How to Achieve Team Alignment and Foster Innovation

How to Achieve Team Alignment and Foster Innovation

Corinne Sklar, CMO at Bluewolf, joins the Content Experience Show to discuss team alignment and how to foster innovation within your teams.

In This Episode:

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Full Episode Details

The Three Pillars of Team Alignment

As your business grows and you build more and more teams, successful team alignment is crucial to efficient operations. It sounds like a simple enough idea, but practically, getting all of your teams on the same page and working together can be a difficult task.

Corinne Sklar of Bluewolf has laid out what she calls the “three pillars” of team alignment to help both new and established businesses. Her three pillars are “make it fast, make it work, and make it stand out.”

To make it fast, she suggests that you have a project manager for your marketers who knows how to execute ideas quickly. Making it work means aligning with your sellers in a way that includes metric data as well as deeply understanding your customer’s pain points and stories. Standing out also means putting an emphasis on design and taking risks to aesthetically stand apart from those around you. By digging in and building your teams on these three pillars, you will be in a place to serve your customers more deeply and efficiently.

In This Episode

  • Three principles for successful team alignment.
  • Why you have to look past the data to understand your customers.
  • Why it is important to have a central strategy for customer experience.
  • Major trends from the latest annual State of Salesforce report.

Quotes From This Episode

“People produce everything in this world. Technology is just an enabler of getting campaigns out the door.” —  @csklar

Employee satisfaction powers innovation. Click To Tweet

“You can have great ideas, but if you don’t know how to execute those ideas quickly with agility, with quick feedback loops and iteration, it doesn’t matter.” — @csklar

Resources

Content Experience Lightning Round

When you feel like your creativity is drained, what is something you do that fills you back up?

Corinne and her design partner love going to portfolio days and meeting with other artists!

See you next week!

What Great Brands Do That Good Brands Don't in Content Marketing

Okay content is easy. Killer content is hard. This nifty eBook shows you the difference, based on our real-world work with dozens of brands. A must-read!

Episode Transcript

Anna Hrach: Hey Corinne, thank you so much for being here. I'm so excited to finally get to talk to you, because we both were at the Content Experience Conference, just about a month ago here, and we were both speaking at it, but we didn't get to meet. I saw your talk, I loved your talk, but I didn't get to talk to you, so thank you for being here today to talk to me. Corinne Sklar: I am so excited to talk with you. Thanks for having me. Anna Hrach: Yeah. For those of you out there, you may have seen Corinne at the Content Experience Conference but Corinne for those who didn't get to go, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself and just tell everybody a little bit about your amazing self? Corinne Sklar: Oh, well thank you. My name's Corinne Sklar. I'm the CMO of Bluewolf, an IBM company, and I've actually been in this role for quite a long time. I've been part of the founding team of Bluewolf for the last, gosh, 13+ years. Really been leading the charge of helping clients really digitally transform themselves on the Salesforce platform. We are Salesforce's largest consulting agency partner, and it's been amazing to be part of that ecosystem. Anna Hrach: Nice. One of the things that I loved that you talked about at Conex, and something that I don't think people are necessarily talking too much about today, I think people are touching on it, but you really dove in, which is the topic of building a team and aligning teams. That seems to be something like you were just very passionate about and something you have a ton of work with. Corinne Sklar: Absolutely. I mean, I think we all could agree that people produce everything in this world. Technology is just an enabler of getting campaigns out the door, but at the end of the day, it really is our teams, our people who make it come to life. I think for myself, coming from the consulting industry where we're going and working with clients to help them align around a vision, and really execute against that vision, I've had a unique perspective because it all is about producing the result for our client. I think I've taken that as I've been building my teams internally at Bluewolf, and I honestly, I can say this and I'm sure everybody says something like this, I wouldn't be where I am today without the incredible team that I've had at Bluewolf for the last decade. I've had some folks on my team for over a decade, and- Anna Hrach: Wow. Corinne Sklar: ... the ability to work together, the ability that our team has been able to develop marketers from the ground up, I think is incredible, and I really want to take those learnings to other marketers every time I go out and speak to clients and speak at conferences. Anna Hrach: It's funny, too. First off, love that you just gave credit to all of the people on your team and that it really does, not to be cliché here, but it really does take a village to get the work done, to make it a success. But I think sometimes content marketers and just digital marketers in general, we have this tendency to think, "Well, if we just hire good people and we just hire smart people, it'll just happen." But there's so much work that goes into building the right teams and you touched on some of the elements of getting your teams aligned. What were some of those key things that you think everybody should be thinking about that maybe we're not today? Corinne Sklar: Right. There were really three pillars that I talked about, and obviously there's a lot of meat on all these elements. Marketers need to make it fast, they need to make it work, and they need to make it stand out. I think specifically when I talk about making it fast, I'm a very big believer in the need for project management for marketers. I think questions that I asked the audience is how many people, and this was primarily a marketing audience, I said, "How many people in the audience are PMP certified?" I think one hand was raised. I'm not- Anna Hrach: I remember that. Corinne Sklar: Yeah. I'm not saying you need to be PMP, but I'm a big believer in having an engine, really understanding the process of execution. You can have great ideas, but if you don't know how to execute those ideas quickly with agility, with quick feedback loops and iteration, it doesn't matter. Because that is a core element of being able to just get programs out the door. I'm a big believer that when a marketer starts on their first day, as they engage, and it doesn't matter their background. We have to teach them the tenets and the values of what we value as a marketer in our organizations, and one of those for me is understanding our project management process. What are the tools that we have to execute? What do we value? I think that's very, very important that that's documented, that that is embedded into every part of the culture of that marketing team. I really do talk a lot about teaching marketers the value of that, and obviously again, from a consulting perspective, that is key. If you want to deploy Salesforce across multiple countries, and you don't have alignment with executives, and a project management process, it ain't going to happen. I really take those same tenets and apply them inside of our organization in marketing. I think that's the first pillar. The second piece is really around what I call making it work. So, a lot of that has to do with aligning with the selling organization, and also organizing the marketing team in a very specific way, that lends to agility. A lot of what I talk about is obviously metrics. We have everything in Salesforce. Obviously we have a martech stack, that's very modern. But Salesforce is a core platform for us and we use it because that is the tool my sellers are in. We speak the same language. What they see, we see, what we see, they see. And I think transparency is critical for aligning around programs. A lot of what I do also with the marketers is really help our team see through the lens of our sellers. And one other aspect to add there, and we can end on the last pillar, is specifically around storytelling, and making it work, making content work is really about truly understanding your customers and not just looking at it through a data lens. I know everybody's about looking at the data. Great. Data doesn't tell emotion. Data doesn't show you the pain of the client, of what's happening in their business, and so one of the processes that we've implemented inside of Bluewolf is that we have a newsletter and an entire program. It's called The Howl. And this is actually led by our product marketing team, and we meet with our clients and our sellers, and we produce client stories that we, our marketers actually go out and enable our sellers on. I think it's very important that my marketers really understand what's happening with my customers, not that they're just producing content, but they understand the depths of the broader client stories that are happening in our business. That's a critical component. Anna Hrach: That's amazing. Yeah, I love it. Sorry, not to cut you off, I totally agree with literally everything you just said. I think especially just the process, like we always have these amazing digital strategies to execute on, but we don't actually have the vision for how to do it. And then, the transparency level, we have this tendency to think that everybody's just going to be on the same page no matter what, and then of course, data is critical but it's not everything. It's really about that qualitative and quantitative and I agree with you, I think there's just something that's just so necessary and fills in so many blanks by just having a conversation with a client and just getting back to that storytelling side. Corinne Sklar: Absolutely, absolutely. And then the final point that I called out was make it stand out. I am incredibly proud to work for an organization like IBM who really I would say with, they had the leader Paul Rand who was really one of, you could say the godfather of design. He made a quote that said, "Everything is design. Everything." Obviously from my personal background, I went to art school, so I've always been a big believer in visual design and visual communication. One of the things just being in B2B marketing, and also B2C marketing for a long time, I just, I'm a big believer in design. I personally think a lot of B2B marketing is boring, not engaging, and I am trying to push the needle in my own business to really put a focus on visual communication, and to drive in my marketers, the importance of design, and educating them on why that is important. For me, I think partially as we look at marketing, content marketing across the board, yes you can get content out the door, you can make it aligned, but then you actually have to make it stand out where people are actually going to engage. If you're just copying the next marketer, next to you, it's been done. So, it's not going to stand out. I think risk taking and trying new things, and not looking always to your neighbor in marketing is how you're going to do breakthrough programs. I think that's another key element. Anna Hrach: Oh, my God, yeah, I love it. Everything you just said. I love how you're able to break everything down into these pillars that are so easy to understand. It's funny too, because they really are things that we should know, and they're things that we should be doing. But I think it's just, obviously with the day to day, it's hard to just do them all consistently. But everything you broke down is absolute gold in my book. I love it. I think everybody on this show is going to love it too. Before we jump into how you and your team actually get to execute this on a consistent basis, and some of the work that you've actually been doing recently, especially with upcoming Dreamforce, we are going to take a quick break to hear from our sponsors. Everybody stick around because Corrine is going to drop some even more gold on us when we come back from our break. Jay Baer: Hi friends, this is Jay Baer from Convince and Convert reminding you that this show, The Connect Show Podcast is brought to you by Uberflip. The number one content experience platform. Do you ever wonder how content experience affects your marketing results? Well, you can find out in the first ever content experience report, where Uberflip uncovers eight data science backed insights to boost your content engagement and your conversions. It's a killer report, and you do not want to miss it. Get your free copy right now at uberflip.com/conexshowreport. That's uberflip.com/conexshow report. The show is also brought to you by our team at Convince and Convert Consulting. If you've got a terrific content marketing program, but you want to take it to the very next level, we can help. Convince and Convert works with the world's most iconic brands to increase the effectiveness of their content marketing, social media marketing, digital marketing and word of mouth marketing. Find us at convinceandconvert.com. Randy: Today's podcast is brought to you by CoSchedule. I'm a big fan of team over at CoSchedule because they are making it possible for us as marketers to live with an all in one marketing calendar. Combines project management, email marketing, social promotion all in one place, which we know is so tricky when our team is not aligned. So, to gain complete visibility over your entire marketing schedule, keep your sanity and get more done, check out CoSchedule. You can go to coschedule.com/conex to get your free marketing strategy template, plus a lowdown on how CoSchedule is helping thousands of marketers like you get their sanity back. That's at CoSchedule.com/conex. Anna Hrach: Growth in your business is tough. Ads are expensive and let's face it, social media is hard. The best way to grow is to have your customers do it for you via word of mouth. But you have to give people a consistent and memorable story to tell. That story is your talk trigger. Jane Daniels' new book shows you exactly how to do it. It's the Complete Guide to Creating Customers With Word of Mouth and it's available now wherever you get books. It's easy to find, because it's the one with the alpacas on the cover, and it is Uberflip pink. Visit talktriggers.com/conex to get it today. Anna Hrach: Hey everybody, welcome back. We are here with Corinne Sklar, and she just dropped a ton of gold on us about how to align our teams, and how to really make it work. Now, Corrine, you and your team actually, you do a ton of work behind the scenes, and obviously even things that we can take a look at today, such as you just dropped the State of Salesforce, which this report is in its seventh year, correct? Corinne Sklar: Yes, it is. Anna Hrach: It's huge. It is a massive, amazing report. I'm so excited to dig into it. I haven't been able to yet. But I'm so excited. How did this come about? Obviously, you know Dreamforce's obviously coming up, and we've been talking a little bit about Salesforce here and there. But how did this come about? Corinne Sklar: It's a great story, actually. So, about seven years ago, Eric Berridge, our CEO and I were talking about just the constant trends and themes we were seeing as we've been deploying over thousands of clients leveraging Salesforce. We were having a conversation. It was like, maybe we should do our own state of what's going on for our clients. So, I'm like, let me take that and me and our incredible marketing team in San Francisco developed and launched our first data Salesforce report. When it hit the first year, it caused a lot of drama [inaudible 00:15:01] I think they weren't expecting us to do that. Obviously, a lot of phone calls, but really over the last six years now since we launched it that first year, we obviously, this is a report that Bluewolf does all in house. We don't outsource this report. It is designed in-house. It is produced by our marketing team. It is produced with our thought leaders in this space with IBM and Bluewolf, but now, Salesforce has really become a partner in promoting it as, there's certain stats that come out that really support some of the direction that they're trying to drive in their product roadmap. We've definitely come full circle since the first year, and this is always a big focus for us right before Dreamforce. It is our top content piece every year. We get thousands upon thousands of downloads, and we give thousands away at Dreamforce. We're really excited to launch that today, and happy to tell you more about what's in the report this year. Anna Hrach: Yeah. With that being said, can you give us a little sneak preview? Obviously, people can download it for themselves. But, what were some of those really big key findings? Was there anything that shocked you or anything that was surprising, or even just anything you think is really notable that people should know? Corinne Sklar: I bet there's three things that I could highlight today. And absolutely, if any folks who are listening in, if you leverage Salesforce in any function, whether it's Sales Cloud, or one of the different clouds, download the report. We actually cover every cloud. I think is important because we're looking at this through the lens of how the best companies use Salesforce to drive their business outcomes. The three trends that I'd like to highlight today is number one, we are definitely seeing that employee satisfaction powers innovation. When you bring Salesforce into your organization, not just on the front office for your sellers, but when your back office now can have access to that. So, there's tools out there for sellers around what they call Salesforce CPQ. We are seeing that companies who bring those two front and back office employees together, they're two times as likely to enable breakthrough innovation in their business. I think this is about transparency. It's also about making sure that Salesforce for your sellers, your agents is designed for them. Not just for management. I think that's something we've been seeing year, upon year, upon year is really understanding how your business partners, how your sellers are using Salesforce and getting their feedback to continually innovate on the platform. The second trend, which has been a big focus over the last few years is, customer experience strategy needs a home. Everybody's talking about, we've got to become a customer experience company, we've got to improve our customer experience. Well, who owns it? We started asking questions around how is this organized in medium, small and large enterprises? What we found is that companies who have a centralized strategy around customer experience, are two times more likely to agree that they provide a cohesive experience across all of their channels. What does that mean? You’ve got to look inside your business and if it's spread all over the place, you don't have a centralized strategy, consider looking at that. And there's a whole section in the report on that. Then finally, our last major trend would be, cross functional governance fuels continual innovation. That might sound like more of an IT type of conversation. But ultimately, if you're a marketer, and you see CRM, and you use Salesforce, it is imperative that there is a governance strategy to continually innovate on that platform. We hear over and over again, Salesforce doesn't work for us anymore. Well, it's because you haven't caught ... The platform is so flexible, your business is moving so fast, that platform has got to keep up with your marketers, with your selling organization. If you're using it for service, with your agents. So, having a focus around governance and constantly driving iterative innovation is a key to getting more out of that platform, and just service the needs in businesses today. Again, those are three high level trends but there is 82 pages of great insights and I hope people enjoy it.   Anna Hrach: I'm so excited [inaudible 00:20:03] now. Everybody can just go to the Bluewolf website, right? Corinne Sklar: Yep, bluewolf.com, or bluewolf.com/soss. Anna Hrach: Nice. Everybody needs to go download this. Because also, to me, as you were talking, it sounds like it's maybe even people who aren't using Salesforce today, it sounds like it's much bigger than that. It sounds like there's a lot of key learnings in there that just apply in general. Like, you've mentioned employee satisfaction really drives innovation, and obviously Salesforce is a part of that, but it sounds like pretty much everybody can get something out of this report, too. Corinne Sklar: Absolutely. Anna Hrach: Nice. So this ties into a little bit of what you're going to be talking about Dreamforce, right? Corinne Sklar: Absolutely. So, IBM and Bluewolf are the largest sponsors of Dreamforce again this year. We launched a global strategic partnership with Salesforce last year to focus on how we combine our AI capabilities, and how we bring industry solutions to market. And we're excited to be showcasing at Dreamforce this year the momentum in AI, and the momentum of what we're doing to really help businesses across industries and around the world drive their digital transformation. So we're super excited. I don't know if you know this, but Bluewolf has actually been, and therefore IBM, has been the only - I believe, and anybody out there can test this, the consistent largest sponsor of Dreamforce from day one. So I think we might be the only partner who has actually sponsored every Dreamforce at those highest levels. And for me, this is I believe my 12th year of doing Dreamforce. And so I love it, I think it's a great conference. Salesforce has done a great job of building community. And I think that's what our customers really enjoy across sales, marketing, the entire spectrum. And it's just a great opportunity to meet face-to-face and really showcase the incredible innovative work that our clients are doing every day. And we're so excited to be the largest sponsor again and partnering with Salesforce on it. Anna Hrach: Nice. So this episode is actually going to air after Dreamforce, but for those who may have missed you there, what is one thing that you really hope they take away from either interacting with you, or hearing you speak there, or even just meeting with you? What is sort of your one takeaway you wish everybody would just walk away with? Corinne Sklar: I would say it's really captured in our State of Salesforce report in general. We do this as a labor of love based on feedback based on where we really see clients consistently tripping up. And I think it's a journey. Transforming your business across all of your channels is a journey. And it's really about driving that executive alignment, understanding that people use technology, and technology is just the enabler. Everything that we do inside of Bluewolf and IBM, yes, we know these tools inside and out, we know what it can do for people's businesses, but our businesses are run by humans. And we cannot forget about the human experience. We cannot forget about the need to engage our people in driving change in our organizations. And so I think that is a consistent thing we've always differentiated on in this ecosystem. And I just hope that folks who don't get to Dreamforce can see our content and understand that this is a journey, and learn from the clients that we're going to be showcasing, like BP, like Coca-Cola, like Sally Beauty, and T-Mobile, and hear what they're doing and the lessons learned not just on the technology side, but also how they're driving that change in their business. Anna Hrach: Nice. Beautiful. I cannot think of a more poignant and beautiful way to end our podcast time together. Corinne, that was absolutely a mic drop moment. So thank you so much. Now that we've gotten to know you on the professional side, we're going to take a few minutes and ask you a couple of personal questions. So Corinne, stick around with us for just a few minutes more, and we are going to talk about your love of the arts in just a second. Okay, Corinne. So I know you talked about at ConX that you are a massive fan of the arts, especially being in the Bay Area, just how much you're involved with the ballet there. Tell us a little bit about that real quick. Because it's huge. You're on the board, it's amazing. Corinne Sklar: I actually went to an incredible school here in the Bay Area, called Mills College. And it's a women's college, and it's known for their arts program. And I actually got my degree in arts and journalism. And I believe, truly believe that getting a degree in the arts has absolutely helped me in my career. And I am a huge proponent of education in humanities and the arts. Our CEO did an incredible TED Talk of why tech needs the humanities. And I am a incredible believer in the power of creative thinking. And so for me, grounding myself in the arts community in the Bay Area is water and food for me to continue to think of breakthrough ideas in the work that I do every day, and to fill another side of me, which is just a love for the arts. And here in the Bay Area, obviously a lot of change in the Bay Area, and I am working with the Alonzo King LINES Ballet, which is a world premiere ballet here, not just in the Bay Area, but around the world, and trying to bring a focus around investment in the arts in the Bay Area. We've got a lot of philanthropy happening here in the Bay Area, but really trying to see how do we direct that to the arts community and really help it thrive and become a world class city? And so for me, it's an incredible organization, and love the focus here in the Bay Area around the arts. Anna Hrach: Nice. Okay. So my question for you, since you are such a massive fan of the arts, you're a huge supporter of it, you have an arts background ... you know when ... and I think this is a tip that even every marketer, every digital marketer will appreciate, but you know when you're feeling just so depleted, like you've done a ton of strategy work, and a lot of critical thinking, a lot of analyses, a lot of data, and you know when you're feeling just a little bit depleted on creativity? What is something you do that kind of fills you back up? Whether it being going to an art museum, or taking a second to write or draw, what is something that kind of creatively fills you back up when you are feeling a little depleted? Corinne Sklar: Well, number one, it would be my partner, Ryin Kobza, who is an incredible creative director and designer, who has really been my partner in design for over 15 years. He and I go and are actively going ... we go to portfolio days of the Art Academy here in San Fr- Anna Hrach: Yeah. Corinne Sklar: We go meet with designers, students. And we do that because it always fulfills us, and it shows us what's happening, what's new going on. And so we go to a lot of portfolio days. Absolutely, him and I are very involved in the arts community. And so we go to a lot of the gallery shows. We'll obviously go to the MOMA shows. And I take my team to those. I invite artists to come speak to my marketers. It's not just marketers, I invite pure artists to come in and talk [inaudible 00:28:24] creative process. I take my marketing team to the MOMA. We find lots of different ways to just spark those out-of-the-box thinking. And that is so important, for marketers to step back, to take a breath, and think of crazy ideas. I'm a big believer in crazy ideas. And I get a lot of that inspiration, not just from my partner Ryin, but obviously from everything that we do in this community. Anna Hrach: Nice. Fantastic. Well, Corinne, I think that is amazing, and I agree. Anything you can do to keep that spark, and talking to different artists, and keeping alive, I agree. I love it. Corinne, thank you so much for being on the show today. It was so genuinely wonderful to get to talk to you. And best of luck at Dreamforce, I know you're going to kill it again, because your talk at ConX was amazing. So, sad to miss your second talk. But thank you for being on. Really excited to have you. For ever- Oh, sorry, go ahead. Corinne Sklar: Thank you so much. Anna Hrach: Yeah, no, it's been fantastic. So everybody else, hope you enjoyed this show today. Do us a favor, go ahead and leave us some feedback wherever you download this podcast. We love to hear what you think, we love to hear the topics that you want to hear us cover. Until next time, I am Anna Hrach from Convince and Convert. And next time Randy Frisch from Uberflip will be joining me again. So thank you everybody, and we'll talk to you next week.  
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