Navigating today’s digital world is daunting, especially for businesses. There’s no shortage of tactics to leverage–emails, blogs, videos, webinars, podcasts, ads–and a seemingly endless supply of apps and platforms to execute those initiatives. So, how do you break through the noise and get your company noticed?
For Cory Hogan, CRO of Lob, the key is revenue leadership. Whether you’re helping build a community for your employees or offering potential customers a personalized ad experience, your job as a leader is to meet people where they are. And taking a unique approach might just help push your brand over the top.
In this episode of The Modern CFO, Cory explains how Lob is connecting the digital world with the physical one, what it takes to provide the right environment for hybrid employees, and the strategy of today’s CROs.
7:15 – Cultivating an entrepreneurial, organizational spirit
The ambition and motivation that comes with being an entrepreneur have been a part of Cory’s DNA since childhood.
“I can't take too much credit again for any of that success. Right place, right time is definitely a theme in my career. I think there's a lot of people who are both harder working and smarter than I am and have, or have not, had those types of events and exits in their own past. I am, to your point though, risk-loving. For better or for worse, I think that appetite and even that desire to go and find increasingly risky but exciting opportunities has just always driven me. Whether that was like, ‘Hey, I'm going to start this little company. I don't know the first thing about what I'm doing here, but this sounds like a really exciting opportunity.’ The ambition that comes with it; the motivation has always just been part of my DNA. I can tell you childhood stories of going around town and picking up rocks, throwing them in my wagon, and selling them door to door believing that somebody would buy them. That level of entrepreneurship and ownership and accountability that comes with the risk side has just always been part of who I am.”
9:17 – Making the most of your ad spend
At Lob, the goal is to connect the digital world with the physical one through a tech-first approach to marketing.
“Our mission, at the highest level, is to connect the world one mailbox at a time. The premise is in the digital world the most powerful connections can be found human to human or on the physical side, even within the mailbox. Both modern marketers and their audiences, are getting saturated with the ubiquitous, expensive digital ads that are out there. Our phones, our searches, our inboxes, they're all full of ads to which most of us are increasingly numb and oblivious in spite of some really serious and significant investments behind them. I think all of these modern marketing methods will continue to evolve, but Lob is finding surprising success as we bring in this tech-first, digital approach to the direct mail category, which is a $75 billion [industry] that is not going to go away anytime soon, in spite of what might happen in the macro-environment. Effectively, we're replacing what we call junk mail with intelligent mail. Think of highly-personalized content arriving at your home at the perfect moment. You have no choice but to actually open the mailbox, whether you want to or not, and look at all of those pieces and give them at least a couple seconds of thought, which is more than a lot of the messages that come in our inbox.”
10:45 – Personalize your marketing
Personalized, timely, and physical marketing tools get your customers’ attention, and Lob’s clients have seen on average 19-times better returns than some other digital-only marketing methods.
“We work with a large, leading retailer on what we would consider an ‘abandoned cart’ campaign, similar to what you might see, or not see, in your inbox–Leave an item unpurchased in your e-commerce shopping cart, then tomorrow, here's this beautiful, personalized piece [of mail] in your mailbox. ‘Hey Andrew, we see you were interested in this particular patio set yesterday. There are three others just like it.’ You scan this QR code, go hit a personalized landing page with the discount and some other options available we've curated just for you. And that level of a personalized, timely, extremely relevant message, it really gets attention. It gets results. And without technology and the Lob approach, it would have been aspirational but extremely difficult to pull off when you think about all of the content and the fulfillment that's required for that type of a use case, but it works. So customers are seeing on average 19x better returns than some of these other digital-only marketing methods. And today, Lob reaches one in two households.”
13:18 – The strategy of a modern CRO
The modern CRO must learn how to master both the art and the science of a revenue system in order to get the best results.
“The modern CRO, to your point, is more than just a glorified VP of Sales. The modern revenue team includes all of those customer-facing motions, both sales, service, marketing–the entirety of the customer experience. That's where a lot of my background has been in that customer experience space. So, it's really about revenue leadership. That includes things like customer segmentation, the value proposition, engagement motions, channels coverage, direct versus indirect, organizational and job designs, sizing, deployment, talent and enablement, something we're talking a lot about here recently, metrics, quota, performance rewards like revenue operations, all of that. So I think today the modern CRO needs to master both the art and the science of a revenue system. Strategically and tactically, you have to develop that three-plus-year go-to-market vision and strategy. And then simultaneously jump in the trenches, send that email to close the deal this month or this quarter.”
14:30 – Provide the right environment
The remote/hybrid work model of today makes it difficult to create a cohesive workplace. Leaders must work extra hard to create a safe, creative, and productive environment.
“When we talk about the cultural aspect of that, particularly the modern remote/hybrid environment or whatever this is we're all going through right now. I think one theme I'm seeing consistently is that the boundaries–really between professional and personal or work and home–have forever been softened, if not entirely eliminated, destroyed, obliterated, for better or for worse. And I think as leaders, our responsibility is obviously to provide a safe environment, but also one that is collaborative and creative, and of course one that promotes productive work. Zoom has its limits. We've all experienced that just as the office does, too. So I don't think it's one or the other, and the future might even be the metaverse, but I don't think that’s today. I think for the next few years, a lot of our success will be found around the edges, like in the hotel lobbies and the coffee shops and the basement offices, occasionally in the corporate office, sometimes on the balcony or the back deck–not to mention the co-working spaces and the conference rooms. I think it's a very shared and flexible and distributed model versus all in or all out of the office.”
15:53 – Be proactive and enforce your work-life boundaries
When you’re working from home, it’s up to you to create and enforce boundaries between work life and home life.
“Individually, that puts more burden on all of us as human beings to create our own boundaries, physically, yes, but also mentally and emotionally. Without clear start and stop times or work and home spaces per se, with everything blurring together, we can work or we can play without forced interruptions and that's not always a good thing. Transitions in my life are almost non-existent. For example, I might finish a very, very intense work negotiation call or something on Zoom, hang up, and then literally be sitting at the dinner table with my family less than one minute later, no transition time whatsoever. Trying very unsuccessfully to be present for my family while that last call obviously still occupies my mind and may take me 30 minutes to wind down to be present for the next moment. I think fundamentally the workforce and the whole workplace thing has, again, modernized and accelerated in the last 24 months. I think that's incredibly positive, but it does require us as leaders and as individuals to make some adjustments. That's more than just better lighting and better backgrounds on our Zoom calls. I think we have to take control of our lives in a new and very proactive way or some of this change may actually control us.”
19:24 – Protect your personal life
You have to be protective of your personal life, whether that’s making time with family, for exercise, or for a hobby.
“I have to be very intentional and protective of my time. As much as I love working, and I truly do, I think of it as something of a hobby for better or for worse. I could work day and night and neglect some other responsibilities and duties within my own life. I have to instead be proactive and protect and block out that time, frankly, in my calendar. And whether that's like, ‘Hey, I'm actually going to have lunch today.’ I'm going to take 20 minutes and that's all it comes down to. I'm going to get away from the screen and the phone. I'm going to get some food. I'm going to sit outside for a minute, get some fresh air. Or, I'm going to make sure that this weekend, even if work trickles into the weekend, as it often does (and I don't mind), that I'm going to do at least one organized formal or informal activity with my family. That I make sure of above all else, we plan for some of that quality time together. And everybody's cadence and everybody's background is different. I did the same thing for my personal exercise and hobbies too, making sure that I actually blocked that time off. And then I attempt to treat that with the same urgency and prioritization I would give anything else in my life, professionally or personally.”
24:45 – The makeup of great growth fundamentals
Don’t aspire to grow at any cost. In today’s world, you need to aim for profitable growth if you want a sustainable future.
“If you think about the deal flow, where those valuations are going, Thoma Bravo is a nice example in the public sector right now, PE obviously is very active, very inquisitive in ’22. I think in March they deployed over $17 billion. They bought Anaplan, they lost SailPoint. They increased the position in UserZoom. And if you talk with Orlando Bravo, he'll tell you today's best tech companies, particularly the SaaS companies like our own, have great growth fundamentals. This recurring revenue model is going to continually command probably the best multiples over the long-term versus nearly any all industries. But the big button this year is the market has changed. He and others are looking for not just growth, but profitable growth. So those EBITDA multiples are the ones that are trending up today even when all others seem to be heading down. So at Lob thankfully we're in a very fortunate position. We've been careful, even conservative, with our cash, with our raises, with our valuations. We're not exposed like some others might be right now, so we're going to continue our forward motion, but that will include proper emphasis on profitable growth. I think the days of growth at all costs were probably a little excessive in some cases. And frankly, I welcome a more sustainable future.”
32:00 – Tap humility to do whatever is necessary on your team
You can’t always be a leader. Sometimes your best course is to just do your own job and let the leader do their job.
“At the job, sometimes everybody wants to be the captain. And I appreciate the aspiration, that's great. We should aspire to whatever gets us going. But the best way to get there sometimes is to just know your job. Know your job and do it really, really well. And rather than trying to tell the captain how to navigate, share opinions and be helpful as necessary. But I think the boat actually has more success, which creates more success for us personally, as we know our jobs individually. And we do them whatever that takes. And I think I've had a good career because I've never been too good for whatever was required on the job. Call it scrappy, call it not having an ego. Certainly not perfect here, but if I needed to do a dirty job in those construction days, and that meant as the owner of this company, I'd have to go and sweep the job sites because no other contractor or team member did that. I’d go straight to the job sites, whatever it took to help us be successful. Do your job, do it well. It has worked really well for me.”