Content Investment and Personalization in an Increasingly Digital World

Jason Rose

Chief Marketing Officer at Pure Storage, Inc.

Learning Objectives

Please join the Chief Marketing Officer for Pure Storage as he discusses navigating the excellerated digital environment for marketing strategies and key insights learned.

Key Takeaways:

  • How has the past year been for Pure, and what has changed the most from a marketing perspective?

  • What advice would you give to marketers to hit profit goals in this new digital environment?

  • What would you say are key elements of a successful virtual event?

  • How has Pure leveraged data and insights in its marketing strategy this year, and what are your priorities for the future?

  • Above everything, what is one lesson you’ve learned this year as a marketer that will have a permanent impact on your work?

"Make sure you have that strong tiered approach to your digital events so that they're organized and your customer can select the level they want to learn and engage with you as an organization."

Jason Rose

Chief Marketing Officer at Pure Storage, Inc.


Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining us. We are here at the Connect virtual cmo Leadership Summit. I would like to welcome our executive speaker here with us today, Jason Rose, Chief Marketing Officer for Pure Storage. Welcome, Jason.

Well, thanks for the introduction, Britt, really happy to be here with you today. As you mentioned, my name is Jason rose, I’m the Chief Marketing Officer for Pure Storage. I’ve been on board for about six months now. So getting my feet underneath me, but prior to that, I actually started my career as an accountant, believe it or not, which is always interesting. I know, people go like, isn’t marketing kind of the creative end of the business. But I like to remind people, oftentimes in companies, marketing has the biggest discretionary budget in the organization. And Gone are the days of madman, right? where it was kind of like a great idea you threw up, threw it up on a wall and soffit stick. Now everything is measurable, right? from owning the website and looking at all by web metrics through to funnel conversion rates through to digital ad performance search engine optimization, I could go on and on and on. But it’s a you know, the CMO has become one of the most numerous jobs in the entire company, frankly. And believe me, there’s always a new metric coming my way as well. So it’s ever changing and evolving. So I think that combination of both creativity as well as kind of that numeracy is actually really important for CMOS today, my background as well, I kind of grew up in the marketing ranks through the product marketing side of the business. So really thinking about how we land messages in the most succinct and compelling way. I know a lot of people probably big distinction between b2b marketing and b2c marketing. My thought is, at the end of the day, we’re all people. And whether you’re selling to an organization that’s made up of people, or an individual making a decision for their home or household, ultimately, you know, human emotion, how you feel about the company that you’re partnering with, plays a tremendous role in those decisions. So really want to make sure we balanced the creative, and the numerate side and really make sure we treat people as the individuals that they are even in the b2b context.

I couldn’t agree more people are key, you cannot run an organization without them and making sure that they’re there to support you in every aspect of the business. And as you mentioned, it’s such an exciting time for marketing, it’s really a new age, especially in this digital environment that we’re experiencing. Talk to me a little bit about what pure has been through in the last year. And what’s really changed from a marketing perspective.

Well, I think it’s what pure has been through, it’s what we’ve all been through, right. I think every company in every industry has had significant change due to COVID. I think the interesting thing, and part of what I think is driving some of the market buoyancy we’ve been seeing is the fact that it’s really forced people to innovate at a very quick pace, especially moving to more of a digital online world, just like this conversation we’re having right now. So I mean, I was talking to my leader of North America, field marketing, and she was describing a forecast call where she was on with their sales leads, getting ready to present the marketing plan. And literally, she was getting notifications on her mobile phone during the meeting about this, you know, this big events been canceled, this big event canceled this big event. And all of a sudden, it’s like, oh, man, you know, we had several 100 million dollars of pipeline riding on those physical events. What do we do with that kind of Oh, my moment, right. And, you know, really, what we saw was a very quick pivot to digital, I think we really believed in the power of live. So really, again, people buy from people, people like working with people. So bringing, you know, those groups together in a digital forum where they still get the interactivity, they can still see and feel their peer group. There’s the world called the perfect imperfect element to live as well, when people stumble a little bit or maybe go off script a little bit. I think that’s part of the joy of, of an event and being on a webinar or something like that, where you know, it’s not going to go perfectly. But it’s those imperfections that often lead to a great experience, as well as being there with your peers. So we really tried to kind of maintain that connection point with our customers. Pure Storage is an extremely customer centric organization, we actually have one of the highest Net Promoter scores of any company in the infrastructure business. So really taking a proactive approach to outreaching our customers on both when things are going well as well as we identify over 71% of the issues in our solutions are settles and proactively notify our customers about it versus having them Find the bug or the issue and found to us which, again, that proactivity I think is absolutely unheard of in the business. So really keeping the focus moving to digital, but trying to keep that human centricity, as we kind of made that move.

I think that is such a key point to make. And if there’s one silver lining with COVID, I think it’s that people really started to dig into this human nature aspect a little bit more, and realizing that, you know, not everything’s going to go perfectly, and mistakes are going to happen. But as long as you collaborate, you put your customers and your people first, you’ll be able to actually move the business forward. So I think that’s such an important point to make there. And something else I want to talk about that marketers have experienced, especially in this past year, in this new digital environment is, as you mentioned, how do we hit these profit goals? Especially when we had all of this money banking on these in person summit? What are some of the recommendations that you have there?

Well, it’s interesting. physical events are really expensive. I mean, newsflash, right, we think about renting the space, the hotel blocks, the catering, getting the celebrity speakers to fly in the cost of, you know, any other kind of ancillary employee travel, I could go on and on and on. Typically, in a marketing budget, those physical tier one first party events, the events we put our house are tremendous line items. In that budget. I guess the good news with digital is, you know, nobody has to travel. You know, there’s no giant mainstage theater setup, there are a show full floor full of booze. And obviously, that’s a that’s a challenge. But it’s on the flip side, it’s also an opportunity, right? How do we really rethink our approach. And oftentimes, again, you could probably buy the fanciest, biggest digital platform in the world, but it’s still not going to cost the same as renting out a half million square feet, in a convention center somewhere for your, for your tradeshow, right. So I think what we’ve seen is we’ve seen the mix really shift from, you know, kind of those big physical spins, and even frankly, from the third party events, because again, you don’t have your 10 by 10, your 20 by 20. Booth on a show floor anymore, that you’re setting up. Oftentimes, the sponsorship and the cost of setup and employees flying to that event are going to be equivalent. And we’ve seen a lot of those costs come out of the marketing budget. So it allows us to, I would say, get a higher return on our marketing investment. Because now we’re actually investing in, you know, high quality speakers taking the tiered approach to our, our digital event strategy. So that we’ve got kind of tier one events where we kind of rally the whole company around the world, tier two events where we’re really bringing together more regional level. And then our tier three events are really meant to be those personalized community based events that still happen in a locale. And by doing so we’ve driven costs, but we’ve also increased our reach, actually, quite significantly, in terms of the number of attendees people were seeing, and so forth, there is I would say a slight drop in conversion rate when you move to digital, because now it’s a much lower barrier to entry to participate. However, even though the the conversion rate is maybe a little bit lower the volume more than makes up for it, and the fact that we’re getting more touches throughout the season. And what we find is, really, that’s increasing kind of our overall engagement rate with our customers in terms of frequency. And we’re actually seeing conversion rates as our as opportunities are created through to close actually hold fairly significantly. So you know, all in all, I think we struck a really good balance that allows us to take a lot of those physical events costs out of the marketing organization, while still delivering on our pipeline, and conversion goals and targets. So we’ve actually seen a pretty good increase in ROI from a marketing perspective.

antastic. And yeah, this is something I’m very familiar with, obviously, courts events, our companies and events company, and we had to make the pivot just like you from this in person, event space to virtual and it hasn’t been easy. But I think as you mentioned, the important thing was being willing to adapt, and really putting that focus on your customers in this virtual space. And it can be very difficult to do that when you’re not meeting with them in person, as you mentioned. But I have spoken with a lot of professionals who have done some really unique things to get their attendees to get their sponsors involved. And from your experience and what you’ve seen so far in this virtual marketplace, what are some of the key elements that make a successful virtual event?

Well, I still think, just like in the physical world, you still need that hook, right? You need that kind of draw attention. If I think back to one major kind of event that we did here in North America region, we actually did a whole event around Molly bloom, you know, the poker champion and, you know, placing bets on your data center strategy, right? So we created a really nice tie in to the work that that Molly’s done and her experience and tying into what she’s doing, but also applying it back to the business context. So people can, you know, both enjoy the entertainment factor, but also get some strong information that helps them in their day to day job. The other thing is, obviously, everything needs to be more stackable, right, people don’t want to spend hours and hours on webinars. So the other guys, we’ve actually set up a whole coffee break series, where, you know, we take short snippets of content, put it out at a time where typically you’d be maybe grabbing a coffee break, say 10am in the morning, and then really, you know, kind of, you know, promoting that as a weekly routine for people. And we’ve actually far exceeded all of our expectations in terms of attendance, attendance, because now we’re fitting our content into our customers, scheduling preferred way to consume. So again, I think, you know, there’s some interesting balances to be struck here, you certainly don’t want to give people webinars, resume fatigue, I think we’re all suffering from that quite a bit. But being able to fit content into snackable bites that are relevant to your audience can draw a tremendous crowd from what we’ve seen as well.

I completely agree making sure it’s relevant to the audience. And as you said, Zoo fatigue is real, you know, I experienced daily, so finding the best way to balance both of those is really going to make an event successful. And now my question for you now that you have this fantastic virtual summit in place, do you think you’ll always have this option available? Will you move forward with a hybrid option? What do you see happening within the next year?

Yeah, we’re definitely looking at the hybrid option. You know, as a chief marketing officer, you can imagine, I mean, I joined pure during COVID. So I haven’t had the opportunity to get on the airplane, visit customers, partners, the teams that put these events on around the world. And I’ll be blunt, I miss it, I miss it greatly. And I think I can probably speak for many both marketeers as well, as professionals out there on this call. You know, I think as vaccines become more widely adopted, testing, obviously remains a key element, so people can have the confidence that they, you know, are healthy, I think we’ll start to see, you know, we’re social animals at the end of the day, Brit, and we’ll see events come back, but I do agree with you, I think it will be a hybrid method, I know, my CFO is really happy with the reduction in travel costs, right, we’re still doing a lot of business, but without our pure employees that are traveling all around the world. So I think we’re gonna see, you know, that balance between, you know, the financial benefit of people being home more, and the need for human interaction. So I think it’s still very real. So I certainly see that hybrid option coming into being with the appropriate safeguards to make sure that people are, you know, kind of coming together in the safest possible way.

I completely agree. When I first started at quartz, I was going to all of our events in person, and there’s truly nothing like it. But you still can’t hide from the fact that it does save a lot of time and a lot of money. So it’ll be really interesting to see how companies and pure itself will actually, you know, adapt and innovate into this kind of hybrid option that you mentioned. Another thing I want to shift into, you mentioned at the very beginning of our meeting today was data and insights and how crucial that has been in really developing this marketing strategy during this time. Talk to me a little bit more about that, and what some of your priorities will be for the future?

Sure. Great, great question. Right. So, you know, we we’ve instituted a real close ROI model, we look at all of our tactics over a defined time period, three months to check in and see because, again, by doing it in more of a cohort, fashion, right, we can compare apples to apples. So making sure that we’re taking the right point time view of the events and digital tactics and, you know, content marketing that we’re doing, and looking at the, you know, kind of engagement levels through to so I kind of look at the way we attribute for the ROI and in two different factors. One would be first touch, how do people find us? How did they come across pure, how are they engaging? And then also last touch? What was the last thing they did? How do they engage with us before the opportunity was created? So by looking through those two lenses, I find oftentimes, last touch really penalizes those top of funnel activities, right, especially around web and kind of paid programs. But if you look back through the data, you’ll find oftentimes those left later touch events webinars, other tactics wouldn’t have happened if we had built the top of the funnel. So I really believe strongly in in taking a look at both of those ends of the spectrum, and then looking at the overall cost and time commitment, and then doing a cost per opportunity view on each of those, then we can start to see, are we getting the right people on the top of the funnel? Are we doing the right tactics to guide them down the funnel? And then how are they converting once they’re an opportunity, right? So kind of gives us that control check on quality, as well. And what we’ve seen through that is obviously, I would say it’s probably no surprise search engine optimization tends to be a very cost effective way I often talk about he found. So certainly SEO is the way to be found, and then convert. And what we find is our high intent offers on online, we’ve moved our demos online, you can even do proof of concepts, test drives, we’ve taken a lot of these elements that used to be done physically, and move them into the digital environment, we’ve actually seen a really strong set of engagement there on the digital side. And then as I mentioned, making sure you have that strong tiered approach to your digital events, so that they’re organized, your customer can kind of select, you know, what level do they want to learn and engage with you as an organization?

Absolutely. And now, as you move all of these strategies and insights digitally, how do you make sure that they’re aligned across teams? Because I know that’s become a very difficult part for a lot of companies is how do we implement all these strategies? How do we get our staff trained? What are some of the ways that you’ve seen that have been really successful?

Well, the move to digital event, everybody working remote, right, I have had this one two punch, not just the change in tactic, but also the change in work method, that Pure Storage, as an organization had a very in office culture prior to COVID. So I think we’ve seen a lot of team adaptation, right? cross functional workgroups coming together on zoom to make sure that the messaging the channel strategies, or are we going by earn paid, owned, in a webinar, how those things come around a campaign, and then alignment across cross functional teams, even outside of marketing, making sure our business units, our sales teams, and our customer success teams are all aligned behind our programs. So we make sure we have some high profile, high caliber campaigns, that we can rally those cross functional teams and the marketing teams around to make sure that we’re aligned as we’re setting up each element all the way from my corporate marketing teams, right to the field, marketers in region, and then the supporting cast of speakers and stakeholders that need to participate to really make those events success, successful, and of course, engaging with our really strong and powerful partner community. To bring that to life as well, we actually, I think did a really quick job and a really good job of pivoting to digital. And we were actually able to bring our partners along with us as well, and actually help augment and strengthen their marketing efforts and their reach to customers in a difficult time. So it actually had a benefit both for pure as well as our partner community.

Fantastic. It sounds like you were incredibly successful in this move to virtual and I think all of your insights are going to be really valuable for companies that either are just starting that journey or still trying to figure out how to even work through that process. And my final questions really wrap it up for you is it is clearly no secret that marketing itself as a department has really been hit hard the past year, and even going into 2021, we’ve seen a lot of changes, but also as a leader. And as a marketer, you’ve seen a lot of changes within your role itself. What is the biggest lesson that you have learned this past year, especially coming in at the height of the pandemic, that you think would be really beneficial for other marketers like yourself to know?

Yeah, I’ve got to say, as hard as it is, you know, take take the time for the people, right, I’ve instituted something that I call office hours, which is like a 90 minute block, I fill it with, you know, 15 minute, kind of one on one type sessions that that the team actually inbounds to me. So it’s not me outreaching and it’s very, you know, as an executive, you know, it’s, it’s really tempting just to be organized and fill your day with very structured topics and priorities, right? But I encourage everyone, leave time for the ad hoc, leave time for that inbound conversation because you don’t get to walk the halls anymore and have those sidebar conversations. You know, coffees aren’t happening. That lunch with a colleague or dinner with a team isn’t happening right now. So make sure you leave the time for people to inbound into so that you can build that network. And I think for me as a new executive coming into Pure Storage with a fairly sizable team. It’s been really important for me to build that network in new and different ways. It’s not something I would have done in my previous jobs. But it’s something I’ve taken a ton of benefit away from, in this new role in this new environment.

I think that’s fantastic advice. And I can tell you, I will be using that hour and a half time block, I took on this new team for content actually last year in the height of the pandemic as well. And you’re very right. It’s hard to set that time aside, and you had so many deliverables that you’re trying to hit to just move the business forward. But it is crucial to take that time for the people on your team and make sure that you’re always connecting with them. So fantastic advice. I will definitely be using it myself. And I’m sure everyone who has joined us today as well will be taking these insights to heart to really make sure that all of their businesses are successful. So Jason, thank you so much for being here. It’s been incredible to meet you. Thank you to everyone joining us and if you have any further questions, predation, there will be a discussion forum underneath this presentation. Thank you so much for joining us.

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