Marketing Through Change with Kevin Alansky

Role: Chief Marketing Officer at Higher Logic

What is the craziest or most inspirational thing you've witnessed in your marketing career?

This might constitute as both but I have spent long enough in business to get to see and do some interesting things. This is especially true for those working in marketing, advertising or sponsorships as you may have times where you get to work with famous people. Some of my favorite memories are: Spending time with hall-of-fame baseball player, Cal Ripken, the week after the steroid scandal broke and getting a player-first perspective; in the green-room with a four-star general, Colin Powell, before introducing him on stage at a tradeshow; and being a VIP handler for Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy.
What I remember from all of these great people is that they took the time to ask me questions and a vested interest in my company and our mission. To me that’s the intersection between inspiration and crazy.

What is the best thing you have learned during this crazy time of pandemic?

For me personally and historically, I had a difficult time managing remote teams. This forced me to really dig in and learn how to do it. I thrive off of face to face connection and doing that over Zoom/Teams has been a learning process. It was a little challenging because replacing those meetings meant anywhere from 7-9 Zoom meetings (with video) per day. I am used to it now and believe my team is thriving. Our production and results have been strong since the pandemic. Thankfully, our software is in a good position to help organizations stay connected and communicate with their users.
I would also say that I have been trying to do more check-ins with my team. People are really dealing with the crisis in different ways and I need to be there for them, showing support. Being human and encouraging people to take days off, take a mental health day. It’s amazing to truly see people’s lives through Zoom. A lot of folks have it a lot harder than me. I have to respect that.

What is the biggest marketing mistake you've made, and how did you adapt going forward?

This is not a cop out - but I have made many mistakes in my career. I like to pride myself in learning from all of them. The biggest lessons learned is not to skip steps in the process. Everyone these days is in a hurry to move faster. If we skip steps in the process, then it leads to misalignment and often re-doing a lot of work. That frustrates folks on my team and can lead to burn-out. The best thing I, or anyone, can do is have a plan. A good, old codified plan. It needs to be shared amongst the team and cross-functionally. I’m amazed that a lot of peers don’t have one. I like to make sure we have an annual plan then ensures our campaigns are done quarterly with goals attached. This allows us to measure often and adjust as necessary. Getting buy-in from my Executive, Sales and Product Teams is key.

When you look in your crystal ball, what advice can you offer marketing leaders over the next five years?

This is incredibly hard to forecast. I look back at plans from 5 years ago now and I would say less than 50% of it is relevant today. Often the brand and product marketing strategy exercises still hold up today but the demand gen tactics change often. I do think the land of MarTech will go through a heavy dose of consolidation and evaporation. Of course, it’s now up to 8,000 tools and while the sheer number may increase, we are still waiting for more of an all-in-one solution to MarTech. I’d like to think we’ll get closer to that vision.

Any parting thoughts/words of wisdom?

Never burn a bridge.