If you are a teacher or substitute working in the US public school system you have probably heard of Aesop, a software as a service (SAAS) application created by Frontline Technologies and is used by over 4,000 school districts nationwide.
The SAAS system uses the Internet and phone to automatically replace an absent teacher with the right-skilled substitute. I recently had the chance to sit down with Frontline Technologies chief marketing officer David Peltz.
I asked David about the goals, challenges and issues that he faces being a CMO at a rapidly growing company like Frontline. His answers give insight into the hurdles we all face as marketing professionals, and how we might address them in a way that effectively builds our brands.
Jon: What does a typical day look like for you as a CMO at Frontline Technologies?
David: Usually I come in and check with my team of product marketers, creatives, content marketing, data and technology folks to understand both what is going on in their personal lives (part of our culture) and their priorities and timelines. The goal of this quick “stand up” meeting is really to simply confirm alignment of the individual and team goals to the company’s strategy.
Additionally, a large part of my day is spent meeting with members of other teams inside the company - both on corporate issues and how we might assist them. The marketing team's job here at Frontline is, at least in part, to be a service bureau to the rest of the organization. So on any given day I might be meeting the with head of our sales department or a small sub-segment of our product management team to better understand what their needs are from marketing in a particular area. Finally, I'm often working with the team on refining marketing strategies and building out executable tactics to support the strategies for our family of products.
Jon: What is your largest challenge as you try to grow the brand while working in a very finite market like education?
David: One of my largest challenge is to trying to address the beginnings of market saturation in a segment of our business, and figuring out ways to expand the addressable market that previously had not been a primary target for us.
Jon: What do you spend the majority of your time working on and thinking about?
David: I am always thinking about ways to both improve the results of our marketing efforts, meaning getting more leads and generating more revenue for the company. Simultaneously, I am always thinking about how we can better measure the activities that we are doing. If we can’t measure it, we can’t know if we are getting better or worse in our overall marketing performance.
Another major focus area for me, especially in 2014 is personnel development. I need to spend even more time thinking about how I can help my team improve. One element of this is figuring out what professional development they might need to continue to grow and working together to help them achieve this.
Jon: What have you done to align marketing and sales?
David: We try hard to be good listeners. We solicit advice and guidance from sales on a constant and ongoing basis. Then we take those data points and make actionable marketing decisions on them. These sales insights help us better understand subtle changes in the market and help us adjust marketing tactics to better speak to our target buyer.
Additionally, the sales and marketing departments are adjacent to each other in our building. This geographic closeness creates an environment where casual conversations between my team and the sales team happen on a regular basis. These conversations are critical to helping us keep a finger on the pulse on what is happening from a sales perspective.
Jon: What are the success metrics that executive management uses to evaluate your performance?
David: For our marketing department, it's all about sales pipeline and sales success. We're working on ways to better keep up with the ever-changing funnel to see where we can help sales deal with problem areas in the funnel, like stalled leads. We're putting together programs to get these folks re-engaged with sales.
As far as my performance is evaluated, I am really gauged on how successfully my team and I have been in helping sales achieve its goals. So from a practical standpoint, this means revenue in the door and new closed accounts. At the end of the day sales successes are really also marketing successes, as they are our largest internal customer.
Jon: How is social marketing changing the way that you market your products to school districts?
David: I think that like many companies in our space, we are trying to figure out where we get the most bang from social. At Frontline we haven't had great success using Facebook, Linkedin or other social networks for lead generation. So far, we've found that the real value for us in social is exporting the Frontline culture. From a fan engagement and response standpoint our customers respond most viscerally to pictures, videos and other Frontline cultural insights. We do our best to connect with them as people, so this is really our goal in using social media.
Jon: How are you delineating your time between lead generation, and cross sells and upsells with existing customers?
David: New school district accounts are always the primary focus for our marketing team. Having said that, our team is also very focused on lead generation within our existing customer base for school districts that only use one of our two current products.
It is important to recognize that when someone is a customer of one product, they are naturally a suspect for additional products that you develop. These existing customers might not immediately identify themselves as a lead when a new product is developed but our goal is to move them into the lead pipeline.
Essentially, existing customers are our low hanging fruit, and are always the first group that we speak to when we develop additional products. We always want our customers to be in the know, so we do our best to communicate with them - both through our products, and then through more traditional marketing channels.
Jon: Where are you trying to take your department in the next 2-4 years?
David: Our marketing department started as a traditional marketing communications group, meaning that everyone on the team had a specific area of oversight. Our designers managed all the creative, our copywriters managed all the content and so on down the line.
As the company has grown and developed additional products we see a need for a second tier of product marketing managers within marketing. These product marketing managers will own a specific product and guide the marketing activities for it. So in the next two to four years we're looking to build out that tier within our department.
This interview was conducted by Jonathan Pavoni, who has spent the last seven years in digital marketing doing a variety of brand building activities. His main focus areas have been: website development, search engine marketing, video production, content creation and corporate branding. The lead generation programs and campaigns that he has instituted have lead to significant increases in product and service sales. He is passionate about helping small businesses utilize technology to grow their organizations.