Mike Volpe of Cybereason- Lazy Marketers, Rule Breaking, and Predictive for Lead Ranking

Mike Volpe is the CMO at Cybereason, a cybersecurity company, and also serves as an angel investor and startup advisor.  Previously, he joined HubSpot as the fifth employee and as CMO helped the company grow from about a dozen beta customers to over 15,000 customers, 1,000 employees, $150m in revenue, and an IPO leading to a $1.7B market cap.  Mike also made more than 25 angel investments with 4 exits so far (HubSpot, Locately, GroSocial, ThriveHive) both alone and with my angel investing co-pilot Yoav Shapira through our Operator.VC non-fund.  He serves as an advisor to a number of companies and am on the board of directors of Repsly, a mobile CRM company and was on the board of Attend until they were acquired by Event Farm.  Mike has worked in marketing at a number of different startups in Boston and San Francisco and love talking about marketing and growth with other marketers and entrepreneurs.

Listen to the Podcast

In this episode Mike talks about:

  • What separates the great marketers from the lazy
  • How customer lifetime value (LTV) can expand your marketing program options
  • Why the rule breakers cut through the clutter
  • The challenge of running a company spread around the globe

Read the Transcript

Sales and Marketing Automation Tools mentioned in this episode of Stack and Flow:

HubSpot, Cybereason, Infer, RansomFree, Drift

John J. Wall: Hello and welcome to Stack & Flow. I’m John Wall.

Sean Zinsmeister: And I’m Sean Zinsmeister.

John: Today our guest is probably the best known tech CMO, for my money at least. He was a very employee at Hubspot, rode that all the way to IPO. Our guest today is Mike Volpe. He is the CMO of Cybereason. Mike, welcome to the show.

Mike Volpe: Thanks for having me. I’m pumped to be here.

John: Sean, to lead us off here, you had an article about the dark secret at the heart of AI. What’s going on there?

Sean: First of, I really just liked the title. That really looped me in. No, this was something from MIT’s Technology Review I actually though appropriate: Mike being Boston guy. That’s actually where I hail from originally. What’s really interesting about this is AI has obviously been a hot topic around technology and now people are starting to sort of understand “What should we be looking at under the hood?”

There’s a really Infer-centric kind of story here because when we started first building predictive models for sales and marketing teams, they were totally okay to just be following the scores somewhat blindly, to be completely honest, but more and more as people got to look at these scoring models, they started to ask themselves why, “Why is something scored the way that they are? What is this?”

It really starts to open up a really interesting question about the accountability of the creator, as they say in the article, which AI should be explainable and understandable. I think that it should be explainable, if we go back to using that example from the sales and marketing piece, to understand why something was qualified the way it was. Do we need to understand all of the mechanisms inside, under the hood that could be highly technical and difficult to understand?

Maybe not, but if you look at the flip side, and now start to look at where AI is playing into the self-driving cars, if a car pauses or stalls, rather, at a green light or crashes into something, the creator is going to want to audit that to understand why it did what it did. There’s this really interesting search for meaning happening here. It does sort of segue for me to loop Mike into the conversation around AI and some of these big questions starting to be answered. Mike, just off the top at a high level, what are your thoughts around the new hype around AI? What are some of the things that you’re seeing? I’d be interested to get your thoughts.

Mike: There’s so many directions to go with this. I think if you want to talk about it at the highest level, it’s like the hype cycle is in full effect around AI. At Cybereason, we have AI; we don’t even use the word to describe what we do because it is such a buzz-laden term right now and there’s so many people that are using it to describe things that I would actually say are not truly AI. I think that from a marketing perspective, it’s such a buzz-filled term right now that it’s really hard to differentiate what’s really and what’s not real. It’s a term that, in some ways, I think people are tuning out to a certain degree, on the marketing side of things at least.

Sean: Yeah, I agree with that. Actually, one of the models that I’ve been looking at is DARPA has a really interesting way of breaking down the three waves of AI. They talk about the first wave as this idea of handcrafted knowledge, where they use the example of TurboTax, where you’re taking the domain expertise, so “Who are the tax experts?” pushing these into a computer that can help process. It’s algorithmic, but how intelligent actually is it? Then there’s that second wave which is all about statistical learning.

Then that third wave is the more contextual stuff, the self-driving. The statistical learning stuff is where a lot of this technology is coming. I’m wondering, looking beyond the hype as it relates to sales and marketing, are you seeing shortcomings of a lot of this? Obviously, it’s always good to have sales and marketing people doing more math and making it easy to make data-driven decisions, but are there dangers that are sort of looming ahead as we look at this?

Mike: Yeah, I think there’s a number of dangers. I think the first one is that automation is good, but I always fear that … You should still know how to do the core math yourself. I don’t mean the AI level math because that’s ridiculously hard to do, but I mean you should have the basic components of how to think about how you would do a regression if you had to do a lead score by yourself.

That gives you, I think, a deeper understanding, so you should know how to do that stuff and then you should probably leverage an AI or a more advanced system to do it for you and do it in a much better way and much more accurately and have better results and all those things. I think that’s potentially the first risk, is just you’re outsourcing so much of it that you lose the basic understanding of what’s actually going on. I think that’s one area that I think is a little bit dangerous. There’s some others as well.

Sean: I know that you’ve been responsible for helping a lot of people launch great sales and marketing careers. I’m curious, in terms of just looking over the past five years, we talked about having those analytical skills, do you think that the skills have evolved for what it takes to be a solid marketing performer in their world? Is it all about the analytical skills? Or how much do you lay credence to the soft skills?

Mike: Yeah, no, it’s really interesting. This is where it kind of relates to AI as well. The best marketers out there are very analytical, but also extremely creative. I think the best ones out there sort of marry the two of those things. There’s this expression that I recently came across that perfectly describes what I’ve been ineloquently describing for many years, which is … It’s something, actually, Picasso said, which is “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” I think that this is one of those things where you need to be very creative, but you need to be very analytical.

If you put those two things together and you understand marketing very, very well in the way that someone would be classically taught, but then you know that stuff so well that you can come up with new ways to break the rules, that’s when you get the best results. I think one of my concerns about this wave of AI … We’re not at all there yet because I think we’re at the very early stages of it. If you had everyone using the same or similar AI systems to help run a bunch of their marketing, then you’re going to be triangulating around very similar techniques.

This happens even in the age before AI, where some report comes out that Tuesday morning is the best time to send email, everyone sends their email Tuesday morning, and all of a sudden Tuesday morning isn’t the best time to send email. Any time we’re all gravitating toward doing the same things, it’s the people that stand out from the herd that get the best results. The things that I’ve done that have always worked the best have been when you sort of buck with conventional wisdom.

I think that AI can provide a ton of value in a lot of different ways, but I think that, let’s say 10 years from now when we’re really leveraging this stuff in many, many, many aspects of sales and marketing, I think people that break the rules a little bit are going to be the ones that find these interesting, creative ways to get better and better results. That doesn’t mean that these systems aren’t useful. They’re extremely useful and very, very valuable. I just think you need to be careful not to completely overuse them.

Sean: Yeah, absolutely. I actually really love that Picasso analogy because being somebody who’s classically trained, not in the arts of marketing, but actually when I studied music composition and theory, this is exactly the lesson that they teach you actually. It’s like, “Before you can actually be a well-trained composer, you need to understand the hard, fast, unbreakable rules and then reaching the level of art in order to break them.” I think that, like you said, that is very applicable to what we see in the go-to-market professions.

Shifting towards the idea of automation, someone who was early on at Hubspot and is now watching the market … I know you’re involved with a lot of these different companies. … I’m curious in terms of just how well or not well companies are using automation in general. I think that there are some people who might see “Oh, you put automation in the hands of marketers and help them spam people easier and now we’re starting to see that a little bit happening on the sales side.” Where are we at with how well go-to-market professionals are using automation today in your opinion?

Mike: I think that in general marketers are, frankly, lazy and not very good. That may be a controversial opinion to throw out there in a marketing podcast, but I think in general most marketers are lazy and not very good and most marketers are looking for the shortcuts. I joke with other friends about this all the time. It’s doing the hard work and coming up and being so good at something that you can freestyle off of it, like you were talking about around learning music composition, it’s those types of things that get you the best results.

I think too many marketers are looking for “Set it and forget it” programs. Maybe you get decent results for a short period of time, but I think that anything in marketing that stagnates too much, you just don’t get good results off of it. I think automation can be very, very effective and it certainly gets you a lot of leverage and saves you a lot of time, but I think that if the automation series that you’re using, in the case of marketing automation or other types of automation, is not constantly changing and dynamic and that isn’t being updated, then I think that’s potentially a problem.

I think too many marketers are trying to use automation to save them time and make their job easier as opposed to really leaning into it and putting in the time and effort in order to constantly change it and update it and keep it interesting and using automation as a way to get more. I think they’re trying to use automation as a way to do less as opposed to get more results, and I think that’s the wrong approach for many people.

John: I love that “Set it and forget it.” That sums up the problem so well of people buying a tool. You can fill this tool with all kinds of great stuff, but so many people just turn it on and they’ve got their one drip campaign and that’s the end of the road for it. Going from that too, what do you feel about this whole sales and marketing tech market? Do you think that these tools are now finally getting to the point where the field is too crowded and we’re ripe for consolidation? Or is there just more to be done? Where do you see things going?

Mike: How many emails a week do you guys get from some BDR trying to sell you some new marketing or sales thing? I can’t even count how much. It’s almost a joke. It’s like, “Which BDR template did they use to send you? Which blog did they read about what the most effective emails were?” Yeah, I think the market is extremely crowded, to be honest. I’ve invested in some of these companies and been involved as an advisor and things like that, and the truth of this market is it’s really, really hard to stand out from the crowd because there’s so many of them. I do think most of them are valuable. I just think that marketers …

It’s like, “How much bandwidth do you have to buy and iterate different technology solutions?” I think in a lot of cases there will be a lot of consolidation, which I think actually will be good and I think will actually drive, frankly, further adoption of a lot of this stuff because if it’s a little bit more integrated and all part of a smaller number of systems, it might be easier for people to use more of the features. I mean it doesn’t mean those things aren’t valuable, but I would predict a fair amount of consolidation over the next few years. There just has to be I feel like; it’s so crowded.

Sean: That’s interesting because, as you see some of the bigger players building out some of the point solutions that are out there, do you feel like we’re going to be moving towards the all-in-one solution for a lot of these business and enterprises? Or is it still going to be like, “Hey, let’s make sure that we have this open architecture and cobble together all of the point solutions into our stack”? What are you seeing there?

Mike: That’s a good question. The Hubspot founding team member would vote for more for the all-in-one, but I think that that’s frankly for part of the market and certain types of users something that’s really valuable. The Scott Brinker, MarTech Stack kind of fan would say, “No, we need to move to much more open architecture where we can plug and play a lot of these different features together.” I think there’s going to be different portions of the market.

People that are more sophisticated, have larger budgets and larger marketing operations teams that can invest more in that and are willing to have the overhead of having multiple systems where you need to have people trained in multiple systems and worry about the integration points there and it’s valuable enough that they want to have the perfect feature from the perfect vendor for a bunch of different areas, then yeah, I think that’ll be an important part of the market, but I also think there’s going to be another part of the market that’s going to be a little bit more like the all-in-one. I think both will exist, but I think there’ll be a little bit of segmentation there.

John: Okay. Let’s take a step back here. Tell us about Cybereason now. You’ve looked at a ton of companies and you were doing a lot of one-on-one meeting and of course you’ve been doing a bunch of advising with different companies, and so what brought you to Cybereason and what have you got going on there now?

Mike: It’s really interesting. The last thing I expected to do was to join a higher price point, enterprise sales, cyber security company where I’m not a product expert. I expected to kind of end up doing something in the sales and marketing tech space or who knows. The big story is I got introduced through a board member, who asked me to do a little bit of consulting to get to know the team and give them some advice on a few things.

I started to just really fall in love with both the company and the founders and the technology and then the space. The cyber security industry is just, as you guys know … It’s like Hansel says: it’s so hot right now, but that’s not a trend that’s going away. It’s top of mind in the media. It’s top of mind in the government. It’s top of mind for every board of directors now. The world is not getting to be a safer place; it’s getting to be more dangerous.

It just seemed like a really interesting market to dive into, and then I was really excited about the potential to bring some non-traditional marketing into an industry that frankly had been very traditional. It’s a 6 to 9-month enterprise sale of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, where the state of the art in marketing is to have a trade show booth with more lights and flashers and sound effects than somebody else has.

To come in and say, “Okay. What can we do that’s a little bit more inbound? What can we do around other stuff online? What can we do around other stuff around ABM and other things?” to bring all that together and rewrite the marketing playbook for an industry that’s been a little bit traditional in terms of their go-to-market approach, that’s starting to become really exciting to me. It’s been a lot of fun so far, and we’ve done a bunch of new, creative, interesting things already and are hoping to do some more over the course of this year.

Sean: That was actually going to be one of my next questions, which is you essentially were one of the big founding members that wrote the book on inbound, what sort of strategies do you see, even though it’s early on, that are reaching the right types of audiences that you’ve brought? What kind of new things that you’ve interested to this sector? I’d be curious.

Mike: The interesting thing is when you have any SaaS company, and we’re a SaaS company, you have to worry about your LTV to CAC but the universe that we were in at Hubspot where the LTV went from in the $10,000 range to the $30,000 range as we went up market a little bit and raised prices over time, that’s a totally different … If your CAC is … I think a year or two ago the customer acquisition cost was around $10,000. You say, “Well, okay. A big portion of that is sales. Some portion of that’s marketing.” If you look at what the marketing CAC is, it’s not a lot of money, so you need to be relatively efficient.

Take that and make that customer lifetime value 10 or 50 times bigger; all of a sudden you have a lot more dollars to play with for any individual account. Now, there’s a little bit of fallacy there because then you can start to just spend money on crazy things and just assume it’ll work, but I think as long as you’re just careful about what you do, it does open up a whole new set of opportunities and activities. We’ve even seen, frankly, a couple targeted direct mail programs work really well, even sending different types of gifts and 3D mailers and that kind of stuff.

For the math that we need to work here, that stuff can actually work really well because the volume you need is relatively low because the customers are worth so much. That stuff has worked, but the flip side is the inbound stuff is also really important because even if you send somebody a piece of direct mail, they’re very likely to Google you and you want lots of good stuff to come up that you’ve written, that other people have written about you, all those types of things, so you need the inbound stuff working. At Hubspot, because we were selling to a relatively smaller customer a relatively low-priced product, it limited all the marketing techniques you can use.

You talked about music earlier, all the different instruments you use in a whole orchestra. At Hubspot, we had to become really, really exceptionally good at the most efficient marketing techniques because of the game that we were playing. We could only use the most efficient marketing instruments. Here at Cybereason, because the customer lifetime value is so much higher, I now have access to like every single instrument in the orchestra and it’s actually been really interesting to be able to play with all of them and incorporate them in different ways.

We’ve done things like, again, direct mail of gifts and things like that that have worked really well. The flip side is we’ve also incorporated some of the more efficient techniques. We launched a free product, which in our industry is relatively revolutionary, and it’s called RansomFree, and it blocks ransomware using behavioral AI technology that we have. Any consumer that wants to download it and run it, they can. It’s on a microsite at ransomfree.cybereason.com. We got, only through PR, no paid promotion at all, 150,000 users of that product in 90 days.

That’s one where it’s like that is a very, very inbound, free product, Dropbox, Hubspot kind of model to use. We’ve done things like that, but we’ve also done things at completely the other end of the spectrum and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a really big trade show or done that direct mail program I was talking about. I think the most interesting thing now is that you can use all these different techniques and figure out interesting and fun ways to combine them. It’s been really actually fun to feel like no longer fighting with one hand tied behind your back.

Sean: You really talked about the up-market strategies and a few different points that I wanted to pick off from what you were talking about. For the account-based strategies stuff, first of all, I have to ask … This is another thing. There’s the great hype of ABM and all this other stuff out there. I definitely want to get your opinion on that. I’m also interested in that sort of hybrid where you’ve now built this low-friction, almost passive marketing channel to bring people in through inquiries through a free product. Are you then doing enterprise consolidation there? By that I mean how are you identifying who your target accounts through that big pool of those 150K leads?

Mike: There’s a lot of there. I would say yeah, the ABM thing is definitely … I mean let’s just go through every over-hyped term right now. That’s definitely an over-hyped term right now. There’s a lot of validity to it in terms of especially if you sell to larger accounts. We have many people involved in the buying process. Some are influencers. Some have veto power. Some are actually the approvers. Some can be the champions.

Definitely you need to think about approaching each of the audiences differently and you need to think about approaching them in a core data way because if you do a good job with the technical folks at one company, but you’re not hitting the executive sponsors at the same time, then that’s not going to be an effective sales process and vice versa. Having some level of coordination I think is valuable. I think the challenge is …

I don’t think we’ve found any platform that brings together all the different pieces of ABM in a good, coordinated fashion such that we can actually do that effectively. I guess what I would say about it too is … I think we’re doing ABM the way most people are doing ABM, which is we’re using a bunch of different tools and trying to orchestrate all the programs together ourselves, so that’s cool, but let’s take that free product as an example. The free product, to be honest, we don’t have a direct path to upselling.

It was really something we did mostly for the PR benefit and mostly for buzz, and it obviously built a lot of links. It’s been tremendous for SEO, all those things. We actually capture zero information when people download it, so there’s not even a form to fill out. We wanted to have as few barriers as possible. What we’ve found though is that it’s that sort of give/get mentality and a little bit of that inbound mentality like give a bunch of value, give people this free product and then people are just coming back to us naturally.

I’ll give you one example which is a guy who’s the head of IT for a large US university. His teenage daughter infected his wife’s laptop with ransomware. Of course, he’s wiping the machine and he’s doing all this stuff. He’s an IT guy, so I’m sure he had backups, so he was mostly okay, but it was still a pain in the butt and cost him a couple days of his time to clean up after ransomware basically. He looked around and actually found RansomFree and installed it on all his home computers.

Then he went to our main site and started checking out our enterprise product. Then he proactively emailed us, found the info@email address and emailed us and said, “Hey, I run IT at this huge university. We have 50,000 users. We’re having a bunch of problems that are in these couple areas,” like, “I found you through this RansomFree product, which is this really cool free thing to give out, but I actually think in my day job we might be candidates for your big expensive enterprise products,” and we’re like, “Cool.” That’s actually happened over and over again.

It’s been less of us trying to profile all the users and then reach out to the head of IT or the head of security at a company that has 10 or 15 free users and tell them that they need to upgrade to the enterprise product, and it’s been much more of just doing something really good for the community and then using that to get exposure. Then people have actually proactively come inbound to us. That’s one that’s actually been really interesting because it’s been less the typical playbook around it. We’ve really just tried to do something good for the community.

Sean: I have to ask, then, about performance metrics too. We talked a little bit about LTV and CAC and how you guys were watching that in your previous role. What’s different about the way that you’re measuring success, or what are you able to bring from past roles? I’m curious how your mindset has shaped around how you’re measuring go-to-market success.

Mike: Yeah, it’s really interesting. I think the biggest thing is just the number of deals, like the amount of data and then the cycle time. Those two things drive everything. At Hubspot, a large number of deals, like hundreds of customers per month, so a large number of deals and a short cycle time, maybe a 60-day sales cycle or something. Here we have a small number of customers per quarter and we have a six to nine-month sales process.

You really know end-to-end at Hubspot within a couple months and frankly sometimes within weeks if something was working well or not. Here there’s a lot more intuition and a lot more guessing that goes along with it. It’s a little bit scary because you frankly have a lot less data to play with. We could do something this month, and yeah, you can see leads and you can start to see some early opportunities form off of it and whatever, but you don’t know if those opportunities are of equivalent quality, if they’re going to work their way through the sales process, what the ASP is going to be for those versus other things that you do.

When you look at any statistical significance of program A versus program B, the numbers are just so small that you need to be very careful about saying, “Oh, this one generated twice as much pipeline versus this one.” It’s like, “Well, the difference is two deals, and that’s kind of just noise in the data.” You can’t really be sure about something when the numbers are relatively small. There’s a bunch of things that I think make it really interesting.

Frankly, here we try to be as data-driven as possible, but it’s hard to be as data-driven because there’s just not as much data to go off of and the lag time on that data being proved out in terms of actually customers signing up and revenue is much longer. There’s a bunch of things where you need to be a little bit more careful. Frankly at Hubspot or any more of an SMB-focused SaaS company, you just have so much more data and it comes in so much more quickly. Yeah, there’s a bunch of things that are quite interesting.

Sean: When it comes to building that target account list, Mike, what sort of strategies are you guys looking at? Do you have a target ASP that you’re looking at that you’re relating to turn rate, for example? Are you looking at potentially, down the road once you guys build up more data, looking at predictive as a potential? Or is it just sort of liaising with sales to figure out like, “Hey, who are the ones that we need to go after?” How are you guys building that strategy?

Mike: Yeah, it’s really interesting. We’re still relatively early in our go-to-market. We’ve only been going to market for about 18 months. We just doubled the size of the sales team, so there’s a lot of growth going on, but I don’t know that we have … Within any industry vertical, we might only have a dozen customers within any one vertical. At most, we have 12 to 18 months worth of data off of customers that we’ve sold. It’s really hard to have a lot of data and answer a lot of those questions.

I think at some point, once we start to have more data and I think once we have done more work on our mid-market go-to-market, then I think a lot of these more predictive things around exactly where to target market-wise and things like that will be extremely valuable. That was the stuff that frankly we got a lot of leverage out at Hubspot because we had so much data. Even before Hubspot was using Infer, we had built our own, as best we could do, predictive models and used a couple different algorithms. We even hired a woman who was literally a math major out of Cornell and that got a master’s out of MIT to actually build a lot of these models for us.

That stuff is extremely valuable. I think now it’s going to be probably a year to two years before we’re really in a place where we have enough data to make a lot of that stuff worthwhile, so right now it’s a little bit more about sales rep intuition, trying a bunch of different things, seeing what works, and then just doing the best you can, but there’s a lot more intuition here than I would say probably in businesses that have been around for longer or have a much larger set of customers. Maybe that’s right; maybe that’s wrong. I don’t know. I’d be curious what you have to say about that, Sean. Maybe I’m thinking about it wrong.

Sean: I think that there’s definitely a couple ways to look at it. I think that any time that you have a way to marry any sort of decision making with data and dig into it and look for patterns, marry it with the intuition that you’re getting from the sales side I think is huge. I think that what you have to look at for predictive is like, “Is it going to be more of a one-shot value type of thing,” where it’s your total adjustable market is small enough that, once you prioritize and maybe identify that total adjustable market, the stickiness of that investment might wear off a little bit.

That’s where I think more people then start to look at those demand generation tools. I think what’s going to be also interesting for businesses like Cybereason is also to start to think about behavior because I think what people start to lose when they think about B2B is the buying centers are so complicated. Yeah, we’re looking at accounts, but let’s not forget that there’s a bunch of humans that we have to market to who are within these accounts. They all have different roles and they all have different emotions and all these different needs.

Being able to start to figure out “Okay. Well, how do we then time and then personalize our messaging and outreach by looking and studying behaviors?” I think that’s where I start to think that the next level of machine learning can start to do. You’re collecting all these interesting analytics, engagement analytics and now starting to get feedback from your marketing programs. That would be something to start to look at because then you’re not limited by maybe a small total adjustable market of accounts, if that makes sense.

Mike: Yeah, I think that’s right. I think especially if you can automatically look for interesting signals and then present that stuff to sales and marketing in useful ways. Like, “Oh, this person just got a promotion in this key account.” You’re like, “Oh, that’s interesting because we have a good relationship with that person, a bad relationship with this other person. Now this person is in a more valuable spot,” vice versa. I think there’s a lot of things like that for sure that can be really valuable, even if your total market of companies you’re going after is much smaller and the amount of data you have is much smaller.

Sean: I think that anything you can do to reduce the amount of research time on accounts and prospects, but also train sales reps to understand why these accounts are good fits for your business. That doesn’t even necessarily need to involve any sort of fancy predictive analytics or AI tools. It’s more about like, “What do you look for?” because those give you the signals to go deeper with prospects.

You could certainly uncover a lot of that in the data, but that’s where I think it’s also exciting, sort of “How are we going to start to train this next level of sales people to look at this data and then personalize and understand?” They can use that to enable spin selling techniques and things like that, where they’re putting on their researcher cap more than the salesmanship. I think I worry a little bit about people following these things a little bit too blindly and what that mechanization of the sales cycle looks like.

I don’t know if you’ve looked at any of these tools like, Mike, the work going on in conversation analytics right now, where they can essentially … They’re recording all these massive amounts of emails that sales people are sending out and phone calls and they’re looking at transcripts and looking for patterns. It’s like, “Yeah, the insight is interesting from maybe a coaching standpoint,” but I feel like there’s “Are you just going to rob the soul? Are you going to rob the soul from the sales cycle that I think is so important?” I don’t know if you have thoughts there.

Mike: Yeah, I think it depends. Maybe for an inside team where you’re trying to have everyone be a little bit more robotic like you know exactly the playbook that works and you’re trying to have most people follow that playbook, then I think that kind of stuff probably has a ton of value. For us, we do have an inside team, so maybe for that portion of the business it could be really valuable. For the field team, our field reps, the ones that are really successful, some of them are incredibly different from each other in terms of how they go about building their business.

Some of them, the way they build relationships with people is very different, the type of people that they work effectively with is totally different. I don’t know that there’s necessarily one script that would work well in those situations. Again, if one of them is closing a couple deals a year to hit their quota, I don’t know that there’s enough data there to really say like, “Oh, then everyone should play golf with the CSO on Tuesdays because that’s actually what makes the deal close.”

You know what I mean? It’s like all of a sudden the only thing chief security officers are going to be doing is playing golf on Tuesdays. Maybe for our BDR team that stuff could be super valuable. It probably would be, but I think you’re right. I think you need to just be careful about how you apply a lot of these technologies. They certainly have a ton of value. Again, it comes down to using your brain, and that’s where I think most marketers frankly fall down.

John: That’s great. You laid out a bunch of stuff on the sales side and how sales is growing. One resource that I have that you had put out earlier was laying out the structure of a marketing team, what your team should be and at which points in your growth how many folks you should have on staff doing inbound and outbound and all that stuff. Where are you guys now on that map of yours? Has the map changed too, based on where you’re at now?

Mike: Yeah, that’s a good question. I probably should look back at that and maybe update it because I might have some new thoughts on it. Our team is about 12 people now. The stuff you’re talking about, the presentation or the blog that you’re talking about, John, I had always said that, and I think this is still true, that most companies over invest lower in the funnel: sales enablement and things like that to support product marketing stuff.

Most companies usually over invest in that portion of the sales cycle and under invest in just getting a lot more leads going through the process. I think for most companies that’s actually relatively true, and that’s, I’d say, relatively true for us, although frankly we’re so early and there’s so much to build here we need to invest at all stages. There’s jobs to be done from sales enablement all the way through up to the very top of the funnel in awareness.

I do think that as you move up market and have bigger and bigger deals the investment further down the funnel does become more important because if someone gets past step two or three in that sales process, stage three or four opportunity, the value of that is so incredibly high that to not have good sales enablement and not have good support for your sales team is doing just a gigantic disservice because you’ve got these things, an opportunity that’s a couple months into the process. To create another one of those, because it is such a long and expensive process to get customers through, to let that thing wither and die because you’re not investing effectively in the sales enablement side of things, is kind of a travesty.

I do think maybe as you move up market there’s something to be said that the sales enablement stuff becomes a little bit more important, but I still think the overall point that most people don’t invest enough at the very top of the funnel in just building a ton of awareness, it does hold true. People often say, “Well, but I don’t want to overwhelm my sales team with a whole bunch of leads.” That’s true; however, we’ve just been talking about AI and all these other things where there’s a huge opportunity to use technology to sort through all the leads before you give them to the sales team. You know what I mean?

Sean: Almost that pre-qualifying mechanism even before handoff.

Mike: Yeah. You can generate 10 times more leads, but it doesn’t mean you give the sales team 10 times more; it just means you have 10 times more leads to find the golden nuggets. It’s like when you watch those … On the Discovery Channel and stuff there’s all those shows about mining now. You want to find good quality dirt where there’s enough gold nuggets in there to make a profit, but the reality is even the highest quality dirt, it still looks like dirt and you don’t see gold in it until you run it through your machine.

The great thing is now we have all these great machines that are far more efficient at sorting through all the stuff without clogging up the sales team, and so it’s like, “Yeah, I want to get not 10 truckloads of dirt; I want to get 100 truckloads of dirt, dump it through my machine because I have software that does that process now, and then let the gold nuggets with a few of the pebbles or whatever sort out at the end, and then the sales team deals with it.” I think that people, they think about those problems wrong. I think it’s always better to have more at the top of the funnel. So I do think that that holds that people under invest up there.

Sean: The fact that you guys are a global business, you have roots in Israel, but Hubspot was obviously all over the world before, how does that challenge then evolve as you move international?

Mike: Yeah. The interesting thing is the two companies have followed totally different paths in terms of that international growth. Hubspot was started in Boston. We had this giant hub literally, this huge office in Boston. Then we started to have these spokes. We opened a spoke in Dublin and then a spoke in Sydney and then Singapore and now Japan I believe. It’s kind of always been like everyone, at least as of a couple of years ago, would fly into Boston for training and then they would go back and start their job at their spoke office, and so everyone would sort of come to the hub. We actually have these two hubs.

At Cybereason, we started in Tel Aviv because it’s a very technology-centric company. Obviously building AI to detect cyber security incidences, you need a lot of core technology there. The three founders are all Israeli. We have now 80 to 100 people in Tel Aviv that are doing all the product development research, this very interesting work in terms of technology, but the whole go-to-market strategy is based out of now the headquarters, which is now in Boston. We have roughly about the same number of people, about 120 people or so in Boston. Plus we have another 30 or 40 people in the fields doing sales throughout North America.

Now we’ve got an office in London and we’ve also got an office in Tokyo. It’s like rather than having one hub that’s the central place for everything that happens in the business and all of the culture and things like that, we actually have two. You’ve got a combination of mostly Israelis working in the Tel Aviv office, mostly American working in the Boston office. You’ve got most of the product development and product and technical people in Tel Aviv, and you’ve got most of the sales and marketing and customer success people and GA and finance in Boston.

You’ve got two different countries, two different cultures, and two different work functions basically happen between go-to-market versus product in two different offices. Frankly, there’s been a lot more collaboration and coordination and communication issues to deal with at Cybereason than we had at Hubspot for a really long time. That’s actually been some really interesting stuff to deal with. Sort of a hobby part of my career is around people and communication and stuff like that, so it’s been really interesting to deal with those issues and see what we can do to resolve some of those issues as we go.

John: Great. Well, Mike, we can’t take up a ton of time here today, but before we wrap up, is there anything on your radar that you’re looking at that you’re excited to play with as far as new tools or new technology? Anything that you’re just dying to get into right now?

Mike: Oh, geez, so many things. I think the two things that I think are interesting is one is there’s a new open-source marketing automation system called Mautic that seems to be very exciting because of the idea that you can have a lot more flexibility with it. I think it sort of unlocks you from some of the larger vendors in that space. I think that’s interesting. Then the other thing is I think the guys over at Drift are doing an awesome job.

They would probably hate that I call their products website chat, but it’s like website chat with AI, so it’s a totally new approach to engaging your website visitors in a totally new way. That’s another product that we’ve started to spend a bunch of time with digging into it that we’re really excited about. I do think that in the sales and marketing space overall there’s a ton of things that are really, really interesting. As I said, I’m a big fan of Infer. We used it very extensively at Hubspot, and it gave us some really good results. There’s a lot of great stuff out there.

John: That sounds good. We’ll have links to Mautic and Drift and of course Infer in the show notes so people can check that out. How about for folks that want to learn more about Cybereason? If they have anything on that front, what’s the best way to get in touch with you there?

Mike: I’m personally on Twitter and LinkedIn and all sorts of place, but cybereason, one R, .com is the site. If you’re interested in that free product we have, which is only available for PCs right now … Probably a lot of the marketers are Mac users, but the majority of the world is still PCs. That’s what we built it for first. Mac is coming soon. … is ransomfree.cybereason.com. Those are two good things to check out.

John: Sounds good. Sean, how about for you? Anything else big going on this week or other stuff people should be aware of?

Sean: No, it’s just a lot of the usual right now. We’re getting ready to go into the summer months, so I’ll be flying out to Vegas for the SiriusDecisions Event. I may actually get a chance to speak with the G2 crowd folks and talk all about customer marketing and the power of software review and some of the strategies there. I think that that’s May 16th to 19th. Hopefully if we get this show out before then, people can find me over there. Otherwise, all the stuff: you can follow me on Google, Sean Zinsmeister, @szinsmeister on Twitter, or just follow all the good stuff over at infer.com.

John: All right. That’ll do it for us for now. You can check out more over at Apple Podcasts. Swing on over to that network. Feel free to leave us a review over there. You can find out more from me at marketingovercoffee.com. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you in the stacks.

John Wall

John Wall

John J. Wall speaks, writes and practices at the intersection of marketing, sales, and technology. He is the producer of Marketing Over Coffee, a weekly audio program that discusses marketing and technology with his co-host Christopher S. Penn, and has been featured on iTunes.

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