In this series of articles we go backstage with a marketing rock star. We sit at their feet while they share with us what made them rock stars, what excites them and what we might learn on our journey to marketing rockstardom.
Tom Wentworth is Chief Marketing Officer at Boston-based RapidMiner, a software platform for data science teams, where he heads up global go-to-market strategy, product marketing and communications. He also works as an advisor for Drift and Jebbit. Ian Truscott sat down with the Smashing Pumpkins fan to talk about saying ‘no’, the secret to successful recruiting, and why in the end, the brand is key.
What would be top of your rider for your next marketing gig?
As a long-time Van Halen fan, I’ve always known about the M&Ms rider, but thanks to this question I finally read it! Wow, were times different in the ’80s.
My rider has three things on it: a large market, great people, and a product that users love – in that order. You can build a good company with one or two of those, but if you want to build a great company, you need all three.
What or who are your marketing influencers?
I spent most of my career in sales. I knew very little about marketing on the day I became a CMO. Seriously.
So I leaned heavily on Mike Volpe, formerly of HubSpot, and now at Cybereason. By reading and studying everything Mike wrote on inbound marketing, I was able to fake my way through the early days #fakeittillyoumakeit.
If I was Spotify, what would I play for you first thing Monday morning to get you going?
My mornings are for audiobooks and podcasts. Right now, I’m listening to Shoe Dog, the story of Nike told by founder Phil Knight. It’s a fantastic story of hard work and perseverance. I’d also suggest everyone listen to the Seeking Wisdom podcast from my friends at Drift.
When it’s time for music, I’m probably going to be listening to something from before 1998. As my Twitter bio states, I’m a huge fan of the Smashing Pumpkins. But my playlist could include anything from The Cure to Snoop Dogg to Led Zeppelin. And Drake. I’m a big Drake fan too. I just bought tickets to his next show in Boston.
The curtain pulls back, you step out on the stage of your new marketing gig – what do you open with?
I’m going to start by saying no a lot. Marketing is a constant battle of prioritization and endless shiny objects to chase. I encourage my team to break things down into first principles, and I ask them “why” an annoying number of times, forcing the conversation to get at the heart of the issue. Often that means saying no to something. I think the most important place to say no is via positioning. Too many marketing messages are about being everything to everyone, and I think that’s a huge mistake.
The audience is dancing in the aisles, it loves that track. What keeps the house jumping?
Always be recruiting. Too many CMOs treat hiring as a transaction and not a relationship. You can’t start the recruiting process when a new role opens, it’s too late. That way when a role opens up, I already know who I’m going to try to hire. By the way, sometimes this takes years. But the payoff in the end is worth it.
“Too many marketing messages are about being everything to everyone – that’s a huge mistake.”
You’re playing a huge stadium; how do you know the audience can hear your tune?
I’m a B2B tech marketer, so the only answer that matters is revenue, and things that lead to revenue. But the mistake I see again and again is when CMOs interpret things that lead to revenue as quick-win direct response tactics like AdWords. Marketers put too much weight on paid acquisition channels because they are easy to track, but experienced CMOs know that in the end, brand wins.
For example, I’m about to purchase a home security system from Simplisafe because I had a random conversation at an event with an engineer who happened to be wearing a company t-shirt. The CRM lead source will show “organic search” and the conversion campaign will be the website. But in reality, the lead source was the t-shirt, and the conversion was word of mouth – brand things.
If there was a billboard chart for marketing trends, what would be your Number 1?
Conversational marketing. I’ve spent a lot of my career in the web content management industry, where I saw companies spend millions on the technology and design behind their digital experiences only to bring users to the same tired choke-point in their funnel – a lead capture form.
The single best investment I’ve made is to get rid of these artificial lead form gates and instead use chat to engage with our website visitors. The perfectly crafted lead form will never convert as well as having the ability for someone to engage with an actual person.
What would you throw from your hotel window into the Rockstar CMO pool?
Technology. I’m done obsessing over my marketing tech stack and the endless vendor pitches I receive about how some random product I’ve never heard of is going to reinvent or transform something. I’ve got a simple tech stack and plan on keeping it that way.
What’s got you rocking today?
Artificial intelligence. It’s hard to separate reality from the hype, but I think it’s a generational opportunity and probably the most important advancement in the history of computing. I’m not talking about the Skynet robots taking over, or even whether or not we’ll see self-driving cars in the next few years (hint: we won’t). I’m talking about the ability for machine learning to automate and augment human decisions so that we can grow our businesses faster and live more productive lives. This is already happening now, and at RapidMiner I get to sit in the front row and watch.
If there was a marketing hall of fame, who would you induct?
Marketers have a recency bias, so I’m going with David Ogilvy. The lessons taught by Ogilvy are far more valuable than obsessing over the latest social marketing channel or ‘growth hack’. Just take a look at two of his quotes:
“When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative’. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”
“If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.”
If you haven’t read Ogilvy on Advertising I’m going to boo you off stage.
Any final words before you drop the mic?
I’ll let the aforementioned Drake do it for me (from his song ‘Wu-Tang Forever’).
“It ain’t about who did it first, it’s ’bout who did it right.”