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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:

Certainly.

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:

Yes.

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:

Absolutely.

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:

Yes.

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:

Yes.

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:

Yeah.

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:

Exactly.

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.

By Tom Wentworth

CMO at Recorded Future | Formerly Acquia, RapidMiner | I like math, open source, and the Smashing Pumpkins

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