Welcome to our new blog series, CMO Secrets. Starting today, the first and third Wednesday of each month will feature an exceptional Marketing leader from around the industry. Some names will be easily recognized, and others may be new to you, but every single one will have been hand picked for their experience and knowledge in the world of Startups, Technology, and Marketing. The questions are ours, but the answers are theirs – every word, shared without edit, from their fingers to your eyes.
Helping us kickoff our inaugural CMO Secrets post is a man who needs no introduction, but he’ll get one anyway because it would be weird to not have one.
Mike Volpe is an executive with hands on expertise in Marketing, business development, strategy and lead generation for B2B SaaS startups. As a member of the founding team, and CMO, he drove HubSpot’s growth from zero to 1,000 employees and 15,000+ customers as well as a successful IPO. Mike is also an angel investor, advisor, or board member at more than 25 companies, primarily software startups in Boston. He currently serves as CMO at Cybereason.
Tell us what Cybereason does, why you were so excited to join, and the role Marketing plays there.
Cybereason is a cybersecurity SaaS company founded by former nation-state hackers. We take an entirely new approach to enterprise security using artificial intelligence and graph data analytics technology.
The most important thing in a career in tech is to pick great companies. You are better off being the janitor at a company that goes public than the CEO of one that fails. To pick a great company, you want a huge market that is undergoing a big change or tech shift, a great product and technology, and a great team. It is harder to find all those things in one company than you think. Cybereason had all of that – the market is huge, it is being disrupted by new technologies, and the core product and tech behind Cybereason is amazing. They just needed some help scaling the go to market part of the organization to the next level, which is what I like to do.
How do you “keep score” (or measure success) as a B2B Marketing exec?
If you could wave a wand and fix one area of 2018 Marketing – for all Marketers – what would it be?
The core building block of B2B marketing should be the account, and it’s not. While people are a really important part of the world, in B2B, especially enterprise sales, the account is the center of gravity. For all this talk about ABM, most of the core CRM and marketing automation systems are still built around leads / contacts as the atomic unit.
In your experience, what traits or behaviors separate good Marketers from great Marketers? And how do you vet those when hiring?
I think this applies to all roles actually, the best people are always open to feedback, always trying to learn new things, and very coachable. It is hard to vet during interviewing, but some things I try to do are ask people about the last time they were asked to do something that they did not know how to do. I also ask them what books they have been reading and how they keep up to date on their craft. And sometimes I’ll try to find an opportunity to give them some feedback and see how they react to it.
And then for marketing specifically, having a balance of skill between analytical and creative is important. Too much of either one can be problematic. I usually ask people about a marketing problem and how they would approach it, as well as how they measure things.
Tag a few Marketers you admire and learn from – and then a couple of up-and-comers we should all keep an eye on.
I have to give a shout out to some of the people from my coaching tree who worked for me before and are now out on their own running the show at great companies.
Most impactful change we’ll see in digital Marketing in the next 5 years?
Everyone tells me it is going to be AI but to be honest I have not seen any live use cases where AI is better than marketers… yet!
How should Marketing teams collaborate and partner with their peers in Tech?
I think the marketing department should pretty much own and run their own tools. The world of SaaS makes this very possible now. Collaboration with the CTO or head of product is critical – more and more marketing needs to be integrated into the product experience to drive engagements, upsells, and referrals. The core of building a good relationship there is just agreeing that both of you are here to drive revenue, and once that is established as the shared goal, the other stuff becomes easier.
Which Marketing metric do you think is most under-appreciated/underrated? And which is overrated?
Just measuring company revenue is not used as much as it should be. On the other hand, I think people spend way too much time on complicated attribution models. The truth is that all the marketing touches matter, and for each deal different ones matter different amounts because every buyer and account is different, and the market and buyers change over time too. So the idea that you can model that roadshow events should have a 12.7% impact in your attribution formula for the next 12 months is a giant waste of time to create that whole model. I like to look at first touch, last touch and then all touches (give 100% credit to all campaign touches). Get a sense for what is working and then move on.
What’s your favorite part of a project to work on?
I’m a full stack kind of guy, but the most fun is pressing refresh on the report and watching the results roll in.
Aside from investing, do you ever see yourself in a non-Marketing (or non-Marketing-first) role?
This is my last CMO job. Future jobs may include CEO, board member, advisor / consultant, head of a micro-distillery, investor, or most likely “all of the above.”
What’s the one piece of Marketing or B2B jargon or slang you’d like to never hear again?
ABM. On one level I completely agree with the philosophy. On another level, it is just B2B marketing with a new name, and nearly all the companies using it are equating it with display ads or something else and I just think that is wrong. It’s the database.
What’s your proudest professional accomplishment?
Helping more than 1,000 people accelerate their careers by being part of HubSpot, where they learned how to do marketing and how to build a startup. So many HubSpotters have gone on to amazing jobs and founding companies, I think a decade from now people will be talking about the diaspora from HubSpot and the next generation of companies that it propelled to success.
What’s one (true) thing readers would be surprised to read about you?
I’m an introvert.
Friday is for: donuts or bagels? beers or cocktails? reflecting on the past week or planning ahead for next week?
Friday is for checking metrics and celebrating success.
You and Matt Johnston used to grab dinner a few times per year to talk about scaling Marketing… what lesson would you impart in this area to Marketers who haven’t yet grown teams like you or Matt have?
Triple the time you spend on recruiting and hiring. I’m very hands on with networking, sourcing and interviewing for my team. A lot of people outsource that to recruiting or HR, which is a mistake. You can partner with them and get their help, but you need to own your own team building. Even when my team was 100 people and we were hiring 3 new people a month, I still interviewed all candidates before they got offers.
At Mautic, we talk a lot about open Marketing: to us, there are very real and meaningful differences between open and closed systems/platforms, as well as open vs closed approaches or philosophies to Marketing and business in general. What does open Marketing mean to you?
Marketers need to be careful about being too locked into systems because you can lose a lot of leverage and flexibility, before long you are handcuffed and you didn’t even realize it. We all pay Salesforce tons of money for what is basically an old school database with an old school UI in front of it. But because we all have integrated it into our business processes and other systems, it is impossible to rip out. Making smart choices early on helps you maintain speed and flexibility later.