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CMO Confessions Ep. 29: Aprimo’s Ed Breault

November 21st, 2019 Joe Hyland

Hi folks and welcome to CMO Confessions, our B2B podcast examining what it takes to be a leader in the marketing and sales side of business today.

This week, we have Ed Breault, CMO at Aprimo. Ed started his marketing career as many of us do: graduating from college and wondering what’s next. After graduating from Bowling Green State University, Ed spent some time analyzing nuclear power plan data before moving onto a Big Four consulting firm and, eventually, his role as CMO at Aprimo.

In this episode, we discuss what makes marketing marketing today, why simply having data isn’t enough to drive results, what experiences young marketers ought to pursue to further their careers and why constantly challenging yourself and working out of your comfort zone is critical to success.

As always, you can find the full episode of CMO Confessions on Podbean here and an edited transcript of our conversation below.

You can learn more about what Ed has to say by following him on Twitter here and checking out his LinkedIn 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

What Does Ed Breault Love About Marketing Today?
What Is B2P Marketing?
Get Back to the Basic Human Elements of Exchange of Information
What Is the Objective of the Marketing Team at Aprimo?
Marketers Need to go Deep: Customer Experience and Advocacy
Marketing Longevity and Staying the Course
How to Deal With the Analytical Side of Marketing
Ed Breault’s Biggest Career Challenge

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 greater Pittsburgh area is Ed Breault, CMO at Aprimo. How’s it going, Ed?

Ed Breault:

I’m doing well, how are you?

Joe Hyland:

I am doing great. Thank you for joining me on a Friday afternoon.

Ed Breault:

Thanks for having me.

WHAT DOES ED BREAULT LOVE ABOUT MARKETING TODAY?

Joe Hyland:

All right, let’s dive right into the state of the space you and I live and work in B2B marketing. I want to hear, I’ll start on a positive note. Tell me what you love about what we’re doing today in the world we live in.

Ed Breault:

Yeah. I love it because I think we’ve got out of our own way as B2B marketers. And I think we just got back, we got out of the way of all the hype and all the distractive like technologies. And I think we just got back to being helpful and realizing where we’re needed and where we’re not needed.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. That’s it. One thing I love about marketing is well a lot of changes. I mean, think of the technology we have at our disposal on our fingertips on a daily basis. You know, the basic principles and tenets of marketing have not changed in decades and in some ways in centuries.

And I see so many marketers just making it about the tactics or making it about the next click or getting someone’s attention or trying to make too much noise and actually not focusing on, well, how do I help someone solve their problem and what’s the best way to show them that I can do that.

WHAT IS B2P MARKETING?

Ed Breault:

Exactly. Yeah. I think one of the things, and whether it’s B2B or B2C, it’s just I call it B2P business to people. And that’s the constant right, that you’re talking about as we’re just, we’re people, we’re humans and when we stop being humans that’s probably one of my biggest pet peeves. I think just keep it human, keep it conversational and remember how we are pre-wired, which is, you know, through stories, through visual communication.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. We talked about this for a moment before trying to be authentic. You know, oftentimes what we’re doing is really just trying to relate to another person and another individual. It just happens that we might have to do it to thousands or millions of people, right? But, if you walk up to someone at a bar and talk to them like a robot, it probably won’t be a good conversation and if we could do that in our marketing we’ll probably be okay.

Ed Breault:

Exactly. A good framework I use is SLAP, speak like a person, you know, it’s the worst. Our area is so full of jargon and buzzwords and I think some of the best marketers don’t have to use any of that.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I had this great boss once who, back when I was in product marketing, who would just go through whatever was written and either cross out or write a question mark above, like a slang phrase like optimize business processes. He’s like, Joe, what the hell does that mean? I was like, wow, we’re going to do things better. He’s like, you say that.

Ed Breault:

Exactly. I’ve seen with my team and then in general, I mean I’m very into saying the most with the least amount of words and just looking at how sometimes copy can be just so full of wasteful information.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I couldn’t agree anymore and it’s refreshing to feel like you’re not being sold to or marketed to. Right, I mean, I think it’s easy for everyone to relate to that shitty feeling of when you’ve got a slick salesperson who’s just trying to shove something down your throat like no one likes that, right?

And we can all relate to it in our personal lives. But I think we forget that marketers kind of do the same thing and when they push a whole bunch of BS at you, that probably isn’t going to, you’re not going to get the desired results.

GET BACK TO THE BASIC HUMAN ELEMENTS OF EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION

Ed Breault:

Exactly. Yeah. I mean, one of the things that I do, I market to marketers. So that’s one of those places where you are so pushed to bring value.

And differentiate from everybody else out there who’s speaking because a marketer can pick up on that and oftentimes it’s like, “Why are you using those words? Why are you using those tactics?” You have to be genuine, you have to be authentic and get back to the basic human elements of exchange of information.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. It’s interesting to play in the marketing technology space where your audience is actually your own discipline, right, where you and I are marketing to marketers. On one hand, I would hope that what you said is true, that marketers are should be a little more savvy to marketing tech, which I think they are.

I don’t know, I see a lot of bad marketing in our space. It’s also such a crowded space. Like you just said you were at Martech, right? I mean it’s, they speak with pride about having thousands of vendors in the space. Which on one hand might be a good thing, on the other hand, it makes it so it can be a pretty loud echo chamber.

Ed Breault:

Absolutely. It’s so crowded. And what is it like 7,000 plus Martech vendors? I mean, it’s just a ridiculous amount. Some survive, some don’t. And we make it hard when we don’t differentiate in any way because it’s such a crowded space. There’s overlap, there’s convergence. And I think those that have like the staying power are the ones that continue to keep up and evolve what they’re doing.

WHAT IS THE OBJECTIVE OF THE MARKETING TEAM AT APRIMO?

Joe Hyland:

So talk to me about what, or our audience, about what you guys are doing. Like what are what’s your team look like? You know, you referenced you’re selling to marketers and what’s your goal? What’s the objective of the marketing team at Aprimo?

Ed Breault:

Absolutely. The objective of marketing at Aprimo is to be helpful, right? It’s really to, we have we sell digital asset management for customer experience and marketing resource management and we’ve got 25% of the global 100 as customers and they’ve got major pain points like.

Ed Breault:

These are the brands that have to do massive storytelling with lots of content, with a lot of appreciation for sophistication and they need really bulletproof technology. And they’re companies who have evolved over time; they went through mergers and acquisitions and now they’re at this point of simplifying their tech stack and bringing it all together.

Ed Breault:

And so what we have to do is help them make very difficult decisions. Decisions that are in the millions and billions around how they’re designing their org, designing their technology for this future. I mean, it’s 2020s right there. I can’t believe it’s here right now. So we just have to be as helpful as possible with the right information, the right content, and we have to teach along the way.

We actually used some of the Challenger Sales Methodology, marketing methodology, and so we really have to know these industries up and down, inside and out and where they’re going. And so we can bring information and content to help them through their discovery and buying process and bring empathy.

MARKETERS NEED TO GO DEEP: CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE AND ADVOCACY

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Well, I love that you said empathy there. I think that’s a great topic is marketers going deep. Meaning, if you want to be respected you better know what the hell you’re talking about.

And I see a lot of marketers, particularly earlier in their careers, who kind of shy away from knowing the product or knowing the space or the industry or the vertical you’re selling into, it’s like, I don’t need to do that. I just need to make it pretty, so to speak.

Joe Hyland:

And I think marketing has, that’s a really exciting thing about marketing, is it’s evolved so much in the last 10 years on the tech side, but also on the value side. And marketers are if we can be on the tip of the spear and on the front end of driving growth in our organizations. But to do that, you really need to know the space. You need to know the competitors. You need to know how you’re providing value to a potential customer.

So I love that. I love that you guys look at the Challenger Model. I think many salespeople adhere to that, but I think it’s really helpful for marketers to think about how they market and how you can add value to your customers versus just trying to push your message to them.

Ed Breault:

Exactly. Yeah. In their research, they look at customer advocacy and what was the key driver in that? And it was the sales process. So it’s even before they become a customer, advocacy and customer experience they really do matter. Not just at the transaction point to keep them as customers, to continue to add value. It’s this experience is the new battlefront, that’s for sure.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I love that you just said that and I think, talk about another exciting opportunity for marketers is I think marketers can own that, right? Or at least be on the bleeding edge of it. What we’re doing on a daily basis should be creating experiences.

I think it’s cool and exciting that so many marketers are stepping up and owning more of that customer experience. Cause you’re right, it could start with the first web form they fill out or like your nurture email all the way through to hopefully having them as customers for years and years.

Ed Breault:

Exactly. Yeah. The idea, I mean we were talking about it earlier, but this idea that it’s not just B2B or B2C, it’s business to people and even like direct consumer, right?

Where those disruptive direct to consumer experiences are raising the experience bar in B2B now because you’re not competing over the best experience your competition delivers. It’s you’re competing over the best experience who you’re trying to help, has ever had, whether it be Amazon, right, a company that’s built from the experience out.

And so I think we as B2B or B2C marketers if we can think about experience as one of the new differentiators that’s where really where we should be spending a lot of our time.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I love it and in a world where, you know, so many solutions are rented, not owned, that experience is so much more important. Right? It’s not like the good old days where someone would plop down $1 million and they’d own your software and you’d get a little maintenance.

Consumers have a lot of choices now and they can choose to, they’re actively choosing do I stay with you or do I go to another solution? So you’re kind of only as good as the value and experience you’re providing.

Ed Breault:

Exactly. As consumers, we’re just looking for an experiential differentiation deck. Don’t make me buy, let me try. Just like Uber, right? I don’t like to buy cars; let me use yours.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Soon enough we won’t like to drive and no one will be driving the car. So that’s probably the world we’re going. Actually they were doing a lot of their testing in and around Pittsburgh. Right?

Ed Breault:

That’s exactly right. Yeah. They have the with Carnegie Mellon and a lot of these, there’s a lot of high tech in Pittsburgh. It’s really gone through quite a bit of innovation surge and the infrastructure too. We’ve gotten really liberal with some of the testings and actually working with the local government there.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I read a good article on how the mayor was kind of leaning into, you know, trying to bring more tech companies in. I think that’s cool and exciting because so I live in the land of startups but it’s almost we’ve kind have jumped the shark so to speak. Like it’s too much out in San Francisco. It feels like everyone you bump into has kind of founded the latest tech company and most likely it’s a marketing tech company. So I like seeing it in other parts of the country. That’s cool.

Ed Breault:

There’s a lot of Fonzies jumping the shark out there in Silicon Valley.

MARKETING LONGEVITY AND STAYING THE COURSE

Joe Hyland:

It’s bad, it’s bad. Okay. It’s also exciting but it’s bad. The career path I think is really interesting to talk about and actually it’s a natural jumping-off point after I lovingly made fun of the Bay area.

And I get asked a lot about how you perfectly curate your career path and I think a lot of people think it’s natural, particularly when you’re younger in your career, to think that there was a formula for how someone went from, you know, an entry-level employee to an executive and there’s not.

What I’m seeing is a lot of employees jumping pretty quickly staying at a job for under a year. And I’d love for you to talk about your career path and how you look at longevity and kind of staying the course.

Ed Breault:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean I think it comes down to, and I felt would give one piece of advice to an emerging marketer, somebody younger in their career or emerging in their career. It’s to stay uncomfortable.

And what I mean by that is that when you’re uncomfortable, you’re growing, right? It’s you’re never done growing. And if you start to stagnate or start to feel like, hey, I’m good, I got this, it’s time to think about what’s next. You’ve got to continue to evolve in your career. But I really embraced that idea even when I went to school at Bowling Green State University, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do.

Ed Breault:

I had a double major in business administration and management information systems. So I took the accounting classes, the finance classes, the marketing, plus I did all the coding and all the technology. Just so I had options. Right?

And then I moved, I got a couple of internships. I worked for Intel Corporation and First Energy Corporation, nuclear energy. So you gotta get your experience young, really get experienced is what I’d recommend. And then from there, I got into nuclear energy of all things. I was working with a lot of data.

Joe Hyland:

Really?

Ed Breault:

Yeah. Nuclear power plants. I was pulling, well it was big data. They, these nuclear power plants have tons and tons of data that collects in these mainframes. And I was building advanced analytic models to pull all the data out and build predictive models for whenever parts in the nuclear power plant would fail. From an obsolescence standpoint because when they shut down these reactors, these companies lose millions of dollars like a minute. So they have to be extremely efficient.

So I did that and again, got comfortable and I’m like, okay, I’m out. Then I got into big four consulting and business model transformation, which was really fun. And that’s where I really first got into marketing. And I saw what was really cool about it is I could have the, be data-driven, as the science part of it, but then also the creative, the human elements. So the art and science of business are what marketing afforded me. And then from there, I was just two feet in marketing all the way and there’s no other place I want to be.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I love the left and right brain aspects of marketing, right?

Ed Breault:

Full brain.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, full brain. We do full brain work here, we work both sides.

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE ANALYTICAL SIDE OF MARKETING

Joe Hyland:

Talk more about that data component because that is one thing. It’s easy to say a lot hasn’t changed in marketing while a lot legitimately has, right? And you know, we have more and more and more data and I think a lot of marketers struggle with that right?

And I know of a few marketers who come from a nuclear background and then went into consulting. So you’re an interesting person to get a take on this how are you guys using data? How do you view the analytical side of marketing?

Ed Breault:

Yeah, I think you’re right, it’s the analytical side of marketing which it starts with asking questions. Don’t start with the data. You know, before we didn’t have a lot of data now we’ve got tons of data and now we’ve got big data. The volume, variety, velocity, the veracity of data. Is that the data even of quality? Do we have good data hygiene?

I like to call it data fitness. Cause my team, I’m like guys, we’ve got to have good data fitness. We’ve got update Salesforce. Put your, put your data in, fill out your call logs. You know, we’re only as good as our data to mine for insight. So we always start with questions. We ask a lot of questions. One answer to a question leads to three more questions.

Ed Breault:

And so I think you really have to number one really respect the data. Make sure you’ve got a good infrastructure hygiene process down. You have good data fitness meaning marketing and sales. We’re all in this together. This is how we communicate, it’s the lifeblood of our decision making.

I use those decisions to make very directional decisions for marketing, for sales, for the company to report to my senior leadership team, to my board of directors, to make investments, to make more headcount to all of that. The data is probably secondary to what you do with it. And then it’s asking the questions and then being informed and making informed decisions. Yeah. From there it’s making sure then that you’ve got a good data storytelling framework.

Joe Hyland:

I liked that you led with asking questions cause I think you’re so right. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing can cause a problem, right? So data’s a wonderful thing that we have data. But if you just kind of mindlessly go in and say, “Oh I’m going to just interpret the data and I’ll see where it leads me.”

First, you can reach false conclusions. You don’t really know your starting point, like what are you trying to accomplish? And truthfully, you’ll probably just lose yourself for years. Like yeah, I also love the phrase data fitness. And you’re right, this is a partnership between marketing and sales it’s like we have to speak a common language and there’s gotta be a common framework to determine success.

And so much of that is based on the information that we have in marketing automation and sales in your CRM. And if you don’t have good information going in, well the output will be worthless, right? You’ll just reach false conclusions.

Ed Breault:

Exactly. And that’s the problem too. If you say, “Hey, we’re going to be data-driven and we’re going to do what the data tells us,” but if your fitness was terrible you’re going to make very poor, very detrimental decisions that are going to impact your business, your reputation, right, as an executive on multiple levels.

And so when I say fitness I bring together not just the cleanliness of the data, but it takes a lot of physical, human power, right? I empathize with my sales teams and sales leaders. It’s like, fill out your call logs, listen well, be a very good listener. Put the right data in and then actually put the data in. Right? Because if you only put pieces or parts, again, it’s not the full picture.

ED BREAULT’S BIGGEST CAREER CHALLENGE

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. No, there’s a lot of good advice in there. Okay. Speaking of staying uncomfortable, which is the phrasing I wrote down when, when you were talking about you know, your career path and what you would recommend for why people stay. Talk to me about whether it’s your biggest challenge now or the biggest challenge you’ve had in your career. You pick.

Ed Breault:

Yeah. I mean, you know, my biggest challenge right now as you know, as a chief marketing officer or you know, chief markets officer, you know, the best markets. I mean there’s a lot, I mean, you’re a CMO, I’m a CMO, there’s a lot on our plate. There’s the brand, there’s demand, there’s culture, there’s experience, there’s bringing in a lot of assistance with like digital assistance for, from what’s the right technology to help with our business.

And then strategy, right? Where I think that the more we CMOs spend time in strategy, then I think we’re going to be the most valuable. And that’s definitely where the most discomfort lies because that’s the more, I want to say, you’re burning political capital sometimes. You are you’re held to a new level. You’re making decisions on what markets to get into — what’s the product-market fit, what regions, what countries, what territories — being a strategic partner to your head of sales to your CEO.

That’s where I want to say that’s where the most discomfort that I love is because I’m growing in that area right now. Definitely have moved through like content and a brand demand and all those traditional elements. But I think the more we as CMOs spend time in strategy I mean that’s the place to be.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I mean that is literally the best advice I think anyone can ever give. And that’s always changing, right? Some things get boring, right? Like, working on the same content, particularly you stay at a company, if that’s all you do, I could see that getting old or only worrying about a brand. Not that that’s a small thing. But if you’re signing up or at least at the table to influence strategy that is an evolving task that will never get dull.

And it’s pretty cool to see how marketers, you and I both work in Martech companies, but like, I think marketing is so different and light years ahead of where it was a couple of decades ago when we started, or maybe you were a nuclear engineer at that point, I was a lowly marketer right when marketing was just “What should the color be?” And can you make sure this package is shipped, it’s not that tactics aren’t important.

But if you can have a say in the strategy of the company, if you know the market, like you were talking about earlier, you understand how you can be helpful to your customers. The sky’s the limit for marketers.

Ed Breault:

I agree. Yeah. And one of the things I’m using right now in terms of market analysis is like predictive analytics and there’s the total addressable market, but then there’s a total addressable market is what I like to say. And so I think right there it’s, you know, the economics of winning and moving the guns and moving the teams and making sure that you can say, “Yeah, I’ve got proof. I’ve got the data, here’s where we should go in the market.”

Joe Hyland:

We’re going to end it there on the economics of winning. I love that Ed, talk about a phrase that wasn’t in marketing two decades ago. Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it. This was fantastic.

Ed Breault:

Awesome. Joe. Thanks for having me.