Erin Brooks, marketing & communications specialist at Matter, recently spoke with Nerdio’s Chief Revenue Officer, Joseph Landes, to discuss his transition from 23 years at Microsoft to the startup world. Brooks and Landes explore the role of the CRO, trends in marketing, best practice and more. Check out the video from the interview and read the full conversation below.
Erin Brooks (EB): Joseph, tell us a little about yourself and Nerdio.
Joseph Landes (JL): First and foremost, I’m a father, a son and a husband. I joined Nerdio about five months ago after working at Microsoft for 23 years and I’m the Chief Revenue Officer leading sales and marketing. Nerdio is an IT automation platform and our entire mission is about empowering managed service providers (MSPs) to build successful cloud practices in Microsoft Azure.
EB: What is it like going from a big role and company like Microsoft to an aggressively growing startup like Nerdio?
JL: First of all, let me say Nerdio is an unbelievable company. Moving from a big company like Microsoft to an incredible startup like Nerdio was scary at first but has proven to be quite fulfilling. When you’re at one company for 23 years, you not only learn a lot, but you get used to a certain way of doing things. You ask yourself, “am I going to be able to take all of this learning and apply it to a completely different scenario? To a completely different company?” As my former CEO, Satya Nadella, says, you always want to be a learn-it-all person rather than a know-it-all-person. Since arriving at Nerdio, I’ve committed to becoming a learn-it-all person: To spend time with as many partners as I can, ask questions, learn about the ecosystem and talk with my team about what we could be doing better.
Certainly, any time you move from a company like Microsoft to a company like Nerdio, there’s just going to be different ways of doing things. But one of the things I love about Nerdio is we move fast – we’re an exciting place to work, and everybody’s empowered to do amazing work every day on behalf of our partners. We have a tremendous founder and CEO, Vadim Vladimirskiy, who bleeds Azure every day, and we’re all doing the best we can to empower MSPs to build successful practices in Azure.
EB: Why is integrating sales and marketing important? How does this help the sales teams?
JL: In the old days, sales would always complain about marketing, saying marketing’s not bringing enough leads. Marketing would complain and say sales isn’t doing much with the leads. In my role, as the CRO overseeing both sales and marketing, there’s no room for that. Everything we do is coordinated between sales and marketing as one team with one mission to help MSPs be successful. The attributes of a good marketing team, and quite frankly, any team, is togetherness. A team has to come in every day, and feel as if they’re together headed towards one common mission. We have a set of very talented marketers at Nerdio, supplemented by a set of very talented folks like Matter, and others that we work with which helps us be number one in our space and provide the best service possible to our MSP partners.
EB: On that note, how have you seen the CRO role change over the last few years? How does this position, being in charge of both sales and marketing – and ultimately responsible for the voice of the customer – impact the bottom line?
JL: Only within the past couple of years has there been this role called CRO, where organizations combine sales and marketing into one. That’s been the evolution of the CRO, having one person who’s accountable for not just driving the numbers every day when it comes to new customers, units and revenue, but really thinking through how the marketing is going to be the fuel for that engine. The goal as chief revenue officer, and as a company like Nerdio, is to look not just at what’s going on in the cloud space and figure out who’s doing great things that you can emulate, but to look outside your space and see where can you be inspired with great ideas.
EB: What marketing initiatives at Nerdio will you invest more heavily in over the next year? What will become less of a priority and why?
JL: One of the big initiatives that we’re moving forward with is a robust content marketing strategy to make sure that every MSP has what they need to implement Microsoft Azure and build a robust cloud practice. Another area that’s incredibly important to us at Nerdio is going to where the MSPs are, such as events and conferences. Finally, you’ll see us much more active in our digital and social strategy, as we know MSPs get their information through those channels.
EB: Are there any companies or marketers you admire, in terms of their approach and/or marketing strategies?
JL: The best marketer I have ever had the opportunity to work with was a former manager of mine, Bob Vicee, who’s sitting somewhere in Eastern Washington on a ranch. Bob, if you’re read this, I hope you’re enjoying what it is you’re doing. Bob was the first marketer that encouraged me and my team to go to the edge of the cliff – where you feel like you’re about to fall off, but you don’t. That’s where I believe the best marketing happens. Great marketing happens when you’re willing to take risks, and try things that others have not tried, as opposed to just continuing to use the cookie cutter. Bob was an advocate for me personally, encouraging me to take risks and break the mold.
EB: Speaking of risks. What has been one of the biggest marketing risks you’ve taken either in your career or at Nerdio? How did it play out? And, what did you learn from it?
JL: One of the biggest marketing risks I took in my career was at Microsoft India. Our goal was to get local developers in India to build more apps for our Windows platform. We ended up renting out a big cricket stadium in India, called the Guinness Book of World Records in the UK, and made it our mission to set a record for the number of developers coding for 24 hours straight under one roof. I had no idea if that was going to work. Within 24 hours of promoting the event, we had about 2500 developers wanting to participate. It was certainly a big risk – I didn’t know if it was going to work at all. But it turned out to have huge reward at the end, because it was something that nobody else had done in India, or in the ecosystem, and it garnered us a lot of respect in the industry for trying something new.
EB: Wow, that’s amazing. Have you encountered risk like that at Nerdio?
JL: I’ve only been at Nerdio for five months, and I can’t honestly say that we’ve taken enough risks in the time that I’ve been there. Becoming much more precise around our target audience was not a risk, more like stating the obvious. We can be number one in that category, and stating it out-loud drove a lot of clarity in the company around what we do best within the industry.
EB: How do you leverage a big name like Microsoft in your own marketing strategy?
JL: Microsoft is an incredible partner of ours. It’s very different to be outside of Microsoft than inside Microsoft. When you’re outside, and you’re looking in, you realize that it is a tremendous company with a tremendous set of resources. You find that that if you’re smart and if you know how to leverage it, you can really benefit your company. Our mission aligns perfectly with what Microsoft wants to do, which is to get more and more customers onto Azure. This is something that we can help Microsoft do, particularly with small and midsize customers who rely on MSPs for guidance and for help on implementing their solution.
EB: What KPIs are most critical to your executive team and board? How are you measuring the effectiveness of your marketing and PR programs?
JL: The KPI that is most important is to be number one in the Azure space. We believe we’re uniquely positioned in the market to have a solution for MSPs that allows them to provision, price, manage and optimize an Azure environment in a way that nobody else in the market has today. Between marketing and PR, there are many things that we’re going to do to ensure that the world knows that we have this unique offering. You’re going to see us drive that fact very hard as we move forward, whether it’s PR metrics, social metrics, digital or the number of partners we work with. At the end of the day, we want our client MSPs to be successful and happily working with Nerdio.
EB: Why is PR an important part of your marketing strategy? What are some of the benefits of working with an agency like Matter?
JL: You can never do too much PR, and I’m someone that would love to be in front of people talking about what Nerdio has to offer MSPs every single day. When you work with an agency like Matter, you gain a certain amount of structure to your PR efforts. You know who you are going to be speaking with and that these people are influential. PR is an indispensable tool for any marketer, and quite frankly, for any company like Nerdio. Having an agency that partners with us like Matter is a blessing .