How customer self-service in B2B has pivoted marketing to revenue generation.  

Published 27/03/2024 / B2B SPOTLIGHT SERIES

Insights from Christine G.D. Schaefer, Chief Marketing Officer at CrashPlan.  

Across her 25-year career, Christine G.D. Schaefer has mastered many of the top customer-facing marketing- and revenue-based roles around the top table. She now leads marketing at CrashPlan, which exhibited at London’s recent Cloud & Cyber Security Expo.

We caught up with Christine there, to chat about the shifting challenges in B2B tech marketing, and why she now asks her team to think about ‘growth, conversion, and retention’, instead of ‘email, social’, and other traditional marketing disciplines. 

Tell us a bit about CrashPlan’s mission  

CrashPlan is a backup and recovery company focused on data resilience. We start with the belief that every idea matters. We exist to securely protect the ideas created by our customers and help unlock the value of that data, no matter where it lives. 
 
To that end, CrashPlan’s software automatically backs up data every fifteen minutes, catering to various use cases such as restoring a previous version of a file, recovering from ransomware, migrating data during device upgrades, and transitioning an employee’s work when they leave the company.  

It also offers a legal-hold feature for e-discovery, taking snapshots of machine content at specific times without interrupting the user’s work. It has more than 900,000 global users, backing up 1.4 million devices, and conducts about 100 billion restores annually. 

How did you get into marketing?

I started my marketing career over 25 years ago when it was more art than science. As the science side of marketing evolved, I embraced my sociology degree – which had a heavy emphasis on statistics and studying groups and behaviours – to focus on metrics and data. So, my marketing experience was grounded in demand generation and product marketing, and then public relations rounded it off.  

Initially, I worked with agencies, which instilled in me the importance of demonstrating ROI. I’ve done some B2C work, but my career has mainly seen me specialize in B2B tech marketing, working with enterprises and SMBs. That led me to CrashPlan, which is a great fit as it has an established product and is seeking to reinforce its brand identity by establishing a larger voice in the future of data resilience across industries and around the globe. It wants to grow its demand generation and customer retention, with the rigour of doing so in a scientific way. 

Across your career, you’ve worked as CMO and CRO or VP Revenue. From your perspective, what are the differences between those roles? 

As a VP of Revenue, I oversaw both sales and marketing, ensuring activities were tightly knit together. To be the type of revenue officer who owns both sales and marketing takes an ability to move back and forth between the near term and the long term. CMOs have to think a year out – what does the message need to be and where, to drive long-term revenue? – whereas a VP of Revenue needs to figure out how to hit the numbers this week, this month, this quarter… It is healthy to try and think about both. But, it does take an extra beat.  

With the rise of self-service in B2B purchase decisions, there’s a growing need for marketing professionals to lead revenue generation. Sales skills are extremely important, especially for closing deals, but marketing now permeates the entire sales funnel. So, I’ve shifted from organizing my team around event marketing, email marketing, or social media marketing to focus on growth, conversion, and retention. Growth attracts customers, conversion gets them through the funnel, and retention ensures their return. All of this is done hand-in-hand with sales, customer success, and product. This approach is increasingly recognized as a more cost-effective way to build brand loyalty and drive growth. 

All of us care about pipeline – Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR), Cost to Acquire a Customer (CAC), and Lifetime Value (LTV). Then each function has their own key performance metrics. For example, a retention person cares most about expansion and customer satisfaction metrics like retention or churn, net promoter scores, and user adoption metrics, among others. 

How do you capture the leads that feed the pipeline?

For a start, we look a lot at creating demand that drives inbound requests. We might run a content syndication programme or create videos that are optimized for search. We don’t gate our content anymore, but rather use it to draw people in, educate, and let them self-serve their research where and when they want. We’re working on marrying the best aspects of demand generation with product-led growth and personalized sales interactions when the buyer is ready. 

We attend events like Cyber Expo to keep our finger on the pulse of what’s being talked about in the industry and where folks’ interest lies most. It’s a great place for marketing to talk to their ideal customer profiles (ICPs) and personas. If somebody comes by the booth who is ready to talk to sales, we will scan their badge, but we don’t scan everyone. All aspects of the program are about getting people to opt-in and only reach out to those who show interest or intent to buy. 

You lead ThreatConnect when it was one of Inc. Magazine’s fastest-growing companies. What’s the real secret to growth?  And is growth any different in 2024 than in any other year?

A lot of growth comes from market fit. But it’s wrong to say that product-led growth is enough. Growth also comes from marketing’s ability to connect with people – not just explaining to them how the product works, but really making a connection with them. You can’t get stuck on a founder’s idea of the sexiest thing about the product – you really need to listen to the customers, and experiment with different marketing tactics.  

For me, growth stems from understanding processes holistically, then breaking down marketing’s role into measurable and manageable experiments. Think of it like a Rube Goldberg machine: break down the first part, then the second part, but don’t try and build the entire machine at once – or you will drive yourself mad.  

It’s important to monitor what we do, to see what’s going on, and see if something’s changed. But it’s crucial to understand the difference between dashboards and diagnostics. Dashboards are good for monitoring, but they don’t necessarily answer questions. Instead they should let you know when you need a diagnostic. Conversely, diagnostic reports are terrible for monitoring and great for answering specific questions.  

Everyone wants more reports, more data. But you need to ask: can you actually act on that data and get a different response? There are things that you can look at weekly, like web traffic. But CAC and LTV cannot be impacted weekly – they need to be monitored over time. Be careful not to distract yourself with too much data or the wrong data at the wrong time.

How do you balance revenue growth activities with brand building and executive leadership, where you see less of an ROI?

Everything that the company does contributes to brand building. Every client interaction, every prospect engagement, every sales pitch – right down to the team’s attire at trade shows, and the language used. Everything is part of brand. For example, if you are constantly running sales and promos on your product and never ever charging full price, you are telling people that you don’t believe your brand has the value that you’re telling them it has. 

I don’t look at brand versus revenue from a budget perspective. My focus is growth, conversion, and retention. Every marketing dollar spent must deliver ROI. If the activity crosses all three buckets, budget must be split equally across the three. If it is brand building, it had better impact either new ARR (or revenue), lifetime customer value (loyalty), or client retention.

How do you measure your success as a leader?

Often, it’s simply people’s willingness to work for you. I’m lucky that I’ve had people who have worked for me at five different companies. It’s about getting candid feedback, and helping each member of the team understand how they fit in with the bigger picture of the company. It’s ensuring that they don’t feel like a number, punching in. Instead they feel part of the team. It’s also important to make connections with the team. You don’t need to be their best friend, but you need to understand them at a more personal level.  

Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is one of the books I recommend to look at how you can create high functioning and cohesive teams. And it talks to how managers can turn their workers’ miserable jobs into fulfilling ones. 

How do you overcome challenges?

The biggest challenge in problem solving is managing the emotional aspect, especially when introducing new technologies or processes. People often resist change, going through the Kübler-Ross stages of grief. When you try to switch out the way they’re used to something, people will experience anger or denial. Then they will try to bargain with you to keep things as they are. They get depressed when they realize things have to change. Eventually they reach acceptance, if you are persistent and patient with them. Managing this emotional journey helps you get everyone behind making change in order to overcome challenges.

How are you using AI in your marketing and sales efforts?

We are running experiments. We recently completed an AI workshop to open the team’s minds to AI, and help get them started with experimenting on how they might use it. When it comes to content development, it can do all kinds of things – connecting two dots that you didn’t think an AI could. But there’s still an uncanny valley – the phenomenon where people feel a sense of unease or even revulsion in response to humanoid robots that are highly realistic. And we know that AI is not yet capable of being vulnerable or connecting at an emotional level. So, we are nowhere near using it widely and without human editing and improvement. 

That said, AI is of use in many other ways. I’ve asked chat GPT to create the initial outline of a presentation, or a first draft of a LinkedIn post, as a starting point. I’ve used it to run live internet searches, or look up benchmarked data.  

However, I am concerned, about some of the ethics of it. For example, if it has learned from copyrighted materials, I don’t think that’s right. So, the makers of AI need to catch-up, and ensure that it is learning in an ethical way. 

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