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CMO Confessions Ep. 21: Cradlepoint’s Todd Krautkremer

May 22nd, 2019 Joe Hyland

Hello and welcome again to another episode of CMO Confessions, our bi-weekly podcast exploring the real stories of leadership behind sales and marketing in B2B companies today. This week, we have Todd Krautkremer, CMO at Cradlepoint.

Cradlepoint is an industry leader in cloud-delivered 4G LTE network solutions for businesses, government organizations and more. It’s currently working to extend its lead into the 5G space as well. But we’re not here to talk about Cradlepoint specifically, we’re here to talk about how Todd got to where he is today and learn what he has to say about marketing in general.

And he has a lot to say thanks to his wealth of experience in software engineering, sales and, of course, marketing. Todd started his career as a computer software engineer building networks for AT&T. There, he watched his sales comrades succeed where he couldn’t. So, after leaving AT&T, he found himself a position in sales.

But after he joined sales, Todd realized there was a massive gap in customer-centric marketing. So, he moved into marketing. Since then, Todd has approached marketing with an engineer’s mind and an obsession with approaching marketing from the customer’s perspective.

In this episode, you’ll learn a lot about the similarities and differences between engineering and marketing, why data is now the de facto engine behind marketing today and the marketing tech stack has so drastically changed from even five years ago.

If you’re interested in discovering what Todd has to say, you can find his Twitter profile here. If you’re interested in exploring his background, you can check out his LinkedIn profile here.

If you’re interested in listening to our growing podcast series, you can find all of our episodes right here in podbean. Alternatively, you can also find us on both iTunes and Google Play stores.

Without further ado, welcome to CMO Confessions. Let’s chat.

Table of Contents:

Cradlepoint’s Todd Krautkremer’s journey to CMO
Todd’s early marketing homing beacon
How an engineer approaches marketing
The must-have marketing skill sets and using data to the best of your ability
Handling tech stacks now vs. five or six years ago
What was once old in marketing is now new again
On getting marketing and sales to play nice

Transcript:

Joe Hyland:

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO Confessions, a Weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast where we explore what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Joe Hyland, CMO here at ON24, and joining me this week from the Bay Area is Todd Krautkremer, CMO of Cradlepoint. Todd, how you doing?

Todd Krautkremer:

Hey, doing great Joe. Thanks for inviting me to the show.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I love having you on. I really appreciate the time. Okay, so let’s dive right in. I get asked a lot, from younger marketers to tell them the path to becoming a CMO, and I think they, most people think there is a very deliberate, set of roles that one needs to get into this chair. You have a you have a different path, or perhaps a less common journey. And I’d love, I’d love to hear more about it.

Cradlepoint’s Todd Krautkremer’s Journey to CMO

Todd Krautkremer:

Yeah, sure. I think everybody carves their own path, but, what is consistent is really being able to have a sense of what the life of a customer is all about. So my path is a very circuitous path. I was trained as a computer software engineer, and my first job was writing software for some of the world’s largest networks. The company I was working for was at the heart of many of the world’s largest networks at the time. And that’s how I stumbled into networking. I got completely driven by understanding how this code that I’m writing actually works in the real world. I had to understand how you build networks and I took a job with AT&T at the time that was building their networks at divestiture, it gives you some idea what my age is for those that are counting. And we needed to build one of the world’s largest networks, literally overnight, by that I mean within a year and a half.

And it was a life-transforming experience because I became the IT guy or the guy in this case, the network engineer, and all the vendors were trying to sell to me and they were trying to get me to buy their technology and their solution. And it was a, it was a life-altering experience. And then from there I, I also noticed that, while I was doing all the work, the cars lined up outside of my window were a Porsche with a personalized plate and a BMW with a personalized plate and the Mercedes with a personalized plate. And I realized that in the world of sales you kind of control your own destiny.

So I decided to get into sales. I went to AT&T and I said, hey, “I want to get into sales.” And they said, “No problem Todd here is literally a seven-year road map of how you can get into sales from where you are today.” I said, “I was kind of thinking now, not seven years from now.” I took a job with Neiman’s that was building at that time, public packet switching networks for the carriers, went through product management, got into sales in about two years and then did my first startup. And I got so frustrated that the, the utter lack of marketing and was complaining all the time because I really had a feel for what customers were going through and how to talk about our value proposition, in a way that matters to customers. Finally, the CEO of the early stage company said, well, if you think you can do a better job, the role is yours. I said, I think I can. And I got into marketing and found my true calling. And it really is the ability to live the customer’s life, to relate to what’s important and to translate the value of what you’re doing into terms that the customer can resonate with and value.

Todd’s early Marketing Homing Beacon

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I love that. Said a little differently, empathy is so important for great marketers and really being able to see things from other people’s perspectives and walk a mile in their shoes, so to speak. Do you think, starting on the, on the programming and coding side and going over to sales and then kind of completing this journey over to marketing, do you think the stops in multiple different disciplines or departments helped you have a more well-rounded view of the customer’s challenges? Or was that just dumb luck and that happened to be your path?

Todd Krautkremer:

Well, gee, how do I answer this both truthfully? It was a little bit luck in that the opportunities had presented themselves. But on the other hand, I had to seize the opportunity and I was clearly moving in a path towards sales and marketing. Otherwise, I would be a CTO somewhere, right? Cause that path is also very fruitful. So I think the way I was wired, what was important to me, what interests me, what I was passionate about, even as I was a developer, remember cause I was writing this code and I wasn’t happy just developing the code, I had to really understand how customers used it. So there was always that attraction in my life that homing beacon, if you will, that I was locked onto.

But let me tell you this, what’s really funny today, and you and I see this all the time, as CMOs, right? For some reason, an engineer walks in the room and says, “I’ve examined the problem and I’ve taken this approach and I’m developing this kind of solution.”

He goes, “Wow, that guy is amazing. He’s gone through all this education and we see it at work right there. Then you go to the next conference room and you say, “Hey, I’ve got this marketing challenge”, and everybody in the room, sales, engineering, customer service, the receptionist all say, “Hey, here’s what I think you should do.”

How a Software Engineer Approaches Marketing

Todd Krautkremer:

So, I don’t know why that’s the case, but to bring it full circle marketing is very, very technical. Let me just draw a comparison here. Let me compare the life of engineering with the life of marketing today to make good on this point. So right? The product and the engineering team, they care about product market fit. We care about product customer fit. They have a DevStack, right, with all this advanced technology that helps them write code and and manage code and deliver products…

we have a martech stack, which is extremely complicated and sophisticated and we can’t do what we’re set up to do without it. They have a DevOps function; we have a marketing ops function. They do continuous integration; we do continuous campaigns. They have sustaining engineering; we have sustaining influence that’s essential to keeping our name in front of the right people, that at some point in their own journey, will decide they’re going to buy something and you’re there, you’re top of mind and you’re relevant. They do QA testing; we do A//B testing. They do user experience, that’s a real big thing to stay in the engineering side; we do persona and customer journey maps. Kind of the same thing. And now the big thing in the engineering side is everybody’s got to hire data scientists. Well, you can’t be an effective marketer today without a quant. So my story here, Joe.

Joe Hyland:

It’s true. It is true. I mean there’s just slightly different personas. Right? But you just touched on data, which I think is, I think it’s fascinating. And you’re right, I know a few marketing departments that aren’t either strongly leveraging data or having plans to do so in the immediate future, and really more the former than the latter with, with every group I’m talking to. It’s a pretty wildly different skill set that when you think about most traditional marketers in the paths they take. You came from the programming side. I think you naturally draw these lines of comparison between engineering and marketing. And I think they’re pretty damn close. Do you guys at either Cradlepoint, or you can go back to previous roles; one, are you utilizing data to the best of your ability? Do you feel good about it? And I guess the second part would be do you feel like you have the, the skill sets within marketing to best do so? Or are you hiring non-marketers to do it?

The Must-Have Marketing Skills Sets And using Data to The Best of Your Ability

Todd Krautkremer:

That’s a lot of questions within that question. But in the world of SaaS, which is the company I was previously at was really a SaaS-based approach to networking. Getting real-time telemetry data from the product was essential and it allowed me to understand the customer journey, not on the outside of the product, which, which is my job, and to the other point about data I’ll cover in a minute, you can’t do that data. Once that journey flows into the product you need that telemetry data to really understand how that customer is consuming your value and are they having success and are they solving business problems and will they churn or not at the end of that journey?

So that I think is, of course, the way you think in SaaS, but increasingly, it’s the way you have to think about all solutions. And in order to map that internal product journey where I get product telemetry data that’s easy to external, I need external telemetry data on the customers and where they’re visiting and what they’re reading and what they’re consuming and where they are in their journey. And am I serving up to them content and insights that meet them where they are in their journey or am I constantly shooting ahead of them and behind them? Which means I’m not being effective and really moving them towards us and our solutions.

So yes, data is essential. It’s what makes marketing different today than it was five years ago. And in order to really get those insights, because nobody delivers to you an exact picture, you have multiple sources. You have to have quants, you have to have people who enjoy finding insights in seemingly unrelated data that now become actionable insights. And the only way you can do that is really to have, you know, our version of data science with people with real business analytics and quantitative analytics backgrounds.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I guess, one, I agree, two, it’s interesting seeing this skill set in marketing departments. You’re right, a lot has changed in the last five years. We’ll talk about technology, you referenced it before, but there really weren’t quants, at least in the marketing departments I was working in, in marketing. They may have sat in different parts of the business, right? But, so many dollars are going into growth marketers and growth marketing. And if you’re not really, if you’re not analyzing the data and making smarter decisions off of all these signals you’re getting back you’re kind of missing the point, right? So, but yeah, it is interesting to see the difference in skill sets required because it’s pretty, pretty stark.

Todd Krautkremer:

Yeah. And kind of the, I would say, the pinnacle of executing based on data-driven decisions and doing this in real-time, which is where we all aspire to get to, right? This notion of real-time [inaudible] in marketing. I had the, the opportunity to meet with a team at IBM and literally they took me into their real-time marketing team and they had a whole bunch of quants crunching data, streaming real-time from their website, and while they were crunching data you could see there were people on the website, they were, they were doing firmographics on that individual in realtime and they were copying offers in front of that individual based on real-time data feeds. All of this in real-time. It looked like a top trading room. The level of activity was crazy. And of course I don’t have the budget and the staff to do that, but it doesn’t necessarily quell my desire to get to that kind of outcome in the not too distant future.

Handling Tech Stacks Now vs. Five or Six Years Ago

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Well, I mean, that sounds like a pretty sophisticated shop they had. But, what’s cool about marketing today is you don’t necessarily, everything is a spectrum, right? And if that’s on one end of the extreme side of the spectrum I think we’re all using data in much smarter ways and technology is making life simpler. It’s also making life a lot more complicated. I’d love to get your perspective on this. So I’m seeing tech stacks grow and grow for marketers, with many great promises of kind of solving all of the marketer’s challenges. How are, how are you handling your tech stack and without actually walking through it from a macro perspective, what’s it look like now versus, you know, five or six years ago?

Todd Krautkremer:

Yeah. You know, it’s the modern version of a gym membership. Just because you have a gym membership doesn’t mean you lose weight.

Joe Hyland:

It’s true. That’s a great idea. That is great, I’ve never heard that analogy. That’s a great one. Combining the two. Yeah, you’re right.

Todd Krautkremer:

So, you know, these amazing technologies, right? There’s whole companies that are just trying to advance the marketing capability set. But just because you buy one of those solutions, plugging in your stack doesn’t mean you’re going to get benefits. So what we’ve done here is we tie kind of, it really gets to a business objective. Let’s take ABM that’s kind of top of mind. I mean that’s a whole different way in which we drive demand through influence and have more of an account based approach, right? So it starts with that business objective.

Then you have to figure out what are the tools I need in the stack in order to execute in a measurable way, our goals of the business around account-based marketing. But then you have to get people that have a dedicated responsibility to leverage those tools to execute against that business imperative and deliver the results. And then you gotta be able to measure the results and have the programmatic elements in place that ensures that it provides basically an operating system for the technology and the people and the business objectives to follow and execute in. And if you don’t have all of those pieces, then you’re likely to have a gym membership that you may visit once a quarter and spend about five minutes on the bike and call it good and think that you’re getting the benefit. That’s just been our experience.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. So I agree with you. I’ll add one element in there is if one is not careful, you get an increasingly large toolset of technologies and if you’re not careful, they operate in silos, which point cleaning data from them is never going to happen. I love that you started with the business imperative and objective. I see too many marketers today either starting with tactics or starting with technology and ABM is a good example. ABM is not a strategy. ABM might be a means through which you can accomplish what you’re trying to achieve. But that is, you know, because of our space that I’m in, I go to a lot of marketing conferences and if I hear that one more time that the new strategy is ABM, I don’t know what I’ll do, it’s not a strategy. And also this,

What Was Once Old In Marketing Is Now New Again

Joe Hyland:

And so you referenced your age or your tenure earlier and ABM is a perfect topic for this. So many things in marketing that were once old are now new again. ABM is all the buzz right now, but it’s not as if personalized marketing and delivering a highly customized message is a new concept for marketers yet it’s talked about like this is some brand new thing that never existed before.

Todd Krautkremer:

No, that’s exactly right. In fact, you know, we’ve always used sales as kind of being that last mile transformation layer that takes our messaging, positioning, our personas and everything else and really brings that together at the point of engagement with the customer. But as we all know, customer behaviors, have radically changed. And where in the past, the salespeople was one of the primary ways they got insights and information about new technologies, what other people are doing. That’s not the case anymore.

So now they’re really on their own self-guided journey and we’re having to figure out new tactics of how do we get in front in more of a persona based in more of a spear phishing type of approach to get the right information to the right person at the right time so we can influence their direction and do that before, long before the salespeople even engage. So you’re right, it’s many of the same things that marketing’s always been about. But because the customers are forcing us to switch up when we apply these tactics in the sales cycle, it’s forcing us to look at technologies like account-based marketing to execute what was done perhaps later in the sales cycle through more face to face engagement.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I mean, it’s a cool time to be a marketer. I always strongly believed that marketing is never about you, it’s always about them, whoever them is, whoever your audience is. And you just said it well: purchasers or consumers are taking themselves on self-guided journeys that is, that started six or seven years ago and I don’t, I don’t actually think it will ever end. But marketers have more and more control now and I’m seeing marketing departments, not just leaders, but departments, becoming much more strategic to the business versus just being the chotchkies and making a pretty department.

Todd Krautkremer:

That’s exactly right. In a good, a good metric of that shift just in my own life when you think about board meetings, right? Our board is spending more time talking about the role of marketing in achieving our business objectives than ever before. So they are recognizing that it’s not just a tool for getting a company brand out there and getting heard and having people resonate. It’s a tool that can really facilitate and drive leverage and scalability in sales and the partners that do the selling on our behalf.

On Getting Marketing and Sales to Play Nice

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, similar to my experience. When we have our quarterly board meeting I present our sales pipeline, so I’m incredibly close with our sales leader, my counterpart, on the sales side. But the board feels that marketing is the key upstream indicator for pipeline. So I stand up there alone and present it. It just, I think that was rarer five or 10 years ago.

Todd Krautkremer:

Absolutely. In fact, that used to be that the sales teams and marketing teams and even boards, they kind of encouraged this tension between sales and marketing and they had to be an odds because that way truth lies somewhere between. That is a very passe view of marketing.

Todd Krautkremer:

Today, you should not be able to see the light between a sales and marketing department. There should be no gaps. They really should be an extension of each other — if you’re doing it right and if you’re really leveraging the full capabilities of marketing together with the things that sales can uniquely do. And, that’s a very different place than we were even three years ago. Certainly five years.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, completely. When I started my career almost 20 years ago, my job was to literally write letters, this is sales and marketing alignment back then, I would write letters for our sales reps, I would print them, I would sign them in the sales rep’s name and then mail them off and hope that, you know, whoever I sent them to write back. So things have changed a little bit.

Todd Krautkremer:

They’re putting more power in the hands of us to do what we’re ultimately paid to do. And that’s really transformed the shape of the business growth. Right? That’s what we’re here to do is to create an inflection through one to many activities and provide more sales leverage.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. And your experience coming through sales after your programming days, I think is an interesting breeding ground. But I think many, many, many people still struggle with the relationship with sales. We talked about empathy earlier. If you’re empathetic and you see things from other people’s perspective, life’s actually pretty simple. And you’re right, if you can, if sales and marketing have ultimately the same goals, there should be no light between the two groups. And I actually think the tension, if any existed before really should, should go away. Our marketing department’s goal for the year is our sales team’s goal. I think that’s a pretty simple way to structure it. You just, you just need to think differently about how you set up objectives.

Todd Krautkremer:        

Yeah. I mean it used to be, of course, we talk in the terms of MQLs and SQLs, and that’s just like plumbing, right? If a marketing department is talking about MQLs, there’s still a fence between sales and marketing. Our terminology is pipeline coverage and that is we’re going to guarantee we’re going to deliver this amount of pipeline to meet the number. So we’re in the trenches, we’re committing to delivering that pipeline so sales can do their job. And then helping to find where those other pipeline factors will come in because we have influence over those too. Partners are a great example. And through partner marketing and channel marketing, we can now drive pipeline contribution through our partners.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. That’s wonderful. And you’re right, an MQL doesn’t go away, you know, marketing needs to, needs some way to measure these key upstream indicators. But yeah, the, I hope…

Todd Krautkremer:

It’s the outcome, it’s just a milestone in the process to achieve an outcome.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. And so I joined our company four years ago and I said to our CEO, and we’d had some troubles with sales and marketing alignment. I said “Let’s just set the goals the same and it’s all about for us.” So our use case was demand gen, and I said, “Set the goal at pipeline. Let me worry about MQLs. Cause you don’t want me sitting in the room saying, ‘Oh, I know we’re behind our sales targets, but marketing set our MQL goals.'” Like that’s when BS starts and you never get rid of it.

Todd Krautkremer:

Exactly. Spot on.

Joe Hyland:        

All right, well Todd, listen, I told you this would go by fast or we’re at the bottom of the, of the hour. I love your passion. I love the data-driven approach. I don’t think I could ever mimic your background, but it’s fascinating hearing someone who went through it. So thank you so much for the time. I really, really appreciate it.

Todd Krautkremer:

Thanks, Joe. Let’s do this again sometime. I had a blast.

Joe Hyland:

All right. Over a beer next time.

Todd Krautkremer:

You got it. Cheers.