Kirby Wadsworth, CMO full cut

February 21, 2020

Kirby Wadsworth, CMO of Illusive Networks on how to get promoted in your marketing career, the best campaigns his team has done, and the future of video.

Video Transcript

Speakers: Kirby Wadsworth, CMO, Illusive Networks

What was the biggest a-ha moment of your marketing career?

Kirby via Handbrake: Well, I guess the biggest ah-ha moment of my career came in talking to one of our existing customers. I was sitting down with him and I said, Look, I know you get attacked by hundreds of companies all the time. Everybody's trying to get your attention. What can you tell me about how we as marketing people and sales people, could do a better job of breaking through all that clutter? How do we start conversations with you without driving you crazy? And he laughed, and sat and he thought for a few minutes. He said, Well, I can think of a lot of things that you can't or you shouldn't do. Don't invite me to a ball game. I don't like sports. If you spend a little time checking me out, you could probably figure that out in advance. I also have plenty of friends. And if I wanted to go to an event or a sporting event or to a wine tasting or something like that, I wouldn't want to do it with you and your sales reps. frankly. Don't offer to buy dinner. Frankly, I've eaten enough red meat and eaten enough steak in my life that you know, inviting me to another another dinner is not really something that I would enjoy. I like to stay home. Don't send me a bunch of jump with logos on it. I have trash cans full of logo plastic. I don't want any more logo junk in my office. I'm not gonna put it in my office anyway. I'm just going to throw it away or give it to my kids, so just don't send it to me. It's a complete waste of time. But there is one thing, one characteristic that's true of all of the sales people that I do allow into my office more than once. He said they they do one thing. They give me a new way to look at an old problem. Now it could be that they changed my perspective on what's going on around, Maybe they challenge some constraints that I boxed myself into. They helped me kind of unpack my thinking and rethink the way that that I'm thinking, But there give me a new way to think, or give me an idea. Or the seed of an idea that I can take and use to make my daily life better, to do better in my career, to advance my company. Those of the sales reps did get through and get through more than once. He also said when you send those sales reps if I let you in when I send them to you, One more thing don't have them. Come in. Look around my office, See the picture of my children, you know, sitting on my desk and started asking me about my family. I'm divorced. My wife got custody. It's kind of a painful subject.

When did taking a risk in your career pay off?

Kirby via Handbrake: Okay, First, let's try to define paying off. If all it is, is about money and that's all you really desire in your career or power or control or a big office. Or all that comes with that. I probably can't help you. I had all those things I worked for a $9, $10 billion company. I had a newly minted MBA. I had four kids, one brand new still in the crib. And I walked away from it all to start, to be a founding member of a startup. With nothing. We had four guys in a basement with a white board and box of Oreo cookies and a bottle of Scotch. That's all we had. We didn't even have a dog. Usually, it's two guys and a dog. That was a long time ago. That start up. failed miserably, As did several others that I was involved in. To be honest with you, that's the nature of the startup business, and anybody who tells you that it's different is lying to you. But every once in a while you get lucky, and, you know, maybe you'll make some money and maybe things will work out. But I left BigCo. Where I honestly was fat, dumb and happy. And many people who stayed are still fat, dumb and happy and make a lot more money probably than I do. And you know, have retirements and pensions, Because I walked into a conference room and there were 40 people in the conference room and every one of them work for the company that I work for. And it took over 30 minutes to go around the conference table for everybody to explain their name, their title, who they worked for, what they were doing in the meeting before we could get to the subject of the meeting. And it was a one hour meeting, and I walked out of that session and, went home, and I told my wife, I can't do that. I don't want to spend my life doing that. Life's too short. I want to go create things and break things and make a mess, and I don't know what's gonna happen, and I don't know if we're gonna starve or we're gonna thrive. But I can't do that. I'd rather chop wood or fish or something than that. So I did what I did. And you know, it's been 30 plus years, and I've done eight start ups now, and the payoff for me has been personal. Some financial, a little bit, I guess, but it's been in the people that I've worked with, people that have helped and the companies that we've created, the jobs that we've started, the industries that we've shaken up, that's been the real payoff for me.

What advice do you have for marketers trying to take their career to the next level?

Kirby via Handbrake: Hoo boy. Okay, a lot of little things and maybe some big ones. The first thing I would say is learned to write. Don't learn how to write. Write every day, write until you write in your sleep, Write. Writing focuses your mind. It forces you to put thoughts together in coherent sentences. It, helps you structure your thought patterns. And it gives you a way to express yourself beyond your thoughts. So learn to write and write every day about anything and everything that you are interested in writing about. The second thing is to build and nurture your network. The network, your network is probably the most important thing that you'll ever have. You need to rely on them for references for jobs, for job offers, success, partnerships, all kinds of things. So collect them, build it, pay forward, help people. Whether when there's no reason other to help them, other than just that they need help. Helping people actually feels good. It's good for your soul, and it's good for your network, and it's good for your career. Conversely, ask your network for things too. People like to help and a as long as you're not begging. Asking people for help and asking people for advice and asking people for favors is good. It actually builds on relationships, and it helps helps you build a tighter network. So help and and ask for help. Three. Learn, learn, learn stuff, learn all the time. But have got to, you also have to go to school. You know, learning and sort of learning on the fly is great and, you know, okay, worked worked out for, you know Bill and a few other people, you know, not getting degrees, but in marketing, having an MBA matters. And you can rail against that, say it doesn't - it matters. It matters in career selection and recruiter attention, in office election. If you want to get ahead in marketing and get to a leadership role in marketing, you pretty much have to have an MBA. I'm sorry, but it's the fact of the matter. Or you have to have an amazing thing happen to you when you're relatively young so everybody thinks you're brilliant. One or the other or both. In my case and I'm not, religious about this, but I don't. There's no barrier to doing that. You can make up all the barriers you want about doing that. I'll just tell you my quick story. I had three children. I had a good job in a great company in Boston, and one day I looked at my wife and I said, I want to apply for executive accelerated MBA program in Chicago. It's gonna be mean I'm gonna be going every other weekend for two years and I'm going to be gone most of the summer for one whole year. And she looked at me and she said "So, about that fourth kid. I really want to have a girl." She's a pretty good negotiator. We ended up having a girl for the 4th and I ended up getting my degree just about the same time, or just a little bit after she was born. So there's really no excuse. If I could do that, and she can do that, put up with all of that and invest that much in my career. You can, too, so get off your butt and get back to school and get your MBA. And if you already have an MBA, get back to school and learn some other skills that you're not an expert on. Learning is really important. Conversely, teaching, mentoring and coaching are really important to because paying back, pays you. You'll learn more from the people that you helped, than you have given them so teach. It causes you, forces you to learn. And it also, gives you a great feeling inside of confidence. And you really believe the knowledge that you have. And then the last thing I'm going to say I'm sorry if Steve and the folks don't like this, but it's true. Don't be an asshole. You know how to tell about assholes right there. There's one on every team. If you don't know who it is on your team, look in the mirror. Don't be that person

Tell us about the impact of a successful campaign that your team recently executed.

Kirby via Handbrake: Okay, well, it's always easier to tell about the campaigns that don't work. Than the ones that do. But I'll tell you a quick story about both. So we were ran a big, expensive ABM campaign in the UK way we hired an outside agency, we put together all these lists of senior executives that we wanted to meet with. we decided that this tennis event was going to be a big deal and everybody would want to go to the tennis event Back to lesson number one that I told you: don't invite me to come to a ball game .. anyway we did. We sent people massive tennis balls. I guess they're used to sign on to get signatures on and with our logos on them, you know, they showed up. The idea was supposedly, you know, come with us to this game and you're gonna get to meet the players and get signatures, and it's all gonna be great. I don't know. We spent $50,000 on this thing or something like that. And we, you know, people showed up, but absolutely nothing came out of it. There were no deals. no, nothing, very frustrating all the way around. But anyway, so that's the kind of thing that didn't work. Conversely, we recently ran a program that worked great. It was the silliest little thing I had ever seen, but I thought it worked. It was a great idea, one of us, one of the folks here had One of the marketing folks. You know it's cold and flu season well, we sent out boxes of Kleenex with our logo wrapped around them and bottles of hand washing alcohol with our logo on them that you could, you know, hang on your on your purse or your bag or whatever. And wipes, I think for the table, the disinfecting wipes, all in a little kit that said, You know, it's cold and flu season we're thinking of you. Protect yourself. And while you're at it, you know, protect your systems and let us tell you how with Illusive Security, silly little tie in. You know, we had we had, I don't know a handful of people who actually wrote us notes back and said, "Wow, this is really creative." "Thank you very much. I love it." "I always throw this stuff away. But, you know this one? I'm gonna keep on my desk because, everybody needs Kleanex." So anyway, there's too little examples. Two examples of, you know, the big blown out one and a simple one. I guess maybe the lesson there is simpler is better.

What do you see as the role of video in marketing going forward?

Kirby via Handbrake: Ah-ha, the self serving Vocal Video question. What do we see about the role of video going forward? So obviously what's happening is everybody's attention span is shrinking down to that of, you know tsetse flies you know, we have seconds. What is it 17 seconds or something that we pay attention to something before we either devote time to it or don't? So of course, video's important. We have all grown up with it. Now, nobody really reads anything anymore. Aside from my advice about writing all the time, nobody ever reads anything, so it's becoming pervasive into everything. Video is obviously critical for outreach. It's critical for sales enablement because, boy, if we all have tsetse fly's attention span - sales reps have baby tsetse fly attention spans. So you really got to, feed him in small chunks and make things really interesting. So, we're doing a lot with it here at Illusive. The coolest thing that we're doing right now around around video is taking it started to the next level. So we're taking are crunchy old power point sales presentation and turning it into an immersive experience. You know, we're in the network security business, so we're going to take customers into the network literally and show them around what the network looks like from the attacker's perspective. We're gonna let them interact with the elements of the network. We're gonna let them see the attackers off in the distance, moving around the network, interacting with with the network elements that we're gonna let them see what happens when you install our product and see how the network reacts to that. How the attackers interact with this stuff. It's just the coolest approach to technology I've seen in a long time for a marketing perspective, We're pushing the limits of this game of gamified view. But I could just imagine not too long in the future we're gonna walk into a prospect's offices and ask him to put on an Oculus so that we can give him our sales presentation. But anyway, that's that's kind of where I think we're headed. with it.

Produced with Vocal Video