By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
Late in 2015 we started producing a bi-weekly radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which runs live every other Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Pacific, moving soon to 11:30 a.m. Pacific. It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.
We’ve already featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests into 2016. Our very first guest was Funnelholic author and Topo co-founder Craig Rosenberg. Next we had Mike Weinberg, incredible writer, speaker, author, followed by Conrad Bayer, CEO & Founder of Tellwise. Recent Guests: Jim Keenan; Joanne Black; Aaron Ross; Josiane Feigon, Meagen Eisenberg, and Trish Bertuzzi.
We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes. You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.
Listen in or read our conversation below as we discuss marketing mobility with Liz Pearce.
- A lot of marketers envy your path – marketer to CEO. How did you do it, and what recommendations would you have for other marketing leaders who want to someday run their own business?
- Have you found it hard to manage other markters, especially CMOs? What’s key to managing them without micromanaging given your marketing background?
- You’re in a crowded market, what’s your key to differentiating and winning?
- We’ve talked before about your impressive productivity habits. What’s working for you right now?
Liz Pearce is Chief Executive Officer at LiquidPlanner, the fast-growing Seattle-based maker of predictive project management technology. She is responsible for the company’s overall vision, strategic direction and growth. Liz is an entrepreneurial leader with more than 15 years of marketing, product management and technology leadership experience. She started her career at LiquidPlanner as Director of Marketing in 2007 before being named COO in 2011 and CEO in August of 2012.
Matt: Thanks very much for joining us today on Sales Pipeline Radio. I appreciate you joining us. If you’re with us live, thanks for joining us in real time.
Hopefully from somewhere you are finishing up the month, finishing up the quarter trying to grind it out, and trying to hit that number, and accelerate through the curve into Q four of this year.
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Every week we are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing covering all gambits of the funnel from the top, to the middle, the bottom.
Liz: Hi Matt. Happy to be here.
Matt: So first things first. Where are you on the weather? Are you missing the summer weather? Or is this comforting now that we’re back into fall weather? Where are you on that spectrum?
Liz: I like it. I’m glad to have the cool weather back. I’m wearing a scarf for the first time all season. And boots are out. I’m ready.
Matt: Yeah. I’m with you. I think I’ve gotten to the point where I appreciate the summer up here. It’s so beautiful when it is nice out. But I like the fire, the fireplace. I like the warmer, the colder, the crisper mornings. It means that baseball playoffs are right around the corner. College football’s back. It’s got all kinds of nice stuff going for it. But thank you for joining us today on the radio show. I think I was particularly interested in hearing more about your path. And I think you’ve got a ton of great insights into great sales and marketing efforts. But your path is something I think a lot of people in marketing envy, and really would like to follow moving from a career in marketing to becoming CEO.
And for those that don’t know you, you started at LiquidPlanner as a marketing consultant, then became full-time Head of Marketing, became full-time COO, and are now for several years have been the CEO.
So I’d love to maybe start with how did you do that? What was that transition like? And for other marketing leaders who may be listening, that someday may want to make the leap from marketing leadership to overall company leadership, what can they do to get started?
Liz: It’s all about finding a company where there is room for growth. I think if you have ambitions of extending your career beyond whatever chosen specialty that you are in now. If you have aspirations in moving beyond that look for organizations, that need more hands on deck to solve big problems.
And when I joined LiquidPlanner it was teeny tiny just a handful of people. Most of them were writing code. And I was hired to think about our go-to-market plan. What is our value proposition? What is our message? How do we talk about, or differentiate, or how do compare ourselves to other players in the space?
And as the product took shape, and we started to actually go out to start to sell it, there was no one but me to do the selling. And so, I hopped on the challenge. So it helps to be naturally curious, and game to try anything even if you aren’t sure you are going to succeed.
And it was that attitude I guess, which allowed me to take advantage of opportunities to go beyond sales, to manage customer success from there, I was a VP at that point of Sales and Marketing. And then to move into the COO role, which included responsibilities for finance, and legal, and operations, and things like that.
So all of it was about being the best person at the time to solve the problem, and building a team, that is really experts in all those areas to help you get there.
Matt: So finding an opportunity at a company where they’re solving big problems, where they have those needs, do you think the fact that you started a smaller company, that almost sometimes by definition doesn’t have some of those roles filled, or those seats filled helps with that?
Because I think a lot of marketers even though they may be fully capable of handling some of those broader opportunities, sometimes there’s a stigma, that if you’re a marketing leader, you’re a marketing person.
And so I’m curious if it’s the small company, that provides more of an opportunity for that vacuum of need, that you can step into because no one else can. And show that you can operate beyond marketing, and then you’re off from there.
Liz: That’s been my experience. So I worked in marketing in larger companies prior to joining LiquidPlanner. And you are one of many. And there are people who are tasked specifically with solving almost every problem that has been identified. And it’s the total opposite in a startup.
Where new problems and opportunities are popping up every day. And they’re really yours for the taking, if you have the motivation, and you can prove that you can handle the challenges. Then people will give you more and more responsibility. And responsibility that lies outside of what you were technically hired to do.
So if that is your attitude on taking on new challenges, and you are looking for that a startup is a great place to go. You have to be able to tolerate the risk, of course.
Matt: You and I have talked about a little bit in the past the process of, or just the experience of running a company. And I was talking to someone yesterday who’s another CEO in Seattle, and she referred to it sometime as chewing glass.
And your comment about problems and opportunities coming on a daily basis … I was a business owner, I can relate to that. I think most business leaders can relate to that. Most marketing leaders can relate to that. Right? Campaigns break down, but new opportunities come up.
Does your approach to managing a business change relative to that versus managing sales and marketing? Or are you thinking about that in a similar way in terms of mitigating problems, evaluating, and taking advantage of opportunities, and so on?
Liz: I definitely don’t think of my job as chewing glass. In fact that metaphor has never occurred to me. But I will say that when you are in the CEO role, you are almost by nature going to be faced with the kinds of challenges, that are outside of your comfort zone. When you’re working within your chosen field whether it’s sales or marketing, or engineering, or whatever it is, you’ve opted in to the challenges, that come with that type of role.
Very specifically, when you take on the CEO role, and one day it could be a legal challenge, one day it could be an external relations issue, one day it could be a technology problem. You are almost guaranteed to come across things, that just make you doubt yourself.
Liz: And so enlisting the help of others in your organization to solve those problems, and being open to the fact that although you’re in that seat, you might not necessarily have all the answers will probably put you in a better frame of mind to solve those challenges then if you took it all on yourself.
Matt: Your background I think certainly prepared you for this. You’ve done a lot. You were at Sony. You were at Google. You were at Amazon. You’ve done the work in some pretty impressive companies. But you mention the idea of doubting yourself. And I think whether you’re a CMO, whether you’re a consultant, whether you’re a CEO, imposter syndrome has a way of making its way in.
I know we didn’t talk about this question before, but I’m curious how do you get beyond that? How do you overcome that? I think that’s a common thing for a lot of people even some very, very successful people. What do you do to mitigate that? What do you do to push through?
Liz: I think there’s a degree of it, that can be healthy. The phrase I used is paranoid optimism. So it’s important when you’re leading anything to find the positive, and talk about the positive, and help people see what’s possible, and where you’re going. At the same time, it’s your responsibility to be scanning the environment for risks, and things that can go wrong, and things, that could jeopardize you and your mission. So they are two sides of the coin, but I think you have to carry them both at the same time to do your job well.
Matt: We’re talking today with Liz Pearce who’s the CEO of LiquidPlanner. You can check them out at just LiquidPlanner dot com. They do some fantastic work in the project management space. I highly encourage you to check them out.
Have you found that it’s hard to manage other marketers? Do you have to change your approach now as a CEO, or just sort of be more intentional about how you manage marketers because of your background in marketing versus other departments, that you’ve clearly become highly competent in managing, but you don’t have the background whether that’s based on your knowledge of what they do, or based on their perception of whether you’re micromanaging, or where you are in the process?
Liz: Yeah. It may be harder for them to work for me.
Liz: I don’t think it’s hard to manage marketers. The key for me is I know they’re all smarter than me. The ones that work at LiquidPlanner. So just coming to the table as intellectual equals for challenges around marketing is a great starting point. Everybody is on the same team working towards the same goal. And we all have different things to contribute.
I think one of the things I love about working with marketers is that they are spending so much time staying current on what’s going on in the industry whether it’s new technologies, that are enabling better marketing, or just trends when it comes to SEO, or whatever the subject they’re thinking about is.
A lot of the work of marketing is knowing what’s now, and what we need to do to keep up, and stay competitive. So I’m learning from them constantly. I got some advice at one point to create an owner’s manual for working with you for your team.
Liz: So everybody on my team knows that I am a complete paranoid freak about the way LiquidPlanner is spelled. Some people put a space in between Liquid and Planner, and it just drives me nuts. And so everybody knows if a piece of paper gets on my desk with LiquidPlanner spelled wrong, I have the right to have a little mini, have a moment.
And there are things like that where it’s like, this is just a quirk about me, and I’m going to let you know about it now, so that we can deal with it is the good way to get through some of the collaborative work that is more detailed.
Matt: Well we’ve got to take a quick break here. We’ll be back in a couple minutes with Liz Pearce, CEO of LiquidPlanner. That’s one word with a capital L and capital P.
Liz: Thank you.
Liz: Thank you, Matt.
Matt: We’re going to talk a lot more about just marketing in a competitive market, project management, a lot of different players. We’re going to talk a little about differentiation there.
Also Liz and I have talked extensively in the past about productivity habits. I want to get into a little bit of that as well sort of keeping yourself sane when you’re managing, you’ve got lots of balls in the air. We’ll be back after a couple minutes. This is Sales Pipeline Radio.
Paul: And now back to Matt and his guest.
Matt: Thank you, Paul. Well appreciate everyone joining us here. If you like this conversation, and want to hear more of it, if you want to share this conversation with your team, you’ll definitely be able to find a on demand version of this episode of Sales Pipeline Radio on SalesPipelineRadio.com.
We are here every Thursday. Coming up the next couple weeks we have next week, Adam Schoenfeld. He is the CEO and Co-Founder of Siftrock. If you want a better way to manage your database, if you want your database to update in real time based on out of office replies you get from people, from your bulk campaigns, as well as your individual campaigns. We’re going to be talking about new trends in database management and list management with Adam.
Coming up later in October, we’ve also got the wizard of Moz, Rand Fishkin who is the Founder of Moz, and one of the leading experts on SEO. We’ll talk about what’s latest from Google, and what you need to be doing on your content, and on your website to continue to rank well.
And later on after that we’ve got Jeremy Korst who is the CMO at Avalara. Avalara sells sales tax software. Sales tax software, which is about as exciting as you can get. But they are a fast growing company. We’re going to talk about how to take something, that may not be the most exciting category in the world, and make some bones about it, and really hit your number and grow.
So lots of great stuff coming up on Sales Pipeline Radio. Today, still got plenty of time with Liz Pearce who is the CEO of LiquidPlanner.
And Liz speaking of markets and competition, project management, you guys create a great product, that helps companies, and helps fast moving teams better manage, and scale, and create efficiency around how they get stuff done. It is a crowded market. There’s a lot of products, that are in that space. What are things that you focus on to differentiate, and to win in that kind of an environment?
Liz: Yeah, any crowded market is kind of differentiate or die.
Liz: And we really take that attitude when it comes to both the product and the service we provide. I think the product differentiation is the biggest thing to focus on. With any software purchase these days most of the buying cycle has already passed by the time you actually connect with someone over the phone, or face to face, or via email. They’ve already gone pretty far down their evaluation path.
And so it really comes to can the product provide value in a way, that is above and beyond the other players in that space. So that’s what we focus on. Our big differentiator as a product is that we automate a lot of the manual work, that project managers are doing in other systems. So our scheduling engine looks at your priorities, your people, and how much work there is to do, and actually calculates for you what is realistic with the team you have, and your goals.
And so we’re constantly updating your expected completion dates for your projects based on all those little microchanges, that are happening in your business every single day. And this is a big problem for organizations, that are managing multiple complex concurrent projects with a shared set of resources. It’s very, very hard to have visibility into what’s going on, what every person is working on, and when you can predict completion, which is important for clients, and partners.
So we’re finding a lot of traction with manufacturing companies in particular. So we’re really excited to partner with them, and keep making the platform better.
Matt: Well I believe you guys refer to this as Dynamic Project Management, which is really critical. Right? It’s one thing to have an idea of what you want to execute up front. Best-laid plans rarely survive contact with the battlefield.
So as things adjust, and I’ve seen lot of companies, that whether they’re using Microsoft Project, or spreadsheets, they just spend an inordinate amount of time updating that project plan, which really is not very efficient.
Liz: Or feeling guilty about not having updated it.
Matt: Yeah. Exactly.
Liz: There’s a lot of that.
Matt: And then if they haven’t updated it then all of sudden why did we have a plan in the first place? Now we’re off the reservation.
Talk a little bit about project management for marketers. I think about the events you’re doing on an ongoing basis, campaigns you’re doing on an ongoing basis. Think about the way a lot of companies manage this it’s through email, Slack, meetings.
How can a tool like LiquidPlanner just Dynamic Project Management help marketers as they execute as well?
Liz: Yeah. Marketers are in a unique position when it comes to managing their work because there is a fair degree of what we do as marketers, that is reactive. We’re reacting to a piece of content that gets published, or an article, or a new opportunity, that comes in for an event that’s happening the following week.
So we want to carve out some of our availability to be able to handle those opportunities well. At the same time we are managing sometimes very long-term projects. We at LiquidPlanner just kicked off a big Multi-touch campaign, that used multiple channels, involved multiple teams, and we had to manage that in the same way we would manage a technology project.
Liz: With clearly defined steps, owners, dependencies, phases, data, all of that. So I think there has to be room within the culture of the marketing organization for more ad hoc task management where you’re quickly, and rapidly prioritizing smaller items, and a capability for longer-term planning.
And on smaller teams this is sometimes tricky because you just feel like you’re always responding to the latest thing. And in larger organizations they typically have this capability staffed.
But it is something, that as marketers we should be getting better at. There are a lot of different tools you can use to manage it. We of course use LiquidPlanner, which allows us to combine multiple methodologies in a single environment.
But whatever tool you use I think having visibility, prioritizing, and making sure there’s accountability is the foundation for being an efficient team.
Matt: Yeah. I’d agree with you. And I think that when we think about marketing operations in a lot of companies too often we associate that purely with the tech stack, and people managing technology.
And I think everything we’re describing around project management, and managing the efficiency and throughput of a team to me is around, it speaks to marketing operations, and the opportunity there.
Speaking of efficiency. I know we’ve just got a couple more minutes. You and I have talked a lot about productivity habits. And I remember one of the first times sitting down with you when you started walking through how you manage your day, and sort of it’s not just work, it’s life, and it’s home, and it’s other stuff.
And I remember just being basically slack-jawed at how well you have that dialed in. We don’t have time to get through … We’d have to do a whole ‘nother show to walk through a lot of that as well. But that was a couple years ago.
Curious, what is working for you now? How have you adjusted your system? And as you manage your business, as you manage a family, and you’ve got a lot of balls in the air, what’s working for you today to maintain a high level of productivity?
Liz: If I recall correctly, we were talking back in the day when I had this physical binder, that was just my bible, and I would carry it around, and it had all these different things. I’ve become a lot more digital over the last few years, so I’m relying heavily on lists on my phone for personal things. I’m using a lot of voice-activated technology, so I’m leaving memos to myself, and adding things to lists with voice technology. So that’s been really helpful. And of course I never can let go of my work, that I manage in LiquidPlanner.
Last question I have for you, that I always ask a lot of people, and I think for you I want to broaden it. Usually if we’ve got someone on, and it’s a sales leader, we ask about who would be on the Mount Rushmore of sales for you. If we’ve got a market leader, we ask who are the people, that you have learned the most from, and that you would consider some of the most influential for you on the marketing side?
For you I’d like to just broaden it even further. As a marketing leader, as a business leader, who are the people, that you continue to learn from? Who are the people, that have had the most influence for you in your career thus far?
Liz: Well obviously we’re a tight-knit community in Seattle. You mentioned a couple more Seattle folks that you’ll have on your network, or on your show in the coming weeks.
From the Seattle community I really look up to Steve Singh and Christian Chabot who took Concur and Tableau to such great successes. There’s a lot of great things happening on the startups scene here too. Outreach is doing great stuff, and Manny over there is an inspiration.
So tons of places to look for motivation to keep pushing, and pushing, and pushing our business forward.
Matt: Great stuff. Well want to thank you again very much. We got Liz Pearce here the CEO of LiquidPlanner. Thanks. I know you’ve got a ton going on, super busy. So really appreciate you taking a few minutes out of your schedule to grab time with us today.
If you want to learn more about LiquidPlanner, if you like what you’re hearing around Dynamic Project Management, definitely check them out. LiquidPlanner.com. Capital L, capital P, one word. You are also not case specific, but Liz would particularly appreciate it if you did hit capital L and a capital P when you type in the URL. It’ll just make her feel better.
If you like this conversation, and you want to hear it again, you can definitely check us out on demand in a couple days at Sales Pipeline Radio dot com. If you like what we’re talking about, and want to hear more from our featured guests, definitely make sure you check us out on the iTunes Store, Google Play, and wherever fine podcasts are available.
We’ll be back next week as in every week with more great insights on B2B sales and marketing. For my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us on Sales Pipeline Radio.
Paul: Once again you’ve been listening to Sales Pipeline Radio brought to you by the fine folks at Matt Heinz Marketing.
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