Duncan Potter reflects on his career, which has taken him all around the world to work at small and large companies. He’s been in the position of CMO or Head of Marketing for the past 15 years and jokes, “One day I’ll figure out how to make money, but for now I’ll continue to do what I enjoy.”
Potter has spent a good portion of his career in enterprise networking and telecom, selling to operators. Potter loves learning about the economic impacts of large telecom deals which can push national development forward.
Duncan Potter is the SVP of Global Marketing at ARRIS. ARRIS is a brand you may not recognize but you’d recognize their electronic products that sit next to your TVs. ARRIS plays in a highly regulated environment where the channels are few, and lead generation and branding are not the most important elements of marketing the core business.
For Duncan Potter and ARRIS, the most important factor in marketing is intelligence and getting that information into the hands of customers and organizations.
ARRIS’ customers build telecommunications infrastructure, and this requires 3-5 years of planning. In our interview, Potter explains how marketers can support multi-year deals and deliver the right marketing intelligence to stakeholders and customers. Below is the Q and A.
For ARRIS’s go-to-market strategy, what’s the most important functional area of marketing?
The most important area of marketing is delivering insights and analysis to our fellow client organizations. We need to give the sales team insights, and there is a fascinating amount of insight that you can derive from market and customer behaviors.
We want to make sure we’re using all of our digital means, for example, our websites, webinars and content library. We want to bring all that digital capability back together and present it in such a way that the sales team is prepared before they’re going into a call or visiting an account.
The information can be basic stuff, like whether or not we’ve ever talked to an organization about a particular area. We look at what our clients are talking about that we aren’t talking about. That’s a good indicator of either a brand new set of requirements, or an opportunity to talk to different business units about opportunities and ideas.
What I’m looking for is competitive activity that’s driving behavior that we are not aware of today. We make sure we do analysis, draw conclusions, and get the data in front of the right people so they can address it as quickly as possible.
We’re continually running programs to make sure we’re keeping our databases up to date, driving engagement, and improving content for specific personas. Our goal is constant engagement with prospects, both face-to-face with sales and through digital. It’s still a very, very traditional face-to-face business. There is no replacement for the relationships you develop over multiple decades of doing business with these organizations.
What type of behaviors or signals are you looking at?
We can divide them down into a few different categories. The first one is overall changes in what people are looking at. So shifts from a particular type of technology to another. It typically happens over a certain amount of time and you have to be able to look at the broader picture.
You have to be able to look at a year, maybe even two or three years of data, to be able to say, “Okay, we’re seeing some fairly radical shifts here.” These shifts are very important from an overall business planning point of view. It’s also important to make sure the product teams are aware of it.
The second one is when you start to see a particular customer, or a particular persona, going after a certain type of information. Our B2B site is a library of information and we’re looking at the hotspots and areas that people are interested in. This is good intelligence because ARRIS is a leader in its space.
If people are looking at particular space, it’s highly likely that in three to six months we’re going to be seeing a lot more conversation about that space from the chief technology officers, the VPs of engineering, or the guys who have to put it in place and make it all work. So we need to be very attentive to conversations happening around us.
We’re providing a broader mix of content than our sales team might consume.They rarely go to the product marketing team, they’re much more likely to talk to chief technology officers, heads of engineering, and heads of procurement who are buying the products. And these cycles can be immensely long. Typically at least a year, in some cases two or three years.
The third one is spot identification. For example, there’s a whole cluster of activity going on around this particular product, segment, region, or technology. And it’s a signal if this is not something we anticipated. We ask our account managers to start exploring why a specific set of people are going after this information. We may be missing an opportunity inside that account. Because these are often enormous deals—hundreds of millions of dollars spent building infrastructure across multiple regions or multiple countries—these are not opportunities we want to miss.
What’s the best way to make sense of marketing data?
It’s important to look at data through different lenses. We make sure we have effective search functionality, effective analysis tools, and marketing automation linked across every single asset. The insight that we’re able to gain is pretty sophisticated. But it’s not the only place.
We know what conversations are going on at an individual sales level and at face-to-face events. We run a lot of proprietary events and organize direct conversations with customers.
We have to be very careful not to get too caught up in the consumer trend information.
For example, people are talking about virtual reality and they talk about gaming. Gaming is going to have a huge impact, but the impact may be larger, affecting the customer’s technology requirements. For example, if you look at the full range of virtual reality-based applications, especially when you start thinking about applications around healthcare, we have to draw conclusions about the applications around treatment of PTSD, depression, pain management, and etc. These conclusions have to make its way into our messaging.
For example, we have to be drawing these conclusions when messaging to the strategic buyer who is looking at requirements that are five to ten years out. Those requirements can be incredibly profound. These are requirements that could change the way core infrastructure works.
So, we have to connect it all by answering some questions. For example, how does what we say fit together with what our customers are saying? What are the services they want to deploy, and what are the segments?
What does sales enablement look like at ARRIS?
Our primary responsibility is to make sure the sales organization is well armed to sell and position whatever solution our organization believes is the right solution for our customers.
We have to continually make sure our product and technology leaders are getting exposure. We have people who lead key technology groups and are developing solutions to problems that we’re just starting to understand. We need to be listening so we can anticipate the major issues in our industry that will appear in years down the road.
We need to continually develop this view of how the landscape is evolving. It’s very challenging, but if it wasn’t challenging, it wouldn’t be fun. The difference between economics and business study is a reasonable analogy for explaining the difference between telecommunications and other industries. For example, there is a direct correlation between the success of national telecom infrastructure and a country’s GDP.
We are very lucky that we have an amazing team. Five years ago, this was a billion dollar company; now it’s in the range of a $7 billion dollar company. You don’t see many companies our size growing at that rate we are.
It comes from an awareness of the macroeconomic environment, the regulatory environment, and the technology environment. And that’s driven a very high level of collaboration and a very high level of situational awareness. Marketing has a very important role to play within that.