CMO Insights: Kirby Wadsworth, CMO, Illusive Networks

October 23, 2018

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Kirby Wadsworth, CMO at Illusive Networks.

In this video, Kirby talks about:

  • How technology has allowed Marketing to focus on individuals rather than large groups of people with similarities
  • The differences between hiring for a large company and a small company
  • The challenges associated with claiming a space in the security market landscape

Learn more about Kirby from his LinkedIn profile and follow Illusive Networks on Twitter.

For more great CMO interviews like this one, please check out our other CMO Insights Videos or our YouTube channel.

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Hi, welcome to Revenue Marketing Television, the CMO Insights Series. I’m your host, Jeff Pedowitz, President and CEO of The Pedowitz Group. Today we have as our guest Kirby Wadsworth, who is Chief Marketing Officer for Illusive Networks. Kirby, welcome to the show.

Kirby Wadsworth:

Thanks Jeff. How are you doing?

Jeff Pedowitz:

I’m doing fantastic. So you have worked at some pretty cool companies last few years. I think I first met you when you were at F5. So a lot of change in marketing, a lot of change in technology, from your perspective, what do you think has been one of the bigger changes?

Kirby Wadsworth:

Well, I think we have a lot better sense for the individual now. Even back in the five days, we were looking at segments of markets, as you know, I don’t know, thousands, tens of thousands, large groups of people that we could sort of identify having similar, similar similarities. Right now we’re looking at individuals or groups of two or five or one. And we know a lot more about individual behavior and we can track individual behaviors so we can treat individuals more selectively with, I like to use the word respect with more respect for the individual. I think that’s been the biggest difference. It’s partly technology it’s partly attitude. And as far as a better understanding of marketing’s role in the end to end sales motion, you know, of engagement all the way through close

Jeff Pedowitz:

It has been a lot of changes indeed. So how do you I guess institutionalize that within your marketing programs, then?

Kirby Wadsworth:

Sure. So again, it’s as you said, I’ve been through a lot of different, interesting sort of iterations of companies from very large global companies to, you know, very small companies is work in today with with illusive, which is an emerging technology startup company. So a security company. I think one of the things that we’ve been able to do is personalized back to that word and institutionalized technology. So where once we had marketing teams who are experts doing a lot of the technology or interfacing a lot with the technology. Now we have, you know, the BDRs interfacing with full technology stacks. I don’t know if you saw the the bridge groups most recent SDR compensation study, but one of the things that was interesting about that is that they, they said for many years, for eight years or so, it’s been pretty consistent that BDRs have a stack of four technology products.

It almost doesn’t matter what the technology is, but they have four products that they are four technologies that they use. But you know, 10 years ago, that was sort of unheard of. I mean, we didn’t have auto dialers even, or we barely had auto dollars 10 years ago, and we certainly didn’t have the ability to push down that level of knowledge and understanding to the BDR so that the initial interaction with the customer could be that finally to, as finely tuned as it is now. You know, I started as a BDR when I was 16 years old selling meetings for land in Houston, Texas, to people in Boston, Massachusetts, pretty, pretty tough BDR gig. And we used to have strips of a pink tele reverse telephone books that would, they would give us, you know, we literally just go down the telephone and call the pizza parlor owner or whoever it happened to me.

And I, it’s funny now I’ve talked to the BDRs when we hire them and sort of walk them through the process of what we do today. And it always strikes me as amazing how much we’ve been able to flip that whole model on its head when we, when we call somebody and we start to engage a conversation with a prospect or a potential prospect, you know, we have an amazing amount of information at our disposal before we even start that conversation. If, if we, if the BDRs and the marketing people are doing their research, right? So it’s amazing how that’s changed.

Jeff Pedowitz:

It’s an interesting perspective. Actually, I hadn’t stopped to think about the SDR role specifically, but you’re right. I mean, whether they’re using new chat product or all the dialer, or they’re using the same navigator from LinkedIn, I mean, they might be having different ways where they’re getting information. Of course, I was a, I had the more traditional teenage job. I was a lifeguard in the waiter similar. Yeah. I think that totally prepared me actually for what it, although actually I will say my first job, I worked in a Greek diner and, you know, they measured everything. I mean, they literally made us like take the ketchup bottles and turn them upside down at the end of the night because they wouldn’t want to waste a penny. And I think those are some of those early days, operationally, mind you that counting everything and measuring everything were really important. So that probably stuck with me a little bit.

Kirby Wadsworth:

Well, that’s what we’re doing now. I mean, you know, that’s, I mean, honestly, we’re squeezing every ounce out of that cancer bottle, every bit of data that we can get. So

Jeff Pedowitz:

We can, we can write a bit about why marketing is like a ketchup bottle. Right. But if, you know, if you don’t like touch up, we can go with muster. The man is so curious, you’re now at, cause you’ve worked at some really big companies, as you mentioned now, you’re at a smaller company and starting up, how is your strategy shifting and what are you tending to focus on?

Kirby Wadsworth:

Yeah. well, you know, again, it comes down to, you know, scale. I actually, it’s interesting the process hasn’t doesn’t change that much. It’s just the matter of S you know, the peer scale that you’re operating at. We still, you know, or maybe it’s a holdover and a pull back from what we’ve learned in some of what I’ve learned and what my team has learned in some of the larger companies that we worked in. But when you apply that to a smaller company, it’s really just shrinking the same process. I mean, we still are data geeks, you know, we’re still really trying to understand an operationalized. I will say it’s actually easier and quicker to do in a smaller company. I mean, I’ll give you a specific example when I first came to elusive you know, it was early days in terms of marketing platforms and processes and that sort of thing.

And again, an early stage company, it’s, it’s really, you know, for the first stage to find anybody who’s willing to talk to you and sell them, you know, anything, I mean, we just got, you got to get some revenue flowing within, as you start to to build up a little bit more of a, of a, of a plateau of install base. You can start to be, you know, bringing in the same processes. And so what we’ve tried to do here, and what I’ve tried to drive here is really the same kind of a model, right? Documenting stages of the engagement process. And you know, to me, it really is just one continuous flow. I think most people think of it that way now, you know, we may engage somebody initially through content that they download or through an offer of some sort to give them information or invite them to something or whatever.

But it’s the same process that we would have in a very large company, you know, just scaled down to us to a smaller group. As I said, in many instances is easier because we’re in control of all of the internal stakeholders and all of the, you know, all the, all the touch points in the company you know, it’s a relatively small number, right? So you can sort of be a little bit more dictator ish of a, about how you want this to look like in a large company, it takes a lot more socialization to make it happen. At five. It took us at least two years from beginning sort of, and to optimize the whole process. And this was, you know, w I don’t know, back 2012 or 13 or something like that, where we were going through that process. 

Nowadays it took us, I was really surprised. It took us less than 120 days to get to a place where we had end to end visibility from the first conversation all the way through the end. And we could actually start to do first touch attribution, which is not perfect, but at least gets you started on the attribution and sorting process. So again, not a lot different, just smaller, faster, more focused, but all the same elements are there without people as your approach or prioritization after you hire different thing, being a smaller company then yeah. Yeah, it is. So at this stage, you don’t, you don’t really have the ability to hire a marketing operations specialist, you know, or, or a marketing operations director and, you know which is a great for me, it’s you know, it’s a critical component of, of, of a more large scale operation.

When you’re, you know, when we were a limelight at five companies that are, you know, doing, you know, 50 to a hundred building up to a billion dollars, you can afford that kind of stuff here. Everybody’s wearing multiple hats. So you know, I mean, it’s a phenomenal sort of success story for us. We hired a, a relatively inexperience person to come in and train them. We use HubSpot trained him on, on HubSpot, trained her on HubSpot. And it was amazing to watch in the course of really 90 days worth of work, she’s become a HubSpot expert. And we have, we do have the luxury of a sales operations person, because you really need somebody, you know, when you start to build a sales team to manage Salesforce and all of the big guarantees of sales operations, but the two of them have, have bonded in a way that’s really kind of great to watch.

And it’s been so fun to have somebody come in who that’s another thing I guess I should have said when we were talking about what’s changed, the tech has become much more accessible, right? It’s, it’s, it’s not dumbed down, it’s just easier to use and more logical, and it makes more sense. And it’s, it’s you know, so that’s kind of exciting, but the rest of it, you know, you still need general marketing people who understand how to build campaigns and how to, you know, do personas and figure out segmentation and targeting and messaging any product marketing people who can translate the product message into customer benefits. So the only difference really is that we’re all wearing different hats. I find myself here at 10 o’clock at night, sometimes being the HubSpot administrator and going in and, you know, cleaning up broken workflows and scratch my head, wonder how I got here, but it’s fun, you know, it’s it’s kinda neat when you’re, when you’re that close to the data and that close to the day to day operational functions of the systems. Yeah.

Jeff Pedowitz:

One of the things I’ve noticed and tell me how you feel about it is kind of the reemergence of brands. You know, for the longest time, right? There’s this emphasis on marketing drive operations, drive financial results, drive systems and brands, not as important, but get operational, but now the focus returns to the customer experience and customer focus realizing the brand promise through all the different touch points seems to be more important than, than ever. But what’s your take on that?

Kirby Wadsworth:

Well, it’s especially important. And again, you know, I mean, my specialty now is smaller companies and it’s really almost job number one in I always say there’s three things that we have to do. And in, in in this size company, you know, and one is to establish that promise and two in the mind of the market and the market is broad. You know, the market is investors. The market is customers. The market is, you know, influencers and press and analysts. And then now, especially in bloggers, Hey, Jeff pedal was, is very influential. Right. You know, we have to get to this broad space in the market and the company in that, in the market, in the, and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen what the security market landscape maps look like. You know, I don’t think that there’s a 0.0 font, but if there is, that’s how small every player is on these massive maps of what the marketplace looks like.

You know, there’s thousands of security vendors, so you’ve got to position yourself properly in there, and everybody wants to try to position you, of course, in a place you don’t want to be or something. So it’s a critical element. And that really does come down to brand. It comes down to image really, you know, a lot, boy, I, I, I questioned for a moment changing the brand of the company and customers and partners came out of the woodwork. They love the little cat thing that we use. Okay. Oh, sorry. Only kidding. Only, only don’t touch the cat. I’m only kidding, but but they, you know, it does really matter. And, and a lot of that comes down to word of mouth, you know we want to position the company in a place where we’re being we’re viewed as trustworthy and we’re viewed as being you know, very solid in, in, in committed in doing what we say we’re going to do, you know, this is a security market after.

All right. So it’s all really about, about that. It’s about getting brand out there that people can align with, and that becomes an emotional thing, right. I know you, you know, this, but you know, a few years ago, Jason tipo, I wrote a book about how to build emotional connections to people through digital outreach when you didn’t have the ability to actually touch them and all the elements that went into that. But branding really comes down to building that emotional bond, which is interesting, was they said about this cat people are really emotionally attached to the cat in ways that I never even began to anticipate, but should have, you know, I should have realized how important that was.

Jeff Pedowitz:

There are a lot of marketing executives that have missed the mark and the push to scale, like get their content campaigns out to more channels. They’re missing the authenticity. They’re missing the opportunity to connect. They’re focused on the volume. They’re part of the same level of activity, but they’re not actually focused on the true interaction with why their customers should care about them in the first place. And look, it’s easier said than done, right? And we all know customer focus, marketing, customer focused, anything is hard but the companies that do it well or are doing phenomenally well. And then, and then you have a lot of companies that are lagging behind. So as you look back on your career and you reflect, what are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned and how would you advise a younger version of you?

Kirby Wadsworth:

So I had some great mentors growing up and going through this. And one of the re one of the recurring lines that many of them kept telling me is, you know, it’s a not a sprint and take it easy, stop, you know, breaking glass everywhere, you know, worry more about the relationships and the people that are involved in the process than just the pure process itself. And I never listened or paid. And and I, you know, I wish that now that I had now it’s not entirely true that I never did. And I think I, I, I put out some social media about this a couple, a couple of years ago where somebody, or two or three people had come back and said, you know, you made this very significant impact on my career and thank you kind of thing.

And I, you know, I was reflecting on how important that was and how much now, you know, it matters to me that, that people who, you know, I hired out a business school or now, you know, CMOs at, you know, zillion billion dollar companies. And it is fantastic. It makes me feel great. But that’s the one thing I think that I wish I had been able to tell the younger Kirby and have without, with a sledgehammer to the head, slow down a little bit, be concerned about the people and the, and the process and the technology, but equally. So, you know, don’t, don’t force everything so much because you can see the end and you just want to get to the end and, you know, you get, you get a little annoyed, I’ve tried to explain to everybody why, why we’re doing what we’re doing. It’s just do it, you know, that model, I regret some of the times that I did that. And I wish that I hadn’t

Jeff Pedowitz:

Sage advice, absolutely. So like, so finish this sentence: a year from now my team and illusive networks will…

Kirby Wadsworth:

Let’s see, be fat, rich and sitting on a beach in Barbados. Is that fair? No. yeah, I like that too. Except for the fat part, I already got that, but no, I think really what we’re trying to do is build a very cohesive team that works together very, very well and really likes and enjoys working together. We have a real focus on what we call one team. It’s actually one of the three pillars of the company that we’re, that we’re building the company around is the team aspect of this and the importance of collaboration, the importance of, of listening and learning from each other. So I would really, I would really sort of finish the sentence by saying my team will, you know, my growing team will enjoy the work that they’re doing and grow with it. And we’ll report back that this is one of the best jobs that they’ve ever had, and it really had a significant impact on their career going forward.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Love it. That’s fantastic. I love how you tied it back to just your story about the people that you’ve mentored and where they are today. Kirby as always, it’s a pleasure. Thank you for being on the program today.

Kirby Wadsworth:

Yeah, go Cowboys.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yes, sir. Alright.

Kirby Wadsworth:

Well, my friends in Boston just went, what?

Jeff Pedowitz:

Come on. We got to root for somebody besides the Patriots.

Kirby Wadsworth:

Not if I ever want to go home again. Anyway, it was nice talking to you. Appreciate it.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Okay. Thanks, bye.

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