Tessa Barron is the Senior Director of Marketing at ON24, a platform for webcasting and virtual communication solutions. Tessa's unique skill set helps both large enterprises and startups alike build their brand and bring it to life through compelling content experiences. She’s done that on the agency side and in-house at Google and Apigee. In her current role as Senior Director of Marketing at ON24, Tessa is redefining how brands engage and communicate to prospects and customers alike.
Read on to learn how our latest Marketing Visionary spots opportunities, keeps on top of her game and uses scrappy marketing to deal with a lack of resources.
So Tessa, what’s the first thing you do when you come into work?
Well, I’m blessed and cursed to work from home, so it really begins as soon as I wake up and start reading my email. I’m a big believer in staying on top of industry trends and breaking news to keep an outside-in perspective and get ideas for fresh content angles. So, I try to take at least 30 minutes to scan all the MarTech trade newsletters in my inbox, read any relevant articles and store any away that offer a unique perspective, data point, analysis, etc.
In your role at ON24, what’s the most challenging part of your role? And what’s the most rewarding?
This may be cheating, but I’ve got the same answer for both questions. I love and hate that I get to market to marketers at ON24. Coming from the hard core enterprise tech space, I always felt like an imposter because I never actually used the technology I was marketing and really could not empathize with my audience.
At ON24, it’s the opposite. I feel like I live, eat, breathe and sleep demand generation marketing, and, specifically, using webinars and content to connect and convert our customers. It’s what I do day in and day out to run our own marketing campaigns, and it’s also what our campaigns are evangelizing. That gets meta very fast, and it can sometimes feel a little bit like inside baseball. I have to remind myself to take a step back and not just assume the rest of the marketing world runs hundreds of webinars a year or speaks fluent marketing jargon.
It’s important to keep yourself honest and not assume that just because you are a customer persona, you are the only customer persona.
What tools do you find indispensable for marketing and communications?
Internally, SketchDeck. It’s a really efficient tool for scaling our brand across teams and across the globe.
Yes, it’s great for brand compliance, but it’s more than that – SketchDeck helps our team live and grow with the brand every day. Everyone can literally see our brand mature and evolve as we all put our own stamp on it and interpret it for different audiences. Everyone can see the campaigns being produced, build on each others ideas and remain on the same page. It’s an incredible way for everyone to look up from the trenches and realize that we’re creating cool shit.
Externally, outside of SketchDeck, I have to be the dutiful ON24 brand steward and say the ON24 Platform. All biases aside, our webinars are the best performing channel for us, and webinars are the easiest, most cost-effective content for us to create. Perhaps it’s because we’re marketing to those pre-disposed to webinar engagement, but there’s just no comparison. We try to promote other types of content to our database, even to a third party’s database, and it just never does as well. I may be drinking the ON24 Kool-Aid, but the numbers don’t lie.
What marketing campaign (internal or external) are you most proud of? Can you share the creative and explain the thinking behind it?
Our newest campaign is themed around Scrappy Marketing and hones in on what I think is a universal pain point: not having enough time. I think the best campaigns are those that are anthemic and authentic - inspirational without feeling too fluffy.
I think we, in partnership with SketchDeck, did a really great job bringing the chaos of a typical day to life by using a graffiti-art treatment across the promotional assets and content. At the same time, we added can-do sayings that hopefully encourage our audience to dig deep and get shit done.
How does SketchDeck help you and your team at ON24?
Beyond SketchDeck giving us a basecamp for our brand, it’s literally the only way we can execute all the projects we have on a day-to-day basis across the globe.
We don’t have a single graphic designer in-house, and with SketchDeck, we really don’t need one. It’s super efficient for us to scale, and keeps us focused on coming up with creative ideas versus executing the creative itself.
There’s so much noise in B2B marketing. How do you actually cut through the noise and garner attention?
I wish I had a simple, silver-bullet-type answer. The truth is, tactics are really just tactics. Different channels and content work for different audiences. It’s the story that you’re telling through the tactics that matters most. So, have something to say that’s different from what your competition is saying, and find the best medium and channel, or mix thereof, to tell that story.
Our campaigns consist primarily of webinars, but we also add in a lot of emails, advertising, direct mail, videos, eBooks, etc. What unites them all is an original perspective, an interesting theme and stand-out creative.
Who are your biggest influences? Who do you admire most?
I think Dolly Parton is an amazing female who’s stood the test of time and has never lost sight of her true self. An original self-made brand.
How do you find a work/life balance?
I’ll be honest, I really don’t.
Do you have a marketing hack you can share?
Content syndication is one of those unsexy marketing tactics that people don’t talk about a lot, but it’s a really time- and cost-efficient way to drive a lot of leads really quickly. And, you don’t have to create new content to do so. We use the NetLine Buyer Engagement Platform to promote all of our hero content, from on-demand webinars to eBooks, and it’s helped us acquire and engage net-new names very effectively.
How do you deal – and keep up with – the rapid changes in marketing?
Read the news! It may sound old-fashioned, but there’s really so much value in having a journalist synthesize and contextualize industry news and trends. At the same time, there’s so much MarTech hype out there and it’s vendors like us that are partially to blame. Any time I hear about a marketer or vendor talking about how much pipeline is driven from a single tactic, I call B.S and tune it out. It’s just not that simple, and as tempting as it is to believe, just not how it works.
How do you manage resource constraints?
We get scrappy. Everyone has to get their hands dirty and share some of the executional workload. That means that sometimes the person creating content is also managing the distribution of it, or the person running a field event is writing the promotions for it. I truly don’t believe you can develop a strategy without knowing how to execute it, and I expect everyone on my team to share that mindset.
What’s the last thing you do before you leave work?
I’m 3 hours ahead of everyone on my team, so I usually look at my calendar for the following day to see if there’s deliverables needed from the team.
What are 3 apps you recommend to friends?
Nothing groundbreaking, but I’m constantly on Slack, NPR and NYTimes. Oh and HotelsTonight, Caviar and Resy for when I travel.
What is a product or company you think is really well marketed? What specifically about their marketing do you appreciate or admire?
I thought the New York Times’ “The Truth is Worth It” campaign was extremely well done. It was both anthemic and authentic. Like all great brand campaigns, it stands for more than their product of news or information, but for a category that’s both world-changing and definitive of that moment in time: truth. It still gives me goosebumps.
How do you think see the workplace transforming as digital native millennials become executive leaders at organizations?
I think the whole hype around millennials and the future of work was a marketing campaign created by a unified communications vendor years ago, and, like digital transformation, we haven’t been able to come up with a better way to say that the world is changing and the future workplace will be different.
I mean look, more people will work from home. More communication, more selling, more buying will take place digitally. And, more of it on mobile phones too! Let the shocking revelations continue.
At the end of the day, work is still work. Does it really matter if instead of talking into a hardline phone receiver we’re now talking into a laptop microphone?