Sales and Marketing alignment is a wonderful and yet elusive thing. Many B2B marketers and sales professionals in particular are in search of leadership, strategy, best practices and networks of peers they can connect with as they adapt to an ever changing marketing world. Lucky for those working in B2B industries, there’s an upcoming conference in Boston that was developed for just this purpose: B2B Sales and Marketing Exchange.
That name might sound familiar because the same people at Demand Gen Report who brought you B2BMX in Scottsdale have expanded. This first B2BSMX event in Boston features both a Sales and Marketing focus with 6 keynotes, 50+ sessions and over 1,000 registrants. TopRank Marketing has partnered with B2BSMX to give you a glimpse at some of the top talent speaking at the conference through a series of pre-conference interviews.
Let’s get started with the impressive Alexandra Gobbi, Chief Marketing Officer at Secureworks. At B2BSMX Alex will be presenting, The Five Languages Of Digital Transformation, on Tuesday, August 13th at 2:39 PM.
Lee Odden: Thank you for joining us for B2B Marketing Spotlight. Today, we are fortunate to have with us Alex Gobbi, CMO of Secureworks, which is a global cyber security company. Welcome, Alex!
Alex Gobbi: Thank you for having me, Lee.
Lee Odden: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Secureworks?
Alex Gobbi: I’ve been in B2B tech marketing for over 20 years. I’ve been with Secureworks coming up on three years. My role is global CMO. I have end-to-end marketing responsibilities for the brand, the messaging, everything that’s around corporate communications, product marketing, analysts relations, demand generation, field marketing, event marketing and marketing operations.
Lee Odden: Wow. Yes, that really is end-to-end isn’t it? You’ve been in the digital marketing world for 20 years or so and you’ve held previous senior marketing leadership positions at companies like EarthLink and HP, plus I think you had some independent consulting experience. I’m curious, out of those experiences what has best prepared you for the role of CMO?
Alex Gobbi: I think every single role prepares you along the way. I spent about nine years with a management consulting company called A.T. Kearney and I will say that experience prepared me exceptionally well for the core skills of problem solving, presentation skills, and analytical skills that I’ve really used throughout my career.
As a consultant I had the good fortune of working across different industries and then working with different levels of leadership, so that’s also been a great experience. I would say every single experience has really helped me in terms of what it takes to build a great team, how you manage and motivate teams, how important analyst and influencer relations are, and building out demand generation. I dipped my toe in Demand Generation at EarthLink and really got into running a Demand Gen engine at Secureworks.
The CMO is not only responsible for leading the marketing team, but you also are an executive with a seat at the table. @alexandra_gobbi
Last but not least, I would say my product marketing experience is mainly from my experience at EarthLink. But as you well know, the CMO is not only responsible for leading the marketing team, but you also are an executive with a seat at the table. I think these past few years have really enhanced my appreciation for that perspective of the CMO role, which is really having a point of view at the table and interacting really, really closely with other members of the executive team. Just continuing to have that voice of the customer and voice of the market perspective has been valuable.
Lee Odden: The CMO role really brings marketing to that executive level. I forget the statistic, but there’s an increasing number of CEOs coming from marketing.
Alex Gobbi I haven’t seen that. That’s great.
Lee Odden: There’s a certain well-roundedness to a CMO as a CEO. Of course I may be biased being a marketer myself, but as someone who gets to work with a variety of different large B2B company executives, sometimes you see what their CEOs are like. Those that have come from marketing are wonderful to work with. Not that others aren’t, but if you compare a CEO that’s come from finance or some other operational discipline versus marketing, it is a different interaction, a different leadership style sometimes.
We are all operating in a digital economy and I think that is something marketers really understand. @alexandra_gobbi
Alex Gobbi: I agree with you. I think that’s a great statistic to hear. I hear that boards are trying to get more CMOs at the table as well and I think it’s long overdue, really. Marketing in and of itself is a fantastic training ground. We are all operating in a digital economy and I think that is something marketers really understand.
Lee Odden: With your global end-to-end responsibilities, I’m kind of curious, has your ability to speak five different languages ever been put to use?
Alex Gobbi: Absolutely. In fact, I look for those opportunities. Except for a few years at EarthLink, I’ve always worked in global environments. It’s been a great asset to be able to speak those languages just because of the trust that kind of gets built from the get-go, if you will, when you’re native and you know the tongue of your French or your German or your Italian counterpart.
The ability (for marketers) to engage with your counterparts, whether it’s in HR or product marketing or in finance, in their language is really key to be able to establish trust. @alexandra_gobbi
So it’s certainly helped me a lot and I think it’s given me an appreciation for language, which is kind of going to be the topic of my presentation at B2BSMX. Of course there are the languages of the world, but there are also business languages. Not understanding that we don’t all speak the same language can be a huge barrier to trust and to being able to work together.
You spoke earlier about CEOs that come from a finance background versus from a marketing background, and if you’ve grown up in a certain function, there is a language, a business language, that’s innate to that function that you’re unconsciously biased towards. And so the ability to engage with your counterparts, whether it’s in HR or product marketing or in finance, in their language is really key to be able to establish trust.
Lee Odden: That’s a really good point. I’m kind of curious, what is the genesis of your presentation at B2BSMX? Is it a function of what you’ve experienced and your ability to advance and be successful or patterns of success and best practices?
Alex Gobbi: Absolutely. I mean, I think you hit on it with the fact that I grew up with five languages, so I probably have just an innate sensitivity to being able to communicate and articulate using the same vocabulary and the same words.
But, like you’ve mentioned, I’ve had both successes, and probably failures as well, where you realize that you’re just not getting your point across or your interpreter, the person that you’re speaking to, has just checked out or he’s just not engaged because they really don’t understand what you’re talking about. So the idea has come from both my personal background and a topic that’s just something that’s authentic to me, as well as the experiences I’ve had over the years.
Lee Odden: It’s interesting, when you look at something like digital transformation and how broad of an impact that can have on a company, it really is important to have empathy for those different constituents that are going to have to be part of that change, right? It’s not just about the technology is it? It’s about culture and other elements too.
Alex Gobbi: It is and I think at the heart of digital transformation is this notion of the ability to be agile and to be quick. Underpinning that is really how fast can you communicate and how easily those communications flow up and down the organization. Language is a part of that, right?
Lee Odden: Absolutely. I’m curious, speaking of digital transformation, what are some ways that you see digital transformation happening in organizations in terms of how marketing is done?
Marketing, has gone digital over the past 10 years at a speed that is unparalleled to any other function. @alexandra_gobbi
Alex Gobbi: Well, I think marketing, has gone digital over the past 10 years at a speed that is unparalleled to any other function. And not only have we gone digital in the ability for technology to make us smarter about our customers and our target audience but to be able to know more about them, target them better and to engage more effectively. We’ve been able to do so in a way that’s probably unsurpassed relative to the other functions.
Certainly HR has gone digital, finance has gone digital in terms of increasing productivity or increasing access to internal data, but marketing really bridges that gap between the internal data of the organization and the digital engagement of your customer.
Lee Odden: Let’s switch gears just a little bit. This is something I’ve seen a lot of talk about over the last couple of years. How important do you think it is for senior executives to pay attention to their own personal brand, especially in areas like social media or their own thought leadership?
A voice as an individual, be that a leader or a consumer, can sometimes be just as loud as the voice of the marketing department in promoting a brand. @alexandra_gobbi
Alex Gobbi: I think it’s important to have an awareness of your own personal brand, and I think because of digital, a voice as an individual, be that a leader or a consumer, can sometimes be just as loud as the voice of the marketing department in promoting a brand.
I think having that awareness is really job one. I think job two is recognizing that you’ve got a market. You’ve got to engage authentically with influencers and with customers because their voices can be just as loud on digital. I also think that it shouldn’t be a check box. I’ve seen executives that say, “Well I need to have a Twitter handle and I need to have a LinkedIn handle,” and “Hey marketing, can you just manage that for me?”.
If you’re going to have a digital voice as an executive, have an authentic digital voice. Have one that is true to who you are and not just replicating the social handle of the company. @alexandra_gobbi
I think that is where it’s just inauthentic, right? If you’re going to have a digital voice as an executive, have an authentic digital voice. Have one that is true to who you are and not just replicating the social handle of the company.
Lee Odden: Excellent. I love that. Great to hear it. We have a pretty substantial audience that is in that mid-level part of their career and I’m kind of curious, what can you share for someone who really aspires to achieving a CMO level of success in their marketing career? What advice might you give them as an up-and-coming marketing leader?
The more you can learn about how the P&L of the company works and how, really, the company is not only driving revenues but also driving those profitably, the better. @alexandra_gobbi
Alex Gobbi: It’s a great question. I would say a couple of things that I would consider. One is, gain an appreciation for the other business functions that are critical to the success of any company. The more you can learn about how the P&L of the company works and how, really, the company is not only driving revenues but also driving those profitably, the better. So, engage with finance and really understand that. You don’t have to become a whiz at it, but just understanding some of those basic things, I think, will get you a long way.
Similarly, walk in the shoes and understand your sellers. Understand your product management team. Those are going to be key counterparts with marketing. I think the more you understand the world that they live in, the more you can engage and bring the value of marketing in the context of their world. I would say that would be one piece of advice.
The other pieces of advice would be don’t be too fixated on your next career move within marketing. What I have found is if you’re open to opportunities, working with the right team, the right leadership, can really expose you to new areas and help you appreciate other areas of marketing that may not be the one that you are most familiar with.
If you’re a digital marketer and there’s an opportunity for you to work in analyst relations, work in the events team, or to work in field marketing, seize those opportunities. Every single one of those facets can bring value and, as a CMO, you need to understand the end-to-end and how all those functions play well together and the thread between all of those functions.
Lee Odden: What are some of the top resources that you rely on from a marketing perspective?
Nothing beats a peer network. Building a great network of other marketers is fantastic, and it really needs to be an authentic network. @alexandra_gobbi
Alex Gobbi: You know, I think nothing beats a peer network. Building a great network of other marketers is fantastic, and it really needs to be an authentic network.
I have found over my career that people I’ve worked with or people I’ve had the opportunity to interact with and to get to know are the people that I can just pick up the phone or send a quick text to and say, hey, I’m struggling with this. Do you have any advice, or, who do you know that does this type of work, or what are some of the metrics that you use? For those types of questions, I think my network been great for me.
I would also say that I’ve really gained a huge appreciation for all of the organizations that make marketing successful, whether it’s your PR agency, your digital agency, or your demand gen agency. I’ve had fantastic partners along the way that I’ve come to rely on, and that have really educated me in a lot of areas that have been key to my success or to our organization’s success. So those will be some of the people that I would reach out to.
Lee Odden: What are some of your top digital marketing priorities for 2020? What are some high level areas that you feel like you’re really going to focus on?
Alex Gobbi: We just implemented ABM technology last year and it’s been phenomenal in terms of the impact that it’s already had through initial pilots and now the rollout to the organization. I think continuing to hone our account-based marketing skills is going to be a key priority, and really thinking about how we apply our core demand gen engine paired with account based marketing to be successful. What does that look like in terms of ABM 2.0, if you will, in terms of website personalization and all of those things. That would be one of the key priorities that we have for next year.
I would say a second priority is continuing to simplify our portfolio. Secureworks has a very broad portfolio of end-to end-products and solutions in the security operations space. I think, from a marketing perspective, the more we can simplify and bundle offerings the easier we make it to position and digest end-to-end value propositions for our sellers as well as full marketing is always going to be another priority for us.
Lee Odden: That makes sense. My last question for you, Alex, is what are you most excited about for the upcoming B2B SMX conference in Boston?
Alex Gobbi: Well, as you know, when you and I first spoke of, you know, this is my first B2B Sales and Marketing Exchange. So for me, it’s really very exciting to attend and get to know the perspective of some of my peers as well as some of the other presenters. I love that it is purely B2B focused and I actually love that it is marketing and sales focused. So I think just in general, the whole theme and the concept for the conference is something that I’m excited about, and building new connections.
Lee Odden: Fantastic. Thank you for your time, Alex!