#HowIBuy – Ruth Zive, CMO, Blueprint
One of the most fascinating things that I have found in running Nudge’s #HowIBuy series is the wide variety of buying habits and propensities. To date, many of the executives interviewed have gotten almost no new ideas from cold outreach. That makes today’s conversation with Ruth Zive, CMO of Blueprint, even more fascinating as she talks about new ideas coming to her through high quality BDRs and sales reps.
A great pitch, clearly articulated, and delivered in a manner that cuts through the noise still has a place in today’s world. Especially if it happens to come alongside chocolate.
Here are Ruth’s thoughts on her buying process:
Thanks for taking the time to talk, Ruth. First, tell us a bit about Blueprint, both in terms of what you provide, and how large you are, in order to set some context for the rest of our chat.
In a nutshell, Blueprint solutions help organizations build innovative applications that drive digital transformation and disruptive innovation, while mitigating the risk of an ever-changing regulatory landscape.
We are definitely beyond the start-up stage; we are global, with about 150 employees worldwide. Blueprint has enjoyed more than four years of double-digit growth – so growing rapidly, but still small enough that it feels like a fairly tightly knit community.
And as for yourself, what is your role at Blueprint and what kind of things do you spend money on throughout a year?
As the CMO at Blueprint, I’m responsible for all Demand Gen initiatives – building early stage pipeline and leveraging all available marketing channels. I try not to overwhelm my team with too many tools – we are pretty selective in what we use. Our programs are underpinned by a marketing automation platform and CRM, and then we have a few other applications to drive productivity.
We spend a good amount on events, as well as analyst relationships. And we are always refreshing our lists, so that is a fairly significant line item. We do not spend very much on services or consulting – and I imagine that budget line will continue to shrink. I prefer to bring as much expertise in-house as possible – and our current team is very experienced and skilled. We target the Fortune 2000, so our market is fairly tight. Because of this, in the coming year, I expect ABM to be a considerable investment as we look to flip the funnel and target more surgically.
How do you find out about what’s “out there”? How do you discover the latest solutions and approaches that might have a chance of making your world better?
Honestly – the best gems have come directly through a good sales rep or BDR who was able to cut through the noise and clearly articulate the differentiating value proposition of their offering. There are a lot of cookie cutter marketing solutions out there – what gets my attention are the creative, disruptive approaches that turn conventional marketing wisdom a bit on its head.
Any outreach email that is longer than two sentences and doesn’t directly address my specific pain in a compelling way gets deleted. There have been a few creative pieces of direct mail that got my attention. Not those slick, seemingly handwritten (but not) postcards that drive me to a mysterious website – those don’t work. Anything that involves tasty food, or reveals a genuine awareness of my role or interests gets noticed. I once received a beautiful box from Godiva, with a card that called out my chocolate addiction (it’s in my Twitter profile). That showed me the BDR had done her homework and taken time to learn about me. At a minimum – it moved me to read on about what she was selling and to take her call when she followed up.
Tell us a little bit about your decision process. What role do you, and what role do your front-line leaders play in the decision process?
I have a lot of confidence in my team. While I suppose I’m the final decision-maker, I rely on them to scope our needs and determine the best possible approach. I am almost always aware of vendors we are seriously considering, but I don’t generally get involved until the later stages of negotiation. Once in a while, when I see something that piques my curiosity, I’ll flip it to my team to explore. But if they don’t see value, I defer to their judgment much of the time.
How do you prioritize what initiatives are “now” and what are “later”?
The state of our pipeline dictates those decisions to a great extent. I am always looking at how it distributes across our sales force – is coverage healthy, are there gaps and opportunities. If, for instance, our pipeline is thin in the UK, I might prioritize an event or conference in that region, or make an investment in a list refresh. We also listen carefully to the market to shift gears as needed. If, for example, we are finding that prospects are struggling with Problem X (could be a particular regulation, a bottleneck in the SDLC, a limitation of an existing ALM tool), I might deploy resources that speak directly to how we solve that problem.
When you’ve decided that something is needed, how do you evaluate competing solutions? What types of evaluation approaches do you actually leverage in your evaluation?
I like a free trial. It’s a lightweight opportunity to demonstrate proof. And I think in today’s world, it’s become a baseline expectation of buyers. Even when I’m negotiating with a service provider – I’ll often ask for a 2-3 month ‘trial’ period. And then if the investment is significant enough, I almost always ask for references. Sometimes I’ll seek out references on my own – and email a few of the CMOs of the companies listed on the vendor’s website.
What is different about buying today than buying a decade ago?
Without question, the biggest difference is that today, most of the buying decision can be made before speaking with a live human being. I can go online and learn 90% of what I need to know to seal the deal. Even if there is more to understand, my mind is typically made up before I have a conversation with a sales rep. If a vendor does not have a user-friendly, robust, informative website (or if it is riddled with spelling errors, and looks 15 years old), or if I can’t find any current and credible information about the solution online, it leaves a bad impression. Period.
Where do salespeople play a role in your overall buying process? What is the most valuable thing a salesperson can do in selling to you?
Understanding my needs. Not wasting my time. Being responsive and attentive once we are further along in the sales cycle. I like a sales person that very quickly gets to the point, and zeros in on my most pressing challenges. As I said, I delete 90% of the sales emails I receive. The ones that make the cut are usually not more than 2 sentences in length, sound genuine, and speak directly to my specific needs and interests.
What is the biggest mis-match between what you need and how salespeople try to sell to you?
Not differentiating. There is SOOO much noise in the marketing space. It’s deafening actually. I must receive 10 emails a day JUST from list vendors. I’m not interested in hearing the same sales pitch over, and over, and over again. Try something different. Think outside of the box. Stand out. Get my attention. Send me food :).
How do you leverage your network in understanding the landscape or individual vendor offerings?
I have a network of other marketing leaders I know and trust. I speak with them regularly and I always ask for anything new they’ve unearthed that I should be looking at. A referral from a trusted peer is worth more than any sales pitch.
Thanks Ruth, for sharing how you think about buying, it was very insightful.