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Episode #181: How to Be the Best Representative of Your Own Product, with Annie Wissner

Grad Conn

March 1, 202237 min read

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Do you understand the product or service you’re selling? I mean, really understand it? I’m often surprised by the number of marketers who have never actually used the product they’re marketing — maybe have never talked with anyone who has. 

Annie Wissner, CMO at Whispir, leads by example to make sure the Whispir marketing team understands the product inside and out. This knowledge generates excitement and enables the team to truly add value for their customers. It’s a perfect example of transformation in action.

You can follow Annie on LinkedIn.

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Grad 
Welcome to the unified CXM Experience. And I am your host, Grad Conn, CXO, Chief Experience Officer at Sprinklr, and today I have a very special guest, I’m joined by Annie Wissner, and she’s the CMO at Whispir. And so this will be an interview show, we’re going to talk a lot about transformation, which is going to be really fun. That’d be sort of the general theme of it. We’re going to touch on how to be the best representative of your own product. You’ve heard me talk about this before. And he’s got a great soapbox on this one as well. So we’ll probably jam out on that for a few minutes. And then we’re going to get into AI, low code, no code, and you know, sort of talk about how marketing is changing in really cool and interesting ways, which is sort of how we generally roll here at the unified CXM Experience. So Annie, welcome to the show.

Annie Wissner 
Thank you, Grad, happy to be here today.

Grad 
I am so excited to have you here. You know, I really wish in some ways, we’d recorded the pre-show where we basically spent half an hour talking about Disneyland.

Annie Wissner 
Interesting conversation.

Grad 
It was, you know, maybe we’ll do another show sometime where we just talk about Disneyland. But anyway, so what I think would be helpful for everybody is, maybe if you could just spend a few minutes, just introduce yourself, but also talk about Whispir and what you do there, and then we’ll, we’ll dig into sort of some of our marketing hobbyhorses.

Annie Wissner 
You bet. So, as you said, I’m Annie and I’ve been in the B2B technology marketing game since 1996. Started with Oracle, I worked at Microsoft for 11 years, loved it, tried to figure out how to be a marketer living in Denver, and ultimately landed on being Head of Marketing and today I’m with Whispir.

Grad 
Fantastic. Fantastic, now Whispir’s spelled … w..i..s..p..i..r

Annie Wissner 
w..h..i..s..p..i..r, you were close.

Grad 
w..h.. of course no, I actually, sorry. I’m still learning to spell. Just like ‘whisper’ but it’s an ‘I’ instead of an ‘e’. See my Sprinklr context we always drop the vowels. And so it would be like we would spell Whispir without the i. Right? But partly because we couldn’t really afford too many vowels. They are expensive. But anyway, so Whispir. So let’s talk. Tell everyone what Whispir does and what the mission vision is, kind of what you’re all trying to make happen.

Annie Wissner 
Yeah, so Whispir is a communications intelligence platform. So it truly integrates communication across any channel, voice, email, SMS, with the idea of really creating more meaningful connections. So if you think about the name when I was studying for my interview, I was thinking, why Whispir, you know, why are they calling it Whispir? And our founder, Jeremy Wells, who actually is an architect by trade. And he,

Grad 
like a physical architect, like a building architect?

Annie Wissner 
Yeah, yeah. And he’s an art lover. And, you know, he’s really passionate about design. Anyways, the concept is that if you are able to have that human connection with someone, you don’t need to shout. You can kind of lean into their body space, and you can whisper, and they’ll hear you. And I think that this, I think it’s such a brilliant name. It’s such a brilliant statement, because we’ve never been in a louder, more digitally crowded time than we are. And so yeah, that’s a little bit of the history on the name

Grad 
That’s fascinating. It’s almost like, well, whisper’s such a great word. Just generally because you tend to whisper when you’re in an intimate situation, or you tend to whisper … it’s a kind of a neat word. It’s closer, more connected. It’s awesome.

Annie Wissner 
it’s intimate.

Grad 
It’s intimate. Yeah, very much. You know, like, I was whispering to you right now. Immediately people change the way they listen as soon as they start to hear that. So who do you compete with? Or what’s the category that Whispir competes in?

Annie Wissner 
So we are a CPaaS company. So we compete with companies like Message Media, Podium. There’s so many of them. There’s a list of a hundred of them. Yeah, it’s a pretty crowded space but we are unique in the space and that our whole mission is to drive the world’s highest engagement through our platform. So, so we’re really about not necessarily helping people send huge volumes of messages, but helping people send the right message to the right person through the right channel at the right time.

Grad 
Do you have like a product led growth motion? Can I just play with Whispir and check it out?  How do people learn more about the product?

Annie Wissner 
Yeah, we do. And I mean, we just launched our new website. So you could check out our website. You know, obviously, you could get a demonstration if you wanted to see something closer to it. You know, get more detail on it. And but yeah, we’ve definitely focused on our new vision, mission and product strategy on the website. So yeah.

Grad 
That’s awesome. How long have you been at Whispir?

Annie Wissner 
I’ve only been at Whispir since January 10.

Grad 
Wow. And you got a new website out already?

Annie Wissner 
Well, the website was launched prior to me arriving. And I’m pretty excited about it. It’s really …

Grad 
You should have just taken credit for it actually.

Annie Wissner 
I should have said, “Hey, yeah, you know what?”

Grad 
I gave you a softball there. It was so easy.

Annie Wissner 
End to end and done.

Grad 
Yeah, you’re like, actually wanted to do it in my first week. But I thought, you know, probably give it an extra week, just in case.

Annie Wissner 
I dropped that one.

Grad
So, yeah, it’s okay. It’s okay, I’ll send you other softballs. Don’t worry. I got a whole machine full of softballs here. That’s great. Well, congratulations. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. So let’s talk a little bit about marketing in general. And you and I were chatting a little bit before the start of the show about what we sort of see as challenges. So you’re in a new organization. You know, four years ago, when I started Sprinklr, almost, almost exactly four years ago, actually, I’m about a month or so away, I think, from my original start date. And so you know, what I what I find surprising when I move into new marketing organizations, which I don’t do that often, but when I’ve moved into new organizations, I always find surprising/shocking or maybe puzzling, and I don’t think I’m ever going to necessarily know the answer to why this occurs, is that many, if not most, of the people on the team don’t know how to use a product or have never used the product or don’t have even logins. So, we talked to us a little bit, you found the same thing. Let’s chat about this, what is going on? And then maybe I’ll let you take the lead on why you think this is such a problem?

Annie Wissner 
What’s going on is that I think people get caught up in the minutiae of activities, and they’re not necessarily thinking about the purpose of their role and the purpose of the business, which is to serve the customer. And how do you do that? You solve their problems with technology designed to help them. So I think people get caught up in “I’ve got to get these emails out”. “I’ve got to sponsor this event”, you know, generate MQLs and sales-qualified pipeline, and they sort of think, “Oh, I’ll figure out the product later. And, you know, “I’ll talk to the customers later. And I’ll log in later”, and they just don’t prioritize it.

Grad 
I found that when people are in that situation, when they’re not using the actual product to do things. So when did you learn to drive?

Annie Wissner 
15

Grad
Wow, where are you from?

Annie Wissner 
Minnesota. Did you hear that? Minnesota.

Grad 
I was going to say, that sounds like a Midwest thing. Now I heard that. That’s a Midwest thing. Fifteen’s  kind of … okay, so I was like …

Annie Wissner 
I wasn’t legal. I learned how to drive at fifteen because I was taking my driving classes and everything. I didn’t get my license until I was sixteen. But I was driving around with my permit at fifteen.

Grad 
Yeah, I was the same, but I was from Canada, right. And of course, it was a snowmobile. No, I was kidding. It was a car. But in Canada, same way, you start driving when you’re fifteen. And then you take your test when you turn sixteen. And you have a license that day? Anyway, so remember when you first sat in a car for the very first time, not sat in a car, when you first sat behind the wheel of a car? Okay, so I’m going to try and I’ll just kind of pull myself back to that day, too, for a second. So at that moment that I sat behind the wheel for the first time, I can’t tell you how many times I’d been in cars, like my whole life, right? Hundreds of hundreds of maybe thousands of times. And I’d seen countless movies with cars in them, and probably had played some video games that were driving games. So the whole concept of driving in the car and all that stuff, super familiar to me, and I’m sure it was to you as well, right? Do you remember the first like, I don’t know, fifteen, twenty minutes, half an hour, hour, or whatever that was the very first drive? Do you remember how crazy it was?

Annie Wissner 
Yes. Yes, it’s so disorienting, like, what is this?

Grad 
Yeah, how am I ever going to stay on top of all these inputs? How do I use my ears? Things to clock, and feet and … I was in a ….

Annie Wissner 
Your dad having a heart attack next to you …

Grad 
Oh, yeah, you’ve got a parent screaming. That was super handy. Actually I should be careful on that one. I did not have a parent screaming next to me, my mom taught me to drive. And she was a really good teacher. My mom taught me how to really drive. Really drive. Yeah, I then promptly immediately failed my driving exam because they’re like, I didn’t know any of the driving exam stuff. But she taught me how to actually drive like in terms of what to watch out for, like I was in. So then I took lessons from like, the people who knew how to make you pass the test and kind of got through it that way. But the combination of my mom and the driving school, I learned way more from my mom than the driving school, but she was great. But classically, it’s a screaming parent next to you. But yeah, it was like, I remember how hard it was, right? My older daughter just went straight to driving school and stuff, so it wasn’t as big a deal. But my younger daughter, I did the first few lessons with her. And I remember her just being like, “Dad, I’ll never figure out how to do this. Like I can’t, it’s too hard”. And I was like, “You’ll get there”. Right. Okay. So the reason I’m telling you this story, is that to me … oh, okay, so I’ve got one more piece. So imagine that you’ve never driven. Okay, you’re before you’ve had that first experience, and someone asks you to write a story about what it’s like to drive and you write a story based on the thousands of car rides you’ve been on, the video games you’ve played, and the movies you’ve seen, but never having actually driven. When someone read your first-person account of driving as a non-driver, it wouldn’t be super obvious because you’d have a lot of things right. But there’d be that faint feeling of something’s missing. It’s not quite right. Right. It’s like it’s just not, it’s missing some element that I can’t put my finger on, but it feels dishonest. I think this is the reason that so much marketing sounds dishonest, and the words feel like puffery because it’s someone who hasn’t done a thing describing a thing.

Annie Wissner 
Yeah, that’s so true. Yeah.

Grad 
I don’t know if this is PC or not, but I had a boss who was British. And the way he would put that, he says it’s like a virgin describing sex.

Annie Wissner 
It is, it is, you know, you’re right. You know what it reminds me of? When I had twins at you know, 35 or 36 years old I was. So I was so excited to have these twins. I took every single class, read every read every single book. I was like, I’m going to nail this. They wheeled them in, and I’m like, “How much do I feed them? What do they wear? What? How often do I change their diaper? Like I knew nothing about how to parent and I was like, “What do I do?” You know, I had no idea. And it was really a startling moment. So I was completely unprepared.

Grad 
Parenting is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate your own incompetence to yourself, right. I mean, I remember the first time like with the diapering there, I was like, and the nurse is like, “Just put the diaper on. You can’t break her”. You’ll be like, “Oh, I don’t want to break her”. And yeah, that’s right. So when you find the situation, so coach me up a little bit, because I’ve run into it enough times now. I’m just I’m almost like PTSD about it. How do you fix that issue on a team?

Annie Wissner 
I think I lead by example.

Grad
Okay. That makes sense.

Annie Wissner 
And by that is, you know, I immerse myself in the product. One thing I have to do when I’m learning a product is I’ll look at the demo, for example, or look at the product, and I have to write everything down. I don’t know why. So I have to take notes on.

Grad 
You know, there’s a lot of research that writing particularly like longhand, it does some kind of thing with the brain connection that you retain content more. Actually, a lot of school systems are reverting back to longhand notes because they’re finding that when you take the notes on a computer you don’t retain the content the same way as when you write it longhand.

Annie Wissner 
That’s really interesting. Yeah, so I take those and then I’ll watch videos and other things and do the same thing, and then I pass on Annie’s training. And hint, hint, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Grad
Okay, I like that.

Annie Wissner 
Yeah. And then you know, there’s fun things you can do, it’s a little bit corny, but then doing a demo contest where everybody has to demo the product, and someone wins a pretty cool prize. You can do that, you know, in different meetings or different things like a $100 Visa gift card, you know, if you really want to up the ante, you could make it a $300 Visa gift card, depending on what you’re working with, in terms of budget,

Grad 
If it works, great. I’ll be winning those $300 cards every week,

Annie Wissner 
Yeah, so, you know, different ideas just to get people inspired. And one thing I did, I was in a job one time where we had sort of a shadow R&D because we had an acquisition. So we had the CTO, and then sort of a shadow R&D, and there was a gap in product management. So I’m thinking, you know, I’m waiting for it, asking for it, I’m finally thinking, I’ve got to launch this thing, and I’m never going to get it, I’m not going to get, you know, product notes or any of these things. So I came up with this idea of creating this product story. And what you do for it is you really get into the competitive landscape, you go out there, you find all the best elements that probably work because they’ve been market tested, that’s the leading message of your competitors, etc. So you sort of take those, and you sort of lump them together with some of the unique value propositions that your product has, maybe use an AI tool to kind of help you rewrite, rephrase, edit that. And, and I find, starting with the problems that we’re solving and how we solve them, how we solve them better, and then kind of going into features and functions and ending with benefits and whatever. So I sort of invented this product story approach for myself. And what I’ve found is, and I put passion into it, I mean, it’s realIy like, I leave it all on the field, it’s one of those things, like I write it, and it’s like, tiring, and I’m putting my guts into it, and, and then all of a sudden, you know, might take a week, sometimes it’s just two days, it’ll be done. And I’ll be like, “Okay, I got it”. And then when I give it to people, it’s pretty inspirational. And it interests them. And then that serves as sort of the foundational element to get people excited to learn more about the product. The other thing you can do is make your team do your own videos, which is have them pulling up the  …, get screenshots, well, how am I get into the product, get screenshots, let’s do our own videos, we don’t need to outsource it, you know, $5,000, for 30 seconds. Let’s use some of this new software and build our own videos. And if you’re in there, thinking about the product and looking at it, how it works, and you look at a feature, and you’re like, “Well, this is what we’re saying, is this actually accurate?” I’m looking at it, I don’t know, let me go talk to this customer. Let me go talk to this product Dev. And you can start really refining what the product doesn’t sometimes you’re going back to the head of R&D and saying, “hey, you know what, we can actually do this or we’re repositioning this because, you know, we realize it can do this and sometimes you can discover especially with technology today, new things your product can do that you didn’t even know. So that’s a little bit of an approach that I use.

Grad 
Wow, have you ever thought of writing a book about this?

Annie Wissner 
I’ve thought about writing a book actually.

Grad 
Like you could just take this; what’s that company that we’re working with, Randy, is it Scribe? Scribe Media? Have you ever heard of Scribe Media? So what Scribe has, they have a book, what’s their book called?

Randy
 
I think they have an updated version.

Grad
Book in a Box? Or something like that?

Randy
Yeah, I can’t remember. Yeah, Book in a Box, but I think they’ve updated it.

Grad
Like but I think they’ve normally not like you in here company, my company. They’re all spelling the words ‘scribe’. Maybe they should just call is Scriber. But anyway, they have this process where basically you just talk. And they make notes on it, and they turn it into a book, their point being that we can actually talk about things pretty easily. But if someone says, “Can you turn that into a written book?” you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, that’s just a lot of time and energy. I don’t have the time for that right now. So I’ll get to when I get to it,” but you just did the first chapters and the opening introduction for the book right there. And you should turn that into a book. I think the world could use that. I don’t know what the title should be. What would be a good title, Randy? Randy’s a really good titler, but it’d be like something around using your own product.

Annie Wissner 
Know your product.

Grad
Drink your own champagne.

Annie Wissner 
We used to say, remember at Microsoft, ‘Eat your own dog food’.

Grad 
Eat your own dog food. Eat your dog food and wash it down with your own champagne or something. I don’t know.

Annie Wissner
I like the champagne part.

Grad
Yeah, I mean, so do you remember Judson Althoff? Did you work with Judson at all?

Annie Wissner 
I know of him. I didn’t work very closely with him.

Grad 
So he was at Oracle. And then he started at Microsoft. I don’t know exactly when but 2012 or 13, something like that. And he was president for the US. And I was in the US company. And so he came on board, and he heard all this talking about eating your own dog food at Microsoft. And he was like, “That sounds horrible”. What are you talking about? Like, that explains so many things to him suddenly about why Microsoft … And so then so he kept trying to say drink our own champagne, drink our own champagne, drink our own champagne, never stuck. It is a good example of sometimes you just can’t change some parts of a culture. But when I came to Sprinklr, I launched a campaign to get us to use our own product. And I called it, what I did is I called the implementation instead of ‘drink our own champagne’, I just called the implementation ‘champagne’ and that stuck. It stuck. And we actually have an employee advocacy portal, we call Rosé, which misses the point a tiny little bit, but that’s okay. I mean, people staying within the distilled spirits family. But so Judson visited Sprinklr a couple years ago and we were giving a tour of how we run our Customer Experience Center and all this kind of stuff. And, and we were walking around, and one of the community managers very proudly, said to Judson while we run this, obviously, on Sprinklr using our own implementation and we call it champagne, because we like to drink our own champagne. And Judson’s standing right beside me, right. And he just really, really slowly for the people who are just listening to this, they won’t be able to see this, but I’ll describe it. I am standing next to him. He’s standing next to me. And very slowly after he hears this person say this, just turns his head just like this, about this speed, like just super slowly. I mean, just sort of looks at me, kind of like “Oh, hello”. I was like, “Hey, it’s a good idea. Just decided to steal it”. So anyway, so I think I think there’s something really big here. I mean, I think you’re onto something because what you just described in terms of the process you go through and, I’m from Canada, and you’re from Minnesota, so I think we should say ‘process’, right? Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve got ‘process’ pretty much dialed in but ‘process’ feels so much more comfortable.

Annie Wissner 
I consider myself an honorary Canadian.

Grad
Ah yeah, Minnesota, you are!

Annie Wissner 
I’m very comfortable in Canada. When I’m at a grocery store. I’m not the only person saying “sorry” when I pass someone in an aisle. When I’m at a four-way stop sign in Canada, and no one goes, I feel right at home. No, you go. No, you go. No, you go. Like that’s just how I roll.

Grad 
Yeah, that’s good. That’s two very good apt descriptions of Canadians. Yeah, Canadians are always a little conflicted, I think, about the US, but never about Minnesotans. Everyone’s like, “Oh, really? You’re from Minnesota? That’s awesome”. Everyone’s totally cool. It’s fine. Alright, so let’s keep going. So anyway, I’ve got to tell you, I enjoyed that so much. And I had not thought through the specifics of the way you drove that transformation. Let me ask you one more question, actually, just while we’re on this topic, because you’re obviously super deep on this. One of the things that I also found sort of challenging, the people on the marketing team, but you know, it’s surprisingly hard, even though they report to you. Theoretically, they do report to you. And theoretically, you should be able to drive that transformation, right? And I like the way you did, you did through inspiration and example, which is, which is really smart. But I’ve also found it to be reasonably complex and difficult and much less controlled amongst peers. So, talk to me a little bit about that. How do you manage like, peers who don’t believe in it? Or how do you manage the fact that the IT team or the CTO team would be like, “we don’t have time to stand up a separate instance for you”. There’s a little bit of a ‘cobblers’ children’ kind of thing that happens sometimes in companies or the finance team, which wants to charge you a million bucks a year, because that’s your usage on it and how do you deal with that kind of stuff in order to kind of bring them on board and have them support you?

Annie Wissner 
Well, it’s a long game. Yeah, it’s a long game.

Grad
Okay. I’m feeling so much better right now. Yeah. If you’d said, oh, yeah, it’s super-duper easy. These are my three steps, I’d have to like, leave for a minute … and cry.

Annie Wissner 
It’s a really long game. And I think that you have to sort of bring them along the journey. So when you go and ask them, “Hey, do you have this? Can I use this”, and they say no. And so you have to go out and sort of Jimmy rig it as one would say, which is just sort of make it happen. You would go back then and show them and get their input along the way. And what I find is, you know, “Hey, what do you think of this product story? Do you sign off on it?” therefore, even though they weren’t necessarily part of the process, you’re being gracious and you’re allowing them to be part of the process along the way, you’re taking them along the journey. And when it’s successful, which, when you’re very close to your product, and you’re, you know, hopefully choosing the company you work for, because you’re inspired by what you’re going to be selling, if you take them along that journey, and then they see the success, they’re going to be more likely to give you what you need, they’re going to be more likely to work with you to build that community program, to invest in that community portal, to do more formal customer advisory councils or set up a true advisory board to stop developing products inside out and start developing them outside in with customer feedback, and not just saying, “Oh, this one customer said this thing, we’ve got to develop that” and doing it in a more holistic meaningful way, where you’re aggregating that feedback and I think that it’s kind of like the lines across product and technology and sales and marketing are all sort of blurring. And I think if you can really be a spearhead for that, people will see that it works, and they’ll start getting more inspired. And they’re going to want to join your effort.

Grad 
Okay, you do kind of have a 123 on that. So I am a little bit depressed right now, but that was really awesome. Boy, I am getting schooled today. This is so fantastic. It’s one of things I love about doing this. I love meeting new people. And I love hearing these kinds of stories. My head’s spinning right now thinking about how I could do things better. So that’s great. Okay, thanks, Annie.

Annie Wissner 
I’m just trying to figure out how I get on the Disney podcast.

Grad 
Um, I think we can set that up, right, Randy? Yes, we can get a whole Disney theme …

Annie Wissner 
I love Disney so there’s nothing I’d rather study.

Grad
So do you have an annual pass?

Annie Wissner 
I don’t. But I’d be open to it. I’d love to.

Grad 
They have been very hard to get. I have an annual pass, which I just recently got back. I lost it for a few years, because during the pandemic, they weren’t issuing them. And I was moving, and the renewal went to the wrong address. I mean, it’s like a long story. And I kind of accidentally missed renewing my annual pass. It’s all back under control now, but an annual pass is really compelling because you just have to, like find a hotel nearby and then you’ve got as much time as you want in the parks. It really changes your mindset about just zipping in. And so it doesn’t become like a big thing. You just kind of, “let’s just go over”.

Annie Wissner 
I read an article about this guy that lived only on Disney food for like a year. And because he got a season’s pass, and he just lived on Disney food. And he actually saved a lot of money. So there are some people that …

Grad 
You know, when I was in California, I’d sold a company and just took a year off. And I went 300 straight days into Disneyland. Every day, 300 days, and I just ate Disney food. So it was a very cheap year. Very cheap year. It was weird. After about two weeks, cast members started coming up to me. And they started greeting me by name, people I’d never met. And at first, I thought, “What an amazing customer experience! Disney’s so awesome”. And it was actually an amazing customer experience. I’d hang out with the piano player at the top of Main Street, and I’d go to all these like carts, and you know, buy water or popcorn. And everyone’s like, “Hey Grad, how’s it going?” I didn’t have a name tag or anything. Yeah, “Hey, Grad, how’s it going?” I’d be chatting with them. I was alone. I was very lonely. And so it was great. I just had all these friends. And then I was telling someone about how great Disney is and they’re like, “Dude, why do you think they’re doing that?” I’m like, “I don’t know, because it’s the world’s greatest company”. “Yes, but don’t you know why they’re doing that?” I’m often like this. I’m a little naive generally. And I think it’s probably helpful, I think, sometimes in marketing, and I said, “What are they doing?” And he said, “Okay, so you’re like this single, white guy in your 30s in the park every single day. What are you doing there?” And I’m like, “I don’t know, I’m just walking around, looking at people, sitting down, go on a ride once in a while”. “Like but what are they thinking? Like? You’re obviously a pickpocket or you’re trying to abduct someone or there’s something wrong with you, right, so your picture is up in the staff room and this guy who lived near the park is like, “I don’t know anyone else to be doing what you’re doing so there’s probably not a lot of pictures up there. Your picture front center is right up there with your name ‘Grad Conn’ underneath it. They’re like, don’t let this person feel like he’s anonymous”.

Annie Wissner 
Oh my god.

Grad 
Right? And I was, ‘Oh my god, you’re right. That’s exactly what’s going on. They’re making sure that I that I know that they’re watching me. The good news is I actually had no nefarious motives. I was literally there to block and waltz footsteps. I was trying to recover. It was a little bit of a Disney recovery, and I was trying to kind of just get my head back on straight. It’d been a really rough, about eight-year run of multiple startups, I was just burned out, right. And so I just leaned right into it. Like, I mean, we’d be like, singing, shoulder to shoulder, hanging out with the barbershop quartet. I had the best time,
and they all did too, because they’re all, I’m sure, going back to their bosses like, “This guy’s not dangerous. He’s totally fine. Yeah. He’s a burned-out tech executive”.

Annie Wissner 
You know what? The food at Disney is good.

Grad 
It’s excellent, yeah. I basically had a taco salad every single day. It was a year of taco salads basically. I was thinking that we didn’t talk about Disney, so we were talking a little bit about Disney and Imagineering. And I kind of think that we started treading towards AI and other things that’s in marketing. So there is some pretty amazing stuff. And you know, we use AI, obviously, at Sprinklr because we’re pulling in about 400 million different data feeds. And so to make sense of that, you got to know, “Are they talking to me? What do they want from me? And then how do I get my agents more effective to respond to them?” So that’s kind of how we’re using it. But AI is sort of everywhere now. And I’d love to hear your point of view on AI. Where’s your head on it? And then where’s your team on it? And again, I, I think I may understand one of your superpowers, which, I think, is getting other people, convincing other people to do things that are new and transformative. So I want to hear your story there as well.

Annie Wissner 
Yeah, so AI? I am, you know, someone that appreciates sci fi.

Grad 
We’ve so got to hang out more.

Annie Wissner 
I know, I like sci fi. I can really explore it. You know, when COVID hit, I went through this whole post-apocalyptic sci fi phase, and it wasn’t negative. I was just exploring the idea, just to get comfortable, you never knew.

Grad
But your favorite?

Annie Wissner 
Oh my gosh. I don’t know. It depends upon my mood. Sometimes. I like, like a matrix. You know, lots of interaction, lots of action music, lots of graphics. And sometimes I like the really spare what’s the one Brad Pitt did where he’s all alone. And you know, the bleak so it depends upon my mood. I really don’t discriminate with sci fi.

Grad 
Have you ever seen the Umbrella Academy?

Annie Wissner 
It’s on my list. Is it good?

Grad 
Oh, I’ve just given you a deep gift there. You’ve got a real gift there. That’s right up your alley. And the very first book I read, the very first dystopian book I read, which has never been made into a movie, but it’s really a great book is Canticle for Leibowitz. Have you ever read that? Yeah, you can probably get it for like a dollar now, it was published a long time ago, like in the 50s, or early 60s, but Canticle for Leibowitz. It’s like the first dystopian end of the world science fiction novel, kind of right at the height of the Cold War. Worth reading, but man, okay, great. This is awesome. So you’re into all this sci fi. Sci fi sort of pushes you to start thinking about how do we apply sci fi to marketing?

Annie Wissner 
Yeah. And so our product uses AI too, so we have something called tone of voice you know how, and this goes back to marketing so this the brand and style guide and you have a voice that you want to capture for your business and so we use a machine learning algorithm to help us help customers select their tone of voice. Let’s say you want to be joyful and then the level of joy that you want to express so that’s one of the things that drew me to the business is just that they are and that you know, we are on a low code, no code journey we do use low code, no code in our software as well, so that drew me to Whispir so I think it’s good to use products that incorporate AI simply because they’re often the most innovative products. So when it when it comes to my day-to-day work, I use A writers all the time and I’m not just talking GRAMMARLY. GRAMMARLY is, like you know, GRAMMARLY PRO I love it. It’s a great tool, I still use it. But I get excited by things like OUTWRITE where you have content, rephrasing, you know, it helps you create an optimized LinkedIn post. There’s also SEMRUSH. I get excited playing around in SEMRUSH and sticking a blog in there and figuring out how to how to optimize it for SEO. So there’s a number of tools that I use for AI because I like to go pretty quickly. And I’m always looking for ways to cut corners so that I have more time to speak and figure everything out. If I’m constantly executing, then I’m not very innovative. I’m not very creative. And my mother was an artist; she was a painter, she was a sculptor, she did everything, she was truly an artist. And so we were always at the museum, and I have a real appreciation for art. I can’t paint, I can’t draw, but I’ll go to a museum, and I’ll see a painting and it will affect me emotionally. I love theater. I love ballet, I love opera, I love all of the arts. So for me, being creative in my work is sort of my engine, coming up with new ideas and new angles. Creativity can take a lot of different forms and I feel like AI, because it accelerates getting things done and helps us meet our objectives faster, gives me more time to incorporate creativity into my work.

Grad 
That’s very cool. How do you how do you drive it into the rest of the team? So again, by example, I think is what you’re saying here right now. But just how do you get AI to be something that’s well used by everyone?

Annie Wissner 
I demo it, what I’ll do is I’ll say, “Hey, alright, give me a give me a blog that we need to do”. And then I’ll enter that in and then it’ll generate a title. “Okay, which of these titles do you like?” They’ll pick the title. Alright, next. “Okay. Let’s take the title and let’s go over to this tool and generate the article intro”. “Okay, which intro do you like?” We read all of them. “That’s pretty good. Well, let’s edit that a little bit, then let’s stick the intro and the title into the tool, and let’s just draft the whole article”. And then I’ll say, “How much time could that save you?” And you know, these are people that have written for a long time, and they’re always like, “Holy smokes”, I have run across some purists that are like, “I’ve got all the words in my head, I don’t want to do this”. And that’s pretty rare, though. Most people, most writers are like, “Thank God, this is a lifesaver. Thank you”. And then they adopt it, incorporate it, and use it because it saves them time.

Grad 
Wow, you are an amazing example of a 21st century CMO.

Annie Wissner 
Thank you.

Grad 
Yeah, you are awesome. That is so great. That is really great. What’s interesting about the way you’re talking generally, there’s this inevitable blurring that’s happening in marketing because marketing, for some reason, as a function, has always been very, like, that’s the person who does this, and that’s the person who does that. It’s been very sort of set up. And then it’s always a challenge, like the person who does email, you got to find the email person. And I think what’s happening is that those lines are blurring, and we’re all just trying to sell stuff. And we all need to understand the product, and then be able to quickly explain it to others is essentially what marketing is.

Annie Wissner 
Yeah, in a gorgeous engaging way. And in a way that means something to them. Right. So a big part of it is not just knowing the product, but it’s really knowing your customer, really understanding their problems.

Grad 
Wow, this has been really inspiring, Annie. I am blown away by everything you’re doing and like I said, I would love you to put that product stuff into a book, I’ll be the first customer to flog it mercilessly on the on the show and through the company.  But anyway, it was really, really great. We’re going to close now. So I’ll basically ask you for any last thoughts, and then I’ll thank you and then I’ll do like a little kind of out on it. And then we’ll be done. But just before I do that, any last thoughts or anything else you just kind of want to land or anything you want to say about Whispir in terms of people checking it out or going to see the site?

Annie Wissner 
Yeah, Whispir’s really an incredible business. We have a true commitment to diversity. Half of the ELT are women, 15% of our employee base is LGBTQ community. So we have a really amazing philanthropic approach where we help people and it’s really built into our DNA so it’s a great culture. I think people care about buying from companies now that embrace these philosophies and have these great cultures so definitely check it out if you’re looking for the best omnichannel communications platform, that really cares about quality and the beauty of design. All of our templates are really beautiful. We’d love to talk to you.

Grad 
Fantastic. Well, Annie, thank you very, very much. That was wonderful. And I learned a ton and I cannot wait to read the book. So I’m going to close out now for Whispir’s CMO at Whispir. Annie Wissner. By the way, how old are your twins now?

Annie Wissner 
They are 14. I had two teenagers on one day. So yeah. No, they’re good kids. They’re very sweet.

Grad 
Okay, okay. All right. Well, but probably a lot harder. Probably the baby stuff’s not looking so hard after all.

Annie Wissner 
No. Different talks now, different conversations.

Grad 
Well, congratulations. We’ll do that in another podcast. Yeah, that was great. Anyway, Annie Wissner, CMO at Whispir, and for the unified CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr, and we’ll see you … next time.

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