Brian Kardon, the legendary valley CMO behind InVision, Eloqua, and Lattice shares his strategy for creating alignment between sales and marketing and building a balance between product-lead growth and traditional operations

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Episode Outline

[00:25] Why you need to be familiar with Product Led Growth

[03:00] How Brian organizes funnels at InVision

[05:20] The importance of harmonizing messaging in improving the user experience

[06:00] How to create a culture of revenue

[12:50] Brian’s thoughts on unification of sales and marketing

[17:50] How to influence existing customers

[19:14] Brian’s inspirations

Brian’s Inspirations

Brian Halligan

Dharmesh Shah

Frank Slootman

Marc Benioff

Connect with Brian




All right. So today I'm thrilled to have Brian Kardon on the call today. Uh, Brian has been CMO at Forester Eloqua. We'll have to send sentence fuse, uh, and now it envision Brian. Welcome. Hey, thanks so wise. Good to be here. So, I mean, there's so many interesting places we could take this dialogue and I know we only have 20 minutes, so we're going to make the most of it.

One, one topic that's really top of mind for a lot of. Marketers executives, even founders. Now, nowadays is this concept of product led growth and how it balances with kind of other traditional forms of marketing and demand generation. So I'd love to just start with how you think about that, especially at a company like envision and how you balance that with other programs.

Yeah. I think if the people in your audience are not really familiar with product led growth, they have to be, um, open view, which is venture capital firms. They read a lot about it and I would encourage you to go there and watch some of the videos and the language of it. But, um, the basics, the idea is that you lead with product and the product is such a great experience that people share that experience.

It's virality, it's word of mouth, and then to sort of bottoms up and great has been built this way. Think about Dropbox and Slack and zoom, and it goes on and on. Um, so lots of excitement I think in this area. Um, envision is interesting because we're both a platform that allows people to build their own, um, product led growth products.

Cause we're a platform for building digital experiences, but we also, um, uh, have a, uh, download. And a trial and error about 7 million people who have downloaded it. And in many cases, these or individual designers, digital designers, which is great, they use it for a while. And at some point there's maybe a pay wall that comes up.

They give us credit card. In other cases, we see, well, some of the Goldman Sachs is using it or someone at Uber is using it. And so that provides. Um, you know, PQ, ELLs, you know, we're all familiar with , you know, marketing qualified leads, their product leads, and you could argue, I, yeah, they're taking a lead from someone who downloaded a piece of content or someone has actually used the product.

I think we want somebody to use the product. So a product qualified leads can be really important, particularly if they're with large enterprises. And I think to your point, that's where they sort of come together. How does the pipeline of. Product downloads, uh, provide opportunity for enterprise salespeople and that's where enterprise salespeople, cherry pick the best opportunities that people in the app.

We also do a lot of automated things, as you might imagine in app kinds of messaging for people. Oh, I see credit card. Your company is a current customer, or do you want to move to the company plan? You'd get additional features. So there's lots of, sort of a one to one, one messaging that happens at scale that you can use with product led growth.

So I'm curious, I mean, much like we have a Dropbox, there are many funnels and many different both inside of the product itself, you know, Trey and prompt and ways that you can get notifications out in front of the customer and communicate with them. And then as well as outside of the product, right in traditional marketing channels.

Yes. How do you organize funnels at envision and how do you think about keeping all of that? Not only straight, but then, you know, where do they merge? You mentioned like top down and bottom up and how enterprise eventually connects with these Pico PQL so how, how do you organize your funnels at envision?

Yeah, so we have one funnel that we look at and we found that unifying, it really simplifies everything. And, uh, there's several kinds of leads. You know, we have the product qualified leads people in the product, but even those are segmented. Uh, people have been dormant for a while or not as good as people who are very active users or trying to get better engaged.

How do we drive adoption with different kinds of things? So the PQ ELLs, uh, are a big part of it. The other of course are hand raisers people who come to our website and say, I want to talk to a rep. Uh, yes, we get those. Apparently there are people in the world who want to talk to another human being. I don't know if that's you Elias, um, you know, it's so funny.

I think we started automating a lot of our sequences. We used to have humans reach out to a lot of these prospects and I was really worried that, uh, bots and, um, Automation. And what we've learned is that a lot of people never want to talk to a human being. You know, I don't know about you, but I don't want to talk to someone from my banking for a lot of my transactions.

Um, think about retailing. I don't want to talk to a, someone trying to sell me something at a retail store travel even. And so this idea of can you automate things, have great digital experiences as good, if not better than a human being. Um, so we have these hand raisers that come in as well, and then we have more traditional sort of MQL marketing, qualified leads from content or some activity that's triggered.

So it's a single funnel. Now, uh, the piece that's not within sales and marketing is the actual product experience. So we work very close with the product teams, the people leading, uh, the product experience wind does. How much virality, how do you build that in a, where does the pay wall happen? Uh, how long has the free trial, what are the parameters of that?

A lot of the AB testing that happens is in the product team. And so they do that. And then I think the most challenging part is marketing does a lot of the messaging. And so this is about having a consistent message, like the message on the website should be harmonized the message in an email or in a webinar.

Or in the app. And so had they made sure the same voices there, are you friendly and helpful? Are you more serious? Are you playful? Are you like, what's sort of the tone, but so often people have this jarring experience, uh, where, uh, it seems like the messages are coming from eight different companies. So that's one of our biggest challenges.

Is, is it a harmonizing? The messaging? So the user experience is really outstanding. So I think it's interesting to mention that you are in your role. You're actually in charge of sales and marketing. So you're able to create a culture of revenue, all under one kind of leader leadership position. What, how do you, how do you think about creating a culture of revenue within envision?

It's a great question. I didn't start off that way. I've been a career CMIO. I love being a marketer. It's really what I do. I'm doing it for 20 plus years at large companies and midsize companies, smaller companies that are growing. And, um, I joined envision about a year ago and two months into it. My CEO calls me and says, Brian, you want to make a change?

Well, how would you interpret that? He starts his sentence by saying, I want to make a change. You know, it's like, this is not going to be good. He doesn't want us to make a change on sales. And of course something, Oh man, I just got to know the guy that's running sales. I really like him. We're getting along really well.

We got good marketing and sales alignment. He says, I want sales to report into you. And of course, this is every marketer's nightmare it's so this is what isn't said. Every market is telling the sales person what to do and your emails are wrong. And the subject that could be better and you're not following up fast enough.

And where's your SLA and what's going on. But suddenly, you know, I caught the bus, the dog caught the bus, like, what do I do with the bus? I quite safe. And ironically, my wife runs sales. She's been a sales leader for years. And I always hear her on the phone and about marketing. Isn't giving her enough and everything.

So I have it all together. So no excuses, no finger pointing, all the fingers go to me. So we have very much a unified team. It's the go to market team. Uh, our kickoff is not a sales kickoff. It's a revenue kickoff. Um, things like, um, one of the first things I noticed is that. Not surprising to someone like you you'd see, but we were creating lots of cuts tent and the sales team found the content completely useless.

They would never use it. Didn't find value in it classic issue and the two silos vicar, and it would just be a mess. So we created an editorial advisory board with marketing and sales together to make sure that we have an editorial calendar that are things that the sales team finds valuable marketing of course, was generating content.

For top of funnel tofu, lots of, you know, exciting things, but, but of course sales team would much more middle of funnel and, and, and bottle of bottom of funnel. So we've sort of harmonized that as an example, um, we looked very closely at the handoff to BDRs, you know, because we want to make sure that. The different types of leads are prioritized as good SLA that's going on.

So it's one team. We talk as one voice. I even, um, the marketing team gets put through all of the sales enablement work too. So just like the sales team is trained how to do analysis later, pitch how to do a whiteboard, how to be audible, ready, how to differentiate, what are the kill shots? Your competitors?

The entire marketing team goes to the same training. And so, and so sometimes the marketing is why am I being trained is because they want consistent messaging. So the messaging you're putting in an email or in a webinar or a subject head or in a, a chat bot, a drift bot or something, I want to make sure it's consistent with what reps are saying on the phone or customer success.

People are saying. So we're all in this together. And, uh, it's really been eyeopening. I think the biggest thing is that marketers now really appreciate. How difficult it is to sell. What a challenge it is and all the different permutations and all this sort of attention deficit, you know, there's so many places as you might imagine, Ally's we built a very complex cockpit for the sales reps.

And sometimes I think maybe the rep just needs, you know, a speedometer and a clap. Like don't give them a hundred other dials. Right? I know how it works from your experience. You keep adding things and you never delete things. So they have all this complicated, you know, wizardry. Yeah, tooling and we keep adding things, but we never take anything away.

So. Uh, appreciating the life of a sales person, I think was super helpful. I think it's so smart to just, it's almost like sometimes coming back to the most fundamental things of, like you're saying walking around and asking, does everybody answer the question? What do we do? Who do we do it for? You know, what is our value proposition?

How do we compare against this competitor? And having a unified voice across all of those fronts, it just is, it's so simple in concept, but so potent in implementation and actually existing. Yeah. And you got to avoid creep, you know, so often, uh, just like with tooling, we creep, we add new things. They'll taking things out.

Same thing with personas, you know, you start with two personas, then you get three and someone says, Oh, I heard this person's involved in a deal. You get the six personas. And then I call it, you know, death by matrix. Then for every, uh, every persona you have to create content for each one. So now, you know, and then for each one I need two case studies.

I needed a video and I needed this and it just sort of, and so I'm a great fan of simplification that people can only retain so many things. Uh, maybe it's two new customer stories every quarter, but everyone knows how to deliver them really well. And to make them feel like they're their own story. Like more than that is, is too many things.

It's like, I play music. Like I can learn about a song. Every couple of weeks, like I can't learn a new song every day. Like, I'm gonna forget the old song. So I got to learn a new tune, you know, maybe once a week, once a month. But at the end of the year, I got 12 grade songs really under my belt. So you're a, you're a sax guy, right.

I have a sax guy, but also a keyboard guy. I got my keyboard here, so I play it's so, so interesting like you and probably you're on zoom meetings all day, but sometimes they get a 15 minute break. And I started doing walks, but by the time you go downstairs and put on my shoes and walk, like 10 minutes are gone.

So I just needed something to get in a different head space. So I just sit at the keyboard and play piano. What do you do to sort of relax and get your head into different spaces? I love that. I love the music thing, so I am the same way. We actually just got a baby grand a couple months ago. Right. As COVID was hitting, I was like, man, we're going to be stuck inside.

I need some sort of creative outlet. And so it's the same thing. Like all, you know, five, 10 minutes in between calls. It just turns your brain onto a different space when you're a piano player too. Yeah. Yeah. And a French horn, but I haven't played horn in awhile. So had piano is the, uh, more easy and cello.

Wow. Very good. We have like a jam room that, uh, my, my fiance and I, when we have too much scotch, we go in there and just jam out it's what does she play? She plays the guitar and the drums. So we've got an electric drum set and, uh, a bunch of guitars. Wow. Oh, sounds like really fun. That's great. It's fun.

Yeah. But to your point, it's just a great way to kind of unplug and tap into a different part of the brain. Yeah, I think we're all getting zoom fatigue. We've got to find ways to sort of cope and replenish ourselves. Yeah. I want to brainstorm with you because you've brought up two topics that are really interesting near and dear to my heart.

And that I've been mulling over, which is like this concept of companies overthinking, whether it's go to market or even later stage like scale. Between sales and marketing and funnels and all this stuff. And you talked about like having one funnel and simplifying, um, but inherently marketing and sales, it almost creates division just as, by the way, the rules are set up and kind of traditional org structure and titles.

Do you ever think we'll get to a point where there's a tofu team and a MOFU team, and it both like top of funnel, middle funnel, bottom funnel teams. And each of them, they still have their roles to play, but they're a funnel team, as opposed to almost like what you're talking about with revenue and go to market team, as opposed to the sales and marketing team.

Do you think we'll ever get there or do you think that's the wrong direction? Uh, I think it's worthwhile trying, I think HubSpot tried that a while ago. So I'm friends with Volpi who was COO for a long time. And they tried to create these teams with sales and marketing together. Talk about tofu, MOFU, BOFU, and it worked for awhile.

And then it sort of broke apart. Um, the piece that I think really matters is, um, Is looking at campaigns together and figuring out what's working and what isn't. And so when we're looking at the most effective campaigns marketing, doesn't do that alone. We do that with the sales team, because, you know, obviously we think in terms of contacts and they think in terms of accounts, and it's a very different language.

We think in terms of many quarters, they're trying to close this quarter. And so a campaign that we thought it was very unoffensive ineffective. Uh, it had low conversions, but it generated two huge opportunities that help them make the quarter. And so we would look that as a low performing campaign, because it just generated me two opportunities.

We weren't looking at MRR, those opportunities, sort of a classic mistake, looking at numbers, which is generally how marketing measures by not the dollars. And sales by dollars. So having a common language that it's not contacts talk about accounts, uh, it's not just a number of contacts, it's, uh, dollars.

Uh, the conversion is dollar conversion. So trying to have a common language, I think helps a great deal. Um, so I think there are gonna be some new structures. I was talking to serious decisions awhile ago when I was asked to head up sales and marketing. How many organizations have moved that way under one person is exceedingly rare.

It's exceedingly rare. And, um, so we'll see how this great experiment, uh, works out. I'll I'll come back to you in a year. You know, I've been doing this now for like eight or 10 months and, uh, I promise to report back, could blow it all up. That's it. That's one of the things that we find one of the really easy wins and that a lot of companies just aren't doing is, um, one of the first things we roll out with clients.

If they haven't done it already, it's just having. Sales and marketing sit together once a week to review both with the SDR team. Like, Hey, what are you hearing in these conversations? What's what, what kind of words are your, are the prospects, you know, bringing up what kind of phrases and, and incorporating that then into all the campaigning so that we're speaking their language.

And then likewise with sales on their Opti reviews, like being a part of that and setting goals together, all of that stuff just makes such a big difference. It does. And, uh, you know, I think I, because I run both, I can sort of cram them together. Sometimes they don't want to be in the same room together and they want to talk about it or there's finger pointing.

So we have one number while trying to reach, and we don't really care how we get there. Uh, you know, another way that there's divisions is of course you separate out the sources, so you have SDR sourced, marketing source sales sourced, and it feels like a zero sum game. Um, and it just. Like you're all fighting tooth and nail over who gets the credit and just seems like the wrong energy.

It's sort of, it feels like, you know, Glen Gary 19, I mean the war, but they're still fighting these battles out and it just seems really foolish. Um, and the other thing I've seen that I always hate is at the end of the quarter, maybe marketing is doing high fives because they hit their MQL goal.

Meanwhile, the poor sales team didn't hit their bookings number and that's not a good thing either. So we try to centralize on the bookings number. Like we all win together. If we hit our bookings number, however we get there. And, uh, and of course having good telemetry on not just the source, but, um, did we, uh, You know, was there influence in those opportunities and you know, some CFOs look at influence and say, you know, you're trying to get credit for things you really haven't touched, but it really matters in our business in particular lies.

80% of our bookings come from existing customers. Which is very unusual. We have a hundred percent of the fortune 100. So for us, we might get another opportunity at a Disney we've sold to Disney attractions and Disney animation, but not to Disney feature films. You know, we've sold to wealth management at bank of America, but not to commercial banking.

So a big part of it is, is influencing, uh, sort of existing customers. Um, so that's another thing. Sometimes we're sourcing is not. Uh, providing complete visibility to the role of marketing and sales. How do you think about influencing existing customers? I mean, what, what, um, what's your approach there? So we're very much an ABM, you know, account based marketing shop.

We have a. You know, 50 top accounts that add up to, you know, 10 millions of dollars and a huge number for us. And so we do a lot of very specialized things with them and we sort of plan it out. And again, if it's based on bookings, like it's a lot easier to get the next half a million dollars out of Disney than it is to, you know, get a whole bunch of new logos.

And so marketers are course, they love new logos. They're sort of addicted to new logos. So how to get marketers in the habit of thinking about how do they influence existing relationships? So part of this is can we. Uh, create an opportunity, edit other division, uh, and other business unit at company. Um, can we get into other geographies?

Uh, can we get to other decision makers? And so marketing's very good at nurturing other roles, other divisions. So while the sales person may get shut down, cause they don't have it in relationship, we can, you know, start nurturing people, inviting them into things. Um, so we have a lot of programs that, uh, that do that.

So it's really important for us. So shifting gears, I'd love to know we've already talked about kind of how you take your mind off of all of this high output work that you're doing with music and creativity. I'm curious, who are some of the mentors who have been influential in your, in your amazing career path so far?

Yeah. There are few people that I look cat. Um, some of which I know really well and some I don't, uh, The first of the founders of HubSpot, this is Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah the right here in Boston, where I live. What I love about them is they didn't just build a great company. They transformed how marketers thought about marketing by content about the role of a school search engine optimization, organic search.

Yeah. Being found, being helpful and not all this cold calling and pounding the phones and all the traditional things I'd love and their, their, their book was really very inspirational to me, inbound. And I got to know Brian and Dharmesh very well, and they've been great mentors to me. Uh, the other, uh, sort of influence is someone you wouldn't think I would really care about.

It's this operator named Frankston bloomin'. So Frank Slootman was CEO of service now and he CEO of snowflake and this guy. Is very uncreative, very uninspiring. However, he is the best operator I've ever seen. If you plunk him in suddenly the company like triples growth. So this is after several other CEOs.

He's a guy you parachute in parachute in. To get to that next expansion stage. Like the company's getting to 40, 50, 80 million. They wouldn't get the couple of hundred million. They wouldn't do an IPO at a multibillion dollar. He comes in. He knows exactly how to do this. It's genius. And he's an amazing operator.

Frank Slootman. I would look into him and of course the last one is my favorite CFO in the world. And that's Mark Benioff at the Salesforce. So I've known almost every CFO at Salesforce. They're all really wonderful, creative, interesting people. Well, but they all will admit there's only one CMO at Salesforce and that's Mark.

And a book that I give out very often is behind the cloud. And that's Mark's book that talks about it. If you've read it, it's like 80 great little examples. And of course, what I love is just, um, a couple of months ago, the market cap of Salesforce exceeded the market cap of Oracle. Which that's a big, big deal.

That was a big deal. It's just right. It's just on believable. So the world's going topsy turvy, you know, in terms of valuations, but those are three influences. The HubSpot team, Frank Slootman, and, uh, And Mark Benioff, just incredible people. And Mark, I love because he reinvents himself, you know, he was all about CRM.

Ironically is ticker symbol CRM, but he's anything but CRM, you know, he's got all these other clouds going on. And I think for him personally, he's always on a journey to try something new, you know, whether it's his chanting or his meditation or his weirdness that you think is weirdness, but he's actually rethinking the role of a corporation in society in very fundamental ways.

I was taught in business school. It's about shareholder return and he kicks the table up and he says, that's a bunch of crap. The business school may be, there are others stakeholders that really matter. Like how about the community? How about your employees? How about your customers? Who said shareholders come first.

And I think that's quite brilliant. And I think it's led to a whole generation of CEOs rethinking their role in society and, uh, and how they should operate. He also walks the talk in a way that I just have never seen an example like that before. It just does shows how to do it rather than talking about it.

Yeah. He does it every day. Obviously he's got his one, one, one program we're actually gives away 1% of the profits. You know, we've mimicked a lot of their things. We have days off where we'll give to charity or to help do some sort of cause. Uh, we're very involved in this, um, this movement about voting and make sure that people don't have to work on the day that they have to vote, whether that's the U S election coming up in November or other elections around the world.

So we think there are a lot of causes that really matter. Um, and you're right. He, he walks it and every day, and it's just, it's a beautiful thing to see his evolution. Well, Brian, this has been so much fun. Thank you for chatting with me about all things, marketing and companies. Yeah. And sometime maybe, uh, I'd love to come over and hear your cello and hear your French horn and hear your piano.

Exactly. And it really be a lot of fun. I enjoy playing some music with you sometime Ally's, we'll have to plan a jam session. Have you ever in Denver? Cool. How's that jazz, French horn coming along, you know, all the instruments, you know, it's so funny. There's jazz flute and jazz clarinet, but I can't think I'd even heard jazz, bassoon players, other woodwinds, and obviously trumpet and trombone, but of all the instruments I've never actually heard improvisation on a French horn.

I once saw a, there's a video of Wynton Marsalis doing improvisation. Uh, he can get it into that small mouthpiece and everything. Yeah. But why is it that I've never heard of French horn improvisation? I think there's a little bit of a delay in the Sounders. What's your theory on that? You'd almost think that because there's so much more Amish or involved that you would, there would be more room for the improvisation, right.

Because, but I don't know. That's a great question. Yeah. Yeah. But, but let's, let's try it out. Let's do some improvisation, the French horn saxophone. I'm on it. Thanks. We go. Thank you. I'll stop.