Why Growth Isn’t Always About Speed with Niki Hall

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Welcome back to a fresh episode of “3-Minute Marketing”, the podcast where we dive deep into the minds of some of today’s most successful marketers to surface their best tactics and strategies.

Today, I have the pleasure of talking with Niki Hall, CMO at Contentsquare. An experienced marketing leader in tech, Niki recently joined the company to help take this fast-growing company to the next level. This made me curious what marketing leaders can do to maintain or even accelerate the momentum of a brand that’s already on the rise.

So my question for Niki is, “Dive into this concept of the speed of growth. What are the important factors of growth that marketing leaders should consider along the way?”

Show Notes:

  • While speed is critical for growth, it’s not sustainable without a well-defined vision & strategy.
  • A better approach is to have a sense of urgency, aligned to your purpose as a marketing organization. This keeps you from becoming reactive & focuses your team on what matters.
  • Coach your team for success. Niki uses tools like StrengthsFinder to assess her team & guide them to areas where they can make a big impact.
  • To take Contentsquare global, Niki tasked regional teams with having deep, “inside-out” knowledge of their region. She then created “centers of excellence” for performance & growth, brand, comms & social media with the functional expertise to help enable the regional teams to hit their pipeline targets.
  • To measure the effectiveness of the Contentsquare brand, Niki leverages the “voice of the customer” by sourcing qualitative & qualitative customer wins.
  • CEOs are by-and-large numbers-driven. To prove the value of the brand, you need to find data that tells the story of the impact of the brand on the business. Google trends or branded search impression volume can be good metrics to consider for this.
  • Niki leans heavily on Contentsquare to drive wins across her marketing org. (which makes her an excellent evangelist for the product!)


Chris: Welcome everybody to another episode of Three Minute Marketing. I’m your main man, Chris Mechanic here, co-founder at WebMechanix, veteran performance marketer, and generally nerdy person. Super excited today to have Niki Hall on the show with us. Niki is a very impressive individual. She is currently CMO at Contentsquare, which is a digital experience analytics platform that empowers growth teams with the data that they need to increase revenue, engagement and growth. Prior to that, Niki has been with the who’s who’s of B2B tech brands; Cisco, Polycom, Five9, Selligent and just steadily doing awesome things and posting big wins. She’s also a member of the CMO Council of North America Advisory Board, and an official member of the Forbes Communication Council. Welcome to the show, Niki.

Niki: Thank you, nice to be here.

Chris: Absolutely. Super excited to have you. Well, I know that you’re very, very busy and I know that everybody is really eager to get to the topic of today’s show. So without further ado, I’ve got your question for you. Are you ready?

Niki: I’m ready.

Chris: All right. Talk to me just a bit about Contentsquare’s growth journey and dive into this concept of speed of growth and also just comment on what are the important factors of growth that marketing leaders should consider along the way?

Niki: Okay, so Contentsquare was founded in 2012 and as a digital experience analytics platform, as you mentioned. We have steadily been growing year over year, experiencing massive growth. Of note over the past year, when the pandemic hit us, businesses were struggling to figure out their customers and how to stay afloat. And if you don’t have a solution like the Contentsquare platform, which literally just deciphers experiences one has with the brand, every touch point, click, mouse hover, blah, blah, blah, you don’t understand your customer. So 2020 was a massive year of growth for Contentsquare as driven by the pandemic.

Chris: And then talk to us a little bit about your concept of the speed of growth. What should determine that speed of growth? Is it always just hair raising, hair on fire, as fast as possible?

Niki: Yeah, in my experience, speed of growth, it’s super critical, but what you really need to have is a vision. You need to have a vision with a strategy and a purpose. If you know what success looks like, then it’s pretty easy to get there. And as a CMO, it’s my job to work with my team, to figure out what are the business objectives, ensure our vision maps to those and we have a strategy to achieve that. So speed is important, but I would say more of a sense of urgency. A sense of urgency with preciseness. That’s what I’m always mentoring and coaching my team on, “We need to have a sense of urgency. We need to have a purpose and it needs to align to the vision.”

Chris: Yep, I love that. Walk with a purpose. That’s great. And what are some other critical factors in growing? You guys have grown leaps and bounds. Let’s say somebody’s at the precipice of that growth phase, what are some other important factors that they should consider?

Niki: Yeah, the number one I’m always… Vision. Aligning to a vision, ensuring you have the right strategy aligned to that, to achieve those goals and how you will measure over time, big rolling four quarter plan. So, as companies are growing it’s important to not just knee jerk reaction on things, but be super true to that vision and strategy to achieve it, and check in. Check in with the teams, check in with your peers to make sure you’re all aligned, so it’s actually one company moving forward in a direction through a lot of growth.

Chris: Yep, and now how do you handle different personalities? So, say that somebody, change is difficult for them, but they’ve got great talent. How do you handle fast change among your team?

Niki: Yeah, coaching for success. I’m a big believer in coaching for success and doing the StrengthsFinder exercise, we’re going through it right now. I have a large global marketing team and we’re looking at what are the skills people have, because you need a 360 degree view. You need some strategics, some tactical, et cetera, so it’s really coaching everyone for success and using tools like the StrengthsFinder to do it.

Chris: I love it. Well Niki, if you can stick around for a few minutes, I would love to continue our conversation. If we do that, there should be some links in the show notes, but otherwise, how can people learn more about you and Contentsquare?

Niki: Go to contentsquare.com and literally every company that has been digitally transformed is using a solution like ours, so definitely check it out. We have awesome customers who love us. It’s all on the website, from Verizon to Microsoft to BMW, L’Oreal, Chanel, you name it.

Chris: The site’s really nice too. Really well done. So, I know that you’re there. You’ve been there six months in the role. What’s big on your mind these days? What are your top priorities or your top sources of heartburn or wherever? What are you thinking about?

Niki: No, my top priority really has been building out a marketing strategy to achieve this massive growth because we’ve grown so quick. It was just… It was explosive if you will, right, the growth. And so they brought me in to help put a strategy around it to help us go to our next phase. We’ve passed the hundred million ARR mark, which is awesome. And now our growth is just going to continue, light speed ahead. So my big role is building out the team, building out the marketing strategy, the operational efficiency measurements, ROI per channel, how do you increase lifetime value of a customer or reduce customer acquisition costs, all of that fun stuff.

Chris: Yeah, that sounds like a big job. What do you credit to your growth to date? Is it mostly marketing inbound driven or is it mostly the sales team that’s driving a lot of the growth?

Niki: It’s a mix. It’s a mix between marketing sources, roughly 50 to 60% of the pipe, depending upon what region and doc it’s about 70%. So it’s inbound, it’s outbound. And increasingly they brought me in to help build the brand, so people can know about us. And we were founded in France. So in France, everyone knows Contentsquare. And Jonathan Cherki, the CEO, he’s a celebrity over there. So I need to take all those fabulous ingredients we have and permeate it globally. And APAC has just opened… A couple of offices in APAC and Singapore and Australia. And then also in North America.

Chris: Now, when you think about your marketing organization, do you have a brand communications team separate from a performance or demand gen team or do you blend them all together?

Niki: Yeah, it is separate. What I came into, because we’ve had massive growth in what we call Western Europe, which is France, Italy, Spain, et cetera, great super talented team. And then Contentsquare decided it was going to expand to Northern Europe, London, Benelux et cetera. So they duplicated the team. Same thing with Doc, APAC, North America. What we didn’t have, was what you just said. We didn’t have corporate marketing, which was brand, comms, social media. We didn’t have performance and growth.

Niki: Each team had their own demand gen strategies. So, when you’re trying to ask people to be everything to everyone, it doesn’t typically work. So my expectations of this model as we’ve evolved to global centers of excellence, is the regional folks know their region inside and out. You need to know France inside and out, what works in France, what influencers, if influencers work there. Same thing with the Nordics, et cetera. And then the centers of excellence, performance and growth, brand, comms, social media, they’re the ones who know all the functional expertise to enable the regions to hit their pipeline targets.

Chris: Interesting view of the world.

Niki: Yeah, it’s good, because what it does is it enables everyone to play their position and to be experts in their area, their domain expertise, if you will.

Chris: Yeah, and I’m traditionally from a performance background. So the idea of brand and comms is a little bit foreign to my thinking, but how do you determine whether brand and comms is doing a good job? How do you measure that?

Niki: Yeah, so we have a formula. We had to create a methodology for this company. Every company’s different. We have a total of five uber priorities that we measure for marketing, for where Contentsquare is in its journey and with brand and comms, it’s largely around raising the awareness in North America because we believe that’s going to be the largest growth opportunity for us. We have to continue the cadence in some of the areas where we already have high brand awareness, but it’s measuring the number of customer wins. So we have tons of customers who love us.

Niki: So we started a weekly cadence of customer wins. So to be their voice, not our voice, but the customer’s voice saying why they chose Contentsquare, why they continue to do business with Contentsquare and the quantifiable metrics they received because of it. So things such as that. And it’s really helped a lot. Imagine a weekly cadence of a win coming across the wire. And if you don’t know Contentsquare, pretty soon you will. You’ll hear about it and it’s through other people’s voice.

Chris: Yeah, a hundred percent. And there was the CMO of Gong, Udi Ledergor was on recently. And surprisingly, he said, one of his top five marketing techniques was to go with your gut and not be so data obsessed. And he gave an example that they actually did a super bowl commercial, which is almost impossible to measure granularly, but multiple sales reps reported, “Hey, I got more calls from prospects than I ever have before.” And they got write-ups here, right-ups there, so they anecdotally were, “That was one of the best decisions ever.” And everybody agrees, but nobody can point to one thing and say, “Hey, that’s what it was.”

Niki: Yeah, it is hard. But early on in my career, one of my CEOs was Peter Leav. He’s now CEO of McAfee. And he was very [inaudible 00:11:09], and this is when I was at Polycom, I was VP of Corporate Marketing. So I had to learn in order to relate with Peter, I had to talk in numbers. And I was responsible for the brand at that point. So how do you quantify the brand and have a conversation with the CEO to get him leaning in and caring? And so I had to learn early on how to be super data obsessed about everything. And actually, luckily Jonathan Cherki, my CEO now, he’s super data obsessed and that’s why he created Contentsquare. And it works. You can actually measure pretty much everything in marketing, if you have the right tools, the right process, attribution, et cetera.

Chris: Yeah, a hundred percent and I think, even at a simple level, you could use Google Trends or any type of Google keyword tool to just say, “Hey, what’s our branded search volume in this region or that?” At the simplest level. Speaking of tools though, tell us a little bit about your tech stack. What tools in tech can you not live without?

Niki: Definitely Contentsquare, Contentsquare and Contentsquare. And it’s funny when I interviewed for this role… I understand why they need to raise the brand in North America because I’ve been a marketing leader in North America for many years and I’ve never heard of Contentsquare. And my very first interview was with Jonathan Cherki, the CEO. And I said, “Well, show me the solution.” Because when I choose a company, the company has to have a great culture, awesome products, high growth, et cetera, et cetera. I have the top five.

Niki: And when he showed me the product, I was, “Oh my goodness, how come I’ve never known about this?” I’ve used other analytics tools and it will give me heat map, but this one literally quantifies. It quantifies the opportunity you’re leaving on the table if you don’t address it. So, definitely Contentsquare and Contentsquare. And then all your other traditional… Salesforce, everything else that most companies have.

Chris: I’m curious, what do you use, your dashboard? You come into work on a Monday or before you leave on a Friday, what components do you have on your exec level dashboard?

Niki: Yeah, we’ve just built this out, because that was… My first hire was a head of marketing, operations, planning, and strategy a Mops person. And she’s amazing because if you don’t know your baseline, how do you know what success looks like and how to achieve it. Because she built out a dashboard for me and we just hired a BI person. So today it’s just Salesforce, which is fine, it’s good. It gives me something to show where we, from a sales perspective, ACB perspective.

Niki: But over time, they’re building out all the aspects that I need around brand, comms, demand gen targeted to the customer journey, all of those elements. Right now, because we’ve grown pretty quickly, we’ve used Excel up to this point, which is not the most sexy thing to use, but at least it gives me some visibility to what are the metrics per area? How are we achieving against it quarter over quarter, year, over year. And Diana, my head of Mops, she’s building that out into true dashboards for me.

Chris: So in your six months there, I know that six months isn’t a lot of time, but have you put anything in place or has something maybe already been in place that you discovered that was… That you viewed to be pretty advanced or next level or interesting or cool?

Niki: I would say, I don’t mean to keep giving it a plug, but the reason why I joined this company is to miss all the tech. So the Contentsquare and Contentsquare, that solution is super awesome. Since you grew up in, you said digital marketing, you need to check it out. It’s really cool.

Chris: Yeah, a hundred percent.

Niki: Even more than just… Anyone, it’s not just digital marketers, it’s anyone who cares about data. We collect trillions of data points every single day, not on the actual individual, but the movement, everything else. So I would say that’s probably the thing that I’ve been most passionate about. There’s other things, we’re doing a market intelligence project so we can figure out the TAM and the CAGR and the penetration, so that’s cool, that my team’s leading, but there you go.

Chris: Let’s talk about the product because it is sick. I’ve never used it actually, but I’d love to-

Niki: We need to get you a demo. See that button that says get a demo, you need to click it.

Chris: Yeah, a hundred percent. And I do love… Look at this demo request page, how clean is this? I love that you have the subtle directional cue here pointing to the optional field.

Niki: Yeah, and we’re implementing something new this week to reduce form fill friction. I can’t recall the name of the solution, my performance and growth team, they’re doing it, but that shouldn’t even reduce that form fill friction to have greater conversions as well.

Chris: Yeah, maybe using a Clearbit or a data pen, because if you’re getting work email, then you can easily pull first name, last name, company, job title. So you could basically just have work email.

Niki: Yes, and we weren’t using… We didn’t have… You see right there on the left, leader in G2 and all that, we weren’t using that. Which is so interesting because we have so many customers who love us. I was in a CAB last week for Europe and then the CAB kickoff the week before to North America. And there’s so many customers who love us and said they can’t run their business without us, yet we weren’t marketing it. And so now we have a direct focus on incenting the customers to say, “Please write a review.” And a review in general, but also the Gartner Peer Insights, because what’s new this year with Gartner MQ, the Magic Quadrant, they no longer ask companies to submit names of customers that they will then call. They actually use the Gartner Peer Insights to figure it out.

Chris: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. While you’re at it, implementing Clearbit, there’s some other interesting things you can do with dynamic content, in the realm of personalizing for a firm by the firm name or personalizing even by other firmographics such as industry and such, there’s this thing… I think it’s this tool, Conversion Data AI. No, that’s not it.

Niki: I know Nambase, they do reverse IP lookup and all that, right? Is that what you mean?

Chris: Yeah and Clearbit can do that too. So you can use Clearbit to customize the content on your site by say vertical. And it doesn’t match every single visitor, it might match 50% of the visitors or something and you can display their company name or you can display vertical or you can add them to retargeting lists by vertical and show retargeting ads focused around healthcare versus business services, something else.

Interesting. So you should definitely request that demo on Contentsquare.

Chris: I should, and I’ll tell you one other thing that you may want to test, that we did before on a demo request page, because we have a segment of clients in the B2B SaaS space. We added an option to have the in-person demo or to view a pre-recorded demo. Overnight, the overall conversion rate just skyrocketed with many people choosing the pre-recorded demo. And in this particular case, the sell-through rate, the conversion of that lead to a deal, remained steady enough that it made sense, but it was a lower ticket product. So, if you did that, you would almost certainly get more conversions on this page, but you would then just need to make sure to measure the personal demo to purchase rate versus the recorded demo. You know what I mean?

Niki: Interesting, we’ll try that, thank you.

Chris: Well, I’ve done a lot of talking here and I know that we’re almost up on time. Do you have any questions or do you have any topics on your mind you want to bring up or any closing thoughts?

Niki: No, I would just say any company that’s been digitally transformed and literally it’s been every company, should definitely check out a solution such as this. Definitely check out Contentsquare to figure out how you understand your customers. And I would say, do business with people who are actually doing good. We acquired a company that does web accessibility. So digital accessibility for all that you can just put a plugin in and your site will then be accessible for people who might be dyslexic, who might be… Who can’t see very… Different things. And so today, a product is a product is a product, but I think people want to do business with people who are doing socially good in the world. So it’s another reason to check out Contentsquare.

Chris: Absolutely. Well, thank you very much, Niki. I really appreciate your time. I know you’ve got a lot of stuff to do, so I really enjoyed the convo and I hope you’ll come back sometime.

Niki: Thank you very much.

Niki Hall

Niki HallCMO at Contentsquare

Chris Mechanic

Chris MechanicCEO & Co-Founder

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