Why empowering consumers is more profitable than 'pushing product'
For most of us, Fargo is a TV show or movie. For Sara Larsen, CMO of Brightcove, it's the town in which she grew up, a place filled with “Oh, for sure”-friendly people. While her accent resurfaces only when she's home, a North Dakota spirit of community and conviviality informs her work self, even when working as change agent in an organization.
Larsen’s career first took her through New York (Accenture, IBM) and Philadelphia (SAP) before bringing her to Boston, where she initially worked at Dassault. Along the way she’s noticed, and helped pilot, the profound marketing shift from “pushing product” to creating unique customer experiences. Larsen shares how this shift has affected her first year at Brightcove, and has helped drive company and category growth.
Would you consider Brightcove a purpose-driven organization?
We think our purpose is to help our customers bring their stories to the eyes of the world. And we do that through new ways. We are continuously developing new technology for how to do that in live scenarios, social scenarios, in all kinds of apps—whatever the newest format is, you need to make content for it. We do that with an experience that is consistent, with a high degree of quality, and a trusted level of support and security. But I think a piece that is becoming more and more relevant is: How we can help our customers understand how video is working? What are the analytics around it? What matters? We're getting asked a lot about context now, because people want to understand the category. They understand they need to be in it, but they want to understand their relative success in it as well—how their videos do next to others.
When you arrived about a year ago, what did you see as your top priorities?
Well, one of the top priorities that I have, and that the leadership team has here, is to continue to build a breakout growth model for video. And that includes not just how we're growing as a company, but how we’ll be growing video as a category. In part, changing the way people are engaging in the world. And that could be how marketers are engaging people, how companies are engaging their people, and how media organizations—and really any content organization—are reaching people. And so, we’re thinking through that. What does that mean internally? How do we organize our priorities? Where do we put emphasis? What potentially do we de-emphasize?
Can you talk about any specific initiatives that are pushing your team?
For our customer conference this year, which happened in Boston in May, I threw out a couple of objectives to the team. First, I said let's have more customers than we've ever had at this conference. So, this isn't a conference about us. It's about us hosting a conversation on video. And the best way we can have that conversation is with the people that are using it today in really unique ways. So, we had more customers than we've ever had at our Play conference, speaking on main stage and breakouts and practitioner sessions, in workshops. And we got tremendous feedback from attendees on that.
What was the second objective of your customer conference?
The second piece was having more video at our video conference than ever before. And so, we did that. We live-streamed. We actually used our new live-to-social capability, had some great social engagement online. We're able to capture a lot of real-time video onsite and really started to think about how do we take an on-site experience, make it a live experience, but also build a video component into it? So now it’s available online, we call it “Replay.” I think that stretched the team a little bit, in a good way, because they said, “Oh, I have to get out of my silo and think a little bit broader.”
Has the relationship brands have with their customers changed in the last few years?
It really is about the experience now. If you think of any product or service in your life, your lens now starts to look at the experience around that product or service. And I think that's something we didn't think about a decade or two decades ago. You really thought about what's the best product I can make? But the service around it is really in the overall experience. That's a huge change. At the end of the day, you have to deliver an experience.
Do you have any do’s and don’ts for your fellow CMOs?
Do listen. Adding to that, do listen before you speak. I've spent a lot of time listening in my first year here because there's a lot to soak in. It’s great for getting clarity on what you’re trying to get done, and how you should do it. Don't be late to meetings with the CEO. Probably one of my worst moments when I was a little bit late to a meeting with the CEO, and I got called out—I got the whole executive team texting me, “Where are you?” I’d also say, in the CMO role, everything and the kitchen sink gets thrown at you. A lot of stuff heads your way. Don’t feel like you have to react to it immediately. The answer will appear, and I do believe that sometimes you just have to let things sit a little bit.