Tell it Before you Sell it (Kash Shaikh, VP Marketing of Ruckus) : Interview with Kash Shaikh

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 or email us at And now on to our podcast.
Today I am very pleased to welcome Kash Shaikh VP of marketing at Ruckus Wireless. As the VP of marketing, Kash is Chief of all marketing, corporate communications, training, channels and field marketing teams teams. So how does Ruckus describe themselves? Ruckus Wireless delivers simply better wireless for more than 61,000 enterprises, service provider, government, and small business customers worldwide. The company is focused on technology innovation, partner ecosystems, and customer service yielding the best possible wireless experience for the most challenging indoor and outdoor environments. Kash it’s a pleasure to have you here.

Kash: Thanks for having me Glenn.

Glenn: We were talking earlier about what you were trying to do with Ruckus and marketing, and you have some stories for us. Why don’t you introduce what you’re doing there for the audience and take us through your thought process?

Kash: Sure, I joined Ruckus a little over a year ago, a year and four months to be exact. Some of the things that we had were working well obviously it was a very successful comp any when I joined in the beginning of 2015 between 2013-2014, our revenue improved 24 percent year over year. So I joined a successful company, and when you join a successful company you have to understand what’s working and what’s not working. And as a leader for marketing in the beginning, I listened to a lot of folks and stakeholders to understand what was working for us. And what I really call that was marketing one dot O (Marketing 1.0). It really helped shape Ruckus’ brand in terms of creating a differentiated brand which is really important for a small company, because you need to have a unique voice and an interesting attribute for your brand if you want to be known, and want to stand out from the rest of the market.

Glenn: Especially that last part, the ability to standout requires high differentiation.

Kash: Exactly, that was working for us, we had a differentiated brand, but in terms of driving the demand for that differentiated brand I think we had an opportunity to leverage more of that brand in that voice and tone and drive further awareness. And most of the things we were leveraging in marketing as a part of marketing one dot O before I joined was much more what I’d call a traditional marketing only. And then as I said it’s important to understand what’s working before you take it to the next level. Having a differentiated brand and not having the strategy to drive the demand really was an opportunity for us to take it to the next level. And then I came up with what I call a marketing two dot O (Marketing 2.0). This strategy is based on what I call modern or contemporary approach to marketing. Some other folks call it digital marketing, but I think digital is really an overused word and can mean different things to different people. I believe one should market in the times we live in. So in simpler words it’s much more of a modern approach to marketing, leveraging the our differentiated brand with a multi-channel marketing strategy, leveraging the mobile, considering 50 percent the traffic that comes to our website comes from mobile devices.

Glenn: And a contemporary marketer is a lot more able to measure what they are doing, right?
Kash: Exactly that is really one of the main difference between the traditional marketing and contemporary, it can be targeted, and it can me measurable. You can measure the conversion rate from the clicks. You can have the data or the analytics to understand where the traffic is coming from. You can use tools such as lead targeting, based on those analytics to really increase your conversion rate. So the marketers are much more in control if they are leveraging the contemporary marketing approach and marketing tools.

Glenn: Right it’s a lot more about being smarter, who’s coming to your website, who has engaged with you, and continuing to be able to engage with them in a different way.

Kash: Yes. And I think that the key is engagement, because a lot of times the marketers are so much more focused on selling and marketing at the audience. The key is really understanding why your customers or the prospects engage with you. My view is very simple. You have to be able to tell a story. You have to tell it before you sell it is what I say. And what I mean by that is you have to add value. As a marketer, there is so much content out there. You need to be able to provide some value to the audience before you start marketing at them. And what do I mean by that? Very simple, there has to be some sort of learning, or there has to be something interesting, these are the only two reasons that the prospects or the customers engage with you. So you need to engage them, tell them the story, and understand your brand, especially the fact that we have an advantage of having a differentiated brand which I really edgy and humorous. So we need to reflect that in the content that we are creating. And then use these modern marketing channels, what I call the multi-channel approach to driving things.

Glenn: I like the bit where you tell it sell it. And that means we have to understand how effective our telling or engagement is. Tell us a little bit about how you measure the effectiveness of engagement.

Kash: Some of it is based on distribution. So the key is you need to have the right content which is engaging, and then the rest of it is the channel, or the distribution. There is this quote that I really like “content is king, but distribution is queen, and she wears the pants” I wish I was my quote and it’s not. It’s from this guy Jonathan Perelman who used to be at Buzzfeed. But the point is, as much it is important for the marketers to focus on the content which is differentiated and is adding value, and is telling a story, they need to be able to understand how the buyers are making the buying decisions. So the fact that marketing is changing is not because all of these tools we need to be using as in these multi-channels and analytics and mobile, and search and all those cool things, but the challenge is really the fact that the buyer’s behavior is changing. So the key is to keep in mind how the buyer is making decisions. So according to one of the reports, more than 50 percent of the buyers do the research online before engaging with any of the vendors.

Glenn: Right and I’ve heard as high as 70 percent.

Kash: Right and I’ve seen some cases higher than 70 percent. So a large portion of the buyers are doing the research online. And then we need to take in a little deeper to understand how they are making these decisions, how they are doing the research. So Google did a study of 3000 B2B buyers to understand a little more about how they are doing this research about the vendors. And as you know they are keen on understanding the search which is informed because a lot of people use search to find out about the product and solution. One of the things they found out which was really interesting was the fact that thee B2B buyers typically do up to 12 searches prior to engaging with a vendor. For example, let’s say if you look at Ruckus, we may think that they would look for Ruckus Wi-Fi considering we provide the best Wi-Fi experience. But in a study, these buyers are not doing the searches on the brand. They start with a problem, the have poor Wi-Fi which is maybe because they are using one of our competitors. They have a problem, and they are doing these searches, and they do up to 12 searches before they get to the vendor. So what does this mean for the marketers? It really is an interesting and important point while you’re designing digital market strategy. You make your search both paid and organic, designed in a way with key search words in mind and not just worry about pushing your brand. Create that engagement before you push your brand. And then if you are using those tools answering your earlier question, it’s easier to understand how much your search is affected. How much are your paid social people clicking your various pieces of content, or your various images based on how you created them. And one of the stories I want to share as a part of some of the learning. The benefit of these modern tools is the fact that you can really measure it and also adjust accordingly Measuring works both ways, measuring works, ok you do something and it’s going well and it goes viral and it’s really taking off which is really good. But realistically that doesn’t happen all the time. So in some cases measurement is really about why it’s not working. So we launched one of the campaign as a part of our of one announcement which was leveraging paid social media. And one of the things we realized really making sure that we used the right imagery for the right audience. So as much as these tools are inform as you are using digital and you can measure it, and you’re using search, it is also important to keep the customer in mind. I know this is like the basic, but that’s really important for the marketers to understand and keep in mind that even if you have all these tools, and on the other side there is a user. And that user may be at a C level, that user may be at the network manager level or VP level, and the results really helped us. Because let’s say we had an imagery that was much more focused on the products. And the message itself was focused on C level audience. We were not getting as much click-rate as we expected, and the conversion rate. This was relatively simple, but the benefit of digital is you can look at the data and really understand why it isn’t working and make shifts. We did change it to a much more high level imagery which is a line about the C level audience. And the click rate and conversion rate went up. So that’s really how you want to design your strategy in a way that you can turn down or up the knobs and learn the road.

Glenn: And what I want to say that I really like about digital is that you can do it almost in real-time. You can watch the campaign as not working, and try something right then and there.

Kash: Exactly, and these are in some cases mini campaigns as well, especially if you are using paid social media as a part of your campaign, and you are creating tweets, or LinkedIn updates. It’s much easier now to be able to change it in real time, and have a few options, and play around with it and figure out what is really working and not working, and have some learning that you can leverage as a part of an on-going improvement process.

Glenn: It’s a great story, and it reduces the cost or fear of running campaigns because you don’t have to wait until the campaign is completely run through. You’ve spent all the money. You can actually just make the modifications as you go. I love that part about the digital environment.

Kash: Exactly. I think it’s as simple as let’s say if you go for the traditional means which I think in some cases is still relevant. But the challenge is measurement, because let’s say I spent 200,000 dollars per month for a billboard on highway 101. The challenge is I don’t know how many eye balls are there. And I don’t know how I adjust up or down. I don’t know how people are reacting. I can get some anecdotal feedback, but it’s very hard to measure the traditional marketing spend versus the digital or the modern. Especially when it comes to advertising.

Glenn: That’s right. I think there will always be parts of marketing where we have to take a leap of faith that the investment is a good one unless we want to spend a lot of money to research the drivers to find out if they have unaided recall of the billboard, which is pretty expensive to do that. So you can experiment with it, and make it part of your overall marketing mix, and then measure everything else that you can measure.

Kash: Exactly. And that’s where the multi-channel comes in. Because you have to keep in mind the modern channels, but at the same time depending on the audience, and where the audience are, it’s really about understanding your customer and the users. Where they are, how they are making the buying decisions. In the IT world, as you know, the users are very familiar with the technology. So they are much more of the earlier adaptors of the technology. For example, mobile. And I said earlier, 50 percent of the traffic on our website comes from mobile. And if you look at what’s happening is, not only mobile is taking off, but at the same time, the social media. How people read news, and how people get the information is different. For example, if I look at myself because I do use modern technology, even if I read a newspaper but I have my phone on next to my bed, and I use it as an alarm clock. And then when I wake up, obviously I use it as an alarm clock. When I look at the feed, I’m looking at the feed from my social media channels, or even my corporate marketing channels in terms of how people are reacting. And at the same time in between these are paid from me or the company this sponsored branded content that I’m reading. So it has really changed how people consume information, and how your buyers are consuming information. And you have to design your marketing strategy keeping that in mind, and making sure it’s aligned with how your customers and the users are consuming the information.

Glenn: Didn’t you tell me a story about measuring share of voice as one of the key measurements.

Kash: Right here’s another thing, and it’s one of my thing. I strongly believe what you cannot measure you cannot improve. So share of voice is a measure where you look at your market share, and you assess your traditional channels, or your social media channels, and understand what your share of voice is. So our market share overall is a little over 7 percent in the Wi-Fi market. And last quarter when we did the analyses of share of social voice, it was at least three times our market share. So it was more than 20 percent. And even the traditional share of voice was close to 14 percent. So that really helps you understand after doing all of these things you are leveraging what I call marketing 2 dot O strategy where the content is really engaging. You’re telling it therefore you’re selling it; you’re adding the value. You’re using all of the modern marketing channels understanding the customers. And you’re using all of the tools you can measure to help you. But at the end of the day, what is the effect? Because my job as a marketing leader is to grow the business. How are we growing the business? One of the measures is share of voice, because it really helps us understand with all of these things is it more than the market share, or is it less. And how can we adjust?

Glenn: I think it’s a great leading indicator. If your market share is 7 percent, and your share of voice is over 20 percent. If I were the board or your CEO looking at these stats, I’d say that better be a leading indicator. And these people are talking about us, and we need to start to convert so I go to the next level and go ok how do we turn those into conversions, qualified leads, opportunities, etc.

Kash: Exactly, because what it means as you said is that our prospects, or our customers are hearing about our message. And then as our sales teams go and engage with them, this is not the first time they are hearing from Ruckus. They have already heard about our brand. And this is more than about our existing customers, because they are already hearing about our message based on our market share. So it creates the pull for the sales team, in addition to the push as they go and engage if marketing is doing it right. And it’s very hard for anyone to argue the data. And as you said, as we go in front of the executives, this is one of the first thing we share. I would like to increase further, but it’s a measure of whether we are going in the right direction. Is it helping create the pull and then convert it into the leads and drive the demand.

Glenn: Oh that’s great, and I wish we had time to go through your entire funnel, but we’re actually running out of time Kash, so let me ask you one last question about the future. If you were to look forward about what you want to do in the area of data and technology in your organization in the next year or so, where would you invest?

Kash: I think in some cases going back to the basics. Because the modern marketing, or the digital marketing, or contemporary whatever you want to call it, you have to keep in mind the state of your organization. So in the last one year, we made a lot of changes in terms of bringing in the new people which are much more familiar and conversant with the new tools. But at the same time, looking at the overall state of the organization, if I want to grow some of my people, we need to continue to invest. And it takes some time for the organization to work towards much more of the modern marketing. So my view is looking forward, first of all, we need to continue this direction of marketing 2.0 and modern marketing and continue to leverage the tools in the day and age we live in. But at the same time, continue to invest and grow the organization that can really help us to take the marketing to the next level and help become the growth engine for the business which I think is really the benefit at the end of day. All these activities can now be measurable, and marketing can become the growth engine to drive the business, versus being seen as one of the cost centers.

Glenn: That’s fantastic. Well Kash, thank you very much. I really appreciate your contribution today, and I’ve learned a great deal.
Kash: Same here I enjoyed it a lot and have a good day.

Glenn: Alright, talk to you soon.

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