How to Run an Effective Agile Marketing Organization: Interview with Vittorio Viarengo

 
Glenn: Hi, everyone. I’m Glenn Gow, Founder & Advisor of Crimson Marketing. Welcome to Moneyball for Marketing where we talk about the incredible changes happening in marketing organizations around big data and marketing technology. We feature marketing technology insights from the top marketers in the world. The reference to Moneyball is from the story of how the Oakland A’s baseball team were able to win and win and win because they figured out how to use data and technology to their advantage. If you’d like to learn about how to use big data and marketing technology and marketing to help you win visit us at CrimsonMarketing.com or email us at info@CrimsonMarketing.com. And now on to our podcast.
Today I am very pleased to welcome Vittorio Viarengo. Vittorio is the Vice President of Marketing and Products for MobileIron and leads MobileIron’s global marketing and branding initiatives and product direction. So, how does MobileIron describe themselves? MobileIron is the leader in security and management for mobile apps, documents, and devices. MobileIron’s mission is to enable organizations around the world to embrace mobility as their primary IT platform. So, Vittorio, welcome.

Vittorio: Thank you, Glenn. I’m delighted to be here.

Glenn: Fantastic. And today’s podcast is going to be a little bit different because Vittorio was telling me earlier about how he manages marketing at his marketing organization and I was so fascinated by it that I wanted him to really share his philosophy and the way he operates within a marketing organization. And I think that starts, Vittorio, because you told me also you come from an engineering background. Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing in marketing.

Vittorio: Yes, maybe because of my engineering background I started to run marketing three years ago here at MobileIron and I decided to adopt Scrum which is a development methodology, project management methodology, that basically splits everything in interval of two weeks in which you ruthlessly prioritize what’s important in those two weeks and you drive the team, actually, the team really picks up what they are going to sign up for from the top of the list. They tell me how much they can bite and then go, go, go, go, go. And at the end of the two weeks we get together, we look at what we achieved and I can literally turn the organization on a dime every two weeks by setting the priorities, but I never ever, never ever, ever changed the priorities during those two weeks.

Glenn: Now, that’s pretty difficult to do, isn’t it? What happens if the sales organization comes in and says, “Hey, we have this big opportunity, we need everybody to rally around it”? Or some other request comes in, what do you do?

Vittorio: So, first of all, I tell the team, depending on their role, to allocate, say, 70 percent to the top priorities in the sprint and leave 30 percent open for stuff that happens.

Glenn: Ah, right, right.

Vittorio: But I give them air cover if something shows up in their to-do list that perturbs or derails the top priority of the spring I empower them to say, “No,” and send people to me.

Glenn: Oh, very nice.

Vittorio: Because I believe that focus and being able to stay on the task that is most important is so important and keeps people so productive that the benefits surpass the drawbacks and, keep in mind, that we all know sales guys and we love them, but everything is urgent for them.
Glenn: Oh, yeah!

Vittorio: And with a spring of two weeks you are on average two weeks away potentially making that a priority and getting it done.

Glenn: Right. So, tell us a little bit about how you choose your priorities then since this sounds like a fantastic way to focus everyone. Prioritization must become extremely important.

Vittorio: Yeah, so what I do, our market moves extremely fast, and so we set goals for the company and for the team every three months. So, when I come back from the executive offsite I have a list of goals with matters that I need to achieve, and then I sit down with direct reports and we break those down in the major initiative that we need to undertake to achieve those goals, and that kind of fills what’s called the backlog for my reports and for myself. And then every two weeks I sit down with my reports and I propose what the list of priorities should be for the next two weeks and they have a chance to say, to argue, whether there should be things in that two weeks backlog that are important to them, and ultimately I decide whether that’s the case or not, and then we go. And keep in mind that, of course, there are things you can achieve in two weeks and that’s the typical drawback, pushback, you get from people that are not used to Agile methodology and say, “Look, we cannot do a launch in two weeks.” Of course you can’t, but what you can do is to break things down to a point that you can actually ship something in those two weeks and by now we have done this religiously for the three years that I’ve been with the company so we have good templates of how long it takes to do things. For example, a major launch, believe it or not, for us takes top three sprints, three sprints of two weeks.
So, in the first sprint we seek the project marketing team to write a messaging document and write down the list of deliverables that they think we need to have a great launch, and we use that sprint to predicate the rest of the team on what is the subject of that launch. Then we spend the next sprint typically building the core assets. I said that we have to shoot some videos, we have to prepare comments for the website, and then we use the next spring to ship everything, and that’s basically how we do it.

Glenn: So, you take the activity that’s going to take longer than two weeks and just break it down into bite size chunks.

Vittorio: And it’s very powerful because there’s no—initially we used to do the spring review and we had the usual green, yellow, and red, right?

Glenn: Yeah.

Vittorio: And there was a lot of yellow all the time and so I stopped that. I said, “Guys, there’s no yellow in Scrum.” That forces them to either be honest with themselves or with the team whether they did what they committed to the team or they didn’t. If it was not completely done it’s not done and it’s red, there’s no yellow, and so that forces them to think about why was that yellow? I probably didn’t split it down small enough that I could actually ship in that sprint. And one mantra is actually, “Ship and learn,” even if it’s not perfect, “Ship and learn.”
Glenn: I get it. Now, I can hear some of the naysayers saying, “Well, gosh, then for me to make sure I always have a green I’m just going to reduce my commitment so significantly that I can always make it.” And I’m going to guess, Vittorio, that’s not a problem in your organization, but tell us, how you overcome that.

Vittorio: Well, this is one of the challenges with Scrum. Some people think it’s micromanagement because there’s so much visibility because even including my backlog is everybody can look at it, right? And the way to deal with that is that if you’re a sandbagger after a while will see it and I need to do something about it or I’ll do something about it.

Glenn: Right.

Vittorio: At the same time people can use this as a great platform to keep, but because they can—it doesn’t matter how junior you are in the team or what is your role in the organization, you can pick from the top and I’m not going to tell you whether you can or cannot pick a task from the top. You go and pick it and then you ship it and everybody sees it. You go and pick it and you don’t ship it everybody sees it, so there’s a lot of peer pressure, but if you don’t like that then you’re not going to like working in my organization or most likely you’re not going to working in a kickback organization.

Glenn: Yeah, it’s really good. We see a large number of marketing organizations that fall into what we call the “Save-the-day” or “Patch-and-Dive” kind of mentality which is they take every request that comes in from anyone and they try to handle it, and they’re trying to be a hero in every case which means they actually don’t get the real work, the most important work done.

Vittorio: Yeah, with my system this doesn’t happen. I mean, in fact, when we have new people in the team it takes them a while and I spend time educating them that no is a very powerful and important tool that they have in their arsenal and I empower them absolutely with the absolute air cover just to say, “Say no to stuff that is not important in the sprint.” Of course, if somebody asks you to, like, ship something for an event you cannot say no to that. It takes, like, 20 minutes to do it and you have enough of that time in your schedule to be able to do it, but see, if something perturbs the top priority just say, “No.” Now, there’s one thing that you need to do as a marketing organization, you need to create a reputation and a track record of shipping and getting stuff down because once you have that I can push back to my head of sales and say, “Hey, can you wait the sprint,” and he will wait because he knows that when I saw, “Yes,” is a, “Hell, yes” and we’re going to get it done.

Glenn: Right, right, right, very important. People have to have faith that actually what they’re fighting for is to make it onto your priority list.

Vittorio: Yeah, and by the way, the other thing that I do religiously at the end of the sprint I send out the sprint results to my peers and my counterparts in sales, and so they have complete visibility on what we achieved from a deliverable perspective. There’s a new campaign, there is a new webpage, there’s a new asset for presentation, a video, whatever that is, but also I give them complete visibility to the dashboard. So they know whether we’re generating the leads, whether we’re doing the events, and they get complete visibility and that helps as well.

Glenn: Good. Talk to me a little bit about your measurement. You mentioned to me that you measure everything in marketing. I’d love to hear about what you do there.

Vittorio: Yeah, so we are fanatic about measuring everything, so we have Marketo in the front end we have Salesforce in the back end.

Glenn: Right.

Vittorio: And we measured funnel as you would expect in a marketing organization, right, we measured the funnel, we measure what are the most downloaded assets, what are the most impactful things. The one thing that we do do which is painful, but necessary, we always question whether we’re measuring the right things. So, for example, we used to measure the leads coming in, how many opportunities in close business and the usual funnel, and now we realized at the business level that the G-5,000, the bigger customers, they over time give us five to seven-x, the initial business. And so, we realized that closing one of those customers is 10 times more valuable than closing the smaller ones, the S and Bs. And so, all of a sudden we didn’t have the right ways to measure that and we had to go back in Salesforce and start to tag the bigger companies and that took time. And, by the way, I put that in the sprint, so these are initiatives that takes time away from the team members, and so I put it in a sprint. And so, “The next two sprints, we need to figure out how we track leads in a G-5,000,” and now we have that and now we can actually—and that, measuring the right things drives the right behavior because now I can go in front of the team always with the concept of ruthless prioritization, and I say, “Guys, I don’t care about any leads in the small to medium enterprises,” because those will come in anyway. All right, your guys are going to be incentivized and measure around getting the G-5,000 leads and opportunities.

Glenn: I actually think that’s a really big deal and we work with a lot of clients on that issue which is what are you best customers? What are the customers that represent the greatest profit for you over time? And it sounds like you’ve moved strongly in that direction to say, “Hey, it’s not the number of deals we close or the number of leads that come in. It’s the number that are the right kind of customer,” and that’s where you’re really focused on measuring.

Vittorio: Yeah, absolutely. And the other thing that is worth mentioning, this whole process works if you are agile across all the layers and all the function of the organization, and one of the things that I do is I try not to rely on cyclical track as much as I can, meaning I like consultant because consultants, good consultants by definition they see a lot of different patterns, a lot of customers, so they can up-level you, but they cannot up-level you for the stuff that is core to what you do. So, for that reason I brought in-house visual design, website design, video production, and most of the campaign design, and so that allows us to really—because what kills Scrum and Agile is external dependencies.

Glenn: Uh-huh.

Vittorio: The moment you have an external dependency that takes weeks, think about producing a video. Producing a video is you have to write a script, and to write the script you need to know your stuff, so you have to write it yourself, then you give it to a similar agency, they have to digest it. Maybe they take it to the next level, then they take you to the studio, then they shoot it, then you have to go back and forth with the feedback. By the time the video is done a month has gone by and with the way I re-setup our marketing organization, if I have a video idea I can literally get into a studio with the script, right? And change it on the fly until I’m happy with it and three hours later that video is on the website. Now, with that video at the level of a big, like, great agency that does it for a living, probably now, but the ability to get that on the website in half a day, the value is so big that I take that over the perfection any day of the week.

Glenn: Well, it sounds like you want to have in-house the capabilities that are important to you to move quickly on, that’s one of the elements. It sounds like it’s hard to bring those agencies into the Scrum process.

Vittorio: Yeah, and because somebody said that, “Perfect is death,” and done is much better than perfect. I love that, it’s a religion to me.

Glenn: We talked about a couple of other things that I found interesting and tell me which one you want to talk about first. One was account based marketing and the other was thought leadership and share a voice and how you measure those hard to measure things.

Vittorio: Yeah, so for thought leadership, we are lucky that we have a couple of people in the team that are really thought leaders in the industry like Ojas Rege in our team, our VP of Strategy. I mean, he’s just—he knows this market, the customers, the products, the industry so well that he really creates amazing content. So, we get, by using him and some other people in the company as a platform, and by really creating content that’s often, doesn’t talk about MobileIron, but really talks about what’s going on with the industry, this movement of the industry to “Mobile First”, how mobility transforms businesses, and that really allows us to get to share a voice out there which is on par with companies like VMware or Microsoft in our market which is incredible given our budget.

Glenn: Oh, yeah.

Vittorio: And the way we measure it, we have an excellent company that does that, and basically measure two things. We measure how many times we get covered, but also the quality of the coverage. So, they look at whether we are mentioned in a positive way versus negative way, whether we’re mentioned first in the article compared to competition, and things like that.

Glenn: Oh, interesting, interesting. So, you do have a measure because one of the challenges with thought leadership is that most of the people who absorb thought leadership after they read it are not the people who typically would register on your website. So, you want to influence them, but they’re not necessarily the people you’re ever going to—you’re not going to know who they are specifically.

Vittorio: Yes.

Glenn: Very interesting.

Vittorio: And talking about account based marketing, it’s a relatively new discipline. I’m learning as I go as I often do, but if you start to target Synergy 2000. Synergy 2000 is where most of the money is spend in IT especially in our market. And there are, guess what, 2,000 in the world, so you know who they are, right? And so, we just recently deployed a couple of tools that help us with that. One is SixthSense that I believe is SixthSense that allows us to correlate our funnel with buying signal out there on the web so that we know when a G-2,000 or a G-5,000 is in our funnel, but we can put it on the top of the funnel for our sales organization, top of the list for our sales organization because we know that they are out there shopping because a recent visit to the website, are downloading apps in our places, so that is something that we are rolling out as we speak. I’m very excited about that because it allows us, again, focus, focus, get the sales guys to focus on the leads that will be the most promising and will yield the most value.

Glenn: Right. And the other is demand based you said.

Vittorio: Yeah, and demand based, really takes given—using the proprietary database will tell you the name of the companies that are on your website, and you can use that to correlate with Sixthsense, right? So, even if somebody hasn’t given you their names you know they’re poking on the websites, we can do cold calling, you can be smart about engaging with them. And the other thing you can do, you can customize the content of the website based on their industry and what they’re interested in. We haven’t done that yet, it’s one of the things that’s in backlog and at some point—right now we’re busy with the user conference and a couple of product launches, but we are emerged from that, this is a perfect example when I can use Scrum, right? Because implementing that will require the people that deal with the fan base and Salesforce to be involved. You need the website team, you need the content team all lined up, and so that’s the perfect example where you take that, you spend two or three sprints, and the next thing you know you have a website that dynamically feeds the right content depending on the person that is on the other side which is super cool.

Glenn: Well, it makes me very excited about the Scrum process. It makes it sound like once you choose a priority you get everybody to sign up for it, it’s going to happen.

Vittorio: Yeah, that’s what it is. I mean, and actually now it’s so muscle memory for us, and then when they ask me to run product management a while ago, I basically—marketing kind of almost runs itself. So, what I do to run marketing I do two things. One, I insert myself in the sprint priority process, so once every two weeks. Then, of course, I have my staff meeting, but then sometimes, say, that I’m on the road or there is a big planning that takes me off plant for two or three weeks, what I do is I pick one of my reports and I go, “You go run marketing now for the next two months,” or a month, whatever it is.

Glenn: Oh.

Vittorio: And the team is so used to somebody coming in with a priority and speaking from the top and go, go, go, go that it doesn’t really matter if I’m there or not. I always try to be there for the sprint review, but that gives me as an executive a lot of agility and the ability to make myself obsolete as well.

Glenn: Excellent, Vittorio. We’re actually out of time. Thank you so much for sharing your philosophy of running marketing. I learned a great deal.

Vittorio: My pleasure. Thank you for giving me this chance.

Glenn: Sure, we’ll talk soon.

Vittorio: Okay, bye.

Glenn: If you like this podcast please subscribe and rate us on iTunes and tell your friends about us. You can also go to our website, CrimsonMarketing.com, and sign up for our free monthly newsletter featuring the very best of our marketing insights, featured Moneyball for Marketing podcasts, and one of our favorite features called, “Bad Marketing,” or email me at info@CrimsonMarketing.com. Thanks for listening to Moneyball for Marketing from Crimson Marketing. Have a great week and let us know if we can help you in any way.