Aligning a Personal Brand With Your Business
Very few people can say they’ve opened for Bon Jovi. Dux Raymond Sy, CMO of AvePoint, is one of those people. At a Microsoft SharePoint Event in 2012, at the request of the event organizers, Dux Raymond Sy dressed up as Gangnam Style artist Psy, and put on a show for the massive audience.
With this performance, Sy established himself as a SharePoint rock star before joining AvePoint in 2013. His path to CMO was certainly a renegade one, but he’s a renegade individual. His global team experiments with restaurant-touring video series (called #ChewNChat), and other light-hearted videos, like one called “Dux Quacks,” sort of like Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, but with more of a software/tech/silicon valley spin. AvePoint has been enjoying growth, in part due to this personable, fun, and human approach.
What are you most proud of in your marketing career?
I think my proudest accomplishment was assembling the next generation marketers into a very talented and global team. My team spans across North America, Europe and Asia, crossing different cultures, time zones and businesses. It’s just phenomenal. And next-gen is not really an age thing – it’s the fail fast, growth mindset in which people are just willing to try. They would come up to me and say, “Hey, why don’t we do these memes or these viral videos?” which is unheard of in the software industry. And I’m all for it. I tell my team, if you think you have an idea that will help the business grow, sure! As long as nobody gets arrested.
What’s helped drive marketing-sourced business?
One of the big things we did when I first joined was act as industry advisors. A lot of companies out there, especially in the enterprise software world, produce information and education from white papers, to e-books, webinars around their product. But it’s limited to that. One of the things we do a lot, consistently, is produce very practical content around Microsoft products, without conflicting with Microsoft content.
Any specific examples come to mind?
We do things like ‘Microsoft Teams etiquette’; how to use Teams so you won’t piss off your colleagues. Or, how salespeople can take advantage and grow their pipeline using some of these tools. Very use-case driven, very specific. Not only has this helped our positioning as trusted advisors, but also things like SEO. If customers go out there and say, “what is SharePoint” or what is “Microsoft Teams”, our content is popping up. We also do this in German, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish. That helps set us apart from everybody else. So that’s one thing that I think the team has done a phenomenal job with is thought leadership content that certainly ties into our value proposition.
How have you adjusted your content strategy to cut through?
We’ve invested a lot on short videos. While we still produce more formal case study-like videos, or product related videos, we’ve been doing a lot of informal 2-minute videos that we can spread online. I have this thing called Dux Quacks – I drive in a car with somebody and I do the interview which people like a lot more than conference room interviews. We have another series called Redux. It’s fully animated with me explaining a concept, and it’s worked really well on LinkedIn. And the most recent thing that’s doing really well is called #ChewAndChat—because I love food. So, I’ve been trying to connect food to what’s trending in our industry. All of these have a call to action that drives customers to our page, too. So, it’ll convert visitors to a webinar, an e-book or a trial download of our product.
How are you getting this content in front of your target audience?
Social media including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We push it through our regular newsletters to our customers, but the other thing we’ve recently started is our internal Social Selling program. We, as a marketing organization, encourage pretty much everybody in the company to social sell, not just sales. We’ve been teaching internally on what Social Selling is, why it’s important to the company, but more importantly, to build your own brand as professionals at AvePoint.
What’s the appeal of social selling, and how does it scale?
You’ve got to establish yourself as a thought leader in this space, and we have all this content for you. It’s up to them to push content out, and we hold contests quarterly too. For example, right now we have an ongoing contest that ends in mid-June. Whichever AvePoint employee increases their LinkedIn SSI (Social Selling Index) score the most gets an award and there’s second prize and third. That’s how we scale. We find that conversions are much better if driven that way, compared to our traditional paid ads. We still do that, but the ROIs and conversions from both are valuable. This is important, as you talk about humanizing. Look, we’re in a software company, we’re in I.T.. Right now, being able to humanize that and tell stories on how we’re changing and improving customers’ businesses and in some cases people’s lives, I think that’s really powerful.
How do you define marketing?
Marketing is something that drives business demand, facilitates customer success, and inspires colleagues to grow the business.
As CMO, what’s your top marketing priority right now?
To align marketing closely with our sales organization through data-driven metrics.
What is the most renegade thing that you’ve done in your career, so far?
I think, regardless of my role today as a CMO or even to my prior roles, it was when was up on stage and opened up for Bon Jovi. In the name of marketing and brand recognition and thought leadership. In my past life, I didn’t have a large company, or tons of budget, so I figured out ways tastefully to be front and center. So, while doing technical presentations, I would be very creative. I would rap, I would sing, I would dance. Microsoft had this conference back in 2012 and they reached out to me and said “Hey, you know this industry, you know the audience, we’re going to hire Bon Jovi. Would you mind opening for him?” So I said, “Heck yeah man!” So, they asked what I needed. And at that time, I don’t if you remember this Korean singer Sy; I dressed up as him. They got me backup dancers. I did a full-on show, and then I hung out with Bon Jovi backstage.
A lot of CMOs talk about alignment between sales and marketing. How have you worked towards that?
When I joined this organization, my role was CTO. And I’m sure it’s very similar to a lot of organizations where marketing is doing a phenomenal job, but is operating in its own silo. Sometimes marketing is pushing the message of our products or services, but then it’s a hit or miss if marketing can truly help drive our business targets and sales targets. So that was a big focus when I joined marketing. How can I align marketing from a sales target perspective, and more importantly, how can I incent my team to focus on that?
Do you have two “Dos” and a “Don’t” for new CMOs out there?
One: you have to be a learn-it-all. I come from a tech background. I had to learn a lot about marketing. I had to figure out what people are doing. You’ve got to be a learn-it-all. It’s constant learning. Number two: You have to reach out and get mentors. I know in Episode 99, I think Greg was talking about a personal board of advisors—one hundred percent. The mentors you get don’t necessarily have to be all marketers—I would say folks that are experienced executives, and people who’ve been through the trenches and can share their words of wisdom. You know, I have this support system that I’m truly grateful for. I would say the one don’t: Don’t assume. Never assume that certain people know something, or that you know better and vice versa. Always listen and learn.