Marketing 101: Joe Chernov, CMO, Pendo

Marketing 101 is back!

I’ve been working on a special interview and I was finally able to sit down (virtually) with Joe Chernov, who is the new CMO at Pendo. Before joining Pendo he was a VP of Content Marketing at both Hubspot and Eloqua, and in 2017 he was selected as one of the Top 20 B2B CMO’s by Forbes. He’s a big deal.

You majored in Spanish and Criminal Justice. How did you become a marketer?
After I graduated I started working in human services and after a few years, I realized that it wasn’t the career for me so I quit my job. I got home that evening and realized that I still needed to pay my rent and take care of my dog. The next day I started going door to door looking for a new job. I was hoping a company would give a 25-year-old an internship. I was always a good writer and I eventually started working at a PR firm. After a few months, the founder took an interest in me and let me shadow her. That’s how I got into a career that I really had no right to be in.

How are you marketing differently during the uncertainty of the pandemic?
The pandemic has affected us in several ways but the biggest one is our messaging. We realized the fullest value of Pendo. If you look at the messaging on our site, and I can critique it since I wrote it, it sounds like good software in a thriving economy.

After talking to our customers we learned that Pendo is essential software for many of our customers. They can’t reach their customers via email or social media so they turned to our in-app messaging tools. We viewed them as onboarding tools but our customers see them as the “bat signal” that enables them to get important messages to their customers.

As a business we have to be more nimble. We have to be scrappy again. The last year was about maximizing the impact of our campaigns and scaling. Now we have to be ready to adjust our efforts as quickly as possible. We can’t look at an annual plan when the world is changing daily.

You worked for both Hubspot and Eloqua; what’s in your MarTech stack?
Marketo!

I’ll give you a quick overview of the essential tools. We use Drift, Tech Validate, Trans Smartlink, Big Marker and One Trust.

Big Marker has become a key piece for us as we have transitioned to online conferences. I think we’ll see some major changes in the conference channel. For years marketers have wanted conferences for everything, and as the herd thins more of the conferences will shift to virtual events while only the most impactful ones will remain in-person gatherings.

How do you see the Pendo brand evolving during the next year or two?
That’s a good question. The company was started by high performing product managers. That’s a part of our origin story but it is also central to who we are. We want to become the patron saint of the product manager. Our goal is to be a sherpa for product managers that guides them in each stage of their career with software and knowledge. We also want to define the role of the CPO as companies add the position to the C-suite.

The Pendo marketing team is distributed throughout the U.S. How do you effectively manage such a distributed team?
I’m moving to Raleigh!

Marketers are agrarians. Our profession is about human connection, not feeding raw meat to the lions. It’s important to cultivate a human touch on the team and I can’t do that from Boston.

You’ve been an extremely successful content marketer. How do you see content marketing evolving?
The classic model has to evolve. We have this messy middle between the product and the content. There is a gap between the demo and thought leadership. We have really strayed from the product and we need to check back in. I recently saw a gated list of the top 20 business books and it wasn’t from a publisher. I always say everyone has written a white paper but no one has read one. (Joe has a number of great marketing quotes here.)

We need to begin wrapping a human story around the product.

The gap I mentioned is a big reason why we’ve seen a resurgence of freemium models. They let buyers try the product without a significant commitment.

What advice would you give a young person who just started a marketing career?
There are lots of talented people in the market. Let’s say you are a strong writer. That’s a tangled mess and it’s hard to distinguish yourself. If I were interviewing for a junior marketer I would look for that second skill. Are you a good videographer or are you good at analytics?

What is your favorite marketing campaign of all time?
In 2013 Sprklr zigged when everyone else was zagging. They are a MarTech company and they started holding dinners with key clients. They would invite one major company and a group of smaller organizations. It was really the beginning of ABM (account-based marketing) and they did very well with the campaign.

How did you get involved with the Chengeta Wildlife foundation?
After I created an infographic on shark thinning I was on Quora looking at some random stuff. I was fascinated by the “who would win in a fight between?” questions and there was one guy who had really detailed answers. We started corresponding and he is the chairman of the foundation. After I got to know him I got the infographic team back together and we created one about poaching in Africa. The president of South Africa tweeted!

Frank: Thanks for taking the time, Joe, and when you relocate to Raleigh the first round is on me!

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About Frank Pollock 4 Articles
For more than 20 years Frank has worked at the intersection of marketing, innovation and technology. He honed his craft at Disney/ABC, Frito-Lay, General Mills and Colgate-Palmolive before founding The Pioneer Group, where he works with high-growth companies to develop marketing strategies, deploy marketing technology stacks and drive results.