Our most recent guest was Matt Collins, Chief Marketing Officer at Calix. He gave us excellent insights into thinking about marketing strategy at a company that has enormous growth potential as a result of developing a cutting edge technology platform.
Career and Background
Matt began his career at Merck Pharmaceuticals in a rotational program that exposed him to several sales and marketing roles. After completing his MBA at Harvard Business School, he went into consulting at McKinsey, where one of his clients was IBM. He later joined IBM where he worked for over 10 years.
We asked Matt what attracted him to a career in marketing. He said that after being exposed to marketing in a B2B context, he realized it had both strategic and creative elements that he loved. He said that in some sales roles, you may not “get to exercise the creative muscles as much as you can in marketing,” while in marketing “you still get the exposure to clients which helps keep your programs grounded.” He said in his current role he works closely with the sales team and is talking with clients on an almost daily basis.
We asked Matt about his experience at the Harvard MBA program. He said that one aspect that stood out was the diversity of the student body, studying with people from dozens of countries. He said this was something he also enjoyed at McKinsey and IBM, both “truly global companies.” He also said that the technology, operations and management classes at Harvard focusing on process efficiency and optimization have benefited his career in interesting ways. He said when you run an enterprise marketing organization, it is like a finely tuned lead generation engine, and noted “it is amazing how much improvement in marketing ROI you can get from an operations management mindset.”
We asked Matt what attracted him to join Calix and to explain its business to us. He said that Calix’s heritage was in designing systems for communications companies (traditionally smaller, regional players that served a community or a region) to connect their data centers to home or business customers. This included all the connections in cabinets, central offices, buildings etc.
He said Calix is now rapidly changing to become a software platform company. Instead of a hardware system for communications providers to run their network, they now have cutting edge software platforms to run the access network in a very virtualized fashion, leading to much greater efficiency. They are also providing cutting edge technology for subscriber premises (home or business), and evolving these to become smart home platforms. In addition, they have come out with a new cloud platform that gives service providers the ability to extract data running through the network and analyze it with “AI-type capabilities.” This allows providers to discover problems and fix them remotely. It also helps them to market more effectively, in a similar manner to how Google can target offers more effectively by knowing what users are doing.
Matt described three broad ways Calix can grow as a result of its new technology:
- Internationally: With most of the revenue currently coming from North America, by serving providers in Europe, Asia and Africa, Calix can grow substantially.
- New Product Markets: This includes new cloud software, analytics, workflow software, and on premise smart systems.
- Expanding the Customer Set: Matt gave the example of the recentannouncement of Verizon deploying next generation Calix technology, which is an example of serving a national or global provider.
We asked Matt to explain the benefits to a carrier such as Verizon. He said these include:
- Substantial Cost Benefit: With Calix, the provider can collapse three or four physical networks into one. For example, instead of having a separate residential, business and mobile network, they can collapse and run these on the same physical infrastructure, which can reduce the cost of the network by up to 80%.
- Automation of Manual Processes: They can deploy new services rapidly with a “Dev Ops Model.”
- New Revenue: By helping the carrier put new technology in the subscriber premises (home or business). This includes Home Security, IoT, and Home Automation. Matt noted that “people love these devices, and want the carrier to just make it work for them, and make it secure” which opens up new revenue opportunities.
The Importance of the Message
Matt said that one key area of focus has been on “how to communicate their messaging more clearly, with compelling benefits, in a way that is visually enticing.” They have revamped the messaging to leverage SPIN methodology (finding out what the needs of the customer are and messaging to those needs). One example of the benefits based messaging approach is the campaign around “Pennies a Day” (for service providers): “why would you have your customers spend $500 for Wi-Fi services at BestBuy when you can offer them carrier class service for ‘Pennies a Day?’”
Matt said that when they launched this new content, they saw triple the usual number who joined the launch webcast, and more leads in a week than in the prior 4-month period.
They also saw a doubling of open rates. Matt noted: “Same audience, same technology, very different response.” The messaging was “less about the technology, more about the benefits, presented in SPIN language, with much more stunning imagery.”
Educational Programs and High Value Offers
Matt also described how they have revamped the “Account Management” function with more automation, ecommerce, and structured processes. He said this has freed up account managers tremendously. Every week, they have a structured program educating and enabling both account managers and customers on some aspect of the new Calix technology, which Matt said has been a real “game changer”.
Matt also described how he ensures the Calls to Action in their offers are of high value to the customer. He gave the example of a program where their customers could spend an hour with Calix’s senior marketing team or a guest like the former head of marketing for IBM Watson IoT to walk them through topics like offer management strategies, pricing strategies, best practices in the industry, and content to use in their own campaigns. He said since the Calix Marketing Cloud is a tool for marketers, and many of their customers don’t have large sophisticated marketing departments, by enabling their customer’s marketers to succeed they are also helping build the Calix ecosystem.
Matt said that they are seeing over 50% response rates and lead conversion of higher than 30%, even though they are not aggressively selling, because they are making high value offers which are appreciated by the customers.
Alignment with Sales
We also asked Matt about aligning marketing and sales. He said he spends a lot of time with sales leadership discussing the accounts that sales wants help in reaching. He said they use a “sales council” as a formal way to review campaigns, who is targeting what accounts, what the issues are, and implementing the right “flags” in Salesforce.
He also described how sales is given as much information as possible with leads. He gave the example of their annual conference with thousands of attendees where for the first time this year they implemented RFID tracking and tagging of attendee profiles. They could track where people went on the show floor, which booths they visited, whether they received an executive briefing, and so on. Matt said the sales team was thrilled to so much additional rich data about each attendee’s experience at the show, which assisted tremendously in their follow-up outreach.
Matt also described how they put a lot of thought into linking all the different marketing vehicles, including blogs, press releases, emails, webinars, etc. He said that, for example, if Calix wins an award, they will anticipate all the places in the digital experience they want to drive people when the communication about the award comes out. It could be product page where they talk about that particular platform, or a solutions page talking about the type of provider who might be selling that technology. Matt said they have seen a substantial increase in response rate and lead flow when they drive traffic on a profile-specific path.
We found Matt’s insights – which ranged from the timeless foundations of marketing like making compelling benefits-based offers and attention to visual presentation, to new tactics such as leveraging RFID data – to be extremely insightful.