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Global CMO Nick Flude: Marketing’s vital role in high-growth B2Bs

Successful B2B marketers work closely with other company executives (especially sales) and focus only on business metrics, says Secure Code Warrior's CMO.

Marketers can’t afford to just “do marketing” these days and ignore the bigger picture, says CMO Nick Flude. Even those who work at high-growth B2Bs must continuously assess what impact they are having on pipeline growth and revenue.

Flude has more than two decades’ experience in a range of B2B marketing roles, having spent more than five years as a marketing leader at both Optus and F5 Networks. Since October 2018, he has had a pivotal role in the rapid expansion of Secure Code Warrior, a SaaS platform that helps developers write secure software.

Although the business is based in Sydney, it’s quickly developed a worldwide footprint – from North America to Europe to the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. When Flude started at Secure Code Warrior, it had 40 employees. It now employs 120 and will look to fill another 70 roles by the middle of 2020. Flude currently has 13 marketers in his team, having hired nine in the past 12 months.

As Global CMO, Flude sits alongside the company’s CFO, CTO and the VPs of customer success and sales on the company’s executive panel, reporting to CEO and co-founder Pieter Danhieux. This means he has a vital role informing on strategy and delivering on corporate objectives while working closely with the company’s finance, technology, customer success and sales leaders.

In this interview with Marketorium, Flude expands on marketing’s role in high-growth environments and why marketers have to be driven by business metrics.

Q: What does Secure Code Warrior do?

Flude: We have an online platform that targets software engineers or developers. We give them the tools and knowledge to become secure coders; if they start writing more secure code from the beginning, then the whole raft of cybersecurity problems – breaches, hacks, vulnerabilities, global chaos – starts to ease. The cybersecurity industry can't keep buying products to work as handbrakes, parachutes or spot fixes. We have to fix problems at the source and in the software world, that is the developer.

Q: Where are Secure Code Warrior’s customers?

Flude: This is a global opportunity – a global market. You know, there are about 25 million professionals in the world with “developer” in their job title, and then there's probably another 25 million people in the world who have a day job but code in the evenings. My biggest challenge is to build the company’s global marketing function to take advantage of that market opportunity. I’m also part of the executive team, so I have to deliver business outcomes.

“Marketing has a bad rap because many people either are either scared of talking to salespeople or scared talking numbers because of the whole measurement and attribution challenges that we have, but you've just got to live with it.”

Q: How will you achieve this?

Flude: We have to be very metrics-driven. Because I sit on the executive team, most of what I talk about at that level is business performance through a marketing lens. Nobody cares about vanity metrics at that level. I talk about business revenue and marketing's contribution to pipeline. I talk about channels that are delivering both in terms of volume of leads and volume of qualified pipeline. And I'm building a structure and building a digital capability that allows us to be global first. We want to be No.1 in the world for what we do; we've always had a global mindset.

Q: How do you build a company culture to help achieve rapid global growth?

Flude: It’s really about having that conversation with people from day one, ensuring they can demonstrate their value to the business. Marketers must work closely with sales; they need to understand the sales psyche. We all need to understand what a lead is - and agree when a lead should get delivered outside of our marketing automation platform and into the sales platform. If somebody is downloading a whitepaper, for example, that's not a lead. That's an indicator of education, not an indicator of purchase. What can we do next to help nurture them to then get to the point that we're tracking their buying behaviour, not their educational behaviour?

Branding, the right colours and the logo … that's all part of the marketing function but it’s not really what the business needs to hear about. Marketing has a bad rap because many people either are either scared of talking to salespeople or scared talking numbers because of the whole measurement and attribution challenges that we have, but you've just got to live with it. Businesses run on numbers.

Q: Speaking of numbers, how do you use predictive insights to better understand your potential customers?

Flude: We’ve spent a lot of time defining our personas – understanding who our buyer is and who our user is. In our situation, those two people aren't the same. So we have a buyer who doesn't use the platform, and we have a user who doesn't buy it. As a SaaS platform, part of our challenge is onboarding our customers, expanding them, and then hopefully renewing. We have to start to define and understand who our personas are, and where they are within the stages of their customer journey.

Q: How do you approach the challenge of reaching those completely different audiences: software developers and business managers?

Flude: We know our buyer who holds the budget is in “application security”, or AppSec, and they report to one side of the business and are investing to solve a problem. The developers are the users who don't necessarily have a budget. So our conversation really starts to be about AppSec – how we can help you? It’s a risk conversation, if you like. The developer side is really about capability as a top-line concept. What we do and where we do it are very different for those two personas.

“You can't sit around the table and only talk marketing. You have to understand how you contribute to business outcomes and be aware of your contribution to pipeline.”

We all know how organisations buy – it's all by committee. So we have to work on how we influence procurement and get visibility at the brand level for the C-suite because even though they might not know who we are and what we do, they want to be comfortable we are an organisation with tenure and credibility. Therefore we have to blend digital-first strategies, which provide air cover, with strategic face-to-face [meetings] or events and conferences.

Q: What issues are coming up as you expand your global footprint?

Flude: A real challenge for us in 2020 is most developers currently tend to have a Western Europe/North American mindset. We're seeing a massive explosion in software engineering as that moves across into APAC – China, Japan and India specifically. The things they look at are different from what a Western European or North American looks at, so we have to include that in our brand proposition.

Q: Do you think you have an advantage of being relatively small compared with larger enterprise businesses?

Flude: In a large organisation, you're never quite sure who could make the ultimate decision. In a small organisation, particularly a startup, all decisions come back to the executive team, which means we’re flogged in decision making. What we're now doing is strategically planning for an organisation that is three to four times larger than we are now, with regional heads making their own decisions. This means we can build a structure to facilitate independent, autonomous decision-making while honouring company objectives.

To maintain speedy decision-making [now], we’re doing calls at 8am and 8pm because we’re covering so many time zones, and that's not really scalable. Recognising rather than ignoring the problem is half the battle.

Q: What is your experience of being a marketer in the executive team?

Flude: Well, you can't sit around the table and only talk marketing. You have to understand how you contribute to business outcomes and be aware of your contribution to pipeline. You have to sit with sales, for example, and ask: “How we can improve the quality of leads coming to you?” You have to talk business.

Nick Flude will present a session at the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum in Sydney in May on “Investing for growth: Fostering a culture for growth, innovation and alignment to the sales organisation”. Click here for more information.

 Further reading: Getting martech right in high-growth environments