position for any any tech company because you control your fate.
Because you’re not necessarily relying on salespeople on one side. The other the other side of the house, you’re able to really drive the big meaty deals, the multi year engagements, things like that on the other side of the house. Talk us through your role. What you’re responsible for. What your your partner who is a CRM was responsible for. How did you divide it and how did it work?
Heather: At Pluralsite, I owned everything you think of marketing. From product marketing to AdWords relations to demand to digital. I also owned the BDR SDR inside sales team that we had 100 plus folks who took Marketing Leads and cleaning the outside or created leads for the outside reps. Then I also own digital revenue. So everything that closed totally was under me and not the CRO. The reason that we did that is because the whole digital motion and the website and the mahr tech stack, all that’s tied together.
The second thing is, if you look at companies like Slack, or Dropbox, who’ve been wildly successful, they start with offering something to individuals. And then turning those individuals into large enterprise accounts. When you go knock on the door of a fortune 100 company, and say, Hey, by the way, did you know that 200 people in the building are already using our product? Right on their company credit card and charging in. Why wouldn’t you get at least 200 person licensed, but truthfully, you should get you know, 20,000.
That’s a really fun sales motion to be in. So we called it B to C to be business to individuals, for us developers, or consumers to business. And it could be a just a free offering, like a free trial. Ours also had a paid component that you could just pay on your own. And we would try to eventually convert you into a b2b deal. But it’s super powerful. I think for companies that are trying to grow. It’s a great lead source.
Dave: It’s interesting, I just had a conversation with Godard Abel, who’s the the founder and CEO of G2. Now I think they just rebranded. But he said the identical thing he said, one of the key trends is you’ve got to come up with this b2c to be model. Whether there’s a freemium component. Or there’s some way to really, he kind of described it as a frictionless buying process that then can kind of blossom into something more. This growth title is something that’s brand new, you brought that up. I want to dig into that a little bit more.
You also talked about just kind of throwing traditional wisdom out and just kind of breaking the rules. And I actually want to talk a lot about like, what that means. Let’s first dive into speaking of breaking the rules, we’re all just coming off of what are arguably the most difficult months and quarters of our careers because of COVID-19. And it’s been insanely difficult to come up with meaningful results. Everybody had to adjust their quarters, everybody laid off. It came out of it. And one of the trends I’m hearing is, there are lots of organizations who have had the best quarters of their of their company’s history in you know, q3 q4.
How did you because you were an operator for some of this, you transition to more of an advisor and board member through the tail end of this? How did you guys kind of experience COVID? And how are people being successful at responding to it?
Heather: I was at Pluralsight, through for eight months of COVID, nine months of COVID. And I was responsible for our crisis communication. So led the effort on some of the things we did in the marketplace. I would say, for those companies that could figure out either a, that they were lucky enough to have a product that lended itself to remote. Look at zoom and Instructure. A bunch, I mean, off the chart growth. But even if you weren’t lucky enough to have a product like that what could you do? So at Pluralsight I came and we came in in March and said, What can we do? And we said, let’s give back and let’s get back to our customer community.
So we gave away Pluralsight to individuals, just the individual product. Which is about 7000 courses, but the whole entire course library, no restrictions. You could do courses 24, seven. We gave it away for an entire month of April. And we had over a million people sign up for that. It was crazy. That almost doubled our user base like in like the first couple days, like I was on the phone at three in the morning with our tech teams and our product teams like this can’t break the product. We had no idea. Even our market Mar tech stack systems were like, we had to go out and talk to our vendors to add to double us up because we had no idea was going to be this successful.
We did it honestly altruistically because we were sitting at home, what can we do? Like, the best thing to do is to stay home and not be around people. And wear a mask. That’s great. But what else can we do? It was me and my team’s idea. We took it to the CEO and the CFO. And they were a little nervous because they’re like, what’s this gonna do for revenue? And so when we did it, we weren’t sure it would be a good thing for revenue. The truth is now we had over a million new leads, and if you think back to that b2c2b, it actually was really great financially, for the company like it was impressive. But we that’s not why we did it. So I think that’s a great example of making lemonade out of lemons.
I think you know, one of the companies that I advise and work with they cater to the Small Business segment. And they’ve actually had some of their best quarters ever. Even including you said q3 and q4, but even including their q2. Because the small business owner who’s just been inundated. They’re scrapping you that the guy owns a pet shop or has five employees owning a yoga studio. They’re just so busy on day to day stuff, but COVID in some ways, gave them a chance to breathe and say, What are the projects I’ve been putting off? And a lot of times it was things in their tech stack?
Should I be looking at a new vendor for this? Should we be looking at a vendor for that? Or should we automate this. So the SMB space, the climate advice there. There’s took off COVID, because they could actually get owners on the phone. They could get people to pay attention. And so I think any company who sat back and said, How can we change our product? Or how can we change our go to market? Or how can we do something to take advantage of the situation is actually doing really well. And those people that just said, Oh, my gosh, 2020 sucks, and we’re just going to throw this year away. You’re seeing it in their financial statements.
Dave: So I love what you just said, though, because I think and not just in I think in our personal lives, but I think also in our careers in our corporate lives. We get so stuck in this routine of we got to hit our month. Got to hit our quarter. And what COVID did is I actually haven’t heard anybody say that we just did it, but it’s really true. It forced everybody to take this step back in their organizations and say, Okay, what we’re doing is not working. It kind of met the minimum, monthly or quarterly goals. But COVID gave us all a bit of a pass to say let’s be strategic for a quarter or for two quarters or a year. And do the things that in some cases we needed.
We knew we needed to do in other cases, we didn’t know but we took the strategic time to like think through this. Benioff, Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce has been a friend and mentor. And every year he’ll spend about a month in Hawaii to do the same thing. I’m like, dude, you’re just you’re taking a vacation. I mean, come on, man. But he’s like, no, if you don’t stop to think you’ll never be better than you are. So I’ve never heard anyone actually kind of really summarize it. COVID forced us all to do that. So that’s, that’s interesting.
Heather: It created a space for innovation. Because if you during COVID, you had to in most companies had to innovate, or die. And I think COVID created some really amazing innovation. And I think we’re still at the beginning of it. I’m volunteering at our vaccine Center here in Park City, and very excited that we’re getting back. I’m trying to help get the country and the globe back on track. But I think it’s gonna be a while before we’re back to whatever our new normal is. There’s still more cycles of innovation to go. And so I would encourage any company who hasn’t taken that time, do a corporate retreat. I don’t go to for a month in Hawaii, like Benioff, I wish I could.
But even when I was working full time jobs, I created space every week, where I was just quiet. I would do my commute home with no radio, no phone calls, like once a week, just for 45 minutes. Or I would not wear my headphones on a run to just think. Because I do I think that time to really kind of think and evaluate and be creative. Give yourself creative space. The innovation that COVID is forcing on the world is not done. And there’s a lot more opportunity out there.
Dave: So I think it’s absolute brilliant. I’d say anybody listening, what you just described it plural site was an absolute brilliant innovation. It came out of this really kind of frustrating moment, we were all in. You’re right, some companies saw this. I mean, Zoom Good for them. But it was kind of a gimme. But Pluralsite. Billy, the founder of Chatfunnels, he had a similar moment where he’s like, Oh, we can ship this.
They created a bot that addressed kind of concerns around COVID. They gave it away to some of the states. Some people made lemonade out of lemons like you described. So I think that’s fascinating. Okay, so let’s shift to what you’re seeing in q4 orq1 of this year. What’s working right now that you’re saying from a growth perspective, or a marketing perspective?
Heather: I think people are, you can see this in the stock market. We’re all excited. Everyone’s so ready. It’s like the week before the big party, like everyone is just. We all think the world we’re gonna rip off the band aid in the summer. we’ll be back to normal and it’s gonna be massive growth. And I’m hopeful that will be the case. But I think we’ll be in a new normal for another year or two. What I’m seeing the more successful companies think about is, I believe we’re going to be in a massive growth environment sometime soon. And it’s not going to be the same type of growth environment.
The winners in that growth environment aren’t going to be the same as they were an enormous in our old normal growth environment. So I would encourage everyone, the companies talking to a ton of companies advising and talking about board positions. The ones who seem to be poised best are saying. The band aids about to be ripped off, we’re going to go through this massive phase of growth, how do we take advantage of it? You see it with even financial instruments. Do we look at raising money in new ways, like the stock market instead of the IPO market. We look at the VC funding is there’s so much money to be put into companies right now.
What’s gonna be the new norm? And how is your company going to take advantage of this, because I think there’s about to be a huge growth cycle. But it won’t be the traditional ways we grew in the past. And that’s why I would encourage every founder, every marketer, every sales leader, to think about how do we do you things differently so that we get the biggest part of this big pie that’s about to come out.
Dave: I’m on the edge of my chair. What characterizes the individuals and the organizations that will capture that growth? And what characterizes the organizations that you think you’re going to probably miss it or be behind? Because whenever there’s a kind of a moment like this, there’s winners and losers. Anyone who can kind of figure out who that what the winners look like, and the losers look like, they’re going to make money. So what are the winners look like?
Heather: I think the winners right now are getting ready for this big party. They’re saying, look, we may not have outside sales reps in the future. So we’re going to double down and hire to take six months to ramp our inside sales reps, we’re gonna hire them now. Because July, when the economy, takes off even more, and the floodgates open, they’re going to be ramped and ready. It’s companies who are thinking about how to do things differently. And starting right now, like, I got an email the other day, which I found interesting.
There was an article the other day, when I’d been in New York Times Guest writer, they talked about traveling, and they were like, go out and book your flights now for end of 2021. I was like, we don’t know what it’s gonna be like. But they’re like what you need to be prepared. You need to be first in line, you need to take the risk. So I think the companies that are going to do best are two things. One, they’re thinking about innovating right now for what the world could be like. Either spending or planning into it right now. They’re not sitting on the sidelines, because if they wait till the world comes back, the people who are planning for are going to be as leapfrogged. And they’ll be there already.
The third thing is back to what we talked about earlier. Is if you’re in high growth phase, or should be in high growth phase, don’t take no for an answer. Think the impossible. Dream, the big dream, because I think those, if you have those three things, if you prepare for what’s coming. You start working now and you believe that anything is possible. One more I’ll throw in there, I think it’s also about product, like I really believe in product led growth. None of this works from a sales and marketing and revenue or growth perspective, if you don’t have an amazing product. So your product needs to get it done. Now, it is a time for r&d. The best companies are pivoting.
Dave: They’re adapting I mean, if you’re not a zoom. What you guys did a Pluralsight you’re like, how do I pivot and create a remote first environment, regardless. Whether you’re security. Whether you’re Revtech, whether you’re accounting and HR doesn’t matter. It’s time to kind of like adapt your product, which I love. Where you just let us. What are the like, Where are the gaps in technology? Again from your bird’s eye view, as kind of a strategic leader in the revtech the marketing or the growth space? What needs to be solved?
Heather: I think it’s a couple things one, and I don’t know this is so much a product as it is a process and a mindset on building this within your organization is really being analytical and data driven. Companies that we’re seeing crushing it, either they had the amazing product at the right time, like zoom and not everybody gets that lucky. The other ones are analyzing everything that they’re doing, and really understanding what’s working and what’s not.
If you don’t have a really strong analytical data driven approach to go to market. Both marketing and sales. If you can’t know at any given time, how many top of the funnel leads, and how much they cost, how they’re converting to mid funnel. How they convert to bottom. What your win was average deal size. If you can’t spit those things off the top of your head as a sales or marketing leader, you’re failing. And I think that companies that really there is tech involved. But there’s not. I wish there was a product that I could say, go buy this and you’ll be amazed. I think it’s building out that analytical data driven motion. When I joined at Pluralsight, we did not have that.
The company had an amazing brand and a fantastic creative team. And I convinced all those people to play and continue working with me. But we didn’t have an analytical data driven mindset. And I read, I’ve spent a good chunk of money on our tech stack. A good chunk of money on bringing in ops people that when my first big hires. Then we started a series of stand ups every week systemize reporting. We started quarterly business reviews. I even got to where I would stop people in the hall. We had a big marketing all hands where I said, we’re going to be a data driven organization. And you here’s the big goals we’re trying to achieve. And I need each of you to know what metrics you have for those goals and how you’re doing on them. It can’t be qualitative.
So if you’re a field marketing manager, who runs events, and I stopped you in the hall and asked you to tell me how it’s going. I don’t want to hear Oh, that’s amazing, everybody loves it. No, I want to hear we had an event. There 300 million a pipeline is this much has progressed to stage three. And this is what we expect the win rate to be. And we think it’ll be this much in final revenue that we’ve influenced. The first month, everybody ran for me in the halls that that so that didn’t work so well. For me to ask them the questions.
Totally, it was and then, and then it just became the motion of how we all worked. We literally did a stand up with like 30 people once a week, or once every other week. It was kind of painful, and you got to give two facts. It had to be quantitative and objective. They could not be qualitative or subjective. And we went around the room a good one and a bad one. And it just was to kind of build in this mindset. So it was a very long answer.
But I think the answer to your question of what it companies need, if you can build in a way to set your goals, measure and know what’s working and what’s not. It gives you unbelievable freedom to try things creatively. Hear me I’m gonna tell one example, from Domo. We were going to dreamforce we always saw you guys there.
We took a page from your book because Xant, at the time InsideSales did a great job at dreamforce. We’re trying to do everything we can, but I had a pretty small marketing budget. We were brainstorming, we’d been at dreamforce one year, this is our second year. We knew our buyers were there. The most junior person in the room, said, Hey the hardest thing about working the booth last year at dreamforce was I could never get a soda and all the machine was sold out. You have to walk four blocks to post this place. There’s a line. What if we gave out sodas for a scan?
We thought, well, is just a random scan gonna be they won’t know anything about Domo, like, is that gonna be lucrative? But so we said okay, so we had backpacks made that were for refrigerated with our branding, and we got Domo koozies and we gave out so much sodas. I mean, even the traffic cop I have a picture with a traffic cop waving traffic drinking a Domo I’m sure we gave him on ones didn’t have a badge. But we because we were analytical. We spent maybe $7,000 on sodas and the backpack. And when we came back, we made over $300,000 off of deal from those scans.
And because we measured it, then we could do bigger. So the next year, we rented out breakfast places. The next year, we wrapped coffee trucks. The next year, we wrapped cars and drove around for a scan because we’re like. And every year Benioff was one step behind us whatever it was, we did there for the next year, you could pay dreamforce to do. But only because we could measure it. And know if it was successful. Were we able to be creative.
Dave: So let me pause you because I think you said one of the most innovative things I’ve heard in a long time. It’s through me, you’re smiling you’re like what did I say? It’s through analytics and kind of this focus on data that allows creativity. Which is a counterintuitive concept. And let me let me pull that back. Because I think it’s actually pretty genius concept. People generally assume that being very analytical and being very data driven, is the opposite of creativity. It kind of is the killer of creativity. But the reason it allows that is you can try anything.
If you’re being analytical and you’re just saying look, we’re going to try let’s give some budget to any crazy idea. Any marketing Intern, says, let’s try sodas or let’s try you know, shoelaces or whatever. You’ll know. Let me expand a little bit because again, I think what you just shared is, might be one of the key highlights from this event. If you get nothing else, using analytics and tracking the effect of any sort of effort you can develop your career. I think you can build a product. You can develop a marketing strategy and overall growth strategy. You can create companies. It allows you this, the thing that that I think you just shared, Heather, is one of the keys in business.
It’s basically knowing your numbers, testing things, evaluating the effect of it, and then and I’ll shut up here. But one last thing is listening. One thing we don’t do is we don’t listen to customers. We don’t listen to prospects, we don’t listen to other people. Let me put this way, the way you can be effective is you listen to the junior marketing person who has an idea. We don’t listen to customers enough, we don’t listen to the resources we have. I love where you just went with this.
Heather: And I’ll bring this back to ChatFunnels for a minute. At both Domo and Pluralsight, we successfully use chat. And at first we got resistance. People didn’t want to pay for another thing in our tech stack. Our BDR, SDR team was like, I can just talk to people, they almost viewed it as they’re taking their business. But once we installed a chat function, the chat leads were our best leads. They were like, I think it was either demo or Pluralsight.
They were like 10 x in terms of conversion. And then we had fighting amongst the SDR team for who would sign up to take those leads, because they were so lucrative. People could hit their numbers faster with chat leads. It was only because we measured it. And it’s kind of like that with any technology that you’re looking at. If you can measure it and show the success, that and you know where things are working from you can spend more you can lean into it.
I think that’s true for your text for tech investments. I think it’s true for marketing plans. It’s true for new sales teams, you might want to put together like. Are you going to look at an overlay industry group? Well, you got to be able to measure how successful that is? Or do you need to add more SDRs? Well, how much are the SDR is providing and how much revenue is that. Everything can and should be measured.
Dave: So I think one of the things that also can be learned from this is. And we’ve talked about this role of growth, whether it’s marketing or sales, or the consolidation of the amalgamation of that. I think the the key skill behind that leader is an analytical skill. I think the days of of having a growth leader, be you know, a brand person or being a creative person. Which by the way, you can be both those are not mutually exclusive concepts.
If you’re sitting listening to this, and you’re like, but I am the brand person, or I’m the PR person, you can still be very analytical. You created a culture of, of being data driven at Pluralsight. That’s a decision, you don’t have to be a mathematician, you can just emphasize the numbers. And you can surround yourself with people who are very versed with the numbers. So I think that is the theme of the new growth leader in 2021 for sure. And I would say over the next five years.
Heather: Two things on that one is, I think about Julie Keeho, you and I both know, and she worked me at Domo, and she’s fantastic. Probably one of the best people in com you’ll ever meet. At Domo she had charts that showed from her press articles, how many people click through and became leads. She could tell you how much revenue her press activities directly gave the company that you’re in, it was a lot.
Just because you’re creative or coms or whatever, doesn’t mean, you can’t have that mindset. I actually think the best leaders are folks who have both and for people like myself, like my team used to tease me. And I always say it’s like the Supreme Court Justice said about pornography. It’s the same with creative I know good creative when I see it but I can’t create it. So I always one of my first hires that I always make sure I have is somebody who’s wickedly creative. At Pluralsight when I joined Brett Barlow who’s one of my favorite people in the whole world. Currently a Utah CEO.
He stayed on he was the CMO and he stayed on to be the chief brand officer and he’s wildly creative. We would not have been as successful at Pluralsite I without that. Whatever you’re missing as a sales or marketing leader, acknowledge it and be like, Hey, here’s my skill set. I know this area is not my strength and go hire somebody a million times better than you. Somebody who honestly could, Brett had been a CMO at at Skullcandy and other places. He could have gone a ton of places. But we we got along and I talked him into staying because I needed him. Don’t be afraid to hire somebody better than you. That’s the other kind of good advice.
Dave: Well, that takes some humility to do it, right. I mean, to be able to say, it sounds David Goggins. To say like, I’m really bad at this. And you can develop the skill, bring someone in who is much, much better. You talk about some advice. You just mentioned that, and I’d love to get your sense, like, look into the future, the next, you know, three years or five years? What are the trends? How will growth leaders be successful? What will they be doing? What are the new approaches? I mean, we talked about data, and being very analytical, but what are the other areas I think people should be thinking about.
Heather: So a couple answers to that just for any, I’m gonna go very general. And then I’m gonna be very specific. The biggest advice I give to anyone in any role at any point in their career, is that no matter what you’re doing, knock it out of the park. Some of the worst jobs I’ve ever had that I hated the most that I thought were so crappy, and beneath me. That I just knocked it out of the park, someone I didn’t even know was watching. And gave me an opportunity to do something amazing. I think one of the ways I ended up a demo is I was on a school board with Mike who worked at omniture.
I impressed Mike on the school board. So when they reached out with Josh, somebody told Josh about me. He called up Mike Moring and said, What do you know about this woman. And he said, Oh, my gosh, she’s phenomenal. I’ve worked with over three years on a school board, and she runs circles around everybody. Of course, Josh was like, Oh. That had he not had that I don’t have Josh would have would have called me to come interview for cmo.
Whatever it is, you take on, don’t take it on unless you can crush it. And so that’s because you just don’t know. So that’s my kind of my broader advice. Very specific, I think, to marketing and sales. I think with COVID, and kind of our new normal, we’re going to continue to do things in remote and digital ways. And so things that your company can do to take advantage of that look at investing in that. And I think at the same time, we’re going to see, tech is going to get more and more restrictions. Because basically Tech’s had just kind of in a wide open whitespace, free run.
And in some ways, as a marketer, I absolutely love it because I can get so much information on somebody. But as a citizen, sometimes I’m like, Wow, that is a little scary. I think that’s gonna narrow as well, I think we’re gonna see the government finally realize that they need to get some people involved that understand technology to figure out how to put some regulations in place. And I’m not on either side of how stricter not strict those regulations should be, because I can see all of you. But it’s just the reality. So I think on one hand, we’re going to need to do more digitally, it’s going to need to be more personalized. We’re going to do more things remote, which going to need to make that connection feel even stronger.
Because you’re not sitting next to somebody at an event watching Michelle Obama share her experience. You’re in your own home doing things. And so on one hand, you’re gonna have to do more of that. On the other hand, I think I don’t know what they will be. But I think there will be more restrictions coming up. All growth, marketers revenue, etc. to think about, how can you take advantage. I’ve seen some really interesting things back to analytics, in the marketing space. Some really interesting things and engagement. You’re going to have to think out of the box, or build these connections with your customers and prospects in a digital and remote environment.
Dave: So all super fascinating. So again, what I heard from you is be ready for privacy, lots and lots of privacy. Definitely be ready for thinking about this new norm. Is going to probably what I’m hearing from you is kind of the forever norm. Some variation of this. We’re not going to go back to big events necessarily where we’re all just.
Heather: I hope so Dave, I hope because they’re my favorite. I was thinking about that the other day, I’m putting up pictures in my office of some work, it’s my workspace. I have all these amazing pictures of all these amazing events and I hope we do but you know, I look at Pluralsight. We did our I stayed through our first portal site live that was 100% virtual, and it cost us a heck of a lot less money. And we had triple the pipeline at it. I still think at the heart of buying a really great sales rep who I worked with it at Oracle. And I was in product at Oracle.
I went to him and said, youre in the two comma club and youre making all this money and I’m just making a product manager salary, the is crap. And he said Heather, by the time I’ve brought you in, iv’e convinced them they want to partner with me. These were really big deals. But it think the need for human connection and trust and wanting to partner with someone doesn’t go away. I’m hoping in the future we can bring back more in person things. But until then how do we do it remotely a bit? And in the future I think it’s going to be a hybrid because it’s more cost effective to not do it in person.
Dave: I’ve always said, people always buy from people. It’s not about the product itself. The product needs to do what it has to do and it needs to be great. But I also want to have this conversation. As long as you say, yeah I’m going to take care of you Dave. I’ll do it. I’ll take the journey. This is amazing by the way all of this advise. I think were at the end of our time. There’s so much more we could have dove into but there are some really good nuggets from this. Thank you for doing this. Again this is some of the best advise you’ll ever hear.
Heather: I always love conversations with you. Anytime you call me for a conversation with you, I’m in.
Dave: Thank you again. I can’t express enough appreciation. Thank you Heather.