Cloudflare TV

Marketing Matters — Conversations with Tech Marketing Leaders

Presented by Dave Steer, Rick Wootten
Originally aired on 

In the world of technology, marketing has become a foundational and complex discipline. From Product and Brand Marketing to Performance and Demand Generation Marketing, marketing tells the stories that break through the clutter and inspire audiences.

Join Dave every other week for a conversation with a marketing leader at Cloudflare, and throughout the industry, to understand more about marketing and the people who are shaping this discipline. What advice do they have for up-and-coming brands? How do they navigate the challenges associated with an increasingly noisy world? What's their superpower?

Learn from the experts on how to build great and enduring brands, engender trust and advocacy, and drive adoption and use of new products and technologies.


Transcript (Beta)

Announced April 30, 2021 All right.

Hello and welcome to Marketing Matters, the Cloudflare TV show that explores the wide world of marketing and technology.

I'm Dave Steer. I do product marketing at Cloudflare and I'm your host on Marketing Matters.

Today in the hot chair we have Rick Wooten.

Rick is the head of global demand generation at Cloudflare.

Rick is also one of the co -hosts of the popular Rick and Rick Rule the World, a fun podcast on marketing, media, tech, and pop culture.

I encourage you all to subscribe to it wherever you get your podcasts.

I certainly have and it is a hoot.

Please download it. It is a great show. We're excited to have Rick as our second guest on Marketing Matters.

Rick, you're following our first episode with your boss and mine, Jake Anderson, so we have big shoes to fill.

So welcome. Absolutely.

Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, we can't, we can't, I guess we can't look too good or else we might get in trouble for that.

So yes, we'll keep it dialed down. We'll dial it down a good last time.

So we got to bring it just down a little bit. That's awesome.

So Rick, I'm so psyched to have you on the show because one of the areas that's so important as sort of technology marketing is what we call demand generation, which is the function that you lead.

I recently saw a tweet from a product management executive and former colleague of mine and he was asked, you know, what's the worst career advice he's ever been given in five words or less?

And his answer was build it and they will come.

And so you don't need to have watched the movie Field of Dreams to know exactly what that means, that you can work really hard with blood, sweat and tears and build an awesome product, but unless you do some other things to drive interest in it, you know, it won't build it and they will come.

So I think, I think what you do is super important to everybody. So whether or not you're a product manager or an engineer or an up and coming marketer, understanding the art of demand generation and how you generate interest, I think is going to be really important to folks.

So thank you for joining us on Marketing Matters.

I appreciate you having me on. I think it's going to, it's going to be a fun episode.

We're going to, we're going to get into some meaty stuff here. All right.

But before we do, let's start with you. I always like hearing the origin story of people.

How did, how did you get started in marketing and what was it that drew you into the field?

See, I love that you, you frame it as an origin story, which makes me feel like a superhero.

And unfortunately I don't have a story about being bit by a radioactive spider or exposed to gamma rays and develop special abilities.

It's probably a lot more, more mundane or maybe even nerdier than that. You know, I came, I came from a family of, of engineers.

I mean, you know, my father was a civil engineer, my grandfather's an architect, and my mom was studying robotics back in the the eighties.

And so you know, fast forward, of course, when I went to college, I wanted to be a designer.

I didn't want anything to do with technology.

And so I went through and my undergraduate degree is actually graphic design.

And as I came out of school, I found that even though I had my design degree, I was really drawn towards the technology side and got involved in developing websites and to kind of put an age on myself, that was the mid nineties.

And there wasn't a whole lot of companies outside of ISPs doing websites.

So I worked for an ISP at first.

And then, you know, as, as the market kind of developed and then worked for a couple of agencies, Internet startups, and did that through the nineties and had to work on some cool projects with like FedEx and American Airlines and all that.

And, but what it did is it started giving me more exposure to different sides of the, the business and how marketing impacts it.

So by the time I went to Palm, Palm was, I joined in, I think, 99.

And, you know, it was, it was, I had an opportunity to kind of own the full stack on the digital side and so helped them go IPO.

And we sold them off into HP and made some of the coolest handhelds and smartphones ever.

But it gave me that, that experience on, you know, really taking marketing and associating it to the problems people had, which the whole company was really focused on.

And then, you know, bringing that idea of what eventually became marketing automation into it, you know, the CRM, the automated emails, the, you know, personalized communication and, you know, all that kind of stuff that we built out.

And then, you know, I worked for a security company and then I went off and worked for Seagate.

I think we talked about that.

And Seagate was cool. I ran the global, the global marketing organization there.

And I did that for a few years before I actually came here. And, and that was neat because it gave me the ability to get involved on the brand side and, you know, large-scale advertising.

We actually rebranded the company, which was a lot of fun.

Anyways, it's probably going into too much detail, but all of that kind of led me down this path of trying all these different aspects of marketing.

And what it really kind of gelled around were things where you could kind of bring in the creative side and the analytics side and find an intersection of the two and develop something that is really a game changer for the organization and really helps to meet customer needs.

And so that's what I do. That's what demand generation has become.

It's very measurable, but it's also one of the more creative aspects of marketing.

And it's just, it's so much fun when you can bring all that together and actually make it solve problems for both sides of the equation.

It is really interesting to hear you talk about using sort of those sides of your brain and be able to be sort of the analytics people, the creative people, and then fuse them into one.

And I really appreciate the part of your origin story that, you know, that begins with Palm.

You know, Palm was like, I think one of my first devices was a Palm device.

And so you must have seen a lot of sort of transition with that industry.

Absolutely. You know, so Palm wasn't the first handhold, by the way.

There were several others, including the Newton that came out before it, but none of them kind of got it right.

And Jeff Hawkins was one of the founders and the story, and I think it's true, was that before he developed the Palm, he cut a piece of wood about the size of the device he wanted to build.

And he wrote some stuff on it and walked around and pretended to use the handheld as if it did the things that he wanted it to do.

And he did that for weeks or a month.

I'm not sure what the timeframe was. And then once he really felt like this imaginary thing in his hand would solve the problems, he went and he built it.

And that's where Palm came about. And then, you know, I mean, we got into smartphones, you know, probably four, five, six years before Apple.

You know, I think our first app store was actually 1999 for the Palm 7.

We had to do these things that were just way, way ahead of the curve.

And, you know, the rest of the industry caught up.

And, you know, Palm's still around. Interestingly, if you have an LG TV, the web OS is actually the Palm OS.

Oh, really? Yeah. And within China, the Palm device still exists.

And I think there's a startup in San Francisco that's, you know, kind of trying to revitalize it again as well.

So it's interesting. But yeah, it was a huge opportunity for me to work with that company and, you know, see them kind of create that mobile space.

It was a lot of fun. Well, that's great. And that brings us to sort of the current day.

You know, I've got lava lamps here. You've got lava lamps over there.

So that means we're both at a place called Cloudflare. Tell me about your role at Cloudflare.

What does demand generation do? What are you in charge of?

Yeah. So, you know, it's funny because every company's got a different phrase for this.

Some of them call it revenue marketing. Some of them call it demand generation, acquisition marketing.

There's a bunch of different terms for it.

But the idea is that my group and what we do is we're responsible for building the pipeline that is fueling the sales team and leading to new business.

Right. And so the idea of a company like Cloudflare is, you know, we've seen good growth.

We want to continue that good growth. And we think there's a lot of companies out there, a lot of individuals who need a service like ours.

And so my job is to help map what we have to people's needs. Like, we don't want to go sell to somebody who doesn't need our product.

We want to go help the people who do.

And because our whole philosophy around the brand, around what we do in marketing is to help build a better Internet.

We want to go find those people who have a need that we think we could uniquely solve for.

And my job is to go do that, is, you know, go find those individuals, help them kind of lead the way to making a buying decision.

And if it's not us, we don't want to try and force it on them.

But if it is us, we want to create that really compelling experience for them and give them a solution that's going to make their, you know, their applications, their sites, their whatever more secure and faster and better and all those things that we do.

And so my job's exciting because I'm a matchmaker.

I'm trying to find those people out there in the marketplace looking for something and then helping to introduce them to our sales team so that we can close a deal.

I love thinking of you as a matchmaker. It's sort of the fiddler on the roof of the marketing industry.

That's right. I've enjoyed, you know, I still remember sitting down with you, interviewing you and thinking, wow, it's really a dynamic duo when you have really good product marketing expertise, where people understand sort of the product, the customer and own sort of what the message is combined with the superpower of people who understand the digital channels to reach the people and target the right people.

I'm sure you feel the same way.

Absolutely. And I say this regularly and you probably think I'm just being nice, but you are one of my favorite people to work with because I feel like we can figure that out together.

And, you know, for me to do a good job at what I do requires that I understand who our target audience is, what the problems is they're trying to solve so that I can then go build advertising and campaigns around those specific problems.

Because we're not, at the end of the day, we're not advertising products, we're advertising solutions to a problem.

And so, you know, working with the product marketing team, understanding what the problems are that people are solving for, what kind of language do they use, like the words are important.

If you don't use the right set of words, you don't have credibility, you don't get their attention.

And then, you know, mapping that through something really creative.

And, you know, we talked about this before, we've got this this cool campaign for gaming and, you know, we have, you know, very simple things like cards that you open up and, you know, gaming devices come out of it and, you know, and they seem silly, but the whole purpose of them is to connect with them so that then they go to the next piece of paper, which is the collateral that the product marketing team's written that really breaks down, here's your problem, here's how we can solve it, give us a call.

And so, you know, like I said, I'm the matchmaker, I'm the one trying to connect the two pieces.

That's really awesome.

And one of the things that I think is so great about that is sort of a truism, but something that I've really relearned over the past few years, which is sort of in the B2B world, some people will use terms like leads and, you know, and contacts, or we're selling into a business, but at the end of the day, these are human beings that we are speaking to.

And so to really treat it as such, and I love the example of sort of the gaming campaign that we have, because it really recognizes the fact that these are live human beings that we're engaged in a conversation with.

Yeah, we know about about, I don't know, 10 years ago, maybe 12 years ago, there was a whole movement called consumerization of IT.

And the idea behind that is for years, we had sold to the IT people, like they were some kind of a creature in a museum, and there had to be like this very specific way you sold to them.

And, you know, 10, 12 years ago, we realized, you know what, they buy just like the rest of us, you know, they're very rational driven, which is good.

But they're also emotionally driven.

And so you need to, you know, do advertising that talks to them both as a person and the problem that they're solving.

And I think that was one of the better things that, you know, has changed in the last 10 years is this idea of treating them just like normal people.

And to your point, you know, we're selling into a specific problem that we can solve for them.

It's for their organization, for sure.

But that person is trying to solve for that. And it could be, you know, something like they're trying to secure an endpoint, or they're trying to, you know, secure a network or prevent a certain type of attack, or could even be remote access or what have you, right?

I mean, these are all problems that we're solving for them.

But for them, there's one and, you know, maybe it's ROI, right?

Maybe it's, you know, they're trying to bring down their costs, whatever it is, we need to understand what that is associated to and then go build a campaign around it.

Because we do believe we have the products that can help them with that. Great.

Okay, so let's zoom in for a little bit. Because I think you and I quickly went into like product marketing and demand generation and how these things work.

But I think, you know, and one of the premises of the show is that the discipline of marketing overall is sort of elusive.

And some people think that, you know, oh, it's the marketing people, they do the advertising, which is true, but marketing is a little bit more than that.

So I guess my question for you is when you're when you're not at work, and you're, you know, you're chattering away at cocktail party or a backyard barbecue, and you're socially distanced, and you're with a friend, and they're like, what's marketing?

How do you explain what it is? Well, you know, me, I'm always going to start with a sarcastic answer, you know, about, you know, how we're trying to sell them everything into the sky.

But the reality is, is once you get into the conversation with people, it's, it's what we just talked about, it's helping them understand that what we're doing is trying to connect a real need with a real solution, and to create awareness between the two of them.

At the end of the day, you know, sometimes we've seen hard selling work, sometimes we haven't, it's it's not it's not Cloudflare style, it's certainly not my style of, you know, trying to beat somebody over their head and tell them they have to do it.

But what what demand generation really is, is about finding that demand in the market, and connecting it to something that can fulfill it.

And, you know, if you think of like, I think it's, I think it might be progressive, I forget which insurance company it is, they're like, come to us, we'll give you three quotes, if ours is the best, you know, we'll transact it.

If not, you've got the one for a competitor, go buy from them.

I love that. I mean, because that right there kind of sums up what a great marketing campaign should do is, you know, connect a problem to a solution, and the best fit should be the one that they go with.

And that means there's more work on, you know, the engineering side, development side, the business side, where we have to make sure we're the best solution.

But in a case like ours, where we're very confident of that, you know, then you know, it works well for us.

Great. Yeah, I can, I can now envision myself at a cocktail party chattering away with you and you explaining what the marketing profession is all about.

One of the things that I tend to think of when I think of marketing is sort of the art of storytelling.

That is the reason why I jumped in, which is I love telling stories.

And I think that, you know, thinking about great stories that are out there, you know, within the business world and outside, you know, you've got a hero, you've got a villain, you've got a narrative arc, you've got tension, you know, a journey that the hero goes on, etc.

And I think what one of the biggest challenges that I think marketers face is how you tell a story in an increasingly noisy world.

I mean, there are hundreds of messages that are being bombarded day in and day out for consumers and customers.

So I guess my question for you is, is how do you approach the art of storytelling in an environment like this?

Yeah, you know, we recently did a test on an email.

And I think we had like a, you know, the original email, we had like a 4 or 5% open rate.

We did another one, we got a 23% open rate. And one of the differences between the two was the digestibility of the content you're providing.

Sometimes as marketing professionals, we get too clever. And, you know, we try and, you know, create a little too much pomp and circumstance around what we're trying to do.

And quite often, you find that if we just cut it down to, you know, a more simple solution, it works.

And the second one, of course, is, you know, hitting the right customer at the right time with the right problem.

And so there's a lot of intelligence, there's technology that can help you figure out, you know, when is the right time to talk to somebody.

You know, for us, of course, you know, a great time to talk to somebody is just when they're gonna, you know, renew a contract, or, you know, they have a project that they're working on that needs a solution.

And so, you know, trying to identify and connect to that is really what the most important thing is, and then following it with a really crisp, easily digestible story.

Great. Yeah, I appreciate what you said about marketers at times becoming too clever for themselves.

And forgetting the fact that, again, in a noisy world out there, it's much more important to be, you know, authentic and clear than to get too clever, and not make your audience do too much work.

Absolutely, absolutely. I think another challenge, and I know that you and I have faced is, over the past three to four months, the world has changed.

You know, COVID-19 has really impacted the world overall, in so many immeasurable ways.

And it has been a challenge to go through. I think as marketers, it's also been a challenge, and has had a big impact.

And I think one of the things that you and I have thought about right from the beginning is, you know, one of the primary ways that we sort of generate interest in Cloudflare are like physical events where we need prospective, you know, folks who come on board, trade shows and things that we sponsor.

And almost overnight, those went dark. How have you approached this sort of transition from a pre-COVID world to post-COVID world from a DG perspective?

Yeah, you know, there's not a lot of times in your career where you have an opportunity like this, or, you know, I should say a challenge like this.

The opportunity is what you can learn from it.

But, you know, as you stated, I mean, we were hit just like everyone else.

All the events we had planned, all the in -person, anything.

And in our industry, in -person is how a lot of these larger deals get done.

We had to adapt to that. We were very fortunate because we are a global company.

We saw the indicators a little bit earlier from our Asia Pacific region, and we got to see what happened there.

And we got to try some things before we saw the impact a couple months later in, you know, Americas and Europe.

And so we had the opportunity to figure out that, you know, webinars were very effective when we moved into more of those.

And we learned, you know, how we could use digital versions of some of the same events, whether they're, you know, CXO roundtables or dinners or what have you, can kind of offset that.

But the big thing is, of course, is, you know, we adapted by moving more to digital.

And it's interesting. I wish I had the quote, but Rick and I talked about this on one of our podcasts recently.

One of the, when the outlets, one of the marketing outlets was looking at the transitions the company have made during this COVID period of time.

And we've seen for a while companies moving towards digital, but in the first 18, you know, days, or, you know, maybe 20 days, there was more progress for companies moving to digital than the last five years.

And, you know, this COVID thing has had a quantum step for it.

So what happened? Well, everybody moved to digital, the cost of digital went skyrocketing.

People were spending very inefficiently, that didn't last very long, and then they started pulling out.

And so, you know, we saw that impact, right?

It was kind of a wave that came over it. But then we saw a lot more competition, they got smarter.

So everybody's getting smarter.

And so it is, it is a, it's an interesting time to be a marketer, because there's not many times where your whole marketing plan gets thrown out the window and you have to develop another one in a week.

But that happened. And then you have to execute against it, which, you know, we've tried very hard to do a good job at, I think we generally have.

But it's, it's not the same anymore. So, you know, we're not going to go back to having a ton of physical events anytime soon.

So we're learning how to adapt to that marketing.

Yeah, and I tell you, the thing that the thing didn't have been still being king is content.

If you have the right content that talks to the right problem, and I've said this like 10 times but you know, you will absolutely break through the clutter.

And there is so much clutter right now. But most of it is look at me, look at me, it's not, you know, crisply, I know that you're solving this problem.

Here's how you do it. And when you can do that, when you can enable when you can help, you'll get the attention.

Yeah, and you know, I think one of the things that I've been fortunate enough with is we work for a brand and a service that can be more important in a day like now.

You know, our CEO often says, you know, like, you know, the Internet wasn't built for this.

And as and even pre COVID, you know, as companies made the transition to the cloud, you know, a lot of the ways that they were dealing with, you know, security and reliability and performance, etc.

You know, simply doesn't work. And so they needed to retool.

And it's been amazing to see how that retooling has happened almost overnight.

And so I think one of the things that we are we are fortunate with is not only do we work with a great team who is flexible, and who can make that transition very quickly, but we happen to work, you know, for a service that has a message that couldn't be more relevant for a time like this.

You know, one of the one of the interesting ones that I've been talking a lot, of course, with the folks running our events, one of the ones is interesting is just like a lot of people in our industry, a lot of people have had to shift, right.

And so these folks that used to do physical events are trying to shift to digital events, and at different success levels, some of them figured it out really quickly.

Some of them, they're a little bit clumsy.

But then there's this like layer that we're already doing digital events, they kind of had it figured out, but not enough people were adopting it.

And those companies are taken off like, like gangbusters there, they already have a better solution than any of the big guys, because they've been doing it for three or four years.

And so it is interesting to see how that that happened. And it's going to be just as interesting to see how long it takes, you know, all the big event organizers to adapt to that.

I mean, a lot of them without giving away any names, are still struggling with no, no, no, we want you, we know we canceled our event this year.

But we want you to just transfer those monies to next year when we know we're going to have the event.

It's like, I don't know if you're going to have the event next year.

We're not gonna, we're not gonna bet on that. Yeah, I like it.

Unless you have this special superpower where you can see the future, and you know exactly what's going to happen with the economy.

And with a global pandemic, you don't know anything other than what I know.

So I, I'm going to shift gears.

And I asked my final question, which is, you know, one of the reasons I'm so excited to have this show is also to explore leadership, and to really understand principles around that.

One of the things that I think is great about marketing and tech is we're really at the center of a lot of different functions, be it product management and engineering, to sales.

And I know that your team works really closely with the sales team, a global sales team.

And so I guess my question for you is what, what advice do you have for up and coming marketers in terms of engaging with sales teams in an effective way?

That's a great question.

I have to show this to you just because it's funny. In about 14 years ago, I presented at Dreamforce, I was on a panel.

And the question was, how do you bridge the gap between sales and marketing kind of, you know, similar question to what you're asking here.

There were two problems. One, I was too joking about it. And I said that the answer to that is to go out and have drinks.

Because, you know, that's how you're going to build a relationship.

And it was a joke. But the point was really to articulate that you have to have a great relationship with your sales team.

The second problem was, I was speaking in the session directly after Colin Powell, who just nailed it.

So we could not keep the intention of the audience.

The point here is, I give this advice to a lot of people. Number one, make sure that your KPIs match the KPIs of sales.

And, you know, a really strong thing I believe in is that we need to measure marketing in the same place as we measure sales.

And so in our case, that's Salesforce. And so we make sure that, you know, the metrics that we're looking at, pipeline, closed one business, leads, et cetera, match to what the inside sales and the outside sales teams are looking at.

That's number one.

The second one is communication. You know, you want to make sure that everybody's communicating and has a good feeling for what's being done and why we're doing it.

You know, you and I've talked about this, but I have this underlying philosophy that when two people have the same information, they generally make the same decision.

And so, you know, one way to keep people from second guessing what you're doing is to make sure that everybody's clear as to why and what you're doing.

And so communication is really key. So line up your KPIs, communicate with them a lot and take their feedback because they're out there talking to the customers and their input is valuable and it's unique.

All right. Fantastic.

So now it's time for our final segment, Rick. We're going to do a lightning round.

It's a great way to get to know you. So I'm going to ask you questions and I want the first answers that come to your mind.

Okay, here we go. Here we go.

What has been your favorite campaign of all time? You know, I thought about this a little bit.

So Burger King, 100% Burger King, they did a campaign against McDonald's where if you were within 600 feet of McDonald's and you opened up their app, they would give you a Whopper for a penny.

And so they were pulling people out of the parking lot of McDonald's to come buy their hamburgers.

I thought that was incredibly clever.

Making me hungry. Okay, ready? Oxford comma or no Oxford comma?

Oxford comma. I grew up learning it and I have a hard time moving away from it.

Oh, 100%. What is one trait every marketer needs to have? Absolutely passion.

You know, when people care about what they're doing, they strive to do the best job possible.

And that usually means they're a lifetime learner and they're a critical thinker.

All right, this is an important question. GIF or jif? GIF. Right?

I know. I know. It's how I learned it. I mean, who says jif? Some people do. They do.

What book has influenced you the most? Geez, I'm gonna give you two answers.

My favorite book is probably Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I don't know if it's influenced me the most, but I certainly make references to Carrying Around a Towel all the time.

But the first 90 days from a business standpoint is the one book that really affected me because it kind of provides a framework for how you start a new role or a new position, either at your existing company or future one.

Great. All right, this is important. Which is more important, the retweet or the mute button?

Absolutely the mute button. You know, you gotta stop the noise.

All right, two more questions. Messy desk or clean desk? Clean desk. Although I do occasionally get so busy it gets messy, but then it drives me crazy and I clean it.

All right, final question. Favorite hashtag? Oh man, probably funny. All right.

Rick, that wraps up today's episode. Thank you so much for joining us. It was great to hear your perspective.

I learned a lot. I'm sure the audience learned a lot.

And to the audience, thank you all for tuning in. We'd love to hear your feedback on the show.

You can email me at dsteer at or on Twitter at Dave Steer.

And for Marketing Matters on Cloudflare TV, I'm Dave Steer. We'll see you on the Internet.

Thank you so much. you