Technology is changing marketing, that’s for sure. And if you’ve been doing marketing for a while, you’ve seen the changes and their impact, and you’ve learned to leverage new technologies to improve your approach. Recently, I had the privilege of talking to Eric Lewis, Senior Director of Lead Generation at RingCentral—and a marketing professional who’s seen the transformation take place.
Since 2003, RingCentral has been breaking down communication barriers created by complex on-premise hardware. The company delivers cloud business communications solutions to more than 300,000 customers.
Having previously held senior management positions at Webroot, Symantec and GuardianEdge Technologies, Eric has seen it all. He also brings a rich new perspective to the table—that of a technologist. Eric’s background in computer science is helping him see the relevance and impact technology is having on marketing strategy today, particularly as it pertains to lead generation.
In our interview, Eric answered some poignant questions to bring light to the importance and potential of technology in driving corporate marketing efforts today and into the future.
Q. During your career, you’ve experienced a transformation in marketing. What are some of the most rewarding changes for you, personally?
Eric: When I started in marketing more than 20 years ago, we thought of it as a “black art”—“black” because it was a closed box with no insights or metrics to leverage, and “art” because there wasn’t much science to it. You’d cross your fingers and hope your efforts had some impact. Today, marketing is moving toward becoming a quantifiable science—a transformation that enables us to measure our contribution from an ROI and revenue perspective.
Additionally, sales and marketing is much better aligned in most organizations, and that’s a result of quantifying our contribution. By showing their worth, marketing teams have forged better relationships with sales teams. Acting as a single entity, they’re getting better results.
Q. If you could teleport back in time, what advice would you give yourself to prepare for today?
I would tell myself “always think big and beyond the possible.” There will always be technology limitations as well as people around you who don’t think as big as you do. Without those limitations, I could have gotten where I am now a lot faster. But thinking beyond the possible can have massive impact. For example, just after college I was working with Timothy Leary on a Virtual Reality project. We were attempting to connect LA and San Francisco live in 3D. Leary joked that we should “shoot a laser off the moon and promote the event in space.” That’s the kind of big thinking I’m talking about. We ended up shooting something off the fog bank, not the moon, but we still accomplished our goal.
On the tactical side, I’d tell myself to start tracking monthly recurring revenue sooner. With software as a service and other recurrent revenue models, it’s much easier to gather hard data and build upon your results every month.
Q. During the earlier part of your career in marketing, you were head of corporate marketing, but for the past five years, you’ve been leading demand generation teams. What are some of the differences in those roles?
The funnel, corporate marketing and or anything that touches the public (AR, PR, Social strategies and so on) should be considered holistically. Today, marketing is a broad role, but not deep. In the companies I’ve worked with, many of them startups raising money and getting ready for launch, I helped put teams in place and give them a public face. The activity was above and feeding the funnel. As technology developed and my career evolved, I began focusing on activities within the funnel. The new role of marketing is still involved in the various channels, but now is able to leverage all the leaders across functions and provide visibility into how they impact the funnel.
Q. You have a passion for metrics-based marketing. In my opinion, you are setting the bar for how to do it in the industry. What advice would you give to other marketing teams?
Track everything! Many teams don’t really track things definitively. You have the ability to measure whatever you want and report on what matters—so you should track it all.
You can start small by focusing on business objectives. Sometimes, it’s fun to do stuff, but it may not be adding value. Focus on where you can have impact and set targets for simple funnel metrics. Measure yourself against those targets. Look at the snapshot of how you’re doing on a real-time basis toward those targets, and determine trends. Then, continue to iterate. The demand generation machine at RingCentral has more than two years of data, so we sit down every quarter and forecast. We’re getting increasingly accurate.
Q. If you had to whittle down marketing metrics to a few simple measurements, what matters most to you and to the executive team? Are they the same set of metrics?
At the end of the day, there are only two key metrics executives care about: 1) cost per acquisition and 2) prediction for ROI (or, the ability to forecast revenue based on marketing spend and put some ROI metrics around it). But to provide those two metrics, you need many more metrics, which are all within the 5-7 funnel stages. Measure everything from visitor to lead to opportunity to closed deal. Then measure the conversion around those key metrics and ROI around the dollars. We use a ratio: basically, its’ spend divided by revenue.
Q. What has been the hardest part or parts of getting to the metrics you wanted?
Internally, the challenge is tracking attribution and CRM. Salesforce is a powerful tool but an unfriendly database. Working within restraints of custom objects and making Salesforce the central hub for data is a huge challenge. However, if it’s in Salesforce, it’s accessible to the entire company, and everyone can get real-time dashboards and data output.
One of the benefits of working with DemandGen is helping us determine attribution. This can be tricky when you’re trying to justify (to your finance department) paid search spend versus content syndication spend, and attribute it back to ROI for those channels. It becomes even more complex and difficult in enterprises with multiple programs that span multiple departments.
Externally, the biggest challenge is integrating marketing tool stacks from various vendors and getting them to work together seamlessly, to provide to you with the real-time data overview and dashboards you need.
Q. What do you think about all the innovation taking place in marketing technology today?
When I think back about 10 years to when marketing automation began—first with spreadsheets, then Eloqua, then market penetration data from Marketo—technology was just beginning to really take off. Now, predictive data is gaining traction, because we have better access to better data than we’ve ever had before, from more data sources than ever before. Now you can leverage different companies with two to three data sources for every single field of data.
At the end of the day, the quality of the data you give your sales team has a huge impact on the business. There’s a lot of work being done in this space. For example, Signal Analysis: if you can measure digital footprint and behavior, you can score leads accurately and provide a level of intelligence to help sales folks focus on the right leads. Companies such as Leadspace, Madison Logic, Netline, Big Willow and others can monitor digital behavior around content consumption or ad clicks. This gives me goose bumps!
Personally, I’m on the quest for the ultimate “Glengarry” lead, one that’s highly qualified and targeted. Some vendors are attempting to find those leads based on consumer behavior and where they are in the buying cycle. They follow up those leads with phone calls to verify them, then sell them to marketers. It’s the difference between throwing a wide net and using a sniper rifle.
Q. You built your dream team leveraging internal and external resources. Why do you work with agencies such as DemandGen, as extensions of your bench?
We turn to DemandGen for their talent, experience and brainpower. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough experienced professionals in our space to staff our internal bench. DemandGen leads the marketing automation space, and provides us the scalability we need to expand or contract, depending on various projects and implementations.
Q. What advice would you give a 2016 college grad entering marketing?
I’ll make this short and sweet—and also narrow and prejudiced by my own area of expertise and passion:
- You need to be an analyst first, a technologist second and a marketer third.
- Develop expertise around understanding data and the power of technology, and what it can do for the business.
- Don’t just listen to but participate and drive conversations to get the outcomes you desire.
Q. What’s your alter-ego career?
My kids and I love festivals and carnivals, and of course, kettle corn. So, I often joke with my kids about traveling the carny circuit and making kettle corn. In reality, if I could do anything I want, I’d quit my job, live in a log cabin with my family on a lake at the end of the road, and spend my time fly fishing.