Questions for Brilliant Marketers Melissa Stevens

Dumb Questions for Brilliant Marketers: Melissa Stevens

When it comes to questions about account-based marketing, KPIs, the sales-marketing gap, and fake enthusiasm for standing desks, few people are as qualified to answer them as Melissa Stevens, the director of digital strategy at BitSight Technologies. Lucky for you, she’s the latest guest in our ongoing series, Dumb Questions for Brilliant Marketers. Enjoy!

Stephanie: Marketers are constantly having to evaluate new technologies (CMS, CRM, analytics platforms, etc.) as well as new methodologies (e.g., ABM, inbound). In both instances, the cost of switching can be costly and time-consuming. As someone who has successfully (and repeatedly) adopted some of these tools and processes, how do you make that decision? And what advice do you have for other marketers who might be rethinking their playbooks? 

Melissa Stevens: In my career, it’s never been a “switch” but a deeper adoption.  I see these new tactics as complementary to others in the marketing mix.  There is a tendency to label things that we’re already doing like it’s something totally new.  With these trends, you might switch to doing something MORE than you were before, but chances are that most of the elements were already a part of your strategy.

ABM is a bigger shift for my team right now – we are still working on defining our strategy and building alignment with sales and have been testing different outreach and measurement strategies.  The key here is to just do it slowly and in baby steps and to not try and force things to work.  We have lots of other programs to maintain to support our sales team, and making sure that you don’t abandon those efforts in pursuit of the newest thing is critical to success!

Stephanie: There’s a new school of thought that B2B and B2C marketing shouldn’t be categorized differently, that the same principles and tactics apply equally to both. As someone who has tended to focus on a B2B audience for most of your career, we’re curious if you agree with this idea. Thoughts?

Melissa: There are elements we can both borrow from each other, but I still see a distinct difference.  For example, on the B2C side, I can’t imagine they gain much value from tactics like content syndication or webinars, but we still see a lot of value in those channels for demand gen and deepening brand awareness.  One tactic on the B2C side that B2B is adopting successfully is the “human to human” approach through personalization.  Treating our buyers like people instead of businesses and targeting based on expressed interests and behaviors is a really great tactic that companies are adopting more and more.  With the focus on ABM, it’s something that lots of organizations are trying to nail, and we are looking to B2C orgs, for example.

Stephanie: The disconnect between marketing and sales is well documented but not always well defined. In your experience, where does this disconnect mostly occur? In day-to-day operations? Metrics and KPIs? And how have you tried to bridge this gap in organizations where you’ve led marketing efforts?

Melissa: Oh, this is a tough one!  It’s been different in almost every organization that I’ve been a part of, but it mostly lies in the metrics and KPIs.  When marketing is measured by the number of leads and opportunities created, but the sales team is measured by revenue, there’s lots of room for misalignment and finger-pointing.

I hate to appear like a total ABM fan girl, but one thing I love about the push towards deeper adoption of this strategy is where both teams are tied to the same goals – generating engagement and revenue in key accounts.  It doesn’t matter who sourced it or who touched it last before it closed – it’s an orchestrated effort by both teams to move the needle.  The indicators that this strategy works are simply whether revenue and pipeline goals were reached through deals in those key accounts.

There’s no fumbling to show that marketing influenced x% of deals or that sales sourced x% of the pipeline (that tends to make us competitive with each other instead of allies).   It seems to be a much cleaner partnership, and I like seeing companies move more toward this model where it works.  We are still far from this utopia, but I think we’ll get there soon!

Stephanie: What are some other brands that you admire (or strive to emulate) from a marketing perspective, and why?

Melissa: I don’t really pay attention to a lot of brands, but I have a wide network of friends and former colleagues who are rock-star marketers (shout out to my Iron Mountain friends!).  I follow their work and get inspiration from what they’re doing, and every once in a while, we still get together to talk about the challenges and successes we’re having in our different roles.  I also love going to conferences, my favorite lately being the MarketingProfs B2B Conference.  Hearing and seeing what other people are working on is very inspiring, so I try to bring their ideas back to my job in whatever way I can.

Dumb Questions:

Stephanie: True or false: We’ll see emojis and hashtags on tombstones in 50 years.

Melissa: 👍

Stephanie: Everyone’s just pretending to like standing desks, right?

Melissa: No!! I love mine. I have an adjustable desk, and I probably spend about 80% of my time standing to compensate for all the meetings I’m stuck sitting in!

Stephanie: Who do you blame for suggesting marketing as a career?

Melissa: No one really suggested it to me…. It just kind of happened!  As a kid, I wanted to be a librarian because I love research and helping people find answers.  I see parallels to that in marketing, mostly on the SEO and content strategy sides.  So maybe I blame public libraries??

Stephanie: Your choice for BitSight’s B-List celebrity spokesperson is ____?

Melissa: Alec Baldwin (is he b-list?) because BitSight can help us make security great again.

Stephanie: Next BitSight office perk: Big Mac ATM or nap pods? Or both?

Melissa: Nap pods, please.

Bio: Melissa Stevens is the Director of Digital Marketing at BitSight Technologies.  She has worked in prior demand gen roles at Q1 Labs, Iron Mountain, and IcX Technologies. Melissa has a Master’s in Communications Management from Simmons College and a BA in English from Umass Amherst.  She still plans to someday wear the title of librarian (even if it’s just her own collection).