Rick Klau on the Immaculate Promotion + being a Product Manager at Google

On today’s episode of Scaleup Marketing, I’m joined by Rick Klau, a long-time startup entrepreneur, former operating partner at GV, and a Product Manager at Google where he worked on Blogger, Profiles, and the YouTube homepage. I wanted to talk to Rick about his work on the OKR framework used at Google, but we ended up talking about his journey from being a lawyer to blogger to product manager on some of the most widely used products in the world.

Rick Klau: [00:00:00] Hey, Rick. Welcome. 

So good to be here. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:00:07] as a part of my podcast process, I do deep, deep research on my guests.

And the first thing that blew me away in doing my deep, deep, deep research was that you and I kind of sorta worked for the same company way back in the day, a company called iManage. 

Rick Klau: [00:00:23] You know, it doesn’t come up all that much these days, given where my career went afterwards. But that is an amazing small world 

Tom Wentworth: [00:00:31] connection.

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, iManage was really the dominant platform for law firm, content management. It turns out lawyers produce a lot of documents. 

Rick Klau: [00:00:40] Yeah. And time is money. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:00:41] You and you were a lawyer, right. You graduated with a law degree, right? 

Rick Klau: [00:00:44] I sure did. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:00:46] So I manage was maybe it was not SAS. Obviously it was classic desktop software, but a really great example of a vertical application.

Like that product was so instrumental to lawyers day to day [00:01:00] operations. and it’s such a, it’s a pretty niche product, but was incredibly successful. So I assume that, you know, being a lawyer, you might have played a little bit of role in the marketing of I managed 

Rick Klau: [00:01:10] is that a. 

I did. I mean, I, when I first joined, I actually joined in the marketing org.

and the expectation was that I brought whatever credibility, having the J D letters after my name might bring, but also a fair bit of technical understanding. I mean, what, what was so. Unusual really unheard of at the time for what was desktop software was that it was this three tier solution that meant that if the server went down, which in those days the server always went down.

before I manage it would take the desktop with it. Oh, that’s right. And so you had lawyers who’d be drafting contracts or reviewing edits. And if a PC docs was the sort of the heavyweight at the time, when that [00:02:00] server went down, they, they were dead in the water. They couldn’t work. And if you can’t work, you’re not billing time.

If you’re not billing time, you’re not making any money. And the, the, the opportunity for an elegant bit of technology to come in and say, look, if. If the server does go down because of course it will, you can still work. And then when it comes back up, we can sync the whatever changes have happened on your end and we’ll resolve any discrepancies.

I mean, it was like we were selling magic to some of the large law firms who were certain that this was just, a fact of life at the time. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:02:38] Yeah, and it complete tangent. We will not go down, but sinking was huge. It’s Lotus notes was so good. Like people underappreciate how good Lotus notes was way before in the early, early days of network computing.

 the fact that Lotus notes could figure out how to sync and replicate databases in 1997 or six or whatever was spectacular. And I managed sort of did that for lawyers, 

[00:03:00] Rick Klau: [00:02:59] right? 

Absolutely. I joined in the summer, I think of 99. And it’s hard to understand now, 20 plus years later, but the internet still felt like a bit of a distraction, right?

The majority of the time spent on computers. I had come from an environment where as a law student, I clerked at a law firm in the, would have been the summer of 95. I was the only non secretary at the law firm that had a computer. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:03:30] Wow. 

Rick Klau: [00:03:31] And that was not unusual at the time. Of course today everyone’s got an iPad and a phone and a laptop.

so when you think about in the late nineties, This work that was being done on computers that were relatively new to the lawyer’s desk, because in the past they’d be dictating to their secretary who would then be transcribing and then they’d edit those. it was [00:04:00] such a need to reconcile those differences.

And these were institutions that didn’t always have the best in class. Network infrastructure. it was not unusual for somebody in a coat closet to unplug something. They didn’t know what it was and suddenly the entire network had gone down. So, that ability to be resilient when things were, unexpected was pretty critical.

Tom Wentworth: [00:04:23] Yeah. So I worked at a company called interwoven. We acquired, I managed, I think, after you left. And I ended up working for the co-founder of iManage Rafiq, who I learned a tremendous amount about, and also. For feet bought me my first iPhone. I did something I guess. Good. And he bought me an iPhone, so I will never, ever, ever.

Forget you repeat. Thank you for, for that. The most interesting part of it I’ve managed, I think is so, I mean, so interwoven inquired, I manage autonomy, notorious autonomy, acquired interwoven, HP acquires autonomy, and I managed sort of survived through all of that. OpenText acquired some of the assets from [00:05:00] HP.

So it goes, I managed to interwoven autonomy to HP, to OpenText the founders, bought the product back. So they bought the product from HP and I manage is doing better than ever. So it’s kind of a weird Testament to this, this product now here, whatever it is, 20 years later is still dominating the law firm market.

Rick Klau: [00:05:21] That’s extraordinary. And also it reflects within that industry legal specifically. I mean, it’s, it’s an industry built around mitigating risk. Yeah. So once you have something, you know, that it works and it solves the problem and it solves it. Well, it’s not broken, so don’t fix it. Don’t try and give me the next widget.

That’s a little bit incrementally better. It is exactly what the market needed 20 years ago. And apparently is what it continues to need today is just amazing. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:05:52] And you started off that. They’re probably still using some of your positioning now, 20, 20 plus years later. So, Oh, 

Rick Klau: [00:05:59] aye. I, I, [00:06:00] I hope for their case, that’s not the case.

Okay, fair enough. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:06:04] So after I manage, you went to social. So you and I had like a lot of pet, not, not exact in the same space, but super close to each other, social taxes, one that’s interesting. So social tax, for those who don’t know, and then feed burner to like classic web two a, I hate the word web too. Oh, by the way.

But I’m going to put them under this bucket just because it’s, I think it’s, it is what those tools were called back in the day. Social, Texas, when I find super interesting. I’d love to get your take on it. I’ve always thought wikis as a paradigm, we’re super underrated and like are still relevant today, but they never took off.

Like I feel writing is such an underappreciated form of communication and wikis are a perfect platform for that. Like what was that experience like and what happened? 

Rick Klau: [00:06:48] Well, I, my first interaction, I went to work for Ross Mayfield at social text. and I met each other through blogging. And, and I had started blogging. [00:07:00]

shortly after I left I’m image, I had joined a company called interface software was providing CRM software and the legal market. And I was a kid illness for the American bar associations law practice management magazine. I was past deadline. Needed something to write about. And on an unrelated project, four separate times had run into John Rob and his blog.

Yeah. I kept Googling for something and I kept ending up at John rubs blog. I had no idea who John was. I had no idea what a blog was. This was, you know, middle of 2001. So I got interested and made that the focus of my column and started a blog so that I could say that I had done it for purposes of this article and then figured out I loved it.

I loved writing. I loved joining this, this community that was nascent [00:08:00] at the time. And one of the people who was saying some pretty interesting things about knowledge management about this emerging crop of tools that as you pointed out, became known as web 2.0. Was a guy named Ross in Palo Alto. I, by this point was living outside of Chicago and on occasion when I would travel through San Francisco, speaking at a conference or meeting with a customer, I would meet and have a beer with Ross, or when I was in New York, I would meet and have a beer with some of the people I met who were blogging from New York.

when I left interface, it was one of the first people I called. Cause I, I had finally decided. I think I might be done with legal technology. I, I think I want to move into something a little bit more horizontal and quickly figured out that Ross had a need. And this was an opportunity to be part of the company I’m answering your question.

Why didn’t wikis really take off? I don’t know. I kind of share your [00:09:00] sense that as a, as a medium for. Enabling the co-creation of information, a Wiki there’s no better 

Tom Wentworth: [00:09:10] tool, no better. 

Rick Klau: [00:09:12] but I do think that much, like I would see later when I ended up at Google running blogger, there is an absolute distinction between people who see themselves as content creators, and people who see themselves as content, consumers, and.

That, that distinction. I think there’s probably something to why, at least in a, in a corporate setting, there are people who feel like committing to content on a page as opposed to consuming it is potentially a step too far. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:09:44] It’s, you know, there’s a few companies, HubSpot is maybe the best example of a company that even today, like their entire world is based on wikis.

They’ve been creating. And updating corporate wikis since they were founded in what, 2007 or so. And it becomes [00:10:00] like this. The great thing about it is if you adopt it, it becomes this great living record of things. And, you know, today Slack didn’t, you know, entirely solved the problem email. Clearly hasn’t entirely solved the problem, but do wikis, right, and hyperlink things and make them editable in real time.

It’s a really elegant solution to the problem of keeping people on the same page. I just. I’m like you, I wish more people would blend that would blur that line. I think more people should be content creators, not just consumers and wikis are so perfect for that. Yeah. 

Rick Klau: [00:10:31] It, it, it does require, a level of abstraction for people who grew up with computers, thinking in terms of files and folders, the Wiki requires, a whole different way of thinking about where the information lives, how.

One page relates to another, I, it, it spoke to me once I started using it. I couldn’t imagine not using it. I think for the same reasons that today I live in air table [00:11:00] as a, as a, as a new document type that is independent from documents and spreadsheets. It is its own thing. but I think it requires an investment of.

Time and understanding that there are folks who are like, look, I just, I have work to do. I just want to get the work done. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:11:20] Yeah. Except getting the work done and then communicating the work is where the challenge happens. And that’s where we use our grade. And then, so from social texts, you went to feed burner, right?

Another like, and feed burner. Describe what feed burner did. Cause that feed burger is one that I, I spend a lot of time in actually back in the day. 

Rick Klau: [00:11:36] Well, it it’s, it’s another, employment opportunity that arose out of blogging. so I was a couple of years into maintaining my own blog. I had started a, political blog as well as I got excited about the Dean campaign, you know, two Oh three and realized that there was an increasing amount of consumption readership of my [00:12:00] blog that was happening.

In feed readers, right? RSS as a, as a file format, as a syndication format was one way for the blog to get delivered. If people came to the blogs, webpage URL on the web, I could, I could see that I could see how many people were reading pages on my site, but if they were reading an RSS that was completely opaque, there was no way to know.

How large, if at all the audience was on the other side of that file. And out of curiosity, I started trying to figure out if that was an answerable question. Well, it turns out not only was it answered, but the team building the answer or the tool that would answer that question was in my backyard in Chicago.

Wow. And feed burner as a product existed to tell you how large your audience was. With an RSS feed, how many people were reading it, how many people were subscribed to that [00:13:00] file, and for a podcast, which is just a RSS file that includes pointers to MP3 files. how many people were actually listening to the podcast, which in the very earliest days, hard to believe this was 15 years ago, but in the earliest days of podcasting, we had no way of quantifying that audience and.

Any, any medium that seeks to be commercial, you need to know those numbers. So feed burner became the platform for knowing what that audience, how big it was, and how they were engaging with that content. See, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:13:39] I’m an open source, open standards kind of guy. And I feel like the world needs RSS again. Like I, I’m sort of tired of people telling me how to consume my content.

I think about RSS, I loved was I made that choice. 

Rick Klau: [00:13:53] You know, I 

Tom Wentworth: [00:13:53] could determine how I wanted that content given to me, not somebody, not a publisher quote unquote, 

Rick Klau: [00:13:58] but [00:14:00] you know, I don’t 

Tom Wentworth: [00:14:00] know if ours is ever coming back again, but those were glorious days. 

Rick Klau: [00:14:04] It really was. I think if you look back at, there were standalone applications, like news Gator was one of the ones on windows.

but Google reader of course famously became this adored product for a small, but very passionate user base that even to this day, he started. Mentioning Google reader, the first words that somebody will reply reply to you with, or too soon, like it still hurts that that product, it doesn’t exist. I just got the 

Tom Wentworth: [00:14:33] chills.

When you said, I literally just got the chills. When you said Google reader, of course you went to Google, any truth to the rumor that you killed Google reader. 

Rick Klau: [00:14:43] I had nothing to do, with, with that unfortunate, time, it was kill FTP on bloggers. That one, I will own 

Tom Wentworth: [00:14:53] that about that. We’ll get to that.

We’ll get to that a little bit, but no, Google reader is a perfect example. A product that looked the writing was [00:15:00] on the wall and it was a very niche, but engage audience. But the funny thing is usually when that happens, somebody, it gives somebody else a chance to step in and take that audience. But no one did no one made a better Google reader, whatever it is, 12 years now later.

Rick Klau: [00:15:14] Yeah. And you look at none of the building blocks have gone away. Right. RSS still exists. It’s still possible to pull an RSS feed and check for the diff and bring in whatever the new items are. feed burner hasn’t really changed from the day it got acquired, but the product still exists. Still works.

Yeah. still a bunch of podcasters who use it because it’s one of the few ways. Now I imagine for those who are using, either tools like anchor or other tools to distribute their podcasts, there are other ways of capturing audience data, but, it does feel like there remains an enormous opportunity, to lean into this as we’re.

Starting to recognize that some of the social platforms, may [00:16:00] not have our best interests at heart, and are not necessarily the best consumption experiences for, for really identifying the sources of news you want. Yeah. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:16:10] So a couple of things there, my favorite, by the way, Speaking of sort of technology history, friend feed was my favorite way ever of consuming content.

And obviously Brett Taylor and the whole team went on to build Facebook and then over to Salesforce and amazing stuff. But friend feed would let you like the way that friends who had, let me build my stream and people could then subscribe my sheet. My stream was amazing. Like I love friend feed. That was the only thing that fought Google reader from my heart.

Rick Klau: [00:16:37] boy, I, I can imagine the fan club. I could introduce you into of some of my close friends who were huge friend feed, acolytes, and, and passionate users before the Facebook acquisition. yeah, you look back at that period of time. Really 2004 or five till about 2008 [00:17:00] was just this unbelievably fertile.

Time where if you were invested in curating your audience and curating the audiences, you wanted to be a part of? I, I, Twitter is a little bit of that for me today, but I think only because I’ve been on Twitter from nearly day one, That there are relationships I’ve formed with people who are the people I engage with.

I think for a lot of people, Twitter is much more unidirectional. It’s very much a, I use it as the equivalent of a feed reader. but which it is absolutely not anything like what the friend feed experience was or, or, or what the Google reader experience was go reader itself was pretty social. If you had a community of people whose shared items you were following, I have friends to this day who they, their [00:18:00] only point in common is me.

Through Google reader. They’ve never met. Wow. But still know of each other because the, the activity feed and the shared items on Google reader was where they met. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:18:13] That’s really crazy. I, you know, I think the lesson in this for me is a lot of there’s so much opportunity you got back, like the history. We talked about Lotus notes, you know, earlier today, like there’s so much technology that’s happened over the years that.

That we could learn from, and that we think is innovative. And you really look at like what Lotus notes did back in 87 was crazy when you really take a step back. And I think we’ll look at some of what, what came and went in this sort of Dawn of web two. Oh. And say, these are things we could learn from, and somebody, somebody could take on the current state of social platforms with a little bit of, you know, a little bit, a good product management, I guess.

Rick Klau: [00:18:56] Yeah, so much of this comes down to timing. Yeah. [00:19:00] And, and if there was, naiveté built into some of these products early on, certainly that got exploited in years to come. It was never worrying about the positive possible negative impact. Yeah. Or ways in which these tools could get weaponized, that allowed us to just lean into the serendipity without putting any guardrails in to prevent what could have come.

I think it would have been extraordinarily difficult. Agreed in 2005, 2006, 2007, to argue that the right product decision for YouTube was to limit. User engagement because at some point nation States might try and weaponize that information that would have been laughed out of that 

Tom Wentworth: [00:19:52] room. Laughed out of it.

The same with Twitter, you would have been Twitter is where you shared what you had for breakfast. 

Rick Klau: [00:19:58] No doubt. 

[00:20:00] Tom Wentworth: [00:19:59] Fascinating. So you ended up joining Google through FeedBurner right. So Google buys, buys feed burner. And I want to talk a little bit about that. So you worked on a bunch of products at Google that I think, you know, most people hadn’t experienced with you worked on.

Google plus a bit, this thing called YouTube, you worked on blogger. what did you start off at and which will be coming through? Feed burger. Wait, where did you go first? 

Rick Klau: [00:20:22] Well, it’s it’s it’s funny. I started in business development. Yep. Google, at least at the time was pretty unusual. Among tech acquirers for interviewing every employee.

Yeah. At the acquired company before the acquisition closed. Wow. Because this was still at a time company was about 10, 12,000 people. Larry and Sergei were still reviewing every employee offer that went out the door. Wow. And they saw acquisitions as a potential vector for people who would not otherwise meet the hiring bar.

[00:21:00] Kind of sneaking in through the side door and then being in the company that much with, with the risk of them sort of polluting the talent pool that existed inside the company. So, so Google interviews, everyone in the company. Wow. At which, you know, we were maybe 25, 30 people at the time. And after the first round of interviews, They, and I both agreed well, that did not go well.

Like I, I liked the people I talked to the, what they talked about doing in their day-to-day job didn’t sound like anything that was interesting to me and their feedback to the Corp dev team was boy seems like a good guy, but he’s not right for this team. Hmm. So I ended up having an interview with a whole different set of folks and the, the terms of the deal were quite clear.

[00:22:00] Four founders to Costello, Steve Ella Koski, Eric , we’re all Chicago guys. And they had me very clear to Google that we are, we are okay. I’ve been to the possibility of an acquisition as long as everyone stays in Chicago. Wow. So Google said, all right, we got that works. We’re about to open a large engineering office.

We’ll just put you there. And a week before the deal closed is when I’m having my second round of interviews panicking. Perhaps I’m not going to get a job that this will be a great outcome. I was one of the first non founder employees at feed burner, and I’m still going to find that I somehow didn’t meet the Google, Google hiring bar.

And in the middle of one of those interviews, my future boss tells me, well, you’re, you’re coming to mountain view. And I said, Oh, I imagine I’ll be in mountain view a lot. He says, no, you’re, you’re coming to mountain view. This is where our team [00:23:00] is and we need you here. So I’m like, did, did he just tell me I have a job?

I think, I think he told me I just have a job, which is great. so sure. Okay. And the postscript there is that my grandfather had just passed away the day before this. So I had to change my schedule to fly to Florida, to his Memorial service. And my wife had flown with our three very young children to Florida, the day I was interviewing.

And, and then I’m spending the entire day, Friday flying to Florida from San Francisco. I don’t see my wife. Or have a chance to talk to her until we’re at the Memorial service where I have to eulogize my grandfather and then she has to drive one of the family to the airport. So we don’t actually get to talk until 72 hours after I’ve had my interview where I have to break the news [00:24:00] to her in front of my entire family at this celebratory dinner.

As we remember my grandfather’s life. That we’re about to move the family to California. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:24:08] Wow. 

Rick Klau: [00:24:10] So I end up in business development, ended up on a, a team called strategic partner development management, which is just a lot of words. That mean you, our job in, in that org was to acquire the content that Google couldn’t index on its own.


Tom Wentworth: [00:24:26] Hmm. Is there a lot of content, I guess there probably was. Well, 

Rick Klau: [00:24:32] yeah. You think about everything right? From map tiles. Yeah. Satellite imagery. Yeah. To books, to feeds of products for sale and on and on and on. If it was proprietary content for which there needed to be at least a. Contract in place, if not some compensation for access to that content, it was, it was our team’s job to negotiate access to that [00:25:00] content, determine what, if any compensation there would be.

And then there was a whole other part of that team whose responsibility was to manage all of those partners around the world who are, who are providing feeding this content into one or more of the Google products. Nice that we’re in ingesting it. Yeah. And 

Tom Wentworth: [00:25:21] that was, and how did you transition to becoming a product manager?

Cause I have this like, first of all, you’re you’re, you’re not a tech, like you were not, although you’re clearly a nerd. Like I am, you know, you have a JD, your undergrad was. Liberal arts something. Right. How do you, I’ve always figured product managers are at Google, are PhD, CS. Like how did that happen? 

Rick Klau: [00:25:44] I’ve I’ve always, he’s referred to this as the immaculate promotion.

we’ll start there. you’re not far off, right? The, the bias, certainly back when I joined Google in 2007, by this point, you know, I’ve been at Google about a [00:26:00] year in 2008, the bias was all but written in stone. If you don’t have a computer science degree, you cannot be a product manager. There was, there was a little known separate category called a business product manager, ah, which allowed for non CS majors.

Who were seen more as almost an outward facing kind of like a GM yep. To the market. but weren’t expected to be a PM in, in the traditional sense, at least how Google thought of it. I knew from within a week of joining Google that. The absolute ideal job at Google was to be a product manager. Nice. And about a week later, I knew, and I would never be a product manager at Google because no matter how you add up international affairs and French plus a law degree, they do not.

You don’t [00:27:00] rearrange those letters to spell computer science. No. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:27:03] And you were going to go back the school and, and spend four years learning how to write, you know, Java, 

Rick Klau: [00:27:09] right. I, so I, I sorta took both of those things. As, as gospel. I just knew I would be on the fringe. I would get to work with some product managers I admired and I would be close to the center of gravity on campus, but that was never going to be a path that would be open to me.

So Google famously has this concept of 20% time, which, you know, now, 20 plus years into its existence, some people raise an eyebrow and suggest it’s, it’s not as real these days, but back then, I took liberal advantage of 20% time. And one of my first projects was. When I discovered that Google was sponsoring both the democratic convention in Denver in 2008 and the [00:28:00] Republican convention in st.

Paul, I raised a hand and was like, well, I, I worked on the Obama Senate campaign back in Oh four. I know a lot of his tech team as he’s now the nominee for the democratic party. I don’t know if y’all need help, but I’m here and. And, and that’s how I backed into being responsible for managing Google’s partnership in Denver for the democratic convention.

Wow. So it was a blast. It was extraordinary. I got to spend a week in Denver, attending a number of convention events, but also being responsible for a lot of Google’s product presence in Denver. And one of the women who was part of the Google. Team in Denver was a woman named Katie Stanton and Katie and I hit it off.

She’s, you know, we’re the same age. We each have three kids, all of whom are roughly the same age. [00:29:00] We shared a lot of political interest. And so as we’re in Denver with a bunch of, you know, early 20 somethings, finding ourselves sort of the, the folks with experience on the ground and just. Swapping notes.

She was a PM at Google. I was super interested in how she did that. She had previously been at Yahoo and so she becomes one of my very close friends at Google. Somebody I looked up to admired and about three months later, I got 9:00 AM on a weekday night. And she says, I think you need to be the PM on blogger.

I said, well, you know, from your lips to God’s ears, but I don’t think that’s how that works. There 

Tom Wentworth: [00:29:44] probably wasn’t a better job for you given, you know, given, you know, you were a 

Rick Klau: [00:29:49] blogger prior to blogger. Exactly. Right. So I said, well, what, why are you. Why are you suggesting that I would love to do that, but I don’t think that’s in the [00:30:00] cards.

He goes, well, I was just talking to Joe Kraus. Joe is the director in the apps, Google apps world. One of his products is blogger and he was just telling me he needs somebody with business sense who understands the blogging world. and I told him, you’re the guy that he should talk to. So. Okay, right.

Like, yeah, sign me up. she introduced me to Joe Joe and I meet, Joe and I hit it off. Joe has to go to Sergei Brin to get an exception made, to allow me to be a product manager. Wow. And I would love to tell you it’s because Sergei was so blown away by my product acumen. But I think the reality is that blogger was not a strategically vital product to Google at the time.

And the expectation was, yeah, what’s the worst that could happen. We find another product manager to work. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:30:57] You actually blogged. Like I would [00:31:00] assume that your resume was look I’m one of the few people that actually has done this for some period of time. 

Rick Klau: [00:31:06] I, I came at it from two sides, right on the one hand it’s like, I know this world I’ve been blogging at this point for eight years, I ran a campaign blog for a presidential campaign.

I, I worked in the industry on feed burner where I, I worked with all of the different players in the blogging ecosystem. So I know that world Colt, on the other hand, I went to every product manager I had crossed paths with at Google. The more non-traditional the background, the better. Yep. Right. But started with Katie.

And then there’s a guy named Adam Smith, who I’ve worked closely with who, who at the time was working on Google books and a couple of others and said, listen, I don’t know if there’s a process here, but if you could put down a few words on what you think I could or couldn’t bring to the job. [00:32:00] And then send that to Sergei, like that’ll help fill in the gaps.

So I think it de-risked, it enough that, and Joe is a pretty compelling individual. I don’t know if you ever crossed paths with Joe, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:32:13] but now I know of him. 

Rick Klau: [00:32:14] Yeah. It kind of a legend in Silicon Valley in his own. Right. He was the founder of excite when he was still an undergrad at Stanford had sold jot spot to Google, the year before feed burner sold to Google.

Jot spot itself, a social text competitor. So we were all of these paths that seemed to lead to this moment and Joe gets Sergei to, to make the exception and, and, and that’s how I, I moved into the product org, out of what had been more of a BD or sales role, and where I would be at Google for the next three, almost four years.


Tom Wentworth: [00:32:56] And. What were you just curious? What were you [00:33:00] blogging on prior to using blogger for, you know, back at the Obama campaign? What were you actually blogging on? 

Rick Klau: [00:33:05] So my very first blog, I started on blogger. Yep. I got excited by, John Rob was one of the people I ended up talking to for that magazine column.

He was at the time running a radio user land. You remember Dave Weiner’s, company products from back in the day. And 

Tom Wentworth: [00:33:25] inventor of RSS Dave Weiner, right? 

Rick Klau: [00:33:27] That’s one in the same. There you go. I, I, I love learning new tools and this was an excuse to poke at, at a, a new product idea, a new product category that the whole notion of outlining as an organizing tool was interesting to me.

So I used radio user land for awhile. Then movable type came along. Of course I played with that ran my personal blog and moveable type for awhile. we had, I had moved one of the blogs I was responsible for. I think it might’ve been a campaign [00:34:00] blog, onto WordPress. And, and then moved my own blog to word press.

and ahead of taking the blogger job. I remember going through the effort of migrating back to where I started taking what had at that point was eight, almost nine years of content and exporting out of WordPress into blogger, which was not a popular direction to go. It was almost always the other way.

and having a bunch of friends reach out and effectively asking some version of everything. All right. Like why, why would you do that? And then a month later got to announce like, well, because I’m, I’m now responsible for some portion of the product, at, at blogger. And now this is as good an excuse as any to, to eat my own dog food.

Tom Wentworth: [00:34:46] Yeah, I was. So in that same time, I was in the enterprise web content management business, you know, managing big corporate websites. 

Rick Klau: [00:34:53] Sure. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:34:54] And I remember the first time I saw WordPress. I’m like, we’re in trouble. [00:35:00] Like WordPress didn’t into any of the things that we did as an enterprise. They didn’t do security and permissions and complex sites and navigation, but I’m like the user experience is so simple.

This is going to be a problem. And actually I went later to work with the founder of Drupal, a dress at Aquia. And it’s that era again, back to, you know, that was. WordPress and Drupal, just all of a sudden dominated how people publish content, especially WordPress. I mean, WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, you know, his vision is to have a hundred percent of the world’s sites run on WordPress.

And he’s not going to get entirely there because of things like Drupal, but, but that’s a pretty ambitious vision. 

Rick Klau: [00:35:38] And it to Matt’s credit. It was the vision 15 years ago. And they’ve just been chipping away ever since it’s it’s an extraordinary run. What you just described. I mean, it’s textbook innovator’s dilemma.

Tom Wentworth: [00:35:53] Innovator’s dilemma clearly. 

Rick Klau: [00:35:54] Exactly. It’s it’s it’s as if it’s a chapter out of Clayton Christiansen’s book, this is exactly [00:36:00] how it happens. You, you solve for the top of the market. And then suddenly watches the bottom of the market just keeps working its way up the stack and, and hollows out the value proposition of what the six and seven and eight figure, alternatives present.

Tom Wentworth: [00:36:15] See? Yes. And I think that’s going to happen right now. If you follow along with Wix and Squarespace and they’re going to do. To the enterprise side of that business, 

Rick Klau: [00:36:24] you know, like there, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:36:25] what you can do is Squarespace and Wix these days is for 1999 a month or whatever it is is absolutely stunning. 

Rick Klau: [00:36:31] So 

Tom Wentworth: [00:36:32] I feel like that’s, that’s happening now in the corporate side of it too.

All right. So being a product manager at Google, so I’m a marketer I run marketing at at recorded future. You were once a marketer back in the day. How did product managers at Google work with marketing? 

Rick Klau: [00:36:49] Sometimes they didn’t. Okay. Right. I think one of the interesting things is product at Google is not monolithic.

There’s, there’s a pretty wide [00:37:00] spectrum and I should also disclaim for the last nine years. I was at Google ventures. I left the product org and man it’s evolved quite a bit since I left. But in my experience, you have some product managers whose real skill is thinking about. Being a partner with the engineering team on everything from architecture and scale and making hard choices about product design, product execution, et cetera.

I came at it from a very different point of view. I particularly, it was helped by the fact that I was working on blogger, which by its nature was a public product. Yeah. I, I looked at my job as being one of, I needed to be the most visible person at Google with respect to blocker. I needed to be find-able.

Huh? Right. So that meant my blog needed to be [00:38:00] easy to find and understand who I was and what my responsibility was. It is why I was so active on Twitter early days, because. People who use any blogging platform, forget about blogger for a minute are used to speaking their opinion out to the world and having it be heard and if necessary responded to.

And if I was going to sit behind this veil of, you know, my job is to, is to work inside the company on the product itself. I was doing the product and the user base a disservice. And look it also bears mentioning bloggers. Founder is F Williams. Yeah. If ever there was the canonical example of an individual who lived the values of the products that he created.

It’s F yeah. And I felt responsibility stepping into that [00:39:00] chair. To, to, to not try and be F, but to honor that notion of users need to know who the people are that are building their products. my first meeting a week after becoming product manager, I went and sat down with EV at the Twitter offices to say like, let me, let me catch you up on what bloggers up to these days.

But tell me if there’s anything I should know, from, from the guy that was there on day one, I, you know, I’m, I’m all ears. So, in, in regards to your question, the way I worked with marketing was to try and think about, there is a story that blogger is a part of, and it’s the story that every one of the users is writing every day.

Are there product decisions we need to be making in service of that story or worse, but equally important. Are there product decisions we’re making that are absolutely an opposition to that story? Yeah. [00:40:00] Right. So I’ll give you a, a great example. this was less a product decision, but it was absolutely a conversation I had with marketing.

We are a platform for communication. I say we I’m immediately going back to the days when I was the product manager on blogger and we had a user who happened to be the president of the Republic of Georgia. And when the Russians cut the trunk line into Georgia and there were actual boots on the ground invading Georgia, the president of George’s only.

Communication line out to the outside world was a satellite phone that allowed him to blog on blogger. Wow.

I remember taking that pretty seriously as an obligation that we had to make sure that [00:41:00] our product owed to its users to be available. But then when I got an opportunity to write an op-ed for CNN, I’ve a friend of mine worked in, in, at CNN actually was a, a feed burner user from back in the day. And he reached out and said, Hey, if there’s ever anything you want to talk about, like, I can connect you to the folks that run that part of

I made it about the importance of the UN declaration on human rights and that freedom of speech was itself. A human right. Of which online communications were an absolutely critical component. So if you had governments that were trying to stifle speech, wherever they might be, that was itself in opposition to the UN declaration of human rights.

And [00:42:00] that was not a me going rogue. That was me working with marketing. To say, what is the, what’s the story we’re trying to tell blog her. And of course, the challenge at a company as large as Google is it’s a lot of work to ensure that those stories are themselves in concert with each other. Yeah. Cause you can imagine I give, if I’m all, but pointing a finger at a nation state, it’s one thing to do that as a guy running a tiny little.

Product. It’s another thing, if it’s Google saying that, but feeling that it was an important part of bloggers identity, that we had a point of view and that we communicated it. I think there’s two, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:42:45] two things. I mean, first of all, you’re doing this as a, again, a product manager, right? So your taking the approach that typically a CEO would take, right.

A CEO is, is thinking about. You’re not thinking about managing [00:43:00] backlog and what’s going to be in what sprint and how many engineers are on your project. You’re thinking about how we position, you know, you’re thinking about the strategic outcomes your product needs to deliver for users. It’s just such a different way of thinking about it.

Do you think that that’s how most product managers should operate? Like should product managers be worried about marketing in that way? 

Rick Klau: [00:43:24] I mean, I have a bias. I’d like to think that, that my approach was certainly not the only way to go, but I think for that product or that time, it was absolutely the right way to go.

Yeah. And you know, you’ll often hear people talk about product managers that as the CEO of their product, and I’ve always found that to be a bit of a misnomer because. A lot of product organizations are not set up that way. Yeah. They are set up to be more internally focused or more, more outcome oriented where, you know, the job is to ship the next product.

The [00:44:00] job is to hit some set of metrics. I just didn’t know how to do the job if I wasn’t operating horizontally across those components. And, you know, I made a joking reference to killing FTP. earlier, that was an example of me thinking about it. Not from the what’s the next sprint going to be. What’s the bug burndown rate.

What’s the, you know, what technical debt have we incurred that we need to be down? It was me hearing the engineers. Tell me this is a drag on everything we do. Yeah. If we don’t stop supporting this feature that almost no one uses. We cannot deliver on the things that the company expects of us that we think we’re capable of doing.

And so I had to make the decision, okay, we’re going to kill this thing. I will be the bad guy. [00:45:00] I will communicate not a decision has been made, not use the passive voice, make it unclear exactly where it’s coming from or who’s responsible for it. I will go on Twitter. I will answer emails. I will be the one in the forums owning the decision, making it clear that I made it, and then working to at least earn back some of the trust or, or try and lean into the opportunity to earn back that trust, to show the users why we were doing it and why it was critical for the future of the product to do it.

Ultimately candidly and somewhat selfishly the, the reason for doing that is so the engineers would trust me. Cause if, if, if I’m supposed to be the product manager and the engineers don’t trust me, he never listens. We tell them about why these things are terrible or why we shouldn’t do them. No, he, he actually heard us [00:46:00] and went to bat and took the arrows in the back.

Never pointed a finger, never complained, Oh, this is something that so-and-so is making me do. that earned a tremendous amount of credibility with an engineering team that needed to believe that I could and would go to bat for them when needed 

Tom Wentworth: [00:46:22] and how much negative feedback, how many, how many tweets and emails where you’re applying to.

Oh, hundreds, thousands, 

Rick Klau: [00:46:31] definitely thousands. By the time it was all said and done. we had a Hitler video made of us, so, you know, popular downfall, parody videos was actually extraordinarily well done. very funny. We played it at a team meeting, and gave us all a good laugh. it. It was an interesting lesson early in my product time that stuck with me, which is you don’t ever choose to do something because [00:47:00] it will piss off your users.

That’s like, you’re, you’re a sadist. If you do that. But if you know enough about your users, you know enough about your product, you can anticipate the things that may in fact provoke. Sure. That strong reaction. Yeah. And those are some of the best opportunities to earn those users for life. This is 

Tom Wentworth: [00:47:25] what Apple, Apple is masters at this, you know, they released a whole bunch of new hardware today and people are angry because the new Mac book pro only has four, you know, two Thunderbolt, ports, not four, like the old one had, but Apple sees that as an opportunity to explain the decision and now, you know, like, but there is a benefit to doing this and.

Apple makes those sort of tough decisions. Mercilessly every time they release something 

Rick Klau: [00:47:53] it, and it’s, it shows both a confidence in the value of what you are presenting, [00:48:00] and, and a, a conviction that what you are doing, you were doing for the right reasons, even if. The broader audience may not either appreciate all of those factors.

Now I have, I have been a sometimes grudging admirer of Apple. I am an Android phone user. I am waiting for my new , laptop to show up. So I’m pretty excited. It seems like it’s going to be a great step up. And I, I think one of the challenges I’ve always had with them is they don’t seem to talk to their users much.

Right. And this is the other side of the equation that I always took very seriously. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:48:40] So that is an excellent point. And so they, they product marketers at Apple will go out with YouTube journalists and they’ll do highly controlled. Like you can go watch it on YouTube and all the famous tech reviewers, Apple sends out product marketers with very, you know, scripted.

And even the execs do this. [00:49:00] But it’s all it’s controlled by the messages, tightly controlled. They control who they deliver the message to in the form of these journalists. There are no Apple execs out there doing what you did on social media. And I think you’re right, like that is a, it’s something I admire about people who’ve done what you did now.

Apple maybe has earned the right to be the one company that can get away with doing it that way. But it is annoying because, you know, they’re, you know, they know the answers to those tough questions and they just. Want to pretend like the problem doesn’t exist. 

Rick Klau: [00:49:31] and, and look, things worked out really well for Apple.

So yeah, as far be it for me to suggest that the, the approach is either wrong or, or, or inappropriate. I just know from my point of view, the way I wanted the, the PMI wanted to be the product I wanted to represent was one where the users felt a sense of ownership. To the end result, [00:50:00] one of them to feel as if they were part of what we were building, not waiting on the sidelines to be handed something.

Yeah. And of course, when we decided to kill bloggers first feature, you had a, a tiny minority of users, but still a very passionate vocal group for whom it felt like we were just taking something away. Whether it was because we were being vindictive or we were lazy, or we just didn’t know how the technology worked, that, you know, they could, they could fill the emptiness if we didn’t engage with all the worst possible explanations.

Instead, our answer was to say, no, no, we’re, I’m going to explain to you why we’re doing this. We actually, FTP is such a terrible, terrible protocol. That if an FTP socket opens and the [00:51:00] connection doesn’t successfully complete, that socket will stay open and it’ll try again. And the number of ESPs that Google data centers brought to their knees, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:51:10] it doesn’t say it’s a, it’s a nice, fancy, it’s a nice way to DDoSs.


Rick Klau: [00:51:14] Absolutely. Right. And so we had ISP that would add Google data centers to it’s block list. Because they had one user who didn’t know what was going on and were just FTP in their blog, up to the ISP and, and bringing their servers to its knees. So, long story short, I just, I felt that transparent communication with listening was, was the only way I knew how to manage through what was a really hard message for this user based here.

Now it was 50,000 users. But 50,000 out of millions. Yeah. So I needed the 50,000 to know that we weren’t just trying to kick them to the curb, but that we [00:52:00] were, we were emphatic. This was in fact the commitment we were making. This was not an invitation to tell us whether they wanted us to kill FTP or not.

Tom Wentworth: [00:52:09] Well, I think time is proven you’re right. To kill FTP or lots of reasons. So you should have, you should be very proud of that decision. Look, I’ll let you go. But my takeaway, and this has been fantastic. And I, I do these podcasts. One to get inspired. I figure if I’m inspired, hopefully others will be inspired as well and to learn things.

And what I’ve learned, and I think is, is a takeaway for all of us is marketer or product manager, whatever, being the face of your product and not the CEO per se, because you’re not managing the P and L necessarily, or maybe you are. But treating your product with the same level of ownership and pride in the case of you building a community like these are things we all product, man, product marketers, product managers, shouldn’t be inward facing.

I think we should be more, much more outward facing because that’s where the magic happens in too much. I [00:53:00] think we, we obsess over the pitch deck, the marketing materials, the things that don’t necessarily 

Rick Klau: [00:53:08] Dillard 

Tom Wentworth: [00:53:08] directly get in front of customers. I think that’s a mistake. 

Rick Klau: [00:53:11] Yeah, I, the number of ways in which, it matters the degree to which you project out into the world, what your values are, what’s important to you.

I’ll tell you about one of my favorite, stories back to my time on blogger. One of the very first decisions I made, I met F. And I, I had the, the engineering team pull a list of the most active blogs, most read blogs by geography, by subject, and then every night for a number of weeks, I would send a handful of emails to each of the people who were, who were on that list.

[00:54:00] Just introducing myself on the product manager, responsible for blogger. Here’s how to reach me. Here’s my cell phone. Here’s my email address. I would love to know what your experience on the product has been. If you’ve got a problem you want fixed, tell me what it is. There’s something you love. Tell me that about three years ago, this is now 10 years after I’d been the product manager on blogger.

I got a LinkedIn request from a guy whose name I didn’t recognize. And he was a product manager at Expedia. He had been a high school student in Richmond, Virginia running a tech blog that had ridiculous engagement. And he got an email from me, introducing myself as the product manager and blogger. And as he would later explain, he’s like, I’d never heard the words, product manager.

But after five minutes of Googling realized, that’s the job I [00:55:00] wanted. Yeah. So I went to college to become a product manager because I got an email from you when I was a sophomore in high school. And I, I think back on that, and the number of times, little gestures can have enormous ripple effects, years and years later, we’ll never know what all those ripples are.

This just for me, that was a wonderful, full circle moment. Yeah. Where, yeah, if I’d been like him, I didn’t know what a product manager was pretty much until I got to Google and then it was like, yeah, I definitely want that. And I’ll never get it. I, if I had been entirely internally focused, like he may have found his way to that eventual outcome regardless.

but it just felt like that was the right way to be true to both the product and to who we wanted to be as a product team. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:55:57] Yeah. I [00:56:00] mean, I think opportunities, I’m trying to think in my own life, how could I do that? And I guess, you know, maybe this podcast will help somebody someday want to be a marketer, but.

Man you’ve had quite the career and I sorta just feel I’m ending this feeling a little bit bummed out and also inspired at the same time. I’m like I made some, I could, I might’ve thought a couple of different choices. Maybe I could’ve been a little bit more where you are, but, thank you so much for doing this with me today.

It’s been great. You know, I think our, 

Rick Klau: [00:56:26] you know, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:56:26] it’s the commonalities that we’ve had a little bit, it’s our obvious love for technology, but you know, you’ve, Obviously accomplished friends, man, I didn’t even ask you, but OKR is which I’m not going to. I’ll, I’ll put a link in my, in my you’re, obviously you’ve done a lot of work there too, but this has been tremendous.

I could spend literally hours slash days doing this with you, but Rick, thank you so much for your time. 

Rick Klau: [00:56:47] Tom, what a pleasure. It’s a amazing how, how parallel our paths have been for as long as they’ve been. I’m thrilled. They finally intersect 

Tom Wentworth: [00:56:55] except for the part where I was able to reach millions of users and work [00:57:00] at Google are in that.

They’ve been exactly the same. 

Rick Klau: [00:57:03] Thanks Rick. Thank you, Tom.


Anthony Deighton of Tamr on Why Standup Comedians Are Great Marketers

On today’s episode of Scaleup Marketing I’m joined by Anthony Deighton, the Chief Product Officer at Tamr. Anthony has 20 years experience in enterprise software, including 10+ years at Qlik growing it from an unknown Swedish software company, to a public company and market leader.

Anthony and I talk about his experience building Qlik from the ground up, how product and product marketing teams need to work together, and what messaging development has in common with standup comedy.

[00:00:00] Tom Wentworth: [00:00:00] On today’s episode of ScaleUp Marketing, I’m joined by Anthony Deighton. The chief product officer at Tamr. Anthony has 20 years experience at enterprise software, including more than 10 years at click growing it from an unknown Swedish software company to a public company and market leader. Andy and I talked about his experience in building click from the ground up how product and product marketing teams need to work together.

And what messaging development has in common with standup comedy. Enjoy. Anthony. Thanks for joining me. How are you? 

Anthony Deighton: [00:00:32] I am well, and you 

Tom Wentworth: [00:00:34] I’m great. This is podcast number three. So you, you do not have to go through the learning experience. My other two guests have had to go through 

Anthony Deighton: [00:00:43] it’s much more efficient, that way, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:00:45] much more efficient.

So your background is, is really interesting. So just for the audience, just give us a quick, a quick what’s the. Your life story, 

Anthony Deighton: [00:00:57] my life story in 30 seconds or less. So, [00:01:00] began my career in tech at a company called Siebel systems in California. Worked there for six or seven years in the Valley during boom, worked in enterprise software.

So it missed the boom, I guess, joined a small unknown Swedish software company called. Click as you call it, click tech at the time, moved to the East coast. Cause I figured out that working for a Swedish company from California was, a non-starter worked for click for a bit over 12 years. It took click from unknown Swedish software company to a high growth startup to public.

We took it public. We ran as a public company and then we took it private with private equity. so as I like to joke the full life cycle of an enterprise software company, Recently joined a company called Solonus, where I ran marketing. that’s a German software company that was moving to the U S so theme.

There is European companies coming to the U S and then a couple months ago, joined, as chief product officer at Tamer, which is a [00:02:00] Boston-based, software company focused on, data mastering. I should also say, You know, obviously do that. I also, been doing a couple of different boards. So out on the board of a geo analytics company called Carto, on the board of, Icelandic company, called grid, which is working to reinvent spreadsheets, and advising a couple of startups as well.

an interesting one out of MIT called unblock, which is looking at advanced analytics, as a space. So, you know, I try to keep my. Well, all involved, a lot of different things. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:02:32] Do you have time to do anything else or 

Anthony Deighton: [00:02:34] three kids and, you know, that, that also running, you know, homeschooling and, yeah, exactly.

Tom Wentworth: [00:02:41] So I work for recorded future and other Swedish company, our founder, Christopher Ahlberg founded. Spotfire one of your competitors, any comments on. Definitively what was better clicker Spotfire 

Anthony Deighton: [00:02:53] I won’t, I won’t take the bait, but what I will say is, There are some very important differences between [00:03:00] the two approach the Spotfire took and click took that that might be relevant.

you know, Spotfire took a highly verticalized approach. It was really deep in, in pharma and in, financial services and click took a highly horizontal approach. And, you know, you know, I think that may help explain the broader adoption of click. I also think click took a very global approach then, and Spotfire, it was pretty centered on trying to figure out how to be successful in the us.

You know, I think there’s a good argument to be made that the clinic has almost never figured out how to be successful. In the U S even to this day, especially relative to Tableau, but it was very successful. There was a market share leader in South Africa just to pick a random example. so yeah, it was some pretty big differences, but, yeah, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:03:45] congrats on not taking the bait.

That was a smart decision, but it is interesting, you know, Spotfire was very much the whole product, Jeffrey Moore let’s let’s really go deep in a vertical in their case, life sciences [00:04:00] and, and, No, they had a whole product solution for that. If you were in life sciences, building drugs, you use Spotfire.

Anthony Deighton: [00:04:05] Yeah. And, you know, click could almost never sell into those, pharma companies because, they were deeply embedded in using that product. And the product was very specific to, to the use case there. in fact, we, again, like we took a very opposite approach, click. From a product perspective was highly horizontal, not go to market.

The sales teams were organized vertically. We had vertical, specific messaging. we would go to market with different partners vertically, but the thing we shipped you, the product you actually were delivered was the same, regardless of the vertical. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:04:38] Might take, well, we can skip past this, but my take is that having a horizontal go-to-market earliest age works when you get to be a billion plus I, you know, the whole product makes a lot more sense, but, but you know, at that scale, I think a horizontal approach gives you a bigger market to go after which obviously for starters makes no sense.

[00:05:00] Anthony Deighton: [00:04:59] Sure. But I think from a, from a selling perspective, you need to speak the language of the customer. you need to think about who the right references are. you know, Tom Siebel used to say enterprise software as a reference selling business, by which means he means, you know, customers buy because their peers bought.

and so when you’re going to market, you need to be able to step into that account. And th you know, the, in a sense, the first and only question that they have in their mind is who else in my industry is using this thing. and so, you know, so there’s a strong incentive structure once you’ve closed.

The, the lead organization inside that protocol is to go to the find the other ones. I think, the distinction I would draw is in translating that into, okay, well, let’s actually go build a specific product for that, for that industry. I think then I would agree with you. Some amount of scale is necessary before you do that.

Tom Wentworth: [00:05:49] So let’s go talk about Siebel. So Siebel was where I think it was your first sort of job in tech way back in the day. I don’t think enough marketers study the all time [00:06:00] greats and I put Tom Siebel in the all-time greats category. Tom Siebel grew up under, you know, under, before Benioff grew up under Larry Ellison, right.

Who was one of the greatest ever do it? I think a lot of marketers could learn lessons. You know, we study. The current, you know, there’s a lot of current thought leaders, we all admire, but like we got to go back. What was it like to work for Tom Siebel and Siebel back in the day? 

Anthony Deighton: [00:06:26] Sure. So first thing I’d say is, you know, Tom is one of the greats, but there was also a great, team there.

Pat house, was his co-founder, was a phenomenal marketer. And I think, especially from a marketing perspective, Was probably the primary driver of creating awareness and demand behind, behind click, or either behind, behind seatbelt. There are also people like Dave Schmaier who went on to found velocity, which was recently acquired by Salesforce, who ran product there.

you know, a great, kind of at Ebos at C3 now, which is Tom’s [00:07:00] latest company. So there was a pretty, you know, remarkable, senior executive team, there, and, So, I mean, there’s a whole bunch of lessons that I’ve taken and I use frankly to this day, from Siebel and sometimes they’re kind of anti-lessons, they’re things that worked well in the early days of enterprise software that I think we are lessons we should unlearn, today, but I think it would be fair to say that, Siebel systems and Tom Siebel sort of invented the big deal.

strategic enterprise software sales strategy and a sales driven culture and company. and, you know, that reason it took, you know, became, came into its own under, under Tom’s leadership. one of the sort of early lessons that I learned there, it’s something that I, I use to this day. is, is both thinking big and asking for what you actually want, you know, very, you know, Siebel in the early days, you know, wasn’t an enormous company.

It was, it was still very much a startup. [00:08:00] Even when I joined and I joined, it was probably about 700 employees, but it still had very much, the feeling of a startup grew to be about 8,000, so 700 to 8,000 while I was there. you know, but it never acted like a startup. Even as a true raw startup, you know, Tom would walk into deals into negotiations with partners, into, you know, closing a deal and act like, the market leader, and act like, you know, someone who, and, and not him personally, but he would have the whole company act that way.

And a good example of this is, you know, you want to go do some, we, we did a, a big deal, at Segal kind of co-marketing relationship. And, without divulging any secrets, the team met with Pat house and Tom’s okay. We’re going to go into this negotiation with IBM around this co-marketing event or co-marketing program.

You know, what should we ask for? And the team’s like, well, you should ask for X. And Tom said, no, no, no, no, no. We’re going to ask for 10 X and I’m talking here about, you know, tens of millions of dollars. And it seems like there’s no way that we [00:09:00] can’t ask IBM we’re Siebel. Like, and he’s like, Nope. And you know what?

They closed at the co-marketing for five bucks. So, you know, so they had a five X, you can call it a five X return on bravado, meaning like by asking for what they wanted or more than they wanted, they anchored in this case, the co-marketing partner. and, and ultimately did, you know, an enormous co-marketing program with IBM, you know, so it’s a good.

Thing to remember, especially as a startup, you know, you know, you asked for what you want and think about, you know, what your real desires are. And then, you know, it’s almost like multiplied by 10 and then if you ended up back from that still a great outcome. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:09:43] It’s interesting. I think that there’s a lot, there’s a lot of the enterprise selling DNA that came through Siebel that came through Oracle that came through PTC.

You know, we train a generation of account execs to go do what you [00:10:00] just said. Right? They didn’t have access to fancy tools. They just had swagger and confidence in a nice suit. And I think a little bit it’s good that, that, that DNA’s getting lost right now. The new enterprise account reps all come out through inside selling it’s a different skill set and mindset in a lot of cases.

And I worry that we’re going to lose a lot of that DNA in this new world. Right. I don’t know that, that in the new selling models that we see that you see the same sort of skill sets anymore. 

Anthony Deighton: [00:10:34] Yeah, I agree. And I, even if you’re selling, high velocity sales cycles, you know, I mean, obviously everyone’s almost selling over the phone these days, you know, it’s a question of, again, like.

Holding to your guns, asking for what you want, having confidence in your offering and the you as a company. you know, those, those things are don’t change based on the price point. and, you know, it’s also about setting ambitious goals. So as a [00:11:00] marketing team, you know, you’re, you’re going to put on a virtual event, you know, set, an aggressive target for what you want to do.

For attendance or for concurrent viewing or whatever the metric that you care about is, or how much pipeline you want to generate. you know, when you set ambitious targets, people have a tendency to, back solve into how they achieve those. when you, engage a customer. And, and ask for a high price point or reject the, the request for a bigger discount.

You know, you know, you want what, every one of those, but if you win half of them, it’s it’s energy well-spent 

Tom Wentworth: [00:11:34] yeah, we had, you know, we’re, we’re transitioning to the OKR process here at recorded future. And we’re just getting our arms around how to set goals. And, and we recently brought in Rick cloud from formerly of Google and Google ventures, who really was, was one of the big OKR advocates at Google.

And he spoke to us yesterday and talked about goal setting and they found very, it [00:12:00] was interesting, you know, they would set massively ambitious goals, not like. We’re going to make something increment 20% better, but we’re going to get a billion, Chrome downloads. And they, as they did analysis of that, they uncovered that the achievement rate for, you know, for incremental goals versus stretch goals was basically the same.

But people just, it takes a mindset change to set ambitious goals because people don’t, people are afraid of failing. And that’s why they’re like, I’d rather beat an incremental goal. Then miss an enormous goal. And I’m like, actually, no, you don’t want to do that so 

Anthony Deighton: [00:12:35] well, they perceive that the incremental goal is easier, but actually the incremental goal is as you point out the achievement rates the same.

So the incremental goal is. Equally, achievable. And I, frankly, if I look back over my career at all of the fun and the things I’m sort of most proud of and excited about and look at, you know, these were things which when we said them out loud, we said, that’s bananas. Like there’s no way, well, what if, you know, [00:13:00] what if we did that, what would we need to do?

And what could you straight would we need to lift? And, you know, what person would we need to convince or whatever, you know? And. Once you start thinking that way, you know, if, you know, if I’ve been a part of a hundred of those, maybe we’ve only achieved 50 of them or, you know, like, you know, but I can tell you those things 50.

I remember, you know, like, yeah. I don’t remember the fails as it were. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:13:22] But that’s the, maybe that’s the lesson is if, if you set an, whether you’re using whatever goal framework, doesn’t matter if your initial reaction is this goal is not bananas, you’re probably not thinking aggressively enough about it, right?

Anthony Deighton: [00:13:36] Yup. A hundred percent agreement. So, yes. I think almost every goal setting exercise should have a sense of discomfort, about it. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:13:46] yeah. So then you leave Siebel. was this point Siebel’s still independent or they’d been acquired by Oracle yet? 

Anthony Deighton: [00:13:54] Yeah, so I left probably a year, a little less than a year before they were acquired by Oracle and I, I left [00:14:00] quite honestly because of that.

So it had to become clear to me in working their day to day that they were looking for a way to exit the company. And so it was no longer. You know, in a place that sort of was leaning forward and, and, and try and do new things. It was trying to, you know, keep treading water until it could figure out a way and an exit strata.

Tom Wentworth: [00:14:21] Yeah. A little old company called Salesforce. also might’ve had something to do with that too 

Anthony Deighton: [00:14:25] big time. And there were a ton of, ex CBO people that went to Salesforce and were incredibly successful, there. So, yeah, and I, and I think there’s a good, there’s a good lesson in. disruption. I mean, it’s something that I, studied, you know, in, in the MBA program, you know, like disruptive technology and how, industries are remade and Siebel.

Salesforce is a perfect example of that disruptive disruption, upending, a market leader. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:14:56] So you went from you go to see a Siebel to this little tiny company called [00:15:00] click the Swedish company. We talked about it. What’s most interesting for me about your journey at click and maybe your career arc all together is that you’ve bounced back between product, product marketing and CMO roles in various, various times in your career journey.

And I want to probe a little bit on, on what you’ve learned in doing that, but it click, I think your journey was, I don’t know the exact order, but you know, product manager, product marketer, ultimately to CTO, like what was the order of that and how did that journey happen? 

Anthony Deighton: [00:15:33] Yeah. So when I joined click, I was actually VP of marketing, and you know, the, the logic was that I wasn’t a developer, and I wasn’t a salesperson.

So that meant I have to be a marketing, like by process of elimination. you were in marketing if you weren’t a sales person or development. and, and then over time, I naturally gravitate gravitated more towards what I would call product marketing. and then, [00:16:00] the, the CTO of click, who, and in Europe CTO as a bit of a different meaning than it does in the U S but in Europe, a CTO is somebody who runs the development team effectively.

so he was, he was injured in a horse riding accident. So he had to leave the business. He’s he’s okay now, but, so he hit the sort of a sudden departure. So I took over the development team and therefore also took over the CTO title. and it was also right at a very critical time around building sort of re-inventing click and building click sense.

and, and then, you know, I kept that title. I think it would have been fair to say that in the last couple of years that I was act like I was probably closer to a chief product officer than I was to the chief technology officer. Quite honestly, I just never bothered sort of updating the title. So it was good.

but yeah, so, but the arc is right and, and that also relation between marketing product marketing and, product management. And even to some extent engineering management, which again I did for a [00:17:00] little while as well. I think of that as a, as a continuum. I should also say that at Siebel, we did not make a differentiation between product managers and product marketers.

There was no, everyone was a product manager to be. The title, and, you know, that there was no, separate role. and, and the people who were most successful at C able we’re the ones who could figure out a way to both have a conversation with the customer, and support a sales cycle, and then turn around and have a conversation with an engineer and drive a release.

You know, like the same human being could do 

Tom Wentworth: [00:17:35] both. So that’s. Unusual, you know, I think obviously now the model is, you know, product marketing sort of owns more of the go-to-market side of it. And product management often owns more of the. The backlog and the prioritization for better or worse, but, but what’s the, what should it show, does that make [00:18:00] sense, right?

Should we be thinking about, I guess maybe I’d love to understand your now that you’ve been in so many sides of this, how do you delineate between what a product marketer does and what a product marketer should do? 

Anthony Deighton: [00:18:11] Yeah, so, so first of all, I will say that I, I do have a, a bias, which is, I don’t think we should make a strong, a differentiation.

As we do. So, meaning I think this, Organizations which create very strong boundaries between product managers and product marketers. they lose something in that. and while I agree with you that it’s hard to find people who can bridge both. I think just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.

I think you should look for people who can do both. that said, I think that there are different tasks at play here. you know, primarily I see, the product marketer as the person who’s. translating, what we’ve built from a product perspective into language that the customer cares about that they’re, that they’re, they can understand, or they want to engage in and that they effectively want to buy.

[00:19:00] And that the product manager is responsible for translating the needs and requirements, of the customer into something that an engineer can understand that they can then build. and, you know, those are, I think of those two things as two halves of a coin. you know, so, the perfect sort of, is the, a microcosm of it is you show up at a customer site, you pitch your product.

So you’re sharing the product marketing messaging, and positioning for your product. And you know what you’d like the customer to eventually buy. And, and the customer buys it and then they give you feedback as they’re deploying it, which you then bring into your engineering team. Like, like that, to me, that cycle is sort of what I would love to see more of versus this kind of like a process where we sort of throw two different people at that task.

Tom Wentworth: [00:19:50] Yeah, it’s interesting. You know, I’ve, I’ve never been, not true. I was a product manager for a couple of weeks, a couple of weeks, once it’s a [00:20:00] long story. I ejected from a company after getting an, it was not good. I don’t want to get into it here. And on the record, like back in 2000, when I lived in foster city, it’s a matter of fact, But I have been a product manager for brief time, but I have been a product manager for a long, our product marketer for a long time.

And one of the things that, that I, I think is been a blessing and a curse to product marketers is the advent of tools like gong. Right? So gong is this unbelievable. Platform that records every customer call and, and analyzes, you know, creates text transcription and puts in. It looks for specific words and phrases.

But what I always liked as a product marketer was getting out in front of customers, myself, and doing a pitch and gong doesn’t solve that problem. How, how do you think, like what’s the best way if you’re a product marketer and you’re, you’ve, you’ve broken it up the way you’ve described, right. What’s the best way.

Do you think gong is enough to be able to be a good product marketer? 

Anthony Deighton: [00:20:58] Absolutely not. I think gong [00:21:00] is one half of the equation. it’s a wonderful tool, for example, to understand. Can your Salesforce articulate your message? Right. And also to some extent, Can the recipient of that message. You know, what questions are they asking?

Can they, can they understand it? it’s a great tool for that, but it is absolutely no substitute for standing up in front of the customer, you know, virtually or in real life and doing your pitch. one of the things we were talking about Siebold, Dave Schmaier, who, who, who ran product there, you know, I for a bunch of random reasons, I was kind of worked closely with him, over the course of a bunch of times.

So I would watch him do the Siebel pitch. And the thing I noticed about it is he always said the same thing every single time, same jokes, same pauses. Like it was like, you literally wind him up and hit play, and then out it would come in. Now it was 95% the same every time. And it was 5% that was different.

And what you could see, what he was doing [00:22:00] was he had his pitch. And he would see what worked and then he would tweak and he would change 5%. And so each time. Tweaked by 5%. and then, you know, over the course of, you know, a month or two, that the pitch would shift so to speak, you know, you’d see different things being emphasized, et cetera, that sort of rigor, is something that I think is really important.

And there’s a tendency I see for, for product marketers today, they almost take a kind of like textbook a theoretical perspective to building, building a pitch. and you know, they’ll, you know, they’ll write some great PowerPoint. And then you’re like, well, how many times have you delivered this? Like how many times you’ve done it in front of an audience to see what they go for?

and the answer is like zero or one, or I did it for my cat or, you know, no, like. Take it on the road. Go see, go see it. But by the way, I’ve always thought that for me, that work is very close to what it means to be a standup comics. So stand up comics, the way they, you see these one-hour Netflix specials, the [00:23:00] Netflix special, like literally the person could be asleep and do that special.

Like this zero new material there. What they’ve done is they’ve spent the last year and a half traveling clubs, these tiny little clubs and trying material and having a bomb and having it not work and then doing it again and then tweaking it and putting the emphasis here and trying a different punchline.

That’s the same thing. We do a great pitch comes from that. Like it, when you do it well, you’re completely bored by it. Like, it’s like, I’ve done this 32 times this week and I’m just sick and tired of it. that’s when you know, you’re starting to get good. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:23:36] it’s I got three pieces of feedback there. One, I now have the title of this podcast, something about, you know, stand up comedy and product market day.

Number two. I want to be, my dream job would be to be a standup comedian someday. So maybe after, you know, when I’m in my sixties, I don’t know if it’s too late or not. I’ll be at the comedy store in 

Anthony Deighton: [00:23:56] LA 

Tom Wentworth: [00:23:58] working on pitches, but [00:24:00] I came to part of, so my path was I came to. You know, graduated you and I are. And also this is a weird coincidence.

First three guests I’ve had on my podcast were all math majors. I was a math major as well. We’re all former CMOs or CMOs students seems weird to me. None of us went to school for marketing yet. Here we are. 

Anthony Deighton: [00:24:18] well, but the funniest people in the room are always the mathematicians. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:24:21] Yeah, exactly. That’s a lie.

Differential equations are hilarious. and then I came in through an se, so I graduated the CS degree, and, and got to be an se. And I would always have product marketers asking, you know, asking me to go out and pitch pitch customers. And, you know, they they’d come along and hear me do the pitch and like, Oh, you’re pretty good at this.

Maybe we should bring you over to product marketing, but I had some product marketers were fantastic. I would work with and I would use their stuff verbatim. And I always had respect for those product marketers, but then I’d have product marketers would give me stuff that I would tear out 80% of it because it just didn’t work.

And these were product marketers that the field, I [00:25:00] always felt like the simple way to look at how successful something is, is if the field is pulling you in, like your S your pitch is so good, they want to hear you deliver it. And if that isn’t happening, That’s that that’s a sign of something. 

Anthony Deighton: [00:25:13] Exactly. So if, if you’re a, it, if you embark on this standup comedy career, which I have, and when you embark on your Stanford, you know, if the clubs won’t book you, that’s good feedback.

Like that’s just the Navy, your, your, stuff’s not that funny. and, and, and you’re a hundred percent, right? Like if, if you’re a product marketer and you’ve built a pitch and no one’s interested, if it’s not compelling, It’s not the right pitch. It may, if it may check all the boxes, it may be the perfect, you know, sort of.

Structure, but it’s not resonating. and, and there’s no substitute for the answer to that problem is not, you know, to go back into a dark room and rebuild your pitch. The answer to that is, you know, go book another club, meaning like go find someone to do that pitch for that, that you might reasonably be interested [00:26:00] in your product and then do it again and then do it again and then tweak it 5% and then tweak it 5%.

And it’s that, that repetition that gets you to a place where bye-bye. A subtle sort of, allegory or, or, parallel to here. We do these big events. you guys just put on your big user conference, super successful, you know, Tamar did the same thing. We do these big events and the feeling is that what we need to do for those events is build a whole new pitch, right?

We want all new decks, all new PowerPoint. It’s going to be great. It’s always a disaster. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:26:30] Yes. 

Anthony Deighton: [00:26:31] The better thing to do is to take the thing that really works. Sure. You know, clean it up, tune it up, you know, and then in the month before, you know, let’s say it’s either it’s you or you’re a CEO. That’s doing the pitch in the month before do that pitch every single day.

And not to yourself, I go find a customer like by the time you do it, On stage for the, for the audience, you should be so thoroughly bored by it. Then, then you can do it in your sleep. and it be [00:27:00] great. Like the audience will love it because while you’re bored with it, you know, you will have, you’ll hit your marks.

Your timing will be good. Your, you know, the, the, the points that resonate will get emphasized, the things that doesn’t are cut, like it’s, it’s tight. It’s. Crisp. Yeah, it’s it’s a really, you know, if, if your, if your, if, if when you get on stage, at a big event, virtual or not, if that’s the first time you’re doing that PowerPoint, it’s going to fail.

If it’s the first time your CEO seen it, it’s going to fail. But if it’s the 80th time, it’s going to be really great. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:27:31] Yeah, we got lucky. So we just did our presentation, our predict event about a month ago, but we we’ve focused mostly on messaging that we had developed for a launch over the whole summer.

So by the time it predict came around, this was stuff that had been practiced over and over and over again. But it’s good feedback going forward. I think as marketers and I talked about this in my last episode there. Sure. We, we, we like to move on too quickly from things. And my saying is by the time marketing is bored of something, [00:28:00] sales is just starting to get it by the time sales is bored of something.

Customers are just starting to get it by the time customers get bored of something is when it’s starting to work. And you should maybe in a few years think about something new. 

Anthony Deighton: [00:28:10] I think that’s very Sage advice and, and, very consistent, you know, with what I’ve seen. Yes, I think that’s, there’s You know, in some cases the mood, the best thing to do.

And frankly, the hardest thing to do as a marketer is to be consistent. There’s a tendency to want to do new things and try new things, you know, repetition, and, consistency. This is true by the way, in, you know, your product messaging. It’s probably double triply true. When it comes to things like branding.

and that like, I always laugh at these companies that sort of, you know, flip around and change their brand and stuff every, every year. you know, the, the, the consistency and, and in fact, one of the things I think helped make a click successful in the early days, is [00:29:00] the product has this metaphor in the actual product of green, white, gray.

Green is selected. White is included. Gray is excluded anyway. All of the branding we did was green, white, and gray. we also have this early problem and decision we needed to take, which is, you may have noticed with click, we spelled the company. Q L I K there’s. No, you, it’s. Nobody could spell it.

It was a complete disaster as like a brand name. So we needed to sort of solve the problem. And we took a decision, which was a, we called it leaning into the queue. So everything became about the queue. Like we lean into this thing, which was a, it was a challenge. And then we just kept at it. And so even to this day, you know, click is green, white, and gray, and it’s got the cue and it’s, it’s all about that.

It’s, it is a very powerful, a very powerful 

Tom Wentworth: [00:29:47] technique. Done over years, decades and centuries, not done over quarters, which is course like we do is we do it as marketers. 

Anthony Deighton: [00:29:55] Yeah. And again, like, I should be really careful here. That doesn’t mean you never [00:30:00] change anything. What am I, you know, like I think go back to the, the Dave Schmaier example, you know, it’s.

You want to change 5% on every iteration you’re, you’re tweaking you’re you’re you’re tuning. you’re you’re buffing the edges. You’re finding the, the sharp points and taking them off. you know, that is the, that’s the trick. And what you’ll find is that over a period of time, a year or two, a lot will change, but it will not change 180 degrees.

It will, it will become. Sharper tuned, edited, focused, powerful, effective as opposed to different. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:30:39] Yeah. And I think that the only way that lasts to close us off dealing with that last mile tuning works is doing it in front of customers, not doing it, you know, in front of your cat or in a zoom.

But that last 5% can only be done out in the front lines. 

Anthony Deighton: [00:30:54] Yeah. No, a hundred percent. You need to, you need to literally read the room. Like, what are people reacting [00:31:00] to, you know, again, like, you know, like running your material in the comedy cellar in New York, like that’s the way you find out. And, you know, standup is, is much more, visceral and direct in the sense that you will literally get heckled and yelled at and stuff thrown at you and you won’t get booked together.

Like it’s, it’s a very direct point of feedback. but you know what? Enterprise software customers do. Very similar things. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:31:23] I was an se for a long time, man. I used to get some, maybe not things thrown at me, but I’ve had people get up and walk out before a, of a demo that didn’t feel good. 

Anthony Deighton: [00:31:33] Yeah. Again, like, and you know, it feels bad in the moment, but it’s actually, It’s great feedback.

Like if your, if your stuff’s not resonating, you know, better for them better to know that then to do it for six months, you know, on zoom meetings or whatever. And the idea that 

Tom Wentworth: [00:31:50] my quick story was, it was, we were told that we should, this is back when Sarbanes Oxley was a thing and I was selling content management and we were told as se is [00:32:00] going to get out there and pitch our new Sarbanes Oxley solution.

Here’s your pitch deck? And we clearly knew nothing about Sarbanes-Oxley and you know, we’d been given some talking points that were just clearly nonsense. So we’re out there and pitching our Sarbanes Oxley solution to. You know, some sorta risk person at an insurance company like Aetna or Cigna. And they just said, this is a waste of our time.

This meeting is going to stop now. And, we had to do a long drive all the way back from Hartford to Boston and it was not comfortable, but it happens. 

Anthony Deighton: [00:32:31] Yeah, I’ll look it up. Moments like that are an opportunity to go back and do it right into 

Tom Wentworth: [00:32:37] until your product marketers. Yeah. That messaging didn’t quite work.

In fact, we were kicked out 10 minutes into our pitch deck. 

Anthony Deighton: [00:32:43] That is a, that’s a, that’s a, that’s a low bar. One that one should hopefully be able to hop over. But yes, fair enough. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:32:49] But it’s got to happen to you once. All right. So. After Clegg had a bunch stuff at click. And I think we talked about product managers, product marketers.

Then you went to Solonus as the CMO, and I know you’d run [00:33:00] marketing before, but what, what was your, what was the experience like going from product to, you know, all of a sudden now having to carry to manage a number and think about brand and comms and all these things that you probably don’t worry about as much as a head of product?

Anthony Deighton: [00:33:17] Yeah, no, I think it’s a great question. look, I think it was, it was, A fun challenge, that there are the central challenge for Solonus was how to invent a category, that helped them break out of the noise of what they call the category they were positioned in, which was called process mining. and, you know, that was, at its core that as a product positioning and product marketing challenge.

So. At some level, yes, it’s CMOs, but there was this core product marketing challenge at the heart of it, which was partly what was sort of intellectual. Interesting to me. The other side of it, from a pure career perspective is while I had done marketing at Klick, I had never, [00:34:00] owned. Demand gen. And, one of the great opportunities at Sloan is, and partly because it was a very new company, it was moving to the U S the U S operations were very small, was to take on the challenge, of building a demand gen function, and, and having the opportunity to do that.

From first principles, as opposed to working with a broken demand gen that needed to be fixed, which I think is maybe a harder challenge. and so I just. On a purely like fun perspective. That was a great challenge. And, and I was excited for the opportunity to dig into that. you know, the branding, marketing communications work, there were frankly, there was a big opportunity and requirements there as well.

That’s not my strong suit. And so I, you know, I had. you know, I augmented the team with people who are much better at that than I, and I think that, you know, so you, one does need to think about what one’s personal strengths are, versus, where you need to augment, yeah. [00:35:00] With, with, you know, outsiders.

Tom Wentworth: [00:35:01] Yeah. Dave Kellogg talked about that. He said there are three pillars of a great CMO. You can be great at demand gen and growth. You can be great at comms and brand, or you can be great at product marketing, but. You know, only, you can only realistically pick two there isn’t, you know, there there’s five people on the planet who might be great at all three.

And I know I’m a demand gen product marketing guy. Sounds like you might be as well. But, I thought that was an interesting observation. 

Anthony Deighton: [00:35:27] No, I think it’s a, it’s a various doot one and I would actually go further and say, you’re generally good at one. and, and you, you typically, so. and by the way, I think Dave is exactly right on the pillars, right?

it’s really, maybe I’ll call it a product pillar, a sales pillar, demand gen, and then a branding and communications pillar. and you know, it’s clear my strength is on the product side, so there’s no, I don’t have any doubt on that. and, and, you know, for me, you know, doing the demand gen thing, [00:36:00] like I said, it was a fun time intellectual exercise, but I absolutely brought in, I hired people and brought in and, you know, experts, people who are really good at that.

and certainly on the comm side as well, So it’s, it’s partly a question of self-awareness. I think the tendency for people, this is a more general truth, but the tendency for new managers is to believe that you only get credit for things when you do them yourself. So if your hands aren’t in the pie, that you didn’t make it and good and experienced managers realize that, that’s almost exactly a hundred percent upside down that in fact, Credit flows and credit to the extent that that matters, but, you know, credit flows to the team that achieves the outcome, the outcome, and to the leader of that team and great leaders.

You know, really use opportunities to, to point at the, the folks on their team that are, that have achieved those things, recognizing that building them up does not diminish them. In fact, it’s the opposite, [00:37:00] building them up, builds them. Yeah. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:37:01] It’s what creates the, I mean, it’s what creates the opportunity to go in and tackle the next set of challenges.

Right. So, yeah, we’re, we’re going through that now. We’re trying to record a future, you know, w we want to make sure we hire. We continue to hire. We’ve hired. We have really great people with a few years experience, but we need sort of in some areas like product marketing, you know, we want to bring in more experienced people so we can then elevate and tackle the next set of problems.

So it’s, some I’ve learned I’m super good at being able to hire people smarter than me. It’s not that hard to do in retrospect, but it makes me look good for sure. It makes us look good as managers. 

Anthony Deighton: [00:37:41] Yeah. And thinking about. Balancing one’s self. Like there’s a tendency for people to try to hire people that are carbon copies of them.

And in fact, what you should look for are people who, who balance you. And that I think is a, again, a sort of a new [00:38:00] manager fault or, you manage a mistake is, is to sort of look, look to copy themselves as opposed to balance themselves. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:38:07] And it’s a bigger point, but it’s also the fallacy of cultural fit.

Like we used to talk about cultural fit, eight years guy. I remember this explicitly at a company it’s like, we want to hire somebody. You want to get a beer with after work. And I’m like, and that’s fine. That doesn’t mean cultural fit necessarily. Or that might mean cultural fit. It doesn’t mean cultural add, which is, I think the real purpose of this find people that give us a broader perspective who can fill in our blind spots and.

I think that’s not a part of it too. Hiring people who are just like me is not what it’s going to take to build a billion dollar company, you know, 

Anthony Deighton: [00:38:42] completely agree. And I think, you know, it’s, I see that happening a lot. If I, I think you could almost, as an antidote to that behavior is to, when you’re looking for, for hiring, you look for people.

That are very different, that brings something unique and [00:39:00] special. yeah, obviously they need to be skilled and, and you want them to, to bring an expertise into whatever job you’re looking for them. But, but I always liked people that, Have something different that they’ve maybe they’ve done a different job or they have a particularly a unique hobby or their, or no, or they’re willing to sort of disagree in the interview.

That’s always something interesting who were willing to take a contrarian view. you know, it doesn’t mean, they’re always right. but it, if you can’t defend your thinking. To a teammate, especially one that works for you. You know, you probably, it’s probably not a very good, well held, held belief, you know, like that.

That’s not giving you some concern. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:39:41] And one in one, take a nap like in an interview and somebody comes and tells me all the things I’m doing well. Well, like I get, I get the spirit. You’re trying to be nice, but it’s also risky because I had this happen and it was things I hated. It was things that I’m like, I can’t wait to destroy this and break it.

Like somebody tells me your website [00:40:00] is so great. And I’m like, I hated every second. I look at it. so it’s a risky thing. I would much rather have somebody tell me what they don’t like and fight that then there’s no risk or there’s less risk for me. Yeah. 

Anthony Deighton: [00:40:11] And that’s not an excuse, for, for being rude.

I think that people, confuse disagreeing with being disagreeable. and you know, th there’s a really professional way to do that. and by the way, this also speaks to a related issue. There are two types of people in the world. There are a problem identifiers and problem fixers. and you know, I don’t know what the ratio is, but you meet people who are wonderful at sort of like making lists of problems.

and then you meet people who are. Dog it about fixing problems and I’m always attracted to that, to the latter. you know, the, the former make very good consultants. And I mean, I think there can be, especially in big companies, it can be really valuable to have people who are sort of good at sort of finding the issues [00:41:00] so to speak.

But especially in smaller companies and startups and things like that, you know, people who are like lack, latch onto something and then wrestle to the ground and fix it, that skillset, it, it requires obviously being able to identify the problem, but also this kind of dogged determination to try whatever it takes to get it fixed.

again, in interviews, I see that as well, like, you know, somebody can give you a long list of things that are wrong with your website. I’d be more interested in the person who sits and says, here’s the top five things I would do. Do differently on your website to make it better, like great. Those are the five things we can implement tomorrow.

You’re hired, right. Versus there’s a list of 40 things, which I don’t even know where to start to 

Tom Wentworth: [00:41:36] fix. So my last question for you, which, which touches a lot of these things, you sound a lot to me a little bit. I can consultant. And I’m going to guess. That’s because you’re a Harvard MBA guy and I’ve always been fascinated by people with MBAs.

I didn’t, I don’t know what the four P’s are still these days. I’ve never taken a marketing class in my life. but I, I would [00:42:00] love I, but I get asked a lot by people who are earlier in their careers about the value of an MBA. And I tell people to go for it. I think there’s value, especially obviously a Harvard MBA, but if somebody who’s gone through that now, and it can reflect, you know, what, what did, what did the MBA do for you and you think, you know, how would you, how do you talk about that to people that you advise?


Anthony Deighton: [00:42:21] I’d say a bunch of different things. so the Harvard MBA for me was incredibly valuable. and remain valuable to this day. but also understand and appreciate that I did it over 20 years ago. So my experience of it 20 years ago, versus what you would do and get today, I have a harder time commenting on that in the moment.

just cause I’m not, I’m not doing it. It, my, my apotheosis is that it’s, it’s still a very valuable, investment of time. My recommendation to people is to do the MBA sooner, rather than later, there’s a huge opportunity cost associated with taking yourself out of the workforce for a year and a half, two years.

you know, [00:43:00] I did it very young, relative to the, to the average. and I would suggest, you know, if it were, if I were advising someone, I’d say, if your decision between doing it this year and next year, do it this year. If it’s a decision between, you know, like the sooner you can do that, the better.

for the obvious opportunity cost. I also think that it generally is, in generally a master’s degree, in any sort of, higher education, which is high, typically highly specialized, in a focused educational experience is, is very valuable. and then the other thing that the MBA it gives you.

is, network and friends. and I don’t mean like, maybe friends is the wrong word. It gives you a network. and like-minded people who are interested in, in that case business. You know, if you do a master’s in, you know, in, in some other field that you’re, that you’re in, you know, you meet a bunch of people who are interested in that field.

and, and that, that group of people have been. You know, people I’ve kept in. I literally had a phone call with a business school. [00:44:00] Classmate middle of last week is doing a startup. you know, we were talking about all kinds of stuff that, you know, so like it’s a network you can tap into, on demand.

It’s been, I still do it to this day. and I find it very valuable. So I agree with your, advice to people which would mirror very closely mine, which is generally speaking. Yes, you should do it. But I would only add do it sooner rather than later don’t delay it. If you think it’s something you want to do, you know, get on it.

and, you know, and, you know, it’s generally, you know, the only caveat I would give is, you know, I did a long time ago, so, 

Tom Wentworth: [00:44:36] but it’s, it’s the skills you learn are the kinds of skills that give you a headstart, like understanding. The economics of business, like really, really what a P and L is, and like your, how your, how hard it is for your great idea to actually make money on a P and L and how to negotiate and all the things that like you can [00:45:00] learn through your career.

But, you know, it’s, it’s just, bootcamp, right? 

Anthony Deighton: [00:45:04] It’s you in a fairly focused period of time, you’ll get exposure to. A wide range. And in MBA, at least you get an exposure to a wide range of business topics. you, but naturally in your career will take one or two of those and get really focused on them.

so, you know, obviously for me it’s been marketing, but, You know, like I still think back to accounting classes I took or to finish dance classes. I took just a very random thing. when we took click private, we built a discounted cashflow analysis to think about the economics of that go private deal.

As we thought about, the, management incentive portion of the equity compensation. And, but you know, who built the, the DCF. Me, you know, like I sat down with this. I mean, it was literally like what I would have done, you know, in the first year of finance clause, the building a discounted cash flow for a deal.

Like it was, I [00:46:00] almost literally went back to, you know, templates, spreadsheets that we had, at the time. So like, those are skills that, that, you know, that you’ll have and, you know, you know, I don’t build many discounted cashflow analysis today. I hope 

Tom Wentworth: [00:46:12] not. 

Anthony Deighton: [00:46:13] In the rare event you need to, I, I have a pretty good understanding of, of what needs to go into it and I’ll pull that up.

So yeah, no, I think it’s, again, I, you know, I worry sometimes I’m a bit biased, cause I, I I’m thinking about MBA from 20 years ago, but I think it generally is a, is a very strong degree. That forms a really good foundation for anyone who’s interested in, you know, leading a company in the technology space.

Tom Wentworth: [00:46:38] Yeah. Well, I think in a lot of ways, you know, your career arc speaks for itself and sort of validates the approach you chose, obviously not the only way to do it these days, but, I think it’s, it’s still is a very valid way for people to think about their career. And, it’s a hard decision to make when you’re 22 and you want to.

Yeah, get onto the real world again, but it’s, for a lot of people I know it’s [00:47:00] worked out really well, so well, Anthony, thanks a lot for your time today. This has been fantastic. You’re a extremely well-respected, marketer product guy leader in the Boston area and around here at recorded future. So I really do thank you for taking time and this has been great.

Anthony Deighton: [00:47:15] Yeah. Oh my pleasure. And yeah, I look forward to hearing it on the interwebs. 

Tom Wentworth: [00:47:22] Thanks again, Andy. 

Anthony Deighton: [00:47:23] All right. Talk soon. [00:49:00] [00:48:00]


Eric Schurr on Great Product Marketing

On today’s episode of Scaleup Marketing, I talk to Eric Schurr, the former CMO of Carbon Black, and one of the best marketers to come out of the Boston tech ecosystem. I was told by a former boss of mine that Eric was the best product marketer he had ever worked with, and I think you’ll learn why in this episode.

We talk about the importance of great product marketing, the need for product marketers to lead the go-to-market as the CMOs or their business, and how to make the sales and marketing relationship really work.

Tom Wentworth:

On today’s episode of Scaleup Marketing, I talk to Eric Schurr. The former CMO of Carbon Black and one of the best marketers to come out of the Boston tech ecosystem. I was once told by a former boss of mine that Eric was the best product marketer that he’d ever worked with and I think you’ll learn why in this episode. We talk about the importance of great product marketing, the need for product marketers to lead the go-to market as CMOs of their business, and how to make the sales and marketing relationship really work. Hey Eric, how are you?

Eric Schurr:

Morning, Tom. I’m great. How are you doing?

Tom Wentworth:

I’m fantastic. Looking out the first snowy day of what I hope to be a snowy winter here in Boston area.

Eric Schurr:

Well, you can have it. I’m more of a sunbird guy, so good for you, but I’ll be heading to the sun pretty soon.

Tom Wentworth:

Thanks for joining me today for my second episode. Really appreciate it. Just to go ahead and… I’d love if you’d talk a little bit about your background.

Eric Schurr:

Well, I’ve always been in high-tech software marketing. Sometimes a little bit in sales and also in product management but the emphasis has been on marketing. I was fortunate enough to be part of a lot of really successful companies including SQA, Rational, I was at IBM for a bit, Gomez, Carbon Black. Took one or two companies public, got acquired two or three times. There are a lot of acquisitions. Had a lot of fun over quite a few years of high-tech software marketing.

Tom Wentworth:

That’s it? That’s all you’ve done? Actually, my first job out of college was in QA. I was a computer science major, and I used SQA products back in the day, like macros, in testing, in regression tests and all that.

Eric Schurr:

Wow. You were one of those customers that didn’t pay their bills I think.

Tom Wentworth:

Probably. And you spent a lot of time at Rational. I think the most interesting part of Rational is how it ultimately spawned Netflix, right?

Eric Schurr:

Yeah, that’s right. Rational bought Pure Atria and some of the folks from Pure Atria left, Reed Hastings, and most notably and a few other guys went over to do Netflix. That’s obviously a runaway success.

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah. I don’t know how you go from software development to distributing DVDs over the internet but…

Eric Schurr:

You have to be very smart-

Tom Wentworth:


Eric Schurr:

Reed and his team, he had some really great guys there.

Tom Wentworth:

I first got to know of you… First of all, your daughter worked for me, so that was clearly one way. But the other way was, I remember being… I worked for a company called Acquia, my boss was CEO, Tom Erickson. I think we were somewhere at dinner and I said, “Hey, Tom. Who’s the best product marketer you ever worked…?” It might have been marketer by the way, I might be underselling you. I remember it being best product marketer ever. And I’m like, “He’ll probably say me,” was how I was thinking and he said you. He was like, “Eric Schurr.” I’m like, “What? Eric Schurr? The best product marketer ever.” So I’ve always remembered that when we talked about it at dinner, and I asked him why and I think that’s a big part of what we’ll talk about today is just, what makes a great product marketer.

Tom Wentworth:

Another quote I came about was another person in the Acquia family, Tom Bogan. Another well-known software exec, that spent a lot of time in the Boston area. His LinkedIn review of you… And you’ve got a lot of great LinkedIn reviews by the way. I don’t know if you’ve checked that at all but your LinkedIn reviews are spectacular, but Tom said-

Eric Schurr:

I wrote most of them, Tom.

Tom Wentworth:

That’s why, exactly. Here, I’ll write this for you, you just post it. “Eric is unequivocally one of the most talented people with whom I’ve ever worked. He has an uncanny ability to articulate product and positioning advantages from a customer or user perspective back into the technology.” I want someone to write those words about me. But I wanted to start with that and what makes a great product marketer. I talked to Dave Kellogg, a few days ago, another spectacularly good product marketer, and his take on it was, “A successful product marketer takes a complex gray world and transforms it into a simple black and white one. If you don’t have row-level locking, you’re screwed. If you don’t have semi-additive measures, you’re screwed. If you don’t have financial consolidation, you’re screwed. If you don’t have Hyper Box, you’re screwed. The great marketer imposes simplicity on the market.” What’s your take on what makes great product marketing?

Eric Schurr:

It’s a great question. I think it’s all about messaging and positioning. When I think about that, I think there’s three key elements to it. The first is what I’ll just call a great marketecture. I think we all know what that term means. Product marketers need a way to understand their product and then distill all of those capabilities down into a way that makes the most important elements quickly digestible by a potential buyer. Now, oftentimes that’s done through what’s called a marketecture, which is a graphical depiction of the most important capabilities of your product, in a way that people can grasp. [inaudible 00:05:09] pictures are a lot easier to grasp than just a bunch of words.

Eric Schurr:

The second thing, Tom, and I think this is the most important which is often very overlooked. You need to differentiate your product from other offerings. Today’s educated buyer is going to look at all kinds of comparable offerings that are similar to your products. And then for them, you have to answer a basic question. Why should you buy my product? Too many marketers only focus on conveying the basic benefits of the product, which is great, but it doesn’t differentiate you, because those benefits are usually benefits of somebody else complaint. Most of the benefits boil down to saving you time and money and effort and so forth. So you need to not only say why your product is good but why your product is different.

Eric Schurr:

And then the third piece of it is, you need to have a simple compelling message. After you’ve figured out your marketecture and your major benefits and your differentiation, I’ll underline that, you need a way to communicate it in a simple, memorable way. Usually, if you could have three words or short phrases, that’s the best way to do it. I’m going to give you a great example that shows you how old I am. In fact, in the early days of relational databases, Oracle’s entire value proposition was expressed in three words, compatibility connectability, portability. If you as a potential buyer, if you understood those three concepts and you wanted those three capabilities, you couldn’t get all three from anybody else. And obviously, Oracle rolled over the competition in the relational database market. 40 years later I can still remember those phrases so that’s great messaging.

Eric Schurr:

Now, once you’ve done all of those three things, Tom, and that’s the conceptual part of defining your message, there’s a fourth piece, which actually I’ll also say, a lot of people forget to do well. You have to maniacally state that messaging everywhere. You have to really be thorough about making sure that it’s expressed the same way on your website, your sales presos, your press releases, everywhere. It’s hard to do this. It’s a lot of work and the natural tendencies for most salespeople and even people on your marketing team, will be to want to deal it in a way that they think is best. I have my own special way I like to say this, that doesn’t cut it because if you let everybody do that, you don’t have a consistent message. And if you want to break through in the market, everyone has to sing from the same song book. Only then will your collective voice be heard.

Tom Wentworth:

I think there’s a couple of lessons in there. One lesson is, I think we have a lot of recency bias as marketers and we look to some of the recent success stories, companies that have IPOd recently like Snowflake or Sumo Logic and look at them as this sort of golden standard for marketing but Oracle is a great example. We underestimate how great Oracle was at marketing, how great Larry Ellison was as a marketer. And you can definitely remember, I can remember, Oracle glossy ads with big old hardware and just laying out Oracle versus their competitor and why Oracle was a 100X better, a claim that everyone knew was made up and BS. But I got to imagine they sold a lot of databases and hardware through that approach, right?

Eric Schurr:

Oh, yeah. They took a complex world. Back then relational databases were a new concept. It was a very abstract thing and it was a difficult sale over some of the more established database structures. They took a complex thing and bottled it down into some very simple concepts and they just hammered those concepts home. And every Oracle ad looked the same way. It was always a white background with red lettering. You could always recognize it. I think sometimes marketers try to be too creative and come up with different ways of saying things and doing things. To get a message out in the market, you’ve got to hammer the same message, the same brand identity, over and over again for a year or more easily. It’s like teaching a grade school, you’re going to do this over and over again until you get it right. You got to just keep doing it over and over again.

Tom Wentworth:

You’re giving me the chills right now because that’s exactly… I think I once wrote, “By the time marketing gets bored of a message, it’s just about when sales is starting to understand it. By the time sales gets bored of a message, it’s just about when customers are starting to understand it, and by the time customers get bored is when you should maybe think in a few years about trying something different.” We love… And I’m so guilty of doing this in my career. We move on from message quarter to quarter. How do you expect a customer to understand your true value prop and differentiation when every quarter it looks different to them? I think of the historically great companies, it’s always been basically the same. Maybe the words have changed but the idea has basically been the same.

Eric Schurr:

Tom, that’s a great… I love your little story about when sales gets bored, when market… It’s so true and it’s so… Marketing people by their nature are creative people and they want to create new things, so the tendency is to want to always recreate, recreate. I always thought when you built a messaging platform, you have to run it, at least 18 months. Now, you’ve got to tune it around the edges and you can’t just stick with where you are forever, but you got to pick something that you feel committed to and everybody has to do it.

Eric Schurr:

Again, this is the hard part. The CEO has to live that messaging. It doesn’t work if the marketing team comes up with a messaging that the company agrees to and then the next all hands meeting the CEO talks about the offering differently. The CEO has to be… Everybody has to align up. And that’s… I think another important part of this is, the messaging should not be the marketing message. It’s the company message and [inaudible 00:11:28] formulated through a combination of marketing people, salespeople, [inaudible 00:11:34] people, the CEO. It’s a collaborative effort. You’ll all agree to it, you sign in blood, this is going to be our message and then you run with it, for at least 18 months.

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah. And I think it’s then done that way, the message also becomes the corporate strategy and not the marketing strategy because then the message that comes from the top guides how sales thinks about it, how customer success thinks about it. That’s really the only way to do it. You’re totally right. We’re actually at a messaging project at my company right now, Recorded Future, and we’re making sure that there’s buy-in from the top because otherwise it’s just a waste of time, to be honest.

Eric Schurr:

Absolutely. I used to grind my teeth when people would say something about your message or the marketing message and I would say, “No, it’s our message.” We put this together collectively. You have to have the sales team bought in, because if the sales VP doesn’t buy in and he lets the sales team do whatever they want and give their own presentation… This happens all the time. You walk around the sales team and different salespeople are each using a little different presentation. The only way you should customize the presentation, if it’s for the particular needs of that prospect, you don’t customize it in terms of expressing your value proposition. It’s not your right as a salesperson to come up with your own unique message. You’re obligated. You should be obligated to express the corporate message as part of a collective voice.

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah. I was an SE for a lot of my career and I was super guilty of that. I would take the marketing deck and I was out there pitching four or five times a week as an SE, and I would try to put my own spin on… I’m actually going to interview the guy who was delivering all this message and I’m going to apologize to him for subverting all of the work that he did, but I didn’t know any better and I didn’t realize and now seeing it from my side how damaging that is, when you got a bunch of SEs or reps out there telling a story that’s not consistent, it works against the company.

Tom Wentworth:

I’ll share… I worked at a company called Autonomy for a little bit. Autonomy was known for lots of things, some of them criminal, but a lot of… Autonomy was really good at marketing and messaging and they used to certify us on it. And not a sort of casual, let’s have some fun certification, there was somebody at autonomy, where as a new hire, you would have to pass this person. And if you were customer facing, you would have to pass the test. I think the guy’s name was Bob. You had to go present the message to Bob and Bob would Simon Cowell ask, “Pick apart everything you did wrong in telling the Autonomy story.” It created a culture where… By the way, if you failed this test you couldn’t get paid commission, so it was a serious hurdle across. It seemed pretty draconian but in retrospect, everybody… Tom, this is big company, a couple of thousand people was telling the story consistently.

Eric Schurr:

I love it.

Tom Wentworth:

That’s something you think we should do?

Eric Schurr:

Absolutely. I love that. I love Bob. I’d also [inaudible 00:14:59]. I worked at a company once where the message was completely fragmented. And I was tasked with putting together a new message and I worked with a team. We constructed this message platform that everybody liked. The CEO told the sales team, “I’m going to be traveling around office to office. I’m going to randomly grab people in the office. I’m going to ask you within 10 minutes to give me your sales presentation. If you’re fumbling and stumbling with your materials and you’re not prepared, I know that you don’t have the right thing ready. And if you don’t deliver the message that I know was crafted as part of the corporate effort, I will reserve the right to fire you if need be.”

Eric Schurr:

He also ran a corporate wide contest. I like this the best actually. He ran a contest for the person to deliver the message the best. And there were local and regional presentations where people battled to get sent up to corporate. And then like eight guys came to corporate and we watched them all present and we picked the best guy and he got some big reward. So there’s the carrot and the stick. But either way, if you don’t have everybody saying the same message, you don’t have a message. Because in today’s market, you got to really work hard to break through, and you can’t have a bunch of little voices each saying their own thing, it has to be consistent.

Tom Wentworth:

I think we just found the title of this podcast. So thank you for that.

Eric Schurr:

By the way, the marketeers are guilty of this too, Tom. Marketing people love to be creative and come up with a new thing. But I think it’s really essential when you build a messaging strategy that you create something, we used to call it a core message platform. It’s just a document in a sales presentation, but in it it has the 15-word, the 40-word, the 30-word, the 100-word description of your company, and you tell your team, whenever you’re asked to describe the company, you just cut and paste. You don’t craft something new and different. You put a lot of work in your making those messages consistent and people have to do. It’s hard work. One of the job of the CMO is to make sure everybody is doing the right thing consistently.

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah. I have a new version of that sitting in my inbox right now. I’ve done a pretty poor job of that to be honest with you. We’re big enough now, Recorded Future, we need a much more formalized messaging platform. We also need something that takes us from being… We’re over a $100 million at this point and we want to be much bigger. I think it’s a good time for us to be doing a new messaging platform that’s ultimately not all that new, to your point. I think messaging… But at this point, we want to create something that we can live with to a billion dollars in revenue and beyond. I don’t want to be that company, every time you come to our website you see something different. That’s a hard mentality… Moves white has to be great.

Eric Schurr:

Right. Codifying it is really quite straightforward. The act of producing the message is a lot of hard work, but once you’ve got it, I think you only have to capture it in two simple vehicles. A sales presentation is the most important because nobody wants to read a long document. So a sales presentation with key graphics and, of course, solid messaging is the best way to come to an agreement that this is our message.

Eric Schurr:

And then, you have a written document that captures your marketecture or your key graphical concepts, the key messaging. You grind out all the specifics of the words and how you want to say the opening sentence in your press releases, all that sort of stuff, and then you lock that in and you make sure every marketer has that on their digital desk. And you just put it out everywhere. And when you redo your messaging, it’s a gargantuan effort to do an inventory of everything that needs to be changed and by when. Because you got a bunch of old stuff out there and you got to get rid of that stuff and it’s hard work, but you got to do it.

Tom Wentworth:

We’re in the middle of that right now at Recorded Future. And another email that will go out today or tomorrow is, we’ve moved to a new visual identity. We’re working on a new messaging glock like you talked about, but we’ve got to declare the old stuff being just gone. We’re going to send that email declaring it and we’re going to say, “If you’re still using any of the old stuff, we’ll give you some amnesty and reach out to us and we’ll help you.” But we just can’t… We’ve got to make that switch and it’s hard when you’ve got a team of over 500 people. You can’t just flip a switch.

Eric Schurr:

It takes a long time. When you do a messaging relaunch, you need some really organized project manager in marketing to do a complete inventory and a plan for what’s going to be changed when. And on the day of launch, you need the most important things completely done, the website, the sales preso, some basic collateral, sales training, that kind of stuff. And that will take you months to weed everything else out but you’ve got to do it, otherwise you just have little pieces of cancer out there that erode your main message.

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah. That’s exactly it. Another question I have for you. Your background, a lot like mine, is marketing technical products. You worked at Rational Software Development, Compuware, most recently at Carbon Black, and I’ve always felt that product marketing to technologists, to developers, CIOs, people that’ll just see through superlatives and see through adjectives, I’ve always felt that super hard compared to product marketing for other marketers. It’s like marketing for ourselves. If I like it, chances are my peers are going to like it. What do you think it takes to do successful product marketing when you’re selling to technologists, whether it’s CIO, or CSO, or whatever?

Eric Schurr:

I think one of the hard things about product marketing and messaging and positioning in general in the high-tech software space, is you’re marketing a very abstract thing. Think about a piece of software, they can’t touch it. They can only see it through a little bit of the user interface. You can’t feel it or smell it. It’s not a physical object. If I’m marketing you a chair, I can just show you the chair. There’s not much of a debate about what the chair is. But when you’re marketing a software product, there’s a lot of debate about, what it is, and what it does, and what it’s good at, and what you should talk about. It’s a complicated, tricky thing. I think hiring a product marketing person is the hardest position to hire in marketing, because the best ones have a combination of good product knowledge, marketing creativity, and excellent communication skills. Now, right there, that weeds out a lot of people. Because these people have to understand your product’s features and functions, they have to understand the buyer’s needs and pain points, they have to also understand the competition.

Eric Schurr:

The person needs to have what I’ll call some technical acumen. I don’t mean they write C++ or Python code, but they need to be able to go deep with a product manager or an engineer and challenge them on what the product really does and why it matters. They need to be a product person. I think one of the best product marketing people… The best place to find them is what you said about your background, Tom, is an SE.

Tom Wentworth:


Eric Schurr:

Because an SE is a person who has a product skillset. Now you need to find an SE or somebody like that, that really understands the product, then they need great marketing and communication skills, both written and verbal, to communicate that. The verbal part’s really important because they’ll oftentimes present to the sales team, talk to analysts, get involved in a deal, that sort of thing. So I think hiring product marketing people, I always thought it was the hardest position to hire.

Tom Wentworth:

A 100% agreed, because what you just described is every product marketer needs to be a mini CMO of whatever it is they own, whether it’s a product, product line, a module, whatever you call it. You’ve described they need to be able to understand the product, the context the product lives in, competitors, differentiation, USP, ICP, all the things that we… I’ve always sort of thought of product marketers as the CMO of their markets and I’ve always thought that product marketers need to take a pretty strong role in leading the go-to market.

Eric Schurr:


Tom Wentworth:

And one of the signals I always saw as a product marketer, at least, and maybe it’s because I was an SE so this was natural, but I see a really strong signal of success when reps pull product marketers into deal. I’m so happy with the positioning you’ve given me and the tools you’ve equipped me with, that I think you can deliver this even better than I can as a rep. I always wanted to be pulled into deals. I was a product marketer, most recently back at Acquia. I loved when sales reps reached out to me and said, “Hey, let’s go win this together.”

Eric Schurr:

That’s really fantastic and kudos for you if people do that, because I think the more natural place for sales to reach out is to product management, but reaching out to product marketing is great. And I’ll add something too about the scope of a product marketer. At Carbon Black, we actually had our product marketers think of it as they are running their own little business.

Tom Wentworth:


Eric Schurr:

So a product marketer [inaudible 00:24:43] owns a product or maybe a set of products. We would have that product marketer feel a responsibility for the revenue for their product, for the leads for their product, so they would be responsible in our quarterly planning sessions to work with the demand gen team to say, “We think we can generate this many leads for this product in this quarter.” And then the product marketer would be on the hook for that as much as the demand gen team would be, because we wanted both sides to feel an ownership about generating that lead flow and ultimately converting it into revenue. So they need to also be a little bit of the business manager as well as a product marketer.

Tom Wentworth:

Thanks for sharing that, Eric. I’m going to cut that part out of this podcast before I publish because that is, literally, the model we’re moving towards at Recorded Future. One of the big transformations we made this year as a company is we sort of took our platform and broke it up into six pieces that we call modules, and we’ve got product marketers who are responsible for driving the go-to market for each of these modules. And it’s like we went from being a $100 million plus product to now having six startups within a $100 million dollar plus company. And I’ve asked each of the product marketers to really to play the role that you described. If you are product marketing a $6 million business, what do you need to do to turn into a $12 million business?

Eric Schurr:

I love it. I love it. Tom, some product marketers will love that and some will not like it because… Some will say, “Gee, this is great. I’m sort of almost a CEO of a little…” That kind of a thing. Other ones will say, “Hey, wait a minute. I’m really about messaging and positioning and packaging. I don’t really want to get involved in lead gen. I don’t want to be held accountable for those things.” Some people will gravitate and some will resist a little bit.

Tom Wentworth:

Yes. Good advice. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’ll follow back up with you because it’s a transformation we’re going to work on here and I’m sure it’ll be successful. I think they know, the other side of it it’s such a great opportunity. As a product marketer, working towards a CMO career path, what better way to work up that path than to be able to demonstrate that you own and drove your market? Turn that $3 million product into 6, and 6 into 12, and 12 into 24. Next thing you know, you’re sitting in your seat some day.

Eric Schurr:

Then you’ll wonder why you’ve done it. Tom, I agree with that because a good CMO must understand product marketing, messaging, positioning, all that, and also the demand gen side effects. So getting your foot in there as a product marketer is an important step towards being a CMO.

Tom Wentworth:

As I tell my team, they don’t need to be specialists in a channel. The product marketers don’t need to know that a good cost per lead model for this channel is this, we have teams to go do that. What they need to be good is the strategy. What are we saying? Why are we saying it? Who are we saying it to? All other people on the team will figure out the best way to execute.

Eric Schurr:

[inaudible 00:27:57]. They need to have an umbrella view of things. I agree with you. I won’t restate it. I agree.

Tom Wentworth:

Let’s talk a little bit about sales. You are this, one of the rarest of rare marketing executives who’s actually run a sales team before. But I pulled another LinkedIn quote about you, that I thought would sort of set the context for this. And it says, “Anybody’s ever worked in a sales capacity from rep to sales manager can appreciate when they’re aligned with a solid marketing vision and strategy. In my three years working at Compuware Gomez, I was quick to realize Eric Schurr was the best ally a sales team could have. His programs and vision increased lead gen and brand awareness exponentially. He’s got a greater understanding of the challenges a sales team can face but best of all he actually listens to what the sales has to say and respects their input.” As someone who’s run sales and marketing together, what’s your take on what a healthy, aligned sales and marketing organization looks like?

Eric Schurr:

It looks like almost one organization. It looks like two teams working together. Look, I’ve always thought that… I’ve always hated it, when you go into a company and marketing and sales don’t get along. Sales says, “Marketing wouldn’t know a customer if they walked into one,” and marketing says, “Sales never understands what we do and doesn’t pay attention.” They just fight. This is ridiculous because, I always think marketing and sales are two sides of the same coin and that coin is called revenue. So a marketing person needs to say to themselves, everything I do needs to be about ultimately generating revenue. Now I say ultimately, because there’s a lead time and marketing efforts where you do something that doesn’t produce revenue tomorrow, so it’s not like, sales teams that are focused on closing deals right now. But you got to say to yourself, everything I’m doing here needs to be oriented towards generating revenue.

Eric Schurr:

What does that mean? It means you got to work with the sales team because the sales team is a part of the company that keeps the lights on. I would always remind the marketing team, that the sales team is our customer. That means we need to both lead them in some areas, but we need to listen to them and help them as much as possible. And that means marketing and sales needs to have interlocks at every level and a variety of different review points.

Eric Schurr:

Let me tell you what I mean by that. The CMO should meet regularly with the head of sales, just to stay in touch. How are things going? What are you hearing? What’s working? What’s not working? Everybody under the CMO or many people under the CMO will have a counterpart on the sales team. Like the demand gen leader, probably has an inside sales team leader [inaudible 00:30:42] all those leads. They should meet on a regular basis just to keep the communication alive. Sometimes the meeting, you don’t really know what you’re going to talk about, you get into it and all of a sudden the hour’s over.

Eric Schurr:

You’ll also need to have regular review and planning sessions in marketing and you should invite your sales counterparts in for those sessions. We would have quarterly marketing reviews where we would review what happened in the last quarter and set the ground for what’s happening in the next quarter, and we would invite sales to both listen in to what we were planning, as well as… We would twist sales arms to say, you need to present to us about what you’re thinking, what works and what doesn’t work. And the sales team, they’d love the idea of having a voice, but they’re not all that great about sitting down and formulating their thoughts and putting a presentation together, but that was important because it forced them to formulate their thoughts.

Eric Schurr:

Another thing we did at Carbon Black is, once a month or whatever, we would buy lunch for different parts of the telesales team, and we would invite different pieces of the marketing department to that lunch. And it was just about, let’s just talk. You don’t have to have presentations or anything, it’s just about, what are you guys hearing? What’s going on out there? And if nothing more, it just built a collaboration between the two teams. I’ll add one more thing. I always thought it was important to remind the CEO, that sales and marketing must be commonly aligned. If you got a CEO that tries to sort of push the teams apart, that’s not a good thing you need. The CEO needs to remember that these two pieces have to work in synchrony and if they’re not working in synchrony, part of it, is the CEO’s job to help get the leaders aligned.

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah. That was one of the things about Recorded Future when I joined. I know we both know Scott Todaro, the former head of marketing here. He was super passionate about sales and marketing alignment and really did a great job of building a relationship that endures, still at Recorded Future, where there’s never… For the first time in my career, I’ve never been in that meeting where the head of sales just looks over and says, “The leads are weak Glengarry Glen Ross style,” or “I need more leads.” There’s never finger pointing, it’s just, when we run into challenges, it’s how do we go tackle those challenges together. I think it’s easier to do if you’re marketing at a smaller startup or something. Do it early because it’s hard to fix it when you get big.

Eric Schurr:

Oh, yeah. [crosstalk 00:33:28]-

Tom Wentworth:

And if it’s broken when you get big that’s when you start to see CMOs get fired.

Eric Schurr:

Yup. Tom, there’s another thing I’ll add to that too. Almost every sales team does a QBR, Quarterly Business Review. Sometimes it’s in local field teams and sometimes it’s in headquarters with the inside sales team. It’s important that the sales team allow marketing to sit in on it. We would take various people from the marketing team and we would say, “You go to this meeting. You go to that meeting.” Now, your job when you go to that meeting is to both represent marketing and talk about what you know that we’re doing but also document what you’re hearing from the sales team. What’s working, what’s not? What competition is rising, which is falling? What features of the product are resonating, which ones aren’t?

Eric Schurr:

And then you must document that and bring that back and share it with the rest of the marketing team. You can’t just benefit in your own little way by going to the meeting, you’ve got to give it back to everybody else. It’s just important to show sales, we’re on your team. By the way, if sales and marketing don’t get along, guess who wins? Sales always wins, right?

Tom Wentworth:

A 100% of the time [crosstalk 00:34:45]. And as they should. They’re carrying the number. They’ve earned that right.

Eric Schurr:

That’s right. If you’re a CMO and you’re not building a culture of alignment with sales and working with sales… Now, by the way, Tom, this doesn’t mean you’ll roll over and do whatever sales wants. Because lots of times salespeople don’t know what they want. They just express their pain points and their… Like a customer. Lots of customers don’t know what they want. They just know that things aren’t right and they want something different.

Tom Wentworth:


Eric Schurr:

You don’t just do whatever sales says but you listen to what they say, and then formulate a solution that will help them through their problems.

Tom Wentworth:

I think if you listen to what they say you can get some short-term wins but at the expense of next quarter or the quarter out or next year. You’ve probably made decisions that were too short-term focused, like the trade-off between… One of the mistakes I remember making is just, being so hyper-focused on next quarter. A rep has to hit their number this month, this quarter or this year. Marketing can’t take just that view. I have to be thinking, three years from now, what does Recorded Future look like if you over-rotate? And I over-rotated when I was CMO over at Acquia. I was so hyper-focused on the next six months, that I didn’t focus enough on long-term things like brand building that would have actually delivered much better output to the company had I been more thoughtful. I think it is that sort of trade-off of, listen to sales, make sure you’re focused on the short-term but do not do it at the expense of long-term.

Eric Schurr:

Yeah, it’s a great point, Tom. A good CMO and, frankly, a good marketer in general, learns to sort out, what idea should I throw all away? What ideas can I implement in the short-term that will make a benefit, but also play into the third important category which is what’s the long-term view? Yeah. Sorting through those things is critical.

Tom Wentworth:

All right. Speaking of things we can throw away. I want to talk a little bit about marketing in cyber security. You were the CMO at Bit9 and then who became Carbon Black, one of Boston’s great success stories. I think that was your first and only role in cyber security, right?

Eric Schurr:

I doubled a little bit in a previous company, but it was the only time I spent a full-time number of years in cyber security. Yes.

Tom Wentworth:

I’ve found cyber security to be a unique challenge as a marketer for lots of different reasons. I’ve sold to developers and CIOs, and even though, often cyber security lives underneath the CIO, it still feels like a vastly different world to me. The language is different. I had to learn a whole bunch of new acronyms I had no idea what they meant. What was your experience like when you joined Bit9 on sort of just learning the cyber security world?

Eric Schurr:

I agree with you, Tom, it is a different world and it’s probably tougher for you because you did it more recently and the market is bigger and more complicated and more evolved than when I did it. I did it around when the dinosaurs were roaming so cyber security wasn’t quite as [inaudible 00:38:05]. Look, I loved it. I think it was easier for me because I had some really spectacular guys in the company that helped me through that. A guy named Brian Hazzard, who’s now the CMO at Randori. He was in charge of product management. He’s incredible. He knew the market, he knew our product, he knew the customer. He’s a great communicator. He really, really helped me a lot. Harry Sverdlove, was the CTO at Carbon Black, and I’ve worked with Harry before, we have a really strong resonance and connection. He’s a brilliant guy and he taught me a lot. And then our CEO, Patrick Morley. I have a long relationship with Patrick and he also helped me understand it quickly.

Eric Schurr:

I think it’s really important, when you do step into cyber security, you got to act like a sponge. You got to do everything you can, talk to as many people as you can, read whatever you can, get your head around it. It is a different world, but it’s a great world. It’s a world that’s going to be here to stay here for a long time. Cool thing about it is, when you help people solve their security issues, you really are helping them keep their company healthy, and solid, and safe. It’s a nice feeling.

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah. It’s much more of a community. There’s a lot less of a competitive vibe here between all the companies in the security market. I think everybody sees that our job is to help protect our customers, our governments, against the adversaries. And there’s a little bit of a kumbaya, we work together part of it. I’m used to the Oracle, Larry Ellison, salesforce. We’re aggressive against de-positioning competitors. That doesn’t really happen in cyber security.

Eric Schurr:

Not as much, I agree with you. And it also is true that… I’m talking about your buyers. Companies that are competing in the market will collaborate together on the cyber security aspect. They would… You’d never find Coke and Pepsi collaborating with each other on their products, but they will collaborate on the cyber security thing because as you said, it really is about the good guys versus the bad guys.

Tom Wentworth:


Eric Schurr:

We all want to collectively stop the bad guys. Now, though, one of the tricky or hard parts about cyber security is nobody wants to say whose product they use. [inaudible 00:40:21] nobody wants to-

Tom Wentworth:

Don’t, Eric. I’m going to scrub that part out of here. I literally had an email chain yesterday saying how, effectively, I don’t want to hear any excuses. We’ve got to get some customer logos. But it is super difficult, you’re exactly right.

Eric Schurr:

Nobody wants to reveal their defenses. That’s one of the hard parts about cyber security.

Tom Wentworth:

Now I know. I want to do… We were reviewing… Speaking of old campaigns, and again, I think there’s so much to learn from studying, not startups of the day or the moment but like SAP. SAP had this iconic runs on SAP campaign. Nike runs on SAP, all these great companies run on SAP. I would love to have our version of a runs on SAP campaign but to do that you got to get iconic brands and it is definitely harder to do, but we are actively working on it and it’s one of our OKRs for Q4. [crosstalk 00:41:19].

Tom Wentworth:

I was going to say, on the give up topic, you got to give stuff up. The thing that we’ve given up here, sort of forced by COVID, is trade shows. One of the things I learned about… I have done trade shows before. I have spent couple $100,000 for medium presences and medium-size shows, but you go into cyber security and all of a sudden you got to participate in RSA and in Black Hat and you can’t just show up at these places. You’re coming in there with a big, big, mid six-figure minimum budget, and all of a sudden those went away. So I got two questions for you, what do you think about this sort of the events in cyber security and maybe your experience there? But also, what’s going to happen with events going forward? Especially in an industry like cyber security so reliant on a couple of these big events like RSA and Black Hat, what happens they never go back to their previous in-person glory?

Eric Schurr:

That’s a great question. It’s like predicting the stock market. It’s a little hard to know how this is going to go but I personally think, that the world will go back to in-person contact as soon as it can, because humans, we just want in-person contact. Talking to somebody in person is always more productive than talking to them over the phone or a Zoom call. Now, the phone and Zoom call can work great, but there’s a level of interaction and communication that you can’t replace, that comes from an in-person communication. Now, I always thought it was absurd the amount of money companies spent on booths at RSA. Million dollar. It’s not really going to generate leads commensurate with the investment, it’s just about trying to look big and powerful.

Tom Wentworth:


Eric Schurr:

It was always tough as a CMO because board members would walk around and say, “Hey, we need a bigger booth.” And we’d say, “Great. We need more budget.” “Well, I’ll talk to the CEO about that.” Everybody wants more but nobody wants to give you more money to do it. I think we’re going to go back to some form of in-person contact. It may not be quite the rock and roll mega booths of yesteryear, but I’ll bet you in five or 10 years, it all comes back to that [inaudible 00:43:45].

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah. And that’s a fair point. Again, we’ve learned in time there’s no… Things don’t just… They were good ideas for a reason and they… But I think it’s actually created a little bit of a reprieve because now we don’t have that pressure. The board members aren’t saying, “Why don’t you have the $2 million booth at RSA when our competitor does?” It creates a little… It sort of leveled the playing field in some ways and with all that marketing budget that we now save, it’s requiring CMOs in cyber security to think creatively about what do you do to grow. We started a media site at Recorded Future called The Record by Recorded Future. We hired a journalist to go out there and write well-researched articles on sort of these untold stories of cyber security and we’re early into this journey, but we’re going to wake up with a media property that’s going to rival some of the dedicated new sites you see and that’s an investment that we probably only could’ve made because some of these big physical events were going away.

Eric Schurr:

I love it, Tom. I love the idea of redirecting those in-person big, expensive booth funds to a different area.

Tom Wentworth:

A lot less expensive. All right. I got one last question for you. And thanks for… Everything so far has been great. One of the things that I’ve heard a lot about you as a person is you’ve been a great mentor to a lot of the marketers in the Boston area. It’s something I’ve tried to do. I try to stay close to people who’ve worked for me and try to help them out. In fact, it’s part of my responsibility in the role I’m in. This is something you’ve done in a huge way. What’s that been like for you? Where do you find the time? How do you say no? Just tell me a little about that.

Eric Schurr:

I find the time, mostly because I’m not in full-time operational roles anymore, so I have a lot more time to do it than you do or people that are working full-time. I’m not trying to build my career anymore. All I really want to do is help people. I just love helping people. I think the CMO job might be the hardest job in the company, because everybody has an opinion on what you do. The website, the logo, your brand identity, you name it, everybody’s an expert in marketing. Other parts of the company, people don’t have the technical details or the interest to dig into things like engineer and finance, but they sure have an opinion to say about marketing. So the CMO gets from all sides, and the CMO has nobody to talk to because most of the rest of the company doesn’t know anything about marketing.

Eric Schurr:

I really like doing coaching and mentoring work for CMOs. And I’m amazed that every time they ask me a question, I’ve seen it two or three times at a couple of different companies, and I can just guide them through what worked and what didn’t, and they have to make sure that that fits into the current world. But as you and I’ve talked about, Tom, a lot of things are just new labels on old ideas. Most of the same stuff about organizational issues and interactions with sales and those things, they live on and on and on. And so, I love helping people through those issues. Being a sounding board and a shoulder to cry on as a marketing therapist for the CMOs [inaudible 00:47:10]. I really love it. There’s nothing better than having an hour-long conversation and at the end of it having somebody say, “Wow. You helped me so much.” To me, that’s what it’s all about.

Tom Wentworth:

I think you sneakily just did that for me in this podcast conversation. I don’t know if that was how we thought it was going to be, and I didn’t cry, at least not visibly. I definitely cried inside a few times, especially when you talked about just the need to be relentless with messaging. That made me cry inside because I know I’m not doing a good enough job of that.

Eric Schurr:

Tears of a clown, Tom.

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah. Exactly. I think we need more of that and I think it is something that all of us who are lucky enough to be where we are and have learned a lot of lessons the hard way, and can help people avoid all the mistakes that we’ve made over the years. I think it is good that people like you are out there doing what you do. So on behalf of everybody that you’ve helped out, I do thank you for all that hard work you’ve done. Eric, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for spending time with me today, and let’s hope that we’ve reached a whole bunch other marketers through this hour-long therapy session.


Introducing my new podcast Scaleup Marketing

Today I launched a new podcast. You’re thinking just what we need another podcast, right? Okay, fair enough.

But I’m trying to fill a gap. While there are lots of marketing podcasts that focus on hot takes, opinions, and startups, I couldn’t really find anything that was specific to the challenges I faced as the CMO of a $100m+ scale-up company. So I started one.

I’m going to interview people who I think can make me a better marketing leader, and I hope they will do the same for anyone who listens. I’m going to publish a new episode every two weeks to start.

First up is Dave Kellogg, a Silicon Valley legend with 10+ years experience at each of the CEO, CMO, and board levels across ten different companies ranging in size from $0 to over $1B in revenues. When I was first getting into marketing about a decade ago, I binge read everything Dave wrote about marketing on his pioneering blog

Tom Wentworth:

Hi, everybody. Welcome to the first episode of my podcast, Scaleup Marketing. My name is Tom Wentworth and I’m the chief marketing officer at Recorded Future, an enterprise cybersecurity company. I started this podcast to shine a light on marketing in the enterprise. There’s a lot of marketing podcast focused on hot takes and startups, and I’m hoping to fill a niche for marketers looking to learn from enterprise marketing veterans like my first guest, Dave Kellogg. Dave is a Silicon Valley legend having 10 plus years experience at each of the CEO, CMO and board levels across 10 different companies ranging in size from zero to over a billion in revenue. Dave’s been blogging about marketing and enterprise software on his site since 2006, and I know you’ll learn a lot from him, so enjoy.

Tom Wentworth:

All right. Hey Dave, how are you?

Dave Kellogg:

Good. How are you doing?

Tom Wentworth:

I’m fantastic. Thanks for participating in my first ever podcast episode.

Dave Kellogg:

Cool. Glad to be the guinea pig Tom.

Tom Wentworth:

We’ll see if you’re still glad by the end of it, but my intent here is to… There’s a lot of podcasts in marketing that talk about hot takes and a lot of SMB focused. I’m hoping to cover really the challenges that we face as enterprise marketers at scale SaaS companies and I thought there’s no better first guest than you. I think you’ve been doing this for a long time, so just introduce yourself a little bit.

Dave Kellogg:

Sure. Well, thanks for having me. So my name is Dave Kellogg and my elevator pitch is I have 10 years as an independent director, 10 years as a startup CEO and 10 years as a startup CMO. So I’ve sat in three different chairs around the boardroom table. So I think overall it gives you an interesting perspective, having been a CMO and then having managed CMOs and having been on the board of companies working with CMOs. So I got there by when I started out technical and moved into marketing pretty early on and brand marketing as a small startup. My biggest run as a CMO was in BusinessObjects where we grew from 30 million to a billion in revenue over a nine year period. And then after that I tried my hat at two different companies as CEO and snuck in a quick GM gig in between. So, I view myself as basically a startup executive, CEO, board member, advisor, consultant, but deep down I believe marketing, right?

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah. Obviously I work at Recorded Future. I think you became a friend of Recorded Future through Bernard at BusinessObjects. Is that correct my memory?

Dave Kellogg:

Yeah. Bernard helped. I think I met Christopher at Spotfire. I mean, the first time I worked with Christopher was Spotfire was a partner of BusinessObjects and in my opinion, Spotfire cracked the vertical code on visualization because we had looked at a lot of visualization startups and everyone was trying to be horizontal and it felt like Spotfire was the first guys to say, “Hey, lets [Jeffrey Moore 00:02:59] this, but let’s go vertical, get a beachhead.” And I liked that strategy company. Obviously, they sold the company, and that I’d heard Christopher had started Recorded Future and in between I was running a company called MarkLogic, half our business was in DOD and the intelligence community and a big chunk of that was open source intelligence. So I was like, “Hmm, this is really interesting.” Christopher said we’ll go do something in open source Intel, it’s kind of how it started out as you know, so that’s how it all began.

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah. Speaking of MarkLogics, that’s how I got to know you. So I worked at a company called Autonomy for a little bit infamous company Autonomy. And I remember finding you, this is back in 2008 or so I think because you were a prolific blogger before blogging was really a thing, which we’ll talk about a little bit. But you’d write a lot about Autonomy. MarkLogic and Autonomy were not really direct competitors, I think, but competing for mind share for sure and you would talk a little trash about Autonomy, which in history will tell you, I think you were right. But I remember sort of like, “Who is this guy insulting my company?” And it was you.

Dave Kellogg:

Yeah. So Autonomy, I mean, look, the search space was weird. MarkLogic was a half database, half search engine. And we competed primarily the [Fast 00:04:20] search transfer if you remember them.

Tom Wentworth:

Of course.

Dave Kellogg:

And then we also competed with Autonomy and let’s just say, those were two companies that had very checkered episodes, right? Like Fast, I believe the CEO went to jail, right?

Tom Wentworth:


Dave Kellogg:

I mean, they sold the company for a billion dollars in the middle of an accounting scandal that resulted in at least one executive going to jail. And by the way, I was truth telling about them too. I had found one UK financial analyst and me, right? The only two guys going, “Wait a minute, they’re booking deals on MOUs.” If you just read the documents, these guys are doing crazy stuff, so that was one. And then Autonomy, I had two issues with. One was the whole Bayesian thing because we had some Autonomy alumni at MarkLogic and they basically were arguing, the founder had a PhD in computer science but as far as we could tell, as far as the people I trusted tell, the Bayesians was more marketing and BS than reality. And so you had a very educated guy bluffing others about what was going on in the inside. And fundamentally, at least all the guys we had felt it didn’t work terribly well either, but it sounded really cool, right?

Tom Wentworth:

I think, yeah, we’ll talk about product marketing in a little bit, but I think it was unbelievable product marketing. In retrospect, I have a lot of respect for what they did because they carved out Bayesian and Shannon’s information theory was the other too. As employees, we were… They were the most ruthless in certifying against messaging of any company I’ve ever seen. If you were a rep, you couldn’t get paid commission until you could tell the story a hundred percent accurately, which maybe in retrospect, wasn’t a terrible idea.

Dave Kellogg:

So I heard that Mike Lynch carried a copy of Edward Bernays propaganda with him all times, literally. He was so religious about the message and driving the message. So they drove a message really well, but I thought the message was kind of BS. So that was my first beef with autonomy. The second beef I had with the autonomy was, I remember a friend of mine was running Verity, right? And Autonomy had acquired Verity and I remember meeting with my friend at Verity and he was telling me that they were doing term licenses. It was one of the first times I’d heard this because this was a long time ago. This was mid-2000s probably. And he’s like, “Hey, we do term licenses now because it’s kind of a discounting alternative.”

Dave Kellogg:

So we see the list price is a hundred and the customer says, “I want to pay 50.” Well, most enterprise software vendors at the time would go, “Great, 50.” And they’d said no 50 for a two year license or 50 for a three-year license and when the average CIO’s tenure is two and a half years, three years starts to approximate infinity, right? Especially, five-year license or… So Verity was doing all these term licenses and I’m not sure, I mean, my theory, I have no reason to know if this is true or not, was that Autonomy, part of their financial engineering trick was they figured this out for Verity. They bought Verity and then went, “Holy cow, we could get all these new sales.” Right? Because they were no SaaS student economics, right? But just reselling these just to customers another term license. And at least to me, I always felt like that was the light bulb that started a lot of that became dubious stuff that happened there later on.

Tom Wentworth:

You’re always in the middle of it, I was happy to leave when I left, but I do look back on Autonomy as a marketing organization. They were really, really good. I think the success and the whatever $11 billion exit was really driven by just best in class marketing. Fast and others weren’t nearly as good as the Autonomy was. So respect to our fellow marketers out there.

Dave Kellogg:

No, look, I think that the marketing was very good at Autonomy. I do believe though, there’s one thing that I think is worthy of pointing out here because I would pattern match NicroStrategy and Autonomy and Fast into the same bucket of where you create this image that you’re amazing and then you realize you have to do everything to sustain it. And that’s how these guys get in trouble eventually, right? Because I think all three of them had not good endings, but you create this self for a long time. You create this, well, the analysts love us. Why? Because we’re growing really fast. Why? Because the customers love us and therefore we have a good strategy, right? It decreases virtuous loop, but all of a sudden you’re dependent on it. And if you start missing quarters or things go wrong, then you feel like the whole thing’s going to collapse. So I think they had great marketing, but I actually think they had what I would call almost a house of cards strategy. Like it works really well while it works and then it doesn’t.

Tom Wentworth:

I think history has proven that out, but it’s interesting there’s a lot of enterprise startups now. Enterprise is hot again and I think a lot of companies would be well-served to go back and look at the history of enterprise. There are so many companies and a lot of the things that we’ll talk about a little bit later are tactics that enterprise companies have been doing forever. It’s interesting this in prepping for this talk with you, I read all of your, not all, but a lot of your blog posts since I think 2006, and you were maybe the first marketing/enterprise blogger of all time. I don’t think you get credit for that.

Dave Kellogg:

That’s interesting. I never thought of it that way, but it’s true. I mean, especially the early days, the blog was a little more unfocused. So I was blogging about a lot of things, but marketing was definitely coming up and at the time, yeah, I can’t remember that far back, but there certainly wasn’t a lot of blogging going on in the enterprise software, no. Because as you point out enterprise, it goes in and out of fashion, right? And I think it’s in fashion now.

Tom Wentworth:

I think it’s very much in fashion. It’s funny because just like you I was a math major, I was a tech guy, my journey to marketing was much later in my career and I remember explicitly panicking trying to figure out what it meant to be a CMO and I came across a lot of your content. It’s still evergreen where it’s timeless, right? A lot of the advice you had for product marketing and for demand gen and for brand. So I remember going back and looking at your content and Mike Volpe from HubSpot and others, so there’s so much great content there. We should figure out a way to get that content. There are so many marketers that benefit from doing what I did, I guess. So thanks for that.

Dave Kellogg:

Yeah, thanks. I’ve been seriously thinking, we could talk about this later, but I’m seriously thinking about actually trying to write a book about it. Because I mean, it’s, I can’t remember how many pages I have, but it’s probably 10 bucks or more worth of content out there, right? So I could just distill it, repackage it and try and get something out there. Because I do believe it’s one of the most misunderstood departments. I don’t know if I’ve ever blogged about this story, I think I did once. But scoping nearly at The Sun 10-year anniversary party. I want to thank engineering for building their products, customer support for servicing our customers, [inaudible 00:10:53] for selling and marketing for whatever it is they do. It really reflects a lot of attitudes about marketing.

Tom Wentworth:

It’s funny. So one of the first posts that you did way back in 2006 was, I think it was called… You were talking about defining the role of marketing and you said way back then, and you actually followed it up with a blog post recently, but I wanted to give you credit. In your recent blog post, you said it was the first time you’d actually talked about it. Well, no, you actually talked about it 2006, which is marketing exists to make sales easier. And I’ve heard that said a lot lately. It’s such an eloquent and still accurate and maybe always accurate definition, but I don’t think that a lot of marketers see their job that way.

Dave Kellogg:

No, a lot of sales people don’t see it that way either. I mean, so I picked that one up and that was funny. Once in a blue moon, I write a post so long ago, I forgot I wrote it and I go write a new one and then I can find the old one and I’m like, “Hell, I’ll just put it up anyway.” As kind of a fresh angle on it. But, I do remember that. By the way back in the day, I would say the one difference is I didn’t understand headline to titles because SEO wasn’t as big a thing in 2006 or whatever, right? So I would write more clever or catchy titles, but not very SEOble titles. So that’s sometimes why I can’t even find my posts because I’ll search for marketing exists to make sales easier and not find it.

Tom Wentworth:

I think you wrote a lot of those posts before Google. So I’ll give that a little bit of slack there.

Dave Kellogg:

It’s a good point. I didn’t anticipate PageRank, yeah. So that line, I mean, I’ll tell you where I got that line because it was from another interesting guy. I was a director of product marketing probably at Ingres in the late ’80s. And we had had five marketing VPs in two years, one of those revolving door jobs and they brought in this guy from Oracle named Chris Greendale, and he was the one I stole that from him and I give him full credit. He just stood up and said, “Why does marketing exists?” And he goes, “Marketing exists to make sales easier.” And every CMO has a speech about why marketing exists and what the mission is, but that’s just super resonated with me. And then later on in my next job, this one, I blogged on as well, but the VP of Biz Dev made t-shirts that said, “Code, sell or get out of the way.” And then he’d got and walked over to marketing he’s like, “What do you guys do again? You don’t code, you don’t sell.”

Dave Kellogg:

The third way I look at it is if you make a startup, if you only had 10 people to start up, you might not have a marketing person, right? You might have a bunch of developers, salesperson too and that’s it, right? The two engines of the plane are sales and development and the first principles derivation of marketing is that you want to make sales more productive. I mean that little, I call it a reduction of statement. I mean, that has launched into many arguments, not only with fellow marketing people, which is maybe anticipateable, but also salespeople. I’ve had sales VPs say, “That’s wrong.” And say, “Well, I’m saying that we exist to make your job easier. How could you disagree with that?” And I think the number one misconception about that statement is that it relegates marketing to a super tactical role. And that’s not. If you see that, that’s you projecting it, that’s not me saying it, right?

Tom Wentworth:


Dave Kellogg:

It doesn’t say that. You can make sales easier by segmentation, by product design, right? There are super strategic ways of making it easier to sell the product. It doesn’t have to be just fill the lead box.

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah. Certainly building a global brand. It’s easy to sell Salesforce if everyone in the world knows about Salesforce, right?

Dave Kellogg:

Absolutely, yeah. Totally. There’s a thousand different ways of marketing can make sales easier and a good marketer will get that statement and understand it. And a bad one will interpret it to narrow, not a bad one, but let’s say a less holistic one will interpret it too narrowly.

Tom Wentworth:

What are some other answers people give you? So if you ask somebody what’s the role of marketing in your current role, what do people say other than making sales easier?

Dave Kellogg:

Yeah. I don’t even know. To be honest, it’s not a question I ask people that much because I felt like somebody handed me the answer a long time ago. I don’t know. Every once in a while I’ll see it, like I’ll see a mission statement from marketing department and frankly, I mean, I think one of the reasons of good of marketing is I don’t like marketing, right? The great irony of Google is they hated advertising and now they’re the [inaudible 00:15:19] advertising company.

Tom Wentworth:

I hate it too.

Dave Kellogg:

Right. So we hate and what we hate is bad marketing. So most of the time when I asked marketing what their job is, I either get like, “Hey, we’re here to help make it easier to sell.” Great. Or I get what I call gobbledygook, and I just turn off and I think this actually makes me a good marketer like I said, because when I see gobbledygook, I just turn off. I stop reading, I stop processing, like I get nothing from it. And I assume other people are a little bit the same way. I don’t want to read a bad white paper, I’ll read a good white paper, right? Dave overview long copy sells. I’m a big believer, right? It’s another misconception, right?

Dave Kellogg:

Got to write short copy because people aren’t interested or people are bored. This is a high consideration purchase, right? But, I don’t know. I’m a fly fishing nut, if I’m going to buy a fly rod, I might spend an hour researching it, right? I want to read a lot of long copy because it’s something I care a lot about. If I’m buying a $200,000 piece of software to bet a big part of my job, I’m interested. I’m not going to read bad copy, but I’ll read long good copy, right? I’m a little bit off your question there, but to me, it’s the same thing, which is, marketers when describing their mission should be terse and not sound like it was written by a PR agency.

Tom Wentworth:

And do all those things out your peril. Another article you wrote that I love back again in 2006, pre-Google, the sad state of software marketing. So you talked about marketing getting squeezed and at the time product marketing, sorry, product managers infringing on product marketing, CS owning more, the customer relationship, salespeople relegating marketing to the events and swag people. I think you identified all the way back then that marketing needed to reinvent itself and at some point it happened. You’ve written extensively about marketing over the years. At some point it feels like something changed and I think it’s the way you captured it in this post about the sad state, like you said, marketing evolved and I think marketing did evolve. And how have you seen marketing change over the years as you’ve been writing about marketing?

Dave Kellogg:

Yeah. Look, it’s a great question because there are a couple of big changes. So first, I’m a little bit old school, I guess. I mean, I want to view marketing using the Theodore Levitt definition, which is the entire company seen for the point of view of the customer, right? So this is the mankind is my business marketing, like churns my problem, everything’s my problem. Mankind is my business. Everything in the company is my business because I am looking at the company from the point of view of the customer. So I have a very broad definition of marketing personally and just to talk about how it’s changed over the years, when I started in this, in enterprise software, my first product marketing job today you would describe it as half product marketing, half product management and literally at some point we restructured the department and it was outbound product marketing and inbound product marketing. I mean, product management is a term didn’t exist, it wasn’t a thing, right?

Dave Kellogg:

So it used to be back in the day that product marketing did all of the outbound stuff, sales tool creation, messaging, positioning, analyst relations, yada, yada, and all the inbound stuff was working with R&D on the product speck and the product plan. And that was a great time to be in product marketing and look, the reality was it was really hard to find somebody who was good at both, right? I was reasonably good at both. I was better outbound and inbound, and by the way, I did both. I ran all inbound for a while and I ran all outbound for a while and I ran inbound and outbound for one product, right? So I did all three permutations, but it was just too hard to find people good at both. I think that’s my personal opinion.

Dave Kellogg:

What drove the evolution? There just wondering if humans who were good at those two very different jobs so the job split. So basically the dawn of product management really hollowed out product marketing. I remember one time I interviewed at Oracle at the time of Charles Phillips was running Oracle and I interviewed with him for a job and I had met him at a prior life. So I kind of knew him, it was a little bit casual and at some point the title was CMO of a something or other. And I go, “You’re not looking for CMO, you’re looking for a head brochure writer as far as I can tell. It’s like literally this is chief brochure officer, I’m not interested in doing that and I think you’re going to have trouble attracting a good candidate.” Because sometimes you’ve hollowed the jelly out of the donut, right? Like my jelly donut has got no jelly in it, it’s got a hole and you took all the fun parts out of the job.

Dave Kellogg:

I do think there’ve been a number of trends that have changed marketing, some for the worst. Look, I think companies are better off for the rise of product management. I personally believe you should build a model, which I did at BusinessObjects where product marketing still had a role. Product management was the center of the hub but product marketing was at least a spoke into product management for, “Hey, we need to make this thing launchable, this thing needs to tell a story.” If you advance an inch across 12 fronts, I got nothing to tell anybody. Can we please be strategic about how we product plan? Right?

Dave Kellogg:

Because the risk and product management, in my opinion, I know this is a marketing blog, but the risk in product management is exactly that, which is you get everybody in the room, everybody wants something else and you advance one centimeter per release on 12 different axes and that is product marketing hell because there’s nothing to talk about. So I think the rise of product management was one thing that kind of disempowered marketing at the time. I think, what was the other one? Let me just think. I mean that was big. That was probably the biggest one. Because it started to make marketing more tactical.

Tom Wentworth:


Dave Kellogg:

Right? Because the big strategic lever was product, right? I can’t remember how customer success started to squeeze. But I guess it’s-

Tom Wentworth:

You talked about advisory boards and all the things we would all run back in the day and that it took those away from us too.

Dave Kellogg:

Yeah. It’s true. I mean, look, at some companies, the product marketing job really is back to that brochure writing job. I always like to look at things backwards. So part of my view on this issue was, why would a customer ever want to meet with me? Right? Because they’re like, “Well, you should go meet with customers.” I love meeting with customers, it’s part of my career tech support. But why would a customer want to meet with me if I’m not driving product strategy, right? If I’m just chief brochure officer, why do they want to talk to me again? Right?

Dave Kellogg:

So I’ve always felt that if you want your product marketers to talk to customers, design a product marketing job where customers want to talk to them where they say, “What do you do here?” And they say, “I just write brochures.” That’s not good. But if I run the customer advisory board to your point, right? Or if I work on product strategy, then all of a sudden it’s more interesting.

Tom Wentworth:

So true.

Dave Kellogg:

By the way customer surveys. Another thing that marketing used to do that now customer success would do, right? A lot of this stuff just got, you reminded me of the post, but you kind of breaking the bones off a chicken, right?

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah. And interestingly, you talked about this way back in the day, but what you didn’t write about a lot in the early days was demand gen. And obviously one of the biggest shifts that we’ve seen in marketing is just the seat at the revenue table concept that Marketo and HubSpot used to talk about a lot. And over time, you switched pretty aggressively to talking about how important that is. So, what’s your take on how did that transformation happen? And what was the shift or what caused the shift to that big change? That’s maybe the biggest change in marketing throughout enterprise marketing history, right?

Dave Kellogg:

Yeah, absolutely. I’ll give you one other answer to the last question then I’m going to come back to that one. Sales productivity, another thing that got broken off the chicken.

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah, totally.

Dave Kellogg:

Right? Back in the day, your job was sales training, sales enablement, building sales tool.

Tom Wentworth:


Dave Kellogg:

And again, I think companies are for the better to have these things. I’m a huge believer in separate sales enablement now, but it’s been a huge change in the product marketing job. And to a certain extent, I think what it means for product marketing today is, you need to be very much in control of the message and you need to be super collaborative with all these people who have parts of what used to be your job. You want to be in touch with customer success on surveying to make sure they’re running a good survey and getting the data you need. You want to be bound at the hip with sales productivity and sales enablement, right? You want to be bound at the hip with product management. So I think in terms of how the job has changed, it’s much more influence and collaboration rather than jar control. And that’s okay. You can still be successful at it, it’s still an important role, but the approach is very different.

Tom Wentworth:

Actually, you said it perfectly. Before you get to my question, I’m going to give you some credit for a quote you said. The great marketer, and this is a post about product marketing. So I think you meant the product marketer. The great product marketer imposes simplicity on the market. The successful product marketer takes a complex gray world and transforms it into a simple black and white one. If you don’t have role level locking, shout out to Ingres, right? You’re screwed. And that definition still, I think stands. And that’s something a product manager can’t do. A product manager is going to be locked in the world of agile and backlog and a product marketer who can do that is spectacular.

Dave Kellogg:

No, thanks for reminding me that one. I love that quote because first a lot of marketers forget to impose simplicity, right? And almost no one else, but marketing is going to say, “We need to impose simplicity.” Because when you try to impose simplicity what happens? Everybody tells you you’re wrong. “Oh, you forgot this. You’re not aware that. Or what about this?” Right? And what they’re doing is basically injecting complexity back in, right? So I think the great marketer imposes simplicity in a complex world and you do it in such a way that you’re still credible, right? You can’t be, I mean, basically simple but not simplistic. And that’s the magic, that’s the really hard part. And it’s true. Only product marketing will do that because almost everybody else unconsciously, like if you just, what is it? A camel is a horse designed by committee. But if you build your message by committee, it’s going to be complex as heck. It will not leave anything out. Everyone will be happy, but that’s no way to do marketing.

Tom Wentworth:

And that’s a product managers job. You can tell me the hundred things that your new products going to do, but a great product manager who can boil that down into a sentence without using the word and in it, is brilliantly good. And I think that is what new product marketing is going to be or needs to be.

Dave Kellogg:

Yeah, I agree. That’s a good point.

Tom Wentworth:

Back to the original question, actually you said that in the early days, the path of the CMO was through product marketing. But because of this rise of demand gen and that big change, you sort of changed your tune on that. So how have you seen that shift happening?

Dave Kellogg:

Well, look, the job has changed. I often say that I think the job has changed the most in the last 25 years of the c-suite has been the CMO. In my mind, without question. There’s a couple of new jobs, I mean, customer success is new, it hasn’t changed. It’s just a new thing. Tech ops, dev ops, that’s new then those aren’t always CC jobs, but the one that’s changed the most is marketing because back in the day it was really strategy, positioning, analyst, relations, maybe some branding and communications that was kind of the pecking order and generally, I hire some good demand gen people to make sure we got leads, right? It was kind of a, “Oh yeah, don’t forget field marketing, don’t forget to demand gen.”

Dave Kellogg:

And part of that, frankly was, I mean, look, I’m going to go back in ancient history, but nobody knew what the pipeline was, right? You didn’t have Salesforce, you didn’t have SFA, right? The pipeline was the spreadsheet the VP of sales was tracking. I mean, literally when I was at Versant with the guy who later went on to run Verity, he was our VP of sales and that was the first time I ever heard the 3X coverage ratio, by the way, it was early 1990s but it was 3X what?

Tom Wentworth:

Another myth that’s lasted all these years. The three, why isn’t it 3.1 or 2.9? No, it’s three.

Dave Kellogg:

Yeah, absolutely. Self-fulfilling prophecy in my mind. BUt you couldn’t track all this stuff. To me, it’s the systems. I mean, the way I think of this and I think it’s an interesting way to look at it is, once the systems came along to make questions answerable, boards started to know what questions were answerable. So they started asking them and if you couldn’t answer them, it was a problem. Like they’d say, “What’s your weekly conversion rate or what’s your stage weighted expected value?” Right? Or, “What’s the manager level forecast versus a rep level forecast?” Or, “What’s the four quarter rolling forecast coverage or what’s your stage to close rate?” Right?

Dave Kellogg:

Once you know those questions are answerable by working with other companies, then all of a sudden, I mean, this to me is why sales ops exists, because at one too many board meetings they asked the VP of sales. He go, “I don’t know.” He or she, usually he at that time, he or she would go, “I don’t know.” They’d ask finance. Finance is like, “Hey, I’m too busy doing the budget, I can’t do sales analytics.” And then boom, you had what is effectively a dedicated FP&A person for sales. I mean, in many ways, if you look at sales ops and FP&A, some companies have a job called sales FP&A, it’s the same person, it’s just two different levels [crosstalk 00:28:53].

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah, we have that. Yeah, we have sales and marketing FP&A.

Dave Kellogg:

And that person could interview and do fine at a sales ops job at almost any other company, right? Because it’s the same beast. So how did I get off on that? Oh, we talked about accountability. So what happened is all this stuff got more measure, more accountable. In my mind, marketing got increasingly accountable for building pipeline. I mean, back in the day, sales VPs were very much of the, “Sales needs to get their own leads, sales needs to prospect.” And I always felt it was like my parents saying they had to walk uphill both ways to school. And it was like this character building thing. Like, “I think all sales reps should prospect, keep the saw sharp.” And I was raised in that environment so that also made you not super pipeline sensitive, because like, “Hey, pipeline sales is problem, they’re supposed to go generate it, they’re supposed to spend one hour every morning dialing for dollars or whatever.”

Dave Kellogg:

And then some smart person figured out. And really the first time I read about this was probably about Jason Lemkin and Aaron Ross was first time I saw the book where they basically argued for the industrialization of sales. That these are all actually separate things. Like really good at processing inbound is actually very good for processing outbound, which is, not very good, but very different for processing outbound, which is very different from selling mid-market, which is very different from selling enterprise. And it was kind of the, I’ll call it the industrialization of sales that led all this to the point where a lot of companies, I work with marketing generates damn near 100% of the pipeline. And I think that’s a good thing.

Dave Kellogg:

I mean, don’t we want salespeople closing deals? Why do I want every sales person spending an hour a day prospecting? Okay. Maybe in a named account model where I have 10 accounts or something, I get it. But if you’re a selling 50 to 100K ASP SaaS package horizontally, why not? Why not build a machine in front of them to hand it over. And by the way, I think marketing got ahead of sales on building that machine because I think a lot of the people in charge of enterprise sales were more artisanal sales reps, they were big deal people, really good at relationship.

Dave Kellogg:

So I think the machineffocation of sales, I don’t know in many ways I felt it was harder on old school sales VPs, because that was just not how they rolled, right? Give them a velocity model, conversion rates, stage aging, reporting, it’s all a little too much for some of them to handle. Whereas for whatever reason, I felt at least certainly demand gen oriented marketers were much more, “Hey, this is a machine, we’ve got to get this many names, this many leads, this spending MQLs.” And SLAS for how long it takes to get processed and all that kind of thinking.

Dave Kellogg:

I mean, the long answer to your question is, or the short answer is that the role has changed dramatically in that regard. Demand gen went from something really tactical almost an afterthought, in my mind to where it’s very… I mean, look, I asked people when they say, “I need a CMO.” I say, “There are three pillars, you get to tick two.” Right? Product marketing, communications and demand gen. And nobody grew up in all three. Most people grew up in one of those pillars. Sometimes they may have grown up in two of them. Nobody’s grown up in all three and almost no one is great at all three. So you’re going to find a candidate who has some profile, where two are strong and one is weak. In my mind, that’s what you should look for. And now you have to pick which two. And a lot of times today, they’ll pick demand gen and brand and they’ll actually move product marketing back to product, right? So that job got reunified, but under a different VP.

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah. I’ve worked in both. So I’ve run product marketing a bunch of times. I’m good for the record at demand gen and product marketing. Brand for me, or comms for me, I’ve got a higher around that, which I’ve done. Because I’m a math guy and I think you’re a math guy do. So demand gen stuff for me, conversion and funnel. I think the big change is really, the magic happens when you have a team of reps who can do all the things that you talked about, the old school enterprise reps who are unbelievable at the last 30% of an opportunity, but if marketing can take away the middle part that they weren’t good at it, they don’t want to deal with, that’s where I think the magic happens.

Dave Kellogg:

Absolutely. If we could industrialize that, we can add so much value. And basically the way I say it now, it took me a long time. I mean, this actually touches indirectly on, and I don’t know where you stand on this issue where SDR should work because in a lot of companies that’s polarizing and in my opinion more often than not, I’ve seen old school VPs of sales beg to have the SDRs work for them. You give them the SDRs and then they ignore them because they’re not process oriented, it was just a power play. It’s like, you don’t care what the SDR is, you’re not hip deep in the operations, you just hired somebody to run it and I’d rather have it over on the marketing side.

Dave Kellogg:

So my personal belief is that I call marketing these stage two manufacturing facility, stage two opportunity in sales, the stage two closing facility and I’ve got to say target account marketing, ABM, whatever you want to call it, [inaudible 00:34:00] account models aside, because that is a different world. Like MarkLogic, we had one rep who had NSA, right? You’re not going to feed that person, literally those are one accounts. You’re not going to feed them through the pipeline and we might get some stuff, but they’re going to have to walk the halls and go find people. I think the job has changed enormously and, I mean your two pillars, it’s a great set of pillars. And yet another proof point that all of us. I mean, I would say that mine is our product marketing and comms. To be honest-

Tom Wentworth:


Dave Kellogg:

…I love comms. I’m not that strong in demand gen. I like the numbers though and one of my best demands and people I work with and my little family of companies right now, it was his prior job was high school math teacher.

Tom Wentworth:


Dave Kellogg:

So it’s a little validation.

Tom Wentworth:

A little bit of regression goes a long way.

Dave Kellogg:


Tom Wentworth:

It’s interesting on the math topic like you and I is, I was a math CS major in college and never took a marketing class in my life but one of the things that when I was coming into marketing, you wrote a lot about funnels and a lot of people were able to talk about, you should have a funnel, but no one talked about the math behind it. And recently you wrote what I think is the best articulation of what very few marketers actually do in the real world, which is this idea of an inverted demand gen funnel.

Dave Kellogg:

[inaudible 00:35:21].

Tom Wentworth:

Like start backwards from an outcome like a new deal and start to look at in each step, how things are working and back all the way through to telling the CFO what you should be spending every quarter and you’re thinking on how you got to time into it and how you’ve got to segment. It’s really interesting thinking. So I guess just one plug for your inverted, maybe plug your inverted marketing funnel thinking, but two, do you find people are doing that? Because I find that even though it’s the obvious thing to do, people still aren’t.

Dave Kellogg:

I think people are doing it. I think more and more you’re seeing it. It is one of those things that everyone’s kind of like, “Yeah, I need to get around to doing that but meantime I had 800K in demand gen last quarter, revenues grown by 25%, so I need, whatever a billion next quarter.” So the answer is I think some people do it. I mean, look, if you have a marketing ops person, I mean, this is the other way of saying it. If you have a marketing ops person and they’re not doing it, then I’ve got a big question. So, are you big enough? Are you quant enough in your marketing that you have a dedicated marketing ops person? And by the way, this is a new finding for me, but I’m increasingly arguing that companies should have integrated sales and marketing ops just to avoid model wars, just [crosstalk 00:36:41]-

Tom Wentworth:

To work for who? Where do they report to?

Dave Kellogg:

Well to me, I mean, this is a little bit out of the box, but I do double solid line. They go to your staff meeting, they go to my staff meeting, they go to both our staff meetings, they’re on both our teams, they go to both our off sites, like they feel like they’re on both teams but that requires a high degree of collaboration to the sales VP and marketing VP, right? Because they’re in more and more work.

Tom Wentworth:

I agree, but I actually think I’d put it under the CFO. I ever wrote a blog post about that once. Is the ultimate arbitrary of church and state or having… You put it in the CFO because the CFO just wants the truth, marketing and sales data can have bias. So I totally agree, a drop in the [inaudible 00:37:19].

Dave Kellogg:

That’s funny. You’re more interesting individual than I. Because I worry if they go on to finance, they’re going to end up doing too much FP&A and budget work and I want them a hundred percent. I’d feel more comfortable if they work for sales or by the way I think-

Tom Wentworth:

Fair enough.

Dave Kellogg:

…to me, it’s actually a good test of the sales marketing relationship because in reality if those people get along. If they buy into the notion that we could have one-offs person building our models, why should I build an inverted funnel model in one spreadsheet, you build a closed model in another spreadsheet?

Tom Wentworth:


Dave Kellogg:

I got to paste numbers and send them over email, right? To link our two models together, that’s crazy. We should have one share model that tells us, well, first it tells us how much bookies capacity you have based on your hiring and then it tells me how much pipeline I need to generate because maybe I have to generate 70% of the pipeline. It tells me how much demand gen I need to do that, it tells me how many SDRs we need to hire. This is something I haven’t blogged about, but if you’re running a heavily inbound model, you need to make sure you have enough SDR capacity to process all that stuff. And I think that’s it. SDRs, demand gen, yeah. So one model out putting all those. And I think the test on the sales marketing relationship, if they’re really working well together, they should just be like flip a coin. I don’t care who they work for. We need one model. That’s what matters. And if they work for me, they’re going to your staff meeting and if they work for you, they’re coming to my staff meeting but they know they work for both of us and we’re going to lock elbows and force that.

Dave Kellogg:

I like your idea theoretically, by the way, I have seen people do… They’ve go one level broader and do go to market ops. They take the whole thing, consulting, everything. And then that usually ends up either under a COO or under finance but I’m just a little wary of the finance side but it all depends on the company and it all depends… Look, my operating assumption is finance is understaffed so those people get pulled into core finance. Like, “I’m supposed to be doing the [inaudible 00:39:14].” So if it’s adequately staffed and they can actually do their job then great. But if-

Tom Wentworth:

I never had the guts to do it. So it was just in a PowerPoint slide once, but I did build a slide that’s had operations together, unified and I actually think back to how I got into marketing, if the operations role, which is a new role, that role didn’t exist until Eloqua and others forced it. That’s the role I would have gotten into. I would have loved marketing operations as a math nerd coming out of college.

Dave Kellogg:

No, totally agree. I can’t remember how we got on that. I know we broadly were talking about changes in marketing, all the [crosstalk 00:39:52].

Tom Wentworth:

Just the role of math plays in marketing. I think it’s just the fact that we now need to have a skillset in marketing that… And it’s why it’s so hard. You once said that marketers, once said, you said recently in the opener that you wrote the forward for the [inaudible 00:40:06] book, shout out to [inaudible 00:40:07] good friends of Recorded Future. Marketers need to be ambidextrous and I think that’s true. It’s also really hard, but it’s totally true.

Dave Kellogg:

No, I agree. That’s a great book. And the argument of that book in that forward, the fundamental argument is, being strong operationally is the ante that lets you be strategic, right? Because if you want to be strategic, but your operations are a mess, you’re going to get a bullet, right? There’s no way in this day and age with all the accountability around pipeline and conversion rates and cost per sale and CAC and all that stuff, if you’re not tied operationally, you don’t last. So for strategic marketers, my advice is you need to either be really good at ops or get somebody to help you who is really good at ops because ops is the [inaudible 00:40:51] and or ops is table stakes, whatever you want to call it. But if ops isn’t working, nobody cares what you say about strategy in my opinion.

Dave Kellogg:

The pipeline’s empty, I don’t really care anything about strategy right now. Go fill the pipeline then we can talk about strategy. I think in the general term we’ve be talking about as the rise of demand gen and really the rise of marketing accountability for pipeline. There’s a post you haven’t mentioned, which I personally love. And sometimes the ones I like the best are not the ones the world likes the best, but it’s the one where, it’s the evolution of marketing is measured by, “Hey marketing, go do blank.” And I love that one because it’s basically, “Hey marketing, go get leads. Oh, sorry, go get opportunities. Actually go get pipeline. Oh, get pipeline that closes. Oh, get pipeline that closes and renews.” Right? Which is effectively now you’re in the ICP business, right? You’re literally talking about making sales easier, if you can figure out that ideal customer profile, boom! That’s a super strategic way to do that.

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah. Which I find and I won’t get into this, but my pet peeve, I have two pet peeves. One is ABM and ABM is how we used to market before we had marketing automation tools. Every marketer at Oracle or BusinessObjects we had to do ABM. We didn’t have ways to reach thousands of people. So that’s a pet peeve one and also in a math topic, pet peeve two for me is lead scoring. Lead scoring is the dumbest way to prioritize activity. These companies just give arbitrary points to things. Like when I look at leads, again, mathematician familiar with things like linear regression, just do a regression on your data, don’t just assign random points, it’s worse than having the lead scoring at all.

Dave Kellogg:

Because I was just going to say, if you look at the problem the right way as you do, do our A leads convert any better than our B leads, any better than our C leads and if not, why are they ABC? And so many people forget to ask that question because they get axle wrapped on the point mechanism, right? And by the way, as I’m sure you’d know, the point mechanisms could be incredibly complicated. This is many points for white paper, this is many for a webinar. [inaudible 00:42:55] overtime-

Tom Wentworth:

Why eight points, or nine points or six points? It’s the dumbest thing. I once did, that’s real AB test. So leads over the reps didn’t. One, we told them they were all MQLs, ones were scored with our point-based scoring model and ones were just random. The random leads outperformed statistically significant the scored leads, which is the minute I killed old school lead points.

Dave Kellogg:

Lead scoring system.

Tom Wentworth:

We can move on from the topic.

Dave Kellogg:

Good for you. I think lead scoring it’s a… What was the other one? Oh, the other one that drove me crazy was the decaying points. Just to make the math even harder, right? You should get 10 points for a white paper, but every week you lose a point because it was a week ago.

Tom Wentworth:


Dave Kellogg:

And it’s just like, “Okay, let’s make the calculation impossible.” And then forget to do a regression and then we’re just counting, as I say, we’re counting angels on pinheads like we’re not counting anything. You should [inaudible 00:43:48] accounting but…

Tom Wentworth:

There’s few things that get me more angry when I see a marketing automation vendor tell you, you can do lead scoring by assigning points. Just stop it. Let’s not do that anymore. All right. Not [inaudible 00:43:57].

Dave Kellogg:

Yeah. I was friends with the CEO of [inaudible 00:44:00], and they tried. He was a math guy too. He was a Berkeley math guy and CS but as you know that company kind of flamed out, ultimately it didn’t work. I mean-

Tom Wentworth:

People will figure it out. We’ve made advancements and a lot of the first gen predictive lead scoring tools didn’t work, but we will get there because this is a problem math can solve.

Dave Kellogg:

I mean, look, the other problem solves around this particular rat hole, not rat hole, but topic area. This could be a rat hole if we’re not careful.

Tom Wentworth:

Pet peeves.

Dave Kellogg:

Pet peeves, there we go. Because it’s one of mine too. I mean, we’re definitely cut from the same cloth because ABM is definitely one of mine and then lead scoring, not thought about correctly and most people don’t. And by the way, lead scoring is usually the underpinning for determining if something is an MQL, right? So it’s not innocuous, right? Because that’s a big moment when you decide something’s an MQL but the other thing about lead scoring, what the heck was it? Oh darn! It was, we talked about [inaudible 00:44:58], we talked declining points, oh shit, I can’t remember. It was… Oh, I had one more thought. Lead scoring, lead scoring, why do I hate lead scoring? People that do the regression. I can’t remember right now. Oh, I know. Thank you. I got it. Just really gives up.

Dave Kellogg:

We’re not selling Dave Kellogg a toothbrush, right? We’re not selling a single person one thing and I can watch it be like, if there’s 17 different people from four different departments contacted you one, one, to webinar to download a white paper. I mean, it’s a hard problem and I think a lot of marketing metrics assume two things that are not true. One that it’s linear and two, that it’s one person. And I think you would probably vertically agree that it’s definitely not linear and it’s definitely not one person.

Tom Wentworth:

No. Yes, so thank you for that. I’m glad you agree. I would have entered this conversation if you disagree by the way. So you had a great answer.

Dave Kellogg:

I guess you get to continue then.

Tom Wentworth:

I got one more question for you and I got some quotes I want to say just because they’re fantastic. You shift in your career, math nerd to BusinessObjects, eventually to CEO and I’ve thought about it once in a while and I don’t know that I have the guts to go do what you did, but how did you do it? Because I think a lot of marketers want to do it, but it’s actually really hard to make that shift. How did you make that shift?

Dave Kellogg:

First I do think it’s very hard. I think there’s two ways to do it, frankly. One is just to found your own company-

Tom Wentworth:


Dave Kellogg:

…it’s probably the easier way to do it to be honest because getting recruited into it, super hard and I could tell you, I was CMO of BusinessObjects as we grew from 30 million to a billion and I didn’t get CEO calls until we were 500 million at least. So to me at some point, you had to be a big time CMO to even get a call from somebody. And I remember one time, I love this story. I went on a call, I meet this recruiter, she’s a high-end boutique recruiter and we’re having lunch, we’re talking about the job in the million and she looks at me and goes, “You are not a CEO, you are a CMO.” I’m like, “Of course, I’m a CMO.” I’m a CMO of a $500 million company. What are you telling me? Is this something that is fortune telling?”

Dave Kellogg:

It’s hard because people… And particularly the time, I think it’s a little easier now but when you interview for CEO jobs as a CMO, it’s, “Have you ever had a P&L?” No. “Have you ever run finance?” No. “Have you ever run HR?” No. “Have you ever run sales?” No. Right? So at some point it’s like, why did you call me to go… Because you just looked at my CV and see I never did those things. You can look at my CV and tell me I’m a CMO. I know I’m a CMO. So in my mind it ends up being a barter. I mean, I think, there’s two things you need to do.

Dave Kellogg:

One, while you are a CMO embrace the whole business. I mean, one of my prouder moments was sometime at BusinessObjects, some people were sick, somebody wasn’t in and like, “Hey, Dave, there’s a big shareholder on an investor relations call can you come in and handle the call? Because we got nobody.” I’m like, “Fine, I’ll meet with the guy.” And I’m meeting with the person, he’s asking about our numbers and our ratios and our growth rates and blah, blah, blah and I’m answering all the questions. And about halfway through the meeting, the guy goes, “Are you CMO or COO?” And that was like a big compliment in my mind. I was like, “Thank you. Yeah, I’m CMO, and yes I know all the numbers because I understand the business.” And I’m a believer that marketing should understand the whole business.

Dave Kellogg:

I think part of it is while you are CMO and on the e-staff, embrace what that is, right? One of my bosses always told me, “Dave, you have two jobs. One, is to run marketing for me and the other is to help me run the company.” Right? And I always think that all CMOs have not one job, right? If you just give yourself that first job running marketing, you’re kind of missing. Remember the second job, you’re also part of the team running the company and that gives you a pretty broad remit. My basic line is, there’s always a difference between getting a job and then being able to do it. I had some friends, particularly in sales who were great at getting jobs, but they would just fail. This one lady I knew was just fantastic at getting jobs, but she was not actually nowhere near as good at preparing herself to do them so my whole thing was okay, let’s prepare ourselves to do the job and then go get the job.

Dave Kellogg:

So step one, prepare. And then step two, how do you get it? In my opinion, at least when I looked, first, I didn’t see the pick of the litter because I was a flawed candidate because I hadn’t run a P&L, I hadn’t done this, I hadn’t done that. So it ends up being a horse trade. It was like, “Okay, you haven’t run a P&L, but…” I remember one time they were like, “Have you ever run a forecast call?” I’m like, “No, but I’ve been to 450 of them over the last nine years.” You think something might have rubbed off. It was a good answer, it turned out that that worked, but it’s like, yeah. I embrace the process. I don’t go to the forecast call and I’m not on email, right? I’m paying attention. So getting myself ready.

Dave Kellogg:

And then I’m horse trading basically. So the ones that I would see would trade domain expertise for lack of functional expertise. It was like, “Oh, it’s a company that sells to marketing.” Or, “Oh, it’s a company in BI and analytics.” Right? And that became the rule. It was a horse trade between what I could bring and what I was missing. And that’s how you get the job in my mind. You got to prepare yourself, you have to market or position myself. You need to position yourself as an executive who comes from a marketing background who understands the whole business and then you need to be ready, either found your own company, great. Or be ready for this horse trade where they’re going to say, “Well, you’ve never done this, you’ve never done that and I have concerns.” And you need to have good answers to those questions.

Tom Wentworth:

I think often the only path for that to happen is for a CMO to get offered a CEO job at a terrible company that forever tarnishes your reputation. Would you advise if somebody were to go through it and be lucky enough to get offered a CEO or president role, but at a company that clearly just wasn’t going to be successful, is that a path that you’d recommend people consider?

Dave Kellogg:

It is a fantastic question in my mind, because I think in Silicon Valley often we’re faced with what I call Groucho Marx problems, right? I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would admit me. I wouldn’t want to be CEO of any company that would hire me and that happens a lot. It happens to CMO jobs as well, right? So you have to be super sensitive to Groucho Marx problems and you are absolutely correct that if you take that job and that thing fails, you’ve burned your resume and if I were advising you, I’d be like, “You need to go cleanse yourself, go back to a big vendor and reposition yourself as failed CEO guy and literally go cleanse yourself. You need to do two, three years of the penalty box, being the CMO again.” Because if you get two or three of those in a row, then you’re permanently repositioned. Oh, you’re a failed startup guy and then you’re done, right? I do think Silicon Valley is forgiving to the extent that you get one mess up, but you can’t get multiple mess ups. But-

Tom Wentworth:

Then your path is really just, your only path to CEO is the company you start.

Dave Kellogg:

Yeah. And then it’s going to be hard to raise money because if you have two or three failed ones. I did a post on this as well, which is another one that I like that people don’t, it’s called the red badge of courage, failure in Silicon Valley. It’s not about marketing, but it’s about failure, right? And Silicon Valley will view a failure as a red badge of courage, but don’t get two and don’t get two in a row. So you have to manage it closely. And here’s the real thing. I mean, you touched on the point. If the company can’t be saved because what I was going to say was, you actually end up the only people will hire you will be broken start-ups and you end up a broken startup guy.

Dave Kellogg:

And then some of these things can’t be saved. I interviewed for a CEO job recently at a startup, love the founder, love the category, I thought there was a cap table problem, which when I was younger, I couldn’t have recognized, but there was a problem with the cap table in my mind that doomed the company. So I said, “No.” In this particular case, the CEO got bounced and there was a big blow up six months later. So I called it right. It was like, “This thing can’t be saved. I love you, I love your company, but some of the worst mistakes you could make as a founder early on is who you let on your cap table and what way, and you’ve lost control of your company and there’s nothing I can do to fix that. So, sorry. There’s nothing I can do.” And having the wisdom to be able to recognize that took me a long time to figure out.

Dave Kellogg:

So I think the short answer to me and I’m going to give you a sophisticated answer to this is, it’s all about what you need to prove to yourself, right? I could have made more money if I wanted, I turned down CMO at VMware when I was leaving BusinessObjects in favor of being CEO of MarkLogic, right? I would’ve made more money probably but they sold early. But let’s just assume I would’ve been more money as CMO of VMware because obviously they did real well but I wanted to be a CEO. It was super important to prove to myself that I could do that and I have no regrets about doing it, things worked out fine, but you got to be very clear on that priority because second, it’s hard to go back and get those CMO jobs if you’ve got CEO.

Tom Wentworth:


Dave Kellogg:

All of a sudden it’s like, “Wait a minute. Why do you want to go back?” I mean, and look, I think it’s harder for other executives to understand this, but we’re marketing people, we should know this. It’s what I always tell people, right? You should know this. You’re going to reposition yourself as a CEO, it’s not going to be easy to go back as a CMO.

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah. Which then means the only jobs you’re going to get are the failed CEO startup jobs and those are some uncomfortable life to live for a title that looks good, but it’s not ultimately going to sustain you.

Dave Kellogg:

Yeah. Don’t do it. So you can look at your business card and see CEO because you’re going to be happy for exactly one day and that’s not good. So-

Tom Wentworth:

Well, I’m now CEO of my podcast so that’s how I’ve checked this box off so that’s an easy one.

Dave Kellogg:

There you go.

Tom Wentworth:

All right, I’m going to let you go. This has been fantastic, but I read probably a hundred of your posts over the past couple of days and I pulled out because they’re awesome and I’m looking forward to the book someday, which I hope is coming. But I got a few things I wanted to call out. One, a key skill for any successful CMO is the ability to say no, just don’t be too good at it. So true.

Dave Kellogg:

Yeah, absolutely. In this particular one because I’ve been doing this for a while and coaching a lot of CMOs, I actually have CMOs who I’ve told that to, where I literally taught them how to say no. It’s like, “Hey, when I knew you five years ago, you were a doormat and you needed to say no more and now you’re saying no too much.” I need you dial back.

Tom Wentworth:

This one is LinkedIn. You wrote this a long time ago, but this is the modern state of marketing thought leadership on LinkedIn. Market for your sales force, not for other marketers. Marketing is a self-congratulatory discipline, lots of campaigns that win awards don’t move the sales needle on edge. You wrote this back in the era of people submitting for [inaudible 00:56:15] awards or whatever, but now it’s for hot takes on LinkedIn. So totally agree with us.

Dave Kellogg:

Yeah. That’s a great one, it is. Marketing and particularly advertising is a completely self-congratulatory industry. And I think credibility is so important in enterprise sales. Your salespeople have to believe in you and if they see you spending [inaudible 00:56:34] off congratulating yourself for campaigns that didn’t move their needle, that’s not a good thing for you.

Tom Wentworth:

Whatever it is in the new world you’re sharing, the thing you did, the event you launched, the flashy thing you launched, yeah, okay, but I don’t want to know you launched something doesn’t mean it actually had an impact on the business. No one ever goes and talks about that. No one says, “I did something cool that actually did this.” No one talks about that way.

Dave Kellogg:


Tom Wentworth:

So that one felt relevant today and the last one and the most minor, but maybe the most important. I have an innocent, again, an old school, Dave Kellogg post. I have a new pet peeve, sales and marketing people who use the word very as a condiment sprinkling it heavily and indiscriminately like salt into any product or company claim. So we cannot use the word very and in general, just marketing copies got out of hand.

Dave Kellogg:

Yeah. I can’t remember if I put my favorite Mark Twain quote into that post.

Tom Wentworth:

You did.

Dave Kellogg:

I love that. Find every various substituted for damn and then edit for profanity, which is a fantastic way of saying, “Yeah, there’s a lot of bad copy out there.” I still do some interim marketing gig work and I’ll end up editing copy from time to time. I like doing it, but there’s just a lot of bad copy out there and it all starts with adjectives, right? Just piling. The other one I’ll say now is, if your marketing copy reads like a restaurant menu, like, free range, organic, Hudson Valley chicken…

Tom Wentworth:

Full of buzzwords of the day, that’s… Yeah.

Dave Kellogg:

Yeah. If you line up five adjectives before your noun, it’s probably a big warning sign. Another big warning sign is the word very. They used to have jargonator. There was a website called the jargonator.

Tom Wentworth:

The best.

Dave Kellogg:

I have trouble finding them. They would actually give you a jargon score and those are great too because Silicon Valley, it’s a [inaudible 00:58:41]. I started earlier in the conversation talking about don’t write copy that reads like a PR agency wrote it, which is potentially offensive to PR people but don’t. Because PR agencies are famous for this stuff.

Tom Wentworth:

Yeah, Apple doesn’t and you shouldn’t neither. Dave, thank you so much for time today. This has been great. I mean, really reading your blog posts in preparation for this was such a refreshing reminder of how much the world really hasn’t changed as much as people like to think it’s changed, but just what good marketing looks like and I’m going to tell everybody, I interact with my team here and people that are going to hopefully listen to this that they should go check yourself out because it’s the best annotated history of the evolution of enterprise software marketing that I think exists on the planet. So I hope you get an autograph copy of the book someday.

Dave Kellogg:

All right. Well, thanks. Big compliment and I appreciate it. So thanks. It’s been a pleasure talking to you and I wish you success with this podcast because I think the world needs it, more discussion about enterprise software marketing.

Tom Wentworth:

I’m going to pull that out as a pull quote in my promotion. So there you go. Thanks Dave.

Dave Kellogg:

Hey, take care. Great talking to you Tom.


Shall we play a game?

TL;DR I started a new job as the Chief Marketing Officer of Recorded Future. We empower organizations to reveal unknown security threats before they impact business, and enable teams to respond to alerts 10 times faster. If you want to hear the why, read on…

Let’s face it, the 80s was the best decade for movies. This is inarguable. Before you ok boomer me, know that I’m a proud Gen X 🙂 So what’s the best movie from 80s? Acceptable answers include: almost anything from John Hughes, Spielberg, or Kubrick; the Empire Strikes Back; Say Anything. Or the best of them all, Wargames.

Wargames tells the story of bored high school student and aspiring hacker David Lightman. In the first 15 minutes of the movie, they show Lightman playing Galaga, the GOAT of all 80s arcade games. And even better, they show how Lightman was able to break into his school database and change his grades.

But really his dream is to break into the server of his favorite game company Protovision. So he wardials every phone number in Sunnyvale CA until one day he connects to a system that doesn’t identify itself. He pokes around to see if the server hosts any games and he finds a list that starts with chess, checkers, backgammon, and poker, as well as titles such as “Theaterwide Biotoxic and Chemical Warfare” and “Global Thermonuclear War”, but to his dismay, he can’t play any of them. Later, two hacker friends explain the concept of a backdoor password and suggest tracking down the Falken referenced in “Falken’s Maze”, the first game listed. Lightman discovers that Stephen Falken was an early artificial-intelligence researcher, and guesses correctly that his dead son’s name, Joshua, is the password.

Chaos ensues as the server he’s broken into is the WOPR at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. It uses artificial intelligence to simulate millions of possible outcomes from various military strategies (e.g. wargames). But, the Joshua AI has a hard time knowing the difference between gaming and reality (hey, it happens) and because the WOPR has access to the missile launch codes, Lightman almost causes WW3.

By the time Wargames came out, I was already well into my obsession with computers and programming BASIC on my trusty TI-99 4/A. But Wargames threw my obsession into overdrive. I figured out how to lock down my computer with a password (Joshua obv) to prevent unauthorized access my from snooping parents. I got a 300 baud modem for my birthday, fast enough to read scroll text in real time from remote systems. I discovered the magic of the BBS where I could play games, chat with other nerds, and yes, download WaReZ (look, I was 11). It was absolutely magical. I kept programming all the way through high school and went to the University of Illinois to study math and computer science. At Illinois, I worked as a UNIX admin responsible for maintaining DNS. I read the 1992 first edition of O’Reilly DNS and BIND cover to cover. Eventually I realized at age 22 that I wasn’t very good at programming and that it was time to find something else to do.

Would I have gone down that path without Wargames? Maybe. But decades later I still think back to how inspired I was. And reflecting on it now, I think Wargames is as relevant today as it was to me in the 80s. Sure, we’ve moved beyond wardialing, but anything connected to a network is a potential risk. And while an AI that can pass a Turing-test like Joshua is still a ways away, it’s certainly on the horizon. Could a modern day David Lightman start a real war through an SSH terminal? Quite possibly. Look at the success of the Stuxnet program. Stuxnet is believed to be responsible for causing substantial damage to Iran’s nuclear program by exploiting a collection of zero-day exploits to gain control of programmable logic controllers, ultimately shutting down nuclear centrifuges.

From the national security to risk management at organizations large and small, security has never been more important to our future. Because there are tens of thousands of bad David Lightmans across the globe looking for ways to hack into your organization. The results of their efforts ranges from the mildly annoying DDOS attacks to catastrophic events. And maybe worse.

That’s why I’m excited about the opportunity at Recorded Future.

For the past 10 years, Recorded Future has focused on empowering organizations to take a proactive approach to cybersecurity. We’ve done this by collecting and analyzing threat data from the broadest range of sources and producing threat intelligence to help organizations gain insight into the intentions and techniques of cyber adversaries. This enables them to work smarter and stop threats faster.


On Cambridge Analytica

Last night I watched the Great Hack on Netflix. Highly recommended. Here’s a TL;DR oversimplification on how it all worked: 

SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, created a psychographics-based methodology to manipulate political opinion in developing nations. It worked, and they formed Cambridge Analytica to participate in the US election process.

Their methodology was pretty simple: they used the Ocean personality model to categorize people across 5 factors: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Voters were segmented using predictive models created with classic techniques like clustering. Then Cambridge Analytica created highly targeted marketing campaigns for each personality trait to influence voting.

So to this point, nothing is unusual. Marketers have been employing this segmentation strategy since Claude Hopkins wrote Scientific Advertising back in 1923. But wow, the scale they were able to achieve. That’s where Facebook comes in.

Cambridge Analytica started by paying Facebook users to complete a lengthy survey called This Is Your Digital Life. This created a complete OCEAN profile for all the users who completed the survey, and it let Cambridge Analytica harvest a bunch of additional data including your likes and even your entire news feed. More importantly, it also let Cambridge Analytica grab all the same data for all your friends who installed the survey app. Facebook wasn’t supposed to allow this, more on that later.

So now Cambridge Analytica could build a predictive model (well, 253 different models) based all the training data it captured from users who got paid to complete the survey. Then it could run everyone else who didn’t actually complete the survey through the model to classify them into a personality profile. That’s how you turn 32,000 survey responses into 87,000,000 voter profiles. According to Cambridge Analytica, their predictive models were only slightly better than a random chance but still, at that scale that’s more than enough to influence an election.

With these profiles now in place, the entire Trump Facebook ad budget could go to voters in swing states with very specific messages based on their personality profiles with less ad spend waste. The rest, is history.

This isn’t the first time technology was used to influence an election (and it won’t be the last). For example, the analytics team on the 2008 Obama campaign pioneered using multivariate optimization to increase donations, and in one test generated an additional $60m. This result led to the founding of Optimizely.

But this wasn’t some bullshit user acquisition growth hack gone bad. It was our election, the foundation of democracy. It’s easy to point fingers at Cambridge Analytica, and they obviously bear lots of the blame for this. But in my opinion, it’s Facebook that deserves most of the blame. Cambridge Analytica can’t happen without data mining millions of Facebook profiles. It seems pretty clear that lots of people at Facebook knew this was happening, maybe even Mark Zuckerberg. But they did nothing.

This is an extreme, history altering reminder that “if you don’t pay for the product, you are the product”


Sales Engineers are the MVPs of SaaS

I graduated college back in the mid-90s when a 56k modem was considered high-speed internet. I started my tech career in QA at a software startup called AimTech that created authoring software for multimedia apps. We competed with Macromedia Director, and eventually Macromedia Flash.

Through my QA job, I became an expert on our product called Jamba. Anytime someone wanted to learn how our a specific feature of our product worked, they came to me. Apparently, I was pretty good at explaining how our product worked, because one day the head of sales asked if I was interested in becoming a Sales Engineer. I had no idea what a Sales Engineer(SE) did, but I noticed they wore nicer clothes than me and none still lived at home with their parents, so I agreed!

And loved it. It was easily the best career decision I made in my life. 

As an SE, I traveled the world meeting with customers and prospects to talk about how we could help them build interactive applications on the web without having to learn how to write code in this new language called Java (I told you, this was a long time ago).

Me on the left giving a tradeshow demo circa 1997(?)

Eventually, my little New Hampshire startup was acquired by Asymetrix, a company founded by the late Paul Allen. Shortly after I moved to San Francisco to join the SE team at Macromedia. After a few crazy years at Macromedia, I joined a dot com era high flyer called Interwoven, which kicked off my journey into web content management. I started as an individual contributor at Interwoven and later moved into an SE leadership role before being asked to move into a Product Marketing role.

Looking back at that journey reminds me of how much I absolutely loved being a part of an SE team and how much of a lasting impact it had on my career. Nearly every skill I use today as a marketer came from my experience as an SE for well over a decade. 

Here’s are the 5 most valuable lessons I learned in my time as an SE:

Everyone in tech needs to learn how to sell. SEs sell. Most get paid commission and carry a quota just like an Account Executive. Sure, I didn’t have to own the forecast or be responsible for doing whatever it took to get a deal at the end of a quarter. But I always felt like I owned the number and that my success was binary: I either hit the number or I didn’t.

SEs are in the position to sell as a trusted advisor in a way that an Account Executive just can’t. And that doesn’t just apply to getting the technical buyer to recommend your product. The best SEs can shape business conversations in a way that leads to your product becoming the only option. Which leads me to:

The best SEs aren’t always the most technical. The endless debate in SE circles revolves around technical vs. business acumen. Sure there’s a foundational technical knowledge you need to have to get the technical win in a sales cycle. But a great SE can achieve a technical win without always needing to be technical, because they can change the conversation. 

For example, my ex-Interwoven colleagues John Narbaitz, James Santoro, and Ryan Sciandri were highly technical SEs. They were both able to blow customers away with brute technical force using highly customized demos and proof-of-concepts. Yes, of course both John and James were fantastic at driving the entire sales cycle (both are sales execs now) but being technical was a competitive weapon for them. 

Some of my less technical Interwoven colleagues like Rajib SenGupta and Andrew Wamberg worked earlier in the sales cycle to change the conversation from technical to business outcomes. They could do more in a few slides than I could do in a week of writing code. They were much better at listening than I was.

All were fantastic SEs who used different approaches to win. But over time my view has changed, and I now think that the very best SEs are the ones who can win with technical skills but almost never have to because they are so good at listening to the customer and driving the conversation away from the technical to the business value they can deliver.

Presentation skills matter. Life is about selling ideas. Whether you are selling your boss on your next promotion or at home selling your daughter on going to bed on time (my nightly challenge), we are always working to influence people and change behavior. And there’s nothing that will refine your persuasion skills quite like spending a decade on the road presenting to customers and prospects.

In my early SE days, I was a terrible presenter. I talked way too fast (still do). I used big words I thought would make me sound smart. I had awful body language and was too afraid to look at my audience. I talked about product features like anyone cared about them. I eventually became a good presenter by putting in my Freakonomics 10,000 hours. To this day, I’ve never taken any formal presentation training but I continue to work hard to get better because it’s been such an important part of my career (and life).

One easy way to stand out as a presenter is to always bring the energy, whether you are presenting to a small team of colleagues or standing in front of a room of 1000. Sure you’ve shown the same demo and slides hundreds of times, but why should an audience be enthusiastic about something that you obviously aren’t? Make this one simple change and you’ll 10x the results from your presentations.

SEs are the authentic voice of the field. Want to really know what’s happening in the field? Ask an SE. What are customers really looking for? Is your messaging working? What’s happening with competitors? SEs are always on the front-lines and are great at providing a spin-free perspective on what’s working and what isn’t. 

Because of this, SEs have an obligation to have a strong internal voice. If something isn’t working, speak up.

The SE role uniquely prepares you for any career path. There’s no other role that better prepares you for whatever direction you want to take your career. There are so many options:

  • You can advance through multiple individual contributor roles into team leadership. My SE journey went from being a Sales Engineer to Senior Sales Engineer to Principal Sales Engineer to SE Manager and eventually SE Director.
  • Many SEs eventually move into Sales. As an SE you get to learn a lot about the sales process and the expectations that come from being in Sales. The challenge that new SEs in Sales have are usually related to the start (prospecting &qualifying) and end (forecasting & closing) of the sales process.
  • More technical SEs sometimes move into Product Management, where they can use their hands-on knowledge of products and customers to build better products.
  • The smartest SEs move into Marketing, often starting in Product Marketing. Okay, maybe I’m biased 🙂 Product Marketing is a great landing spot for SEs as it lets you take everything you’ve learned in the field and apply it at a broader scale. 

I have so many fond memories of my time as an SE. I learned so many foundational skills that have allowed me to grow my career. I love being in marketing too, but I absolutely miss being on the front lines all the time. Which leads me to my next point: 

The SA team at Acquia is among the best I’ve seen

The SE team we had at Interwoven was absolutely amazing. Until I joined Acquia, I was sure it was the best team of SEs ever assembled. Now I’m not so sure.

I’ve been working closely with the SE team at Acquia (we call them Solution Architects, or SAs) for over 4 years and what I’ve seen them achieve is nothing short of spectacular. If you want to be a part of the best and learn from the best, you owe it to yourself to talk to Acquia. 

Here’s what the team at Acquia does that makes them special:

They start with the customer and work backward. The Acquia SA team is obsessed with customer value. They are experts in driving sales conversations by linking a customers high-priority needs to Acquia products. In most companies, this is usually the domain of the Account Executive. But in my experience at Acquia, the SA team is deeply involved in this process, which helps them avoid having to win on brute technical force alone.

They don’t rely on being technical. On the whole, the SA team at Acquia is more technical than the other SA teams I’ve been a part of. To be a great SA at a Acquia, you need to know Drupal and its role in the modern web technology stack.

When we’re in technical evaluations against competitors like Adobe and Sitecore, we almost always always win. That’s because our SAs are able to clearly demonstrate how Acquia delivers business value. They do that through expert discovery that connects customer requirements with unique value that Acquia can deliver.

Acquia nails the SA career path. I’ve never seen a more well defined and supported career path for SA. From formal titles definitions with clear goals and milestones necessary for advancement to support for SAs joining other parts of the organization, Acquia’s got it down.

There are multiple SA levels at Acquia including Associate SA, SA, Senior SA, Master SA, and Principal SA. And Acquia SAs have moved into many other positions in the organization, including Sales, Customer Success, and Product Management.

SA are strategic. There’s nothing an SA hates more than being asked to just “give the demo”. Give a demo of what? To whom? Why? 

The SA team at Acquia is used to drive strategic sales conversations. Of course, giving demos is an important part of this process, but only when it makes sense. And only after the work has been done to setup the demo for success. 

They care deeply about winning. This is near and dear to my heart. The thing I most miss about being an SA is that feeling you get when you win against a competitor. Our SAs know that they are in sales and embrace the challenges and opportunities that come from being responsible for hitting a number.

I believe that the Acquia SA team is the best in the WCM / DXP industry. So if you’re are an SA at Sitecore tired of dealing with all the technical debt and leadership changes, we’ve got a home for you. Or if you’re at Adobe and are tired of crazy quotas and constant reorgs, we should talk! Just drop a note to jakub dot suchy at acquia. Tell him this blog post sent you 🙂

Final thoughts on being a Sales Engineer

  • Learn how to command a whiteboard. It’s a lost art and a great way to have an interactive conversation with a prospect.
  • Saying “I don’t know” is better than giving a BS answer.
  • Never show anything in a demo that you haven’t practiced 100 times before. I don’t care what your rep asked you to show.
  • Don’t talk past the sale. When your prospect understands something, move on.
  • 9/10 times when something goes wrong in a demo the audience didn’t notice it. Just keep going.
  • Be careful when bashing the competition. There’s a right and wrong way to do it. I’ve learned this the hard way.
  • I hate blind RFPs too, but unless you are consistently crushing your number you’ll have to do some.
  • Be nicer to marketing 🙂 They work really hard too. If you don’t like something, just tell us why.

Oh Shit, Now What?

Okay let me start by paying off this clickbait headline right away: A couple of months ago I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. TL;DR I made life changes, and so far they are working.

Let’s take a step back.

I’ve never exactly been a skinny guy. Even back in high school when I was in the best shape of my life, I weighed around 180 pounds. Four years of pizza and beer at the University of Illinois took that up to around 200 or so, where I stayed throughout my 20s. In my 30s, relentless travel and all the associated bad habits–usually pizza and beer–drove my weight up even further. I became the Big Tuna (thanks Sal and Capitan Ron for that).

Then in August of 2012, I hit an all time high at 246 pounds. Of course I had just bought a wifi-enabled scale–just because–so all of my glorious highs and lows over the years are tracked forever.

But even worse than clocking in at nearly 246, in my annual physical I learned that my blood sugar was elevated all the way into the pre-diabetes range. Not terrible yet, but it scared me. I changed my diet and started tracking everything I ate using an app called LoseIt! I tried to eat ~1200 calories, a day backing out any exercise. For example, if I burned 400 calories running a 5k I could have three glasses of wine. So I started running, a lot.

And It worked! By the time I started a new job at Acquia in late 2012 I was down 30 pounds, and by February I was all the way down to 202!

Even better, I got my blood work done again and I had fallen out of the pre-diabetes range. For most of 2013, I continued to do really well. I tracked my calories every day. I worked out with a trainer a few times a week. I ran at least a few times a week. I even did three Tough Mudders in one summer.

West Side

But then life happened. I had my daughter in late 2013, which made it harder to keep up the insane exercise program I was on. I stopped tracking calories. And by the time I left Acquia for RapidMiner in 2015, I was all the way back up to 231 pounds, and guess what? My blood sugar was again back in the pre-diabetes range.

But this time, I didn’t make any dramatic changes. I did lose ~15 or so pounds over the next few months, and every 6 months or so I got my blood checked and each time I was “safely” in the pre-diabetes range.

Until February 2019.

I had pushed off my bi-annual bloodwork because I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t feel right. I had even started to eat less and workout more in a crash diet attempt to fix my blood sugar. But it doesn’t work that way.

The main measurement used to diagnose Diabetes is the A1C test, a blood test that provides information about your average levels of blood sugar over the past 3 months. Eating well for a few weeks can impact your fasting blood sugar, but moving an A1C over a short period of time is impossible.

So when I finally went in to get my blood tested, I knew it was going to be bad. But I couldn’t have imagined how bad it would be. For context, an A1c of between 4% and 5.6% is considered good, that’s what everyone should shoot for. Anything between 5.7% and 6.4% is considered pre-diabetes. In previous tests, I was somewhere between 6.1-6.3%.

I checked in at a cool 11%, an average blood sugar of 269 over a 90 day period.

What. The. Actual. Fuck.

Looking back, I have no idea how it got that bad. I really hadn’t gained any significant weight, and my diet really didn’t change, I’ve always been a pizza and beer guy. My doctor didn’t get it either, and we even considered running the test again because it was so crazy high. But I knew deep down it was bad and the test had to be right. Normally at such a high A1C you’d be put in insulin, but my doctor trusted that I could get it back under control. To do that, I had to make a change, for real and forever.

After doing some research in lots of places (shout out /r/diabetes) I settled on doing two things to get back on track: Intermittent fasting and Keto.

Intermittent fasting is one of the most popular health and fitness trends. It doesn’t specify which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them. There are lots of techniques, but I settled in on the 16/8 method: Skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 12–9 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between.

I also starting cutting carbs and eventually went all the way to Keto. The Keto diet aims to force your body into using a different type of fuel. Instead of relying on sugar from carbohydrates, the keto diet relies on ketone bodies, a type of fuel that the liver produces from stored fat. With Keto, you’ve got to limit yourself to like 30-40 net carbs a day. It’s difficult but possible. Especially when you are only eating two meals a day.

I cut out Diet Soda. I cut out my morning Sugar Free Red Bull. I’ve cut out snacks including my all-time favorite Utz Pretzel Rods. I haven’t had more than a slice of pizza in months. I limit myself to a beer or two a week. But let’s not go crazy, wine is low-ish enough carb to keep in the diet.

And the changes worked. I’m a sample size of one, but as of this morning I’m at my lowest weight since New Kids on the Block had the Right Stuff. I donated every XL shirt I own because they don’t fit. I’m never going back.

Through better eating and testing my blood sugar a few times a day, I’m in a much better place with my blood sugar too. My A1C is already down to 7.5% after 6 weeks, and I’m confident that I’ll be down to pre-diabetes levels in a few months. And this time, I’ll stay there. There’s science behind why Keto and intermittent fasting work for Type 2 Diabetes.

I wrote this post to keep myself accountable. If I keep this plan up, I’ll take my A1c back down to pre-diabetic and maybe even non-diabetic levels. I’ll always have Type 2 Diabetes, but it’s totally manageable.

I’ll save my preachy stuff for last: the American diet sucks. I made all the bad choices myself. No one forced me chase a Dominos pizza with a four pack of IPAs. But we make it really hard for people to eat well. Nutrition guidelines are a joke, gamed by minuscule serving sizes that hide the truth behind calories and carbs.


There and back again

Today I started a new job at Acquia, the open source digital experience company. Yeah, that Acquia.

First day at Acquia in 2012

Since I left in 2015, Acquia has exploded to over $200m in revenue. Dries, Lynne, Tim & team have done a fantastic job turning Acquia into a digital experience powerhouse. Bigger, bolder, better. My journey back is a homecoming to both to a company I loved working for, and a deep passion for the web developed over more than two decades.

See, back in the early 90s, I studied computer science at the University of Illinois. I was a classmate of Marc Andreessen while he was creating Mosaic, the first widely used web browser. I was also a huge fan of the band Phish, and an active poster on the USENet newsgroup.

I decided to build a web page to list Phish tour dates. For a brief period of time, was the definitive resource for upcoming Phish shows. It probably looked something like this handcrafted in VI:

Upcoming Phish Concerts
<img src="phish.gif"></img>
<p>1993-08-14 World Music Theatre Tinley Park, IL</p>

A few years after graduating from Illinois, I moved to the Bay Area for my dream job as a sales engineer at Macromedia. I joined shortly after the acquisition of the company that became Flash (sorry about that) and a little bit before the first release of Dreamweaver 1.0.

Who knew the scourge this would become?

Products like Dreamweaver, Homesite, and Frontpage empowered a new “webmaster” role at companies who were in a mad scramble to get the corporate print brochure recreated as a website. Being a sales engineer at Macromedia during the dot com boom was the closest thing in my life to being a rock star. Well before embarrassing moments were shared forever on social media, I remember stage diving during a private Beck during Internet World Los Angeles in 1997.

The big topic? Oracle’s plans to create a network computer.

While Dreamweaver was fantastic (drag+drop HTML tables!), webmasters were overwhelmed. Web pages became web sites. Everyone wanted to publish content but the tools remained out of reach for most. Pure play web companies like were showing that the web could be so much more than just a slightly uglier version of the corporate print brochure. The companies I met with wanted something with the simplicity of Dreamweaver and the ability to handle growing complex sites and applications.

So in early 2000, I joined Interwoven, a pioneer in a new type of application called Content Management Systems. Interwoven had recently held one of the most successful IPOs of the dot com era and was so desperate to hire it offered a free two year BMW Z3 lease to new engineering hires.

Sadly, sales engineers didn’t count

This was the pinnacle of the “dot com boom”. Startups would IPO pre-revenue using the proceeds to lease office space along Route 101, buy a Sun E10000. And a Content Management System. Back then you didn’t hire more SDRs to scale, you bought more fax machines.

Your iPhone is way more powerful than this

After years of battling Vignette for Content Management supremacy, Interwoven emerged as the dominant first generation leader. We acquired MediaBin, a digital asset management company and then Optimost, a website testing pioneer. We built a rules-based personalization engine. And in 2007-2008, we helped create the category that became known as Web Experience Management. Websites had become web experiences. In all, I spent 8 years at Interwoven on all the way through our early 2009 acquisition by Autonomy.

I left Autonomy to join scrappy CMS upstart Ektron (now EPIServer) that happened to be located just a few miles from my house. Ektron was battling Sitecore to become the leader in Microsoft .NET content management. We successfully drafted off the growth of the Microsoft/Sharepoint ecosystem, and in early 2012 became a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management. All was going well until the day I got a LinkedIn InMail from a recruiter:

Yes please.

I had been following both Drupal and WordPress for many years. Back at Interwoven, I once convinced the Interwoven marketing team into setting up a WordPress blog instead of using TeamSite. Sure WordPress didn’t do everything TeamSite did (and still doesn’t) but it was easy. It was fun. It was, in many ways, better. I was less familiar with Drupal, but knew of Dries and had watched Acquia rise to become one of Boston’s best startups under the leadership of Dries and CEO Tom Erickson.

From VI to Dreamweaver. From Dreamweaver to Interwoven and Ektron. In my mind, no company was better prepared than Acquia for the evolution of Content Management to Web Content Management to Web Experience Management to Digital Experience Platforms.

Ambitious Digital Experiences

I forget exactly when I heard Dries talk about Drupal for ambitious digital experiences. But it was brilliant. One of those why didn’t I think of that moments.

See that’s the thing: Most digital experiences aren’t ambitious. They aren’t much better than my Phish page or the sites I saw created through Dreamweaver and Flash at Macromedia in the 90s. Yeah, the technology behind digital experiences is better, but for the most part, the experiences they power remain decidedly un-ambitious.

Sounds like an opportunity to me.

Tesla has made ordering a supercar as easy as buying a roll of paper towels on Amazon. I can order a Dominos pizza through my voice, watch, or just tweeting 🍕to @dominos. Enduring companies and brands win through creating moments that matter.

That’s why I’m coming back to Acquia.

Developers rule the world

You can’t buy an ambitious digital experience. You just can’t. But you can create one.

CMOs buy digital experience platforms with the right intentions but underestimate the importance of developers and the role of the tech stack. It’s the difference between begrudgingly enjoying meal purchased from the frozen section of your grocery store vs. dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Most digital experience platform vendors avoid developers at all costs because they ask too many tough questions: Tell me exactly how your platform supports modern front-end architectures like React? What standards do you support? How exactly does your cloud platform scale? How do you manage and govern hundreds or thousands of sites?

Twilio and Atlassian have built multi-billion dollar companies by giving developers exactly what they need. Acquia gets this.

Open source delivers better innovation

Believe it or not, there was a time when open source was considered “risky”. FUD was rampant: open source isn’t secure! It’s not reliable. It can’t scale!

Once upon a time RedHat the only example of a successful open source company at scale. But then came Acquia, MongoDB, Mulesoft, Elastic, and many more. From the FAANG stocks to century-old Fortune 500 companies, now open source dominates every layer of the modern tech stack.

As more open source companies have gone public, there’s a growing trend to move away from licenses like the aGPL. Yet Acquia remains as pure of an open source company as there is.

Closed marketing clouds are still a bad idea

They were a bad idea (pre-cloud) in 2003 when Oracle released its Frankensuite that brought together Peoplesoft, Siebel, JD Edwards, and other legacy products everyone hated. The only thing unified was the license bill you received from your Oracle rep.

SaaS is prettier now

They were a bad idea in 2013 when I wrote this post on the Acquia blog about the rise of the Adobe Experience Cloud. Many years later, the foundational products behind Adobe’s Experience Cloud are still not well integrated and the problem is only growing worse as Adobe acquires everything it can to keep shareholders happy. Do I use Adobe Campaign or Marketo, not quite sure?

And yes they are still a bad idea now. I won’t show the obligatory Scott Brinker infographic to make this point, but history has proven over decades that innovation doesn’t come through product integration alone. While Oracle was busy assembling its Frankensuite, along came pioneers like Salesforce, Workday, and Netsuite.

Creating moments that matter

Machine learning is the next frontier of digital experience Let’s face it: website personalization hasn’t evolved much beyond simple A|B testing and the rules-based approaches I first saw at Interwoven. Mick MacComascaigh of Gartner has been talking about the idea of a “next best experience” for nearly a decade yet most personalization is nothing more than a last-in-first-out queue. Looking at you, retargeting.

One reason personalization remains a challenge is that customer data is stored all over the place. I’ll accept that, but I’m not okay with how companies like Facebook continue to abuse our my personal data in spite of new regulations like GDPR. Consumers want personalization, but on their terms.

I do think machine learning is the future of both creating and delivering digital experiences. There’s just so much that we can do to help guide users to create better content and deliver more moments that matter. While vendors brand their AI machine learning linear regression with cute names like Einstein and Sensei, the reality is that we’re very much still in the early days.

Creating moments that matter means embracing the entire customer journey. Today marketing teams have been restricted by tools that assume linear customer journeys that look like a funnel. But that’s simply not that case. A modern customer experience looks somewhat like a plate of spaghetti with nearly infinite twists and turns. We’ve evolved from delivering HTML files through a browser to delivering content everywhere through mobile apps, voice-enabled devices, screens, chatbots, augmented reality, and places we haven’t dreamed of yet.

Acquia has an exciting roadmap for both the future of customer journeys and machine learning. Stay tuned for more.

The rise of false clouds

Last week Lyft filed its S1 as its about to go public. I love reading S1s for the risk factors. The risk factor at Lyft that stood out was its relationship with AWS and a pre-committed spend of over $300m over three years. There’s was lots of armchair debate on Twitter over cloud economics and why Lyft shouldn’t just build its own bare metal infrastructure. The TL;DR is that it’s just too expensive and hard for almost any company to take on.

The cloud won.

Acquia pioneered delivering digital experiences in the cloud. Of course, these days every digital experience platform vendor offers something -as-a-service but when you really dig in, they are managed-services-as-a-service. They might not scale when you need it. They don’t offer than types of modern APIs that developers expect. They make it difficult to implement modern CI/CD best practices. They are optimized for a few sites, not thousands.

There’s just no better platform to build a digital experience than in than Acquia Cloud. As Steve Jobs used to say about Apple products, it just works.

Pick your boss, not your company

Over my prior three years at Acquia, I grew more than at any point in my surprising long wow I’m old career. My boss Tom Erickson challenged me in a way that made me a better person. I’ve never forgotten those three years: they were fun, challenging, and rewarding.

This time around I get a chance to work for Dries.

10 years from now, many of the products we use daily will go the way of Blockbuster. In 50 years, almost all of them will be a distant memory. Yet in 100 years I bet we’ll still be using Drupal. That’s a testament to Dries commitment to building a community that is bigger than any one person or company. It’s a privilege to be a part of something truly enduring.

Dries told me when I left in 2015 that we’d work together again. He knew then what I only recently re-discovered: that the excitement I felt creating my first web page in 1993 would turn into my life’s work.

“Little” Dries and I at DrupalCon Barcelona

My 2018 Book Report

A year ago today, I challenged myself to read err listen to more books in 2018. Thanks to a long commute and Audible, I hit my goal. Here’s a quick review of all the new books I read in 2018 (in alphabetical order) with my unscientific rating at the end.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

This is the sad story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos.

Holmes isn’t exactly a sympathetic character having willingly put lives at stake by delivering inaccurate labs results to patients. But she had a big vision, and was making good progress towards it — albeit more slowly than apparently she was willing to accept. Had she played by the same rules as, you know, every other healthcare startup, Theranos would be on a much different path.

But she didn’t play by the rules. She lied. Defrauded investors. Put lives at risk.

To Holmes and her co-conspirator COO boyfriend Sunny Balwani, the illusion of success and the paper wealth it created were more important than the truth. Bad Blood highlights everything wrong with the current win at all costs mentality that permeates Silicon Valley.


Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley by Emily Chang

I already knew most of the stories — Chris Sacca’s weird hot tub meetings. Susan Fowler’s awful experience at Uber. The creepy abuse of power from investors like Dave McClure and Justin Caldbeck. James Damore’s manifesto.

Taken individually they are a series of really, really bad decisions made by men. Assembled together by Emily Chang, it paints a clear picture of the signifcant obstacles faced by women and minorities in tech. From minor daily annoyances to outright harassment and criminal behavior, women in tech have had to put up with a lot of unnecessary shit. The irony pointed out by Chang is that the numbers show companies who hire more women in leadership positions perform better.


Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins

David Goggins is an enduarance athlete and retired Navy Seal. He has completed two Navy SEAL Hell Weeks, run 100 miles in 19 hours, run 135 miles in just under 26 hours, done over 4,000 pull-ups in 24 hours (a Guinness World Record), and completed the Ironman World Championships in just over 11 hours.

He’s absolutely crazy. Or is he?

One of the first points Goggins makes in Can’t Hurt Me is that “motivation is crap.” That’s because motivation disappears at the first sign of adversity. Goggins calls this the 40% rule — where we stop physical and mental pursuits way before hitting our actual capacity. There’s a reserve tank within, and only by pushing and breaking limits can we reach full potential.

To break through, Goggins calls on his mental “cookie jar” containing every setback he’s overcome in his life. And there’s lot of setbacks for him to draw upon. Goggins embraces pain and suffering to “callus his mind”.

Yeah, he’s pretty much the toughest man alive.


Dopesick by Beth Macy

Dopesick chronicles the opoid crisis told through stories of addicts and dealers in a small Virginia suburb. It’s the spiritual successor to the brilliant book Dreamland from Sam Quinones.

The introduction of OxyContin in 1996 affected society in ways we’re just now beginning to understand. Dreamland chronicled the ground zero of the opioid crisis — Central Appalachia. Dopesick expands on the story of how the crisis came into the suburbs, often through the I-70/I-81 corridor known as “Heroin Highway.”

The stories are so real and tragic. The injured high school football star who is prescribed painkillers but becomes addicted and dies of an overdose. The young addicts who are forced into dealing & prositution to support their habit. It’s trivially easy to get addicted and for many reasons, almost impossible to get clean for good. Dopesick makes it clear that the opiod crisis is getting worse, not better.

There are no easy answers. Opiates play an important role in pain management. For many, they are a godsend. But something has to change. Shame on Purdue phrama for bringing a product to market that was trivial to abuse. Shame on the doctors who overprescribed strong opiates for minor conditions. Shame on the pill mills who made opiates as easy to get as Skittles.


It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Okay, so I’m torn on this one.

A lot of the advice make sense: It should be less crazy and more calm at work. “Growth at all costs” is a pretty shitty way to build a business. I hate it when people add me to random meetings with no context. Remote is the future of work. And Gary Vaynerchuk bothers me sometimes too. But stuff like this, I just don’t know:

How about something really audacious: No targets, no goals. You can absolutely run a great business without a single goal. You don’t need something fake to do something real. And, if you must have a goal, how about just staying in business; or, serving your customers well; or, being a delightful place to work.


If you can’t fit everything you want to do within 40 hours per week, you need to get better at picking what to do, not working longer hours…. when you cut out what’s unnecessary, you’re left with what you need.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy and Work received great reviews from the general press, but my tech friends and I are more skeptical.

It’s a good read and there are some great actionable ideas in here. In particular I love the Office Hours concept, and I’m going to try it in 2019. But where’s the how? Where are the other examples beyond Basecamp? Does this only work at an n=1 sample size?

Basecamp feels a bit like the successful neighborhood store of tech companies. They built a business that works great… for Basecamp. But I’m not sure it would work for my company or yours. To be fair, Basecamp is honest about this.

But I think sometimes achieving great things requires sacrifice. A maybe a little crazy. Ask David Goggins about that.


Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World by Rand Fishkin

In Lost and Founder, Rand shares the story of Moz and what it’s really like to build and scale a startup. I really enjoyed the book and the cheat codes he provides based on the successes and failures he experienced building Moz to over $45m in revenue.

Rand teaches lessons through the lens of failure, which makes them much more real and actionable. Chances are that your startup looks a lot more like Moz than it does Slack, Atlassian, HubSpot, and the other hypergrowth rocket ship unicorn startups that you are likely to hear about at the SaaStr conference.

Stories like Moz need to be told loud and proud.


Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr

The OKRs concept came from legendary leader Andy Grove at Intel. Doerr saw the impact of OKRs when he worked for Grove at Intel. While at Intel, Andy Grove first implemented OKRs for “Operation Crush” — a project to achieve market dominance by taking down top competitor Motorola.

Doerr shared Grove’s OKR brainchild with more than 50 of his Kleiner Perkins portfolio companies, most notably Google. I’ve never worked at a company that’s used OKRs, but I’ve always been interested in learning more how they worked. And now I know.


Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi

I was there when Agassi first burst onto the tennis scene at the Stratton Mountain tournament in 1987. I was a young kid watching in awe as a 17 year old Agassi almost took down world number 1 Ivan Lendl with his huge topspin forhand. And huge hair! And huge personality!

Roger Federer is easily the best tennis player of all time and my personal favorite player will always be the great John McEnroe. But Agassi is right up there. I geeked out on all the tennis stories of his rise — fall — and rise again. Three things stuck out to me:

  • Sadly, Agassi hated tennis. It was work to him from the minute he landed at the Nick Bollettieri Academy.
  • Agassi used crystal meth during 1997, the worst year of his career. Wait, what?
  • And yes, his (in)famous hair was part toupee. Shaving his head was one of the most joyous moments in his life.


Principals: Life and Work by Ray Dalio

I’ll be honest. I had no idea who Ray Dalio was or what Bridgewater Associates did. The second is especially embarrassing as Bridgewater Associates is a long-time RapidMiner user.

I do now.

Wow, this is probably the best business book I’ve ever read. It really spoke to me.

In 1975, Ray Dalio founded investment firm Bridgewater Associates out of his two-bedroom apartment in New York City. Dalio started as a moderately successful commodity trader. After a few starts and stops, he learned that by analyzing historical patterns he could create machines that take inputs from the entire supply-chain of a commodoity — like a pork belly — and predict what will happen next and make better decisions.

Everything in business and life can be turned into a system.

Dalio’s Bridgewater operates on a principle called “idea meritocracy” — employing systems and methods to the best ideas come to make the best decisions. To do this requires “radical honesty”: Everyone has to be honest about their strengths and weaknesses in order to deliver the best inputs to the system. Each Bridgewater employee has a baseball card that lists their strengths and weaknesses across over 100 datapoints.

Dalio’s documents everything he believes in for both work and life as his “principals”. Here’s a good example of the type of insight you’ll read:

Just read it.

10/10 (David Goggins could get behind this!)

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

Shoe Dog is the story of the early days at Nike. It’s the anti-Valley success story. There were no insane growth hacks or unicorn funding rounds. Just the perseverance and grit of the “shoe dog” — Nike founder and Phil Knight.

Knight turned his running side-hustle passion project into a $30 billion business. Knight himself is worth $33b or so.

9/10 (Goggins approved)

The Autobiography of Gucci Mane by Gucci Mane

East Atlanta’s Radric Delantic Davis aka Gucci Mane is the founding father of trap music. He’s sold drugs, and been addicted to them. He’s been arrested many times. He was charged with murder (later dropped). He started writing his memoir while in federal prison.

It’s a fascinating story of drug-dealer-turned-rap-god. Gucci Mane began selling drugs in the seventh grade. By the time he released his first single So Icey in 2005, he had already been arrested and jailed twice.

Rap was his only path out.


Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger

At 23 hrs and 21 mins this was easily the longest book I listened to in 2018. It was also one of the best.

Total Recall is truly an incredible story that boils down to simply setting goals with unrelenting focus on achieving them. NO ONE has a track record like Arnold. He simply refused to start at the bottom and work his way up like everyone else.

✅ Top bodybuilder on the planet

✅ Real estate mogul

✅ Top movie star

✅ Marry a Kennedy

✅ Governor of California

Look Arnold is flawed. You may not like his politics. Or the fact that he cheated on his wife + had a child with his housekeeper (he covers both extensively in this book). But before reading the book I didn’t appreciate Arnold’s ambition, motivation, and intelligence.