Daniel Cmejla

Director of Partnerships, Community & Social Media at Chili Piper

23 Insights · 8 Questions · 26min Read · 28min Listen · Connect with Dan on LinkedIn

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Market through your customers. A bad-ass, true social media presence. Your customers are on social? You're on social. Fire your social media consultant and stop producing super basic boring stuff. Nobody wants that corporate version of you. They want an authentic version of you. Invest in community. Dark funnel. Customer referrals and user-generated content. Theory of leverage. Self-determination theory. Emotional withdrawals and deposits. Building a customer advisory board. Read Robert Cialdini's book, Influence.

Here’s what Arthur Castillo said about Dan:

High leverage principles. I was taught this by my manager, Dan, as I moved into Marketing. So in trying to explain it, a high leverage activity is maybe something that you create once, a system or a process, and that you can reuse it. So we're not starting from scratch. Whereas a low leverage activity will be, I'm doing it once, so I'm having to recreate it from scratch. I'm really not building any systems or processes. So it's helped me understand, “How do I create this so I'm going to be scalable? How do I do things maybe once or twice and it serves me for a longer amount of time?” —Arthur Castillo, Senior Manager of Field Marketing & Community at Chili Piper → Listen

What are 3 ways that your team converts your market into revenue?

Let's say, “How do we take our TAM and convert that into customers?” I'll take a segment of that right now. Two of our primary buyer personas at Chili Piper—we’re a tool that basically manages inbound lead flow amongst other things with complicated lead routing, and all kinds of cool stuff—but our primary personas are 1) Demand Gen, because they want the ads that they bring traffic to the website to convert, and 2) Revenue Ops, because they don't want to deal with this manual lead-routing situation. So the first question you need to ask yourself is like: “Where are these people? Where do they hang out? Are they at events? Are they in communities? Are they on social? Are they grabbing beers with their peers?” And then from there it's like, “Okay, how can we be there, too?” So three areas that we focus on to convert these folks into customers:

1) Community. We look across a lot of the top communities. For us, for the RevOps persona, it's like WizOps, Marketing Operation Pros (an excellent community run by Mike Rizzo and Co), Pavilion, Modern Sales Pros, Demand Curve. There are a bunch of them. So you're like, “Okay, this is where ICP is. They're active here. How do we be active too?” Well, the solution isn't: when your solution comes up to be like, “Oh, pick me! Chili Piper! Right here!” It's to have your customers and advocates authentically want to engage in those communities. So one way we convert our market into revenue is by ensuring that our customers are supported, active, healthy, and receive gratitude whenever they evangelize for us. Within PlanHat, which is our customer management system, we have information on what communities certain people are active in. Then, across all these communities, many of which we’re sponsoring, we have social listening mechanisms in place using a tool called Charla, and also in some cases, the founders of these communities are contracted to alert us when our solution comes up. So, when our solution comes up, naturally now, a lot of customers chime in organically. If not, maybe we'll give them a little bit of a nudge. So, that's one space that we do it. Community. We surveyed all of our Closed Won customers from 2021 and 20% said they heard of us first from a community. So shout out to all the communities out there. RevGenius. There's a new one launching soon, which we can't tell you about, but it's really, really exciting. Sales Assembly, they're just awesome.

2) Social Media. Maybe you've seen us on LinkedIn. When I joined the company in 2020, over two years ago now, wow, we had about 37,000 organic impressions per quarter. Last quarter, that number was 2.7 million organic impressions. Just from the company account. Not from employees. Not from customer advocates. You can look, actually, in a granular level, and see what percentage of your audience is in different personas. We brought our rev ops component up from 3% to 8%. So it's being active there. Your customers are on social? You're on social.

3) Customer referrals and user-generated content. You'll realize they all have a theme. So within social media, I do three real types: you have your company page, you have your employee evangelism, and then you have user-generated content. A while back, a friend of ours, Sara McNamara, who's not a customer, and she's not paid to do anything, she’s just a bad-ass marketing ops leader, made a post about Chili Piper and how we can do really complex lead routing, all kinds of cool stuff. Got like 40,000 impressions. So then we were like, “Maybe this led to revenue.” We actually went into the post, took all the people there who were mentioned, who liked or commented favorably, enriched that using LeadIQ, and then uploaded it to Salesforce as a campaign. We can now see the influence of social media user-generated content on our pipeline. It turns out that the dark funnel is still dark. We don't really know what's going on there. But we do know that 80% of our inbound, and last month was our best ever month for inbound, just comes from people Googling chilipiper.com. We believe that comes from organic user-generated content and just a bad-ass true social media presence.

What are 3 hard problems that you recently overcame?

1) Dark funnel. Looping back to the first one, it's this dark funnel thing. I feel so lucky. I report directly to the CEO. I manage PR, community, social media, events, customer marketing, and then a bunch of other random things, including our foundation, but a lot of these areas where we're putting a lot of effort into, it's not trackable. It's not like when someone mentions our solution in a community, we're going to be like, “Hey Rebecca, please comment. And then tie this UTM link to your comment with a demo.” That's so inauthentic. It just seems slimy to me. We want to keep it organic, want to keep it real, but when you do that, you sacrifice tracking. So, being able to operate in the dark funnel and get buy-in to take these activities, to spend this money, is a big problem we're focused on. Fortunately, we have two co-CEOs, Nicolas Vandenberghe and Alina Vandenberghe, who just get it. They get marketing. They understand it. So, they've allowed me to grow this team out to around 8 now, where we operate in the dark funnel. But, it's tough still. One easy way to solve this is just to put on your demo requests form, an attribution, not a dropdown, but, “How did you hear of us?” Leave it open-ended. That way you can get credit for dark funnel activities. Alyce does an amazing job at this, where they have Nick Bennett, like a mega influencer, who’s also like the nicest guy ever, who's able to just go out there and produce content without tracking it, because when folks come inbound, they're saying, “I got brought here by Nick Bennett.” Those are a couple of ways you can overcome them. We're still working to overcome them, and candidly, I want to get more hard data on the dark funnel, so I can hire more of a team to just do user-generated content. Our senses are that this is really working for us, but like, it's not in the CRM, you know?

2) Building our customer advisory board. Like many things, we chose to be incredibly extra for this. A lot of people build one customer advisory board. I was like, “I'm gonna build six. Let's build six!” Everybody is like, “Oh six is too many.” But, it's actually been totally amazing. The problem we are facing is we have so many incredible organic evangelists across our customer base, but they don't all share a lot in common. Like, you'll have the CEO of Sendoso who loves us, and then you'll have Sarah from Gong who loves us, and they're both amazing, but they might not share the same problems. If you bring them all together in one room, it might be a little weird. Our solution, instead, was to create six different groups of our customer advisory board, each united by a persona, each owned by the person who kind of owns that persona within Chili Piper. It's been amazing. A second problem we had with it was, “How do we ensure that these folks feel respected, cared for, and that they're activated?” So, Taylor, who runs our customer marketing department, actually, we aligned her comp to a customer advisory board health score, which I just think is awesome, because it ensures that we're going to have that activation, which not only helps us, but it makes it feel that the cab members are happy. And then, what do you know, we've had our cab for four months now, over 35 members have announced it, we're looking at over 600,000 organic impressions, but each of those is worth 10 from the company account, because if I tell you, “Hey, I'm great!” They're gonna be like, “Sure.” But if your best friend, someone you respect, says, “Dan's really great.” Then it's going to carry a lot more weight. So, that's how we solve that.

3) Ensuring representation in our communities. We're still working on it, but the first step was to figure out which one of our customers is active in which community? Eventually, we want to ascribe a community health score to all these communities, as well. That's kind of future state. We've got a lot going on now, so haven't been able to get to it yet, but I'm excited to do it in the future.

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What are 3 roadblocks you are working on now?

1) Marketing Ops. Okay. So the first roadblock, and our CEO, if you're watching this right now, I know he's so busy, there's no way, but we got to hire marketing ops, right? So Arthur and Adrian, the events team, are really incredible, but there's a level of sophistication we want to do that kind of requires marketing ops. So, we're at a point in the company where there are two paths we can take: We can train Arthur and Adrian on how to be HubSpot experts and do all this stuff. Or, we can specialize. They can keep focused on building the brand, doing amazing events, building our in-person events community, and ultimately, shepherding deals to close. And, we can have a marketing ops person manage the plumbing, so to speak. Some of the things we want to do are pretty complex. For all the events we invite, we want to have unique invitation cadences going out from the person who's going to be there, have a tier one list, a tier two list, a tier three list. And like, particularly if your events people are running around all the time, you don't really have time for that. So, that's one problem we're really facing.

2) The dark funnel. We operate a ton in the dark funnel, but there's always this lingering fear where it’s like, “These QHMs (qualified held meetings) aren't associated any specific program! They've just Googled chilipiper.com.” One easy way you can get around this to ensure that demand gen, essentially, doesn't take credit for organic stuff, is you take out ad spend against your own keywords. Like, someone searches for Chili Piper in Google, and then it's like, did you mean chilipiper.com? Like, I'm curious what you think, Chris, do you think that's demand gen sourced or is it something else? If someone is Googling Chili Piper, and then they click on a cost per click ad taken out against Chili Piper by Chili Piper. “Did you mean chilipiper.com?” Would you characterize that as demand gen? That's my question. Even though they clicked on a paid ad.

Chris: I've run into all this type of stuff, too. Like the SDR sources something through an email, and this outbound comes inbound through a book demo. They answer “Google” was the way they found out about us.

Yeah. So here's my hot take. I'm wearing our “Nothing but hot takes” hat in honor of our podcast relaunching, Demand Gen Chat, which is going to be really exciting, but what you want to look at and measure is what caused them to Google Chili Piper? They Googled Chili Piper because some of their friends told them about it, or they saw something on social, then they clicked on the ad. An easy way to unblock this organic stuff is just to ensure that demand gen isn't taking credit for organic social and you do that by making sure the paid ads that convert based off your own keywords are actually attributed to the direct organic bucket, rather than this demand gen bucket, because they wouldn't have clicked on the ad if they didn't Google Chili Piper. I would say that's the real mover, getting them to Google is what you want to be measuring.

3) Managing expectations. This is the best problem in the world. I report directly to our founders and CEOs, and they're super hands-on. I am just so grateful for it. But you know, and we can get into this and the mental model question, I use a theory called Self-determination theory to help manage the teams that I serve. And it's sometimes difficult to have a consistent, coherent, long-term strategy when you're kind of getting pulled in different directions by executives. So finding the ground to push back and say no, to say no to projects, is something I've always struggled with because I just want to say yes to everything. But I know that I can’t.

What are 3 mental models that you use to do your best work?

1) Self-determination theory. The first one is self-determination theory. Since I joined Chili Piper, and this is nothing against the company, I think it just has to speak more with the great resignation, but I've been here two years and every single marketer has left, apart from all 8 of those folks who are on the teams that I serve. None of them have left. Five of them have gotten promotions. Two of them have bought houses. And the reason I think this is, is because of this thing called Self-determination theory. So what self-determination theory states is that people's satisfaction in work is going to increase with incremental units of responsibility, not incremental units of pay. So basically, what I'll do is rather than saying, “Hey, do this.” I will facilitate a conversation where we both discuss the value of the broader thing. What's fascinating is, I'll often enter these conversations with an idea of what I want, and then 90% of the time, the conclusion that we reach is different from the idea that I want, but way better. When people feel in control of their own work, when they feel like they have autonomy, and actual respect, when they're happy, then they're not going to leave, they're going to produce their best work, and they're going to see a path for leadership. When people are micromanaged, it just sucks all the motivation out of them, and they're going to leave that company. So that is one theory.

2) The theory of leverage. Shout out to Pete Kazanjy for this. It’s basically a way to organize how you go about doing things to ensure that you are always being high leverage. This was something that was taught to me by Pete Kazanjy while I was the founder of Modern Sales Pros.

  • #1) The lowest leverage thing you can do is one-time work that will be done once and can't be reused. Sometimes really necessary, but it's super low leverage.
  • #2) Doing work that can be reused and templated.
  • #3) Doing work that creates tooling, which allows others to do more.
  • #4) Doing management that enables others to do work.
  • #5) Creating a recurring system and process by which #1 is more effective.
  • #6) Creating recurring systems and processes by which #2, #3, and #4 are more valuable and effective.

It’s a great way to think about your own efficiency. “Am I building capacity? Is the way I'm doing this task going to make it easier to do the same task next time?” If not, sometimes that's necessary. Sometimes you gotta just do it. But other times, you should reevaluate and make sure that you're templating stuff along the way, and things like that.

3) Emotional withdrawals and deposits. A third mental model I use a lot is the concept of emotional withdrawals and deposits. I could step back for a second and say literally all of Cialdini's work. The godfather of Influence and Modern Persuasion is super central to everything we do. But this isn't some of his work. It's the theory of emotional deposits and withdrawals. It's a great way to think about your advocates. If you're asking, asking, asking, asking, eventually, they’re gonna like be, “Chill out.” You need to balance your asks with your gives, right? And then, sometimes, you want to create programs that are entirely gives. We're launching these in-person events series and I'm able to invite CMOs to these events. We had one recently. It was amazing. It was like CMO of Gong, Intercom, GlassDoor, SVP of Slack. It was just like an incredible group. There's a difference between emailing someone and being like, take a demo, pitch slapping them, and emailing them and say, “Hey, let's get you a really nice dinner with your true peers.” If you focus a lot on balancing your deposits and withdrawals, you'll find you're able to build long-term, lasting, meaningful relationships with your customers. And, if you haven't noticed from so far, we want to market through our customers, that's core to everything we do at Chili Piper.

What are 3 techniques that GTM teams need to try?

1) Fire your social media consultant and stop producing super basic boring stuff. Kind of an admittance here, when I first joined Chili Piper, we had a consulting firm pushing out all of our content, and they were doing what everyone else in the industry was. It looked the same. It was boring. So, we did this analysis across all the major B2B brands and at this point there was one that really stood out to us. It was Gong. I was like, “What's Gong doing?!” It turns out what they were doing was actually rotating through different social media posts archetypes. So companies like, here's a great example, Outreach and Lean Data. Outreach has actually gotten a lot better recently, but when I first started, it was like, “Here's another white paper. Here's another webinar. Here's another blog.” All look the same. All with the same graphic designer, And sure, maybe 5% of your audience finds that relevant, but what if you could produce 20 different types of content, each relevant to 5% of your audience, and then cycle through all 20 of those in a week? Well, then you'd hit everyone in your audience with something that's completely relevant to them. The GTM technique that other teams need to try is to think about diversifying their social media calendar to appeal to their different personas and also to appeal to different types of people. Some people want to laugh. Some people want to be inspired. Some people want to consume video content. Some want to consume long form broetry or whatever. Some want to see pictures of dogs. You can literally have your cake and eat it too. Just give it to everybody. Give it to everybody. Give them all the things. Brand consistency is a misnomer that a lot of folks cripple their brand using because it just gives them no personality, no flavor. I hear this a lot where it's like, “Don't post from your company account. Post from your individual account because that's what gets more engagement, on average 8x more engagement.” But here's my theory on this. It doesn't get 8x more engagement because of the algorithm. Obviously, LinkedIn wants people to post from their company accounts. It's like the business social media network. It gets 8x more engagement because everyone's company page is like super basic and stale and corporatized. And nobody wants that corporate version of you. They want an authentic version of you. So that's the first thing. Dispense with the boring social media content.

2) Invest in community. But not in a way to like claim your stake on it. Try and support communities. The people in these communities are smart. They're the top leaders in the industry. So, what you want to do is ensure that they are supported. Support the founders of the community. Give them money when they're starting. Sponsor their events. Add women and people of color to their communities if they're not diverse enough. Add your customers. And then, you'll find the revenue will come. It won't be trackable. But, it'll come, and it'll reflect itself in the people who Google your company name or go right to your company website.

3) In-person events. They're back. We're doing them. We're doing all these dinners. There's like 20-30 people in attendance and we've had a ton of success. If anyone's interested in that, they can reach out to me, because we've built an in-person events community, and we're taking sponsorships. We're already working with Vidyard. We're working with Reprise, working with Sendoso. And it's kind of like Field Marketing as a Service, but it's just really fun. Get people live and just hear what your customers have to say. Sit your customers right next to your prospects at a table with fancy dinner and drinks, and then sit back and watch the magic happen.

What are 3 questions that you love to ask and why?

We just hired a professional development team at Chili Piper, professional development coaches, and I've been taking this training on how to be a better manager, which is a skill you should always be honing. I'm going to give you two questions, and then I'm going to give you an archetype for questions.

1) Ask open-ended questions. So questions to not ask are yes or no questions, or leading questions. I think I made a mistake earlier when I asked you, “What do you think is causing demand gen?” It was like, I already knew the answer. You knew the answer. I didn't give you an opportunity to express your creativity. So what I would say is to avoid leading questions where it's like, “Do you agree with me that this is your priority?” Yes or no questions, those essentially are not questions. They're just fake statements from a manager that pull autonomy and creativity out of your employees, in a negative way, because it’s like, “Why did you ask me a question just to get me to say something?” Instead, you want to focus on open-ended, non-closed questions.

2) What excites you the most about all the work you have on your plate? One I really like to ask a lot of times is, “What excites you the most about all the work you have on your plate?” That will give you a great example of something that you can dive in on, and it will actually help you build out leadership trajectories for folks, because if someone's like, “Man, I just love marketing ops.” Then, it's your job as a manager to find them a mentor. Obviously not me, cause I'm not a marketing ops expert, but find someone who can develop them in that skill. So, “What do you enjoy most amongst your work?” It's just such a great question. And then, “What do you enjoy least as well?” Because those are the things you want to try and automate, delegate, find ways to do less of, if they're not bringing you joy. If you're happy in work, you're going to be productive in work, and you're not going to leave. That’s so important.

3) Does this project excite you? Where does it sit alongside your priorities, both in terms of the impact of the business and how much it's going to fulfill you as a person? Another question I like to ask all the time, when someone comes to you with a new project, and they're like, “I want to do this.” And then, you're like, “Oh, sure, but you got a lot on your plate, and maybe you can't do it.” That'd be like a really snarky way. Like, “Do you think you can do this amongst your other priorities?” It's like, “Don't call me out, bro! Like chill out.” So what I like to ask is, “Oh, I love this. I'm curious. Two-part question. Does this project excite you? And, where does it sit alongside your priorities, both in terms of the impact of the business and how much it's going to fulfill you as a person?” That’s just such a great question, because it allows people to go through that analysis of self-prioritization, themselves. If you're spelling it out, like “Don't do this. This is a priority.” Then, they're not going to learn those skills. They're going to keep coming to you with the same questions. Like, you want to push as much back as possible onto your team so that they can learn, onto the team that you serve. It's not your team. You're there to support them. Not the other way around.

Who are 3 operators that should be our next guests and why?

1) Gemma Cipriani-Espineira. I know I can only nominate one from our company, but I want to nominate Gemma, our Chief Customer Officer, because we have a pretty wild net-negative revenue retention number. We have amazing revenue retention. In fact, there's massive expansion on base and it's just because your customers are core to everything. You don't have happy customers? Word’s going to get out. You can't control your brand. You can't. Your customers, and the experience they have, that's going to dictate how your brand is perceived by the market. And for that, you need a really strong customer-facing function, both customer support, which rebranded. We rebranded it to the Department of Customer Love and Customer Success, as well as Implementation and Onboarding. So that's huge. You got to talk to Gemma. She's amazing.

2) Lori Richardson. Another operator I would suggest you talk to is Lori Richardson. Lori Richardson is the founder of so many things, but also Women Sales Pros. And she's a wealth of knowledge. I don't want to essentialize her impact into women's issues, but I will say she's one of the pioneers of ensuring that women are represented in sales and sales leadership. And we still have a lot of work to do, but I would honestly chat with her and just talk to her about like tactical sales stuff. Because, beyond being this like amazing leader of the women in tech movement, she's just like more bad-ass than anyone as a practitioner. Knows everything about sales. Knows everyone. It's just the best person, you got to talk to Lori. She's literally… She's amazing. I can't say enough about Lori. She's really good.

3) Jen Igartua. She's the CEO of Go Nimbly, and it's just a really cool perspective she has. So, what Go Nimbly does is they are a full service revenue operations consultancy firm. So imagine that you're an early stage company, or maybe even a later stage company, and you're trying to answer these complex revenue ops questions. Maybe you need a Salesforce administrator, maybe all this stuff, but you don't have that knowledge internally. And the war for talent is making it impossible to hire revenue and marketing ops right now. You could reach out to Go Nimbly and they'll give you the most amazing consultancy. They'll build out your marketing stack, your rev ops stack, your sales stack, all of this stuff. Why I think she'd be amazing is a lot of people are limited by the experience at their own company. Right? But sometimes, moving at the pace of experience just isn't fast enough. So, I personally find that Jen must have just such a cool insight because she's digesting marketing ops problems, marketing ops successes, sales and marketing ops wins and losses from like a hundred different companies at the same time. It’s something I couldn't even fathom. I learned a lot from just what we do at Chili Piper. Imagine if I was talking to 40 different companies at the same time. She's awesome.

Three really awesome practitioners for you.

What should people who love what you’re saying go do next?

1) Read Robert Cialdini's book Influence. So, my background is in political persuasion, where I worked for Bernie for years, and before that, I worked for other nonprofits where we'd go out and we'd have conversations about like what people believe in. I fundamentally believe that all sales and marketing starts with emotions. So, if there's one thing I'd recommend, it would be to read Robert Cialdini's book Influence. It's just incredible. He has these six principles that he calls Weapons of Influence, where it's like, have you ever noticed that when someone's like, “You're great.” You instinctively want to be like, “No, you're great.” Have you noticed that, Chris? We're like psychologically primed to follow all of these cues, and they're just essential in marketing, and people don't use them enough. If you're like, “Man, I don't have time for a full book right now.” There's an amazing 10 minute YouTube, just search “the science of influence and persuasion” and then you'll find this like handwritten, 10-minute YouTube video that'll cover, honestly, 60-70% of the stuff in the book. So that would be my recommendation.

2) If you're trying to increase your conversion rate on inbound leads, my recommendation would be to go to chilipiper.com. Google it. We won't be able to credit back to this podcast, but, that's okay, because your company will benefit from it.

Work with Dan → Chili Piper is hiring!

April 2022 · Interview by Chris Morgan, Host of Market-to-Revenue

Market-to-Revenue Podcast ⚡️ Lightning-fast interviews with GTM operators in sales, success, product, and marketing.

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🔊 You need to meet:

Shea Cole
VP Marketing at Fullscript
Anita Toth
Chief Churn Crusher
Darren Sharpe
Chief Revenue Officer at SuiteSpot
Anthony Murphy
Founder of Product Pathways
Craig Handy
Head of Revenue Automation, Tooling & Enablement at Shopify + Founder of Jameson Strategies
Mo McKibbin
Head of Customer Support and Success at Moxion
Vladimir Blagojević
Co-Founder of fullfunnel.io
Jason Bay
Chief Prospecting Officer at Blissful Prospecting
Katy McFee
Founder and Principal of Insights to Action
George Valdes
Head of Marketing at Monograph
Matt Baxter
Director of Product Management at Bestow
Kristi Faltorusso
Chief Customer Officer at ClientSuccess
Daniel Cmejla
Director of Partnerships, Community & Social Media at Chili Piper
Shri Apte
VP Revenue at Triplebyte
Dani Woolf
Director of Demand Generation at Cybersixgill
Antoine Buteau
Business Operations at Replit
Brandon Fluharty
Founder of Be Focused. Live Great.
Meghann Misiak
Founder of The Path to President’s Club
Ryan Paul Gibson
Founder of Content Lift
Jacob Gebrewold
Commercial Account Executive at Klue
Sidney Waterfall
VP of Demand Generation at Refine Labs
Sam Kuehnle
VP of Demand Generation at Refine Labs
Andrew Miller
Senior Growth Product Manager at Monograph
Darren McKee
Director of Growth at Wellthy
Sean MacPherson
VP of Customer Success & Experience at Alyce
MJ Peters
VP of Marketing at CoLab Software
Patrick Coleman
VP of Growth at Replit
Arthur Castillo
Senior Manager of Field Marketing & Community at Chili Piper
Leslie Venetz
Founder of Sales Team Builder
Stuart Balcombe
Product Marketer at Arrows
Jen Allen
Chief Evangelist at Challenger
Carl Ferreira
Director of Sales at Refine Labs
Mark Znutas
Vice President of GTM Strategy and Operations at Hubspot

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