Creating Collaborative Culture and Making Use of What You Market

Hilary Sutton Issue 16 - March/April 2015, Marketing & Sales Leave a Comment

Jive Software CEO Elisa Steele talks about how daily usage of the product her company sells has fostered an inclusive work environment and a unique relationship with customers.

Long before Elisa Steele was a seasoned Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) with names like Yahoo!, Microsoft and Skype on her resume, she knew what she loved most about business: people.

“My first job was scooping ice cream down the street from my house,” Steele said. “I loved it—getting people to smile and interacting. I love interacting with people and making things happen.”


From Corporate Client to President

Today Steele is certainly making things happen. As CEO at Jive Software, she exudes passion for her work and for the products she clearly believes in fully and wholeheartedly markets.

“I was one of the first [Jive] enterprise customers in 2007, and I had an incredible experience. I wanted to represent a brand that I love,” Steele said.

Before joining Jive, Steele was Corporate VP and CMO of all consumer applications and services at Microsoft, including brands such as Bing, Internet Explorer, Lync, MSN, and Skype, among others. She also served as CMO at Skype, Executive VP and CMO at Yahoo!, and Senior VP of Corporate Marketing at NetApp.

Steele’s trajectory from ice cream scooper to CMO evolved as her perspective grew. “During my early career in sales and sales leadership, I learned how to help one customer or one territory, and I loved it. But being close to customers ultimately inspired me to how I could have a bigger impact on the market overall, which led me to marketing. I thought about what it could be like to drive strategy for the global market, for a global brand. That’s how I got hooked!”

“I love interacting with people and making things happen.”
Prior to becoming CEO, Steele was the Executive Vice President and CMO. At Jive, she was responsible for strategy, branding, product marketing, corporate communications and other go-to-market and end-to-end marketing functions. Jive provides businesses with enterprise communication and collaboration solutions that enable employees, partners and customers to work better together. Her marketing team oversees corporate strategy, partner relationships and inside sales, along with traditional marketing responsibilities.

With the Mission in Mind

According to Steele, Jive has a shared mission to enable people to do great work. “And that’s a big mission,” she acknowledged. “That’s a lofty goal. [We ask], are we putting the customers using our product at the center of everything we do? Are we helping them achieve their goals? Are they proud of their work because of this product? If those things are true, then that’s our true north.” Jive has a unique relationship with its customers because the product it sells is a product it uses daily. Jive is inclusive and transparent, which gives unprecedented opportunity for collaboration.

“This is one of the reasons I feel so at home at Jive,” Steele said. “With no barriers, I can quickly and easily share information, comments and questions on content as it’s being developed. This breaks down the traditional hierarchy within a company.”

In previous positions, Steele would send out a weekly recap email to the organization. “I thought it was super important because it kept me connected to the team, my peers and what was happening in the business,” she said.

When she came to Jive, it was already her work habit to communicate with the organization on a weekly basis. “At Jive, instead of email, I write a blog,” she added. “I get commentary immediately. I could get a comment from the other side of the world within half a minute.”

Jive’s product enables the company to create actions from content Steele posts, and almost immediately. “It helps people align in very natural ways.”

Steele’s impact at Jive as the CMO is reflected not only in the way she engages with team members around the globe, but also by how she leads a marketing team that serves as the backbone of the company culture. “Marketing has that touchpoint with the market all the time. [We can] bring that back to the company. That transparency and collaboration play a role across all departments in the company,” Steele said. “The CMO can play an important role in supporting the company’s cultural environment—one that breeds the best talent in an industry and can create the most favorable environment for employees to excel in.”

Steele’s excitement about Jive’s vision of collaborative, open business communication is evident. “I love doing something that has never been done before, and I get excited about that. By definition, you don’t know what the result will be. You think it’s going to be great, and until you do it, you’re not going to know.”♦

The Four Measurements of Marketing

Steele recently produced a white paper called “Fast Forward: The Four R’s That Matter in Marketing.” Determining marketing success, she recognized, can be a challenge. These are the four measurements she uses at Jive.

Elisa-Steele-2-300x4511. Reputation

How are people viewing your company in terms of giving back and doing the right thing in the world? What is your reputation as compared to that of your competitors? What specific aspect of your reputation is trending over time, and how can that trend be affected?

2. Relationship

How are partner relationships doing? Are they producing results? How can we make them better? Are customers garnering value from our product so they are inspired to tell the world about their success and help others learn from their experience?

3. Reach

How do you define your target market segments, and how much reach do you have within those? Of the reach you have today, what is your penetration rate? Is your penetration rate growing? What strategies are effective at increasing penetration and what strategies are not?

4. Revenue

How is marketing driving growth for the company? Are we supporting sales channels as effectively as possible? How is our database health? What are the conversion rates? How are we doing on sales leads?

Work & Life Headquarters, One in the Same

As a female executive and mother of two, Steele often is asked about “work-life balance.” She has come to scrap the term altogether.

“I’ve come to not believe in work-life balance,” she said. “[We’re asking] the wrong question. I never had a great answer until I realized it’s not about ‘work-life’ balance, it’s just ‘life.’ I came to the conclusion that I wanted the headquarters of my company and the headquarters of my life in the same place. It makes such a difference in how you integrate your lifestyle and work style. I’m managing all these different aspects of my life. I don’t want to have huge a conflict.”

Comments, thoughts, feedback?