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Stay Agile, Stand Out: Accelerating Pipeline to Achieve a $30B Market Cap

This episode features an interview with Len Fischer, Senior Vice President of Demand Generation at Okta.

Len leads the team responsible for creating and accelerating Okta’s pipeline through campaign management, field marketing, partner marketing, and digital marketing efforts. Prior to Okta, Len was Executive VP of Marketing at BDNA, and held key leadership roles in marketing and sales at Informatica. He holds an MBA from Pepperdine University. 

On this episode, Len shares how he and his team at Okta strive to be different, how his demand gen strategy changes over time, the person who he says can get him fired the quickest, and some of the most clever and interesting demand gen initiatives he’s seen.

Tune in to the episode to hear Len reveal his demand gen strategies, including:

  • Push the envelope on innovation with campaigns and demand gen initiatives
  • In SAAS, if you’re not focusing on customer marketing, customer success, and customer programs, you’re not going to be in business for long 
  • Remember that sales is marketing’s customer, and in demand gen, the Head of Sales can probably get you fired faster than anyone else can

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

Episode Highlights

(2:10) Len’s Path to Okta

  • Started out in customer advocacy
  • Moved into demand gen when he ended up helping with that department when his wife, who had been on that team at the same company, took time off to have their baby
  • Has stayed in demand gen ever since
  • He oversees demand gen for Okta in the Americas and APAC

(3:49) Overview of His Demand Gen Strategy

  • As the company evolves and changes you have to adapt and stay partnered effectively with sales
  • Personalization, digitalization and integration are the 3 themes that make for successful demand gen
  • He aligns his org structure to the funnel, and has a lifecycle team driving the overall journey, as well as other functions such as executive programs that are high touch
  • Target audiences is broad, as they sell to small companies and the world’s largest orgs
  • Personas include those making decisions about security and infrastructure in an org, and now with new products they are expanding to CMOs and sales leaders
  • Developers, though not the ones with the budget, are major influencers on the decision
  • Successful implementation and successful deployments are critical to their business
  • They really focus on putting the customers’ needs first

(14:32) Len’s Uncuttable Budget Items

  • He focuses on succeeding at their integrated digital motion, with the intent to turn digital into in-person (once possible)
  • It’s critical to have the right content pushed to the right person in the right organization
  • Second uncuttable item is his martech stack
  • Events are his third priority item, he hopes to return to an environment where there can be in-person events again
  • Okta was able to successfully pivot to digital events when the pandemic started, and focused on meaningful experiential events like cooking classes, crafts and family activities
  • Len sees a hybrid event approach being most successful in the future with both digital and in-person events
  • Direct mail that’s personalized has picked up for them, but any mail not personalized will fade away

(24:18) His View of the Website

  • Should represent the products, the customers but also the brand
  • Personalized website experiences are key - too often people create their website to cater to audiences that are not the ones actually visiting the site
  • Relationship with the web team is an important relationship for him, as website is a top channel for demand 
  • They have technology that allows them to push out custom microsites for specific target personas to show them what Okta can do for their organization or function

(27:49) Favorite Campaigns

  • An SDR on his team took the photo from LinkedIn of a high value target and made a bobblehead for that person and sent it with a handwritten letter
  • Other SDRs started doing the same, and it resulted in a 40% response rate
  • They’ve used Cameo recently as a way to get in front of prospects; it takes some research to figure out what celebrity would be most appealing for the prospect, but it’s often worth it
  • Okta also did a backstage-style, intimate concert event for executives and their partners
  • They partner with Timbuk2, and offer the ability for leads to go to their website to customize a backpack of their choice
  • They are always working to expand relationships within an organization; in SaaS, you have to focus on adoption, cross-sell, and upsell

(33:46) His Most Memorable Dust Up

  • Right as he joined a new company, a new CEO started too, who soon told Len that he didn’t think Len was right for the demand gen job
  • Though Len disagreed, he is grateful that it happened because that’s what took him to Okta next
  • You have to be able to leave the room (or the Zoom) and know that you put your full effort in
  • The Head of Sales is the role that can get the Head of Demand Gen fired the quickest, so it’s important to get the job done in a way that bridges their needs
  • Not everything in marketing will work, and what doesn’t work will teach you more lessons than what does work
  • So look for value and insight even when you don’t get a lot of pipeline (but definitely track pipeline attribution from events and campaigns!)

(40:00) Len’s Quick Hits

  • Favorite sports teams are the 49ers and Giants
  • Golf has been his biggest pandemic hobby
  • He’s gotten into barbecuing a lot too
  • Favorite current show is Ray Donovan
  • What he’d be doing if not in marketing? Working in manufacturing - that’s where he started his career, and he could see himself as a plant manager of a facility

(43:02) Advice to First-time Demand Gen Leads

  • Fight for your team, because they’ll fight for you
  • Bring the right people in that you can be highly collaborative with and set them up for success

Episode Quotes

“There's a big portion of my demand strategy that will change over time as the company evolves and changes. You have to be able to partner with not only sales, but the other functions within marketing in order to be effective. Think about demand over personalization, digitalization, and integration, and if those three themes carry through, you'll have a successful demand motion.”
“The person that can get me fired the quickest is the Head of Sales. So if the Head of Sales does not think I'm doing the job, regardless of if [the CMO] thinks I'm doing the job, that's the quickest way for me to get fired.”
“Not everything in marketing will work. That's the other thing that I've learned over the years. And what doesn't work typically will teach you more lessons than what does work. So as long as you're willing to think about why it didn't work and what kind of changes you would do next time, I think there's value in it, regardless of how much pipeline you get.”
“I'm a big believer that these experiential things really work, but I would rather do a few of them and go to the big events–go to the Final Four, go to The Masters…We want to be different, so if everybody has access to a Laker game or a Warriors game or a Giants game, then what difference is it? But if we're going to the World Series, then sure, let's talk about it.”
“Fight for your team because they'll fight for you…Bring the right people in and set them up for success. This is a very collaborative position and you have to work with a lot of different people, but ultimately I think if you bring the right people in and you set them up properly, [and] you fight for them with the rest of the organization on what we can do and what we can't do, it typically will work in your favor.”

Ready to hear from more Demand Gen Visionaries? You can subscribe and find all episodes here.

Posted on
March 17, 2021
by
Corinne Pearce

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