This week our host Brandi Starr is joined by CMO in Residence Eric Eden to discuss Leading at a Venture Capital Firm. As the Chief Marketing Officer at InGO, with 20 plus years of experience in technology marketing for internet services and SaaS...
This week our host Brandi Starr is joined by CMO in Residence Eric Eden to discuss Leading at a Venture Capital Firm.
As the Chief Marketing Officer at InGO, with 20 plus years of experience in technology marketing for internet services and SaaS solutions, Eric Eden joins Brandi in discussing the ins and outs of the role of a CMO at a Venture Capital Firm.
Sharing his expertise stemming from real life experience building successful marketing teams, implementing marketing technology solutions effectively, driving demand in B2B marketing and increasing shareholder value with best-in-class marketing initiatives, Eric is the ideal expert to take listeners through what it means to lead at a Venture Capital Firm.
From the power of referrals, and the evolution of B2B marketing, to why customization matters, this episode is packed full of insights and strategies valuable for any CMO.
Eric encourages CMOs to evaluate what stage of a company appeals to them most. He recommends considering which Series suits you best and emphasizes those considerations will help inform where you will thrive. Consider, for example, while there might be more reward starting with a Series A (start-up) company that may give equity and so on, there is also more risk than a company that is at a later stage like Series C or D which has more stable funding.
Eric Eden’s Buzzword to Banish is a much-used phrase: Sales and Marketing Alignment. It should be tossed, he says, because it is redundant. Don’t forget that “sales and marketing” Eric reminds listeners, “is a team sport after all”.
Get in touch with Eric Eden on
Welcome to Revenue Rehab, your one stop destination for collective solutions to the biggest challenges faced by marketing leaders today. Now head on over to the couch, make yourself comfortable and get ready to change the way you approach revenue. Leading your recovery is modern marketer, author, speaker and Chief Operating Officer at Tegrita, Brandi Starr.
Hello, hello everyone and welcome to another episode of Revenue Rehab. I am your host, Brandi Starr and we have an amazing episode for you today, I am joined by Eric Eden. Eric is the Chief Marketing Officer at InGo. Eric has 20 plus years of experience in technology marketing for internet services and SaaS solutions. His experience includes building great marketing teams, implementing marketing technology solutions effectively, driving demand in b2b marketing and increasing shareholder value with best in class marketing initiatives. His greatest gifts are his strategic vision and ability to implement dynamic marketing and branding strategies. Eric, welcome to Revenue Rehab, your session begins now.
Good day. Thanks for having me on the show today.
[1:35] Brandi Starr:
Yes, I am excited for our discussion. But before we jump in, I like to break the ice with what I like to call a little woosah moment called buzzword banishment. So tell me Eric, what buzzword would you like to get rid of forever?
[1:55] Eric Eden:
Sales and Marketing Alignment. Because we are all on the same team, we should all just get along, after all...
[2:04] Brandi Starr:
I agree with you. And it is one that I would say is probably severely over used and the lack thereof is often blamed for all of the problems. It's we need sales and marketing alignment, they lack sales and marketing alignment.
[2:25] Eric Eden:
Sales and marketing is a team sport after all.
[2:28] Brandi Starr:
Yes, and I very much believe that we are all on the revenue team. And that if we are all --it's like you don't ever have a football team say our defence and offense got to have alignment. It's like we're all one big team. Although I think someone in a previous episode did banish the use of sports analogies, and I just can't get rid of that. Well awesome, now that we have gotten that off our chest, tell me Eric, what brings you to Revenue Rehab today.
[3:06] Eric Eden:
The biggest insight that I have been noticing is that the time we're in right now is very different in b2b sales and marketing than it has been, say five years ago. I think there's been a tremendous amount of change in the last several years that has really changed the game for how b2b sales and marketing works. We've had things, everyone knows about the pandemic, and not going to offices anymore, I never thought that that would, you know, be a thing, where it was a battle to get people just to come into the office. We have events that were shut down for a number of years, we have a lot of new privacy laws that are limiting digital marketing initiatives. So GDPR privacy laws, which I like to call anti-marketing laws, and the changes with cookies and how analytics work has really made it a real challenge for a lot of the tactics and distribution channels and strategies that people initially used have had to have different weightings. And there's a bigger thing too, is that I think that from a generational perspective, people are buying differently. So generally I think the buyer's journey has changed and people want to do a lot of their own research before they really engage with a company and a sales organization. They want to research things online. They're less open to cold calls and cold emails, and I would say broadly speaking a lot of people just don't like being blasted. So as a C-level executive, I get blasted with a hundred cold emails and cold calls a day. And it really is unpleasant to be blasted over and over again with people not taking any time to customize anything to me. It's really not a great feeling. And I think that as people move more into digital because of the pandemic, there's been 60% increase in email volumes, it's really just made people a lot less open to just the persistence routine. So I've been the biggest mass marketer in my career. But I think that things are changing and that people have to adapt. So I wouldn't go as far to say b2b marketing is broken, but I would say b2b marketing is definitely evolving.
[6:00] Brandi Starr:
I definitely agree. And it's funny, you mentioned how many cold reach outs you get, because I mean, you think about it, it's like when everybody does personas it is always the C-suite, the executive that is the ideal target. So it's like you're on everybody's list or reach out to.
[6:24] Eric Eden:
It's like I have a target on my back, yeah.
[6:25] Brandi Starr:
Yeah, very much. And I know, one thing, the fact that so much has changed in marketing in the last 5-10 years, one of those things is you have seen so many startups and venture and PE backed firms that have come into play, that it has opened up a lot of different kinds of roles for the head of marketing. If you think about, before, there were so many startups, especially in the technology space, there were far fewer head of marketing roles, you had to be a lot further in your career. And I know, in addition to your role at InGo, you are also an Executive in Residence for a venture partner firm. So tell me a little bit about that, and what that role is for you.
[7:25] Eric Eden:
Yeah, so over the last year, it's given me the opportunity to work with all the portfolio companies that are a part of Information Venture Partners, 30 plus companies that are in SaaS, FinTech, payments. And it gives you a perspective, when you can see sort of the issues that that arise across multiple companies that are all in similar areas. And it sort of lets you see some of these trends and patterns more clearly. And what I've been doing is trying to help the portfolio companies with their go to market strategy, both marketing and sales wise, how can they generate more demand? How can they do product marketing and explain who they are and what they do in an inspiring way, I like to say, and how they can ultimately get the growth they want. Because in my 20 plus year career, I've always worked for private equity and venture capital backed companies. That's what I love. That's what I get excited about. To get up every day and do is to go drive growth. Some people like working for big companies where you're sort of just in maintenance mode, but really, my whole career has been about how to be a driver of growth. And that's what I try to help the portfolio companies do and that's what I'm doing it InGo too.
[8:56] Brandi Starr:
And I always like to set intentions in everything really, but specifically on Revenue Rehab, I think it gives us focus in our conversation. It also gives our audience some understanding of what they should walk away from this discussion with. And so for today, I would really like to set an intention to help those that are head of marketing's today that are considering what their next step may be, and kind of thinking outside of the box. I know in the past few months, there have been a lot of layoffs, a lot of conversations around where is the economy going, are we headed for recession, all these different things. And as I've been in different circles with CMOs that have been in this position before where they've either had to find new roles as a result of layoffs within their own organizations or having to lay off their teams. And one of the sentiments that seems to be really common is a little bit of like, I'm tired of this same old rodeo, and a lot of people are really starting to think about, what is that next step in their career. And so for someone like you, who has kind of been on both sides in an advisory role and working for an actual company, if someone is thinking about being an Executive in Residence, or trying to take the same kind of advisory paths that you have, what are some of those things they should think about and consider?
[10:37] Eric Eden:
So I think the upside of being an adviser to a lot of companies is you get to meet a lot of great people, you get to learn about a lot of different businesses, and you can apply what you've learned and help others be successful. So that can be really rewarding. I've also enjoyed being in the CMO seat and being a driver myself, because I have full control. I think the biggest challenge with being an advisor, or more broadly, a consultant is, a lot of times you can give advice but do people follow it. Sort of like your doctor gives orders all the time, and everyone doesn't like to follow the doctor's orders. It's not particularly always easy or fun. So I don't think that marketing is always easy either. I actually like to say, it'll never be easy but it should always be fun. But I do think that there's a lot of things in marketing that are very challenging. This feeling you described about I'm tired, is that in my most successful companies I've been at, it's sort of been stringing together a thousand days of hard work before you really get a glorious day where you get to ring the bell on the New York Stock Exchange because your company went public. It's a lot of work and there's not often a lot of recognition. And so I think that that leaves people with that that feeling you're describing.
[12:18] Brandi Starr:
That's a really good point, I think you hit on two things. One, is that full control versus being an advisory role. And I've definitely experienced that, obviously. I'm a consultant and so I work with, you know, a lot of different companies over the years. And I have also been on the client side and actually leading marketing. And that is a key distinction. If you are someone that is kind of evaluating what your next step is, is do you want that full control, which also comes with the full accountability. And some of those days that are definitely borderline not fun, we won't say they're not fun at all, but some of those days that are more of a struggle, or do you thrive more in that more inconsistent I'll say, world of being able to advise multiple companies. But you have that drawback of sometimes it is like banging your head on the wall, when it's like I'm telling you the right things to do. Just follow my orders, using your doctor's orders analogy. If someone is questioning which of those buckets they kind of fit in, any thoughts of how you sort of self-assess, to say, can I handle the lack of control of I don't know if they're going to follow my orders, I don't have control over whether it's success or failure, I'm only advising.
[13:54] Eric Eden:
I'd say if you're on the advisory or consultant side of things that your best skill would need to be the power of persuasion. So not people doing things because you say so because of you're in charge or your title, but because you can persuade them that this is the right thing to do. And that's often I think pretty difficult. The way I usually do it is by sharing data, bench-marking, sharing examples of how other companies that are doing it that are very similar stage and industry to the company I'm working with. I mean, all of those things are helpful in their persuasion but in a lot of cases, it really comes down to building the relationships where you can add that kind of value through persuasion.
[14:51] Brandi Starr:
No, that definitely makes sense. And for someone like you who kind of does both at the same time, what does your day-to-day look like?
[15:02] Eric Eden:
So I think that -- back to the buzzword at the beginning about alignment, is that most things in business are really about relationships. So building good relationships with people, you can get a lot of things done on a daily basis if you just have the best relationships with the people that you're working with. So that's the ability to communicate really well via all the modern channels like email, texting, video calls, in person. If you can really communicate well and build great relationships, you eliminate more problems than you can ever imagine. And so I would just say, being in touch with people and communicating openly and directly, being transparent, but also working hard to build up good relationships, and doing all the things that go into that, is really what I spend most of my time doing, and trying to be generally helpful to other people. I think that's just something that is part of the culture of who I am is, I'm a naturally curious person who likes to be really helpful to other people. So if I can leverage things I've learned in the last 20 years, then I'll go out of my way to be helpful to other people.
[16:29] Brandi Starr:
Okay. And because you kind of have two key stakeholders, one, you're obviously accountable to the partnership and the venture firm and what their goals and objectives are, but then as you are advising the individual portfolio companies, you've got some accountability there, and they are their own stakeholder. Do you ever find conflicts between what the venture firm versus the actual company wants or what their goals and priorities are?
[17:06] Eric Eden:
I think their goals are largely aligned, because they want to be successful and grow. So there isn't really attention in terms of different goals or objectives. I think that building up good relationships and being helpful to people, there is sometimes this question of am I a spy, [inaudible 17:37]. I'm like, yeah, you got me, I'm a spy. No but I think it's not about trying to find out things that are going on within a company, it's about genuinely trying to help them with some of these problems in sales and marketing and go to market that are genuinely hard problems. How to generate more engagement from the audience you want to sell to, is generally not an easy problem to solve. Explaining who your company is, what you do, the value you offer, and your positioning relevant to other competitors, seems simple, until you have to actually go do it. And then it's harder than you think. So being able to engage with companies and help them with these things are usually not controversial between the venture firm and the goals of the company. I think it's more just about having the great relationships so that you can provide the help to people.
[18:47] Brandi Starr:
Okay. And if someone is considering following in your footsteps and taking on more of an advisory role, are there any watch outs or gotchas that you would say that someone should think about or consider?
[19:05] Eric Eden:
I don't think there's any watch outs or gotchas, I think that there's also quite a few people who, in a similar way, do fractional CMO work. And there's a lot of people who are quite successful in doing that. It's very similar to that in some ways, and I would say that the nature of fractional CMO work is that it's typically shorter term engagements. You'll work with a company anywhere from 3-12 months to help them do some of the things they need to do. So it's not necessarily like a long term relationship. It can be, but it's generally usually more 3-12 months. And then the other piece of it is that it can be a little bit more volatile. Because I think that organizations in general are more committed to the people that are there full time than people who are consultants or fractional. They just prioritize full time employees ahead of others. So I think you just have to be aware of those dynamics. I think they're natural and logical dynamics to be there but that's sort of the nature of the game.
[20:34] Brandi Starr:
Makes sense. So with Information Venture Partners, are you working with all of the portfolio companies? Do you have like your counterpart, where you divide and conquer? How does that structure work in terms of which organizations you are working with?
[20:57] Eric Eden:
It's not all 30 companies at one time, because that would be not really feasible. But it's usually when companies need help on a particular issue. And there's a handful at a time that I can work with. So typically, when people have just raised another round, and they're ready to start investing more, and the question is, how do you invest in marketing to get growth? So after an investment round is one time period where it's pretty common for me to jump in and help. So another one would be if they're trying to solve a particular problem at that point in time. So if they're trying to add additional marketing channels, or if they have a new product, or if there's some other big change in the business and they want to promote that, those are the times when it's ideal to jump in and help. Also, a lot of times, if they've added new people to the team, or they want to add new people to the team, helping with those initiatives are another good point to jump in and help.
[22:12] Brandi Starr:
So what it sounds like I'm hearing is a little bit of a distinction between an advisory role and like a fractional CMO role is that in the advisory capacity, you're almost looking at a specific problem. And that's where when they have your problem, that's where you lean in and that you have counterparts that solve other problems. Whereas in a fractional CMO role, it's going to be a bit broader, and still obviously problem focused, but where you are leaning in and serving as that role for a period of time. Is that a fair statement?
[22:53] Eric Eden:
Yeah, a lot of times organizations need a fractional CMO like in a transitionary period. I think sometimes fractional CMOs are hired to work on specific problems or new initiatives just similar to being an Executive Residence when you're helping portfolio companies. I think it's similar, but it can be a bit different for the reasons that you suggested. And I have worked for other companies. Some of the most successful companies, I've worked for one company for over 10 years. So I've done both longer term engagements and shorter term ones. I think the great thing is, if you have the right approach, you get to learn in both of those situations. You can learn a lot in both situations?
[23:53] Brandi Starr:
No, that is very interesting. And then I know that some people choose to go down the path of advising in more of an ad hoc capacity in like securing, or independently, I guess, is probably a better word where you kind of get different companies here and there. Any advantage or drawback to that approach versus what you're doing and working with a single entity that has a broader group of portfolio companies?
[24:28] Eric Eden:
I think most of the fractional CMOs that I know really well win most of their business just through referrals. So they do a great job and then they get more work than they can actually handle getting referred into them. Because there's always a lot of work to do in marketing. It's never really like oh, there's nothing to do like or we don't need to help. You're not frequently bored, in marketing there's so much to do, because it's such a broad spectrum of tasks and skills and teams. So I think that if people are going the fractional CMO route, the key is do you have a great network? Are you well connected? Will people refer you? And that's like the best way to win business as a fractional CMO. Whereas if you're an Executive in Residence for a venture firm or a private equity firm, you get those referrals, sort of from the partners and the firm saying, hey, this portfolio company could use help on this particular thing. So the referrals are sort of built in. So if you don't necessarily have the network to get a lot of referrals, the venture can be a good way to go.
[26:02] Brandi Starr:
That is helpful. So talking about our challenges is just the first step and there are a lot of people that are considering their next move. So in traditional therapy the therapist gives the client homework, but at Revenue Rehab, we like to kind of flip that on that on its head and allow you to give our listeners some homework. So if someone is considering taking on a similar role to what you have, what would be the one thing you would encourage them to do?
[26:43] Eric Eden:
I would encourage people to think about what stage of company they want to work at. Just because working for companies that are a Series A companies is a much different game than companies that are Series C or Series D for example, that are much larger, have a lot more funding, a lot more resources. And the trade off is generally we know where the rewards come from, it comes from risk. So you start with a Series A, nine out of ten Series A companies don't ultimately get further than Series A. That's just sort of the nature of it, but if you start earlier you'll potentially get more equity, and you have a lot more upside, and you're there early and you're one of the initial group of people that is driving the growth of the company. So there's a lot of upside to that but there's also a lot of risk. And so I know one CMO who got laid off from a series a company for the third time and just said, I'm done with Series A! I just can't deal with the risk anymore! I'm going to go work for companies that are later stage - Series C, Series D. And I think that that's for some people the right answer, because they just can't tolerate that risk. And I think it's just important to know where you operate the best and where you want to really be. And I would say a similar thread to this is there's so much marketing work out there across industries, to know what type of work you want to do. I mean, b2c is very different than b2b, for example. And even with b2b it's very different if you're doing marketing to marketers, or if you're doing marketing say in healthcare or marketing in FinTech. It's just a very different dynamic. I personally for majority of my career, been doing marketing to marketers, I personally love that for example. That’s what we're doing it InGo and I personally really love that. I thought doing marketing in the health healthcare tech space was really hard for me personally. And it just because perhaps I was less passionate about it. So I say this just as to share the other filter, which is you should do what you're passionate about not just what earns you good money because that tends to get old pretty fast.
[29:29] Brandi Starr:
Awesome. So to distil that down into our action item for everyone listening, it is to take stock of where do you thrive. Whether it's industry, size of company, series, who the audience is. So really think about where you are going to be most successful and identify that in identifying what is that next role. I think that is great advice Eric. Well, I have enjoyed our discussion today. But that is our time for today. So thank you so much for joining me.
[30:08] Eric Eden:
Absolutely. I appreciate you having me on the show and have a great day.
[30:14] Brandi Starr:
Awesome! And thanks to everyone for joining us. I hope you have enjoyed our conversation with Eric. I can't believe that we are already at the end, but we will see you next time.
You've been listening to Revenue Rehab with your host Brandi Starr. Your session is now over but the learning has just begun. Join our mailing list and catch up on all our shows at revenuerehab.live. We're also on Twitter and Instagram at Revenue Rehab. This concludes this week's session. We'll see you next week.
Chief Revenue Officer
As a collaborative and polished marketing leader, I know how to effectively manage campaigns that deliver results. My dedication to building high performing teams has enabled me to consistently ensure continuous improvement and purposefully shape the evolution of culturally aligned workforces.
I have 20+ years of experience in technology marketing for Internet services and SaaS solutions. My experience includes building great marketing teams, implementing marketing technology solutions effectively, driving demand in B2B marketing, and increasing shareholder value with best in class marketing initiatives.
My greatest gifts are my strategic vision and ability to implement dynamic marketing and branding strategies. Show me any business and I will accelerate it to its highest potential. I’ve been blessed with an exceptional understanding of business drivers, a supernatural ability to lead teams, and a belief that the best solutions are those that are both simple and powerful. I’ve built my career around enhancing brand experiences by overseeing the creation of meaningful content that connects with core audiences.
My areas of expertise include:
● Marketing Strategy
● Lead Generation
● Event Marketing
● CRM & Salesforce.com
● Competitive Analysis
● Brand Strategy
● Campaign Management
● Corporate Communications.
Personable and highly skilled, I bring two decades of experience to the table. My record of accomplishments spans across a diverse range of projects and environments. Through a combination of solid decision making, dedication to producing quality work, and a keen understanding of how people – whether employees, vendors, customers, or partners – impact operations, I offer a track record of managing large-scale projects and creating strategic plans that enable customer acquisition, sales growth, and overall business development.