Brandon Kim is the VP of Marketing at Crystal, a powerful personality data platform that sales and...
From CMO to CEO with Jenn Steele at Kissmetrics
Jenn Steele joins to talk about how she went from CMO to CEO. She also talks web and product analytics, data-driven marketing, and her first 90 days as CEO.
Where B2B marketers come to talk sales. 15-minute interviews published every Monday morning. For heads of marketing and founders who support a sales team.
- Marketing and product analytics. Jenn spent tens of thousands of dollars when she didn't have to. She talks about why. How marketing and product analytics can work together.
- CMO to CEO transition. Jenn shares her background working at HubSpot, with private equity firms, MIT, and a bunch of other places.
- Kissmetrics as a Google Analytics 4 alternative. Jenn talks about how they're adapting their go to market strategy to capitalize on changes to Google Analytics (GA4, specifically).
- Rebuilding sales and marketing from scratch. Without having any players in sales or marketing seats, Jenn has been recreating those those, recreating processes, and hiring specialists to take these things off her plate.
- First 90 days as CEO. She walks us through the myriad of tasks on her plate as a new CEO, some of which are not her area of expertise. Like taxes. And all the ways she wants to fire herself.
Welcome to Pipeline Meeting, where marketers come to talk about sales. Whether you're the head of marketing or a founder who's supporting your first sales hire, we'll talk about qualifying your inbound leads and finding new ones with cold outreach. Learn more at introcrm.com/podcast.
[00:00:20] Jenn Steele: I was so pissed off when I started at Kissmetrics and realized that I paid a contractor $40,000 to set up something that Kissmetrics would do for $6,000 a year. I was just pissed . So--
[00:00:32] Harris Kenny: Yeah,
[00:00:32] Jenn Steele: Let's keep other from being pissed.
[00:00:35] Harris Kenny: Yeah, yeah. I love that.
[00:00:37] Harris Kenny: It's funny too because I feel like people are like, Okay, there's so much insight that I'm missing by just staying in this box of tools that I'm super familiar with.
[00:00:49] Harris Kenny: What point does that fear of blind spots, make me try something different, you know?
[00:00:54] Jenn Steele: It's a combination of you can't have shiny object syndrome or you get absolutely nothing done. But you also can't ignore everything.
[00:01:03] Jenn Steele: The weirdest thing about what happened with Kissmetrics is that like it fell off everybody's radar for a long time. And we still have a ton of customers.
[00:01:11] Jenn Steele: When they reached out to me to become CEO, I was like, Oh my gosh, Kissmetrics still exists. And then it was afterwards that I realized I had paid a contractor to take product data and put it into hubSpot so that we could kick off workflows and things like that from it.
[00:01:26] Jenn Steele: $40,000, I'm not kidding, to try to get all of that working together.
[00:01:31] Jenn Steele: Meanwhile, Kissmetrics actually tracks product data and marketing data on the same platform.
[00:01:37] Jenn Steele: I'm like, Wait a second, all I needed was to like install this and just maybe pay a consultant like $5,000 and I could have gotten this going for basically $11,000 total rather than $40,000 for literally three data points.
[00:01:53] Jenn Steele: I was so pissed off. I didn't know about it anymore. I'm like just once, just once, I wish I had asked myself, like whatever happened to that company?
[00:02:03] Harris Kenny: Help me understand the relationship then, and I'm familiar with Kissmetrics, but I've not used the product before. We do have a lot of people who use HubSpot, um, who listen to the show. We're HubSpot partners, so I'm familiar with that world
[00:02:14] Jenn Steele: Hey, I worked at HubSpot many, many years ago. I was, I was employee number 90, so I'm a big HubSpot fan, so that's, that's all good.
[00:02:21] Harris Kenny: Well, whatever you did, it worked.
[00:02:24] Jenn Steele: I wish I could take credit, but I will say that was such a team effort from absolutely everybody. And Brian and Dharmesh built a really great team around them.
[00:02:32] Jenn Steele: But anyhow, so where Kissmetrics fits in the Marketer's Toolbox really is we're a really good alternative to Google Analytics, in that we give you behavioral data.
[00:02:43] Jenn Steele: And the nice thing is that we can do it just for your website, absolutely.
[00:03:00] Jenn Steele: But you can also do post login in your product.
[00:03:03] Jenn Steele: Unlike the product analytics tools that tend to do really cool stuff around sessions, like Full Story does session replays that we do not play with, right?
[00:03:13] Jenn Steele: We are the marketer's way of saying, Hey, these people that saw blog post on feature A, then 25% of them used feature A, right?
[00:03:26] Jenn Steele: So you can tell how your marketing efforts are going with your product, if you want to. A lot of people just use us for their website as a GA replacement.
[00:03:34] Harris Kenny: A lot of people use it as a GA replacement, but you're saying it has much deeper potential across tools. And so as a marketer then , I'm not syncing that data back into HubSpot.
[00:03:45] Jenn Steele: We have actually a pretty open data model. The nice thing about being founded in 2008 is that the last five years or so of my data, our data, we wanna become your system of record. We're like, we don't care. Have your system of record, be your system of record.
[00:03:58] Jenn Steele: We have robust API endpoints. You can integrate us with 150 things natively and Zapier, so you can put the data anywhere.
[00:04:07] Jenn Steele: And the coolest thing is that our HubSpot integration pushes segmentation, like tells you exactly what segments a contact is part of, and then you can trigger workflows off of.
[00:04:17] Jenn Steele: But of course if you want other data in HubSpot, that can happen too. We just don't necessarily sync absolutely everything cuz that would just be, uh, a lot.
[00:04:26] Harris Kenny: I actually wanted to jump into the reason why I was hoping to have you on in the first place, which is you posted on LinkedIn about the transition of going from CMO to CEO.
[00:04:36] Harris Kenny: You obviously serve marketers and have a marketing background, but now have more responsibility and they recruited you to come in to Kissmetrics to run the business as CEO.
[00:04:44] Harris Kenny: I was wondering if you could just talk about that personal journey that you went through and why you feel like it may be more broadly applicable that more people could make that jump as well.
[00:04:54] Jenn Steele: So that's interesting cause since I made the post, I've had a lot of conversations that maybe make me realize why I could make that jump more easily.
[00:05:03] Jenn Steele: I sometimes say that my career looks like a pinball at a pinball machine. I have a degree in biology from MIT. Then I went into IT and I used to run IT departments at law firms.
[00:05:12] Jenn Steele: And then I started taking over social media for like a professional organization, burned out and ended up at HubSpot as employee number 90 as a marketing consultant.
[00:05:21] Jenn Steele: So, already, that's weird. Then from there I went into like AWS and product marketing. I went to head of growth at a recruitment startup. I went to product marketing at a big data company. I've taken turns as a CRO for financial SaaS company.
[00:05:39] Jenn Steele: All of those things together, while they're very confusing, if you wanna hire me as a CMO, my board was like, Heck yeah, we want all of that stuff.
[00:05:48] Jenn Steele: Plus this is very much a go to market opportunity. I hadn't heard of Kissmetrics because Kissmetrics hasn't been doing marketing for a long time. Kissmetrics hasn't had a robust sales engine in a long time.
[00:06:02] Jenn Steele: The fact that I had run both sales and marketing teams at small companies and at larger companies made me an ideal.
[00:06:08] Jenn Steele: Plus, I'd been at three or four different MarTech companies, including HubSpot. I know how to market to marketers. I know how to talk to marketers.
[00:06:16] Jenn Steele: I don't know that I would've been hired as a CEO for, you know, law enforcement technology. But for MarTech, that made a lot of sense.
[00:06:26] Harris Kenny: That makes sense to me. To make that transition from CMO to CEO, you're saying a couple things that I'm hearing.
[00:06:32] Harris Kenny: One is a broad set of experience. So if you're a marketer who's just doing brand marketing or performance marketing...
[00:06:38] Jenn Steele: Yes, oh, so I talked to somebody about that. Do you remember when we were all looking for the T-shaped market?
[00:06:43] Harris Kenny: Yeah, yeah.
[00:06:45] Jenn Steele: We were all looking for the T-shaped marketer really deep in one thing, and kind of broad brush strokes over everything else. I used to look at that and tell everybody that I was just drippy. If you go along the top, it would just drip down.
[00:06:57] Jenn Steele: I knew inbound super duper well. I knew developer marketing really, really well. I was a genius in product marketing. I knew how to budget cuz I'd worked at private equity companies, but I never was the T shape marketer.
[00:07:11] Jenn Steele: The thing that actually made it hard for me before I became a CMO, right? As an individual contributor, where they're just like you're not focused, made it easy for me to become a CEO because of course I know a lot of things.
[00:07:25] Harris Kenny: Yeah. Okay. Well good. I love the T-shaped marketer reference too.
[00:07:30] Jenn Steele: And I literally have been saying for years that I was just drippy or I was like a comb when if you hold the comb sideways.
[00:07:36] Harris Kenny: Is there anything that you feel like in stepping into this role, gaps that you had that you were finding yourself catching up on, or maybe talking to other people about, or bringing in somebody from externally to, to bring capability in. Because you have done a lot of things.
[00:07:51] Harris Kenny: Are there any gaps that you've have felt a little bit as you've been getting in motion?
[00:07:56] Jenn Steele: I desperately wanna fire myself as CFO. Desperately. It's funny cuz when I was an IT executive, IT had the biggest budget in companies.
[00:08:06] Jenn Steele: And then I be went into marketing and became a marketing executive as marketing, then outpaced the IT budget, so apparently I followed the money.
[00:08:14] Jenn Steele: It's managing my budget, even headcount, even all of that stuff is vastly different than where's our cash flow going? And what about this subscription revenue? And what about this? And part of it is that I don't know what I don't know. So I would love to fire myself from from CFO.
[00:08:34] Harris Kenny: You also mentioned sales, and how the company didn't have an established sales motion. What is that looking like today? How are you putting that in place? How are you thinking about that?
[00:08:46] Jenn Steele: Things were a little broken when I came in. There had been nobody in sales and marketing for a while. I mean, lead flow was broken.
[00:08:54] Jenn Steele: Like step one was like, Hey, let's reauthenticate the Zapier integration so that, so that we actually get the demo request from the website. I'm not kidding. It was that. It was that crazy cuz there had been no warm bodies anywhere.
[00:09:09] Jenn Steele: Then it was a matter of asking people what have we been doing? And then writing up and as much as I could, automating a sales process with the current tools.
[00:09:17] Jenn Steele: I have learned how to demo as well, which is good because one of my sales guys got super, super sick, The one of course who had the most demos on his calendar, and there have been some that I'm the only one with the free time at that point.
[00:09:31] Jenn Steele: This morning I was on the phone with Belgium telling them how to deal with their million users a month, or 10 million, I think it was 10 million. But you know, you get the idea.
[00:09:40] Harris Kenny: Yeah, yeah. Do you find that you're jumping into the marketing seat as well and being involved there because you have so much familiarity? Or are you not spending as much time actually marketing anymore.
[00:09:51] Jenn Steele: The interesting thing about being an old brand that had phenomenal SEO is that it's more like what do I do with what I have than necessarily generating demand.
[00:10:02] Jenn Steele: Obviously I'm trying to make people aware again that Kissmetrics exists and don't spend $40,000 on a consultant you don't need, like I did.
[00:10:09] Jenn Steele: But um, overall, I have to spend some time in mar marketing. Again, would love to fire myself from some of that role, but when you're building sales and marketing from scratch, obviously, I'm doing that.
[00:10:24] Jenn Steele: Now, I have to be careful cuz that's my wheelhouse, right? That's my, that's my, If all things being equal, if I'm tired, if I'm lazy or whatever, I'm gonna do marketing stuff, right?
[00:10:35] Jenn Steele: I don't have to think to do marketing stuff. I've done it a lot. I think I'm still trying to, to strike the right balance. I loved putting together the campaign slides to present to my board. Cause that was easy. And things like that.
[00:10:48] Harris Kenny: Mm-hmm. . Totally. Have you brought in marketing people to help yet, like any fractional agency or contractors or anything?
[00:10:54] Jenn Steele: Not yet, yet being the operative term. I've only been here about three months. It was really stabilize, get to know the customer base, deal with the 2021 taxes. Like seriously. I have been doing a lot of, I've been learning a lot, shall we say.
[00:11:09] Harris Kenny: What did your first 90 days look like as CEO? What was your split of time do you think, between these different functions of the business?
[00:11:18] Harris Kenny: Sounds like customer success, almost like talking to customers sounds like it was a huge part of it.
[00:11:22] Jenn Steele: A lot of it was analyzing use cases in our customer base. The thing with being a great substitute for Google Analytics is do you know how many different kinds of companies could use you? How for how many different use cases?
[00:11:33] Jenn Steele: I basically got to the point that I'm like, Okay, we have Carvana over here and we've got a big SaaS company over there and they do not use us the same way.
[00:11:41] Jenn Steele: Carvana never logs in. They use us as a big data pipe. Whereas the SaaS company is in there every freaking day. I'm not even sure what they're running every single day about their website and product, right?
[00:11:52] Jenn Steele: I'm sure it's useful for somebody and God bless them and their ops person I hope is happy so,
[00:11:57] Jenn Steele: I'm using those two examples, but it was like this mom and pop plumber, I mean, I'm from marketing, what's my ICP? Who's my persona?
[00:12:05] Jenn Steele: It wasn't as easy as I would've anticipated because of the breadth of the product and the number of years it's been doing sales.
[00:12:13] Harris Kenny: Right, right.
[00:12:15] Jenn Steele: Yeah, so the first 90 days were, how does the product work? Knocked my socks off cuz the product just works, right? It's a 14 year old company. And has had, you know, however, 20 million or so in investment.
[00:12:27] Jenn Steele: And so the product just works. I'm a startup person. I'm not used to marketing a product that works. It's like, what do I do with this? I don't have to sell around anything. It's very confusing.
[00:12:36] Jenn Steele: Learning people, figuring out what the dev pipeline and tech debt looked like. And taxes were a thing.
[00:12:44] Jenn Steele: Learning how to deal with all of that. Cause I have filed my own taxes. I've filed my taxes as a solo LLC. I have never filed a company's taxes.
[00:12:54] Harris Kenny: What is the rest of the year going into 2023? You've got these use cases, you've got some areas in which you wanna fire yourself, how are you thinking about that?
[00:13:03] Jenn Steele: Between now and when this podcast comes out we're gonna implement a product led growth motion. I say that because I'm hoping it's today, and I'm like, I just need one title change. Just one title change, come on. So there's that.
[00:13:17] Jenn Steele: And also honestly, Google Analytics has given us a gift with GA 4. People absolutely hate it. And so it's a matter of figuring out how to capitalize on that in order to land more deals, cause revenue is how companies work.
[00:13:31] Jenn Steele: Before GA gave us this gift of forcing everybody into GA four, I was honestly gonna go after growth stage marketers who were bringing in a product led motion on top of an enterprise sales motion.
[00:13:43] Jenn Steele: Guess when I've spent my $40,000 as a consultant, it was exactly that because we give you the behavioral data before and after login and it won't be as much of a headache.
[00:13:53] Harris Kenny: If people are super interested in Kissmetrics and or hearing about your perspective on things, where can they find you? Where can they find the company?
[00:14:00] Jenn Steele: You can find Kissmetrics at kissmetrics.io. We are somewhat active on social right now, it's just me cuz I don't have anybody in marketing, so we're only somewhat active on social.
[00:14:09] Jenn Steele: And then I'm personally Jen Steele, j e n n s t e e l e, basically everywhere.
[00:14:15] Jenn Steele: LinkedIn, Twitter, not TikTok because I don't have time, but I'm mostly active on LinkedIn.
That's all for now. You can find show notes at introcrm.com/podcast. The theme music for Pipeline Meeting is by Neighbourhood Vandal and it's shared under a Creative Commons-Attribution, or CC-BY, license. If you learned something, consider sharing this show with a friend. Thanks.