Building a Demand Gen Powerhouse for a $13B Division of Google

On the Demand Gen Visionaries podcast, we’re joined by Sarah Kennedy, VP of Global Growth & Demand at Google Cloud

Building a Demand Gen Powerhouse for a $13B Division of Google
Megan Guy
Megan Guy
December 10, 2020
min read
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Apple Podcast LinkGoogle Podcast LinkSpotify Podcast Link

This episode features an interview with Sarah Kennedy, VP of Global Demand & Growth at Google Cloud. Prior to Google, Sarah led multiple marketing transformations as CMO of Marketo and as CMO for the enterprise software divisions at Adobe and Sabre.

In this episode, Sarah discusses the marketing efficiencies and ROI drivers she’s anchored her career around, how to navigate the macro mindset shift that every marketing team goes through to drive unparalleled growth, and why delivering a product that is a career catalyst for your customers is the most rewarding impact a B2B marketer can have.

Tune in to the episode to hear Sarah share the fundamentals of her demand gen strategy, including:

  • How every marketing team must undergo a macro mindset shift in order to embrace that every dollar and every minute spent must either directly or indirectly drive demand and growth for the business.
  • Why your primary goal as a marketer is to be a career catalyst for your customer. The biggest reward of any B2B marketer’s career is to see somebody get promoted or get their next job because of the decision they made to bet on you. 
  • How to align with sales counterparts on a deep, strategic level that establishes a balanced engine that efficiently drives scale and growth.
In this episode of the Demand Gen Visionaries podcast, we're joined by Sarah Kennedy, VP of Global Demand & Growth at Google Cloud

Want to skip ahead to the highlights? Check out these can’t-miss moments:

Episode Highlights

(4:43) Sarah’s Demand Gen Strategy at Google Cloud

  • Google Cloud is relatively new to the cloud landscape game in comparison to other more established players
  • With that, their demand gen strategy is first focused on net-new customer acquisition in the enterprise space
  • The free trial is a huge motion is a huge part of their demand gen strategy

(6:14) Establishing a New Marketing Mindset at One of the Biggest Companies in the World

  • Julie has anchored the last five years of her career around marketing efficiency and ROI
  • Every marketing team must go through a mindset shift to embrace the fact that every dollar, every person, and every minute they spend must either directly or indirectly drive demand for the business
  • Brand and demand gen shouldn’t be viewed as two separate marketing functions; they interplay with each other to drive growth

(8:42) Using Martech to Scale Expansion in the Enterprise

  • A marketing tech stack is fundamental to everything, but there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that applies to every company
  • Marketing leaders need to dig in to understand the landscape of their marketing technology and determine how to scale that to drive market expansion
  • At Google, there have been a lot of home-grown marketing tools built, so Sarah has had to think about how to pair those with other tools like Marketo to build an efficient tech stack
  • Google has historical success with the self-serve motion, so martech solutions now help them to accelerate into the enterprise space by enabling them to optimize free trials according to unique use cases and customer journey stages

(14:22) Sarah’s Retrospective on What Worked in 2020

  • At the beginning of the pandemic, most companies were concerned about how to get in front of customers and generate the same amount of pipeline
  • Digital event volumes spiked, messages flooded the market through the exact same channels
  • They learned that digital marketing horsepower is important, but it’s critical to figure out where to focus energy rather than generate volume
  • Also learned that content has to be at a quality level far higher than what we’ve previously seen. Content used to be a massive volume game, but that no longer works with today’s buyer dynamic
  • Now, for every interaction and every second that you consume of someone's attention you have to quantify the value of what you're bringing to them

(18:23) Google Cloud’s Target Market

  • They’re making good progress in certain industries, such as retail, fin tech, healthcare, manufacturing, and media & entertainment
  • Also focus heavily on digitally-native companies that were “born” in the cloud. More specifically, they look at where these companies are in their lifecycle (i.e. what investment series they’ve secured) to indicate their unique needs and pain points
  • The size and stage of the company usually determines what persona they would sell to. For some smaller companies it’s the CEO, while for larger companies it could be the CTO or VP.
  • Given the nature of Google Cloud’s products, they often sell to a buying committee across multiple business partners
  • There’s a big opportunity for Google to help bring various buyer stakeholders together to bring the conversation about how they can deliver value to an entire organization
  • They’ve acquired a few companies (such as Looker and Apigee) to help bridge value across business units and deliver value at an earlier stage

(23:36) Sarah’s Uncuttable Budget Items

  • Free trial & web engagement: This is a productive channel for all market segments, from SMB to enterprise. They use this to educate, progress, and sometimes even convert deals.
  • Social: Social is always an important channel, but they’re constantly changing how it’s leveraged. Strategically investing in social channels is a big opportunity because it continuously evolves.
  • Content syndication: This is a high-performing channel for Google Cloud in their effort to drive new-logo acquisition. It’s important to align with the right partners to drive quality because that varies widely partner to partner. 

(25:10) Customer Marketing’s Increasing Importance

  • Most companies cut customer marketing first, which unfortunately often falls into the shadow of new logo acquisition
  • But this year brought a realization that customer retention really matters, and marketers had the opportunity to flex their muscles with customer marketing and advocacy
  • Driving customer usage and adoption is now part of Google Cloud’s business model
  • Historically it was hard to prove the value of customer marketing, but cutting it is the biggest mistakes companies could have made in light of this year’s events
  • Being a career catalyst is one of Sarah’s primary goals; the idea that a customer would get promoted because of a bet they made on your product is the best reward for a B2B marketer. Invest in those partnerships and deliver on your brand promise to help make a real impact.

(33:27) The Role of Google Cloud’s Website

  • Sarah and team are very focused on optimizing the personalization across their website and digital properties (digital events, communities, etc.)
  • Look closely at personas to inform the unique set of information various buyers need at different points in the buying process

(35:35) Sarah’s Advice for First-Time Demand Gen Leader

  • Start with your first priority: your relationship with sales
  • It you’re not aligned with your sales counterparts on what the true objectives are and and are co-signed up for any targets that you're going to hit together, it really doesn't matter what you do
  • Sarah adopts the mindset that as a marketer, she is responsible for the livelihood of the sales reps. This helps her focus on the right things and make better decisions.

(41:15) Quick Hits: Getting to Know Sarah

  • New quarantine hobby: Shutting down work and taking a walk every night
  • Alternative career: Ski instructor in the winter and whitewater rafting instructor in the summer

Episode Quotes

“All of your investments drive demand. [It’s important not to] view brand as one thing and demand as another. They all interplay with one another to drive growth. That's been part of the mindset shift that I've been driving really my last five years, including now at Google.”
“Every interaction, every second that you consume of someone's attention, you have to quantify the value of what you're bringing. Minutes are precious, so you’ve got to think about the trade-offs [your audience is] making. It's different this year than ever before and that makes the bar even higher. It always should have been this high, but I think this year we're actually seeing that come to fruition and I like that. I think that's great for all marketers and every customer we serve.”
“Being a career catalyst for a customer is one thing that I always say is my primary goal. If we see them get promoted or we see somebody get that next job because of the decision they made to bet on us, that's the reward of any marketer's career. It’s the biggest reward–that you can walk away from a career and look back and say, wow, I really impacted hundreds of people's livelihoods by making sure that I clearly communicated to them the value of our partnership and I delivered on it. For me, it’s a motivating way to look at the career of a B2B marketer.”
“Whatever you do, start with your first priority being your relationship with sales…I have found that no matter how much investment, energy, creative tactics, whatever you have, if you have not aligned with your sales counterparts on what the true objectives are and co-signed up for any targets that you're going to hit together, it really doesn't matter what you do. If you aren't already doing that, that's where you begin and end, because that relationship and accountability and alignment is the foundation for all success.”
“Our job is to be career catalysts for our customers, but our second but equally important objective is to be comma catalysts for our quota carriers. All I want to do is put M's in their bank account every day of the week and if I do that, I've succeeded. Having that mindset that we're responsible for their livelihood is the right approach mentally as a marketer, because that makes you focus on the right things and make better decisions that also end up better serving your customers.”

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