Sales and marketing alignment from a commercial perspective with Mieke Doornbos, VP of Sales and Marketing at MIMETAS
Mieke Doornbos shares how she achieved sales and marketing alignment by having both teams under one roof as commercial director. Mieke works with MIMETAS, a biotechnology company with a complex product and a remote team. Listen to learn more about sales and marketing alignment in B2B tech organisations.
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Hello everyone, and welcome back to another FINITE Podcast episode. We talk a lot about sales and marketing alignment on the podcast. It's one of the biggest and most mentioned challenges faced by B2B tech marketers in our finite community and beyond.
Our guest today has an interesting perspective on the subject as they were previously commercial director at MIMETAS, a biotechnology company before recently being promoted to VP of Sales and Marketing. Mieke Doornbos will share how she bridges the gap between marketing and sales from a commercial perspective to achieve B2B growth. I hope you enjoy.
Before we continue with the episode, I'd like to give a quick shout out to our partner Terminus, the only account-based engagement platform built to deliver more pipeline and revenue through multi-channel account-based marketing As the only native multi-channel marketing platform, Terminus helps you convert target accounts through orchestrated campaigns using personalised advertising, email signatures and chat bots. Visit terminus.com to learn why doing effective at scale means better marketing.
Hello and welcome to the FINITE podcast.
Hi, Alex. Nice to meet you.
Very happy to be talking. Looking forward to recording this with you. I know that we're gonna be talking all about your role as commercial director. I know you've come from a marketing background, but we're gonna have an episode that's fairly focused on sales and marketing alignment and hear all about how you run the two teams.
But I'll let you tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are, what you do, and, and the company you work for. And then we can dive into the topic after that.
Yeah, sounds good. Thanks for introducing. So my name is Mieke and indeed now commercial director at MIMETAS. And yes, I have a lot of marketing background, during my working years. But actually originally, I'm even a scientist by background.
So I studied biology, obtained a PhD in stem cell biology. And only after that I figured out it was time for a more commercial role. And I actually started doing technical support so I'd stay on the boundaries between science and a commercial position. And yeah, from there I thought, this is actually nice to learn more about your customers, about what they're really doing.
So I even did a few years of sales, learned about all their needs in terms of product. So from there on I developed more into product management. And I think product management is a lot about marketing actually. So what do your customers want and how can you make products that best fit your needs? So I've always been interested in messaging about it.
Interesting. And tell us a bit about MIMETAS and the company and what you do.
Yeah. So MIMETAS is a biotechnology company. Yeah. So we make miniature organs on a chip so we can actually make human disease models which pharmaceutical companies can use to develop new drugs. And by using such a model you don't basically don't need animals anymore. And yeah, you can imagine that our customers are the scientists that want to know all about specific diseases.
So the content is very specialised. Yeah. So at MIMETAS we have a lot of scientists, probably like 80% of the people that work at MIMETAS, they're scientists. And then next to some supporting roles, of course. There's the commercial team that I'm leading and that consists of marketing. So true marketing, communication, product management. We have territory managers that sell the product and of course some technical support roles since, yeah, the topic is very specialised.
Cool. I think you must be the, as far as I know, I think you're the second scientist I've had on the podcast as a marketing leader or commercial leader. I think my previous one was a nuclear physicist, was a chief marketing officer that was a PhD in nuclear physics. So this is why I love talking to marketers because everybody comes from such different interesting background.
That's fascinating. I'm sure. We'll talk a little bit more about your background and maybe why it's relevant, particularly in your world. And how it's helpful to have such a deep knowledge of what it is you actually do. But yeah, what a fascinating product and offering.
Why don't you tell us a bit more about that journey from, I was gonna say from marketing to commercial director, but maybe from scientists to marketer to commercial director. How did that look and what stages in your career did that happen?
Yeah, sure. So, I always think if you had told me 15 years ago that I would be heading a sales and marketing team, probably I would not have believed you. It's quite funny how things can go because I've always done something that I found most interesting at that stage of my life.
So I have from the start and I still have an extremely big interest in science and also people and how basically the question, how can we resolve diseases and how can we make people better? And I think that motivation is there throughout my whole career after doing my PhD.
So I did a lot of research in the lab. I figured out that bio was not really the way. Yeah, moving forward for me, I wanted to have more interaction with people, but of course, as a scientist, it is a bit of an exciting step to completely stop doing research in the lab. So that's why a technical support job where you still talk about science, but you are not in the lab yourself anymore. It was a good transition, but you can imagine that doing such a job, you get a lot of complaints.
So everyone was calling me like, this is not working and that is not working, can you fix it? So after doing that for several years, I actually wanted to talk to happy customers, just know what went well and what can you do with a specific product. And that's why I started in sales. It was really nice.
I learned really a lot how things work, which I think was really beneficial for the rest of my career. And yeah, actually as I already mentioned, talking to customers and hearing all their needs, I figured out that not always, all the products you are offering were the best fits and there are actually many improvements you can make. And that really gave my interest into product management.
So that's how I started in product management. And actually I first did that at a foreign US based company while I was in Europe. So after all, there's not that much you can really say about product development, right? You're a bit further away from the center of the company. So I switched job to another biotech company and I really worked at the headquarters and developed products myself.
But I think over time I saw that what really interests me is to understand the customer and what I really want to do with it and what resonates well with them. So I think listening to the customer is really key. And if you can do that well, it's really useful in marketing. So I think that was my strengths to turn all that product marketing or product management into good marketing communication.
So it's been my passion for a long time. Now I'm a commercial director, so also leading the sales team. That's actually a different story. So I think neither from myself nor from the management team at the company where I'm working, it was really strategically planned. So when I was working there, I'm still working there, but it was me as the marketing director and I was working very closely together with the sales director.
And it seemed to work pretty well. You know, we had our weekly meetings in which we aligned stuff. And then after certain time, the sales director actually left the company and the management team just asked me if I could take over the sales team temporarily. So they were really planning on hiring someone new, so a new sales director. I think in the very short time I noticed that although I had been working very well with this sales director, there was still this gap between the sales people and the marketing people.
And I think everyone probably will recognise that, at least I also knew it from former jobs. So the sales people, they say, why don't I have enough leads? I need more leads from the marketing team to make my targets. And the marketing team is saying, what's happening to my leads?
Is sales doing something with it or am I doing everything for nothing? And yeah, I think these gaps are really there, but it's also not very easy overseeing both teams, you can fix that quite well. So I think in quite a short time, it was quite obvious that overseeing both teams was actually really beneficial, and we decided just to keep it like that.
Nice. And do you think the identity of the team is one commercial team or a sales team and a marketing team working side by side? Because I guess maybe no one ever reaches that stage of one team completely. You know, different cultures, different incentivisations, there's lots of reasons why, but how would you say it, it feels for you overall?
Course, you still have the different roles and bit marketing, for example, everyone is working in Layden. So the location where we are, so many people go to the office. We have a weekly meeting there with all the people being physically present. Whereas the sales team, I think it's also normal. I mean, we are a global company, so I also have people working in the US, in Japan, so they're not even on site, they're not even in the same time zone. So of course, it's clear that they are separate teams.
But all the people that work in the commercial team, they're all sitting in one room actually. So when they are in the office, they are really mixed together. They talk a lot together. That already helps to make one team out of it. And of course just saying, now there's one manager, managing these two teams doesn't immediately fix it all. I would say it's also hard work.
So for example, every six weeks I organise a so-called Commercial Day. So everyone comes together for one full day, and we discuss all kinds of strategies. I let everyone think along. So that's one of the things I did. And so for example, now we are approaching the end of the year, which means we need a bigger sales push.
And instead of just saying to our territory managers, Hey, make a plan and make sure you push for the last incoming revenue. What I did was actually, I created two teams and every team consisted of a product manager, a marketer, and a territory manager.
And together I let them make a plan for how to close the year so they could think together, like the territory manager pushing for what do I need to sell? And the product manager was there to push his product sales and a marketer to see how can I communicate about it? And these things really help to make it one team.
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Just so that we have some context, like where's the handoff at the moment in the funnel from marketing to sales? I imagine that the nature of your work is quite high value, enterprise, maybe a more typical enterprise sales motion, but is that a fair assumption?
So we base ourselves a lot on our digital marketing system, which is connected to our CRM. So I think there are two ways when a customer gets in contact with sales. So either if a customer approaches us with a very specific question, often they come in via our website, of course, but then it's directly to a salesperson.
But what we also do is nurture our leads, and with every type of interaction people have with us, they score a certain amount of points. So in that way, we can measure how interested people are in our technology and from a certain level of interest, they are also transitioned to the territory managers. So yeah, that's about say the lead nurturing. And then on top of that conferences are very important to us.
So we go to a lot of scientific conferences where scientists meet to talk about science, and often we sponsor it. We are there with the booths and that's actually a great way of communicating and finding our customers.
It sounds like you obviously have a very deep understanding given your background as a biology PhD in what you do. Do you think having a detailed knowledge of product solutions helps with achieving that sales and marketing alignment?
Yeah, definitely. So I think this field is so specialised that as an outsider, it'll be very difficult to set a strategy but also discuss the tactics with all the people. And that's not only for me, that's basically for everyone working at MIMETAS. So almost everyone in every role has a scientific background.
So to me, it's always key to understand the customer, to really have the best approach that also fits your customer. I once tried hiring a digital marketing specialist, I thought I'd give it a go. So really go for the marketing knowledge instead of the scientific knowledge, because yeah, it is a challenge of course to combine the two fields.
But yeah, in the end we did not proceed. And I think it can be quite challenging to think of finding the right keywords, designing an ad that speaks to your customer. Sometimes things are indeed more demanding than you would think.
Yeah, that makes sense. So I know you have a global team, and you were saying before we started recording, you'd recently met up with colleagues from the US and Japan. And so I was gonna ask you about remote working, and obviously, hopefully a lot of that's behind us with covid, but did that make achieving alignment more difficult? Or I guess if you have a global team, Covid or no covid, there's a remote work aspect involved.
So of course I still think being on site, seeing people face to face, it's really a huge benefit. There's just so much more conversation, but you see each other which results in a better understanding of each other. So it's much easier if people can just go to the office and luckily at least people come to the office at least 50% and some even more because people simply like to be there.
So the working abroad or the working online is not so much an issue, but it's more the different time zone. So I have people in Japan and people in the US, West coast, so that's nine hours each site. And these are territory managers, so people from the same team, and ideally you connect them with each other. So I always am a big fan of sharing knowledge and learning from each other. So I think the time zones there are the biggest challenge to me.
Yeah, that makes sense. I was gonna ask you about what you think as a commercial director now. Obviously coming more from a marketing background, I think think it's probably fair to say that the majority of commercial directors have maybe come more from a sales background than a marketing background.
When you see commercial directors and chief revenue officers and any kind of commercial leadership role, I think my personal experience nine times out of 10 is probably that they have a sales background than a marketing one. I wondered what your thoughts were there and whether, obviously you did sales as well. Is it difficult to be 50% sales, 50% marketing? Do you feel like you sometimes have a bias towards one side or the other?
Yeah, I think in the end, we all have the same goal, right? So we all want to sell our products, we all want to really understand our customers, and we want to give them the best solution. So on the one hand, the difference is not that big. And I think exactly this overlap really helps me overseeing two different roles. Although of course there are differences and people might think that maybe I focus more on marketing because that's really what I've been doing the most in the last years.
But it's actually not true. Of course, it's much easier to understand what has to be done for marketing. It's something I've done for a long time myself. So it's much more easy to direct. But I think I actually spend more time with the sales people to really make sure that we are talking to the right customers, and also actually to assure that all the efforts that the marketing team does that we make use of it.
So marketing can organise something. For example, we like organising our own events, but to make it a true success, I think we need more than just marketing organising it. Actually the territory managers, they also not only to follow up after the event takes place, but they should also help preparing, they should reach out to their own network and make sure that people know about it and get all the information they need. So yeah, actually I spend quite a bit of time on that, so it's more on the alignment, actually.
Interesting. Do you think we're heading more towards marketing led growth rather than sales led growth? I feel like particularly in much more enterprise spaces, it's often sales first then marketing, maybe playing more of a supporting role rather than vice versa.
But I think as digital's grown, maybe that's shifted obviously at one end of the spectrum. You've got like the product led growth in marketing, all marketing led, pure marketing led businesses, and some more traditional sales only type businesses. Do you think that things are shifting further in that direction towards, towards marketing leading the growth?
I think it's depends really on the business. So the product that we are selling is really innovative. So many of the scientists, they don't work with it yet, so it's something new. So we really have to educate people about it. So on the one hand, therefore marketing is really needed because you want to show the world that there is something new out there. And yeah, it's easiest with marketing, of course, to show to many people.
The good thing now with the whole digitalisation is that everyone knows how to find their knowledge on the web and how to educate themselves. So for that, marketing is very important, but also because technology is so new, I think we could never be without the territory managers because we can show many examples from the marketing perspective, but it's still a little bit difficult for our customers to really translate that to their own research, and they need the conversation with our territory managers to understand what this technology can really mean to them. So in the end, I think sales is really key for our company.
Makes sense. Well, it's been a pleasure talking, I think some of the things you've shared some actually some really great actionable tips and insights on how to bring teams together and it's really nice to be talking to someone that's come from a sales background, but also a marketing one and is now leading the way in a commercial leadership role. So it's very cool. So yeah, thanks again for joining and sharing everything.
Yeah, thanks Alex. My pleasure.
Thanks for listening. Before we go, just one final shout out to our finite partner, 93x the digital marketing agency, working exclusively with ambitious fast growth B2B tech and SaaS companies. Visit 93x.agency to find out how they partner with marketing teams to drive growth.
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