011 | Your First Six Months as a CMO with Caroline Japic | Studio CMO
The Episode in 60 Seconds
What can a brand new CMO do to grow a company in the first six months? Caroline Japic, CMO of Kenna Security, faced this challenge head-on with energy and drive.
This interview covers:
- How Kenna reduced the size of their MarTech stack and cut their annual cost in half
- How to build a team that works and works together
- The marketing efforts that have changed and those that have stayed steady
- Five pieces of advice to new CMOs
Caroline Japic brings 12 years of senior marketing executive experience to Kenna Security as CMO. Kenna is a vulnerability management scanner that searches for threats to your organization, infrastructure, applications then delivers it in a cloud platform by user reducing friction between security and IT. She has also served as CMO at Pramata and Tidemark and was a senior marketing executive for HP, Bunchball, Taleo, and Polycom.
Caroline has been commended throughout her career for building winning teams and moving marketing programs ahead quickly.
Jeremy Middleton is Caroline’s trusted right hand. Their paths have crossed before at Pramata and HP, but his experience extends back years as well. Jeremy understands how to uncover, use, and analyze data to support and tweak marketing efforts. He’s a proven manager and marketing tactician.
What does it take to transform and grow a marketing program?
Caroline came in and analyzed the team, found the holes (and filled them), and realigned the team to be more efficient.
Listen at 5:00 minutes to discover the biggest changes she made and 7:00 for the qualities she looks for in marketing experts.
What are we telling the world about Kenna? Does it make sense? Is it concise? – Caroline Japic
Overhauling the Marketing Stack
Jeremy cut the MarTech tools from twenty down to seven and cut their budget in half. Find out what tools they are using at 13:00.
We have a simpler set of tools which means less raw data which results in less noise. We can more easily make sense out of the information we have. – Jeremy Middleton
What is Old is New Again
Kenna Security developed a physical direct mail package and have received a 10% meeting schedule rate. Listen throughout the episode to find out how and why it works plus a measuring stick of how effective it really is.
Understanding Your Customer More Deeply than Ever
Caroline is passionate about knowing and learning more about Kenna’s customers. Find out how she builds her empathetic understanding at 20:00.
The Fundamental Underpinnings
We explore what Caroline and Jeremy see as the basic building blocks for their marketing program. (23:00)
- Technology doesn’t solve problems
- Do you really know who you’re targeting?
- How accurate is your data?
- Can you stop what isn’t helping?
Maintaining High Standards While Motivating the Team
Caroline has built a loyal and high-performing team. She breaks down some of her thought process of management at 30:00.
What has changed in marketing
Metrics are much more sophisticated and tell a greater story.
CMOs must feel like and act like they own the entire funnel from lead to close… and beyond.
Sometimes, it is “arts and crafts marketing.” We say, “This would be fun. Let’s do this thing.” Afterward, we ask, “Well, did it work?” We don’t know. We ask, “Did everyone like it?” – Caroline Japic
Advice for New CMOs
- You need a big win fast
- Build your dashboard first
- Talk to your sales leader every single day
- Put a framework in place. You need a written plan.
- Market the marketing
- Build relationships and maintain alignment
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John Farkas (00:00): The way things have evolved, marketing has become an essential ingredient for most B2B organizations. And yet it’s somehow still one of the most under-realized. So when a new CMO comes into a company, it’s a remarkable opportunity. It’s the time when the leader has the most objectivity. It’s typically the time where there’s a lot of latitude and the organization is at some level aware of its needs. It’s “the time.” It’s the time to come in with a strong plan, get the right team and tools in place to carry it out, and achieve some quick wins so that you can win the confidence of the organization and help them into a clear understanding of marketing’s role in the new world order. It’s not for the faint of heart. Typically it’s a huge lift, but the results could be amazing. Executing in the first six months. That’s what we’re going to talk about today here on Studio CMO.
Mark Whitlock (01:01): Welcome to Studio CMO I’m Mark Whitlock. I’m alongside our fabulous host, John Farkas.
John Farkas (01:18): Good day.
Mark Whitlock (01:19): and our singing minstrel cohost, Angus Nelson.
John Farkas (01:23): Don’t encourage him.
Mark Whitlock (01:24): And today we’re going to be talking with a company that has flipped the script. And that’s just the tiniest piece that we’ll talk about at the beginning of the broadcast. Will you please introduce our guests, Angus?
Angus Nelson (01:38): Yeah, we are introducing some leadership from Kenna Security. Uh, joining us today is the Marketing, Strategy, and Operations [Leader], Jeremy Middleton, as well as CMO extraordinaire, seven months on the job, Caroline Japic. Welcome to the show guys.
Jeremy and Caroline (01:55): Thanks for having us.
Mark Whitlock (01:56): And their theme this year is…
John Farkas (01:59): Lest you think Mark was just on some flight of fancy.
Mark Whitlock (02:01): Right Fight Club. And when I met these folks, I met a couple of your associates who were working in a trade show booth. And I said, okay, wait a minute here. I didn’t know anything out about a, just walked up. So the first rule of fight club is you don’t talk about fight club, but let me guess the first rule of right fight club is you do talk about it. They flipped around and there was on the back of the shirt, the rules of right fight club. So, so grateful that you guys are able to join us and Jeremy, glad that you tagged along for the trip. We’re gonna, we’re gonna have an interesting discussion today and I’m gonna let John introduce the topic because you guys have something in common.
John Farkas (02:36): As we already said, this is, uh, Caroline’s in, uh, early tenure right now with Kenna. And so we’re gonna talk today about what it means to put an organization together, a modern marketing organization that is really built to optimize a market. And what does it take was that first six months look like as you’re putting an organization together, uh, what are the essentials? What needs to be in place? And what, you know, what have you set as objectives for making sure things happen the way they need to happen? So I’d love to get that perspective. So before we jump in, give us the 330-second, what is Kenna Security? What do you guys do?
Caroline Japic (03:14): So can I help large enterprises understand their vulnerability management? We basically take information from any scanner. There’s 50+ scanners out there.
John Farkas (03:24): And when you say, scanner, that means?
Caroline Japic (03:25): A scanner that scans for threats in your organization and your infrastructure and your applications. We take that information plus threats in the wild. We have a huge research arm that is constantly unearthing new threats. We bring that together in a cloud platform, and then we give it to our customers by user. So if you’re an executive and you want to understand the threat level, you can understand like, are you okay with that threat level? Because you’re always going to have some level of threat. If you are in security, you can prioritize the top 5% of threats that really matter. And if you’re in IT, you’re able to log in and actually fix those threats and remediate them. So it’s all based on your user profile and how you need that information. And it really reduces that friction between security and IT, which is a huge problem with every CISO we speak with. There’s just constant battling between the two teams, because IT says that’s not my priority. Maybe your priority needs to be fixed, but I have all these other things to do. And with Kenna, it just takes all that friction out.
John Farkas (04:27): So you’re really giving the right people, the right picture of their threat universe.
Caroline Japic (04:31): That’s right.
John Farkas (04:32): When they need it. Exactly right. Awesome. Early in the tenure here, seven months in, we’re going to talk about that first movement. As you began work in this position, what was your process? How did you start in understanding where things were and where things needed to go?
Caroline Japic (04:50): I have a methodology that I’ve followed throughout my career that I learned from Heidi Melin. I don’t know if you know Heidi, but she is probably one of the best CMOs on the planet. She is methodical, measures everything. And I learned that from her. So the first thing I do is come in and just analyze the team. And the great news is that I inherited an amazing team that is just really, really strong. Dan, who runs corporate communications is on it. I mean, you can’t hire a better pro than he is. Vasili who runs our Demand Gen and all of our events. He is top notch as well. And he’s just done some great things. And I think just giving them some freedom to like, let’s make this thing happen. Let’s go. It has been great for them. We had huge holes in the organization though.
Caroline Japic (05:35): So we didn’t have an art director. We were using an outside firm in Israel that the time difference just didn’t work. We move really fast and it wasn’t a right match for us. We didn’t have anyone running operations or strategy, and that’s where Jeremy comes in. So when he called I’m like, I happen to have the perfect role for you. We have a lot of work that we to do to make sure that the programs we’re running are working. And if you don’t have a healthy tech stack where you can measure every single movement, how do you make buying decisions for future? You know, it’s just, it’s a basic fundamental element that we needed that we did not have in place. It wasn’t tight the way it needed to be. And that was another big hire. And then on the, on the channel side, we didn’t have anyone running channel marketing and we sell a hundred percent to the channel. So we needed some significant adult supervision in that area as well. So the team is like the first phase and I hate to call these phases because they all actually happen simultaneously.
John Farkas (06:36): So it’s not just so simple to find the right people. Tell me a little bit about how you are looking for what kind of sensibilities, who are you looking for in those teammates.
Caroline Japic (06:46): So for each position, like for, for Jeremy’s role, luckily, you know, we’ve been working together the last three companies that we’ve been at, so that helps.
John Farkas (06:58): You’ve had some good working context and knowledge that’s right,
Caroline Japic (07:00): Exactly. Right. There’s a serious trust there. And I know he knows what he’s doing. You know, we’ve done this before. It’s not our first rodeo. So come in and you can move really fast that way. I think on the other positions, I typically bring people that I’ve worked with before. You know, when you have a known entity and you know, you work well together, you can just move so much faster because they jump in and go because they understand how you work and the expectations and how you measure. But if you need to hire new people, I spend a lot of time looking at their background and a lot of background checks.
Caroline Japic (07:34): So I think I have a pretty broad network. And the first thing I do, if I see someone that looks good on paper, call people, I know that know them and they know me. And they’re like, ah, I don’t know if that person can came up, keep up with you, or that person is perfect for you because they’re a driver, they go, they talk fast, they walk fast, they can do that with you. You know? So I think just doing the background work first and then spending significant time with them and just being very transparent about what they’re stepping into, like the channel marketing role, we really didn’t have anything. So, you know, the gentleman that I hired, he has a history of doing this role. He just has jumped in and has said, okay, you know, this is the framework. This is what we need to do. This is the timeframe and he’s executing. So that, that’s the kind of people I look for people that have been there, done that and have deep bench strength.
John Farkas (08:22): Awesome. Okay. So you have the team, you put the team together, you got the right people in the right seats. And that was, that was among the first priorities. What came, what came on its heels,
Caroline Japic (08:33): The message. So after the team was all set, you know, what are we telling the world about Kenna? And does it make sense? And is it concise? You know, we tend to make things very complicated and just stepping back and making it simple. We went through a messaging process and from that built out our first touch customer deck and our full messaging guide. And that has built out a new website. We’ll be launching soon. That’s affecting all of our content. Everything that we’re doing is based on that core message. And it’s the umbrella of everything that we’re doing for the next two years.
John Farkas (09:07): So a lot of new, what are you doing in that context to help build alignment?
Caroline Japic (09:14): with other organizations inside?
John Farkas (09:16): Yeah, yeah. With the other elements, like, cause it’s not just the marketing message, right? This is the flagship. So how are you, how are you bringing the rest of the, of the team, the organization, along with that, that message.
Caroline Japic (09:29): One of the reasons I joined Kenna is because we have a phenomenal CEO who really comes from the top. My peers on the executive leadership team are phenomenal, transparent, open. You know, they listen when I say, you know, this is something I need everyone to be a part of. Like as far as the message goes, it was a cross company initiative. It wasn’t like marketing, sitting down in a vacuum saying, this is our messaging. We had people from sales and customer success, customer experience, product marketing, our chief product officer was heavily involved. Our CEO is heavily involved. Our sales. We had a couple of different folks in different regions who brought different perspectives. So that’s how we were able to create such rich positioning because pretty much everyone in the company had a, I don’t want to say a say in it, but a stake in it. And so they know they were heard and they were part of that whole process. And as far as just alignment and working in general, we are very collaborative at Kenna. Everything that we do is, is involves cross functional teams. I can’t think of many initiatives where some, one person is just kind of running with something. You know, we have a cross functional plan, we assign responsibilities and then we execute and measure just sort of how we function as a company.
John Farkas (10:48): So the right people getting the message on point and that understood clearly through the rest of the company. Those are the first two steps. What comes after that?
Caroline Japic (10:57): Well, again, they’re simultaneous. Um, so I’ll let, I want to have Jeremy talk a little bit about our marketing stack. Again, you don’t know, you can put a stake in the ground if you don’t know where you are, right. So you have to have a technology stack that makes sense for your size. That makes sense for where you’re going. And that actually works and is implemented, integrated properly with your, your full stack.
John Farkas (11:22): So give us some context for how big it is.
Caroline Japic (11:25): So we have 200 employees, about 400 customers and we’re on a very nice growth trajectory. So it’s definitely a high growth organization,
John Farkas (11:33): Right? So a couple hundred people, 400 customers, that’s kind of the ecosystem that exists now that you’re using as the springboard for where you’re going. Right. So when we’re talking about the stack, that’s what we’re sizing up here. So yeah, I got to give us a little perspective on what you what’d, you put together.
Jeremy Middleton (11:48): Sure. So you can imagine you come into a new role. There’s lots of different things. I’ve in doing this before that, um, you tend to get a collection of MarTech stack tools that people prefer, and then they move on and somebody else prefers something else and you keep the old tool, but you get the new tool. Uh, and it proliferates and it gets expensive, but you know, somebody needed that six months ago, so they must need it now. Right. And so you end up, you end up with this collection of stuff and not only is it things you may not necessarily need, but you, they, it doesn’t talk to each other. Right? So you have a bunch of silos of data and information that doesn’t really tell you a story. So you can’t do that. A baseline Caroline was telling about, and you can’t use the information to inform your actions, right? So I have a few basic rules. We started out with close to 20 tech tools.
Jeremy Middleton (12:44): We got it down to about seven.
John Farkas (12:46): Nice that’s an important paring, 20 feels pretty big.
Jeremy Middleton (12:51): And some of them were small, right? It’s not like everything’s a Salesforce, right. So we’ve got it down to a simpler set of tools, which means less data, which means there’s less noise, right? Everything goes into Salesforce. So it’s one system of record for the entire marketing program. And so it’s very easy now to make sense of the information. And we can do those two things now that we have a baseline where we’re starting, but also we can see where customers are engaging. So we know who to talk to and when to talk to them, uh, which makes it a lot nicer because it’s my preference to talk to people who want to talk to us, not a list of people we think we should have as customers.
John Farkas (13:31): Sure. So go, go back and tell us about the seven. What are, what do you have in the stack currently? That is the, and you know, we don’t have to go deep into it, but I’d love to hear what are some of the things you’re making use of and how are you using it?
Jeremy Middleton (13:43): Yep. Perfect. Salesforce system of record. And that’s a sales tool technically, right. But it’s a system of record for marketing. Uh, Caroline can go look at her dashboard that we run the whole marketing program off any day,
Caroline Japic (13:57): Which I do first thing every morning, lunch and afternoon.
Mark Whitlock (14:00):Only three times a day?
Jeremy Middleton (14:03): Okay. And if there’s something funny in the data I hear very quickly. So, uh, anyway, Salesforce is that system of record we use for marketing automation Pardot because of that tight integration. Uh, and the nice thing is, since all the other tools are bringing in their data into Salesforce, Pardot can score everything. So every activity from every marketing activity can score through Pardot, which is great at either a company level or a known prospect level.
Caroline Japic (14:32): We were using a competitive product to Pardot. But when we looked at, uh, the, the native integration with Salesforce, it’s just so much cleaner and simpler and it’s, uh, one quarter of the price. Yeah. Much less expensive. So we’re able to use those marketing dollars on actual programs. Yep, yep.
Jeremy Middleton (14:52): Yep. We have, we, year over year, the tool spend will be about half. Wow. Yeah. For our ad work and a lot of, uh, data Terminus, an ABM company. Drift for chat. We use Outreach for our SDR team. The SDRs do work in the marketing organization. Uh, so Outreach is their platform for communication with customers and prospects and prospects. Yes. Mainly prospects, not customers. And the nice thing there is, right. Having them in the marketing organization, all these changes we’re doing, they’re close to us, we keep things tight and it allows us to have them stick very closely to what we’re doing. Right.
Caroline Japic (15:37): So for, for example, if I can jump in. So as part of the new messaging, we rewritten every single script for the SDRs, for that persona, for that individual, um, that we’re targeting, right. Um, they have new emails that they’re using. We also have email nurture, which is in the same group, but a different individual. So those all have to mesh together in the marketing mix, as you know, tightly aligned and integrated, not some random one off email from here and like, wait, this doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t sound like Kenna, everything is aligned that way.
Jeremy Middleton (16:09): And to give you an example of some of the complexity we had in the system in Outreach, there were 265 different SDR cadences they could run within the next month or so it’ll be seven.
John Farkas (16:22): I was going to say, how many do you need?
Jeremy Middleton (16:27): 65, 265. That’s right. So, so that’s, that’s just a great, uh, little color right. Of the type of thing where simple clean, and you build from there right now. It’s scalable too, because I know when I interviewed, a lot of them were talking about, you know, the company’s growing really fast, there’s a, uh, efficiency and scaling issue.
Jeremy Middleton (16:49): Right. And you can’t scale too much complexity.
Angus Nelson (16:52): So how big is the whole marketing team?
Caroline Japic (16:55): 28, 30 around 30 people. I think.
Jeremy Middleton (16:58): counting the SDRs.
Caroline Japic (17:00): and they’re phenomenal. Our SDRs are really good. And they’ve kind of been out there, like on their own, trying to figure this out without that support and support. And they’re like, Oh my gosh, thank you so much. You know, this is great.
John Farkas (17:14): So you’ve got the right team, you’ve got the right message. You’ve got the right tools. What else?
Caroline Japic (17:19): So we needed a theme right. For the next year, year and a half. And that is the “Right Fight Club” theme that we started with. Right. So the first rule of the right fight club is to talk to.
John Farkas (17:30): A nice collection collaterals that will show us when you go to studiocmo.com.
Caroline Japic (17:36): That’s right. That’s right. So we have a combination. It’s not just a theme. Um, we have a broad range of marketing activities that, that fit into the program. So we’re doing direct mail and we have a direct mailer. That’s really cool. It basically comes with a, the holders for AirPods. And then if people have a meeting with us, we send them the actual AirPods to go in the case, the AirPod case. And it’s a cool box. That’s branded Kenna has the right fight club logo on it. So people get on, they’re interested. They’re like, Oh, what is this? You know, and we’re able to send these to the CISOs, the VPs of vulnerability, um, you know, the folks that we’re really trying to get to in the organization and they’re opening them because they’re interesting looking and they’re cool. And there’s a brochure inside that clean and simply in three bullets says what we can do for them and how we can make their lives better.
Mark Whitlock (18:29): And last night we were talking about the meeting schedule rate that you’ve gotten off this direct mail piece,
Caroline Japic (18:34): pretty phenomenal. And it’s increasing every single day because people, we don’t have to call them. They actually go to a link and they request a meeting. And so we know that they came from this campaign and our response rate has been about 10%.
Jeremy Middleton (18:47): Yeah. About 10%. And one of the interesting things is I thought, okay, how many of these are really interested or do they just want the free technology, right. The AirPods. And I’ve only had one out of all the meetings because I get feedback from every meeting one, that’s it that where they said, thanks for the AirPods. Have a nice day. Everybody wants to keep moving forward.
John Farkas (19:08): That’s nice conversion. I will take it.
Caroline Japic (19:17): That’s right. And I think the difference with this campaign and this message before we’re really focused on internal, like we are Kenna, this is what we can do for you. Instead of talking about the pain points the customer has and the value we can bring to the customer and how we can make their lives better. So we’re really trying to turn the messaging on its head. So people, you know, when we talk to them, we talked to them in their terms and they go, yes, I have this problem. Yes. I have this pain point. I’m fighting with IT every single day, help me solve this around vulnerability management. So it’s definitely a different way of thinking about how we’re communicating with our targets.
John Farkas (19:53): So Caroline, when you jumped in new business, new universe that you were learning, what did you do to learn about your buyers? How did you get that, that download about who you were needing to ultimately talk to?
Caroline Japic (20:08): Well, I read everything I can get my hands on. First of all, um, talk to some customers, you know, talk to board members and talk to pretty much everyone. That’s willing to spend 15 minutes with me just to give me their perspective. Um, but really the, the product marketing team under Jason Rolleston, our Chief Product Officer had done some really nice work on personas. And so some of that was done for me, which was great. It’s just a matter of bringing in a different kind of perspective on how we could communicate with them. So we knew that, you know, there are companies that have, you know, more than our best targets have more than 10,000 employees, right? We know their revenue is, is well over 5 billion. Like we, you know, those are the people that have the biggest pain point that have the budgets. And so we really started there and built out our, and Jeremy did much of this work.
Caroline Japic (20:58): So jump in anytime, you know, we have a database now before we were only targeting the fortune 2000 and that is not enough for our business, right? So we expanded that to look at all companies that fit our criteria because some of them aren’t public anymore. Right. Some are private. So we want to make sure that we’re including those, but we have a database now with the 8,000 of our top accounts that we’re going after really prioritize the top 5,000. And that’s who these direct mailers are going to in order of importance, in order of priority, we send them to the CISO, to the VPs, the vulnerability management, and you know, and now we’re moving over to the CIO because the CIO is oftentimes own the budgets as well. So we’re testing a lot of things to still really getting down into the minutia of what these personas care about. And I always remind people, yeah, we sell technology, but they’re people. So let’s talk to them as people, like, what do they read? What do they like to do for fun? What do they think about in their spare time? Like how do we really get to know them? I know we call it persona, but if people, how do we get?
Angus Nelson (22:00): That’s what I’m, I’m just trying to wrap my brain around this seven months, seven months, this has been a really fast ride.
Jeremy Middleton (22:08): We’ve been busy.
Angus Nelson (22:09): Like you guys came in swinging and just listening to your story. There are a lot of people that we talked to that have a year, two years, three years that aren’t even executing on this level. And that the speed, and most importantly, with smart strategy, you guys are basically laying out like an awesome game plan. Keep going. I don’t want to go, go, go, go.
Jeremy Middleton (22:32): We’re not stopping to give you an idea. Last time we did this, it took us one and a half to two years to implement it. And this time we’ve the sh framework was there and about four months. Yeah.
John Farkas (22:44): So you sped up because you learned some things.
Jeremy Middleton (22:47): it’s easier to do repeat, right?
John Farkas (22:49): So what are some of the foundational understandings that you’re working from? Obviously you knew some of the things that need to exist. So you were able to funnel that down, but what are some of the lessons learned? Things that you’ve known that made this easier to get up and running?
Caroline Japic (23:04): I know this sounds simple, but honestly, it’s, it’s bringing it back to basics. Too many people think, Oh, technology will solve my problems and they don’t look at who’s in your database. Who are you actually targeting? You have to dig into that data and understand, okay. So if I’m targeting Goldman Sachs, do I have the CISO in my database? How do I know anyone that knows him? How am I reaching him? How is he getting our message or the VP of vulnerability or the CIO? Like how do I get to these people? And when we looked at the database initially, like we only had like 17%, 20% of those people at the target accounts, we had the target accounts, but we didn’t have the people in the database. So I knew that
Jeremy Middleton (23:47): we had lots of wrong people, but not the right people.
Caroline Japic (23:50): When people make the mistake of, Oh, discover.org, just download a bunch of names. You cannot do that. You have to think through it. You can’t just use technology to solve your problems. And I think just starting with the basics, do we have the right people in the database? Do we have the right tools? And can we measure, you know, and how do we back out of things that are just causing problems for us and not adding value because there’s a lot of promises made and there’s a lot of MarTech vendors out there. Um, and how do you get the ones that really going to impact the business? I think that that’s something to think about again, when you go through it just simply, so is your message working? Like I personally go to trade shows and conferences. I get in the booth and I say, this is my pitch.
Caroline Japic (24:32): I’ll either give the whole sales deck or I’ll just pitch it standing like I did the last two days. Um, and is it working, is it resonated people look at you with that blank stare? Like, I don’t know what you mean. Right. You really have to make sure that the basics and the fundamentals are working and dig into everything. I’m not just trust that. Oh yeah. So the SDRs are calling people and they have scripts and I’m like, okay, can I read the scripts? Can I, can I see the emails? Like I want to, I want to see what they’re saying. Um, and then, you know, we have great SDRs and you can talk to them about what’s working. So when you use script a, what do people say when you use B, do they hang up on you? Or, you know, just do a lot of AB testing, whether it’s emails or scripts or ads, right. We’re doing a lot of digital ads because now we know these 8,000 accounts we want to get to globally. So we’re serving up custom ads to those individuals or those organizations that are part of our target.
Jeremy Middleton (25:25): You know, they, they, they don’t know who we are. And so just to get a presence in front of these people, we have almost unlimited potential because we so much has been untouched.
Caroline Japic (25:38): And what’s crazy is that the company has grown so fast. And that’s one reason why we had some of these holes, right. Is because the, you know, the growth was coming without the most basic fundamentals in place from a outbound marketing perspective, people were coming inbound. So that’s great that you want that as much as possible, but then you get to a point where to continue that kind of growth. You have to have a tighter approach.
John Farkas (26:02): Yeah. So as you came in and looking at this role, I’m curious, first of all, how the job found you and I’m, I’m interested in as you’ve come into the organization, what your relationship looks like with the CEO and how you see your role relative to, uh, to that role.
Caroline Japic (26:21): Yeah. So I was not looking and it’s a really funny story, the way it happened about, Oh gosh, I think seven years ago, um, after I was at Taleo, we were acquired by Oracle. And so I wanted to be a CMO. And so I was interviewing for different roles and, um, I interviewed at White Hat Security and I met the head of HR, loved her. We became like best friends from the first meeting. Um, love the CEO, love the head of sales, everything was aligned. And usually if I go for a job, I get it. You know, it’s, you know, it just kinda like I came in with a plan like, this is good. But if you come in with a plan you’re prepared, you know, their industry, you know, their company, you say, this is what I can do for you. This is my first three months plan. People are like, Whoa, we usually don’t see this. Oftentimes from people who come in. Um, so I get the phone call and they’re like, yeah, we decided to go with a different candidate. And I was like, what do I call them?
Caroline Japic (27:27): And so, no problem. So I went on and did my thing and just said, I’m disappointed, but I’m like, you guys, I love your company and you’re going to do great things, you know, please keep in touch. So then, um, I was at my last company for three years and had done all this stuff and it was sort of like, okay, well, what’s the next challenge? And I just felt like, you know, I wasn’t looking, but Laura, the head of HR who was at White Hat as at Kenna, call me and said, do you remember me? And I’m like, of course I remember you, how are you? We start talking. And she said, I think I have a role for you. And I’m like, sure. You know, I’ll chat with you about it. Um, and we talked and I was like, Oh, this in San Francisco, I live in Palo Alto.
Caroline Japic (28:10): It’s too far. She was like, no, no, no, we’re super flexible with that. Um, and so I’m like, okay, I’ll talk to your CEO. I had a call with him and I was hooked from the very first conversation. Um, he’s amazing. He, my husband came to this country as a war refugee from Bosnia. And, uh, he came as a refugee from Syria, my CEO, Karim Toubba. And so we had that in common and just clicked from the very beginning. He’s super smart, very kind, just had a great reputation in the industry. And I just felt like from the very first conversation, I felt super comfortable with him. And I felt like he was a CEO that would listen to my advice and my recommendations. We met later in person and spent some more time together. Again, I talked to some investors, I talked to the founders, I talked to all the, the executive leadership team. And with every meeting, I felt more and more confident that this was a place for me. And from day one, I felt like I’ve been home.
John Farkas (29:11): What did you do in those early days? I mean, you’ve said some of it, you’ve talked to a lot of people. You read a lot of things when you’re looking at trying to understand and because a big part of what you have to do in the context of a marketing leader is embody the soul of the organization. How is that something that you work to take in?
Caroline Japic (29:30): We have literal rocket scientists that work on the research side of things. Um, so Michael Roytman and “Jcran” and all these other scientists that make Kenna unique and very different in the marketplace. And it’s our key differentiator for sure. You know, talking to them, it’s kind of hard because they are rocket scientists and I’m like, Hmm, can you dumb that down for me just a little bit. So I can use that in my broader marketing materials, but just being around them. I think that they, I don’t know, do they make us smarter? Is that how it works?
Jeremy Middleton (30:07): They set a different standard, right? This company you come in and they set a high standard because of the caliber of the people there. It’s, it’s very impressive. And it makes you want to step up your game.
Caroline Japic (30:18): And our founders Ed Bellis and Jeff, Heuer ed is the father of vulnerability management. He created this space, right. He was the CISO at Orbitz, and he’s had this problem with all these vulnerabilities. And he’s like, I need a way to solve this. And there was nothing out there. And he started Kenna. You’re working with that caliber of people. And I think that just makes everyone better.
Jeremy Middleton (30:41): That could be intimidating, but it’s a very healthy high bar. It’s a wonderful environment to work in.
John Farkas (30:48): They’re inspirational. Exactly.
Caroline Japic (30:51): Well, and like I tell my kids, like, you know, we set the bar high because we know you can achieve that. You know, you can be a top academic and a top athlete if you want that. But we set that bar and we expect that from you because we know you can achieve it. And I kind of feel like our company is similar to that.
John Farkas (31:07): So, Hey, I am interested as you look at, uh, at marketing, the big discipline, lots has changed over the last five years on one side of the continuum. What have you seen change? What stays the same?
Caroline Japic (31:23): That’s a great question. I think it’s changing every day, too, you know, in the digital age, it’s even more and more continues to change, definitely measurement and metrics before, um, it was arts and crafts marketing sometimes like, Oh, this would be fun. Let’s do this thing. Well, did it work? I don’t know. Did it do, do you think it worked? Everyone liked it? It was great, but I think that now it’s about showing the ROI bottom line. Like, you know, we’re focused on thought leadership. We’re focused on demand gen and, you know, we show in every single program that we do, whether it’s the PTP reports, the research reports we do with the Scientia research Institute, um, you know, we show the value, like how many people clicked on that and how many came to the website? How many downloaded, how much came from Twitter, how much came from LinkedIn?
Caroline Japic (32:13): You know, it’s data, that’s the biggest difference I think, and that’s gonna continue that will never change at this point. It will just keep getting refined more and more. I think.
John Farkas (32:22): So that’s been a big transformative force.
Caroline Japic (32:24): Huge, huge. I think that, um, you know, oftentimes some companies were just doing a lot of events and again, like taking this giant stack of leads and just kinda give it, handing them out. Like, I hope they turn into something. Now we know exactly it came from, who got it, who followed up if they didn’t follow up, why they didn’t follow up, you know, we have all that, like you can run, but you can’t hide anymore. Like we know exactly what you’re doing, um, in a good way, in a very positive way. Right. So I think that, um, and I like that because I like to have very clear goals and very clear plan of action to get there.
Caroline Japic (32:58): And I like to prove that we’ve overachieved, you know, our mantra for 2020 is “quality, quantity, and efficiency.” So we need the right number of leads, but they have to be good ones. I don’t want a bunch of junk in the system. Um, and we need to do it in the most efficient way possible. And so we spend our dollars very carefully and very effectively. I think the other thing that has changed and the way I think about demand gen and pipeline is I personally feel like I own from top of funnel to close and beyond, right? So it isn’t like, Oh, well, we’re in stage one, two, and then we throw it over the wall to sales and good luck with that. Hope it works out.
John Farkas (33:35): the funnel has grown considerably for marketing. Right?
Caroline Japic (33:39): Exactly. So we watch every single step. We watched conversion rates. We, we, you know, Jeremy and I, and the team talk about what can we do to influence those? How can we make these deals move faster? How can we get from a two to a three? How do we get the PSEs done more quickly and more efficiently? You know, all of those things. Um, we’re not in the realm of marketing in the last 10 years. and we can indirectly influence things, right? I mean, just the quality piece, right? If you bring in a higher quality person, it changes your conversion rates between steps, more likely to get to POC. And it’s probably a more efficient, faster process, right? So the quality, quantity efficiency, they all work together. It’s that simplification in bringing the quality piece in and everything else starts clicking around it. That’s right. You have to start with that as the basis, right. That have to be high quality.
Caroline Japic (34:29): So what stayed the same? Our social has jumped. I don’t know what the percentages like 500% in the last seven months just by encouraging employees, you know, go to our channels, just like retweet, especially on LinkedIn and Twitter, we don’t do a lot on, on Facebook or Instagram because we’re B2B encouraging people to do that. Encouraging people to post fun things. One of our teammates posted a giant platter of sushi and said something like, you know, I love RSA. You know, I love eating at RSA. And my response was “fo shizzle,” you know, to just make it fun, like let your personality show a little bit. And so that’s also a big push for us is on the social side, just getting in front of, you know, the right people that way, but using the full marketing mix to reach these folks, because there’s so much noise, there’s so much noise and we have to share with them the value that we bring.
Angus Nelson (35:22): I think there’s another piece of this as missing that you bring an energy and enthusiasm and a light.
Jeremy Middleton (35:28): Caroline?
Caroline Japic (35:28): That’s so nice.
Angus Nelson (35:29): You know, it’s a contagion, so I can absolutely feel like what your teams are feeling just by your leadership.
Caroline Japic (35:38): That’s so nice. Thank you. I feel like I don’t want to say I push the team really hard because it isn’t. I mean, it’s sure we set really high goals, but also my job is to help them break down the barriers to achieve those goals, letting them know that you’re there, look at, they have a problem. Come talk to me, we’ll solve it. We’ll figure it out. If you need external resources, if you need to work at home three days a week, whatever it is like whatever’s best for, for people I think is really important. You know, the other thing too is Kenna as, as a culture is really flexible. And I think that helps people achieve goals, right? So, you know, I, I work wherever I happen to be, if I have a conference call at 7:00 AM at my house that I do, and then we have no groceries in the house, then I go to Trader Joe’s. I take a call while I’m walking down the aisles. And then I get back, you know, it’s not, it’s definitely a new, modern way of working and we enable that across our entire company. And I think it makes a huge difference.
John Farkas (36:35): Jump into tactics for a minute. What, one thing that you’ve seen that that’s just really worked, that may be surprised you at how well it worked,
Caroline Japic (36:44): Honestly, the direct mail piece, the Right Fight Club, direct mail piece, because I have to, you also asked about, um, you know, what’s changing, what’s staying the same question. And I think that what changes is that whatever is old is new again, right? So the fact that we never get physical mail, direct mail is a cool thing to do right now, people.
Mark Whitlock (37:03): And for those of you who don’t remember, I spent so many years and direct mail as a part of the marketing stack that we had back in the old days. But a 2% response rate was good. You had three or 4% and you thought you were on, on top of the world. And you’re like, what can we do to replicate that? So at 10% meeting schedule rate from a direct mail piece is phenomenal. Yeah. It’s incredible.
Caroline Japic (37:26): Yeah. It’s pretty awesome. So I think using old tactics that people aren’t using anymore, sometimes let’s just bring this back up and see if they work again. You never know, right. This is, has worked for us.
Angus Nelson (37:37): A Little Pony Express… Doesn’t do that for horses across the nation.
John Farkas (37:43): Let’s jump on the other side. What have you done that fell short, that you were surprised that didn’t work?
Caroline Japic (37:48): I feel like we’re pretty conservative when it comes to the things that we’re doing. Um, I can’t, can you think of a program that we’ve started that hasn’t and that’s the thing too. We don’t have like a thousand programs. We have really simple, right? So we have digital ads. We probably can improve on those a bit, but it’s nurture, it’s digital, it’s warming them up. It’s sending them direct mail. Then it’s the SDRs calling. So we are scoring them. So people come to, you know, download the PTP report. We track that. And then if they come to our website, if they come to a webinar, if they come to an event and we happen to see them, they’re scored every time. And those each day are served up to the SDRs to start calling cause they’re hot. And also people that come to our website, if suddenly you have, you know, huge traction of people from Cisco, you have 30 people from Cisco, independent URLs hitting the website something’s going on at Cisco. Let’s try to make some calls in to the right people. So just looking at that data, paying attention and changing on a dime, you know, that that’s, I think super important.
John Farkas (38:46): So if you had a piece of advice to give to CMOs, uh, you know, they’re coming in new, what would you, what would that be? What would be the, your choice piece of advice for a marketing leader coming into a new role.
Caroline Japic (38:59): You need a big win fast, or at least a win, um, pretty quickly to show that, you know what you’re doing. One of the first things that I do is, um, like on the measurement side of things, like I have to have my dashboard, I can’t sleep until I have my dashboard and I understand what’s happening and I live by it honestly, and we track everything. So I’m getting that set up first because, um, oftentimes the executive team hasn’t seen something like that and I’m very transparent. So I share it with everyone. You know, everyone in sales can see it and I love our sales leader, by the way, Rick Kramer is phenomenal. We work really well together. Um, that is another key thing. That’s really important. Like you have to talk to the sales leader every single day. Um, even as just say, Hey, how’s it going? Great.
Caroline Japic (39:40): Okay. Because you have to have that communication open with them. I mean, they are, he’s my partner in crime and it doesn’t work with, without him there. Um, so I think that is a, is a really important thing to do right off the bat is to, to get, um, a relationship with the sales leader. And I’ll, hopefully they’re not joining organizations where they don’t feel comfortable and excited about working with the sales leader. Um, I also think put a plan in place, even if it’s just like a basic framework of what you envision the marketing plan to be and what you think they need to be doing. Like, it was really clear to me right off, we need to work on the message, right? So in my plan, I have have it phased out. We’re going to do this in month, one month, two month three.
Caroline Japic (40:22): And so there were really clear on what my plan was. And then, you know, in the executive meetings each week, I’d say, okay, check, this is done. You know, just let them know kind of where we are with things. And then also give a lot of highlights, um, based on activity that’s happening. We use Slack internally and, uh, I’m a big proponent of marketing the marketing. So immediately, you know, set up whether it’s on the general channel or marketing channel, um, make sure that people are aware of what’s going on. Like no one, um, you know, knew about the events we were doing. They weren’t on the website. And the sales team was like, Oh, I didn’t know we were having an event here. Or I didn’t know, we’re having meetings at RSA or I didn’t know this, you know, I didn’t, I never liked to hear that kind of stuff.
Caroline Japic (41:05): So we make sure we’re really transparent. We have, you know, these events coming up, we have regular meetings with the sales team that we’re sharing how we’re going to be generating leads for them and exactly where the leads are going to be coming from. So at RSA, we have a number, we have to reach this number of leads coming from RSA and we estimate, but we’ve done this and up that we’re pretty close on how we’re going to get to that bottom line number. But I think all those things, just showing that you’re the expert, you know what you’re doing, building meet with everybody you can possibly meet with up and down. So they feel comfortable with you. And then we have very regular marketing, all hands for the, the, the marketing team, the full marketing team. So they know what’s going on. They’re not surprised. And we have our marketing strategy framework that I show the first slide. Every meeting like hasn’t changed, this is still our mission. This is where we’re going. Just be aware of that. And then, you know, their, their goals kind of cascade from, from that framework. So everyone’s aligned and clean.
John Farkas (42:05): So if this podcast serves no other purpose, it will serve to terrify the competition going on at Kenna, because going for it’s strong,
Mark Whitlock (42:23): You’ve been listening to an interview with Caroline Japic and Jeremy Middleton from Kenna Security here on Studio CMO. Thank you so much for joining us. As promised during the interview, we have photographs of Kenna Security, swag, and other marketing specialties on our website. So come to StudioCMO.com/011 that’s StudioCMO.com/011, and check out Right Fight Club. And while you’re there, we’ve also linked out to a couple of upcoming webinars of Kenna Security. So if you’re wanting to know more about them or more about vulnerability management, you can find out they’ve got one called “The New Normal: What’s Changed for Security and Vulnerability Management”. That’s coming up next week. Also they’re partnering with SaltStack in a webinar, entitled “Find What Matters and Find it Fast.” So you can check out those as well as a whole host of other webinars and resources available on their website while you’re there at studiocmo.com, subscribe, you can subscribe on your favorite podcast app.
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