Revolutionizing Messaging, Planning and Delivery to Scale Marketing
When Joe Garber joined Axiad as CMO in May 2022, it wasn’t his first rodeo, as they say, in terms of running marketing for technology vendors in the GRC space. He had run marketing for major compliance, security, and governance business units at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Micro Focus (recently acquired by Open Text), and Quest Software – all billion-dollar operations. In those roles he had directed major rebranding efforts, drove awareness activities on a global scale, crafted and executed marketing strategies to drive demand and fuel growth, and led large cross-functional teams to take advantage of emerging opportunities.
For instance, while at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, he was tapped with leading HPE Software’s foray into software solutions for privacy regulations that were coming online at that time – e.g., GDPR, CCPA, and many more. He worked with a global third-party consulting firm to map technology to several mission-critical use cases, and then with marketing and sales leadership of all six business units to evangelize and bring those solutions to market worldwide. Mr. Garber has also led significant brand refresh projects for Quest’s One Identity business unit as it advanced its business model to cloud-first, and for Micro Focus following more than a dozen acquisitions in the five years prior.
A Significant Pivot: Evolving the Marketing Function
That experience would be critical to success in his new role at Axiad, a cybersecurity (passwordless authentication) provider that had been in business for more than a dozen years. While the company had been successful during its first decade, a decision was made in 2022 to evolve from a systems integrator model – that solved complex problems with highly tailored solutions – to a product (SaaS) vendor driven by sales volume.
Mr. Garber recognized there were three primary changes that needed to be made in 2023 to increase market share in a rapidly growing authentication market: they needed to: 1) make foundational changes to brand and message; 2) adjust programs from a “random acts of marketing” mindset to one that was much more strategic, with highly integrated outreach and programs; and 3) modify its BDR function so it was more responsive to leads as they were developed.
In mid 2022, he kicked of a brand refresh project that analyzed the company’s narrative from two perspectives – both a tops-down view into how Axiad could position and differentiate itself at the corporate level and a bottoms-up look at how the company could better articulate the value delivered by its products. This messaging work was vetted with customers, partners, industry analysts, and thought leaders, and manifested in core deliverables like a new website and fresh set of assets that were in brand and on message. He also led an effort to align events, digital marketing, campaigns, ABM, and content strategy, and he moved the company from an in-sourced strategy for BDRs to an outsourced model with a third party that had relevant vertical expertise.
The results of this effort so far have been sizable. The company is tracking at, or above, target for each of its core marketing KPIs: inquiries, marketing-qualified leads (MQLs), sales-qualified leads (SQLs), cost per lead, and ROI. In fact, at the mid-year point, Axiad had already eclipsed its full-year targets for MQLs and SQLs, and BDR efficiency has increased about 6X on a four-quarter average since the changes were implemented.
With respect to effectiveness of the brand refresh, Gartner Research selected Axiad as a finalist for its 2023 Gartner Marketing & Communications Awards – for excellence in Brand Activation and Experience – from a pool of more than 400 submissions from around the globe. Gartner subsequently invited Mr. Garber to serve as an expert panelist at their core marketing event and has published a ‘brand refresh success story’ on the work completed by Axiad as well.
Looking Ahead: Moving to Scale with AI
With a brand refresh, and some key structural changes, now largely complete as a foundation of a unified marketing program, Mr. Garber is looking at what’s next to help further scale the company and continue to differentiate the brand in a crowded market.
One focal point is content construction and delivery. In the not-so-distant past, it was said that a prospective customer had to see something six times before he/she took action. In today’s market, industry experts are now saying the number is closer to 15 times. That’s because with so much more information online people are more used to engaging with quick-hit content, and buyers are much more comfortable doing research before they even talk to a salesperson.
“I often quote Mark Twain’s ‘if I had more time I’d write you a shorter letter’ when I’m talking about marketing because it captures a both a critical success factor and a core challenge – taking adequate time to deliver a message that is easily digestible,” said Mr. Garber. “That’s never been more important than right now, as rapidly developed, bite-sized, scalable, and meaningful content is likely what will separate successful from unsuccessful marketing programs. To that end, we are looking at how we can carefully use generative AI to develop content like recorded demos – where concepts and voiceover may be produced with the assistance of technology at a faster pace and with fewer cycles needed.”
Mr. Garber also notes that there are other key uses of AI that should be considered for marketing as well, including both discriminative AI and predictive AI. For instance, he notes that taking time to analyze your ideal customer profile (ICP) and analyze fit to the ICP within your customer base can help you identify “more like this” to prospect. And leveraging insights from intent data – via a well-structured ABM program – to predict future buying habits, and individualized content needs, can help you move potential buyers through the buying cycle more rapidly.
However, Mr. Garber notes that while AI provides many potential benefits for a marketing professional, using it can also pose potential risk. “As with the headlines on generative AI in education scenarios, be careful that content created doesn’t lead to accidental plagiarism or copyright infringement. Plus, and importantly, make sure the technology you use doesn’t inadvertently expose trade secrets or leave a side door open to bad actors that can be used to compromise the company. While there are many readily available AI tools available, be sure you thoroughly screen the provider and understand what security measures they have in place before putting them into action.”