Shawn Herring Podcast Transcript

Headshot of Chief Marketing Officer Shawn Herring

Shawn Herring Podcast Transcript

Shawn Herring joins host Brian Thomas on The Digital Executive Podcast.

Welcome to Coruzant Technologies, home of The Digital Executive Podcast.

[00:00:12] Brian Thomas: Welcome to the digital executive. Today’s guest is Shawn Herring. Shawn Herring is the Chief Marketing Officer at airSlate. Sean leads the airSlate Global Marketing Team, driving the strategy for demand generation, product marketing, branding, communications, and sales development. Over the course of his 20 years of experience in marketing, Sean believes in an integrated approach to marketing plays a critical role within the revenue team.

With experience in leading marketing teams from startup less than 10 million and scaled up to 500 million, Sean appreciates a learning curve and respects the process of testing methods and strategies without fear of being wrong.

Well, good afternoon, Shawn, welcome to the show.

[00:00:51] Shawn Herring: I appreciate it, Brian. Thank you so much.

[00:00:53] Brian Thomas: You bet. Thank you and appreciate you making the time.

Shawn, jumping right into your story here. Let’s talk about your career so we can get your story out there. You’ve got quite the career in marketing. You’re an entrepreneur, senior executive. You’re currently the Chief Marketing Officer of airSlate. Could you share with our audience the secret to your career growth and what inspires you?

[00:01:14] Shawn Herring: I think the secret to my career growth, I’d break it into three categories. I think the first category is I was never afraid to make mistakes. I just had to learn that if I was the one that fessed up to it first, it actually helped me a lot more than waiting until others found out. And you get the right people around you.

They actually really appreciate people that are willing to take risks but also show their failures. It gets people to trust you a lot more. So that’s one big thing that I learned. It was a little bit later in my career, but I learned it. The second big thing is That relentless pursuit of the truth through data and then trying to tell a story out of it versus trying to tell a story and then getting the data to support you once again, that’s kind of bending the truth.

And marketers have been known every once in a while, to bend the truth. I would say that. When you have that kind of integrity internally it comes out externally in your marketing. And I think the third thing in the growth is I just really found that there’s certain people that I work really well with because they understood how to work with me and that self like the self-awareness of what I’m good at and what I’m not good at.

I had to be told that a few times in my career. Until it really sunk in, and then once I embraced that, I could find those leaders, those peers, those different people that could work with me, for me, and around me that could really embrace where my strengths were and where my weaknesses were. And I think between those 3 things.

It really helped guide me. I wouldn’t say it’s been a flawless path, but it’s been a very interesting one to say the least.

[00:02:48] Brian Thomas: Thank you. And just like everybody else, we’re all human beings and we’ve got our story. And a lot of times they say it’s not making mistake. It’s just a learning opportunity, but I appreciate you sharing that.

We always try to extract those nuggets out of these podcasts. So, thank you. Sean, talk to us about the airSlate platform. It’s touted as a market leading products for automating entire document workflows on one platform. Where does your product stand out specifically from the rest?

[00:03:14] Shawn Herring: The biggest thing that I’ve seen, I would put it in two categories here.

The biggest thing I’ve seen for us versus others is we start with the need of the end user. And so, we have a platform of solutions. We have actually five products right now. And what we end up doing is. Anything you need for document workflow; we want to provide that solution. Unlike other providers where you have one single thing that you try to force upon people to buy, we want you to have options and it depends on your use case.

So, our platform of solutions has super simple things like just simple document templates for legal documents, all the way up to sophisticated workflow and automation tools for those that are doing very complex workflows where it’s legal sales, finance where your business kind of runs on your documents.

And so that’s the biggest one I’ve seen when I joined airSlate was I really liked the fact that we kind of flip it on its head and we say, what do you need first, and then let us tell you the right solution that fits your needs. And maybe you don’t need to spend 10, 000, maybe you only need to spend a hundred.

And then you can work your way up. That’s the number one thing. The second thing is we’re really focused on that need piece. We’re really focused on people paying for something that used to only be for enterprises. We’re really trying to democratize technology down to the point of we’re actually changing our pricing so that people will only pay for what they need and what they use versus just having seats and licenses go unused. We’re really focused on the value that you get for the dollars that you spend between those 2 things. I think what you see that comes out is all of our solutions are oriented towards where are you trying to go with your documents? Where exactly are you adding your journey? Are you at a very simple use case?

Or a very sophisticated one and then we want you to feel like you’re getting the value out of that money that you put in Having worked in the space in a little way a little time, I would say that’s not the common case for most software companies.

[00:05:12] Brian Thomas: Thank you. You’re absolutely right. And at the end of the day, it is the value.

It’s that customer experience when your customer is happy, you’re hitting all those check boxes for them. And sometimes, there’s a lot of platforms out there, you’ve got competition out there. I’ve seen it, but the fact that you’re providing that extra value makes a big difference. So, thank you for sharing.

Shawn we are a technology platform publication podcast. Obviously, I’m a techie been techie for many years. So, we like to ask every guest doesn’t matter if you’re a technologist, but maybe you could share. Just a little bit about your tech stack. If you’re leveraging any of that new and emerging tech and touch on anything, that’d be fine.

[00:05:49] Shawn Herring: Yeah. I think one of the things that really drew me into Air Slate was this concept of the marketing machine. We’re a marketing driven organization, which means marketing is responsible for revenue. Not maybe not partially we’re 100% responsible for revenue. And I think what I find in the tech stack is we’ve architected our tech stack to be almost like a consumer organization and an enterprise software solution.

And so, we’ve got this good hybrid approach that we can balance out depending on the audience that we’re targeting. Some of the key things that our marketing machine is known for is search. We’re really good at harnessing intent. And the way we’ve done that is we’ve actually built our own proprietary process, as well as some of the software behind it that we use internally.

We’re not willing to share that yet, but what it ends up allowing us to do is really understand for every person that comes in, depending on the type of campaigns that we run, how much is that worth to us as a company to pay for? And certain AdWords, certain campaigns that we run out outbound or inbound.

We always kind of know what we’re willing to pay for a customer because we know what those customers are willing to pay us. And so, we don’t get upside down and we’ve got this system in place that evaluates keywords, propensity of growth. And we build a funnel around every single campaign that we run.

And when I say funnel, it means from traffic all the way down to purchase. What’s our expectation. And then we adjust our bids based on what’s happening in real time in the market. So, we might bid, I’m going to make up something, we might bid 10 one day for a certain campaign on search. And based on our results, we might find out that’s providing better results than we expected.

Then we might pay 12 the next day, and then 13. But then if we see the results start to pull back, then we start to reverse that, but we can do it in real time. That is a massive advantage for us that has allowed us to actually grow when many others in this last couple of years have started to shrink.

So it’s a combination of Salesforce, a homegrown system for email, a homegrown system for bidding and keyword management, and then that all feeds into, all the different programs that we run. And we take that same funnel approach, everything that we do spreadsheets, I hate to say is one of the best things that we’ve got in our tech stack is just a clear idea of A plus B equals what?

And if we’re not getting that, then we’re not going to pay more. And so those are the kinds of things that I think other than the normal stuff that other companies have, we have sales automation, we’ve got all these other items, but the marketing led growth really has flipped this on its head to have.

Price, we look at CAC to ASP a lot. So, what’s a customer acquisition cost to the annual sale price. And what we want is for every dollar we spend; we want more than a dollar back. So, we’re willing to lose business because we’re not going to win business at all costs. And I think that’s what we’ve seen with a lot of companies around us is they’ve been trying to grow at all costs.

And now that it’s a little bit more expensive. Those costs are a little bit more expensive. They’re not growing and they’re not winning. Thankfully, we’ve got a little bit more control because of this marketing machine that we’ve built. And it’s allowed us to really control our destiny around where we put our money, where we don’t put our money.

And then when we start to say, it’s time to scale. The numbers come rolling in.

[00:09:11] Brian Thomas: Thank you. I appreciate you breaking that down for us. And that helps, especially for our marketing gurus here in our audience. That certainly makes a difference. And as you saw the landscape has changed over the last couple of years.

Thank you so much. Sean, last question of the day, could you share something from your career experience that might be helpful for those listening today? Who’s looking to grow their career in either marketing or leadership.

[00:09:34] Shawn Herring: Yeah, I think the biggest things that I’ve noticed people that have upward momentum in a company, whether it’s promotions or going to another company and taking on bigger roles you have to be okay with setting audacious goals, communicating around those, and then doing everything you can to hit those without sacrificing your integrity.

Communication, I did not realize the key to communication was so important, especially around when you are. Not getting the results that you wanted, but that allows the trust around you to build and build and build so that people don’t have to guess if there’s bad news, they know that you’ll tell them.

That’s one big area that I would say I learned the hard way multiple times, but I’ve also seen a lot of people and promoted a lot of people that take that on their back and say, I’m going to go at this. I’m going to do something that’s scary for me and possibly scary for you as a manager or as an executive.

But I’m going to bring you along that journey and make sure you understand that. I’m not just going to go into a black box 9 months later, come out and say it didn’t work. That’s probably 1 of the strongest ones I’ve seen. I think that’s not marketing. That’s just in business in general. I think in marketing.

What I have noticed a significant difference in right now is everybody’s talking about data, and you got to measure different things, but there is still a need for storytelling. And what I found more often for marketers than anyone else is. You got to remember that you got to tell a story inside the organization about why people should care as much as you got to get that story to come outside the organization to get people interested in your product.

So, you’re actually more of a salesperson inside the organization and a marketer outside of the organization to be effective and you got to close those deals when it comes to those big campaigns or those big spends you want to make or the big bets you want to place. You got to sell. And so, you start to look around at the sales team and you can learn from them pretty significantly on just asking them questions, see how they position, but you’re never going to get anything out into the market unless you get it through your own org first.

That was another hard lesson learned as a marketer that I just kept getting frustrated with over and over and over where I just didn’t realize that I wasn’t telling a good story to the people that were going to approve it. I didn’t sell them on it in a way that would help have them support me. So, it never went very far and some of those initiatives would fall flat, even if they were great concepts, great ideas and had positive ROI.

If I didn’t get people on board, it didn’t matter and my end customer externally, the ones that actually paid us money would never see all these great ideas because you only execute on what gets approved on what gets that budget. And so those 2 big things I would say 1 is more of a marketing slant that I don’t think enough marketers realize the importance of you can’t just.

Spray and pray data and hope people just go, oh, they know what they’re doing. You really do have to craft a story and bring people along on your journey internally. That’s a massive marketing thing. And then the other one is general businesspeople that do well in business. That really accelerate and move up the food chain, have that tenacity, but also those communication skills and the ability to be okay being wrong.

[00:12:49] Brian Thomas: Thank you for sharing. By the way certainly appreciate that. I think a lot of us have learned over the years whether we were in some sort of lead role or leadership role having that trust built as a foundational piece to building relationships.

That’s obviously number one. And then I love your explanation of the marketing side and you do need to sell and just like the marketing, the CMO people, the IT folks have to sell what they’re doing to their CFO or their CEO or the board. So certainly appreciate, certainly resonates with me and I know it’ll resonate with much of our audience.

Shawn it was a pleasure having you on today and I look forward to speaking with you real soon.

[00:13:26] Shawn Herring: Brian, I appreciate it. Thanks so much.

[00:13:28] Brian Thomas: Bye for now.

Shawn Herring Podcast Transcript. Listen to the audio on the guest’s podcast page.


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